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.

Victorian Picnics 2 & 3

About a week ago, we held another Victorian picnic, the 3rd already! That also made me realize I haven’t actually blogged about the second one either, so here’s a post making up for that!

For a little background: about a year ago I got the idea that if I wanted more historical events, I could also organize something myself. I’d have to be fairly low-key though, as I didn’t actually have a lot of time to do so. So I settled on organizing a picnic, where everyone brings their own food. As we have a lot of Regency events here, but not so much Victorian, that became the theme, and we included the often forgotten 1830’s to get a time range of ca. 1830-1900. In august, we held the first picnic at de Haar castle.

Shortly after that first picnic, the idea came to go to another castle in autumn. This time, we did not take our own food in case the weather was bad, and decided to eat at the local restaurant instead. The weather turned out to be beautiful, so we had a very nice walk, as well as a lovely visit to Kasteel Zypendaal. Thanks to Martijn van Huffelen, we also got some lovely pictures of the day:

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During the second picnic, someone asked if we couldn’t do a ‘winter’ picnic. This would mean having an indoor location though, but luckily one of our group was able to arrange this. So last weekend, we visited the beautiful Huis Doorn. Again, we were very lucky with the weather, and we again toured both the house and grounds after a lovely lunch. Martijn took some lovely pictures again:

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It’s so nice to see how the group has steadily grown, and to see people come back again for a second or third time. It’s also very inspiring to see all the beautiful costumes, and all days were lovely days out with lovely people. We’ll definitely be doing more of these come spring and summer!

 

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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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

Victorian Picnic

At the beginning of the year, one of my goals was to visit more costuming events. So far that’s been quite successful, I’ve already been to three historical balls, which is two more than last year!

However, I figured that I could, of course, also contribute myself by organizing something. I needed to be relatively easy to organize due to time, so I settled on a picnic. And, as there seems to be a bit of a lack of Victorian events, it became a Victorian picnic!

The location was the castle de Haar, where I’ve been a volunteer for years. Having contacts at the location helps for letting them know of your plans, as just showing up with a group in costume isn’t always welcome. With advance notice though, we were welcome to picnic in the gardens!

It’s a very beautiful place, the castle was rebuilt from a medieval ruin around 1900, and the gardens stem from the same time.

Castel the Haar at Haarzuilens at Utrecht

 

We held the picnic halfway through August, and were quite lucky with the weather. It’s been very hot all summer, and right before and after the weekend there was some rain. However, on the day itself, it was a bit overcast but dry, and overall, the temperature was comfortable.

We’d decided to include the 1830’s as those often get lost between the Regency and Victorian era, and we nicely spanned the whole time period. Everyone looked really wonderful!

So we had some lovely 1830’s people.

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Picture by Nikki

 

Some 1870’s bustles.

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Picture by Nikki

 

And some representation of the very end of the century.

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Picture by Nikki

 

Everyone brought some food, we chatted, some walks were taken, and even some tennis played.

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At the end, a group also decided to visit the castle as well, which was a perfect closure of the day.

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Also, Nikki made a vlog about the day, which you can find here!

 

Thanks to everyone who came for the lovely day, everyone looked fabulous!

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Picture by Nikki

A Ball in Brussels

A while back, I received information about a ball being held in Brussels by the Società di Danza, an Italian organisation for historical dances. There would be a rehearsal evening the day before the ball to learn the dances. I debated whether I would go, but received word that some friends would also be going a couple of weeks before, so I opted to come with them!

The period of the ball was mid 19th century, which meant I finally had an opportunity to wear my 1860’s ballgown to an actual ball. I had to make some slight changes to the skirt, as I’d replaced my hoop since making the gown, and it was therefore a bit long in the front. Not practial for dancing. I also chose to bustle up the back a bit, as the dress has a slight train. Very pretty, but again, not very practical in a ballroom.

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All bustled up!

 

 

This summer has been unusally hot, and of course, as the weekend approached, the days of the dance rehearsal and ball were predicted to be the warmest yet. With about 36 degrees, we were very happy with the airconditioning in the car as we drove to Brussels! The first day, we first had very hot weather, then a dust storm as the wind picked up, and then a thunderstorm as we drove to the rehearsal. It actually became dry again as soon as we arrived, and was still hot as before. In about 3 hours, we very quickly learned all the danced we’d be doing at the ball. A brief explanation, do it a couple of times, and move on. Most people there were familiar with the dances, but we weren’t, so although the explanations were very clear, it proved to be a challenge to actually remember the dances for the next day!

During the next day, we visited the lace and costume museum. The costume bit was a very modern exhibition, but the lace room was beautiful. We spent quite a bit of time admiring the antique laces.

 

One of my favourite things was this little lace shop.

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In the end, it became too warm and we spent the rest of the day finding shops with airconditioning until it was time to get ready.

The ball was held in a beautiful venue with a large ballroom, and sitting rooms along side. Luckily, it was not as warm as the rehearsal room. Wearing a corset and a black velvet dress, it was still very warm, but doable.

Mirrors are very convienient for costume pictures!

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The dancing was fun, although definitely a bit of a challenge! We were briefly shown a repetition, but that was all. Luckily, most people in attendance actually knew what they were supposed to do, so we could copy them and got along okay.

Dancing a quadrille, picture with thanks to the Società di Danza!

foto van Società di Danza.

 

And a walz about to start (I think). We’re in the bottom right corner.

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A group picture of all the lovely attendees!

foto van Società di Danza.

 

 

 

2018 plans

I’ve already done the 2017 in review, so now it’s time to look ahead!

I actually haven’t made too many specific plans for this year yet, but I do have a couple of ‘unfinished’ projects. These have either been started, or I’ve bought the fabric with a very specific purpose in mind.

The first project of the year is already done! An 17th century chemise for underneath my 1660’s dress.

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The only unfinished project I have at the moment is a pair of 18th century stays. These got pushed to the side line by other projects, but are already some way done. Those’ll be next. A little teaser:

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I also have two vintage-style dresses I still want to make. These were first planned for last year, but got pushed away by other projects. I have both the fabric and the patterns though, so these are high on the list. (Hopefully before it becomes too warm for long sleeves…?)

This, in a black floral.

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And this one, in a grey plaid.

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Another thing I’m thinking of is to make the steeple butterfly henin to go with my burgundian dress. That was the original plan, but due to lack of time I first made a smaller, flowerpot style henin. I do love the slight crazyness of the style though, so I’d like to make the taller one as well.

The lady in yellow has the hanging part of the veil folded back up. Note the gold loops. This image is from King René's tournament book.

 

Those are the concrete plans! After that, it gets a little more vague, but I do have a number of fabrics I want to use next year.

I think I might first go towards the 18th century. I’ve made a bum roll and petticoat for the 17th dress, those would both work for 18th century, and with the stays made I’d only need a shift to complete the undergarments. I also have an 18th century themed event in October, so that’d be a good goal.

I just got this silver damask fabric, and I think it’d be perfect for a round gown. I like the idea of starting the 18th century journey with a round gown, as it’s really one garment and doesn’t require a separate petticoat. Most round gowns are also relatively simple trim-wise (they often don’t have any), so that allows me to really focus on fit and silhouette. Plus, with the damask fabric many frills aren’t necessary.

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Something like this dress from the MET? I like the idea of matching my fabric with a black belt. And white lace and fichu?

Ensemble | American | The Met

 

What gets made also depends on events as well. If I have a time-specific event, that’ll probably be what gets made first. I have plenty of fabric and ideas in any case.

One is a sheer black cotton I was thinking of making an early Victorian dress of. Something like this? I love how the sheerness of the fabric is used in the design.

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But I also have the materials for several other possibilities. A gorgeous red/black/gold plaid silk, combined with black maybe for this left number?

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Der Bazar 1886

 

Or a light gold flower patterned silk which was talking about the 1830’s to me.

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For something like this maybe?

Evening dress | British | The Met

 

It’s fun to dream in any case! I might do another post with plans half way through the year, if stuff is more concrete by then :).

Aside from the dressmaking plans, I also want to visit a few more historical events this year. I’d wanted to in 2017 as well, but things got sold out so some fell through. In the end, I only went to Bath and missed all more local events. This year has started off well though, as the first historical ball is already past! I also have a regency ball in my calendar in May, so either the red/white or the blue/silver dress will finally get a proper outing. And in October there’s a soiree with an 18th century theme, to which I hope to wear something 18th century. The theme for this is not as strict, so other historical stuff is also allowed, but I’d like to make something new. If the silver round gown gets made, I’ll probably wear it there! And who knows, some more events might come up!

The 1660’s dress in action! New-year’s ball in Ghent

Last weekend I wore the full 1660’s ensemble for the first time! Although I’d been looking at this period for longer, the theme of this years new-years ball in the opera of Ghent was the perfect excuse to actually start. The theme was inspired by the early days of Versailles, and was 1660 to 1715, so I was one of the ‘old fashionably’ dressed. There were a couple more beautiful 1660’s gowns, but also some wonderful late 17th century ones, which was nice as it’s not a style to see too much.

We arrived in Ghent early afternoon, had some lunch and then went to the hotel to change. Luckily, we had quite some space and very good mirrors in the room, which really helped with changing. Doing some last-minute sewing, hair, and actually getting dressed took some time, and we were ready just in time for the ball!

My hair was inspired by these images:

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I curled the front of my hair with rags, put in the evening before the ball. As it looks quite ridiculous with the rags in, I wore a vintage-style most of the day. Perfect for hiding curlers! I’m really happy with how my hair turned out, a big thanks to Josselin for helping me, as it did require more than 2 hands!

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The ball itself was very nice, with quite a lot of dancing. There was a dance room, a room to sit and one where you could get drinks. Other than the dancing, there was not much in terms of entertainment and there was no food, but given the price of the evening I expected this, and I wanted to dance anyway. There was also a small baroque-dance demonstration at the end, which was very nice to see.

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Watching the demonstration

 

The building was really beautiful, and fit in perfectly with the dress code. Thanks to Josselin for these images, as I forgot my pocket and left my phone in my bag most of the evening…

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All in all, I had a lot of fun, and will definitely keep an eye out for next year’s theme!

The pictures of the full outfit!

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1880s Winter bustle – pictures

Yesterday I wore my 1880’s dress for the first time, to the Midwinter Fair. It was really nice to wear, and even though it was rainy I had a good time.

Because of said rain, we only took some pictures inside. By this time my curls had started to sag a bit, but I was quite happy with how my hair turned out. Not having bangs, I flipped two curls towards the front and pinned them in place underneath the hat. Looks ridiculous without the hat, but with hat you’d never know!

 

Today it’s been snowing all day. Snow doesn’t happen that much around here, and when it does it usually disappears very quickly again. So I thought I’d take advantage, and dragged my boyfriend outdoors for a couple of minutes to take some more pictures. I didn’t curl my hair this time, too much effort, but the braid this way also works okay. And the dress looks really pretty in the snow!

 

You can’t really see it in these pictures above, but I’m wearing my winter boots with them! Very nicely warm and comfy.

 

 

Some more pictures!

 

Construction post is here!

Late 15th century burgundian gown

After making a medieval smock and kirtle, it was finally time to start on the dress that started the whole medieval journey: a silk damask burgundian gown.

This project originally started with this fabric, which I found for a bargain and couldn’t resist.

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It took a while to decide what to use it for, but eventually this painting convinced me to make a late 15th century burgundian gown.

c.1449 Late Middle Ages- Houppelande Gown

Mine will be a little narrower through the bust and sleeves and with a wider neckline, making it a bit more late 15th century.

The journey started with figuring out the layers here, and I eventually decided to make a smock, front-lacing kirtle, placket for the neckline and burgundian with black velvet collar and cuffs.

I adapted the pattern from my kirtle to make the burgundian gown. I drafted the collar following the book the Medieval tailor’s assistant, and gave a little extra space around the waist. Not too much, as I was going for a rather fitted version of the burgundian.

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Inspiration picture for the shape and pattern adaption. Bottom left shows the kirtle pattern behind the new draft of the burgundian (front). Wider shoulder with drawn-on collar, extending the line below the waist, and slightly widened on the side as well. Bottom left is fitting with sheets! 

 

The skirt was drafted following the layout kindly shared by A dressmakers’ workshop here. Basically, the front opening is put on the straight of fabric, the skirt angling away, and only the back has a wide gore. Because the way the front is cut, the fabric falls to the front and you only need the back gore. It’s quite clever, and makes for very efficient cutting.

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My cutting lay out. Front and back are facing the same way. The gore was cut on the fold of the empty part at the top. Upside down, but as you can see on the right you have to look closely to see when the fabric turns.

 

I got a bit lucky with the fabric in that the center of the pattern was close to the selvage of the fabric, so I could cut rather efficiently despite having to pattern match. I did opt to cut the back gore the other way around than the rest of the dress. You have to look quite closely to notice the pattern is upside down there, and I now have enough fabric left to make something else with the rest.

I did all the main seams by machine, and finishing by hand. When I’d put in the back gore, however, I didn’t like how it fell. I put it too far down, when it should’ve extended directly from the waist. So unpicking happened, and I moved it up a bit, which worked a lot better.

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Left was before; right after. Much better

 

After the main construction, it was part to work on the lining including the collar. I somehow got the idea to only line the top part and hem. Not the easiest thing in retrospect, but I didn’t have enough fabric to do it otherwise, so partial lining it was! The velvet for the collar was sewn to the lining, and then the whole thing was sewn onto the dress and turned inside out. Took a little fiddling, but I got it right in the end. This tutorial by Izabella from Prior Attire was very helpful!

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The collar finished, back and front. Still has some pins at this point, I later tacked the collar to the dress to help it stay flat.

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Next up: Sleeves! I adapted the sleeves from my kirtle pattern slightly, just widening it a bit in the bottom part so it would still fit over my kirtle. The bottom of the sleeves have black velvet cuffs.

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Top right shows sleeve fitting, here shown with the dress turned inside out, so you can also see where the lining stops. Bottom right is sewing on the cuffs, left the finished sleeves.

 

After the sleeves, the final thing was the hem lining. I made it about 50cm wide, which just fit out of my fabric with careful planning. I wanted it this wide so I could pull up the skirt to my belt, as walking outside in a train at events isn’t usually the best idea.

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Top: finished inserted sleeves. Bottom left: pinning down the hem facing before hand-stitching it in place. Bottom right: tucking the skirt into my belt. Doesn’t work too well yet because the belt is elastic, but shows the general idea.

 

Of course, you cannot wear a medieval burgundian gown without some sort of crazy head wear. I eventually want to make a steeple hennin with butterfly veil, but I ended up finishing my dress 3 days before an event. Because the large hennin would take more than 3 days and it’s a good plan to have a slightly more practical head wear choice as well, I made a shorter henin for the event.

The lady in yellow has the hanging part of the veil folded back up. Note the gold loops. This image is from King René's tournament book.

The crazy steeple hennin with butterfly veil. Unpractical, but fun!

Google Image Result for http://resources42.kb.nl/MIMI/MIMI_MMW_10A11/MIMI_MMW_10A11_235R_MIN_2.JPG

For now, I went for something more like this.

First up was a fillet of black velvet. Cut on the bias so it stretches around the head, this is worn as a type of head-band and serves to keep the head dress in place. It also has the very characteristic black loop over the forehead. I tried to turn a velvet tube inside-out, but my pulling thread broke half-way through so I finished the loop by hand.

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Black velvet fillet with black forehead loop.

 

The pattern for the hennin is from the Medieval tailor’s assistant again, the base made out of buckram. I covered it in black silk, with a cotton black lining (because I ran out of linen). The side edges are turned over, the top and bottom finished with binding. Velvet at the bottom, to make it grip to the fillet better. The sides were stitched together by hand. The finishing touch is a black velvet frontlet draped over the front of the hennin. I might make a veil as well in the future, but as I didn’t have the fabric yet I left it off for now.

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Making the hennin. Top shows the buckram (testing for size) and the lining before it’s stitched together. Bottom left is the finished hennin, bottom right is the complete thing modeled by my bear.

 

The finishing touch was to make a placket for the front of the dress out of black linen and silk. This was a day before the event, so I didn’t really take pictures. I ended up pinning the placket to the burgundian as that worked best, but it still wrinkled and shifted a bit. So I think I’ll be extending the placket to go around the body, as was my original plan.

I’m very happy with how the dress turned out, and although I have some small projects left to update it, it’s now wearable! I ended up using a black elastic belt while I look for a proper medieval version, but it actually looks surprisingly okay for something so modern.

Thanks to my friend Sophia for taking some pictures last weekend at Castlefest! I took down the small train for the images, but wore it up the rest of the day to prevent the people behind me from stepping on it.

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