Wednesday, December 16, 2015

1860s marquee dress

Over the weekend, I went down to New Castle, Delaware, for their Dickens Experience/Spirit of Christmas event - all the historic houses in Old New Castle are decorated with greenery and fruit, most of the sites are open for tours, there are a few dramatic readings/performances, and general shopping and dining. I'd never been down there before, and I thought it was quite charming. And very historical! I don't know the finer points of architecture, but it at least looked like all the buildings around Market Square were 18th/first half of the 19thc. If only we'd had a bit of snow...but it was about 70*F that day, not wintery in the slightest! I made it a point to demand snow or at least cold for next year, if one can demand such a thing!

Anyway, I'd worn my "marquee" dress, mainly so I could get photos of it and do this writeup! If I hadn't wanted to do that I'd have gone for my taffeta instead...I wasn't sweltering, quite, but did start to get uncomfortable in some of the heated buildings. Wool flannel is a lovely thing, and not made for summer weather, thanks.
Just out of frame there is a very amused gentleman in the midst of decorating his railings. "SIR CAN WE TAKE A PICTURE WITH YOUR PINEAPPLE?!"
My only 1860s bonnet doesn't coordinate at all! I may have to think about acquiring another one for next winter.
I can't remember how much detail I gave when I posted about this way back when I finished it, so let's have at it again.

Materials: The main dress is made of seafoam green wool flannel, and the accents are of fuchsia wool twill. Bodice is lined in brown cotton sateen. The underskirt is made of pink cotton (that you can't see!), and just has the flounce of twill stitched on top. The hem of the flannel skirt is faced in mint-colored polished cotton. And it all weighs a solid ten pounds!

My original plan was to tack the flounce to the flannel skirt and avoid the added weight of an underskirt (I can't hang it up because it's too heavy; the skirt would pull right off the bodice), but the flounce itself was too heavy for that. The stitches showed in the skirt in a bad way. So, ten-ton skirt it was!
I probably could have taken a bit of width out of the front: there's a lot of fabric in those pleats and it all hangs a little awkwardly. But by the time I figured that out, it was all attached and sewn together, and taking it apart would have been a lot of work! No thank you.
I didn't copy any one particular dress. You see the cutaway front a fair amount starting 1863ish, and my primary inspiration was probably the two dresses in the following plate.

I took elements from both dresses that I liked, as you can probably see!
There are probably as many ways to make this kind of dress as there are dresses, but I chose to make separate "waistcoat" and "jacket" fronts, and sew them all into the side seam, with a one-layer back. The skirt and underskirt are sewn to one waistband, which is sewn to the bodice, leaving a dogleg closure. And yes, that 6" of unsewn bodice has hooks and bars to make sure the skirt doesn't droop! Have I mentioned this dress is heavy?
Weird hair. I swear I wasn't trying to make a crooked 18thc just happened!
Other fun facts: the "jacket" fronts, collar, and sleeve edges are edged in ivory cotton(ish) lace, the undersleeves are my old linen ones, and I'm wearing my rather nice cameo. Oh, and the bodice ended up slightly too big in the upper waist, and I should really move the bars over. Except they're thread bars, so I find that annoying. Which means it's unlikely to happen anytime soon!

I think that's all nitty-gritty you might want to know, so I'll leave you with some more pictures, because I'm feeling indulgent and I like this dress! And we got some nifty sunset ones.
Big dress "stuck" in a small door!
I be creepin'. Dun dun dunnnnn.
Evil grinning by the blooming roses. Blooming because it's TOO WARM, you see.
And then I found a hill in Battery Park on the way out, and had to run up and down it, because I must run up and down hills in costume. It's required. I haven't fallen yet...
Wheeeeeeeee. Notice the veil. It's my silk gauze one that I hemmed for my 18-teens mourning dress last Halloween, but as veils of varying sizes were actually popular accessories throughout the 19thc, I've found I enjoy wearing it with my 1860s as well. And no, veil does not always = mourning! Especially when worn with seafoam and fuchsia.
*wheeze wheeze* Too much running! So out of shape! *pant pant* Dress is heavy!
Dramatic veil is dramatic.
Cheap camera is grainy.
But it's my blog so I'll post as many grainy pictures of myself as I want!
Also of my lovely grainy friends. We all look so draMAHtic, I can't take it! :)

I really can't turn down a gorgeous sunset, what can I say?


  1. New follower here! :) I am looking forward to see what all you make! This dress is SO lovely!! 1860s fashions were so beautiful, and this dress is no exception. I love it!

    1. Thank you! I think 1860s are some of the most fun to wear - definitely a bit silly, but that's part of the fun I think! :D

      And hooray, another blog follower! I still get excited by that, especially since I've been a horrible blogger in the past couple months. Going to try to do better!