The Venice Beach Dress

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

Genevieve and Helwig from the Beach Clip

How often do you find a vintage piece of clothing and wished you knew more about the story of the person who wore it?  Sometimes vintage clothing will come with a tidbit of history, passed on from the family to the vintage clothing vendor, and in those wonderful rare moments you might see a photo of the original owner in the garment.

Then there are the garments that are a part of our history as swing dancers – even more rare, like the Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers jackets (lovingly reproduced by Chloe Hong) or the costumes worn on the silver screen by our Lindy Hop luminaries of the 30’s and 40’s.  Maybe some people know where some of these items are, but others are lost to time.

Kate Hedin in THE dress

I remember reading Bobby White’s Swungover posts on Genevieve Grazis, one of the followers in the famous “Beach Clip” that many a Balboa dancer has studied in painstaking detail, and following his adventures in historic sleuthing about who she was and her life outside of this snippet of time we know as the Beach Clip.  After reading about the lives of the original swing dancers and watching them in videos, I can’t help but think, “Where are the clothes they wore, where are they NOW?”  Maybe that’s just my inclination.  Genevieve’s dress in the Beach Clip is distinct, both in its attention-grabbing “color” and texture, as well as the impeccable twirl of the gored skirt.

So I’m scrolling through Facebook today and at the top of my feed is the resplendent Kate Hedin in a glorious white satin dress – THE satin dress worn by Genevieve Grazis in the Beach Clip!  How does this happen?  Bobby, Kate, and the finder of this dress, Swing Sleuths Jennifer Halsne, explain the wonderful story in the video below, including a demonstration!  I got tingles listening to it – I love the hunt and I love the history!

3 thoughts on “The Venice Beach Dress

  1. This is a lovely bit of history in action! Obviously I’ve immediately spent a chunk of my day trying to find a dress that resembles this. Unfortunately it’s very much a dress of it’s time, caught between the mid-length gored skirts of the 40s and the feminine preciousness of the 30s. This means modern reproduction vintage dresses haven’t much in common with it as they hone in on the more classic looks of the decades. I’ve found some sort-of approximations looking for ‘fit and flare’ dresses but nothing I think is worth sharing. If anyone can do better let me know!

    So from a sewing perspective the key features of this dress are:
    Princess seams on the torso running into;
    A heavily gored skirt (there don’t seem to be any insets so the entire bodice and skirt would be cut from 6 pieces. Extravagant!);
    Puffed sleeves, pleated, not gathered, with narrow hem cuffs;
    A sort-of Chelsea collar, except it’s in one piece and the shaping is formed with a bit of ruching;
    No pockets!
    Centered back zipper, not lapped (covered by a flap of fabric on one side).This is unusual for a vintage dress.

    So for the really dedicated seamstress I would probably use a pattern like this as a base
    Not too much hacking would be required – widen the skirt flare, draft on a new collar and shorten the puff sleeves. It’s a start!

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