Friday, July 1, 2011

1790s Gown

Well, apparently I am just that insane.  I've fixed myself upon making the purple 1790s gown from KCI.  You can find it in both Fashion and Revolutions of Fashion.  Now, I can't reproduce it exactly, seeing as I need it for August and I'm not exceedingly rich.  Figuring that I can use some machine embroidery, a few other short cuts, and try to find comparable materials it should be feasible.  Overall, the effect should be similar.  Frankly, I don't think anyone is going to fault me for using pre-strung sequins or metallic thread instead of real gold.  It's going to sparkle either way!
The first step for me was to break down exactly what was originally used, then try to find an affordable comparison.
First, fabric.  I'm assuming that I won't stumble across a figured purple silk at $20 or less.  So, I found a plain silk taffeta which is fairly similar in color from Renaissance Fabrics.  I happened to already have a swatch of it, so that was the easy part.  There's a small quantity of appliqued pink silk as well, which I  have the perfect taffeta for already.
The long strands of sequins were, of course, hand-stitched on one by one.  Now, I can find pre-stranded 6mm gold sequins for 83 cents a yard on sale at MJ Trim.  I've never had the opportunity to compare modern to antique sequins, but that should do fine.  I also purchased some loose of the same style for the smaller designs.
There is a large quantity of what appears to be small gold beads all over the designs; on the pink silk, inside the leaves, in the middle of sequin flowers, etc.  They look almost like un-flattened sequins.  I found 4mm brass rondelles which look similar.  However, to purchase enough would be between $60-100.  I'm not sure I can justify that much on just one small aspect.  So, I'm trying 4mm cupped gold sequins, since that's only a $10 investment to at least try to make them work.
Then there is the larger border of metal pieces.  They appear to be foil over a black solid ring (wood, resin?).  As much as I would like to remake those, it just isn't practical.  I looked around for 8mm gold/brass pieces that either had two holes or ran through, but what few there were were expensive ($1 a piece or so).  I also found 8mm metal sequins, so I'm trying those out for about $4.
The regular embroidery is done in silk, which makes that very easy.  The metallic feathers are not difficult either.  I'm assuming they were originally a brighter (untarnished) gold.  However, the large swags are done with chenille.  That is certainly not running through a machine, and is difficult to sew even by hand.  I know it needs to have a different finish than the basic silk.  YLI makes a silk thread with metallic wrapped with it, the colors are subtle enough to look akin to the original.  I'm also debating on a wool/acrylic fuzzy blend.  I'm thinking the silk/metallic might look less out of place.  And for all I know my machine can do some sort of chenille stitch (I need to look into that).
There is also the rope belt and large tassels.  MJ Trim also has metallic cord in a nice brown-gold.  I ordered some 1mm for making tassels and 6mm for the main rope.
All together, this is still going to be a very expensive endeavor, but it could be far worse.  I'm hoping to make a full mock-up of the gown today so I can start sketching out the embroidery designs.  That's creating it's own problems, however, in the fact that I can't find an image of the back.  So, I'm making some assumption I'll talk about later.


ZipZip said...

Dear Nicole,

I've been eyeing that dress for awhile, and will be excited to see how you achieve it.

Here, have been working with gold Sadi purl (slightly less expensive than English purl) and vintage sequins and pastes for a 1795 Full Dress petticoat. You're right, it is slow to stitch them down, whether with a small bit or "bead" of purl on top -- which was common -- or backstitched down, or backstitched with longer pieces of purl to create a pretty running effect.

I ordered some 4 mm spangles from Berlin Embroidery and they are lovely and give a different effect than sequins: far richer. Sold by the gram, they are ouchy in any number on the wallet, so they are to go on a reticule.

Glad I gave up on the silk chenille I was to use as well...saving that for another project. The skirt must be ready by next Friday!

Very best, and cannot wait to hear how it goes,


Isis said...

It's going to be gorgeous! I love that gown and I'm sure you will do it justice!

jennylafleur said...

You are completely insane but I can't wait to see the finished result! 4mm sequins are a good size for the period although I have yet to see a cupped spangle, they are generally flat. Of course flat 4mm sequins are hard to find. I bought some flat gold 4mm sequins from Joyce, although they aren't as shiny as I would have liked. They don’t seem to have the 4mm on the website (I bought them in the store) but you could call I guess. My favorite 4mm flats came from a trim found at Hancocks that I took apart for the sequins. Yeah I’m crazy too. :>

Zho Zho said...

Wow what a great project to take on. Can't wait to see it unfold.