Sunday, December 28, 2014

Slowly Working on the Blue Silk French Gown

I've taken to calling this gown the Ice Queen outfit, as it's very icy blue and very fancy already. I had been working on several projects for friends that I hadn't been working on stuff for me in many weeks. So this weekend I decided to bust this dress out and keep at it.

Where we left off, I had a bodice with eyelets and boning done. First thing, I sewed down the shoulder straps at the neckline. I have to make mine nice and tight as I can't stand that "falling off the shoulder" look, and then also it doesn't support things correctly for me until the straps are super sung.
Here's a picture after I did that. Notice you can see the boning? Even with 5 damn layers of fabric, the boning is still obvious. Not yet sure how much trim I'm going to put on the bodice to cover that up.

 Next up was trimming. I put it around the shoulder straps and across the front. I may add some vertical lines of trim on the center front, but I'm waiting to apply them because I'm not 100% sure what I'll do yet. This silk, once it gets a hole poked in it, shows the holes permanently, so I don't want to make a decision quite yet!


Then I started on the sleeves. I made a whole new pattern for these sleeves, which I'll be able to use for future projects, as I really like the look of the poufs at the front. Sleeve is all one piece, with a 4 inch wide piece of extra fine linen sewn up the seam where it opens. I started to pin where the jewels will go in this picture. 

First sleeve complete! It has 5 poufs with 6 little jewels sewn on to keep the sleeve together. They are the same jewels that I put on my rust silk damask French gown. I love how sparkly they are! The ruffle at the wrist is my smock. I always make my smocks very fitted so I cannot just do the normal thing of pulling my smock though the poufs, which is why it's faked with that strip of linen. However, if I make this style of sleeve again, I may just not do the linen strip and just have the smock gently show between the jewels.


I have the next sleeve to do which should go a lot faster, now that I know what I want to do. Debating sewing on more of the trim to the wrist of the sleeve. Then on to the skirt!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Historical Shoes

And now for something a bit different! I love historical shoes, so I wanted to do a post about them!

When I joined the SCA back in 2008, I planned to just buy all my costumes and other medieval gear as I never thought I'd be interested in doing any of it myself- I really like to shop for this kind of stuff. That means that I spent a fair bit of money looking for shoes that were "historical-esque", and would be close enough to pass muster, but not bother with the real deal.

We hear it all the time in the SCA- "it's too expensive for period shoes" or "these mary janes or black Merrells are close enough".  I now tell everyone who asks me about shoes- it's worth the investment for the real thing. I easily spent over $100 buying several pairs of shoes over the course of maybe a year and a half when I first started. Now, I spend about $60-80 per pair on my period shoes. They will last you much longer, be more durable and easy to repair or clean up, and of course most importantly, make your whole outfit look more historical.

What about comfort, you might ask? Well, the insoles of historical shoes to tend to be harder than modern shoes. I add cheap little insoles right on top of the original ones to soften my steps, plus I often stuff a bit of pillow fluffing into the toes of my shoes to cushion my toes (and keep them warmer!)- it also helps keep the ends of the shoes nicely shaped, as the main three pairs I wear have slightly longer front ends than our modern shoes.

How about some pictures? They're in order of most recent purchases to what I started with.


I got these adorable little ankle boots back in August. All leather with brass buckles. I plan to wear them with my more early period garb, like cotehardies and norse apron dresses. They are stuffed with pillow wadding right now to soften up their shape in the closet as they were boxed up a bit long and turned a bit stiff.  I just rubbed them with some leather wipes (which I swear by) and that also softened them. Cost: $65.

Oh, these fun little red shoes. They have a squared-toe, which has some pillow stuffing in them. I love the slashes and the bright color. All leather, with a bit of a German flair, which is evident in the slashes and the square toe. I wear them with gowns and kirtles, generally at indoor events, cause I don't want the pretty leather to get ruined! I bought them in early 2011 and they still look fantastic and are in great condition. Cost: $75.

 These were my first pair of real historical shoes, bought in 2010. They are simple Elizabethan latchet shoes, all leather, with some nails in the sole. I tend to wear them now with my less-fancy Elizabethan clothes (like kirtles), or when the weather at an event is bad or I know I'll be outside a lot. They get pretty muddy at events and I just rinse them under a faucet and wipe them down with a towel. Other than being a bit dirty, there's no damage to the leather. Cost: $70.

Confession time: I bought these two pairs of (faux) leather mary janes rather recently. The shape is right, the material is right, and they're perfect for indoor court events when I want my feet to look all pretty! I plan to add some silk ribbon ties and maybe even some embellishments. I have been dying for a white pair of Elizabethan-style shoes but didn't want to spend a lot on something that will get dirty. I bought both of these pairs for less than $50.


I am mostly sure I never even bothered to wear these shoes to an event. I thought they looked kinda German with the slashes and they were maybe $11. Cute but not quite right.

Here is what I started with. I bought a couple pairs of black mary janes, that were slightly better quality than the super-cheap ones we often see, with those awful orange soles. My pairs were silk and velvet. Once they got wet and had some dirt on them, they were toast. The soles broke in half after a couple days. They got hard and cracked when they got muddy. 


And something random: I bought these shoes for I think $4 at a thrift store. They have such a great 18th century shape! Once I have an 18th century gown and an event to wear it to, I'll bust these out, probably with a cockade or shoe ribbons.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Purple English Kirtle - Revamped

I have noticed that I've been fixing up some of my garb that I've either had a few years and got some wear and tear, or that I made poorly the first go around and needs some tidying up. This project is another one of those. I made this kirtle in early 2011. It's purple linen, with black linen guards and (originally) cuffs and neckline detail. It's lightly boned with spring steel, and interlined with cotton duck cloth. It still fits very well and is my most comfortable kirtle.

I wore this quite a bit when I first made it, then made the bright pink and teal kirtle, so this one saw less use for about 2 years. Back in September, I decided to pull it out of the closet and see what kind of shape it was in, as I had a demo to attend that needed something moderately warm and pretty but not showy or likely to get dirty. Thus began some changes! Pics below are the first iteration.


1. I removed the black linen neckline trim detail. I never got around to putting the black all the way around the neckline anyways, so I thought it looked kinda stupid as it was. Much cleaner without it!
2. I tightened up the shoulder straps. Maybe they were too loose to start, or maybe they loosened up with wear- I just needed them raised to about an inch tighter.
3. I lowered the neckline about an inch after raising the straps because it was gapping after the straps moved.
4. I ironed the crap out of this dress. After a monsoon rain at Pennsic, the fabric was looking drab and wrinkled.
5. The bottom guard was a bit frayed underneath the hemline from wear and tear- tidied that up.
6. Removed the cuffs. They were attached poorly because I didn't really know what I was doing when I first made them, and have since improved my skills. I prefer the kirtle without them now.
7. Moved around the lacing rings at the shoulder straps and sleeves to line up more neatly and show less.
8. Did some extra stitches on the back few cartridge pleats as they had loosened up.

Here it is now, shown with a (purchased) blackworked partlet and a black silk girdle belt with buckle. I am really glad that I took the time to fix this dress up. It fits great, is comfortable to wear all day, and I still get compliments on it! The linen has become really soft and flowy after a couple years with minimal wear showing (mostly at the back where it has taken some strain). I have already worn it twice since I fixed it up! And I definitely will get more use out of it, for a couple more years I think.