1910s Projects — The First of Many Parts

So Bob and I were talking when he asked me that fatal question: “What are you going to make for Reenactor Fest?” Reenactor Fest is the first weekend in February. I really hadn’t planned to make anything new. After all, I haven’t been there since 2010 so there’s lots of stuff I’ve made that people I only see there haven’t yet seen.

But you can’t wave candy like that under my nose and expect me not to take a bite!

You see, I would really like to make a 1910s dress. I’ve wanted to make one for years. And while we’ve added a lot of 1910s daywear to our pattern line over the past year, we don’t yet have any evening dresses. So I was planning on working out a pattern for an evening dress anyway. And what better thing than to be motivated by TWO deadlines at once.

Yeah. This is what I consider fun. *faints*

What with the 100th anniversary of the Titanic coming up in April and the new Downton Abbey series being on TV right now, a lot of my costumer friends are talking 1910s stuff. They’re posting photos of stuff in museums and things they’re planning on making this year. And I guess I’m just a victim of peer pressure after all.

For a couple of years now, I’ve wanted to make this dress. It’s an evening dress dated to 1909-1910 that lives in the London Museum. It was made by Madame Hayward in Bond Street, London for Lady Maud Warrender. We’re not sure of the occasion. You can read more about the dress in Janet Arnold’s book Patterns of Fashion 2: Englishwomen’s Dresses and their Construction — c1860-1940. It’s on page 58, Item 20. The image at right is a scan from that book and I’m using it for the purpose of illustration.  (The copyright belongs to the estate of Ms. Arnold.)

This gown resembles other gowns of the early teens made by designers such as Paul Poiret and a even some owned by that Royal fashion plate, Queen Maud of Norway, daughter of King Edward VII of England.  It was clearly a very popular style of evening dress.  This style of gown is distinguished by its high “Directoire” waistline, its horizontal bodice, its kimono-like draped sleeves, and its construction from fine, highly-decorated sheet fabrics.  Poiret is said to have invented this style in 1906 at a time when the S-curve silhouette dominated fashion.  He discarded corsets entirely and developed this new style.  However, the dress of the example at right (and indeed most of the surviving examples) are fully boned and were meant to be worn over a corset (though the long-line corset of the 1910s, not the dangerous S-curve of the first decade of the 20th century).

One of the things I love about this dress is that it’s so simple.  It may appear amazingly complicated, but really it’s just a boned bodice and a plain skirt.  The basic construction is completely unfussy.  There are no gathers or pleats.  The skirt has two darts in front and a back placket to hide the closure.  There are bones on each bodice seam and a petersham waistband to keep everything aligned.  And it hooks up the back.  Over that, you apply all the decoration.  The example from the London Museum above is ivory satin overlaid with black silk net adorned with silver sequins.  Even when worn over a corset, this style represented a complete departure from the complicated structures of the Edwardian period.

Personally, I have a lot of evening gowns in black and white already, and I’d like to do something a little more colourful with this one.  In my stash, I have some beautiful figured silver silk satin lurex blend that I think will be lovely as the underlayer.  And for the sheer overlayer, I have some azure blue silk organza.  I’ve got twill tape for the waistband and short steel bones for the bodice. And I have a remnant of light wool flannel that will weight the hem very nicely. I even have #14 silver paillettes back in stock!

At left is a photo of my dress form draped with the silver satin and the organza just to see how it looks.  This one is taken with flash.  The one to the right, no flash.  (Please excuse that the fabric has fold marks on it.  I didn’t press it before I took the photos because I just wanted to see if the colours worked together.)

I think we have a winner? What say you?

Tomorrow… A surprise!

Buy patterns for Downton Abbey and Titanic Era clothing here!

4 Comments

  1. Heather Gray

    Hey, um, not that I’ll be at Reenactor Fest, but I was wondering if the above was ever done with points instead of a straight hem?

  2. Ooooh! I LOVE that dress – and the fabrics are just yummy. I can’t wait to see what you do with it!

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