The 1860s Elliptical Half Mourning Dress should actually be called "The Dress of a Thousand Hours" dress. This thing has taken me sooooooo long to complete! It looks so simple. Well, that is totally deceptive. The bodice was chock full of fiddley bits, like the fact that the upper sleeves not only boasted two puffs, but a mancheron! Then there was all the beading. Ugh. I know that beading makes a project or dress look extra cool, but my eyes and fingers and hands were getting ready to disown me as I got close to completing the trim. Sheesh. I think I'm getting old because body parts are starting to seriously chat about rebelling against me and taking part in a coup. Stupid aging!!!!!
Anyway, the dress is complete and I am so very thrilled with it! The inspiration came from Whitaker Auctions. It was dated to the 1850s, but looks more late 1860s what with the elliptical skirt and all. Whatever the date, I fell in love with it when I was searching for inspiration for the silk that I've had for years. I bought the fabric from a fellow costumer who has since passed away from complications of pancreatic cancer, so I think it only fitting that I chose to make a half mourning dress!
I am working on a lace and net day cap and a soft bonnet to wear with it. So happy this dress is done as now I can add it to the line up of The House of Whyte's "6 Dresses in 60 Minutes" fashion show!!! (My ultimate costuming goal is to have dresses, with underwear and head wear, in all of the silhouettes from the 1830s to the 1930s!)
The Dress and Inspiration
My version of the Whitaker Auction dress.
Isn't this beautiful! I so love the fabric!! Photos of the original dress inspiration used with permission from Charles Whitaker. Thank you!!!
The two puffs and one mancheron per sleeve was a totally pain in the rear, but in the end was worth it!
The original's armscye was way down on the upper arm as was the way of a lot of the 1860s dresses, but because my shoulders are "claustrophobic" and because I have to use my arms in sweeping motions during my programs (you know, tie my hands behind by back and I can't talk) I chose to move the armscye up further on my upper arm/shoulder. I really don't like that pinned down feeling. But, I was happy to find many examples of shoulders that weren't as low in my research!! Huzzah!
I was thrilled when I sewed the bodice together to discover that the flowers on the fabric lined up perfectly! Like the middle flowers are exactly down the center of the bodice! Happy accident indeed!
I love the medallion on the back of the sleeve! Isn't the fabric just stunning? I love the blue and off white print against the silver!
In this view you can especially see the elliptical-ness of the skirt.
The original didn't have a belt or a collar so I had to use my imagination to complete the look. I decided that a belt the same width as the sleeve cuffs would look good with a medallion that was the exact same as the ones on the bodice. I think it looks rather fetching! I still need to make a collar and am trying to decide what it will look like.
Close up of the bead work. The original used cord and beads. I didn't have any cording, so used soutche which actually worked well with the beads resting in the channels!
The medallions were a pain to create as there weren't any tutorials on how to make flowers like these. After 4 examples and around 2 hours, I came up with these! The center beads were from my Great-Grandma's bead stash!
Since this was a Franken-patterned dress, there were 4 different patterns used!!
Bodice Body: Truly Victorian TV466 1860s Darted Bodice
Sleeve Puffs: Simplicity 4400 (altered)
Mancheron: Laughing Moon #114 Ladies Round Dress 1840s-1852 (altered)
Now to finish the lace day cap and decide if the making of a soft bonnet needs to be done....
Well, I hope you have a wonderful next week!!!