Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hidden Details: An 1840's Fan Front Dress

Isn't she lovely in her fan front bodice, with all the characteristic of 1840's fashion: her bodice long and tight with fan-shaped gathering, pointed in the front and fastening in the back, the neckline wide and shallow, the sleeves long and tight.

I recently purchased a dress from an online dealer, described as "Edwardian" but it was clear even in the blurry photos that it was definitely from an earlier era...and made of stunning fabric too!

I was so pleased when the box arrived and my thoughts were confirmed when this beautiful wool challis 1840's fan front dress emerged!

The fabric is so outstanding, brilliant green with a pattern of botehs or paisley that increase in size from top to bottom.

The dress is completely hand sewn, closes up the back with hooks and eyes. Tiny self fabric piping is found at the arms-eye, the shoulder and finishing the sleeve; larger piping finishes the waist.

The only trim is a bit of fringe on the sleeves.

The sleeves are cut on the bias, are lined  and are one piece, with just a bit of gathering at the elbow for wearing ease - I've used this style of sleeve, which was briefly popular again in the early 1860's, on some of my reproduction dresses and it's quite comfortable.

The skirt is not lined, with the exception of a polished cotton hem facing; there is no hem braid, the fashion fabric has been just slightly turned to the interior.

The panels making up the skirt run selvedge to selvedge, and have been joined with a running stitch.

The pattern was printed to allow for the pattern to match up when this technique was used, although the seamstress was a little off in her join in this case.

The skirt was gauged at the waist. At some point, a modern alteration was made and the excess fabric at the front point was removed and added to the back of the bodice to enlarge the dress.

While an alteration of this type was done in the period, after all, fabric was expensive, this particular example is so crude, I believe it to be modern. However, it could be easily reversed - the original hooks can be felt still in their proper places and the fabric could be used to restore some of the more damaged areas.

This photo shows the princess seams used on the front and the clever and careful way the fabric was cut to emphasize a tiny waist.

Here's a view of the bodice interior - even the basting stitches are still in place!

Despite the modern "remuddling" and the damage to the fabric, especially the underarms, it's a beautiful dress and a wonderful example of 1840's fashion!

Available for purchase here.

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