The Ladies' Tea Guild

Thursday, June 14, 2012

New costume plan: a sheer dress from the 1840s!

Image from Wikipedia.
Well, I've settled on the 1840s as one of my favorite fashion eras, and now that I've made a nice wool gown from 1848-ish, I need a sheer gown for summer, right?  Of course.  My costume guild's upcoming Victorian Picnic in the garden of the Fallon House in San Jose gives me the perfect excuse reason to make what the Victorians called a "clear muslin gown".

Original white muslin gown.
Old Sacramento Living History
I have about 7 yards of cotton voile in a medium-scale plaid in shades of blue on a white ground, to use for the gown, as well as a few yards of white ribbon embroidered in blue flowers, that I bought a few years ago in L.A., for trim.  Thankfully, the 1840s don't call for a lot of trim, so I'll be able to make do with the few yards of the ribbon in a line of ruching around the neckline and maybe a belt around the waist, following the point of the waistline in front.

As for the style of the dress, it will be a gathered/fan-front bodice with a point at center front, but I'd like to do a front opening and a V-neckline filled in with a chemisette.  I have some lovely white cotton voile for that and a set of light undersleeves.  The dress sleeves will be the narrow bell-shaped ones that are seen throughout the 1840s and 1850s, and the skirt will be the basic single skirt (no flounces or ruffles), gathered to the waist, with a deep hem to weight the fabric down and keep it from flying up with every breeze.  The bodice, of course, will only be half lined, with the top edge of the lining barely covering my corset and chemise, and almost no lining in the sleeves.  That will be nice and cool!

Sheer dress in ca. 1840s
daguerreotype.  Image: eBay.
In order to have the appropriate silhouette, I will have to make some more petticoats to go underneath.  Currently, I have the requisite chemise, drawers, corset, and a huge gathered petticoat with three flounces, that holds my skirts out pretty well, but that petticoat really deflates when under a dress!  Even with the bustle pad I made, it's just not enough, so there will definitely be more petticoats.  Hopefully they will even be finished in time to wear them with this dress ...

Hopefully, I'll get a sun hat made, as well.  I have some straw gauze that was once trim on a battered "church lady hat" that I got at the mall, and I hope to cut/sew/mold it into a sheer garden hat for the event.  We'll see if it actually provides any shade for my face!  More photos will be coming as the dress comes to life ... 

1 comment:

Kathryn Ross said...

Can't wait to see your progress on this dress! With some of our 90 plus degree weather - I often think of our sisters from so long ago and how they ever survived the heat with so many layers! Oh - but they were lovely in it, I daresay! I'm mulling over my fabric and style choices for a Civil War ballgown for our annual event in August.

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)