Friday, July 22, 2011

Oh, 1797, you kill me with awesome

Next month I will be attending a Jane Austen ball and I must have a new gown for the occasion as it's held in a tavern from the 1790s, and I don't have anything from that period.

After looking at a LOT of fashion plates, I realized that most of the looks I particularly love were from the year 1797.  There's still a lot of crazy layering and some strange experimentation, but things have more or less settled into a stable "look".

I find I'm especially drawn to the style which features an overdress with a cross-over bodice and an asymmetrical skirt.  There were quite a few examples of this style that I ran across, and I've posted my favorites here.  Most of the extant examples of over-dresses from this period that I've seen are made of some sort of colored or pattern fabric with a white (often embroidered) gown or petticoat underneath.  However I was really interested by the 'Afternoon Dress' fashion plate from 1797 which shows a white overdress with a vivid blue petticoat peeking through the asymmetrical opening of the skirt.  Clearly not following the norm.

Evening Dress- Gallery of Fashion, Nov 1795

Afternoon Dresses- Gallery of Fashion, June 1797 

Concert Room Evening Dresses- Gallery of Fashion, April 1797 

The gown on the left of this plate is my absolute favorite of all the ones which I looked at.  I adore the drape of the skirts, the trim, the rich but subtle embroidery of the petticoat underneath... I even like the crazy helmet headdress!

Evening Dress- Gallery of Fashion, June 1797

I sort of mashed up all the elements that I really, really like and combined them in my quick little sketch below.  A gorgeous antique embroidered sari which I bought off ebay will become the petticoat and will also be used for the sleeves.  The over-all color scheme is creamy yellow and white with purple or midnight accents.  And of course there will be an epic headdress with large ostrich plumes dyed at the tips to match the trim on the gown...


  1. I'm looking forward to seeing the finished dress - methinks it will turn out gorgeous;)

  2. Dear Gwendolyn,
    This is the first time I've commented, having found your blog recently. Really like the sketch of the dress, and look forward especially to the headdress; they are such fun! I've not dyed ostrich tips yet...

    Very best,