Tuesday, 5 November 2013

1901 reception gown

This dress is a reproduction of a reception gown that was worn in a 1901 production of Sweet and Twenty. I found it in Patterns of Fashion 2 (page 50) shortly after I started costuming. I was not very experienced at this stage but I am a great believer in making something you really want rather than something more achievable just for the sake of it.
Late night ‘It’s Finished!’ photo.
I don’t really care for the pigeon fronted silhouette and styles of the first decade of the 20th Century so I decided to make some slight changes to the design: I reduced the fullness of the bodice and left out some pattern pieces that I couldn’t work out where they went. I also decided not to make underpinnings as I didn’t expect to be returning to this era again.
I bought the satin for the dress on ebay. It has a nice feel and drape, but it frayed terribly and was flawed in some places. I had to use fray-stoppa on many of the seams which made them uncomfortable and stiff and many of the seams have frayed apart anyway.
Much sadness...
I couldn’t find any soft dotted netting so I used a striped chiffon instead. The white netting at the neckline is made from the leftover fabric from my mother’s wedding veil. The cream ribbons for the ribbon embroidery were a more successful ebay purchase – it was much cheaper than if I’d bought it in a shop even though I got way more than I needed, and the leftovers continue to prove useful.
In total there are about 40 metres of ribbon handsewn to the dress. I transferred the design to the fabric by cutting the repeat out of an overhead transparency and then sponging loose powder makeup over it.
The dress is in three pieces: the bodice, a satin underskirt and the sheer overskirt. I was trying to be historical in the construction where I could, but I didn’t know a lot, nor did I have much information to work with, so it was largely made up. 
From patterning to finish took six weeks over the summer holidays when I was 16. I finished it the night before I started college (that’s the last two years of high school in Canberra). I didn’t get an opportunity to wear it until two years later at my year 12 formal. I was appropriately dressed to receive ‘the anachronistic award’.
Photo by Eric Piris.
I did several test runs of Edwardian hairstyles with hairdressers, but they proved most unsuccessful. In the end I got my mum to do it, based on this tutorial from Wildilocks. She did a wonderful job.
With my dad in the father-daughter dance at the graduation dinner.
I entered this dress in the Canberra show and won student champion. I really want to wear it again but it’s a bit too fancy for anywhere I usually go. 

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