Thursday, April 14, 2016

Pre-Raphaelite Dress

This dress (and an overgown to go with it) was meant to be worn to Fonthill Castle in PA this past Saturday, for a friend's birthday outing. The weather, however, decided that it would be extremely seasonally appropriate to dump some very messy snow on us that day, to which we said...maybe we'll reschedule. None of our outfits were quite intended to handle that particular weather!

As such, I didn't quite finish the cotton voile overgown yet; that'll be for its next, real wearing! A bit of my inspiration and details, then I'll spam you with pictures...

My main inspiration was Waterhouse's Windflowers:
...except that I couldn't get myself excited about that particular shade of purpley-pink (pretty, but not a thriller to me), so I picked out a greeney-blue I much prefer, and that I think still falls in the Waterhouse color palette. (I know he's technically not considered a pre-Raphaelite painter, but I like what his subjects are wearing the best, by far, so art snobs can just deal with it, sorry.)

The gown's made of silk dupioni from SilkBaron - which is not really period for either medieval or late Victorian, but it's the cheapest silk I could get and comes in so many pretty colors! And I really wanted silk. The bodice and sleeves are lined in cotton broadcloth, and the hem is faced with cotton as well. It's mostly machine-sewn, except that I left myself very small seam allowances to flat-fell everything, so I did the felling by hand, as it was easier that way.

I started with the pattern for my natural form late-1870s dress, and just took out a side-back seam, and fitted it more closely, to be worn sans corset. I even used the same sleeves, with a bit of tweaking! I deliberately wanted it to be more akin to late Victorian construction than a proper medieval kirtle - something a 19th-century lady dabbling in the "artistic" movement might have wanted to wear.

(Although the only photographs I could find of real Victorian/Edwardian women in "pre-Raphaelite" dress? They looked like they were wearing bedsheets. Very voluminous, very unappealing. I decided to stick with fantasy in portraits, thanks!)
I made it slightly un-Romantically short in front, but Fonthill has a lot of steps, so I wanted one less tripping hazard!
And I didn't intend to have a train that long, just a sweep...but then it came time to hem and I couldn't bring myself to cut it off! What was I just saying about tripping hazards...?
I get a wee gap right at the under-bust point, but as there's no boning or stiffening in the front, I can't keep it laced any tighter or the edges start buckling. No worries, I'm wearing an 18thc shift underneath!

And I did buy extensions for proper swanny long hair, but I decided not to bother with them for this little shoot. When I wear it to a real event!


  1. That is my favorite color, ever, period. Just lovely!

    1. Thank you! I had quite the debate with myself when I got the swatches for it, I couldn't pick for over a week! I think I went with a good one though. :D

  2. That is one stunning train! The color is quite lovely. It looks so easy to wear and leaving your hair down just makes it even easier!


    1. Thank you! I love all my stays and corsets and rumps and petticoats - but to have none of that is nice for a change! It's very comfy.

  3. I can't tell you the number of times I've gone "this dress will have a practical hem. I really need a dress with a practical hem." But do I own a dress with a practical hem? Not one. Not. Even. One. Trains are just so swooshy! Yours is lovely. Don't cut it off. =)

    I really like that you chose to go with more Victorian construction, too - I love the idea of making fancy dress of historical fancy dress. Costume Inception.

    1. Practical Hems: Not Even Once! ;) I figured, hey, not like it's a practical outfit in the first place, may as well make it as ridiculous as I want, right?

      Exactly what I was thinking! xD

  4. It is gorgeous and I love the colour!

  5. That's a stunning dress and an amazing color! So pretty :-)