Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Renovating My Sheer 1795 Morning Dress: Completed

Gasp. Whether that means "Good heavens!" or "[the last] gasp" is up to you. Still, it's done. Here it is, tried on, with some of the ideas I am noodling over for accessorizing it. Thank you, Jenni, for the picture-taking!

As always, please click on the images to see a larger version. 

I am wearing the wrap-front dress with the handkerchief tucked within the dress, as directed to repeatedly in Gallery of Fashion. As in the reference portrait miniature (towards the bottom of this post), the ribbon at the waist is simply a bit of blue silk ribbon from William Booth, Draper, tying the wrap dress closed. It is not meant to go all the way around the waist. Instead, one end starts at the side back seam, the other at the front edge of the wrapped front. Since the interior side of the wrap front is securely pinned to the stays, this closure receives little stress and should not pull out of shape. It's the only item not done...a matter of a few stitches. I pinned the ribbon on for the picture.

I may move the lower sleeve ribbon lower, to just below the elbow. We shall see.
The short silk ribbons tying the sleeves are in very small bows with tiny tails. Thank you, Leimomi Oakes, the Dreamstress, for sleuthing out that such could be simply tied on, allowing one to change ribbons, and thus the look of the dress, at will. They stay in place without slipping because the voile clings a bit, so Mrs. C., I don't think I need the little sleeve thread loops!

My hair is not styled, simply stuffed  up in a sort of chignon and my blue antique silk taffeta dress sash (made of very wide ribbon) wrapped negligently around it. For the festival, I will add some locks, to take the look more to 1795.

The earrings, a little smaller than those usually pictured in fashion plates, are really rather similar to those worn in the period. Of a sort of Classicizing filigree work, they consist of a cone and inverted cone separated by a small cylindrical bead. I could just as easily have worn hoops or sizeable pearl drops. The mid to late 1790s were not the years for small-scale jewelry. Bold was In, and More was Better.

The large beads, perhaps a little larger than normally worn, but not by much, are faux pearls, which, as we know from Two Nerdy History Girls' fascinating post on the subject, were quite common; they tie closed with blue silk ties. I will probably wear large green stone beads instead, but wanted to try these.

The bracelet is antique brass wire and brass beads, woven in a classical design, with tiny dangly ends. It's age, unknown, but it is not twentieth century. You see cuff bracelets in fashion plates and the Napoleon: The Empire of Fashion exhibition makes good use of them.

Back view: still need to perfect handkerchief placement. If you look carefully, you might see about an inch and a half of the embroidery on the stays showing through...even buttoned high, the petticoat doesn't cover all of it. Hmmm. Another reason to keep stays white for clothing in this era. I may baste a covering over these stays, much as I do not want to, for they are very pretty.

The chair working as a prop? It's a rather worn Empire-era "fancy chair", most likely made in Baltimore, where the industry was well established, but a few years later than the dress date. Still, I've been wanting to try a dress with it nearby, for the color and lines suit a little white dress :} By the way, when talking of architecture and the decorative arts, such as furniture, in America Regency era is usually referred to as the Empire era round about the early 1800s, while the earlier years of the Regency may be referred to as the Federal or late Georgian era. It's all rather confusing, as naming conventions mostly seem to be.

Here is the reference portrait miniature from the V&A, painted in 1795, of an unknown woman (http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O82059/miniature-portrait-of-an-unknown-woman/.

I decided, for this go-round, not to tack lace to the dress, for I prefer the coverage of the handkerchief, and the whitework on it is decorative enough.

My ribbon is far wider than her ribbon at waistline, and narrower than her sleeve ribbon, but I like my choice of ribbon. However, I will play with the sleeve poofing more, and tighten it and arrange the gathers on each sleeve a little when I put on the dress.

I am very happy with the outcome of all the months of research and renovation and reworking, and all the confabulations with you all. The dress feels attractive to me, has good lines, does not seem either overdone or underdone, suits my age and personal style, and I learned a ton about construction details and the minutae of styles for the years 1794-1797. My projects do not always turn out that way, so I turn in this evening a content woman.

I leave you this evening with a common early summer sight, day lilies, here luminescent in our garden in the evening.


Patrizia said...

Lovely, just lovely. I think that sums it up quite well. :D

MrsC said...

Oh oh oh!!! If I were the jumping up and down clapping sort, I would be! :) It looks fabulous, YOU look fabulous! I love it because it is so perfectly of its time and different to the stock standard. I love that you haven't put a ribbon around the waist, it is so nice having the column of white unbroken. The sleeves look great, and marvellous not to have to add extra loops etc. :) I hope you are very proud of all your handiwork!
Kerchiefs are a hassle as of course, they are on the bias on the diagonal and on the straight at the bottom edge, the opposite to how you would cut a collar. So you get that thing at the back. I'm not sure if this is historically accurate but these days one often ties a wee knot in the centre of the scarf to take up the extra and have it sit better. Worth a try?

Kleidung um 1800 said...

Dear Natalie,
finally your dress is done!
And it is done beautifully!
I love the sheer and unusual look of the sleeves, the tiny ruffle added to the hem and especially the wrap front with that blue silk ribbon tie. All the hours of researchig and sewing are well spent!
My only suggestion would be to wear the dress without a necklace (like in the painting) - the reason to do so: I think the collar with the kerchief looks so delicate and beautiful that it doesn't need further embelishment. The collar and fichu itself is really the very best jewellery !!!

An Historical Lady said...

OH GOSH! This is GORGEOUS! You did a fantastic job, and you look phenomenal! It's as if you stepped out of an Austen novel. This is my favorite regency gown of all those I have seen on various sites. I love the hair ornamentation too.
Perfection, pure and simple!

ZipZip said...

Goodness, thank you all! After all the dithering and reworking these past months, I was fairly sure that the final garment would be rather anticlimactic.

By the way, welcome, Patrizia. I shall have to visit your blog. Are you attending the JASNA festival in Louisville, by chance?

To consider your comments: good plan on the knot in the handkerchief, Mrs. C., for that's exactly the issue I am having with it. Another idea is to take a tiny angled tuck in the back. Some handkerchiefs of the period featured this...must consider, based on all the work on the rest of the ensemble and the ball ensemble yet to do.

Sabine, I like the idea of leaving off the pearls, for personal reasons. You're right, the line is much cleaner without them. However, for the afternoon part of the festival, I shall wear some sort of pearls, for am going to portray someone walking in Kensington Gardens, accoutered to the hilt a la a fashion plate, and given that at bit of excess was expected these years, and that women wore diamonds in the grass (!!), I shall forgo restraint and good taste for display, or at least as much as I can stomach. :}

Historical Lady, thank you for admiring the dress so much. Wow.

Thanks again kindly, and thank you Heaven, it's raining, after weeks of dryness. A wet spring, then sudden drought is rather worrisome.


Isis said...

You look absolutely lovely!

Madame Berg said...

It's too lovely for words..! But I must say the classical influence is really strong and awe-worthy. What a fabulous gown!

Patrizia said...

Hello there, Natalie! Actually, no, I live in Ohio. :( I do so enjoy visiting you here though :D

Have a beautiful day!!!

Time Traveling in Costume said...

That's really beautiful. It's looks so soft and gauzy. I love the blue bow on the side instead of around your waist too.
No suggestions but enjoying the view.

ZipZip said...

Dear Val,
Many thanks! Sure hope it is nice and cool to wear in Louisville in July. My was last year HOT! I said to myself, next year, something cool(er).

Very best,

Anonymous said...

Natalie, I neglected to comment earlier but I must say that you have done such a wonderful job! All your hard work and incredible attention to detail just shines through! Well done!

ZipZip said...

Dear renna_darling,
Thanks so much! Am happier with this dress than almost any other I've made. Sure wish it was in fashion now so I could wear it more :}

Hoping to hear more about your Parisian experiences; the post about the opera was such fun.

Very best,