It has taken months of pondering, researching and plastering my sewing board with images to ponder but I finally have a design for my Epic Titanic Dinner Dress - yay!
I started with the fabrics. One of the keys to this period seems to be the fabrics. Everything is soft and drapey (little taffeta is used and even the rare velvets are drapey silk ones). There is also an emphasis on varying textures (textured vs. smooth, shiny vs. dull, solid vs. sheer) and layering those textures. Most evening gowns have three fabrics in the gown, some more, fewer less. I don't have many fabrics of this description so my choices were narrow, but that isn't always a bad thing when there are SO many gowns of this period I love!
My finial choices are these two dresses. I love the multiple layers and added texture on the chiffon (beads & sequins) of the first but I also adore the simple asymmetrical lines of the second. So mine will be a hybrid of the two.
While I love the rows of black seed beads that cover the chiffon above I knew that was not achievable in 3 months. Besides I loathe sewing beads on chiffon - very fiddly! Then I found photos of the original and Jordan Bentley's spot-on repro of the Lady Maude Warrender gown found in Arnold's Patterns of Fashion. Wow! I've always loved this gown in Janet Arnold's book, have seen some lovely versions of it and even planned to make a version myself at one point but I never pictured it properly it was until I saw those pics.
What particularly struck me was the loveliness of the sequin's sparkle and how similarly dense the black net and my black chiffon are over their cream base fabrics. One of the great advantages of sequins is their light weight and the fact that they can be glued on. I know, I know! But I only have three months and really gluing that many sequins is no small task!
So here are my fabrics. The base is poly cream damask, then a layer of gold lace, topped with black silk chiffon. The cream crinkle silk chiffon will be used in the layers of the bodice.
The black chiffon will be covered in small gun-metal sequins. For the "border" at the bottom of the chiffon I'm going to over-bead lace and trims (I don't have time to do a beaded border from scratch) with glass beads, sequins and pearls.
The sequins. Originally I was drawn, not only to the scattered grid of the Lady Maude gown but also the lines of sequins/beads on the gowns above. So how to choose? I layered my fabrics, pulled out my teasers and started laying out sequins. I used the pattern on the gold lace below as a guide for the scattered sections, doing two versions, while I had to rely on a ruler for the rows.
After taking pics (none of which really do the combination of fabrics and sequins justice - this is going to be a beast to photograph!) and pondering which one I liked, I took measurements. I counted the sequins by a 6x6 square. The top scatter count was 22; the denser scatter was 40; the rows were 96. Yeah that definitely helped me make my decision! The dense scatter of 40 sequins it is!
I've since ordered some 3mm and 2.5mm sequins (I used 4mm in the testing) from Cartwright's Sequins and can't wait for them to come in! But I'm not allowed to play with them until I've worked on the foundation of the dress. First things first!