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

1780 dressing

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

1780s Silver round gown

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Portrait of Susanna Gyll by John Hoppner.

 

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

This fashion plate was one of my main inspirations:

Hats from 1787.

 

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

 

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

 

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

For now, pictures of the whole thing worn!

The dress from the back and sides.

 

With the sash:

 

And some portraits of with the hat!

 

Round gown – bodice progress

My past couple of post have been about undergarments for my 18th century project. At the same time I’ve been slowly progressing on the gown itself. I’m making a round gown, so with a full skirt, and aiming for 1780s.

My fabric is a light grey / silver silk. The pattern is somewhat old-fashioned for the 1780’s, which sees similar two-toned patterns, but which are generally more flower-like, and less baroque.

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Nevertheless, the pattern does have some more naturalistic elements. And given the penchant people had for re-using ‘older’ fabrics, I’m calling it plausible enough.

I started my patterning with the pattern for the Italian gown in the American Duchess Guide to 18th century dress making. My first mock-up was just exactly the pattern in the book, and that was already pretty close. In the end, the things I changed most were the angle of the shoulder strap, the height of the back, and the width of the strap. Below is the last mock-up.

 

After that, it was time for the scary part, cutting the fabric! Taking great care to match the pattern on all the pieces.

 

I’m sewing this dress by hand, which is why progress is relatively slow. It’s quite a suitable project for a first ‘all by hand dress’ though, as I’m not planning on adding much trim.

First up were the boning channels center back, and then constructing the back. On the back pieces all allowances were folded inward, and then all 4 layers were stitched together in one go.

 

Next up was attaching the front silk to the lining with small prick stitches. After that, I could fit again. My silk was a little less stretchy than my mock-up, so I had to let it out a bit on the side seams. (So definitely good that I did this fitting). I also took out the center-front line on each side, and re-did those as they weren’t really straight on the body after all.

 

Then it was time to sew the side seams. These were first sewn with the back silk piece and both lining pieces, allowance to the right side. The front silk piece was then folded over and in, and prick-stitched. I actually did the second seam the wrong way first time, including the front silk instead of the back…  So I ripped it out and re-did it. A bit more painful than when the seam is sewn by machine, but if I’m going to do this by hand, I’m going to do it right…

All seams are sewn with grey silk thread (if only because it’s easier to source than linen). Some close-ups of the insides. From left to right: the back seam, side seam, and center-front.

 

Final thing to do was to sew the front strap lining to the bodice. This is what it looks like now. The shoulder strap in silk will be one of the last things, sewn in place after the sleeve is in. I’m currently working on the skirts first though.

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