Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Wrapper Dress

 I (finally) finished the dress I was making for one of the ladies at Howell Living History Farm. The time period the farm is set up to represent is 1890 to 1910, and this style of dress is appropriate to the time period. I am hoping to get pictures of her wearing the dress soon. Although the dress is not fitted per se, it took a lot of work to get it right. The pattern was a 1970's reprint of an historical pattern, and it had some funky things going on. The biggest issue was the front of the dress. Inside there is a built-in vest to keep things in, but it wasn't really that long. The front of the bodice was completely open, and the opening was longer than the inner vest leaving a large gap. It was unclear what they did historically, and hook and eyes have been the solution at the farm for the most part. I extended the front pieces to add a hidden button placket...I would explain but its pretty confusing! It ended up working great and there is now a hidden row of buttons to keep things from getting scandalous.

The ruffle on the bottom was sewn ON TOP of the skirt, so the top had to be finished. After studying the original 1900 Sears Catalog, we decided it would be OK to add a bias tape trim over the ruffle edge.

The dress originally had a belt that was sewn on but all the women at the farm wear aprons and the belt is sort of redundant. To make it optional, I sewed a little stay over the pleats and added buttons. The belt can be buttoned on or removed.

And the pleats....oh, the pleats. I think there were 42 teeny-tiny pleats on each side. It was pretty much a pain in the neck. I was able to sneak in some piping, though, after some discussion amongst various people about whether it was suitable. I am glad I got the OK to add it, because it really adds to the dress and goes with the bias tape at the hem. Many, if not most, of the women there have dresses made from the same pattern so it is nice to add unique features. 

The lady who received this dress has worked for the farm something like 25 years and I think she said this is her 3rd or 4th dress. They really wear them out. She gave me her last dress to take measurements from and I couldn't even use it because it was in such tatters it would rip when I tried to smooth it out. It was pretty shredded up and very faded. The ladies who sew their own dresses might have 2 or 3 dresses, but I think those that rely on others to sew their dresses end up with one dress to wear all the time. 

Since this dress will be worn a lot, I tried to make it as nicely as possible. All the seams are French seams, even the curved ones that shape the back bodice. It think this dress took at least 7 or 8 yards of fabric!

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