Monday, March 28, 2011

Well Hello, Mr. Rochester!! 1840's Fashion, My Way

 Hi Everyone!
With the release of the new Jane Eyre film this month, I thought it would be fun to share this lil’ dress project I did a few years ago, but didn’t actually get an opportunity to wear it until Dec ’09:
Me, Dec 2009, in my Laughing Moon Round Gown
This dress is the product of a pattern test I did for a lovely lady in Sacramento.  She has her own line of costume patterns, Laughing Moon, and a shop in Old Town Sacramento.  I had the wonderful opportunity to sign up and try out the pattern before it was published for the masses.  A style know as the Round Gown.  She sent an unpublished copy, and I had to make the dress according to the pattern & directions, step by step, to review and ensure the process was clear and highlight any errors/typos in print or wording, ect.
This was a worthwhile experience in more ways than one.  Not only did I create a dress, but I was a contributor to the creation of a historical pattern, and a GREAT one at that!  It can be purchased here. 
But my favorite part, the icing on the cake, was finding a way to actually like dressing up in this particular silhouette in history. 
Women's fashion plate from 1844.
You see, I love the story of Jane Eyre…my sisters and I grew up watching the BBC min-series in the 80’s with insanely handsome and brooding Timothy Dalton, and adore the latest version from 2006!
But frankly, women’s fashions from the mid-19th century scare the shit out of me.  I would not willingly choose this silhouette or even this Laughing Moon round gown to make for myself.  Perhaps it’s those severe center-part hairstyles and bonnets, or the confining drop-shoulder bodices?  Or just the fact that all the women look so …sad?

  We all have era’s of time we are attracted to for different reasons.  That’s why civil war reenactments, Dicken’s and Renaissance faires exist, right?  As much as I love costuming, these time periods have  always been my least-favorite eras of fashion.  Judging by the images of women in these periods of time, it does not look fun or pretty to me. (Such as the Tudor (left) and Elizabethan (right) ladies below)

The Laughing Moon pattern test gave me an opportunity to “make it work”. 
Here I was, faced with the challenge of making a dress from a time I did not care for, so I found a way to like it! 
What inspired me the most? 
Reading bios about various women from the 1840-1850’s.  Women who lived unconventional lives in America and, in particular, California.  Since the Gold Rush started in 1849, California is a wealth of mid-19th century unique inspiration.
And that’s how I stumbled upon this crazy bitch, Lola Montez.
FIERCE: Note the tight leather gloves and what looks like a hand-rolled cigarette. 
My kinda mid-19th century gal!
What a perfect blend of beauty, scandal, and mental illness!  I found her story and images very inspiring.  Lola Montez: "Special friend" to writers Franz Liszt and Alexandre Dumas, Mistress to a German King, dark and dramatic, known for her “Spider Dance”, SHE is the original vamp!  The song “Whatever Lola Wants” was written just for her!  This broad knew how to LIVE!
I ended up making the Laughing Moon Round Gown in a blood red “crackle” print calico cotton.  The cotton makes in so “American” and the bizarre crimson print makes it intriguing and dare I say…sexy?  The buttons I chose for the front closure are actually “Teddy Bear” eyes intended for stuffed animals.  (I didn’t know this until I went up to the counter to buy them…needless to say, it adds to the “crazy” factor.)

My hair was full-on Lola inspired with the bun in the back, a Spanish comb, and curly sides known as Spaniel Ears (not hot).  Miss Lola Montez was basically a white girl pretending to be Latin and exotic, so I accessorized with a Lace Shawl and Spanish fan:


 I went to the Dicken’s Fair in San Francisco looking like this, and felt scandalous and extra-spicy!  Definitely stuck out from the Bonnet & Cape crowd…and since I’m anti-hoop, I felt liberated in my net petticoats!
I was VERY happy with the end result!  So early California! 
Me, Dec 2009: Dicken's Faire @ The Cow Palace, San Francisco.
(yes, that is sawdust on the hem of my dress...classy!)
And that’s how I was able to inspire myself to sport an 1840-50’s round gown! 
By looking to the American West and going outside the Jane Eyre/Dicken’s/European history, I was able to have the mid-19th century “talk to me” in a different way.
Perhaps, one day, I can have that same experience with the Tudor/Elizabethan fashions.  Until then, I can remain content in knowing the Mid-19th Century ain’t so scary anymore.

-Kathleen, In Oakland

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful dress! It fits you perfectly. I am so impressed :-D


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