1880s Dome Home Walking Suit
Photographers: Rob Dyke and Stephanie Dyke
It’s 1880-something and Essie Mae Hanover’s husband – Professor R.F. Hanover – has invented something wild. Architects all over the US and Europe are fascinated with skyscrapers and the way they are rapidly changing urban landscapes, but Professor Hanover is obsessed with something else… the Dome Home.
Built from panels constructed of triangles, the dome home offers a unique living space for the forward-thinking Victorian. Essentially “all window,” dome homes are strong, sunny, and perfect for putting any sort of whim on display: from a painstakingly reconstructed opium den to a salon of curiosities featuring fossilized narwhals and live monkeys.
Essie wants nothing more than to see her dear husband’s vision take the world by storm. In preparation for yet another Fair and Exposition, she has constructed an outfit showcasing elements of the dome home.
A light, smooth twill printed with lavender, gold and blue triangles forms the base of her walking suit. Lavender ruffles frame nearly every edge; while they have nothing to do with domes, they helpfully point out that she is a refined and in-fashion lady. Finally, iridescent domes of many sizes adorn Essie’s jacket, skirt, overskirt, and hat.
More details on my website
I've long been inspired by the Gilded Age, but had not yet done any 19th century sewing. After getting a copy of Izabela Pitcher's Victorian Dressmaker book, I knew I had to make something frothy and ruffle-y!
I used patterns for my undergarments (Redthreaded's Gored Corset and Laughing Moon Mercantile's Victorian Hoops & Bustles) but draped and drafted the suit itself on my own. I was inspired by several 1880s fashion plates - notably one with an overlapping jacket front. The Victorian Dressmaker (linked above) was also a helpful resource for drafting the skirt and apron/overskirt.
Constructing the dome decorations consisted of a hellscape of .020 plastic sheets, peel & stick adhesive and transparent lamé. Obviously not historically accurate, but they work.
I think my biggest challenge was getting the silhouette. There are an obscene amount of stay tapes, inner buttons, and hidden hooks/eyes holding this suit together! My decision to be thrifty and use all cotton fabric may have affected the drape. But the problem solving opportunities (and resulting learning) this afforded were immense.
What was it like to compete this year? What would you say to someone who is on the fence about entering next year?
It was SO MUCH FUN to make this outfit! I love being a part of the Foundations Revealed/YWU community and am continuously inspired by all the amazing work shared by other members. While I've been sewing for 35+ years, I'm fairly new to historical costuming so I approached this entry as a learning experience and a chance to stretch my skills. I can honestly say that the process of making something for this competition far exceeded my expectations. If you're on the fence about entering in 2020, do something fun for yourself and take the leap!