Monday, January 23, 2012

Titanic ball gown for The Unsinkables FaceBook project

1912 toilette de bal Mode de la Illustree no. 49, 1912
This is my Titanic ball gown for The Unsinkables FaceBook project to 'celebrate' the 100 anniversary of the sinking of the ship. It is from the French magazine Mode de la Illustree, no. 49, 1912. It is a design from December 1912, therefore later than the sinking of The Titanic which was April 15th, but I have it in my pattern stash, so its available.

The 'toilette de bal' as Mode Ilustree refers to it, is described thus:

The young woman who is called to the fashionable life will have a choice with this evening dress, between a ball gown and a business-like gown. As the former, its very becoming to a charming lady when furnished with a silk lace veil and skungs,(?) it can then be used later as a dress for dinner or meetings;
This gown can be made in brocade with a lace underskirt; the blouse, with a low decollete, is furnished with plain satin and old point lace.

The coat which accompanies these gowns is very practical because it will serve at the same time as a coat for visits and evening coat, make it out of patterned velvet with satin trimming and bubble(?) ganses(?)

 I don't speak French with any ease, let alone read archaic French, so I used BabbleFish as my translator and the old fashion language and sewing words threw it somewhat, but you get the gist I am sure!

I will blog the gown progress as I go, so far my 'apprentice'* has drafted out the pattern. These patterns are like Burda magazine patterns sheets, various garments overlaid on each other, with lots of lines cris crossing each and its an 'interesting' task to locate your pattern's lines, follow them and trace them off.

So over these summer holidays she has traced off the pattern, cut it out as a test toile and today she put the pieces together, with help from me, but nearly all her own initiative, remember there is no pattern instructions, she's done well!

Gown front

close-up of gown back

Gown back, love the train

Proud of her accomplishment and rightly so!
*I have a school student who works on particular projects with me during the holidays and throughout the school year. She is studying Textile Design in the HSC, I jokingly call her my 'apprentice'. Her course doesn't teach drafting (can you believe that, they work from commercial patterns!) and working with me she gets to learns about drafting, different fashion periods and I get the pleasure of her insights and learn as well. We have fun. Oh and I keep abreast of 'young people's music' LMAO!


  1. Beautiful gown and you "apprentice" is doing a great job!

    1. Thanks Lindi and she is indeed doing a great job!

  2. Replies
    1. I hope so, I now need to enlarge it to fit me, not a 10 anymore lol!

  3. Replies
    1. Yes, it just drapes perfectly, it would make a lovely wedding gown.

  4. The train is gorgeus!!

    "Her course doesn't teach drafting (can you believe that, they work from commercial patterns!)"

    I started studying in 2008, and my course was the last that learnt drafting from scratch! I feel that's basic knowledge if you want to understand and make clothing, but the big people decided different.

    1. So do I, it just astounds me that these principles aren't taught now, if you want to be a designer, you have to understand pattern making basics at least. I'm so glad it was standard with my school course, it is so amazingly helpful in understanding historical sewing.

  5. Hello, I was wondering, in the picture it looks like a higher neckline w/net? Is this modified or is that how the pattern is? Also, is the ruffle attached to the bodice? It almost appears to be a removable cape or shrug? Please advise! What a wonderful interpretation!

    1. Thank you!

      This is an exact replica of the pattern, we haven't adapted it at all and like you I was surprised at the low neckline as the drawing is much higher.

      The lace overlay and the underneath shawl are two separate pieces that are then attached to the bodice neckline.

      I worked on an earlier gown, 1905, last year from Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 2, p. 50 and while bodice bolero looks separate, its actually part of the bodice construction.

      I also learnt from constructing that gown that the underlying bodice was extremely structured and boned and I think its the same with this gown. Well that's how I'm going to interpret it.

      Quite amazing really, all floaty and soft on the outside and then rigid and heavy construction on the inside. Kinda like the Edwardian period really :)

  6. What's the original French? I might be able to figure out the mystery bits. I haven't forgotten all the French I learned, and I have a pretty good vocabulary for textile and sewing things. The design is lovely!

  7. I'll scan it into the blog Ava and you can have a go at translating it, it would be fabulous if you could expand it for me. That would be wonderful!


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