Eleanor commissioned a beautiful dress in palest blue embroidered silk dupion. Eleanor’s dress was created using a mixture of historical sources as inspiration, Tudor, 18th century and Victorian corsetry came together to create a dress that flattered her petite but curvy figure.
Official Wedding pictures by Sebastian Lomas
Eleanor’s dress has a fitted and boned bodice with a wide off the shoulder neckline. The skirt is sewn to the bodice in hundreds of cartridge pleats (see below for detail pics). Worn over a hoop the skirt is a full bell shape with divided front which reveals the plain silk of the underskirt, edged with a wide box-pleated frill.
The wide neckline showed off Eleanor’s beautiful shoulders and enough bust to be flattering but not too revealing. The full skirt further emphasised her tiny waist, nipped in with a corset worn under the dress.
I also made Martin’s coat and waistcoat, click here to see more pictures of his period inspired ensemble.
Original Design Sketch
Eleanor wore an antique lace stole with her dress, purchased from a online specialist.
The back of the skirt swept out into a full length train.
The train could be bustled up for dancing in a method that is visually reminiscent of a dress style called ‘Polonaise’ from the late 18th century.
Detail of the box pleated underskirt frill. The top edge was folded and sewn back on itself to create an origami flower effect.
When I asked Eleanor how she would like the back of her dress to close, the usual options being zip, lace up or buttons she really didn’t want any of them. So as I knew I’d be there on the day we decided to sew her in for a perfect seamless finish. Not an easy job to do but it meant there was nothing to spoil the line of the bodice at the back. The poor groom had to be given a quick-unpick and instructions on how to get his new wife out of her dress on the wedding night!
Eleanor also had her baby bridesmaid and pageboy’s dress and waistcoat made to order. See here for more pictures of Abigail and Barnaby’s outfits.
Making Eleanor’s Dress
Eleanor’s dress was supported by lots of underpinnings to create its distinctive shape. These comprised a properly boned corset, a hoop skirt, a ‘bumroll’ and a net bustle as well as layers of netting integral to the main dress.
A fitting picture with the skirt only half pleated on to the bodice. We used a technique called ‘cartridge pleating’ which was popular in Tudor fashion.
Eleanor’s fabric was hand dyed to order as we just couldn’t find what she wanted in the right colour. Here is the embroidered silk dupion in the original ivory colour before being dyed. And below the silk in the the bath.
Eleanor’s dress was not an historically accurate representation of any particular period in history but was designed to look ‘historical’ in the sense that it did not conform to the common bridal trends of 2010. The skirt pleats into the bodice in ‘cartridge pleats’ from the sides round to the back. These are an Elizabethan technique, although cartridge pleating can be found used in other fashion periods too, people all throughout history have been inspired by the fashions of the past. From the sides round to the front the skirt is pleated in softer large pleats like the skirt in the picture above. The way the skirt hooks up for dancing was designed to look a bit like the ‘polonaise’ style skirts of the 18th century shown here (centre). The longer bodice line (the seam is just below Eleanor’s waistline not on it) comes from a later Victorian period
These real period garments show elements for inspiration for Eleanor’s dress. These are left (1830’s) neckline and pointed waist, centre (1840’s) swept-back bell shaped skirt and right (1790’s) polonaise skirt with wide pleated frill.
We took inspiration from Elizabethan, 18th century and Victorian fashions to create a unique dress that flattered Eleanor’s figure and style perfectly. The basic corset and wide neckline are early Victorian shapes (1830’s). The way the bodice is cut with panels that taper from shoulder to pointed front waist are also inspired by period design.