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Rate the Dress Mid-Century Maybe-Maternity

Today’s Rate the Dress pick was chosen because it’s a garment that has fascinated me for years. There are so many mid-century gowns that museums claim were maternity dresses, where I really don’t see it. It’s just a wrapper, or a dress in a larger size, or… The Met doesn’t claim that this dress dress was a maternity dress, but gosh, that waistline is high…

Last week: an 1780s gown with an embroidered hem

Wow! I thought last week’s dress was very pretty indeed, but I didn’t expect the outpouring of adoration that it received! You loved every detail, from the not-quite symmetrical embroidery, to the vandyked bodice trim. You just wanted to see it fully styled, with fichu and bows.

The Total: 9.7

In Rate the Dress, anything about a 9.5 is as close to perfection as you can get!

This week: a very short-waisted ca. 1855 afternoon dress

The Met’s description of this afternoon dress is very simple and generic, and makes no mention of how unusually high the waist of this dress is. Was the wearer just very short waisted? Was it a personal preference for some reason? Or was this worn by a pregnant woman? Unless the Met has further provenance information, we’ll probably never know.

Dress, ca. 1855, American, silk, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art; 2009.300.774

Even beyond the maybe-maternity-mystery, I think the dress is aesthetically interesting and well worth considering.

Dress, ca. 1855, American, silk, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art; 2009.300.774

The layered horizontal and vertical stripes were a very fashionable fabric in the late 1840s and throughout the 1850s, reflecting improvements in the jacquard loom, and the Victorian love of all things plaid and plaid-adjacent.

Dress, ca. 1855, American, silk, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art; 2009.300.774

The layered stripes give the fabric a shot effect, and the black stripes create the illusion of even more folds and fullness in the skirt. Note the wool hem tape running around the hem of the skirt, protecting the silk from touching the ground and becoming soiled and worn.

Dress, ca. 1855, American, silk, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art; 2009.300.774

The stripes are cut in a diagonal across the sleeves, revealing the width of the pagoda sleeves, and the pleating and tucks used to shape them.

Dress, ca. 1855, American, silk, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art; 2009.300.774

The dress is trimmed with perfectly coordinated black and green trim, with motifs which looks like peacock feathers up close:

Dress, ca. 1855, American, silk, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art; 2009.300.774

The dress fastens up the front (another feature that would make it quite practical for a pregnant or nursing mother, though it’s definitely not a conclusive feature). In a choice that I suspect might be a bit controversial amongst you rater, the designer decided to have the stripe patterning continue across the front as it does across the width of the fabric, rather than being mirrored.

Dress, ca. 1855, American, silk, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art; 2009.300.774

What do you think of this dress? Is it the perfect thing for a modish mid-century mother-to-be (or just a woman who likes a high waistline) to wear? Or is it a mystery and a miss?

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!)

Theresa in the 1910-11 inspired Little Miss Muffet dress thedreamstress.com

The Little Miss Muffet Dress: Construction Details + Theresa Wearing it Gorgeousness*

I went to write a post about how fabulous Theresa looked in the Little Miss Muffet 1910-11 inspired dress at our photoshoot at Otari Wilton’s Bush, and realised that I’ve never done a post about the dresses construction details.

Theresa in the 1910-11 inspired Little Miss Muffet dress thedreamstress.com

So here is a dual-purpose, word-and-image heavy, post of Miss Muffet dress awesomeness!

Theresa in the 1910-11 inspired Little Miss Muffet dress thedreamstress.com

The dress pattern is based on a number of sources: a couple of pattern diagrams published in NZ newspapers in the early 1910s, as well as one in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion.

Theresa in the 1910-11 inspired Little Miss Muffet dress thedreamstress.com

It has a back fastening, the cut-on sleeves that had just become popular in Western fashion, and a two layers skirt. The cut and construction are fairly straightforward**: typical of simpler styles of 1910s lingerie dresses

For the back fastening, I used lingerie buttons that face inwards, so no buttons are seen on the outside. A lighter fastening finish, with little hooks and domes/snaps, would have been a more accurate choice of finish.

The 1910-11 inspired Little Miss Muffet lingerie dress

The under-layer of the skirt does fasten with domes/snaps:

The 1910-11 inspired Little Miss Muffet lingerie dress

There is no fastening to the over-layer, though it hooks at the top with a skirt hook to close the waist:

The 1910-11 inspired Little Miss Muffet lingerie dress

The lack of fastenings to the over-layer doesn’t show when the dress is worn:

The 1910-11 inspired Little Miss Muffet lingerie dress

The lace is attached with machine zig-zag stitching:

The 1910-11 inspired Little Miss Muffet lingerie dress
The 1910-11 inspired Little Miss Muffet lingerie dress

There are lines of zig-zag stitching both along the outer edge of the lace, and then along the inner edge of each motif. After sewing both lines of zig-zagging I trimmed away the fabric to leave the lace free:

The 1910-11 inspired Little Miss Muffet lingerie dress

This lets the lace reveal the skin or skirt layers beneath it:

The 1910-11 inspired Little Miss Muffet lingerie dress

I’ve left the fabric underneath the lace along the bottom lace border, and under the lace yoke of the bodice:

The 1910-11 inspired Little Miss Muffet lingerie dress
The 1910-11 inspired Little Miss Muffet lingerie dress

This means that in those places I just had to sew one line of zig-zagging:

The 1910-11 inspired Little Miss Muffet lingerie dress

The first few times the dress was worn I left the blue underskirt attached with a straight line of stitching:

1911-12 Miss Muffet dress thedreamstress.com

I decided I really didn’t love that effect, because it showed through the white linen over-skirt, and looked a little clumsy. So I carefully drew the zig-zags of the overskirt through to the blue underskirt, and sewed then in, and then trimmed away the extra fabric:

The 1910-11 inspired Little Miss Muffet lingerie dress

Now the blue just seems to float under the overskirt:

The 1910-11 inspired Little Miss Muffet lingerie dress
The 1910-11 inspired Little Miss Muffet lingerie dress

The zig-zags aren’t always perfectly aligned when the dress is worn, because of movement, but they certainly look better than the straight line did!

The 1910-11 inspired Little Miss Muffet lingerie dress

I cheated a bit with hemming, and left the original tablecloth hem of the blue overskirt intact:

The 1910-11 inspired Little Miss Muffet lingerie dress

And did a bias finished hem with machine invisible hem-stitching (shhhhh!) on the

The 1910-11 inspired Little Miss Muffet lingerie dress

All the seams are french seams, and the waist is finished with an interior waistband, so there is no raw fabric anywhere on the dress:

The 1910-11 inspired Little Miss Muffet lingerie dress

The dress is much heavier and bulkier in construction than any lingerie dress I’ve worked with, simply because its so hard to find linen that is as light and fine as original Edwardian linen. But I’m still happy with it as a costume, if not a strictly accurate reproduction.

* I love this title because it really annoys an app on WordPress that tells me how ‘readable’ my post is. The app is constantly telling me that my posts don’t contain enough outbound links, or active sentences, or are too hard too read because I use too many words with over six letters, and too many sentences with over 25 words. The app stresses me. (it would like that sentence though. Nice and short). It particularly doesn’t like long titles. My titles are always too long.

The app’s definition of a ‘good’ post does not include a single one of my top 50 most popular posts, so…

I’m trying to ignore it. And when I can’t ignore it, I annoy it. I aim to construct titles which would make the most verbose of Victorian authors gratified, and write substantial paragraphs, abounding with the most excessively long sentences, replete with seven-letter + words (and parentheses, which it is convinced are indisputably heinous), and which, above all else, use oxford commas. (I just know the app hates oxford commas. It’s that kind of app.)

** Well, straightforward for the Edwardian era!

Robe à l’anglaise ca. 1780 From the Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti via Europeana Fashion

Rate the Dress: Georgian embroidery

Last week I drove from Wellington to Gisborne, 9 hours drive up the eastern coast of North Island, and back, and was reminded again how stunningly gorgeous New Zealand is. The country is currently bedecked in autumnal splendour: end of season flax flowers standing in stark black against the sky, pampas grasses blushing pink and champagne and silvery lavender, the occasional stands of deciduous trees in a blaze of colour, meadows returning to lush green with the resumption of rain, and sudden storms bringing exhilarating downpours and rainbows at the end.

So my Rate the Dress pick for this week comes in all these colours: though it’s not a style of dress that was ever worn in New Zealand!

Plus, the totals are (finally) in for the feather bedecked confection of the week before!

Last week: an 1870s dress in pale pink and ivory, with historical touches

The general reaction to last week’s dress was that it just didn’t quite get the balance right. Something was missing, or was there that shouldn’t be, for almost everyone who commented. But as it was, not that many people commented – it got just over half the comments of the dress of the week before.

The Total: 7.8

Technically much more popular than the feathered dress of the week before – but certainly of much less interest to you!

This week: an 1780s gown with an embroidered hem.

This 1780s gown features fabric with a small scattered floral motif, and an elaborate border of larger flowers and geometric patterning worked along the bottom of the petticoat and the edges of the overskirt.

Robe à l’anglaise ca. 1780 From the Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti via Europeana Fashion
Robe à l’anglaise ca. 1780 From the Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti via Europeana Fashion

According to the Palazzo Pitti this dress is an Anglaise (bodice back and skirt back cut in one piece at the centre panel), but I think it’s actually an Italian gown (bodice back and back skirt cut as two totally separate pieces). However, the image resolution isn’t high enough for me to be certain, so I’ve stuck with the given description.

Robe à l’anglaise ca. 1780 From the Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti via Europeana Fashion
Robe à l’anglaise ca. 1780 From the Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti via Europeana Fashion

The elaborate borders make this dress quite formal, and at the cutting edge of fashion for the 1780s, showing the move away from the three dimensional trimmings & all-over patterning of rococo fashions, towards the flat embellishment and emphasis on lines and borders in neoclassical fashion. While the heavier fabrics, shape of this dress and the natural waist are still very much in the 18th century tradition, you can see how the design is moving towards the aesthetic seen in dresses like the embroidered 1790s number I posted a few months ago.

Robe à l’anglaise ca. 1780 From the Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti via Europeana Fashion
Robe à l’anglaise ca. 1780 From the Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti via Europeana Fashion

This gown was definitely meant to impress in its day. Is it impressing today?

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!)