Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sheer Delight

One of the features of the annual Ladies & Gentlemen of the 1860's conference is the "conference fabric"; each member of the faculty is sent the same fabric, a dress length for ladies and a vest length for men, with the instructions "make a dress (or a vest)", 1860's style of course!

Having been a member of the faculty three times now myself, I know that those packages are opened with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation - what if you just don't like it?

This year's fabric was just lovely, a predominantly red and black stripe, with just a bit of purple and yellow and quite sheer - note how you can clearly see the fancy petticoat beneath this example.

Saturday morning begins with the entire faculty up on stage, with each telling us a bit about the choices they made in the construction of their garment. You aren't required to construct your dress or vest yourself, but many people do, again it's your choice.

It's the details that make the difference, here a sleeve detail was replicated from a CDV:

Some replicate an original garment; this dress has no shoulder seam, the fronts and back were cut as one piece, as seen in a dress in the collection of the Shippensburg Fashion Archives.

Some people choose a certain color to emphasize, here the bit of yellow in the stripe was used for trim and accessories:

By careful pleating, black is the predominant color on this bodice:

This was one of my favorites, with the use of the stripe cut on the bias for trim, alas, I'm far too old for this style!

Special details of an ensemble are also frequently shared, like this covered cage:

Some people cloth more than just themselves - Emily also has a new conference dress, many of us are quite envious of Emily's extensive wardrobe and jewelry.

Here's one of the gentlemen, with his new vest:

I'm always amazed at how everyone manages to imprint the fabric with their own unique perspective; yes, it's obvious that the same fabric has been used, but it's definitely not "cookie cutter" effect.

A couple years ago, I wore one of my conference dresses to an event... as did two other ladies! We were asked to come up as group at the fashion show; it was amazing how long it took for the spectators to realize we were all wearing the same fabric.

It's all about the details: by making carefully considered choices, it's quite possible to express your own sense of style while staying well within the parameters of true period fashion.


  1. yay! good pictures of the dresses, since I didn't get can REALLY see how sheer the fabric is!!! I need to get my petticoat border done!

    I said since I had to sit because of my knee, that it was Eugenie surrounded by her ladies in waiting! :-)

  2. Kelly, these photos are so clear and have no distractions in the way. You must have been sitting so close! Thank you!

  3. so very cool - great photos. amazing how gifted you all are.

  4. I would love to know where I could buy that fabric!