20th Century

Emily’s 1903 evening gown: matching the fabric

Having determined that Emily’s dress was made out of a fabric very similar to silk razimir, and having gotten over my initial shock at the extremely pink colour and decided that the colour was integral to the dress, I had to try to find the same fabric.  Or at least a fabric that acted in the same way.

Pink silk razimir

I searched, and searched.  I ordered fabric and fabric samples off the internet, and got peculiar corded silks, weird sclumpy twill weave silks described as silk ottoman by someone with no fabric knowledge, silk twill that was lovely but didn’t behave when you tried to pintuck it, and other unsuitable fabrics.

This is not silk ottoman. It just isn't.

I scoured the fabric stores in Wellington and further afield.  I did find one gorgeous piece of palest pink silk razimir (which the fabric store, also incorrectly, called silk ottoman), but alas, at $150 a metre it was beyond my budget.  Also, even if I could have paid $150 a metre, I would have been far too scared to dye it a deeper pink.  And it was a little crisper and more taffeta-y than the silk razimir used in Emily’s dress.

Lovely silk razimir

Other options included silk twills, but they didn’t hold the pintucks correctly.

Red silk twill. Not a good pintucking option

I even considered a silk/rayon blend, but it only came in apple green, and I had become very attached to the shell pink colour of the original dress, and felt it was necessary for the recreation.  Between the colour and the rayon content, it just wouldn’t do.  I do like apple green though.

Apple green silk rayon

In a truly mad moment, I even considered a black rayon grosgrain, with the thought that I could un-dye it enough to re-dye it pink.  I was desperate.

Black rayon grosgrain. Insanity.

Finally, I settled for a lightweight, soft, white silk taffeta.  Boring, not ideal, but historically accurate, and the closest I could get.  Someday I’m going to find silk razimir at a price I can afford in the right colour, and try again.  Maybe.

Unfortunately, the photos of the undyed silk are one of the things that was lost in my computer crash, and no amount of disk recovery has found them 🙁  So I can’t show you images.



  1. Indeed, same question. I’ve not heard of the fabric and it looks like a corded silk…although there were lots of those, I suppose the different sizes of the cords made for different names, and perhaps the cords were woven in different ways, and perhaps sometimes the silk threads were spun and twisted before weaving and sometimes were filament silk? Am wildy guessing here, but very curious. Please help us to understand!

    Very best,

  2. Stella says

    I like the apple green too. What an odyssey! I feel for you, Dreamstress, this quest must have been so frustrating.

  3. jackiead says

    Good luck with your fabric hunt, pintucks can be tricky. Look forward to the posting of your progress on this dress.

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