Soirees at the Fringe Festival

Remember August’s fantastic parlour concert featuring Haydn and an 1840s evening dress?  Exciting news!  It’s happening in Wellington again as part of the Fringe Festival!

1840s inspired evening dress thedreamstress.com

 

Soiree nights will be running on the 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 20th, 21st, 22 and 23 Feb.  If you can possible make it to Wellington on one of those evenings I highly recommend it.

The music is exquisite, witty, stirring and droll in turns, the setting intimate, atmospheric and fascinating, and the costumes rather lovely (if I do say so myself!).  The whole event feels as if you have been transported back to a private musical party in the mid 1840s.

1840s inspired evening dress thedreamstress.com

 

I’m definitely going again (and I may even dress up!)

More info on the Fringe Festival website, and you can buy tickets at EventFinder.  I suspect that you’ll need to book quickly – spaces for each concert are quite limited.

1840s inspired evening dress thedreamstress.com

Rate the Dress: 1860s jacquard marvels

Last week I showed you a fascinating yellow frock that celebrated the innovation of simplicity: the refinement of shape, silhouette, fabric, trim, and underclothes that characterise early 19th century fashions.  Most of you were extremely impressed, and then a small group of you were completely unimpressed, and thought it boring.  I began to see one of those scenarios where the rating comes out to be something that almost none of you rated, and I was right.  8.3 out of 10 might have been the average, but it reflects how few of you felt about it personally. (and thank you to Sabine for finding the proper link to the dress)

Those of you who didn’t like it thought the yellow dress last week was just too plain, simple and austere. So this week, I’ve picked something that is a wee bit more detailed:

Dress, ca. 1865, American, cotton, C.I.67.37.1 Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dress, ca. 1865, American, cotton, C.I.67.37.1 Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dress, ca. 1865, American, cotton, C.I.67.37.1 Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dress, ca. 1865, American, cotton, C.I.67.37.1 Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dress, ca. 1865, American, cotton, C.I.67.37.1 Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dress, ca. 1865, American, cotton, C.I.67.37.1 Metropolitan Museum of Art

At first, all the details on this dress just look daft: mameluke sleeves (now sadly crushed) and pleated trim, bizarre circular motifs arranged in pyramids on the skirt.  The fabric looks dirty and discoloured with age, and the whole effect is just…odd.  But then you look closer, and thing get…intriguing:

Dress, ca. 1865, American, cotton, C.I.67.37.1 Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dress, ca. 1865, American, cotton, C.I.67.37.1 Metropolitan Museum of Art

Like the fabric: a speckled brown, not dirty with age.

Dress, ca. 1865, American, cotton, C.I.67.37.1 Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dress, ca. 1865, American, cotton, C.I.67.37.1 Metropolitan Museum of Art

The patterns, not applique but are either jacquard woven en disposition (specifically for this dress) or, less likely, machine embroidery.

Dress, ca. 1865, American, cotton, C.I.67.37.1 Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dress, ca. 1865, American, cotton, C.I.67.37.1 Metropolitan Museum of Art

One of the motifs is circular, the other flower shaped, and they demonstrate a variety of different stitches: the full spectrum of stitches/weaves available to jacquard looms and embroidery machines.  The mad details suddenly become a celebration of innovation:  the design possibilities of the new machines.  The brilliant blue trim of the bodice is also probably aniline dyed, in another nod to inventions.

Reveling in the all that is new and modern is all very well, but it doesn’t always translate into good design.  What do you make of this dress, and its trendy new innovations?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

Rate the Dress: ca. 1800 innovation & tradition

Last week  I was a little disappointed in the lack of interest in Élisabeth de Valois and her velvet dress.  I thought it was a fascinating fashion choice, but it just wasn’t a good week for discussions.  Those of you who commented did like it though – it came it at 8.6 out of 10, which was just off its most common rating (8.5).  And it was a big hit as a pinterest pin, which is always a good indication of popularity!

This week, let’s return to the HSF as a source of inspiration for my Rate the Dress choices.  The next fortnight’s theme is ‘Innovation’ and one of the most innovative fashion periods ever was the streamlined neoclassical styles of the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century.  Few fashion innovations are introduced completely out of nowhere: there is often a period of transition, in which elements of the old style mingle with the new trend.

This dress represents both the innovation, and the transition: radical in its overall simplicity, it retains hallmarks of earlier 18th century styles.

I really regret not being able to find more images of this gown in particular.  The tiny pleats or darts in the bodice beg to be examined in more detail.  The front pleat gives a clue to the dress construction (does it hide a front opening?) but more images might reveal its secret.  What does the back look like?  What, exactly, is the trim around the hem?

For now, we’ll just have to speculate.  At least we can decide if we think it is a sartorial win or not!

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10.

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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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