I’m doing something a bit mad for the Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #24, in which you re-do one of the earlier challenges. My goal is to re-do ALL the challenges.
I know! Ambitious!
OK, I’m not making 23 separate items, but my goal is to make/finish a collection of items which together would qualify for every single one of the challenges so far.
To start with, here is the 1905 Greek Key Reception Dress, which covers 10 of the 23 challenges:
There is a wonderful story behind this dress.
The dress proper isn’t actually my work: it was patterned up by the wonderful Lynne (who frequently comments on my blog, and who gave me the fabulous fir sleeve for the Fur & Scales muff), and sewn by her equally wonderful friend Pamela for a production of the Importance of Being Ernest some years ago.
Being Lynne, she did a beautifully researched garment that was equally beautifully made – far more so than any theatre could hope for! The gown is a perfectly patterned version of the 1905-7 Afternoon Dress in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion. It was definitely the best costumed regional performance of IoBE ever staged. The few big concessions to theatre-wear were price (no budget) and washability. The dress is cotton and the sleeves and collar/yoke were done in synthetic lace, and the meander motifs at the hem were simply ironed on.
While perfect for stage costume, the sleeves and yoke were a bit worse for the wear from a few performances. The body of the dress, however, was in perfect condition. So I removed the sleeves and yoke and remade them in white cotton and cotton lace.
I also added some interior engineering to hold the dress in place (actresses may have to bend and move and get undressed quickly, but models don’t), re-stitched on all the hooks and bars which were coming loose, and re-did the sash in black velvet. Finally, I sewed down the meander trim around the hem, a process that I thought would be done in an hour and took me over 5!
Remaking the dress was a bit worrisome, as it isn’t even my size – it’s made for someone three inches shorter than me, and a size and a half smaller. So I had to guess on sizing throughout the construction process.
When it was finished I had to find someone to wear it, which was also a bit tricky. I’m lucky that dear A agreed to model for me – she’s even tinier than the dress is, so our photoshoot has an adorable sense of ‘teenage girl puts her hair up for the first time and borrows Mum’s party frock to feel elegant for an afternoon’ in some shots.
For the photoshoot, we went to the Massey Memorial, the burial site of William Massey, New Zealand Premier from 1912-1925. The Memorial is perched on an isolated hill on the Miramar Peninsula, overlooking Wellington Harbour.
When we set out it was the perfect day for a photoshoot: blue sky, but with cloud cover just over the sun, giving lovely bright, diffused light. And then the minute we arrived at the location the cloud blew away and we were left with stark, glaring sunshine reflecting off the white marble.
But we persevered, and got some lovely images out of less than ideal conditions.
I have slight reservations about the poof of the sleeves, but overall I’m thrilled that the dress is getting a second chance to be a star. It was such a beautiful garment when I received it, and now it’s got a new spin.
So what challenges does this frock cover?
#2: UFO – I meant to get this dress done for Challenge #18, but it wasn’t done in time, so it’s definitely a UFO.
#4: Embellish – The decorative details are really what make this garment: the Greek-Key motifs, and the lace trimming on the upper bodice and sleeves turn it into something fabulous and unique.
#6: Stripes – Black and white stripes = fantastic
#10: Literature – This one is a double – first, the dress was originally made for Gwendolyn in The Importance of Being Ernest. Plus, although 1900 is a bit late for Anne of Green Gables as a young girl (her children, after all, were old enough to go fight in WWI), the HUGE puffy sleeves of this frock were certainly an Anne moment for me. I was a bit astonished when they turned out to be so big based on Arnold’s pattern!
#12: Pretty Pretty Princesses – this dress is certainly very frilly and princess-y, but to make it even more apt, here is Princess Ingeborg of Denmark (another awesome princess) reading to her children in a Greek-key bedecked frock that is slightly reminiscent of this one.
#13: Lace and Lacing – Note the masses of lace on the guimpe and sleeves? Mission accomplished!
#15: Colour Challenge White – All the parts I had made are white!
#18: Re-make, Re-use & Re-fashion – The challenge which I originally started working on this dress for.
#19: Wood, Metal, Bone – OK, this one is a teeny bit of a push, but there are bones in the collar.
#23: Generosity & Gratitude – Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU Lynne for the amazing dress, with all the really hard stuff already done! I’m really excited to have ‘collaborated’ with you!
So, 10 challenges down, 13 more to go!
Fabric: 1m cotton lawn for the sleeves, scraps of cotton sateen for the yoke facing – all from stash, leftover from other projects
Pattern: 1905-7 Afternoon Dress from Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion
Notions: Thread (LOTS of it – I used up 3 spools of black on the meander border, and 1 of white on the sleeves and yoke), metres and metres of white cotton lace (stash – at the most I paid 60 cents a meter for it, but it was so long ago I can’t remember, which means it doesn’t count, right?).
How historically accurate is it? This one has me baffled on how to answer it. I un-did the theatre-friendly construction and re-did it to be fussy and historical, but while re-making is a very historical process, my actual techniques weren’t. Maybe 65%?
Hours to complete: 12. The lace of the yoke is narrow pieces sewn together, the hem applique took forever, the sleeves have pintucks…you get the picture!
First worn: As a re-make, Sunday 24 Nov for the photoshoot!
Total cost: $0 to me!