Pleats & Ruffles

Day Two of #VictorianFebruary hosted by @ladyrebeccafashions is: “Pleats and Ruffles”…and those two are my favorite things! Pleatastic taffeta pleats of silk and soft luscious ruffles of organza and batistes…they make my heart flutter.  🙂

Vintage flocked dotted batiste all edged in silk ribbon worn over a daffodil yellow petticoat…now I need to get better images of this one to show the layers. This is the lilac parlor at our Tombstone house.

Blush pink silk and English net with embroidery and antique lace… Someday I’ll attach at the blush custom roses …for the day we can attend balls again.

 

Our friend T.E. MacArthur is so lovely in this violet gown of satin, silk, and tulle…so many ruffles, so many pleats!
Close up of all the kinds of piping and pleating on a tailored violet bustle gown I made.
Wedding gowns are my favorite things to create, this gown was made from a rare silk that was hand carried from Thailand. I used every inch of it.
A special gown for a special friend on her wedding day, we were able to attend in person as well. Love is awesome.
Pretty silk bayleuse pleats and ruffles for underneath an 1890s ballgown. Don’t you love the sound of taffeta?
I had a Tissot moment when I made this “simple cotton frock”. It’s one of my favorite fancy day dresses.
Hand-stitched pleats float even more that machine stitched ones. I promise to finish this gown in 2021, it always seems to get set aside for others.


Some Wedding Gowns From The Late 1870s

The Natural Form/Mid-Bustle Era only lasted a short five years but it provided an interesting counterpoint to the heavily bustled/trained styles of the early 1870s and mid to late 1880s and especially as it applied to wedding dresses. As noted in a previous post, the typical wedding dress came in a variety of styles and could pretty  much be any better quality dress. However, at the same time, styles that were more specific to the occasion were coming into fashion and would later be associated with the “traditional white wedding.” Below are just a few examples of specific wedding dresses from the late 1870s, starting with this circa 1877 wedding dress:

Wedding Dress, c. 1877; Whitaker Auctions

This dress has a distinct princess line with no waistband and from the limited pictures, it appears that it opened down the front about half-way. The fashion fabric appears to be an ivory silk taffeta trimmed with gold silk satin along the edges of the train and large strips running along the front of the dress. Along with the silk satin strips along the front, there are rows of knife pleating. The area around the neckline is interesting in that there’s a yoke made up of built-up alternating strips of silk satin and taffeta topped off by a ruched neckline. Here’s a closer view of the upper part of the dress:

Below is a close-up of the yoke front and back:

And finally, a close-up of the sleeve with a double-row of knife pleating:

This dress is interesting but one can’t help but think that it’s incredibly ill-fitting. However, we believe that this is due to poor staging than to ay inherent flaw of the dress. No doubt it was supported by well-fitted petticoats and perhaps padding but unfortunately, there’s little information about the dress online. In any event, it’s an interesting wedding dress style.

Next is a wedding dress from circa 1878-1880 that combines what appears to be a gold silk jacquard floral patterned one-piece bodice and long trained overskirt with a separate gold silk satin underskirt:

Wedding Dress, c. 1878-1880; Metropolitan Museum of Art ( C.I.39.111.3)

This  dress is similar to the first in that it has no defined waist band. Although not a “pure” princess line dress, it achieves a similar effect by combining a unified bodice and long trained overskirt of a gold jacquard floral pattern with a gold silk satin underskirt trimmed with a knife-pleated hem. The bodice is front-opening with a square neckline trimmed with a ruched silk satin neckband. Further accentuating the neckline are three narrow bands of silk satin. The dress is relatively unadorned with no lace and has a simplicity to it.

Finally,  we have this circa 1878 wedding dress:

Wedding Dress, c. 1878; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.83.231.20a-b)

Compared to the first two examples, this one is more conventional, consisting of a  separate cuirass bodice and skirt, all made of a gold/ivory silk satin.  The bodice covers the hips and emphasizes vertical lines, aided by the use of style lines that place emphasis on the vertical plane. The skirt, on the other hand, emphasizes horizontal lines with circular ruching and pleating and ribbon bows. The hem consists of one row of deep knife pleating and with a line of  ruching running along the top edge. Unfortunately, there aren’t any other photos that give views from the side or back so we can only speculate but it no doubt has a long train, standard for wedding dresses of the period.

Finally, here’s an exquisite example of of a circa 1878-1879 wedding dress from the Met:

Wedding Dress, c. 1878 – 1879; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1979.339.2)

In terms of silhouette, this dress follows the late 1870s style and like the previous examples, it emphasizes vertical lines and minimizes the waist; in this case there’s no defined waist band. This press isn’t a “princess line” strictly speaking, the bodice and skirt were most likely attached to each other and masked by the swagging.  The fashion fabric on the bodice and main skirt appears to be an ivory silk taffeta, covered by asymmetric strips of gold silk satin with a floral pattern. Running on top of the gold silk satin strips are more narrow strips of a bengaline fabric with fringed ends. Finally, running along the entire hem are two rows of pleated ivory bengaline-like fabric. Below is a side profile:

The train skirt is square-cut at the end and continues the two rows of bengaline trim along with an added layer of fringed trim. Below is a close-up of the decorative trim:

This dress an interesting combination of vertical and horizontal lines with the bodice being relatively unadorned while the skirt is the complete opposite. The trim is asymmetrical, following a natural vertical spiral while at the same time filling the horizontal plane with detail.

The above four dresses are all from the same era but display different design elements. The silhouettes are similar but the individual details vary. However, the colors are pretty much the same- a gold/ivory (depending on the lighting in the photography and one’s particular computer monitor). What’s interesting about all three dresses is that even for their similarity, they still avoid the “white wedding” aesthetic that was to later dominate wedding dresses during the 20th Century.



And Now For A Little Finnish Wedding Style

Today we wander back to a more historical wedding dress theme, travelling (virtually) to Finland to take a look at this interesting wedding dress that was made in 1882 for a one Constance Sofia von Scharnhorst (nee Von Ammondt ):

Wedding Dress c. 1882; Finnish Board of National Antiquities (KM 41072)

This dress follows a fairly conventional early to mid 1880s silhouette; the “natural form” style was passé and was once again shifting towards a trained/bustle style. Although there’s not a lot of detail about specific materials, it can be safely assumed that we’re looking at a silver gray/gray silk taffeta and/or silk satin. The skirt and bodice front have detailed ruching along with silk satin cross-hatching running in a strip, spiraling up the skirt front. Below the satin strips is a duller-toned fabric, probably silk taffeta. The same cross-hatching is also present in the  three-quarter sleeves and is reminiscent of Renaissance styles. Completing the skirt decoration is a strip of lace mounted below the cross-hatching.  The overall effect is interesting in that while the basic gray color appears the same, the dull and shiny lusters of the various fabrics creates the illusion of there being different colors. Of course, we may be wrong since we only have two photos to go on but it’s still interesting. Finally, it must be noted that the hem consists of three rows of knife pleating. And here’s a more detailed view of the skirt:

As can be seen from the above detail picture, there’s a lot of decorative style effects going on here, perhaps too much, but it’s a wedding dress… 🙂 What’s also interesting is that the train is relatively plain compared to the main skirt. The overall effect is amazing and it just staggers the imagination thinking about all the hours that went into creating the various effects for the skirt alone. This is definitely a magnificent dress and we look forward to one day replicating this style, or a close approximation, for one of our clients. 🙂



The Lucy Wedding Dress & Victorian Fashion

Today’s post probably more properly belongs in the Halloween post category but well…it’s been a crazy year so we’re a bit belated…but more seriously, bridal fashions have always been an integral part of Western culture and especially more so in recent years as a whole multi-million dollar industry has been built around the act of getting married. When bridal fashion is combined with the horror movie genre, it becomes a commentary about society. In this post we do some deep-diving into Victorian Era social mores and while we may be admittedly reaching a bit with our conclusions, we hope it provides some interesting food for thought so we invite you to come along with us for the ride… 🙂


Bridal dresses have always been a basic part of our business and whether contemporary or old, bridal styles have always been fascinating to us. Today we take a look at bridal dresses from a slightly different perspective with the Lucy wedding dress from Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 film Dracula and it’s quite a fright (and that’s before Lucy makes her dramatic transformation into a vampire). The film is supposedly set in 1897 and thus it would be reasonable to assume that the costuming would reflect this but in reality it’s more like the mid to late 1880s for at least for some of the dresses and for the Lucy wedding dress, it’s a bit more uncertain…

Our first take on this dress was that it underscores Lucy’s transformation from a seemingly innocent girl into a vampire, the epitome of pure evil and corruption. This is not an original interpretation on our part, it’s been put forward that Lucy’s fate is that of the Victorian female who dared to flout the dominant social conventions that dictated that females were to be subservient, compliant, and certainly NOT sexual in any way that was not connected with procreating children.

dracula2

Lucy Before…

What is interesting in the above picture is how Lucy’s head appears to be disembodied, the rest of Lucy’s body hidden. It’s an interesting use of foreshadowing, given Lucy’s ultimate fate.

dracula

Lucy After…

However, Lucy “breaks” the rules and is “punished” by becoming a cursed, hyper-sexed creature motivated by a thirst for blood. The erotic overtones are hard to miss. At the same time, Lucy’s transformation into a vampire also mocks Victorian convention and especially when we see Lucy returning to her crypt holding an infant in her arms, no doubt her next meal. This is mockery at its most grotesque.

Turning to the dress itself, the dominating feature that one cannot fail to see is the large lace collar that’s vaguely reminiscent of a large Elizabethan ruff. Emphasizing the head, the first thing that came to mind when we first saw it was the head of John the Baptist on a platter. On one level it made for some interesting horror movie theatrics but on another level, it was a bit disturbing.

 

Turning to the dress itself, below is probably some of the historical inspiration for the Lucy wedding dress:

Bildnis_Margarete_Brömsen_Michael_Conrad_Hirt_(1613)

Michael Conrad Hirt, Margarete Brömsem, 1613

The above portrait captures many of the elements in the Lucy wedding dress although the collar/ruff on the Lucy wedding dress is circular. This is not a particularly flattering look but then again the 17th Century is not one of our most favorite periods for style so take this with a grain of salt. 🙂

And of course, things would not be complete without some more views of the dress:

Lucy, white funeral/wedding dress worn by Frost in Bram Stoker's Dracula. side front view.:

Once again, before…

Dracula Wedding/Burial dress:

And after…

Dracula:

Full Frontal View

eiko_ishioka_dracula_1

Concept Artwork by Eiko Ishioka

While the Lucy Wedding dress is fairly ahistorical from a style perspective, it nevertheless achieves the primary goal of adding impact to the characters and moving the story forward- the goal of costuming in any production- and it does so in a spectacular way. No matter how we feel about the scenes with Lucy becoming a vampire, it cannot be denied that it has a powerful impact on the viewer. Ultimately, it’s only a movie but it still touches on some dark themes still linger on to this day.



The Bridesmaid Dress

Bridesmaid dresses have been a staple of weddings for over 100 years and even today are a fixture for most weddings. For the typical wedding involving two or more bridesmaids, it is standard for the bridesmaids to be wearing dresses of a uniform style and color, thereby providing a canvas for the the bride to show brightly (after all, it is HER day… 🙂 ). However, the bridesmaid dress is often of a style that pleases nobody and in recent years there’s been a lot of resistance to the idea to the point where they’re being dispensed with for some.

Throughout the 19th and early 20th Centuries, wedding customs evolved and by the early 1900s, the typical wedding that we know today had taken form to include the distinct bridesmaid dress. Here are some examples:

Wedding Party c. 1900

Judging from the dress and hat styles, this was probably taken sometime around 1910 or so and what’s striking about it is that the bridesmaid dresses s are fairly uniform. While they appear to be of one style and made from the same material, there are variations in the trim on each woman’s skirt.

And here’s a few more from roughly the same time:

Victorian wedding group by lovedaylemon, via Flickr

In this picture, the bride is almost indistinguishable from the bridesmaids except for the hat.

It’s an interesting to see that uniform bridesmaid dresses were a thing a hundred years ago. In future posts, we’ll look a little further back so stay tuned! 🙂