Sunday, May 2, 2010

Stitching Lady Dunmore's Gown: Finale

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Susan reporting:
As promised! Here is the completed 1770s style ball gown for Charlotte Murray, Countess of Dunmore, made by the mantua makers of Colonial Williamsburg: Janea Whitacre, Doris Warren, and Sarah Woodyard, who is wearing the gown above. Many thanks to them for letting me watch their creation.

A few facts:
• Nearly nine yards of 54" wide silk was used for the gown. Eighteenth century silk would have been woven at about half that width, meaning that a comparable gown made in the 1770s would have used about seventeen yards of fabric. In London, this silk brocade would have cost about five shillings a yard.

• About eight yards of plain, pale yellow silk were used to line the gown; the pleated back of the gown was left unlined to give it a more airy feel.

• Approximately forty yards of lace was used to trim the gown, at an 18th c. cost of about two shillings a yard.

• Approximately eighteen yards of narrow gold braid was also used in the trimming. In the 18th c., this braid would have been made of metallic thread, at a cost of about five pounds sterling.

• With labor, the total cost of this gown in London in the 1770s would have been around twenty-five pounds sterling. This would have been a very costly gown, the equivalent to a designer couture dress today. To put this into perspective, the pink silk gown in the case behind Sarah would have cost about seven pounds sterling.

• Or, to make an even more sobering comparison: the narrow lace trim on this gown cost about two shillings a yard, while the wages for a common seamstress (who might well have been hired to stitch that edging into place) would have been one and a half-shillings for a twelve-hour workday, from seven a.m to seven p.m.

This particular ball gown has yet to have its "official" first wearing. Instead it was used this weekend as a prop in a performance of Lady Dunmore Prepares for the Ball (right), featuring visiting artist in residence Mamie Gummer.

Just for fun, I've attached a short video clip from my iPod, below, with Ms. Gummer as Lady Dunmore, arriving at the Governor's Palace in her carriage. Her footmen and driver are wearing the Dunmore livery, powder blue with silver lace; following her carriage are two gentlemen attendants on horseback, and behind them, two modern security officers on bicycles.

These days even a countess can't be too careful....*g*

video

11 comments:

Eliza Martin said...

Wow. What a beautiful dress.

Miss Kirsten said...

I can't believe how gorgeous this is. She looks like a fairy queen.

LorettaChase said...

Susan, this is so cool! I'm so jealous that you were there to watch (and even participate) in making that extraordinary gown. And thank you for putting the costs into perspective. Plus we get bonus carriage footage! Excellent work NHG!

nightsmusic said...

The dress is gorgeous! And you have the added advantage of being able to say, "I helped make that!"

*jealous*

I love the Dunmore livery colors. So often, I see darker colors and this combination is so refreshing.

On a side note, I wouldn't mind owning that pink silk in the background either. ;o)

theo

Aletta said...

You are right, this was worth the waiting. How very beautiful, and what a lucky girl to be able wear such a dress. Your blog has the most wonderful pictures of every kind!

Susan Holloway Scott said...

The gown IS gorgeous! It literally took my breath away --it was like seeing a gown in a Boucher portrait brought to frothy life.

Loretta, I wish you'd been there, too. In the fall....as for my contribution, it was teeny, tiny, about one-zillionth of the stitching. I was definitely the most common of lowly common seamstresses. *g*

Theo, I like the Dunmore livery, too. Very elegant. However, considering it was heavy wool more suited for December than the 90s of this week, I have a feeling the men wearing it weren't sharing our view.

Anonymous said...

How lovely! We were married in an 18thc wedding, and went to Colonial Williamsburg for our honeymoon. We were in 18thc. clothing for the entire trip!
You might enjoy visiting our website---we have many photos of us at a colonial ball we just attended. It was at the historica Wayside Inn in Mass., and in New England form, was more of a 'country dance', with the ladies in 18thc gowns not quite as formal as Lady Dunsmore!
www.thecountryladyantiques.com

Lauren said...

Oh, totally awesome! I'm so impressed. Also love the clip of the carriage. Is that from a nano?

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Anonymous, thanks for sharing your link. We're all lured by the infinite attractions of the 18th c., aren't we? *g*

Lauren, yes, that's my shaking hand holding up my little green nano. I got it to play music, but the video part was a nice surprise. Very useful for spur of the moment things like this.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful design. Just wondered how many fittings you did of any? Just seemed as the bodice doesn't lay as neatly over the stays as it should.

QNPoohBear said...

wow! That's exquisite! I had the pleasure of meeting Lady Dunmore and her footman, William at Colonial Williamsburg in May 2008. Her Ladyship was most kind and attentive. I saw the program mentioned above and attended the ball. Lady Dunmore was indisposed so she could not attend but it was fun and interesting to watch. Photos can be seen on my blog.

 
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