[My Chamber of Textile Thoughts. No: XII | By Viveka Hansen]

This is the first “Textile Thought” concentrating on the skilled dressmaking on one single 1850s Victorian dress from the Whitby Museum Costume Collection. Demonstrating that sleeves getting wider to reach their greatest extent about 1857-58, skirt very wide and held by a gathering; heavy brocade-woven silk, preferably decorated with fringes and ribbons; costumes often three-piece with a fringed triangular shawl. A growing trend away from the horsehair crinolines that increased the breadth of the skirt, in favour of the new crinoline frames that considerably increased the skirt’s extent all round.  

An example of how tight gatherings were prepared and sewn together with coarse linen thread in this hand-sewn silk dress from the mid to late 1850s. In general, drawing together considerable width in tight pleats of this kind especially in the back half of the skirt had long been a custom in England as in other countries. Quite simply, this was an unsurpassed design detail when it was necessary to draw together a skirt 3 or 4 metres in circumference in the smartest possible way. Red silk fabric dress c. 1855-60. (Owner: Whitby Museum, Costume Collection, GBD 13).  Photo: The IK Foundation & Company, London.

An example of how tight gatherings were prepared and sewn together with coarse linen thread in this hand-sewn silk dress from the mid to late 1850s. In general, drawing together considerable width in tight pleats of this kind especially in the back half of the skirt had long been a custom in England as in other countries. Quite simply, this was an unsurpassed design detail when it was necessary to draw together a skirt 3 or 4 metres in circumference in the smartest possible way. Red silk fabric dress c. 1855-60. (Owner: Whitby Museum, Costume Collection, GBD 13). Photo: The IK Foundation, London.

The red dress can most easily be dated from its voluminous bell-shaped sleeves which are edged at the bottom with black silk. The skirt has also been lined with waxed cotton fabric to give greater substance to the otherwise thin red taffeta. Second close-up photo of the red silk fabric dress c. 1855-60. (Owner: Whitby Museum, Costume Collection, GBD 13). Photo:  The IK Foundation & Company, London [additional photo for preview].

The red dress can most easily be dated from its voluminous bell-shaped sleeves which are edged at the bottom with black silk. The skirt has also been lined with waxed cotton fabric to give greater substance to the otherwise thin red taffeta. Second close-up photo of the red silk fabric dress c. 1855-60. (Owner: Whitby Museum, Costume Collection, GBD 13) Photo: The IK Foundation, London.

This contemporary fashion plate depicts well how the red silk dress was worn at the time. Illustration from “Gazette of Fashion” 1859, female and male daywear at the seaside.  (Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons) [additional photo for preview].

This contemporary fashion plate depicts well how the red silk dress was worn at the time. Illustration from “Gazette of Fashion” 1859, female and male daywear at the seaside. (Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons).

To be continued with more extracts…

[Extract (Chapter 5 & research material) for the forthcoming book ‘The Textile History of Whitby 1700-1914’, see “NEWS]. PUBLISHED JUNE 15TH, 2015.

PLEASE REFERENCE AS FOLLOWS:

  • Hansen, Viveka, ‘Gathering and Bell-shaped Sleeves (B 3)’, TEXTILIS (December 6, 2013); http://textilis.net/ (Accessed: Day/Month/Year)