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!

Friday, June 2, 2017

18th Century Undergarments

My blog has been rather quiet for a couple months because I moved across the country in April. In March we listed our house in Montana for sale, and we completed the sale and moved out on April 20, then five days later, purchased a house in Williamsburg, Virginia. We have now been living in VA for over a month, and I finally have had time to do some sewing now that our house is mostly unpacked and we're settling in.

We now live only 15 minutes away from Colonial Williamsburg and Historic Jamestowne. I want to start attending events and activities at CW, and hopefully other 18th century-themed events elsewhere, so I had to get crackin' on some new costumes. Because I had no pieces of 18th century clothing yet, I started from the skin out, which means undergarments. These will be the foundation pieces I'll use for all my 18th century costuming.

First up is the shift or chemise. I had made a simple cotton one for Regency, and I will probably continue to use it for 18th century, as the only difference is the length of the sleeves and fiber content. It's perfectly passable underneath a dress. However, I knew I would need more than one shift, so I made another out of a lightweight linen with the proper, elbow length sleeves. I considered adding ruffles at the elbow, or a cuff, but ultimately decided to leave it plain, as I will likely wear different "engageantes" or sleeve ruffles that are removable and can be transferred onto different dresses.

 The construction is simple and goes together quickly. It's rectangular construction, with two underarm gussets and two side gores. The neckline is a drawstring and only has to gather a little bit. The shift is a very important layer: it absorbs sweat and body oils, keeping your stays and outer garments cleaner; and it helps keep the bust in check with the stays on. Without the shift, my bosom tends to pop out of the top of the stays. I didn't use a commercial pattern for the shift; there are tons of patterns online and you simply adjust for your measurements.

I needed proper 18th century stays, and waffled on whether to buy them or make them myself. Turns out I ended up doing both! First I made stays, using the American Duchess for Simplicity pattern. Then Redthreaded announced she was going to start making front-lacing 18th century stays, so I preordered those. They arrived last week and are awesome!

Left: my "Outlander" stays.   Right: Redthreaded's stays.

 I started the gold stays back in April, once I knew we were moving. I purchased the Simplicity pattern designed by American Duchess, as I wasn't ready to tackle scaling up a pattern from my costuming books, nor did I like the style of any other commercial pattern. I liked the shape of this one, and that it had a front-lacing option. The fashion fabric is a cotton/silk damask, and the lining is cotton duck. I didn't need interlining as the two fabrics were heavy enough. The boning is zip ties, some .5" and some .25". There is only front lacing, no back lacing, as I found it unnecessary to have both. The back has a center seam now. No pic of the back because I have a hideous back tattoo.

 Overall I would recommend this pattern, but I did have to do considerable adjustments to make it fit me, I had to do two mock ups, and it still doesn't fit me properly. I'm not going to fault the pattern for this, as it's our responsibility as costumers to do enough mock ups and adjustments to make things fit right. However, as I researched heavily to see how other people managed with this pattern, hopefully my review will help others, like the reviews I found helped me.

Issues or things to fix for next time:
Pattern was big. I cut a size down from my actual measurements, as I'd heard this pattern ran big. It was very large, so then I took it down more. Problem is, I then had to add to the bust while take away at the waist. I don't have crazy curves (37.5 bust, 29 waist uncorseted), so this should not have been a major problem. But it was. I had to add a seam down the center back so I could take in the waist enough to not make it overlap in front, and it's still not enough! Next time I would do a significant adjustment to the bust and waist at every seam. Shoulder straps are too short. Waist is a smidge short, and I'm not even long waisted. It's serviceable for now, but I knew as I finished these that I would have to make another set.

I have made the vow that I will only wear front lacing corsets/stays from now on. They are so much more comfortable for me! With back lacing, my breasts get smashed and compressed, with little lift. I end up in pain after a couple hours. Perhaps my breasts are just too squishy, as they flatten easily with back lacing. With front lacing, I have real cleavage and lift and support. Never again with back lacing. Never.

So this is where Redthreaded comes in. Around the time I was finishing my gold stays in April, Redthreaded announced that she would be making her 18th century stays front lacing, with a lower neckline. I ordered them the day the preorder went live! I ordered the Medium size, and they fit absolutely perfectly. Not a single adjustment needed. I can get my waist a full inch smaller in these stays than the other ones, and remain comfy. Highly, highly recommend. If she releases a pattern to buy for them, I'm going to get that, and make a pair in a fun fabric with hand bound eyelets instead of grommets, so it's more historically accurate in case it ends up on view. This set is perfectly fine so long as I don't have to show them at an event. Loving them!

Next up is a quilted petticoat. I wanted a petticoat to wear underneath other petticoats and dresses, that would provide serious pouf. It will likely never be seen or worn alone, because I'm not sure that the fabric is historically correct enough. It is a quilted cotton or matelasse, where the fabric itself has a diamond-pattern quilting effect, but it's not two layers of fabric with batting inside. That would be too heavy in the Virginia climate! I had the hardest time finding 100% cotton, linen, or silk that was quilted. I didn't want any blends, especially polyester. Most quilted or matelasse fabric is used for upholstery nowadays, so they put polyester in the mix to add durability. Therefore, finding something in a solid color, all-natural fiber proved too difficult.

I found this 100% cotton on Etsy, but it has a striped pattern in addition to the diamond stitching throughout. I know they had striped fabric for petticoats, and I know they had diamond-stitched petticoats. I don't know if they had striped and diamond-stitched together. I found only two examples that kind of resemble what I made, both extant garments from the late 18th century. I decided that the likelihood of the petticoat being seen is slim, so stripes it is!

I also made a bum pad, to be worn underneath the petticoats. It adds a lot of pouf around the hips, and some at the rear. I used the bum pad from the same Simplicity pattern as the corset. Made of medium-heavy weight linen, with a self-fabric ruffle, and twill tape ties. It's one piece in a crescent shape, with three sections to be stuffed. I used pillow batting, very sparingly. When I stuffed it about half way full and tried it on, the shape was too full and it looked extreme. I already have plenty of junk in the trunk, so the pad made me almost comedically large in the hip. I removed some batting, and I'd say it's now 25% full of what it could be. Much more reasonable. This bum pad is for wearing under daywear and "light formal" gowns; I have a set of pocket hoops to wear under the sack-back or Francaise gowns.

Here's how it looks under some petticoats. The aqua is a light silk taffeta, then the quilted petticoat, and the dark blue is on top of the bum pad and the quilted petticoat. It definitely gives the right effect! The pouf is much more pronounced when the bum pad is on my body; my dress form has basically no hips or booty.