Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Jacket progress

(This new Blogger interface!  I like it on its own, very clean, but it's hard to switch to.)

So, I have done quite a lot on the jacket since Mom draped the pieces on me last Wednesday.  On Sunday, I pinned the muslin pieces together and tried them on over my stays in front of my mirror: I was worried that Mom had put too much ease into it and it would be baggy, and this turned out to be a bit true.  I raised the waist a bit, took the shoulder seam in on the back side, and took the side seams in on the front and back (although they should have been placed further back in the first ... place) as the back had a lot of ease in it.  When I was satisfied, I cut out the pieces from my linen - which I had bought a year ago to make into Jacket C on the same page of Patterns of Fashion I, which I partially made up and then found that it was too small and way too short; on the Fashion Fabrics Club website, it looked sort of like a painted natural linen, which isn't something I've seen on extant clothing, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.  When it came, it turned out to have a bigger print than I thought and to be kind of stiff and thick, but I used and am using it anyway.

Monday, August 29, 2011


I had one of those moments where I felt like everything I've done on this jacket has been wrong, why am I bothering, it's not going to fit and the print is ugly and not really period and I'm going to look like an idiot.  Then I attached the cuff I finished to the sleeve I'd set in and tried it on, which made the sleeve not look ridiculously short, and I started feeling so much better.

Okay, the linen is too heavy (maybe it's meant for a modern jacket or upholstery) and the print, which looked kind of like a painted pattern on the internet, is not really right for ... any period, really.  And I think I'm going to have to take tucks in the cap of the sleeve to make it less puffy.  But it fits and it is much more period than an "English bodice" so I think I will be all right.  To be honest, I think my problem is that all I ever see is really good stuff from the bloggers I follow - since I haven't really gone to any events before, I have no idea what the Woman in the Camp is wearing and assume they're all perfectly-outfitted and have expertly draped each other's gowns, etc. etc.  This may not be so.  At any rate, I'm going to have nice Fugawee shoes and I have awesome spiral hairpins to hold my bun in place (THEY ARE MAGNIFICENT), and I am going to have fun with my mom in her shortgown, which she has of course sewn perfectly.

I think I did pretty well this weekend.  Yesterday I was just cutting out the pieces, and this evening I have the whole body sewn together, a sleeve set in and a finished cuff pinned on.  All that's left is to set in the other sleeve (which won't take as long because I know what I'm doing now) and do that cuff, topstitch around the collar and front, totally scale up, fit, cut out, and sew the skirts, and make a few eyelets for lacing.  Easy peasy!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Earlier 18th Century Caps

Even though the Struggle for Liberty re-enactment at Fort Ticonderoga is set during the Revolution, since the stays I made a while ago are 1730s/1740s, the rest of my outfit is going to be dated to that period as well.  I didn't want to make a later-period jacket to fit to that silhouette and not be able to wear it in its proper period once I had the right stays!  I've been looking at cap tutorials online, but most of them seem aimed at the 1770s, so I'm looking at pictures from earlier in the century and will adapt the tutorials once I understand exactly what I want.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Some progress

Some.  First off, I put the second cup into my thesis stays, and I gathered in the top.  (I also did a row of gathering stitches across the middle, which I probably will bring in a bit.)  I can't tell if I didn't make it wide enough, as the fabric's really not gathered that much, or if more buxom women would have used similarly-sized cups to smaller women and just gathered them less.  I should be able to finish all that up quickly, which means I'm basically done with the stays.  I plan to do some quilting, but that can be whenever.  So I'm going to have to make some appointments with museums to see some extant gowns. D: Scary!  Fun, cool, interesting, educational, but scary.

On the more exciting side of things, Mom and I did our first experiment in draping this afternoon.  She was really not into it and wanted to scale up the pieces on newspaper, but I was adamant - last time I tried to make a jacket, it ended up way too small, and it's hard trying to scale up and adjust at the same time.  The jacket I want to make (jacket B on the page in Patterns of Fashion with three jackets) is fairly simple in the body, so I thought it wouldn't be too hard to mock up.  There were a few tricky bits, but I think we achieved a good pattern.  I might alter the front - I think she pointed it a little too much - but it has the right slope to the seams and the waist is in the right place.  I'm going to need to figure out the jacket's skirt, still, but that should be relatively simple.  I'm beyond happy, though, that we might be able to start draping as a matter of course and skipping the scaling-up stage.  My high waist is too annoying to deal with.

Joining in the Bash

The Ultimate Book Bash, hosted by Austenitis!  All of my answers to her questions below the cut.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Interesting Transition of the 1830s

The extraordinary changes in fashion during the 1830s are a reminder not to over-indulge in "decade-ism" - there is no one style emblematic of the 1830s as a whole: it is important to use "early", "mid", and "late" (or beginning and end dates) when dating extant garments and portraits.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Artistic Neoclassical Costume

I began discussing this in my post on the mantua.  As the wealthy began to create separate public and private lives, they desired paintings of themselves in private, dressed in ways they could never appear in public.  Some of the sitters wore actual negligée dress, but some were painted in an invented costume meant to invoke thoughts of the Greeks and Romans.

Portrait of a Woman, William Wissing, 1687

Apart from being informal, this style of dress was meant to keep the portraits from looking as dated as those of the Elizabethans, with their supported skirts and ruffs, though it is up to the viewer to determine if it has had its intended effect.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Even More Sources

This time, from the Lewis Walpole Library of prints.  They are mostly satires - which are problematic to use as sources, of course, but they do tell you what people thought were the newest and most ridiculous parts of fashion, and the bits that aren't being satired in a specific drawing are usually pretty accurate.  Some images are just linked.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Yet More Sources - V&A

The corset is almost finished - I just have to do the cups.  So there will be good pictures soon, I hope.  But for now, I'm looking at more painting sources, this time from the Victoria & Albert Museum.  (Sorry about the color cards - they're probably there to show scale, since a lot of these are miniatures.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Petticoat and Corset

Those promised pictures!  I would have taken a picture of the petticoat on me but it's dreadfully unflattering without stays, and I didn't feel like taking the time to really get dressed.

The pleats from the inside.  I whipped them down to the twill tape with waxed linen thread.  Yes, the fabric has a strangely open weave - the things that happen when you order fabric online.

This picture keeps uploading sideways.  Why?  I don't know.  But this is the pleating from the outside.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Silver Gala Dress: A More Thoughtful Post

There are a few days between me and this dress, so now I can look at it all in a more rational way.

I volunteer at the National Museum of Dance, which is having its 25th anniversary this year.  A few days ago, it held its Silver Gala - attended by the likes of Marylou Whitney and Ann-Margret (who was being inducted into the Hall of Fame) - and one of my supervisors asked me to sew her a dress for it.  She isn't very into dressing up or shopping for fancy clothes, so it seemed like a great idea to have one made instead.  And it needed to be silver.

I was given a few fit issues that my supervisor wanted the dress to take into account, so I set about looking for patterns.  I picked a few that seemed to work from Simplicity and Butterick - A-line skirt, high waistline, longish skirt - and then, as an afterthought, a pattern from Vogue with a sort of marquise-shaped panel on the left side, with the rest of the fabric pleated up into it.  Of course, that was the most interesting-looking one, and that's the one she chose.

It took me too long to get on with picking out fabric.  I sent to Mood Fabric for a few swatches, but none of them felt right or fit the planned budget of $60.  Really, that was the first point when I should have explained something, namely how much nice fabric costs.  (Lesson learned.)  Fortunately, I managed to find a nice rayon/acetate blend of silver satin from Fashion Fabrics Club for the outer fabric - I could have gone a little less shiny, but the picture of the pattern looked so Art Deco that I thought I should go full-out.  Since the rayon wasn't very costly, I was able to get a very nice dark grey silk charmeuse to use for the lining: I think it's more important to have the lining be a nice feeling fabric and let the outer fabric be whatever looks good.

I made a mock-up out of a pretty green gingham, and it went fairly well, although I did find it a bit tricky to follow the pleating lines on the pattern pieces.  This led me to be over-confident about making up the dress, I'm afraid - at first I'd thought that the pattern might be too difficult.  The thing is, making an unlined, quick version of a dress in $2/yd cotton is very different from making it properly in slippery, shiny rayon and adding an even more slippery silk lining.  When the fabric finally came (lesson learned: order fabric earlier), I soon realized that no, this was in fact a terribly difficult pattern and I shouldn't have given it as a choice because I couldn't make it up.  (LESSON LEARNED.)  Especially as the intended wearer asked that I lengthen it from below-the-knee to ankle-length.

In the end, I took it all over to Mom's.  She's been sewing for decades longer than me and is also a much more careful person.  She ended up doing all of the machine sewing, and I did the handwork - sewing the straps (originally self-bias-tape, but we used a plastic silver trim from Walmart), putting in the hook and eye, slipstitching the bias tape on the inside under the arm.  It turned out that I'd haphazardly lengthened it in the wrong place: this double gore was supposed to start at the hip and flare out, and I'd put it at the knee, which added a horrible curve from the hip to the knee.  We ended up making it the original length, and Mom put the gore back where it was meant to be.  The rayon wasn't co-operating for the rolled hem, so she faced it with grey bias tape instead, and we didn't hem the lining at all.

Fortunately, my supervisor brought the dress back the next day so we could finish the lining.  Mom also got a look at my twill tape while I was working on my petticoat yesterday, and thinks it would be better to redo the hem with that, as the bias tape made it stand out too much.  It's just a little big for her, but I'll get a picture of her in it.

The supervisor is going to a Halloween party which she also needs a costume for.  I'm going to ask her if she has any ideas, and if she doesn't I'm suggesting a Holly Golightly outfit or something from the '20s, which I think would suit her and wouldn't be too difficult, although nothing would be difficult compared to what we just did.  Hopefully some other people from the museum will be going and will also want costumes!

18th c. Petticoat

A while ago I bought some sky-blue linen with a slightly open weave to make a petticoat out of, for a planned jacket/petticoat outfit.  I partially made up the jacket too small and I'm going to be redoing that soon, but I figured that since the side seams of the petticoat were already done I'd get going on finishing that.  Yesterday I started pleating it onto a twill tape, and I just finished whipping the pleats down.  It's probably period to use normal-sized pleats, but for some reason I went as small as I could - I think I was considering cartridge pleats before I remembered that I thought they weren't period? 

No pictures just yet: I have to go to work today!  But I'll try to take some of how it looks now, before I do the hem.  I'm going to use slipstitch, as per the hems on the shift I examined at FIT, although the hem is going to be deeper than it should - I ought to have done that first, then folded the top down enough to make the petticoat the right length, but I guess I wasn't thinking.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The worst sewing project ever

I feel like I shouldn't even write about this because it's been mostly done by my mom, but she is wonderful and the world needs to be educated. *blows her a kiss*

A while ago, one of my supervisors at the museum where I intern asked if I could make her a dress for a gala.  I said sure!  Because generally I can follow a pattern on the machine, although my specialty is fiddly handwork (I think).  And I sent her a selection of pattern URLs, including this as an afterthought, and that is the one that she chose.

Things I have learned from this experience:

  • Shiny, slippery rayon is very hard to deal with
  • Shiny, slippery silk charmeuse is even more difficult to deal with
  • All of this is especially bad when everything is on the bias
  • Asymmetry is confusing
  • Pleating into a panel is painstaking
  • Cowl necklines makes everything just a bit harder
All of this adds up into: I will probably never do 1930s costuming.

The most important lesson of all is, of course, that when Vogue says a pattern is advanced, they really mean it's advanced.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mom.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Devonshire Shoes

The American Duchess is putting up her Devonshire line of shoes for pre-order!

The Devonshires are a leather 18th century shoe based on museum examples from the 1760s through 1780s.  They're made of top-grade dyable leather, with a beautiful, smooth Italian leather sole for dancing, and are hard-wearing, water- and mud-proof, for even the toughest of outdoor re-enactments.

Pre-Order the Devonshires through August 10, and get the special $100 price.  They're only making 200 of these shoes, so don't miss the chance to own one of only a couple hundred pair on the planet!  Visit to order.

Aren't they gorgeous?