Clash of the Titans: Goddess Gowns

Oscar season is upon us, and that means goddess gowns. Goddess gowns usually share elements of classical drapery and the simple construction of the toga and chiton. Here’s a selection of patterns for Greco-Roman-inspired evening wear.

This 1920s evening dress from the House of Worth features elegant back drapery, with a beaded appliqué holding more drapery at the left hip:

1920s Worth evening dress pattern - McCall 4854
McCall 4854 by Worth (1927) Evening dress.

The illustration for this 1930s Lanvin ‘scarf frock’ plays up the classical mood with a fluted pedestal and ferns:

1930s Lanvin evening gown illustration in McCall Style News, January 1936. Image via eBay.
McCall 8591 by Lanvin (1936) McCall Style News, January 1936. Image via eBay.

This late 1940s one-shouldered evening dress has a long panel that can be worn belted in the back or wrapped around the bared shoulder:

1940s one-shouldered evening dress pattern - McCall 7862
McCall 7862 (1949) Evening dress.

Toga-like drapery distinguishes these short, Sixties evening dresses by Pauline Trigère and Jacques Heim:

1960s Pauline Trigère evening dress pattern - McCalls 6599
McCall’s 6599 by Pauline Trigère (1962) Image via PatternVault on Etsy.
1960s Jacques Heim evening dress pattern - Vogue 1333
Vogue 1333 by Jacques Heim (1964) Image via the Blue Gardenia.

This late ’60s Yves Saint Laurent evening dress has a classical simplicity, with the bodice gathered into a boned collar:

1960s Yves Saint Laurent evening dress pattern - Vogue 2093
Vogue 2093 by Yves Saint Laurent (1969) Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

This Pucci loungewear has culottes on the bottom, but still has that ‘goddess’ flavour (modelled by Birgitta Af Klercker):

1960s Pucci loungewear pattern - Vogue 2249
Vogue 2249 by Pucci (1969) Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Angeleen Gagliano models this mid-Seventies Lanvin evening dress and toga:

1970s Lanvin evening dress and toga pattern - Vogue 1147
Vogue 1147 by Lanvin (1975) Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

This Pierre Balmain evening ensemble, modelled by Jerry Hall, shows a more literal interpretation of classical dress:

1970s Pierre Balmain evening dress and cape pattern - Vogue 2015
Vogue 2015 by Pierre Balmain (1979) Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Finally, this jersey gown with beaded waistband, from Guy Laroche by Damian Yee, is an example of the recent trend for goddess gowns:

2008 Guy Laroche pattern - Vogue V1047
Vogue 1047 by Guy Laroche (2008) Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

(From the Spring 2007 Laroche collection, the pattern is still in print now out of print.)

Goddess” was the theme of the 2003 Costume Institute exhibit; the catalogue, Goddess: The Classical Mode (Yale UP, 2003) is still available.

Quaithe of Asshai – Vogue 2014 by Givenchy

Since Naomi was going as Daenerys Targaryen, this Halloween I went as Quaithe from George R.R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire. Quaithe is a minor character from shadowy Asshai who meets Daenerys near Qarth; she makes repeated appearances to deliver cryptic prophecies.

Quaithe and Daenerys Targaryen Halloween costumes

In the books Quaithe is hardly described at all apart from her red lacquered mask, so I had a lot of freedom. Asshai, in the fantasy world’s mysterious east, is known for its worship of R’hllor, a fire religion with Zoroastrian echoes. After doing some research into ancient Persian costume, which showed periodic Greek influences, I opted to use my Very Easy late ’70s Givenchy evening dress pattern, Vogue 2014:

Late 1970s Givenchy pattern, Gia in a pink evening dress, Vogue 2014
Vogue 2014 by Givenchy (1978) Model: Gia Carangi. Image: PatternVault shop.

The design may be from the Spring 1978 collection, judging from the similar halter neckline in this campaign image:

Givenchy advertising campaign image, Spring 1978, by photographer Michel Picard.
Givenchy ready-to-wear advertising campaign, Spring 1978. Photo: Michel Picard. Image: styleregistry.

For fabric, I used black Qiana from a deadstock bolt found on Etsy. Qiana is a vintage nylon, a synthetic silk with a little stretch. It’s even in keeping with the ‘exotic’ Qs of the fantasy series.

"Whatever Diane's got I want" Diane von Furstenberg advertisement featuring Beverly Johnson wearing Qiana fabric Cosmo December 1979
Diane’s got Qiana nylon. Diane von Furstenberg advertisement, 1979. Model: Beverly Johnson. Image: eBay.

As a Very Easy Vogue pattern, Vogue 2014 has very simple construction, but also lots of hand-finishing. The hem and slits at top and bottom front are slipstitched, the top edge is blindstitched to the inside bodice, and the back facings and extension are slipstitched over the hooks and eyes that fasten the halter.

I made the size 12 with no alterations, and it worked out just fine. The lines of gather stitching at the ends of the halter fastening are visible, as I discovered, so if I made the dress again I would mark them rather than doing my usual winging it.

Instead of using the 18-inch tassel the pattern calls for, I strung together some mesh beads from Arton Beads on Queen Street West. With stainless steel spacer beads the strand is fairly heavy, but I like the effect when it’s fastened to the back extension.

Naomi found me a shimmery red mask at Malabar, and within a day or so I had a costume:

Quaithe dress, full length - 1970s Vogue 2014 by Givenchy, with Aileron shoes by Gareth Pugh for Melissa
Vogue 2014 by Givenchy (shoes: Gareth Pugh for Melissa)
Quaithe full length, back view - 1970s Vogue 2014 by Givenchy
Vogue 2014 by Givenchy – back view

Here are some detail shots of the bodice and back:

1970s Vogue 2014 by Givenchy - closeup on halter front detail
Vogue 2014 by Givenchy – neckline detail
Quaithe dress back detail with beads - 1970s Vogue 2014 by Givenchy
Vogue 2014 by Givenchy – back detail

Many thanks to our fabulous photographer, Rachel O’Neill, for a fantastic beach shoot in mid-November!

(Cross-posted to We Sew Retro.)