Titanic Weekend Part I: All About The New 1912 Evening Gown

I recently returned from a successful Titanic-themed weekend of events, including multiple vintage dance opportunities. I’ve been working on some new clothing for these events since January, which you can read more about in my past posts relating to the 100th Anniversary of the Titanic. I’ve been rather remiss in posting updates about the progress of the new dresses I constructed for these events… So my first task is to share pictures of my attire and explain the inspiration and construction of the garments.

I created two new 1912 ensembles: an evening gown and a day gown with accompanying hat. Let’s start with the evening gown!

My camera had a challenging time capturing the colors and shimmering sequins on this gown, but this is a good representation of the colors. Look! I wore my ballroom dance shoes, which worked well, and my white kid opera gloves and pearl drop earrings... fabulous!

Fabulous painted backdrop! Perfect for taking photos, although my camera didn't quite catch the colors so well in this photo. I think this gown is so much more fabulous in person! I was told that the sequins just shimmer in subdued mood lighting.

This gown is burgundy silk charmeuse with a gold silk charmeuse underskirt. The bodice is gold silk layered under gold sequined net. The sleeves are the same gold sequined net flat lined with nude colored tulle: the tulle provides unnoticeable stability for the net layer. The burgundy layers are pleated up and held in place in two places by gold silk and sequined net covered buttons. The bodice and skirt are lined with brown cotton and the entire dress is mounted on a foundation of some extra white cotton which I have an excess of in my fabric stash. The foundation layer is essential to the drape of the dress, because it provides stability as well as a layer to attach all of the pleats and drapery points to. The foundation allows the burgundy silk to effortlessly hang and artfully fold without looking heavy or as though it serves to hold an weight. The foundation layer also supports the underskirt which is attached at about knee height (thus not extending all the way up to the waist and saving fabric). If you plan to create a draped Edwardian gown I strongly suggest that you include a foundation layer: the practice is historically accurate and will help your dress look effortless rather than heavy. This gown closes center back with hooks and eyes along the gold sequin area and a complicated series of further hooks and eyes at the top of the burgundy back drape. The hooks and eyes help create the tension that is required to keep the waist carefully draped in elegant folds across the waist.

There is not a hat associated with this gown because hats were not worn for formal evening events. I did create a wonderful Edwardian coiffure with loops and puffs of hair on the crown of my head surmounting the two front sweeps from the front as they swooped around the base of the back of my head. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any closeups of the style. I feel it is necessary to encourage you by saying that the more often I practice my Edwardian hair styling the faster I am and the better the styles look. You, too, can have fabulous Edwardian hair! Practice! Practice! Practice!

I draped the pattern for the foundation, bodice, and sleeves. The underskirt is a mix of information from the usual pattern book culprits (Janet Arnold and Norah Waugh) that I took in and then kept in mind while flat patterning a knee high underskirt pattern. The outer draped layer is just that: draped. It was a good challenge–I would have a hard time creating a flat pattern of that layer. All I can say is that it is just one rectangular piece of fabric that was sometimes frustrating and draped with many references to my inspirational images.

It turns out that the evening gown is a mash-up of two gowns (pictured below) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I think I started by aiming for the pink dress but wound up moseying my way along to the pale blue dress. Do you see the influence of both the pink and pale blue dresses? I do…

1914 Callot Soeurs evening dress

Side/Back of the same.

1911-1914 Callot Souers evening dress.

Side/Back of the same.

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7 responses to “Titanic Weekend Part I: All About The New 1912 Evening Gown

  1. Quinn, just stunning! I love the burgundy/gold color combo, and I can see the influence of the second dress, (Did you say pale blue, can’t see blue on my screen.) not so much the pink one. You have been such an inspiration to me. I had lost my “will to sew” several years ago. You are helping revive that in a big way. Thanks.

    I have been gathering fabric for a 1912 evening dress and corset. Unfortunately, that is on the back burner for now: I have several illnessess, surgeries in my immediate family and I am on nursing duty for now. But at least I have something fun to occupy my mind. when I can get a breather I will send photos of the fabric so you can see my target and “ammunition”. You make such clear pictures, and I can see the details. That is so very helpful.

    • Hm… That final dress looked pale blue to me, but now that you mention it and I look again I think it might be silver? It’s exciting that you have plans in mind. Sometimes just ruminating on sewing plans is enough. I’m so glad you’re inspired. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Quinn, your gowns are fabulous!!! You are so talented. I am looking forward to seeing you on the BIG SCREEN. Love you, Aunt Doris

  3. Hi Quinn,

    I am here in La Quinta Resort with my dear friend Susan. Your work is awesome. Learning more about your work is a journey I am looking forward to taking.

    Susan likes your work too.

    Lots of LOVE,

    Auntie Annie
    05/15/2012
    5:37 p.m.
    PST

  4. Hi Quinn, who wouldn’t be inspired by your work!

    I am a first time seamstress, meaning i’ve never sewn past meager stitch working. I am inspired by the vintage fashion of this era to design and build a wedding gown for myself. Bit off more than i can chew, I know. ANY advice, from practice fabrics to tips or references that helped you would greatly be appreciated! I suppose i’m desperate for a place to begin and i don’t think the ladies at JoAnn’s can help me at this particular juncture!
    I am in the process of attempting to obtain the proper pattern via internet, can you say overwhelmed hahahah.

    THANK YOU in advance for any willingness to share some wisdom!

    -Brea

    • Wow, that is an intense goal you’ve set for yourself. Starting with a pattern would be my first suggestion. If you encounter information in the directions you’re unfamiliar with there are lots of great tutorials and videos available online. If you need practice fabric I suggest muslin or some other cheap cotton fabric. Mostly, I’d say that sewing, like most things in life, improves with practice, so the more you practice any particular step, or the more you practice in general, the better your results will be. Good luck!

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