Mary Quant Minidress: The Cutting

Project 4, part 3 – 1960s Tiki Culture and Lots of Pieces (Part 1, part 2 here)

I’m always genuinely surprised by how much fabric sewing projects can take up!

Welcome back to the Mary Quant minidress sewing project! Having made my toile, it was time to get brave and actually cut into my fashion fabric. I love this fabric more every time I handle it; it’s just so summery and fun! Considering I originally bought this yardage for a different project, I was a little worried about having enough, but the problem actually lay in my fusible interfacing (also bought ages ago):

Just a teeny bit of overlap…oops!

I only had a yard of it, so I Tetrised the pieces as best as I could. I figured, since it will be fused to the fashion fabric anyway, I could probably get away with cutting some small pieces up to fill in the gaps. In the end, I only had to do so for the rear facing piece!

I’ll report back soon on if this plan worked!
Then I just had to verrrrrrrrrry carefully angle the remaining pattern pieces. Success!

Having all the pieces finally cut out is so satisfying! Of course, the actual dress assembly will be a decent amount of work, but there’s something about looking at all the fabric parts laying around that makes it feel real in a way that just the bolts of cotton didn’t. Plus, while I was working on this, a mini heat wave hit my town, and it definitely feels like summer even though it’s early June. I can already taste the mint (from my patio planter) muddled into all sorts of tasty fruit smoothies and cocktails – which are very appropriate for this 1960s dress, as well! Tiki culture was booming in the early ’60s, driven by hotels and restaurants cashing in on the craze that began over two decades earlier. My favorite musical of all time, South Pacific, was made into a movie in 1958 that further fueled the idea of tropical islands (or their mainland commercial counterparts) as hedonistic and relaxing getaways. (Seriously, I’ve seen the musical at least half a dozen times in person. One year I went to visit my grandparents in Los Angeles, and they couldn’t get me tickets so they bought me the movie on DVD so I wouldn’t miss out! That’s real love, right there!)

I’m humming “Bali Ha’i” right now! Also this is a lot more chunks than I was expecting. Is “chunks” the right descriptor?

If you’re interested – as I was – I also wanted to share a couple of links regarding the legacy of colonialism that lies behind tiki bars and style, and the appropriation of Polynesian cultures that continue to be unpacked even today. Rather than feeling bad about my love of tiki, I’ve been researching it, and listening when people of those cultures speak up about how they would like to be represented. For example, Mariah Kunkel, of mixed Native Guam and African-American descent, was recently interviewed in the New York Times:

“A recent movement aims to shift from the word “tiki” to “tropical” and Kunkel is on board. “I just don’t think it’s necessary to use stereotypes or appropriate cultural elements to transport folks.” She says, however, that tiki can lead people to learn about the culture of Pacific Islanders.”

Although, as I mentioned, I have family born in Hawai’i, I am not myself Hawai’ian. I chose my fabric for this dress because of its beauty and historical elements that tie it perfectly to the era its design originates from. There are problematic aspects of history just like there are many problematic aspects of the modern world, and I think it’s super important to acknowledge them so we can work together on creating a better world. I also just bought the tropical cocktail book written by another woman mentioned in the New York Times article, Shannon Mustipher, so I look forward to reporting back!

I love a good checklist.

So what’s next? Lots of sewing, of course! I’ve decided to use green thread for the project as the leaves in the print are echoed in the leaf buttons I’ll be using. I do have to make a decision in short order about whether or not to flatline this dress as well – it will make it a little less cool in hot weather, but I think I’d rather have a bit more opacity between my skin and the general public. If I do go that way, I’ll just use the pieces I already cut out for the toile, so it won’t take too much more effort. Either way, join me next time when I put it all together and sew the actual dress!

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