Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Governess Dress

I mentioned in my last entry that I am working on a new dress. For my birthday, I received from my parents a length of gray wool. Well, actually, I told them I wanted a length of wool fabric, figured out the budget, and they gave me the money for it. I found it online and it is a lovely dark gray with a large black windowpane check pattern.

We call it the governess dress. In my living history group, I portray a governess for my friend's young daughter. The role is more complicated than that, but you get the idea. Wool is a very "serviceable" fabric, it wears well, and dark colors hide stains. There is a stereotype of the governess in a black wool dress; it wasn't always black, but wool was an eminently sensible choice for women in professions full of spit-up and spills.

I have been told often that I need to take more pictures of the construction process of my dresses. I suppose the steps it takes to make a dress are interesting to those who haven't done them. However, this is my fourth dress (fourth and a half, if you count the two bodices for one dress) and perhaps I've lost a bit of the wonderment that comes from seeing a garment come together. Seams all go together the same way; piping is made and attached; hooks and eyes are sewn in.

The worst part of any project, for me, is the skirt. Skirts all go together the same way. The seams are long, and there's so much fabric involved, it's easy to get swamped. Even the waist treatment, the only option for originality (box pleats vs. knife pleats vs. gauging), is tedious. But a bodice - ah, a bodice is a work of art! Fitting the darts and side seams take finesse. Setting a sleeve smoothly takes a sure eye and clean stitches. On this dress, I raced through the skirt just so I could get to the bodice.

To toss things up a bit, I cut the sleeves on the bias. I am also doing a postillion back - meaning a little flounce at the back waist. I predict I'll be done by next Sunday - it doesn't need to be worn until the 19th, but it'd be nice to have it done a little early.

And I promise I'll post pictures once it's done.

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