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!

A corset for the late 1830’s (sort of)

When I started my 1830s project (which up to now just consisted of a petticoat), I knew I also wanted a new corset.

I’ve got a somewhat slimmer corset which I’ve used for my 1870’s dress, and a curvier one for the 1880s. And I’ve got a pair of regency short stays, which actually act more like stays in that they ‘lift’ more than ‘separate’. For the 1830’s, the goal is a high, still slightly separated bust, though not as high as regency.

Most ‘typical’ 1830’s corsets are transitional, meaning that they are somewhere between the soft, cupped, corded regency stays, and the more waist-defining corsets of the 1840’s.

Something between these:

regency long stay

Kyoto costume insititute

And this:

Corset, dated "1839–41," American or European. Medium: silk. Met # C.I.38.23.10b–d. Ten views available. An early strapless design.

MET museum, 1839-1840

 

This was a very transitional period, so you get a lot of different styles which are a bit difficult to date. Many original pieces are dated something like ‘1815-1840’, so quite a long range.

Somewhere in the 1830’s, corsets start losing their straps, and gain a defined waist. This one is a nice example of the transition:

An incredible original 1830s ladys ivory sateen corset with its original blue steel busk in its front pocket. Elaborately hand quilted and embroidered, top stitch reinforced, with woven braces tied in place, and at the busk pocket. A drawstring cord at the top front and early ringed brass eyelets at the lace up back closure.

 

In the end, I decided to base my corset on the ca. 1840 example from the MET shown above. I did not want straps, as they can show underneath a dress. And I wanted to, ideally, be able to wear this corset for 1840’s, and possibly 1850’s stuff as well. The main difference is the waist definition which gets more pronounced, but a more pronounced waist is not a problem for an 1830s dress. The only other thing which slightly changes  is that the bust drops a little, but given my shape that would not really be noticeable. I also wanted a defined hip-spring, as I need a large difference between waist and hips naturally, so the more ‘straight’ shapes wouldn’t work very well on me in any case.

I chose to make one more concession to accuracy for practicality reasons. In the late 1830’s, all corsets had a wooden busk, and spiral lacing. The split busk was invented in the 1850’s, and with it came the ‘typical’ straight lacing you see on corsets to today. The split busk makes it a lot easier and quicker to get into a corset by yourself, so I decided to add one.

Technically, this makes my corset more like the 1850’s and early 1860’s styles, which are actually cut very similarly, but with a split busk.

Like this one, which has the same wide hip panel:

Corset, 1864  The Victoria & Albert Museum

1850’s, V&A

 

The 1840 one from the MET does not have bust gores, which is actually quite unusual for the time, I think. However, I definitely don’t need them (they’re mostly handy for larger busts), so that was not an issue. And I really like the ‘hip’ panel, as that gives a lot of room for a large hip spring. A final advantage was that this piece was photographed really well, so I could actually see where the seams were, and figure out what the panels should sort of look like.

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Drawing lines on seams.

 

I ended up drawing the pattern from what I saw shape wise, and then made a number of mock-ups to actually make it work for my body. It took some trial and error, and no very systematic process was followed, but I ended up with something workable.

For construction, I used two layers, one cotton canvas and one plain cotton. I first inserted the busk, and then attached both lining and canvas layer of the second piece to the first, at the same time. By laying the canvas layer on the canvas layer (right sides together), and the lining to the lining (right sides together), and then stitching the seam in one go, you get the seams ‘within’ the corset. This gives a clean finish, and provides extra layers as strength for the boning. I think this was also the way the original was finished, as it shows the same clean interior, and the top-stitching, although I cannot be sure from pictures alone. In any case, it worked!

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Finished insides

 

I opted to cut the hip panel on the bias, to give some flexibility there, and just to experiment. I tried to see the grain on the original, but the weave of the fabric makes it impossible to see despite the high resolution. It does pull a bit, creating a bit of a wrinkle, so I’m not fully sold on this method yet, but otherwise it works.

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It’s very curvy when just taking it off the body!

 

I did not really take many construction pictures, as the corset was made during quite a busy time, with low light in the evenings, but I’m actually quite happy with how long it took me to make. It’s boned on the seams with synthetic whalebone, plus two bones in the side/hip panel all the way down, and extra bones in the back, as in the original. I’ve got one steel bone to support the eyelets center back.

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Diagonal bones in the back, and extra bone casing on the inside

 

It’s quite curvy, which is something I’m really happy about. I feel like this might be the first corset I made where I didn’t have too little room in the hips/bust in the end. I tend to underestimate the hip spring I need because I need to always increase this, and I tend to overestimate how much I need to take in the bust. But a corset works best if it actually leaves room at the top and bottom, and only reduces in the waist. This corset actually does that, which is nice!

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A gore at the back to allow room for the hips

 

It’s not the prettiest thing I’ve ever made, being of quite utilitarian fabric, but it works, and the shape is good. I might floss it at some point in the future, but for now, it’s time to start looking towards actually making a dress to go on top! (Which, if you’ve been following my instagram, you’ve already seen some peaks of. It’s looking good so far!

Some pictures of the corset on me!

 

Wearing the 1780s dress – Salon de la Societe Raffinee & Winterball at castle D’Ursel

I already posted pictures of my finished 1780s dress, but not yet of the event I wore it to in October. Last weekend, I wore the dress a second time, with some small changes. So it’s time for a post on these two lovely events!

The Salon de Societe de Raffinee was organized for the second time this year, by Shari of La Rose Passementarie.  It’s an evening event centered around artists showing their work, and was held in kasteel Oud-Poelgeest, a beautiful venue.

 

I was curious what an evening event without dancing would be like, as I’ve mostly been to balls so far. But it was really lovely, and with the artists displaying their works, the dance performances, the cake, and mostly: the other people to chat with, the evening flew by.

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Picture by Martijn van Huffelen

 

This was also the event which first sparked the idea of the 1780s gown, as it’s theme was the 18th century salon. There were some people with costumes from other periods as well, but the majority was dressed in 18th century. And everyone looked very lovely!

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With Sanna and Irina, thanks to Irina for the picture!

 

I wore my dress the ‘plain’ way, without any trim. Although it was an evening event, I figured I could get away with wearing my hat, so that was the show piece. Aside from the hat, I wore the dress with a ribbon belt and fichu, and my black Dunmore shoes.

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Picture by Martijn van Huffelen

 

Not long after I decided to make an 18th century dress for the Salon, the theme of the Winterball in castle D’Ursel was announced: 1773. They do a different time period every year, and this one was quite handy! I figured I’d just wear the same dress as there was only a month between events. Although my dress is a tad later, making a completely new one was not really an option.

I did want some variation, though, so I decided to trim the dress after the Salon, and wear it to the Winterball with trim, and without the hat, belt and fichu. I ended up also lowering the neckline a bit, as it turned out a tad too high. Not too visible with the fichu, but without it would be a bit too ‘modest’ for 18th century. They like low necklines in this period!

During this summer, I found beautiful antique white cotton bobbin lace which was perfect for this project. It’s obviously not period, but the lace is quite fine, and cotton, which is always difficult too find.

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The lace (along with the other treasures from the market)

 

I used a number of portraits for inspiration. In the end, I made sleeve trim out of two layers, and neckline trim out of one layer. I gathered the lace onto tapes, which are then sewn to the dress. This way, they’re easily removable if I want to wear the dress without lace.

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One of my main inspirations for the lace & bows

 

For the ball, I added dark green ribbons around my arms, as well as little bows on the arms, and a bigger one to fill the neckline. Dark green, to match with my green Kensingtons I wore to the ball.

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This was my first time at the Winterball, and I had a great time. There was dancing, but also a room where you could listen to period (live) music, a buffet with 18th century ‘snacks’, and the whole castle to explore.

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Pretty antique mirror

 

Everyone looked really beautiful, and I was happy to see that I was not the only one going for slightly later 18th century. I always come away from events very inspired by the variety of beautiful costumes, and this one was no exception.

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The chintz squad

 

I also really liked wearing my dress twice, quite soon after finishing. I spent a lot of time making it, so it’s good to get some use out of it. And with the new trim, it does feel quite different from the first iteration!

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Thanks to the organizers of both events, and to all the lovely people I chatted and danced with!

 

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With Josselin, Picture by Kristof Dongleur

Corded petticoat

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that my next big project will be a late 1830’s dress. As this is a completely new period for me, that meant new underwear!

The World of Fashion and Continental Feuilletons 1836 Plate 23 by CharmaineZoe, via Flickr

You don’t get a shape like this without some help! (The World of Fashion and Continental Feuilletons 1836 Plate 23)

 

The 1830’s see the rise of the big round skirt. It’s before cage crinolines were invented, though, and so the silhouette was achieved through many layers of petticoats instead. This was made a little easier through structuring the petticoats, making them stand out. Most noticeably, through running cords through petticoats. The cords stop the fabric from folding up, and so the skirts stand out more. Add starch, and a couple of extra layers on top, and you get a pretty big skirt!

Ah ha ha I love seeing the superstructure under Romantic Era fashion of the 1830's.  :)  Someday I'll recreate this ridiculousness.

An existant petticoat from the MET museum

 

For my corded petticoat, I roughly followed the guidelines in Izabella Pritcher’s book the Victorian dressmaker. I found fabric which was 3.2m wide, and decided to just use the full width. This makes my skirt on the wide side, but I figured I might be able to wear it with 1840s as well this way (as the skirts keep growing!). I cut the whole skirt in a double layer, so it’s two layers of fabric. The cords are then stitched between these.

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I did get neater as I got along…

 

I started with 5 rows, and then did another 5 rows. Above that, I switched to 3 layers, all the way up to my full hip. There’s no ‘rules’ for how to cord your petticoat, although more on the bottom than at the top, and stop at hip-level seems to hold for most existent petticoats I’ve seen.

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The seam to the side. Extra stitches along side to keep the cords in the seam allowance flat

 

I ended up buying not nearly enough cord, and again the second time, and the third, so I think I’ve got at least 4 different types of cord in there. All roughly the same size though, so it truly doesn’t matter. What I’ve learned: you need a lot of cord for these! I did 28 rows in the end, for 3,20 wide fabric, so that’s almost 90m of cord…

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Loads of little rows…

 

I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about cording, but I actually quite liked the process of making this. I just did a couple of rows in the evening, not trying to finish it all in one go. It helps that cording is about the most mindless activity in sewing you can think of, and after a full work day of focusing that was actually pretty nice.

 

 

I hope to make at least 2 more petticoats to go on top of this one. Maybe one other with just a couple of cords at the bottom, and pin tucks. And at least one ‘prettier’ one with tucks and lace to go on top.

First up for this project is a new corset though, stay tuned for that!

 

 

5 year Anniversary

My blog turns 5 today!

Five years ago, I seriously started with historical costuming. This was in the summer of 2013. Then, in November, I decided to also start a blog. To keep track of my own progress, share what I learned along the way, and provide a platform to interact with other costumers.

My first ‘big’ project, worn for a ball this summer:

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I’ve learned so much since then, made costumes I could only dream of at first, and have gotten to know a lot of people through this hobby. I have noticed as well that some of the activity which used to be in blogs has now moved to Facebook and Instagram. I love those as well, for sharing in groups, and quick progress images, but I’ve never considered giving up on the blog. I’ve learned so much from reading blogs by others, and the written medium just gives more opportunity to explain choices and steps taken, which I think is very valuable.

And my last project, at a salon this autumn:

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Picture by Martijn van Huffelen

 

For this post, 5 things I’ve learned in the past 5 years, in no particular order

  • There’s no absolutes in history. There’s ‘rarely seen’, and ‘no evidence of’, but it’s nearly impossible to know something was never done, unless it involved stuff that wasn’t invented yet (sewing machines, polyester). There seem to be exceptions to practically every ‘rule’. This does not mean, however, that some ways of doing things were not way more common, or are not better supported by evidence, and just a ‘you don’t know for sure it was never done’ is not a good historical reason for doing something in a certain way (although ‘I really like it this way’ might be all you need to do it). And, the knowledge we have is constantly shifting. We learn more, as a community and in fashion history as a science, all the time.
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A rare example of a girl’s dress in very rough silk. Don’t take this as evidence that raw silk was used often, but it does show that it was, at least on some occasions. (from the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum)

 

  • Be aware of your own bias. You always take your knowledge and ideas with you when researching. When I was looking for the ‘corset elastique’ I automatically interpreted everything similar as undergarment, because of the term ‘corset’. And in doing so, I disregarded the image showing this garment on top of a dress, until someone pointed it out to me. Knowing more about historical fashion can be a blessing, but it also means you take your ideas of ‘the way it was done’ with you when looking at things. And when doing research, it’s best to try to be as aware of that as possible.
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The ‘corset elastique’. Named a ‘corset’ in contemporary sources, but it might very well be an outer garment as well!

 

  • Studying originals is invaluable. Learning from other historical costumers has helped me so much, especially when just starting out, because this can teach you things about the process of dressmaking that you just cannot get from a picture of a finished garment. But at the end of the day, only the study of originals can truly bring our knowledge forward. There’s a number of things ‘common’ in the historical costuming community, which are so simply because of that 1 existing pattern, or because ‘everyone does it this way’. That’s not an evil, but studying originals is the only place to really bring ‘new’ knowledge into the community. (This is why I love the new Patterns of Fashion book so much, for instance!).
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Patterns of Fashion 5 is such a lovely book because of how much it teaches you about originals and how they were made. Much more than you could ever get from looking at pictures only

 

  • Costuming connects people. Making garments is pretty much a solitary business, and I definitely enjoy that aspect of it. However, there’s also something wonderful about chatting to other people who have the same crazy hobby as you do, and who are as excited as you are by the same things. (Drooling over original garments, or fabrics, or admiring hand-stitched trim is just so much better together with people who ‘get’ it). I’ve been attending more events this past year, a number either alone, or with people I did not know that well beforehand. I haven’t regretted a second of it, and am looking forward to meeting more people at future events.
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A picture from our second Victorian ‘picnic’. We’ll definitely be doing more of these in the future.

 

  • Never compare yourself to others. In skill, materials, speed or output. I sew as a hobby, and that means the nr. 1 rule is: only do it if you enjoy it. Of course, you sometimes have to get that tricky thing done before getting to the good part. But I have a rule with myself that if I really don’t feel like sewing, that’s perfectly fine too. This is my hobby, and I do it for me, and me alone. And at the end of the day, it’s the process that counts, much more than the end result. Looking at what others produces can be so inspiring, and I love it for precisely that reason, because it excites me to start sewing myself. But it should never feel like a race, because it’s not.
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It took me about 2 months to pleat this skirt. Not because it was so difficult, but because life was busy, and I didn’t feel like it. And that’s okay too, and I know I wouldn’t love the finished product as much if I’d forced myself through it.

1780 dressing

When I was getting dressed for the Salon de la Societe raffinee, I also took pictures of my finished 1780s dress. And I figured that it would also be a good time to take pictures of the layers of my undergarments, as I hadn’t actually shown everything yet!

Under my dress, I’m wearing a shift, under petticoat, stays, false rump, two more linen petticoats, a cotton petticoat, a fichu and pocket. Of those, only the fichu is hand-sewn (hand-hemmed at least), and the shift is hand-finished. The petticoats and false rum I just made by machine for speed.

The first step is the shift. A quick note, a 1780’s shift should probably still have cuffs to the sleeves, as those really only disappeared towards the 1790s. However, from the 1780s on, they don’t show underneath the gown sleeves, and it’s always harder to fit gown sleeves over wider sleeves than over narrower ones. So I opted for the more versatile and slightly less HA option to make them rather narrow and without a cuff.

After the shift, It’s stockings, and shoes. Then I put on the bottom petticoat, made of white linen. Then it’s stays (for which I made a simple boned stomacher to further support the center front), and then the false rump. This is what I’m wearing in the following images

 

Then it’s additional layers of petticoats. I wore mine underneath the front point of my stays, but on top of the rest. The front is underneath to keep the center front straight for my dress later on.

 

I made the grey petticoat above for my 1660s gown initially, but it works fine for 18th century as well. After that, it’s another linen (mix) petticoat, this time with stripes.

 

And then yet another petticoat. This one is of cotton (Ikea), and prettier, as this one could show when lifting the skirts.

 

Those are the petticoats. Then it’s accessories, namely fichu and pocket (which is a bit invisible here, as it’s the least historical thing about the whole outfit. I need to make a new one, but the current ugly one is functional at least). After that, it’s finally time to put on the dress. The front of the skirt is put on first and tied around the back. Then the bodice is put on. These pictures show the process before the bodice is pinned shut in the front.

 

And then it’s done! All signs of undergarments are hidden, but the layers are really important for getting the right shape!

 

Some people asked me if the 4 petticoats weren’t too heavy, and I have to say I found it no problem at all. Linen is not very heavy, nor is cotton, and my silk dress is the lightest of all. It might be different if one of the petticoats were wool, or stitched, which would make it a bit heavier. But in general, I think we are just not used to heavy skirts, and modern costumers (myself included) are typically inclined to wear too few petticoats rather than too many. They are all worn on top of the hips, and those can carry a bit of weight easily, especially when worn on top of stays.

Patterns of Fashion 5

A Dutch version of this blog is out today at ModeMuze.nl!

History

Janet Arnold is a household name for everyone who’s interested in the construction of historical clothing. In the 70’s and 80’s, she published several books with detailed patterns of existing garments. This Patterns of Fashion series is still one of the most used when it comes to recreating historical clothing. Part 1 is about women’s fashion from 1660 to 1860, part two about women’s clothing from 1860 to 1940, and part 3 women’s and men’s clothing from 1560 to 1620.

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My copies of Patterns of Fashion 1 and 2

 

Janet Arnold passed away in 1998, leaving her work, in a way, unfinished. She had multiple further Patterns of Fashion books planned, and in 2008 part 4 was published, about linen undergarments and accessories from 1540 to 1660. This book was planned by her, and finished by Jenny Tiramani and Santina M. Levey.

However, there was a lot more material. From her legacy, the London School of Historical dress was founded in 2012, also housing her collection. This includes her pictures of originals, and the patterns she’d taken. And, end of this October, the latest book in the series will be published. Patterns of Fashion 5 is about ‘structural’ women’s garments from 1595 to 1795. Bodies, stays, hoops and rums. From the material and legacy of Janet Arnold, but supplemented thanks to modern techniques and new research, by Jenni Tiramani and Luca Costigliolio, with the assistance of Sebastien Passot, Armelle Lucas and Johannes Pietsch. In color, with detailed photographs, x-rays and patterns including all the different layers of the objects.

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Patterns of Fashion 5

 

I had the pleasure of receiving my copy early at the Structuring Fashion conference in Munich, so in the rest of this blog, an overview of what to expect from the book! The pictures below present a small selection of the objects which can be found in the book.

Content

The book starts with an extensive introduction, with a lot of information and new research using primary sources. It includes a description of the different types of materials which were used. Very useful, as words don’t always mean the same thing now, and some materials aren’t produced anymore. It also includes a description of how fashion evolved, and how these garments were made historically. It’s definitely recommended to actually read the full introduction, despite the temptation to only look at the pretty pictures, as it contains a wealth of information.

1640-60 Stitched stays & stomacher in crimson satin. Filmer collection, Gallery of costume, Platt hall, Manchester City Galleries 2003.109/2

 

Because the book does contain a lot of pretty pictures. A number of objects has the well-known drawings as found in the earlier books. But every object is also photographed extensively. When possible mounted, to see the object in shape. And with a whole number of detail shots giving more information about construction. The inside, bits where the lining is coming off, close-ups of eyelets, etc. Every object also has an artwork accompanying it, in which you can see this type of object being worn in context. One of the highlights for me are the x-ray pictures. A number of objects have these, and they really show the true inside. How many layers of fabric it has, which way the seam allowances are folded, where the boning is placed, and where the metal

1650-80 Stitched stays & stomacher in Pink watered silk grosgrain. Victoria & Albert Museum London V&A: T.14&A-1951

 

And now the patterns, because that’s what it’s all about in the end. All patterns are drawn on the familiar inch-grid, including a legend with cm, and the rulers in the end of the book. New in this book is that the patterns were drawn larger, and then scaled down to make them more precise. Also new is that many of the layers are shown individually. For some of the stays, the strength layer is not cut the same as the outer layer, and the lining might be different still. This makes it very difficult to get to the pattern of the inside layer. This is one of the places where the x-rays come in handy. The patterns also show very clearly how the object is stiffened. From baleen boning (sometimes including information on thickness), to steel, wood, extra layers of linen, leather and paper. They also include pictures of how exactly all those layers are put together. For the hoops the layers are a bit less relevant, but these also include information on how hoops are attached to achieve the end result.

1740-50 Short hoop in striped linen. Victorian & Albert Museum, London T425-1990

 

The book finished with a chapter on how to recreate the garments in the book. It includes a number of pictures of replicas made by the School of Historical dress, so you can see some of the more fragile objects mounted as well. One personal favourite bit is the description (based on a primary source) on how to draw the patterns for stays. Very interesting if you want to make them yourself! It even includes a list of where to get materials, and what to use instead of baleen. The chapter ends with a list of terms, with historical terms and their translations in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and sometimes Swedish or Dutch.

1720-30 Smooth-covered stomacher in embroidered linen. Museum of Fine arts, Boston, 43.1906

 

It’s really a beautiful book, and highly recommended for everyone who wishes to know more about these garments. With a lot of new knowledge, filled with beautiful patterns, and details of original garments. The book can only be ordered via the School of Historical dress (ISBN: 978 0 993174421). Edit per 20-11-2018: The copies are back in stock, but as they’re such a small team, they are only putting up the next 100 copies for sale once they’ve processed the previous. So if you see an ‘out of stock’, just keep checking their website! It’s well worth the wait.

Also, the ladies from American Duchess made a wonderful podcast with an interview with Jenni Tiramani, which I thoroughly recommend if you want to learn more about how this book came about. (Part I and II).

C.1740-1760 Stitched Stays in blue silk damask. Museum of Fine arts, Boston 43.561

 

 

 

1780s Silver round gown

I posted about the bodice of this gown before, but it’s now officially done!

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This was my big project for this year. A completely hand-sewn 18th century dress, out of silver silk.

It was my first foray into 18th century dressmaking, and I used the American Duchess book as a guide. The pattern is strongly based on the Italian gown in the book. I made some slight alterations to the back neckline, and to make it fit me. To turn it into a round gown, I simply added an extra skirt panel center front.

The bodice construction was done as described in the book (blog post here), and also the main reason I wished to do this by hand, as it’s not quite possible to follow the same techniques when sewing by machine. For instance with the shoulder piece, which is attached to the outside.

 

The skirt was fairly straight-forward, just 3 panels of 150cm wide, with slits on either side of the front panel and pleated at the top.

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Pleating the back skirt, here basted together with red thread. I basted both a couple of cm above and below where the bodice would be attached, so the pleats would stay properly in place when attaching it to the bodice.

 

The skirt was attached to the bodice by top-stitching through all layers from the outside. I then removed the visible basting at the bottom

 

The front panel is attached to a waistband which is tied around the waist before putting on the bodice, while the back panels are stitched to the dress.

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The top of the front panel of the skirt, attached to a waistband

 

Spot the hem! The hem seen from outside (left) and inside (right)

 

The dress is currently untrimmed, and so relatively simple on it’s own. To complete the outfit, I planned to have a sash, fichu and a hat.

The sash was simply a vintage blue ribbon, and the fichu a triangle of very thin white cotton, which I hemmed by hand.

The hat was more work, and the biggest hat I’ve ever made. I based the proportions on a portrait, drawing lines through the face and hat to see how wide the hat was relatively to the head.

One of my main inspirations, and the one I used for scale, is this portrait. Her hair is deceptively wide, just look how it extends almost as far on either side as her head is wide. The hair definitely makes the hat look ‘not quite as huge’.

Portrait of Susanna Gyll by John Hoppner.

 

I’ve long admired the hats made by the Modern Mantua maker, and she really inspired me to look at fashion plates for hat options. In the end, I settled on stripes at the bottom of the brim, and ribbons and bows around the crown.

This fashion plate was one of my main inspirations:

Hats from 1787.

 

I didn’t have striped fabric, and not too much of my base fabric (the dark grey). So I got some paler ribbon, and cut strips of the fabric, and stitched those together to form the covering for the bottom of the crown. I finished the hat by adding two ribbons around the crown with little bows. My method was a bit of a mix-up between the one from the Modern Mantua maker, and from the 1790s hat in the American Duchess guide to 18th century sewing.

 

To finish the full ensemble, I styled a wig. I have very long, quite thin hair, and the idea of untangling it after doing a hedgehog style was slightly terrifying. So wig it was. When I wore it, I curled the front of my hair and blended that into the wig, which worked quite well. The hat really needs the huge hairstyle to give some proportion to it, and I’m quite happy how it worked out!

 

This dress will have a second outing in November, for a ball this time. I have some beautiful antique cotton lace, which I plan to use to trim the neckline and sleeves. Stay tuned for version nr. 2 in a bit over a month!

For now, pictures of the whole thing worn!

The dress from the back and sides.

 

With the sash:

 

And some portraits of with the hat!

 

Late 1830’s sleeve inspiration

I mentioned some of my plans in my last post. By now, the 1780’s project has been done (iteration 1, at least), and I will wear it next weekend. Expect more posts after that, because then I’ll actually have proper pictures of the whole thing, dress and hat.

It also means I’ve been slowly shifting focus onto the 1830’s project. Just a quick disclaimer; I don’t know if I’ll actually be able to finish this before the January deadline, because I also have a lot of other (non-sewing) stuff going on. But I’ll very probably start it nonetheless.

For my first 1830’s project, I’ve actually chosen a dress from later in the decade. And that means it also doesn’t have the huge sleeves the 1830’s are so famous for. I didn’t do that because I don’t like large sleeves, because they’re really fun. I made that choice, because in the latter half of the 1830’s, you get sleeves which basically start with the same amount of fabric, but where the sleeves are then pleated and smocked in various ways to make a relatively narrow sleeve out of all that fabric.

And I just really love this style of intricate sleeve. So, in this post, some inspiration pictures of 1830’s sleeves you might not have considered typically 1830’s huge, but which are very pretty!

This dress started my love for the sleeves in this era. Three rows of tiny pleats, with strips of fabric in-between, and piping, of course. I found this picture ages back, and for a long time, it was one of the few 1830’s dresses I truly found pretty and inspiring. The craziness eventually grew on me, but I still love this dress.

Dress, 1837-1840, V&A T.184-1931

 

Then, of course, there’s the dress I’m planning on recreating. With the same narrow gathers at the top, but than a wider band around the sleeve with a rosette.

Ensemble ca. 1836, MET museum 1988.105.5a–d

 

There seems to’ve been a bit of a thing with gold colored silk dresses in this era, if you look at the MET collection, as they have a lot. This one also features the typical small pleats, but finishes off the bottom one with a bit of lovely trim. (And look at those tiny gathers at the wrists!

Dress, silk, probably American

Dress ca. 1836, MET 1973.226

 

There’s endless variations on the theme, and all are just a little different. This one has very narrow pleats, finished off with a bit of ruffle.

Evening dress, silk, wool, cotton, British

Evening dress ca. 1835, MET 1984.89

 

This dress actually keeps up the gathering all through-out the sleeve. It has tiny cartridge gathers at the top, and then after that bands to gather the volume down in different places.

Dress, silk, American

Dress ca. 1835, MET 13.49.22a, b

 

The previous dresses are all in silk, but the trend was definitely applied to cotton dresses as well. More difficult to see, due to the prints, but it’s all in the details!

This one is actually quite similar to the palest gold dress above, but with two rows of pleats before the gathered ruffle.

Dress, cotton, American

Dress 1837–39, MET C.I.38.23.2

 

Most dresses feature long pleats, but this one has gathers instead. You can almost see where the gathers have been stitched down in places to keep them in shape.

Dress, cotton, British

Drss ca. 1837, MET  1983.241.1

 

A bit more difficult to see because of the angle, but the cut of this bodice is so pretty it deserves a spot. The sleeves seem to have two rows of pleats and bands inbetween.

Ensemble, cotton, American

Ensemble ca. 1837, MET C.I.56.27.1a, b

 

Most of these dresses were from the MET, simply because they have the best pictures, but to finish off, a Dutch example. I’ve had the pleasure to see this dress in person, and admire the sleeves.

Wedding dress of wool with woven silk stripes, 1836. Gemeentemuseum Den Haag 1018228