Handmade textile products // Early 19th century dress

I present a handmade ‘meeting mr Darcy dress’: with prints of stripes, plaids, roses, and dots in bright colours. My statement against nowadays mass production.

My statement against mass production, mass consumption and fast fashion

Blue dress
My statement against fast fashion: I create my own style

Every lady should own an enchanting ‘meeting mr Darcy dress’

That is what I thought while creating a dress for a special 6 year old. With its long, wide skirts, it was meant to make her twirl and sparkle. I love making pretty dresses. Not only because I enjoy the creating process, but also because by doing so I make a statement against mass production, mass consumption and fast fashion. I wish all my dresses could be like the 19th century handmade ones.

My frenzy for 19th century dresses

I have a soft spot for historical period dramas that take place in the 19th century, and for Jane Austen’s books. The BBC miniseries Pride & Prejudice released in 1995 starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle is my absolute favourite. I will probably rewatch the series many more times, just to study the costumes the actors are wearing.

Fortunately, I am not the only one. My friend Mireille shares my frenzy. When she saw my long skirt with short sweater, she told me she wanted to have something similar. This was my opportunity to create an enchanting ‘meeting mr Darcy dress’ for someone older than 10! ;)

Mireille showing the handmade dress - walking a meadow
Mireille showing the handmade and handpainted dress – inspired by fashion of 1813. More pictures of the finished dress

After 9 months, 3 prototypes, several dyes and stamping experiments and 123 hours of work, I am finally able to present the end-result. This was amazing to do!

The creating process of a dress inspired by the early 19th century fashion

Fashion sketch
Designing the dres // Fashion sketch of the dress.

Creating a 19th century dress: from sketch to dress

My process started with studying the fashion of 1813 (the year the novel Pride and Prejuce was published). When I put pen to paper I quickly created a sketch of the enchanting ‘meeting mr Darcy dress’.

prototype of a dress
Sewing the dress // One of the first protostypes.

My design consisted out of a jacket and a dress with a high waist and prints of stripes, plaids, roses, and dots in bright colours.
I made several prototypes of the dress to make sure that the dress would fit Mireille easily.

Textile stamping
Trying out ways to decorate the fabric // Textile stamping with a stamp made of linoleum.

Because I could not find the printed fabrics that I had envisioned, I decided to create the prints myself.

Unbleached cotton
Starting with 100% unbleached cotton.

I used 100% natural (unbleached) cotton. Before dyeing the fabric, I first overlocked the fabric to trim off the raw edges, and finish the edges.

materials, paint, fabric
Materials and tools for dyeing, painting and stamping the fabric.

Materials I used

  • Unbleached 100% cotton;
  • Creall Dacta Color posterpaint 08 Cyclamen;
  • Creall Dacta Color posterpaint 02 Primair Yellow;
  • Creall Dacta Color posterpaint 10 Primair Blue;
  • Talens colour posterpaint 502 Deep Blue;
  • Creall Tex Medium (textile medium);
  • Bucket, paint rollers, pencil with an eraser, pieces of timber, linoleum and linoleum cutter.
dyeing fabric in a bucket with paint
Decorating the fabric // Dyeing with a mixture of posterpaint, textile medium and water.

After soaking the unbleached cotton in water and salt, I dyed the fabric in a mixture of poster paint, textile medium, and water. The fabric was ready to be decorated with striped, dotted and plaid patterns.

Decorating by stamping

timber, paint and striped pattern
Decorating the fabric // Using timber to stamp a pattern of lines.
lino cutting
Decorating the fabric // Making the stamps with a linoleum cutter.
fabric stamp with green posterpaint
Decorating the fabric // Stamping leaves with green posterpaint.
fabric stamp with pink posterpaint
Decorating the fabric // Stamping the roses with pink posterpaint.
Pencil with eraser dipped in paint
Decorating the fabric // Making a pattern of dots by using the pencil eraser as a stamp.
pattern with dots and 2 roses
Decorating the fabric // Close up of the result of stamping with eraser.

Decorating by using a paintbrush

paint, paintbrush and fabric
Decorating the fabric // Painting the fabric for the skirt of the dress.

Painting the fabric for the skirt was a lot of work: 150cm in width and 120cm in height, with a stripe every 1,5cm.

painting fabric by hand
Decorating the fabric // Painting the fabric of the sleeve by hand.

I created the stripes using a paintbrush. One stripe at a time.

Textile painting
Decorating the fabric // Textile painting by hand

I stamped the roses on the fabric. However I wasn’t too pleased with the results. The roses weren’t visible enough. So I re-painted each rose using a paintbrush.

ironing dyed fabric
Decorating the fabric // Fixing colours in the fabric by ironing.

After the paint had dried, I ironed the fabric to set the paint.

vinegar, bucket and handpainted fabric
Decorating the fabric // The handpainted fabric ready to be soaked in vinegar.

After ironing, I soaked the handpainted fabric first in vinegar and then in Vanish to brighten the colours.

Sewing of the dress
Decorating the fabric // Adding ornamental stitching.

I decorated the fabric with ornamental stitching in different colours to accentuate the stripes and plaids.

dress and sewing machine
Finally I could start sewing the dress.

Sewing the dress took several attempts. I had to take out the seams a few times and re-stitch them.

waist of the dress
Close-up of finished dress // The waist of the dress.

To improve the fit of the dress, it can be taken in at the waist with a ribbon.

hem of the skirt with ornamental stitching
Close-up of finished dress // The hem of the handpainted skirt.

The hem of the skirt is decorated with ornamental stitching – one of the stitching options on my Pfaff sewing machine.

shoulder of the jacket
Close-up of finished dress // The shoulder of the jacket

The plaid print of the jacket is the same as on the collar and the waist of the dress.

shoulder of the dress
Close-up of finished dress // The shoulder of the dress
the backside of the dress
Close-up of finished dress // The backside of the dress.

Showing of the handpainted and handmade ‘Meeting Mr Darcy’ dress

Mireille showing a handmadedress at Wallsteijn Estate
Mireille in front of the Wallsteijn Mansion.
Mireille sitting
Sitting in one of the garden teahouses at Wallsteijn Estate.
Mireille showing the handmade dress - walking near Wallsteijn
Walking down the majestic oak tree–lined lane in front of the Wallsteijn Mansion.
Mireille reading a book
Mireille showing the dress
Mireille showing the handmade dress - close up

With a special thank you for Mireille and Jenny :)