Monday, 14 January 2013

Design Competition - Janet Arnold

Our last year of the course also this is my favourite project of the course.

The book I had chose is: Arnold, J., 1966. Patterns of Fashion 2 Englishwomen's dresses and their construction c. 1860-1940

I decided pick 1861-4 Evening dress in rose pink taffeta with fine double stripes woven in black. A wide piece of black lace is draped diagonally across the front of the skirt. It was one of the trousseau dresses worn by a Miss Wyatt after her marriage in 1864, but there are many dresses resembling it to be seen in The Englishwomen's Domestic Magazine 1861-4. On page 22-23.

I chose this because I always work on costumes that are constructed using Sewing machines so I decided I wanted to sew by hand also I wanted to see how long it would take me to sew this dress - 1 week?, 2 weeks? or over a month? Also mid 19th century is my favourite era because of the massive skirt with Crinoline under, beautiful detail on the sleeves - gathering, lace and lots of layers with beautiful colours, textures and patterns on the fabrics.

My Mum and I went to The Gallery of Costumes in Manchester to visit the real 1861-4 Evening Dress.

We looked at the fabric, measured it and examined the stitches which I needed to do for my project. I took lots of photographs included Marco.

Back of Bodice.

Hand sew stitch.

3 layers of Net fabrics on sleeves.

Fine calico fabric under the skirt

You can hardly see the stitches on the eyelets.

I enjoyed researching this dress.

I started by transferring the pattern from the book to a piece of paper which was easy - nothing too complicated. After I finished on the pattern block, I made the garment in calico used the sewing machine. I started concentrating on the bodice because there were lots of pattern blocks and I needed to see where it joined together.

During my work on the calico, I researched to find similar fabric - pink taffeta with a black fine double stripe but had no luck so I decided to do it myself with a felt pen and tested this on the taffeta fabric that I had found without a stripe. I tried different types of felt pens, and it was not good because the fabric had tiny knots and the felt pen wasn't even through the fabric.  I was not very impressed so kept going without the stripe.

The Evening dress is now finished after 3 weeks sewing by hand. I really enjoyed myself working on it without machines.

This is an image of my 1861-4 Evening dress taken by a professional photographer. For the display, I used my repaired 1860 Crinoline.


  1. Excellent work. Thank you for all the great pictures too.

  2. Your reproduction dress is STUNNING! You did a fantastic job of reproducing the original! It's really neat to see pictures of the original dress, too!