And here it is! My 1916 crinoline revival evening dress:
Harpers Bazaar 1916
Officially, it’s been dubbed the ‘Gather ye Rosebuds’ dress – I felt I needed to make it before I was too old to get away with this look, it’s trimmed with roses, and there was lots of gathering (my gosh was there so much gathering. I gathered, and gathered, and gathered some more….).
Unofficially….it’s the Jellyfish.
I assembled all the pieces, put them together, put the dress on, looked at myself, and said “Oh dear, I’ve made a jellyfish!”
I have mixed feelings about the Jellyfish.
I really enjoyed wearing it. It was very bouncy, and I bounced a lot (lots of people took videos of me bouncing and spinning in it, but so far I’ve only seen one and I can’t figure out how to download it!).
And I knew it was far from perfect so I didn’t feel the need to be precious about it.
But…I know it’s far (so far…) from perfect. It started out really thought-out and precise and beautifully finished, and the further out in the layers you get towards the final outer layer, the less perfect things get. I budgeted exactly enough time to sew it properly, but nothing for contingencies, and there were so many contingencies (including a hurricane).
So when I look at it, all I see are the imperfections and the things I know I didn’t get right, and that bugs me.
I was so rushed and frantic on the night, and prioritising helping the room get dressed and to the Gala, that I didn’t even give it a final steam (and the fabric crumples as soon as you look at it – and photos multiply any crumple by 27X), or re-do my hair from my daytime hairdo, or re-apply lipstick before I took pictures.
It was so crumpled that there was even a tactless but well-meaning post (now gone) on how un-pressed everyone at the Gala looked, and I would not be even a tiny bit surprised if a photo of me was the inspiration for that post. :-/
(but if I had to do it again I’d still be helpful and semi-on-time over perfectly pressed, so that’s OK!)
Crumples are one thing, but not loving the construction is another. In an ideal world I would make the under-skirt (with lace) 30″ less full, re-do the gathers and re-attach the underskirt, fix the part where the overskirt is ‘growing’ (as circle cut skirts are apt to do) and arguing with its flat-lining, and re-do its gathers and re-attach it. And I’d re-do the under-bodice, as I’m not happy with where it’s top line sits, and re-do the overbodice to have a much more shaped (and consequently, much trickier to sew) top line. And replace the roses with hand-made fabric roses, and add another cluster in back, and trim the straps with roses and pearls. And add those falling-sleeve puffs.
In other words, pretty much entirely re-make the dress!
So now I’m not sure what to do. I could do the simplest fixes possible, get the dress to where it’s OK as a not-perfect costume, and call it good, or I could make it the way I really want it, but that would essentially involve taking it entirely apart and completely re-doing it.
So, now that I’ve told you everything wrong with it, here are some things that I love about the outfit, and that make me really happy!
#1: The flowers:
I brought all the materials to make fabric roses, but it was clear I wouldn’t have enough time, so the fabulous Meg of Nutmeg Sews went on a room-costume-rescue mission to the Costume College Marketplace with an early-bird pass. She sent me photos of flower options from the marketplace as she shopped, and they had these, and I do love them! (if they get taken off this dress they are going on a 1910s hat).
#2: The bodice fabric. I bought that fabric almost 10 years ago, and have been hoarding it ever since, too scared to use it. The fashion plate for this outfit describes it as being green, with a silver bodice, which sounds like a tricky match, especially with the lace underskirt, but yet when I put these fabrics together they all worked perfectly. Yay!
#3: My shoes & stockings:
My shoes are ballroom dancing shoes, which are pretty much as close as you can get to 1910s evening slippers both in look and construction. My stockings are made using my Rosalie stocking pattern, using silk mesh from The Fabric Warehouse.
#4: My handbag. It’s a mid-century beaded number, but the lovely thing about 1910s handbags is that they all look like mid-century bags, so are easy to fake!
#5: The lace. It’s 1950s, but it’s very pretty, and the motifs are distinct enough to have impact even gathered in layers under the overskirt.
But wait, there is more! This dress happens to fulfil the Historical Sew Monthly August: Ridiculous challenge (I’d intended to use it for June, but realised August would be more helpful, so have moved it over), and, since I’ve been working on fixing some of the things that were a bit ad-hoc to get it fully finished right up until this week, since it’s made from two fabrics (the silver and the lace) I’ve been carefully hoarding, and since I haven’t shared any pictures of it until today, the Sew Weekly ‘Living Dangerously’ challenge.
So, for the Historical Sew Fortnightly:
What the item is: a 1916 evening gown inspired by a Harpers Bazaar fashion plate.
The Challenge: #8 Ridiculous (c’mon, it’s a Jellyfish!)
Fabric/Materials: 5.m of silver brocaded silk (probably around $24pm); 5 meters of pomona green lightweight silk (it’s lighter than a taffeta, heavier than a habotai, and has a very slightly twisted crepe thread, but not nearly as much as a crepe de chine, and was $5 a meter – Fabric Warehouse sale ftw!); 3 meters of silk organza ($5 a meter – Fabric Warehouse sale ftw – again!), 8 meters of vintage lace (a gift), 4 meters of tulle (probably around $6pm), and synthetic flowers ($12)
Pattern: Based on 1910s magazines, sewing books and patterns in my collection.
Notions: silk thread, cotton thread, SO MANY hooks and eyes and snap fasteners, satin ribbon, rayon seam binding.
How historically accurate is it? Not so much. The under layers are really good, but the construction gets a bit sloppy for this type of dress in period. About 70%
Hours to complete: Ergh. Way too many. 50+
First worn: Costume College Gala, Sat 29 July – not quite finished, but at least there was only one pin in it! (a straight one, to hold down a leaf that didn’t sit properly on the sash).