Sunday, September 1, 2019

Anatomy of a Dress - The Unexpected Victorian Dress

Lately, I've been having fun reverse-engineering dresses into patterns. This is a technical, convoluted excuse for my "buying vintage clothing I'll never wear"  habit. I just love to study original antique pieces, how they are constructed, what materials were used, which parts have held up to wear and use, and which parts haven't.  Sometimes this manifests in a new pattern at Mrs. Depew Vintage, but most of the time, it just means hours spent becoming a (hopefully) smarter seamstress and designer.

Today, for your enjoyment, I present The Unexpected Victorian Dress. I was haunting a not-widely-used online auction site looking for patterns when I stumbled across a very blurry picture of a 1920s wedding dress covered in silk rosettes (more on that later). Just from the photo, I knew it to be adapted from the "robe de style" design; something I've been wanting to study in person for ages. The listing was vague, saying only "Dresses" and showing a much-abused 1920s dress hanging on a door. I bid furiously, knowing that if the plural turned out to be a typo and I only had this one dress to study, I'd be one happy girl. I won. A Giant box arrived weeks later at my door.

And inside was not one, not two, but three beautiful dresses for me to study.

The photos that follow are as detailed as I can get, and I have erred on the side of overkill, knowing that there are fashion historians out there that will be delighted with as much detail as possible.

With their help, I am still nailing down the dressmaker named, as well as trying to name its original, stunningly petite owner and perhaps date the dress which appears to be from the late 1880s to early 1890s.