Other Historial Garments

Victorian fashions have intrigued me for as long as those of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, however, it took me longer to find a decent excuse to indulge my interests. As often as possible, I attend the Oamaru Victorian Heritage Festival with my friends, and I am slowly building a wardrobe that will allow me to attend all the different activities (croquet, dancing, dining out, garden parties, promenading etc) in proper attire.

Steampunk, however, allows me to indulge my love of Victorian silhouettes and garments while also permitting me to have a little fun with it.

My interest in Regency clothing is relatively new. It has been sparked by a deep abiding love of a certain television adaption of Pride and Prejudice and a recent introduction to the dances of the period. Is anything more fun than dancing the Duke of Kent's Waltz?

Victorian Natural Form Ball GownVictorian Ball Gown

Completed: November 2010
Re-modelled: July 2013

In 2010 a number of regular attendees at our Regency and Victorian Dance Practices had acquired tickets to attend the Oamaru Heritage Celebration Victorian Ball. This, of course, necessitated suitable attire. I was happy to finally find an excuse to explore Victorian evening wear.

Budgetary concerns necessitated inexpensive fabric, but I was lucky to stumble across a fabulous lace fabric that was begging to be cut intro strips and layered down a skirt. It was then a mission to find the best colours to complement it. Sadly I had to bypass several silks and a gorgeous velvet in favour of less expensive synthetics, but in the end the combination of blues with the lace was just lovely.

Victorian Natural Form Dinner GownThe ensemble was based on a variety of fashion plates, from the late 1870s and early 1880s. While I patterned the skirt, overskirt and train myself, the bodice was based on a Truly Victorian pattern. After the first wearing I lowered the neckline slightly, altered it from front opening to back lacing and piped the edges for a cleaner finish. I was much happier with the final product.

In order to minimise packing space required to attend Victorian events (such as the ALFs Imperial Army 40th Anniversary weekend at Larnach's Castle in Dunedin) I decided the skirt could do double duty and form the base of a dinner gown too. The dinner bodice is made from another Truly victorian pattern with the last of the lace and pale blue fabric. Having worn it once I am now convinced it needs more frou-frou and will endeavour to rectify that before I wear it next.

Photo of ballgown by Dunedin Wears the Pants, photo of dinner gown by Helen Jansen.

Regency Day Dress in cotton printRegency Day Dress

Completed: October 2012

Mrs Oryshchuk and I were organised to teach a class on Regency and Victorian Dance (as part of the Body Festival) and we decided to take things a step further by dressing in garments to match the dances we were planning to teach. Not only is this fun, but it would serve to better evoke an image of the appropriate eras.

The frock is made from an inexpensive cotton print I was fortunate to find locally. Avoiding white was at the top of my list of priorities, which is why I went with this fabric eventhough the colour really doesn't suit me. (I am thinking that perhaps a fichu or chemisette with help with that.) I also needed 100% cotton so that the finished garment would be cool, comfortable and machine washable.

The garment was based on this silk faille dress, but I chose to have shorter sleeves to provide a little more comfort while dancing. Like the silk garment, this is a bib front dress, although the layer beneath the bib is reinforced and used to provide a little extra shaping for the bust (since the dress is worn over modern underlayers (to keep within the one week deadline), so a wee bit more shaping is helpful). There are two drops of fabric in the skirt, with most of it being knife-pleated into the back four inches of the bodice.

After a 90 minute dance class the dress was still secure and comfortable. There was not sense of restriction around the legs at any time during the class and no hint of possible "wardrobe malfunction" for the pinned-in-place bodice. It was a most pleasing experiment.

Photo by Nataliya Oryshchuk

1880 Travelling Ensemble

Completed: November 2010

This ensemble was made for a trip on a steam train. Obviously a travelling outfit was necessary, and I had many metres of grey wool that were no longer needed for their intended project. I also knew that an travelling suit would be extremely useful at the Oamaru Victorian Heritage Celebrations or indeed any Victorian or Steampunk themed event away from home.

Natural Form Travelling Ensemble in grey woolThe skirt is rather plain, having a huge box pleat at the back for additional fulness and some interest. It is hemmed an inch and a half above the ground to make walking and clambouring easier. The jacket is a simple round necked, long sleeved garment that is reaches to the hips, with an inverted V cut out at the centre front at the bottom. Add to that the grey plaid shoulder cape and a black bonnet, and you have a relatively sombre and functional travelling ensemble.

I can't help but thinking this ensemble really needs a placard demanding votes for women.

Photographer unknown. Taken at the ALFs 40th Anniversary at Larnach's Castle, Dunedin.

Pink, patterned cotton, 1860 Wrapper1860s Wrapper

Completed: September 2009

Modified from a Simplicity pattern, this dress was made as an everyday, working dress. The sort of thing I could wear for a day of "doing stuff" rather than promenading and playing croquet, or that I could throw on before getting dressed for the day. It has proven to be a very comfortable and surprisingly versatile garment.

I have made several sets of collars and cuffs for this dress in both white and cream, with and without lace. Not only does this help save the dress from additional dirt, but can change the look of it with very little effort.

As you would expect, this dress is worn over the standard foundation garments. I am only wearing two petticoats in the photo, but I prefer to wear three or four to get more volume in the skirt.

I may need to make myself a bonnet so that I can actually go out and about in this dress.

Photo by Carl Layton

1870s Day Ensemble

Completed: November 2007

Using two complimentary shades of green linen, this rather severe ensemble proved very comfortable, if a little warm for a fine spring day. And, of course, it needs more frou-frouah. Much more. (Plans are, of course, afoot, but hampered by real life.)

Sporting relatively fitted wrist length sleeves and a fairly high square neck, this garment extends towards the hips as seen in some of the earlier curaisse bodices.

The pale green skirt is quite full in the style of the 1870s, and has a puffed bustle (inspired by my polonaise pattern) that decends into a slight walking train. The walking train was a liability in the crowded fete and resulted in some damage to the skirt, so it will be removed in the near future.

While attending the Garden Party in this ensemble I was again approached by the organiser of the Victorian Heritage Festival Fashion Parade and asked to consider taking part in the parade as an example of the fashions of the 1870s.

Although pictures were taken they have disappeared into the aether.

Burgundy and cream, 1870's Walking Dress1870s Walking Ensemble

Completed: November 2006

The polonaise is made using a wonderfully simple pattern from Truly Victorian. I highly recommend their patterns if you want to dabble in Victorian fashions.

Using a delightfully stripey furnishing brocade, the hem, neck and wrists of this polonaise are decorated with a fine line of burgundy satin ribbon. It is also edged at neck and wrist with lightly gathered, cream-coloured broderie anglaise. The buttons are replica victorian buttons found locally. For decency's sake, the square neckline is filled with a lace-edged fichu.

The polonaise is worn with a burgundy moire skirt. The skirt has since been trimmed with a deep band of the striped brocade, carefully box-pleated around the hem. It really finishes the skirt and pulls the outfit together.

The ensemble is worn over all the expected underlayers - corset, bustle, petticoat, bloomers etc. It was also accompanied by all the necessary accoutrement - kid gloves, paisley shawl, reticule, fan, parasol etc.

While in line to purchase refreshments I was approached by the organiser of the Victorian Heritage Festival Fashion Parade and asked if I would please consider taking part in the parade as an exponent of the fashions of the 1870s. I was happy to oblige, and thoroughly enjoyed my turn on the catwalk being escorted by a dashing Officer of Her Majesty's Army.

Photo by Jason Marsden