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Rate the Dress: Red & White Regency (with shoes!)

It’s entry #2 in my series of ‘Rate all the Party Dresses’.  This week we’re going back in time 210 years, and rating a formal Regency gown.  It’s a particularly exciting rating, because it also includes the shoes worn with the dress.

Last week: a bright orange silk and embroidered net party frock from 1916

The reviews for last week’s frock were a very happy surprise.  I was afraid many of you would find it too bold and outrageous – but just one did.   I’m always delighted when you love a dress, and even more so when I’m really not sure you will.

(of course, it would be terribly boring if every one of you just adored everything, so don’t worry if you don’t!)

The Total: 9.5 out of 10

Definitely a belle of the ball dress!

This week: an 1800s dress – and the shoes to match

I found the bare footed mannequin that last week’s dress was displayed on rather disconcerting, so this week I picked an evening gown where we know what shoes it was worn with.  A museum’s choice of accessories can make or break a rating, and while this dress is otherwise shown un-accessorised, the shoes give us an authentic glimpse into how it looked when first worn.

The dress is a typical classically inspired Regency gown, with raised waist, brief bodice, and short sleeves, all intended to evoke Grecian drapery.

The simple shape is enlivened by embroidery in fine red wool.  Little scrolling floral motifs cover the skirt, and borders of modified ‘Greek Key’ or ‘Meander’ motifs follow the hem and divide the front of the skirt, emphasising the vertical lines of the frock.

The MFA Boston describes the ground of the dress as ‘cotton gauze’. The gown is probably made from gauze in the more generic sense: a very lightweight fabric with a slightly open weave, rather than the technical sense: a fabric with a leno weave.

The red and white slippers that accompany the dress feature a wide, low heel, and painted stripes that, like the embroidered lines of the dress, emphasise the fashionable shape of the shoe: in this case, the pointed toe.

So, with dress and shoes to imagine together, what do you think of our Regency Cinderella?

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.  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!)

Evening Gown Of Cream Silk Satin and Orange Silk Taffeta, Hollander, L.P., 1916-1917, USA, silk, pearl beads, chenille yarn, aigrette feathers, Goldstein Museum of Design 1982.016.015

Rate the Dress: Holiday frocks for 1916

Holiday party season has just stepped into high gear here in Wellington, and every venue in town is booked out for the rest of the month.  My seasonal event schedule is sadly lacking in soirées that call for elegant frocks, but I’ve been doing fantasy event shopping in various museum’s collections, finding dresses that I would DEFINITELY wear had I the occasion, and ones that I want to show you, to see what you think of them.  So the next few weeks are going to feature event-worthy (well, maybe) party dresses.

Last week: a bright spring green pelisse 

Mixed reviews for last week’s dress, with bonus points for some people because the dress looked like a historical superhero costume!

I was really intrigued by all the speculation of who it would look good on, and the claims that most women couldn’t carry it off.  Though it’s not easy to find, the pelisse’s fresh green colour looks really good on me – and is one I think of as very flattering on most women, at least in the historical sense of flattering (tends to make them look pale and mysterious, and the emphasise the contrast between skin and lips).

The Total: 8.3 out of 10

Exactly the same as the week before!

This week: a bright orange silk and embroidered net party frock from 1916

To start off my showcase of historical party dresses that a guest could wear to one of those historical extravaganzas I wish I could go to, I’ve chosen a frock from my favourite fashion year: 1916.

Evening Gown Of Cream Silk Satin and Orange Silk Taffeta, Hollander, L.P., 1916-1917, USA, silk, pearl beads, chenille yarn, aigrette feathers, Goldstein Museum of Design 1982.016.015 detail

Evening Gown Of Cream Silk Satin and Orange Silk Taffeta, Hollander, L.P., 1916-1917, USA, silk, pearl beads, chenille yarn, aigrette feathers, Goldstein Museum of Design 1982.016.015

This dress would definitely benefit from a good steam, and the proper undergarments (a bit more petticoat-age in particular), but the basic essence of the design, and of the impact the dress would have had on the dancefloor, is still obvious.

Like many 1910s dresses, this evening gown combines two contrasting design ideas: a bold colour, and delicate layering, with each element of the dress revealing subtle detailing.

The skirt is made of three layers of net, each embroidered with silvery threads.  The topmost layer of elaborately worked net is almost completely hidden by the overskirt of vivid orange silk, and would only be revealed as the dress moved and swayed around the wearer.

The orange silk, vibrant as it is, is not left alone to speak for itself.  Instead, it features panels of heavy beading, with pearl and glass beads of different sizes, and chenille embroidery, forming forming floral and geometric patterning down the front and back of the dress.

The silver, orange, and white of the dress is offset with a splash of black in the form of a corsage of black velvet and aigrette feathers pinned to the waist.

The whole dress is a play on contrasts: muted and vibrant, bold and subtle, delicate and robust, fitted and voluminous.

The Goldstein Museum of Design website has some excellent images of the layers of the dress, and how it opens, which I highly recommend checking out if you’re interested in historical dress construction.

What do you think of it?

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.  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!)

NZ Sew & Eat Historical Retreat Food thedreamstress.com

The Sew & Eat Historical Retreat – the food

Aren’t you glad that the Otari Hoodie Sew Along is finished?

First, it means that some of you have awesome hoodies that you can wear.  And second, it means that I can stop blogging hoodie instructions, and go back to blogging about random historical things, and whatever else I’m working on.

Right now, the ‘random historical things’ means catching up on all the stuff I haven’t been blogging about while I was hoodie-ing, starting with the Sew & Eat Historical Retreat.

I promised menu details in my first post, so here is more information.

The real credit for the menu and cooking goes to Nina, who put together all the more spectacular and involved items, most of which I would never dare attempt*.  Hopefully she’ll blog more details about her food, so mine will be a briefer overview.

I didn’t manage to photograph everything, as I got too excited about actually eating things, and just having fun.

Friday Dinner: ‘Malaga-tawnee Curee’ with potted hare

NZ Sew & Eat Historical Retreat Food thedreamstress.com

Friday’s dinner was based on two extent Regency curry recipes (one belonging to Jane Austen’s sister in law), the description of curry eating in Vanity Fair***, and recipes for potted hare.

I couldn’t find an original Regency curry recipe that used potted hare as the meat, but it was certainly a common meat source, and I was able to find a whole wild hare at Moore Wilsons (the fancy Wellington supermarket†).

The curry included apples and lentils, and there was so much of it that we had it for lunch on Saturday too.  And it was delicious.  In fact, a vegetarian version†† of it has become part of my regular meal rotation.  You can find a similar-ish recipe here (just omit the coconut milk).

Saturday Afternoon Tea:

NZ Sew & Eat Historical Retreat Food thedreamstress.com

Menu:

Cucumber sandwiches
Devilled eggs
variations on devilled eggs date back to Roman times, and the little savoury egg-parcels were definitely popular in the 19th century.  
Salmon & capers with cream cheese on pumpernickel †††
Fruit
Ginger honeycomb biscuits‡
Rice flour Victorian cake‡
Lemon ices (Jane Austen wrote of eating ices at her brother Edward’s estate, and Gunter’s Tea Shop, which took over from the Pot & Pineapple‡‡ in 1799, was famous for its ices)
Tea
Rhubarb & Ginger Cordial 

NZ Sew & Eat Historical Retreat Food thedreamstress.com

Sunday Lunch: Salmagundi

NZ Sew & Eat Historical Retreat Food thedreamstress.com

I used the recipe in the 17th century The Good Huswives Treasure (quoted on Wikipedia) as my starting point, and added lots of lettuce and sprouts.  Instead of chicken (which I don’t eat) we used smoked mackerel as the protein, as well as hard boiled eggs, which appear in numerous other salmagundi recipes.  We omitted oysters because of a shellfish allergy‡‡‡, and olives, because I forgot to buy them.  We meant to include broombuds because there is feral broom all over Wellington, but sadly we didn’t see any around our cottage.

And it was delicious and wonderful and just what we all wanted to eat…

Sunday Gala Dinner:

NZ Sew & Eat Historical Retreat Food thedreamstress.com

First Course: Swiss Soup Meagre 

NZ Sew & Eat Historical Retreat Food thedreamstress.comThere are numerous historical variations of this recipe, dating from the early 18th century, to the late 18th, but generally it calls for you to take any sort of spring greens you can rummage up, sauté them in copious amounts of butter, add beaten eggs, and push through a sieve.

We used the one given here as a starting point.  Our vegetables were spinach, lettuce, cabbage, watercress, leeks, and, for a very authentically harvested-from-your-spring-garden touch, onion weed collected from the cottage yard.  You can see the onion weed flowers as garnish.

Second Course:  Salmon mousse and cucumber salad with toast

NZ Sew & Eat Historical Retreat Food thedreamstress.com

NZ Sew & Eat Historical Retreat Food thedreamstress.comNZ Sew & Eat Historical Retreat Food thedreamstress.com


Main Course: Venison en croute (gluten free)

NZ Sew & Eat Historical Retreat Food thedreamstress.com
Dessert: Orange Jelly

NZ Sew & Eat Historical Retreat Food thedreamstress.com

Nina made this spectacular jelly in the tiny kitchen, in an antique mould, using vegetarian gelatine.

She was understandably quite pleased with herself when it came out of the mould

NZ Sew & Eat Historical Retreat Food thedreamstress.com

Nina had been so excited about making a jelly dessert the whole time we were menu planning that I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I absolutely loath jelly.§

So I thought I’d be in food purgatory for the last course, gagging down jelly and pretending to like it.

Happily, it turns out that true homemade jelly, made with vegetarian gelatine, two dozen oranges and no food colouring at all, is an entirely different beast§ than the jello we got served at school.

NZ Sew & Eat Historical Retreat Food thedreamstress.com

It’s delicious

Breakfast

Just in case you were wondering, our morning food choices all three days weren’t quite so historic, but we didn’t let our standards slip:

NZ Sew & Eat Historical Retreat Food thedreamstress.com

Lace tablecloths, roses, marmalade in fancy bowls, pots of tea and fancily arranged fruit!

And, just because it’s funny, aprons and fancy dresses:

NZ Sew & Eat Historical Retreat Food thedreamstress.com

*And she did it all while on crutches!

** I will spare you images of the actual whole hare^.

^And the caption that says “things are getting hare-y”*.

* You have no idea the effort it took to resist that temptation…

*** Which I really just included as an excuse the dial the spices and spiceyness up by a factor of about 400%.  I just can’t believe that a girl who comes from a culture that eats mustard and horseradish would be so overwhelmed by anything but a seriously robust curry – and I like my curries on the robust side.

† We used to joke there should be a ‘People of Moore Wilsons’ website, a la ‘People of Walmart’.  It would feature ladies with 30 artichokes in their cart, and children wearing designer outfits that would cost more than my entire wardrobe.

†† With even more spices!  Because mmmmm….spices.

††† True story.  I couldn’t remember the name of the bread, but I can remember what it means.  So 30 seconds before writing this I was googling ‘devil fart bread’.

‡ These were both made by Nina from recipes from Mary-Anne Boermans’ Great British Bakes. I’ve gotten their names completely wrong, but I’m definitely not mistaken in how delicious they were….

‡‡ Which is clearly a much better name.  Wouldn’t you rather eat at the Pot & Pineapple than Gunter’s?

‡‡‡ And also because frankly, that sounds a bit much…

§ When I try to eat it my mind becomes absolutely convinced that I’m eating slugs.^

^And you know how I feel about slugs.^^

^^Also, slugs in Hawai’i can carry rat lung disease, so eating one could literally kill you.

§§ Not a slug beast, for starters.