If I were to make a Titanic tea dress, this might be it. This is a House of Drécoll dress, circa 1912, from The Metropolitan Museum of Art (accession no. 1998.253.3). Here is the high-waisted Empire look so very popular at this date, but rife with lots of other historic references.
Here are the references I see:
- 1770s: the open robe, polonaised, and the tucks in the front of the petticoat. The full sleeve ruffles. the box-pleated ruching.
- 1790s: the trained open robe, pulled back to the sides. The fluffy wrapfront dress underneath the robe. So is the wide lace trim edging the robe. The sash effect.
- Late 1860s: the sash tied in a low bow at the back with the robe boufed up inside the bow. In 1868, for example, the Harper's Bazar Baschlik Mantilla wrap ties up the skirt in back in a very similar way. See Cornell's HEARTH site, Sept 5, 1868.
What historic references or ideas do you see?
Wouldn't it be a treat to wear?
How I Would Construct This Dress
Like many ornate Edwardian gowns of this date, the dress construction is layered and rather devilish. On this dress, it's not that the basic pieces are that oddly shaped, it's that there is just so much to think through and so much to sew and connect.
-----A Short Interjection To Rant-----
Step back a century or more and the landscape is very different. Not only do the customers rule (for the most part) on design, but the actual garments are cut and closed with methods that allow for changes in weight and even wearer, while the essential fit remains good, and the garments are made to layer and often can function as separates to be mixed and matched in fashionably appropriate ways.
Here is how I might construct the dress. I am not saying that this is how the designer did it, but it's how I would use typical Edwardian shapes and methods to do it.
Let's start from the inside out. Refer to additional pictures at the bottom of the post for visual information.
|A bodice ("waist") lining; |
The Dressmaker, p. 90
- Using one of the resource books from the last post, especially Butterick's The Dressmaker (Chapter XVI, Lined Waists), I'd find a fitted front-closing low bodice lining pattern and draft and cut a toile from strong cotton. Given that I do not have a corset for this period, and not everyone wore them at this date anyhow, I'd tack multiple bones to it at front, sides, and back to create the shape. Then I'd adjust the seams and once it fit tightly, I'd stitch in the bones for real and attach hooks and eyes to the front center. If I had a proper corset, I might forgo all but a back bone or two, and depend on the interior belt (see below)to create the shape.
- Next I'd create an interior petersham belt, 2.5" wide preferably, to which both bodice and skirts are stitched to. I'd close it at front side with large, heavy hooks and eyes. The belt was a super common construction aid. It helped high-waisted skirts have no visible waistband, allowed connection of bodice and skirt to a firm foundation, especially helpful with soft, tearable fabrics like net or heavy passementerie and beading. Follow the directions in the Butterick The Dressmaker book (see last post), and if it's unclear, you can refer to analagous directions in the other manuals. Make sure to set the belt above the natural waistline, perhaps two inches. It's really hard to find modern petersham in this width. You can butt narrower widths together and whip stitch them to approximate the width needed.
- I'd stitch the tight lining to the belt.
|An example of an interior belt on a dress in my collection.|
- I'd find a wrap-front kimono bodice pattern from the same list of books for the lace portion of the bodice. The kimono design was hotter than Louisville in July and featured no shoulder seam, and sleeves in one with the bodice. The lace portion of the bodice does not need sleeves, so those do not need to be included from the pattern.
- To get the gentle wrapping motion of the lace on the front of the bodice, I'd toile it in lightweight, drapey cotton, then cut the lace for real. Make sure the waist short, for this dress is high-waisted. Give the back a gentle neckline point, pretty deep, to match the original.
- Once the toile fit, I'd cut the real lace, preferably a net with a loose needlelace pattern on it, seam it with very narrow French seams, hem the armscyes, and gently mount it to the underbodice and to the belt. Closure? Multiple hooks and eyes at both sides, eyes attached to the lining. The Butterick book The Dressmaker details how to drape a bodice atop a fitted lining. This layer is tacked to the belt, too.
- Then I would use the same kimono bodice pattern and toile the open robe bodice, this time in a crisp or starched cotton imitating the crisp silk taffeta. The sleeves are included this time. You will notice that when the sleeves are cut, the stripe will automatically run horizontally when worn! Make sure to allow for the deep cuff on the sleeve.
- The front of the open robe has a dart, perhaps a two-ended dart, to the right and under the bust. This helps to pull the robe back in a curve from the bust. Make sure the back neckline curve is very deep to match the original, and that it has a few scant gathers.
- Then I'd cut the silk, seam it with French seams or open seams finished with binding.
- Cut the blue ribbon trim, mount to the underbodice up just near the bust, as in the original.
- Mount the robe bodice to the underbodice, and right over those ribbons.
|Section of The Dressmaker about draping the|
outside bodice fabric to the lining. p. 93
- Attach robe bodice to the belt, too. Again, refer to those manuals. They illustrate this, as do some originals. Sometimes the tacking is plain messy and can even be seen on the exterior of the dress! It was covered with a sash, hence the slapdash work.
- Cut and tack the sleeve flounces. I'd want to toile the shapes.
- Then I'd pattern the underskirt in interfacing. It's hard to tell on the original, but this looks like a one-piece skirt, so called. There are plenty of patterns for them in the books I have referenced in the previous post. If I could get net with an integral loose pattern, that would be great, as the pattern at the bottom was not only almost standard on nice dresses at this time, but is a reference to the 18th century habit of embroidering petticoat hems with deep bands of embroidery. Otherwise, plain Jane. Sigh.
- I'd add the tucks.
- Next, the skirt would be cut and sewn with narrow French seams, and tacked to the interior belt. Handy thing, that interior belt.
- Now for the open robe skirt. This I would drape right on the dressform, from a single piece of fabric, gathering some at the sides and heavily in the back. I'd hem it and, yes, tack it to the belt!
- Next, cut, scantly gather, and tack the lace flounce to the edges of the open robe.
- Make box pleat trim and tack onto the open robe.
- Now it's time to connect the underskirt to the robe. I'd use doubled thread and connect the two layers with long tacks that leave an inch or so loose inside, so that the robe can move. I'd tie the ribbon bow at this point to, and tack where necessary. This is a matter of playing. The complex Edwardian garments I own use a lot of these sorts of connections to preserve draping just so, even when the wearer was in motion. These are works of sculpture as much as they are dresses and even their overall movement is controlled.
- Next, the sash. A single layer of the silk, pinked with a tiny pinker, and backed with cotton to help it cling to the silk. Hooks and eyes to attach it at the front.
- Next, fun with high-quality vintage paper and silk flowers. The posy can be tacked to the front of the belt.
What do you think? Is this something that you'd try?