Friday, September 21, 2012

Pondering Construction on the Met Gown

I mentioned last week that I'm participating in the Curtain-Along.  I'm going to use the red curtains, and try to reproduce this dress, from the Met.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession Number 2004.441 (The pictures of it below are hosted on my Flickr.)

It looks like a plain round gown with a wrap front.  I thought it was at the natural waist, but now I'm thinking it is high-waisted. But on closer inspection:

(1) The wrap fronts are "floating" away from the waist of the gown.

(2) There is clearly a drawstring tie, but it is centered on the gown, in the middle of the top wrap panel.
(3) There is dress material behind the bodice wrap panels.

I've been puzzling about this for some time.  It's mounted rather poorly (just look at the skirt!), which does not help.  It may have been worn by a much larger woman than the mannequin as well. I'm not certain it wasn't rearranged between photographs. And although the zoom function is powerful, the photos do not have high enough resolution.  Possible solution:

1. The front bodice is a mock wrap. The panels are stacked onto each other and a single drawstring channel is sewn. Then it can be drawn up evenly from the middle. It is not attached to the skirt at all.

2.  The skirt is an apron front with dress fabric at least partly above the waist, so as to keep lining material from showing in case of gapping. Possibly only slightly gathered for the original wearer, but gathered more tightly for the mannequin.

My theory:
-->  Regular 18th century apron front gowns had the front skirt just pleated to a band or tape that tied around the body under the gown. The bodice dipped below the waist and there was little opportunity for gapping.  However, if this is a brand-new-style high-waisted gown, combined with the newer straight-waist bodice, there is very great risk of gapping (particularly on a larger woman), and a new solution comes up: Add extra material to the skirt front above the waist.

Even with this theory, I'm still not sure what the underbodice will look like.  I need to look at other very early high-waist gowns and try to find some construction details. I'm familiar with Regency "apron front" gowns, but this is different.

I did find a couple of things on Pinterest. Nothing 100% spot-on for the look, but things that look similar in construction, and I can see how that dress could have been intended to look.

I like this one. Long sleeves, still natural waist, crossover. Plus a crazy ruffed undershirt thing and turban!

 (Higher resolution here.)

There's a couple of KCI ones that I'd like to look at in more detail.

This is another option: instead of the fronts overlapping, just tying together at the waist.

 I'll leave you with one last picture, of the back. Three seams on each side! SO fun. :D

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