19th Century

Finished! 1813 Kashmiri dress

After pulling apart and reworking the 1813 Kashmiri gown to considerable degrees, I’m now pleased to announce that it is finished!

Fashion plate featuring a dress made of Kashmiri shawls, 1812

Fashion plate featuring a dress made of Kashmiri shawls, 1812

Or within an hour of finished.  I still need to decide if I prefer the sleeve swags on the shoulder or dropped, and if I want trim on the shoulders as in my fashion plate, and if I want the button trim you can see in the plate where the bust meets the sleeve swags.

So what do you think?  Sleeve swags on the shoulders:

1813 Kashmiri dress

1813 Kashmiri dress

Or dropped:

1813 Kashmiri dress

1813 Kashmiri dress

I forgot to pin on the cameo brooch for the photos, so you’ll just have to imagine it in and tell me if I should do gold clips or buttons or something at the join of bodice and sleeve swag.

1813 Kashmiri dress

And what about the ruffles/puffs you can see around the neckline in the fashion plate.  Should I have those?

1813 Kashmiri dress

The important thing though, is that the dress is done, and done properly, and that all the issues I had with it are fixed.  The back, while still low, is considerably higher, the centre back is level with the centre front, the hem is now even, the back pleats look spectacular (if I do say so myself), and the sleeves are working.

1813 Kashmiri dress

Most importantly, I actually like the dress!  It was an interesting excersize in balancing historical accuracy with modern availability and fashion plate fantasy with extant reality.

I know these photos are quite dark and soft-focus (it’s been dark and rainy and really hard to get photos).  I’ll post more detail images tomorrow and try  to do a proper photoshoot very soon.

Just the Facts Ma’am:

The Challenge:  Bi/Tri/Quadri/Quin/Sex/Septi/Octo/Nona/Centennial

Fabric:  2 1.5 metre lengths of wool twill with an early 19th century inspired paisley pattern, linen for bodice, silk for sleeve and bodice overlay.

Pattern:  Mainly the 1805-09 gown featured in Janet Arnold, with reference to other extent gown patterns from 1810-15

Year: 1813

Notions:  Thread, hooks for the back of the bodice, a cameo inspired brooch for the bodice front.

How historically accurate is it?:  I’d say 7/10. It’s entirely hand sewn and constructed in a period-accurate fashion, but in an effort to balance the needs of the fabric and the effect of the fashion plate some of the details are not backed up by extant examples.

Hours to complete:  Somewhere around 40.  Way more than it should have taken!

First worn:    When mostly done for a photoshoot on Sat 12 Jan

Total cost:  I think I paid $25 for each of the panels, so $50 plus say $5 each for the bits of silk and linen I used = $60


  1. Daniel says

    It looks fabulous! I do think the sleeves look fine either way, although for me, the white seems quite a strong contrast with the overdress and maybe it needs some kind of trim around the neckline and sleeve edges to tone it down and tie it together, but having said that – looking fabulous!

    • Thank you! The white is strong, but that definitely seems to be the effect in all the images of extent gowns that I can find.

  2. MJ Ruisi says

    Yay! so lovely….good sense might dictate less is more….yess to Cameo,love the swag ,and the contrast is perfect,what trim could make the sleeves(perfect …just an opinion) better?

  3. I can’t decide! The sleeves up look fine even in a simple way, the sleeves dropped call for more trim, but that would be fabulous in itself – as I said, I can’t decide!
    And I love how it looks with your hairdo and earrings.

  4. Okay, my opinion might not matter pretty high, but aesthetically speaking I like off the shoulder. It dives the gown a nice balance that it lacks, being its a column based frock.

    Otherwise, AMAZING job, beautifully done, as per usual.


  5. I’m torn about the swags, they look great down in the side view, but I think I like them up a little more from the front view. And I’ll always vote for little button details!

  6. Wow, that really is spectacular! Personally I’d go for dropped swags, and I don’t think you need a ruffle.

      • Yup, I’m tempted. Maybe it’s time to revisit the Regency inspired dress that got put in the UFO pile because “eh, I’m not sure it’s really me”.

  7. Fantastic! There is something about the white and the dark wool that doesn’t work for me though. Still amazing job! I love it.

    • Thanks Deborah! I’ve discussed in previous posts how I would have preferred a lighter coloured wool, but the pattern on the wool was too perfect, and this was the only colourway, so I just had to do my best with what was available.

  8. It’s gorgeous, but I think you should definitely add all the trimmings! Then take away anything you don’t like.
    I agree with Deborah, the white sleeves underneath have looked strange to me the whole time, like you’re wearing a men’s undershirt. I think it looked odd in the fashion plates too though, it’s not just your version.

    • Thank you! I do want to avoid doing any extra work though!

      I suspect these dresses really were expected to give the effect of the undergarment showing through, and of course we have to remember that the early 19th century attitude towards undergarments still had more in common with 18th century ideas than modern ones: a chemise was not ‘underwear’ but something that was expected to show at the edges of garments. Sure, these white dresses are fancier than chemises, but they still have a link to the idea of layers of clothing showing around the edges.

  9. It’s gorgeous, but I think you should definitely add all the trimmings! And do off the shoulder swagging. Then take away anything you don’t like.
    I agree with Deborah, the white sleeves underneath have looked strange to me the whole time, like you’re wearing a men’s undershirt. I think it looked odd in the fashion plates too though, it’s not just your version.

  10. I think adding the trim/buttons will finish off the look nicely. So, yes! Add trim at the neckline, add your button details, and, I think you should wear the swags down not up. Super lovely though, especially from the back!


  11. Adela says

    Swags down looks like there should be a guy standing behind you doing a romance novel pose of ravishing you out of that dress. Until all the bling is place the white just looks like underwear.

    • Hehe. I get the idea from the fashion plate that part of the look of this dress was the impression that it was falling off. And as I said to Lisette, attitudes towards underwear vs. outerwear were different.

  12. I kind of like the sleeve straps down more than up, but I think it would look even better with the white under-dress thing’s sleeves doing the same thing: both of them off the shoulder. As for embellishment, I feel enough is never enough, so I think you can figure out what I think about that. ; )

    I feel like such a failure; I still haven’t finished the 1813 dress I was making for the challenge. I still have to put finish a sleeve, make the other, and embroider everything to Hades and back. 🙁 Sad face. I think I’m going to finish it for the next challenge (UFO is so well placed for me!) and make everything up later.

    • Also, your pleats are amazing! I forgot to mention it until I scrolled up and saw the picture again, but it needed a special mention!

      • I’m afraid the under-sleeves can’t fall off my shoulder or the whole dress will fall off me. I’m not shaped properly for strapless garments to stay up without extensive boning 😉

        Thank you very much for the comments on the pleats! I can’t wait to get really good pictures so you can see how fabulous they really are.

        Good luck you with your dress! I look forward to seeing it for the UFO challenge!

  13. karenb says

    I think it’s lovely . I like the whole colour scheme and I love the back with the pleating.

  14. Lovely, the pleats are divine! I could look at them forever. I think you should add some trim to the linen though, or, as someone said, it’ll look like underwear. I think I like the look of the dropped sleeves, but perhaps not dropped quite so far… there’s a fine line between looking plesantly beguiling and looking … loose, for want of a better word (it’s early in the morning) 😛 Also, I think they are a smidge higher in the fashion plate.

    • I’ve been thinking this through all day, and I think I want to add a little something: It’s not that the white look like underwear per se that I mind, it’s that it looks like very plain underwear to be worn with such a fancy dress. A little embroidery or lace would make it more in harmony perhaps.

      • Thanks Sarah and Hana. I was already debating raising the sleeves, but to do that I have to sew them in place, thus faking it, rather than having them hang.

        I definitely don’t want to add contrast trim to the white, but am seriously considering some tone on tone trim – either lace, ruffles or puffs.

        • No, contrast trim would spoil the “getting a peak of my shift”-look (and is from what I understand not right for this kind of dress?) . I was thinking some sort of whitework, but ruffles or puffs would look lovely!

  15. Amazing pleats, honey! And more embellishment will make it look like the original inspiration.

    • Thank you! The inspiration is very embellished, but I often find that fashion plates are quite overly embellished and OTT compared to real garments – like magazine photoshoots compared to what we actually wear. So I’ll go somewhere between where I am now and what the plate shows.

  16. My vote is for sleeves dropped. It really changes the overall line of the dress in a beautiful way. I personally like the contrast of the white undersleeves/bodice with the dark wool very much, but I do think a little frill at the neckline & sleeve hem would be very pretty. Gold clips where the sleeve drapes join the bodice sound perfect. And I am drooling at the back pleats!! I really love regency dresses in darker colors, and your interpretation of the fashion plate is wonderful.

  17. Claire Payne says

    Wonderful. Well done. I vote for dropped swags and yes to gold pins/clips at the seams mentioned. The pleats are lovely and drape so well.

  18. Frangipani says

    Voting for Dropped sleeves but it seems to me that with the sleeves up the dress feels anchored not floating ontop of the white. Some trim or dress fabric made trim may do the trick. The pleating at the back is simply superb well done.

  19. Frangipani says

    Your pleating is simple superb
    I vote for dropped swags although the dress looks like its floating on the white. Perhaps some dress fabric made up trim to anchor around the shoulder might be the go.

  20. Alicja says

    The dress is beautiful. Love the pattern and the pleats on the back!
    My vote (for what it’s worth): Dropped sleeves but a little higher than you have them now, so the front would be more in line with the dark fabric neckline, but the white sleeves would still be visible. (Less fabric at the top and more at the bottom of the sleeve might just do the trick and keep them higher, but still leave comfortable movement and you would not be far away from the original fashion plate) No buttons. The cameo and earrings will be just perfect. Trim/ruffle on the top of white sleeves to make them look softer. Try the delicate trimmings on the top of dark sleeves and neckline.
    As for your objections you had earlier for the colours, I’ve recently read something about black with crimson trimmings that might interest you: http://historicalclothinganduniforms.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/blinded-by-white-colour-and-dresses.html

    • Thanks Alicja!

      My objection to the colours is not that they are dark (because, as HC&U concurs, there are numerous examples of Regency dresses with darks paired with saturated colours), but that they are too dark for a kashmiri shawl – lighter tones were definitely the desired colours for kashmiri shawls, and there are no grey or black examples of kashmiri shawls of this period, or dresses meant to imitate kashmiri shawls. So even though coloured dresses were quite common, that doesn’t mean that these colours, for this type of dress/fabric were accurate. But c’est la vie. It is what it is.

  21. Definately swags down for me, and I love the white-on-white trim on the original dress, so I’d do that too. I’m not sure about the buttons at the seams – I think I’d do it and take it off if I didn’t like it!
    Great job, it looks amazing!

  22. Dawn aka Wanda B Victorian says

    So pretty…the dress is too 😉 I like the swags down…it seems more sophisticated (and dare I say sexy) to me. I’d also go with a bit of trim on the white part that picks up or hints at the colors in the main part of the dress. The fashion plate seems to imply something going on across the sleeve closer to the head…either ruffles or embroidery. As expected….nice job!

    • Thank you! I don’t want to go with coloured trim on the white because I can’t find any historical evidence to suggest this was actually done, so if I do something it will be white on white.

  23. I’m another for the swags down, though a smidge higher than in the photo. It’s super pretty and makes the white under part look more interesting, instead of just a jumper dress. And all the trim! As someone else said, the white against the dark gray is rather stark, but trim will tie them together.

  24. I can’t comment on the historical accuracy, but I can say that it looks spectacular, especially from the back. Oh, those pleats!

  25. I think it’s beautiful. The line of the dress is marvelously elegant–especially from the back.

    I think that some kind of gold clips at the sleeves might well enhance its loveliness. Not sure about ruffles/puffs–why risk spoiling a good thing?

  26. Gorgeous! And the pleats on the back are beautiful, it makes the dress so much more interesting. As for the sleeves, I like them dropped but maybe a little higher than they are now. In my opinion it doesn’t need a ruffled neckline, but I’m curious if a darker trim would make it even better like some others mentioned.

      • Yes you are right, the pale blouse part of similar dresses are all the same colour as you showed. I was curious about the effect of a darker trim, and didn’t think of the historical accuracy. I like how you explain the details of the dresses in your blog, it helps me developing my eye on how I look at a garment.

  27. I vote dropped sleeves, though slightly less so than they are currently (so the top edge of the sleeve is horizontal, as in the fashion plate, rather than drooping slightly as it is currently). Gold clips at the join of sleeve and bodice sounds good, as does a cameo. Ruffles I’m not sure about.

    Overall all, though – wow. It’s turned out fabulously and I agree, the pleats are wonderful.

    • Oh, I forgot to say. I know it is early days yet, but is there any single page where we can see everyone’s challenges for the fortnight and links to the associated blog posts?

  28. Adding another vote for dropped sleeves, with gold clips. The dress is stunning, such clever use of the limited amount of fabric you had available.

  29. I vote swags down 🙂 What a marvelous dress! You’ve used the fabric perfectly, and goodness! The back is STUNNING. Marvelous work!!!

  30. Jane Craven says

    Well done. Love the pleats. Wear the sleeves down. It would have been interesting to have made up a v pale shade of complimentary colour to the main dress for the under blouse rather than the straight white. Keep up the good work.

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