My latest – very frantic – make, is an 1876/77 Natural Form day or reception dress in striped silk taffeta and plum cotton sateen.
It was made to wear at a Victorian Christmas tea I hosted at our house last Saturday. A big part of the reason for the tea’s Victorian theme is that I’d started missing Victorian sewing over the past few months, nearly all the historical events and activities around here have been either 18th century or regency. I know, I know, life is so rough, huh? I swear I’m not complaining but I have wanted a little change of pace. I’m also still deeply into a Natural Form phase and had started planning out this dress at least two years ago so I was delighted to have a reason and opportunity to finally make it a reality!
Now I can finally show you the whole look of my new 1780s ensemble all put together!
(In case you’re just tuning in and/or would like to revisit the construction posts I wrote about this here are links to the bodice, petticoat, and skirt + finishing)
(and I will still be doing a post about the sleeve cuffs, some of the underpinnings, and the wig, which I will link to here when it’s done and up)
Taylor (aka Dames a la Mode) graciously volunteered to do a photoshoot for me last Friday. The location is St James church + yard just up 8th street from my house here on Capitol Hill that’s done in an atmospheric faux-gothic-Jacobean mash-up style. I kinda love it!
And now on to the show!
A quick re-cap of the original dress/pattern in Patterns of Fashion and how I modified it:
the original dress has a box-pleated skirt but I wanted the tight, narrow knife pleats so common for this period.
(Also, here are links to my posts on making the bodice and petticoat)
So I used the skirt pattern from another dress in Patterns of Fashion as a rough guide.
Although I still did things a little differently from either. I cut my skirt as two full-width panels of my fabric with a little bit of a train at the back but completely straight along the top. Instead of cutting the waist edge with a curve I just sewed it with one – you’ll see what I mean in a moment.
A couple of weeks ago I started a new, large-ish historical project: a c. 1780 ‘Italian’ style gown with matching petticoat although. This is very like a robe a l’Anglaise except that it has a completely separately cut bodice and skirt – so no ‘en fourreau.’
The reason for doing one of these now is another Gadsby’s Ball on November 12 that’s 1780s-themed. Hooray for not being Regency! As much as I love it, I’m getting Regency-d out. Most of the balls around here have been for that period over the past year and I recently finished a c.1800 ensemble I still need to post about, so I’m very ready to do something different. I’m pretty excited since I’ve never done 1780s before! Bring on the pouf!
Anyway, my fabric for this is an iridescent rust silk shantung – a very smooth one. I bought it from Fabricmart during one of their silk sales wherein it was described as silk taffeta and looked very smooth in the photos. When it arrived I discovered it was actually shantung – a very smooth one, but nonetheless not taffeta. This had happened once before with a silk purchase from them so I sent them an email to let them know there was an issue. I didn’t ask to return the fabric because it’s gorgeous all the same but wanted them to know it made me wary of ordering from them in future. They sent a kind reply saying they’d gone back and amended all the relevant listings on their site and sent me a $10 gift certificate by way of apology.
So, that’s a long-winded explanation for why I decided to just go ahead and use shantung for this instead of actual taffeta.
It’s pretty scrummy, shantung-ness notwithstanding.
For this ensemble I’m doing a bit of a Janet Arnold mash-up. Essentially, I’ve combined 3 of her late 18th century patterns:
The main one is this 1775-85 gown in the Snowshill collection (now at Berrington Hall). I’ve done research there, pity this one wasn’t on my radar at the time to check out in-person.
Shortly after I moved to DC I was told about this fabulous event called The Francaise Dinner. It’s an annual dinner organized and attended by people who just like doing this sort of thing! Last year and this year it was held at Gadsby’s Tavern in Old Town Alexandria – hence, very local to me! So this year (in March) I got to go to my first one!
Of course, I needed to make a new dress for the occasion. 1. Because I nearly always need to make a new dress for nearly any actual “occasion” because reasons; and 2. Because I didn’t have anything really appropriate for this event. The date range did go up to c. 1799, but I really wanted to go more full-on 18th century rather than Neo-classical. It was also a perfect excuse for specifically making a historically accurate francaise – something I hadn’t done since the big crazy reproduction project during my MA – none of which pieces I kept (all donated to the university).
Not to mention I had THE PERFECT fabric for it – behold!
This is my entry for February’s Historical Sew Monthly challenge “Blue”. It wasn’t my initially intended entry, which was supposed to be a smart and clever-looking new pale blue wool coat made from a late teens/early 20s pattern I have. However, after doing a muslin and fiddling with it a bit I just wasn’t feeling it. I still hope to make it someday, but I wasn’t feeling totally enthusiastic about it and I think it’s too straight a silhouette for most of the clothes I wear, even though it has a little more flare than most styles from that period.
So, about the middle of the month I decided to completely switch tracks and make something that was nowhere on my sewing list/queue. Very practical decision (please note the sarcasm). I rationalized it to myself by saying that I had intended <someday> to make a new spencer from a piece of pale blue silk in my stash left over from the Regency ball ensemble I made a little over a year ago. And that even though I had no definite plans about it, it did get something off my sewing wishlist, at least, and used up an awkwardly-sized piece of fabric stash. In fact, everything on this came from stash, I didn’t purchase a single little bit for this, and that’s always nice.
I made the even more practical decision to hand sew the entire thing.
So let’s get to it, shall we?
My spencer is a combination of Sense & Sensibility’s pattern (which I already had and already used so I didn’t need to worry about fitting):
Today I got to do something I almost never get to do: play dress-up with other people just for fun!
*Warning: this is an image-heavy post* It would actually be really great to get some feedback about this: what do you think of the photo size? How are they for loading? (I didn’t compress them before posting) Are there too many? Any and all (constructive) feedback would be most appreciated!
My new-ish historical sewing friend, Sarah, invited me to come along with her and a friend, Edith, to dress in our 1880s outfits and go for a picnic. Over May & June I had made an 1880s summer outfit for an event in July, but hadn’t gotten good photos of it yet. I knew this would be a perfect opportunity, and who can resist a picnic on a beautiful day? Especially since Sarah actually brought real china tea cups to drink out iced tea in (she made an earl grey iced tea with a bit of cinnamon, which was SO lovely, I made one with Lady Grey tea).
I’ll try to do a post or two more about this outfit showing the insides of the bodice, maybe featuring the bonnet, and talking more about fabrics, construction, process. Today, it’s all about the pretty shots!
Ladies Who Lunch – Old School!