Each graduate student in the Costume Production Program chooses a garment from the Costar Collection to research, date, create a pattern for the original, and produce a reproduction of the garment that fits a modern body. Research into the period provided a starting place to understand the shape of the garment, and what undergarments provided its structure as well as helping to date the garment if the date is unknown.
Each pattern taken from an vintage garment in the Costar Collection preserves valuable information that could otherwise be lost as garments continue to age. Reproducing a historic garment provides insight into construction techniques from the period and allow for detail work not often seen in theatrical production.
The first step to reproducing a gown like this one was finding fabric to match the original. Similar fabric did not exist so I worked with a company called Karma Kraft to have it digitally printed. The process started in AutoCAD where I drafted the polka dot pattern. Then the file was exported to Photoshop for color correction and formatting to print. The file was then uploaded to the Karma Kraft web site. I chose the repeat pattern and ordered the amount of yardage needed for the reproduction project. In addition to working with Karma Kraft, I also printed samples of the pattern at Spoonflower to verify the design.
The applique and soutache work on this gown were the most time consuming elements. Because of the intricate pattern, this was done by hand, just like it was done in the original. Each applique was basted in place on the netting, and then the soutache braid was stitched in place covering the raw edges. I used a quilting frame for this process to keep tension on the fabric while I worked.
The under bodice of this dress offered more information than the remaining shards of silk seemed to suggest at first. It tells the story of the dress's creation, alteration, and use. The dress was probably purchased in a dress shop already made; additional fabric to be used for alterations in the future was obtained at the same time. The waist size was increased at some point. It was altered, soon after purchase or later, by slashing into the back of the bodice and adding a gore. There are also pads inside the dress to fill out the bust, indicating that it was either too large or did not lay as smooth as desired (perhaps due to available undergarments). Careful repairs to several small tears, made by hand, kept the garment useful. Over time, these rips and underarm stains indicate that the gown was extensively worn. To me, this means that this was a one-of-a-kind dress that Mrs. Moody purchased, had altered to fit, and loved to wear.
The images used with the main pages of this garment are of the reproduction.
© Shanna Parks, 2011