Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Widow's Weeds - The Dress

The day after I thought up my new widow character I got busy searching for fabrics and accessories and studying as many CDVs and existing mourning wear I could find in a short amount of time. It was a very quick two weeks to get everything designed, lined up, ordered, purchased, shipped and collected. Many thanks go to my friend Bridget for her fabulous links to online vendors.

My new character, Mrs Minton, is of the lower working class (owns a small apple farm), so I was definitely not making the dress in silk. To keep cool in the hot California weather, I decided on a sheer dress fabric with a black cut-down bodice lining and petticoat in linen so the whole dress would pull very black.

After the black sheer striped fabric I ordered from Kay Gnagey failed to appear in her store, she quickly refunded my order where I took the funds over to Beverly's Fabrics and bought the last 8 yards of black striped sheer. It was just enough for I put four panels into the skirt.

The petticoat linen was ordered from FashionFabricsClub.com, took 10 days to arrive, then showed up as a charcoal gray black not black black. I have an embroidered black linen dress in my closet I made a few years ago that is black black. That's what I expected. I was so disappointed.

So back to Beverly's for 1 yard solid black cotton for the bodice lining. I resolved myself to use the linen for the petticoat as my character has been in mourning before (for children) and the linen has "faded" over time.

For the design, because I was using cotton and making this dress quickly, I pulled out my well-fitted pattern used for my green sheer dress. But instead of gathered sleeves, I used the coat sleeve from Simplicity 4551 . I took my fitted lining and cut down the neckline a bit more mimicking the CDVs I found.

Both of the above photos are of mourning wear - black collars indicate this. Both dresses are of sheer fabric with a cut-down lining you can see.

My four-paneled skirt was fully cartridge pleated to twill tape that was then tacked inside the bodice waistband. The 5" deep hem is finished with 1/2" bias tape to help with wear.

I made a plain belt in silk taffeta and made a buckle from a metal finding found on eBay. Belts were SO popular in the 1860s and you don't see too many of them at events. I love the belt.

As seen in many period photographs, I found a bit of 3" flat lace in my stash and darted it up to fit the neckline of the finished dress. I finished it with bias tape and tacked it inside the bodice. My brooch was another lucky find on eBay. It looks like jet but is really plastic, possibly from the mid-20th Century.

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