Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Going gaga over cartridge pleats

So yeah, that post I said would be up Monday? It'll be up on Friday instead. I was so busy working on the WIP over the weekend and hanging with my sis that I didn't write it.

Anyway, cartridge pleats. Brought on my discovery of said pleats on the cover of Rosslyn Elliot's latest, Sweeter Than Birdsong. I love dissecting the covers of historical romances when beautiful dresses are featured. I have a bit of a reputation in some circles for being nitpicky... it is well deserved, I admit it.

See those gorgeous things over there? Those are cartridge pleats. Click on the picture and make it bigger. I'll wait.

Those suckers are VERY time consuming to make and it does involve math. You're gathering a minimum of 120 inches worth of fabric into a 30 inch or less waistband, while keeping every pleat even. And you don't want to redo and redo your pleats. Waste of time and thread and puts unnecessary wear on the fabric.

But they are so worth the effort. Cartridge pleats is what gives hoop skirts their incredibly graceful sway as you walk. It's not the hoop. It's the pleats. I did not take the time to put cartridge pleats into any of my hoop skirts, but my sister did once and the effect--while subtle--was outstanding.

Another standout feature of this outfit is the fabric itself. It's plaid. BIG plaid. Plaid was all the rage in the 1850's and a way to show your status without shouting it from the rooftops. Plaid was expensive because you have to match the stripes to make it look good.

This particular dress is a day dress from 1855 and it is French. I'm in love with it because of the plaid, the sleeves, and the fact that it's French. I have no great love of modern French contributions to fashion, but the 19th century contributions are nothing short of amazing.

This dress is one of the most beautiful examples of 1850's fashion I've ever seen.


  1. Plaid - yes. what did you think of Mr. Thornton's sister in plaid? Maybe it would have been more well-received if she'd had some 'class' to go with it?

    great post, Rachel!

  2. Wow 120 inches of fabric into 30 inches or less? My head hurts. Those poor seamestresses!

    1. It makes my head hurt too! Took my sister three tries to get her cartridge pleats measured right. That's probably why she only did it once.

  3. What detail! And the color combination is stunning.