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Rate the Dress: 1870s Summer Frills

This week’s Rate the Dress goes from fish to flora, with a cornflower bedecked 1870s concoction. And concoction is really the only way to describe it…

Last Week: a 1920s day dress with ‘scale’ scallops

Last week’s dress was quite popular, other than a small group that expressed strong dislike. More than 3/4 of the ratings were 8-9, which is extremely, and unusually, consistent. Very few perfect scores though: most of you weren’t quite on-board with the ‘fish tum’.

The Total: 7.3 out of 10

Despite the strong showing of ratings 8 & up, the small core who really didn’t like the dress pulled the overall score down. The ratings have been creeping up over the last few weeks, but it’s been slow, and still not impressive. Maybe this week will break the 8 barrier? Or drop us down again?

This week: an 1870s day dress in summer florals

Today’s pick is an excellent example of an early 1870s crinoline-to-bustle era transitional garment.

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/96434
Dress,ca. 1872, French, a) cotton, porcelain; b) cotton, Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 2003, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003.426a, b

The sweet floral pattern and the frills are typical of the romantic 18th century inspired styles in vogue at the time.

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/96434
Dress,ca. 1872, French, a) cotton, porcelain; b) cotton, Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 2003, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003.426a, b

This dress shows its rococo roots in the deep sleeve ruffles, based on 18th century engageants, the bodice ruffles, which evoke a fichu, the square neckline, and the bustled skirts. While these touches are subtle compared to some examples, the influence is clear.

Dress,ca. 1872, French, a) cotton, porcelain; b) cotton Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 2003, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003.426a, b
Dress, ca. 1872, French, a) cotton, porcelain; b) cotton, Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 2003, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003.426a, b

The popularity of 18th century historicism in 1850s-1870s dress was partly influenced by the French Second Empire’s attempt to align itself with the ancien regime, and Empress Eugénie’s fascination with Marie Antoinette.  She had her rooms decorated in the style of Marie Antoinette, dressed as the doomed queen for fancy dress balls and official portraits, and inspired Worth to incorporate elements of 18th century fashion into his dress designs.

Although the Second Empire collapsed in 1870s, sending Eugénie fleeing to England, she continued to be a fashion icon, and the House of Worth continued to use extensive historical motifs in their garments: and where Worth led, the fashion world followed.

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/96434
Dress, ca. 1872, French, a) cotton, porcelain; b) cotton, Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 2003, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003.426a, b

While the maker of this dress is unknown, it’s definitely a luxurious garment. The delicate white fabric would have marked easily, and been difficult, if not impossible to wash. While lace was becoming more affordable as more and more techniques to make it by machine were developed, it was still an expensive trim, and it has been used lavishly on this dress.

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/96434
Dress, ca. 1872, French, a) cotton, porcelain; b) cotton, Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 2003, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003.426a, b

The whole effect is of sweetness, delicacy and light. The wearer would have appeared as lovely and cool and fragile as the flowers strewn across her gown.

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/96434
Dress, ca. 1872, French, a) cotton, porcelain; b) cotton, Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 2003, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003.426a, b

What do you think? Do you like this post-Second Empire confection, and find its pink florals and ruffles charming?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

A reminder about rating – feel free to be critical if you don’t like a thing, but make sure that your comments aren’t actually insulting to those who do like a garment.  Phrase criticism as your opinion, rather than a flat fact. Our different tastes are what make Rate the Dress so interesting.  It’s no fun when a comment implies that anyone who doesn’t agree with it, or who would wear a garment, is totally lacking in taste. 

(as usual, nothing more complicated than a .5.  I also hugely appreciate it if you only do one rating, and set it on a line at the very end of your comment, so I can find it!  And 0 is not on a scale of 1 to 10.  Thanks in advance!)

A Regency Captain Janeway cosplay, thedreamstress.com

Little Red Spencer-ette

A Regency Captain Janeway cosplay, thedreamstress.com

I promised posts on all the new (or re-made) elements of my Regency Janeway outfit, and the sleeveless spencer certainly got the most questions & comments, so it’s first in line.

For my Regency Janeway look, I originally intended to make the military inspired sleeveless vest from An Agreeable Tyrant (which Carolyn of Modern Mantua Maker has made a beautiful version of).

I traced out the pattern, graded it up, and mocked it up, was all set to go sewing it up in a beautiful bright red silk taffeta…

Toile of sleeveless vest from An Agreeable Tyrant
Toile of sleeveless vest from An Agreeable Tyrant

When I decided that the red was too bright for the dark Star Trek red, AND (more importantly) I realised I had a length of slightly moth-damaged red wool (upper left) which would be perfect for a Star Trek meets Regency shawl.

The only problem? The wool clashed horribly with the red silk taffeta (lower half). I did have a 30cm long length of silk twill (upper right) that was a good match in my stash, but it wasn’t enough for the Agreeable Tyrant vest, and it was entirely the wrong hand for it.

So I went looking for inspiration for a little tiny sleeveless spencer I could fit on the silk twill.

I found this:

Jean Francois Soiron, Young woman with a golden chain
Jean Francois Soiron, Young woman with a golden chain, ca 1800

And this:

John Trumbull (American artist, 1756 – 1843) Sarah Trumbull with a Spaniel

And liked the front lacing and tassels on this:

Comtesse du Bonneval by Girodet, c. 1800

For extant inspiration, the little V overlap on this number is beautiful, and very Star Trek esque, but I had to pass on it because of logistical and fabric shortages.

Bodice belonging to Empress Joséphine, ca.1805-1814, RMN-Grand Palais (musée des châteaux de Malmaison et de Bois-Préau
Bodice belonging to Empress Joséphine, ca.1805-1814, RMN-Grand Palais (musée des châteaux de Malmaison et de Bois-Préau
Bodice belonging to Empress Joséphine, ca.1805-1814, RMN-Grand Palais (musée des châteaux de Malmaison et de Bois-Préau

I almost recreated this one, but couldn’t find suitable buttons.

Sleeveless bodice, NordiskaMuseet, NM.0050686

Numerous sleeveless spencers appear in fashion plates as well, and give more clues as to styling:

Journal des dames et des modes, Costume Parisien 191, ca. 1800
Journal des dames et des modes, Costume Parisien, ca 1800

Jen of Festive Attyre has many more examples on her excellent pinterest board.

With some ideas in mind, I patterned up something inspired by this spencer, but based on my bodice pattern, to move the shaping back to ca. 1800:

Norsk Folkemuseum (Norway) item NF.1959-0069, silk bodice, 1815

Unfortunately I thought the end result looked a bit odd over my round-gown. I would like to try the pattern given by the museum over a smoother fronted 1810s dress someday.

Toile of a sleeveless spencer, thedreamstress.com

With time running very short, I settled on a little tiny spencer primarily inspired by the first three paintings.

I used Katherine’s of the Fashionable Past’s instructions on making a sleeveless spencer as inspiration, but deviated signficantly with my construction, as the V back makes back-piece-first sewing impractical.

Red silk sleeveless Regency spencer thedreamstress.com

I intend for this spencer to be used and worn lots, but I also knew from the start that on some levels I wouldn’t ever love it. Silk twill is a horrible fabric. It’s difficult to work with, and I don’t think it feels nice. So I machine sewed most of the spencer, and finished it with hand sewn detailing.

Red silk sleeveless Regency spencer thedreamstress.com

All the night and day of the Time Travellers ball!

The goal of this spencer was definitely effect, not perfection, but I still want it to be a reasonably quality garment.

Red silk sleeveless Regency spencer thedreamstress.com

Very few people are likely to notice that the silk has pulled ever so slightly around the eyelet holes, because stretching them carefully enough to not have that problem in silk twill would have taken 6 times as long…

Red silk sleeveless Regency spencer thedreamstress.com

The most beautiful part of the spencer is definitely the tassels: I asked Hvitr to make them for me: she is a master tassel maker, and has excelled herself with these:

Red silk sleeveless Regency spencer thedreamstress.com

The fabulous tassels are part of the spencers remake: I wasn’t happy with the fit after the first wearing, so made adjustments, which included cutting off and re-doing the lacing.

A Regency Captain Janeway cosplay, thedreamstress.com

My original tassels were much less phenomenal.

A Regency Captain Janeway cosplay, thedreamstress.com

The re-make included cutting a side seam under the arm, and replacing it with a new, longer side-back piece, which moved the front strap towards the front, and meant I had to cut off the and replace the front lacing.

A Regency Captain Janeway cosplay, thedreamstress.com

I haven’t gotten photos of the re-done spencer when worn, but I’ll be wearing it at Costume College in under two weeks time!

A Regency Captain Janeway cosplay, thedreamstress.com

And wonderfully, the spencer is perfect for the June Historical Sew Monthly challenge: Favourite Technique.

What the item is: A 1798 sleeveless spencer 

How it fits the challenge: The spencer features not one, but four of my favourite techniques: late 18th century dress construction where you build the lining, and then the outer on top of it, lapped seams, hand-worked eyelets, and tassels! But if I were to pick one it would be the eyelets.  

Material: Linen lining, silk twill

Pattern: Adapted (significantly) from the dress pattern, which is itself adapted from the 1790s silk round gown pattern in An Agreeable Tyrant

Year: ca. 1798

Notions: cotton thread, cotton cord.  

How historically accurate is it? Due to time constraints (and because I hate sewing with silk twill) it’s partly machine sewn. And silk twill isn’t an accurate fabric. So maybe 70% at best

Hours to complete: 5 (not counting toiles and fitting)

First worn: Sat 22 June to the Featherston Time Travellers Ball

Total cost: $10-ish. All bits were from stash and purchased years ago, but that’s my best guess.

A Regency Captain Janeway cosplay, thedreamstress.com
1790s jumps based on a pattern in Jill Salen's 'Corsets' thedreamstress.com

The 1790s jumps of disappointment

A month ago I blogged about making 1790s jumps that finally fit well and were super comfortable.

In blogging about them, I realised I made a pair of jumps last year that I never blogged about – because they didn’t fit well, and weren’t super comfortable.

1790s jumps based on a pattern in Jill Salen's 'Corsets' thedreamstress.com
1790s jumps based on a pattern in Jill Salen's 'Corsets' thedreamstress.com

These jumps are based on one of the 1790s corset pattern in Jill Salen.

I loved the multiple back panels in the original, and the little tails they formed.

1790s jumps based on a pattern in Jill Salen's 'Corsets' thedreamstress.com

However, there were other elements of the original I didn’t love so much: tabs cut along the front that didn’t seem to do anything and would have been so much work to bind, so I adapted the pattern based on a few other extant pairs of jumps, and other patterns.

Unfortunately, partly because of my alterations, partly because of the original pattern, (and possibly because I did a weird job grading the pattern up) these did not turn out well.

1790s jumps based on a pattern in Jill Salen's 'Corsets' thedreamstress.com

They look cute lying flat, but on a person? Not so much.

The pattern was weird to start with: when I resized them to fit me I either ended up with a pattern that was proportionally WAY too wide across the back, or way too wide across the front, and cutting in to my front arms. To achieve a reasonable fit I had to change the proportions of the pattern a significant amount.

1790s jumps based on a pattern in Jill Salen's 'Corsets' thedreamstress.com

And then they still don’t fit well. There are weird bubbles and bulges up the back, gaping across the back, and very high in the back.

With a lot of tweaking (and removing of bones) I got them to fit me, and be comfortable-ish, but they still aren’t great.

I mean, I understand bum-rumps were fashionable, but why do these stays have space to smuggle a whole battalions worth of handkerchiefs under the back panels?

1790s jumps based on a pattern in Jill Salen's 'Corsets' thedreamstress.com
1790s jumps based on a pattern in Jill Salen's 'Corsets' thedreamstress.com

Because they were so disappointing I haven’t taken proper on-me photos. I’ll do that the next time I have occasion to pull them out.

They have been worn though: I’ve already lent them out to a number of friends for Regency events.

So, a win?

1790s jumps based on a pattern in Jill Salen's 'Corsets' thedreamstress.com

But I might need to re-check them against the pattern, and cut in and bind those front tabs. They would be a good candidate for an ‘eco-costumer re-make the things that weren’t great instead of making new’ post…

1790s jumps based on a pattern in Jill Salen's 'Corsets' thedreamstress.com

What the item is: 1790s front-lacing jumps

Material: Midweight brown linen inner, light-midweight white linen outer

Pattern: 1790s stays pattern from Jaill Salen’s ‘Corsets’, with some adaptations based on other jumps and stays of the era

Year: ca. 1795

Notions: metal boning, cotton twill tape

How historically accurate is it? Not particularly – the fabrics are OK, I think, but I machine sewed most of it, and used metal bones (instead of whalebone). I meant these as working toiles, so I’m not too fussed about the accuracy. But hey, there are hand-worked eyelets! (using a stitch that it turns out I can’t find any evidence for on jumps of this period, so…)

Hours to complete: 20 ish.

First worn: April 30th, to fit a bodice over

Total cost: Under $10, all the materials except for the bones were thrifted

1790s jumps based on a pattern in Jill Salen's 'Corsets' thedreamstress.com

1790s jumps based on a pattern in Jill Salen's 'Corsets' thedreamstress.com
1790s jumps based on a pattern in Jill Salen's 'Corsets' thedreamstress.com