Saturday, May 4, 2013

Dress of the Week: Blue Summer Dress

I haven't done a Dress of the Week post for a long, long while. And since May is upon us and I've been scouting out some historical fashions to incorporate into my summer wardrobe, here is a summer dress from 1905 that I long to wear for a May Day picnic.

Summer dress, 1905, UK. Source: Victoria & Albert Museum 

Place of origin: Great Britain, UK
Date: 1905
Materials and Techniques: Printed striped cotton, with a yoke neck of tucked Broderie Anglaise frills and pin-tucked collar with a tape lace frill; bodice lined with white cotton and fastened with original hooks, eyes and loops; pleated belt has five bones and a hook and eye fastening concealed by a rosette
Credit Line: Worn by Miss Heather Firbank
This pretty blue and white number belonged to the fashionable Miss Heather Firbank (1888-1954),  daughter of the MP Sir Thomas Firbank and sister of the writer Ronald Firbank.

"[Heather Firbank] had beauty, and she adorned it with exquisite clothes of a heather colour to complement her name" - Miriam J. Benkovitz, Ronald Firbank: A Biography (1970)
It's very rare for dresses to survive the test of time; and when they do survive, it's often due to some unusual circumstances. In case of Miss Firbank, who acquired her wardrobe from the leading houses of the time, in 1921 her expensive clothes were packed into trunks and put in storage for 35 years. Why did she decide to pack away her entire collection of garments instead of altering and updating or reselling them is beyond my knowledge, but in 1960 Victoria and Albert Museum got their hands on the lot, which included over 100 pieces of clothes and accessories. That's quite a treasure. The collection is a glimpse into the past showing the tastes and styles of a wealthy lady between 1905 and 1920.

Summer dress, back, 1905, UK. Source: Victoria & Albert Museum 
The skirt consists of four 28-inch pieces pleated onto a narrow waistband. The bodice is pouched in the front and is a little bloused at the back. The yoke around the neck is composed of  Broderie Anglaise frills and a pin-tucked cotton infill, with a high-boned pin-tucked collar finished with a tape lace frill. The outfit is accessorized with a dainty straw hat with a blue ribbon around it and a lovely parasol. Blue and white dresses such as this one were very popular during the early 1900s for boating and seaside wear.

Since I do own a parasol and a similar straw hat (all it needs is a ribbon), I just need to find a blue dress with lace to recreate this look.

Source: Victoria and Albert Museum 

More about Heather Firbank and her wardrobe

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