1830s ballgown: The Rainbow Trout Dress

Long time, no post! I should have another one this week, about my 1830s underpinnings (but I need to let my corset air out a bit, that was one warm dance) but for now, here's another 1830s offering for you.

Deemed the rainbow trout dress, because it's pink and green shot, you see.  And trimmed with salmon taffeta bows and sash, in keeping with the fishy theme. ;)
This particular shot got an instagram filter later; I think it came out very nicely!
Another Allaire Village event: a little barn dance. My friends and I were a little overdressed for a barn dance, perhaps...but we're always overdressed, so no one was really worried about that. And at least for my part, I plan to wear this when we go to New Castle for their Christmas weekend, so I wanted something fancy!

Puttin' on my new slippers.
Materials: Changeable green/pink figured silk/cotton voile. The bodice is lined in white linen; the sleeves and skirt are unlined. The sash and shoulder bows are salmon silk taffeta, and the lace is ivory cotton English lace, embellished with tiny (plastic) spangles on the skirt band.
Construction: Main seams sewn on the machine, gathering and finishing stitches done by hand. I used the same lining pattern as for my green lawn dress, and just draped the voile over it til I got something I liked. I was probably mostly inspired by this fashion plate, though I did a lot of digging through 1830s on Pinterest and took aspects from quite a few other plates too.
You see a lot of the horizontal trim-band in 1832, which is the date of this plate.
The sleeves were cut extra-super-large - simple half-circles, but the entire length of the 44" fabric, and 23" high - for drapey, scrunching-up purposes. Originally I planned to do roses rather than bows, but realized bows were so much easier and quicker, they seemed the better choice! Plus then I could incorporate the lace up top, which made the band on the skirt seem less random. Ideally there's a streamer draped in front and in back, but...movement is just detrimental to clothing!
It closes up the back with hooks and bars up the back, and I can get it on my myself if I really have to...but I'd rather not if I don't have to! Requires a lot of wriggling.
Climbing on fences, because I can.
The usual suspects. Somewhat melty toward the end of the night!
The shoulders of the dress ended up working their way down over the course of the evening, as you can see in that last picture - I need to move the top hooks over a bit before New Castle. (No threat of indecency, I promise: it was firmly stuck in place with sweat!) Other than that though, it was fun to wear and I'm very pleased!
Running is infinitely more fun in costume. I never do it in real life!

The dance itself was quite small, but fun. I always enjoy a good dance, although I don't dance enough to remember anything from event to event, and I'm a truly incompetent waltzer! The original plan was for an out-of-doors dance on the village green, but the rainy forecast drove the event indoors, sadly, into a small, not-ideally-shaped space. Still very enjoyable, though.
I didn't do anything fancy with my hair, since I didn't want to go too over-the-top for a barn dance, so I didn't make any specially 1830s hairpieces. Just did a simple loop of my own hair, with a few fake braids wrapped around, and a few roses stuck on for good measure! (I do like real flowers in my hair when I can, even though they're poky to put in. Especially roses!) The front curls fell miserably in the literally-90% humidity; they even look pretty sad here, and it was only the start of the night. After a few dances they were unacceptably limp, and got twined up out of my face and pinned. Fake 1830s curls are on my list! Someday...

And we mustn't forget the new slippers, as I finished them the day before! They're my third pair of 19thc simple slippers, and I've made some tweaks to the pattern since I used it for Gettysburg - mostly to make them narrower. One doesn't want dancing slippers to be too tight, but comfortably snug is good! I think there's still some fussing I could do with the length of the toe, but I was very happy with these.
Switching out my street flats for my slippers. Robin put an artistic filter on this one too; I think it looks very dreamily Romantic!
Someday when I've done some documented research on mid-19thc slippers I'll do a construction post - as of now, I'm simply working with images of surviving extants and a whole lot of "well this works, so I'll do this, who knows if it's period." I keep intending to acquire a copy of Every Lady Her Own Shoemaker, but...I have to pay for it and I can make up slippers on my own for free, so.
The soles are two layers of thin leather (I bought it so long ago I couldn't tell you the weight!) with a layer of cotton canvas sandwiched in between. My Gettysburg dancing slippers survived just fine with a single layer of leather, but this dance was intended to be outdoors, so I wanted something a bit sturdier.
You can see the shape of the soles here - they're both the same shape, no lefts or rights.
The uppers are lined with white linen, interlined with cotton drill, and the outer layer is silk charmeuse. Not an accurate weight, but the cheapest form of silk satin I can get in a nice array of colors, and 1/ satin seems to be by far the most common choice for fancy slippers, and 2/ what's the point of hand-making slippers if they're not in a fun color? Black was common, but, boring! There are plenty of examples of colored slippers too, so I went for the arsenic green this time. Poisonous footwear, how charming!

(They're not actually arsenic-dyed, I shouldn't have to say, but I will, just in case.)

And there's a linen-covered cardboard sole pasted in, mostly to cover the raw edges rather than provide any real substance to the slipper. It's more akin to a stiff poster-board than anything else. The binding is silk satin ribbon, as are the ties. All hand sewn, as usual. (I could use a machine to sew the uppers, as the seams get covered in ribbon anyway, but I wouldn't trust the machine to attach the soles to the uppers.)

And they held up very well, although I didn't get a picture of my soles after dancing. No holes, no tears - they'll be perfectly serviceable for New Castle!

Next up: underpinnings, which I really do promise to post about this week. Really really.


  1. Oh how I love your dress!!! The '30s make me giddy with delight adj this was a super fun post. Your slippers are incredible! And you made them!!?? Even more incredible! Brava!!!

  2. You look stunning! The 1830's looks so nice on you! And I love the colors and lace detail you choose.

  3. WOOO 1830s! Your dress looks absolutely fabulous, and such lovely colors.


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