Latest Posts

Rate the Dress: a paisley tea gown

Last week’s rate the dress was a probably-by Callot Soeurs gown in what-do-we-call-this-bronze-blush-champagne with intricate embroidery.  A few people weren’t so enthusiastic, but most of you loved the dress – so much so it’s going to get a bit polygamous, because a number of us are in line to marry it.  (me too!).  The final rating was 9.3 out of 10.

I’m currently obsessing over paisley, because I’m giving a talk on Paisley at CoCo, so this week’s Rate the Dress is on-theme.  In fact, it manages to combine paisley with another one of my obsessions: tea gowns.

This tea gown is an example of a mid-century paisley shawl which has been re-made into a fitted garment.  This practice was very common from the late 1870s onwards, as shawls fell out of fashion as bustles came in, but the actual shawl fabric was still valued.

Though paisley shawls of the 1860s were ENORMOUS, they still don’t contain enough fabric to make a full trained tea gown, so the dressmaker has combined the wool shawl with muted lavender taffeta, which forms the front of the gown, and an inset train.

The lavender front of the gown features gathered smocking at the waist and neck, in a nod to the Aesthetic fashions which were so often associated with tea gowns.

So, how does this rate as an example of paisley, re-use and a tea gown?  Does it manage to combine elegance and comfort?  And how do you feel about the match of the lavender and the warmer tones in the shawl?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

My Costume College talks

I’m off to the US for Costume College this week, and I am SO excited!  I’ll be seeing costumers I haven’t seen in almost a decade, meeting costumers I’ve never met in real life, taking some amazing classes, and even giving two p myself!

My first talk is a topic I’ve been fascinated by for years, and which I’ve given as a class or presentation in various forms: the history of the paisley/boteh motif.

I just think it’s amazing that this one motif has become so universally recognisable (even Mr D knows what paisley is!): as much so as spots or stripes or checks, though its much more specific and esoteric.   The history of how it came to be so well known, and the different things it has represented in Western fashion, is quite phenomenal – and quite important to know as a historical costumer, so that you understand what your paisley garment would have meant to the people viewing it at the time it was made (spoiler alter: wealth!, knowledge!, sex!, security!, ethics!, conventionalism!, respectability!, rebellion! – depending on the particular era).

From Boteh to Paisley – Saturday 30 July, 12-1

The paisley or boteh motif has gone through many variations in aesthetic and symbolism in Western dress, from the favoured design on the gowns of an empress, to grandmother’s shawl, to its association with the counter-cultures of the 1960s. Explore the evolution of the motif, and its influence on dress with Leimomi, from its origins in the fertile Vale of Kashmir, through the Western & Islamic influenced changes of the 19th century, and into the paisley renaissance of the 1960s, to better understand what a paisley garment actually meant at any point in fashion history.

Regency frocks thedreamstress.com5

My second talk doesn’t really need an introduction if you’ve been reading my blog for the last month.  I’m going to be talking about the Fortnight in 1916.  I’ll be covering lots of information that I haven’t covered in posts yet, so it should be interesting!

A Fortnight in 1916 – Saturday 30 July, 1-2

Learn what it’s like to spend two weeks attempting to live like a 1916 housewife in Wellington, New Zealand: doing housework and shopping in petticoats, wool stockings, and a longline corset; making-do a garment in the spirit of WWI fabric shortages, and socialising and interacting within a very small, local sphere. Leimomi’s experiment will explore both the benefits and drawbacks of the 1910s lifestyle, how it impacted her body and relationships, and the surprising insights gained from an era that is rarely explored as an immersive living history option for women.
A Fortnight in 1916 thedreamstress.com

Sadly, because my talks are right on top of each other, I won’t have time to wear my Kashmiri gown for the first one, and change into 1916 clothes for the second.

If you’re at CoCo and don’t already have something fabulous booked at midday on Saturday, I do hope you’re able to come to one or both of my presentations!

It’s not false arrogance when I say I’m a very good public speaker (I know my weaknesses and won’t hesitate to admit them, but being extremely entertaining and informative as a teacher is not one of them!), so I can promise you’ll both learn something new, and enjoy yourself  (and maybe cry.  Because I’ve yet to do a run-through of the Fortnight talk without crying.  WWI is just so sad…)

See you there!  And for those who can’t make it, there will be blog posts, of course.

Ruffled unders at Ruffles & Rebellion thedreamstress.com

Ruffled Unders at Ruffles to Rebellion

I am buried under piles of ruffles (literally – having spent most of the day hemming and ruffling 12 meters of silk organza for a travelling petticoat for Ninon, only to decide in the end I didn’t like the way it looked…) getting ready for Costume College, so I’m pulling out a fun costume pretties post that I’ve had stashed in case of emergency (aka:  when I decide I really need a new dress, and have only two days in which to sew it…)

This is ‘Priscilla’ in the outfit she wore as a model for the Ruffles to Rebellion talk.

Ruffled unders at Ruffles & Rebellion thedreamstress.com

Priscilla claims that she’s no good at posing, but I think she’s a natural in front of the camera.

Ruffled unders at Ruffles & Rebellion thedreamstress.com

Doesn’t she look just adorable in the outfit?   (she joked that she agreed to model just so that she had an excuse to wear nothing but underwear to church!)

Ruffled unders at Ruffles & Rebellion thedreamstress.com

B doesn’t approve!

Ruffled unders at Ruffles & Rebellion thedreamstress.com

This is my favourite photo of the series – it absolutely captures Priscilla’s personality:

Ruffled unders at Ruffles & Rebellion thedreamstress.com

(photos by the fantastic Facundo, who is always looking for new models and events, if you’re in Wellington and looking for a photographer