As I was researching, I found this plate:
Illustration from ModesIllustration from Modes et Manieres Du Jour, 1798 – 1808. The back on the right dress is amazing.
I think the pattern of the ribbon applique is so striking! I pretty much decided to straight-up knock off the plate for the back ribbon pattern. In order to make sure this wasn't just a weird thing that showed up in one fashion plate, ever, and nobody would ever wear, I found a couple of other resources... (all fashion plates, I know, but they'll do for me!)
Costume Parisien, An 7. Technically, this is supposed to represent a wrapped sash, but it provides a similar kind of detail.
None of the plates above inspired me more than the first one, so I kept with that ribbon pattern. However, I still had a dilemma - the back of the dress on the fashion plate wasn't actually a v-neck (or at least, wasn't colored to have one.) So I rummaged through my Pinterest board until I found a dress (not over-dress, like the one above) with a back v-neck:
That satisfied my need to verify that back v-necks happened. All good there! On to fabric. I wanted a striking fabric, something that would compliment that detail and make the dress pop. I am pretty fine with taking a slightly "costumey" bent with this project, putting design principles to use while referencing a general knowledge of the period (instead of JUST knocking off fashion plates, which is much more safe and reassuring but often a little less interesting). Sooo... as a teeny-tiny tribute to Les Miserables, I decided to use red/white striped taffeta, with black trim. ("Red - a world about to down! Black - the night that ends at last!!!" Just imagine that epic refrain, it doesn't type out as well as it sounds). I found this lovely one-by-one 1/2" stripe at Renaissance Fabrics. 1/2" might be a smidgen wide, 3/8" or even 1/4" might be better, but it is surprisingly challenging to find a good 1x1 stripe silk taffeta.
Now, dilemma. What should the front look like? I sketched up a few options - bib-front, flat-front, gathered (drawstring at the waist) front, and chevron-front (with a seam down the CF and stripes cut on the bias.) I am leaning toward option D, but still considering. Opinions?
The back of the dress I decided to augment with buttons instead of diamonds at the small of the back, and long 4"-5" tassels that I will need to make with silk embroidery twist. I love this back detail! Excited to get to patternmaking.