A client recently emailed me to ask me about a dress that she had. She wanted to wear it for her wedding, but the petticoat needed to have fabric added to it, and the other dress needed a bit of mending. She said that they were antique pieces and I was intrigued, so I met her at the shop and looked over her dress. I was so excited by what I saw!
Her (wedding) gown was a stunning example of Edwardian fashion. It was a hand-sewn white cotton batiste dress with lace insets, pintucks and lots of delicate hand embroidery. The dress fit her like a glove! The petticoat that she intended to wear under the dress had an extremely tiny waist, so it was decided that I would add in a section of fabric with a zipper that could be removed later, if necessary, to maintain the original garment. We also decided that I would make her a slip from a silvery-blue satin, from a Mrs. Depew Vintage 1930s French lingerie pattern.
I had never before used one of Mrs. Depew’s patterns, even though I have one that I purchased for my personal use waiting for me in my pattern box. It was very interesting to draft, and I had a lot of fun with it. I would absolutely buy another one!
You start off with a tiny piece of paper that has miniature pattern pieces on it. To make the pattern pieces in your size, you use a set of rulers. To read about the process, check out Anna’s post here: Draft At-Home Patterns. It was a fascinating process, and I loved that there was no size limitation on the pattern. The slip turned out beautifully.
She decided that after her wedding, she would wear only the slip and the petticoat, to better preserve the outer lace dress. Before I washed the petticoat and dress, I thought that a few pieces of the embroidery were a dark peach color. Umm… yeah, it turns out they were light yellow. I didn’t realize how dirty the garments were, because they were so much whiter after a good soak and some sunshine!
Here’s a view of the slip and petticoat together. It looks really beautiful on her:
The star of this dress though is nothing short of amazing. The amount of time and detail that went into this dress… I can’t even imagine trying to guess how many hours it took to make. As it turns out, it once belonged to the Schlitz beer heiress. My client’s mother bought the dress at an estate sale in the 1980s.
Did I already mention all of the handwork on this piece? I stared at it for the longest time, trying to find any trace of where a knot was tied off, or to discover some small secrets about its construction. Every yard of lace and and cotton had been pieced by hand. Every pintuck required dozens of stitches, and the couched embroidery? I don’t even know where to begin.
The back had very interesting piecing. In order for the dress to have uninterrupted center back panel full of embroidery, the buttons and hooks that close the dress came down at and angle and then fell to one side of the center back panel. If you look closely, you can see the hooks and eyes hanging inside the cotton, where there is a fabric band that wraps around the waist. You can click on all of these photos to get a better view, by the way.
The sleeves had a beautiful forward slant, held at the elbow by more pintucks. Just extraordinary!How do you feel about garments like this? Does it make you want to work that much harder on putting details into your clothes? It sure does for me!