2020 – Plans!

After looking back, it’s time to look ahead! As usual, my most concrete plans have to do with events, and everything else is a bit less defined.

Firstly, 1895! I’ll be going to Bath in May for Isabela’s Victorian ball, and preparations have started. A ball gown is the main thing, and then a day-outfit for the day after.

I have started a new corset, which is just waiting for the boning (which still has to arrive) and then binding.

The other under-thing to make is my final petticoat. I plan to also use this as a test-run for the skirt pattern. I have a blue glazed cotton I’m planning to mix with pale blue lace and white flounces. I don’t know how accurate the blue-white combo is this way, but colored petticoats were definitely a thing!

1898 Vintage Fashion - H.O'Neills Spring & Summer Catalogue Page 31 - Victorian Ladies Skirts | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

 

For the dress, I’m planning on using a green dupioni with black organza overlay. I don’t have one specific example, but it’ll probably be a mix between something like this;

Green/black, with silk dupioni?

And something like this:

Portrait of Countess of Santiago | Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida | oil painting

 

I really want to take my time with this project, and use historical techniques as much as possible. Interfacing the skirt with tartan, having a hem facing and brush braid, slightly gathering channels for boning in the bodice, etc. May sounds like a long way away, but with my speed I know I’ll need time if I really want to pay attention to the details!

For the breakfast the day after I haven’t quite decided yet. My Edwardian tartan outfit might be an option (slightly stretching the theme…), but I do need to fix the skirt to properly fit again (would be a good incentive in any case!). Another option would be a sporty outfit, as I recently found a modern sweater which actually looks a lot like the 1895 sport sweaters. Whatever I decide, I do want to make something to go with the sweater. Specifically, I have a beautiful wool fabric and the TV299 split skirt pattern I want to make up.

An example of a sport sweater, and a split skirt from the MET.

bumble button: advertismentAmerican cycling suit, circa 1896. This particular ensemble features a bifurcated skirt that allows the rider a more comfortable ride while also giving the modest appearance of a skirt at front. Other more daring ensembles feature fully bifurcated Knickerbockers. This suit also includes a pair of gaiters, which provide protection for the legs.

 

For the first half of the year, this is the only planned event for which I really need to make something. Plans for the second half are not finalized yet, but I’m looking into going to England again in fall for a 1830’s event. In that case, I’d want to make the 1830’s dress I have materials and plans for, based on this original (but in green):

Concord museum collection - but in moss green, tucks in skirt?

Concord museum

 

I also really like the idea of having a white cotton bodice to wear with a colored skirt, so I might make that as well to go with the green skirt, and increase versatility.

All The Pretty Dresses: 1830's Bodice

 

And I’d need to make a bonnet (I do already have a pattern), and perhaps a cap.

hats fashion print original 19th century french antique engraving no 3

 

It would also be a good opportunity to finish the pelerine which goes with my gold dress, as in the original outfit.

Met museum

 

I also bought some wool to make an 1830’s coat. That’s pushing plans into the more ambitions though, so who knows whether it would actually happen. But, something like this?

Coat

 

For my non-event related plans, I mainly want to work on my new stays. I genuinely don’t know if I’ll finish those in a year, but I would like to at least have finished all boning channels and main construction. As I’ll also be working on other things in-between progress will be slower than in October, but slow and steady also works!

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The stays will look like something like this for quite a while yet!

 

And that’s it for the somewhat concrete plans! I have a whole lot of fabric in my stash of which I know what I want to make out of it, but as usual planning and impulse at the time will probably dictate what else (if anything) happens and what does not.

1895 fever

I’m currently on holiday, so a little scheduled prettiness for this post!

Although I’m still working on the stays, I’ve also been brainstorming about my next project, because I’m going to a ball next May with 1890-1902 as theme! I have a ca. day 1905 ensemble, but nothing 1890’s, so it’s time for a new dress.

I have some plans already, which mostly center around year & fabric. I have some emerald green dupioni I’ve been trying to find a project for. The main problem is that it’s dupioni, so not quite historical. My ‘fix’ for this is to overlay it with black silk organza, which I also have in my stash. It will disguise the slubs a bit, and should create a nice overlay effect! (I’m also very partial to black-green combinations, as people familiar with my regular wardrobe will know). The slubs will still show a bit, but this will allow me to finally use this fabric I’ve had in my stash for a couple of years. I’d really hate to ‘waste’ this fabric by not using it, and I think this is a nice compromise.

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It’s hard to get the color right on screen, but this comes close. Beautiful color, but quite slubby.

 

The other plan so far is to go full out, crazy 1895. The 1890’s saw quite a lot of change, with sleeves being slim at the beginning and end of the decade, but growing to huge in-between. 1895 is the height of crazy-big sleeve period. I didn’t use to love it, but it’s grown on me, and doing these extreme’s is just so much fun!

So for this post, some big-sleeved inspirations from contemporary plates and portraits!

Some with the lovely green color:

Green/black, with silk dupioni?

 

Some working with overlays and extra ruffles:

 

Portrait of Countess of Santiago | Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida | oil painting

 

And some because they’re just too fun and quirky to skip:

La Mode Artistique, February 1895

L'Art et la Mode 1893 N°02 Complete with colored engraving by Marie de Solar, Emma Calve

L'Art et la Mode 1895 N°25 Complete with colored engraving by Marie de Solar

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

MET museum

 

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!

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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Fancy dress

“But, what are we to wear?

This is the first exclamation on receipt of an invitation to a Fancy Ball, and it is to assist in answering such questions that this volume has been compiled”

 

I was quite excited when Shari (from La Rose Soiree & La Rose Passementarie) announced that she would be holding a Victorian fancy dress ball. My first thought was excitement. The second thought is very well described by the quote above. This lovely booklet was pointed out to me by Desiree, and it’s such a treasure! It gives a thorough catalog of all types of options for fancy dress, including quite a lot of grey scale pictures, and a couple full color ones. It’s a lot of fun to read through as well!

In this post, a small selection of some of the gems inside the book.

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The book starts with recommendations on what costumes to wear depending on your coloring and age.

Brunettes could choose, for instance, Autumn, Diana, Fire or Spanish dress, while fair women are more suited to Day, Fairy, Moonlight, Rainbow or Swiss dress. Sisters could go together, and choose costumes such as Salt and Fresh water, Music and Paintings or Oranges and Lemons. Similarly, husband and wife could do Kings and Queens, or Night and Day.

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It also gives some general guidelines, such that: “It is uncomfortable to dance without gloves, so consistency yields to convenience”. And hair styling advice, such that: “With regard to Powdering, it is best, if possible, not to have recourse to wigs, they are heavy and unbecoming. It is far better to powder the hair itself…” 

 

 

Then it’s on to the specific costumes! In alphabetical order, as they are in the book, a favourite for each letter.

 

A: Aquarium: Fashionable evening dress of blue and green tulle, trimmed with marine plants and ornamented with fish and shells, the octopus on one side of the skirt; veil of green tulle; hair floating on shoulders. Bodice trimmed with seaweed and coral; ornaments, silver fish and coral.

B: Butterfly: Short white satin skirt, covered with clouds of brown, pink and blue tulle. Flight of butterflies all over it. Wings of blue gauze, and the antennae in the head-dress. White silk stockings and white shoes. Butterfly on each.

C: Chess: Front breadth, squares of black and white silk, black band at edge of skirt, row of red ribbon above. Black silk train piped with red, caught up with check ribbon, and bordered with checks. Sleeves of black and white squares to wrist, black cuffs piped with red. V-shaped black bodice, with ruff. Coronet of chessmen, larger pieces in front, the same for ornaments, all made of wood.

D: Dresden China: Under this name almost any poudre character may be worn, with or without a saque. It is generally thus rendered: Quilted short skirt, high-heeled shoes and clocked stockings; chintz or brocaded bunched up tunic; muslin apron; low bodice; short sleeves with ruffles; coloured stomacher laced across; bow of ribbon or black velvet around neck; straw hat or muslin cap; powdered hair. A newer rendering has bows of ribbons and flowers on the shoulders, with a tiny china figure in the centre; a satin chapeau bras with mroe flowers springing from centre; crook and high-heeled shoes.

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E: Eve: Dress of white India muslin, trimmed with apples, leaves and blossom; fig-leaves for pockets; out of one peeps a serpent’s head with emerald eyes, out of the other falls a triplet of white lilies; a wreath of small apples, flowers and leaves, necklace, a serpent of gold and silver enamel in red and blue.

F: Fairy: Short tulle diaphanous dress, with low full bodice, covered with silver spangles; silver belt at waist; wings of gauze on wire attached to back; hair floating; a silver circlet on the head. Or, for a Fairy queen; a crown, the wand, to be carried in hand, becoming a sceptre. Stars should be introduced on the dress and on the satin shoes.

G: the Gloaming: Dress of grey tulle, or muslin, or gauze over satin, made as an ordinary evening dress, or in classic fashion; a veil of the same material; fireflies imprisoned int he tulle; bat fastened on one shoulder, an owl on the other; silver and smoked pearl ornaments.

H: the Hornet: Short black or brown dress of velvet or satin; boots to match; tunic pointed back and front, with gold stripes; satin bodice of black or brown with gold gauze wings; cap of velvet with eyes and antennae of insect

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I: Ice maiden: White gauze dress; pointed tulle cap and veil fastened with wreath of icicles or ice-flowers spangled with powdered glass; long gloves; bracelets and chains of icicles; girdle of falling icicles made of glass.

J: Joan of Arc: White painted cashmere skirt; a suit of armour, with helmet and plume, mailed feet, gloves; red cloak at shoulder. The sout of armour may be of silver, burnished steel or what is called scale armour. But it can also be made by cutting out in strong brown paper the vaious pieces required, copied from any illustrated history, …, pated over with silvered paper. Round the edges inside strips of linen should be pasted to strengthen them, so that tapes may be sewn in with which to tie them on…

L: Lorelei: Dress of watered silk, shot with silver, draped with green, and caught up with water lilies, coral and diamonds; veil to match; sometimes soft muslin is draped in classic fashion; the hair flowing; a coronet of silver on the head; an old fashioned lyre carried in the hand.

M: Magpie. The front of skirt is striped black and white satin plaited; the bodice cut in one with long side revers of black, lined and turned back with white ruching to the hem of the skirt, opening down back to show full plaited skirt. The black bodice bordered with white; low striped vest; magpie on the shoulder and in hair; which may be powdered or not, or half powdered.

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N: Needles and pins: This dress is after the mother Hubbard order. A quilted skirt, with chintz train; low black velvet bodice, fichu; powdered hair; cap and pointed velvet hat. In front of the dress every kind of needle and pin is inserted. Pins forming the motto “Needles and pins, needles and pins; when a man marries his troubles begin,” on the train.

O: October: … with trimmings of leaves variegated with all the rich reds and browns of the autumn tints. A classic cream dress would show such trimmings to advantage. Or, an evening dress of cream and gold satin introducing acorns, with the leaves applied to dress and head-dress

P: Planets: White satin short skirt, bordered with a blue silk band and dotted with silver stars; white gauze over-skirt and plaited low bodice bespangled with stars; long wing-like sleeves to match; blue satin Swiss belt cut in points, a star on each; blue coronet with stars; long veil with stars; necklace and bracelets of the same.

Q: Quicksilver. Fashionable black evening dress made of tulle, and trimmed with silver.

R: Ruben’s wife: Yellow and brown silk and violet velvet, the skirt of the velvet touching the ground; the bodice a low square with square ruff, lace edged; the hair in curls; the bodice, which has a broad rounded point, has jewels in front of a yellow stomacher; the sleeves have an upper puff of violet, an elbow puff slashed with brown and yellow, puffs of yellow to wrist, with turn-back cuffs; the colours are blended into the trimmings on the skirt mixed with jewels; a feather fan is carried in the hand; a large-brimmed, low-crowned hat, turned up on one side with ostrich plumes and jewel

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S: Sunbeam: White tulle dress, flounced to waist, each flounce edged with rows of gold braid; a large sash round the waist with gold fringe, a gold chatelaine bag at side; head-dress, veil of gold tissue, enveloping the figure and glittering at every moment; ornament, gold.

T:  Twenty-four o’clock: New clock dial on chest and forehead, with hours from one to twenty-four; at back of head a pendulum swinging; short costume of black and white satin.

U: Universe: Short blue and white dress made of cashmere or soft silk in classic fashion, or in gauze or twill as an evening gown, with stars and spheres for ornaments; star-spangled veil.

V: Vandyke: Full plain skirt; muslin apron; edged with pointed lace; godice with revers; sleeves to wrist; hair in curls

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W: Witch: Short quilted skirt of red satin, with cats and lizards in black velvet; gold satin panier tunic; black velvet bodice laced over an old-gold crepe bodice; small cat on right shoulder, a broom in the hand, with owl; tall pointed velvet cap; shoes with buckles

Y: New Year: Radiant young girl in heyday of youth wearing plain long full satin skirt, with hours in silver round it; silver cord about waist; bodice full; pendent sleeves from elbow, caught up with roses; wreath of roses and veil in hair.

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To close:

“There are few occasions when a woman has a better opportunity of showing her charms to advantage than at a Fancy Ball.”

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.

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