Tag Archives: romantic era

A dress for Victoria

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A dress for Victoria

I have loved the absurdity of the 1830s since I first discovered fashion plates of it almost 20 years ago. I’ve made four previous 1830s dresses and love wearing them but I had been longing for a formal dinner party. Wandering a historic site just isn’t quite as glamorous as candlelight and friends. Finally a friend suggested if you can’t find and event, make one! So the Young Victoria Dinner was born.

Major thank you to the Joseph Ambler Inn for being so welcoming!

Fashion Inspiration


But what to where?! Obviously any of the four other perfectly serviceable gowns I own just WOULD NOT DO. Why?…because I said so and it’s my party.

I ask you IS there anymore delightful than 1830s hair? There isn’t.

When looking around at fashion plates I realized there’s a pretty large range of things to choose from, but evening ensembles seems to have a few common threads.

Portrait of a lady by Antoine Plamondon

Short sleeves, or short sleeves with a net over sleeve, wide necklines (some off the shoulder even) and they are made of either silk or a sheer. In today’s world that sheerness in not-a-silk would be cotton or if the fabric gods love you a wool but I’ll never find that in my life time.

She gets major points for the jaunty headnecklace

I also really enjoyed the delicateness of many white gowns I found. Which I would hazard a guess is a hangover from earlier in the century when delicate white muslin gowns were all the rage. If it’s not broke don’t fix it? slash use up the fabric you already made…

All of the inspiration images I liked best (slash pretty much all the images of early-mid 1830s gowns) have huge delightful sleeves, full skirts and a wide waistband. Or what I’m assuming is a wide waistband because they’ve accessorized with a belt or sash. But you know same “wide band of waist” thing.

In the end this image from the 1832 Costumes Parisiens is what stole my heart. Except not in that shade of yellow/green as this heart looks very sickly in that shade. So I decided to do a smash of the white airy dresses and the hanging ribbons with lilacs (or maybe hydrangeas hard to tell)

Construction


I’m sorry to tell you I took not-very-many construction photos because I don’t really deem my Victorian dressmaking all that interesting. The dress is made out of Pure Silks cotton organdy which was both very reasonable in price, got here quickly, had a nice stiff hand and smelled funny. I flatlined the bodice and sleeves with a white cotton broadcloth.

I used the Truly Victorian 1860s ballgown bodice as my sloper…Yeah I know it’s marketed as being 30 years later but I promise it really is the same shape. Please note how far ON my shoulder it sits. I didn’t change this angle at all, the gravity and heat of my body caused my final neck shape to stretch. You have been warned if you make a cotton dress.

Standard Robin bodice construction

  1. Cut everything out. Forget something. Cut more. Hate cutting, and neglect to cut sleeves.
  2. Sew; side back seams, front seam, side seams, shoulder seams.
  3. Finish neckline with a bias strip facing, machine sew to right side, then turn inside and whip stitch.
  4. Turn in center back opening 1/4″ and then 1/2″, whip down.
  5. Try on bodice. enlist well trained husband to pin the back closed, remembering why back closing dresses are dumb. Pin in the darts.
  6. Contemplate making darts even, then realize I’m crooked so it’s probably better this way and sew darts as they were fit. (don’t do that it’s wrong)
  7. Realize you didn’t cut out the sleeves. swear at past Robin and cut out sleeves.
  8. Finish the arm slit in this sleeve pattern. gather giant circle into armscye.
  9. sew sleeves. take out part you caught from the underside. swear more. redo. ta-da have sleeves.
  10. Sew hooks and bars up centre back.
Plate from the 1838 Workingwoman’s Guide

My sleeve pattern is figure 30 in the plate above. Previously I’ve used the one from Patterns of Fashion that is a circle with no flat side, but my intelligent self didn’t pay attention when lining up my pattern and it hung off the side of the fabric so flat side it was! I did use the vertical slit opening from PoF though instead of the centered circle. Also my sleeves are always a 30″ circle as it’s an arbitrary measurment I picked the first time and it worked great.

there’s a theme in my house, have you noticed? I’ll give you a hint it has to do with dated carpet

The skirt is super easy. It’s 3 straight panels of 54″ width with a 6″ hem. I gathered it down to a waistband.

Which went SUPER smoothly

I re-gathered to a new new-long-enough waistband and then tried it all on with the skirt over the bottom unfinished edge of the bodice and pinned where it wanted to sit. I then carefully hand backstitched through all the layers.

I tried to drape the bertha on Polly (my dress form) but Polly was a Christmas present in college back in *cough2001cough* and she just hasn’t…grown with me as a person. She’s kind of stuck in the days of our youth

FLOP right off the shoulder

And it turns out for almost-off-the-shoulder-just-kidding-it-stretched-all-the-way-off gowns you need an actual SHOULDER to drape the bertha around. So on Friday night before the party Amanda was super kind and did it on me. (and convinced an old lady it was my dress from our wedding-which-had-already-happened). The bertha is just a rectangle I ironed the edges under and gathered down the CF, the shoulders got pleated and to be honest I need to try ironing it a little flatter as I’m not a huge fan, it’s a wee bit to enthusiastic for me.

trying shoulder bows…and realizing berthas are stupid

The ribbon is from RibbonStore on Ebay and I give them two thumbs way up. The quality is great and shipping was immediate. The flowers were from Michael’s. I looked for vintage millinery or paper ones but that many flowers was prohibitively expensive.

The Dinner


I styled the dress with two pearl necklaces (more is more), new earrings from Dames a la mode that I LURVE and a pair of matching bracelets.

My I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E hair was a combo of custom piece from Jennylafleur and some cheap side curls from ebay. My apollo’s knot is probably the most beautiful hair I’ve ever had. My wedding included. It was fantastically easy to wear as well. I put my own center section into a high ponytail and pinned the hairpiece in front of it. I braided my hair and wrapped it around the base. My side sections I braided and crossed in the back and wrapped around the base as well.

Mr. Sewloud and I got married at this venue and I have a wedding photo in this spot
my net mitts were bought off an etsy seller that I don’t believe sells them anymore

Katherine found amazing square toed shoes and I ordered a pair from ebay. They came super quickly and the size 8s fit my dead average size 8 feet. Very comfortable, would order again.

Taylor is prepping the Pope Joan Board…I’m paying the bill…one of these is VASTLY more fun
I love this photo of all our hair!
I thought ever single person in the group was stunning! I have the most talented friends
you can just see my yellow shoes peaking out
I was STUPID proud of my pineapple centerpiece too
Mr. Sewloud and I looking tired. party planning is a lot of work!
a view from the dining room
Discussing the finer details
The background on this one makes me think I look like a 1990s glamour shot.
Our Victoria and Albert
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1830s lavender voile dress

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1830s lavender voile dress

For those who haven’t been to the Historic Village in Allaire NJ it’s a sweet working village set up from the 1830s at Mr. Allaire’s iron works. Our friend Tessa was getting faked married as Maria Allaire on Sunday and that mustered some of the local Philly costume contingent to invade.

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The blushing fake bride is in the middle

It being June and hot as hades I figured a new voile dress would be a great idea…what was NOT a great idea was starting the dress the Tuesday before I needed it.

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Am I capable of not being talking during photos? I KNEW IT WAS BEING TAKEN

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I ordered 7 yards of voile form this AWESOME etsy seller, fabric was fabulous, got here ASAP from NYC, will be ordering again. ($2.99/yd?! yes thank you) I miss cut the front and had to recut it and ended up piecing one sleeve..so yeah only scraps really left.

The bodice is the Truly Victorian Ballgown bodice with a few alterations, second time I’ve used it for 1830s. The sleeves are out of Janet Arnold. Bodice and sleeves are lined with muslin and there’s a yard of hex net cut in half and gathered up in each sleeve. I would like to get around to making real sleeve puffers..but like I said started tuesday. The skirt is three panels two of which are in the back one in the front.

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I did also finish a corded petticoat which I’ll pretend will get it’s own post someday…for when I never get around to it it’s two length’s of Joann’s Premium muslin (not that crappy crappy stuff) and sugar and cream cording. I was very pleased with it, body but now super stiff.

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And a few more pictures

Before I re-wear it I need to add real closures (it has one at the waist and one at each wrist causing gaping) and actually iron it.