Your Weekend Wow!

You rise in the morning and, after a little yawn and a bit of a stretch, it’s time to go down to breakfast. It’s not necessary to dress fully for the day…not yet. One only needs to pop on something appropriate for the family, morning table and household duties until the social day begins. Something a bit like this.

Natural Form era (1877-1882) morning dress from Augusta Auctions, which provided this description: 1-piece, princess lines, trimmed w/ cream bobbin lace, low bustle back, CF thread-covered buttons, side pockets, trained & ruffled skirt, Back 32 inches, Waist 25 inches, Center Front Length 57″, Center Back Length 70 inches.

Sold at auction in 2014 for $210 USD. (Yes, really.) All photos by Augusta Auctions.

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Your Weekend Wow!

I don’t usually include wedding dresses as Wows because they are in a category that’s generally meant to “wow.” However, if I rigidly adhered to that guideline I’d have to avoid evening dress, ball gowns, and a whole slew of fashion that is meant to be visually stunning and what a shame that would be.

I found this dress on Pinterest. The photography isn’t sharp, but the dress is stunning. I am completely taken aback by the pearl embroidery on the skirt. The alternating layers of satin and pearl fringe cascading down the center front isn’t bad, either. Wowzers.

Wedding dress by Charles Frederick Worth, 1880. Bodice made of cream silk satin, fastened with pearls. Neck and center front opening trimmed with machine-made lace. Lined with white silk and braid. Skirt of cream silk satin. Front and hips trimmed with panel of embroidery on net with pearls and satin stitch in design of leaves and stiffened bell-shaped flowers. Overlapping lobes of satin trimmed with pearl fringe in the center. Train of cut and uncut velvet.

Worth wedding gown

Your Weekend Wow!

I’m finally getting back in the swing of things (more about the recent goings on later) and have been having a devil of a time deciding what to post for Your Weekend Wow today. There are so many fancy and elaborate ensembles to choose from, and I was originally gong to hunt down something fabulously fancy. Then I changed my mind – I’ve been away for so long I wanted to share something “normal” and welcoming. I’ve always loved this one even though it’s a relatively simple day dress. The dots and ruching and lacing and bows are all fun. And who can say no to a matching parasol?

Day ensemble, 1880. Cotton print. Basque bodice and bustle skirt. Matching umbrella. Photo: Christine Valkenberg Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire.

Info on the Ageless Patterns™ Dress Mentioned in the Previous Post

Harper's Bazar, 1877

Harper’s Bazar, 1877

I neglected to give any information about my Ageless Patterns purchase, made whilst in the grip of quasi-delusional determination to give it a try. The front is a bit odd – what’s up with those pleated pocket-looking things over the boobs? – but I fell for the back with its draping, ruffles and pleats. It may well be the most complicated gown I tackle, but abject fear (and lack of common sense) has never stopped me before. No good reason to change that now.

The pattern, copyrighted and sold as Ageless Patterns™ # 1614, is described thusly: This dress or polonaise was made of plain pale pink zephyr wool, pink and dark gray striped zephyr wool and trimmed with side pleated ruffles. I love how those six little words “and trimmed with side pleated ruffles” skim over the hours and hours of work behind them.

Note: Zephyr cloth, also referred to as zephyr wool, is a thin kind of cashmere made in Belgium. Cashmere was historically known as “cassimere” and “kerseymere.” There are a number of definitions for this fabric – here are a few:

  1. a thin, lightweight, twilled woolen fabric,
  2. a heavily fulled, twill-weave woolen cloth finished with a fine nap,
  3. a fine soft woollen cloth of twill weave,
  4. an inexpensive version of this fabric, made with a cotton warp and a wool weft.

As is the case with most Ageless Patterns, it comes in only one size: 34-inch bust and 20-inch waist. Needless to say, there will be a considerable amount of re-sizing and many, many muslins until I get the fit right.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the brand, Ageless Patterns come with a reproduction of the original pattern and a copy of the original sewing instructions. These instructions were written for experienced dressmakers of the time who already knew the basics of Natural Form construction and didn’t need step-by-step instructions. (Fortunately, the pattern pieces have 5/8-inch seam allowances added, avoiding at least one potential error from the start.)

There is no hand-holding and the patterns are not for the beginner or the faint of heart. Yet there is sits in my pattern box, awaiting its chance for fame and glory unenviable notoriety. Optimism or insanity? We’ll find out eventually.

Some Thoughts onThe Natural Form Era: 1887-1882

"La Mode Ilustree", 1879

“La Mode Ilustree”, 1879

The Natural Form Era. I started this historical reproduction thing being enamored of the Early Bustle Era fashions and I had trouble appreciating the relatively bustle-less styles that followed. Then, as I started researching the bustle eras and saw extant examples, I began to enjoy the design aspects: creative use of asymmetry, the overall sleek lines and the infinite potential for playing with the back skirt and train. I absolutely love the red stripped dress on the left – she reminds me of a walking peppermint stick.

Carolyn Jones as Morticia Addams.

Carolyn Jones

My enthusiasm wanes with the extremely hobbled styles, however, which make no sense to me – neither in the Natural Form Era nor the 1910’s. (It brings to mind TV’s 1964 original Morticia Addams (“The Addams Family”) and how Carolyn Jones seemed to simply glide . I always wondered how long she had to practice to do it so well. I would have spent half of the filming time on the floor, flailing to get upright – like a beetle on its back, but far less graceful.)

One giant leap for...no one.

One giant leap for…no one.

But I digress. Now I’ve come to like the Natural Form Era; the appeal of shape and the myriad methods of creative draping it allowed…especially in the back.

I’ve  already put these two fantastic designs into my “one of these days” queue, but I need to work on my skills and understanding of the construction before I can even start draping and make a muslin.

Closer to (theoretical) reality, in a bout of what must have been temporary insanity, I actually puchased the pattern to make this dress, seen in Harper’s Bazar, 1877:

Harper's Bazar, 1877

It’s sold by Ageless Patterns, which are currently way over my head. But the design is so intriguing I couldn’t pass it up. No matter that I’m not even remotely close to being able to pull it off. One day I’ll be ready. And I can already hear myself banging my head against the wall over the zillions of tiny pleats. It will take me at least a year to finish it. But won’t it be grand?!

First, however, comes the matter of catching up with the Historical Sew Monthly. #3 is in progress, but #1 is far from done. I’m still moving boxes, but now the patterns and most of the fabric are in the new house with me. Tomorrow I’m bringing over the sewing machines and production will, finally, re-commence.

Inspiration or Insanity?

The dress that Madame Bartholomé wore for the sitting of the painting Dans la serre (1881) by Albert Bartholomé.The Natural Form Era never excited me very much until recently. I can’t remember what tipped the scales in its favor, but I think it was this: the dress that Madame Bartholomé wore for the sitting of the painting Dans la serre (1881) by Albert Bartholomé. I’ve loved that painting for eons and adored the dress. That was long before historical sewing entered my life, and I think it’s a flame that’s been smoldering for quite a while. Then I found photos of the actual dress and began to see the fashion of that period in an entirely new light.

Simple lines are the most difficult to get right. A poor fit declares itself without mercy. It’s a big technical challenge for me. So, of course, I’ve found three that I want to reproduce when my skills have improved. (Practice,  practice, practice!) I’ve gone absolutely bananas over the center dress…and it looks to me like the most difficult of the three. No surprises there, huh?

I’m hoping to get one of them completed for Costume College next year. Oh boy – there is so much to learn between now and then.

But first I’m finishing the Regency outfits. (Come on, UPS!) And the Early Bustle Era dresses – at least one – next. As I said, practice!

Next post is an update on the Regency projects, so stay tuned.