Rate the Dress: Walking in Stripes in the late 1860s

Last week I showed you a Regency era fashion plate that featured a decidedly interesting evening dress.  Opinions on the dress were decidedly divided: you either thought it was fabulous (with small caveats about the peplum and bodice trim), or hated it.  And you either thought it would be even more fabulous on a body, or far less fabulous!  So most scores were either well below 5, or well above 5, resulting in a rating of 7.4 out of 10.  Wackiness and all, I guess more of you liked it than not!

This week’s Rate the Dress in a little toned down compared to last week, but it does carry on the peplum theme.

This striped walking ensemble features a fitted bodice, a bustled skirt, and a separate belt with false peplum.

The dressmaker has made full use of the stripes: arranging them vertically, horizontally, and on the bias.  But the striped usage isn’t always what we’d expect: note how the bias chevrons down the front don’t form further ‘V’ shapes, but crook at angles across the point.  And the peplum stripes run parallel to the front edge, rather than angling away and enhancing the effect of the skirt flare away from the waist.

What do you think?  Would a lady strolling down the sidewalk in this ensemble present a picture of scintillating interest as the stripes shifted and moved?  Is the potentially overpowering pattern and trim balanced by the subtle colours (in a generally unsubtle era)?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10.

Rate the Dress: Regency evening madness

Last week I showed you a ca. 1910 evening dress in pale gold and ocean blue, with a fringed floral lei around the bodice.  Your reactions were all over the place: love, hate, meh, so un-moved you couldn’t think of anything to say, likes with caveats – everything!  And you liked and disliked totally different bits from person to person!  A very interesting reaction – I’d love to have been in the room when it was first worn, to see what everyone thought of it then!  As it was, more liked than didn’t, so it rated an impressive round 8 out of 10.  It’s just hard to find a 1910s evening dress you don’t like!

This week I’m sticking with the theme of rather mad evening wear, but going back in time almost exactly a century.  This 1809 Regency fashion plate for Evening Full Dress is full of quirky details: the horizontal bodice trim, the double layered sleeves.  The van-dyked peplum, and mirrored van-dyking with tassels on the skirt.  All accessorised with impressive ostrich feather hair plumes in a tiara, large earrings and a statement necklace, upper-arm bracelets, and the requisite long gloves and fan.

Full evening dress, June 1809, La Belle Assemblée

Full evening dress, June 1809, La Belle Assemblée

What do you think?  Just quirky enough to be fabulous and interesting, or totally mad, and more suited to a costume ball than a dress ball?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10.


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.
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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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