Friday, August 5, 2011

Sapphire 1880s Gown--Inspiration

Well, it's that time of year again--the Navy Ball is in a couple months, so it's time for me to pull out the sewing machine and challenge myself with a modern gown inspired by historical fashions.

Last year I created a gown based on 1930s evening-wear, with a modern twist. This year I want to try something based on one of my favorite epochs in fashion, the 1870s-80s, that, unfortunately, I have very little cause to create clothing for. Unlike other time periods, there's not a lot happening in my area that warrants whipping up a late Victorian re-creation.

However, the period provides tons of inspiration from which to create a modern gown.
1880s Sapphire Gown
So, how am I going to do this? Well, for starters, there won't be any of the underpinnings that create the characteristic shape of the 1880s--no corset, no cage bustle, no petticoats. The silhouette will be strictly modern, which *should* keep this from looking too costumey. The fabric will be a deep navy/sapphire blue satin with chiffon over-draping. The basic shape will come from a super-simple strapless gown pattern with a narrow front skirt and more volume--plus a train for bustling--in the back. Additional detailing to create a more elaborate neckline and decorative touches will be done with draped chiffon.

The elements I plan to pull from the inspiration gowns, however, are characteristic of the time period:

1) Bustling. No, there won't be a wire or other heavy-duty support underneath, but I intend to create a "bum poof" of draped fabric. It remains to be seen if the fabric will support this on its own, or if I'll need to face the inside with some tulle for stiffness.

2) Neckline. Note that all three necklines featured in the inspiration board have wide v-shapes, narrowing over the shoulders (specifically the black-and-white fashion plate). I plan to drape a chiffon over-bodice to mimic this look, but show the strapless neckline underneath for a modern twist.

3) Front Drape. Another characteristic element, particularly well-shown in the peach-colored gown, is a drape across the front. I plan to extend the chiffon over-bodice down into a draped skirt--how, exactly, this will drape will have to wait until I get the basic construction done and can play with the fabric. I'm not ruling out poofs or cascades of chiffon.

A few notes on odd elements in the inspiration board:

1) Sapphire: I like the color, I like the subdued opulence, I like the hard edges and soft sheen. It's a nice metaphor for the gown, with its simple, straight underdress and softly-draped overdress.

2) Ostrich Plume: Nope, I don't plan on using any feathers. But the feathery, soft drape reminded me of how I wanted the chiffon to look.

3) Blue Fabric (background): This is about the shade I plan to use, in a heavy-ish satin.

4) Building with Columns: Last year I included an interior shot of the location of the ball for inspiration, an ornate, luxuriously painted and decorated foyer. This year I'm struck by the architectural columns--the subtly detailed simplicity producing an elegant look.

I'm heading to a dear friend's place this weekend for a sewing bonanza--I'll see how much I get done on this project, between fits of giggles and cooking delicious meals together. I'll try to take pictures of the project in progress--I'll update next week!


Brooke Johnson said...

I look forward to seeing this! I think your take on the neckline will look absolutely stunning. :) Have fun with it!

anachronist said...

Have fun with your sewing bonanza. I love sapphire colour and I am waiting to see a stunningly pretty dress!

Carrie C said...

Very cool! Good luck, that sounds like quite the challenge, but I'm sure you're up for it. I can't wait to see the photos.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely beautiful. I remember last year's creation and can't wait to see what transpires. My favourite colour too: any blue will do.

Caroline said...

Good luck! I can't wait to see the results! I'm not handy with a sewing machine but I always chose an antique inspired gown when I had formals to go to when I was younger. I had a pink taffeta bustle gown from my senior prom!

Rowenna said...

Brooke--Thanks! The bodice is going to be the most challenging--but most fun--part of this!

Anachronist--thanks! I'm excited about the color, too :)

Carrie--thanks! I'll try to post in-progress photos :)

Mesmered--thanks! I've come to love blue more and more...such a stately yet unobtrusive color!

Caroline--OMG a bustle gown! I remember seeing those in my youth but never had one. Perhaps I'm working out my bustle envy through this gown!