From the three original 19th century dresses that I will be studying and patterning over the course of the year, the first to be examined is this c.1810 silk dress.
This dress now appears pale pink but was originally lavendar in color. The dye is fugitive in nature and faded evenly over the entire dress. The fabric is a silk taffeta with a nice heavy and crisp hand.
The bodice contains knife pleating under the bust, with the pleats pointing directionally towards the side seam. The dress was later taken in under the bust with larger knife pleats over the original pleating, and the waistband whip stitched down - you might be able to see this in the pictures. The bodice has a drawstring along the top edge.
The back is fitted, and the lining is also fitted. The front lining overlaps and is pinned in place over the bust. The sleeves are knife pleated into the armhold and contain rows of knife pleats as decoration. These knife pleats point directionally towards the back. A band of 5/8" wide silk is placed over the knife pleats at the center of the sleeve, and a decorative backstitch sewn with heavier embroidery type thread in an even spacing to both hold the band in place and form another decorative element to the sleeves.
The skirt is knife pleated to the bodice at back with large knife pleats.
The dress was originally made around 1790-94 and remade around 1810. Having a dress remade was a common practice in the 18th and 19th centuries. Fabric was more costly than labor, so a dress would be remade to suit the current fashions if possible. Since silk could not be washed, it was often sent out for cleaning and possibly redyeing. For this process, the dress had to be taken apart. Often the dress was remodeled at the same time when it was put back together (What Clothes Reveal p.196).
This is a blog post from my new blog 'Patterning Historical Fashions' that goes hand in hand with my thesis project researching, patterning, and reproducing three 19th century dresses in the collection of the Shippensburg University Fashion Archives and Museum. Please bookmark this new blog for future project updates!