An evening version of her beloved “little black dress”, this vintage Hattie Carnegie sleeveless gown in black rayon duchesse satin dates from the late 1940s into the early 1950s. Elegant in its restraint, the gown’s post-war silhouette--fitted bodice with voluminous skirt—is adorned solely with artful and unexpected details of contruction.
The bodice, shaped through bust darts in front and princess seams in back, features a “threaded” tab contruction at the scooped neckline, with a self-fabric rouleau weaving in and out of the tabs and leaving chic keyhole-like openings between them. Similarly, the wide, tank-style straps are notched to offer enticing glimpses of bare shoulder.
Meanwhile, the pieced gores of the skirt are staggered in their placement, creating a crenellated effect around the waistline as they define it, with every other gore having a shallow (horizontal) inverted pleat at its top that suggests a tiny pocket. The skirt has an impressive 140” sweep.
Unlined, the dress closes with a metal zipper on the left side. Seams are pinked and the hem is finished with ribbon tape.
Label (in a side seam of the skirt near the hem) reads “Hattie Carnegie Inc.”
Though Hattie Carnegie didn’t sketch or sew herself, a sequence of major talents (Norell, McCardell, and Trigere among them) worked for her in the course of her four decades-plus career, attesting to her own formidable gifts as fashion empress. It’s tempting to speculate which designer may have had a hand in this gown, perhaps Gustave Tassell or Pauline de Rothschild, who according to the Vintage Fashion Guild both worked for her at the close of the 1940s.
Measurements are: Bust 36”, waist 29”, hips 44”, shoulder to waist (measured across the bottom of the “pockets”) 16.5”, and shoulder to hem 56”.
Though this lovely gown is clean, sturdy and wearable, condition is good only, due to areas of dye unevenness throughout--subtle purplish speckling on the skirt and shoulders, and faint purplish ombreing toward the hem (see photo #7). The discoloration is not conspicuous and needs to be “looked for” in different angles of light, but it is there. Price reflects this issue.
Proud Member of the VFG Vintage Fashion Guild