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Dress, 1898-99 Silk crepe, silk taffeta with velvet ribbon and lace trim Albany Institute of History and Art 1980.2.2ab

Rate the Dress: Late Victorian Lace & layers

I went looking for a Rate the Dress option this week, and everything that sparked my interest was either too similar to something I’d done recently, or came in a weird print, or muted half shades, both of which I was hoping to avoid, because that’s what we did last week!

I finally had to concede that this week was simply going to have to be shades of last week, although in a different hue.

Last Week: an 1840 dress in harlequin pattern

I’ll admit that I wondered what the reception to last week’s dress would be, but it turns out that most of you are harlequin fans – or at least appreciate a bit of wacky pattern now and again! Not everyone was convinced that the pleating was as successful as it could be, and there were a few people who really didn’t like the print.

The Total: 8.4 out of 10

We’re creeping up…

This week: a late Victorian dress in muted pink

This week’s Rate the Dress is an excellent example of fashions from the last years of the Victorian era.

Dress, 1898-99 Silk crepe, silk taffeta with velvet ribbon and lace trim @Albany Institute of History and Art 1980.2.2ab
Dress, 1898-99 Silk crepe, silk taffeta with velvet ribbon and lace trim
Albany Institute of History and Art 1980.2.2ab

The huge sleeves of the early 1890s have disappeared, replaced by a slight puff and a bit of shoulder decoration. The silhouette here is trim and streamlined (at least as streamlined as the 19th century got) with just a suggestion of the slight fullness that will later become the Edwardian pigeon breast.

Dress, 1898-99 Silk crepe, silk taffeta with velvet ribbon and lace trim Albany Institute of History and Art 1980.2.2ab
Dress, 1898-99 Silk crepe, silk taffeta with velvet ribbon and lace trim
Albany Institute of History and Art 1980.2.2ab

The dusky rose that forms the main body of the dress is trimmed with two kinds of lace, and dark pink-red silk velvet.

Dress, 1898-99 Silk crepe, silk taffeta with velvet ribbon and lace trim Albany Institute of History and Art 1980.2.2ab
Dress, 1898-99 Silk crepe, silk taffeta with velvet ribbon and lace trim,
Albany Institute of History and Art 1980.2.2ab

The velvet is used a decorative belt around the waist. Narrow ribbons of it form stripes which follow the collar (or is it technically a yoke ruffle?), sleeve caps, and layers of the skirt, highlighting the pick-ups of the collar, and the bias ruffles of the skirt.

Dress, 1898-99 Silk crepe, silk taffeta with velvet ribbon and lace trim, Albany Institute of History and Art 1980.2.2ab
Dress, 1898-99 Silk crepe, silk taffeta with velvet ribbon and lace trim,
Albany Institute of History and Art 1980.2.2ab
Dress, 1898-99 Silk crepe, silk taffeta with velvet ribbon and lace trim,  Albany Institute of History and Art 1980.2.2ab
Dress, 1898-99 Silk crepe, silk taffeta with velvet ribbon and lace trim,
Albany Institute of History and Art 1980.2.2ab

A line of heavy lace running down the front of the dress interrupts the velvet stripes, providing a vertical balance to the curves and horizontal lines.

Dress, 1898-99 Silk crepe, silk taffeta with velvet ribbon and lace trim, Albany Institute of History and Art 1980.2.2ab
Dress, 1898-99 Silk crepe, silk taffeta with velvet ribbon and lace trim,
Albany Institute of History and Art 1980.2.2ab

A lighter lace frames the collar/yoke ruffle/shoulder swag, and edges the wrist cuff.

Dress, 1898-99 Silk crepe, silk taffeta with velvet ribbon and lace trim Albany Institute of History and Art 1980.2.2ab
Dress, 1898-99 Silk crepe, silk taffeta with velvet ribbon and lace trim,
Albany Institute of History and Art 1980.2.2ab

What do you think? Is the dress an elegant example of its time? Do all the elements achieve balance?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

A reminder about rating – feel free to be critical if you don’t like a thing, but make sure that your comments aren’t actually insulting to those who do like a garment.  Phrase criticism as your opinion, rather than a flat fact. Our different tastes are what make Rate the Dress so interesting.  It’s no fun when a comment implies that anyone who doesn’t agree with it, or who would wear a garment, is totally lacking in taste. 

(as usual, nothing more complicated than a .5.  I also hugely appreciate it if you only do one rating, and set it on a line at the very end of your comment

A 'St Birgitta's Cap' thedreamstress.com

A St Birgitta’s Cap

There’s a slightly funny story to this post. I finished my St Birgitta’s cap back at the end of January, photographed it, and wrote most of my post.

And then my Costume History students at Toi Whakaari picked their topics for their first research paper, and I remembered that I’d given them a picture of a St Birgitta’s cap as a research option – and it had been chosen.

Ooops…

So obviously I couldn’t publish a blog post (even a fairly lightweight one using only the most obvious basic internet references) about making a St Birgitta’s cap until the student had turned in their paper.

But the paper was submitted this afternoon, so here’s the blog post! (and I haven’t read the paper yet, so I’m not cheating off it either…).

A 'St Birgitta's Cap' thedreamstress.com

I’d always put St Birgitta’s caps in the ‘too hard and time consuming’ basket, but then Hvitr made one and wore it to our 2019 Historical Sew & Eat Retreat.

Now, Hvitr is infinitely more patient and precise than me, and makes notoriously crazy and impressive stuff. So I had no illusions that I’d be able to do something as perfect as her, but there is still something about seeing a thing in person that makes you think “yeah, I could give that a go!”

And having a lovely cap to keep my hair all tidy when wearing Medieval was awfully tempting. And I had a fair bit of hand-sewing time on my way to Hawai’i and back to spend time with my parents.

I used these as my primary references:

And, also looked at:

My fabric is the very sheer linen I made my Medieval veil and the now-missing wimple I made just before Christmas out of. My goal was to have a full matching set of headgear. I used a linen thread for all the hand-sewing, and cotton tatting cord for my interweaving.

I cut my two main cap pieces, basted them together along the centre seam, and then felled down each seam allowance:

A 'St Birgitta's Cap' thedreamstress.com

Then I unpicked the basting, and basted each hemmed edge to a strip of fabric (an old waistband unpicked from some project, as it happens) to hold my cap all tidy while I created the interlocking. I thought I was being very clever and innovative, and then it turns out that Elisa (who’s album I hadn’t discovered yet) did exactly the same thing. There’s never any truly new ideas in costuming!

A 'St Birgitta's Cap' thedreamstress.com

I then marked lines as a guide for my interlacing pattern. If I did this again I’d mark the lines before sewing in my centre strip, and mark them in permanent pen, rather than heat reactive pens.

A 'St Birgitta's Cap' thedreamstress.com

At this point I thought I knew how to do a double-interlacing herringbone stitch, so dove in to it:

A 'St Birgitta's Cap' thedreamstress.com
A 'St Birgitta's Cap' thedreamstress.com

And at some point I got nervous that I might not be doing it right, checked other people’s posts, and ended up on Sarah’s Hand Embroidery tutorials, and freaked out because I was clearly doing it wrong, so I undid all the work I’d done, and re-did it following her tutorial.

And then I realised that Sarah’s method with a double herringbone only allows for a double-interlock, and I wanted to do a quadruple-interlock, and there was no way to change it from a double to a quadruple without unpicking and re-doing everything I’d done. Of course, the way I’d originally started doing it was the right way to do it after all…

A 'St Birgitta's Cap' thedreamstress.com

I decided I couldn’t risk unpicking and re-doing it a further time, because the linen voile I was working with was so delicate. I was simply going to have to go with a double interlock – and a much more lacey, open, delicate look than the original cap.

So, on to the first interlock of my double herringbone!

A 'St Birgitta's Cap' thedreamstress.com

And then the second:

A 'St Birgitta's Cap' thedreamstress.com

I really enjoyed this part of the cap: the double herringbone and the interlock were really meditative, and rather addictive. I desperately want to do the proper quad interlock now!

A 'St Birgitta's Cap' thedreamstress.com

I was extremely pleased that I had exactly the right amount of thread, until I remembered that I was meant to have ended the interlacing a couple of inches before the end of the cap, to give me room to add a band and tie the cap on…

A 'St Birgitta's Cap' thedreamstress.com

Oops! So I had to unpick some of my weave pattern at the end, and simply knot it off. Not the prettiest, but this was clearly a learning experience.

Next I got to unpick my basted-on marker band, and start on the band that finishes the cap and holds it on to my head.

A 'St Birgitta's Cap' thedreamstress.com

Tiny safety pins may not be Medieval accurate, but they certainly made that part much easier!

A 'St Birgitta's Cap' thedreamstress.com

So did some nice un-stressful background TV (can you tell what I’m watching?)

A 'St Birgitta's Cap' thedreamstress.com

And then it was on to the final finishing seam:

A 'St Birgitta's Cap' thedreamstress.com

And the cap is done! It fits nicely, but I haven’t had an excuse to wear it properly.

A 'St Birgitta's Cap' thedreamstress.com
A 'St Birgitta's Cap' thedreamstress.com
A 'St Birgitta's Cap' thedreamstress.com
A 'St Birgitta's Cap' thedreamstress.com
A 'St Birgitta's Cap' thedreamstress.com

It’s certainly not as beautifully precise as Hvirt’s, and I’d love to have the time to make a better (more HA) one someday, but for now I’m pretty pleased!

A 'St Birgitta's Cap' thedreamstress.com

And, since we’re doing the 2020 Historical Sew Monthly in any order that we like, I think this would fit nicely into October’s challenge: Get Crafty.

What the item is: A 14th century ‘St Birgitta’s Cap’ 

How it fits the challenge: The double-herringbone interweave was definitely a new craft for me! It’s almost like making your own lace.

Material: linen voile

Pattern: Katafalk’s St Birgitta’s cap tutorial for the general shape of my cap

Year: 14th century

Notions: linen thread, cotton tatting cord.

How historically accurate is it? I don’t know if linen of this weight was used for caps in the 14th century, and my interlacing definitely varies from the extant original, both in material and weave. 50% maybe

Hours to complete: about 20

First worn: Not yet. We were planning to do an autumn ramble ‘back in time’ in Zealandia, but Covid-19 has probably made that an impossibility.

Total cost: $10 or less

Dress (c. 1840), England, wool, silk National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of David Syme & Co. Limited, Fellow, 1977

Rate the Dress: 1830s excess meets 1840s restraint

Apologies for the late Rate the Dress. But, the late post means I found an dress I’d entirely forgotten about in my inspiration file, and it’s so fabulously fascinating I’m hoping it makes up for a late post!

Last Week: an Empire era spencer & petticoat

I’m not usually a brown fan, but I’m obsessed with the particular ochre shade of last week’s spencer, but alas, many of you do not share my love. And even those who loved the spencer weren’t sure about it paired with the frilly petticoat – though you liked each garment on its own merits. However, I’m afraid I may have cheated the score every so slightly by showing that interior view, because I suspect some of the costume nerds among you were so charmed by the details you gave the outfit a higher score for it!

The Total: 7.9 out of 10

An improvement on the week before, but hardly brilliant.

This week: an 1840 dress in harlequin pattern

This week’s Rate the Dress carries on my love for rust-y, ochre-y hues, this time paired with a blue-grey. It also carries on the blend of simplicity and frivolity seen in last week’s outfit, although here the order and the whimsy are spread evenly across the dress.

Dress (c. 1840), England, wool, silk National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of David Syme & Co. Limited, Fellow, 1977

The whimsy is easy to see: the entire dress is made in harlequin patterned fabric (wool or silk or a blend of the two, according the catalogue record), albeit in a very restrained colour scheme. Note the very delicate vine pattern running through the centre of each blue-grey diamond.

Dress (c. 1840), England, wool, silk National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of David Syme & Co. Limited, Fellow, 1977
Dress (c. 1840), England, wool, silk National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of David Syme & Co. Limited, Fellow, 1977

The cut is also 1830s ridiculousness moving into 1840s restraint. The sleeves retain a bit of detailing and the last of the Romantic era poof. The elaborate bodice decorations so often seen in the 1830s have resolved into subdued pleating wrapping across the front of the bodice.

Dress (c. 1840), England, wool, silk National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of David Syme & Co. Limited, Fellow, 1977
Dress (c. 1840), England, wool, silk National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of David Syme & Co. Limited, Fellow, 1977

It’s a perfect example of one era merging in to the next, all done in a memorable fabric.

Dress (c. 1840), England, wool, silk National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of David Syme & Co. Limited, Fellow, 1977
Dress (c. 1840), England, wool, silk National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of David Syme & Co. Limited, Fellow, 1977

Of course, a perfect example does not necessarily mean something is perfectly elegant. How do you feel about large scale harlequin print and Romantic heads towards Gothic details?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

A reminder about rating – feel free to be critical if you don’t like a thing, but make sure that your comments aren’t actually insulting to those who do like a garment.  Phrase criticism as your opinion, rather than a flat fact. Our different tastes are what make Rate the Dress so interesting.  It’s no fun when a comment implies that anyone who doesn’t agree with it, or who would wear a garment, is totally lacking in taste. 

(as usual, nothing more complicated than a .5.  I also hugely appreciate it if you only do one rating, and set it on a line at the very end of your comment