Author: The Dreamstress

Book Review: Priscilla, thedreamstress.com

Book Review: Priscilla, an 1890s romance

I started this post for May’s Historical Sew Monthly theme of ‘Literature’, but due to my arm injury I wasn’t able to finish it during May. So, a little late, because I’m still on doctor enforced limited-computer time, a historical book review for a very fun piece, full of costume descriptions and illustration. Priscilla is an 1890s romance novel by E Everett-Green, a prolific writer of ‘pious and improving’ stories for girls, as well as historical novels (and daughter of the truly amazing Mary Anne Everett Green).  Knowing Everett-Green’s reputation for moralistic literature, Priscilla surprised me. Despite the titular Priscilla dominating the plot, the book is not really about her: it’s a picture of six possibilities of late-Victorian womanhood; archetypical ingenue Priscilla; her sister Ruth, the pattern card of the ideal 19th century wife, sister & daughter, in a style that was already a bit old-fashioned for the 1890s; spinster cousin Barbara Stillingfield, grown cold and warped with stifled love and hope; petted and fete’d society beauty Olive Gardner; society matron Mrs Pym; and Gwendolyn Pym, firmly …

Rate the Dress: Green Velvet & Gold Trim, 1718ish

Ouch!  Rate the Dress has been striking out a bit lately.  Quite a lot of very bad reviews for Paquin’s extremely pink confection brought its score down to a rather terrible 6.6 out of 10, but, on the other hand, it did get four more perfect tens than the purple dress from the week before, despite a lower average rating, and I would say that inspiring strong emotions is better than indifference! (I personally thought it was not at all to my taste, despite my love of chine a la branche, and yet fabulous just the same.  In a room full of over the top gowns with enormous, over-done sleeves, it would still stand out). I’m sticking with the big-skirt silhouette for this week’s Rate the Dress (OK, not that it’s hard to stick to big skirts in a historical context!) with an early 18th century ensemble with matching jacket, stomacher and petticoat in lush green velvet with elaborate metalwork embroidery. This ensemble speaks of luxury and status, but there is also something quite restrained about …

Rate the Dress: Very pink Paquin

Last week’s purple & black 1860s dress received a rather lukewarm response, with few strong feelings in either direction – and not a single 10!  Almost unheard of! I think most of you felt the way I did: that while there was nothing to actually dislike about the dress, there was nothing much to make you really love it either.  So a 7.3 out of 10 is an unsurprising score. This ball gown by Jeanne Paquin, widely acknowledged as the first female couturier, features a striking chine a la branche taffeta in pink and ivory, with pink chiffon overlay and very puffy spotted lace sleeves.  Anne would love them – do you? The full skirt of the 1890s (another one that could be easily adapted from the Fantail skirt pattern) provides an excellent canvas for the unusual fabric, and only the bodice blooms with the exuberance of ornamentation so beloved by the late Victorians. There are lots of exciting and interesting things going on in the bodice and sleeves, but alas, the Met does not …