Monday, June 4, 2018

The Fussbudget: 1873-4 Dress Details

While in the past I have thrown together bustled ensembles for steampunk events and college shenanigans, before April I had never attempted an actual 1870s gown. So when I started this project, I told myself I just needed to go slowly and focus on making something that fit well.

But then I got...fussy.

And by fussy, I mean I couldn't get Tissot and The Buccaneers out of my head, and so my simple plan somehow developed a lot more ruffles. The romancey cupcakey dresses I imagined in palaces were the only thing I wanted to make. 

"Too Early" by James Tissot, 1873
Then once I had an idea in my head, I didn't want to give it up--which made finding fabric a lot more difficult! As time ticked towards my flight and I got more desperate, I tried something crazy and ordered sheer cotton voile curtains on Amazon. They were available on Prime, they were a nice stripe, and they would have to do. Once they came, I took a quick trip to Homegoods with The Boy, who helped my sort through bedding options to find a suitable set of queen-sized cotton sateen sheets to use as an underlayer.

In the end, this ended up being a blessing in disguise because as I ruffled away I ran out of fabric...but it was easy to order more curtains from Amazon! Even so I don't think I would recommend the home furnishings approach to fabric shopping--everything I bought swore it was 100% cotton, and not a bit of it was. This was some dead Dino all the way.

I was also lucky in that several years ago I made my first 1870s dress, modifying a Truly Victorian pattern to work with a natural form silhouette. I still had the pattern pieces already fit to my body, so I was able to save a lot of time by being able to just cut things out and go! This time I used the original back pleats since I wanted the bustle silhouette. (I took a look at the TV website and I no longer see this particular pattern listed, unfortunately, so I couldn't figure out the number!)

The sleeves I cut just using a little math, and consist of a striped bias-cut overpuff with a fitted gold undersleeve. 

Like many women traveling to Bath before me throughout the 19th century, I bought some accessories at the indoor market (friends are a great and terrible influence). So I also dressed the bodice with a new metalwork brooch and my hair with a gold and pearl comb, which worked well with the earrings and necklace I had already planned to wear, and I think the brooch especially finishes the bodice nicely. I would have been rather plain without it!

back pleats in the bodice

can you see my secret plaid on the overskirt? when the sheer layers of stripes overlap magic happens!
For the skirts I started with TV208 (trained skirt ensemble), which includes both under and overskirts in the pattern. For the underskirt I actually made two skirts: a cotton sheet base layer and a sheer curtain with vertical stripes. I also included a pocket for the first time! Oh my goodness, I want to put pockets in everything now. It was way easier than I expected and so useful. The skirts are assembled separately (the pocket is in the base layer and the sheer stripes have a pocket slit in the side seam), but attached as one to the waistband.

I cut both skirts without a train, as this ensemble was purpose-made for dancing. (PSA: never drag your train on the dance floor!!!)

For the overskirt I used apron front B and a draped/improvised back based on the little fabric I had left. Both are cut with the stripes going horizontally. I plan to order more fabric to improve the back in the future! I also added a butt bow based on some fashion plates from 1873-1874 made out of a pillow case from sheet set.

Finally, everything is trimmed with bias ruffles (2 ruffle layers on the underskirt, 1 on the apron) and pleated satin ribbon trim. I couldn't find multiple widths of the same cream ribbon, so I folded it to create proportional ribbon sizes for each layer: the underskirt is the full width (2" I think?), the apron is 3/4 width, and the bodice is 1/2 width. (Many many thanks to Peryn and Emma for help slamming the last bits of trim and hooks and eyes onto the bodice the day of the ball!)

While there are a few things I plan to adjust before I wear this again (if I ever wear this again...I don't typically do 70s!), overall I am quite pleased with the way this turned out. Being fussy (and working with incredibly fussy fabric) had a happy ending!

yes yes, I'm a ballerina.