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Image shows a piece of carnation pink silk embroidered with flowers

Rate the Dress: pink 1840s ruffles & embroidery

Quite a number of commentators of last week’s dress felt that it was the perfect garment for an evil queen – or perhaps a particularly splendid and imposing fairy godmother.  This week I’ve picked a pink silk frock for her victim/godchild (or perhaps this is a Discworld-esque Witches Abroad situation, where the ingenue is both?).

It’s pink, it’s frilly, it’s got a big skirt.  Is it the perfect dress for feeling like a pretty pretty princess, ca. 1845, in?

Last week: a historically inspired 1890s reception gown

My goal with Rate the Dress is always to be interesting and informative – and I definitely succeeded with at least one of those last week!  If there’s one thing last week’s dress was not, it was boring.  Not every dress can inspired “Oh. Oh dear. No.” as one comment, and “Oh my word, YES.” as the very next one.

The Total: 8.7 out of 10

A phenomenally good rating for a dress that rated only 1 with at least one rater!  The ratings might have been all over the place, but the wearer of last week’s can at least be sure that she was memorable!

This week: an pinked, pink, embroidered 1840s dress

This 1840s dress is made up in vivid carnation pink silk.  This bright hue was achievable with plant based dyes, and was fashionable from at least as far back as the Middle Ages.  Carnations (members of the dianthus family, also known as pinks) are actually where the colour gets its name: it’s first used as a colour name in the early 17th century.

Image shows an 1840s evening dress in carnation pink with a full skirt.

Evening dress, 1840s, Historic Deerfield Museum

The dress also features decorations based on another form of ‘pink’.  Zig-zagged and scalloped cutwork is called pinking.   It combines a Medieval word meaning to punch or prick, with ‘pink’: just like the frilled petals of the dianthus family which also named the colour. These days we use the word in this form in ‘pinking shears’.

The elaborately cutwork edges of the embroidered flounces of this dress were almost certainly inspired by ‘pinked’ 18th century trimmings.  Late 1840s historicism may be more subtle than its late Victorian counterpart, but it influenced fashion all the same!

The frills on these dress could be left raw, or might have been finished with satin-stitch edging.

Image shows a piece of carnation pink silk embroidered with flowers

Evening dress, 1840s, Historic Deerfield Museum

The whole dress is lavishly decorated with satin stitch flowers.  They wind around the waist, frame the top of the upper flounce, and are scattered along both flounces.  I’d love to see the back side of the embroidery.  Is it hand done, or does it take advantage of new advances in embroidery machines?  1920s dresses certainly feature similar embroidery done by machine, but I’m not sure if it was possible this early.

Image shows an 1840s evening dress in carnation pink with a full skirt.

Evening dress, 1840s, Historic Deerfield Museum

I’d also like to see the dress displayed on a slightly taller mannequin.  1840s evening dresses weren’t often trained, and this one should sit just off the floor, with a delicate pair of flat-toed slippers peeping out from under the hem.

Although it’s always hard to tell, the proportions of this dress suggest a rather tall wearer.  It makes me think of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, who was 5’8″ or 5’9″, and only a few years to0 young to have worn this.

What do you think?  Is this pink frock perfect for a young heroine?  Pretty and youthful without being too sweet and fussy?  Or does she need a knight in shining sartorial armour to sweep in and rescue her from a dress disaster?

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.

Making an 18th century red wool cloak, thedreamstress.com

Making an 18th century ‘Red Riding Hood’ cloak

Like every historical costumer ever, I’ve always wanted to make an 18th century red wool cloak.  Who doesn’t want to be deliciously cozy and comfortable while dressing up as an actual fairytale!?

Making an 18th century red wool cloak, thedreamstress.com

Making an 18th century red wool cloak, thedreamstress.com

When my friend Theresa announced that she was taking advantage of the New Zealand-Australia travel bubble and coming over to see us – and wanted to dress up and do a photoshoot – I knew it was time for my cloak.  After all, it would be midwinter in NZ and we’d need to keep warm!

Sadly, Delta popped our bubble, and Theresa’s trip was postponed.  The photoshoot didn’t happen, but my friend Averil helped me with one to show off the finished cloak and my extremely exuberant Amalia ensemble.

So how did I make the cloak?

The Cloak Fabric

Extant 18th century cloaks always look so lush on their mannequins that I’d always assumed they take meters and meters of fabric.

Years ago I bought a bunch of red wool with a cloak in mind.  I didn’t love the shade or the feel of the fabric, but it was extremely affordable.   Lately I’ve been enjoying a slower, more purposeful sewing process, and I’ve realised that life is too short for fabric I don’t love.

Making an 18th century red wool cloak, thedreamstress.comSo when a reason for the cloak came up, I thought I’d see if my luck was in at the local fabric shops.  Oh, was it ever!

Making an 18th century red wool cloak, thedreamstress.com

Did The Fabric Warehouse have any pure wool in red?  No… But…they had a silk-cashmere plush in the most divine red!  They had got it from a stash clearance from a woman with extremely good taste in fabric.

But…only 2.2m.  But piecing is period!  And it was such beautiful fabric I was sure I could make it work, directional plush and all.

So I bought the lot, chucked the stuff I’d originally bought up on Trademe, and ended up even, but with fabric I loved.

Making an 18th century red wool cloak, thedreamstress.com

To face the cloak and line the hood I found the red silk taffeta I’d originally planned to make my Regency Janeway spencer out of.

Making an 18th century red wool cloak, thedreamstress.com

It matched like searched a 100 fabric stores to find the perfect shade!

The Cloak Pattern

I based my cloak on the one in Costume Close up, using their pattern and construction details, but adapting it to the width of my fabric.   I also studied all of Jean Hunniset’s cloak patterns, and her notes on them.

Making an 18th century red wool cloak, thedreamstress.com

The cloak is basically an elongated half circle, with a full width of fabric down the centre of the cloak, and then two half widths forming the points of the circle.

The original cloak was made from 140cm wide fabric.  Mine was 160cm.

Some historical costumers like to cut their fabric down to match the width of the original garments, but I prefer to use width the fabric is woven to.  In my mind, using the full width and the selvedges is more accurate than artificially cutting a narrower width.  It’s certainly what period sewist would have done if given the same fabric.  This is why we can never be truly historically accurate – and there’s no exact science to determining accuracy!

By very careful cutting, and a little judicious piecing, I was able to get a 108cm cloak out of my fabric – just like the original.

Making an 18th century red wool cloak, thedreamstress.com

(all together now: piecing is period!)

My hood is a little bigger than the original, to accomodate higher 1780s hair (and because I have a big head).   I had to piece the hood as well.

Making an 18th century red wool cloak, thedreamstress.com

The Cloak Construction

To save my hands, which always suffer in winter, I machine sewed the cloak seams.  I risked it, and indulged myself by handsewing the rest.

Since I wasn’t stressing about stitch accuracy, I herringboned down my seams.  Whipstitches might be more accurate, but herringboning made me happier.

Making an 18th century red wool cloak, thedreamstress.com

The silk hood linings and front facing did get whipstitched down though.

Making an 18th century red wool cloak, thedreamstress.com

It took me a bit to decide on the hood construction.

The pleats themselves weren’t hard.  It just took figuring out the right number of pleats, and gathering them in with cartridge pleating.

Making an 18th century red wool cloak, thedreamstress.com

However, I wasn’t sure how the pleats and lining should interact.  Should the outer and lining be pleated in separately, and caught together?  Or should the lining be joined to the outer, and then the lining and outer pleated together?

I settled on the latter:

Making an 18th century red wool cloak, thedreamstress.com

I whipstitched the lining to the outer, gathered in both, and then used an extra line of gathering stitches to hold the back pleating stable.

Making an 18th century red wool cloak, thedreamstress.com

I’m rather pleased with how it turned out!

The body of the cloak was gathered with cartridge stitches in the neck, and pulled in to fit the hood.  I backstitched the hood to the body, and then whipstitched the selvedges up into the hood.

Making an 18th century red wool cloak, thedreamstress.com

The the whole thing got covered by the hood lining.

Making an 18th century red wool cloak, thedreamstress.com

For the photoshoot I tied the cloak closed, but decided that was an extremely annoying way to fasten a cloak.

Making an 18th century red wool cloak, thedreamstress.com

I’ve since replaced it with a hook and thread loop.

Making an 18th century red wool cloak, thedreamstress.com

The hem of the cloak, just like the originals, is left raw.  Three cheers for tightly woven and fulled wool!

Making an 18th century red wool cloak, thedreamstress.com

Overall I am utterly thrilled with my cloak, and it’s utterly delightful to wear, and everything I hoped it will be.

Well, almost everything.  I did make one mistake.  The original cloak had a silk taffeta facing, and a lightweight silk hood lining.  My taffeta fit so perfectly and matched so perfectly that of course I used it in my hood.  Hoods are one place you don’t want your fabric to scroop!  The hood is distractingly noisy when I wear it.

However, that very clever fabric usage does mean that the cloak qualifies for the HSM Challenge #11 for 2021: Zero Waste.  There wasn’t a scrap of either of my fabrics left!

The Historical Sew Monthly 2021 Challenge #11: Zero Waste

What the item is: An 18th century cloak

How it fits the challenge: The clever construction of 18th century cloaks mean that they use fabric very efficiently, with no leftover scraps.

Material: Silk-cashmere plush, with silk taffeta facings and hood lining.

Pattern: Based on the one in Costume Close Up.

Year: ca. 1785 – these cloaks were worn from at least 1750-1810, but my hood size was specifically made to accomodate 1780s hair.

Notions: cotton thread, a brass hook.

How historically accurate is it? Due to physical constraints it’s partly machine sewn.   My research suggests that the silk-cashmere plush was an accurate 18th c fabric, but I’m not absolutely certain it would have been used for a cloak like this.Maybe 80%.

Hours to complete: 10ish hours of happy handsewing, 30 minutes of machine sewing, and a couple more hours of patternmaking and cutting out.

First worn: Early August to celebrate the first of the magnolias.

Total cost: $70-ish. I intend to get plenty of use of this to make it well worth it!

Making an 18th century red wool cloak, thedreamstress.com

Image showing the front view of the bodice of an 1890s reception gown with sheer white sleeves gathered into 7 rows of puffs, a lace jabot, wine red satin bodice, and heavily beaded darkest red velvet skirt, collar and sleeves

Rate the Dress: 1890s jet, velvet, lace and historicism

This week’s 1890s Rate the Dress is inspired by last weeks, in that it feels like it was made for someone with very much the same taste – albeit at a different time in their life.

It’s extravagant, and over-the-top, and oh-so-Victorian (by which I mean it’s channelling at least four other timeperiods and using five different kinds of trim or fabric manipulation).  Will you like it?

Last week: a tiered and feathered New Zealand wedding dress from 1920

I’m not surprised that last week’s dress was a bit of a marmite option (and since it’s NZ, it definitely has to be marmite, not vegemite!).  I actually thought that less people would like it than did.  So I’m quite tickled that so many people were taken with its wacky, quirky, charm, and willingness to try all the things on one dress!

I definitely anticipated the two things that were least popular: the appliquéd flowers tucked under the sheer over-layer, and the ostrich feathers.  Marmite indeed!

The Total: 8.0 out of 10

Neat and tidy, if not overwhelmingly popular.

This week: a historically inspired 1890s reception gown

I feel like this week’s dress is the gown that last week’s bride’s 60-something great-grandmother might have worn in 1890 if she had the exact same dress taste as her future great-grandaughter.  Will her taste inspire a better rating?

Like last week’s dress this reception gown has a distinctly whimsical air.  It both enthusiastically embraces the latest fashion trends, and pushes the boundaries of the current modé.

This reception gown is also not afraid of grand gestures, or embellishment.  Note the detachable collar, lavishly beaded with jet.  The standing medici collar with dagged edges.  The sheer silk mameluke sleeves, with their six rows of puffs caught by velvet banding.  The lace cuffs.  The velvet oversleeves.

Dress, 1890, American, silk and linen, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art 2009 Gift of Mrs. Roland A. Goodman 1964 2009.300.874a-b

Dress, 1890, American, silk and linen, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art 2009 Gift of Mrs. Roland A. Goodman 1964 2009.300.874a-b

It borrows lavishly from different historical periods.  The standing Medici collar is early 17th century.  The falling jabot from the end of that century, or the early 18th century.  The sleeves are 15th century seen through the eyes of the 1820s, and reinterpreted for the 1890s.  The large under-collar hints at 1780s redingotes.

It’s a smorgasbord of costume history, mashed together and re-assembled in high late-Victorian taste.

The only element that shows restraint is the colour scheme: wine red satin for the bodice, paired with velvet of such dark red it almost reads as black.  Ivory lace and sleeves and jet beading provide matte light and shiny dark counterpoints.

What do you think of this 1890s dress?  Sure, it’s over the top – but that’s very of its era.  Would it be a fabulous and memorable outfit for a woman who wanted to make an impact?  Or noted for all the wrong reasons?

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.