Monday 1 February 2016

Deciphering Historical Clothes: 1830s silk wrap day dress

I've decided to try and do a Deciphering post for each month this year, to go with the Historical Sew Monthly challenges. Now, these are not going to be the same thing, not even remotely, as Leimomi's inspiration posts. For one thing, with each garment of the month, I doubt the beginning of the month is enough time for anyone interested to gather all materials and make the garment in time - and that's assuming I manage to post it in the beginning of the month every time or that my deciphering is enough to get you started. The challenges simply provide me with a good starting point in looking for decipherable garments.

I'll also try to focus on garments in Czech collections, although we'll see how that goes...

The Czech Regency stays from Příbram seem like a very good "entry" for January's theme of Procrastination - it took me about four years to make mine!

For February's "Pleats & Tucks" challenge, I turn to a garment I've posted about on this blog before - the wrap day dress that I saw in an exhibition in Dačice, which I posted about here

Photography was allowed at that exhibition (not usually a given in the Czech Republic!) and thanks to the setup, I even managed to snatch a back view of the bodice (not always a given, either!). The description said that it came from the collections of Prácheňské muzeum in Písek, but since then, I've come across a photo in Centrální evidence sbírek that shows a dress so suspiciously similar I'm 99,99 % sure it's the same one, and places it in Třebíč, so... probably a misattribution at the Dačice exhibition? (There were other garments from Třebíč there, too.) I'll come back to that photo from CES, because it shows more of the construction! It also says it's made from silk taffetta, which is a fairly safe guess anyway with this period and this look, but it's good to know.

It was one of my favourite garments in that exhibition - a rather boring yellowish brown shade, but exquisite construction with an eye for detail, so I was inspired to take detailed photos even at the time. For which I am grateful now, because there is so much going on with the construction that I can draw inspiration from, even if I never make this particular dress!

Going by the shape of the sleeves, with the puff lower in the sleeve, I would guess it's from later in the decade; you can even come across such puffs in fashion plates from early 1840s. In this particular exhibition, or the photo on CES, the puffs are not very pronounced, but I've come across a photo from another exhibition in Znojmo where there's yet again a garment so suspiciously similar to this one I think it might be the same one... where they'd gone for an arrangement of the sleeves that makes them puffier. I guess it depends on how long the arms of the wearer actually were (and therefore suspect it is supposed to be puffier).
Other than the basic shape, the above overall photo (especially if blown up to full size) shows rather well that there are two darts in the bodice on each side, sitting more to the sides than they would on later garments.

So how would this amazingly detailed thing go together? That's where the opportunity to take more detailed photos (or look at more detailed photos on a museum site, if available) comes in handy.


Just this half-photo gives you more details: it shows the lie of the pleats on the sleeves (knife pleats towards the back in the upper section and, if I'm not mistaken, towards the front in the lower section) and in the skirt (flat / box pleat in the front and then knife pleats towards the back) - in fact, it shows you that the sleeves are pleated rather than some other form of gathering. And that the edges of the collar are piped. Twice, in fact. It also hints that the sleeves close on the inside seam in the bottom section - you can see the edge overlapping. It also shows the fabric loop on the belt that the belt end goes through.
I can see more in this photo itself, actually, but let's keep it simple for now, because I have more detailed photos coming...

Here's the lower sleeves with more details. It proves my theory that the lower sleeve pleats are facing towards the front. It also shows the bands that hold them down: they consist of two rows of piping / cording. Now, this is a conjecture, but I would suggest they were made in a manner similar to this tutorial by Kelly of Tea in a Teacup.
It also shows the closure: fabric covered buttons and fabric loops (most of the buttons seem to be lost, but you can see one closed button and one orphaned loop in the upper photo.)
There is also very fine piping along the cuff and the slit in the sleeve. It is seen more clearly in the second photo. This sort of treatment would definitely require a finely woven fabric and really good skills in handling it!
The fabric and my photos don't alow me to see the grainlines quite as clearly as I would wish to, but when I look at the upper part of the sleeve on the photos and at the behaviour of the pleats on the bottom, I am fairly sure the sleeve is cut in such a manner that the bottom at the very least lies on the bias - see how the pleats look a bit "twisted", or seem to have creases running diagonally across the way they are sitting? Pleats done on the straight of grain don't do that. :-)
Cutting sleeves on the bias was a common practice at the time, as demonstrated by the pattern diagrams in The Workwoman's Guide (p. 346). (In fact, I would suggest perusing that publication as an excellent primary source if you ever wanted to re-make this dress.)