A last-minute bodice

I had predicted that this would be a year of more sudden changes in plans than normal, and so far that’s proving to be true. I’m still waiting on the fabric for my vest to arrive, and in the meantime I decided to make a day bodice to wear with my green 1890s skirt.

I’m participating as an extra in a Dutch show about history, and I was asked to wear my green ballgown with a cloak on top of it for an outside scene. I suspect they just chose that outfit because they wanted darker colors, but a ballgown in the middle of the day is a bit odd. It would be covered by a cloak, so in theory invisible, but then the weather turned, and the prediction for filming day was -2 degrees. Not the best weather to have bare arms.

I didn’t have any plans in the weekend before (because, you know, covid), so I decided I might as well try my hand at making a new bodice. I still had plenty of green and black silk left, so this could be done entirely from my stash. The bodice will have long sleeves, which I could even wear extra layers underneath as well. I had 3 full days for this, as well as a couple of evenings after work, so I wanted a design that wouldn’t take a lot of figuring out or trimming. In the end, I settled on this dress as inspiration:

It’s interesting without being overly complex, and as a bonus, the Victorian Dressmaker book actually has a pattern for this. Not to my size, but with the Truly Victorian pattern I’d used for my ballgown bodice as base and the rough shapes in the book, adapting became a lot easier. I still have some black velvet from my 1860s gown, so the velvet details were covered as well.

So I set to work! I didn’t make a lot of pictures, but after day 1 I had the main bodice drafted, cut out, sewn together and fitted! This seems like the most work, but as it’s nearly all machine work, it actually comes together relatively quickly. It also helped that I skipped the mock-up. I’d used this pattern for my ball gown, so I knew it fit, and pinning the darts on the body allows for last-minute adjustments.

Day 2 was for the sleeves. These are fairly complex because they have 7 pieces of fabric each. An organza, dupioni and cotton layer for the inner sleeves, and an organza, dupioni, tarlatan and cotton layer for the outer sleeve. The outer sleeve lining was fitted (with slight gathers) to the armhole first, then the tarlatan was pleated and pinned in (this is just a small strip, meant to give volume), and then the large fashion layer with dupioni and organza was pleated down to fit the smaller lining. Then the inner and outer sleeve were sewn together, and the whole thing was set in by hand, as wrangling layers is just easier that way.

Day 3 was spent on finishing the edges. This dress has a collar and belt of pleated velvet. I pleated them and stitched down the pleats by hand to make them invisible. Then they were both lined in cotton, stitched on along the velvet edge, and then the cotton layer was hand-sewn in place to finish it off. The sleeves I bound in bias tape, finished by hand.

That was the end of my weekend, and it was nearly there! The main thing left was closures, as that’s really essential to wearing, this was done in evenings. It closes with a combination of hooks and eyes, hooks and bars and snaps.

Final touches were a big velvet bow on the back collar, and a smaller one on the belt to hide the closure. I also decided to add a strip of black velvet ribbon along the sleeves.

All in all, I’m pretty happy I got this done within a week, and I can now wear my green outfit for day events as well as balls!

1830s Pelerine

I finished another UFO! When I made my gold 1830’s dress, I also cut out the fabric for a pelerine, as my inspiration original had a matching one. However, I didn’t have occasion to wear my dress outside, nor did I have a hat to do so, so the pelerine didn’t have any urgency. It also had many scallops, so I left it. But I’ve been on a UFO finishing streak and I now have a 1830s bonnet, so it was time to finish the pelerine!

I chose to finish my scallops by lining them instead of binding them as it would cost less fabric and I thought it might be easier. I don’t think it was all that much easier in retrospect, but I’m happy enough with how it turned out. I did add the piping between scallops and the pelerine though!

I tried two versions of the scallops beforehand, and settled on the deeper scallops. In retrospect, I should have drawn them out fully, as the trick to clean scallops is that you can cut the seam allowance all the way to the point. Turns out that’s very difficult if your stitching lines are too close. I did this right in the sample, but in many places in the eventual thing I had to snip some stitching to make it lay nice (and then use fray check, which is definitely not what you’re supposed to do…). Drawing out the scallops would have helped to keep enough space between the stitching lines.

I’ve tried to illustrate this below. Red is how to do it, with the green arrows showing you could cut all the way between the red lines. Blue is how not to do it, as there is a large overlap of the stitching lines of both sides which will make the scallops impossible to turn around.

I like how I now have a pretty versatile set of 1830’s things. I have 2 dresses, one green and one gold. The gold has detachable lower sleeves, so can be worn for both evening (ball) and day wear. The green would work for (non-ball) evening and day activities as well, it’s copied from an evening gown but has long sleeves to work for day. I have a brown/white bonnet which will go with both dresses. I have an antique white cotton pelerine which will go with both (though probably looks best on the green), and I have a gold silk pelerine which would work both with the green and the gold dress. Ideally, I’d have two more additions to this: a white bodice/blouse to wear with the green skirt (as the gold dress doesn’t have a separate skirt/bodice it won’t work with that) and make it more informal; and a coat, for which I actually already have green wool fabric. Those aren’t up next though, because I’ll first be making an 1890s vest of the leftover fabric of my split skirt. I’ve already started on that!

Plans for 2021

After looking back, it’s time to look ahead!

Usually, my plans for a new year are pretty directly correlated to plans for events to attend. I want to make the things I can wear somewhere.

Obviously, that makes planning for 2021 a little bit different. Any events which are tentatively planned are those that got moved or cancelled last year. And mostly, I’ve already made the outfits for them.

This makes planning more difficult obviously, but is also an opportunity in a way, to tackle some projects that never happened because no events came up.

So far, I’ve already started on some UFO’s. I finished a winter dress I started last year, my 1830s hat, and an 1940’s dress which has been in my UFO basket for at least 2 years.

1940s style dress

I also want to finally make the 1830’s golden pelerine to go with my golden dress, which I’ve been stalling a bit because it has tons of scallops. I started on that last weekend!

And obviously, I want to continue working on my hand-sewn stays. I’m getting an increasing itch to do more 18th century stuff, and it would be really nice if I could actually fit things over new stays. The good news on these is that I’m now on the back-panels, which are both the last ones, and the one with the least boning in them. So the end of sewing channels is actually in sight!

I’ve also been thinking of making a vest to go with my split skirt. I’ve already got the fabric and pattern for that, so it would be a really nice venture into tailoring.

The final thing I’ve got plans for is slightly different, as I’ll be making my sister-in-law to be’s wedding dress! I’ve already started on it, as I wanted to make sure I’d have plenty of time to work on this. It’s a little different from what I usually do, but I’m very excited to work on it. It gives me the opportunity to work with different fabric and use new techniques, which is really exciting.

So, as you can see, I don’t have a lot of full-outfit plans yet! I’m taking this slight ‘lag’ in event-sewing as an opportunity to not plan quite so far ahead. And to do first whatever strikes my fancy first. I have plenty of long-term projects, a lot of which I actually have fabric for already. So some of that list might finally happen! Below are some inspirations of things that are floating in my mind somewhere.

Early 1850s Mourning perhaps? I have some lovely thin black cotton which would work well.

I also have white silk and black lace, which I want to make into a late 1850s ballgown. Though I’d have to check whether I have enough lace for this precise design, I do love it.

Of course, I’ve also still got green wool for an 1830’s coat

Or, if I’m in a mood for bustles, I’ve got the perfect checkered silk for this outfit on the left?

And, if I finish my stays, I can perhaps even finally start on that chemise gown I have the perfect fabric for….

Of course, a lack of events is also a chance to sew on a whim a little bit more, so we’ll see which of these actually happens. But it’s fun to cream of all the pretty things!

2020 – Looking back

I make one of these posts every year, looking back at my plans at the beginning of the year, and what I actually did. Obviously, the big difference with other years is that all of the events I planned to sew for were cancelled this year. Despite that, I did actually end up making quite a bit from my list. I couldn’t wear the outfits to events, but I did dress up and make pictures, and I now have some nice additions for my wardrobe when events can happen again.

My plans started with the 1890’s, wanting to finish my new corset, make a blue petticoat, and then a green/black silk ball gown.

I actually did all of these, although I think I never even showed the finished corset? I’m wearing it in the top two pictures, it matches nicely with my petticoat!

For the day time, I planned to either re-make my Edwardian corset and tartan skirt to fit better, or to make a split skirt to go with a (modern, but fits the shape) sports sweater.

In the end, I did both. I enlarged the hips on my Edwardian corset, and added some gussets to my tartan skirt to fit my rib-cage. They aren’t the prettiest fixes, but definitely worth being able to wear them again.

I also made the split skirt, and later in the year added a sport’s blouse for a more summery version of the sport’s outfit. (Even though I haven’t actually worn the sport’s blouse with the split skirt yet…)

For the second half of the year, my plan was mostly to focus on the 1830’s, again for an event. I wanted to make a new dress, and then a white bodice for mix-matching and a hat, and maybe a coat.

In the end, I finished the dress, and started on the hat, which got done right after the new year. Because any urgency of an event was off, the blouse and coat never happened. I’d still like to make both, though.

The final plan I wrote down was to work on my 1780’s hand-sewn stays. I did work on them, though they didn’t progress quite as much as I’d hoped, and I’m still sewing boning channels. These are definitely a slow but steady type of project!

I did also make a number of things which weren’t planned. In April, American Duchess released a pattern for a lovely wrap cape, which I couldn’t resist making up.

In May and June, I went on a bit of a Regency sewing spree. (At that point, I still had some hopes for a Regency weekend in November…). I made new stays, which fit me quite a bit better than my old ones, made two dresses, and altered two spencers and a dress to fit better again.

Over the summer, I picked up an old project, for which I’d only done the drafting, and made my folded jacket.

And finally, after finishing the 1830’s dress I made a stripey bustle gown. This really was a palate-cleanser type of project, using cotton and poly taffeta, and making the design such that I could use patterns without any adaptation. That made the whole process much quicker, and it is such a fun dress to wear!

For the final months of the year, I took a step away from the big historical projects, and just worked on my bonnet and some unfinished stuff. The main thing I finished was a modern dress made from a fun panel fabric (adapted from “IJsvermaak bij een stad”, painted by Avercamp ca 1620). This project had been in the ufo basket since I had to change plans due to too little fabric. It isn’t the prettiest thing I’ve ever made sewing wise (and reminded me I don’t know enough about sewing knits…), but I’m glad it’s done, and it does look nice when worn!

A new hat to start the new year

Happy 2021 everyone! With the new year, it’s time for the looking back & looking forward posts, but I thought I’d start with my first finished project for 2021. A new hat!

I started this 1830s bonnet after finishing my 1830s dress, which I took pictures of with my Regency bonnet. The styles are similar enough to work, but hats did grow a bit more in the 1830s to match the wider skirts and bigger sleeves. For my bonnet, I wanted something that’d work with both my green and my gold dress, and I settled on a white/brown combination of fabrics.

And, I actually used a pattern! That was quite helpful, as bonnets are complicated. Mine was the Romantic period bonnet pattern by Lynn McMasters.

My main inspiration for the trim and look was this bonnet from Costumes Parisiens (1834)

I found some ribbon which was perfect for the style, and set off to work. That took a while, as I don’t particularly enjoy making hats, so I worked on it on and off since October. I made the frame, wired it, mulled it, and covered it, and these last past days I stitched on the trim to finish it.

My bear kindly tried it on for me before I covered it

So now it’s done, which means I have a full 1830s outfit to wear to outside events as well. Hopefully I’ll be able to take these out on a picnic sometime this year!

Back to the 1830s

At the beginning of the year, when I was roughly planning out projects, I decided to work on 1830’s things after the big 1895 project was done. The main reason was a romantic (so, 1830s) weekend in the UK I was hoping to go to. Of course, that weekend got cancelled, but I decided to just go ahead with my plans. My main inspiration was this dress from the Concord museum:

#concordmuseum hashtag on Instagram • Photos and Videos
Satin Dress, 1834-6. Concord Museum. Worn by Harriet Tufts Russell of Arlington to the inaugural ball of Martin van Buren in 1837

I really love the bodice treatment in particular. You see a lot of pleats in 1830’s bodices, but I’d never seen this particular style which creates a diamond shape in the middle. I’ve since looked at fashion plates for something similar, but it seems to have been a fairly unique design.

While I was working on the base of the bodice, I also found a photo of the back. I’d only seen exhibition pictures up to that point, all taken from the front as the back was to a wall. But the museum actually posted the back view on their Instagram, which was super useful! It has this fun little ‘cape’ going around the back, which I never would have seen otherwise.

Concord Museum on Instagram: “This beautiful white satin gown was once worn to a President's Ball. Tag someone you think would look great in it. Come enjoy more…”
Satin Dress, 1834-6. Concord Museum. Worn by Harriet Tufts Russell of Arlington to the inaugural ball of Martin van Buren in 1837

I started this project in June, and first up was patterning. I wanted to achieve a couple of things with this. First, was to use padding and really strive for the very ‘wide’ off the shoulder silhouette. The second was to pattern everything before I started cutting, including all the pleats. That was mostly because my fabric was only 80cm wide, and even with 8m of it, it was going to be a bit tight.

The pattern gave me some trouble this time, and it took a while to get everything fitting like I wanted to. A big shout-out to the Foundations Revealed community here for helping me out. But, eventually, I got there, and had all the pattern pieces in place!

I opted to use my silk only where visible. So there’s no silk underneath the pleats on the front, nor at the top back which is hidden by the cape. The sleeves had to be pieced, as my fabric wasn’t wide enough otherwise. That’s exactly what they also did in the period due to similarly small widths, so I am actually quite pleased with that.

The blue line is where the join in the sleeve is. The sleeve is cut on the bias, so this blue line runs along the fabric edge. The little red lines show the width of my fabric.

I started sewing with the skirt, which is fairly simple, just rectangles. The front is pleated with knife pleats, the back is cartridge pleated. The whole skirt is lined, as the silk is rather flimsy on it’s own.

Skirt done, it was time to start on the bodice! I only cut those parts that would be visible out of the silk, so the front base is entirely out of cotton, and so is the top of the back. The side panel of the silk actually extends to the front to end where the pleats begin, and the center front ‘diamond’ is a square of silk whose edges are hidden by the pleated panels.

The pleats are stitched down strategically in places by hand, just taking small bits of the silk under a pleat to make sure the attachment wouldn’t be visible.

After the pleats were stitched down, I could add the padding. I’d already made the shapes out of thick flannel layers to fit my bodice pattern over. They were pinned in, and covered by a layer of cotton which I stitched around by hand.

This is the final inside, showing the padding. There is a bit over the bust, but the bulk is above and to the outside to give the smooth round and wide shape

Then came the sleeves. There’s a join in the silk, and the sleeves are again fully lined to give a bit more structure. There was a lot of gathering involved! I tried to get as much volume as possible towards the back, but in the end it’s pretty evenly gathered as tightly as possible all the way around to make it fit. I finished the slits in the sleeves first, by simply laying the lining to the silk right sides together and turning inside out. This gives a neat finish to the edge.

The cape was piped with double piping, which was quite fiddly as it needed to go around all the points. I decided not to line the cape, as I was afraid the lighter cotton would show too much, and I didn’t have enough silk left to fully line them with that. So the piping around the edge is stitched down as small as possible to not show too much on the right side. The cape was stitched onto the neckline first, which was then finished by a row of single piping, with a slightly larger cord. It’s actually important to finish the necklines of these gowns with something non-stretchy, as you don’t want an off-shoulder gown to stretch and slip off.

Final touches were the waistband, boning, and the hooks and bars. The back was finished the same way as my friend Nikki shows in her wonderful video here.

As a quick wrap-up, I made myself some sleeve plumbers from the AD pattern here. These are quite important for keeping the dress in shape, though I think I want to experiment a bit more on how to attach them best to the dress.

And then she was done! This project took some time, mostly as I took long stretches off to wrap my head around what to do next. With the bodice taking a number of drafts, and the layers of silk and cotton and pleating in the bodice all needing some figuring out, it took more brainpower than I had most evenings after work. I’m really happy with how it turned out though, and can’t wait to wear it out when it’s possible to have events again.

Meanwhile, I took it for a brief spin during our holidays near the forest, to get some pictures! I took my antique pelerine and Regency bonnet as accessories, because I’m still working on an 1830’s bonnet. It’s not quite big enough, but has an okay shape.

The pelerine is very pleasant for covering your shoulders, but also effectively hides the most interesting part of the dress: the bodice pleats. So I also took some pictures without.

A folded jacket from Zeeland

This post is about my latest project, which is a folded jacket in the style of Walcheren, in Zeeland. The most fun part of this traditional jacket is that it’s cut in 1 piece, and sewn into shape using clever folds and darts. The only seam is the underarm one, connecting the front to back under the sleeves. It’s such an interesting style, so it deserves some background info as well!

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My finished jacket. The belt is ‘vintage’ style, but works quite well. The front is a little simple, as these jackets were normally worn with an apron on top, so the belt sets off the waistline nicely.

 

This is an original one, similar to mine:

Jacket from Walcheren, ca. 1900. Yes, this is cut out of one piece of fabric! (lining and outer fabric each, of course). Nederlands Openluchtmuseum

 

Zeeland is a province in the south-west of the Netherlands, with a number of large islands, and strong connections with traditional dress. Although current traditional dress in Zeeland knows many variations, they have all evolved from similar clothing between the 18th century and now.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor ZEELand

Red is Zeeland

 

I own two books specifically about this costume. While the first book describes costume in general, including the societal and social connotations, this second book is about making it, focusing on pattern drafting. It’s actually one of the first books on traditional costume aimed at recreation, which I think is great as so much knowledge like this is disappearing. Today we still often wear older originals when showing traditional Dutch dress, but at some point you want to stop wearing antique clothing. Yet it often takes a lot of skill to properly recreate garments, so a book full of information on this is great.

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This is the book!

 

The book includes information on how to draft you own pattern blocks, and how to use those to draft patterns for the traditional garments. It includes patterns for late 18th century stuff up to today, covering the whole range of different costumes in Zeeland today.

The most interesting chapter to me was the one on folded jackets. During the 19th and 20th century, two types of jackets were worn in Zeeland. The type that was cut in 1 piece and folded into shape, and a version which has cut pattern pieces. From the outside, they can actually look very similar, but construction is quite different.

Jakken

These two jackets are both from Zuid-Beveland, the middle island in Zeeland. (I suspect both are from ca. 1950). The left is cut, and is from the east part. The right jacket is from Middelburg in Walcheren (the west part),  and is folded. The shape is quite similar, but they’re patterned and sewn up very differently.

 

In the book they differentiates between the two by calling the folded jackets ‘jak’ (jacket), and the cut ones ‘mantel’, or ‘mankel’ (current day translation would be cape, but in those days it was used for jackets). I don’t know if historically, this terminology was as strict, or if the terms were used interchangeably. Today, most museums just call the ‘mankel’ a jacket too, probably also because that word isn’t in use anymore.

The folded jackets were worn in multiple areas of Zeeland during the 19th century, but over time they were replaced by ‘modern’ dress in some areas, by cut jackets in others, and today they only survive in Walcheren (the western half of the middle island on the map above). As in all places, the costume is dying out, and hasn’t changed much since the 1950’s.

Walcheren (West-Kappelle) 1947

The full costume from Walcheren ca. 1950. The jacket is black, and over the years the neckline has dropped very low, giving room to show off the beuk (type of partlet) underneath.

 

The book describes extant jackets from ca. 1800 to today, and it’s interesting to see how many things have stayed the same during this period. The length of the peplum, height of the neckline, length of the sleeves and fabric choice all changed with fashion. Basic construction stayed much the same though! I don’t know how/when this folding originated, but I think it’s rather fascinating that such an old technique survived. It’s great for saving fabric, as you don’t cut away much, so if you change size you just unpick all the darts and fit it to the body again!

urn-gvn-NOMA01-HM1298-large

A folded jacket from Walcheren, I suspect from ca. 1800 (the book has a pattern from a similar jacket from this period. Especially the farmer society in Zeeland never really adopted the empire style, and kept wearing jackets and full skirts in the older style).

 

The jacket above is one of the earlier examples of a folded jacket (early 19th century). Compared to the black one above (I suspect a mid-20th century version), it has longer sleeves, a longer peplum, brightly colored fabric, a higher neckline and flaps to close center front. The folding pattern is pretty much the same though!

There are a couple of things you can directly trace back to 18th century fashion. The robings on this 18th century style have basically become ‘princess-seam’ like folds in the later styles that have a closed center front. The cuffs of the sleeves were cut separate originally because of the narrower fabric width, and some later styles kept this as a stylistic choice. And the little piece which finishes of the center back neckline still survives even after construction changed a bit and it’s functional use disappeared. On this little piece, seamstresses would sometimes leave a stitching pattern which was basically their signature, so you could see who made which jacket!

Girl’s jacket from ca. 1950. The little piece at the bottom of the back neckline shows the seamstresses ‘signature’ stitching. (Another fun note, around this time the jackets had a small ‘kerchief’ stitched into the jacket, the little white bit you see, another souvenir from the 18th century).

 

Of course, as the book offered instructions on how to make such a jacket, I wanted to make one! It gives instructions for both the earlier style with longer peplum and front-flap closure, and the shorter later style. I went for the second one, but made sure the neckline would be high enough to wear it without something underneath (the 1950’s version is the latest, and basically closes under the bust, so that was a no-go). The style of mine is now very similar to the style you see in the mid-19th century. I actually made up the pattern over 2 years ago when the book came out, but on a recent trip to Zeeland finally got inspired again to actually make the thing. And I picked up fabric there, which felt appropriate!

My jacket is made out of ‘Zeeuws Bont’, which is probably the only fabric which is typically found only in Zeeland. Jackets were made in printed cotton, silk, wool, and later velvet. Never in this Zeeuws bont though, which is cotton with a woven pattern. This fabric was used for aprons specifically (they also call it ‘schortebond’ for that reason). But because it’s so recognizable as being from Zeeland, and my jacket itself will probably not be recognizable to anyone but the real specialists from the cut alone, I figured it’d be a nice choice. I lined my jacket with thin black cotton from my stash.

Schortenbont Bloem

This is the fabric I got. I bought it in Middelburg at La Vaca, who don’t have an online shop. But this shop sells it as well.

 

This pattern shows the lining fabric cut out on the fold (on the left side). The chalk lines indicate the placement of all the folds!

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Making this was actually quite quick (after I made 2 mock-ups…). The lining & outer fabric are treated as one, and the folds are folded and stitched in, and the side/underarm seam is sewn. By this point, it has it’s shape!

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After that it’s mostly finishing edges. I hemmed the sleeves by just folding them over and whipping them down, but the neckline and bottom edge I bound with bias tape. The fabric frays quite a bit, and this gives a clean finish. Originals often had the edges folded in on each-other as well.

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The final touch was the maker’s mark! I did this with a little piece of wool. I like the little touch of black contrast, and the wool doesn’t fray, which means the edges don’t need to be folded under (that part’s just laziness…)

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And that was it! I’m quite pleased with how wearable this came out, as it was also mostly an experiment with this style. Pairing it with a belt really helps to make it fit with ‘modern’ clothes, and gives it an almost 1950’s style. That makes sense, as the shape is mostly Victorian (and the 1950’s were absolutely a revival of Victorian shapes), and didn’t change much over the centuries. A good piece for historybounding!

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1890s sports blouse

It’s been almost a month since my last post! August flew by, I was busy first with work and then with taking some time off. I did, however, finish a small(ish) project!

Shari from La Rose Passementarie has been hosting some sew-alongs, to get people motivated to start projects which might not have an event. This month, the theme was ‘1890s shirtwaists’. I didn’t have this on my direct project list, but I did have a pattern. And I sort of want to make a vest with the leftover fabric from my bicycle skirt, which means I also need a blouse to wear it with. That was enough motivation to get me started.

I used the Black Snail sport blouse pattern. I chose a simple off-white cotton for the blouse + collar. This will be a fairly functional blouse, and this way it’ll fit with almost anything.

Edwardian Blouse worn about 1900 to do sports PDF Sewing Pattern ...

 

 

It is a fairly straightforward blouse, with the tricky bits being the collar and sleeve split+cuffs. I definitely needed to read the pattern a couple of times, and it helped to see the collar construction in this blog. It’s technically a different Black snail blouse, but the collar pattern is the same. If you’ve made 2 piece collars before it might be easier, but those bits would make me hesitant to recommend the pattern to real beginners.

The only thing I changed was to hand-fell the seams, instead of doing that by machine.

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I really like how this came out. For a next version, I might move the sleeves a little bit, as 1890s sleeves are fairly high up on the shoulder. But I am quite happy with the shape, it’s actually quite a flattering shape even if it’s not tucked into a skirt.

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Shortly after I finished the blouse, we actually had our first event since January, a Victorian (distanced) picnic. I took that opportunity to wear the blouse with my 1890’s petticoat/skirt, and that combination worked quite well! These pictures are by Martijn van Huffelen:

DSC_8132bDSC_8273bDSC_8275b

 

 

2 cotton Regency dresses

After making new stays, I figured I’d take the opportunity to also make some additions to my Regency wardrobe. I wanted to add one white cotton dress, as they are quite versatile. Wearing them with a spencer makes them suitable for day wear, but they can also work for evening. Additionally, I wanted a printed cotton day dress, something for more practical wear.

Both dresses were made with the same pattern, which I adapted from my previous Regency dresses. I particularly wanted to try out bib-style dresses, so dresses where the center front panel is only attached to the skirt, and ties in place. The main advantage of this style is that it closes in the front, so is easy to get in and out of.

These pictures by the Hungarican Chick show the system really well:

 

For the white cotton dress, this was my main inspiration:

c.1808-1809 Gilbert Stuart - Mary Harrison Eliot

ab. 1808-1809 Gilbert Stuart – Mary Harrison Eliot
(Harvard Art Museums)

I really love the decoration on the bodice and sleeve of this dress. A lot of white cotton regency dresses have intricate white-work embroidery as decoration, but I wanted this to be a simple project so I chose to do it with lace instead. I don’t know for sure if the portrait is embroidered or has lace, but the straight borders do suggest lace to me. The portrait also seems to show a bib-dress, if you look closely there is the suggestion of the front panel being laid on top of the shoulder strap. For the skirt I went fairly simple, but I did add some tucks near the bottom for extra decoration.

The lace I bought from cottonlace, and is very pretty! The right picture are the tucks in progress

 

For my day-dress, I looked at existent examples and settled on this one:

1808-12 White cotton day dress printed with red and blue floral rondels overall. The dress with scoop neck and high waist. A panel from the waistband flaps up over the bust, ties at the waist are pulled to the tightly pleated back. The short sleeves with sewn in fitted undersleeve with ruffled wrist. Silverman/Rodgers Collection, KSUM 1983.1.28

KSU MuseumFollow
Cotton day dress, ca. 1808-1812

 

It is made of printed cotton, and has a tuck at the hem and sleeve ruffles. The bodice is decorated with a simple pleated strip to add a little interest. I liked how this dress is very simple, but has a couple of small decorative touches. Plus, this also looks to be a bib-front dress. I think this original dress has one-piece sleeves, but I decided to go for a separately finished short puff sleeve and longer sleeve, whipped together. This way, I have the option to remove the lower sleeve easily for hot days.

The Merry Dressmaker: Kent State Museum of Fashion: A Pictorial Tease II

Picture courtesy of the Merry Dressmaker

 

 

And the finished dresses!

The white dress, with evening gloves and tiara.

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The lace on the bodice and sleeves adds a subtle bit of interest.

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And the white-blue gown, worn with the long sleeves, my chemisette and bonnet (in some pictures, as I also wanted to show the pleated strip on the bodice.

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Regency stays

Regency was the first period I tried when starting historical costuming, mainly because there were a lot of events and it is relatively simple. It’s not really my favorite period, but I do enjoy spending time with friends at Regency events.

I have a number of Regency dresses which I like, but I’ve been wanting to replace my undergarments for a little while now. I have short stays, but I’ve become very used to wearing full corsets under costumes and in retrospect the short stays also don’t give me the best shape.

I’ve been putting off making long stays because I don’t really need them, but with all the free weekends I figured now was a good time. I got the regency stays pattern from Redthreaded, having heard good things about them.

I made a mock-up, and mainly added room in the hips, which was expected as the pattern is a bit straighter than me. I also raised the bust gussets by about 1cm.

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Cutting time!

 

I followed slightly different steps for the construction, as the pattern calls for constructing it as a single layer (even if using more) with internal boning channels and I wanted a clean finish inside as you see in originals. I couldn’t really figure out how originals were constructed, so I used the method of constructing the pieces front to back, ‘welding’ the seams inbetween the layers. Basically, when attaching panel 1 to 2, you have the layers of panel 1 on each other. Then, you put the right side fabric of 2 to the right side of 1, the wrong side of 2 to the wrong side of 1 and stitch through all layers, and then turn panel 2 back to hide the allowance.

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The main panels constructed

 

The gussets were a bit challenging, as I wanted to sandwich them inbetween the layers. After cutting the slash, I ironed both sides inward, put the gussed inbetween and based the layers in place. Then I topstitched right around the gusset, the basting keeping the underlayers in place. It’s not perfect, but for a first time trying this out I’m pretty happy with it.

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Gusset with only the basting in place

 

I was planning to make these fairly simple, but then I noticed basically all existent Regency long stays have cording, so I wanted to have some too. I used the method described by the Laced Angel here. Basically, I stitched all lines first, and then inserted cording with afterwards with a darning needle. It definitely took some fiddling and pliers, but the cording does add that Regency touch!

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The eyelets are hand sewn, and aside from the cording there are a couple of bones still. Most are 7mm wide 1mm thick synthethic whalebone, but around the center back and on the back/side seam I used 6mm wide 1.5mm thick ones as those places take most strain. There is also a wooden busk in the front to keep that line straight and help separate the bust cups.

 

During the final fitting, the bust turned out to still be a little too high, so I cut about 1cm off the top before stitching on the binding with drawstring. It also turned out the bone between side and back seam was digging in a bit (my fault for not boning my mock-up…), so I shortened that in the channel which fixed it.

Fitting: the bustline is too high, and the bone on the seam in the side/back was digging in whenever I let my arm down.

 

All in all, I’m very happy with how this turned out! It feels more comfortable than my old ones, and also gives me a better silhouette. Regency is all about the ‘lift and separate’ look, and while my old ones did the lift, the separate wasn’t much there.

I can also put them on by myself, despite the back lacing. The trick is very long lacing, wriggling in with the lacing in front, tightening it a bit, turning it around on the body, and tightening one final time. It doesn’t look very elegant, but it works. I’ve wrapped the rest of the lacing cord around my waist, as tying off properly is the only thing I can’t get done on my own. It works fine for putting them on for fittings though!

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The only problem now is that my old dresses don’t fit quite right on my new stays. I’ll look into re-making them if I can, but this is also a good excuse to make new ones! The advantage of regency dresses is that they are fairly quick to make, so I might have some new projects to show fairly soon…