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Rate the Dress: 1820s chiné a la branche remake

Sometimes choosing garments for Rate the Dress is really hard, and I pick dud after uninteresting dud.  Sometimes I find it so easy to find interesting frocks – whether fabulously interesting, or awfully interesting.  Let’s see if this week’s chiné a la branche themed pick can continue the streak of compelling dresses.

Last week: an Edwardian afternoon dress in moss green velvet

Not everyone loved last week’s pick, but it definitely seemed to have struck a chord with a goodly percentage of the readership.  Only one score was less than an 8, and a whopping 54% of the votes were perfect 10s.

The Total: 9.2 out of 10



This week: a ca. 1820 dress re-made from 18th century chiné a la branche*

Since green was so popular last week, I thought I’d keep with the green theme.  I’ve also stuck with the idea of a dress that is both visually cooling, and warm and cozy.

*wondering what chiné a la branche is?  Read my terminology post on it and find out!

This ca. 1820 dinner dress has been re-made from an earlier late 18th century dress.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art holds not just this dress, but an earlier bodice, and even earlier sleeves.  This suggests that the fabric had been unpicked and re-made numerous times.  It’s an excellent indication of the quality of the chiné a la branche silk, and of how valuable fabric was in the 18th and early 19th century.

The dresses hues are quite spring-like, which might seem incongruous with the long sleeves and padded hem of the dress.  The hem is a functional feature.  It holds out the skirt’s fullness, and providing structure while keeping the skirts away from the wearer’s legs.  The long sleeves probably had more to do with societal rules around when arms could be covered then a specific desire to add significant warmth.

The fabric’s colours, with the soft sage green ground, and pink and grey accents, are very late rococo in feel.  The vertical stripes, and subdued patterning, bridge the design gap between the froth of rococo and a more orderly neoclassical style. The final iteration of the fabric, with its full skirts, shell trimmed hem, and elaborate sleeve and neckline detailing, is very Romantic era in its design sensibilities.

Even as the dress looks towards the romantic era, it balances order and extravagance.  The shell effect at the hem are soft and naturalistic, the bodice trim more orderly and geometric.

What do you think?  Does this dress successfully bridge the three design eras is owes its aesthetic to?  Does it balance romance and orderliness, spring and winter, restraint and extravagance?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

The 1921 Daisies & the Devil's Handiwork dress

Looking back at 2017, looking forward to 2018

It’s that time again!  (slightly late, as usual).  Time to reflect on 2017, and look forward to 2018.

When I first looked back at 2017,  I was kind of depressed.  I accomplished a maximum of 4 of the 10 goals I set for myself.  And honestly, I’m not totally happy with 2 of the 4.  🙁

At first I was really depressed thinking about how little I got done.  The more I started writing this post, and breaking down what I actually did in 2017 the happier I felt.  It wasn’t what I planned, but I did really well, and I coped with a lot of unexpected hiccups and stress.

If I’m learning anything as I get older, and slightly wiser, it’s that I expect too much of myself all the time.  The more I can learn to let go, accept my limitations, and be content with what I do achieve, the happier I’ll be.  I’m learning to do that.

I’m getting better at reminding myself that launching one pattern is more work than the most elaborate, amazing, perfect, and beautiful historical outfit I’ve ever made.  So basically, this year I made four things that were better than one Ninon dress.  That’s pretty good!

I’m also learning to take care of myself, and to put me first.  It’s hard.  It’s hard on me.  It’s hard on friends and family.  Some of them have years of experience of me I’d bend over backwards and twist myself into knots to make things work for them.  Me saying “sorry, can’t do, I need a day to rest” is a bit of a shock.  Also a relief to most of them!

2017 in sum:

What went well:

I’m incredibly happy with the three pattern launches I did for Scroop Patterns.  I love the Ngaio Blouse, the Fantail Skirt: Historical & Modern, and the Rilla Corset.  They all represent an incredible step in research, design, and processes.  And they have all been getting extremely good reviews (yay!).

WWI era corset, 1910s corset, Rilla corset, corset pattern

What didn’t:

My pattern mojo fizzled after July, and I only got out 1/2 of the patterns I had on my 2017 schedule.  Boo.

I am reminding myself that the three patterns I did get our were all pretty darn impressive patterns as indie patterns go, and I could easily have put out 10 camisole and sack dress patterns in the same time it took for just the Ngaio, Fantail & Rilla.  Quality not quantity.

And I did work on patterns stuff from Aug-Sept, so you’ll see that all come to fruition in 2018!

Other than the Rilla samples I made, I don’t love most of my historical sewing for 2017. 🙁  Sad but true.

2017 Sewing:

Wardrobe (and a few gifts):

  1. The Can of Worms Skirt
  2. A preppy Scroop Miramar (plus 3 more I didn’t blog)
  3. A slip as a hack from the Scroop Wonder Unders pattern.
  4. A Scroop Henrietta Maria with a drawstring waist + a tutorial to do it yourself.
  5. A Hello-Goodbye Summer Scroop Henrietta Maria
  6. A red wool knit Scroop Miramar 
  7. A Scroop Fantail with pockets + a tutorial to do it yourself
  8. A ‘sewing magic’ pencil skirt
  9. A Scroop Fantail with a petersham waistband + a tutorial for adding your own
  10. A dress for my mother
  11. A Scroop Fantail for my mother
  12. 4x 18th century inspired pockets for my mother
  13. 2 further Ngaio blouses for myself.
  14. At least 3 T-shirts

How to add a petersham waistband to the Scroop Fantail Skirt

Total: at least 24 items

Historical + Costuming:

  1. A 14th century shift (HSF 2017 #1)
  2. One pair of 1910s combinations, and two petti-slips (HSF 2017 #2)
  3. An experimental 1800s petticoat (HSF 2017 #4)
  4. Donkey ears for Bottom from A Midsummer Knights Dream
  5. A 1916 Petticoat
  6. The 1916 ‘Gather Ye Rosebuds’ evening dress
  7. The ‘Waiting for Bluebells 1915 day dress
  8. A 1900s-1910s Tricorne revival hat
  9. A Fawkes the Phoenix mask
  10. 3x pairs of stockings


Winter 1915-16 dress,

Total: 12 items

Plus 2x Rilla Corset Samples, 3x Fantail Skirt samples, 4x Ngaio blouse samples.

So, that’s 48 items, and I can think of at least 10 more fully finished sample items I can’t talk about yet.  And I finished an ENORMOUS set of curtains for our bedroom, so that’s pretty good!  So much better than I’d thought!

2018 in Sum:

What’s going to happen in 2018:

OK, first, the big sad news:

I’m not going to make it to Costume College 2018.  I’m absolutely gutted, because I love the theme, and I love the event, and I love, love, love the people.  I’ve made so many amazing friends, and gotten to spend time with old friends.  It’s magic.

It’s also super expensive.  I need to go visit my parents, and Mr D & I are due for a vacation together.  I also need to upgrade/replace a bunch of computer equipment this year.

Between the expenses and all the time off, I just can’t swing it.

I’m going to miss the event so much, and it’s making me feel really costume-isolated, but hopefully it will clear up space for me to do other fun things.

2018 Goals:

  1. Finish & launch all the Scroop Patterns I meant to get done in 2017
  2. Launch at least three further Scroop Patterns
  3. Make at least 1 historical outfit that I love in every way: even if it’s as simple as a 1 hour dress.
  4. Finish three costuming UFOs.  I’ve already got a good start on the Frou Frou Française, so I’m getting there.  If I love one of my finished UFOs, that can count for #3.  So can a pattern sample for Scroop.
  5. Make really good Regency stays.

That’s it.  If I get more done, hooray!  Taking care of me is most important.

Goodbye Summer Henrietta Maria


Rate the Dress: Moss Green Edwardian Velvet

It’s been so hot in Wellington for the past month, and I long for walks in cool green forests, and mossy swathes under pine trees, and babbling brooks.  Meanwhile, I know that some of you in the Northern Hemisphere are dealing with unusually cold temperatures.  So for this week’s Rate the Dress I chose a moss green velvet Edwardian dress that would hopefully appeal to all of us: cozy enough for winter, in a colour that makes us think of cool things in the summer heat!

Last week: a pink and gold and so-many-florals française

Well, for once you were totally unanimous about one aspect of a garment: the silver-trimmed stomacher that the MFA Boston had paired with the pink floral française was just terrible.  Daniel dubbed it a ‘Brillo pad’ and now I’ll never unsee that…  (also his comment included a truly terrible pun, and I always adore those!).

Other comments were mixed between loving and not loving the trim, and loving the pleats, but not the very square paniers (always a hangup with formal française).  The fabric was generally very popular.

I’m with CR that the back view was so pretty that “it makes my heart happy”.  The front view really bugged me.  All those squiggles!  Nope.

The Total: 8.1 out of 10.

Much more charitable than I would have been!  From the front, it was one of my least favourite française ever.

(which now makes me wonder what my most favourite, which is only available as one back-view photo, actually looks like from the front.  Eeep!)

This week: an Edwardian Afternoon Dress in Moss Green Velvet.

This week’s pick is a type of garment that I love: something lush and decadent, without having to be a ballgown.

This afternoon dress took every bit as many hours as a frothy Edwardian ballgown.   The bodice features shaped cut-outs, and elaborate beading and embellishment.  The beading is worked in sequins and marcasite.  Despite its dark hue, the dress would have sparkled under the gaslights on a dark winter afternoon.  The pale yellow silk taffeta behind the cutouts would have glowed like stained glass.

Even with the sparkling trim, the overall effect is one of restraint.  The dark fabric and modest silhouette balance the sparkle and decadence.  The cutouts, hinting as they do at stained glass, seem more holy than holey, more pious than peek-a-boo.  They also feature fleur de lys, frequently associated with the Virgin Mary in European iconography.

In contrast to the elaborate bodice, the skirt is relatively plain, letting the swathe of luxurious green silk velvet speak for itself.  There is only a hint of trimming at the hem.  It ties the skirt to the bodice, and also may have helped to hide the hemstitching.

What do you think?  Does the pairing of modesty and extravagance tickle your fancy?  Do you find the colour scheme as appealing and evocative as I do?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10