Another very interesting project has come to the studio. I thought you might enjoy following along with it as it develops.
I will be creating two reproductions of this dress. One is for the Musee Argenteuil in Quebec. It will be a faithful repro of the original. The second will be made to sell as a wedding gown, so will be modern in its fit and interpretation. It will be a challenging project, but one I am looking forward to . I have a year to complete it and I will need it!
All I have so far on the original is that Alice Elizabeth Abbott married Richard Susan Heneker, in January 1885. So the dress dates from that time. I have the dress stored in its acid free box at my studio. It is in very poor condition, with the silk shredded where it has been folded. I took it out to take photos and measure it, so that I should not have to disturb it again. Here are the first few pictures. I have some that show the skirt was lengthened, so perhaps it was worn by someone alse at a later date.
The first challenge is to find the fabric. 100% silk brocade is not so simple to find, as many brocades use rayon to create the designs. I want pure silk. I am a bit of a purist when it comes to my repros having natural fibres. Silk taffeta and sateen, used in the linings, is easy to find. Brocade, not so much.
This shot shows the front. It wouldn't fit the mannequin, being only 32" in the bust and 21" in the waist! Methinks Miss Abbott must have been about 15 when she married. Still doing research on that. She would have worn a corset, naturally!
Lace frames the U shaped neckline and sleeves.
The side view shows the train, which is attached to the bodice back. You can see the separate skirt at the front.
The back view, showing the classic shaping of the back
The detail at the back waist is what makes this dress original. The large buttons are made in braid and in fabulous condition. We will probably remove these and re-use them on the repro for the museum. The edge of the bodice has double rows of fine corded piping and very long sharp points at center front and back.
So stay tuned, I'll keep taking photos as it grows. Now to find the fabric and make my tiny pattern...