A fairytale 1970s frock

For the most part, I make my own clothes.  For the most part, I don’t wear original vintage clothes.  For the most part, I don’t like synthetic fibres.  And for the most part, I’m not particularly interested in post 1960s fashions.

But, most of all, I’m a creature of contradictions and am not adverse to breaking all my rules.

Meet my original vintage, very 1970s, totally synthetic, covered it enormous orange flowers, and yet somehow still gorgeous and me and wonderful to wear, ‘Fairytale’ dress:

1970s fairytale frock

Isn’t it fabulous?    Can’t you just imagine a 1970’s fairytale book featuring Rapunzel wearing this exact frock?  Possibly a feminist re-write of fairytales where Rapunzel rescues herself. (Hands up: Who else’s favourite children’s book was The Paper Bag Princess?)

1970s fairytale frock thedreamstress.com

I found the dress at an op-shop for $6, and though all my normal impulses said “Are you crazy?”  I had to buy it.  And it’s fantastic!  It’s the very best expression of ’70s fashion: incredibly flattering, incredibly comfortable, and made from some incredibly variety of dead dino that feels like you are wearing spun air and floats around you like a cloud of butterflies.

1970s fairytale frock thedreamstress.com

While you are admiring the dress, can we take a moment to talk about how awesome my husband is?  When I put this on and said “Hey, let’s go for a drive and a photoshoot’ he didn’t say (as you would expect) “What on earth are you wearing and NO, there is no way I will ever be seen in public with you in that.”

Possibly he’s just so used to the weird stuff I want photographed that this seems positively normal to him.

1970s fairytale frock thedreamstress.com

Also, while I bounced around the Sir Truby King house and gardens and skipped and frolicked and gamboled (Honestly.  All of those.  Sometimes at the same time.) he just waited patiently for me to stand still long enough to actually get a photo instead of telling me how weird I am.

1970s fairytale frock thedreamstress.com

If this is a fairytale, he’s definitely the hero – even if all he needs to do is wield the camera while I use the Frying Pan of Doom (hands up, who else get’s that reference?  Hint, it’s NOT Disney) to rescue myself!

1970s fairytale frock thedreamstress.com

Now I just need a real-life event that I can get away with wearing this dress to…

1970s fairytale frock thedreamstress.com

And also, a photoshoot where I actually wield the Frying Pan of Doom.  I wonder if the Wellington Airport would kick me out if I showed up in this dress with a cast iron frying pan and started posing next to Smaug?

The HSF ’14: Favourites for Challenges 13-16

Thank you all for your input on a HSF ’15 – I really appreciated getting your input, and am just mulling through ideas and figuring things out.  You’ll hear something from me soon!

For now, here is the long overdue favourites post for Challenges 13-16.  I do these posts to highlight submissions that really inspired me, to show of pieces that you may have missed yourself, and to make it easier for those of you not on FB to see more of the creations.  It’s always really hard to pick, but I choose items that I think best demonstrate the goals of the Historical Sew Fortnightly; the quest to explore history, raise our skill levels and standard, stretch ourselves (and actually finish items); and the spirit of the individual challenge.

Entries without photos link to blog posts, and entries with photos come from Facebook.  Follow the links to the blog posts for pretty, pretty pictures and the full story.   To see the full facebook albums, you’ll need to belong to the Historical Sew Fortnightly FB group.  When you request to join the group you’ll be sent a message (check your Other folder) asking why you would like to be part of it.  Be sure to answer in full!

There are many more amazing submissions in the FB albums, and linked through the challenge pages.

To see some of my other favourites, here are the post for Challenges 9-12, Challenges 5-8, and Challenges 1-4.

Challenge #13 – Under $10 (and the Facebook album

  1. Klára’s 18th century pincushion-  Charming, period perfect, could be made by almost anyone for under $10, and the research and story are just fantastic!
  2. Anna’s bustle skirt – I love that this is such a subdued take on Victorian (because it’s so tempting to go for OTT and flashy, while subdued was probably a lot more common on a daily basis!), and it illustrates how far you can go on a good fabric sale score.  
  3. Miriam’s Regency Busk – A tiny bit of wood, a bit of sanding, and a lot of love and care and you have a really gorgeous addition to your historical wardrobe – and one with a darling story.Miriam's Regency Busk, HSF 14 Challenge #13

Challenge #14 – Paisley & Plaid (and the facebook album)

  1. Loren’s 18th C Turkish entari.  It looks just like the painting of Madame de Pompadour in ‘Oriental’ costume!  And it’s one of the earliest plausible examples of paisley that you could have.
  2. Elizabeth’s 1880s paisley bustle – The V&A has a bustle in obnoxiously plaid fabric that I have long lusted over, and this bustle fills all my longings for it – and MORE.  It’s a great reminder that period undergarments don’t need to be plain white.
  3.  Eva’s 1930s plaid skirt – Totally period, but totally wearable in a modern context, and a great example of the fun things you can do with plaid.
    Eva's 1930s plaid skirt, HSF 14, Challenge #14

Challenge #15 – The Great Outdoors (and the Facebook album)

  1. Matsukaze Workshops 1818 frock coat  Great research, interesting inspiration, and a cat sleeping on the bit that you need.  Perfection.  Also, menswear.  Hurrah!
  2. Quinn’s 1920s sunhat – It looks straight out of a fashion plate, or a museum, and is still practical today.  Lovely!
  3. Le dressing de Melle de l’Isle’s 19th c parasol recover – Obviously she had a massive advantage in having such an amazing parasol to work with, and the result is enviously fantastic.

Challenge #16 – Terminology (and the Facebook Album)

  1. Sarah’s Reticule – A lot of people got really worked up about this challenge, and found it hard, but Sarah did a perfect job of making a sweet, simple, beautiful reticule that completed her Regency ensemble, but could be used in modern life as well.
    Regency reticule, Sarah, HSF 14 Challenge #16
  2. Amy’s 1880s Tea Gown– I love tea gowns, and am so excited that someone made one!  And in pretty, sweet pastel-y pink, how could you not love it?
    Amy's tea gown, HSF 14 Challenge #16
  3. Sewing Through Time’s Jumps – Jumps are one of those items that seem to have been quite common in period, but are rarely made by historical costumers.  I love this reproduction!

There are SO MANY more amazing things for every challenge through the page links and the FB albums, which is a big part of why I am so late with this post – it was just too hard to pick!  And seeing all the amazing things again has reminded me of all the phenomenal stuff that has come out of the HSF.  Y’all are phenomenal!

Rate the Dress: A Lady on Horseback

Last week I showed you a really frilly, over the top 1870s dress – but in a very restrained colour scheme.  Unsurprisingly, for most people whether they liked it or not came down to whether they are maximalists or minimalists, though some with more restrained tastes conceded that it would look spectacular from a distance.  Surprisingly (to me at least) one of the things it got the most criticisms for was the black trim.  I thought the harshness of the contrast balanced the too-busy, too-sweet trim of the rest, but I was very much in the minority (though not entirely alone) in liking it!  The dress came in at 7.6 out of 10.

For this week’s Rate the Dress, let’s look at some very feminine menswear inspired clothes in the form of a fluffy, pastel-y riding habit:

José Campeche, Dama a caballo (Lady on Horseback), last two decades of the 18th century

José Campeche, Dama a caballo (Lady on Horseback), last two decades of the 18th century

Let’s take a slightly closer look:

José Campeche, Dama a caballo (Lady on Horseback), last two decades of the 18th century

José Campeche, Dama a caballo (Lady on Horseback), last two decades of the 18th century

Campeche’s luxuriously attired horsewoman sports a white satin skirt, and a jacket and double-breasted waistcoat in robins egg blue satin, with white facings and self-fabric buttons.  Her cuffs and cravat are of hard to make out, appear to be trimmed in lace.

José Campeche, Dama a caballo (Lady on Horseback), last two decades of the 18th century

José Campeche, Dama a caballo (Lady on Horseback), last two decades of the 18th century

Our lady got quite excited when it came to matching her horse, with white bows throughout his mane and tail, and a matching one on her crop, plus toned tassels on the end of the reins.  Even her hat is the exact same shade as her mount’s coat, though she allowed a little contrast in the cream bows that dot the brim, and the various shades of ostrich feathers crowning it.  Perhaps my eyes are deceiving me, but I do have a suspicion that there is a robin’s egg blue feather secreted at the rear of the hat.

José Campeche, Dama a caballo (Lady on Horseback), last two decades of the 18th century

José Campeche, Dama a caballo (Lady on Horseback), last two decades of the 18th century

Oh, and we mustn’t forget footwear.  She’s even got little white riding shoes:

José Campeche, Dama a caballo (Lady on Horseback), last two decades of the 18th century

José Campeche, Dama a caballo (Lady on Horseback), last two decades of the 18th century

Clearly this is not a practical outfit.  No matter how wide and thick the velvet rug you have protecting your skirt from the horse, no white satin frock is going to stay pristine for many hours on horseback.  So our lady is wearing a show outfit.  But for show?  To demonstrate both your skill as a horsewoman and your taste in dress in a portrait?  Does it pass muster?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

(oh, and go look up José Campeche.  He’s a fascinating artist!)


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Leimomi Oakes is the Dreamstress, a textile historian, seamstress, designer, speaker and museum professional. Leimomi is available for educational and entertaining presentations, textile and fashion advice, special commissions and events. Click to learn more

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