Soft and Silky Eighteen Fifties
Added Aug 2, 2010
This is actually a project from last summer, but I thought I’d put it up anyway just because I love it so much.
Sometimes I just get this ‘thing’ about hating my sewing machine. It works beautifully, but there is something very cathartic about hand sewing. I needed a new 1850s dress and had some lovely fabric sitting in my cedar chest.
I’ve long loved how the lining from a dress in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 1 fit me. It was a rather unique pattern, mid-early 1850s dress (she dates it 1852-56) with a lining that used only one curved dart. It fit me very well and I’d used it in something like four other dresses. I did have to widen the back and lengthen it, however, and you can see that in this dress I perhaps lengthened it a bit too much.
The front and back fashion fabric pieces as shown in the book did not work for me at all when I sized it up. This might have been a fault in the sizing but I did most of it by drafting things out later.
The entire dress was sewn by hand. The silk was absolutely lovely fabric to work on. Ditching the sleeves from the book, I did simple pagoda sleeves based off of a sleeve head from another dress in Patterns of Fashion 1. The skirt was 4 panels of 46" fabric, so quite large, all hand gauged into a waistband that was then set into the dress.
The fabric was quite soft and pulls and pills/fuzzes very easily. Most 1850s dresses were done with crisper fabric, but I still really like this one and am considering starching it sometime to get a really bouffant look. More petticoats would help, too!
The most amazing thing about this dress, however, is that it was 100% completely finished BEFORE the night of the event I wore it too. Quite a personal record for me, really.
Silk plaid from Fashion Fabrics Club, purchased by a friend some years ago.
- _Patterns of Fashion 1_ by Janet Arnold