Bringing an Edwardian treasure to life
"It was quite a moment and one that really sums up why I love historical clothing, when I put her on (extremely) carefully and stood back to admire her in all her glory"
This dress is one treasure that I just cannot bring myself to part with and, let’s face it, no one with a 21st century body is going to fit her without extreme discomfort and corsetry. So rather than keeping her all to myself, I have decided to share her with you on the blog.
Whimsical and delicate, this outstandingly beautiful dress is a surviving treasure from the Edwardian period. Judging by her silhouette, I think she dates to circa 1910.
Featuring intricately cut panels that make up the skirt, this dress is fitted over the hips and fluted towards the hem. The delicately laced edged panels accentuate and showcase the distinctive silhouette that would have been created with the help of an S-bend corset. The feminine touch of the pink bow at the neck would most likely have been mirrored at the waist with a pink ribbon that would have defined it.
"Outside a museum, it is very rare to be able to view dresses such as this one on a body or even a dress form"
The mannequin that she is displayed on really has transformed her for me. Outside a museum, it is very rare to be able to view dresses such as this one on a body or even a dress form as modern mannequins just do not come in a small enough size to do these dresses up or demonstrate the correct silhouette.
The mannequin I am using dates to the early 20th century and although I think the bustle may be a little too pronounced for this dress, it offers a good indication of how the dress would have fitted. Although there aren’t original undergarments underneath the dress, the mannequin has been moulded to the shape of the fashionable silhouette of the early 20th century. The torso is very straight, whilst the shoulders and derriere seem to thrust backwards. The derriere has a shelf like effect that could only have been created on a human body with the help of a corset.
"Seeing this dress on the hanger just doesn’t allow you to really appreciate the extreme shape and size that fashions from the early 20th century created"
It was quite a moment and one that really sums up why I love historical clothing, when I put her on (extremely) carefully and stood back to admire her in all her glory. Seeing this dress on the hanger just doesn’t allow you to really appreciate the extreme shape and size that fashions from the early 20th century created. The stand my mannequin was on for these photographs is sadly too tall to offer an idea of the height of the wearer. The front of the dress should sit an inch or so above the ground with the train trailing slightly at the back as seen in this example from the V&A online catalogue.
Dress of white cotton lawn trimmed with lace and machine embroidery; British, ca. 1910, Museum Number T.155-1937
The dress itself would have been worn as an afternoon tea gown in warmer summer months. The Lady’s Realm, a contemporary British woman’s magazine remarked that ‘July is the ideal month in England where dress is concerned, and our thoughts turn to transparent lawns, ethereal muslins and dainty laces.’ (V&A online catalogue)
When I first started Dressed in History, this is the kind of dress I could only dream of having in my collection and her feminine and whimsical beauty epitomises my personal taste in fashion history! Maybe one day I will be able to part with her, but for now she is going to be packaged safely in my personal archive for some rainy day enjoyment… and maybe one or two promotional photographs!
Written by Hannah Mays Chandler for Dressedinhistory.com. Please do not cite this work without the explicit permission of Dressed in History.
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