Is Galanos the Dior of America? Constructing the McCall's #4045 Dress

By 1957, the year this sewing pattern was released, Galanos had become known as the "Dior of America." At the time, Galanos' signature style was based upon beautifully molded silhouettes using intricate darts that draped and curved the fabric to the natural contour of the figure. This skirt requires 30 yards of cotton organdie fabric, deploys 130 darts, and is tightly gathered; all to create this elegant 1950's iconic silhouette. This dress is an example of Galanos' interpretation of the popular “New Look” that Dior initially introduced to fashion in 1947.

The volume for this dress also gets support from a pretty intense petticoat. The petticoat is unusual, because Galanos asked for the seamstress to shape horsehair braid as the yoke, to wrap around the waist and high hip.

To make sure the petticoat can support 30 yards of skirt fabric, 10 yards of petticoat net was sewn onto the yoke....

...and 10 yards of horsehair braid was sewn in at the hem to exaggerate and support the skirt.

By far, the most amount of work went into the construction of this skirt.

The prep work itself was intimidating, because I had to pre-shrink and iron 30 yards of cotton organdie, and then thread trace 20 large panels and darts.

The darts were ironed flat and pointed in one direction.

Another surprise! What’s unusual about this dress is that the darts are exposed darts, meaning, the darts are left on the outside of the dress! I guess this provides more dimension and depth for the eye to see.

I had to hand-gather 30 yards of fabric into a 26” waist! This is because all of the gathering stitches created by a machine kept snapping and resisting, due to the thickness of the darts and the friction from the cotton organdie. Unfortunately, I do not own a tool that can gather cloth as tightly as the pattern required. There was no wriggle room to spare.

Some experienced sewing friends suggested using a zig-zag stitch over dental floss to create the gathers. What a brilliant little trick! I didn't use that method, however, because I needed full control at the seam. I simply used a running stitch the same size as the gathering machine stitch to gather up 400 inches of fabric evenly and compactly.

The project would have moved along more quickly, but the gathers were so tight that I snapped the thread three times and had to start over each time.

Eventually, and miraculously, I was able to condense all that fabric and secure it onto a 26-inch long twill tape, which provided a sturdy foundation for all the heavy fabric. This also guaranteed that the gathers would stay in place and wouldn’t snap and break again.

The skirt has a massive 15.5” hem, which was slip-stitched by hand, into place.

The dress was smooth sailing after completing the skirt. I used a silk-linen fabric for the bodice. The faux-belt was permanently sewn to the bodice. The dimensional bow was built upon the belt and sewed securely in place.

Finished! Can you identify the exposed darts?

Completed recreation of Galanos for McCall’s 4045
Completed recreation of Galanos for McCall’s 4045

I honestly thought that the dress would be more voluminous, given the massive amount of fabric that went into the dress.

I plan on making more Galanos dresses this year, but after recreating this dress, I can say that this pattern was one of the more intense, yet simple, dresses to make, because the dress did not call for a corselette or underbodice. There were only a total of 11 pattern pieces: 3 for the dress, 2 for the crinoline, and 6 for the belt and bow.

Galanos 4045 for McCall’s, Back View
Galanos for McCall’s, 4045, Back View

Sometimes the best designed dresses have the fewest amount of pattern pieces. Galanos’ use of an extensive petticoat, darts to create shape, and his use of volume through gathers, is what makes this dress uniquely structural.

What do you think? Do you believe Galanos deserved the title of, “the Dior of America?”

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