Category Archives: Edwardian Clothing

HSF/M #10: 1910 Dowager Countess Evening Gown

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This gown was already in my sewing plan before I decided it fit into the HSF/M Challenge #10: Sewing Secrets. It turns out that it fits into the Sewing Secrets challenge for multiple reasons:

#1: Because like many dresses from the first few decades of the 20th century, the method of closure is cleverly hidden, rather complicated, and definitely secretive–you really can’t tell how the dress goes on just looking at it once it’s all hooked up. (Right? Can you figure it out before I show you later in the post?)

#2: The beaded panel on the front might look familiar if you’ve been reading my blog for a few years. It is actually the sleeve (turned upside down) from a 1980s evening gown that I remade into a sleeveless 1925 evening gown.

#3: I made this dress with a train because I had enough fabric, it’s elegant, and I don’t get to have many dresses with trains because I’m usually dancing in them. However, I do plan to dance in this dress, so I included a secret hidden button under the decorative knot at the back and a loop on the center back skirt seam so that the skirt can hook up (bustling, essentially) to be a uniform length all around so I can dance unhindered!

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I paired this new dress with my American Duchess Astoria shoes, because they are super comfy and made sense color-wise with my other accessories, plain white stockings, a super long strand of faux pearls, lovely clear/white dangle earrings I’ve had for at least ten years, and two matching metallic silver wrapped hair pins I think my mother gave me also a number of years ago. Underneath is my 1913 chemise and corset.

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I’ve had all the fabrics in the stash for at least three to seven years. The underskirt was leftover from a former project never fully pictured here on the blog–an 1890s 2 part dress taken directly from an extant bodice with an extrapolated skirt (the skirt was worn by a friend in Newport in 2012–there are pictures toward the bottom of this past post, and I forgot that the ensemble I’m wearing in that post also uses this same fabric as trim). I had purchased way more fabric than I needed and had more than enough for the new project, so I guess I’ll be using it on another something someday. The matching chiffon and charmeuse I’d purchased with the intention of making a 1910s evening dress back in 2012, but ran out of time that year.

When I was first seriously thinking of making this dress, I thought I had enough fabric to do something like this dress, but I hit a snag when I realized I only had about ½ yd of the charmeuse and that the beaded sleeve I was hoping to incorporate into the dress was entirely unsuited for the shape of the beaded bit on the inspiration dress. I decided to make a dress like my original inspiration someday, but to go back to the beginning for the current dress and rethink what the dress might look like. I would up with something I am quite happy with that is drawn from a variety of inspirational dresses on my 1909-1914 evening gown Pinterest board with this as the most obvious inspiration.

Just the facts:

Fabric: One beaded silk sleeve from a 1980s evening dress that I deconstructed two years ago to make a 1925 evening dress, about ¼ yd of plain weave cotton for the base, less than ¼ yd of silk charmeuse, about 2 yds of silk chiffon, and 3-4 yds of lightweight silk faille for the underskirt.

Pattern: Created by me, loosely starting with the pattern for the bodice of my 1912 burgundy and gold evening gown and referencing skirt shapes in Janet Arnold for inspiration.

Year: 1910.

Notions: Thread, hooks and bars, and two pre-made tassels.

How historically accurate is it?: It definitely passes Leimomi’s test of being recognizable in its own time. It uses accurate materials and accurate techniques. 95%.

Hours to complete: More than I kept count of.

First worn: In September 2015.

Total cost: Technically this is a stash project because all of the things I used have been in my stash for years, except the tassels, which I bought within the last year knowing this project was high on the to do list. If I had to guess at the cost of the materials it was probably $50-$60 dollars.

The dress was sewn with a mixture of machine and hand sewing. Most of the assembly of the bodice and skirt pieces while they were separate was done by machine, as was the hemming of all the chiffon and faille (though the hem edge of the chiffon is actually the selvedge). The hand sewing came in when I went to mount all of the pieces together. I started with the under bodice and kept adding layers and figuring things out as I went. The closures are also hand sewn.

Incidentally, I’m not really sure what color to call this dress. I’ve been calling the colors orchid and mauve, but I’m not really sure those are the best color names. The chiffon and charmeuse are a shade of pinky/purple that’s hard to put a finger on and the contrast faille is more grey than anything when it’s by itself, though it really takes on a pinky/purple cast when paired with these other fabrics. Does any really perfect color name come to your mind? If it does I’d be happy to know what it is!

As I mentioned, the closure for this dress is quite complicated and as I knew I was going to include it in the sewing secrets challenge we took pictures specifically of the closures to document how it works. If I tried to explain only with words I’m sure there would be confusion, so I think the pictures will clarify things. We’ll start hooked up and unhook as we go.

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The back knot snaps into place over the belt, which hooks together at the back. The button for the bustling skirt loop is hidden under the belt in this picture.

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The belt unhooks all the way to center front.

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The chiffon overskirt unhooks from center back to the side.

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Then the front bodice chiffon layer unhooks at the top edge of the beading and at the waist so it peels back toward the side. After that the under bodice unhooks and the dress slides right off. Is that what you thought might be the closure system?

Overall, I’m super pleased with this dress. It’s very comfortable, has lots of fabric in the skirt so is easy to dance in, and is a nice transitional style between the full skirts and pigeon breasts of the years around 1908 and the much slimmer, longer lines of the years around 1912. Plus, it has a train!

Here’s a comparison of the dress with the train down and then with it looped up. Luckily, these pictures were taken before dancing. Turns out that while I was dancing a very fast waltz, either my or my partner’s foot caught the hem of the dress and caused the loop to break, so I’ll have to repair it more sturdily for the next wearing. Ah well, that’s why they make safety pins!

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I was quite pleased with how my hair turned out, so I had to make sure to get a reasonable close-up. Some of the curls are natural and some are made nice and smooth with a curling iron. The key is to put the hair up in a lot of different sections–and I mean a lot!

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I call this dress the “Dowager Countess” gown because the shape of it reminds me of what Maggie Smith’s character in Downton Abbey often wears to dinner parties. Look at the bodices on these dresses: this dress, this dress, and this dress are all examples of a similar style–one that the Dowager Countess wears often! And why wouldn’t I want to be reminded of Maggie Smith when I think of this dress? Her snarky comments are highlights of Downton Abbey! (Incidentally, one of my friends wore the just-emerging-in-the-1910s style of pants in the ballroom to this ball–gasp!–and we took some posed snarky pictures. Head over to her blog, Plaid Petticoats, to take a look at her scandalous outfit. When you get to the bottom you’ll find the snarky pictures. You might even find that you think I’m there twice, because I was wearing this new 1910 dress and I loaned my 1912 evening gown from 2012 to a friend who happens to be being snarky with me.)

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Gallery

Newport Vintage Dance Week Part VII: Glen Manor Continued

This gallery contains 34 photos.

At the very end of my first post about the Ragtime evening event at Glen Manor, I had just shared with you our series of pictures of the “young set” spelling out our most recent acronym: TNG. You’ll have to … Continue reading

Gallery

Newport Vintage Dance Week Part VI: Ragtime Dinner and Ball at Glen Manor

This gallery contains 39 photos.

The next formal event at Newport was a Ragtime Dinner Reception and Formal Ball held at Glen Manor House in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Glen Manor was designed by renowned architect John Russell Pope to resemble the Petit Trianon at Versailles. … Continue reading

Edwardian Gown Eye Candy

This fabulous vintage Edwardian dress was recently brought to my attention by one of you fabulous readers. It is for sale on eBay for $2,250! I certainly won’t be purchasing this original, but I absolutely think it is something to add to my body of inspirational images of clothing for future projects… The seller has included many pictures of the dress as well as background information on the dressmaker and a detailed description of the garment. I have included some of that information in addition to pictures for you to view here in this post.

The lace is exquisite! The rhinestones add even more sparkle! I love that there are pictures which show the closures and construction details. I classify this gown as “drool-worthy.” What do you think? Do you like it? Or not? Why?

Some of the information from the eBay seller, labellevintage_inc:

“This was created by Mrs. Catherine Donovan who was originally from Ireland (b.1826) and studied fashion in Paris. She owned the couture shop “MRS. C. DONOVAN & CO” which was located at 29 East 55th St.in New York. Her dresses in 1910 were billed at $100 and up which was extravagant as a gown from her would cost over $4,000 today!

Many of her garments are found in Museums throughout the world. There are 4 dresses at the Metropolitan Museum of Art alone. But the detailing and workmanship of these garments are worth every penny in my opinion.

FABRIC:
This is made of peach satin (formerly peach silk) and covered in exquisite ivory lace with re-embroidered patterns done with silk thread. The lace gives hints of Orientalism (which was made popular by Paul Poiret ) with its Royal Pavillion shapes on the back panels. The rosette and belt details are done in peach silk.

This enchanting garment features a fitted satin strapless bodice covered with a blouson bodice of lace. The bodice features a low square neckline and the dolman sleeves are short. Both the neckline and arms are decorated with cream glass and gold painted cut steel beads. There is an inner netted bodice which helps with the weight of the dress.

The empire waist is decorated with a ruched sash which is adorned with rhinestones, each individually sewn on a gold lame’ backing in the shape of a buckle.

The straight satin skirt is covered in two tiers of lace at the front. Each tier is decorated with cream glass beads and gold steel cut beads in a chevron shape. The tier is separated with a silk band featuring a large silk rosette. The top tier is adorned with crystal cut glass beads around the hemline.

The back has a surplice detail on the bodice with the silk band closing at the back decorated with more rhinestones.

The lace skirt is made of 3 tiers with one extra panel which attaches to the finger as a drape or can be left hanging as a short train. The top tier and second tier are both decorated with crystal cut glass beads.

This closes with several snaps, hook & eyes and tiny crochet buttons at the back.”

Thank you, Kimberly, for bringing this dress to my attention!

Astorias In Action

As I recently mentioned, my American Duchess Astorias have gained a coat of paint and are now ivory. The buttons have also been moved and now it is time to officially show you how fun they are with feet in them! (By the way, I did include a picture where you could see them on my new portfolio page, which was unveiled before this post… it was a spoiler, though I don’t think it was very noticeable!)

Here’s the spoiler picture.

They’re a little buried in the grass, but here they are!

A close up!

 Super fun! Now I have outdoor shoes to wear with Edwardian clothes!

Back Detail of the 1912 Tea Gown

A few posts ago, while I was sharing pictures of the Titanic Weekend in April, I included images of the front of  my new 1912 black and ivory silk tea gown and mushroom hat. Unfortunately, I didn’t have good pictures of the back of the dress at that time… but now I do, and it is time to post them!

The back of my 1912 tea gown. I like the belt that crosses and swoops up (hard to see, except that the line of beading is interrupted by the belt) and the side back seams that end in pleats (it looks really cool while I’m walking!).

It’s a little hard to see in the first image, but the side back seams make a few intentional right corners before opening in inverted box pleats that help form the train. Here is a close-up of those seams: unfortunately, they pucker a little in the silk charmeuse because I didn’t think to stabilize them before starting to sew and snip corners… Let that be a lesson to you!

Another view of the back seam and pleats.

Here’s a side view, so you can see the front and the back.

And a recap picture of the mushroom hat.

I was able to wear my freshly painted and moved-button Astorias with this dress and others at Dress U recently, but you’ll have to wait to see pictures of the finished shoes–they’ll be coming in another post soon!

Freshly Painted Ivory Astorias

Ivory Astorias, yay!

Yes! My leather painting was successful! My Astorias are now a lovely shade of ivory–hard to notice the difference now that they are painted, but compare the two shoes in the picture below. Can you see the difference? I certainly can. I still need to move the buttons so that the straps do not gap, but half of my plan is complete! Only a few days left for me to do that before I wear them…

Left: Unpainted, the original color
Right: Painted ivory to match the fabric at the bottom of the picture

Getting ready to paint.

How did I go about painting them? Well, as I mentioned in my last post, I bought Angelus Leather Paint in three colors: yellow, white, and champagne. Technically, ivory is a very small amount of yellow diluted with mounds of white, but when I went to order the paint I had a great gut reaction thought that the champagne might make a better ivory than the yellow. It turns out that the yellow was just too strong! I made a little swatch card (so I could find the right shade of ivory, see what the shades looked like when dry, and so I could repeat the color if I needed to mix more paint). I tried the yellow first, and just one drop of yellow in a fair amount of white made a light yellow color, not at all similar to ivory!

Trying to make ivory paint from mixing yellow and white.

So back to paint mixing: I next tried the champagne. I kept adding more drops of the champagne color to the white to see what depth of shade I would want.

Ivory fabric, top left: that’s the color I was aiming for
White toe of the Astoria, bottom left: unpainted
My swatch card, right side: with an arrow at the shade I like

Then on to the painting! The Angelus paint worked wonderfully. I did two coats: a light first coat and then a second coat to blend away all the brush strokes and even out the color. I thought about mixing my paint with a little water, but actually liked the consistency straight out of the bottle. I had no trouble getting smooth looking paint after the two coats I applied.

If you look carefully, you can see that the back of the shoe and the heel have not been painted yet. The front was only just receiving the first coat of paint, so it was not super smooth or opaque yet.

 As I said, the change is not drastic, but it is noticeable. The shoes no longer glare white at me.  Yay! Here’s a final picture of my whole swatch card with the newly painted ivory Astoria!

Freshly painted Astoria, with my swatch card. Champagne ivories on the left and yellow not-quite-there ivories on the right.