New-year ball in Ghent

As mentioned in my 1830’s dress post, I wore it to the new-year’s ball in Ghent. The theme was 1830-1860 this year, and it was the perfect excuse to finally make this dress.

The ball is held in the opera of Ghent, in a beautiful baroque style room. This year, there was a dance workshop in the afternoon, which we went to as well.

After the workshop, it was time to eat, and then prep for the evening! I started on my hair, as I’d never done 1830’s hair before. I tried to photograph the process, maybe it’s helpful!

As I don’t have any hair shorter than hip length, I used fake hair for the side curls. This is such a typical thing for the era, I didn’t want to do without. These are real-hair extensions which I modified, and I’d curled them with rollers (wet-set) before.

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My other piece of fake hair was a very long weft. I used this to supplement the braid. Although my hair is very long, it’s not very thick, so I can usually use a little extra volume.

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Firs step was making the typical v-shaped parting. I then put everything up in a very high ponytail.

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Next was clipping in the front extensions. I then took two pieces from my ponytail and made two small rope braids, which go over the line of the extensions to hide them. (A quick note: this took a lot of fiddling and even more pins, I really want to find a quicker way to do this…)

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The front done, I pinned the weft into my ponytail and braided the whole lot. I then wrapped it into a bun, taking care to wrap the second time on top of the existing braid to create height. I then hid the ends and elastic inside the bun.

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And done! To finish it, I clipped in two huge flowers to the side of the bun. For another tutorial (including the famous loops), my friend Nikki has a wonderful tutorial on her youtube channel here.

The ball itself was really nice. There was a lot of dancing, and swooping crinolines. I quite liked my corded petticoat, it was definitely easier to dance in than a hoop!

 

 

In-between dancing there was social time with friends, taking pictures, and just looking at all the other lovely people. Some pictures!

The golden girls, with Josselin (my partner in crime for the weekend) and Corina. Gold was quite a popular color in this era! I love how we’re slightly chronological, early 1840’s, midway 1830’s and early 1830’s.  (It shows beautifully in the hem length!)

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We did a 1830’s group picture at the end. It took a while to get us in order, but eventually we managed to behave.

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Some more pictures of my finished dress

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1830s dress

I started thinking about a 1830s dress quite a while back, mostly inspired by the wonderful Nikki, who does this era so well. About half a year ago, the theme for the new-years ball in Ghent was announced to be 1830-1860, and I figured that this would be the perfect excuse to finally start this dress.

I already had the fabric, a wonderful pale gold figured silk. So I started looking at pictures, and was immediately drawn to the pleated sleeves you see appear around 1836. The 1830’s is known for the huge sleeves, and I do like those, but I love the pleats, so that’s what I went for. (When in doubt: do what excites you most). I looked at quite a lot of originals (online) in the MET museum, and eventually settled on this dress:

Jan historical - gold 1830s gown

 

I love the sleeves on this dress, how they still have the fabric fullness, but also the pleats. I also quite liked the shape of the bertha, and the little rosettes. Extra bonus was that I figured I could make the ‘sleeve bands’ removable, and make the dress more versatile this way. It also has removable undersleeves, and a pelerine which transforms it into a day dress. I’m all for versatility, so that’s great.

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In making this dress, I tried to copy it as much as possible. That meant lots of piping, and double piping, which was quite a bit of work, but definitely worth it.

The process of making double piping I found in the 1876 ‘Guide to dressmaking ‘, which can be found online (page 30). Basically, you take a bias strip, put a cord in one half, then a cord in the other half, then fold double to get a double cord.

 

The bertha was made following Janet Arnold’s ca. 1840 dress. It has a cotton canvas base, and the silk are bias strips which are stitched on top. It looks like pleats when finished, but the construction is quite different.

 

For this dress, I also really wanted to try out padding, inspired by a talk by Luca Costigliolio on padding in 19th century bodices. (The gist: it’s extremely common, for all types of figures, through the eras. Sometimes visible, sometimes hidden.). The silhouette in this era is quite wide, and I can use a little help in the bust era in general. I made my padding of cotton quilting sheets. Cutting in layers of 2, I cut 4 circles in increasing diameter.

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I ended up taking off the smallest one, and folding it up to fill in the space above the bust a bit. This is a place you often see padding in originals as well. The padding was placed quite wide in the end, as the main goal was to increase width. I really love how it ended up, the effect is subtle enough that you don’t immediately think it’s padded, but it helps the whole shape so much.

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I sewed a cotton ‘lining’ to the padding before sewing the whole thing into the bodice. This is the final shape.

 

The sleeves are pleated towards the middle at the top, and then stitched a bit further down as well. The armhole is piped, and the shoulder seam as well. For the final sleeves, I made sleeve bands which are pinned around the fullest part of the sleeve.

 

I also followed Janet Arnold for the skirt, taking inspiration for the skirt fullness, and gathering the very back, then pleating the rest forwards, as the original also shows. I choose not to fully line the skirt, as my original shows a line of stitching where the facing is attached, so I faced the hem as well.

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Hem facing. The long stitches are to catch the silk where it’s folded double, so the hem is basically 2 layers of silk and one of cotton.

I sewed all invisible seams by machine for this dress, but all the finishing is by hand, as usual. The dress closes with hooks in the back, and the final touch are the little rosettes. One to hide the endpoints of the bertha, one on each sleeve band and one in the back. They are made by covering a button, and then gathering a folded strip of bias to form a circle.

 

I managed to finish the whole dress just in time for the new years ball last weekend. I’d counted on skipping the sleeve band, or not finishing the insides, due to lack of time, but it was done! I made this in about 5 weeks, (2 of which were holiday), which I think is a record for me. I also managed to finish without rushing through anything, which I’m really pleased with. Now I just have to make under sleeves and a pelerine with a whole number of small petals….

So, some finished pictures of the dress on me! More on the ball itself in a next post!

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2019 plans

With looking back, there’s also time to plan new things!

As per usual, my plans mostly focus on the first half of the year, and are centered around events.

First up is the new-years ball, with theme 1830-1860. I figured that this would be a perfect excuse to finally make that 1830’s dress I wanted to make. The dress is mostly done now (which is good, as the ball is in a week). I do need to add some finishing touches, first priority is to get it wearable for the ball! (No tacked down allowances needed for that 😉 ).

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A little peak at the dress

 

After that, I’ll start sewing for a Victorian Fancy dress ball in April. I really love the idea of this ball, and my idea for a dress is mostly based on what I have in my stash. I have a purple/gold changeant silk organza, which is very lovely, but also very purple, and not very period looking. It’d be perfect for fancy dress though.

I love the shorter skirts you sometimes see in fancy dress costumes, and I’ll be going for an 1880s look. Probably some fairy/queen type of thing, hopefully with gold flowers all over.

Victorian fancy dress. Feb & March

The lady on the left is one of my inspirations. I might make a change or two to the drapery etc, but the silhouette and flowers is what I’m going for.

 

I have one more event planned so far, which is a Regency ball, but I’ll probably re-wear my red/white dress, or my blue/silver one for that. The final plan I have is related to the Victorian picnics I’ve been organizing. It’s a pretty low-key event, but a lot of fun and good excuse to dress up. I found out last summer though, that all of my victorian costumes are either silk, velvet, or wool. Not the best for hot summer weather. So I really want to make a cotton bustle dress, and I have my eye on the tennis style dresses you see in the 1880s.

After April

I love this one, it’s relatively simple, yet a lot of fun.

 

For the second half of the year, it’ll depend on events again what my plans will be!

2018 in review

The new year has started, so it’s time to look back at 2018!

I had few concrete historical costuming plans at the start of this year, mostly planning underwear and accessories. Those plans were the 1660s shift, 18th century stays, and the steeple henin. Those all got done, so that’s good! I didn’t do so well with my modern wardrobe, as I planned to make 2 dresses, but only got half-way on one.

Looking back at what I did make, it’s mostly underwear and accessories. I made two shifts, one pair of stays, one corset, one false rump, one corded petticoat, three 18th century petticoats, a fichu, a hat, and a henin.

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Top-Bottom, Left-Rithg: 1660s shift, Burgundian henin, 18th centuy stays, false bum, petticoat, fabric for other 2 petticoats, hat, 1830s corded petticoat & early victorian corset. I don’t have ‘separate’ pictures of the 18th century shift and fichu.

 

For outer garments, I only really finished one piece; my 1780s silver dress. But honestly, given that it was sewn all by hand, and how busy last year has been, I’m pretty happy with it. It wasn’t rushed, and I didn’t take short cuts, which usually lead to regrets. It took me half a year to sew, but I really enjoyed making and wearing it. That definitely makes it worth it, although I’m not yet planning to make everything entirely by hand in the future. I’m also really happy with how the whole look came together. I made quite a bit of underwear and accessories for this dress, and for my first attempt at the 18th century, I think it came together quite well!

 

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At the Winterball at D’Ursel (picture courtesy of Irina Krutasova)

 

However, when thinking about this year, what really comes to mind is not the costumes I made, but the events I went to. In 2017, I visited one historical ball, and that was only the second one ever. I’d mostly been wearing my costumes to fantasy fairs. I did that in 2018 as well, but I also visited four historical balls, one salon, organized two historical picnics, and went to a conference. This was one of my big goals, and I’m so happy it worked out so well, as all of these were wonderful experiences.

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The events from last year! Top-bottom, Left-right: Winterball at D’Ursel, Salon de societe de raffinee, victorian picnic 2, Structuring Fashion conference, victorian picnic 1, Societa di Danza ball Brussels, Persuasion ball, Elfia fair, New-years ball Ghent.

 

A big bonus of visiting more events was that I got to know more people in the historical costuming scene, or got to know them better, which was so lovely. So thanks to everyone for making it a great year!