Thursday, November 27, 2014

On Ball Dress ...

Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1813

... The fashion is for coiffures à la chinoise so high that, even with the longest hair, it is difficult to create them. M. Palette has created false coques* of hair; and, with this accessory, or a part of it, for the coques come apart, one can create the highest chinoises. Five coques are sold for twenty-five francs. M Palette resides at the passage of the Petits-Pères, number one.

For balls, seamstresses sew satin motifs on tulle gowns, made in the shape of a peak or trefoil, and fold down their edges: they put a garland of flowers at the bottom of the gown, and above the garland a double rouleau of satin.

Gowns are called à la Vierge or à la demi-guimpe if they are as high-cut as those seen in church paintings. These new gowns are made in emerald green and white striped gauze, or lapis lazuli blue and white; the trim of the top and bottom consists of a bouillonné band of gauze made in reverse box pleats.

- From the article accompanying plates 1290 and 1291, Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1813

* Literally "shell"; those flattened loops you see in hairstyles of the 1810s through 1830s.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Clothing Project

No substantive post this week - and there won't be one next week, either. Probably you will get one the week after. (I had a great idea for one that I've lost, but I'm sure it will come back to me ... while I'm at work, when I'm holding a pastry bag of frosting instead of a pen.) This is because the deadline for my manuscript - Regency Women's Dress, you may recall - is coming up very quickly.

The good news: having to send in the text and pictures means that we're getting closer to the point where the book will be actually available, which is of course a good thing.

The unsettling news: are you crazy?! I have to get it all perfectly finished and submitted!

Which means that I'm spending all of my time on writing, rewriting, consulting about the illustrations, and redrafting the patterns in ink, and sadly don't have time to write a great post. (If you should want to see what I've posted about most of the patterns I've taken, check out the "grand project" tag at the right for an exhaustive rundown.)

So I will leave you with a link to The Clothing Project, my friend Mary's Tumblr-blog for displaying pieces she comes across in her cataloguing/inventorying at the NYSHA/Farmers Museum collection. You should take a look, it's great!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Jennie Goodman's Wedding Dress (1878)

I've been sitting on this pattern for a while because this is, frankly, one of my favorites of the dresses I put online at the Chapman.

CHM 1971.38.1 (pattern available at link)
Now, the photo is not great. It's a decent view of the bodice, but you don't get a good sense of the elaborate drapery and the classic early Natural Form train. There are a few other shots on the website, but there's nothing like seeing a dress on a mannequin. Unfortunately, this gown has some structural issues, possibly due to being on a hanger for a long time (though it was in a box when I got there), and can probably never be dressed, which is one reason I wanted to pattern it.

The slender princess line would make this tricky to fit, which is why I haven't tried to make it yet (as well as the utter confusion of the pattern itself, which was phenomenally difficult to take and had me contemplating just putting the dress back several times). It's very close-fitting from the neckline to the thighs, and even in the sleeves. A great challenge!

Unlike the Natural Form gown in Waugh, this dress opens in the front and uses an apron-like panel for the front of the skirt. The back of the bodice extends into a trained overskirt, and the front is covered by a tablier like earlier and later bustle gowns. So while the pattern is many times more confusing than Waugh's, it is somewhat more forgiving.

Parisian fashions, Peterson's, January 1877; CCDL
The white afternoon/dinner dress here is the closest I can find to show how it would look when worn.

The dress was worn by one Jennie Smith (1860-1901) when she married Samuel Boyd Goodman (1852-1920) on October 15, 1878. They had two children, Helen Louise, who died as a child, and Juliet Gould, born in 1888. Juliet grew up to marry first Clifford Allen, in 1928, and later Frederick Braydon Chapman. Chapman had been previously married as well, to Mabel DeLong (who had also been previously married, by the way - to Harry Austin, who died in 1918). The DeLong family had always been the owners of the house on Glen Street which is now the Chapman Historical Museum, but because of this complicated tangle of second marriages, it's named for someone with hardly any tie to them!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Post-Edwardian Mourning, plus Renoirs

I hadn't even heard of Death Becomes Her or You (the former is the exhibition, the latter the event) until I was emailed an invitation to come in period clothing. Since Julie moved far away there haven't really been any events close enough for me to go, and I was so excited! But I have nothing suitable for mourning in the period covered by Death Becomes Her - technically, my white cotton 1780 gown, if worn with a white petticoat, would count as second mourning in its period, though - so I had to take action quickly: I had to make the best use of my time as I'm a slow sewer.

It was hard to decide. My choices were:
  • Regency, as I've taken a lot of patterns for my book and have so many options
  • 1840s, as it's kind of my era of choice when you take convenience out of the conversation
  • 1910s, my old love, plus I have a 1911 corset and do not need any extra underpinnings
In the end, I went with the early 1910s. My sewing speed was really an issue, especially as I'm working a part time job and cataloguing at a local historical society twice a week! I couldn't spend a lot of time scaling up a complicated pattern, or making a bunch of petticoats to fluff out skirts, or hand-sewing everything (because even for an event happening soon I'm not going to compromise on that). And I have always liked the 1911-1914 silhouette.

After some dithering, I went with Butterick B6093, which looks like a reprint of an historical Butterick pattern. The long-sleeved version is hideous, but the other view looks very much like many dresses in my April 1914 issue of McCall's.

My original assumption was that the pattern was an original with updated, modernized instructions, but soon after I ordered the pattern on Etsy I found out that this is not so. They want you to make it all up and put in a zipper in the side! I was almost prepared to scale up and hand-sew an 1840s dress, do you think I would stand for that? No, no. But I have handled so many dresses of this period that it was a cinch to figure out how to make it in a plausible manner while completely ignoring the instructions given.

First I cut out the lining in unbleached muslin, shaping it so the edges met at center front instead of overlapping, and fitted it in front and back with darts. Edwardian, post-Edwardian, and early 1920s dresses were mostly made with overlapping layers attached to a fitted lining. In some ways, this makes construction easier: if you know the lining fits, you can gather and tack down and apply anywhere to get the dress to look any way you want it to.

My fitted lining
I sewed the shoulder seams separately in each layer, but sewed the side seams together through all the layers to anchor the bodice. Resting the bodice on my dress form (which still doesn't match my body, by the way), I gathered up the back by hand to fit, and attached the back of the skirt. After making the whole skirt up, just to be clear.

Due to my only having 2.5 yards of 60" wool because of reasons, I had to make some changes to the pattern: no floaty overskirt panels. Instead, I would use the plain underskirt, and fasten it with a dog-leg closure as the crossover front can't extend all the way to the side seam (as I found to my frustration). The left side of the bodice is free: I gathered it slightly and sewed it to a white twill tape, putting a snap at the end to fasten it.

Left side snapped on.
I gathered the right side a bit more than the left, and sewed it to the front panel of the skirt, ending at about the left skirt dart. This side snaps to the left, and the skirt snaps down the side opening. (I ended up using pins between the bodice snap and the skirt opening; should add a couple more snaps.)

I made up the collar and then sewed it to the wool layer (this is why the shoulder seams have to be done separately in each layer), slipstitching the lining inside. The cuffs were done in reverse, having one side of the cuff sewn to the sleeve, then the other folded down and slipstitched to the inside.

I had some problems with the sleeves - the pattern pieces are cut to make quite a puff at the top, which doesn't show in the pattern drawing. My wool is kind of a winter suit-weight, and I didn't want a big puff anyway, so I tried to cut them down, with some success. The crossover had to be pinned in place with a cameo brooch, as it wanted to puff too much.

Me with Julie and Dan before leaving for the Met.
Hair is tricky for me, as mine is currently just below my shoulders. For this period and the 1920s, I twist side pieces of my hair to fluff out, and usually make a very low bun - due to the length, I had to just roll up the back and try to fasten it, but I ended up redoing it constantly. I bought a trio of black plumes to try to use as ornaments, but in the end I knew I wouldn't be able to manage that. (Look out for black feathers on my Etsy store. Just tell me if you're interested!) So nothing interesting in my hair.

My hair never stays up.
Overall, I think this is a very good, accurate pattern, provided that you ignore the instructions. It really is basic enough to be altered into some of the variations I gave above. I would love to use it again to make the green-striped dress with the buttons down the crossover and on the skirt.

And as a present for reading this far, here is the CBS This Morning segment that we appeared in:

(I don't want to present it totally without comment, so let me just quickly add: Chanel didn't invent the little black dress.)


(I've called these Tissots in a couple of places, which, to be fair, they're both artist names with the same letter at the beginning and end. And both use an assortment of vowels and consonants!)

I don't have the number of reenacting shoes I would like. Generally I make do with my Fugawee Annas (for the 18th century and some of the 19th), modern brown flats (for all evening and Regency occasions), and Gibsons (20th century). But I am gearing up for an Early Bustle wedding, and it seems appropriate to have proper shoes for a wedding, so I got involved with the Renoir preorder. But I needed them to be black, and of course they inherently require alteration with the buttons, so I let them sit around until very recently, when I realized that they would work for this outfit and I should finish them.

Post-dye, pre-polish


The dye was more watery than I was expected, and at first I was dribbling it around. It's on the sole! Another thing to beware is that if you dye the area with the original holes for the buttons lying flat, the dye will seep into the lining. Don't let it happen, it will annoy you. Also, polishing requires a lot more buffing than you might expect - I'm still getting some on my fingers. But I feel that the dyed and polished black makes for a deeper, fuller color than a factory dye.

I wore these to my volunteer position on the Wednesday before Halloween in order to break them in, and they were very comfortable. Bear in mind, I have flat feet and normally wear insoles and no heels - here, short heels and no insoles. So I decided to wear them down to New York in order to save on packing.

The story of my travels within New York is long and stupid; let it suffice to say that I did a lot of extra, unnecessary walking. I'm pretty sure that if I hadn't done all that extra walking at a city speed, I wouldn't have rubbed a tiny spot on my ankle raw - it didn't happen until about 8pm. These are so comfortable! I'm sure that at any event where you aren't constantly forgetting things and having to rush back to get them, these would not cause any problems. The Renoir boots get my wholehearted approval! I can't wait to wear them to another event.