Once upon a time, when I was in high school, I REALLY wanted a costume for the local medieval fair. I hadn’t really learned to sew at that point. I also had absolutely no idea what a historically accurate medieval or renaissance costume would look like. Maybe I didn’t care. At any rate, we went to the fabric store and got this pattern:
It is historically apropos of nothing. I have no idea what historical era they thought they were referencing (other than 90s grunge does costume). I also have no idea what is up with that snood, or the little girl’s white patent shoes. Even assuming this costume has a time period, that little girl is not in it.
I’m pretty sure my mom did the sewing but I think I chose the fabrics. This was in the day before internet fabric shopping, and the town we lived in had one fabric store, which wasn’t great and mostly specialized in polyester “special occasion” fabrics. That being said, I still think I could have done better. What I ended up with was white polyester lace over olive green cotton broadcloth and a shiny mustard-colored poly satin skirt, with a muslin chemise that had iridescent poly organza sleeves. I wish I had a picture. I will have to ask my mom.
It was, quite possibly the most inaccurate historical garment in…well…history.
However, this one might come in second:
It’s not that it’s unattractive. It just…isn’t right. I have been wanting to make a dress based on this fashion plate:
Mostly because I had a large amount of crimson fabric left over from my wedding (used for a sash on the dress as well as a wrap for the ceremony). It’s a polyester blend of some sort with a very soft hand and a lovely drape. I suspect it was meant for curtains. I got it at a strip-mall discount fabric store and I think it was cheaper if I bought the whole rest of the roll, so I did. So I’ve had this fabric sitting around forever and I just wanted to use it up. It would never work for a modern dress, and even though it’s not even a little historical I thought it might have the right drape for an early 20th century dress. So I bought some semi-accurate lace of Etsy to go with it and got the Sense and Sensibility 1910s Tea Dress pattern.
I thought about making the dress for lace and lacing but had been a bit tired and didn’t want to have to stress out about the deadline. Then, I decided to throw my husband a cigar lounge party for his birthday and decided I needed to make the dress after all to wear to the party. Of course I decided a bit too late to order any fabric for the underskirt so I had to go to JoAnn and see what I could find. Tragically I couldn’t find any soft charmeuse fabrics to use and wound up going with this sort of horrible very lightweight taupe polyester fabric that I don’t even have a name for. It was really the only thing with an appropriate drape and weight. Eventually most of it will be covered up by the red overskirt and sash, and the rest will be embroidered or trimmed in some way. But since it was sort of a short deadline and a really busy week I never got to the overskirt. Or the hemming. This is the dress so far:
It needs some other work too. Despite doing a muslin of the bodice that fit quite nicely, I must have done something wrong with the front insert measurements so the bodice is a few inches too big and I’m going to have to take the bodice apart and re-cut the insert. It’s also a bit lower cut than I intended. Also the lining seams keep rolling out despite understitching them. I will have to go back and finish it. Unfortunately I am terrible at finishing things particularly once an event has passed.
In the end I wore it at the party un-hemmed, sans overskirt, and with a sash that is just an old blue scarf tied around my waist. I safety-pinned the excess width out of the front insert. I was quite pleased with how my hair and makeup came out and the overall look isn’t bad. I’m just going to have to call this one a costume rather than a historical garment.
What I love: It looks pretty. I think once I re-cut the front bodice insert I will be really happy with the fit.
What I learned: I have to say that every time I sew anything, I’m learning how to be a better seamstress. But I still have a long way to go and I’m not great at spatial geometry. I’m usually not good at trusting my instincts. But this time I did trust my instinct to add more seam allowance to the bodice insert than directed in the instructions (reasoning, there needs to be the seam allowance for the insert but also for the pieces to which the insert attaches), and I was wrong. If I had not added the extra seam allowance the fit would have been fine. I’m still not sure where I went wrong. So in this case I don’t feel I learned much because I can’t puzzle out what the lesson should be!
Love it or Leave it? I think the Sense and Sensibility pattern makes a really pretty dress and the pattern is easy to follow and fits well based on sizing. It gives a great impression of a historical gown, but I don’t think the construction is terribly accurate. Since this was really a hurried project accuracy wasn’t very important to me. In the future, I would probably make more adjustments to the pattern. However, I really did feel pretty in the dress so I guess I kind of love it.
Fabric: Cotton chemical lace, polyester lining, cotton broadcloth, weird polyester fabric.
Pattern: Sense and Sensibility’s 1910 Tea Gown (with overskirts left out)
Year: Early 1910s
Notions: Cotton and Polyester threads, hook and eyes
How Historically Accurate Is It?: Not terribly.
Hours to Complete: Maybe 6 so far? Not great at keeping track.
First Worn: Yesterday at my husband’s birthday party.
Total Cost: Cotton lace about $20 for the piece but I didn’t use all of it; polyester fabrics and thread about $15 total.