Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mad About Mourning

There's been so much talk about mourning lately, especially with the Met Museum exhibit up and running. As long-time readers know, mid-19th century mourning clothing is a subject that I am very passionate about, and this Saturday I'll be reprising my lecture on mourning accessories and millinery at the southeastern regional Costume Society of America conference.

I just snagged this CDV on Etsy yesterday, and I wanted to share it with you all because it perfectly shows the types of accessories and millinery that my lecture focuses on. These accessories act as "clues" to let us know whether a woman might be in mourning.

For one thing, the woman wears a black collar and undersleeves. In the 1860s, collars, cuffs, and undersleeves for everyday wear were almost always white. But full mourning called for collars, cuffs, and undersleeves made of black crape. The woman also wears a widow's cap, which is a style of cap quite distinct from caps for everyday wear. It 
has a very full "quilling" of trim around the front, creating the thick white halo around her head. Widow's caps sometimes have very long lappets as well, although they are absent from this example.

This excellent engraving of Queen Victoria shows her wearing a widow's cap, and you can see a bit more clearly the "quilling" trim. She also has a bow at the back of her cap, like the woman in my CDV.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Yesterday I presented my research on a curious Dutch headdress called oorijzer. It was incredibly well received and I will be working on getting the paper published (so no big blog post...). But here's a picture Jenny La Fleur snapped of me during my lecture!

(No, really, there was actually an audience, I swear!)


Now I'm off to another conference this coming weekend to reprise my mourning millinery lecture. I'm very excited to give this one again, especially with the Met exhibit up. Hopefully there will be good questions and conversation as a result!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Burnley and Trowbridge Polonaise Workshop

I attended my first Burnley and Trowbridge workshop and have come away with an almost completed polonaise jacket! It's made out of a striped sheer white cotton that matches a flounced petticoat I finished last year. The workshop was so fun! Of course, it helps when you're fitting with one of your best friends :)

I'm looking forward to finishing this in time for summer. It will get lots of ruffles! And I need to make a plain white linen petticoat to wear under the sheer one (my current cream mock quilt one makes the skirt look dingy). But for now... *sigh*... It's back to 1815 and New Orleans sewing...

Here's my inspiration, although I'm doing long sleeves: 


Oh... The hem really is even! I was leaning forward and trying to be cute... ;-P

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

...and then we bought a house!

This has been our big secret for the past few months. We never dreamed of buying a house so soon, but we have been very blessed. The house is perfect for us in size and location, and has all the charm that we were looking for, being an older house (1951). There are lots of decorative things we want to do, like paint and crown moulding, and the kitchen and bathrooms can stand to be updated (although the original 1950s tile is in great condition!). But really, it's adorable and we are so happy!

However, the night before we closed on the house, our little black kitten swallowed a straight pin and we were thrown into the panick of getting emergency vet care. All told, we were either driving around or sitting in waiting rooms for 5.5 hours, getting home at 3:30 am only to get back up at 7:30 am to pick him up after the surgery before the emergency vet closed. It was quite an experience... But he is doing very well now!

So... that's why there has been no sewing. I'm also presenting at two conferences this coming month. Life has been CRAZY.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The "Shell'd" Gown: At Last!

They're not the best pictures, but they are pictures!

This print is so awesome for mimicking 18th c "shell'd" prints. Although it looks surprisingly modern, check out these originals:

This type of one color, simple print would have been a nice, cheap fabric for a gown. Nothing fancy here!

Hillary Rizen has been doing some awesome research on 18th century prints. Wm. Booth, Draper is even carrying some of the prints she designed. Burnley and Trowbridge have also been researching and making custom prints heavily inspired from original prints. They are currently out of stock but are expecting more, new prints soon! Stay tuned!

I hope I get another chance to wear this dress and take good, proper pictures of it...

It's lined partly in white linen and partly in checked linen, for added anti-fancy-ness! :)


Monday, September 22, 2014

17th Century Undergarments Photo Shoot

Another post already, can you believe it?! Today I got the pictures from the awesome photo shoot I did with Frederick Scholpp, which I posted a teaser of last week. We had a great time, and it was so fun working with someone who has such a great eye for capturing shots and could perfectly understand my inspiration. Both of us being artists in different mediums, I think we worked really well together!

I fully intend to do a separate post on the pair of bodies and smock with construction detail pictures and more historical notes, but for now here are "overview" pictures of how the undergarments looks when worn all together.

First is the linen smock, completely hand sewn and trimmed with reproduction lace from The Tudor Tailor. The pattern is an amalgamation of shapes from Patterns of Fashion 4.

Next is the petticoat, which is red wool broadcloth bound and guarded with black velvet. The waist is bound with red silk taffeta and worked with eyelets so that it can be pointed to the pair of bodies. Based on a few portraits (particularly the Elizabeth Vernon portrait) and a video of Jenni Tiramani showing a reproduction pair of bodies pointed to a matching petticoat, AND this old but very interesting conversation on this question here, I made the decision to do this bodies-pointed-to-petticoat method. It works wonderfully well for helping to support the relatively heavy wool broadcloth. The points were custom made for me by Francis Classe (available through his etsy shop, and I have a pair for my American Duchess Stratfords as well.

The pair of bodies are from The Tudor Tailor, the Elizabeth Vernon style. I can't tell you just how incredibly comfortable these are!! I love them so much... They are silk taffeta, interlined with heavy linen and lined with white linen, boned with reed. More info in the construction post, I promise!

All of the materials (smock linen, all threads, wool broadcloth, silk taffeta, linen interlining and lining, silk paduasoy ribbon binding), except for the lace, reed, and points, are from Burnley and Trowbridge!

I hope you enjoy. :)

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Domo arigato, made a rebato!

(Michael insisted I use that as the title for this entry...)

So I decided to make a rebato to solve the ruff issues I mentioned previously. The latest Patterns of Fashion was an IMMENSE help, since they have quite a few examples in there. 

Rebatos in the period tend to be completely wrapped in silk and gilt thread or wire... which I definitely wasn't crazy enough to do. So I used black thread-covered 21 gauge millinery wire, although I did then wrap every piece by hand with fine gold wire on top of that (some things I am crazy enough to do...).

My darling, wonderful husband cut and shaped the millinery wire pieces, then I wrapped and assembled them. It was really neat to see these crazy pieces of unruly wire come together into something useable! The "spoke" pieces radiating out from the neck are not just decorative; they are central to keeping everything sturdy.

The inner arches are actually one piece of wire that snakes back and forth inside of the outer wire. I thought that was really neat, although it was a pain in the neck to do in practice... But we persevered! The last really difficult part was the out "frill" as I call it. Each of the wire arches supports a particular point of the lace. It took quite a bit of careful measuring to get everything to line up, and I did get off a tiny bit on one side, but it's hard to see. For the most part, they line up perfectly!

And so, I am one piece closer to inadvertently recreating the 1616 woodcut of Pocahontas! I never set out to recreate it, but here I am... Next up will be the loose gown, but probably not for a while... We'll see!

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