Friday, March 25, 2011

Regency Evening Gown: Designing

I had some extra time today, so I decided to start on my taffeta 1810s gown.  The question is, what to do with it?  I purchased this silk taffeta a couple of months ago from Burnley & Trowbridge with a general idea of what I wanted.  A gown circa 1812-15 with a decent amount of trimmings, for some reason vandyking came to mind.  It's a pale aqua with a small white pinstripe.
 After a few days of searching, I came across this image.  The gown on the left not only has a very similar fabric, but has all the trimmings I was looking for.  The next challenge was to find more images and extants that resemble it.  Different angles, especially a back on a similar gown, can help to understand the shape.  It also helps to know what makes this gown 1816 distinctly, because I would like to move the date up slightly on style if possible.

This fashion plate is a bit earlier in years, around 1811 I think (I need to go back through a huge database to find that date, ugh).  The neckline crosses over like my drawing, but the shoulder strap width is much wider.  The shoulders also sit up higher.  Less trimming, but it is more of a casual morning dress in style.

This definitely resembles the previous plate, same neckline.  A bit of trim around the neck, sleeves, and hem.  But, more gathering under the bust.

Going even later than my plate, this one being from 1818.  The trimming style is very similar.  The neckline seems to be almost horizontal, however.  Hints that the neckline may be the biggest clue to what makes my plate 1816, rather than an earlier style.  There's no visible shoulder strap, probably just a very tiny 1/4" or so strip the sleeve is gathered to, like this gown.

I don't have the plates to show how I reached the conclusion that the trimming wasn't what made it a later style, since they're in a book.  However, I will at least describe it.  There's one plate from 1811 where the gown has four layers of zig-zag style trim around the hem, rather deep.  The sleeves also have three layers of that same trim.  Another 1811 gown has gathered, pinked trim around the hemline, one high up, another at the hem.  Trim around the neckline is commonly seen throughout the Regency period.  I did find a couple of 1812 images where the neckline is very wide, almost starting off the shoulders, but the v-neck in front reaches all the way up to the top of the shoulder almost meeting the back.  The only trimming I didn't find an earlier facsimile for was the second layer around the bust.  However, I can wait until the garment base is finished to decide if I want that or not.  It may look awful in real life, or just too bare without it.

Problem #2.  Fashion plates don't show the back of most gowns (or if they do, there's no front!).  Figuring out what would be appropriate for that style of neckline is going to fall to the original garments. The problem is, I just can't seem to find any.  There are a few with somewhat similar fronts, but just not quite right.
This original in the Met, from 1810, has the v-neck shape, with a small modesty piece instead of crossing the fronts.  Similar amount of trim and wide neckline.
The back scoops down fairly low, but not extremely.  It fastens with ties.  Possibility for fastening, but rather un-exciting.

This garment, sold by Vintage Textile, has the crossed front like the two earlier plates.

The back is one solid piece, meaning the fastening occurs invisibly on the front somehow.  It also has a scooped neckline though.

And here the mystery is solved.  The front is created with two separate pieces that attach with ties.

This gown, called Hortense, from the Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion exhibit shows a lovely back. I don't know what the front looks like unfortunately (anyone seen it?).  The trimming on the neckline doesn't seem unlike my fashion plate and would be very pretty (and unusual).
I've also seen plates (and an original at the Kyoto museum) that show lacing up the back.  Some plates even show that low v-neck in back, like the Hortense gown, but with a laced up panel behind it.  I honestly still can't decide.  I'm leaning away from the front fastening, because I'm afraid I can't invisibly control that style well enough in front, leaving an open slit on the side, etc.  That leaves me with buttons, the v-neck and/or lacing.  If you've happened across that style of neckline, please let me know.  I'd love to see an original showing what they deemed fashionably appropriate with it!


lahbluebonnet said...

I purchased that same silk from Angela for an 18th century gown. I'm a beginner so I'm scared to cut into it. I'm looking forward to see what you do with it! I'll also be making another Regency dress so this will be interesting to follow. Thank you for all your helpful posts. It might help me to move from cheap fabric to the real thing!

Welmoed said...

About the Hortense gown: I believe you can see the front here

More pictures can be seen here:

Le Bombette said...

Trying to figure out exactly what makes the gown 1816 might be a bit of a frustrating search as it seems to me the Regency era is a bit schizophrenic about fashion. The mode in hemlines, trim, sleeve lengths and necklines change almost monthly. You do however see lots more of the wide, shoulder baring neckline in the later teens...there are even some caricatures about it. I don't know if you have read the book Historic Dress in America by Elisabeth McClellan but it is a great resource for Regency...I think you can find it on google books. I'm quite sure whatever trim and styling you choose it will look amazing :)

Le Bombette said...

Here's another fashion plate that might help you...similar neckline -1811

Zho Zho said...

Just saw a wonderful exhibition in the Dunedin Art Gallery here in New Zealand. Dunedin is just south of Christchurch you may have heard about the recent earthquake there. Anyway it was a collection of plates from Rudolf Ackerman's Journal: Ackerman's Repository of Arts, published monthly and sold in his shop in The Strand London. I completely fell in love with the era 1800-1811, what a little fashion blip that was. I will do a little post on it soon, so come and visit, but give me a couple of days. xx

Zho Zho said...

Found this too, don't know if you have found this blog.