An 1830s Day Dress for Dickens Fair 2016

Three 1830s gowns in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

You may be thinking, “Dickens Fair is in December, so long away!” and you would be right, but it never hurts to plan. We’re making a lot of changes to the business of American Duchess / Royal Vintage this year, and one of them is attending more events. So far on the remaining 2016 calendar we have a trip to Oakland/San Francisco, Costume College in LA, Rufflecon in Connecticut, and Dickens Fair in San Francisco at year’s end.

What to wear, what to wear? With Dickens, it’s period-specific to c. 1830s – 1860s; place-specific to London, UK; and season-specific to Christmastime. A Victorian Summer dress just won’t do!

Fashion Plate, 1834, La Belle Assemblee

As it happens, I acquired an obnoxious plaid silk that is perfect for Dickens, where obnoxious plaids are all part of the fun. It’s primarily royal blue, but it’s striped with yellow and fuschia, and just screams 1830s to me. With a tremendously wacky hat and a fun little chemisette, I’m already getting excited just musing on it.

I’m inspired by this wackadoodle plaid dress from The Met:

Dress, c. 1830, British, The Met
Dress, c. 1830, British, The Met – view of the side back

The challenge will be in that I don’t have as much yardage as I would like, so the ridiculously fun gigot sleeves may not be a possibility (they really do take an extraordinary amount of fabric!). Gigot sleeves were popular for such a very brief period, though they became the iconic look of all the 1830s. The later part of decade still had some pretty interesting things going on with sleeves too, in various places and of varying sizes.

For this ensemble I will need:

  • Drawers
  • Chemise
  • Corset
  • Bum  Pad
  • Corded or Quilted Petticoat
  • Underpetticoat(s)
  • Chemisette
  • The Gown
  • Pelerine, Cape, or Outerwear of some sort
  • Bonnet
  • Gloves
  • Shoes and Stockings
  • Reticule
  • Muff
  • Jewelry

I already have a great lot of these things – hooray for a decade’s worth of stuffing my closet with fluff! – so I can spend most of my time on the gown. Yay! Of course, I’ll most likely start this project in November, a couple weeks before we go to Dickens. Isn’t that always the way? 😉


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