Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Regency mourning

Although the "little white dress" of the Regency period might be the iconic gown that the era is best known for, black dresses during this period were also extremely popular and make equally great wardrobe builders.  This past summer, I decided to make a sheer black dress from around 1810 to wear as a mourning gown, and I've worn it to several events and have enjoyed dressing it up with a variety of accessories to get slightly different looks.

My dress is made of mystery-fiber fabric from the clearance bin of a local fabric store, and I think the whole dress ended up costing me around $10.  I sewed much of the dress on the machine, but because it is so sheer, all of the seams are carefully finished by hand on the inside.  To create the pattern for my dress, I used the very helpful diagrams and photos of a roller printed dress from the 19th US Regiment of Infantry Women's Dress page. I started out with double poof sleeves like you see in the original gown, but after wearing the dress that way a few times, I cut off the bottom poof because I thought the single puff was a little less fussy looking.  The dress closes in the back with a drawstring at the top and a single hook at the waist, and I wear it over over a white bodiced petticoat.

Madame Faber, 1816
The first time I wore this dress, I was attending a concert in a park, so I accessorized it with my black shawl, black boots, a black collet necklace and earrings, and a black Regency-style brass tiara/comb which was made by my amazingly talented friend, Megan of the Mistress of Disguise website.  I often think of tiara as a very formal thing, but when you look at Regency-era portraits, it is fairly common to see women wearing these tiara-like combs with daywear, so it's fun to be able to wear a pretty flashy accessory to a less formal event.

Princess Charlotte of Wales, 1816
On it's next wearing, I was attending a Regency ball, so I wanted to dress the outfit up some more.  I switched out the black jewelry for a rhinestone necklace, earrings, and tiara, and I also added a rhinestone clasp at the waistline under my bust. There are quite a few paintings of Regency ladies in black dresses with white satin slippers, so I picked up a pair of white Touch Ups ballet flats and added some silk ribbon ties to create a similar look.  To finish off the outfit, I wore a pair of long white vintage gloves, which really did a lot to make the outfit look more dressy.

Modes et Manières du Jour no. 27

The next time I wore this dress was to the Breakfast with the Bennetts event at Costume College, so I wanted to go for a more casual "at home" look.  I took inspiration from this fashion plate from Modes et Manières du Jour and added a splash of color with a yellow silk turban and a yellow reticule.  I made the turban using a similar method to the tutorial I posted last year, and I also sewed some fake curls to the front edge of the hat so that it would be even easier to get dressed early in the morning.  I also decided to dye my beloved pair of American Duchess nankeen boots with yellow Rit dye, which was a bit scary, but I really like the results.

I also played around with wearing this dress with an antique black lace shawl, black gloves, and my black bonnet with a lace veil over it to create more of a full-mourning look.  I doubt I'll wear it like this to many outings because the veil and shawl are pretty delicate and are prone to getting snagged on things, but it was fun to at least take a nice picture or two.

I do have one additional way that I've worn this dress, but I'll save that for its own post since it is much less orthodox.  So, I'll just end this post with a few more pictures and a "to be continued..."

As usual, more pics can be found on Flickr.


Juliana said...

What a fantastically versatile dress! It looks different in every photo!! I think my favorite is the "at home" look with the yellow accents--the shoes and turban are quite stunning. Can't wait to see the next installment!!

bauhausfrau said...

I love those last few shots, you look like a Jane Austen heroine!

Gina said...

As a lover of the beautiful customs of mourning, I think you have done a very splendid job on this dress with its many looks. So very beautiful and hauntingly graceful in the wearing of this dress!

Kleidung um 1800 said...

Truly beautiful! Your ensembles and photos are always a treat.
I love how you mix the dress with different accessories giving it a "new" look each time. The sheerness of the dress works very well for mourning.
And the boots! Amazing new colour :)


Stephanie Lynn said...

I love all of the looks but especially the one with yellow accessories. Yellow is one of my favorite colors to wear so I am a bit biased. ;) This just goes to show that we don't need a brand new costume for each event if we are smart with accessories.

Anonymous said...

I love seeing the versatility of the black dress. All your outfits are lovely!

Sarah W said...

Beautiful dress, and the different ways you accessorize it are lovely, and feel so right. The mourning fashions look stunning and very dignified on you, but they do make me want to give you a hug <3

Bianca Esposito said...

Gorgeous! I love the look of the sheer black, I don't think I have ever seen anyone tackle this style. I can imagine with different colored underdresses/petticoats it could totally transform, a ruby red or olive green silk perhaps!

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