Gloves On, Research Up – On Period Journals

When you think of the perfect historic library, what do you imagine?

Big, candlelit castle halls full of ancient tomes from floor to ceiling? A quiet back room at a museum, full of valuable books and curiosities? Or maybe even the gigantic, creepy library straight out of Doctor Who?

As far as I am concerned, the perfect library for my fashion research is somewhat different. And I found it, right here in Vienna. It is located in an old, palatial hunting lodge which also houses the Vienna Fashion Institute (the coolest vocational fashion high school ever). They own a huge collection of original sources, like fashion plates and magazines, dating as far back as 1798. And you can actually use them. :D

When I slip on my gloves and go through old issues of Ackermann’s Repository or the Wiener Moden-Zeitung in the small reading room, I am pretty much seated right in the middle of historical fashion: In the next room there is a small workshop where original garments from Vienna’s historical fashion collection are restored and often, you find garment models hovering right at your elbow. The last time I walked in, there was a whole pile of reconstructed 15th to 18th-century caps and bonnets just sitting on the table. I think I smirked with glee when I saw it.

The first time I went there to look at all these journals, I set my eyes on this belle here:

1816 promenade dress from Wiener Moden-Zeitung

1816 promenade dress from Wiener Moden-Zeitung

It is a promenade dress from the 1816 collection of the Wiener Moden-Zeitung.

Luckily I found this issue in digital on Google Books over here. This way I get the chance to show you. Now you can of course ask:

What the heck does the front part look like?

The answer came in this little text, written in German:

Description of the dress in German

Description of the dress in German

To sum it up, it says here that the gown is made out of red atlas silk and decorated with rouleaux made of the same fabric. It has an ornamental tie, fastened in a bow at the back and the sleeves are full-length and slit down the middle, as you can see. ;)

Now, about the front: The bottom half of it forms “half a shawl” and three rouleaux rolls run from the top front, over the shoulder where their ends meet with the tie. Okay, erm, “half a shawl”, what does that mean? It took me some time to puzzle out what it might mean. I came up with three possible ideas:

First, a crossed bodice like on this dress, worn by Theresa of Mecklenburg-Strelitz:

Crossed bodice front on a dress worn by Theresa of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (c. 1820)

Crossed bodice front on a dress worn by Theresa of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (c. 1820)

Second, an array of horizontal pin tucks/pleats shaping the bottom bodice like a shawl. I saw this on some gowns from various museums and it seems like the thing I am most likely going to do when sewing this beauty.

Third: You could fashion the dress into a cross-over gown like this one by the wonderful Kelly over on Tea in a Teacup. Her post gave me the last hints I needed to get the hang of the whole construction:

So much about my recent research adventures in Vienna. Right now, I am pretty cross there was no space for my sewing supplies at the student hall. Can’t wait to get started on more planning and pattern-making for this project. I will make sure to keep you posted and spam you with more pics and suggestions on my Regency research board, over on Pinterest. (To find it, just click the icon over on the left.)



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