“Wish I could figure out how to design a gown like that!”
Well, I’ve been listening and have decided to share the process I go through when I design a historical gown. From original inspiration to my next steps, you will learn about what books and patterns I go to first for help along the way!
Let’s get going!
Have another topic you would like me to chat about? Dying to know some of my construction or designing secrets?
Leave a comment below! 🙂
PS: The book I was referring to is Fashion: The Collection from the Kyoto Fashion Institute. 🙂
I can’t believe we are already at Thanksgiving! While I feel that the summer went by at a normal pace, this fall has simply flew!!
I have been very busy sewing these past days, not only getting ready for Black Friday and Cyber Monday on my shop (click HERE to see all the deals), but also with some fun projects just for the heck of it! One such project, was this 1810’s day gown in such a fun shade of coral-ly pink.
I was thrilled and honored to be apart of such a wonderful exhibit and celebration that I thought I would share a some details of not only the gown I made, but also the women who made the outfit popular.
To start with the Bloomer gown, as we know it, was not first worn by Amelia Bloomer but actually by Elizabeth Smith Miller of Geneva, New York. Elizabeth Miller, who advocated for dress reform using the Turkish style of pants, quickly caught the attention and support of Bloomer. With her newspaper, The Lily, which focused on women’s issues, Amelia popularized the look to the point where her name became associated with the gown.
Whenever I watch a Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte film, I always notice how many scenes have women sitting and embroidering. While embroidering has never been a skill I have any great comfort with, I so admire the patience that goes into creating such unique pieces. In addition to beauty, excellent embroidery (in the 18th and 19th century) was also a sign of your success at being a woman. From samplers, to large designs, to small decals on ribbons, creating lovely scenes through thread was a talent to be embraced and cultivated.
And when one looks back at gowns from the past two hundred years, the value placed upon such embroidered additions has not wavered. Even today, when I see an embroidered design, even on garments in modern department stores, I find it more beautiful and attractive…and often worth the extra penny it will cost to take it home. I am sure the same can be said of women a hundred years ago, as they painstakingly took the time to decorate their gowns with signs of accomplishment.
So what better way to honor these women, than to celebrate gowns with all types of embroidery and design. I had such a fun time looking and finding gowns, capes, and other accessories that it was very difficult to narrow the final selection down. I also noticed that certain time periods feature more embroidery than others. Notice the lack of 1850’s-1870’s gowns if you hop over to my Pinterest board. While there are so many to choose from in the early 1800’s and again at the end of the century and well into the 1950’s, the middle decades feature more fabric patterns than embroidered additions. Regardless, the design and appeal of these gowns can not be denied!
I have been sewing since I was a little girl and dabbled in the usual assortment of projects that new sewers try. A few handbags, a dress or two, and perhaps a little quilting. But there comes a time in every sewer’s journey when they begin to discover their particular niche. While they still may sew a variety of things, they often find one particular style, or area, or system that is their most favorite. And that is the beautiful thing about sewing. Sewing is one of those rare hobbies that can be truly for enjoyment while still offering a wonderful service. It will always be a needed talent and one that should be carefully and lovingly cultivated.
I went on my own little journey of sewing during my summer vacations of college. This was of course in the days before Pinterest and my access to historical fashion was limited, but I was able to Google a lot of the various images. Through this process, I began finding gowns that spoke to me and continue to inspire me today (over a decade later.) They are the pieces that really pushed me into historical sewing without having any idea or knowledge on how to do any of it. But like many things in life, sewing is a puzzle with various pieces that must be figured out so they, together, can create one overall picture. So that is how my summer days were spent…figuring out how these gowns were created, how they went together, and how the heck I could do it on my own. Of course all of this happened in between my summer jobs! 🙂
So as I now enter into my 15th year of historical/vintage sewing, I thought I would share with you the pieces that inspired it all…maybe they have inspired you as well!
This late 18th century gown is a true example of how a perfect fit can create a stunning creation.
This Regency era gown was the first time where I looked at a picture and tried to recreate the best I could….it turned out alright! 🙂
This 1850’s raspberry gown has been one of my favorites for years….I adore the vibrant color!
This 1870’s bustle gown is part technical amazingness and part mint-green amazingness…both parts are equally important!
This one you had to pull my chin off from the floor when I first saw it. It’s all about the cut….simply, sleek, and exquisitely tailored!
I am still in the process of trying to recreate a pattern for this 1930’s silk blouse…and when I do, I’ll be sure to let you know!
Someday, I will have acquired enough skill to create this 1940’s dress..not today…but someday!
What has been your inspiration for sewing? Have you been able to recreate that inspiration?
This is such a stunning gown! Probably created in the late 1850’s, I love the V-shaped pleating and the full airiness of the skirt. Include a shawl and it is perfect! I wish it was easier to find fabric that was patterned like this skirt though. Hmmmm……
When I reach a designing block, I often take to the internet to scour through the vast resources it has to offer. I have learned that the internet is a marvelous tool for the historical costume designer, with large amounts of free scanned in collections!
Here is a link that has dozens of color fashion plates from the 19th century! Simply scroll through to find the desired fashion plate, click on the image and it will take you to a screen where you can view the image in amazing detail and focus. Enjoy!!
Another example of gown envy…..this time with a stunning light blue mid-1860’s gown with train. It is a “two-fer” so to speak, as the gown features two separate bodices for day or evening. Absolutely beautiful! I especially love the sheer flowers that are sewed into the front of the skirt.