Finished projects: Madame O’s Cymbidium Orchid Corset

Here is Madame Ornata’s Poison Ivy/Cymbidium Orchid corset.  I do believe the photos say it all with this one.  Anything you want me to add?


Oh, what I should add is that I have seen Madame O in her corset, and she knocks the socks off of these photos.  She looks exactly like the ideal late Victorian beauty.

She is Ah-MAZE-ING.  She makes the corset.  If you are really lucky she’ll do a photoshoot in it.

Elise’s gift: the white cape-stole

Last week I showed you the most exciting of the garments that Elise gave me.  This week I’m being mean and showing you the simplest, least-exciting garment.

Little white cape-stole

Well, it may be simple, but sometimes the simplest things are the best.  I think this little cape-stole is adorable.


The cape is very cleverly made.  It’s made from two pieces of fabric, with part of the back extending further, and the other part curving up around the neck.  The extension is gathered to the neck-part to add back fullness:

The gathered back of the cape-stole

The lining is cut in exactly the same shape as the outside, and also gathered at the upper back seam.

Cunning back gathers in the lining

I think it is late ’30s, but I’m not entirely sure.  It’s such a classic style it could really be from any timeperiod.

Lovely draping and fullness

While it is charming and dressy, I suspect this would have been a very cheap garment when it was made.  It’s made from a very short pile fabric which is somewhere between a faux fur and a synthetic velvet, and lined in an inexpensive synthetic taffeta lining.  Synthetic fabrics were considerably cheaper than their natural fibre alternatives throughout the 30s and 40s.  The pile of the faux fur is quite sparse and thin – indicating that the fabric was a particularly cheap, low quality synthetic.

The short pile synthetic faux fur. You can see how sparse it is.

Both the outside and lining fabric have foxing: an acid reaction that creates yellow spots.

Foxing stains on the lining

Based on this, you might be thinking that I find this garment a bit disappointing, especially after something like the assuit tunic.  And you’d be very wrong.  While I love and appreciate the luxury of expensive, exotic, high society textiles like last week’s tunic gown, it’s simple, inexpensive garments like this that really have my heart.

The cape stole pinned with a brooch inherited from Nana

This garment must have been so special to the person who owned and wore it.  Perhaps it was a young girl’s first proper dress up wrap – worn to her first dances.  Or the garment of a farm wife, who had few occasions to wear evening clothes, and could little afford to buy a pricey wrap she didn’t need.

Their story isn’t as glamorous as that of the Houston socialite, but it is, in it’s own way, much sweeter.

Nana's mistletoe brooch - another sweet and simple piece


Rate the Dress: Extremely green in 1919

Despite the difficult rust colour  of last weeks 1840s dress you quite liked it, and thought it one of the best examples of its era.  It rated a quite fabulous 9.2 out of 10.

This week I thought I should pick something a bit brighter:

Evening dress, Callot Soeurs, 1919, silk & metallic lace, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Evening dress, Callot Soeurs, 1919, silk & metallic lace, Metropolitan Museum of Art

This end of the ‘teens dress from the Metropolitan Museum of Art is all chartreuse velvet and gold lace.  Do you like the bold colours and the transition from Directorie revival to the 20’s silhouette?   Or is it too garish, and neither one period nor the other?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

Meet the Dreamstress

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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