Oh, Making Decisions is Hard!

As I mentioned in my look back at 2012 post, one of early 2013’s projects will be to paint and decorate my recently purchased American Duchess Kensingtons.

This link contains an affiliate code, which provides a small benefit to my shoe fund. This does not affect my impressions and reviews of this product.
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Kensingtons, yay! And the buckles came in that cute little bag. Love it!

When I first thought of buying Kensingtons, I was set on painting them yellow, either a lightish shade of yellow or medium yellow, like the images below.

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1775-1785. Colonial Williamsburg.
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Mid-18th Century. Bata Shoe Museum. (Those buckles are so pretty!)

But then I started looking at fashion plates… Some of them had very cute yellow shoes, but there were also some that had pink shoes that caught my eye. I love pink things… so I started thinking about painting the shoes pink.

First, fashion plates with cute pink shoes from the 1770s and 1780s.

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PINK shoes. 1778.
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PINK shoes. Gallerie des Modes, 1778.
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PINK shoes. 1778-1787.
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PINK shoes. Magasin des Modes, June 1787.
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PINK shoes. Magasin des Modes, March 1789.

Second, fashion plates with cute yellow shoes from the 1770s and 1780s.

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YELLOW shoes. c. 1776.
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YELLOW shoes. c. 1776.
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YELLOW shoes. Gallerie des Modes, 1779.
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YELLOW shoes. Magasin des Modes, April 1787.

Then I went back to looking at extant shoes and thought “perhaps two-tone shoes?” Either yellow with pink accents or pink with yellow accents… perhaps like the ones below? Here’s a fashion plate showing two-tone shoes, and there are more extant examples a little farther down in the post.

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Two-tone pink shoes. The Dress of the Year 1775 by Ann Frankland Lewis.

Another thing, I’ve noticed that many of the extant shoes I see are cloth, not leather. Well, the Kensingtons are leather, so that’s what I’ve got to work with (and I like it in a way, because the shoes will be much more durable). So then I started thinking about what I need to do to capture the 18th century in leather shoes that already have the right 18th century shape. I took a close look at the details in these next photos and analyzed what I saw.

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Light blue satin shoes with silver braid. c. 1770. The Charleston Museum. STUNNING!
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Silk. 1770s. Met.
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Silk and leather. 1770-1789. Met.
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Silk and leather. c. 1775-1785. Shoe Icons.
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Silk. 1780s. Met.

If that isn’t enough examples, you can see more on my pinterest board: Shoes: 1770-1789. The details that strike me are: the binding around the ankle opening and latchets (often in a contrasting color) and the 3D quality of the trim and fabric of the shoes… the decorations are not simply painted on, but sewn on. That’s hard with leather, but glue is a good alternative to stitching.

I’ve seen other styles of painted and decorated historic shoes on my costuming friends. And at American Duchess, Lauren has done multiple posts and tutorials about 18th century shoes that she has painted and decorated.

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Two-tone painted and bound Devonshires, from American Duchess.
pretty pink princess shoes (11 of 13)
Two-tone painted and bound Devonshires, from American Duchess.

What materials to use for decorations? Lauren used what looks like cotton bias tape, and on later Regency shoes narrow grosgrain which comes in a wide variety of colors. But the extant shoes look like they are bound with silk, so that’s what I’m going to aim for.

“What will I wear these shoes with?” is an important question I asked myself. “Well, everything I own from the 18th century until I buy another pair of 18th century shoes,” I answered. In the works right now are a taupey-brown silk petticoat, blue wool petticoat, Waverly mineral felicite jacket, and creamy quilted petticoat (you can see most of these fabrics in this previous post). In the future, I’m inspired by a purple and yellow color combination, as well as green and pinkish/red (these colors all in the fashion plates above!).

I’ve been ruminating over this decision for months so I make a choice I’m really happy with. I had all these options to think about: pink, yellow, both… It was tough. But I finally made a decision to go simple: yellow with champagne silk binding and champagne heels (saving pink for later, or removable ribbons, or other accessories). The latchets might also get pained champagne, I’m undecided on that point. Do you have thoughts about that? (More opinions is always better in these situations, you know!) I’ve got the paint from my Astorias, so that was easy… and the silk ribbon has been ordered! More to come soon!

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Project Journal: 1822-1824 Ensemble Part VI: Muff and Tippet

One thing I actually did finish for the recent ball was the muff and tippet. For visual reference, the picture below shows the garments I’m discussing.

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1822 walking dress with muff and tippet (and a bit of the 1824 ball gown peeking out).

What is tippet, exactly? Merriam-Webster defines it, thus:

1: a long hanging end of cloth attached to a sleeve, cap, or hood
2: a shoulder cape of fur or cloth often with hanging ends

 

So, how did I make my tippet? First, I cut a piece of high loft polyester batting the length and width that I wanted. (I know they didn’t have poly batting  in the 19th century… but it’s super warm and sometimes just worth it!) Then I cut a piece of my faux fur that was double the width of the batting plus an extra 3/4″ or so on each side as well as about 1″ longer on each end. I centered the batting on the wrong side of the fur, wrapped the fur around to the back, turned one edge under, and pinned. The ends of the fur I just turned up and under the other pinned bits. Then I whip stitched that folded edge down using pretty large stitches. The stitches disappeared in the fur… and voila, tippet! Too bad I didn’t take pictures of the construction!

The muff was slightly more tricky, not because of construction details, but because I agonized over what color lining to use! (To construct the muff, I made two tubes, one out of fur and one out of silk lining. I stitched one end of each tube to the other, turned the whole thing right sides out, inserted a tube of poly batting (warm!), pulled the lining through the middle, and pinned the open side of the fur to the silk, with the fur edge turned under. Then I simply whip stitched it like I did the tippet.

But before I could make the muff, I had to pick the lining color! Did I want it to match my walking dress trim (and be lavender?) Did I want to pick a color from a fashion plate? What colors were used in fashion plates? So many questions! I determined that of the muff linings I could see in fashion plates from that general period, there were three recurring colors: pink, blue, and white. Here’s what I came up with, image-wise:

PINK

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January 1823 Walking Dress. La Belle Assemblee.
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December 1822 Promenade Dress. Ackerman’s Repository.
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January 1826 Promenade Dress. Ackerman’s Repository.

BLUE

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March 1823 Walking Dress. Ackerman’s Repository.
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December 1825 Carriage Dress. Lady’s Magazine.

WHITE

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1825 Promenade Dress.
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1829 Walking Dress. Ackerman’s Repository.

UNKNOWN/OTHER

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c. 1810 Redingote (and muff!). KCI. (Also a tippet, though they call it a “palantine”: which M-W defines as a fur cape or stole covering the neck and shoulders.)
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November 1814. La Belle Assemblee.
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November 1817 Walking Dress. Ackerman’s Repository.
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1823 Carriage Dress

So pink came in with 3, blue and white tied with 2 each, and then there were an assortment of unknown/other. But I didn’t like the idea of pink with my dark pinkish wool (you can see what that would look like in the December 1822 fashion plate: that’s the inspiration for my walking dress), so I settled for the light blue, which I think is delicate and softly Regency. Also, I had just a small amount of that color silk, and it’s a color that doesn’t really complement my skin, so I wasn’t likely to use it for a bonnet or something similar… but with a muff most of my skin is hidden! You can see the predominance of white fur for the muffs in these fashion plates (one of the reasons I chose white fur for the muff and tippet). There are brown, too, but a lot of white! 7 out of the 11 I included are white. Well, there you go. That’s my rationale for the muff and tippet.

All of these images are on my Pinterest pages with lots of other beautiful garments. Specifically, these are on the 1810s Inspiration1820-1824 Inspiration, and 1825-1829 Inspiration pages.

Project Journal: 1822-1824 Ensemble Part III: Green Dress Hem Appliqués

Well, I’ve got the green silk ball gown sewn together. That’s good, because the ball is fast approaching. There’s only a week to go! Eep!!! I’ve finished the padded hem, but I still need to have someone mark center back for me so I can put closures on. And I haven’t set the neckline yet, either, because I’m waiting to see how it looks with the back actually closed… So far every time I’ve tried it on the back has just been hanging open, because I can’t actually reach that part of my back by myself. Never fear, though, I’ll be seeing friends this weekend who can help with marking the back for me! Yay!

You’ll remember from my overview of this early 1820s ensemble that the fashion plate below is my inspiration for this gown.

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May 1824. Ackerman’s Repository.

I’ve been furiously hand sewing, working on the skirt appliqués on the ball gown. These are my first priority. In part this is because they’re already started (and it would look silly to have only a fraction of them done) and in part this is because the hem decoration is pretty essential for 1820s dresses. This is how I’m making the appliqués.

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After cutting out literally hundreds of pieces… I pin the blue canvas bases to the silk of the gown. The pinning allows me to make sure everything is symmetrical before sewing the bases down. Once I’m satisfied, I baste the bases to the silk, leaving 1/4″ around all the edges unsewn, so I can tuck seam allowance under later.
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Whew! Finished basting that repeat of the pattern. The blue canvas is tightly woven and hardly frays, even at the points and in the curves! And even after being manipulated and folded while I’m basting all the pieces down, which is important because it keeps the shape accurate for the layers that go over the base.
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The next step is to take the two top layers (a layer of the green silk and a layer of white silk organza) and sew them over the base. The base provides sturdy edges so that I keep all those nice curves when turning under my seam allowance. This piece is just about done, except for the last corner. I used the technique in this great quilting appliqué blog post to make my sharp corners as sharp as possible.
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And here’s what the motif looks like when all the bases are covered! The silk organza is pretty tricky for making sharp points, so I think these turned out pretty well! The motifs are still missing their center sections. I’m focusing on all the pointy bits first. Right now I’ve got 3 out of 7 motifs done.
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This is what the inside of the skirt looks like after the appliquéing is finished. It’s kind of neat, I think, to see the relief of the front shapes.
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Most recently, I’ve just finished basting on the bases where they meet at the back. You can see in this picture there was only one more motif to go!

Right now the motifs really remind me of pineapples, a common motif in appliqué quilts (as a quilter as well, I appreciate the overlap between related interests). I’m sure once the centers are added they will look more like flowers and much more like the fashion plate. Each motif is 11″ tall and the repeat is 12″.

As I continue to sew these, I’m thinking about the sleeve appliqués. Currently, I’m stumped. I was going to sew my motifs on in the same way as the skirt, but I also made my sleeves pretty gathered… so I’m not sure how to nicely hide my seam allowances while also keeping the gathers looking un-squashed. I want the sleeve appliqués to sort of float on the gathered sleeves… I’m still brainstorming on how to make that happen. Perhaps I’ll stitch the seam allowance to the back of the base and then hope that the gathers mean you won’t see the base past the 1/4″ seam allowance that gets turned? If you have ideas, I’d love to hear them!

Project Journal: 1822-1824 Ensemble Part I: Overview

Well, as you recently read, I have a 9 month sewing plan to get me through May of 2013. It’s not set in stone (which means that mostly I keep adding to it, not taking things away…), but it gives me a great overview of what I need to accomplish and by what month. Deadlines really help in getting things completed!

The first major portion of the sewing plan is an ensemble of clothing from about the year 1823. I’ve been doing lots of looking at fashion plates and extant clothing from the early 1820s, in books and online. Here’s a link to my pinterest board: 1820-1824. I had so many pins in the 1820-1829 board that I had to separate the decade, so I also have a separate pin board of 1825-1829.

The 9 month plan includes the following pieces: petticoat, ball gown, walking dress, muff, bonnet, and chemisette. I’ve added one more thing since the plan was created: a tippet to match the muff! Before I explain why I want these items (ie, where I plan to wear them!), let’s look at my inspiration for the items themselves!

Petticoat. Manchester City Galleries. (I’m making a petticoat out of white cotton. It is entirely hand sewn.)
Actually a Dinner Dress (but I’ll use it as a ball gown). Ackerman’s Repository. May 1824. (I guess I lied about the year… I’ve been looking at the images so much I haven’t even glanced at the date in ages! Anyway… I’m making this in apple green silk with hand sewn silk organza appliqués.)
Promenade Dress. Ackerman’s Repository. December 1822. (I am making this out of deep, rich pinkish burgundy wool with hand sewn lavender silk trim.) This is also my inspiration for the tippet. (I’m making the tippet out of white faux fur.)
Walking Dress. Ackerman’s Repository. March 1823. (I think this is where I got the year 1823 from… This is another influence on my walking dress design, especially at the collar.) This is also my inspiration for my muff. (The muff will be the same fur as the tippet, lined with pale blue silk shantung.)
Bonnet. C. 1820. The Met. (I plan to make this in lavender to match the walking dress.)
Chemisette. c. 1810-1825. Snowshill Collection. (Yes, this is one of the ones in Janet Arnold. I plan to make this out of lightweight cotton and use my fluting iron! However, I have to say that if one thing in my December-to-do doesn’t make the cut, this would be it. I really want to take my time on this and play with my fluting iron, and I’m not sure I’ll have the time on this one…)

What is all of this for, you ask? I plan to wear the whole ensemble in December when I attend Fezziwig’s Ball, a 19th century ball hosted by the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers in Salem, MA. Since it’s a ball, I’m sure you understand why the petticoat and ball gown are required! But why the outerwear? Before the ball begins, ball-goers have the opportunity to go caroling around the streets! It’s really fun, and usually pretty cold. I need to stay warm, hence the wool walking dress, tippet, and muff. The chemisette is to fill in the collar of the walking dress, and the bonnet is really icing on the cake to help pull the whole ensemble together! As an added bonus, later this winter my friends and I hope to go ice skating in 19th century dress, so this will also be my ice skating outfit!

“Vintage in Vogue” Finds

In August for each of the last eight years, I have been blessed to be able to enjoy an annual trip to Cape Cod. By this point the trip feels just like going home: I know the places I like to go, that I like to eat (and they recognize me, even though I’m only there one week out of the year!), that I like to shop… and I only deviate from these things when I want something new–a sense of adventure.

Well, a few years ago I was encouraged to visit a new store, which I did, and since then I have returned on every visit to the Cape. What store, you ask? Vintage In Vogue. This unique vintage clothing store is run by the wonderfully passionate Maureen Leavenworth. Truly, Vintage In Vogue is a unique vintage store. Maureen really cares about the stories behind the items for sale and she takes the time to share those stories with you when you are interested in an object.

The store is full of fun things like shoes, hats, jewelry, furs, patterns, fashion plates, and of course, dresses. There are some pieces from the 19th century, as well as many items from the 20th century. There is also has a whole area devoted to vintage wedding gowns and accessories. This year as I was poking around looking at the fun things… I found a few things I decided to take home with me.

First, a 1950s vintage Vogue pattern!

Useful for when I find time to make a Mad Men inspired dress. The ruching on the shoulders is an interesting detail in this pattern.
Back of the pattern envelope.

Then, a fur collar, separate from any garment that it once adorned.

I have a vision of turning the collar into a fur trimmed 1860s hat one day.

And, lastly, a framed fashion plate from 1894!

“La Bon Ton Et Le Moniteur De La Mode United” Published by S. T. Taylor Co., New York, October 1894.
A close up of the fashionable lady.
And of the back view of her dress.

I was very pleased with my finds. The pattern and fur collar have been put on the far back burner, but the 1894 lady enjoys a place of prominence on top of my dresser. I  know that doesn’t sound very glamorous, but she has a light above her that I can turn on so it looks like she’s in a spot light, and she’s in a place where I see her every day as I’m getting dressed. It’s kind of perfect for me and my interests, actually, to see an image like this each morning.

Titanic Weekend Part II: All About The New 1912 Day Ensemble

We took a rather in-depth look at my new 1912 evening gown. Now, on to the second 1912 ensemble that I also wore during the weekend: day gown and hat!

Gown and hat with (unbuttoned...) white kid opera gloves. I'm so pleased with the overall effect! Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of the back. There are cool details back there, so another fashion shoot will be required in the future...

This gown is constructed from silk charmeuse. The skirt is a single layer in addition to the overskirt panel in front. The bodice has a foundation of the same white cotton as my new evening gown. Mounted on to that cotton are (from the neck down) layers of ivory silk charmeuse, ivory silk flat lined with fabulous ivory colored diamond lace, black silk velvet, and black silk charmeuse. The overskirt panel is trimmed with matching silk velvet and the belt is constructed of the same. There are small buttons on the overskirt velvet trim (because, really, the Edwardians just loved adding buttons everywhere!). Because the back bodice mirrors the front in its style (which unfortunately I don’t have a picture of right now…), I had to be crafty with my closures. The dress has two places that open with hooks and bars: the left side from just under the arm to a few inches down the hip and the left shoulder seam around the neck to the center back of the collar. The effect is a form fitting dress that looks like it was magically donned. The side closure is straight forward, with the foundation layer hooking first, to take the tension of holding the dress tight, and the outer charmeuse layer hooking over that simply to stay closed. Again, the foundation is essential to achieving the elegant, effortless exterior. The neck closure is a series of hook and bars that turn different directions to accommodate the seams: front to back at the shoulder, hooks that hook up on the collar to attach it to the back neck, and hooks going sideways on the center back of the collar.

In addition to the gown, I also constructed what I call the “mushroom” hat, which you can read more about in this previous post. I created the pattern for the hat, which is basically just a shaped brim with circular side band. The side band support the crown, which is a circle that is pleated to create that “mushroom” shape. I love the hat! It lends such an air of Edwardian drama and elegance to the look! And I am so pleased the the “mushroom” shape worked out!

Hm… Patterning this dress… Well, the general skirt shape is from Janet Arnold, but it is adapted to have two symmetrical box pleats that terminate at the top in delightfully detailed seams (which I really, really need pictures of!). The bodice pattern was draped with many references to my inspiration image. I created a basic shape for the bodice and then cut in into the different pieces (ivory silk, ivory silk and lace, black velvet, and black charmeuse) so that each piece would fit together perfectly. The belt is slightly shaped but doesn’t actually have a pattern.

The dress is inspired by this image from a 1910 issue of the magazine Bon Ton.

I'm sure you can guess, but the dress I was referring to is the one on the right.

In the end I made a few changes: I added a train, discarded the white under sleeves (I made them, I tried them, and they just didn’t work! They pulled the bodice in all sorts of weird ways… Maybe if the were not so tight they wouldn’t pull so much? I am fine with having gloves cover my lower arms, anyway.), and drastically scaled back the beading. Perhaps you’ll remember my plan to bead this dress? Well, the beading was drastically scaled back because I didn’t like the beads I bought as much as I thought I would (they are rectangular and larger than I thought… not seed bead-y at all), I realized I didn’t want to devote as much time as it would take to do the amount of beading I originally intended, I didn’t have enough beads to bead all four panels as much as the one panel I completed and I didn’t want to buy more beads, and I didn’t like the beading motif I had created, nor was I inspired to change it. You can see that I did leave one outline shape of beading on the bodice in the velvet section, but the rest was scrapped. That one line is repeated front and back (symmetry, you know). I did actually complete the overskirt top panel, but decided not to use it after my scaling back plan was complete (you can see it, below). I’m going to keep the beaded panel and see if it finds its way onto another project one day… I would still love to do intense beading on a garment, but I’ll have to pick a different one, because it wasn’t measuring up to my expectations for this dress.

Scrapped beaded panel. A mix of silvery and black beads. I started in the center with the somewhat wonky lines, can you see improvement? I think it would have been distracting from the dress to have four panels like this.

Project Journal: 1815-1820 Regency Ensemble Part VI: Updating the Gown

Original construction

I have decided to remake my ivory 1819 cotton gown for an upcoming Regency ball. Originally, my plan was to add trim to the dress as it currently exists, but I realized there were many things about the dress I wanted to change: with my new late Regency corset the neckline tended to sit away from my body in front, the back closure was too tight for comfort, the bust line in front was so high that it was very hard to get it to sit below my bust, the sleeve openings were uncomfortably tight, the sleeves weren’t puffed enough, I wanted to separate all the petticoat layers to be individual layers rather than petticoats built into the dress, and I wanted to add ruffles to the skirt  to really bring it up to the years just before the 1820s. Indeed, the things I wanted to change were so numerous that I decided to just remake the dress!

In the end, the only thing that I decided to keep the same is the skirt base fabric… Using just one additional yard of the original fabric, I plan to complete the following changes: constructing an entirely new bodice with ruffled trimming, creating entirely new puffed sleeves with a cute v-shaped detail, making stand alone petticoats out of the original built in petticoats, and adding bias ruffles to the skirt.

From Ackermann's Repository 1822

My dress is from the period just before the 1820s and I felt that I needed to go more in an 1820s direction with the new trimming and adornment. The main feature of trimming in the 1820s is wide sections of trimmings on the skirt, in combination with corresponding trim across the bodice and sleeves. Thus, there two horizontal lines of interest with a simple, unadorned mid-section (as in the fashion plate on the left, from 1822).

Before I had decided to make so many changes, my original intention was to simply add ruffles to the bottom hem, along the lines of the dress (below) from the Kyoto Costume Institute.

c. 1820 Silk Day Dress (Kyoto Costume Institute)
Ribbon trim on 1819 dress before the remake

However, as I thought about it I realized that the ruffle style (above) just would not have a corresponding look to the current zig zag ribbon trim on the dress bodice (right). Those two styles did not make sense on one dress.

The logical step was to change the trim on the bodice. But remember that I had other complaints about the bodice as well… So came the decision to remake the bodice. But how to trim it to correspond with the ruffles on the skirt? I was not at all interested in the bodice trimming on the Kyoto dress for my dress, because the fabric doesn’t lend itself to that look. Well, I started researching trimming from the late 18-teens to see if I would be inspired. The image below is one of my favorites that didn’t make the cut, and there are more on my 1819 dress trimming ideas Pinterest board (thank you to Lauren, at American Duchess, for linking to her Pinterest board in a post and sparking my interest in this fabulous organization tool).

From Ackermann's Repository 1819

Many of my Pinterest images come from the same place: the blog “My Fanciful Muse” by EK Duncan. She has a series of posts that contain text and fashion plates from Ackermann’s Repository beginning in 1808 and going through 1828! Here is the link for the post on 1828: if you scroll to the bottom you will see a list of links to all of the previous years. It is absolutely fabulous! If you haven’t seen this yet you MUST visit! (Thank you for sharing, Evelyn!)

In the end, I decided on a combination of the two dresses in the image below: the ruffles on the skirt of the dress on the right (for some reason I really like the idea of ruffles on my skirt!) and the bodice of the dress on the left. The repeated use of ruffles on the skirt and bodice will produce the corresponding style I am aiming for. The sleeves will be a style from the first few pages of the first half of the 19th century Janet Arnold pattern book: a puffed sleeve with a triangular inset coming from the shoulder. I’ve wanted to use that sleeve style for months and now I finally have a way to use it that makes sense!

1820 illustration from Cunnington's English Women's Clothing in the Nineteenth Century (the illustration is based off of contemporary fashion plates)