Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It's All in the Details: An Amazing Sleeve from 1830

Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Susan reports:

Loretta has shown us many examples of the exuberant gowns of the 1820s-30s (such as the detail, below, from this blog), and has even revealed exactly how those poufy sleeves were kept, well, so poufy. But often the fashion plates of the time are much like the editorial pages of modern high-fashion magazines, exaggerating to make their stylish point. It can be hard to imagine how real women would actually wish to wear some of these fashions, let alone maneuver through doorways.

Until, that is, a delicious dose of reality appears in an actual gown from the era. Above is a detail of a sleeve and bodice from an English dress, c. 1830. The sleeve is like some sort of wonderful, sculptural wing, and the intricate pleating and folding that gives it its shape is almost like origami. I know we have many seamstresses among our readers; can you imagine what the flat pattern for this sleeve must look like? There's an elegance here that the fashion plates can't begin to capture, and the fortunate lady who wore this blush-pink confection must have made an unforgettable entrance indeed.

This gown is included in the upcoming exhibition, Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700-1915, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. You lucky folk in LA will be able to check it out from  October 2, 2010-March 6, 2011. For the rest of us, here's a gallery of photographs of some of the highlights of the show, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times, and here is the book that accompanies the show.

Above right: Evening Dress, detail of a fashion plate from The Atheneum, or Spirit of the English Magazine, July, 1831.


Mme.Tresbeau said...

Beautiful, just beautiful. It reminds me of the famous old Winged Victory statue.

MJ said...

Can you imagine being the laundress who had to take care of this gown. I think I'd have nightmares!

Monica Burns said...

Ohhh, I love this bodice and sleeve. Susan, it's been a long time since I've pinned, cut and sewn, but based on what I'm seeing, I'd guess that you looking a maybe a huge circluar pattern with a split to the middle of the circle and then pleated and connected to the band of material that holds the sleeve togthe very least a ether on the arm. At enormous half circle that's pleated. But like I said it's been a while since I've sewn anything, and I'm not sure.

BTW - finished King's Favorite the other night, and THOROUGLY enjoyed the read. Pimped it for you on Facebook page. *smile*

nightsmusic said...

I agree, it's beautiful! And I sure wouldn't want to iron that either. :shock:

I think Monica has the gist of it though as far as the pattern is concerned. It would make setting the pleats in a lot easier than trying to piece it.

Jolene said...

Oh I was JUST speaking about the upcoming exhibit with an L.A. bridal designer. Can't wait to have a walk through Fantasyland!

librarypat said...

I am not a seamstress, but I do sew and do needle work. I love the detail of this dress, but the work involved would be so time consuming and take talent to produce such fine work. Looking through the gallery, the pieces are wonderful. The hours of work and craftsmanship necessary to produce these pieces is amazing. Even with the technology available to us today, it is not easy to produce such fine work.

Lexi Best said...

I sew. I agree with everyone who wouldn't want to have to iron this dress!
Here's how I would make something like this. And I'm just visualizing this in my head so I may be all wrong.;o)
This looks very fancy but it is relatively simple for the effect. IMO
The trick would be to know how to make a basic set in sleeve.
The armscye, which is the curve on the top half would be pretty shallow. Instead of creating ease with gathering you would use the folds.
First I would fold a piece of fabric of sufficient size in half sort of. If you look at the folds it seems you'd need about 3 times the width of of a sleeve without the pleats.
You would have to experiment to figure out exactly where to place the the fold. It looks like it might even curve but I kinda doubt they (the original designers) would do that.

Then I would create knife pleat folds in it that laid out the way I wanted. I'd tack the folds in place keeping the folded halves separate. A good pressing right here would go a long way to set the pleats.
I would transfer the top half of the sleeve pattern to the the top half of the fabric. Then I would draw the bottom half of the sleeve pattern to the other side being careful to match the centres and edges.
When putting the dress together the folds would be pulled out to create the volume. you'd keep the emphasis of the crosswise fold. The "underside folds of the bottom half of the sleeve would be the reverse of the upper half.

Hope that's clear and that it would actually work, I'm just thinking off the top of my head.

But there it is for any intrepid sewers out there.

LeeAnn at Mrs Black's said...

Oh - so glad I found your blog! Love this sleeve too .... but can you imagine ironing this? x

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