I’ve been meaning to post about my new 1893 ball gown since Newport Vintage Dance Week back in August… Well, I’m slow about getting it done, but but this is going to be a post with mounds of great detail, so I think the wait was worth it!
This gown is constructed of bronze shot silk shantung with pale pink slightly slubby silk satin. It is flat lined throughout with ivory waxed cotton. It is stabilized with cotton canvas at the hem and in the waistband. The bodice is trimmed with ivory net and bits of metallic bronze/gold net that have sequin motifs on it (in fact, it’s the same metallic net as the top sleeve section of my 1912 burgundy silk evening gown, which I also wore at Newport). The sash is trimmed with the metallic bronze/gold net. The sleeves have layers of ivory tulle inside them to help maintain the full shape.
I wore this dress with a combination, a corset, a slight bum pad, two petticoats (one silk, one cotton), stockings, and shoes. Exterior accessories include cotton/poly elbow length white gloves (I have lovely leather ones that come up above the elbow, but they are getting soiled from being worn while dancing with men who are not wearing gloves (breech of decorum on their part!), so I chose not to wear those to this ball); my handy Battenburg lace fan; my faux pearl drop earrings; a long strand of faux pearls (originally bought to be worn with my 1928 green silk evening gown); a nice bling-y necklace borrowed from a friend for the evening; and my fabulous almost-Victorian tiara from eBay!
My tiara shares a general design with the Lover’s Knot Tiara, below. Both tiaras have round elements connected by jeweled arches above a second row of round elements, both rows of which are surmounted by tear shaped pearl elements which are set above a final row of further round shaped elements around the base. Additionally, in both tiaras there is a high point in the center which then diminishes toward each side. Obviously, the two are not exactly the same, but I think they’re similar. Of course, wearing mine for an 1893 look is slightly earlier than the given date of the Lover’s Knot Tiara, which is c. 1913. But isn’t that excusable, when the tiara looked so wonderful with my dress and accessories? There’s a closeup of my tiara below so you can compare.
Lover’s Knot Tiara by Garrard c.1913.
My eBay tiara.
It took a bit of work to come up with a hair style I liked that also worked with the tiara, I can tell you. I wanted to have a puff of hair not directly behind the tiara, but close enough that it would provide a dark background for the tiara to stand out from. Unfortunately, I don’t have any great pictures of my hair. Oh well! It also took A LOT of bobby pins to secure the tiara. I think I used about 20 for the tiara alone. I put one between each of the base pearls, then another to cross the first one. I also secured the ends of the tiara with extra pins. It was really stable and didn’t move at all during the entire night, so that part was successful!
Here’s a closeup of the jewelry.
In the picture above you can see the jewelry better. You can also see the one major flaw in this dress. The wide neckline wasn’t shaped quite right, so the sleeves started slipping off my shoulders, making the sleeves look slightly less impressive. This is one of those things that was perfectly fine in all my fittings. It’s during those pesky balls, when you move and sweat, that you really discover the flaws in your clothes! I’ll have to do something about that before I wear the dress again.
A full length view. This was the end of the night, and the end of the week, so that’s why I look tired.
A full length back view. Again, you can see how the sleeves just didn’t want to stay on my shoulders.
Now on to the specifics of patterning. The bodice (and especially the sleeves) of this dress are from Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 2, as is the skirt. The decorative sash and bodice trim were inspired by an image in Norah Waugh’s The Cut of Women’s Clothes. I looked at many images that had similar sashes with bows, so I’m sure I was influenced by those as well.
The next thing to discuss is the construction of the dress. It is in two pieces: a plain bronze silk skirt and a decorative bronze and pink silk bodice. The wonderful thing about this arrangement is that I can make other bodices to go with the skirt (I’ve got extra bronze and pink silk). For example, I plan to one day make a day bodice to go with the same skirt. Since the skirt takes the biggest bulk of fabric, this is an economical and practical plan in addition to adding to my wardrobe!
I’ve got some great closeup pictures of the bodice construction, but I didn’t take any close up pictures of the skirt, come to think of it. Honestly, though, it’s not as interesting. The skirt is gathered in back and set into a waistband which closes at the back with hooks. There is a placket opening that is hidden in the gathers. The entire skirt is flat lined with ivory cotton. In addition, the hem has a 12″ band of bias cut canvas tacked between the silk and cotton. The canvas helps the skirt form those wide folds at the hem as well as providing a certain weight and gravity to the lightweight silk. Finally, it also helps provide a clean sharp edge over which to turn the hem. For the hem, the bronze silk is folded to the inside over the canvas, turned again, and stitched to the cotton lining. The hem is about 1/4″.
The bodice, by itself. As you can see, the sash is a part of the bodice.
Here is the net applique on the sash ends. The net is great because it doesn’t fray, so I simply had to cut out the motif I wanted and then stitch it around all the edges to the sash. The sash is a tube of bias finished at an angle on the ends with a slip stitch.
A closup of the shoulder and top of the sleeve. You can see the ivory net trim around the neck of the bodice, which terminates in those cute bows on the shoulder. The bronze part of the sleeves are rectangles that are knife pleated radially at the shoulder, which you can see in this photo. And finally, you can see the gold net applique which is stitched over the ivory net around the neck opening.
Then comes the question, where are the closures on this bodice? Well, the sash is stitched to the bodice from the right side front around the left side to center back. Then the bodice opens up center back.
To keep the sash in place around the right side, there are three hooks that correspond to thread loops on the bodice. This keeps the sash in place. You can see the canvas backing of the sash in this picture.
One of the thread loops on the bodice that holds the sash in place.
The center back closure is hooks and thread loops. I like thread loops better than the metal eyes or loops because you can’t see them when the bodice is pulled tight, like you can with the metal. You can see that I added a placket that extends farther than the loops just in case something pops open.
The inside of the bodice. I LOVE to make the insides of garments pretty, and I think this is one of my finest examples! Aside from the fact that it is modern materials, it looks just like an extant garment from the 19th century. The bodice is boned up center front, the front darts (which create a V-shape on either side of center front), the side seams, and each of the four side back seams. The neck and hem are finished off with self fabric bias with is then nicely whip stitched to the cotton flat lining. The armholes are bound with self bias. Then there is also a waistband, to help alleviate the tension on the center back closure. This waistband is cross stitched to each boning channel and closes with hooks and eyes.
The right side of the bodice. You can see the bias bindings, the boning channels, cross stitched waistband, and hooks. Oh, and I just noticed that I also finished the exposed seam allowances by turning them back on themselves and whip stitching. (The seam allowances under the boning channels are trimmed and left raw.)
Center front. The boning channels were whip stitched to the cotton lining along the sides. It was a bit of a logistal problem to determine how to nicely bind off the edges of the bodice with bias, since there is a sash part of the way around. You can see that there is a separate piece of bias covering the join between the sash and the bodice from the right side where the sash opens.
The left side. On the waistband I did use the metal bars instead of thread loops, since I knew they wouldn’t be seen from the outside. You can also see how the sash was attached. It was flipped up and topstitched to the bodice (avoiding bones!), then flipped down to cover the raw edges and joined to the bottom of the bodice with bias.
The interior of the pink under sleeve. The silk is gathered into a cotton lining. Of course, you can’t see up into the sleeve when there is an arm in it!
It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, to have such a beautifully finished bodice. And I felt like such a princess at the 1890s Soiree, to be wearing an all silk dress with silk petticoat and a fabulous tiara!