Last year this 1875 dress caught my eye, and I immediately wanted to make it, as all us Squirrels tend to do. At first it looked like it was all one piece, with the Princess seam lines down the front. I loved the inset piece of contrasting fabric down the center front. I could see a lot of ideas that would work with it, with different fabrics and trims.
I started by cropping a smaller view of the bodice area, and then noticed something. It wasn’t all one piece, it was a long bodice over a skirt but well designed to draw the eye down. I could see at the bottom of the row of buttons that it was cut off there. That was an awfully long bodice.
I began to gather my fabrics I could use for making it. I’d love to do the brown floral silk here but haven’t found a good solid color for it yet. I had a lot of the teal silk taffeta, so I found a matching Chinese brocade on etsy for it. That was supposed to be made last year but I got backed up making something else. And so on.
But then I came across another seemingly all-one-piece dress, and this time it really was. In looking close-up, I wasn’t seeing a separation of bodice and skirt. So, voila we have a Princess-line dress. I noticed the same look in some wrappers but there was a difference. A Princess-line dress is entirely long panels of fabric that are seamed all the way down to the bottom of the hem. The wrappers only had darts that fitted it closely to the waist so it looked similar.
So now I wanted to find out more about these dresses because I found THIS fashion print and now have the fabric and black lace to make it.
And just what is a Princess-line, or Princess dress? They are associated with Charles Frederick Worth, who introduced them in the early 1870s in honor of Princess Alexandra of Wales. And if it looks like the Natural Form dresses, you’re right. Because those were all the rage up to 1880. They were very popular for the young girls too. I had actually saved a photo of Princess Alexandra to my folder showing one of these dresses, not even thinking of Worth or it being attributed to her. But she had the body for it.
There was even a “house dress Polonaise cut in a Princess shape” (1878). I guess everyone was jumping on the bandwagon. But this one kind of goes back to my original pursuit of the long Basque bodice over a skirt-look.
So getting back to what I thought was my idea for a Princess dress (oh my, that sounds lovely), it turned out most of the ones I liked LOOKED like Princess lines but weren’t really. It was an optical illusion.
REAL PRINCESS LINE:
I didn’t like the Natural Form look on me the one time I made it. The long droopy apron in the front was just not flattering on me. But I’m liking the busy-ness of all that stuff in the middle, and you can add ruffles and bows and all kinds of stuff.
But there’s no patterns out there right now for this look. So I need to cobble something together. I think I can use the back of the Truly Victorian tea gown #432 for the Watteau train I want, but to get the front will require a little more work.
I need to first decide will I make it all one length, aka Princess line, or go with the Basque bodice over the skirt version? I figured I could lengthen Truly Victorian’s Bodice #225, but I would want to cut out a square neckline on it. Then I could use their skirt #225 with just a train. And yes, trains in the 70s was a thing.
These are going into my “Make Me”, aka “The Squirrel’s Play Box”, planning file for when I can manage to slip them in between other dresses I still want to make. It’s not a priority at the moment but I have the fabric, and the idea, so all I need is to add a pinch of time.