Once upon a time, in the dying days of the 20th century, I bought, at the local vintage clothing store, a dress that was not vintage, nor really classic any way at all, but that was homemade.
Far more important to me at the time, of course, was that it was black and it was leather. Looking back on it, I have the sinking feeling that it was someone’s idea of a costume for Xena, Warrior Princess. Either that or it’s fetish-wear escaped from someone’s personal dungeon. Regardless, it was an absolute delight to my teenage sensibilities, and has never lost its place in my closet since, despite the situations calling for it being about as common as hen’s teeth in my life these days.
I keep trying to come up with a quick description, you know, such as might be printed on the pattern for such a dress. Halter-type, open backed dress has princess seams, boning, and Roman Legionary skirt?
Like so many of our home-stitched garments, it has a few quirks. Although, it’s hard to say where design ends and quirk begins, and then there’s the issue that it was probably perfectly-tailored to the original wearer. Or maybe not.
So, the obvious: plenty of interesting seaming, perfect for using small scraps of (possibly reclaimed) leather. At least one of the gladiator-strips at the bottom has a previous stitching line crossing it, suggesting it has been repurposed. I do wish these bottom strips were a bit more substantial—double-layered or at least topstitched. They look kind of unfinished and cheap.
The straps are an odd combination-halter-type I’ve never seen elsewhere: the main strap is a simple halter, snapping behind the neck, but then there’s this accessory strap that rungs from under the arm up the back of the shoulder, and attaches to the halter just on either side of the snap.
This strap sits at a bit of an odd angle, and has always folded a little awkwardly on me at the back of the arm, unless I slouch significantly. Does this mean that the original owner had a more rounded, stooped, or slant-shouldered posture than I? Or was it just some quirk of imperfect or inexperienced drafting?
The snap is not exactly perfectly-applied, but is less mangled than mine usually are, and let’s face it, anyone who sets snaps through that many layers of leather by hand has my kudos.
The entire dress zips open at the back with a separating zipper that, oddly, opens from the bottom. Was this planned, or did our seamstress mess up and then decide to keep it since, well, unpicking leather? I can’t say it makes the dress any easier to get into, although it’s certainly quick to get out of. Hmm. Is that another point for the fetish-gear argument?
The inside is lined with a thin stretch lining of some kind, with all the same piecing as the outside. I think I would’ve wanted to simplify for the lining, personally. It is very short. In fact, I hadn’t quite appreciated just how short the whole thing is from the back until taking photos this time. Which is why the back view photo is only from the hips up. Hmm. And this is not the dress that caused my mother to declare I looked like a hooker when she first saw me wear it.
The lining appears to have been hand-stitched in place all along the top edge, where there is a narrow leather facing; the hand-stitching continues up the insides of the narrow straps, which also kind of makes sense—I think turning straps in leather would be a pain in the butt.
Something I only noticed just now (now that I’m finally looking at it with a stitcher’s eye is the presence of two pieces of flexible plastic boning stitched to the seam-allowances in the front. Along only one edge of the boning, since the seam allowance isn’t wide enough for both. They took the time to tip the bones with leather, though, so they wouldn’t poke through.
There’s no internal seam finishing on the leather or the lining, not that anything’s in danger of ravelling, and the hem on the lining is made with a simple zig-zag.
/sigh. For all its weirdness (and impracticality), I still love this dress.
And, just to prove its antiquity, here’s a shot of it in actual use, from New Years Y2K itself. With Osiris, and though you can’t really tell, an itty-bitty Tyo bump.
*What, you mean you don’t have swords lying around the house? C’mon. I mean, some of you probably have guns in the house—now that’s whack.