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.
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?
Five years ago (yikes, where did the time go?!?), I made ivory gaiters. They were made to wear over heeled shoes, giving the look of two tone boots. Unfortunately, the ivory gaiters I already have don’t work for the the 1896 cycling ensemble on my sewing table! Ivory gaiters would show dirt and be rather impractical for the sporting look, so I decided to make utilitarian black ones for this outfit.
I used the same pattern as for the ivory gaiters with only a few modifications: the top edge curves in a bit more over my calf and the back heel is longer so it stays on top of my shoe (in my blog post about the ivory gaiters I share about how they were riding up over my shoe–I solved this with a little piece I added in after the photos were taken, but for the new pair the pattern was cut longer instead). It was lovely to have a pattern ready to go!
I’m pleased that I squeezed this small project into 2018. I can count it for the HSM Challenge #12: Neglected! This challenge is sort of a catch-all for making something that fits into a previous challenge either from this year or a previous year. I chose the September 2018 challenge, Hands and Feet, for this December challenge.
Just the facts:
Fabric: About ¼ yard slightly stretchy black cotton.
Pattern: Created by me.
Notions: Thread, ¼” and ½” cotton twill tape in various widths, and plastic buttons.
How historically accurate?: 90%. The look is right but the materials are a mix and match of right and modern.
Hours to complete: Approximately 5.
First worn: Not yet!
Total cost: $5 for the buttons. The fabric and twill tapes were in my stash!
These are constructed in the same way as my previous pair. The seams are covered with ½” twill tape, the edges are bound with ¼” twill tape, there is a strap (in this case made of the exterior fabric), and then buttons and buttonholes finish it off.
The great thing about my gaiter pattern is that they work for a few different decades. The ivory pair was made for a 1917 outfit, but I feel perfectly confidant that the pattern works for the 1890s and 1900s as well. I’m looking forward to trying these on with my cycling ensemble once that is far enough along to put all the pieces together!
One of the five pieces of my Vernet Project was creating the silly up-turned-toe elf shoes in the fashion plate. Clearly, these are not shoes that could be purchased, as they are so specific in style, so I set out to make my own!
In the beginning, I was thankful to have another Vernet project maker’s experience making her boots before mine to work from. Jenni posted a two part tutorial showing how she made her boots as well as sharing information behind-the-scenes with project participants earlier in the process (Part 1 and Part 2). She closely referenced Every Lady Her Own Shoemaker, published in 1855 (a little late relative to the date of the project, but still useful for construction advice), for construction methods and carefully documented her process. In fact, she did a much better job at documenting the actual sewing than I did… I also read Anna’s information about making mid-19th century shoes multiple times to help get my mind acquainted with the project (again, a little later than the period of the project, but still helpful). She also has lots of great construction pictures.
I started by creating a pattern for my shoe using patterns in Every Lady Her Own Shoemaker. Given that my shoe has the unusual turned-up-toe, I necessarily needed to make adjustments to the general slipper pattern. Here is my shoe at the mockup stage. The upper pieces fit pretty well! I adjusted the width of the sole as well as the shape of the turned-up section before moving on to cut out the final pieces.
Here are all of the final pieces cut out and ready to assemble. The soles have three layers: heavier tan leather for the outer sole, cardboard for the inner sole structure, and white linen to cover the cardboard insole. The uppers have two layers: lightweight raspberry leather for the exterior and white linen for the interior. Later in the process I also added a faux fur cuff.
To help the shoes keep their turned-up-toe shape I soaked the leather soles in water, taped them to a lysol wipe container, and let them dry. You can see the results below. Not perfectly curved up, but still helpful. I also tried boiling leather soles to thicken them before shaping, but found that the leather shrank unevenly which created soles that wouldn’t work for this project. I did save them, though, and hopefully will get to use them for a future shoe making endeavor. I repeated the soaking and shaping for the cardboard insoles before gluing the linen to them. There’s a picture of the insoles at this stage in this past post.
After shaping the soles it was time to construct the uppers. I did the interior and exterior separately, then basted them together around the top opening and around the bottoms. Then I sewed the bottom edges of the uppers to the soles, using the slanting stitch through the side of the sole that Jenni shows in Part 2 of her tutorial. She used all sorts of nifty leather tools as well as a wooden last during construction. I purchased the nifty leather tools but found that they didn’t work for me and a simple non-leather needle worked just fine. (I think my leather was too thin and soft for these to be needed). As for the last, I looked online for a wooden one, never found one in my size foot, and eventually decided to give it a go without one, especially since I had to do the turned-up toe. In the end, I don’t think it was a problem not to have a last.
Once the soles were attached, I bound the front slit with matching silk ribbon. Then I cut a piece of faux fur for each shoe that went around just the top of the foot opening and could double over on itself. There are non-functional silk ribbon loops that are sewn to the front of the fur that encases the top edge of the shoe. The shoes actually close with a twill tape threaded through hand sewn eyelets on each side of the opening.
They’re actually quite comfortable for walking around in. I have very flat feet, so don’t really need arch support to be comfortable. The only thing is that my feet did get cold during our photoshoot due to the freezing ground only separated from my feet by a few thin layers of fabric. So, for the second wearing, while caroling at Christmastime, I added a faux fur insole. Problem solved! They were toasty and even more comfortable!
Interestingly, witzchouras are mentioned as being popular in Paris during the year 1827 by La Belle Assembleé, after a mention of other popular pelisses and mantles (well worth checking out!), and are are described as being worn with boots laced in front and with fur around the leg.
Doesn’t that description sound oddly familiar? It reminds me so very much of the Vernet fashion plate and my silly shoes!
I had already decided this spring that a 1920s bathing suit was on the sewing list for this summer when Gina, of Beauty From Ashes, contacted me and asked if I’d like to test an Edwardian bathing boot pattern for her. I’m pretty sure I squeaked! “Of course!” But then I realized that there was no way I was going to have time to work on the boots before summer when I returned from my trip to Versailles. Luckily, that timing was just fine.
Gina had taken the boot pattern from a pair of extant boots that she owns, sized the pattern for her own feet, and then made a pair herself (of course with a lot of work on the pattern along the way). To the right are Gina’s boots, which you can read more about in her post, here.
The idea coincided so closely with my plan for the 1925 bathing suit that I really wanted to push the boot date towards the 1920s and wear them together. I did some digging into bathing boot history in Women’s Shoes in America, 1795-1930 and found some great info supporting my plan, including information about the wearing of stockings with swimsuits and how that practice changed from the end of the 19th century through the 1920s. The following are excerpts from pages 137-139. There’s lots more detail about stockings and bathing shoes in the late 19th century that I haven’t included here, so if that interests you I highly suggest you get your hands on the book.
Bathing shoes were always optional, depending on how rough the terrain was and how tender the feet…
The most common bathing shoe at all times is a low slipper fitted with tapes that cross over the instep in varying arrangements and tie round the ankle. These are shown as early as 1867…
As long as bathing garments covered most of the legs, that is until the late 1870s, stockings were not considered absolutely necessary…
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, black stockings were very often worn for bathing without any shoe at all… When bathing shoes are shown, they are usually lighter than the stocking…and the commonest style is still the low slipper, presumably cork-soled, with tapes to cross once or twice and tie round the ankle…
About 1915, a new style of bathing footgear appeared, a mid-calf high boot, solid on the sides and back of the leg, but open down the front and laced across the opening… [and] the acceptance of real swimming (as opposed to splashing in the waves) brought about changes in bathing costume… Closer-fitted knitted suits appeared in the 1920s, and gradually the long black stockings were discarded (the last fashion picture I find including them is from 1922). In the late 1910s and early 1920s, short stockings were worn gartered someplace below the knee, but soon even these disappeared and bare legs began to appear in the early 1920s. Bathing shoes were still worn over bare feet when rough ground made them desirable, but they were a matter of utility, not modesty.
Such useful information when deciding what accessories I wanted to wear with my swimsuit and boots! I thought of taking pictures with stockings and without but decided that was too much of a hassle and settled instead for pictures with boots and without. You’ve already seen the pictures without boots. Now for a few with! (Yes, a friend also joined the pattern testing and wore her bathing boots to the beach, too!)
After wearing the boots in the water I took them off for pictures of the suit, but then decided to put them back on. As you might expect, they are less exciting to put on when feet and boots are already wet and covered with sand… though I think all the sand in the boots did give my feet a good exfoliation!
As for construction, here’s a quick run-down. I chose to make my boots out of navy cotton twill and white cotton canvas. Despite the fact that green boots exist, I didn’t want to try and match my greens. Plus, both the navy and white fabrics were in the stash and are neutral enough to wear with any future bathing suit I might decide to build.
Each outsole has two layers of cork bound in bias. Nice and sturdy for walking, but too thick for a sewing machine, which meant a lot of unexpected hand sewing for this project.
The insoles are a single layer of cork with the fabric glued in place. I just slipped in insoles into the boots for wearing, which meant I could take them out to let them dry after wearing. Given that they were soaked through this was great.
The uppers were fully finished before attaching them to the soles. This part is all machine sewn.
Finally, I hand sewed the uppers to the soles.
(I’ve made this all sound very easy and speedy, but I’ll admit that I took a shortcut and purchased cheap eyelets and a cheap eyelet setter to get the right look with high hopes for the quality. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. The eyelets were such a pain! The setter squashed them unevenly and then I needed pliers to make them look somewhat reasonable and trim off sharp bits. There are 44 eyelets. It took a long time. And it made my hands hurt. It would have been faster for me to hand sew the eyelets. Plus, they rusted after just the one wearing the water! And they got rust on my shoelaces, which was also a pain because the standard round shoelaces barely fit through the eyelets and getting them laced was hours all by itself. Ugh! For next time, I found narrower laces that will be so much easier to use, so I can at least take them out after wearing the boots without it taking forever. Or maybe I just won’t wear them in the water. Anyway, I don’t suggest you follow my example on the cheap eyelet front.)
I am so grateful to Gina for sharing her pattern with me! It takes a lot of work to perfect a pattern and I probably would not have attempted bathing boots without having one already made and in hand.
The change in plan resulted in new fabric and a new plan. I stuck with the decade of the 1770s, but decided to make a robe a la francaise, or sacque, instead of a robe de cour as it seemed like a garment I might be more likely to wear again in the future. Accordingly, I found and ordered new fabric: 11 yards of a very lightweight changeable silk ‘lutestring’ from Burnley and Trowbridge. Luckily, the new fabric still worked with the metallic silver net I’d purchased for trim. It’s the same metallic silver net that is on my 1885 Night Sky Fancy Dress, just cut into strips.
Regarding the pattern, I found some of the directions to be confusing. For example, making the petticoat seemed way overcomplicated. You can read more details about how I made my petticoat here. Also, I found the directions for pleating the front robings/facing and the back pleats quite confusing. There, I was saved by this post written by AJ who also used the JP Ryan pattern, got confused, and posted about the confusing bits. Very helpful! Aside from the confusing directions, the gown pieces went together perfectly with no trouble. I did have to alter the front strap area to make the front sit flat against my body. Two friends who used this same pattern did not have to make that adjustment, so I chalk it up to differing body shapes but do not think it negatively affects the pattern.
The lining of the gown is made from a one yard piece of cotton/linen blend from my stash. Also from my stash and used inside the gown were a scrap of medium blue linen and a scrap of medium blue cotton twill used to interface the stomacher. These were all the bits left of those three stash fabrics–yay! I was also amused that all of the random non-silk fabrics in this gown and petticoat wound up being blue. I used my lining as my mockup, meaning that I had to take a dart in the front strap area, but was able to adjust the pattern to eliminate the dart before cutting out the silk.
The back of the lining is adjustable using a tie threaded through eyelets. The edges are boned with reed. The pattern suggests ties, but you also see lacing in extant garments and this seemed easier to adjust and that it would use less length for the tie(s). There are examples of both ties and lacing on my Pinterest board for this project. The tie is a 1/4″ cotton twill tape. It’s not accurate, but did the job.
Underneath the decorative stomacher, the gown closes with lacing panels attached to the lining. Again, mine laces closed using twill tape.
This is the inside of the front lacing panels. You can see the medium blue linen backing. I think I had run out of the cotton/linen blend at that point. As is usual with 18th century garments, the armhole is left unfinished.
Here’s a close up of the back pleats. These are stitched all the way through to the lining. The directions for the pleats were slightly confusing, but made sense once I started fiddling with my fabric. It was important that I had transferred all the markings from the pattern to make the pleating easier to understand. The pattern uses another four pleats pleats, underneath these, that you can’t see to add volume to the back.
Due to the unexpected nature of the purchase of the silk fabric for this gown, I decided to do that fabric justice by hand sewing the entire garment. So in addition to the exterior stitching like that anchoring the pleats on the back, all of the interior seams are also hand sewn. I rather enjoy hand sewing and it makes a lot more sense given the way 18th century garments were constructed.
Here is the gown mostly sewn in its essential elements, but lacking trim. The sleeve flounces were individually gathered and sewn to the arm openings. They are pinked with scalloped shears on the top and bottom edges.
The following image is the gown that I followed in terms of trim placement. It took many more hours than I thought it would to pin the trim on. Those big waves are more complicated than they look, plus I had the challenge of creating the smaller scallops as I went along as well. All of the trim had to be sewn along both sides and tacked at each scrunch after it had been pinned.
You can see that I pressed my robings down all the way to the hem, though once the trim was applied on top it was really not very noticeable. I like the finished result, but I think it’s worth pointing out that this pattern is designed to have a wide stomacher. I was envisioning it coming out a little narrower at the waist. But I think adjusting the back opening enough to make a noticeable difference would only create awkward wrinkles under the arms.
The finished stomacher was covered in scalloped trim and finished off with a sparkly brooch. I went to France with an untrimmed stomacher and no clear idea about how I wanted to trim it except that I wanted it to be an all over metallic feast for the eyes. Luckily, early in the trip I was able to go see the 300 Centuries of Fashion exhibit at Les Arts Decoratifs. In addition to being amazing (I got to stand within 6 feet of Dior’s Bar Suit and see many garments I’ve only ever seen on Pinterest!), I also took a picture of a stomacher that was inspirational in terms of the overall wavy patterns and filler shapes. That picture is below.
Trimming the stomacher took place in the evenings in the few days before the special event. Here is the stomacher in progress. I took it specifically to show the amazing green color that the fabric can appear from some angles. I was hoping to get a picture of the finished gown looking this color, but had to be content with seeing shades of green in some of the pictures as we didn’t capture any where the whole gown was this color.
Another part of the dress that was finished in France were my engageants. The pattern includes flounces of two lengths to be made of silk and then one longer flounce for an under flounce or engageant. I sacrificed some lace I’ve been intending for another project, threw some darts in at the longest section to get the scalloped edge to be the right shape, and filled in the length with a bit of mystery ivory sheer. The resulting flounce was gathered and sewn to a cotton tape that was basted into the arm opening.
It sure sounds like a lot of work, recounting these bits of the process. It was! And it paid off. I’m very pleased with the gown. And very pleased that this picture captures some of the stunning green in the fabric!
It has been a goal to make a specifically fancy dress outfit for years, but particularly since I made a makeshift 1860s flower basket fancy dress outfit in 2015. This May I had the perfect opportunity in the form of a fancy dress ball!
I decided to make an 1880s bustle dress because I already had all the undergarments, including my still-new-feeling 1880s steam molded corset, and because it’s a period of dress that I rarely wear, especially for dancing. I wanted to experiment with dancing in a bustle to see how it worked and what it felt like.
I started my outfit in January and worked on it over the next four months or so, but despite all that preparation time I was still working on it right up until the day before the event. Luckily, I did the vast majority of the work of cutting, sewing, and fitting before March and April when I became super busy. Tasks left at that point included finishing the bodice edges, trimming, and closures.
In addition to the Mrs. Vanderbilt’s inspiration I also looked at other 1880s skirts for draping ideas and other 1880s fancy dress outfits for trimming ideas. You can see the most inspiring images and extant garments on my Pinterest board for this project here.
For ease of documentation, I’ll do the facts as with the HSF:
Fabric: 2-3 yards of navy blue cotton twill for underskirt, 6ish yards of navy blue polyester charmeuse, 1ish yard of pink cotton twill for flat lining, and 1-2yds of silver net.
Notions: A 3yd tinsel garland, 6 star brooches, 3yds of navy polyester ribbon for lacing, hook and bar closures for the skirt, and thread.
How historically accurate is it?: 90%. Recognizable in it’s own time, certainly. Reasonable construction, certainly. Materials, not so much. It was much more important to use what was on hand than to purchase new fabrics, especially since this is an outfit that I don’t see getting a lot of use.
Hours to complete: Tons. I didn’t keep track. Bustles are fussy and require lots of time with a dress form to achieve an elegant drape.
First worn: May 21.
Total cost: Most of the fabrics were in the stash with the exception of the silver net and most of the notions were purchased cheaply on eBay. Let’s say $20.
For the photos I wore the dress with my black Seaburys and the new rhinestone shoe clips that I purchased in March. It was quite sparkly and elegant, but for dancing I changed into navy blue velvet flats. They were just as cute but did not get the special treatment of being shown off in photos.
I had the grand idea to use my curly hair ends flipped up on top of my head like the curled fringe popular in the 1880s. It’s also long enough that I was able to make the bun shape on the back also using only my natural hair. I pinned in star brooches to match those on my dress as decoration.
All in all I’m quite happy with the final result! Dancing in the bustle was just as easy as any other Victorian style. The differences were that all the extra fabric was behind me making some movements more challenging due to space such as during a quadrille, and that the bustle and layers of fabric on the back gathered a fair bit of momentum when turning, creating quite a swish!
Construction wise the only change I would like to make after one wearing is to bone the center back edges so that the back lies flat when laced onto my body and to sew in a matching fabric piece behind the lacing holes to hide any white from undergarments that wants to peak out. I’ll also need to wear a different chemise or tuck the top down so there’s not white cotton poking out at the armholes. However, these are minor changes and I’m not sure when I’ll have the opportunity to wear this again so it might be awhile before they happen.
For this ball we set up a double sided picture backdrop, one side of which you’ve already seen. The other side included a large stuffed jaguar/panther I dubbed Jaggy for the night. You often see backdrops in regular Victorian photos as well as fancy dress photos. Unfortunately, with my heels on I was too tall for them! Oops! Being too tall inspired me to take some fun sitting photos.
For decoration out of the ordinary, we had the lucky and unexpected use of the fabulous blue and turquoise lanterns in many of the pictures as well as multicolored paper lanterns with lights inside. We put the lanterns around the room in glass vases as bouquets. First, a picture from the set up part of the evening. Second, a picture with some lanterns creeping into the photo.
Sometimes the spaces between stuff are what makes a garment special. Make a garment that is about holes, whether it is lace, slashing, eyelets, etc.
And boy, are my shoes about the lace (which has holes!). The lace makes the shoes complete and finished looking. (Also, the buckles required holes being made to fit the buckles, so that’s a roundabout way of including the shoes, too.)
Notions: Just under 3 yards of 1/4″ metallic lace; other supplies included angelus leather preparer and deglazer, angelus leather paint, angelus matte acrylic finisher, masking tape, paint brushes, and hot glue.
How historically accurate is it?: 85%. Reasonable color and trim on well researched historical shoes, but of course the whole thing is actually modern.
Hours to complete: 8 maybe? I took a long time painting lots of layers until I got a color I was happy with and then adding the lace took another hour or two.
First worn: Will be worn at the end of May!
Total cost: $102 for imperfect Kensingtons and the buckles a few years ago, $15 for the lace, $15 for the paint, and the rest was from the stash, so about $137 total.
I’ve been making lots of things this spring, but they haven’t lined up with the HSF since January. Yay! I’m pleased these fit the HSF challenge.
Product links in this post contain an affiliate code, which provides a small benefit to my shoe fund. This does not affect my impressions and reviews of this product.