Thursday, 13 November 2014

Southern Belle dress diary - part 5

Today was epic! Mostly because my deadline is fast approaching and I fly out to Brisbane on Friday. As a result I pretty much spent all of today on this dress (including staying up all night) and this is going to be quite a long post.

Day dress, 1862, Met Museum - I LOVE the cutouts on the sides

I started by spending a couple of hours pinning and repinning the skirt to determine the appropriate drape. I've now collected a pretty good pinterest collection of reference images. Originally I wanted the bodice and the skirt to be separate pieces like in the image above. Then I realised that the bodice wouldn't sit right without the skirt. The weight of the skirt holds the bodice in place so it doesn't float against the silk corset when I raise my arms. So I decided to attach the skirt to the bodice. I then wanted to retain the point of the bodice as I could fasten it at the waist and let it flare naturally into two points over the bustle. I've found a number of lovely decorative approaches to bustles over the last few days - it's so great having this many extant pieces to choose from!

Back detail of cream and blush silk dress - Met Museum, 1865

After playing around with the drape of the skirt I realised I'd have to add a twill tape for the skirt to attach to under the bodice from both sides that'd have to close somehow under the zip/button combination. At that point in the afternoon it went into the too hard basket and after my mother helped me pin and bring in the sides of the bodice I attached the skirt directly to the bodice all around. The V's ended up on my hips.

 Emile Pingat ball gown. Met Museum 1860 - I love the black sash detail!

This blue silk dress sold for $444 on ebay in 2012. The seller claims it's 1850-1860's and was donated to some museum and has the accession number: 47.168-2. I just love the stripes and the sash details.

I had draped many different styles, from the smooth bell shape, to one smooth at the front and pleated at the back, to something more gathered. In the end I fell in love with the style above because it just worked with the fabric I had. Below is an image of the skirt tacked to the bodice and experiments with lace in progress.

Once the skirt decisions were made and the bodice and skirt tacked together (with red thread no less!), I had to make some trim decisions as they may or may not need to be sewn in with the skirt and bodice. If you recall earlier in the dress diary I had pinned a blue silk front to the dress in an attempt to hide the pesky lacing loops. While looking for dress designs I had an impossible time trying to document a contrasting panel in the center of the bodice. The closest I got was the image below and I'm pretty sure that's a top wrapped over the dress. Also, due to the wonders of pinterest, I'm really not sure when that image was taken. To my untrained eye it could be 1860, but as I have no other evidence for such a thing I had to abandon the idea.

So without documentation for a full panel I had to document some sort of seam treatment or ribbons or something that'd cover the area in question. So I turned to the trusty internets and found the image below and fell in love with it. I could pretend that it's the justification for the blue-ish silk but I made that decision based on how much fabric I had and the colour rather than any extant dress. So I can use strips of silk to cover the lacing loops.

1865 day dress fringed in teal taffeta trim. Dress has a belt with a large peplum (bustle sort of bow decoration). Whitaker Auctions.

In addition to the silk bodice decoration, I really liked the tie shaped sashes on the Emile Pignat dress (and a few others). So I tried draping it with some spare fabric. The idea is to use the brocade for a majority of the sash and edge it in the blue silk. As the sash is detachable this has been put on the back burner until the dress is completed. The next challange - accomodating the hand length of space now on the base of the skirt.

Due to the move from hip to waist and the lift provided by the tulle petticoat and the hoop skirt the hem of the dress has risen about a hand's length. I've measured the base of the skirt at 6m (the waist measurement pre-gathering is 4m). For fabric I have two choices. I have two, 2m pieces of brocade or 12m of very light (artificial?) silk stuff. I could just extend the hem however I can't document same colour, non-ruffled trim (counter-colour is a thing though). I can, however, document a trim at the base of the skirt in a dark contrasting colour (below) AND tie shaped sash things edged with the same colour.

So I experimented. On the left - wide gathered blue trim with upper ruffle and lace, centre - thin gathered blue trim on smooth brocade with small blue ruffle and lace at join and finally - smooth brocade extension panel. I decided to go with a wide blue silk trim and gathered 12 meters to my six. This took me most of the wee hours of the morning as I was so tired I kept screwing up the gathering ratios. My usual method for gathering is to determine the ends of the panel and pin them. Then I pin the middle of the gather and the middle of the panel together. I then sort of squish or expand the gather until it fits. I pin the hell out of it and then sew it down smoothing the gathering as I go. I was rather happy that I didn't do my usual trick of accidentally sewing the base of the trim into the top of the trim. As this took so long I didn't end up attaching the lace - this will be a dress near completion step.

Silk dress, 1864, Met Museum - Very short sleeves with darling lace, simple ruffled trim on skirt and flat waist. I'd feel beautiful wearing thins.

Finally I looked at the possibility of adding ruffles to the neckline as can be seen below. The idea was to make something like the silk dress above and use the ruffles to create the illusion of a broader neckline without having to alter it. Given how high the next was at the bottom and my rather generous chest I decided that adding additional bulk in that region probably wasn't a good idea. Once that decision was made I felt I could sew the bodice, trim and skirt together and complete the final touches on the plane and at Tamar's place.

Things still to do:
Hand sew in front panel
Belt / sash and peplum

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