Friday, April 1, 2011

The White Period Dress

The Infamous "White Period Dress" Not quite finished, but almost!

I couldn't resist- in almost every haunted story there is mention of a woman in "white period dress". They never say which period (which irks my inner historical fashionista), but somehow that explains exactly what the woman is wearing. So, for this late 1890's ensemble, I couldn't resist calling it the "White Period Dress".

The Thimble and I volunteer at an outdoor museum about an hour away where we interpret a mansion built in the 1880's, but staged in the mid 1890's. Last year's outfit included a navy blue skirt, shirtwaist, and corsetlet. This year, I wanted something a little lighter and with less trim, but still pretty. Since I have the "week off" from my job (teacher) for spring break, I wanted to get some serious sewing done. I also had to grade massive amounts of essays and projects, but the fact that I can do that in my p.j.'s still gives me some extra time for other stuff.

So, to rid myself of the bulk essay blues, I acted on a whim and decided to make up this little number.


I already had the patterns in my box of goodness (TV297 and TV493), and the windowpane cotton was a long ago closeout purchase that was sitting around on the roll and was perfect for this project. All of the undergarments were from last year. Interlining is 5.3 oz linen. Trim was a poly blend (dies) from JoAnn's. I had to act fast and didn't have time to search for antique or comparables.


Cutting actually didn't take that long. We had the pattern pieces for the skirt already cut on our heavy duty brown pattern paper and the windowpane cotton was so thin ironing was a breeze. This was my second time on this skirt, and it went together in about two-three hours. No snags. Love this pattern. I did have to add an extra flounce to my petticoat to help support the windowpane. It didn't really have the body needed to hold itself up, so to speak. I am considering a regency gown with this material at a later date. I think it would lend itself very well to that period.

The windowpane after interlining
was cut away above bust.
The bodice was a new one for me, but again- went together super easily. The only part that got me was I decided to cut away some of the interlining to display the windowpane pattern better across the top of the bosom. This was a little difficult to do considering that I had to lace myself into my corset without assistance in order to determine where to cut away the interlining. In the end, with some pins, chalk, and a mirror, I ended up with an even and modest peek-a-boo effect. I have yet to attach my closures on the bodice and still need to do a few tweaks on the front darts (that pesky hourglass silhouette!) but everything else is finished.

Since I'm terrible at following directions and am not a huge fan of piping, I finished the bodice interior hem with turned twill tape instead of piping. It turned out great and gave me a nice, snug fit over the hips.

The Trimmings

Close up of the trim and
sheer fabric. Two rows of pintucks
were added after this picture.
I think the best part was this time I only had to apply 15 yards of trim for the whole kit, as compared to the last time I when I applied over 20yds of trim to the skirt alone! But the fabric was so delicate I didn't want to overburden it with yards of junk. I already had to compromise on the trim being a poly blend due to the unplanned nature of the thing as it was. I could not and would not add to that by going over the top with a poly-lace extravaganza that would rival a pop star in the 80's (1980's, that is). I kept it simple and let the clean lines and flowing fabric speak for themselves. Plus, this way if I can find something natural and appropriate later on I can replace the trim with as little fuss as possible.

I utilized the same trim treatment on the sleeves, hem of skirt, collar, and cutaway neckline. I added two rows of pintucks above the bottom trim treatment for two reasons:

Collar and Cutaway Trim
          1. It looked a little like it needed something else, but nothing crazy. Pintucks are a great way to add some texture without being too much.
          2. Pintucks also add some structural support to the hemline by making it slightly stiffer and help the skirts to hold their shape.

The pintucks worked wonders. I don't have the pictures uploaded yet, but the skirt holds its shape so much better now.

End Result

Back View prior to
bodice alteration
I'm not going to lie, the turn of the century is not my favorite time period. The Belle Epoch and Edwardian fashions, to me, are not the most flattering for my figure (fairly curvy) and out of the 19th century I would have to say that I am madly in love with both bustle periods.... however... 

I think I love it! I cannot believe I'm saying this, but it makes me feel like a princess. It's so light and airy. The fabric is so fine and soft and when I walk I can feel it floating behind me like a cloud. The hubby saw it and said that it reminds him of wedding dress (common response actually- I think because it's all white.) But it does make you feel pretty. 

 And the best part: it has only taken two days of working into the wee hours (so far) to construct. I should have the finishing touches on by tomorrow and it will be ready for volunteering on Saturday, and should make for a much cooler summer season.
Side View- ignore the
sewing mess and iron
cord hanging off the
ironing table- lol.

The down side? As Eva (dog #3) has so evidently made clear today- it's white. I've had to wipe off two muddy nose spots so far, which luckily did not stain. 

Note to self:  Investigate wholesale supply of tide pens...

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