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Construction details: Chiffon, roses, and sweethearts


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Don’t you wish all vintage sellers would photograph the inside of their garments?

Not only are the interiors of dresses fascinating for fashion & sewing nerds, but they say so much about the quality of the piece (and help you accurately date it).

I came across this little beauty from Etsy seller 1940sThrowback because I was struck by the similarity to Chantilly (different, of course, but a very similar look and silhouette).

But then I saw the inside and things got really interesting.


The bodice looks to be underlined with netting, which isn’t gathered like the chiffon. The netting would serve as a guide when gathering the neckline, so the maker could achieve just the right shape.

The bodice is then partially lined in an adorable sweetheart shape. It looks like the lining is stitched to the netting layer along the top to hold it in place, while not showing on the outside.

The waist seam is stayed, the neckline and armholes finished with bias binding, and the seam allowances have a narrow turned hem, very unusual today!

I think you can learn a lot by looking at the beautiful garments of the past, don’t you?

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 27

Alison O’Grady

This is a worthy show of the importance of the difference detail can make in the life of the garment. I take the time to be certain that each of my jackets have MUCH detail when it comes to the construction. The inside counts equally as the outside of the garment for me.


And you have some lovely things in your shop! Well done! :)


That is very interesting. Those are details I have never seen in a ready made garment of todays standards. Using the netting to stabilize the neckline and invisibly stitch the sweetheart lining is ingenious. Looking at this dress feeds my soul.


The details on that are fascinating–how could anyone not feel happier wearing that dress?


One certainly does not see quality like this these days (not in RTW, anyways). Thank you so much for posting this, it’s an inspiration! :)


That dress is gorgeous and the construction details in a lot of vintage clothing explain to us why they last for so many years – they are made beautifully, unlike many of the clothes that can be found in shops today (even in designer clothing shops!) That’s why I find making my own clothes is so satisfying; you can spend the time adding construction details which improve the quality of the clothing.

Lisa G.

This is very interesting. I would have thought that attaching a lining to a mesh like that would be stress on the netting.

Lady ID

Me too. I recently made a dress like that. Initially I planned to stitch the lining to the organza/mesh but decided not to because of the “stress”.


I wondered the same thing. Perhaps if there are many tiny stitches, the mesh isn’t over-stressed?

Diane @ Vintage Zest

I’m also surprised about how the lining is attached to the mesh. I’m in the midst of sewing a dress with a lace overlay, and I am just hoping that it doesn’t budge too much as I’m wearing it, but maybe I’ll see if hand sewing will be better than crossing my fingers!

Miriam Dema

Hats! I wish hats for sale online would show the inside! Is it lined, it is itchy, is it falling apart? So many questions about the inside of hats :) The details are so important!

Candace Duffy Jones

I don’t have any plans to make any vintage dresses myself, they just don’t interest me, but the vintage sewing techniques do. I love when I can look at how a vintage piece of clothing is made and try to incorporate it into my sewing.


Yes, I wish sellers would photograph the insides of the clothing! Pretty construction details always make me so giddy, haha. But I think only sewists get excited about this stuff, not the average shopper, so sellers don’t feel obliged to photograph the insides. It’s a shame, but oh well!


I think real collectors probably care, at least a little! But generally… yeah.


I would second what Sarai said, as someone who was a vintage collector before I began sewing; my vintage dresses influence, to this day, my standards for both sewing and RTW.

Among other things, I own a Ceil Chapman dress. And the construction of Ceil Chapman dresses are always marvelous, although seeing the insides of couture is even better.


Wouldn’t that be telling as to the quality as well? I think sellers should show the inside.


I am forever turning dresses inside out in stores to check out how they are finished. It drives my teenage daughter crazy :)

cynthia gehin

Turning any RTW item inside out is enough to make you drop it, now! Finish work on vintage clothing is amazing and an inspiration to all sewists. Most RTW clothing is made like too many things are made today; disposable. How many of us have purchased what appears to be a nice top and end up being scratched by fishing line? That nylon line will outlast the garment surely. Of course the garment will never wear out because of the discomfort in wearing it.


That dress is amazing! Thanks for sharing.


Thanks ever so much for sharing this lovely dress. We should (no need) to take every effort to finish every garment we take our hands to with the utmost of care. Learning new techniques has become a big issue for me (later in life) – because its just fun to do. I have sewed since a teenager but now like to take it easier and take more time for techniques (that I’ve never tried). I have pics of my grandmother’s dresses from 1920’s that she sewed for her three girls – that are stunning so that should set me straight!!!

Thanks again – more special techniques please -I love it. Happy Sewing to all.


Thanks for sharing. Show and tells like this help to remind me to slow down and take time with the details to create a beautifully crafted garment. It’s not like I don’t have anything to wear and need to hurry to finish!


This dress is lovely outside and in. It is the little details in hand made garments that me me smile contrast pocket lining, polka dot bias used for at a hem, careful top stitching, they make the handmade more special than any rtw items I own or have seen in shops. I often rush to finish an item, shall try to slow down and enjoy the finer details of handmade.


I have to agree with everyone. The inside is as important as the outside! Those of us who are sensitive to “itchy spots” in our clothes know how important. I love to see that work on the inside of vintage garments, or just walk around in the Chanel Boutique and look at the insides of those beautifully made clothes.


I LOVE this post! Many people talk about the insides of garments, but the word bubbles really help show me how it’s made. I hope you continue these :)


Thanks for posting this, its fascinating! Now I’m wondering does the net only go as far as the midriff panel? And what is used for interfacing that panel – I wouldn’t think the net would be firm enough, so I also like to peer into the layers of seams and see what’s sandwiched in there too.
Yes, please post more of these!


I love this Behind the Seams segment!

Agree with everyone about poor construction of today. I find so many seams irritating to my skin, I rarely buy anything. I needed a special cocktail dress recently and ordered online from Nordstroms, paying several hundred dollars, mistakenly assuming the dress would be higher quality. Nope. Sent it back immediately. It consisted of a cheap jersey slip with the dreaded plastic thread, a stretchy lace shift made of the cheapest “lace,” although I hate to even use that term as it appeared to be made from plastic, with raw seams already fraying, and topped off with a ribbon belt that also seemed to be made from plastic, complete with frayed ends. It’s been awhile since I’ve purchased a “nice” dress, but I was stunned! Is there no source short of couture for well-constructed clothing? Maybe with the help of Colette, it’s time to make a few LBDs for myself !


After writing my post, I took a look through my closet to see where the good clothes (from my more sophisticated youth) came from and realized many of the lovely jackets and dresses I bought in those days, I bought in the late 70s, early 80s, at Gidding Jenny’s in Cincinnati. This store, which I assume was a midwestern chain, closed years ago, but it took me back to some lovely memories. It was such a treat to make the two plus hour drive to downtown Cinci, ride the elevator up to the quiet, carpeted 4th floor, where there was never any doubt of finding the perfect dress. I was never disappointed and those dresses, from various labels, are still lookin good, although after becoming a mom, I was no longer able to get them zipped up over my expanded ribcage. More recent boutique purchases made for my now adult daughter, were just as expensive, and fairly well-constructed, but never quite as polished and they never seemed to have the same fit as the earlier pieces. A general decline in craftsmanship? It interests me and I would enjoy an article on the subject.

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