Latest Posts

A jaunty 1916 ensemble, thedreamstress.com

A Jaunty 1910s Seaside Ensemble

I showed a few peeks of my jaunty seaside ensemble in my post on fossil hunting, Edwardian style.    Here’s a detailed look at it.

A jaunty 1916 ensemble, thedreamstress.com

I couldn’t justify making a whole new outfit for the because I’ve made so many 1910s thing this year.  But I decided I could spruce up some of the things I already have, and give them a new life.

I love adding new twists to old looks with quick re-makes.  Sprucing up is totally historically accurate.  Museums are full of dresses of every era that show evidence of re-making.  Antique fashion magazines are full of articles on making last seasons looks fresh again.

Remaking and sprucing things up also feels right from an environmental perspective, and as a way of respecting my own work and time.  Making new costumes that I only wear once would be so wasteful from so many different angles.  All that fabric and time!  Much better to make an old thing exciting to wear again.

So, here’s how I made a few old (or at least previously used) things new again.

I’ve wanted a jaunty mid 1910s seaside ensemble for ages:

The Deliniator, July 1916

Who wouldn’t want to look like their only care in the world is not having their hat blow off in the sea breezes!

I didn’t copy any look exactly, but took inspiration from the colour combination of the blue and yellow ensemble, and the pairing of pattern with solid that you see in all of the outfits.

A jaunty 1916 ensemble, thedreamstress.com

The blouse is the polka dotted seersucker Selina Blouse that appears on the front cover of the pattern.  I added a yellow silk jabot to it, and will be doing a tutorial on how I did it.

A woman in a blue and white polka dotted 1910s blouse with yellow silk jabot, and broad brimmed straw hat trimmed with blue looks upward and smiles

The skirt is from an antique 1910s pattern in my collection, with the addition of the front placket from the Kilbirnie Skirt (this make is very similar to the skirt that comes with the Wearing History 1910s suit, although the amount of flare is different).  It first appeared on Elisabeth, sans pockets, when she modelled the Selina Blouse.

A woman in a mid-1910s outfit comprising a blue linen skirt with triangular pockets, and a polka dotted blouse stands in a vineyard with a house in the background

The pockets are from another pattern.  Nina recommended pockets for fossil hunting, and while the outfit isn’t super practical, I still wanted it to be a little practical.  When in doubt, always do pockets!

I picked the pockets because they remind me of ice cream cones and sailboats.  What better motifs for a day at the seaside!

The skirt is linen, and by the time I took these photos it had gone through two 40 minute car rides on the way to and back from fossil hunting, fossil hunting and lunch at the seaside, and was looking a bit crumpled.

The whole thing is topped off with a rather smashing (if I do say so) new topper.

A woman in a mid-1910s outfit comprising a blue linen skirt with triangular pockets, and a polka dotted blouse stands in an open gate. She looks to her right, and touches a branch of a shrub

I looked at a bunch of 1910s fashion plates for the hat, and an article on trimming a hat for a seaside holiday.  The base shape is a re-shape of a basic straw hat that was both too small, and unattractive.  I crowdsourced opinions on brim binding and crown ribbons.  I’m delighted with the result, and will show you it in more detail.

A woman in a mid-1910s outfit comprising a blue linen skirt with triangular pockets, and a polka dotted blouse walks away from the camera underneath flowering cherry trees

All in all, an excellent re-fashion.  New pockets, new jabot, new hat, and it’s a completely new look!

Image shows the back view of a light grey-beige jacket, very fitted, with full sleeves and leaf themed embroidery around the tail of the jacket.

Rate the Dress: Walking in Style, ca. 1890

Last week’s dress was an illustration of the global fashion trade.  This week’s walking dress is very English.  It’s by an English maker, almost certainly of English wool, and shows the very English taste for extremely tailored womenswear.  It’s still in an English museum, and was made famous by the most famous of English fashion historians: Janet Arnold.

Will you like it?

Last week: a mid-19th century day dress of Chinese silk

Last week’s dress sparked so many interesting conversations about the textile trade, and about how our personal experience and time colours how we see a garment.  We also got some help from TC in translating the Chinese makers marks, and potentially identifying the maker.

Some people did think it was meant to evoke a Chinese robe, other did see it as quite bathrobe-y.   I think Lynne is probably most correct when she identified it as late Medieval/Burgundian.  That fits in perfectly with the late 1840s taste for Medieval and Gothic inspiration.

How much you liked the dress very much depended on how informal and bathrobe-y you saw it as.  The more bathrobe-y, the less you liked it.

And the result of all these different perceptions?

The Total: 9.4 out of 10

I guess we’re still in the ‘love everything’ mood!

This week: a ca. 1890 walking dress in corded wool

A walking dress was a trainless dress that one could walk in without any part of the dress touching the ground.  Walking dresses became fashionable in the 1880s as a reaction to the 1870s fashion for dresses with long, trailing skirts.  In an era dominated by horse-drawn vehicles (among other less salubrious refuse that might end up on the streets), the resulting debris picked up by the layers of skirt could be rather foul.  Shorter hems were significantly more practical.

Walking dress, 1890-91, English, H J Griffin, Nottingham.  Light grey corded wool with embroidered leaf motifs. Featured in Janet Arnold’s ‘Patterns of Fashion 2,  Fashion Museum Bath

Walking dress, 1890-91, English, H J Griffin, Nottingham. Light grey corded wool with embroidered leaf motifs. Featured in Janet Arnold’s ‘Patterns of Fashion 2, Fashion Museum Bath

The short hems of the walking dress also came with the cachet of approval by the ultimate couturier house of the era:  Maison Worth is sometimes credited with inventing the untrained walking dress.  While ‘invented’ may be a bit of an exaggeration, approval by the House certainly helped popularise the walking dress.

Walking dress, 1890-91, English, H J Griffin, Nottingham.  Light grey corded wool with embroidered leaf motifs. Featured in Janet Arnold’s ‘Patterns of Fashion 2,  Fashion Museum Bath

Walking dress, 1890-91, English, H J Griffin, Nottingham. Light grey corded wool with embroidered leaf motifs. Featured in Janet Arnold’s ‘Patterns of Fashion 2, Fashion Museum Bath

This particular example gives a nod to the idea of a train with a full gathered skirt section at the back of the dress.  A slight pad at the back is all that remains of the recently fashionable bustle.  The fullness of the back pleating, which is held in place under the skirt with ties, would have accommodated a full bustle should they become fashionable again.

Image shows the back view of a light grey-beige jacket, very fitted, with full sleeves and leaf themed embroidery around the tail of the jacket.

Walking dress, 1890-91, English, H J Griffin, Nottingham. Light grey corded wool with embroidered leaf motifs. Featured in Janet Arnold’s ‘Patterns of Fashion 2, Fashion Museum Bath

The embroidery design, with its motifs forming garlands that weave around the bodice and wrap round the hem, is of a type fashionable from the late 1870s through to the end of the 1880s.  We’ve seen similar examples on this Mon. Vignon dinner dress, and this Alice Larrot reception gown, and, to a lesser extent, this cherry bedecked day dress.

Image shows the hem of a light grey-beige skirt, with slit tabs and leaf embroidery

Walking dress, 1890-91, English, H J Griffin, Nottingham. Light grey corded wool with embroidered leaf motifs. Featured in Janet Arnold’s ‘Patterns of Fashion 2, Fashion Museum Bath

Because this dress is included in Patterns of Fashion 2, we know more details about its construction.  It fastens at the center front with 19 hooks and eyes, and then the left front wraps over, hiding the hooks, and fastens again under the arm and at the left shoulder with buttons.

Walking dress, 1890-91, English, H J Griffin, Nottingham.  Light grey corded wool with embroidered leaf motifs. Featured in Janet Arnold’s ‘Patterns of Fashion 2,  Fashion Museum Bath

Walking dress, 1890-91, English, H J Griffin, Nottingham. Light grey corded wool with embroidered leaf motifs. Featured in Janet Arnold’s ‘Patterns of Fashion 2, Fashion Museum Bath

The bodice is heavily boned, to provide a smooth line.  There’s a large pocket hidden in the fullness of the skirt folds on the left back side only.  The sleeves are not gathered, but are fitted in to the armscye with pleated tucks, providing the distinctive pointed, sculptural shape we see.