Monday, February 2, 2015

1815 Ball Gown for NOLA



I am so pleased with this gown. It was one of those rare projects that turned out exactly as I had envisioned it. And I got to use some of the silver spangles that were originally for my not-a-wedding-dress!

The gown is made of cotton tulle and cotton lace over pale pink lightweight silk. Each spangle was sewn and knotted individually because the tulle is transparent, so I couldn't cross from one spangle to the other using one thread. It took for.ev.er, but was well worth it. Luckily skirts from this period are not very full at all, and the bodices are tiny!




The construction methods I used drew from a variety of similar drawstring gowns, which have accumulated on my Pinterest. This well-documented gown served as a main resource, however. I chose to make the tulle and silk as a single gown instead of doing two separate gowns, to save myself time and sanity. This gown in the Met was constructed this way, and was very helpful when making my ball gown!



 The paper flowers are from Dames a la Mode!


The bottom of the sleeve is finished with a drawstring

The back of the bodice. The side back pieces are top stitched to the back pieces, as are the shoulder straps.

Inside the bodice. Only the shoulder straps and side pieces are lined (in linen), as these are places that receive a lot of wear and stress from the arm.

Another shot of the lined pieces.

The front gathered section has a drawstring along the top and is gathered to fit the skirt along the bottom. 


Inside of the bodice back. The gown closes with drawstrings at the top and bottom of the bodice back pieces.

View of the drawstring channel from the outside of the back.

The skirt. I just love how ethereal and feminine this combination of materials is!





Saturday, January 31, 2015

Paletot for Sale!

I'm selling this paletot. It's wool lined in silk and trimmed with velvet. It's a size small... Hard to take measurements for a loose-fitting garment! There are more pictures of it in this blog post. $150 plus shipping. I have Paypal!


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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sort-of Tutorial! Early 19th Century Round Reticule

I knew I wanted an unusual and fun reticule for NOLA, but with very limited time it had to be something easy to make (as much as I would have like to embroider one!).

 I came across a handful of these circular reticules, and decided to make one inspired by the silk examples. The cotton ones are lovely, and I had cotton in the stash. But if you zoom in on the cotton ones, you'll see that all of the pieces are meticulously hemmed, and then the puffy part is whip gathered to the circles (what I call the medallions). Phew. That was a lot of handwork, and as I said I had very little time, and my wrist problems as well. (Also the opening on the cotton one is different than the silks).

Since there are no interior images of the silk bags, the construction is a bit of guess work. Ultimately, I made four silk-covered medallions--two for each side--and sandwiched the gathered strip in-between them. I used a very fine slip stitch to put it together.

The medallions are cut from pasteboard and then covered with silk similar the way you would cover a button with fabric, cutting it larger than the form and gathering it to fit snugly.

The two silk bags vary quite a bit in size; one is just over 6" across and the other is just over 10". Mine falls in the middle at 8" across.

I figured out the size to cut the pieces by figuring that the medallions were roughly 1/3 of the finished "diameter" of the entire circle bag. I guess I was going for 9" finished, and ended up with 8" because I forgot to add seam allowance to the gathered section... So my medallions are 3" across. Then I cut a long strip of silk for the gathered section. Mine measured 6" wide, and I honestly can't remember how long the strip was... But I actually cut some off because it would have been too full. So that's something you can eyeball and finish according to your taste. The ends of the strip need to have channels sewn in for the draw strings before being gathered and attached to the medallions.

Again because of time and wrist constraints, I only decorated one medallion, although having both decorated seems to be the norm. I just did simple chain stitch in silk thread and silver spangles (I literally have thousands...).

I hope that makes some kind of crazy sense! I'm calling this a sort-of tutorial because I don't have step-by-step instructions, but I really feel I should be doing helpful things like construction posts more often!







Sunday, January 18, 2015

NOLA 1815: Fox Fur and Pink Silk Pelisse

For daywear, I created a pelisse made of pink silk taffeta, interlined with wool in the bodice and sleeves, and lined with pale pink lightweight silk. The whole was trimmed with white fox fur (yep, the real stuff!). It's very simple in design, relying on the sumptuousness of the fabric and the novelty of the hood to make a statement. It actually kept me quite warm, since silk has insulating properties and acted as a good windbreaker! I wore it over my trusty old Swiss dot and lace insertion gown and a new antique lace chemisette.

I didn't realize that the darned belt had slipped down in some of the pictures *grumble* so please ignore that...! I think it's interesting to see how the colors change in different qualities of light. The battlefield pictures were taken on a very overcast day, and the French Quarter pictures were in brilliant sunlight.

Michael blocked the hats for Nicole and me, and we trimmed them. They are made of shaggy rabbit fur felt.














My main inspiration was this 1815 fashion plate, although you see hoods on pelisses and spencers in the years preceding and following.

For construction, I followed this extant silk pelisse. The bodice and skirt are fully lined. The lower edge of the bodice and the upper edge of the skirt have the raw edges turned in and roughly stitched together. Then the two are stitched together along with a piece of tape to help strengthen the seam.

The fur was lightly tacked on so that it can be removed eventually, and I might turn this into an 18th century pelisse, which is what I originally bought the materials for! I attached the fur to the outer fabric before putting the lining in, so that you wouldn't see big nasty tacking stitches on the inside of the garment.

And of course, everything was hand sewn.






Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014 Review and 2015 Plans

I didn't make nearly as much as I have in previous years, but sewing for other people for a living, plus my ongoing wrist problems, plus buying a house (!!) meant I was often tired. But I the things I did make generally took a lot of time to construct and research. No quick, slap dash projects this year!
I also presented at three academic conferences, taught a class at Costume College, and studied original 17th century artifacts for work. What a year!

2015 should be pretty awesome, although I regret to say that Costume College probably isn't going to happen... Since I live so far away from my family, spending time with them is my top priority. After a year hiatus, we are resuming our family pilgrimage to Hawaii (this will be year 16!). And I will be able to go to faire in CA! That vacation will be about two weeks long, in May, which is just too close to late July/early August... But we'll see. I haven't completely given up hope yet!

Here are my plans for 2015 sewing, if my wrist cooperates, more or less in chronological order:
  • Felicity sack gown finished
  • 1610s silk gown
  • 1560s gown, kirtle, petticoat, smock, and hood
  • 1860s corset 
  • 1860s Swiss waist
  • 1840s undergarments
  • 1840s gown
  • Cotton polonaise finished
  • 1860s outerwear 
  • 1860s wool gown

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

I know things have been quiet around here lately, but it's because we've been so busy between sprucing up the new house and getting ready for New Orleans! There will be so much to share with you in the new year. :)

Today I volunteered in the shop with Michael since he was working. I wore a gown I made last year (and wore on Christmas last year working on the tent project!) but I've never gotten pictures of me wearing it! I have to admit I was very pleased with how my hair turned out. I'm also wearing the gown over my new false bum. It was really nice to be able to work with my husband and friends all together on Christmas!


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My Christmas gift from Michael was an 18th century mourning ring with little diamonds set in the eyes of the death's head. I love it. And he totally had me guessing about what I was going to get! He's a pretty good gift-giver...
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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.
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