Rene's 2006 Dickens Dresses

December 2006

Rene continued this year with her participation in the Dickens Christmas Fair but wanted a new dress. Last year's outfit was soooooooo, well ... last year. :-) In keeping with the practice of Victorian era dresses, the bodice was made separately from the skirt. This enabled us to make two different bodices ... one for day wear and one for evening wear.

For the day dress bodice, I used a pattern I was already familiar with for the bodice (Past Patterns 701), but I modified it to use the sleeves from Simplicity 5724, (one of the Martha McCain Historial patterns). The skirt is Truly Victorian 240. The belt/bow is from Simplicity 5442 but I hand-embroidered a wandering vine-y design down the bow tails. I made detachable lace collar, attached with an imitation cameo, from the same lace that trims the cuffs of the undersleeves. The back view of the day dress is here.

Not wanting to mess with succcess, I again used Past Patterns 1860's Ball Gown bodice (#704) for the evening wear. Sparkle organza was used for the puffed sleeve; crepe was used for the straight undersleeve, which keeps the puff in place. Both the sparkle organza and crepe were bought at Joann's. Val lace from my stash and green velvet was used as trim for the oversleeve. Here is photo of the ball gown front close-up.

By this time, I had been educated on the proper use of grommets and had purchased a table top grommet setter. The ballgown has black grommets in size 00 set down the back and black corset lacing was used for the lacing.

The fabric for bodice & overskirt is a 100% polyester jaquard weave burgundy tone-on-tone, bought at the Fancy Dry Goods & Clothing store in Columbia, CA (It used to have one of the most extensive stock of fabrics suitable for the 1850's, but alas, a change in ownership has changed that. No, polyester is NOT an 1850's fabric but that's where we found it.)

The fabric for belt/bow, underskirt, trim on sleeves, piping along bodice neckline/armholes/hem and box pleated ruffle is a 100% polyester green velvet, also from Joann's. This is a wonderful velvet! Very drapeable and a lovely hand. The fabric for the underskirt base was green cotton.

The undersleeves were made from a lightweight 100% off-white muslin and trimed with luxurious, 4" wide embroidered lace trim from my stash.

Rene did the overskirt completely. This was a vast undertaking for her, as Rene doesn't have a lot of patience for detail work. She definitely wants to wear the outfits; she doesn't particularly want to sew them! Quite understandable, as they are a lot of work. But, she perservered and even did the entire hemming of the overskirt by hand. It came out simply splendid. Good work, Rene!

The underskirt was done in two parts ... the basic underskirt and a box pleated ruffle. We definitely didn't want the basic underskirt to be of velvet ... that would have been way too heavy as well as expensive, so we used a 100% cotton broadcloth for that. The box pleated ruffle was another story. The pattern has the ruffle sewn to the basic underskirt. However, if we did this, we would need to clean the ENTIRE skirt when the bottom of the ruffle became dirty. So, I made the ruffle detachable by using a pre-made snap tape to connect the ruffle to the underskirt. This dramatically decreased the weight of the skirt and lets us clean only the ruffle when necessary.

Since it was an extra-special occasion, Rene had her hair specially done by one of the Dickens Fair vendors.

To complete the outfit, Rene wanted one of my Jolly Rodgers Creations labels inside the bodice.

Finally, a picture of Rene in her day dress, with a friend at the Dickens Fair.