Embroidered Evening Dress, c. 1806-9

It was love at first sight when I stumbled across this gorgeous embroidered Regency evening dress! I have found this dress in two costuming books, Nancy Bradfield's "Costume in Detail" (pages 93-94) and Jane Ashelford's "The Art of Dress" (page 180). The dress is described as being made of white muslin, and is embroidered in silk and silver-gilt, and is also trimmed with gold fringe at the bottom. I'll be using a fantastic semi-sheer white muslin that is very close to period muslin (and not the muslin one uses for mock-ups and such these days). The embroidery will be carried out in silk floss (Eterna's "Stranded Silk") and metal thread with real silver in it. The dress will be sewn entirely by hand with either 100% cotton or 100% silk thread, and I will be using my own patterns for it.
Dress Diary
9/18/06
I've been giving a lot of thought to the embroidery. I have drawn out what I think is a close match for the pattern of the flower bouquets on the sleeves, but I have yet to tackle the neck/hem embroidery patterns, as I don't have much to go on. I'm thinking of emailing the museum that owns this dress and seeing if they have additional images they could share. Failing that, I'll just have to make do with what I have. I've ordered samples of a large assortment of colors of Eterna's "Stranded Silk" floss, as well as several silver metal threads from Hedgehog Handworks, and when they arrive, I will make a sampler to test drive both the fibers and the stitches I'm looking at.
10/6/06
My silk floss and metal thread options for the embroidery arrived yesterday. I am so in love with the silk floss, especially! It's so pretty, and super soft. Four of the colors were back-ordered, one of the pinks and three green/greenish-yellows. So, I was able to settle on which shades of blue were perfect, and am 99% sure on which pinks, but will have to wait for the remaining greens to arrive before I decide that. As for the metal threads, almost instantly, two of the little cards jumped out to me as being perfect. They happen to be the very same fiber, but just two different colors, and they are the 5% silver (so of the samples I ordered, they have the most actual silver in them - figures I'd choose that one!) In the picture below, they are the two on the bottom. While I'm pretty sure I'll go with one of those, I'll sample all four just to be sure I like them as much to work with and look at after embroidering as I do to look at on the card!
   
11/20/06
Over the weekend, I finally got a start on the embroidery end of things. My missing greens arrived a few weeks ago, so I now have all the colors I wanted to consider. I made some final decisions on Saturday, and got a start on my little sampler, which will allow me to test-run the colors and make sure they really do look well together, as well as give me a chance to improve my embroidery skills a bit more. I've decided to do one entire entire sleeve motif for the sampler, as it will result in me having a pretty little embroidered "something" which could be made into a reticule or something like that. I've only done a tiny bit of work so far, but I figured I would snap a picture to prove I'm still actually working on this project! ;)
11/30/10
I can not believe this project has been sitting for four years! Every so often, I take out the sampler and do another petal or a leaf, but I never seem to get too far before getting distracted. . . This is what happens when I don't have a deadline! Anyhow. . . I decided I'd go ahead and begin patterning the dress, and as soon as I finish that, I can mark the pieces on the fabric and begin embroidery. . .
Bodice Mock-Up, Front
Bodice Mock-Up, Back
Back
This page © 2010 by Jennifer E. Lithgow