PoF5 Stays – Drafting the pattern

This summer, I started on what will be my big project for the rest of the year. A pair of fully hand-sewn stays, based on this beautiful pair in Patterns of Fashion 5:

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When I first heard Luca Costigliolo describe his (newly found) method for patterning stays at the Structuring Fashion conference a year ago, I immediately knew I wanted to try this out. At the time was in the middle of sewing my 18th century dress, and after that I sewed 3 more outfits for events, all which had deadlines and therefore got priority. There are no more deadlines now though, so I’m getting back to stays!

I picked the wool sateen stays (1760-70) because I wanted to make a fully boned pair, which would work for the second half of the century. They’re a bit too straight to be fully fashionable for the last decades of the century, but wearing a slightly old fashioned style isn’t unthinkable.

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The first step on this project was the patterning. As wasn’t planning to also hand-sew the mock-ups, this had to happen before I left. In the end I made 5 mock-ups, in post is what I learned along the way, and what I ended up with!

To make the pattern, I followed an article on Foundations Revealed, which walks through Luca’s method for drafting step by step. Aside from taking body measurements, this drafting methods also requires some ‘finished stays’ measurements. Most importantly: the front length, back length, and back width. When I tried the mock-up on, I noticed I got the back length right, but the others not so much.

 

The back was too small, and the front too short. It was pointless to try to fix the other fit issues before I got these right, so back to the drawing board! This time, I traced the images of the final stays first, and looked carefully at the proportions to get the measurements right this time.

I re-drafted the whole thing from scratch, and this time ended up with something already quite a bit closer to the original! The main problem of this mock-up, was that it was too large, mostly in the bust. From this point, I made all changes to the same draft.

 

 

For the third mock-up, I shaved quite a bit off the bust by changing the center front line, and I raised the underarm to fit more snugly. With the high back of this model, I felt this would work to keep the back closer to the body. The changes are the black dotted lines as seen on the previous draft.

 

 

At this point I was getting close! It still felt just a little loose, so I shaved a bit more of the bust and the waist. I also changed the second panel so the front tabs would match the original better.

 

Of course, after mock-up number four I noticed I had over-compensated for the looseness, which made it a little too tight and dig into my hips in the back. Following some great advice via Foundations Revealed, I added a bit of room again, but also looked carefully at the pattern lines again. I made some small changes to get it closer to the original. Most important was the little ‘dart’ between the second and third panel, to make the back stand closer to the body.

This picture shows the fourth (red lines) and fifth (black lines) draft.

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This fifth mock-up was finally good enough for me to dare starting my actual fabric! I made some tiny changes to the angle of the front tabs, but that was it!

 

 

 

 

Sewing room

Last December we moved house, and one of the most exciting things for me was that I finally got my own sewing space!

This weekend I finally got around to re-covering my ironing board and some pillows, which means the only thing to do now is to put some more fashion plates on the wall. Nevertheless, it’s done enough to do a little tour!

Just as a quick note: these pictures were taken right after cleaning up, and in no way reflect the natural state of messiness which prevails in creative spaces…

A little video tour:

 

The Desk:

I knew I wanted a large desk in this room, to fit both my computer and sewing machine. It’s not a very deep desk, but that’s not a problem as I have plenty of storage space with the shelf and drawers.

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The shelf above the desk houses my sewing box, two drawer boxes, a tin with boning/busks, and my pattern weights. In the grey drawers I keep practical supplies such as boning, twill tape, etc. The green drawers store pieces of lace and ribbon.

 

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In my sewing box I have little things such as buttons, hooks and eyes, and spare measuring tapes. At the bottom some larger supplies I don’t use that much. The little Delft-blue box I use to store my pattern weights.

The drawer cabinet is used for sewing supplies I need most readily on hand. The top drawer is for scissors, thimbles, seam rippers, and pens etc. for marking. The one below that I use for office supplies. The larger drawers house thread spools, more scissors and heavy tools, and notebooks respectively.

 

Right next to my desk I have my ironing board set up, so I can use the plug beneath my desk for the iron. I re-covered this with a fun Victorian-style print cotton I got ages ago. I did not have any plans for it, but just couldn’t leave it. When we moved in here, I knew it’d be great for accessories!

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The costume closet:

One this wall, I have the closet in which I store most of my costumes and some supplies. Next to the closed is the ‘messy space’, with my crinolines, sleeve-ironing board, hem marker and some fabric bits. My dummy is also here when it’s cleaned up, but she’s usually somewhere in the middle of the room when I’m working on things.

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On the other side of the closet are an antique clock which used to belong to my grandmother, and some boxes. These store some masks, hats, and the little suitcase is the perfect size for my Truly Victorian patterns.

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The main hanging space in the closet is taken up by costumes. This is not everything, but the most recent/worn things. I have some extra space upstairs for the rest.

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Below the costumes is a box with old sheets/fabric for mock-ups. Next to that are boxes with gloves, fans and stockings. The spray-cans hold a vinegar-water mix and vodka-water mix, for setting pleats and cleaning respectively. At the bottom of the closet are more boxes, these are filled with some of my traditional Dutch clothing pieces.

The right side of the closet is for more storage. At the top some things for my dancing group (wooden shoes are a pain to store…), at the very bottom photography bags and camera etc. The other shelves hold hair stuffs, antique bits and pieces, and crafting things.

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The remaining storage:

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The wall opposite the desk holds more storage, and a lazy chair. This chair used to belong to my mother, and has been in my room for as long as I’ve had one. The pillow has seen quite some iterations! For this room I re-covered it with fabric matching my ironing board.

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The book closet holds my sewing and costuming books. One section is for historical patterning/how to books, one section for traditional costume books, one for hand-craft boos, and one for misc (museum books, 1940’s bound magazines & lace-making).

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Two of the fabric boxes hold patterns, one commercial and one my own drafts. The bottom right box is for fabrics for modern projects, the bottom left is for putting away in-progress projects.

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The other closet has one of my antique Singer’s on top. I have two, one having belonged to my father’s mother’s mother, the other to my mother’s fathers’ mother. Both are from the 1920’s I believe. I only keep one on display at a time, but will probably change them out every once in a while.

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This closet is for all my historical fabrics. Silks are at the top and middle, linen in the middle, cotton at the bottom, and the wool on the right.

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Finally, on the walls I have a collection of fashion plates! I currently have plates ranging from the 1830’s to about 1880, 14 in total. 6 are currently up, and I hope to fill up more of the space with the remainder! (Also, my mouse-mat is printed with a painting from the Rijksmuseum, because I could!)

1880’s Tennis dress

The 1880’s tennis dress is finished! I already wore it about a month ago, but without all of the trim. I since truly finished it and wore it again last weekend!

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The idea of this dress started last summer, when I realized I did not have any Victorian dresses truly fit for summer weather. And that if you organize Victorian picnics, that is quite a handy thing to have as Dutch weather is most reliable in summer.

I’ve always loved the idea of the ‘sporting’ dresses which you see becoming more popular in the 1880’s. My main inspiration for this project was this dress in the Manchester Art Gallery:

Manchester Art Gallery

 

Although it, unfortunately, does not show any pictures of the back, it does feature a very good description. Including some interesting features. The skirt has boning in it (something also seen in this tennis dress at LACMA), so no separate bustle is necessary. The apron is actually one with the main skirt, while the back bustle is buttoned on over a back-closure. I incorporated all of these features in my skirt as well.

And, of course, I had to have striped fabric for this! Tennis dresses in pictures are nearly always either stripes or a light solid color. I found a lovely thin cotton with blue, red and white stripes, which was perfect for this project. I did line the bodice and skirt, as it is rather thin. The bodice was lined for structure, the skirt to support the weight of the ruffles.

The basic pattern of the skirt is TV261 – 1885 Four-Gore Underskirt. I sewed 3 horizontal bones in the back, and a fourth in a curve, similarly to the TV101 bustle. The bones are sandwiched between the main skirt fabric and lining. The fabric is gathered up to fit the bones, and three ties (one at the end of each bone) keep the curved shape behind the legs, similar to the LACMA dress. The apron I drafted myself, and is caught in the back-side seams of the main skirt. The skirt closes center back, and the slit is actually a bit shorter than I’d normally make it, as it needs to stop right before the first bone.

A close-up of the gathered channels with the boning, and the base skirt (sans hem and waistband at this point.

 

The back drape is very simple, and buttons on the waistband sides and back. I added pockets in the skirt on both sides, the entrance between the first and second horizontal bone. This works okay, but the pocket entry is rather narrow as it needed to fit between the bones. It’s good I have small hands, and I can’t fit very large things in it. It makes me wonder what the original’s pocket looks like, as I’m sure it’d need to be a tad bigger to fit a tennis ball.

The bodice base is TV462 – 1883 Tail Bodice, but without tail. The lining is fitted, while the striped fabric was extended (with a little guidance from Izabella Pritcher’s Victorian Dressmaker book), and gathered to the front. It buttons up front, and has a little lace around the collar and sleeves.

Below a picture of the bodice fronts, and sewing the button holes.

 

I wore the dress for the first time with the main bodice and skirt done, but without all the pleats on the skirts. These are 4 strips, with a 1cm hem and 2 1cm tucks, pleated down. They took a while (it was about 18m unpleated), but do really finish the dress!

I first pleated the strip and pinned it on both sides. Then the pleats were sewn down at the top, leaving the bottom pins in. I then sprayed it with a vinegar/water mix and ironed it. Then took out the bottom pins, sprayed and ironed that bit again. I used some painter’s tape to keep the bottom pleats in tape when sewing on the strips to the dress. They held up okay on wearing! Some of the pleats at the back were a bit mangled, but that was to be expected as I sat on them half of the day, and they were quite good about being ironed back into shape afterwards.

 

The pleats being sewn on, and a little close-up showing the the finished result and the tucks.

 

To finish the ensemble, I cut down the brim of a straw hat I had lying around, slightly curved up the back brim, and sewed on some big bows.

 

To finish off, some more pictures of the final dress on me! I wore it with a simple blue ribbon (leftover from trimming the hat) around the waist, but I might make an embroidered belt as the one on the original in the future.

 

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Embroidered pockets

Earlier this year I was travelling, and looking for a project to take with me on the trip. As my regular projects are rather a hand full, I decided to try my hand at embroideriy.

I’d been wanting to make an 18th century pocket for a little while. I currently use a very functional, and very ugly black pocket I made very quickly years ago. It works, but having admired other people’s embroidered pockets, I wanted something prettier. As embroidering a pocket takes some time, yet is all hand work and small enough to fit in a carry on, it was the perfect project for a trip!

I really enjoyed working on the pocket, and finished the embroidery soon after I got back. So when I had another trip shortly after finishing the first, I decided to make a pair!

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This was my first try at ‘real’ embroidery, although I had done corset flossing before. Because of that, I saw this mostly as a practise project. I drew the designs inspired by originals, but not really copying anything. The first (pink) pocket was sewn from colors I already had, the second one I ordered colors for.

During the trip, I kept my materials in this lovely antique cardboard box.

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Both pockets were started at the airport. The branches are done in chainstitches

 

I worked on both pieces during flights, and during the stays at times. As both were solo trips, it was nice to have an activity for during tea, lunch, or slow evenings.

 

The embroidery was done on linen. After finishing, I constructed the pocket (also by hand). The finishing was done completely with whatever I had laying around.

 

The pink one has a back from Ikea cotton, the blue one a scrap of blue cotton. Both are bound with left-over pieces of binding.

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The binding was stitched on with small stitches, but actually came together quite quickly. The slit was bound with white bias tape on both.

 

The second pocket was sewn together on a train, continueing the travel tradition. It took about 1,5 hour start to finish.

 

I decided to make two separate pockets, instead of attaching both to the same ties. This way I can choose to wear just one, and am a bit more flexible on positioning when wearing both.

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To finish up, some closer looks at the embroidery! It’s definitely not perfect, but I’m pretty happy given that I’d never done either a chainstitch or a satin stitch before.

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The Isabella Dress

End of June I visited Edinburgh, to attend the event at the National Museum of Scotland where a team of dressmakers recreated the Isabella MacTavish Fraser dress.

This is one of those rare surviving garments which people might recognize by name alone. But for everyone else, it’s this garment:

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Isabella MacTavish’s Wedding Dress, c. 1785. Photo courtesy of the Inverness Museum & Art Gallery

 

This dress is special for several reasons. The first thing which speaks to people it that it was a wedding dress, is still owned by the same family, and was worn by several generations of brides after Isabella.

The second thing, is that it is the only known surviving example of 18th century women’s dress made of tartan. Add to that the lure of Scotland, the vibrancy of the colors, (and the current popularity of Outlander also doesn’t hurt), and you get a garment which has fans all over the world.

One of those is Rebecca Olds (of Timesmith Dressmaking), whose interest in this garment resulted in the event where this dress was re-created. The goal of this event was to discover more about the dress, it’s construction, it’s quirks, and how it would have been made at the time. To realize this, a team of dressmakers was brought on board, and end of June, they recreated the dress in front of a live audience at the National museum of Scotland. And I got to be there!

The first thing I did when arriving at the museum Saturday morning was to visit the original dress. As always: it’s prettier in person! The colors are still so very vibrant. I mainly took some pictures of the details.

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The fron of the dress. You can faintly see the line of stitching where the lacing strip is attached.

 

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The back pleats!

 

It’s important to note that the goal of this project was to make a recreation, not a reproduction. The main difference is that a reproduction is meant to be as exactly as the original as possible. However, this typically means sewing based on the exact measurements of the original. And ironically, that would mean that the process of making the dress would be different from the original. For in the 18th century, women’s dress was typically cut and fitted on the body, which means that very little exact measurements are involved. So instead, the team aimed for a recreation. They had a model with them, and the dress was cut and fit to her. Some care was taken to replicate some of the quirks of the original, but in the end, no two bodies are the same, so the recreation is a little different from the original in some ways.

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Fitting to the body

 

The first day, the first step was to cut the fabric. The fabric was specially made for this project, woven by Prickly Thistle. They studied the original fabric, counted the threads, and made a lovely reproduction. In the end, they added a couple of strategically placed threads to ensure the fabric was at least as wide as the original. This was necessary as their looms were stronger than the 18th century equivalent would have been, and therefore slightly ‘shrunk’ the fabric. The fabric is a so-called ‘hard’ tartan, woven of worsted threads in red, green and blue.

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Cutting

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The fabric had not been stretched, so had to be mangled a bit to ensure everything was lying straight and on grain.

 

During two days, the dress was sewn completely by hand. At any time, there were about 2 to 3 people sewing, while someone else was answering questions and talking to the audience. I learned so much from the interactions alone, and it was lovely as well to meet all the other interested people in the audience!

The first step was cutting the skirts, and the front of the bodice and shoulder straps. After this, the back was cut, and the sleeves and cuffs. All cutting was done based on measurements and the previously fitted linen lining.

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Marking the skirts

 

The first bits of sewing was the main skirt seams (aside from those to the back panel, as that ran into the bodice), and attaching the lining to the front of the bodice.

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Sewing the front to the lining

 

Then came the cuffs, which were pleated, and then lined, and the sleeve seams were basted. The final thing to do on the first day was to pleat the back. Here, the original was followed as closely as possible.

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Sewing & lining the cuffs

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Checking pictures of the original when pleating the back

 

Day 2 started with the first fitting. First, the front and back were put in place on the body, and then the shoulders were loosely pinned. The main focus here was to fit the side seams, where the lining of the front was pinned to the back. After this, the sleeves were fitted.

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Fitting the bodice seams

 

Then, the sleeve seams were sewn, as well as the side seams. As the side seam initially goes through the lining of the front only, the front is then folded over top, and top-stitched in place. Simultaneously, the skirt was pleated so it would fit the bodice.

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Folding over the front of the bodice to be top-stitched to the back

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Pleating the skirt

 

Then came the second fitting, in which the skirts were fitted, and the sleeves set. The skirt has a hem which is on grain, so the length difference between front/back/sides is taken up at the top. The sleeves were pinned to the bodice in this fitting, and the cuffs were set.

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Fitting the skirt to the bodice, ensuring a level hem.

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Setting sleeves

 

The final steps were to set the sleeves, sew on the skirt and cuffs, and fix the shoulder straps in place!

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Sewing in the sleeves

 

One of my favorite things about witnessing the whole process were all the little quirks of the original dress which came to light. On first glance, it looks like a fairly typical 18th century dress, but this recreation highlighted a couple of oddities. Firstly, the style of the dress, which is actually relatively old-fashioned. The wide back-pleats and winged cuffs are typical of the 1740s and 1750s. However, the green deye used was patented in 1775, which makes the family story of it being Isabellas wedding dress in 1785 very likely.

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The cuff on the original

 

Some construction choices were also unusual. Both the front and back of the dress were cut on the straight of grain, while fronts were usually cut on the bias to form around the body better. It also features tilted lacing strips sewn to the inside, which is uncommon (especially the angle). These might have been there to help keep the bodice smooth around the body.

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Showing the lacing strips on the inside

 

The sleeves of the original were also set a bit unusually, in that they were caught in the back underneath the outer pleat. This shows that the pleat was stitched in place after the sleeve was set. The final oddity in construction was the skirt attachment. Usually, skirts are pleated and then seamed to the bodice. But in this dress, the pleats are first folded over, whip-stitched to keep the fold, and then stitched to the bodice through all layers. This creates quite a bit of bulk in that seam!

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The original dress. You can see the sleeve being caught in the back pleat, and the tiny stitches at the top of the sleeve, holding the lining in place.

 

Finally, there were some simple ‘mistakes’ made on this gown, most notably in the sleeves. The sleeves are taken in at the top, indicating that they were originally too wide. There is some piecing at the bottom, so they were also a bit too short. But then they were too tight at the bottom, which was fixed by a simple ‘slit’ at the bottom, which was then covered up by the cuffs. This was recreated in the new dress. Finally, the original also show that the lining of the sleeve was a bit too short, as it does not go all the way to the shoulder. The original shows a little line of stitching at the top of the sleeve, catching the lining in place. Oops.

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Georgia showing what it was like trying to lift her arms before the slits in the sleeve were caught.

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A little slit hidden under the cuff fixes the problem!

 

At the end of two days of hard work, figuring out how to recreate the oddities, stitching seams, and answering our questions, the dress was done! Well, very nearly, as some final sewing to the shoulder strap had to be finished after the museum closed and we had to leave. But it was enough done to show us the final project, and they finished up the dress that same evening!

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I loved attending this event, learning more about this dress, and 18th century dressmaking in general. Seeing every step of the process really helps understand how these gowns were put together, and also puts into perspective how much work goes into it! If it looks quick from this overview, keep in mind that there were 7 experienced dressmakers working on this for two days! They had the major tasks of not just making a hand-sewn dress, but making a recreation of the Isabella dress, which definitely meant stepping outside of comfort zones and figuring out how to recreate some oddities. The interaction was also really lovely. Everyone was very generous in sharing their knowledge and experiences, and answering questions. Through learning about the little quirks, this dress really comes to live!

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The team:

Rebecca Olds: Timesmith Dressmaking (Project leader)

Lauren Stowell: American Duchess

Abby Cox: American Duchess

Peryn Westerhof Nyman: Isabel Northwode Costumes

Katy Stockwell: Regency Regalia

Alexandra Bruce: Alexandra Bruce Costumes

Georgia Gough (Model)

Flora Macleod Swietlicki 

 

The fabric was woven by Prickly Thistle, The Inverness Museum and Art Gallery is the current custodian of the dress (although it’s still privatly owned), the National Museum of Scotland, hosted this event and currently exhibits the dress (until November 10, 2019)

For updates on the project, (talks, and a documentary which is in the makes), keep an eye on the Timesmith Dressmaking facebook page.

Chintz in the Rijksmuseum

In March, I visited the small chintz (Chintz – Global Textile) exhibition at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. I went looking for one of my pictures today, and suddenly realized I completely forgot to blog about the visit. So here’s me making up for that! (If you’re curious about chintz itself, I have some info on that here as well)

The exhibition was small, just a single room, but it had some stunning pieces. The Rijksmuseum is not focused on costume, but it does collect things which have to do with Dutch history and identity. Chintz is one of those interesting things which was originally exotic, made abroad, and yet became a part of Dutch heritage. Through trade initially, and later on through it’s continued existance in traditional costume. The pieces in the Rijksmuseum were mostly 18th century, some wall hangings and fragments, other complete pieces of clothing.

 

To begin, they had a number of so called ‘japonse rokken’ (loosly translates to japanese robes), or banyans on display. Modelled after imported Japanese kimonos, they were worn by men and show the orignial use of chintz in more informal wear.

 

There’s quite a variety, I especially loved the red one as it reminded me of the early 18th century ‘bizarre’ silks.

 

They feature some nice details, such as the strips in the collar of this yellow-ground one.

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The one woman’s gown on display was this beautiful francaise. They have it photographed over wider hoops on the website, and given how it drags on the sides I suspect it would’ve been worn that way, not how it’s displayed here.

 

Despite the inherent formality francaises normally have, this one is relatively simple. It does not have any trim, although it does feature some very nice cuffs.

 

They did have some other women’s garments as well. Firstly, this lovely petticoat featuring some interesting scenes. Chintz was definitely not just about flowers!

 

Finally, there were two garments from the town of Hindeloopen, which had it’s own specific local (traditional) dress. First, this ‘wentke’, which is a long overcoat. The blue-white combination is typically worn for light mourning. Special about this one, though, was the silver on the chintz. (Do click on the right picture to see it better). It fairly sparkled in the light, it was so beautiful!

 

The other item was a ‘kassakeintje’, which is basically a shorter (cassaquin) version of the wentke. This is probably one of the most famous chintz pieces out there, most people will have seen the official photograph of the back:

Jak van sits, dat op een crèmekleurig fond grote bloemen en ruitpatronen toont, met als hoofdkleuren paars, roze, blauw en blauwgroen. Afwerking met roze-wit langettenband., anoniem, 1810 - 1820. Hindeloopen

The lighting was not as ideal in the exhibition of course, but this does finally give an opportunity to see the front! It’s also interesting how it, at first glance, seems perfectly symmetrical. However, once you look a little closer, you can see small (and some bigger) deviations from the mirrored pattern.  Especially in the purple waving lines at the bottom side/back of the bodice

 

I also took some pictures of the fabric. It’s truly stunning, I keep being awed by how pretty the colors always are in original pieces.

 

The back has gores to make it flare out, and all the seams have a tiny line of red contrast stitches about 1,5cm to the side. This is typical for the wentkes and kassekeintjes from Hindeloopen, I’ve never seen any without.

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Aside from the clothing, there were also some fabric pieces. These were some fragments. The first was a small piece, but special due to the gold on it.

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This was a larger piece off a role, a bit more ‘modern’ in style.

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Some piecing, which is always difficult to see in chintz.

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Finally, there was one large wall-hanging on a red ground. This fabric was so stunning, it was one of my favourites. You can see the age, and somehow it’s still so vibrant.

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The exhibition is on display until July 21st 2019, so there’s still a little time left to go see it! (Ask where to go at the info desk, it’s a huge museum, and a very small exhibition)

Victorian tennis dress

It’s been a while! Right after the fancy dress ball, I dove into a new project. However, it’s not quite done yet, and I’ve been away from home for a couple of weeks, so nothing finished to show off yet. So this post will be about some of the inspirations instead!

I’ve been working on an 1880’s tennis dress. This dress started with the realization that I only owned silk, wool and velvet Victorian dresses. Which are fabrics I love, but they’re not ideal for warm summer days. So I set out to remedy that, and when looking at possible designs for cotton bustle dresses (as I love the 1880’s), I stumbled on tennis dresses.

This is one I’ve always really liked in particular:

Ephemeral Elegance  Cotton Tennis Dress, ca. 1884-86  via Manchester Galleries  http://manchesterartgallery.org/collections/search/collection/?id=1947.4150

Manchester Art gallery

 

But there are some other great existent examples, such as these:

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The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Tennis Dress 1885 The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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One of the questions I had initially, was what makes these dresses tennis dresses, and not just cotton bustle dresses? Partly, it was probably just that they were made with a specific purpose in mind, but looking at these garments more closely does give some more clues!

The first thing (which I know is a feature of the first two of these dresses, although I’m not sure about the third), is that the boning which creates the bustle shape is actually a part of the dress itself.

This is a feature I first ran into in Izabela Pitcher’s book ‘the Victorian Dressmaker’. She has a yachting dress which features boning in the skirt. The dress from LACMA actually has pictures of the boning structure, and for the Manchester Art Gallery dress you can read about the boning in the description. I’ve also seen this being mentioned for light cotton summer dresses.

Woman's Tennis Dress | LACMA Collections

The inside of the LACMA dress, showing the boning and tapes to create the bustle

 

 

This inclusion of boning in the skirt means that the outfit does not require a separate bustle case, nor a petticoat to go on top of the cage. Although you might still want one petticoat to go underneath, this definitely does cut out at least 2 layers of skirts, making the whole thing lighter, and probably easier to move around in. The Manchester dress even sports an apron in one with the main skirt to reduce layers, and a back overlay which is buttoned on. So the goal definitely seems to reduce weight! This is my own theory, so I am curious to find out if I can feel the difference when wearing the finished dress!

Another feature the tennis dresses seem to have are special pockets to keep the tennis balls in. Although bustle dresses feature pockets more often, these are definitely shaped and sized for tennis balls. Pleats are a popular choice for trimming, otherwise the dresses are relatively simple, with just a little lace. All these examples also feature a bodice which has extra fabric in the front, and which is gathered into a band which sits at the natural waist. Pictures of tennis dresses do show other types of bodices, although the ‘looser’ gathered look does seem to be the most popular.

Some pictures of ladies in tennis outfits:

Victorian Era Tennis | Share

Early 1890s

 

Finally, there’s of course the little references to tennis, such as the embroidery on the belt. These three examples are all made of cotton, although different fabrics such as light wool could probably also be used. And they are all striped! When looking at pictures and prints, you see that most dresses are light colored, and either a solid color or made in stripes.

1888- Tennis

All the stripes!

Tennis outfits

The stripes weren’t just for the ladies either!

 

For my own dress, I’ll be using the Manchester dress as main inspiration. It has a very good description on the website, although the pictures don’t show the back. Main features will be: bustle cage included in the skirt, gathered front bodice, apron sewn in one with the skirt and separate back drapery, a ball pocket, pleated ruffles, and striped cotton fabric!

I’ve now got most of the skirt base and bodice together. It needs some finishing (closures, hem, etc), and then all the ruffles on the skirt. Here’s a little glimpse of the fabric, and the gathered channels which hold the boning for the bustle in the skirt.

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Finally, I also found this lovely article, which has some more info on tennis dresses in the period, including some original source quotes!

Victorian Fancy Dress

I was very excited when Shari from La Rose Soiree announced that she’d be holding a Victorian Fancy dress ball. It’s a very specific theme, but it also gives opportunity for some very fun costuming!

I based my dress on fabric I already had, and it turned out to be a purple gold fairy. A short video of how it turned out!

 

I had this purple gold shot silk organza in my closet already. Originally I planned to maybe make a fantasy type of francaise with it as it was a cheaper find, but that never really happened. So when this theme was announced, I figured it’d be perfect for it! Colored organza is not really something you see a lot historically, but it does fit the fancy dress theme quite well.

For the design, I started with looking at a lot of different plates for inspiration.  I knew I wanted something flowery/fairy like, as that would fit the fabric best.  I also knew I wanted a ‘short’ dress, as that’s so specific to fancy dress, and looks so fun! (It’s also great for dancing ;)! ) In the end, I settled on two main inspiration pictures.

This was the main fairy inspiration. Although a different color, I like how this dress could very well have been made of organza as it has the same light feel to it. I also liked the fairy with flowers concept, and the length.

 

The skirt design I wasn’t 100% sure about, so I did some more looking for dresses with flowers, and eventually settled on this pink dress as main inspiration for the skirt. I really like the pleats on the under skirt, and the flowers to the side of the drapery.

Right, gold flowers

 

With those ideas, I went to work! The very first step was deciding how to treat the sheerness of the organza, as it’s definitely see-through. I settled on lining it with cotton in a light blue color. The blue makes the purple a tad less bright, and a bit more lavender-like, which I preferred.

I cut the lining as mock-up, and fitted it that way first. Then all the pieces were flat-lined, stitched together, and the darts were pinned through all layers on the body to get a smooth fit.

 

For the base skirt, I cut the cotton following the basic 1880s underskirt from Truly Victorian. The organza layer was cut nearly twice as wide for the front and side pieces, to allow for the pleats in front. The organza was hemmed with french seams, and all the layers were caught at the top in the waistband.

 

Fitting time! This is always the exciting stage where things start coming together. At this point, the center front is still pinned to do a final check of the bodice fit over the skirt, before it’s sewn shut.

 

The bodice is boned center back, with eyelets to close it. I had a look, and saw both offset and parallel rows of eyelets (for spiral and criss-cross lacing respectively) on 1880s dresses, in the end I went with a parallel line. I worked the eyelets with silk machine thread doubled up, which worked quite nicely.

 

The overskirt was based on Truly Victorian TV362, but shortened. In this picture it’s still un-hemmed. I already shortened it when cutting, but this shows that especially the apron needs further shortening still, to give room for flowers on the underskirt! The right picture shows the gathers at the top back of the underskirt.

 

For the bodice decoration, I draped some pieces of organza on top until I liked the look.

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The skirt decoration is made of plastic flowers, as I didn’t really want to make flowers myself (nor had the time). I ordered a mix of gold and purple flowers, and spray painted them with white gold in various thickness to make them match with my fabric. On the underskirt, there’s two roses glued to one gold flower, then backed (first glued, than stitched) with felt, and then the whole thing is stitched on.

 

For the side drapery, I used a purple garland and just twisted gold and purple flowers into it. The whole thing is attached to the side gathers of the overskirt on both sides.

 

Final touches were the roses on the bodice and shoes, both which I backed with leafs originally attached to the gold flowers. The shoes are American Duchess Tissots, and the roses are sewn onto shoe clips to make them versatile!

 

The sleeves were finished with some leafs as well, and I also had some leftover time to make wings! I based these on plates of Victorian ballet dancers, as I wanted a small shape which wouldn’t hinder any dancing. They are made of wire, with fabric glued on. The fabric is glued around the edge of the wire, and the raw edge was hidden with some glitter glue I found in an old crafting box.

 

So that’s the whole look put together! It was such a fun project to work on, and the finished result is so whimsical it really makes me happy to just look at. It was also very comfortable to wear! The shorter skirt makes dancing a breeze, and I had to check myself when I didn’t even have to lift my skirt when going up the stairs. I definitely showed a lot of ankle, but fairies can be a bit scandalous, right?

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Pretties from the antique & textile market

Every year early March, there’s an antique & textile market organized by the Dutch costume society. I always come home with some lovely things, and this year was no exception. So a little overview of what I got!

Full garments

I got two skirts and a sweater. The sweater is machine knitted and from Staphorst, where they wear this lovely color sweater with the traditional costume. Most these sweaters have a slight empire line, and I got one of those last year. This one has a ‘regular’ waist line though, so it was a nice addition!

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The two skirts are both petticoats. The first is cotton, in this lovely textured fabric. It’s got a couple of stains, but nothing dramatic. It’s also quite a bit too wide for me, so I plan on removing the waistband, shortening it and then re-attaching the skirt fabric to make it fit.

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The second petticoat is this lovely striped wool one. It’s pretty much flat in the front with gathers in the back, and the hem is finished with a small cord. This one will be nice as extra winter petticoat underneath a lot of things!

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Accessories

Then there’s the accessories! I found a couple of gorgeous wide collars, some chemisettes, undersleeves, a pocket and a skirt lifter.

Perhaps my favourite find was this double collar with lapels at the front. It’s of very thin white cotton, with beautiful white work.

 

The other cotton collar is a little simpler in shape, but perhaps even prettier in fabric. Very sheer, with white work embroidery and lace.

 

The third collar is a lace one of sheer embroidered tulle.

 

The two chemisettes are both of very fine cotton. The first one has a checkered pattern woven in, the second one is a bit plainer. I think both will work both with regency and Victorian stuff.

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The undersleeves are also of fine cotton, with a small dot and lace around the cuff.

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Finally, I got a pocket and a plain skirt lifter. I have a rather crude pocket I made myself, and I’ve been saying for years that I should replace it. As I haven’t yet, this seemed like a good option. The skirt lifter is a very simple one and the rubber/felt is gone so it slips, but I can replace that. Always a handy thing to have!

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Trim

Finally, I also got some lace. I didn’t look for lace very actively as I already have a fair bit, but these two pieces I couldn’t resist. They’re both very wide, and pieces long enough to trim the full underside of a skirt. Many pieces are too small, which makes them much more difficult to use, so finding 3m or more is always special.

This very wide piece came of a skirt, and I have at leats 4,5m of it

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The other piece is just a bit smaller, and 3m long.

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Femmes Fatales in the Gemeentemuseum

A week ago I finally got the chance to drop by the current fashion exhibition in the Gemeentemuseum in the Hangue. Named ‘Femmes Fatales’, it’s a tribute to female fashion designers. It was a lovely exhibition, with some beautiful pieces by both early 19th century (Chanel, Lanvin, etc) and 20th century female designers.

However, I spent most time in the first room, which was dedicated to the 18th century female dressmakers, the marchandes de modes. There was a whole range of beautiful dresses on display, so I took the opportunity to take some pictures!

The descriptions are the originals as provided by the museum.

 

Mantua, ca. 1760-65, Silk, Linen

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Robe A l’Anglaise, ca. 1780-1785. Silk, cotton

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Robe A la Francaise, ca 1790-1794, Silk

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Robe a L’Anglaise, ca. 1765-1770, Silk, Linen

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Robe A la Francaise, ca 1775-1785 Silk, linen, whalebone

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Over dress and skirt, (altered, skirt originally ca 1740-1760). Ca. 1780-1790, silk, linen, metal.

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Robe A L’Anglaise (altered). ca 1775-1799, Silk, linen, cotton

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Girl’s gown. Ca. 1770-1775, Silk, linen, whalebone

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Robe A la Franciaise (missing part replaced during conservation). Ca 1740-1760, Silk, linen

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Robe A L’anglaise, ca 1790-1794, silk, linen

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Robe A l’Anglaise (altered in 1930), ca. 1775-1780, silk, linen

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Robe a la Francaise, ca. 1780-1795, silk

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