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Rate the Dress: Grass Green 1860s

I’m very fond of pink and green together, so it’s not surprising that I gravitated towards a green dress after last week’s pink dress. In an odd way, this week’s dress also remind’s me of last week’s dress. Will it remind you of it too? And if so, for all the right reasons, or all the wrong reasons?

Last Week: a 1906 day ensemble in deep pink

One of the interesting things that comes out of Rate the Dress is how much our prior perceptions colour the way we see a garment, whether they are distinctly personal, or a general product of the time and culture we live in. Usually this is a good thing, or at least neutral. Last week it got out of hand, and revealed some of the unpleasant underbelly of the society we live in.

Luckily a quick clean up of the comments and a reminder to be kind got things back on track, and led to an amazing discussion: mostly about the dress, but also about negativity and positivity, how the internet changes our behaviour, and (of course) how our cultural perception changes our viewpoint.

So what did we think of the dress: well, almost everyone could acknowledge that the workmanship that went into it was amazing. And the pink colour was pretty popular, as was the embroidery.

The tassels, not surprisingly, were…divisive. A few of you liked them, either because they were so evocative of that period, or because you thought they were a really clever touch that tied the neckline together (or both). A good portion of you just found them distracting, and the rest couldn’t get past their placement on the chest: even though they weren’t at the right height or width for nipples, that’s what some of you saw, and the rest of you couldn’t help but feel they were just asking to be dragged through soup!

It ended up being very much a dress of two parties: a large block of people who loved the dress and rated it in the 8-10 range, and a small block of people who really didn’t, and rated it four and under.

The Total: 8.7 out of 10

Exactly the same as last week!

This week: a mid 1860s dress in green

This week’s dress is classic mid-1860s: a full skirt just beginning to take the back-heavy elliptical shape that would evolve into the bustle of the 1870s, dropped shoulders and roomy sleeves with a slight built-in curve, a solid colour, and bold trim.

Dress, 1864–65, American, cotton, wool, silk, Gift of Miss Ruth Lathrop Sikes, 1950, Metropolitan Museum of Art, C.I.50.50.3
Dress, 1864–65, American, cotton, wool, silk, Gift of Miss Ruth Lathrop Sikes, 1950, Metropolitan Museum of Art, C.I.50.50.3

The bold trim, in this case, is ribbon tabs which form a faux yoke and a faux apron effect.

Dress, 1864–65, American, cotton, wool, silk, Gift of Miss Ruth Lathrop Sikes, 1950, Metropolitan Museum of Art, C.I.50.50.3
Dress, 1864–65, American, cotton, wool, silk, Gift of Miss Ruth Lathrop Sikes, 1950, Metropolitan Museum of Art, C.I.50.50.3

It’s an interesting choice: both extremely simple, and intriguingly textural.

Dress, 1864–65, American, cotton, wool, silk, Gift of Miss Ruth Lathrop Sikes, 1950, Metropolitan Museum of Art, C.I.50.50.3
Dress, 1864–65, American, cotton, wool, silk, Gift of Miss Ruth Lathrop Sikes, 1950, Metropolitan Museum of Art, C.I.50.50.3

The skirt trim features a complete tri-part apron idea, but the yoke trim truncates abruptly at the shoulders, leaving a blank back.

Dress, 1864–65, American, cotton, wool, silk, Gift of Miss Ruth Lathrop Sikes, 1950, Metropolitan Museum of Art, C.I.50.50.3
Dress, 1864–65, American, cotton, wool, silk, Gift of Miss Ruth Lathrop Sikes, 1950, Metropolitan Museum of Art, C.I.50.50.3

Design ideas that don’t continue on the back of garments always annoy me, but the lack of continuity is fairly common in 1860s garments. If nothing else it would save the wearer from worrying that the trims were getting crushed and bent out of shape!

Dress, 1864–65, American, cotton, wool, silk, Gift of Miss Ruth Lathrop Sikes, 1950, Metropolitan Museum of Art, C.I.50.50.3
Dress, 1864–65, American, cotton, wool, silk, Gift of Miss Ruth Lathrop Sikes, 1950, Metropolitan Museum of Art, C.I.50.50.3

The skirt features interesting seaming: either joins to piece the fabric as frugally as possible, or purposeful gores to lend that newly fashionable back-thrust to the dress.

What do you think? 

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.

What’s for dinner?

Who has been doing way more cooking at home than usual?

Raises hand

We don’t do a lot of eating out or getting takeaways, but with all restaurants closed for the 4+ weeks of Level 4 lockdown in NZ, cooking every meal showed how much premade food we do eat – and how much work it is to plan every menu in advance because you can only go shopping once a week.

I don’t mind cooking. I do mind menu planning. Figuring out what to eat is hard work!

Here are some of our favourites which have been in heavy rotation in the last few months. Bonus: they are all vegetarian or vegan, which is great if you’re trying to lower your carbon footprint.

Spinach & Chickpea Curry

I’m obsessed with this curry. It only has one major flaw: it uses a weird amount of coconut milk, and then you are left with half a can of coconut milk, and have to figure out what to do with it.

Chickpea & Spinach Curry thedreamstress.com

I always use fresh spinach, and more than the recipe calls for. I also tend to be quite liberal with my ginger. I’ve never added the sugar.

For this dish I cook up four servings of chickpeas in my pressure cooker at once, use one in it, refrigerate one or two for minestrone or Moroccan vegetable soup later in the week, and then freeze the remainder for times when I’m too busy to cook them fresh.

Minestrone Soup

We’ve had minestrone soup at least once a month for the last 10 years, and as far as I can tell I’ve never taken a photo of the finished dish! All I’ve got is this in-process photo, showing how I use wild garlic instead of onions when it’s available:

My recipe is a heavily altered hack of the one I’ve linked to in the heading – but it resembles the recipe less and less every year! We’ve been making it so long that it keeps evolving.

I omit the carrot, and use two potatoes instead. In winter I use wild garlic instead of onion. I use a vegetarian stock (homemade or good quality broth powder, depending on what I have on hand), use three courgettes (zucchini) instead of one, and add a cup and a half or two of cooked chickpeas or cannellini beans. I add spinach or kale instead of lettuce. When Mr D makes it he likes to add celery as well. Sometimes in summer when tomatoes are cheap I make it with fresh tomatoes. Sometimes I add a handful of fresh basil at the end. It’s the soup version of the thing you make with whatever’s on hand.

The one thing I don’t do is the croutons!

Moroccan Style Vegetable & Chickpea Soup

I found this recipe thanks to Loren of A Costumer’s Closet.

I find that the coconut oil really adds to the flavour of the soup, and it doesn’t taste right in another oil. We prefer it with Owairaka red or Toka Toka gold kūmara (sweet potatoes) instead of the big orange Beauregard ‘yam’ variety. We also prefer it without the dates (you will find that omitting sugary things is a common alteration in our cooking).

I love that it just says ‘a handful of greens’ – allowing you to use whatever you have on hand which sounds good. I usually end up using a not-very-curly kale variant which is self seeding in my garden, and which I call dragon kale, because it’s a little more exciting than dinosaur kale!

Green Lentils & Greens

Dragon kale also makes a frequent appearance in this dish, a hack of something my sister made as a side dish for a dinner party we threw when she was visiting. It’s such a simple dish, but it outshone the elaborate meat dish she made, and received far more rave reviews and requests for the recipe.

Basically you cook a couple of onions down very slowly in oil, add green puy lentils and sufficient stock (I use about 1.5cups lentils, 5 cups stock) and cook until the lentils are soft, and then add a couple of cups of finely chopped kale.

The trick is good quality stock, and the result is hearty and comforting, and super easy to make!

Lentil Butternut Squash Soup

New Zealand’s most-commonly-read-but-increasingly-hysterical-and-irrelevant news site published the story of the nurse who ate this soup for 17 years straight just before NZ went into lockdown. I saved the recipe, because the mix of spices and vegetables sounded intriguing. I can’t say that I’d eat it every workday lunch for 17 years, but it’s a nice addition to the menu once a fortnight.

The recipe is interesting, because you can really see how preferences in cooking techniques have changed since 1992. It’s another great basis for playing with ingredients though. As long as you keep the spices the same, it survives a lot of substitutions to work with what’s in your fridge. And the spices are such fun…

The recipe doesn’t specify what kind of lentils, but I’ve always used brown.

We’ve found that we prefer crown pumpkin to butternut squash in the soup – which is quite good because pumpkins are a fraction of the price!

I also prefer to add the spinach at the very end, instead of at the same time as the potatoes, when it just ends up cooking until it’s dead and flavourless. Even better, I prefer to sub out the spinach for kale, or ruby silverbeet (ruby chard). It adds a glorious dash of red colour, and you can sauté the stems with the celery, or in place of the celery.

Rice Cakes

Not to be confused with the flavourless puffed-rice crackers, rice cakes are a family recipe, and quite possibly the only thing my mother cooks that her mother cooked.

Rice cakes are a way to use up leftover rice: add enough egg to hold it together (about 1 large egg to 1 cup of cooked rice/veg), and fry it up in patties.

My grandmother apparently made hers plain and ate them with butter, but my generation’s version has an Japanese twist courtesy of growing up in Hawai’i: we add a range of minced vegetables, and eat them with shoyu (soy sauce). I could see them made with peppers and coriander (cilantro) and served with avocado and salsa too…

Suitable vegetable additions include:

  • Herbs like thyme, parsley & sage
  • Mushrooms
  • Spicy vegetables like mustard & kai choi, to give them a little bite and zing
  • Shallots or green/spring onions, or wild garlic
  • Cabbage
  • Celery

We eat these for breakfast or lunch, and make them with long grain brown rice, the rice of choice in the House of Dreams.

They can also be made with buckwheat, which I’m using more and more as a rice alternative. Rice has the highest carbon footprint of any of the grains, because the paddies it’s grown in produce methane. Buckwheat had a very low carbon footprint, lots of great vitamins and nutrition, and a delicious nutty flavour. I told Miss 3 who was visiting that it was ‘pink rice’ to get her to eat it, and then got a phone call from her mother desperate to know what ‘pink rice’ was because Miss 3 didn’t want to eat the regular kind any more!

Let me know if you make any of these! What are your favourite vegetarian/vegan recipes?

Voile, lawn, muslin. What’s the difference (the short answer)

A Note: this post is a refresh and an update of a post that was originally written in 2010

In response to my post on the history of muslin, the Baroness von Vintage has asked what the difference between voile, lawn and muslin is.

The problem with defining fabrics is that fabrics are an art, not a science. You can clearly define the chemical makeup on anything, but strictly breaking all art into particular periods or definitions? Not as easy. Especially since definitions have varied throughout history, and vary across countries today. I’ll try though.

All three are lightweight fabrics, with some element of sheerness.  Today they are usually made of cotton, but you also fine them in linen.

Basically, if it has an open weave, it is muslin (except in the US, where muslin is a cheap, plain fabric, and muslin gauze is an open weave).  This weave is also called mull or book muslin.  It’s just a little tighter and smoother than cheesecloth.  

If it is very tightly woven with fine, glossy threads and no surface texture, it is lawn.

If it has a very soft drapey hand, with some surface texture and a weave that is neither particularly fine or loose it is voile

Tomorrow I’ll give you the long (complicated) explanation of the differences between the three.

Some examples of muslin/muslin gauze:

A 1920s dress kit thedreamstress.com
A fairly tightly woven 1920s era muslin/muslin gauze fabric
The sheer sleeves of a reproduction 1920s frock made from muslin, Courtesy of Tony McKay Photography and Glory Days Magazine
The skirt of the same frock, image Courtesy of Tony McKay Photography and Glory Days Magazine

This 1790s ensemble is made from what we would now call muslin: it was probably called mull at the time.

Ensemble, ca. 1798, probably, European, cotton, silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art 1992.119.1a–c
Ensemble, ca. 1798, probably, European, cotton, silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art 1992.119.1a–c
A wimple in linen muslin

Some examples of lawn:

An Edwardian blouse in lawn:

Blouse, Great Britain, ca. 1908, Unknown, Embroidered lawn, machine-made lace insertions, mother-of-pearl, ©Victoria & Albert Museum, T.59-1960

A lawn petticoat:

Petticoat, England, Great Britain, ca. 1905, Lawn with lace insertions and ribbons, V&A, T.61-1973
Petticoat, England, Great Britain, ca. 1905, Lawn with lace insertions and ribbons, V&A Museum, T.61-1973

Some examples of voile:

My replica 1860s petticoat in embroidered voile:

Replica ca. 1860s paisley embroidered petticoat thedreamstress.com

Pintucks on voile:

And an example of how you can’t always quite tell…

These three lingerie frocks could be either muslin or voile:

Three white cotton lingerie dresses (mislabelled as ‘tea gowns’ in the sale catalogue), c. 1915 Sold by Augusta Auctions, Lot: 75, May 9, 2017