The Ladies' Tea Guild

Monday, June 13, 2011

New costume finished: 1849 day dress.

Photo: Virginia Urbach.
This is a costume I've had on my "to do" list for quite a while.  Although I don't really have a favorite period of history, I do have a few favorite fashion history periods, and the late 1840s are one of those favorite periods.  Other people think the 1840s are boring because the styles are comparatively plain, but my taste runs to the simple, and I find the fashion of other parts of the Victorian era way too over-decorated.  I think the 1840s are elegant, and the styles flattering to almost everyone's figure: petticoats add softness to people who are too thin, and conceal hip, butt, and stomach bulk for the rest of us, and corsets control and smooth out the lumps and bumps everyone else has, plus make you stand up straight, which makes you look thinner anyway.  It's not about having an 18-inch waist (we all know teeny-tiny teenage girls who are that small naturally), but smoothing out the figure and above all, *optical illusion*!  I look like a blob in my regular clothing, but in a corset and petticoats, I have an hourglass figure.  It's like a magic trick!

Anyway, this costume was began a few years back with research, continued with the purchase of the fabric and patterns (I combined a few patterns for the bodice), but stayed in hypothetical form until last fall.  I cut it out, intending to wear it to the Dickens Fair in San Francisco, but that didn't happen.  I started hand-sewing it together earlier this year, while backstage at the Montgomery Theatre, as costume crew for Lyric Theatre's Carousel.  Then I put it away until earlier this month, where I mostly finished it, intending to wear it in a school presentation (I wore something else).  THEN, I was cast in a historic fashion show and put in a Gold Rush-era skit.  I stayed up late and worked on it all weekend, fixing the major fitting issues that cropped up, and got it to a wearable state in time for the show!  It still has some fitting issues, and I still have to put the trimmings on, but it's wearable, so it's basically done!

Fabric: tropical wool in a woven plaid pattern.  Bodice lined in 100% cotton; skirt and sleeves unlined.  Self-piping on bodice filled with 100% cotton kitchen twine.

Pattern: bodice based on Past Patterns Darted Bodice and Laughing Moon #114 Ladies' Round Dresses.  Sleeves from the Laughing Moon Round Dress pattern.  Skirt just a few widths of the fabric, hemmed and cartridge-pleated (by hand!  argh!) to the bottom of the bodice, just behind the piping at the bodice waist edge. 

It's worn over my chemise, old 1860s-style corset (made for me over 10 years ago! I need a new one!), a soft bustle pad, and one huge flounced and heavily gathered petticoat.  The petticoat is pretty full, so it adds almost as much width as you can see in original photos from the 1840s, so I've held off on making more petticoats for several years, but I think I need a few more.

The bonnet is a felt bonnet blank purchased from Amazon Drygoods several years ago.  It's trimmed inside the brim with pleated white tulle, gathered ivory china silk (was in a ribbon embroidery kit from Michael's a few years ago) pinked at the edge, and burgundy and ivory paper/fabric roses.  Outside trim (which you can't see in the photo) is vintage ivory crocheted lace around the edge of the brim, a diagonal line of pleated olive green velvet ribbon from the top of the crown to the edge of the brim at the sides, and plaid ribbon ties. 


Bernideen said...

You did well - how wonderful!

South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild said...

Thanks, Bernideen! I still have to work out a few fitting issues, and put the trim on, but I'm happy with the gown. It was fun to wear!

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Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)