I’m always reluctant to post ‘Rate the Dress’ images which feature very well known people as I’m afraid that our pre-concieved attitudes towards historical notables sometimes colour our assessment of their clothes. I’m not sure how much of that played into the rating of Marie Antoinette in hunting attire last week, because the most overwhelming response was the one I didn’t expect: total and utter boredom. Sure, it rated a 7.3 out of 10, but most of you couldn’t even be bothered to rate the dress. I do think I should start subtracting a point from any Rate the Dress that collects less than 25 votes, because 6.3 is probably a better reflection of total indifference!
Anyway, onwards, and upwards, hopefully to much more interesting frocks!
This dress has fascinated me ever since I first came across it, and I thought that the Historical Sew Fortnightly ‘Squares, Rectangles, & Triangles‘ challenge was the perfect opportunity to rate it. For all its elaborateness, the tiers of ruffles in the skirt are just rectangles, and the stripes add an interesting linear dimension to the frock, which contrasts with the soft pastel colours in the most intriguing fashion.
Day dress, 1855, Centraal Museum
So what do you think? Icky pastel frilly? A perfect balance of details and simplicity?
Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10
The Historical Sew Fortnightly ‘Literature’ challenge is due today. I do not know if it will be done today.
As I write this I’m curled up under a pile of blankets, with a cup of lemon echinacea tea, the heater blasting, and a box of tissues. Yep. I’m out with a cold.
Instead of sewing, I spent most of yesterday sleeping. I’m feeling a bit better today, and am hoping to get the bodice done today, but taking care of myself is going to have to come first.
So what have I got done?
Cut and sewed the false waistcoat front:
The front, neck and bottom front edges are finished with narrow piping.
I forgot to add in allowance for an overlap for buttons and buttonholes when I cut the waistcoat pieces, so my front edges are sewn with the narrowest possible seam allowances. I’ll also sew the side seams with teeny seam allowances, and lace my corset a bit tighter. Will it actually fit me when sewn together? I hope so!
Before finding that out, I worked buttonholes on the centre front. Since there are 24 buttons running down the waistcoat front, and there were buttonhole making sewing machines by the 1880s, I’ve gone for machine buttonholes rather than bound buttonholes. 24 bound buttonholes would probably be the end of both me and the fabric!
Now for the moment of truth: will the bodice fit? I basted the side seams together, tried it on….
Hallelujiah! Praise Nuggan! It pins! And look at that smooth line!
It doesn’t look half bad over my Gay Red Shirt either…
Whew! Now I can actually invest the effort to sew on all 24 buttons:
I am so pleased with the buttons – they are courtesy of my fantastic button stash, inherited from Nana & Grandma, and accumulated over the years. If I had to buy 24 of these buttons it would cost me a fortune!
So what’s left to do? Bind the jacket front, bind the jacket back hem, and the neckline. Bind the sleeve hems. Set the sleeves. Sew the shoulders properly, set the collar. Re-sew the side seams with the jacket front. Trim the jacket with lots of gold.
And stay warm and drink lots of fluids and get some rest! That’s the most important!
This week is Polly / Oliver week (also Tax week, T-Shirt week, get-that-darn-car-sorted week, and plan-next-semester’s-schedule-week), and I’m working on it like mad.
As a bit of a Hudson-Bay start after my little meltdown/epiphany over the weekend, (or really, a Hudson-Bay Start after a 5 year delay in getting this enterprise off the ground), I took stock of what I had, re-looked for inspiration, and have finally sorted out what I’m actually going to do, and what is actually going to work.
I started with late 18th century female dress borrowed from male hunting attire and military uniforms, some real, some rather satirical:
This print shows an outfit almost identical to the one on the cover of Monstrous Regiment, but for women:
Collett, “Officer in the Light Infantry,” 1770
I’ve already shown you this image:
Dighton, Robert, October 1784 – this plate was also published with the outfit in reversed colours, with a red jacket, and a blue skirt
And, of course, the MA portrait in hunting attire:
Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria, the later Queen Marie Antoinette of France, at the age of 16 years, 1771
Finally, the ubiquitous Reynold’s portrait of Lady Worsley:
Sir Joshua Reynolds, Lady Worsley. 1776
From these, I really love the white single-breasted waistcoat on Lady Worsley and the “Officer in the Light Infantry”, and their black feathered hats. I’m also borrowing the gold binding/ edge trim on the jacket of Dighton’s October print, and the gold trim on Marie Antoinette’s jacket. Plus I’m taking elements from the overall shape of Lady Worsley’s and October’s jackets.
So that’s my 18th century inspiration, but how to re-interpret it to the 1880s?
I’d started out with this 1880s Worth walking dress from the Metropolitan Museum of Art as my main inspiration garment, and the jacket I cut out in 2008 is based heavily on it.
Walking dress, House of Worth, ca. 1885 Metropolitan Musuem of Art
However, the more I look at it, the less right it seems.
The lace front? For a military outfit, even a dress one? Ridiculous.
And the long overskirt train? Beautifully reminiscent of late 18th century redingotes, yes, but stupid as a military outfit. Even if I really stretch dress uniform to the fullest, the redingote train effect wouldn’t work for Polly unless I had enough of the red jacket fabric (which I don’t!), or found I beautiful red and white stripe (which, in 5 years of looking, I haven’t).
So, back to the inspiration drawing board, and a scroll through my 1880s favourites folder unearthed this:
Walking dress, 1887
Walking length skirt? Check. Different coloured skirt and jacket? Check. Place to pull in a tiny bit of jacket fabric on the skirt (because that’s all I have)? Check. 3/4 length sleeves? Check. Opportunity for crazy gold buttons? Check. Overall crisp, military, but very feminine look? Check! And check out the pocket hidden under her hand!
Skirt (and a bit of the jacket) inspiration sorted!
Heck, I may even use something from that daft hat!
(I still totally intend to make this outfit exactly as it is – just waiting for the right fabric).
Now, for the rest of the jacket, I found this image:
Striped jacket. Is it a movie costume?
The false waistcoat effect is perfect. Unfortunately the image came with no information whatsoever. I don’t think it is an original item. Perhaps a movie costume? Anyone recognise it? A google image search has turned up nothing.
Never fear though, I have lots of proper historical inspiration for the false white waistcoat, like this beauty:
Photo of a woman, ca 1883-90
To pattern up the waistcoat, I put my old jacket pieces back together, draped a front to go under the curved jacket front piece, and sewed it to the back of the jacket to fit it:
Excuse the terrible photos – I was more interested in sewing than getting pretty pictures! And fear not, the real thing will NOT be bright yellow, and I’ve fixed the teeny fit issues.
In other progress, I’ve decided to go with ivory cotton sateen as my skirt fabric. I draped it and the linen over a chair for a couple of days and considered them both, and decided that the linen was just too, too white, and entirely the wrong look. Also, Fiss massively prefers the cotton, and one should always defer to one’s sewing cat in matters of fabric choice:
So, lots sorted, but I had one last niggling worry. How to include all that gold in an 188os jacket without it looking like a costume?
Then I found this image, and I had a little epiphany:
Actress Jean Aylwin in military inspired costume, possibly for ‘The Girls of Gottenburg” ca 1907
Why can’t my outfit be a costume? If I just think of it as an 1880s stage or fancy dress costume, then I can have all the gold I want, it will be true to the book, and historically plausible!
Happy dance! Off to sew!