Monday, June 13, 2016

Mid-1830s Summer Dress

Hooray, we finally made it to an event that didn't get rained (or snowed) out! Yesterday my friends and I went to the historic village at Allaire State Park to see our friend get fake-married as Maria Allaire. We all even made new dresses for the occasion!
Mind you...I didn't plan on making a new dress. I was more than a bit sulky after my Regency picnic got rained out last month, and didn't feel like bothering. All I planned to do was make myself a nice summery bonnet, since I didn't have any 1830s bonnets (and cover a bonnet for a commission from my friend Alice), and just wear my cream cotton poplin.

And then last Sunday I got a bee in my bonnet (ha. ha. ha) to make a dress to go with my pretty pink bonnet! Something quick and lightweight, ideally a sheer. I didn't have much in the Stash; my options basically were a light blue voile and a mint green lawn (the same lawn I made my 1920s summer dress from, as it happens). There was just about the same amount of each, just over 4 yards...but the lawn was wider, so it carried the day!
Mind you, it's not a remotely documentable shade of green, that I can cottons at this point in the century are still a bit dodgy, green doesn't seem to have been a very popular color during the Romantic period (I found a few plates, but all of dresses that would have been silk or wool), and precisely zero in that minty shade.
But I don't split hairs like that for Romantic dresses. I'm not a docent here. Besides, this thing was made in a week, mainly by machine. It's pretty and I don't care!
I adapted the bodice pattern from my slightly later (1838 or so) cream poplin pattern, which had seams over the bust rather than darts. Just merged the two front pieces for a dart instead, and raised the waist a hair.
Day dresses seem to have more commonly had long sleeves by the 1830s, but as you can still find a few examples I didn't feel too guilty about putting short sleeves on my own dress. Besides, with only just over 4 yards, there was no way I was getting long sleeves out of my yardage! And I decided I really wanted long mitts. Plus, I can wear this dress for Allaire's dance in August if I don't have time to finish the ballgown I have planned. All points in favor of short sleeves!
Materials: Green cotton lawn, with bodice lined in white cotton. Sleeves and skirt unlined.
Construction: Probably 90% machine sewn! The bodice gathers and sleeve ruffle gathers are done by hand, all the rest of the gathering is ugly machine. Basically, the finishings are done by hand (tacking down the piping at the neckline, hemming the skirt), everything else is machined. I even pinked the edge of the sleeve ruffle rather than hemming! The lawn seems to be tightly woven enough to survive at least a few wearings like that.
The mitts are from my 18thc pattern, made slightly smaller to account for more stretch in the net. Made of plain cotton net and probably-cotton lace, hand-sewn.
Worn over my 1844 corset, late '30s chemisette, 18thc plain linen petticoat, and new corded petticoat. Which is also machine-sewn! Too many tucks to do by hand...I have to draw the line somewhere. ;) As for sleeve puffs...well, I did buy a feather pillow with the intention of making proper puffs, but I decided I wanted to devote my time to sewing mitts instead. So these sleeves are held out with a yard of nylon petticoat net, cut in half, with one side wadded up and shoved into each sleeve. Well, it worked!
 The dress fastens in the back with just two hooks/bars at the waist and one at the neck. This seems to have gone out of style by the 1830s, although you see it up through the late 1820s, as far as I can tell. It does gap a little bit, but any gappage is far outweighed by the fact that I can fasten my dress on my own when there are only three hooks! More than that, and things get iffy, haha.
It gaps more while spinning around ridiculously, LOL.
I'm also pleased with my bonnet - it's fairly heavily tweaked from the Lynn McMasters Romantic bonnet pattern. Alice's green bonnet is untweaked from said pattern. I want to mess with the bottom edge of the brim before I make another version, as the angle doesn't work with a curtain, but other than that I like it very much. I was vaguely inspired by an 1832 fashion plate in one of my books for the two bows inside the brim, but other than that I just worked with what I had.
It's covered in peachy-pink machine-made dupioni(so only a few slubs here and there), and trimmed with purple flowers, green ostrich drabs, strips of green and fuchsia shot tissue silk, and garment-quality poly satin ribbon for ties.
Promise I wasn't as cranky as this pic makes me look. ;)
Alice's bonnet is covered in the same type of dupioni, just in green. I covered it, and she trimmed it.
Lesson: it is virtually impossible to get the inner brim of a bonnet smooth when said bonnet is the size of a small spaceship! At least for me, haha.

 In summation, it was a fun little event, and I should have kept track as to how many times we were asked "are you hot in that??" They never seem to believe us when we respond that we really aren't much hotter than they are...
...despite doing things like this. xD



  1. You look wonderful, and your dress is lovely! I love how the light fabric looks gathered onto the waistband. Quite lovely!

  2. They will also never believe you can breathe or move!

    I nommed you for a Liebster Blog award, by the way! <3

    1. How do you breathe in that corset??? Inhale, exhale... xD

      Thanks! :D

  3. Your outfit is so cute! Love it! You all look great!