Fabric has arrived! Now I can take a larger photo of it, to give a better idea of what it really looks like. This is oriented vertically to show what the pattern will look like once made up into the skirt:
Last night I began the struggle of deciding the details. Really the first part boils down to two decisions:
Decision #1: Which pattern to use. I have two patterns:
The Period Impressions pattern is more of the look I am going for, but the Truly Victorian patterns are much more professionally drafted and take less time to fit. I did a quick and dirty mockup of the Period Impressions pattern and the fit was quite off – the arm holes were waaaay too big and the neckline bunched up when the back was pinned closed. It would take time and possibly 2 additional mockups to fit it, so I decided to use the Truly Victorian pattern and alter it to look more like the Period Impressions. I will also make the pelerine from the Period Impressions pattern, but at a later date since I am pressed for time. For the first wearing I plan to wear a lace pelerine.
The primary issue with the Truly Victorian pattern is the waistline. The pattern has two possible waistlines – either at the natural waist or a pointed V. My understanding has always been that 1830’s dresses were slightly above the natural waistline. After looking at a lot of originals on Pinterest I came to the conclusion that the higher waistline is the early part of the decade – like 1830 – 1832, and after that the waistlines dropped to the natural waist as drafted in the pattern. Since my other two 1830’s dresses have high waistlines I think I will do this one with a more natural waistline. I want to wear a solid color dark belt with it to visually demarcate the place where the waist ends and the sleeves begin. I debated whether or not I should add a waistband, but the end decided to just leave it as a straight piped waistline. I shortened the waist 1/2 inch, and added 1/2 to the neckline in the back and on the sides (the front was fine). That is all I am changing on the pattern.
Decision #2 – Which Corset to Fit Over
If it were not for the fact that we are going English Country Dancing that night, it would be an easy decision. I would fit over a regular Victorian corset since I don’t actually have a waist. A waist is a terrible thing to waste, and I don’t have one without a good fitting corset. On the other hand, my regency corset made recently in Jennifer Rosbrugh’s Regency Corset class is correct for this era and it is so comfortable – it feels like pajamas! But the trade off is it does not provide any waist reduction. This is not an issue wearing Regency and other high waisted styles. I just hesitate to plan this dress in a way that I know I will be unhappy with in the end. So right now I am thinking of a compromise – fit with the Victorian corset laced more loosely than I normally wear it.
When I fitted the mockup I made an odd discovery! On Friday I went to a Civil War event and wore this same corset, a new one I made recently covered in pink silk (I love this corset BTW, and will feature it in an upcoming “battle of the corsets). Since I was expecting some fitting issues with my dress I laced it down as tightly as I dared in a relatively new corset, and still felt like a stuffed sausage in the dress. I barely got it hooked. My waist measured 35”. Fast forward to Sunday, when I put the corset on again and laced it so that it felt stable but not tight. I measured the waist – 34″! The only explanation I can think of is water retention. Maybe I will try taking a mild diuretic the morning before the next event.
On another tangent – as I looked at these gowns I was struck by the similarity in shape to the 1630’s. There are many periods of history where the basic silhouette is the same as another era (Regency/Edwardian, 1780s bustle / 1880s bustle) but I didn’t register this one until I was deep in the design phase of this project: