• TheRackStar

Dress Diary #3: The Frothy Delights of Ceil Chapman

Updated: Oct 13, 2020

The 1950s.

Surrounded by rich colors, layers of tulle, beaded decadence and chantily lace define an era of hyper-femininity. Love it or hate it, the 50s is a complicated mix of freedom and restriction, before the lace and tulle were bumped for their 60s streamlined-boyish-miniskirt-counterparts.

So if you haven't guessed already, today's Dress Diary is all the frothy delights of Ceil Chapman.

A recent purchase from an estate sale, wrapped within a dust covered box, this dress is a hidden gem that echoes of the grandeur from decades past. Wrapped in a doll-like fantasy of pink satin and lace, this newest addition to the collection is a diamond in the rough waiting to be restored.

An overlay of floral lace, beaded in translucent sequins gives just the right amount of party sparkle. The scalloped hem, lined with lace and sequins, extends mid-calf in 1950's fashion. A swooping neckline mirrors the design of the hem, resting just off the shoulders and edged with similar lace and sequins.

This dress is the definition of indulgence: a mid-century Marie Antoinette. It's like wearing a macaroon, a beautiful combination of candy sweetness with a touch of innocent romance on a breezy summer day.

And of course, tucked within the ribbon waist tape, is the iconic label of Ceil Chapman.

The interior of this dress, for lack of a better word, is delicious with detail.

The seams are finished with pinking sheers, where boning is stitched within the seam allowance. Some of the bones have been pre-curved, to give that enhanced hourglass silhouette.

Joining the bodice and skirt is a light seam, where a ribbon has been hand tacked over to hid the raw seam. There's a couple of places where the stitching is loose, the seam peaking through.

Matching taffeta bias tape binds the neckline, leaving the beaded lace layer free to rest over the shoulders.

Many vintage dresses were sewn in a very different way than today's mass-produced industrious way of making garments. Raw seams were often exposed, as lining wasn't used to hide the interior construction of a dress. This Ceil Chapman does have a lining, but lining was sewn together with the other layers, leaving the raw edges exposed. Sometimes these edges were pinked (like in this dress), sometimes they were finished by hand, or they were just left as is.

Despite its beauty, the dress has seen some wear, holes within the lace and frayed edges. Having been tucked away in a dusty box for years, it's been spared the worst of aging. However, a little bit of care is needed before she can be displayed in her full glory. Until then, here are brief snapshots of what's soon to come.

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