Monday, May 11, 2015

1913 Drecoll Dress - Titanic-era dinner party

This is my version of a most beautiful dress in the Met Museum--see the original here:
It is also in the High Style book, which is where I first saw it.

Some of my material choices were different; because of costs, and personal choice (squirrel fur was not gonna happen on that belt, haha).  

This dress was made for two events that were really close to each other: A ladies tea at my church that had a fashion show (where you see the above hilarious pictures with that speaker up in the corner), and a friend's wedding the next weekend.  I knew I wanted to be comfortable, and it had to be done quickly and cheaply, so here I was going for as much of the silhouette and effect as possible but not actually completely recreating the dress.

For the Skirt:
First I made a really simple little pencil-skirt sort of base out of some black taffeta I had already, because I knew I was probably going to need some kind of base to tack the drapes in the skirt to.
    For the outer layer, I went with the wrong side of a crepe-backed black satin (synthetic) to get the closest look to that black charmeuse.  Just one layer, roll-hemmed all the way round, with a seam up the center back.  I tried to do that drape about 5 different times before I arrived at a shape I liked.

There were a few attempts at actually recreating that drape on the original dress before I realized that each side was not all one piece and the funky hip panniers were a different piece of fabric.  That's where I decided to deviate and do my more gentle swoopy skirt drape that also didn't have to be done in multiple pieces.  But I did like the back pickup and the pointed train, so I kept those.
The Top, working from the top layer down:  

 Found a vintage net on Etsy for the over-the-shoulder part.  Synthetic chiffon, covered in appliqued flowers that were printed on voile, is one layer down. under the chiffon is the base-layer, which is made of a cotton lawn I also had laying around.  I did hand-crochet some lace trim (using an 1890s Weldon's pattern) that got sewn onto the neckline of this layer, but it's barely visible!


My muslin for the top! :) This was drafted from a standard bodice sloper/block.  here, it's just an inner and outer layer; I didn't make any muslin-layer for the top black netting.  Instead I just measured from the points where I wanted it to attach up over the highest/farthest point of my shoulders.
I was pretty pleased with the muslin; it did almost exactly what I wanted in the first go! Just needed to re-shape the sleeves a bit and refine the shape of the half-circles.
You may notice there is no corset in these pictures :) I really wanted to be able to wear it with just a bra, since my shape is not really all that much changed by a corset and this is kind of a relaxed dress anyway.  But later on, when trying on the real dress, I did put a corset underneath and just having a flatter line from bust to waist changed the look so completely that I now wear a corset with it. *sigh*.This is why foundation garments are important, even if your shape isn't drastically changed or you don't have to support a huge and heavy skirt!
Making the top:

I searched around for a pre-printed voile or lawn yardage, but nothing had the right scale of flowers, in the right colors, AND the right background color! So I ended up fusible-spraying some white curtain stash fabric to a piece of paper and using it in my good ol' inkjet printer to print me some flowers.

The flowers were then cut out and whip-stitched around the edges onto the chiffon layer, like so:

After all the top layers were together, they got sewn onto the black half-circles that make the front and back bodice, and then the whole thing got put together at the waist seam.  It closes with a black invisible zipper at the center back, and a few hooks and eyes on the delicate layers just above where the zipper ends (didn't want black zipper-tape up there!).

I applied a rhinestone trim to the neck-edges by whip-stitching it on.  This was the jewelry kind of rhinestone where each has its own metal square setting with a little metal bar that goes into the next setting and they're somewhat collapsible, but pretty twist-proof.

The belt I made out of a dark brown velvet with an orange back that gave it a VERY rich tone.  I originally had planned to close it off in the back with hooks and eyes, but it ended up being long enough to just tie in a bow and I liked the security and flexibility of that better.
The brooch in the middle of the velvet belt is another Etsy find :) just a little paste-gem thing.  I wanted something with a rounded or fan edge to echo the bodice seaming, the way they pointed out in the High Style book.

Overall, I really liked how this dress turned out!

Regrets:  I do wish I would have gone all the way modern and just fusible-web-bonded the applique flowers onto the chiffon, as they (of course) immediately started to fray and come off in a few places.
It also would have been nice to find a net with a more obvious flower-pattern at the edge, and perhaps use a bigger or closer-together rhinestone trim at the neckline edge.
I also realize, looking at the pictures, that I made the waist really low.  However, I don't know if it would have worked to raise it on me...perhaps the original wearer had a much higher natural waist, closer to the bust and farther from the hip? I actually run into this problem quite often with historical silhouettes....surely there were some skinny girls around then, right?

I am in love with the skirt! It's so light, super fun, and I have more mobility than any other period dress.  Now that I know it's a pretty flattering shape, it makes me want to do some kind of high-waisted harem-pant--especially with summer coming up.

Thanks for reading!