Now Boarding: Edwardian Cruise Lines (Part 1 of 2)
We're nearing the 100th anniversary of the Titanic tragedy, and many of you have probably been invited to remembrance parties that require costumes. It's no secret that I love a costumed affair. I love recreating gowns from movies or photos of the period, but for this project, I wanted to step outside the boundaries of a pre-designed color palette and design something a little original based on an inspiration piece or two.
I looked at costume books, photos of Titanic passengers and numerous museum catalogs, but in the end, I fell in love with this beauty from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website. I love the elegant lines of the dress, but I wanted to expand the design beyond the shades of gray of the original garment.
One of the things that fascinates me about the Edwardian period is the heavy saturation of Orientalism and obsession with the Far East that was evident in Western design. So, a Chinese brocade was a natural choice for the outer robe of my gown. I selected two colors of chiffon to go with my brocade, and then it was time to get down to business.
For the chiffon robe layers, I first examined the photos of the inspiration garment. I like the way you can tell that each layer closes on its own before the next is put on over it -- and that it happens on both the front and the back of the dress. To replicate that look, I opted to construct my robes each in two separate pieces -- a right and left -- so I could overlay the v-shapes of the neckline and tack things in place. I will leave most of the back sections open, as they'll be covered by the outer robe.
Here is the innermost layer, back and front, to illustrate the two-piece robe:
The next chiffon layer has a long, open sleeve. I cut an elongated leaf shape and hemmed the edges, then attached it to the robe so the side edges of the sleeve meet at the shoulder. This is a shot of the sleeve laid out so you can see the shape:
Once the blue robe was assembled, I layered it over the inner robe and pinned the closures in place.
Here's a tip on making rolled hems on chiffon -- a task that most stitchers avoid like the plague. Don't sweat it. Even though most of the time, the hem that emerges from under the presser foot looking like a pucker train wreck, in most cases, a spritz with water and a good pressing will smooth things right out and will often hide a few sins, so long as they're not too crazy. Here's one of my hemmed edges pre- and post-pressing:
Once the chiffon under robes were more or less squared away, I moved on to the brocade. An examination of the inspiration garment shows that there isn't a seam joining the bodice front to the skirt, but there is one joining the back skirt to the bodice. So, the bodice and front skirt are cut as one contiguous piece, in what's sometimes called a kimono style, and then the back skirt is cut as a separate piece.
Here is a wrinkly (but labeled) snapshot of one of the bodice pieces so you can see how it's cut:
And then, the top of the back skirt piece:
To create the fall at the back of the dress, I cut a rectangle of chiffon, then finished the sides and bottom before gathering it and basting to the back skirt piece.
Once my fall was basted into position, I joined the back skirt to the back bodice, and then stitched the sides of the outer robe closed.
I didn't really use a pattern for this project, though I did borrow design lines from a couple. If you think you'd like to start your own Titanic-inspired project, but you like to work from a pattern, Laughing Moon Mercantile has a great one, and Simplicity offers one that's easy as pie as well.
I know what you're thinking: "Holly, this dress isn't finished!" And of course, you're right. For part two of this project, I'll finalize the fitting and make sure things are stitched into place so they won't shift. I'll also add decorative closures, and even add a little extra sparkle. (Squeeeeeeeee!)
Stay tuned! We'll soon be ready for cruising!