Once the dress was put together, it was time to do the embellishments. As you recall, I found this beautiful centerpiece/napkin set to use for my dress accents.
It arrived looking a bit dingy (as many antique linens do) so I soaked it in diluted Woolite for a bit (testing it first on one of the cocktail napkins to be sure it wouldn’t ruin anything) to whiten it up. It only brightened a little, so I tried Oxiclean. That also brightened it a tiny bit, but finally a 2-minute soak in a Clorox solution (followed by a rinse in diluted hydrogen peroxide to neutralize the excess chlorine, and several rinses in clean water) did the trick to make it a nice antique white.
I will also note that while I’d originally assumed that the embroidery was done by machine, now I’m not so sure. On closer inspection there are actually significant differences between each of the corners in terms of placement and missing/different stitches, which implies that the embroidery was hand-done after all. I wish I had a better idea of the date on this set, but in any case I think it’s lovely. It’s almost a shame to cut it up, but I’d never use it as-is.
I determined that I wanted to use the large corners as triangular appliqués– two for the skirt and one for the bodice– which meant that I had the center portion left, plus the napkins, to make the collar. I decided to cut long triangles out of the leftover center section, overlapping them with additional pieces cut from the napkins.
While they didn’t have the finished edge on all sides, I tried to mimic it by doing a narrow satin stitch along the cut edges, which rolled under a bit and looked at least somewhat similar to the pre-finished edges.
I started with the collar, pinning the roughly triangular pieces to the sides of my neckline along with corner pieces from the napkins to see how I wanted them to be positioned. Once I had them placed symmetrically, I stitched them to strips of peach voile, which I then pressed under to make attachment strips. I hand-stitched the strips to the inside of the bodice, just in case I ever needed to remove them for cleaning or anything else.
Next I started fussing with the placement of the appliqués. I’d originally planned on putting large triangles in the center of the bodice and on either side of the overskirt, but when I’d pinned them to the dress the overall effect was just too fussy. I thought about omitting the skirt appliqués entirely, but ended up using the smaller, less elaborate corner pieces from my napkins instead. Instead of using the existing scalloped corners I cut them at a slightly shallower angle, which let them follow the cut of the skirt better.
I did leave the bodice appliqué as planned, and added an appliqué to my apron panel just to balance things out.
Once I had the placement set, I carefully hand-stitched over the edges of each appliqué with matching ivory thread. I considered trying to do it by machine, but realized that the organdy was extremely delicate and that machine needles were a lot thicker than my hand-sewing needles (and less precise in placement), so I decided to err on the side of caution. Besides, it was a good project to do while watching old episodes of The Great British Baking Show.
I’ll note that I’d originally intended the appliqués to be inserts– that is, I’d planned on snipping away the fabric behind the sheer appliqués to make for a more ethereal look. However, I determined that doing this on the bodice wouldn’t look so great– it would just show my white corset cover underneath– and doing it on the skirt seemed kind of weird if I didn’t do it elsewhere. So I stuck with just appliquéing the embroidered organdy onto the fabric. I think the embroidery really makes the dress– it’s so dainty and so clearly antique that it makes the whole thing look like real clothing rather than a costume.
3 thoughts on “1915 Picnic Dress, Part IV: Embroidered Appliqués”
Those apliques do so much for the whole piece! I think I’m going to have to go pillage all the antiques stores in my area. . .
It’s all about Ebay for me… you can find some fantastic stuff at low prices!
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