I love the print on this dress! Again, I never would have guessed it was authentic to the period. Click on the photos to zoom in. Here’s the photos:

Romantic Rose

Romantic. There’s piping at the armholes.

Another shot without the flash.

Bodice Shot. Horizontal tight gathering over an inch under the neckline.

Another shot of the bodice. There is a wide waist band.

I’ve got so much to post, I don’t know where to start. I’m working on a gown for Karen Millyard, plus I have all of my old Regency ballgown photos. But here are some shots of a 1810s gown and cape at the ROM.

I have to admit, the pattern of this dress is not my style. But the sleeves and silhouette are great!

It looks like the bodice is separate from the skirt. There’s a possibility that the cape is attached to the bodice, so that it makes a coat. I think I’ll need to visit the gown again and get a closer look. But, my guess is that this outfit consists of a dress and a caped jacket, the front of the jacket closing in buttons, with the cape part closing with a hook at the neck. Must revisit to clarify.

Click on the photos to zoom in.

Front portion of Regency outfit. I love the lines!

Close up shot of the sleeves, and of the zig-zag fabric. Honestly, if I hadn’t seen the gown, I never would have thought they would have used such a fabric in the Regency era!

Close up of the bodice.

Gown back.

I have a ROM membership, so I visit often. I ventured to the fourth floor for their Riotous Color exhibit, and took some photos of their 19th century gowns for the world to see and study. Since this is all so image rich, I will post each gown individually.

The ROM describes this patterned silk dress as being semi-formal. I would guess they came to that conclusion for the following reasons:

1. It’s made out of silk, which is a formal fabric.

2. It’s not decorated heavily, which would suggest that it is not a super formal dress.

3. It is long-sleeved. Many of the ballgowns of the period were short sleeved.

4. It has a train, which would suggest that it is formal. However, in the first half of the decade, almost all dresses had trains, regardless of their formality and purpose. There were many complaints made during the day about how women of all classes would be gathering up their long, dirties trains. But throwing the train over one’s elbow allowed a woman an opportunity to show off her legs.

5. I am no expert on printed fabrics, but I am guessing that a printed silk would be expensive. Dyes on silk do like to run, and a multi-colored wood-blocked print would probably be pretty difficult. Yet, the long sleeves and lack of decoration suggest the gown is not meant for very formal wear.

I would guess that a printed-silk, trained gown would be worn at home by a relatively affluent woman.

Here’s the photos:

GOWN 1800-1805

1805 print gown

The gown is made of printed silk with a straight front. Long sleeves that cover the wrists, straight line across the neckline. The female figure is columnar, yet active. The architecture of the gown does not create the body, unlike the previous era. This is a reflection of the chaotic social mobility of the era.

Side shot 1805 gown

Pleated, high waisted back with train. Straight front. Very typical of early Empire. The train becomes an extension of the neck, the whole thing culminating in a head crowned in soft curls.

1805 gown back

Closer shot of the back. The back of the bodice falls on the body as though the neckline were bell-shaped, though of course it’s not cut like that. This nice effect broadens the shoulders and emphasizes the curve of the neck.

1805 gown silk pattern

Close up of the pattern on the silk. It was printed with wood blocks. Amazing how they did that stuff!


Bodice neckline embroidery detail.

Side shot of the gown laid out.

Side shot of the back of the gown. Due to time limitations, the closure was quickly done. I used hooks and eyes, and an attached sash. In the future, I will probably take these out and handwork some lacing holes.

Detail of the sleeve embroidery. This is a great shot of my stitching too, which was an exercise in precision and very time consuming! The results were gorgeous.

I cut very carefully around the embroidered panels, cutting as close to the embroidery as possible without cutting the stitching. Below the panels I attached a gathered sash made from the gown fabric.

This shot shows the spacing of the panels. The sash was gathered and sewn at points. It was basted between the gathers. This is a very period treatment for the hem.

Close up of a warm-colored embroidery panel and the gathered hem sash. There were six panels in total. I alternated between the color schemes. They reminded me so much of the tile patterns of Istanbul. The embroidery is beautiful, and is hand done (though not by me!).

Close up of a cool-toned panel (there were 3 of each color scheme).

Shot of the hem as it would hang.

Cutting the embroidered panels was a test of the nerves. There’s not a single straight line on them, and a millimeter in the wrong direction would result in catastrophe. Stitching them on by hand was very precise work. The stitching needed to be close not only to attach the panels but also to prevent future fraying. Some of the photos show the hand stitching, and I am remarkably proud of that work.

The hem sash was easy enough, and it looks pretty and highly authentic. It was a quick way both to cover the stitches used to hold the hem (so I did not bother to make them inconspicuous. One must pick one’s battles!) and keep the beautiful embroidery off the ground. I decided to treat the sleeves with the gathers so as to echo the pointed arch of the embroidery. In keeping with the gathering theme, I attached the gathered sash. Should the hem become soiled in the future (should I wear the gown again!), I can always add more trim. It means a lot to me to have it function as though it were a “real” dress even if I don’t wear it more than once. I like knowing that the gown will function as a piece of clothing, and not just as a costume.

I’ll post some photos of it being worn in a bit.

I was fortunate enough to get my gown finished just in time for the Jane Austen Ball in Toronto at St. Barnabas church on Danforth Avenue. It was held last night. This was the first event of this nature I have attended since arriving to Toronto nearly a year ago.

Jane Austen Ball 2012. I have few photos. Once the music started, no one sat out of the dancing including myself.

Let me start by commenting that many who are interested in historical costuming and historical dance find themselves too few in numbers (and/or too short on commitment) to bring a large scale historical reenactment to fruition. Even beyond that, often the events can be bogged down by superfluous structure and hierarchy which only deters joviality and new interest. This is the plight of the historical costumer: where can one make their historical garments “live” by wearing them, socializing in them, and putting them in the context in which they were made to be worn without the cooperation of earnest and like-minded individuals?

Setting up a historical reenactment requires a multitude of skills and an interested community. One is dealing operationally with 2012, trying to evoke 1812, and stir up enthusiasm and sentiment enough amongst the participants to make the whole thing fly. Unlike a theatrical event, at reenactments your performers are also your audience, your costumers, and your financiers. One can’t direct them and expect them to follow blindly. For success, there must be interest and good will. In this most crucial of areas, the 2012 Jane Austen Ball was a complete success.

Granted, there was room for improvement. The interior of the event space was hardly Adamesque. The punch, though based on a researched historical recipe, was not cupped in fine china. No one brought out the sterling to dish out the fresh fruit and tasty little cookies. There were no silk-clad Empire chairs on which to rest while officers gathered round to claim your hand for the next dance. And where were the torch-holding footmen? But one would be a very sad person indeed to complain about the wonderful music, the beautiful dancing, or the assembled polite society. In these areas, improvement would be difficult.

In summary, the Jane Austen Ball displayed the magnificent attributes that attracted me to historical costuming and reenactment in the first place: the pursuit of an aesthetic motivated by joy, formed by work and study, and directed by ideals, the result of which is a sensory experience whose remnants linger in the mind similarly to how the remnants of an era linger in the museum or the book. But unlike the static nature of those latter fossils, historical costuming and reenactment have the power of being in the present on the day they occur and being remembered by those who were never there.

Historical costuming and reenactment is not about denying the present or the future. It’s about bringing things to existence, where historical study provides a few pointers. One learns a great deal through study even if only by virtue of the study being an effort made. But it is a joyous moment when the study and effort can be brought some fruition. A gown never worn or project never started is a sad thing indeed. And last night was the successful completion of a happy project for many.

Can’t wait to make something new for the next one!

Ballgown sleeves

Here are the sleeves. I lined them in muslin and attached some embroidery at the shoulder top. They turned out quite well.

I’ll be posting photos of the whole gown shortly as well as a piece on the Jane Austen Ball here in Toronto.

Embroidered panels on hem pinned in place.

I’ve gotten the hem of the skirt finished. To decorate the bottom I have some gorgeous silk panels embroidered in silk. I carefully cut around the outside edge of the embroidery. To attach them I will precisely hand sew the outside. I did the same with the finished bodice, and it looks stunning.

Because I am attaching these delicate silk embroidered panels to the hem, I will add some hand made silk trim to the bottom to take the wear. I haven’t decided yet whether to make the trim in ivory silk or make it of a coordinating colored silk that will match the sash and the turban. I think I will end up doing the latter, as it will probably save me a lot of heartache when the hem is inevitably soiled.

I bunched up the top of the skirt to get the bodice in the picture as well.

I have a confession: I am sick of ivory silk. This is the first time I have tired of a material I was working with. It looks beautiful and feels beautiful, and I recognize it will make a fantastic dress. But It has not the impact and drama of a deep rich color or outstanding pattern. Also, I every time I try the dress on I realize that it is not flattering either. But, I am confident that the results will be gorgeous and very Regency.