Monday, September 25, 2017

1790s Blue Silk Gown

 All the way back in June I bought tickets to the Jane Austen Ball at Gadsby's Tavern, to be held in September. The theme specifically said 1790s, when Jane Austen was a young woman. Most people wore what could be considered more Regency era (post 1800), and I could have worn my Regency ball gown, but I wanted to try another era and I have a habit of making new outfits for events.


 I considered quite a lot of fabrics, knowing I wanted something in silk, and settled on a lovely, extremely light weight silk taffeta off Ebay. I had purchased yardage of the silk in yellow to line an upcoming project, and I was so taken by the softness, drape, and sheen of this taffeta that I knew I wanted a full dress out of it. It's a bit hard to sew as it's slippery, but it was worth the effort, as I am happy with how light it is to wear and how it flows. Plus it was under $15 a yard!


This blue and white ensemble above was my main inspiration. It's from 1796. The two paintings below both date to the 1790s and show ladies in gathered blue dresses with elbow length sleeves, which is what I chose to make.


The pattern for the dress is a slightly altered Sense and Sensibility "Elegant Lady's Closet"  drawstring dress. I had to make the back neckline higher to cover my back tattoo, and I deepened the front neckline a few inches. I didn't use the skirt part of the pattern; I just made my own using trapezoidal panels, knife pleated in the back. I also adjusted how the drawstring is attached- I don't tend to follow pattern directions. Other than that, I liked the pattern and will use it again soon.


 I knew that I would want something on top of the gown for an accent. I considered a proper spencer or a sheer overdress, but after seeing several extant bodices and a lot of women wearing them in 1790s fashion plates, I decided to do just the little bodice.


My bodice is heavy silk satin from Pure Silks, lined in white silk dupioni, with some white sequin and gimp trim from Heritage Trading. I used the base bodice pattern of Laughing Moon's drop front dress, not including the bib part. I took it in after the first mock up and wish I hadn't; now it's a smidge small! I definitely will use the pattern again without alterations. The little tail is just a crescent shape of the silk, box pleated.


About a month ago, I cut a foot off my hair. It has been waist length or longer for 12 years, and I decided to change it up a bit. Now it's just below my collarbone, which I have found makes it very difficult to do many period hairstyles. I can't put it in a high bun without the back falling down. For this event, I chose to buy a wig! I have been using hair pieces for a while now, but this is my first ever wig.

I followed the directions for the 1790s hairstyle in the book "18th Century Hair and Wig Styling" by Kendra van Cleave. I highly recommend the book, even if you're terrible at hairstyling like I am. The book advises purchasing the "Southern Belle" wig from Lacey Wigs, and adding more curls to the shorter front layers. I did exactly this and I am really liking the style. I got a lot of compliments when I wore it to the ball. I wrapped a silk satin scarf from Dharma Trading around the wig for some interest, but next time I'll also add feathers!

 As for my accessories, I am wearing silk gloves, a silk reticule I made back in January, a painted fan from K. Walters at the Sign of the Gray Horse, and a necklace and earrings set, made by Dames a la Mode, my husband gifted me for our 3 year wedding anniversary last month.


I made a bodiced petticoat a couple months ago to be my main petticoat to wear under Regency dresses. I am wearing this under the blue gown above, and the white and black block-printed dress. It's made from cotton muslin, unlined, has three skirt tucks to give shape to the bottom of the skirt, and uses the drawstring dress pattern from the "Elegant Lady's Closet". I did made it about 2 inches smaller in center front to reduce bulk and gathers, which worked well.


I am also wearing a 1790s corset underneath the gown and petticoat, but I haven't taken proper photos of me wearing it. That'll be in a later post I hope.

1 comment:

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