My Multi-Tasking 1812/1912 Dress
I found this beautiful Edwardian nightgown for $20 in a second hand shop and my first thought was: Wow! This looks just like a Regency-style dress!
The dress itself is early 20th century, not early 19th century, but the lines, lace, and silhouette look incredibly similar to these 1812-1813 fashion plates:
Fashion Plate, circa 1813
Fashion Plate, circa 1812
Of course I resist the opportunity to play dress-up, so here’s the gown, styled a la 1812:
Nightgown – $20, thrift shop
Woven shawl – $5, Walmart
Vintage Gloves – $5, eBay
Hat (made from a flower pot and silk ribbon) – $1, thrift shop
Shoes – $3, thrift shop
White slip – $8, Walmart
Rago Waist Cincher (helps boost the girls up to ridiculously high, Regency-approved levels) – $30, Amazon
Balconette bra – $12, Hanes
The dress is really beautiful and must have been even more so when it was new. It has cotton lace inserts threaded with peach silk ribbon around the collar, waistline, and cuffs. The hem has a dainty, pin-tucked ruffle bottom.
Of course, the best picture of the outfit had to have me blinking…
Fashion plate, circa 1813
This shawl was a super steal at Wally World. Who cares if it’s polyester?! It looks amazing with all sorts of styles, from 1810 to 1860 to today.
Since my mim was so kind as to get me a curling iron for Christmas, I attempted to curl my hair this time around. It held curl perfectly…for about 4 minutes. By the time I got outside, it had mostly come uncurled, so I did the period-appropriate thing and poked the ornery bits back up into my poke bonnet!
The dress was in pretty rough shape: mildew stains, set-in wrinkles, and a complete lack of any closures (it’s open from collar to hem and had 1/2 of a snap left, so I replaced and added vintage ones to hold it closed properly. I don’t want any wardrobe malfunctions!). I gently soaked and sun-dried the cotton, which whitened it perfectly. I also gently un-twisted the peach silk ribbon. There are plenty of lovely, under-appreciated Victorian and Edwardian nightgowns out there and many make beautiful Regency gowns with the right tweaks! Also, since ladies either wore light corsets or went corset-less to bed (also just by the nature of sleepwear), nightgowns are usually looser fitting and in more naturalistic sizes that fit modern body types more readily than you expect!
My method of under support for this dress isn’t historically accurate, but it is historically inspired. During the 1810s, corsets were beginning to fully morph out of the stays and half-stays of the previous decades and into full-torso pieces with cording or wooden busks for the main support mechanisms with minimal boning. My Rago Cincher/balconette bra combo mimics the shape that a corset like this would have provided:
Corset, circa 1815-25
Fashion Plate showing a Gusseted Corset, circa 1813