Sunday, January 11, 2015

Little House natural form dress


I'm planning on going to Costume College again this summer, and it is never too early to start making dresses!  The theme for this year is "Plucked from the Pages", so a couple of my friends and I are planning on wearing Little House on the Prairie inspired outfits for one of the days while we are there.  I have been obsessed with all things "Little House" for most of my life, so I decided to make a very simple wool natural form gown that would be right at home on the prairie during the early 1880's, which is when the last few books took place.  I remember spending many hours of my childhood (and adulthood!) pouring over the illustrations in those books and re-reading the passages that described their dresses.  Although my outfit isn't meant to copy one specific dress from the book, I was definitely influenced by several of the charming illustrations and descriptions from the series when coming up with my design.

I also wanted to have something new to wear this weekend for an outing to the museum with the DFWCG. The wool that this dress is made from is quite heavy, which makes it warm and cozy for winter. Plus, the narrow skirts and lack of a train made it much more manageable around crowds, which was nice since the museum was packed. Unfortunately, I ran short on time and didn't get to fine-tune my outfit as much as I would have liked, so I'll probably go back and made a few minor adjustments before it gets a second wearing a Costume College. I know these are nit-picky things, but the peplum is a little unruly and refused to lay flat in back, the collar and cuffs need a bit of lace, and the velvet collar seems a bit awkward to my eyes. Is it too wide? Should it be wool? Or maybe I just need to add some ribbons or a lace cravat to dress it up some more? I haven't completely worked a solution just yet, but luckily I have 7 months to mull it over.

I used the same basic bodice pattern that I used last summer for my plaid dress, and I reused my bonnet from that project too since the colors looked so pretty with the maroon.  The overkskirt pattern was drafted from the 1880 "sateen dress" diagram in Fashions of the Gilded Age Vol 1.  I discovered that the front of the overskirt was a lot longer in real life than the illustration shows, and I had to add in extra pleats to make it match up with the back panel correctly. But that's okay because I like the look of the longer skirt just as well. I also used two straps of wide elastic to keep the overskirt pulled back tightly, and that seemed to help the draping of the front a lot while still giving me freedom to move.

My favorite part of the dress is the set of antique Victorian buttons on the bodice, which are nothing exciting in photos, but I think they are quite pretty in real life. I love being able to use old buttons on a new dress. It's such a fun finishing touch.


I also got to wear my fur capelet again, which made me incredibly happy. It's so warm in Texas that it's always a treat when I can find an excuse to wear coats and capes!


As usual, here are some of my favorite photos, and there are a few more additional pics on flickr.







24 comments:

Gillian Taylor said...

You look so lovely, so 'at home' in this dress. It suits you perfectly!
If I might be so bold? - I agree with you about the collar; have you considered slimming it down and adding a narrow lace to soften the edge? I also think it might look wonderful with a smart ladies watch chain and watch pocket.

Stephanie Lynn said...

How lovely! I adored the Little House books growing up too! :D

Samantha Collard said...

Wow!! You did a wonderful job!! The dress is very pretty!

Crystal Yoner said...

Oh gosh, it's so pretty :3

Sarah W said...

Beautiful, so understated and elegant!
I always loved reading those books, especially about clothing, sewing and housework :) The contributed a good deal to my love of history and period clothing.

Kleidung um 1800 said...

Somehow the title 'Little House Dress' implied something quite simple upon first readig it, but the pictures proof that simplicity in this case also means beauty!
Absolutely beautiful and the accessories go together so well, everything is just right! Perfect!

Sabine

cathgrace said...

I love the collar, and think it looks awesome in the finished look, you are so very talented!!!

Josie Smith said...

I love the lines... Early 80s is a great time. Little House will be such a fun grouping. I adore the hat and second the love of old buttons.

vintagevisions27 said...

Looks great! I love the colors, the bonnet and capelet go so nicely with it.
-Emily

Tegan said...

So I like the little velvet collar -- I think it's darling as-is. But perhaps a bit of piping along the edge of the collar - jacket? Right along that seam? It just seems like it needs oomph and my first thought was "a lace collar!" but I think that would wind up looking silly.

Also, I definitely read and reread and gazed at the pictures of those dresses too. Mary's brown silk/wool plaid that they made for her to go to school in, Laura's blue plaid that she taught in. And reading about how Ma Ingalls just drafted the whole thing with a little help from a card regarding sizes.

Kat said...

This dress turned out so pretty! And what I love about it is that it doesn't look like a costume. It looks like clothes. And it looks AMAZING on you, too!

Maggie Masetti said...

Eee, so pretty! I love it, and it looks so wonderful on you! The pictures you got are lovely too, as always!

Isis said...

You look lovely! I love The Little House-books and just got the annotated Pioneer Girl. It's very interesting, especially the bits that she choose not to include when she wrote the sries.

Lauren said...

Just like the fur cap Laura got from the Christmas Tree! When I was little, my mom made my dresses, and I insisted on calico, just like Laura. I would have sold my left leg for a fur cape like that....

Elizabeth said...

You look so beautiful in this!

eva´s kleidertruhe said...

I love the colour and the enitre silhouette! It suits you very well!!!

Eleonora Amalia said...

Goodness, this is just too stunning... I can't stop scrolling the picture over and over again! Lovely!

Denise Beucler said...

I found a book I think you might enjoy, "Pioneer Girl, the annotated autobiography." It's the transcribed, original manuscript that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote as an adult memoir, annotated with historical notes, corrections, and areas where the autobiography differs from the little house's narrative. I just started it today, and this dress and your LJ post (I'm Jayene over there), made me think you might enjoy it. It is a monster book, 400ish over sized pages, but with lots of photos and maps and sooo many footnotes!

Angelica said...

I love this! The little house series was one of my favorite series as a child and I'm working on getting copies of the books again (because I can't remember why I got rid of them in the first place).

wandabvictorian said...

Very nice! And you are so lucky you can go to Costume College. It is beyond my means (insert pouty face)

Kara said...

Beautiful dress! I really like the collar, and think you should keep it as is. Also loved the the "Little House"-books, and am looking forward to my daughters becoming old enough so that I can read them to them.

Cori Gagnier said...

Hi Jen,
I've been lurking about your blog for weeks now, and might I just say that i think your gowns and creations are some of the most beautiful I've seen. I'm very new to costuming (so new that I haven't made a thing...yet) and I would love to pick your brain.
I docent at an Historic park once a month and am trying to put together a costume. I thought a hat might be an easy place to start and was hoping maybe you could help me out. I'm trying to track down millinery wire without buying on-line. Do you know of a good substitute?
Thanks!
Cori G.
oops...I have made a skirt from one of the Truly Victorian patterns :-D

Jen Thompson said...

Hi Cori - I've seen people using thicker floral wire or jewelry wire for hats. It's not covered in thread like millinery wire, but it will do the trick if you don't want to order the fancy stuff.

Cori Gagnier said...

Thanks Jen! I kept trying to find the difference between millinery wire and plain...now I know, lol!

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