Project Journal: 1863 Apricot Evening Gown Part I: The Plan

It’s been a few years (three, I think) since I made a new mid-19th century evening gown. I have three evening gowns from this era that currently fit and they are kept constant rotation at events each year. It’s nice to change it up and have different dresses to wear, so I’ve decided I want a new dress!

My goal is to keep the cost down on the new dress, so I went through my stash binder to look for fabrics I already own that would work for this project. I also went through my inspiration for dresses from this period, settling on a lace trimmed dress in an illustration on page 208 of Cunnington’s English Women’s Clothing in the Nineteenth Century.

It’s the dress on the right that I like, the one ‘Of white tarletan; double skirts flounced with black lace’. However, I’ve decided to make my dress in apricot colored silk. This is due in part to the fact I had yardage enough of apricot silk in my stash, but I think the idea was also influenced by the description of the dress in the center of the illustration. I think I had apricot on the brain!

The apricot silk was purchased in 2016 with no particular project in mind except the general idea of being a historical dress. It has slubs and is definitely a shantung and not a taffeta. That’s not great for historical garments for many periods, but there are a few points in its favor.
a) it was already in the stash in enough yardage for this project
b) the multiple bands of trim on the skirt and generous bertha will distract from the slubs
c) it’s a color of dress that I don’t have too much of and that I don’t have any of in this time period

That explains the color choice, but I’m not planning for my dress to have a double skirt. To me, it looks like the white tarletan dress is drawn in a way that looks like a single skirt with lace trim applied at multiple heights rather than a double skirt. This type of applied skirt trim around the entire circumference of the skirt is common in the first few years of the 1860s, so I’m going with idea. I’ll share more about my skirt trim inspiration that when I get to that point in the process.

For now, if we were to describe my dress in Cunnington’s style, it would be ‘Of apricot silk with cream lace and red silk velvet bows’. There might be some tulle mixed into the bertha as well, we’ll see when we get there. Here are my fabrics, with a stand-in lace (I estimate needing around 35 yards of lace for this dress–not a quantity that was already in my stash–so that was the one section of the project that needed to be purchased).

Plan? Check. Fabric? Check. Next step, a pattern. That’s where we’ll start in the next post in this series.

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1926 Silver Robe de Style Second Styling

Today I have a new dress adventure to share with you: the second wearing of my 1926 Silver Lace Robe de Style to a Gatsby Ball in January. The last time I wore this dress was last August, so it was fun to bring it out again. I thought it fit in nicely with the idea of blue and silver for the new year, even though it wasn’t technically a new year themed event.

The robe de style dress was popularized during the 1920s particularly by the designer Lanvin. This alternative to the popular straight silhouette dresses of the 1920s is characterized by a dropped waist with wide skirts. Many of these dresses have panniers in them that are borrowed from the style of 18th century court dresses. Here is a little more information about the robe de style from the FIDM museum if you’d like to read more.

I have another more dramatic robe de style already, so this lace one is more of a nod to the robe de style, with softly gathered sections at the hips and no panniers or other understructure.

(My 1924 Golden Robe de Style is the more dramatic one. I made that dress in 2015 and posted about the construction of it this past post. Since then I have updated the trim on it to be much better suited to the dress. You can see the new trimming in these two past posts: in 2016 and in 2017.)

Last August I wore this dress with silver accessories: silver American Duchess Seaburys and silver hairpins. This time I decided to try my black Seaburys with silver rhinestone shoe clips, an ostrich feather/rhinestone hairpin (this is the same decoration I had in my hair for my 2016 Versailles look–how fitting to wear it again with a dress that has a nod to the shape of the gown I wore that night!), and my newly made black velvet handbag. It’s a bit hard to see the handbag in these photos, but if you look for it you can spot it in one hand or the other in most photos. Trying to show it off and not look ridiculous was a bit of a challenge.

(As a another side note, that same hairpin works really well for the 1890s, too! Who knew it could so easily shift between not only decades, but centuries!)

While packing and getting dressed, I couldn’t decide which dress to wear to the ball: this silver robe de style or my 1927 Blush Sparkle Dress. I brought both of them with me to the event and only made a decision when I realized that a friend hadn’t brought a sparkly dress to wear. (Never fear, she had a dress, just not a sparkly one!) The fabulous architecture of the The Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel really called for some sparkle, so I wore the robe de style and loaned her the blush sparkle dress. It was fun to see it sparkling around the ballroom!

Showing off two different styles of 1920s dresses. Blush Sparkle on the left and Silver Robe de Style on the right. It’s hard to lounge and not look silly. This was one of the best we got!

After the second wearing, I am still pleased with this dress. It’s fun to dance in and a bit unusual in style: qualities that suit me perfectly.

I think I like this dramatic black and ostrich styling best so far. Do you have a preference between the first styling with silver accessories and this second wearing?

 

1926 Silver Lace Robe de Style

One of my summer sewing projects was a new 1920s robe de style. (And yes, I am clearly delayed in posting about it!) I already have one (my 1924 Golden Robe de Style) but I stumbled across a lovely lace at Joann Fabrics in the spring that called to join my wardrobe as a second dress in this category. I attend enough 1920s evening events that I can never seem to have enough dresses. Doesn’t that sound grand written out? I actually do have plenty of dresses, but it’s nice to have variety and cycle through different styles, types of fabrics, weights, etc.

I’ve enjoyed wearing my first robe de style and wanted to try another one with different characteristics. The 1924 golden one is made of silk taffeta and has an ankle length skirt, but I wanted this one to be much lighter weight and shorter in length. I also wanted a different neckline. After looking through my Robe de Style Pinterest board for inspiration I settled on this dress, a Boué Soeurs robe de style from fall/winter 1925-6. This is where my date of 1926 for my new robe de style comes from.

Obviously the lace is not opaque so as with the original dress I needed a lining. I settled on the icy blue because it was from my stash. (You’ve seen this fabric before, in my 1899 evening gown.) It was great to use a stash fabric for cost saving and stash-diminishing purposes as well as the fact that the colors coordinate. And, I was able to accessorize with a large flower pin in a very similar color that has been in my stash since before I had a fabric stash! Isn’t it wonderful to find good homes for odds and ends like this?

In addition to the flower pin, I also wore my extra long strand of faux pearls, my American Duchess silver Seabury shoes, and vintage silver hair pins. Oh, and earrings. But I can’t remember which ones and I can’t tell from the photos which pair they are. I’ll have to figure that out again next time I wear this dress!

The pattern for this dress is me-made, composed of mostly rectangular shapes based on my measurements. The body of the lining is basically an upside down T shape, where the sides are gathered into a slit that extends into the main body on each side by a few inches. (You can see what I’m talking about in the photo below.) The lining has a straight top edge with rectanglur straps attached. The hem angles down slightly on the sides intentionally. I still wanted an uneven hem as with my 1924 dress, but I wanted a less dramatic difference than with that dress.

The lace layer was a little more complicated. I wanted an uneven hem to match the lining, but I also wanted to keep the hem following the scallops across the fabric. So… I had to keep my hem straight. That means I had to make the tops of the sides curve up since the bottom couldn’t curve down, but that meant I couldn’t cut my lace layers as a T, because the curve up would cut into the sides of the dress.

My solution was to add a seam across the lace pieces at the height of the gathers. To do this I perfectly matched the scallops, carefully layered and stitched them with a narrow zig zag, and then trimmed away the excess fabric to make the seam almost entirely invisible. Can you spot it in this photo?

I also had to trim away the ‘eyelash’ bits left over after cutting along the scalloped pattern along the hem. This photo shows that step in progress. A bit tedious, but worth it!

Unlike the lining with its straight top edge, the lace has a v neck on one side and a scoop on the other. This layer is interchangeable in terms of which is front and back, since they’re the same with no special shaping. The edges of the lining are finished by machine while the neckline and the armholes of the lace are narrow hemmed by hand.

This new dress can be worn with or without panniers, but for the first wearing I went without in order to make the full skirt more subtle and to differentiate the dress from my 1924 Golden Robe de Style (which needs to be worn with panniers).

While this dress could be worn at any time of year, I am particularly enchanted with the idea of it being perfectly suited to a 1920s New Year party. The colors and silver lace seem well suited to that theme.

And on that note, in case I don’t get another post in before 2019… happy new year!

1925 Lace Cloche

I knew I wanted a cloche to go with my 1925 Blue Coral Dress from early on in the process of making it. It was going to be hot when I wore the dress, so I knew I wanted something that would both look and feel lightweight. Turns out any hat was warmer than a bare head (well, one with hair on it!), but that being said, I think this was on the right track with a lightweight hat.

I considered making the cloche from fabric, but couldn’t decide on a style with seams that I liked. However, as I was browsing my Pinterest board, my eyes kept settling on straw, horsehair, and lace hats. It seemed like that was the way to go.

I didn’t have any particular materials on hand or in mind for that type of hat but I had come across a modern cotton lace cloche on Amazon for $14 that seemed like a good starting point. It’s no longer available, but I’m sure a careful search could find something similar. To the right is what it looked like before I started changing it up.

Generally, modern cloches have such a deep crown that they don’t leave any space for hair arranged on the back of the head. I have long hair, so that just doesn’t work for me. Cloches from the 1920s frequently have a cutout in the back to allow for your neck… or hair! They also have more interesting brims than modern cloches often do. Perfect. That’s what I wanted. An interesting brim and a cutout for my hair.

With my design plan in place, I started disassembling the modern cloche. First, I removed the braided band and flower. Then, I started unwrapping the lace on the brim, taking out the stitching that held one circumference to the next. I stopped at the bottom of the crown. I removed the inner hat band for most of the way around the hat, so I could stitch the new brim shape and the back cutout without stitching through the hat band.

Next, I played with the lace I had unwrapped for the brim to decide on a new shape. Once I made some decisions I had to make a few shorter pieces out of the lace, but most of it I tried to keep intact. In the back, I decided where I wanted my cut out to be… and cut it! Then I bound the edge using the lace and topstitched it down to encase the edges.

It was a bit tricky to find an acceptable shape for the new brim. The first few tries were so similar in shape to the crown of the hat that they hardly showed when I put it on my head. I ended up with a brim that flares out a bit so it stands away from the crown of the hat, especially in the front. I had to be careful to cover the ends of the plastic horsehair braid that backs the cotton lace, as it is very poky when cut. I covered the ends either by turning them under or having the inner hat band cover them.

After sorting out the brim and back cutout it was time to reattach the inner hat band. Then I sewed on my trim. Here’s what the hat looked like on the inside after all that.

I’ve loved Leimomi’s cloche decoration in this post since she posted about it in 2014. Having that in mind, I thought of what bits of trim I already had in my stash and what might work for this hat. I decided on a random yard of navy grosgrain ribbon, which I cut into thirds, pleated, and attached in imitation of this hat.

When I styled my hair, I tried to have hair come down to my jawline more than I usually do. I think cloches look less silly if there is some hair showing around them. My hair didn’t really look like a bob, but at least there was some hair showing in the front. In the back, it was pinned into a low twist-y mass of curls.

The great thing about the materials of this hat is that they are intended to be flexible for packing and traveling. Not only is it easy to store this hat but it’s also easy to remove it at a picnic and leave it on the blanket or put it in a bag without worrying that it will be damaged. It can get crushed and bounce back into shape!

In the end, I continue to think my head looks like an egg when I wear a cloche. I like styles that don’t hug my head better! That’s my own feeling–other people don’t think it’s nearly as egg-like as I do! But as egg-heads go, this was better than some attempts, so I think we’ll call it a success! It certainly looks cute on the fence!

1814 Orange Boven Pelisse

At least three years ago I was inspired by a fashion plate, as one often is, and started working on a Regency pelisse following the design in the image. I got really far along, finishing the construction and even part of the trimming, but then stalled and let the ensemble languish for years before determining to pick it up and finish it off this year or else! I’m excited to have finally reached a ‘done’ point in this project so I can remove it from the UFO list!

The pelisse (and hat) are directly inspired by the following fashion plate, which can be seen here with slightly different coloring and here in black and white. In the first of those two links, the garment is labeled as a dinner dress, but I thought the design would make excellent pelisse trimming and so I adapted it.

You’ll notice, perhaps, that the finished pelisse does not have as much trim on it as the inspiration image. Early in this project, before it languished, I cut out all of the appliqués for the neck, sleeves, and hem as well as the front edges. I pressed under a 1/4″ on each side of each piece, too. And then, as I was finishing all that triangle trim on the front earlier this year, two things happened:

#1- I lost steam and really just needed to be done with this project.

#2- I decided I liked the simplicity of the pelisse without the extra trim. It’s so easy to draw lots of details, but then in a real garment the details don’t always translate. For example, the triangles around the neck just looked bad and awkward (plus, I wonder if that is a chemisette collar and not trim on the dress itself?) and the sleeves just looked too crowded. I was also afraid that putting all that work into triangles around the hem would just get dirty and not be a good use of many more yards of the vintage lace I used to edge the triangles.

In fact, despite the somewhat-simplified trim, there are actually a lot of details in the construction of the pelisse. Each back seam is piped and the belt has double piping above and below it. The neck is bound with piping, which is sewn with small, invisible stitches around the neck to hold the seam allowance to the inside. Also, the skirt is knife pleated into the back, allowing for a nice silhouette from all sides.

The pelisse is made entirely from peach colored cotton. It is unlined, except on the belt, where it is lined in order to hide the raw edges. The other seam allowances are whip stitched to keep them tidy. Here is an inside view of the bodice section. I do like my insides to be tidy!

The trim fabric is a cream colored poly/cotton blend. Each triangle is edged in very light tan vintage lace. Then, to top it all off, there are peach tassels on each triangle down the front as well. The peach tassels were removed from a length of upholstery trim that happened to be a perfect color match!

The pelisse is machine sewn on the interior seams and hand finished, including the hem, neckline, seam allowances, and all that trim. The darts are also sewn by hand with a small running stitch, a detail I picked up from looking at extant pelisses, though of course it’s been so many years now that I can’t find a specific example. I like how the top stitched darts at a little extra interest.

The pattern for this pelisse is of my own design. I’m pretty sure it was based on my 1819 spencer, but adapted slightly for a different fit. It’s hard to remember since it’s been so many years since I made the pattern! The skirt is a large rectangle–two panels of fabric seamed at center back.

I’m wearing the pelisse with the following garments: a chemise and my short stays, my Vernet petticoat , my recently finished chemisette, and the hat that matches the whole ensemble. I’m excited to have found a use for the Vernet petticoat that shows off the trim at the hem! I did take out the tucks that made it the right length for my Witzchoura so that it would be the right length for the pelisse, but that’s what tucks are for, right? On picture day there was a nice breeze blowing everything around and showing off all the layers nicely.

I was lucky to take these photos in and around some of the Regency period buildings in Salem, MA. You can’t beat buildings from the right period for a suitable backdrop for a garment like this!

Now I have my first pelisse. More outings will hopefully arise in the future so I can wear it again. I’m so glad I’ve decided it’s finished and that it was a comfortable garment to wear, though I maintain that the hat is a bit silly.

 

Orange Boven Hat, 1814 (HSM#4)

I am pleased to report that I made a garment which qualifies for the HSM challenge #4: Circles, Squares, and Rectangles! I wasn’t sure I had anything on the sewing list that would do, but then I remembered years ago when I started this hat and it was only two pieces, a circle for the crown and a rectangle for the binding. Perfect! (I’m not counting the triangular trim. That’s just the trimming!)

As you might guess from the photo, this hat is part of a matching ensemble: a pelisse and hat from 1814. I’ve got lots of details planned regarding the inspiration for this ensemble as well as more pictures of the finished outfit, but for now this teaser will have to suffice. It gives context to the rather silly hat.

Just the facts:

Fabric: Pale peach cotton and cream (likely) poly/cotton blend.

Pattern: My own based on my head measurements.

Year: 1814.

Notions: Thread, two ostrich feathers, and about 1 yard of vintage lace.

How historically accurate is it?: I’m going to go with 95% on this one. It’s entirely recognizable in its own time and made in a way that is straightforward and consistent with historic garments. The materials are not 100% accurate.

Hours to complete: If I’m only counting the hat, about 3 or 4, since it is entirely hand sewn.

First worn: April 9 for a Regency tea.

Total cost: About $8 for the hat without the pelisse.

Masquerade! Paper Faces On Parade…

Masquerade!
Hide your face so the world will never find you!
Masquerade!
Every face a different shade…
Masquerade!
Look around there’s another mask behind you!

I’ve always wanted to attend a masquerade. This wasn’t quite the masquerade of The Phantom Of The Opera, not having sweeping orchestral music and head-to-toe colorful costumes, but it was nonetheless fun and a bit surreal in the masks-plus-fabulous-location-ness (I think a bit of a surreal experience is what makes a masquerade a unique experience, so this is entirely a positive description here).

Digressions about masquerades aside, back in November of last year I had the good fortune to attend such an event myself. The theme was 1960s, but I had recently acquired a 1950s dress that fit me so perfectly that it just HAD to be worn, so I opted to be a bit old fashioned for the theme of the party.

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The event was held in a very nice downtown hotel. We had a series of rooms including the ballroom, its foyer, and a parlor-type space far enough away from the music to easily chat and lounge. It was quite elegant feeling!

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Usually I don’t wear vintage or historical garments. I’d prefer to use them for study and don’t want to damage them. But I made an exception in this case and did my best to be gentle with the dress. I carefully mended it before wearing and then again after, as the delicate lace was pulling apart at the seams under the arms when I received the dress as well as after wearing it. My second version of the mend was to put gussets under the arms, using a tiny bit of leftover fabric I had from shortening the sleeves (I wanted to do this during the pre-wearing mend, but ran out of time). I think the sleeves were full length on the original owner, but they came down to an awkward mid-forearm length on me, so I shortened them to be a nice 3/4 length. I know! It was a hard decision to make, changing the dress, but I think it is in keeping with the period the dress is from and it allowed me to better fix the underarm problem, so I’ve come to terms with the choice.

Here’s a slightly clearer view of the bodice. The lace is backed by nude net and there is a silk faille band around the waist. The entire skirt is faille with an overlay of the same lace and horsehair around the hem for stiffening.

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For my hair, I decided it was go big or go home, so I used my largest bun form (part of the base of my Versailles hairstyle) to create a giant poof-bun-thing on top of my head that’s a nod to the 1960s beehive. I think it was balanced out well by the feathers on my mask. Plus, in general I’m pretty good at making big hair work.

I put the mask on a stick so that it wouldn’t irritate my face and so that something like an elastic wouldn’t squash my huge hair. A bonus is that I could peek out from behind it, as in this picture.

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With this ensemble, I wore the same sparkly earrings I wore to Versailles and my silver American Duchess Seaburys with silver rhinestone shoe clips to make the ensemble even more bling-y!

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The event included food and dancing and chatting. I had a great time that was even better than I was expecting, though I think that was due to being tired after a long week of work and not really sure if the event would be a hit or not.

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My friends and I did lots of silly 1960s dances–the monkey, the swim, etc. (Are these really 1960s? I don’t know for sure, but in my mind they are…) These pictures of my dancing in the lobby are some of my favorite, partly because swishing around in my 1950s dress was so much fun!

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