How To: Gilda Applique

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had at least a minor ability to identify what I want, and then get it. I’m sure it goes back to the fact that I’m the youngest of five daughters. One might even call me a Daddy’s Girl, if my dad would ever have accepted such a thing. I can recall that as a child I could convince my dad to go to 7-11 at least once a day and return home with a king size KitKat or bag of M&Ms for me; my sisters will attest that I had it pretty good. Discovering this skill early in life has raised my expectations as an adult; within reason, now when I see something I want, I expect to be able to obtain it one way or another. So when I saw this dress in Gilda, I knew somehow, it would be mine:

The original look on Rita from Gilda

I knew I didn’t need a dress- just a top would do. Something I could wear with jeans, slacks, or a skirt. So, I started with a pattern I’ve already used a few times, New Look 6900 because it met all my basic requirements- sweetheart neckline, close fit, and simple construction. I didn’t want the extra band at the top of the neckline, so I just added 1 3/4″ to the top of the pattern in the front and back. For a better fit, I added a wide elastic band in the back, just shorter than the width of my back. I attached it to the side seam allowances at the height of the double notches in the back seams- this cinched the bustier just under my bustline, slimming the overall silhouette without looking too skintight.

Pattern Preparation

So, I got the base garment put together, and the next step was to remove a top portion of one of the cups and replace that with a flesh-tone cup to duplicate the not-quite-all-there Gilda look. I was stumped about how to do this- figuring out the replacement, and then how it would interact with the lining I would need to install for a seamless bustline. I thought about it for a couple of days and it finally came to me while I was trying to fall asleep one night. It was far simpler than I was making it. I chalked out the portion to remove (solid line in the picture below), subtracted 5/8″ for a seam (dashed line), and cut it out. I then used the cut-out, with 5/8″ added for the same seamline, as a template for the replacement fabric.

Replacing one cup with flesh-tone fabric

This method worked for only a couple of reasons- the portion I was replacing was relatively small and flat (unlike the rest of my body!). If I had made the cut-out much larger, the template wouldn’t have worked. Instead, it would have been better to make a portion of the bodice according to the pattern so that the replacement piece carried over the princess seams and curviture from the base garment. Also, both fabrics had some stretch and this helped match the two pieces at the seamline. The base bustier was a stretch cotton blend with silver-thread pinstripes. The replacement fabric was a gauze-thin jersey- so thin I used two layers to make the replacement. the stretchiness also meant that I didn’t need to install a zipper, which makes me very happy! Once I had the replacement cut out, I stitched it  to the bustier, and then understitched that seamline so it would lay flat against the bodice, rather than flip up under the cup.  The final look was significantly smaller than the cut-out in Gilda, but it works. After the replacement was in, I added a lining to the front and back of the bustier so I wouldn’t have to have a seamline at the edge.

Understitching the replacement cup

 The next step was to work on the appliqué. Because the shape of the replacement was so different from the original, I decided to go with a rosebud rather than a full open-bloom design. I used the shape of the replacement fabric as the outline for the bud, and then free-handed the rest of the design on my dressform. I used a grey georgette as the base fabric for the appliqué- it draped well to conform to the bustier shape, and would disappear well between the appliqué and the black base fabric.

Designing the appliqué

From there, I had to choose my trim to make the appliqué, then start putting it together. I had three options floating around in my collection- one silver sequin trim, one silver gimp ribbon, and a wider wired silver ribbon. I decided to use the gimp because I liked its “thorniness” (and I thought the sequins would be a pain) and then chose the wired ribbon as the central stem. Using the design I sharpied onto the georgette, I glued the gimp in place. The wired ribbon had a weave that was too open and it didn’t respond well to the glue, so I planned on just sewing it on at the end. Once the gluing was finished I let it dry for more than 24 hours, then cut out around the design as closely as I possibly could, leaving the center stem as a guide for the wired ribbon I would have to add later. Incidentally, the georgette was thin enough that the glue bled through the fabric- I placed a sheet of plastic from my light table as a barrier underneath it- a smooth, easy-to-peel-away-from surface that wouldn’t distort the design at all.

The finished appliqué

I took the cut-out appliqué and pinned it onto my bustier on the dressform, so the final design could conform to the shape of my body, then started hand-sewing.  I used a light grey thread and took small stitches across the thinnest part of the gimp’s zigzags, rather than sewing through the glue and gimp itself. After that sewing was done,  I sewed on the wider wired ribbon, using the same thread. You can see from here how imprecise my cutting was, but I don’t think it looks too terrible- it just softens the edges a bit.

The appliqué now pinned onto the base garment

With the sewing now done, here’s the finished product. As a side note, I don’t generally do sleeveless or strapless looks. Cleavage, yes; shoulders, no. So I’m also showing the little jacket I would most likely wear whenever I wear this. It hides the design a bit, but not too drastically.

The finished look!

So there- I got what I wanted! If you want higher quality pics or additional details for any of the steps, let me know in the comments, and I ‘ll either post more or send you an email with what you need. Overall, I’m really pleased with how this turned out- it took me about a week and a half to complete, with a couple of breaks here and there.

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4 responses to “How To: Gilda Applique

    • Jodi! I love reading along on your blog – I pop in every once in a while to see who you’re quoting and what you’re up to. I’m doing well, if you can discount my minor sewing obsession, which has really blossomed these past few years.

  1. That looks beautiful! You got a terrific fit from the pattern too. Did you hand draw the applique or did you use a pattern from something else? It looks really wonderful. Keep writing!

    • I hand-drew the applique, but I started out with a clip art image that had the right basic shape- I just free-hand tweaked it to make it fit.

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