Friday, 17 March 2017

Having a ball in 1817

Remember me? I have severely fallen off the blog updating wagon, though in my defense, my flat hasn't had internet for over a month so I've basically just been living in the 19th century (and stealing next door's wifi). Since my last update, I marathoned three consecutive weekends of dance events, and did quite a lot of sewing! Only the most recent event was historical, and it's very exciting, so I'm going to focus on that, and the dress I made for it.

The event was the re-creation of Nathaniel Gow's quadrilles first being danced in Edinburgh, in 1817. So 200 years later to the exact date, we were doing the same dances, in the same Assembly Rooms! There were a number of workshops beforehand, and I wish I'd attended more of them, because it was a bit hard to hear the authentically un-amplified dance calls. However, the musicians in their little alcove sounded great, and the hall made a stunning setting for the dance. There was dinner and dessert included, and we got through an impressive number of dances. And Raven happened to be in town, which made it extra special! It was a pleasure to have her company for last-minute hemming, and be able to do regency dancing together again.

Friends! Photo courtesy of Juliette Lichman.

One of many quadrilles. Photo courtesy of Juliette Lichman.

I hadn't made a new regency dress for a while, and given the bicentennial we were celebrating, I decided to aim for the later end of the period, with a more triangular skirt and a horizontal emphasis in the trim. Well, I would have done if I'd had time to add any trim. I started the dress the weekend before the dance madness started, so it's actually kind of a miracle it was wearable!

Front view...
...and back! Again, pictures courtesy of Juliette.

This is it! Entirely hand sewn from silk, with cotton lining in the bodice and sleeves. Worn over my old shift and stays, and a new petticoat. I didn't get a good picture of my hair, but I'm wearing a lovely comb made by Peryn.

Construction details and more pictures below...
The pattern is a combination of the c. 1809 gown in Patterns of Fashion, draping, and me staring at pictures of extant dresses trying to figure out where the skirt seams are. In the end, I'm very pleased with how the shape turned out. Here are some of the ones I was inspired by:

Duchesse d'Angoulême and the Hospital at Toulouse by Joseph Roques, c. 1815. Need to work on my silly hat and dour expression!
Costume Parisien, 1809. I may try something like this for the hem eventually?
Evening dress worn by the Countess of Palfi, c.1810s. Pleaty bits!

The construction process was slightly more creative than usual. I made the skirt and the back of the bodice first (the latter came with me to the Inter-Varsity Folk Dance Festival in Cambridge to have hooks and eyes attached- I was determined I wouldn't have to be sewn in!). Once those were attached, I basted in the front lining and shoulder straps and draped the bodice front. Once I knew how big the front piece needed to be, I cut it in silk, and fitted it with darts.

Back and skirt sewn together.
Contemplating the front draping.
The sleeves I mostly constructed at New Scotland's re-fresher's weekend, in between coordinating workshops and trying to make reluctant Scottish County Dancers learn mid-19th century dances. ("And now I shall teach you the CORRECT and PROPER Virginia Reel!") It turned out that the sleeve linings were a bit too small, but I didn't have time to completely re-do them, so I just slashed down the middle and inserted an extra poof of fabric to accommodate my upper arms.

Sleeve awaiting attachment. You can see the silk gathered onto a fitted lining, with piping on the edge.
I really liked the decorative bodice pleaty bit (I don't know if it counts as a berthe, of if that's a later term) on a lot of gowns from this period, and that I just draped on myself and basted in place. As per usual, the first side took about five minutes, and then trying to get the other side symmetrical took about two hours. I finished attaching the sleeves and sewed the hem on the day of the ball. In fact, three quarters of the hem in only basted in place, and to be perfectly honest I think it looks fine and it will probably stay that way.

Pleaty bit partially attached. This was about 24 hours before the ball started.
 I had hoped to add trim to the hem and sleeves, so that may happen at some point! Maybe in time for next year's ball...


Sources:
Links for research images because I couldn't just insert them with the URL, I'm sorry I'm technologically inept.

http://www.gogmsite.net/empire-napoleonic-and-roman/subalbum-marie-therese-de-f/1815-or-after-duchesse-dang.html
http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/107942?rpp=20&pg=69&ao=on&ft=*&deptids=8&what=Dresses&pos=1361
http://oldrags.tumblr.com/post/5355784898/evening-dress-worn-by-the-countess-of-palfi-date
https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/9b/78/ed/9b78ed304d4dc37200bd22c603aa4678.jpg

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