Wednesday, December 8, 2021

1830s cotton gown


In my quest to do as many decades of popular European fashion history as possible, I always assumed the 1830s would be the LAST I'd ever hit up. Those crazy sleeves! Those uber-feminine prints! THAT HAIR! But for some reason, after seeing this gown on Etsy (it's still there for a cool $3800) I really started to get the burning desire to jump in:

There seem to be quite a few examples like this in museums -- light ground cotton, with floral print, geometric, or a combination of both.

Armed with that knowledge, I bounded off to Thousands of Bolts (my go-to website for inexpensive cotton) and found a great pink floral-and-geometric to fit the bill. It arrived, I cut into Truly Victorian's TV455, and apparently I was SO excited that apparently I didn't take a single progress picture until I hit this point:

But then I started running into some issues, namely that even though I have the Bootstrap dummy which is made to my size, I didn't have the confidence that I was fitting it correctly. I have joint issues that make some movements really uncomfortable so I almost NEVER make a back-closing gown which I hate taking off and on, and the frustration of this made me sew up the back and open it instead down the front seam, just like the gown that inspired me on Etsy. I also cut down and rounded the neckline a bit more because I felt like it was just too high and restrictive.

Here you can see it opened up down the front as I'm also trying to draft a couple of types of pelerines, the large cape-like shawls that were so common to the era. 

Being that this is such a light cotton and most likely to be a summer-time frock, I wasn't too fond of the idea of big puffy hot pillows bound to my upper arms to pad out the ludicrous sleeves. Luckily, I had stumbled across Kendra's great blog post on drafting her sleeve supports, and there is some historical precedence for these 'crinoline' type of boned puffers!  

I sewed up a little sleeve cap insert and added a heavy-duty zip tie to the bottom (ok, it's two taped together because I don't think they come that long) like a tiny hoop-skirt. I ended up having to soften the edge of it with a quick and dirty tulle ruffle because it was showing too harshly through the very light cotton of the gown sleeve, but that only adds to the puffery.

 Not sure why I was watching Emma while doing 1830s things but hey

And it WORKED. Boy howdy did it work:

 KAPOOOOFFPH. Hi neighbors, don't mind me in my dress with built-in WaterWings.

I chortled when I saw these pictures. A lot. There's something about just full-on embracing a really ridiculous style that tickles me pink, and I'm SO glad I went for it.

These shoes were an exciting find to me -- Target flats with quite square toes (too bad I took this picture in the grass where you can't see it, but they are really a great shape). I sewed some ribbon ties onto them and they're just about perfect.

 The dogs weren't too happy because there were no butterflies to be had, so I stalked them instead in the yard. I opted not to go full-crazy in making a corded petticoat (sorry, not THAT obsessed with this era) and instead wore my quilted puffer petticoat and felt like it did the trick. If I wear this to an event, I might try starching a light cotton petticoat to go over that for even more oomph. Was I wearing a corset or stays? Nnnno.
My hair is all my own....because I bought it. I actually have hair down to my waist but it neither curls nor cooperates, so the side-curls are 'sideswept bangs' from Amazon, wrapped around foam rollers and dunked in boiling water for a minute, then left to completely dry before removing the curlers. They're great because I can clip them in for any number of historical hairstyles...1710s, 1810s, 1830s....I could probably even pin them to the very front of my forehead for that funny curly mop look in the 1880s. The braids are also hairpieces wrapped around my real bun. Throw a few flowers in for a springy look....but keep reading for when things get wild.

I made my own gold 'torpedo' earrings, and got into that weird shoulder-necklace trend as well with some box-chain from Etsy, then whipped up a sheer pelerine and combined it with my Regency chemisette for the extra whitework look. The pin is an actual antique piece, and the 'belt buckle' is just a brass stamping from Etsy with a wire slider glued to the back of it.

But wait, there's more! 😂

 For the fun of it, when the weather started getting chillier, I also made a self-fabric pelerine, seen with some museum extants.

For some reason it makes everything feel very 1990s Laura Ashley to me, but I'm nostalgic so I can roll with that. I think this would be a great piece for traveling or even just a breezier outdoor stroll, to both protect the dress and cover the neckline and shoulders a little more for warmth.
Much pink. Very geometric. Large overstuffed Grandma-chair.
And then I reallllly lost my marbles and tried an 1830s formal hair-style. It wouldn't have been worn with a day gown like this, but there are a few fashion plates out there that make me think I could insert short sleeves and more lace around a lowered neck-line and get away with it:

So I pulled out ALL my hairpieces, birds, flowers, feathers, you name it...

And there we have it. Peak Ludicrousness. I snorted a lot, giggled a lot, and considered going to the grocery store like this because who WOULDN'T find a little joy in seeing something this silly and extra? 💖


  1. Ha! I love that you embraced the 1830s! It is so incredibly wacky and fun. You look great in your light colored fluff. :) I hope you find another reason to wear all of this!


    1. Thank you, Quinn! It'd be nice to have a picnic some day...I feel like these dresses are well suited for pretending to just float across a pastoral landscape, haha.