Handmade textile products // Early 19th century dress

Creating a ‘meeting mr Darcy dress’: with prints of stripes, plaids, roses, and dots in bright colours.

The making of a handmade ‘meeting mr Darcy’ dress

Fashion sketch of the dress
Fashion sketch of the dress
Textile stamping
Decorating the fabric // Textile stamping by hand
Textile painting
Decorating the fabric // Textile painting by hand
Sewing of the dress
Creating the dress // Sewing of the dress

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

That is what I thought while making a pretty dress for a special 6 year old girl. The dress was meant to make her twirl, with its long, wide skirts. In sweet colours: pink, light blue, soft purple… I enjoyed making the dress. But why did I only make these kind of dresses for girls under 10?

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 enjoy the costumes the actors are wearing.

Fortunately, I’m not the only one. My friend Mireille shares my frenzy. When she saw my long skirt with a 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! ;)

Creating a 19th century dress

When I put pen to paper I quickly created a sketch of the enchanting ‘meeting mr Darcy dress’. The making of the actual dress took me a bit longer. My design consisted out of a jacket and a dress. Inspired by the costumes in Pride & Prejudice: with a high waist and prints of stripes, plaids, roses, and dots in bright colours.

From sketch to dress

  1. My process started with a studying the fashion of 1813. I made several sketches of dresses inspired by fashion from 1810.
  2. I made several prototypes of the dress to make sure that the dress would fit.
  3. Because I could not find the printed fabrics that I had envisioned, I decided to create the prints myself. 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.
  4. After soaking the unbleached cotton in water and salt, I dyed the fabric in a mixture of poster paint, textile medium, and water.
  5. Dyeing the fabric for the skirt was a lot of work: 150cm in width and 120cm in height, with a stripe every 1,5cm.
  6. I created the stripes using a paintbrush. One stripe at a time. After the paint had dried, I ironed the fabric to set the paint.
  7. I stamped the roses on the fabric. However they weren’t visible enough, so I re-painted each rose using a paintbrush.
  8. After washing and ironing, I decorated the fabric with ornamental stitching in different colours to accentuate the stripes and plaids.
  9. Sewing the dress took several attempts. I had to take out the seams a few times and re-stitch.
  10. The seam of the skirt is decorated with ornamental stitching – one of the stitching options on my Pfaff sewing machine.
  11. The plaid print on the collar of the dress is the same as on the jacket.

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

Showing of a handmade 19th century dress

Mireille showing the handmade dress - walking a meadow
Mireille showing the handmade dress - close up
Mireille showing the handmade dress - walking near Wallsteijn
Mireille showing the handmade dress - sitting tea