I watched Somewhere in Time soley because it is set in 1912. Also… Christopher Reeves. Heh heh. The white theater dress caught my eye for a few reasons. I’ll admit I was primed to notice it; it has a few similarities with the dinner dress from Titanic (mainly the diagonal fabric panels across the front), and I had seen it mentioned in a few analysis of the costumes from Titanic.
Unlike the Titanic’s dinner dress, this dress has an empire waist. In the film it is beautifully shimmery, but because it is entirely white, it is quite difficult to discern the details without any contrast. Thankfully The Costumers Guide has a wealth of photos and the original concept sketches to help with that.
The dress has three parts; an Empire waist underdress with a princess seam bodice (well, the bodice part is debatable, but I find princess seam bodices stay up (and look) much better with thin straps than gathered ones). Part two is a draped and heavily adorned overskirt. Part three is the sleeves/overbodice, which are actually quite simple triangles that are tacked into place.
The underdress was simple enough. I used McCall’s 2810 (since discontinued), leaving the straps and sleeves off and replacing them with thin black ribbon. You could probably make McCall’s 6030 work if you straighten out the neckline.
The overdress is a slightly triangular piece with diagonal stripes wrapping around it. It’s wider than the under-bust circumference to create the elegant folds you see on the left of the front of the gown. The bottoms of the stripes are trimmed with beaded fringe in the original. I didn’t do that. But the pattern piece looks more or less like this:
You’ll attach the overskirt to the underskirt starting with the upper left-hand corner on the left side of the underbust (see the photos and concept sketch to see where the skirt starts; right under the grouping of roses on the concept sketch). Pin it around the top of the skirt. You’ll have extra fabric for draping. Now, I put the placket (rather than a zipper) up the centre back of the dress, so I didn’t sew the overdress all the way around. I stitched it to the underskirt until I hit centre back and then used hooks and eyes (hidden under the sash) to attach it the rest of the way around once the dress was on and fastened at the back. Of course you will need to hem the top edge of the overskirt for this to work.
Fold over the extra fabric in an underbust loop and let it hang down in graceful folds.
The sleeves/overbodice are incredibly simple. Just four triangles, hemmed. You’ll determine the dimensions of the triangles by measuring yourself, and off you go. Cut, hem, and tack.
They’re tacked together at the shoulder, where they’re also joined to the dress straps. The lower corners are tacked just under the bust line at the front and back. The sleeves in the film dress are tacked together halfway down the upper arm, while the concept sketch has the tips of the triangles tied together and draped over the elbow. I opted to attach bits of ribbon to the tips of the triangles and tie them around my wrist for a very Grecian look.
Finish the dress off with a sash of some kind. I opted for a thick black ribbon. You’ll need some sort of accent for where the draping meets on the left side of the underbust. I chose some beaded black buttons.
All photos of me in my dress by the wonderful Hannah P.!