"Becoming Victoria"

I am honoured and excited to have been invited by the Llandrindod Wells Victorian Festival committee to appear as a young Queen Victoria at this year's festival from 22nd-28th August 2016. In preparation for this role I will be designing and making the costumes for the young queen over the coming months. These will be authentic reproductions of the fashions of the early years of Victoria's reign and will include a range of 1840s women's garments from corsets and petticoats to day dresses, ball gowns and bonnets. This blog will document and share my progress as I research, design and stitch each element to reveal the secrets of "Becoming Victoria".

Sunday, 3 July 2016

The pattern for the dresses

49 days to go...

Today it was finally time to start work on the dresses themselves. In order to make Victoria's costumes as authentic as possible, I have decided to use a pattern from Janet Arnold's "Patterns of Fashion 1".

This wonderful series of books offers detailed drawing and patterns for original dresses in museum collections around the UK. Careful measurements taken from the garments were used by Arnold to draft patterns that allow us to essentially recreate the real thing. These patterns are complete with detailed annotations on the construction techniques used to put the dresses together.

The dress I have chosen as the basis for my pattern is a day dress in The Gallery of English Costume in Manchester (now The Gallery of Costume). The dress is dated c.1839-1845 and is described as,

"A day dress in a delicate shade of deep beige. The fabric is a silk and cashmere mixture with a soft, glossy finish. The two piece straight sleeves are decorated with double crossway pieces, which are trimmed with piping and bouillons. The neckline would have been edged with lace or worn with a chemisette. The bodice is decorated with flat, pleated folds of the same fabric as the dress. which descend from the shoulder to the centre front." ((Arnold, p64)*

 The only drawback of these patterns is the size. In contrast to commercially available patterns such as Truly Victorian, Laughing Moon and The Mantua Maker, you cannot simply pick your size and happily cut away. Firstly, each dress is unique and the pattern reproduces the exact size of the original wearer - for the most part rather small! Furthermore, the patterns have then been scaled down to 1:8 for printing. A little preparation, calculation and experimentation is therefore required to obtain a usable pattern.

Visit tomorrow to find out more about how I created the bodice pattern for Queen Victoria's gowns using this pattern.

Janet Arnold, Patterns of Fashion 1, Englishwomen's dresses and their construction c.1660-1860,(Macmillan, London, 1977).

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