Seven years after I started it, my 1760s Frou Frou Francaise is finally, finally done!*
I tweaked the bodice fit slightly, fixed the sleeve ruffles, and finished the trim, and here it is in all its floofy glory!
The occasion for finishing it? Self imposed deadlines 🤣
My friend Nina has been making a française out of the most gorgeous Burnley & Trowbridge silk and we wanted to do a photoshoot together. I wanted to take advantage of the spring rengarenga lily bloom.
We decided if we just set a date for the shoot, we’d have to be done in time.
As it turned out, we hit the very beginnings of the bloom season, AND picked a day that was 12 degrees celcius, with a howling southerly wind taking it well into single digit temperatures for our shoot. So if I look pale and pinched it’s not just makeup, and there’s a decidedly purple tinge to our hands!
The photographer was Nina’s friend Leon of @apped_as. We’re still waiting for his photos: these were all taken on my camera by his lovely wife with my camera settings – so a combined effort.
There will be 18 gazillion more photos as they come in, and I talk through the trim and construction. But for now, prettiness! And a massive hooray for a seven year project finally wrapped up, and a major 2020 goal ticked off my list. And a huge thank you to Nina for pushing me to do it!
But wait, there’s more: I’ve made a page for the française! I’ve neglected that part of my portfolio badly in the last few years. It’s good to do a little work tidying it up.
Did I mention wind?
* Well, you know. Done-for-now. The sleeve bows need to be moved 5cm. The sleeve ruffles could be rotated 2cm. Or I might completely re-do the sleeves. The trim will probably continue to grow and change and get added to. And I’d like a second stomacher…
Votes on last weeks dress fell into two camps. Camp #1 felt that the dress was the epitome of all that was best in 1780s fashion, and rated it 9-10. Camp #2 felt it was a little weird and unbalanced and basically hated the trim – but that it was still an OK dress, so you rated it 6-7.5.
The Total: 8.6 out of 10
And, as happens with two divided camps, a rating that reflects neither: there wasn’t a single rating for 8 or 8.5! Yet here we are…
This week: a late 1910s dress with very modern embroidery
I’ve had this dress on my ‘to-be-rated’ list for a long time. This week seemed the perfect time to bring it out. One of the criticisms of last week’s dress is that it was too old fashioned in its choice of fabric. This dress is very modern in cut, fabric, and embellishment.
The Goldstein Museum of Design dates this dress to 1915, but I don’t think it’s quite that forward thinking and revolutionary. I would date it to 1918-22. The slimmer skirt, very slightly dropped waist, short sleeves, and flat collar are all in keeping with a very late ‘teens-early 20s date. The real giveaway is the tabard effect at the back of the dress.
This slightly odd variant trend was very a la mode 1918-22, and appeared both in caped variations at the back of the dress, as in this example, and as apron-like hangings at the front. Most fashion plates and patterns show the tabard worn under the belt or sash, so this loose variation is unusual – or styled incorrectly. It may be as fashion-forward as the rest of the dress, and anticipate the many cape effects seen in 20s fashions.
Speaking of fashion forward, let’s talk about that embroidery! It’s a very simple concept, used to great visual effect. Rectangles of satin stitch in black or ivory are interspersed with cutwork/broderie anglaise rectangles.
The resulting pattern is both a nod to the beading lace seen on so many pieces of Edwardian lingerie, and a extremely modern touch that evokes Cubist art and skyscrapers (and anticipates computer programmes).
Note the clever placement of the embroidery across the bodice: mirroring the hem decoration, and minimising the bust.
I don’t feel that the display is quite doing the dress justice. The mannequin is a little too tall and long in the torso for the dress. It’s also a garment that would be brought to life with the right accessories: it needs stockings and shoes, a hat and a parasol. They aren’t exact duplicates, but here’s some ideas of how the dress might have been styled in its time.
Note the wrapped sash on the white with blue, and the pink numbers, and the vest effect at the shoulders on the green plaid and blue dress with the poppy hat – elements you see in the dress we’re looking at. The pale apricot dress has a tabard bodice.
Slim skirts and flat collars for summer 1918:
It may be 1919, but hems are still almost at the ankles, although short sleeves are in:
See the flat collars, and the slightly dropped waist, with sash effect on the red and white number:
What do you think? Is this fashion forward done right?
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.
It’s a weird feeling being in New Zealand in 2020.
We had a small outbreak of Covid19. We had 6 weeks of lockdown back in April/May. We’ve had a couple of tiny community outbreaks since then that have quickly been contained. Our borders are effectively closed. We wear masks on public transport, and scan in with the tracer ap at stores and restaurants.
But other than that, life is normal.
We can go out to eat. And to the movies. School resumed after lockdown. We just celebrated Graduation 2020 at Toi Whakaari, with the whole school, and singing, and family.
And I talk to my parents in Hawai’i, and my friends on the mainland US, in Britain, and Australia, and continental Europe, and I feel guilty.
It feels wrong to be living life as usual, to be happy, and content, when so many people aren’t. When life is so disrupted for so much of the world. When so many people are dying.
And yet I know this is irrational. I cannot help how things are overseas by not going on walks and seeing friends here. If things were awful here I’d be grateful and glad for friends and family in places that were good. I’d want to know they were safe, and to see pictures of them having fun.
I hope that’s true for you to: that it’s good to see someplace where life is normal. And I hope and pray that life is normal again overseas before too many more people die.
One of the normal things we got to do was the Historical Sew & Eat Retreat 2020.
It’s our third HSER, and we splashed out on a mansion this year – or at least a very large, rather strange house.
We held it over Halloween weekend, with an 18th century theme, and a spooky Halloween dinner.
We had a marvellous time, despite less than marvellous weather, a perplexing lack of wine glasses (I may be a teetotaller but I still like drinking my water out of fancy glasses!), and a scheduling mix-up on my part that meant I missed a day.
Here’s a sampling of photos – there will be more in themed posts, when I tell you all about some of the outfits, and the food, and more fun things!