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Help Dating a Dress

Discussion in 'PUBLIC Vintage Fashion - Ask Questions Get Answers' started by jauntyrooster, Sep 12, 2010.

  1. jauntyrooster

    jauntyrooster Alumni

    So I am getting better at this but once again, I am a little thrown. I pegged this romantic dress as 80s and was feeling confident til I started looking more closely. I remember wearing things like this in 80s but nothing with a low back like this - of course my mother may have just vetoed that!! :) Also, the dress has little snap straps to hook to your bra straps at the shoulders. Shoulder pads are decent sized which made me jump to 80s quickly. Bottom of dress is uneven - shorter in front and back, longer on sides.

    There are no labels at all to provide guidance - was even thinking it might have been homemade/handmade. Picked up from a pretty upscale estate. She had nothing else 80s (nothing newer than 70s) and everything she had was upscale designer - this seemed out of place actually but grabbed to see what I could do with it - belt is obviously not original and is covering an elastic waist. There are actually no belt loops at all. And yes - I know we need to improve the belt!! :)

    So anyway...80s or am I missing something? Again, know it isn't anything spectacular but sort of a cute little dress and thought good learning piece.

    Thanks all!!!




  2. Rue_de_la_Paix

    Rue_de_la_Paix VFG Member


    I am only chiming in as the dress is so very pretty! To me it looks mid 80's. It has a modified "lettuce leaf" edging that was popular then, and the length is the same as some of the dresses we wore in the 80's.

    I am not certain, but the edging is a good clue.

  3. jauntyrooster

    jauntyrooster Alumni

    Lettuce leaf...brilliant. love it. It is pretty...I wasn't in love with it til I saw it on an actual person. She said it made her feel like flying!
  4. Rue_de_la_Paix

    Rue_de_la_Paix VFG Member


    1 question I forgot to ask. What fabric is the dress? Can you tell if it is a rayon, or polyester, silk, blend, etc? What type of weave is it? Rayon and rayon acetate was super popular in the late 80's for dresses and suits, although this looks to be a polyester "faux silk"?

  5. jauntyrooster

    jauntyrooster Alumni

    I am terrible with fabrics. I have a scarf that I know is silk and ican say that dress has very similar feel. That is not to say that dress is silk but that your idea of poly faux silk could be a good guess.

    Not much help...everything but pure cotton is simply a guess for me.
  6. vintagebaubles

    vintagebaubles Administrator Staff Member

    It's an adorable dress, especially "on." I have to say, I'm a bit flummoxed by this one, myself. The style is very much like the capelet-bodice dresses of the 70s, but the shoulder pads are incongruous with that. I've had lettuce-edged formal dresses from the 70s, so not sure that's a good clue or not. It's probably 80s, but it gives me pause. I don't recall the caped bodices being popular in the 80s--big ruffled necklines were more what I remember for party-type dresses, or sleek, surplice ruched ones. Anyway, it's lovely, and hopefully someone will be along who is better with 80's items than I am! I admit to still having a good deal of my own 80's wardrobe, but it mostly consists of "career" suits and dresses.
  7. Linn

    Linn Super Moderator Staff Member

    I still have some '80's pieces in my closets, too - but not suits. I haven't saved much but have a couple of wool skirts and my wedding outfit from 1988! (Not that I expect to wear it again but I can't get rid of it!)

    I think Maureen's dress is late '80's- early '90s from the length and the big shoulder pads. I remember long print dresses with elastic waists - and really big shoulder pads. The capelet effect reminds me a little of Diane Fries' dresses.

  8. Catbooks1940s

    Catbooks1940s VFG Member

    do you have a shot of the shoulder pads? i know you said they're big, but it sure doesn't look like it in the photos. wondering if they could have been added a few years later.

    i agree with anne, the flowing caped bodice and skirt look very 70s, as well as the lettuce-leaf trimmed high/low skirt. the print, though, looks heading into the 80s. i think this is most likely a late 70s/early 80s cusper, having elements of both eras.
  9. vintagebaubles

    vintagebaubles Administrator Staff Member

    Joan, that seems the likely answer--a late 70s/early 80s piece, and I, too, wondered if perhaps the shoulder pads were added later, maybe to fix a bodice that fell a bit too low and didn't quite fit right. The pads would have lifted it up a little.
  10. jauntyrooster

    jauntyrooster Alumni

    Additional Pics of Dress - Sorry Pic Heavy

    Here are some additional pics. I didnt have dress in front of me when I posted and I was incorrect about lack of tags - there are two tags; a size tag and a care that says "professional dry clean only."

    The shoulder pads are def original to dress - they have same the crazy leopardish pattern to them and the bra strap holders are sewn to the shoulder pads.

    I also attached pics of the seams and zipper just in case they provide any help.

    Am starting to think a little differently about the material now too - why would they want us to professionally dry clean a rayon or poly? I noticed on the Freis dresses (thanks for tip Linn-was fun Googling) that many of them say DO NOT dryclean.

    Don't know if pics are helpful but I really do appreciate all the input. I am glad to know that I was at least right to question the 80s thing...gives me hope that I am learning something.







  11. vintagebaubles

    vintagebaubles Administrator Staff Member

    Maureen, I'm surprised there is no content label in this.... Is that one that was cut off there by the care label? Sometimes the content label is down toward the bottom of the dress in a side seam; have you checked there?

    This looks like a better-quality poly to me, and often they are dry clean only. Same with rayon, but doesn't look like rayon to me.... The fabric, along with the the "lingerie keeper" straps indicate to me that this was likely a somewhat pricey dress. By that era (whether it's late 70s or into the mid 80s), it's hard to find the straps on typical off-the-rack dresses.

    Interesting dress, 'cuz seeing the inside and knowing the shoulder pads are original to the dress makes me incline more to the 80s. But the styling is a sort of throwback. Could be this is from a company that was not as trendy or fashion forward as mainstream labels.
  12. Linn

    Linn Super Moderator Staff Member

    Maureen -

    I think it's '80's. What size is the dress? Does it measure the same as the identical modern size? For example, I don't remember seeing a size 4 prior to the '80's. Does the professionally dry clean only label flip up - is there anything else written on the back of it? Check in all the seams of the skirt - as Anne mentioned we've all found labels lurking there!

  13. TangerineBoutique

    TangerineBoutique VFG Member

    I think Linn is right about the Dianne Fries era and I would bet my bottom dollar it's a poly jaquard. I'm not a huge fan of poly but that one has a very nice look and it will hand wash like a dream. Pretty dress. I see red shoes....

  14. Melody's right; it's a polyester jacquard, a good quality one and hence dry clean only.

    It's also 1980s - probably around the middle of the decade.

  15. Catbooks1940s

    Catbooks1940s VFG Member

    oh yeah, deffo 80s, now that i see the interior.

    but ... the lace label, does that say holly harp??
  16. jauntyrooster

    jauntyrooster Alumni

    Had never heard of Holly Harp so Googled and learned a little. Also managed to find an example of her label and sure enough, there in the lace on my dress, it says Holly's Harp (I think it is an apostrophe s on Holly). I have looked at that piece of lace 20 times today and never had an inkling that it had words in it.

    Amazing forum!!!! So glad I posted the dress. Truly was just stumped a little but now I know a little more. It makes sense that it is some sort of designer item because, as I mentioned, the estate I picked up from was thick with designer stuff - OdlR, Dior, Halston, Pauline T., Hattie Carnegie - it was an amazing estate.

    Still dont know much about Holly Harp so will go do some reading. Thank you again - am really excited to get some info on the dress.


    PS - Know nothing about sewing - would a pattern have come with the labels that are on my dress? The lace, the size, and the dry cleaning label? It doesn't feel like they would but just want to make sure before I say it is a Holly Harp...
  17. joules

    joules VFG Member

    Yep, 80's poly, not a doubt in my mind. Looks great on too!
  18. bycin

    bycin Guest

    LOVE it. Dynasty era.
  19. Jonathan

    Jonathan VFG Member

    Printed damask rayons and silks were definately popular in the late 80s - early 90s. I have several dresses from that period in the collection with that type of textile.
  20. Catbooks1940s

    Catbooks1940s VFG Member

    aha! now it's all making sense. my guess is it's a silk jacquard print. i've never seen or had a holly harp made of sythentic; she used silk, silk jersey, and rayon jersey a lot.

    if you can find a tiny bit of the fabric to snip off from a seam allowance or something, if you burn it and it smells like burning hair, you'll know it's silk. if it smells sweet or actually anything other than yuck burning hair, it's poly.

    also, she was known for those romantic looks in the 70s, so the style makes sense now too, as well as the lettuce leaf hi/low hem. she was very big on all of that.

    no, this would be an original, not sewn from a pattern. lucky you! dayum, that sale sounds amazing.

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