May 31st, 2011
Just in time for our Neoclassical Memorial Day Picnic, I finished my Empire ensemble. It consisted of:
- a stomacher front dress (built onto what was originally intended to be a separate bodiced petticoat);
- a tiny lace shawl, strategically designed to preserve my modesty;
- and a gypsy bonnet, complete with veil (a handy safeguard in case my shawl slipped; at least I wouldn’t be recognized).
As you may be able to tell from the back, with it’s tiny, raised bodice panel and slight train, it’s a very early Regency style (copied mostly from Janet Arnold). But because I based the scandalous neckline on a French portrait, I am calling the dress Empire instead. As you may recall from earlier posts, I initially thought the dress in the painting must close in the back, so I proceeded accordingly. As I worked through the fittings, and just couldn’t make the back behave no matter how I tried, I began to look for examples of back-closing dresses from this period. And I failed to find a single one that matched.
Then, I looked again at the painting, and again. And what do you think? It turns out the painting was a stomacher front as well! So I re-cut the back, removed most of the front, and cut a new front bodice piece to add to the apron part of the skirt. Because of the last minute change in plans, there are some definite irregularities in the dress construction. Most are invisible from the outside, but you can tell when you open it up. Ah well. I’ll do better next time.
Somehow this photograph avoids being terribly indecent, perhaps because it was taken indoors. But I kept my shawl draped around my neck and hanging down the front while I was out and about. Can you see the similarity to my inspiration painting? While it’s not an exact copy, I believe I captured the essentials. It was particularly exciting to see how Janet Arnold’s pattern created the exact lines seen in the portrait. I live for those little correspondences, when two disparate sources suddenly combine and magnify!
Alas, I fear I am now hooked on Regency. New dresses are already being planned…