I’m really no good with zippers – don’t put them in bloody dresses then!

Just to give you the heads up folks, whilst the title of this blog does look like a bit of a rant, I promise I do make a good point and hopefully have some helpful advice for other gals in my predicament.

Last night, Dawn O’ Porter was once again on her vintage soapbox in her series, This Old Thing… Now let’s forget for a second all the stupid nonsense like the fact she encourages people to save money by buying vintage yet doesn’t think twice about spending £200 on a dress, the fact that half the stuff isn’t even vintage, and that there’s no real guidance on what to look for/pay when shopping for vintage (although she scored brownie points last night for referencing Dita Von Teese) – let’s just push all that stuff to one side, and focus on the fact that she discourages reproduction in favour of vintage.
I for one am all for retro/vintage reproduction – most of my wardrobe is made up of it, for the main reason that unlike “vintage” the sizes are much more forgiving and more in keeping with modern day measurements – I love the stuff! But recently, I’ve been having a major issue that sadly only strengthens Dawn’s argument…
For years I avoided wearing high street dresses because my pear shape figure and zips just did not mix, and my hatred of the things only got worse when I started studying fashion and learnt for myself only too well what a nightmare they are to sew correctly. Whilst I know my limits and decided to leave the darn little buggers well enough alone, it seems the same can’t be said for a lot of people.

Burlesque Bakery Witney and Jenni Fleur Silver talk reproduction dresses

“I’m really no good with zippers!” Don’t worry – you’re not the only one Gilda…

With the sun finally coming out to play recently, I decided to treat myself to some new reproduction dresses that I’d been salivating over for the past few weeks.  I filled up my ebay basket with several dresses from my favourite seller, Sirens and Starlets, who I buy all of my reproduction dresses from, and having seen lots of rave reviews on Facebook from friends about Lindy Bop, I decided to give their website a nosey. Within minutes I’d ordered more dresses than I could count on two hands, and looked forward to my pending arrivals, all the while telling myself not to feel too bad about how much I’d spent, as I’d probably send a few back. Imagine my disappointment when the 20 something dresses arrived and I only kept… 2!
First up, the half a dozen or so dresses I ordered from Sirens and Starlets – now let me start by saying one of the key qualities I look for in reproduction retailers is an easy return policy, and Sirens and Starlets is about as simple as it gets, with excellent customer service. My go to stockist for all things Hell Bunny and Voodoo Vixen, I’ve bought many a dress from them, all exceptionally good value for money. This time though, some new brand editions to the range had taken my fancy, and I was eagerly awaiting a couple of dresses, particularly a sarong style number I’d spied by Whispering Ivy.

Jenni Fleur Silver talks vintage and reproduction dresses

Whispering Ivy – just couldn’t get it to do up!

Sceptical but optimistic (pencil and wiggle dresses are always a bit hit and miss for me with my hips), I started unpacking the summer dresses and was immediately confused – they felt heavy, the fabric thick, too thick for a summer dress, nothing like my lightweight Hell Bunny’s. I wasn’t off to a promising start, but persisted anyway, until I got to a point where I felt like a five year old and needed parental supervision to get dressed. Pushing and pulling, Mama Puss Puss and I could get the zip only so far before it stuck. Try as we might to take the dress off and keep running it up and down, it still kept getting stuck, and it became apparent that the heavy weight material and seams were far too thick for the flimsy concealed zipper. Back in the cellophane the dresses went, as I opted instead for a fail-safe A-line, by Hearts and Roses London, a brand that I’d be happy to try again.

Burlesque Bakery Witney on 50's reproduction dresses

Hearts and Roses London – a keeper!

Next up the Lindy Bop dresses – oh how excited I was with the novel necklines and deep jewel colours that are so hard to come by, and as they were all mostly A-line dresses I was confident they’d all look fabulous – my only problem would be ruthlessly deciding which ones to keep and spare my bank balance. Generally at £25 – £30 each though, I could afford to keep a quite a few I thought.
As usual I started off with the A-line dresses – I figured if I secured a couple of keepers first, I wouldn’t be so disappointed when it was time to try on the tricky pencils which I would most likely have to return. Call it cockiness, or call it complacency, but it turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong. Ranging from cheap cotton, to that heavy drill that seemed so wrong for a summer dress, they did nothing for my ego as I couldn’t get any of the size 10 dresses done up (a word of advice, if you buy Lindy Bop, go a size up, they’re not as generous as Hell Bunny).  Thinking things couldn’t get any more disappointing, I went on to unpack what I had set my sights on as my clear favourite, only to discover the zip was already broken and I couldn’t even try it on. Feeling defeated, I wondered if there was any point even carrying on, but continued to work my way through the packages none the less. I started on the wiggle dresses, again having to resign a couple of them back to the packets before even trying them on – the zips weren’t broken as such, but they wouldn’t run smoothly – if they were this difficult now, what would they be like when I got them on?! Last but not least I finally came to another hopeful piece de resistance – a sarong dress, but with this zip business and the heavy fabric, this wasn’t going to end well. Ironically what I expected to be the worst turned out to be the best, and although an adjustable halter neck would have been the perfect finishing touch to the dress, it looked and fitted beautifully – this was one (the only one!) for the keep pile.

Jenni Fleur Silver on where to get the best vintage repro dresses

Nooooo my dream Lindy Bop dress has a broken zip!

My plea to reproduction designers and suppliers is this – please, please, please consider whether a zip is suitable for your fabric! If your dress is thick and bulky, don’t use a zip. Don’t make zips even harder than they have to be by putting them in the side of dresses so we can’t do them up. And for crying out loud, press your seams flat so the zipper doesn’t keep getting stuck in them!

Burlesque Bakery Witney on vintage dressing

Lindy Bop saves itself with this sarong halter – my favourite dress of the bunch!

As for my fellow shoppers, I implore you – give your zip a good wiggle test before you put the garment on and don’t be afraid to be aggressive with it. Ease it by running it several times up and down to make sure it glides smoothly and if it doesn’t, don’t settle, send it straight back – remember if you can’t even get the dress on, how the hell are you (or your beau) going to get it off!
The Burly Baker x