Wives & Daughters: Inspired Interpretations

Here we have featured several seamstresses who have made dresses reminiscent of the gowns in Wives and Daughters!

Mrs. Jennie Chancey (www.sensibility.com) designed several charming outfits. A sprigged cotton dress, a jumper and blouse ensemble, and a recreation of Molly’s burgundy gown are show here. All are lovely and show how very wearable designs can be pulled from the movie. Mrs. Chancey gave this bit of advice: “My only real tip for constructing these dresses is to invest in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion I. That really helped me see what the bodice and sleeve pieces were supposed to look like! Then I just experimented by draping on my mannequin until they looked right.” Aren’t they gorgeous?


Next is a reproduction Mrs. Michelle Ann Murphy of wivesanddaughters.com did of Molly’s chevron gown.

Of the red striped dress she says: “Inspired by the movie Wives and Daughters is this beautiful red striped dress. This is the famous dress that Molly wore in the garden at the Towers while talking to Roger. The dress pattern is a combination of several patterns from The Cut of Women’s Clothes by Norah Waugh. The armsyce is piped with self mini piping. The full gigot sleeves are pleated at the wrist. The self fabric sash cinches the waist. The bodice is lined and closes with cloth covered buttons.” Both this and the burgundy dress are made up very similarly. Click on the thumbnail of the red striped gown’s bodice front to see how well Michelle Ann matched up the stripes to form the chevrons! Great job!

Lastly is a gown I made last summer before I ever saw Wives and Daughters. However, it does draw a lot from that period. I made it to be worn over modern day undergarments and it is actually quite comfortable. The bodice is just a basic gathered bodice with a three-piece back. It’s completely lined with white cotton, which helps the dress hang properly.

The sleeves get their ‘pouf’ from a inner-sleeve I cut from the same pattern I made up for the outer sleeve. The inner sleeve has been tacked onto the inside seam of the sleeve itself, so it doesn’t shift anywhere. The skirt is three 45″ panels sewn together and then gauged to fit the bodice. Overall, the bodice is the heaviest part of the whole dress.

One thing that has helped the dress to stand up to the repeated washings and hard-wearing is the inside being completely finished. If something isn’t enclosed in a lining, it’s hand overcast or finished in some manner. For gowns that are worn in an everyday setting, I’d highly recommend taking this extra step to make sure everything that could fray is enclosed. One caveat: with the lining and yards of fabric, this gown gets a bit warm in the summer!

Remember when creating film inspired fashions to have fun! The key is to take them and re-interpret them to be worn for whatever occasion you want. Hope you’ve been as inspired as I have!

About the Editor

Miss C. is a self proclaimed clothing addict with interests ranging from Regency finery to the sophisticated 1950s. She enjoys studying costumes both in films and books, and has enjoyed being able to write for ITF and watch a great movie at the same time! When she is not immersed in such pursuits, she enjoys working on her website, which is about–what else– historical fashion!

1 comment only

  1. On December 2, 2009 at 6:51 pm, Natalya wrote:

    they are all beautiful! I really like that stripped gown and all the ones mrs. Chancy made. I love reading on her website too.

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