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Dress, ca. 1805, American, silk, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Charles Blaney, 1926, 2009.300.2314

Rate the Dress: Empire Era Details

As neither patterned fabric nor bold contrast were exactly popular last week, this week I’ve picked something completely different: a monochrome Empire era dress that would be boring, except for subtle details that set it apart.

Last Week: an 1890s day dress with all the trimmings

Whatever you saw in last week’s Rorschart test of a dress, it certainly gave you something to talk about. It’s the first Rate the Dress in quite a while to break 50+ comments! Some of you thought it was way, way too much (Lynne said her eyes felt they needed a lie down after looking at it). Others loved how bold it was, how unafraid to really embrace the trends of the time. And some of you were weirded out by the ground fabric, particularly in combination with the strong red velvet.

However you felt about it, you felt about it strongly. I don’t think we’ve ever had quite so many 2s and 10s all on the same Rate the Dress!

The Total: 6 out of 10

If you goal in this dress was to be admired by all, you wouldn’t succeed. But if your goal was to be memorable and talked about, well, sartorial mission accomplished!

This week: an Empire era dress with subtle hues and subtle ruffles.

After last week’s dress, I thought I’d better show something restful and muted. And you can’t really get any more muted than this pale mouse grey silk frock, or any simpler than a Regency sheath. But this dress isn’t quite as simple as it looks: it has a number of secrets.

Dress, ca. 1805, American, silk, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Charles Blaney, 1926, 2009.300.2314
Dress, ca. 1805, American, silk, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Charles Blaney, 1926, 2009.300.2314

First, the colour. It’s possible that the grey-brown hue is very close to the dresses original colour: just a tiny bit faded with time. But the shade of the dress is also one that a number of the more unstable dye colours fade to.

Dress, ca. 1805, American, silk, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Charles Blaney, 1926, 2009.300.2314
Dress, ca. 1805, American, silk, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Charles Blaney, 1926, 2009.300.2314

Certain black dyes (like the ones used to quickly dye Queen Victoria’s ‘Privy Council’ mourning dress when she inherited the throne three decades later) can fade to this colour, as will some purples, some richer browns, and some blues. So this dress may not have been quite as subtle in its original incarnation.

Dress, ca. 1805, American, silk, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Charles Blaney, 1926, 2009.300.2314
Dress, ca. 1805, American, silk, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Charles Blaney, 1926, 2009.300.2314

Nor is it quite a boring, bog-standard high-waisted, classically inspired Empire Era dress: it has a few details that set it apart, like the squared off train.

Dress, ca. 1805, American, silk, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Charles Blaney, 1926, 2009.300.2314
Dress, ca. 1805, American, silk, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Charles Blaney, 1926, 2009.300.2314

And the tiny ruffled details that tie together the oversleeves (the dress can almost certainly be worn with short short sleeves as well as with the long undersleeves), the bodice detailing, and the slits of the apron front.

Dress, ca. 1805, American, silk, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Charles Blaney, 1926, 2009.300.2314
Dress, ca. 1805, American, silk, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Charles Blaney, 1926, 2009.300.2314

You can just see the ruffled detail of the apron-front slits here:

Dress, ca. 1805, American, silk, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Charles Blaney, 1926, 2009.300.2314
Dress, ca. 1805, American, silk, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Charles Blaney, 1926, 2009.300.2314

What do you think?

Do you like the pairing of the single darker colour (whatever it was) with the fashionable Empire silhouette, and the small details?

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

Making your own fitted sheets thedreamstress.com

Re-make & re-use: how to turn old flat sheets into fitted sheets

Has anyone else noticed that you just can’t buy good quality cotton sheets anymore?

Sheets I bought when I first moved to NZ 15 years ago are still going strong, but anything I’ve bought in the last five years (when we upgraded our bed size) lasts less than three years, even when it’s the same brand.

Making your own fitted sheets  thedreamstress.com
(seriously! This isn’t cool!)

And that’s an issue. Cotton (even organic) is not great for the environment, and the best way to lower its impact is to get as much use as possible out of anything cotton that you buy. Three years for sheets = not good.

To get a little more use out of the extremely disappointing sheets I’ve purchased in the last 5 years, I’ve been recycling the sheets that have worn out.

I turn the fabric around the edges of worn out fitted sheets into pillowcases, and do the same with flat sheets that are very thin, or where there are tears in the middle.

If there is enough robust fabric left in a flat sheet, I turn it into a fitted sheet. This is also a great thing to do with vintage flat sheets, which last forever, and come often come in smaller sizes (holdovers of the days when adult couples slept in single beds – who uses a king single today!).

It’s kind of weird, but I get a lot of satisfaction out of being able to ‘make’ my own sheets: remaking a thing to be useful, keeping it out of the waste system for as long as possible, giving it its best possible life.

I shared some snippets of the process on instagram, and people asked me to show how I do it.

So here’s how to make a fitted sheet from a flat sheet!

Making your own fitted sheets  thedreamstress.com

Measurements:

First, measure your mattress top: you need to know the:

  • length
  • width
  • depth
  • circumference (length + width x 2)

Materials: Version A

This version is made with one long length of fabric that covers the mattress top and both ends, and narrow pieces that cover the sides of the mattress.

You’re going to need:

  • An old sheet/piece of an old sheet as long as the top of your mattress + 2x the depth of the mattress + 8″/20cm + 1″/3cm (for seam allowance) and as wide as your mattress + 1″/3cm (for seam allowance)
  • Scraps of old sheets/fabric enough to make 2 lengths as long as your mattress + 1″/3cm (for seam allowance) and as deep as your mattress + 4″/10cm
  • Elastic about 1/2″/1.2cm wide x the circumference of your mattress minus 20%
Making your own fitted sheets  thedreamstress.com

Version A Top Assembly:

You’ll be sewing the big top piece to the narrow side pieces, turning the corner at the short ends, to form the top and bottom of the fitted sheet.

Making your own fitted sheets  thedreamstress.com

Start by sewing a short end of one Piece B to the long side of Piece A. 1/2″/1.5cm* from the end of the short side of Piece B, sink your needle, and turn the corner of Piece B.

Making your own fitted sheets thedreamstress.com

Continue sewing the long edge of Piece B to the long edge of Piece A. 1/2″/1.5cm* before you reach the long end of Piece B, sink your needle, and turn the corner of Piece B so that you can sew down the second short end, forming two corners on either end of your sheet.

Making your own fitted sheets  thedreamstress.com

Repeat the same steps to join the second Piece B to the other long edge of Piece A, so you have your assembled sheet which fits neatly over the mattress.

Finish all your seams as desired.

Materials: Version B

This version is made with one moderately long length of fabric that covers the mattress top, two long narrow pieces that cover the sides of the mattress, and two short narrow pieces that cover the ends of the mattress

You’re going to need:

  • An old sheet/piece of an old sheet as long as the top of your mattress + 8″/20cm + 1″/3cm (for seam allowance) and as wide as your mattress + 1″/3cm (for seam allowance)
  • Scraps of old sheets/fabric enough to make 2 lengths as long as your mattress + 1″/3cm (for seam allowance) and as deep as your mattress + 4″/10cm
  • Scraps of old sheets/fabric enough to make 2 lengths as wide as your mattress + 1″/3cm (for seam allowance) and as deep as your mattress + 4″/10cm
  • Elastic about 1/2″/1.2cm wide x the circumference of your mattress minus 25%
Sheet Tutorial Version B thedreamstress.com

Version B Top Assembly:

Sew Pieces B to Piece A like so:

Sheet Tutorial Version B thedreamstress.com

Then assemble the rest of the sheet top exactly as with Version A.

Finish all the seams as desired.

Elastic:

Making your own fitted sheets  thedreamstress.com

I was super lucky to find an entire roll of suitable elastic at an op shop for only $5.

I don’t measure my elastic as I apply it to my sheet: simply stretch and sew. However, if you really want to measure. a 25% reduction in elastic compared to the circumference should be a good amount.

If you’re doing an exact measure, mark quarters & eights in your elastic, and quarters & eighths in your sheet circumference. Match the quarters and eights before you sew, and then stretch between them as you sew.

Making your own fitted sheets  thedreamstress.com

If you’re doing what I do, and stretch as you sew, just stretch a moderate amount as you sew around the sheet.

Match the elastic to the WRONG side of the sheet, sew it on, and then fold the elastic in toward the wrong side of the sheet, to cover the elastic and form a neat edge visible from the outside, and then sew again.

Making your own fitted sheets  thedreamstress.com

Ta da! You are done!

Making your own fitted sheets  thedreamstress.com

Hopefully I’ll get a few more years use out of these sheets. And then they can get used again, as toiles, and then cleaning clothes. Re-use, re-use, re-use!

May I sleep on them as peacefully as Felicity….

Felicity the sewing cat thedreamstress.com

*yep, I know they aren’t the same, but I did the imperial measures for this tutorial with a 1/2″ seam allowance, and the metric with 1.5cm.

Dress, Emile Pingat, Paris, 1897, Silk velvet & silk compound weave with supplementary warp floats, linen lace, cotton, silk, and metallic-thread applique & glass beads, LACMA M.2012.95.123a-b

Rate the Dress: Red Velvet & Rorschach blobs

This week Rate the Dress goes from very literal trompe l’oeil ruffles, to a dress with an abstract pattern that becomes a textile Rorschach test: what do you see in the ripples and blobs?

Last Week: a first-bustle-era morning dress in border-print cotton

How you rated last week’s dress really hinged on how you felt about the border print and the trompe l’oeil ruffle. Some of you really enjoyed the print, and thought it was inventive and witty. Others found it fussy, saccharine, and mismatched. And then there was a third segment who liked elements of the dress, but didn’t feel it pulled off the overall look.

The Total: 7 out of 10

An unresolved rating for an unresolved dress.

This week: an 1890s day dress with all the trimmings

This week’s Rate the Dress is an 1890s day dress that might have been worn by the daughter of last week’s dresses owner: it’s equally decadent, impractical, and inventive in its design and use of fabric.

Dress, Emile Pingat, Paris, 1897, Silk velvet & silk compound weave with supplementary warp floats, linen lace, cotton, silk, and metallic-thread applique & glass beads, LACMA M.2012.95.123a-b
Dress, Emile Pingat, Paris, 1897, Silk velvet & silk compound weave with supplementary warp floats, linen lace, cotton, silk, and metallic-thread applique & glass beads, LACMA M.2012.95.123a-b

Pingat was a top tier Parisian couturier in the 1890s: commanding prices and status comparable to the House of Worth. Whoever wore this dress had the money to invest in a garment that had every bell and whistle of 1897’s fashion whim. From quirky geometric skirt trim, to bolero effect bodices, full sleeves with extra eccentric epaulette overlays, pointed collars, and lace jabots, it has everything and the fashion kitchen sink.

Dress, Emile Pingat, Paris, 1897, Silk velvet & silk compound weave with supplementary warp floats, linen lace, cotton, silk, and metallic-thread applique & glass beads, LACMA M.2012.95.123a-b
Dress, Emile Pingat, Paris, 1897, Silk velvet & silk compound weave with supplementary warp floats, linen lace, cotton, silk, and metallic-thread applique & glass beads, LACMA M.2012.95.123a-b

Not even the skirt fabric gives your eye a place to rest: it features a fashionable weave, probably Japanese inspired, with a cloud pattern in shades that change from pastel to grey and gold, depending on the angle and distance you view it from.

Dress, Emile Pingat, Paris, 1897, Silk velvet & silk compound weave with supplementary warp floats, linen lace, cotton, silk, and metallic-thread applique & glass beads, LACMA M.2012.95.123a-b
Dress, Emile Pingat, Paris, 1897, Silk velvet & silk compound weave with supplementary warp floats, linen lace, cotton, silk, and metallic-thread applique & glass beads, LACMA M.2012.95.123a-b
Dress, Emile Pingat, Paris, 1897, Silk velvet & silk compound weave with supplementary warp floats, linen lace, cotton, silk, and metallic-thread applique & glass beads, LACMA M.2012.95.123a-b
Dress, Emile Pingat, Paris, 1897, Silk velvet & silk compound weave with supplementary warp floats, linen lace, cotton, silk, and metallic-thread applique & glass beads, LACMA M.2012.95.123a-b

What do you think of this frock. Is it fashion forward, or simply ascribing to all the fashion fads, and not in a good way?

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 com