Detail Inspiration: Illusion Neckline


Whenever I look at the Macaroon pattern, I can’t help but think what a gorgeous party dress it’d make with an illusion neckline. (I have, in fact, seen a few versions lurking about on the internet!) Illusion necklines can make you think of an ice skating costume, but if you view them from a distinctly vintage perspective, there are many gorgeous examples out there that are sure to inspire the modern seamstress. If you’ve been following the Coletterie blog for some time, you may remember a post from 2010 with some mid century gowns sporting illusion necklines by designer Peggy Hunt–well worth a look if you’d like some more inspiration beyond this week’s post!

I love the gentle scallops along the shaped neckline of this 1960s cocktail dress. The edges are highlighted with beading, which adds a lovely fanciness to the dress without overwhelming the otherwise simple silhouette. The back neckline closure is particularly beautiful: small bows formed with tubing tie down to the edge of where the sheer and opaque materials meet.

Is this dress a knock-out or what? Perhaps one of the more stunning 1940s cocktail dresses I’ve seen in awhile (and certainly movie star worthy…). This is a far more complicated illusion neckline, and perhaps one that is a bit too fussy for modern applications, but still is inspiring nonetheless. Note how there are opaque bust-cups underneath the lace (which is underneath the sheer neckline material)–a clever way to keep covered, while the lace takes away from the obvious concealment method.

This demure 1950s dress doesn’t feature a front neckline illusion like the previous two, but the back neckline is treated in much the same way. It’s a bit more coverage for the gal who doesn’t want to show too much in the front, but is a little bit of a wink from the back. I love the subtle angle of the back neckline and the way the black sheer is layered over a rich bronze material for an antiqued finish.

Images: 1960s dress, 1940s dress, 1950s dress.

Casey Cartwright   —  

Comments 11


I love number one! so pretty! saw some vintage dresses with scalloped edges and they could be nicely modified! Number 2 is just stunning! wish I would find something like that in a charity shop!


Oooh, that first one is beautiful. I would happily wear something like that to a posh event.


the navy blue dress is stunning!


These are great sources of inspiration! I love these.


I love the first one. There are several dresses on modcloth i have been drooling over with these necklines–maybe I shall attempt one on my own?

betty jordan wester

these are beautiful! In the 1930s, the back was a focal point so it’s not surprising the illusion peek-a-boo was moved from the front.


I’d like to know how to do this. sometimes I want to give a 30’s impression with tops and dresses..but I really don’t like *not* having my back covered.


An illusion neckline is my plan for my Macaroon pattern! Some sort of classy cocktail dress black on black. I have a beautiful silk/cotton jacquard. I just need to figure out my alterations (probably boning) to take the weight off the sheer top. Love it!


The issue with vintage garments with illusion is that illusion material just doesn’t age well. It always looks tired to me and worn. Like it just wants something or someone to put it out of it’s misery. I’m sure all three of those garments were gorgeous when they were first craeted… but now? To me they just look in need of a nap.

In the end, illusion is something I enjoy… but new, not vintage.


we’re on the same wavelength! Always a big fan of Halloween (theatre kid here), I started musing in August on what to be, what to be … I’d ordered this crazy disco-print silk organza (it has something like pinwheels or explosions in fuschia, pink, orange – you get the idea) because it was on sale – and inspiration hit: NEBULA! I used black silk dye (in a spray bottle) to tone down the colour over most of the 5 yards of silk, then spent a few weeks hunting for the perfect dress pattern and settled on the Macaron, based on those same party dresses! I’m backing the organza with a lightweight silk suiting in dusty rose to bring out the now subtle colour and pattern (went a bit too heavy-handed with the dye, eep!) for the body and settled on black lace for the top. I just tried on the bodice section and it fits! Now all I have to do is not mess up the invisible zipper…eep!


I just love the style of the black dress! the cut of the dress is just wonderful.

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