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Make Do and Mend…Again

January 21, 2014

It’s alive!  The Frankendress lives!  And much thanks to the first challenge of the 2014 Historical Sew Fortnightly

The Challenge:  Make Do & Mend

Fabric: White cotton bed sheet (Ah, you saviour of the impecunious regency costumier!)

Pattern: Drafted by me, with a skirt & sleeves based on the 1816 evening dress in The Cut of Women’s Clothes and the bodice of the 1806 muslin dress in Patterns of Fashion

Year: 1815ish

Notions: Lots of pink nylon ribbon (the budget does not stretch to silk), and little embroidered rosette appliques.  The original dress was also decorated with two nylon lace ruffles, which I kept.

How historically accurate is it? The design is quite in keeping with the period, and I tried to hand sew as much as possible, but ran out of time so had to machine sew the top ribbon band.  On a period dress, of course,  the roses would have been embroidered right onto the dress.  The decorations are also not natural fibres, because a) I didn’t have time to source silk ribbon in the right colour & b) I am not made of money.

Hours to complete:  Too many. Including all the repairs needed on the dress, the whole project took about 18 hours spread over a week.

First worn: At the Queen Charlotte’s Birthday Ball held at Fort York.

Total cost:  $25

First off I needed to reinforce all the weak spots on the dress such as the shoulders and side seams with twill tape.  I also altered the drawstring closure at the waist, with which I had never been happy (it never sat properly with the buttons above). Not content with just repairing the dress, I decided to fully retrim it.  Picking off the blue ribbon at the neck, sleeves and flounce was easy enough, but then I had to come up with a new trim scheme.  I wanted to get away from the blues and greens I usually use, so decided to go with pink – a tie in to the next challenge.  Since I don’t have masses of time, the trim needed to be something relatively simple (no hand-embroidered designs!) and light enough not to effect the flow of the skirt as I dance. Trolling though my Pinterest Page I came across this dress from the Met: Very cute!  I loved the lattice work idea, and though embroidery was out of the question, I thought I could achieve the same effect with ribbon aplique.  After reaching that conclusion, what should pop up on my Pinterest dash but a 1816 fashion plate of that very thing!

I am in love with this dress.  And I found some lovely rococo rosette trim that would allow me to reproduce it exactly…for $45 a m.  Yikes!  So, less ambitiously I settled for a discounted reel of pink satin 1/2 ribbon and two packets of  little thread work rosettes.  I simplified the lattice into a single row of X’s.  Much as I love the bodice, I decided just to trim the neck & sleeves as  for February’s challenge I have plans to make an evening spencer to perk up the bodice – the pink silk has already been purchased! Here’s what the dress looks like in process:

Hem Trim

Even with careful marking, positioning the ribbon correctly was a very fiddly job.  In order to get the it to stay in place while sewing it on, I resorted to a technique inspired by a cosplaying friend of mine.

Hem Trim 2

Look ma, not pins! Obviously glue stick isn’t going to be viable on all fabrics,  but on the cotton it worked a treat! And here is the finished dress and a close up of the decorations:P1000722


The whole outfit will be completed with my creation for February’s Pink challenge, a little silk evening spencer.  So stay tuned!

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 23, 2014 3:01 pm

    Very nicely done. 🙂 I actually think I saw the original fashion plate in Ackermann’s Repository at the fashion archive here a while ago 🙂

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