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Woman's Dress Ensemble, United States, circa 1870, Silk taffeta, linen plain weave, and cotton twill weave with silk macramé fringe, LACMA, M.2007.211.773a-d

Rate the Dress: Raspberry pink 1870s with two types of fringe

After all the excitement of the festive fancy frock-a-thon, it was hard to pick an ensemble that wouldn’t seem like a letdown for this week’s Rate the Dress.  Hopefully this week’s pick is interesting enough to pique your interest, even if it isn’t a glittering evening gown.

Last week: a sparkly, pleated, bow-bedecked 1920s frock

Last week’s 1920s dress didn’t receive quite the enthusiastic reception that heralded the House of Worth frock of the week before – at least in the number of commenters.  Those that did rate it, however, quite liked it (except the bow), and so it received exactly the same rating!

The Total: 9.3 out of 10

I was very surprised by how many people didn’t like the bow (and didn’t realise that it was exactly the same fabric as the bodice – it just appears different because you’re seeing many layers of it).  Rachel’s comment sums up exactly how I feel about the bow and the dress.  Without it, I thought the dress would actually have been very boring and ordinary.  But, of course, different opinions are what make Rate the Dress interesting!

This week: a ca 1870 dress in deep raspberry pink, with two types of fringing

This ca. 1870 dress is a classic example of the transition from the hoopskirt era to the first bustle era.  There is still significant fullness in the skirt, with the addition of definite back projection.

The raspberry pink shade is typical of the bright hues favoured throughout the 1860s and into the 1870s.  It’s hard to tell if the slight colour difference across the dress are the result of fading and dye changes, and are not original to the dress, or if they are intentional (or a combination of both).  The hem ruffles do seem to be a distinctly darker hue than the rest of the dress.  The macrame fringe may have once coordinated with them perfectly, but has faded more than the rest.

The dress is decorated with self-fabric pleated trim with unravelled fringed edges, additional macrame fringing, and deep pleats at the hem.

It’s definitely frillier and more ornamented that 1860s fashions, but hasn’t yet hit the extravagance of every type of ornamentation and trim that is seen in later 1870s fashions.

So, what do you think of this dress that sits between the screaming brights of the initial aniline craze, and the darker, heavier hues of the 1880s; between the enormously wide skirts of the elliptical crinoline and the enormously bustly-bustle of the first bustle era; between the relative simplicity of the 1860s and the ornamented extravagance of the late 1870s?

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.  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, so I can find it!  And 0 is not on a scale of 1 to 10.  Thanks in advance!)

1760s Frou Frou Francaise thedreamstress.com

The Frou Frou Francaise – almost there

After many, many bouts of unpicking and re-sewing the 1760s Frou Frou Francaise is almost there.

Maybe.

I’ve unpicked nearly every seam in the dress and re-sewn it at least three times, and I still can’t get it to a place where I’m really happy about it.  So I don’t know when I can stop and call it done, because the more work I invest in it, the more I feel I need to get it right, and right now…it isn’t quite there.

The last time you saw it it was worn by a model at Ramsay to Renoir in Nelson.  I also blogged about making the sleeves, and how their fit wasn’t quite right.

When I looked at the photos from Ramsay to Renoir the Francaise was pretty, but something about it wasn’t quite right to me.

I looked at it, and looked at it, and couldn’t figure it out.  Then I posted this francaise for Rate the Dress, and my mind went ‘ah hah!’

Robe a la Francaise, 18th century (probably 1770s), silk, Lot 550, sold by Whittakers Auctions, Fall 2016

What my Francaise was missing was the floating pleats.  It was just too stiff and severe with the pleats tacked down so far.

I went and did a (fairly rough) general survey of sacque gowns for the 1760s, and my hunch was right – assuming that the museums were reasonably accurate with their dating, floating pleats do seem to be much more common than very tacked-down pleats in 1760s francaise.  And the look certainly fits my lush, frou-frou theme more than the severity and control of tacked down pleats.

So, I unpicked my sleeves, unpicked my back facing, and unpicked my pleats.

While I was doing my survey I also decided that the width of the pleats was too wide compared to the proportions of my shoulders, so, as long as I had everything undone,  I re-did the pleating width.

1760s Frou Frou Francaise thedreamstress.com In other words, I basically went back to the very beginnings of the garment construction, and started again.  Eeergh

But, I am definitely happier with the result:

 

1760s Frou Frou Francaise thedreamstress.com

While I was doing this, I also re-did the sleeves.  And re-did the sleeves again.  And re-did the sleeves again.  And unpicked and re-set the bloody things a fourth time.

But… I just can’t get them to where I’m happy with it.

I’m usually really good at sleeves, but there are exceptions to everything, because these ones refuse to sit on me without wrinkling and pulling.

It’s possible that the fabric is just so stiff and unyeilding it will never sit without wrinkling.

1760s Frou Frou Francaise thedreamstress.com

It’s like the dress that never ends.  Not even the trial photoshoot went right.

I got it all sewed together, and wanted to try it on and do a photoshoot before trimming, so I could really assess the fit before I committed to the last 20 hours of frilling.  As I don’t usually have another person with significant fit experience on hand to help with fitting, I find fully putting on something, and taking lots of photos that I can look at, the best way to assess fit.

Well, three images into the trial shoot Mr D managed to switch a setting on the camera, and everything was so under-exposed they were so unusable.

So I got completely dressed up again (and naturally my hair refused to cooperate like it did the first time, and the pearl trim I borrow from a painting just looks dorky in real life.  And it was much hotter.  And the light wasn’t nearly as good…), and these are the resulting images.

After the first photoshoot I decided the petticoat ruffle was too long, so I unpicked and re-attached it, and I over-compensated, and now it’s too short.  Gah!

Other stuff I’m not happy with & need to re-do:

  • The wrinkling on my bodice.  Possibly better stays (I wore my lighter pair due to the heat, but that may have been a poor choice) or better pinning would help.  Pinning this fabric is even less fun than sewing it.
  • The sleeve ruffles.  I don’t care for the shape, or my punching pattern.  If I have enough leftover fabric at the end I’ll re-do them.  Heck, maybe I should try to re-do the entire sleeves.  :-/

1760s Frou Frou Francaise thedreamstress.com

Things I am happy with:

  • My lace engageantes.  The lace is from silkworld.com.au (they have just started selling retail (and they sell silk tulle!!!!!!)) and it’s SO pretty, and I figured out a really elegant solution to making lace engageantes (which I will be posting about)
  • My tucker.  Lace from my stash, and also so pretty.

So at this point, the Francaise is sort-of back in the naughty pile, because I’m just fed up with it.

I think I’m going to fix the petticoat ruffle (because that definitely needs fixing), and wait for cooler weather, and do another photoshoot, and see how I feel about it then.  Maybe if I’m happier with my hair and everything else I’ll like it more…

1760s Frou Frou Francaise thedreamstress.com

I’m more than a little annoyed about this, because the Francaise has been going on for so long, and was one of my big sewing goals for 2018, and its…not done.

Once I can get the fit right, I can trim, and it will finally, finally, be finished!

Now that I’ve sewn every seam in it four times by hand…

So there you go.  No matter how much you think you know, and even when you’ve done things before and had them be a smashing success (my other francaise fits like a glove!), you can still get stuck on things, and have them not work.

And if you think I’m exaggerating and being over-dramatic about the fitssues, remember that you’re still only showing the photos I could bring myself to post publicly (though I’m far more willing to show less-than-stellar fit than I am derpy expressions!)

Evening Dress, Yteb, silk, sequins & metallic thread, 1926, The Philadelphia Museum of Art

Rate the Dress: pleats, bows & lots of sparkles

I started the Rate the Dress party-frock-a-thon with an orange dress, and it felt right to finish it up with the same colour.  It’s not usually a favourite colour, but the first one was a smashing success.  Can this week’s pick rival it?

Last week: a House of Worth Robe à transformation in red velvet

Red velvet was always going to be pretty popular, and the ratings and comments did not disappoint.  There was a veritable sea of “ooooh” and swooning (and two outlying ‘nopes’).

There was a bit of a divide in those who preferred the draped bodice, and thought the evening bodice looked like a forced exercise in using the lace, and those who thought the day bodice was unrelieved or contrived, and the evening bodice incredibly clever and spectacular.

I’m one who didn’t love the evening bodice at first glance, but the more I looked at it up close, the more it grew on me.  There were some incredibly clever features that were really struggling to show in the photos.  I think it would have been very striking on a real person, but wasn’t shown to its full effect on the mannequin.

The Total: 9.3 out of 10

Oooh, still can’t quite beat that first orange dress, or the 1860s ballgown!  But anything over 9 is killing it in RTD!

This week:

I always associate New Years with the 1920s and 30s, so found a frock from the era to ring in the New Year of Rate the Dress with.

It’s amazing to think that this week’s frock, with its simple silhouette, scant 2 metre fabric usage, and hem that sits just below the knee, is just a generation removed from last week’s red velvet ensemble.

Evening Dress, Yteb, silk, sequins & metallic thread, 1926, The Philadelphia Museum of Art

Last week’s frock was for playing the gracious hostess at a holiday gala – mingling and chatting, perhaps performing an operatic carol or two.  This week’s frock is for her daughter to kick her heels at a New Years eve dance, the pleats swishing, and the extravagant bow swirling about.

Evening Dress, Yteb, silk, sequins & metallic thread, 1926, The Philadelphia Museum of Art

The pleats are a clever design feature, keeping to the fashionable straight silhouette, while allowing the wearer movement and ease.  In a sketch or poor quality photograph they could easily be mistaken for fringe (which was used on 1920s frocks, though nowhere near as often as its ubiquitous usage in cheap costumes and the popular image of the 1920s would suggest).

Evening Dress, Yteb, silk, sequins & metallic thread, 1926, The Philadelphia Museum of Art

Other than the pleats, the dress uses no straight lines, and it contrasts symmetry and asymmetry at every point to create visual motion, even on a mannequin.  On a moving person the gold lamé of the lower skirt and sequins of the bodice, would shimmer and sparkle with the slightest move, creating the impression that the wearer was perpetually dancing.

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.  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, so I can find it!  And 0 is not on a scale of 1 to 10.  Thanks in advance!)