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A swiss waist

Way back in July 2012, when I got excited about swiss waists and what makes a swiss waist different from an underbust corset, I actually started making a swiss waist.

It even got worn by a model, not quite done, over my chemise a la reine, for a talk at a steampunk convention (ah Steampunk, such a great cover for a multitude of un-historicisms!)

And then I got really, really busy, and the swiss waist got shoved to the bottom of the PHD (as in, project half done, not the indefinitely postponed degree I may one day pursue…) pile.

With the HSF Terminology challenge coming up, I remembered my swiss waist, and that all it really needed to be finished was two more hand-worked eyelets.



Well….you know me. Here is my swiss waist. The front, with lacing: Reproduction swiss waist thedreamstress.com And the unlaced back: Reproduction swiss waist thedreamstress.com My main inspiration was this swiss waist.  I really liked the uber-curvy swoops of the silhouette.  I wasn’t so keen on the shoulder straps though, so skipped them, because there are enough swiss waists with shoulder straps that are clearly not part of the integral cut that I figured I could always add them later.  Halfway through, I decided I didn’t like the pleated trim on the inspiration, so I left that off as well.

In the end, I ended up with a fairly simple swiss waist:

Reproduction swiss waist thedreamstress.com

Reproduction swiss waist thedreamstress.com
And in the end, it’s just not right.

I mean, it’s a proper swiss waist: hand done eyelets, almost no outside stitching, turnings instead of bindings.

Reproduction swiss waist thedreamstress.com

But the shape?  Just not doing it for me.

Reproduction swiss waist thedreamstress.com

The back point is definitely too long, and the swoops just don’t look right.  I suspect skipping the sleeve straps wasn’t the best idea.

Reproduction swiss waist thedreamstress.com

Who knows though, I might like it a LOT more over an actual 1860s blouse and skirt.  Which I don’t really have (at least not of the type I’d want to put a swiss waist over).  So for now, I’m going to call it done.  And when I do have a blouse and skirt and can see what it actually looks like, then I’ll re-assess.  And maybe I’ll add straps and ruffles and do some re-shaping.  Or just make another one ;-)

The Challenge: #16 Terminology

Fabric: 1/2 of a recycled obi worth of black silk satin ($5 for the whole obi)), 1/2ish metre of cotton support fabric.

Pattern: My own

Year: 1860-65

Notions: cotton thread, plastic boning.

How historically accurate is it?: About 90%.  The materials are about as close as you could get today (plastic boning included), and all the techniques match those on period swiss waists.  The interior finishing isn’t quite right, and the overall look isn’t quite making it.

Hours to complete: Probably about 7, but I don’t remember anymore.

First worn: Unfinished, by a model who wasn’t quite the right size for it, in October 2012.  Finished, not yet, and not for a while.

Total cost: Under $5.

And (of course), most importantly:
Does Felicity approve?  She wants to sleep on it.  I don’t want her to sleep on it.  She’s grumpy.

Rate the Dress: Out of time in 1887

Last week I showed you an 18th century fashion plate, and to a man (or lady) you agreed that it was terrible.  However, some of you thought it was so terrible that it became awesome.  And some of you thought it was a terribleness composed of lots of nice bits, just not together.  And some of you thought it was just terrible through and through.  So our galant nymph came in at 4.3 out of 10, which is the lowest rating we’ve had in at least two years!  Ah well, better to be memorable and terrible than not to be remarkable at all?

This week, despite the HSF theme being Terminology, I was inspired by the upcoming theme #20: Alternative Universe, because there is something about this particular ensemble that strikes me as being quite out of time (and look, it’s even been sold by Time Traveller Antiques!), and also because I see it as being an interesting flip to last week’s frock.

Dress, circa 1887 via Time Traveller Antiques

Dress, circa 1887 via Time Traveller Antiques

The late 18th century redingote inspiration of this late 1880s dress is quite clear, but the ensemble also has a hint of the Aesthetic influence in the ruching that holds the skirt into a fashionably slimmer line.

So, an 1880s does 1780s, with a tiny twist of Renaissanc-y fantasy.  Timeless?  Or terrible?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10.

The HSF ’14: Challenge #20: Alternative Universe

Gosh, time flies!  It does not seem a fortnight since I wrote the last inspiration post for the HSF!  Things come around quickly!

This particular challenge, #20: Alternative Universe (due Sat 1 Nov, because hey, Halloween is the day before and look, sometimes I can plan!) is quite exciting, because it’s the one challenge of the year where doesn’t require you to be properly historical.  The brief is simple: make something from an alternative universe, that shows elements of costume history within our universe.

With the Alternative Universe challenge we’re exploring all the ways in which history has influenced fantasy, and all the ways in which we’ve imagined the world would look if events had gone differently, or all the ways in which we would dress if we simply lived in another world, with another set of rules and history and species.

There are so many choices to pick from.

There are realms from literature: Middle Earth, Narnia, Westeros & Essos, Damar, Hogwarts, Diskworld, Oz, Barsoom, Dinotopia, Earthsea, and Neverland, to name just a few!

Aldersbach Abbey, Allemagne, circa 1200

There are worlds created for film & television, like the Once Upon a Time world, and variations on history within Doctor Who.

Wedding Dress of Cream Silk, 1785

Wedding Dress of Cream Silk, 1785, Shrewsbury Museum Services

And alternative universe lifestyles that extend far beyond one initial media, like Steampunk & Dieselpunk.

Clarice Mayne by Bassano - 1910s

Clarice Mayne by Bassano – 1910s

There are also alternative histories based on a change in events.

What would have happened if the Stanley’s had supported Richard III at the battle of Bosworth Field?  If Lady Jane Grey had held on to the throne of England?  If the English Parliament hadn’t tried to re-enact the tea & stamp taxes and the US Revolution had never happened?  If Josephine & Napoleon had had an heir?  If William Perkins had ignored the bright hues of his failed experiment, like a number of chemists before him?  If the Archduke Ferdinand hadn’t taken a route that drove him right past a drunk, angry Gavrilo Princip?  If Grover Cleveland had agreed to let Lili’u’okalani banish those who had overthrown her, or she had agreed to pardon them all, and she had been restored to the throne of Hawaii?

Kaiulani, photograph by Tynan Bros, ca. 1895

Kaiulani, photograph by Tynan Bros, ca. 1895

How might any of those have changes what was worn?

If you are a historical purist and don’t want to make something that is a fantasy, there is no reason that a garment from an alternative universe might not be perfectly accurate within our universe as well (notice that I have used period garments and images to illustrate this post).

Many fantasy lands are based on the technology and society of Europe in the Middle Ages, Doctor Who visits many timeperiods, and while he may encounter aliens living in Pompeii and robots at Versailles, the pallas and stola and robe a la francaises worn around them were probably the same.   An alternative history might provide the opportunity to explore a garment that is theoretical, but not proven, to see if it makes sense as a working garment.

Have fun exploring the history of alternative universes, and may it shed some light on our own history!

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Meet the Dreamstress

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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