1850s sheer day dress

Status: Wearable

Year finished: 2005

To Do: press and resize

Updates since last photo: n/a

Inspiration: extant gowns on auction sites and museums.

This dress was a bit of a spur of the moment thing to do.

I had heard of the Howick Historical Village before, and knew they had “live” days, and that they encouraged children (of all ages.. *cough*) to dress up. I also know they like volunteers for these live days.

Finding inspiration wasn’t too hard. I had saved an ebay auction from August 2003 of an exquisite sheer cotton dress from the late 1840s. It was a classic “fan fronted” dress, with large open sleeves and a plain skirt. The front was gathered then fanned over the bust and gathered to the shoulders.

The bodice was very similar to this organdy bodice. But the sleeves longer and fuller, the inner sleeves shorter and the sheer fabric ended in a higher neckline and the solid lining ended in a lower neckline. The sheer fabric was also gathered onto shoulders that were set further back and trimmed with lace or whitework of some sort.

In Fashion, a book put out by theKyoto Costume Institute there is a mid. 1840s shot taffeta gown with honeycomb “smocking” in the front panel that then fans out over the bust. (Do take a look around the rest of the site, there are some pretty amazing examples of dress there.)

Voila! The perfect change to gown to make it rather more personal. Vintage Sewing site. That page shows how to Honeycomb without smocking, but marking the fabric with dots.
It is wonderfully easy, even I can manage it 😉

I was worried about the sleeves, as when worn with a dress of a solid fabric, false undersleeves were worn. I wasn’t too sure how that would work with a sheer bodice. Rather than worry about it, I decided to look for a different kind of sleeve. I found it here, on rubylane.com. It seems unlikely given the length of the sleeves that undersleeves would in fact be needed. The construction of the rest of the bodice is as a normal fan fronted sheer dress, so I am quite happy to use this sleeve type. The curve is placed at the front of the arm and a ccircular ruffle was added to the edge.

Even I could not resist wearing this bonnet. As soon as I found the faux flowers it all fell into place. The bonnet was patterned from extant items and the ruching is the same taffeta as the lining but tinted pink.

The core is a cotton buckram. Sadly as it was authentic buckram there was so salvaging this after our house fire. But I can recreate the overall look thanks to taking copius in progress photos!

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