Thursday, October 29, 2020

The backwards gown: from one century to another

 This was really an enjoyable project that originally didn't even make my list of "things to do this year" but I'm so glad I did, because I think I'll wear it MORE in its altered form!


Before and after! 

This Regency gown was made back in 2018 from a thrift store bedsheet. I still love the gentle maroon floral print, and it's extremely comfortable on me even though I've gained a significant amount of weight. When I drafted this gown, I did actually add a faux-pleated back to try to suggest that it was transitional around the turn of the century, and I made the sleeves longer than, say, a gown from 1810 would have had, although considering the accessories I styled it with at the time, it was looking much closer to 1805-1810.
 So when we did another socially distanced outing with just a few of us this summer, we were sort of aiming for somewhere between 1780 and 1810. I could have left this gown as it was, but have been pining for 1790s-wear as I have been envying my friend Emily's delightfully versatile costuming from that decade.

To that end, after digging up some accessories, I started trying to think what would make it look more 1790s. After eyeballing some fashion plates and portraits, I seized on the following two images:

This first was identified as a "Chemise a l'Anglaise, illustration from October 1795." Long, loose curls were a trademark of the 1790s, as were loose scarves as turbans and sashes. I loved the print of this gown...while it's not floral, it gave me an idea of what my gown could look like if styled differently. Note the below-the-elbow sleeves.

This lovely painting of Hortense de Beauharnais, attributed to Jacques Sablet (Musée Fesch - Ajaccio, Corsica France), had another element I was looking for: a way to add length. Again, you see the curly hair, turban, and sash! I still had some scraps, and I mean SCRAPS of this bedsheet, and it ended up being just barely enough to add extensions to the sleeves, and a ruffle all the way around.  The sleeve extensions were pieced on with an eye to length rather than pattern matching, given how little of the fabric I had left, but I will leave you to determine if you can find the seam here in a minute!

I got so excited collecting up my little accessories! I dyed the shoes and added the trim back when I made the gown, so that was all ready to go. A while back I had made this scarf/sash out of a beautiful cinnamon/gold shot taffeta remnant, with big, beautiful gold tassels found at the thrift store. Also, I had a giant curly soft wig from Amazon that I've used for 1780s hair in the past, but left down, I felt it could work for 1790s. Throw in one of my favorite brooches, a quizzing glass replica from Etsy, some gloves, and a cell phone case designed to look like a book, and I felt quite ready to perambulate the countryside. 
My lovely fellow walkers! Sara's grass-green Regency gown was so fresh, Emily's classic white gown has had so many great accessories matched with it, and Christine's stunningly embroidered 1780s gown looked perfect among the flowers.

Christine orchestrated us for individual pictures in the flowerbed next to the Art Museum.

Here you can see my JUUUUST long enough ruffle!

The finished alterations in motion! We were playing a Game of Graces in the park, and I'm not at all competitive, no! (Sadly, I lost the hair ribbon, which was tied like a turban, early on, and nobody thought to tell me, so the rest of the pictures are without it).
I am a bit askew from running in the heat, but here you can see the longer sleeves and the ruffle, giving it that nice, naturalistic flowing shape of 1790s. 

Christine really took some beautiful photos with her phone!

Next time I'll have to make sure my sash is actually sitting just under the bust where I wanted it, and my turban is firmly SEWN into my wig for the day, but you get the general idea! It was nice to re-wear a gown instead of frantically trying to finish something new for a little half-day walk, and now this gown will be useful for quite a few transitional-era events, hopefully!

Chronologically, my candy-striped robe a la anglaise should be up next in entries, but I will be saving it until I get a professional photo back from a recent shoot! So most likely I'll post about my blue and gold 'bizarre silk' mantua soon. A dream project if ever there was one!