Sunday, January 13, 2013

a dress for the Titanic



I was so thrilled to discover that he next challenge for the Historical Sew Fortnightly corresponded perfectly with the DFWCG trip to the Titanic Artifacts exhibit at the Ft. Worth Museum of Science and History.  So my entry to the centennial challenge is a complete 1913 outfit based on this reproduction dress pattern from Past Patterns, which is listed for the years 1911-1914.

I enjoyed working with this pattern, and I am very pleased with the way the dress turned out.  One of my friends recently asked me if I would recommend this pattern to others, and I would have to answer that with a conditional yes.  If you are comfortable making a dress with no instructions, you are good at resizing, and you just want some basic pattern shapes to get you started, then this is a really nice authentic historical pattern.  I love the shape of the skirts, and there are very few pieces in this dress, so it goes together quite quickly.  There were a few odd areas, like the fact that the bodice is HUGE!  I had to take 4" out of the circumference of the bodice, and took another 3" off the length.  The skirt runs a little short too, so if you are tall, you'll want to add quite a bit to the hem. The only other major change that I made was substituting a shawl collar for the ruffled one just to make it more tailored looking.  But other than those small alterations, I thought the pattern came together very well.

But... and this is a pretty big "but"... there are NO helpful instructions on this thing at all, and you need to be somewhat familiar with 1910's construction methods or you will be completely lost.  It took me 2 days of head-scratching and theorizing to figure out how to close the dress, and I'm still not sure I did it correctly.  I finally went with a center-back closure with snaps that opened from mid-back to the hips, because that is the only way you could have the collar connect across the back (unless there is a split in the collar, which would just be weird).

Also, it helps to know that 1910's dresses often used lapped and top-stitched seams, and the center-front panel of the skirt and the lower sleeves on this dress are both joined this way.  The edge of one piece gets folded under and ironed, then you place it over the next piece and stitch them together from the top, which makes a decorative flap of fabric that looks like a tuck.  It's a fun little detail, but I only knew to do it like this thanks to another antique 1910's pattern that I made up that had much better instructions.   Anyway, if you decide to give this pattern a try, these are the two best tips that I can give you, and hopefully the rest is more straightforward.


My favorite part of this project was making the hat.  I wish I could show or tell you more about how I reshaped it, but I didn't take any in-progress photos because it looked like a such complete hot mess until the very last minute that I was convinced that it was going to be a failure.  But mostly, I just wet the hat and then kept stretching and ironing and re-steaming it over my generic hat block until I eventually bent it to my will.  I was too lazy to go by gelatin to make proper sizing for it, so once it was shaped and dried, I painted a few coats of fabric stiffener on it, and that worked great too.  I love these mid-teens hats that are more vertical vs. the wide-brimmed variety that you more typically see from the early 1910's, so I had a blast making this one. I totally love the weird asymmetry and crazy plumes shooting off in odd directions (here's a great collection of examples). Although the dress could pass for a wide variety of years in the early 'teens, the hat style is very 1913, so I thought it would be a nice finishing touch for the SHF challenge.

This was a 100% stash project, which was fun and very satisfying.  I only spent $1 on a bit of interfacing for the collar, and everything else came from odds and ends that I've had hanging my sewing room for years and years.  My dress fabric came from estate sales - I think it was $5 for a large trash bag completely filled with fabric.  I picked out two shorter lengths of fabric that I couldn't do much with on their own, but when combined together, I had just enough for this dress.  The burgundy velvet came from an old bedskirt, and the tassels were freebies from my husband's work.  I bought the wool hat blank on clearance from Target last year (I still can't figure out how on earth you were supposed to wear a floppy, wide-brimmed blank as a modern hat!), and the feather, shoe buckles, and eyelet dickey were all odds and ends from the Antique Elegance show that I picked up with no specific project in mind, but they were too cheap to pass up.  Lately I've been trying really hard to not buy fabric or other costuming materials unless I have an actual project in mind for it, but this outfit totally justified collecting a bunch of random materials "just in case" from time to time too.  I have decided that 2013 is going to be the "year of the stash" for me, and this was a great project to get the ball rolling.

So that's about it.  You can see more photos of all of the fabulous 1910's ladies and gents from the DFWCG on flickr, and here are a few more shots of my dress for good measure.











17 comments:

Samantha said...

this is so lovely! you rock the teens like no one else! the silhouette is spot on. and i love the maroon accents in the sash and hat. it definitely "goes" but isn't matchy-matchy.

Eva said...

You look beautiful. It's not the easiest style to look good in, but you manage.

Chelsea said...

"Year of the stash" - I like it! I'm doing the same thing, but I called it my "no new fabric challenge." :p

Charo Palacios said...

The dress is lovely and I love the hat! :)

Stephanie Lynn said...

This looks great! I love the hat. I'm going to be trying out some 1910s Past Patterns this year so thanks for the tips.

Cathy Raymond said...

It's an extremely period-looking outfit. You really do look as though you are about to step aboard the Titanic (but don't do it!!!).

That being said, I don't like this dress as well as I've liked your other historical creations. The hat, however is great--it's a lovely, unusual shade, and the color and shape look wonderful on you.

Leia said...

You look fantastic! One of these days we'll get you here to NYC and we'll have a photo shoot at the White Star Line pier where the Titanic was scheduled to arrive but where the Carpathia brought the survivors instead.

Megan Martin said...

Your dress was so lovely, and your hat was truly fabulous! I can't believe you managed to find such a great blank at Target, I'm going to have to keep my eye out for similar items in the future! :D

Hana - Marmota said...

I love the grey and maroon combination - and it's so great that you used stash for this! That's a good incentive to others. :-)
The fun thing about these hats is that they offer a new view from every angle!

aftermartha said...

What a lovely dress and hat. Especially the hat. Love the hat!

I just finished my first HSF challenge using your 1910s pattern so a big thank you for creating it!

Caroline said...

Your outfit is fab! Nicely done! And I do love the shoes, too!

Caroline said...

P.s. I have passed on to you the One Lovely Blog award for your beautiful blog and photos! Thanks for sharing the loveliness :)

Sorry it's taken me a couple days to let you know! Cheers!

http://dressedintime.blogspot.com/2013/01/one-lovely-blog-award.html?m=1

Diana Brito said...

It is beautiful and so well made. You got it, you managed to reproduce this to period perfection. So impressed.
Diana from San Francisco

Caitlin said...

You look lovely. The hat is just perfection.

Megan R said...

I really love this outfit, especially the hat!

Kaycee Harding Photography said...

so fabulous! Miss you ladies!

Jessica Cangiano said...

What a tremendously, timelessly beautiful ensemble. You truly do look as though you could have stepped off the titanic (or perhaps, more safely, another large sailing vessel of the time that did not meet with a tragic end!). Stellar work on this gorgeous outfit.

♥ Jessica

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