The Ladies' Tea Guild

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Mid-Victorian sheer muslin dress inspiration

ca. 1850 fashion plate.
So, I'm slowly but surely working on my sheer dress for the GBACG Mid-Victorian Summer Picnic at the Fallon House at the end of next month.  Originally, I wanted to make my dress more ca. 1848 because I like the simple lines of Gold Rush-era styling, and I like the fact that not as many people do 1840s and 1850s costume as 1860s.  Not that more people shouldn't make the earlier Victorian styles, but I like being a little "different" from the majority, and with the popularity of Civil War re-enacting in the area, 1860s styles are much more frequently made.
Godey's Lady's Book,
April 1860.
However, the Fallon House, where the event will be held, wasn't built until 1855, and the cutting edge of style in 1855 is so close to the 1860s/Civil War silhouette that I don't like it as well.  I like the softer silhouette of petticoats to the stiffer line of hoops, and while I have a hooped petticoat, and I can walk and move and stuff in it, I'd rather deal with petticoats.  Especially since I'll be giving tours of the museum during the event, and that involves going up and down stairs, trying not to knock artifacts over, etc.
ca. 1867 cotton gauze
dress, Kent State Univ.

My solution -- should I choose to go with the earlier style instead of skipping to the post-War 1866/Empire Revival style, which I also like -- is to pretend that I'm a guest or member of the Fallon family, it's 1855 and the house is brand-new, but my clothes are 2 years out of date because it took that long for the ship from Boston to get to San Francisco with my Godey's Lady's Book.  That way I can do 1853 or 1854, skip the hoop and the flounces, and sort of look appropriate.

Peterson's Magazine,
Oh, and I want a gypsy hat instead of a bonnet, even though I know that hats were a little girls' thing ... I just need more shade on my face than the 1850s bonnet provides!  I found a few fashion plates that show the kind of hat I want, so we'll just see if I get it made and decorated, along with the dress, under-sleeves, and other accessories!


Kathryn Ross said...

Oh - how I wish I could sit at your feet and learn of all the ins and outs of these period attire dresses - you know such details!! I must content myself in that I will NOT have a new ballgown for the Civil War Ball this year in celebration of our Founder's Day on August 4. Our city is Vineland, NJ, founded in 1861. Just too much on my plate - and not enough in the bank - to get a new gown. Will make due with last year's bit.

Thank you for your kind congratulations about my daughter's engagement - much talk about dresses to come - though I don't think she'll be opting for period attire . . .


South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild said...

Hi Kathy! The details of period dressing are available to all; I just like to read old books and women's magazines -- I'd do it all day long if I could -- and there is so much information in those great old books and magazines! And don't feel too bad about not having had a new gown for last weekend; I'm sure you looked perfectly lovely. Perhaps you can make some new silk flower bunches to trim it with for the next time you wear it. A small bouquet for center front at the neckline and the right or left front of the bodice waistline, a few smaller nosegays tied with a ribbon bow to pin around the skirt, and a matching silk flower wreath for your head can make a real difference in making a dress look newer, and don't cost a lot of money. Plus, most women didn't have a new ballgown very often; I'm sure they did the same thing and just changed the trimming!

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)