Author: The Dreamstress

Rate the Dress: 1860s florals and swags

I’ve been on a bit of a roll lately – two extremely popular Rate the Dresses in a row!  Last week’s Florentine noblewoman in green sailed in with a spectacular 9.3 out of 10, just missing out on pipping the princess from a fortnight before to the post – much to my disappointment, as I personally LOVE the green dress, and give it a perfect 10.  (actually, if we include my scores, the princess drops to 9.3 and this bumps up to 9.4 😉 ) Oddly enough, my favourite things about the painting – the reality of the partlet strings, and the faithfulness with which the artist rendered the sitters hands, rather than turning them into generic, idealised hands, were also the things it was most criticised for. This dress, from the (envy-inspiring) collection of Alexandre Vasilliev, would be a fairly unremarkable example of 1860s fashion, in a classic pairing of red and grey, were it not for the spectacular trompe-l’oeil floral and ribbon pattern bordering the skirt. The lush floral pattern, whether it is printed on …

HSM ’16 Challenge #5: an autumn cardigan

I had grand plans for the Historical Sew Monthly 2016 Challenge #5: Gender Bender.  I was going to finish my 1916 Wearing History jacket, and give it a few twists that made the correlation between the jacket and menswear even more obvious.  But life, as it so often does, got in the way, in the form of unexpected overseas visitors and exciting opportunities. With the month coming to a close, I was in a bit of a panic.  What did I have on my sewing list or in my UFO pile that wasn’t going to take 20 hours to finish, and that was for a man, or that showed the influence of menswear? How about a 1920s cardigan? Perfect! Even better, I realised I had a half-finished blog-post on the history of cardigans for my terminology series sitting in my draft folder.  I could cross two UFOs off my list in one go! The cardigan is made from midweight merino knit in black, with buttons in black and light brown. Although black became a fashionable colour …

Terminology: the history of the cardigan

A cardigan is a knitted sweater with a buttoned or zipped front, with a V or round neck, with or without a collar.  The cardigan takes its name from the 7th Earl of Cardigan, James Thomas Brudenell (1797-1868) whose unfortunate claim to fame (other than the garment) is that he led the 1854 Charge of the Light Brigade. The cardigan as we know it today is based on a fur or braid-trimmed waistcoat of knitted worsted wool worn by British Army Officers during the Crimean war (some sources say ‘purported to have been worn by’, or that it was only worn by Cardigan himself)). Whether or not cardigans were actually based on garments worn during the Crimean war, within a few decades of the war the garment had become decisively linked with it, so much that editorials chiding the government for their neglect of veterans (some things never change…) make black-humour jokes about how “they might, at any rate, be provided with Cardigan Jackets.” The original ‘cardigan’ was a sleeveless vest or waistcoat, but by 1864 the modern sleeved …