A Game of Thrones Inspired Dress from McCalls 6940

2018 has not been a good year for sewing. In fact, I’ve only sewn one new dress this year and it’s not historical at all!

Pictured above: Me during 2018 so far.

Perhaps I was feeling a bit burned out from the pressure of the historical costuming community or maybe it was my love of fantasy making a roaring appearance, but the only new costume I have made this whole year so far was, of all things, inspired by the Game of Thrones.

I don’t even really keep up with the show, but the costumes…they are fab! Check out the unbelievably beautiful embroidery! They have kindled a huge movement in the costume community, a kind of fantasy renaissance that hadn’t really happened since the Lord of Rings (over a decade ago…OMG! Where has time flown?!). As it turns out, a lot of historical costumers also fell in love with the wonderful GoT costumes. I think Katherine of The Fashionable Past really summed up why the world of Westeros was so appealing to many historical costumers:

“…They’ve truly created fashion on the show–clothes for different climates, different levels of society, different everything, yet they remain consistent in fashionable details. It was almost like discovering a new historical period.”

Kathrine has made a few GoT themed dresses with her own personal twists and designs. She noticed how similar the construction of her GoT dress was to 18th century dresses. In the course of my adventure, I discovered the skills I learned sewing the Plaid Croissant Natural Form Bustle Dress really helped make the McCalls pattern much easier to understand and sew!

I was inspired to give one a try! As it so happened, all the pieces just seems to fall into place like destiny.

A year ago, I had found my first piece of thrift-store silk. I want to be clear: I NEVER find yardage at my local Goodwill, much less silk yardage! Most of the silk I use is cut from silk shirts. I had enviously seen other costumers post on Facebook about finding silk yardage at the thrift shops. Finally, I found some–a real piece of silk–three yards of it! I was so proud and giddy that I horded it for a whole year. 3 yards isn’t enough for most historical dresses, so I didn’t quite know what to do with it. Like I am wont to do, I simply squirreled it away in the deepest recesses of the fabric horde where it waited, breath baited, to someday be recreated.

Fast forward to April and my friends invited me to Renaissance Faire!

Ren Faire is one of the “holy grail” events for costumers and though it was 100 degrees outside, I could NOT go to Ren Faire without a costume! I’d been struggling with a job switch and a general lack of creative energy, but I REFUSE to go all the way to ren faire to only look around. I want to be part of the costumed merriment!

At first, I desperately wanted to make a traditional 16th Century dress– the kirtle, the coif, the whole nine yards (of skirt fabric). But the only fabric I found that I liked was $50 a yard! Yikes! No thanks! So I thought about doing another version of my Second-Hand 17th Century Get-Up.

I’ve gained quite a bit of weight since 2013 (5 years ago?!). Alas, I don’t fit in that little jacket or skirt any longer! In light of this revelation, I began voraciously scrolling through pages and pages and pages of eBay auctions to find something that might work. I ended up in my favorite sari shop, “Antique Art of India” by sanskriti.india. I was looking for a lehenga (skirt), but instead, I found a glorious green silk organza sari. Inspiration hit me!

A sari is about 5 yards long, which, at my size, isn’t quite enough for a full dress on its own…but add 3 yards of silk dupioni to the mix…

As fate would have it, the Scarbie Faire theme for the weekend we were going was Fantasy, so a Game of Thrones dress would be perfect! And I already had several patterns to choose from in my stash.

The pieces were finally falling into place!

There are TONS of medieval and Game of Thrones style patterns to choose from. I waffled between Simplicity and McCalls because they seemed to be the top two choices in the GoT costuming community forums. Simplicity 1487/1009 was designed by Andrea Schewe, a pattern designer I admire for both her design sense and how easily I can adjust her patterns to fit my body. I know if her name is on a pattern, it will probably be fantastic!

However, the Simplicity pattern had a back zipper and a waist seam. I wanted a real wrap dress like Kathrine’s and the ones on the show. McCalls 6940 is a honest-to-goodness real wrap front dress.

All the reviews on the Game of Thrones costuming groups mentioned that the skirt on the McCalls pattern was too tight, but it’s easier to add fullness than to try to turn a zipper back into a wrap front. For this last-minute dress, I decided to use the McCalls pattern, View A. I cut a size 16 based on my full upper bust measurement. As I discovered, this was too large in the back. I should have cut a 14 or even 12 for the back.

I did have to alter the pattern to fit me which was no small task, but this is par for the course. Patterns are normally designed for B-cups and I’m an DDD/F cup. I’m a curvy gal and this pattern is not curvy at all. In fact, it has almost no waist or bust shaping, relying on the belt to draw in the excess fullness–not my favorite method of fitting, but I think I made it work.

As a busty gall, I’ve struggled to find regular everyday wrap dresses that don’t fit horribly over my bust. This dress is a wrap dress, but it also has princess seams to help make fitting a little easier…in theory. As it turns out, there is a special method for altering a wrap dress with princess seams. Plus, this dress had the special side gores that had to be accounted for!

I discovered a great tutorial by Idle Fancy that I absolutely recommend!

I followed it exactly, had the same “OMG, THIS PATTERN PIECE IS DEFORMED AND WILL NEVER WORK—Oh, it totally works!” moment she did. Mary 100% made this project easier to conquer. Thanks, chica!

MY HEROINE!

Here is a picture showing my adjusted pattern pieces with the originals:

In addition to the FBA, I also reduced the length of the sleeves to half so I could fit them on the narrow sari fabric and increased the skirt width by flaring the skirt pattern pieces at the bottom then tapering back to the original width near the top to make sure the gores still fit properly. The U-shaped gores seem really intimidating, but the way they are assembled makes it surprisingly easy! In fact, I assembled the majority of the dress in a single day, just in time to wear it to Scarborough! It was ROASTING wearing all the layers, insulating silk, and long sleeves, but I had an unforgettable time with my friends. We were too busy exploring to take many pictures, but here is one Chris took at the very end of the day.

I am shiny from sweat, crater-eyed from a lack of sleep, and sore from walking for hours, but the dress held up and people even recognized it as a Game of Thrones dress despite it not being any specific recreation! Huzzah!

Still, the dress wasn’t quite finished. It needed some more trimming and refining, which I finally got around to doing this week. So, months later, here is the finally finished dress!

As you can see, the dress ended up too big in the waist, leading to all sorts of wrinkling. If I make another version of this dress, I will need to tweak the pattern to be more fitted. McCalls 6940 relies on the included belt patterns to delineate the waist, so the dress pattern itself has almost no waist shaping whatsoever, even if you aren’t fitting it over a corset. I chose to wear mine with a corset 1) because on the show, Sansa is shown in one scene wearing stays (an earlier form of the corset), 2) it helps keep the belt in place because otherwise belts tend to ride up over my belly and settle right under my boobs, and 3) I like the regal bearing it gives me.

In addition to the corset, I wore an underskirt and petticoat. These fluff the dress more and since the front of the dress is wrapped over, but open, the underskirt does show when you walk or sit. You will definitely want to wear one that complements your gown! Mine is a prom skirt I bought at Goodwill for $6.

My final thoughts on the McCalls 6940 pattern View A are thus:

-It is a solid, basic dress. It is a good base for embellishments and the real wrap front is ideal. The tie closure works, though it would benefit from another one internally (or I could just add the snap they call for).

-It is too slim through the skirt and not fitted enough in the waist. For screen accuracy and plain ol’ aesthetics, I recommend increasing the fullness of the skirt as much as you can and then use a facing to help the skirt flare out in that lovely sweep we so love. I’d also try to make it more fitted in back, like I did for my Natural Form gown.

-This design really works best with fabric that have good texture and body. It takes quite a bit of fabric, too, especially because of the enormous sleeves. I used all 3 yards of the silk with only a handful of scraps left. The sari was completely used up except for a few damaged areas I had to work around and the pallu (the pallu is the decorated end, about 1 yard worth). This is after shortening the sleeves to accommodate the narrow fabric. I flatlined the dress like I would a Victorian one, but I left the sleeves unlined for airflow. The lining will add to the yardage you need. (I used a king-sized cotton sheet)

-The sleeves want to shift. They are open on the bottom after the elbow and I found that the fabric wants to slip off your arm. You can see it happening a bit here:

This may be due to a number of factors, but I think it’s because the sleeve construction puts the center of the sleeve on the outside of the arm, so the sleeve wants to twist to the side, causing it to gradually fall off your forearm. This might be fixed by weighting the sleeves or making them full-length instead of sorter like mine. I might try lengthening the inner side if I choose to make the shorter sleeves again. That might fix the issue.

-This dress is a solid intermediate pattern. The techniques are all basic and there are no fancy tricks. The hardest part to sew (in my opinion) is the facings at the neck and hem. Just take your time to pin things accurately and you’ll be fine.

-The instructions are very clear. Read them! I thought I knew how it would work, but discovered I was making more work for myself. The instructions actually made the sewing easier for once! The marks on the tissue are important for the ties down the front. Mark them accurately if you want the closure to line up.

-Make or buy a snazzy belt. Since it is key to achieving the look and fit, you’ll need a  belt to go with your gown. The pattern comes with two. I haven’t tried making them, but the armor-like one (based off Cersei’s in the show) looks wicked cool. If you don’t want to make your own, I recommend a comfy wide elastic belt. They are easy to put on and adjust, plus there are tons of styles online to choose from. I picked a rather basic black one with a brass closure to match the beading on the sari. Bonus points for it being something I can wear everyday, too! There are fancier models, though, like these that I found just by doing a quick Amazon search for “wide elastic belt:”

Overall, I had a ton of fun making and wearing this dress. I am very glad I stepped out of my comfort zone to make something new! I also liked that it was fairly low-pressure. Sometimes historical accuracy can be a little claustrophobic if you have tons of internet people judging your every stitch and trim. Since this was entirely fantasy, there was much less pressure! I look forward to making another one of these dresses in the future. If you are feeling adventurous or need something fresh to jumpstart your creativity, I think this could be a great project. I worked for me! I’m still stressed and not feeling very motivated to costume, but I am proud to have made at least one dress this year.

For those of you curious about how I did my hair, I made a small tutorial thing for ya:

Hair Tutorial: A Basic Game of Thrones or Fantasy Hairstyle

Find of the Month: Child’s Blue and Brown Plaid Silk 1860s Dress

January 2015

I began researching children’s clothes a while back because I had a few peole ask me about them. I don’t have children, so I don’t consider myself a good source of info for those kinds of questions. I did, however, start a Pinterest board for 19th Century (and some Edwardian) children’s clothes for those of you who are curious about how children’s clothes compared to those of adults.

Not long after I began my new branch of research, I went to the Azle Antique Mall with Becky to browse while Chris and Billy did repairs on the truck. The Azle Antique Mall has escaped the recent trend of antique shops being filled with boutiques of antique-looking-but-completely-new stuff instead of real antiques. In Azle, there are still bargains and treasures to be found crammed in every aisle!

I don’t shop for clothing at antique shops, but there is one booth that has great vintage accessories as well. I usually ignore the clothing racks, but there is a rack at eye-level filled with smaller pieces like camisoles and tons of baby christening gowns. Mixed into the sea of white linen, a dark little patch of brown caught my eye.

Lo and behold, it was an antique silk child’s dress!

dress 1860s

A quick snap when I got it home. It looks sort of strange on a hanger since this dress is made to be gathered by the belt and worn off-the-shoulder.

It was only $30, which is a good chunk of change for me, but incredibly inexpensive for an adorable antique silk dress, so I had to have it!
It’s in remarkably good condition for its age and is 100% intact! However, the silk is very fragile and splits easily. I’ve decided to pack it away in acid free tissue along with the rest of my antique clothing collection to help preserve it. Before I packed it away, though, I decided to get a few pictures of it.

1860s Child's Dress

Child’s Dress, circa 1855-65
The silk is mildly slubby and has some areas where the weft threads are poorly woven. It is also stained throughout, though whether by a clumsy child or storage I cannot say.

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Side, showing the faux pocket flaps.

The dress is only very lightly stuffed with polyfill and a bit of batting to give you an idea of the shape, so it paunches and poofs rather than hangs as it would on a child. It’s not a professional display by any means, but it does give a better impression of fit than a hanger. I had purchased a tiny vintage mannequin a while ago to display antique jewelry on and I was excited that it might work for this dress, but the form is about a 2T and this dress is much larger. It is meant to fit loosely and the fullness controlled with the belt, bringing the waist measure to about 24.” It would sit off the shoulder which, without a dress form, is hard to show, but here are two pictures of little girls in similar-fitting dress paired with pantalettes:

This dress isn’t necessarily for a little girl. Little boys also wore dresses until they were about 5 or 6 years old. They even wore their hair longer and curled, but there are some clues you can look for in old photographs to tell the gender of a young child. Girl’s hair is generally parted in the middle (as you can see in the photos above) and their dresses are worn with lace-edged pantelettes. Boy’s hair was often parted to the side and their shorter dresses are sometimes paired with loose trousers/breeches, like in this photo:

Young boy 1860s

Young Boy, 1860s

Another hallmark of boy’s clothing is a front button closure rather than a back button closure. Historically, children’s clothing closed in the back. In the 1850s and 1860s, boy’s short dresses often buttoned in front instead. My child’s dress has a very decorative button closure:

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Back of the dress (taken laying flat since the picture of it supported turned out too blurry)

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The glass buttons imitate the popular agate jewelry in fashion at the time. They are 19mm in diameter and have gilt brass settings. This is also a good detail shot of the tiny lace edging.

The glass and gilt buttons on this dress are so fancy I wonder if they actually belong in front, like in this photograph of a young lad:

Young boy, 1860s

The fancy buttons on my dress are purely for show. Underneath them, the functional closure is made of a strip of twill tape sewn with buttonholes, 3 calico buttons, and a brass hook paired with a thread bar:

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The calico buttons appear to be style “124” according to the NBS’s Calico Button chart.

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The dress’s belt is attached at the side seams, and therefore always closes on the side with the buttons. It has one button to close it, but two placed in the center on the opposite side, which leads me to believe that it functioned as a girl’s dress. It’s very possible this dress served double duty for two generations: one male and one female. The construction of the dress is fairly symmetrical front and back, so it could easily be worn either way.
The front and back are each one piece and are jointed at the side only. The skirt is gathered under the pocket flaps at the sides under the sleeves. The dress is flatlined with plain brown polished cotton and is handsewn throughout with backstitching while the velvet ribbon trim is tacked with typical long running stitches:

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Inside back

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The pocket flap seam inside

I’m still learning about this area of costuming, so I’m not an expert. There may be some details I missed, so if you have more information or would like me to add more photos of certain construction details, just let me know!

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Self Fabric Piping on Sleeve

Find of the Month: The Story of a Turn of the Century Woman’s Life in Bodices

July 2014

I actually found this month’s “FOTM” way back in May, but I just now got around to photographing them. I found this set of three Victorian and Edwardian bodices for sale on eBay, and at $16 for the lot, how could anyone (even on a tight budget like mine) resist?

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The woman I bought them from didn’t know much about them except that she got them as a lot together from an estate in northwestern Pennsylvania. The trio span the decades from the 1880s to about 1910.

The oldest bodice of the lot is the small brown one on the left. When I say small, I do mean small: 32 bust, 22 inch waist, and teeny 14 inch shoulders! It’s a young misses’ bodice, however, so the numbers are quite average for a teenage girl in the era. It was likely made for/by the young lady around 1886 or so:

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Young Misses’ Bodice, circa 1886

I can’t be certain of its exact age, but in 1886, “fluffy” pleated fronts like this came into fashion. You can see a similar bodice treatments in this fashion plate from the same year:

Fashion Plate, circa 1886

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The bodice is fairly simple in design. The main body is made of fine wool with a central panel of dotted silk. There is braided trim and little trailing branches of embroidery up the sides (commonly seen on crazy quilts of the era, so perhaps the wearer enjoyed quilting as well). It is missing its collar and two buttons and has many little moth holes, but is otherwise in lovely condition.

The other two bodices/blouses are post-1900. The brightest of the bunch is the eye-catching purple silk stripe blouse (It’s boned inside, so it’s technically a bodice, but the look is that of a blouse):

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Bodice, circa 1901

The colors, styling, and especially the sleeve decoration all point to a date right around 1901. The pouter pigeon front (sort of hidden by my mannequin’s lack of bust) and the bottom-heavy “bishop” sleeves can also be seen in these period fashion plates:

Fashion plate, September 1900

Fashion plate, circa 1901
Yay! Matching purple stripes!

Once again we have lovely dotted silk, this time in lavender and violet with cream stripes. In this case, the seamstress let the fabric do all the talking, cutting it diagonally for the front pieces and leaving it mostly untrimmed. It is missing its collar and most of one cuff, but the other cuff is still intact:

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The final bodice in this lot is a somber black shirtwaist made of very thin, fragile silk:

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Shirtwaist, circa 1908-10

It dates to about 1909, though blouses of this type had been in production for about 20 years between 1895 and 1915. The clues to dating this one are the collar, wide shoulders, and relatively plain, straight sleeves, much like these:

Wool Shirtwaists Ad, circa 1908

This particular blouse was made at home, not at a factory. In fact, it looks very similar to this shirtwaist pattern from Past Patterns:

The pattern is based off of a Butterick pattern from 1909. It has similar sleeves, pleating, and stitching. However, the front pleats on my shirtwaist are separate instead of overlapping, so I’s probably not made from the same pattern, but there were many other patterns available in magazines and mail-order catalogs that a home seamstress could buy, so the pattern this shirtwaist was made from may be out there somewhere still, waiting in a shoebox to be discovered!

Though it may seem rather dull in comparison to its companions, the black shirtwaist does have one standout accent– a fabulous beaded collar:

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This thing weighs more than the rest of the blouse!

The collar is older than the blouse by at least 20 years and is slightly too large to fit properly, indicating that it was probably recycled from an older dress. It brings to mind mourning clothes from the previous century. Though mourning clothes were still around in the Edwardian era, it wasn’t nearly as common as it had been during Victoria’s reign. As you can see in the wool shirtwaist advertisement above, black was a common, fashionable color in its own right. Not every black dress, shirtwaist, or skirt was for mourning purposes! Black has frequently fluctuated in and out of style of its own accord. Still, the measurements of this shirtwaist (38 bust, 30 inch waist) indicate that it was probably worn by a mature woman. She may have carried the customs of her youth in the 19th century with her into the 20th century.

Discovering a trio of bodices together from a single estate with such a clear timeline makes me wonder if they all belonged to a single woman over the course of a lifetime. The way all three are styled reveal a love of simple, unfussy design and, who could forget, the love of polka dot silk! If she were 15 in 1886, she would have been wearing the bright purple blouse right around age 30 and the darker blouse around age 38-40. If only I had an 1890s bodice to complete the decade by decade look at turn of the century clothing! It might just be coincidence that all three were found together, but I treasure the possibility that they belonged to a single woman, mapping her life in fabric and thread as she sewed her way through the changing fashions of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Previous Finds of the Month:

 

January 2014

December 2013

Not Your Average 18th Century

What’s Old is New is Strange Again!

Darejan, wife of Erekle II of Georgia, 18th Century

As years pass, memories get a little fuzzy, facts get a bit muddled up, and stereotypes take over. We gloss over eras and simplify them for good reason; after all, if we kept track of every tiny piece, we’d never have enough time to learn it all (imagine having to take every single course a university has ever offered in order to earn a degree). Plus, it make finding something a little different than “normal” exceptionally exciting! Fashion trends get skipped, everyday items become obsolete, and whole countries get ignored. Here are a few 18th century items with uses, tweaks, tricks, or origins that make them unique:

Jet Shoe Buckles, circa 1735

There are plenty of shoe buckles out there from the 18th century. They were made of many different materials–brass, pewter, silver, gold– and were often decorated. Many have sparkly cut paste stones made of clear glass backed with silver or colored foil. What makes this pair unusual is that it’s made from jet, an organic gemstone. Jet is usually associated with the 19th century because of its use in Victorian mourning jewelry. Jet actually became exceptionally popular earlier, around 1730, and even before that during the Roman period. The warm black stone was used to fashion all sorts of jewelry like bracelets, rings, and pins. It fell out of fashion as softer color pallets began to come into favor during the mid 1760s, but jet’s popularity would soar again in the 1830s.

Pink Silk Gown, circa 1770-80

I love this dress not just for the color, but for its unique front. I love the crossing straps across the bodice! Auction pictures aren’t always accurate in their posing of garments, but the long front straps on this one baffle even if they weren’t made to make that fantastic criss-cross. This dress is from the Tasha Tudor collection which contained hundreds of beautiful gowns that spanned 3 centuries and all classes. The collection has lots of pieces that show the ingenuity and creativity of seamstresses throughout history.

Stays or Bodice, circa 1700-1720 (according to Augusta Auctions)

Okay. So there’s this. I will profess that I cannot tell if it is a set of stays or a bodice. It’s boned like stays, but the shape is beyond unusual. In fact, I might dare to suggest that these might date earlier than 1725, perhaps even as early as 1680 when mantuas with long, conical bodices were in fashion. This peculiar set of stays is actually quite similar to 17th century stays in the V&A Museum. Gowns from the 17th and 18th centuries both shared similar features, however, including stomachers, which became a major part of fashion in the 18th century. These stays are missing a stomacher, but that doesn’t distract too much. The most fascinating feature of this piece is the back. Those two wide seams are actually jointed with laces threaded through a series of tiny metal rings.

Lacing Detail showing the Metal Rings

So these may actually be from the mid-to-late 17th century rather than the 18th century, but I’m leaving there here because they are so fascinating!

Man’s Indian Court Costume, 18th century

It’s hard to look past the European side of fashion. Sometimes it takes European adoption of an exotic trend to open up the fashion vacuum a bit. For example, by the 18th century, India had been colonized by Europeans for its rich resources like gemstones and spices. Thanks to colonists and merchants, Indian textiles became highly fashionable throughout Europe. Beautifully embroidered and woven robes, like this Indian man’s court costume, became influential during the 18th century. This cotton chintz gown was imported from India to Holland in the first quarter of the century:

Painted and Dyed Cotton Chintz Gown, early 18th century

The elegant, sweeping line and open robe front are very similar to Indian court robes. Dresses made from Indian chintz called “wentke” became popular throughout northern Europe. This gown’s somber color pallet suggests it may be a mourning gown. Most textiles from India were bright and colorful, famed for their prints and patterns. The most famous of these patterns is no doubt the paisley, which would rise to dizzying fame during the Victorian era. Indian textiles melded with other trends to produce unique dresses, like this very late 18th century Empire gown that boasts a trendy high waist inspired by Classical Greek and Roman style mixed with a bold Indian floral print:

Cotton Dress, circa 1795-1799

This late 18th century woman’s dress is quite similar to the early 18th century man’s robe. One has to wonder if later generations looked back at grandma’s and grandpa’s old clothes and adopted, re-imagined, and revamped the styles in unorthodox ways, much like we are doing today with early-to-mid 20th century clothes.

Ivory Flea Catcher, 18th-19th century century

There’s a reason why Marie Antoinette’s purported favorite color of purple was called “puce.” Puce is the French word for flea. The color is said to be the color of the bloodstains remaining on linen or bedsheets, even after being laundered, from a flea’s droppings or after a flea has been killed (Wikipedia). And there were fleas everywhere in 18th century Europe. Before fumigators and our modern era of obsessive cleanliness, pest and parasites were a common daily occurrence. Fleas were especially widespread. Have you ever had to deal with a flea-covered cat or dog? Trying to get all those nasty little critters off your pet is a nightmare. Now we have monthly drops, repellant collars, carpet sprays, bug bombs, and other chemical solutions to the problem, but in the 18th century, there wasn’t too much you could do. Enter the flea catcher!

Flea Catcher, 19th century

Flea catchers worked like decorative fly paper. The trap would be filled with a sticky substance like honey and the fleas would crawl in and get stuck. For the trap to be extra effective, a few drops of blood could be added to a little slip of paper or fabric strip that was subsequently placed inside the trap. What flea can resist such temptation? Quite a few, I imagine, but it probably felt exceptionally satisfying to open the little catcher up to see a few fleas that weren’t biting you! Flea traps were popular gifts and were worn on a cord, held in a pocket, or placed in clothing chests.

Silk Dress Fabric, circa 1760

Leopard print is historically accurate. My life is now complete.

As with all my articles, all of the images in this article are either linked to larger versions, articles explaining them, or other fact-filled sites to help you explore, so please feel free to check them out!

Update on the Sew Fortnightly: The wool fabric I ordered is now out of stock, so I’m scrambling to re-calibrate my plans and I only have 9 days left! Cross your fingers, light candles, say prayers, or do whatever it is you do to make heaven smile a little bit more favorably on my endeavors next go-round!

Historic Color Combos: Orange and Cream

Orange and White Clothing

Open Front Robe, circa 1735-40

Robe à la Française, circa 1770

American Cotton Dress, circa 1810

Dinner Dress, circa 1878

Dinner Dress, circa 1880

Corset, circa 1880

Court Dress, circa 1892

House of Worth Bridesmaid Dress, circa 1896

House of Worth Walking Suit, circa 1898

House of Worth Afternoon Dress, circa 1905

Orange and White Accessories

Nessus Abducting Deianira Cameo, circa 1815-25

Evening Turban, circa 1823

Silk and Ivory Parasol, circa 1868

Child’s Shoes, circa 1875

Pearl and Citrine Ring, circa 1890

Orange and cream is a beautiful combination reminiscent of gold and pearls (also, tasty Dreamsicles!). It’s both adventurous and refined at the same time. Orange is a volatile color with so many shades and variations from tawny gold to soft rust to deep burnt umber; some like it, some don’t, but when paired with cream, any orange suddenly becomes exceptionally elegant! The combination has appeared throughout history, becoming especially popular from the late Victorian period well into the 1970s.

Please note that it’s often difficult to tell from pictures–and even the historical garments themselves– what the true, original colors of the fabric were due to changes in lighting and how time has affected the quality of the dyes. What might look orange today might have been a bright red, or a beautiful white might have yellowed with age. I have tried to judge each piece fairly, making sure that it is either close to the original color or at least fabulous looking as-is! :)

Click here to discover more Historical Color Combos!

As with all my articles, all of the images in this article are either linked to larger versions, articles explaining them, or other fact-filled sites to help you explore, so please feel free to check them out!

Historic Color Combos: Black and Yellow

Black and Yellow Clothing

Court Coat, circa 1750-90

Evening Dress, circa 1818

British Silk Dress, circa 1836

Evening Dress, circa 1867

Fancy Dress (for a Costume Ball), circa 1880

Corset, circa 1880

Corset, circa 1890

Black and Yellow Accessories

Purse, 18th century

Mourning Ring, circa 1820

Fan, circa 1870

Stockings, circa 1882

Brooch, circa 1880

Gloves, circa 1920

The wild combination of yellow and back wasn’t always just for bumblebees! The pairing sprung from the luxurious combination of black and gold, a favorite for centuries. Substituting brilliant saffron for the more subdued glimmer of gold turns ordinary evening gowns into graphic, comic-book heroine style outfits! The effect is undeniably seductive and bold, traits that helped boost the combination’s prevalence during the late Victorian period, a time of can-cans, night life, and high hopes! Lighter, less shocking colors replaced such brash combinations around 1900. The color combo became rather unfashionable until the late 1960s and 1970s when mod and disco lovers picked it up.

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Historic Color Combos: Red and Blue

Red and Blue Clothing

Men’s Suit, circa 1780

Men’s Waistcoat, circa 1770-90

Russian Sarafan and Jacket, circa 1840

Evening Dress, circa 1841

British Silk Dress, circa 1830-40

Evening Cape, circa 1860

American Dressing Gown, circa 1870

Rodrigues Dinner Dress, circa 1875

Girl’s Ensemble, circa 1876

Darlington Evening Dress, circa 1880

Wool Dressing Gown, circa 1890

House of Worth Evening Ensemble, circa 1893

Lady’s Gym Suit, circa 1893-1898

Swimwear, circa 1900

Elizabeth Hawes Gown, circa 1937

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Red and Blue Accessories

Brisé Fan, circa 1700-30

Silk Mitts, 18th century

French Revolutionary Cap, circa 1791-94

Shoes, circa 1790

Shoe Rosettes, circa 1824 (great history with these!)

Beaded Purse, circa 1830-60

Turban Hat, circa 1850

Silk Pumps, circa 1873

Giuliano Brooch, circa 1896-1912

Art Deco Pin, circa 1925

As you can tell, red and blue were in fashion in the 18th century (due to surging patriotism) and then faded out until the 1870s when chemical dyes made richer, longer-lasting colors possible. Red and blue are a dynamic duo. You cannot be a wallflower in an outfit that contains both cool blue and blazing red! The combination of the two creates visual resonance especially if the shade and tint are similar. When you put these colors together, your brain has to analyze two separate wavelengths: one long and one short. In other words, looking at a red-blue combo makes your eyes and brain pause, so you have to take a slightly longer look at a red and blue dress than you do at other color combos. You will literally be a showstopper for 1/100th of a second longer than any other person at the party!

Click here to discover more Historical Color Combos!

As with all my articles, all of the images in this article are either linked to larger versions, articles explaining them, or other fact-filled sites to help you explore, so please feel free to check them out!