Friday, September 11, 2015

TBT: My First Victorian Dress

I have been wanting to do a Throwback Thursday for a while, but my days off and free time don't always line up exactly with Thursday. So we'll go for posting this one on Friday since I have a quick moment before getting started on today's to-do list.

This flashback goes way back to the beginning when everything first started. So here it is, the very first Victorian dress that I made:
Kent Heritage Day Festival - July 2010
While we all have to start somewhere, I look at this and simultaneously shudder in horror but also snort in laughter. This was supposed to be a mid-1890s day dress. I had only done some minor research on how dresses of this period looked, knew nothing about cotton vs. poly blend vs. poly fabrics, had no proper undergarments, and had not touched a sewing machine for about five years before starting this dress. At least I made a wise selection where my patterns were concerned!

Everything came from Truly Victorian. I got excited when I initially found these patterns because Heather is from Riverside, CA, the same place I grew up. Of course I find out about it after trekking all the way to OH. The patterns I selected for the project include the 1896 Plain Bodice (TV493), 1893 Bell Skirt (TV292), and Victorian petticoats (TV170).

I opted for 1890s because I had been interning at the Kent Historical Society during spring 2010. I was photographing their object collection which included a number of historical costume pieces from the 1850s-1960s. I good chunk was from the 1890s and after looking at the pieces, got it into my head that making a Victorian dress for myself would be an easy task.
Photos done by another student for a school project
My selection was a poly blue upholstery with a woven pattern for the main fabric in the skirt, poly/cotton broadcloth for the solid accents, and cheap muslin for the lining and the petticoat. I finished it and wore it to the Kent Heritage Day Festival in July. Oh my goodness was that dress warm! 

The bodice wasn't properly fitted, none of my seams were finished, the corset I had underneath was the wrong style, the petticoat was limper than a wet noodle, the hem was about 2-3" too short, and the skirt train was a wreck by the end of the day from walking around town without any kind of dust ruffle. Oh I could easily go on!
Photos done by another student for a school project
I think I wore this dress about 4-6 times (and made another dress) and decided it was time for it to move on to another home. I posted it for sale and it now resides somewhere in Texas, final fate undetermined.

Again, I look back at this dress with both humor and horror. Despite it being probably one of the worst dresses I have ever constructed, it taught me a lot about sewing for this time period and gave me great insight on what NOT to do on other projects. Most importantly though, I broke me into Victorian costume sewing and enabled me to realize that this was something that I could not only do, but it was something that I took great joy in doing.

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