Friday, 17 January 2020

1810 Block-Printed Silk Crepe Dress

Patterns: A mix of Laughing Moon's Bib-Front Dress, and self drafting.

Fabric: 100% silk crepe, block printed. Taken from a vintage Indian Sari.

Chest: 40-43 (drawstring front allows cup size adjustment).
Under-Bust: 36"
Hip: <50"
Hem Length (from the underbust): 42" at front, 43.5" at back.
Hem circumference: 110"
Back Width: 14.5"
Sleeve Length: 26" (the bunched up sleeve look was quite popular).

All visible stitching is done by hand. There is machine stitching on inner seams.

When I started this dress, I was going to use the Period Impression #460 pattern, but the shape of the bodice is so inaccurate and required so many adjustments that I eventually gave up on using that one. Instead, I took out the pattern for the Laughing Moon Bib-Front dress.

I would have loved to do this dress as a Bib-Front, but since I was using a vintage Indian Sari as my silk source, I was limited to about 5.5 yards. Instead, I used the Laughing Moon pattern as a base for a simple bodice.

I used the side-lining piece and extended the front, cutting it on the fold to be a single piece. So the front and sides are one piece, cut on the fold. With the back, I cut two rather than one on the fold, and added for seam allowance and overlap to make the button closure at the rear.

The Buttonholes are done by hand with silk floss, going through two layers of the silk crepe and one layer of the heavy brown linen. 

The Skirt
Because I was working with a Sari, my main goal was to preserve the finished hem, which has a beautiful ribbon consisting of satin stitch embroidery and gold sequins. So, my skirt has to be one piece, a simple rectangle preserving the straight hem.

Of course, the back of the skirt needs to be a tad longer to make up for the rise in the bodice back. Since the hem needed to stay straight for the border, the height needed to be adjusted at the top. This is where you run into some trouble when using Saris.

Saris tend to be about 42/43" wide. This width becomes your skirt length. If you are on the short side or just touching average height, this is probably okay. But, any taller than that and you're hitting a problem. So, I had to add length to the back, and the only way to do that was to stitch additional fabric to the top of the back and then angle it down. I ended up with a piece pretty much like this:

This will create a horizontal seam near the top of your skirt, which doesn't sound very desirable. But, piecing of this natural is historically accurate, and the seam becomes practically invisible in the heavy gathering at the back of the skirt. To add a bit of fun, I made the additional strip from a section of the sari that matches the border, so it does pop out a bit at the center back. 

The Lining
Working with sheer fabrics requires some adjustments from the usual construction techniques. For example, a typical sack lining wouldn't do because you would be able to see the edge seams through the sheer fabric. Therefore, I prepared the lining and bodice separate, than laid them together flat-lining style. I then top stitched, by hand, through the seams at the backs and the shoulder strap point. Now the lining and bodice are one.

The neckline is turned with a bias strip, which is them slip stitching in place just through the lining. This bias strip also serves at the drawstring channel at the front of the bodice. The drawstring is secured at the seam where the shoulder straps begin, keeping the drawstring effect to the center front of the bodice only (I've never been a fan of all-around drawstring necklines. They're messy, and keeping the gathers even or in the right place becomes a losing battle. I much prefer this method). 

The bodice is attached to the narrow waistband, gathered to fit at the front. Darts could also work, but I wanted a dress that would more easily accommodate wearers with a range of cup sizes. So, I gathered in the front of the bodice and installed the drawstring channel above.

In the picture above you can see the satin ribbon I used to line the waistband after attaching the skirt. It is slip stitched in place. 

The Petticoat
As a sheer fabric, this silk takes on a different color depending on what is behind it. Because I lined the bodice in dark brown, the skirt would have to be backed by something in a similar color. Otherwise, the bodice and skirt would look different hues while being worn. And, since the vast majority of petticoats people have on hand are white, I provided one in dark brown cotton guaze to allow the skirt to show the same rich hue at the bodice while being worn.

The petticoat is really an underskirt, which was quite common with sheer dresses. A favorite fashion trend in the 1790s and later was to wear sheer white gowns over colored under-dresses. This is a similar idea. 

The petticoat is a simple under-bust style with ribbons to serve as straps. The ribbons are stitched to the dress at the fronts, but tied through rings at the back so the wearer can adjust the height to exactly where they need. These are best worn just under the main dress waistband, so the waistband don't layer right on one another and create bulk.  

The top of the petticoat is a channel with ribbons to tie at the back and adjust fit. 


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