1910s Projects — The Surprise

So I was working out how I was going to make my 1910s evening dress for Reenactor Fest when Bob asks that all-too-practical question: “Are you sure you’re going to have enough time to finish it?” After all, Reenactor Fest is on the 3rd, 4th and 5th of February, we drive out there on the 2nd, I have Birka the weekend before, and my days between now and then aren’t exactly going to be idle.

Well, I’m plotting out a modular scheme for the decoration. In other words, I’m going to put together the satin bodice and skirt quite quickly, finishing that in the first day or two. Then it’s all decoration. I’m going to start with a light edging of paillettes on the sleeve ends and neckline. If I still have time, I’ll add more paillettes to the sleeves ends and neckline. If there is more time, maybe a light smattering of paillettes over the whole gown. If more time, another pass over the whole gown. That way if I run out of time, I’ll at least get some paillettes on the gown and I can add more later.

But Bob does bring up a valid point. If I run out of time before I finish the base gown, I’m not going to have anything new to wear, and I’ll be sad.

And then a picture flashed into my head:

Remember Lady Sybil’s Turkish Trousers from the first season of Downton Abbey?

After that episode, I heard many people talking about Paul Poiret’s Orientalist designs from “The 1002nd Night” in 1911. But we memorizers of Patterns of Fashion just turned to page 68 for Madeleine Vionnet’s Black Crepe Evening Dress with Zouave hemline from 1918.

Vionnet’s creation wasn’t really trousers. The split stops slightly above the ankles, just high enough to give the illusion of separate legs as long as the lady walked in a ladylike fashion and didn’t take huge strides. True to Vionnet’s style, the construction is extremely simple. The bodice is little more than a bandeau with spaghetti straps. And the skirt/legs are made from a rectangle of fabric, artfully gathered and wrapped around the legs. The construction is ingenious in the truest sense of the word, but if Janet Arnold hadn’t laid it flat for us, we would never have been able to imagine it.

Best of all, it’s quick. I made a scale mockup of the outfit in less than an hour (of course I didn’t hem it or put in fastenings). And I have the perfect fabric:

Yes. “Kass green” silk crepe de chine. Just had it lying about. It was destined for a 1930s day dress, but I think it will suit this better. I’ve got four yards of 45″ wide. I bet it won’t take more than two.

I haven’t decided if I’m going to decorate the waist with anything at all. Vionnet’s original had black crepe roses. Lady Sybil’s of course has some kind of Orientalist trim. I’ll cross that bridge when the rest of the work is done.

I have to move too quickly to post about my progress on this one. But I’ll post photos when we get back from Reenactor Fest!

Tomorrow… Return to the Evening Gown

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4 Comments

  1. Jennifer DeBeneditto

    The Turkish Trousers are fantastic

  2. Heather Gray

    Wow, that’s a gorgeous outfit.

  3. BRILLIANT! Gorgeous, perfectly period, and it looks so classy and comfy! Win!

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