Saturday, March 23, 2013

Yma Sumac-Vintage 1950s Pink Silk Satin Gown

This was an unusual project, one of my lovely customers purchased a vintage dress originally worn by Yma Sumac ( a noted Peruvian singer in the 1950s) but the dress was missing its original train. She very much wanted to have a new train made to make the dress even more amazing. So she mailed the dress to me halfway around the world so I could match the color as best as possible. Above is Yma Sumac in black and white. The dress is a silk satin, full tulle train with lame detail. Now we couldn't find any photos or info about the back of the dress but it looked very similar to some of Charles James evening dresses ( the other two images above in color). So that is what i used as my inspiration for finishing the back of the train. I used 15 yards of pink tulle and about 10 yards of pink netting. The Charles James dresses must have about 3-4 times my yardage.

 Here you can see the inside structure of the dress, the dress it self has boning in the seams and then a waist stay made of grosgrain ribbon stitched together has more boning and a panel of hooks, the dress was let out at one point and an extension was added, even so it was too small for my smallest dress form, so i had to use the half display form instead. The elastic sewn to the front of the neckline helps to pull the front in, between the breast, much like a bra. Padded cups are sewn under the facing. The entire dress is underlined in a light muslin with all the seams exposed for easier alteration and to support the silk. This is my favorite method of supporting silk fabric, and as you can see it has held up pretty well.

 above is just one layer of the netting inside the skirt with a large ruffle along the bottom.
 This is the finished back of the skirt with all the layers of tulle and netting. The train hooks onto the back of the dress with three skirt hooks, so the train can be removed when the dress is cleaned.

She also wanted an over skirt made for a more dramatic outfit change, finished with a rhinestone buckle in front and a large lame bow in the back. I wanted to do something a little more interesting than your typical bow in the back and I've seen this style done on other 50s dresses before.


  1. Wow, I can't believe it was bright pink! It's so interesting to see B&W dresses come to life, the colores are always more excited than I expect. You did a phenomenal job with the train, I especially adore that giant lame bow! I have a 50s pattern that has the exact same kind of over skirt, so its nice to see what it looks like IRL.

  2. Beautiful! I have been perusing your blog with the intention of a request help for a Charles James inspired dress, exactly like the ones you pictured above, now to actually send you this request ;)