Before I started cutting a muslin toile this morning, I decided to take one last cruise through Pinterest. Why, why, why do I do these things? I found some dresses and fashion plates I hadn’t seen before, which always stimulates the creative juices and which usually leads to me changing my mind.
Problem the First
The information I’d previously read stated that morning dress was for indoors only and for family, not visitors. The dresses tended to be white and were made of slightly heavier fabric for comfort and warmth.
Well, one of the things I ran across is this, written January 2004 by Abigail Milton about Regency morning dress. (http://rakehell.com/article.php?id=387&Title=Introduction-To-Regency-Dress) Her information is from a number of reliable cited sources, so one must give it credence, even if it contradicts one’s understanding of what constitutes morning dress. Ms. Milton wrote:
The modern equivalent of a Regency morning dress would be the ratty sweats and old college T-shirt you wear while dying your hair. Fine for around the house, but you’d NEVER wear them in front of anyone. A morning gown worked on the same principle. It was a plain, generally unadorned gown that was never worn out of the house.
Because it was never worn outside, morning dresses were usually made of thin material and had no trimmings. Sometimes, they were made from older fabric, the kind with large flower prints that had been so popular in the last few decades of the 18th century. Most families would have had fabric like this lying around, either in remnants or old dresses. It made sense to reuse this fabric for dresses that would never be seen by anyone outside of family. Why, with all the money they saved in this way, they could buy more fashionable dresses for public viewing!
Other than that, they were pretty much indistinguishable from any other type of dress. They were made in the same style, certainly, with a high waist and long or short sleeves. But again, because it was never worn out of the house, a morning dress wouldn’t necessarily be in the first stare of fashion. Morning dresses didn’t always have long trains, for instance, even when they were popular. It wasn’t unusual for a Regency miss to salvage the trim from a gone-out-of-style dress, use the trim on a new dress, and keep the old one as a morning dress.
So let’s recap: Plain style. Not so much all white. Lightweight fabric. Old fabric/prints not unusual, unless you’re dressing the haute ton. Which the Bennets are not.
Problem the Second
The morning dress ensemble I’d chosen is from 1813. Jane Austen began writing “First Impressions”, which became P&P, in October of 1796 and finished it in August of 1797. (There was a considerable delay between completion of the manuscript and its publication on January 28, 1813.) So it makes sense that this event, titled “Breakfast with the Bennets”, “occurs” just slightly over a decade prior to 1813.
I don’t want to be unreasonably rigid about this, but I prefer to be more accurate and go with a style more appropriate to the time frame of the story. After all, this is for Costume College and I don’t want to look like a freshman dropout. At least not while I’m eating breakfast.
Problem the Third (which really isn’t much of a problem at all)
For me, it’s all about flexibility and not getting wedded to a single idea that contradicts new information. That’s part of what makes creating so much fun for me.
I’ve decided to completely change my plans for the morning dress: use a plain pattern and lighter weight fabric from my stash that is appropriate for the late 1790’s (and doesn’t require a white petticoat). In other words, ditch the designer fashion. Make something simple that is as close as I can get to something that would have actually been worn. Like this:
I haven’t ordered any more of the white woven fabric yet and what I have is enough to work with a couple of different styles. I love it and it’s not going to waste…I have a couple of ideas. But I’m making a white bodiced petticoat, first.
Plus, I still want to make my Nehelenia pattern with the blue woven check:
And the other gem that I’m dying to make:
And, while we’re on the subject of Regency, the theme for the Gala event is “Handsome Heroes and Legendary Ladies.” I’ve chosen Elinor Dashwood because I appreciate the character and there is a lot of her in me. The challenge there is dressing to compliment a character who has to scrimp to get by and isn’t particularly fond of sparkly, glittery excess anyway.
Can’t wait to see how I resolve that one, but I can guarantee that Parisian fashion plates will not figure into the equation.
However, there will be Van Dyke points – lots of them.
Now, back to the muslin.