Sunday, December 14, 2014

1869 dress for Candlelight

I got a bee in my bonnet last weekend and decided that I couldn't bear to wear my same old bustle dress to Candlelight two years in a row, so I made a new 1869 outfit for the occasion. Luckily, this style of dress goes together quite easily, and I was able to pull all the supplies that I needed from my stash. All I had to buy this week was a $1 sprig of greenery for my hat. Now that's my kind of Christmas miracle!

The gown is made with green plaid silk that I picked up at a Fabrique sale earlier in the year for $16. No, not $16 per yard - but $16 for the dress length. Best. Deal. Ever! I had no idea what I would make with it, and I usually try to avoid adding things to my stash without a plan, but this was just too good of a deal to pass up. My students pointed out that the fabric looks like a roll of Scotch Tape, and wow - yeah it does! Maybe I can convince Scotch to sponsor my dress if I sew a big product patch on my back like a race car driver. But even though I do look a bit tape-ish, I thought the green was quite festive, and I matched the event's Victorian Santa so well.

To make the dress, I used a combination of patterns from Patterns of Fashion and Theatrical Costumes for Stage and Screen. It's a pretty simple dress on its own, and the only embellishment is a set of antique glass buttons with flowers cut into them. At first, I thought about adding fringe or rows of trim on the dress, but then I fell in love with a 1869 fashion plate from La Mode IllustrĂ©e showing a similarly austere gown worn with a black tunic over it. I poked around and found several period patterns for this type of garment, including one in the book 60 Civil War-Era Fashion Patterns that is referred to as a "pannier mantilla". I loved the description, which states: "a more useful article of dress is not likely to appear this season, and will more than repay for the slight trouble of making it." How charming!

I also found a similar garment and pattern in an 1869 copy of de Gracieusse that is archived on the Het Geheugen van Nederland archive (search for "gracieuse" plus the year that you want to find the magazines). This mantilla, which you can see in the middle of the top and bottom row of the illustration above, is a little more fitted and has an open V-neckline, so I used the body from this pattern, and the pannier flounce from the other. I always love detangling the pattern sheets in these old magazines, and somewhere hidden in this jumble you can find the pieces for my mantilla.

To finish the outfit, I dyed another pair of vintage gloves with Rit to match the yellow in my dress. I also took a straw pillbox hat from the 1960's and tacked the sides of the top together to make it look more like an early bustle tilt hat. I added a vintage moire ribbon to the back and a bit of Christmas greenery to the top, and that's it. The ribbons liked to flap around in the wind and stand straight up or wrap around my face and look ridiculous most of the time. I probably should have gone with narrower ribbon like the hat shown in this 1869 fashion plate, but the color matched my dress so well that I couldn't resist. Oh well. Go big or go home, right?  :)

On the way to the event, I stopped by my favorite Victorian chapel and took a few pictures. Here are some of my favorites, and as usual, there are more on flickr, plus a few others of our group at the Candlelight event.