1910 Afternoon Dress, Part I: Design and Patterns

I think that my favorite time period to dress for has to be between 1890 and 1910. You get the narrow waist of the Victorian era without all the skirt structure and fuss that make the hoopskirt and bustle periods so much trouble to sew; plus the sweeping skirts and flowing lines are both flattering to the figure and fun to swan around in.

As you already know I love my 1910’s white embroidered lingerie dress, particularly for afternoon events, but even a classic “little white dress” can’t meet one’s costuming needs for every event, especially when it’s a delicate antique. After seeing some spectacular day dresses at an afternoon tea party I decided that I needed something with a little more color, possibly a dusty rose or a periwinkle blue– but I didn’t have a real vision for the dress until I saw some lace on Etsy I wanted to use, plus a bunch of images online… and suddenly it all crystallized into a dress design! Don’t you love it when that happens?

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Here’s what I’m going for:


I’d place my dress sketch right around 1910, or maybe a year or two before– it has the characteristic bodice treatment of the Edwardian period with the shoulder bretelles and square neckline, but the high lace collar, more structured bodice, and sleeves still keep it from going into the teens.

After much consideration I’ve decided to make the dress as separates– this will make it easier to adjust sizing later on if my weight fluctuates, and the sash will hide the waistband join in any case. I’m going to use Laughing Moon 104‘s View B (the blue one below) to get the shape of the bodice and sleeves right.

I’m dispensing with the boned underbodice since I’ll be wearing a corset and lowering the waist, and I’ll lengthen the overbodice so it’s long enough to tuck into the skirt waistband. The shoulder bretelles I’m going to add will bring a little extra structure to the bodice, further obviating the need for an underbodice (I hope).

I’ll use the guimpe pattern to make a sheer net guimpe with a high collar, and I haven’t decided for sure yet but I may make separate under- and over-skirts, just in case I want to wear the lace-trimmed underskirt with something else in the future.

Next up– fabrics and trim!

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