Erte Tea Dress - In ProgressBack to Colleen's Costumes

In Spring of 2006, I received an email offering me the opportunity to take a workshop with 5 other students in the designs of Erte. I have never been a huge Erte fan, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to take a class from this particular teacher. It had also been a year since I had had a costuming class, and I was really missing it.

Learning about Erte


When I started the class, my concept of Erte was that he was an incredibly bizarre designer from the 1920's.

During class, we went over Erte designs, talking about which ones we each like best, and what we would like to attempt to create. I have a new appreciation of the complexity of Erte. He's kind of like a cross between Escher and David Lynch, but as a fashion designer...still incredibly bizarre, but neat, too.

Many of the designs are a single tube of fabric with the person occupying part of the tube, which turns inside out at one point a la Mobius. There is a fascination with pockets and tassles. I've decided that Erte is fun, albeit incredibly bizarre!



This is the design I chose*.

I was very unsure of which design to pick. I seem to favor coats and all things tailored, but my main criteria was that the design not be very difficult. It's usually quite a challenge for me to get anything done, and I didn't want to torpedo myself.

This design is basically a kimono-style dress. The sleeves are not sewn together. Instead they are buttoned to the waist. The buttons at the waist also serve to draw in the waistline, and I always favor a waistline.

The original fabric is blue-gray, and the original lining (which shows as white in the photo) is chamois.

The designs on the lining of the sleeve are actually pockets. The one on the left is buttoned closed; the one on the right is unbuttoned, except the top button.

*Designs by Erte : Fashion Drawings and Illustrations from "Harper's Bazar", Dover Publications, 1976, page 104.



My first mockup was a Barbie-scale creation, just to see if I could get the proportions right.







My next mockup was full scale, for fit and pocket placement. My first effort was a tad tight, and it didn't leave enough room for gathering by the buttons at the waist. I added 4" total to the width, which seems to have fixed the problem.



Women in the 1920's, especially high fashion women, weren't very fond of foundation garments. They tended to wear just a camisole, and most garments were designed for that sleek, breastless look.

I prefer to have a foundation, because otherwise I look like I have a seriously bizarre case of the mumps.

After discusion in class about this, I've decided to go shopping for a sports bra. I despise sports bras, but I might be able to come closer to the look I want to achieve, without being utterly self-conscious about it.



I found a great poly-something or other, sort of silky fabric in a dark gray-blue for the outside fabric. I'm using a fake suede in a light brown to substitute for the chamois on the inside.

My buttons are dark gray, almost the same color as the fabric. They have a square within a square design. At the fabulous suggestion of the teacher of the workshop, I'm going to glue dark rhinestones over the buttons after I sew them on. I hope I can find square ones!



The pockets have to be sewn wrong sides together and then pulled through the fabric, so I will have to sew on the pockets before I sew the dress.