Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Under Tuscan Sun: Sewing the Popular Dresses from this Film

"Under Tuscan Sun" from 2003 remains a popular chick flick, in part due to the vintage styles worn by the lead characters, designed by veteran costume designer Nicoletta Ercole. The 'white dress' that the lead character Frances (Diane Lane) wears created quite a scene when the movie was shown. It was a mini trend at the time. Women everywhere wanted to find that white dress.

Dresses featured in this film seem timeless: fitted bodice with longer tea length hemlines. This look couldn't be more current, as tea length styles are once again in fashion. I thought it might be fun to take a second glance at these costumes.

Over four years have passed since I wrote this blog post. At the time, little did I know that it would become one of the most popular posts ever for this blog. Today I have updated the patterns that are shown in the original post. Over the years that this article has been read, I found that many women came looking for these wonderful and timeless dresses, I thought it would be a good time to repost this and update the sewing patterns. I'll share those new patterns with you at the end of the original post.

The white dress seen in a back view shows clearly the silhouette of this outfit. Below the neatly fitting surplice wrapped bodice, a semi-circle skirt is cut to a vintage 1950's 'ballet' or 'tea length' hem line.

The bodice fit is accented by a black belt which is the perfect way to note a slim waistline. I show a close-up view of the wrapped bodice, which crosses over to the front darts. The facing is wide, completely covering the bodice center front. It's my guess that the inside fastens on the front left at the dart to keep this from draping open, as surplice tops often do.

The sleeve is cut in a short kimono style to make this crepe dress look like it has short sleeves, but without a shoulder seam line. This gives it that late 1940's style.

It is important to notice that this is a mock wrapped dress because the skirt is not wrapped, having a half circle skirt instead. To get that look this dress should have a side zipper.

What makes this dress such a success is the fabric selection. I believe this is a quality crepe. During the late 1940's we see many similar dresses in this textile. At that time rayon, silk and wool were used to drape soft fold and body contoured silhouettes. Crepe would provide the necessary weight and hand to drape the front wrap, soft shoulder and graceful circle skirt. The bodice appears unlined, except for the facing.

A wedding scene has Frances appearing in yet another captivating dress. This one is probably Thai silk in luminescent peach. It has a great circle skirt, looking similar to that on the white dress.

The bodice of this dress is a classic cut: front and side darts create a smooth fit. This crisp fabric requires a set in sleeve, seen here with small cuffs. A narrow shawl collar and covered buttons on the front add soft, but not contrasting details. The one color accent is her wide belt. The skirt on this dress does not continue the center front buttons of the bodice. This would require a side zipper.

Katherine, played by Lindsay Duncan is an fanciful character whose references to Fellini are underscored by her wardrobe. Some of these gowns appear to be true vintage, others are close copies. This red dress coat dress and hat serve to give this character the eccentric drama she requires. Wide lapel details enhance the monochromatic theme of her red on red outfit.

In a Fellini moment, we see Katherine in the village fountain, wearing a dress very similar to Fellini's famous fountain scene. It is a slender strapless black sheath with a sheer overskirt lined in gray chiffon. Another black dinner dress with a lace overlay or yoke may be vintage, its delicate details certainly are classic for that era.

Now, where to find or re-create these styles? I have found a few sewing patterns that could be altered to reproduce the same look. Actually, the dress styles here are not difficult to sew. The challenge is in the fit instead, so find a willing assistant to pin your fit may be required.


These two wrap front sewing patterns in the top slide have the essential bodice details of the white dress. The green style by Butterick 5030 is closest in cut (minus the collar and ruffled sleeves). The Butterick pattern has front bust darts and will fit a curvy body shape while the Vogue 6846 style is without darts, for a more slender figure. With both bodices, altering the pattern by drafting a wider shoulder cut from the bodice will create the type of sleeve seen on the white dress.

I found several wrap or surplice dress patterns from Vogue: 8896, 8784 and 8379. When looking to match a pattern with your fabric, take care to see if the pattern is designed for a woven or stretch textile, as both are available.

Because this should be a mock wrap dress, a circle skirt should be sewn to the bodice instead of wrapping the front skirt. This skirt was probably cut in a 1/2 circle.  When adding a circle skirt, completely fit the bodice first to get the waist measurement and skirt length. The skirt will be drafted from those measurements.  If you use a circle skirt, then a side seam zipper will be necessary because the wrap front won't open wide enough to put the dress on.


This dress requires a slim fitting bodice with classic shirt dress details.  The simple, slim cut shirt dress pattern can be found in McCall's 6891 which is nearly identical to the film dress and McCall's 6696.

On McCall's 6891, the slender shirtwaist dress has the classic darts to make a fitted torso, as well as set in sleeves. The collar is a traditional notch style. McCall's 6696 has a buttoned placket front that may be eliminated by taping those center front pattern pieces together on the seamline and cutting as one.


The real style challenge is to capture the skirt silhouette. In the movie versions, both were circle or semi-circle skirts that were sewn to the fitted bodices, requiring a side seam zipper. While a circle skirt pattern can be found for sale, it is not impossible to cut an original version to fit the bodice.

When preparing to draft a circle skirt, the directions ask for a waist measurement. Use the bodice waistline measurement from a fitted garment to get this measurement. Be sure to draft a skirt with side seams.  This requires space to draft the pattern, so when doing this I use an open floor space, chalk, yardsticks and even string to create the true arc.

Hemming circle skirts is most easily done with a very narrow double fold that is hand sewn or machine stitched. When using softer fabrics like crepe, before the hem is measured, the finished dress will need to hang for a few days to let the hem 'hang out'. After that, have the length measured while wearing the dress. This will even out what is probably an uneven skirt length.

If you want more information on drafting circle skirts, the images I show here for the skirt draft are explained in full on the blog: Making Things by Andrea Tung.

I want to thank everyone who has contacted me or left comments over the past few years. It has been alot of fun seeing how this post really fills a need that women who sew have. Beautiful dresses that fit well. That isn't too much to ask for, is it?

If you enjoyed this post, then you may like others on this sewing and vintage fashion blog.  Why not subscribe to Pintuck Style on Bloglovin HERE, so you won't miss anything.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Radiant Orchid: Wearing Vintage

 photo RadiantOrchidPintuckstyle_zps340acae5.jpg

Radiant Orchid, this year's hot color, may seem too sweet for some but I found it popping with other tropical colors in a 1960's cotton print dress from a well known California boutique. Like new, it's straight from a time warp complete with original hang tags, HERE. The perfect look for a modern girl.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Color for Flappers: 1928 Color Harmony

1928.Color & Design, Pintuckstyle photo ColorDesignpinkdress_zps1ef8862f.jpg

How was color theory, or harmony used in vintage fashion? During the flapper era in 1928, this charming booklet was published to show women how to select personal colors based on their hair and skin tones. This booklet has several wonderful color illustrations to show exactly what fashion colors a girl should choose to look her best.

1928.Color Wheel.Pintuckstyle photo ColorDictionary1928_zps6676b4ab.jpg

This color wheel is the reverse side of that page shown above. By turning the color wheel, various dress colors appear in that illustration. Here on the back side, basic color theory is shown.

1928.color for fashion.pintuckstyle photo 1928personalcolorswarm_zpsf7b2140d.jpg
This page is part of a series of color groups that are based on skin tone and hair color grouped into "warm", "cool" and "intermediate" skin tones. Clearly, this publication is based on the hair and color of middle class women from European heritage and lacks the diversity we are familiar with today. However it does give us insight into a new type of color theory that would grow in popularity during the century, with the publication of such personal color theory books as "Color Me Beautiful".

1928.color for fashion.pintuckstyle photo 1928personalcolorsintermediate_zps65525212.jpg
1928. Color for fashion.pintuckstyle photo 1928personalcolorscool_zpsed4f313a.jpg

The final illustration shown here comes with the following description:
This page suggests ways in which the principles explained in the Color Dictionary herewith may be applied in planning color schemes for dress.

1928, Color chart.pintuckstyle photo 1928colorchart_zps7457b697.jpg

If your inner Flapper is wondering what to wear next, you can take a cue from this to know that color in fashion was bright, rich and varied by the late 1920's, and women had begun to realize what specific colors for them looked the best!

Monday, March 3, 2014

$20 Vintage Dress SALE

SALE Wrapped Flowing Blue Silky Fabric / Vintage 80s Day Dress / Vintage 70s style Disco Era / Secretary Dress / Wrap Dress FITS Many sizes - pintuckstyle
SALE Tucking Front / Vintage 70s Shirt Dress / Dusty Aqua Green Color / Retro Style 1970s Dress / 50's Style Dress / size 8 or 10 - pintuckstyle
20 SALE. M or L size / Purple Dress / Grecian / Lavender / Vintage 1970s Secretary Dress / Chiffon Skirt /  Day Dress / size M, L - pintuckstyle
SALE. Purple Dress / Vintage 1970s Secretary Dress / Floaty Chiffon with Gathered Neckline and Long Sleeves / Day Dress / Petite - pintuckstyle
SALE XL size, Cowl Neck/ Soft Sheer Gray Dress / Vintage Day Dress / 70s style Disco Era / Vintage 1970s Secretary Dress / Vintage Day Dress - pintuckstyle
SALE 70s Shirt Dress , Vintage Dress , 1970s Retro Style Dress , Jersey Knit Secretary Dress , Navy Plaid Print with Flowers , Medium size - pintuckstyle
SALE. French Style Dress / Pink Flowers on Black / 70s Floral on Retro Flowy Fabric / Vintage 1970s Mini Dress / Small, 34 to 36 bust - pintuckstyle
SALE Mod Red Shirt Dress, Vintage 1960s Style, Dot and Stripes, Retro Mad Men era, Small size, 27.5 W - pintuckstyle
SALE. L Size, Arty Print Shirt Dress, Vintage 1960s Dress, Retro Look Vintage Dress with Abstract Print / Large, Size 16 - pintuckstyle
SALE Sm size, 80s Bowie Style Shoulder Wings / Power Blue Silky Fabric / Vintage Day Dress / Vintage 70s style Disco Era / Secretary Dress - pintuckstyle
SALE. Baby Doll Dress , Sweet Black Party Dress , Boho Slip Dress, Vintage 1980s Ruffled Retro Style LBD , LIttle Black Dress , Medium size - pintuckstyle
SALE M size Soft Vintage Dress in Teal / 70s Retro Style Secretary Dress / Teal Blue Floaty Fabric / 1970s Dress / size 8 or 10 - pintuckstyle
SALE. School Girl Style Vintage 70s Shirt Dress /  Retro Style Blue Dress with White Collar / Navy Blue Fabric / Medium  size 10 - pintuckstyle
SALE. Vintage Haori or short Kimono in a Dark Pink, puckered fabric, ONE size,  Large - pintuckstyle
SALE. Teal Tunic 1980s, Shift Dress Retro Style 80s with Collar and Retro Snap Front, Soft Knit Fabric,  Medium or Large, M, L - pintuckstyle

Spring SALE on Vintage Dresses

Most listed here are only $20--a huge price reduction!

See something you like? Just Click on the photo above.
This will take you thru to our Etsy Shop:

Have fun and thanks for shopping at Pintuck Style on Etsy.