When I speak to groups of people, I like to have folks ask questions as we go along and not just save them for the end. Mainly, because I find I learn best during a conversation, not during a lecture and I know from experience I’m not alone.
Did you notice I said “I learn best”? It’s true; I like the give and take of actually conversations with my audience members because inevitably I leave with something I didn’t know when I arrived. Some of my best teachers have been those who were good listeners, and that’s what I strive for when I’m passing on my knowledge of historical fashion.
My theory is: want to be a good teacher, be a good listener.
I hear many comments pertaining to the layers of clothing women wore under their dresses during the mid- 19th century. One of the reasons the hoop skirt was developed was to save women from having to wear so many layers. It was a brilliant invention for the time.
As the style developed showcasing wider skirts, prior to wearing the actual ‘cage’ crinoline, ladies would achieve the look by layering their petticoats, sometimes wearing up to 6 or 7 at one time. Crazier things we’ve done for the sake of fashion.
“ Can you imagine what it was like during the heat of summer”? This statement/question is mentioned at every talk I do. I’ve been listening and now I’m providing an answer for it: the sheer dress.
During this past #blizzard2016 as the snow flew for hours on end, I spent my days happily working in my studio on the newest edition to my wardrobe. Pictured here is a sheer dress I made from the most wonderful fabric. Its 100% cotton, as it should be, and I simply fell in love with the color. I love the color orange.
What I really love about this fabric is the way it was woven. It’s very sheer but the threads of the darker stripes are actually raised similar to a bouclé. It also has a subtle sheen to it lending an elegant dimension to the dress its self. The antique jet glass buttons convey a delicacy as does the simple silk ribbon tied to the waist.
Just like we do today, women would wear sheer dresses during the hot summer season, but unlike today they would still be modestly covered up by wearing proper underpinnings.
The pattern I used to make this dress featured a bodice lining. The bodice lining has boning sewn in to maintain the fitted lines of the corset, which naturally was also sported. A flounced petticoat layered over a hoopskirt would be worn to give body to the skirt of the dress.
Notice that although sheer fabric is used, the garment still has long sleeves gathered at the wrists. A woman could be permitted to drop dead from heat exhaustion, just as long as she was modestly dressed during the event.
I’m really pleased with this dress and I’m excited to share it with my next group of ‘conversationalists’ talking about what to wear during the mid-19th century.