Monday, September 25, 2017

1790s Blue Silk Gown

 All the way back in June I bought tickets to the Jane Austen Ball at Gadsby's Tavern, to be held in September. The theme specifically said 1790s, when Jane Austen was a young woman. Most people wore what could be considered more Regency era (post 1800), and I could have worn my Regency ball gown, but I wanted to try another era and I have a habit of making new outfits for events.


 I considered quite a lot of fabrics, knowing I wanted something in silk, and settled on a lovely, extremely light weight silk taffeta off Ebay. I had purchased yardage of the silk in yellow to line an upcoming project, and I was so taken by the softness, drape, and sheen of this taffeta that I knew I wanted a full dress out of it. It's a bit hard to sew as it's slippery, but it was worth the effort, as I am happy with how light it is to wear and how it flows. Plus it was under $15 a yard!


This blue and white ensemble above was my main inspiration. It's from 1796. The two paintings below both date to the 1790s and show ladies in gathered blue dresses with elbow length sleeves, which is what I chose to make.


The pattern for the dress is a slightly altered Sense and Sensibility "Elegant Lady's Closet"  drawstring dress. I had to make the back neckline higher to cover my back tattoo, and I deepened the front neckline a few inches. I didn't use the skirt part of the pattern; I just made my own using trapezoidal panels, knife pleated in the back. I also adjusted how the drawstring is attached- I don't tend to follow pattern directions. Other than that, I liked the pattern and will use it again soon.


 I knew that I would want something on top of the gown for an accent. I considered a proper spencer or a sheer overdress, but after seeing several extant bodices and a lot of women wearing them in 1790s fashion plates, I decided to do just the little bodice.


My bodice is heavy silk satin from Pure Silks, lined in white silk dupioni, with some white sequin and gimp trim from Heritage Trading. I used the base bodice pattern of Laughing Moon's drop front dress, not including the bib part. I took it in after the first mock up and wish I hadn't; now it's a smidge small! I definitely will use the pattern again without alterations. The little tail is just a crescent shape of the silk, box pleated.


About a month ago, I cut a foot off my hair. It has been waist length or longer for 12 years, and I decided to change it up a bit. Now it's just below my collarbone, which I have found makes it very difficult to do many period hairstyles. I can't put it in a high bun without the back falling down. For this event, I chose to buy a wig! I have been using hair pieces for a while now, but this is my first ever wig.

I followed the directions for the 1790s hairstyle in the book "18th Century Hair and Wig Styling" by Kendra van Cleave. I highly recommend the book, even if you're terrible at hairstyling like I am. The book advises purchasing the "Southern Belle" wig from Lacey Wigs, and adding more curls to the shorter front layers. I did exactly this and I am really liking the style. I got a lot of compliments when I wore it to the ball. I wrapped a silk satin scarf from Dharma Trading around the wig for some interest, but next time I'll also add feathers!

 As for my accessories, I am wearing silk gloves, a silk reticule I made back in January, a painted fan from K. Walters at the Sign of the Gray Horse, and a necklace and earrings set, made by Dames a la Mode, my husband gifted me for our 3 year wedding anniversary last month.


I made a bodiced petticoat a couple months ago to be my main petticoat to wear under Regency dresses. I am wearing this under the blue gown above, and the white and black block-printed dress. It's made from cotton muslin, unlined, has three skirt tucks to give shape to the bottom of the skirt, and uses the drawstring dress pattern from the "Elegant Lady's Closet". I did made it about 2 inches smaller in center front to reduce bulk and gathers, which worked well.


I am also wearing a 1790s corset underneath the gown and petticoat, but I haven't taken proper photos of me wearing it. That'll be in a later post I hope.

Friday, August 18, 2017

1810s or Regency Block Printed Dress

 In July and August I put this Regency-era dress together, knowing there would be more Regency-themed events coming up this year for me to attend. The first one was the annual Regency Tea put on by the Regency Society of Virginia. It's held at this sweet little house in Amelia, VA, where they have a tea room set up downstairs. It was a great event, well attended, and everyone's costumes were top-notch. I have rarely seen such great quality costuming by every single person attending, ever.


I hunted around for some fabric in early July, settling on a white cotton muslin with a hand-done Indian block print in black. I wanted to avoid a mostly-white dress, as they seem so common in the reenactor community (probably because they were extremely popular historically), but I came across this black and white print on Etsy and decided to go with it.

My main dress inspiration was this extant dress, along with the pattern to another extant dress held in the Genesee Country Museum. Both date to around 1810-1815. They both have a drawstring front bodice placket, which I wanted to try instead of the simpler drawstring bodice we see pretty often. The pattern for the extant dress was way too small for me, so I used most of my Regency bodice pattern as a base, and then made the front rectangular panel. The panel has the lower gathers stitched to a waistband, while the upper gathers are on a drawstring. My dress buttons up the back instead of on a drawstring.

 Block printed cotton fabrics were very popular during the Regency era. Here is an image of a sample of print patterns, and other dresses that I used for fabric inspiration. Notice the border on the hems. I had to cut off the border of my fabric and re-sew it onto the hem and sleeve cuffs, as the pattern for the fabric ran vertically while the border was only on one side. I have a black silk spencer in the works as well; I didn't make it for the tea as I knew it would be very warm at the event.


 And now for some pictures from the tea! I made a simple swiss dot chemisette, but I need to add a ruffle onto the edge. I may re-do it entirely and make it a high collar instead of a v-neck. Mostly I needed something quick because my corset is purple and the dress is unlined and I didn't want the corset showing! I do have on a white cotton tucked petticoat, and with the chemisette, the outfit is not see through, except the sleeves.

 My hairstyle was pretty easy to do, now that I have some hair pieces. I have the curled bangs I made for the Regency ball earlier this year, and added my braided headband. All of my own hair is just in a simple bun. I decided not to buy or make a bonnet/hat for this event as it was all indoors. I definitely want to get a black hat or bonnet soon.

 Stacy from the Regency Society was also wearing black and white, and looked fabulous! My SCA friend Pamela came to the event with me, and I helped her put together a blue wool drawstring dress a few weeks before. She paired it with a gorgeous neckerchief and shawl. We had our own little table at the tea and got two of each savory treat.




 I'm quite pleased with how this dress turned out. It was just the right weight for the temperature of the day, so I think it'll get a fair bit of use at warm events. Maybe if I can attend the Jane Austen Festival in the future (Kentucky in July!), I can wear it there.

I have two more Regency/Jane Austen themed events coming up in September and November, but I think I will be wearing fancier dresses to those. The dress for the September event (the Jane Austen Ball at Gadsby's Tavern in Alexandria, VA) is pretty much done, and it's a 1790s blue silk drawstring gown. November is a Regency Murder Mystery party put on by the Regency Society, and I won't know what I'm wearing until I'm assigned a character. I wouldn't be surprised if I made something new for that as well!



Sunday, July 9, 2017

1760s - 1770s Green Jacket and Petticoat

Last weekend I went to Colonial Williamsburg (15 minutes from my house!) with my husband for a dinner and dancing night out. We went to the King's Arms Tavern, which was delicious and had musicians, and then popped by the Governor's Palace for an 18th century dancing demonstration, and we got to learn a few dances as well.

I am slowly easing my way into 18th century costuming, and decided to make another jacket with matching petticoat. This one is a bit fancier than the other set. The jacket is the JP Ryan pattern, and made into a "casaquin" style- I think! I'm not fantastic at the different names for the jackets, but I found some extant ones and based my jacket off of them. I wanted something with self-fabric trim and ribbons. Casaquin jackets are likely hip length, with flared panels, and show up around the middle of the 18th century. Earlier jackets tend to have wide flared cuffs, and later jackets often have self-fabric ruffles at the elbows, so I chose that style.




My jacket and petticoat are made from an emerald-hunter green silk/linen blend. My gold 1770s petticoat is also silk/linen, but that mix has more silk, and the green is more linen. It does still have a light sheen to it though. The rose pink ribbons are silk. I chose pink because I loved the combo with green, but I also have some rose silk satin that will become another petticoat and could get worn with this jacket, and then they'll match. The trim is box-pleated self-fabric, which I did on the machine as I went along, as I can pleat evenly without pinning. This is certainly not an historically-accurate method, but it went together quickly and easily, and the machine stitches are barely visible.

The jacket bodice is lined in white linen. Normally I like to line my outfits in nearly-identically colored fabric so you don't notice the inside edges, but you nearly never see that historically, so I went with the white linen. I don't love how it shows at the bottom skirt edge, but hey, it's correct.


 Here's how it looks without the neckerchief and apron. It could be worn this way for evening with fancier jewelry and hair, but I like how the white accessories make the fabric pop.




 I purchased a suit of linen clothes for my husband from Jas. Townsend. It consists of a coat, waistcoat, breeches, and hat. They are very well made but all a bit big for him, so I will be taking them in soon. I made his shirt and neck-cloth for the Regency ball a few months ago, but they work for 18th century, too. His shoes are from Fugawee and the buckles are the "James" from K. Walters at the Sign of the Gray Horse.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

1770s Printed Jacket and Petticoat

Now that I've shown the undergarments that are my foundation for upcoming 18th century clothes, I can move onto showing the layers I've made so far to go on top! Like many costumers new to the 18th century, I decided to try a jacket and petticoat first instead of a gown. Also, with summer in hot and humid Virginia coming up, I didn't want to make anything too heavy and then not be able to wear it for several months.


I purchased about a yard of printed cotton fabric from Fashionable Frolick on Etsy. It's a medium weight, with an ivory base, green vines, and flowers in several colors- yellow, blue, purple, red, and pink. I chose this fabric because of the colors in the flowers and vines: I'll be able to wear petticoats in various colors with the jacket and change up the look. The first petticoat is yellow, but the next one will be emerald green, with a matching green jacket. That way I'll have three outfits to mix and match!
The pattern I used is by JP Ryan, and it has a variety of jackets for the 18th century. I did "View D", which is rather close to the extant jacket held by Colonial Williamsburg described in "Costume Close Up". I did not make a copy of the "Costume Close Up" jacket, but simply used the JP Ryan pattern and added the little slits at the front. I also made the center back seam smaller at the waist, side skirt flare narrower, and the bottom of the tails shorter. Overall the pattern fit rather well, and I plan to use it again to make my next jacket.


The jacket is lined with linen, except the sleeves which are unlined. It laces up with hand-bound eyelets. I have ordered some silk ribbon in yellow and green to use in future. The only machine sewing is on the main seams, meaning all visible stitches were done by hand. I wanted to feel relatively historically accurate while wearing it to Colonial Williamsburg, considering the level of accuracy they have on the employee costumes.


The petticoat is made from a lovely silk/linen blend that almost looks like a silk faille. It's simply two rectangles sewn up the sides, and knife pleated with a twill tape waistband. The ruffle at the hem was made by cutting 6 inch strips off the fabric panel, and it's twice the width of the petticoat. It's gathered and then sewn down on top of the gathers. I used a pinked rotary cutter on both edges of the ruffle. In these pictures I'm wearing my quilted petticoat, but the yellow petticoat alone gives pretty considerable pouf, so on very warm days, I'll probably wear it without another petticoat underneath.

 I'm quite happy with how this project turned out. I will do a separate post to talk about the accessories that go with the outfit. I made the cap, neckerchief, apron, and pocket (that you can't see in the pictures), and I purchased the shoes and hat.


I do want to mention a few blogs that gave me a lot of inspiration, ideas, and great photos of similar outfits and how they're constructed: A Fashionable Frolick, Mode de Lis, and A Lass of Yesteryear. One big reason that I blog is because of how helpful other blogs have been to me on my costuming journey. I hope that my blog can give some insight for other costumers from time to time. Sharing pictures is marvelous inspiration, but sharing the construction process is what is the most valuable for me, and I know that is an area I tend to slack on. So thank you to all the costumers out there who put your work online for all to see and enjoy!



I will leave the post with this tidbit: if you are in or visiting the Williamsburg area, shoot me a message here or on my FB page so we can play dress up and attend events. I am eager to make new costuming friends on the East Coast!