Thursday, June 8, 2017

1770s 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.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Norse Clothing and Vikings in the SCA

This post is about the research I did for my Norse outfit, and I want to talk a bit about my feelings on wearing "Viking" clothing in the SCA.

A few months ago, after hearing that Artemisia's Spring Coronation would be an all-Viking affair, I thought I would branch out and try making a more "legit" or accurate Norse/Viking outfit. I specify Norse because I knew that I wanted to try to make all of the items Scandinavian, and avoid anything that was decidedly Hiberno-Norse, Jorvik-found, etc. I wanted to focus on what an upper-class or even noble woman from a Scandinavian culture would have worn in the 9th to 10th centuries. Some SCAdians tend to use the term "Viking" to describe their garb, but as that term is typically used to describe an occupation, I have been trying to say Norse instead of Viking for my outfit. I'm clearly not going a-Viking in my pretty clothes!

The biggest resource I used for this outfit was the Viking Clothing Facebook group. There are some serious experts on there, often the best in the business, if you will. People who are able to look at the archeological finds, people who have studied these textiles for decades. I relied on their knowledge, yet I didn't take everything as gospel. Many of the experts disagreed with each other quite often. Many "experts" would make claims they couldn't back up with sources. But in general, there are certain things that everyone agrees on, sometimes begrudgingly, because they are tired of reenactors making the same styles again and again. They have a file section in their group that lists and provides scholarly sources.

My hairstyle is based on the Elling Woman grave find, a couple centuries earlier than the Viking Age, but a documentable hairstyle. Norsewomen may have worn head coverings but I wanted to try a hair style first. My hair isn't long enough for the Valkyrie knot ponytail.

For the sake of this blog post, I am going to say that everything I learned can be found or discussed on that FB group. I highly suggest joining it. They are known for doing it as historically-accurate as possible, sometimes to a borderline unreasonable point in my opinion (more on that later in this post). I'm not going to list educational, scholarly sources in this post. Did I use them? Yes. Can you find them easily online? Yes. Join the Viking Clothing FB group and research like I did. It's all very easy to look up. The information is out there, and it didn't take me long to absorb and memorize a lot of it.

I have compiled a basic list of what items I made, if it is documentable for the period, where I deviated from agreed-upon accuracy, and why I made it less accurate. This is by no means an exhaustive list of everything I read on the subject, but it's enough to talk about the items I made. If you think I'm wrong about a "Fact", please consult the Viking Clothing FB page to see if they covered it, or ask me about it and I'll find the documentation. When I say it's a "Fact", I don't mean that's the only way it was done. I simply mean we know it was done at least once and for this time period, that's enough for me (for this time period, not for later periods).

1. An underdress. Facts: the Norse used linen for underlayers; they had natural purple materials for dye; pastels are possible from second dyebaths; linens weren't usually as bright as wool layers because they were subject to more frequent washing after wearing against the skin; they had fitted tunics where the shoulders were not squared off like rectangular construction; they had keyhole necklines; they did split-stitch.

 Evidence of purple garments in Norway and Denmark. Yes, it's not as prevalent as Dublin/York/London, but there is proof. 

 Fragment of a tunic found at Hedeby, showing they had fitted shoulders.

What I did: I purchased 5.3oz linen from Fabrics Store in a Silver Thistle color. I used my body block pattern to make it just fitted enough to slide over my head with no closures. It is two rectangles in front, one in back, and three gores (two sides, one back). It is shaped in the armscye and has a keyhole slit neckline that is held shut with a pin. I chose to do some split-stitch embroidery on the neckline and wrists. I used split stitch because the Norse used it, and it is considered a functional stitch that is not solely decorative. Neckline, cuffs, and hem are all sewn by hand.

2. An apron dress. Facts: Norsewomen probably wore another layer over the underdress and they could have had straps made from loops; we don't know how long they were because a full one doesn't exist, which also means no pattern to say there is only one way to construct them; they could have been made from wool or linen; herringbone or chevron twill wool was used for garments; the dresses likely weren't embroidered over seams (hard to adjust for size when you sew over the seams three times to decorate them); true dark blacks likely weren't available but dark gray could have been (they had dark gray sheep); narrow tablet-woven trim was used; narrow silk edging was used.

 Fragment of a garment found at Hedeby that could be an apron dress.
Loops on top of a garment edge, Birka grave 597.

What I did: I used a heavy cotton flannel with a herringbone weave instead of wool. I had it on hand and the cotton flannel mimics wool extremely well. It is dark gray, not black. I did two rectangles (front and back) and three gores (two sides, one back). There was no other way to cut the fabric as I had less than two yards of directional fabric. The trim is a linen tablet-woven band (.5" wide) from the White Wolf and the Phoenix, in purple and white tones. The silk edging is plain white silk. The widest silk edging found was 1.18" inches, and mine is 1" wide. All of the trim was sewn on by hand. The hand sewn loops (narrow tubes) are sewn onto the front and back of the dress, and are held together with the brooches- long loops from the back meet the short loops in front.

 3. A caftan. Facts: fragments of garments believed to be coats were found at Birka and Hedeby, although they were likely men's coats; again, wool with a herringbone weave is documentable; light gray was easily found on sheep; narrow silk tablet-woven trim has been found; silk was used to edge garments.

What I did: The caftan is the hardest layer to document of the garments I made. They are very popular in the reenactment community for both men and women. The Norse would certainly have had warm woolen coats but we don't know how they were constructed or what they looked like. I decided to make a style I've seen on many people but it has little documentation. I used gray herringbone wool flannel from Dorr Mills. I again used my body block pattern because I wanted the coat to be fitted and flattering. It's more probable that a Norse coat would have been less fitted and more blocky, but I wanted it to be snug. I added silk facing, although it is about an inch wider than we know the Norse used for edgings. The trim is .75" wide, silk, tablet woven, and in a diamond pattern. The pattern is not based on a particular extant item, but it is similar to some with a diamond pattern. The trim was made by Sir Brynjolfr of Artemisia. The closure is a solid silver clasp with three circles on each side.

 A close up of the trims. The amber necklace was borrowed from HE Katya.

4. Jewelry. Facts: some Norsewomen owned oval shaped brooches; the brooches have been found attached to the loops that could be on apron dresses; sometimes beads could be worn with the brooches; beads could be precious gems or glass or bone; Thor's Hammer (Mjolnir) pendants have been found and may have been worn by women.

What I did: my brooches were purchased from Raymond's Quiet Press. They have Odin's face on them and are based on a Finnish find from the Viking Age.  My "coronet" is not far off from this diadem that I read is from the 9th-12th centuries and is called "Viking", but I need more documentation for it. I purchased a three-strand woven metal circlet and glued cabochons onto it; I found the diadem picture later which was a neat find, but I have no serious attribution for it. I have a gold plated Thor's Hammer pendant and a little bone bird pendant attached to my festoons- we'll pretend it's a raven! The beads are mostly glass with some real stones and some bone.

5. Accessories. Facts: the Norse wore leather turnshoes; textile belts were worn but we don't know if they were worn with apron dresses; fur was a product used by the Norse and has been found in fragment with garments; wooden bag handles have been found.

What I did:  I am wearing a full, cased arctic fox pelt. While we have no evidence that a full pelt would be worn, there is evidence that fur was used with garments (grave finds). I just think it looks really cool, I'll admit it. My shoes are leather turn shoes with leather lacing straps from Boots by Bohemond, which are based on several extant shoes from the 9th-10th centuries. My belt is inkle woven, which I have read is not documentable for the Norse, but I already owned it and it matched my outfit. I made a little herringbone linen bag with Etsy-purchased Hedeby-style wooden handles.

My Hedeby bag, using leftover tablet woven trim for the straps.

Now that I have blathered on about the layers, I want to talk about how far I think SCAdians should be willing to go to make historically accurate "Viking" garments. Here is how a conversation on the Viking Clothing FB group goes:
Newbie: "I want to do embroidery on my Norse garb because I see it on everyone else's."
Expert: "The Norse didn't do embroidery so neither can you."
Newbie: "But what about the Oseberg burial / Mammen finds / Birka / etc ? They found embroidery on that."
Expert: "Okay yes, there is that example, but only the wealthy could afford it or import it."
Newbie: "So you're saying they had embroidery then... got it."
Expert: "But unless you're portraying nobility you shouldn't do it."

Here is my problem with that. In the SCA, if we choose, we all get to start off as minor nobility, or Good Gentles. We are allowed to decorate our clothes as far as our budgets allow. It seems that for many of the strict European reenactment groups, not everyone gets to pretend to be nobility or royalty, so their outfits must reflect their lower status. This is not so in the SCA. Just because embroidery, or jewelry, or trim, or silk, was expensive back then and only worn by the highest status person, does not mean we should discourage SCAdians from wearing their bling. We get to portray nobility and royalty in our society, so I say, wear whatever you want regarding "high status" items and decoration. That being said, try to pair your Norse bling with high-quality textiles like finely woven wool and linen. We don't wear diamond necklaces with workout gear, right?

A couple of high-status Norsewomen, wearing their bling proudly with high-quality textiles.

Now I'd like to talk about where SCAdians could draw the line at historical accuracy. Let me give another example of a conversation on the Viking Clothing group:

Brave Person: "Here is a picture of a new outfit I made, what do you think?"
Expert: "Did you weave the fabric and dye it yourself? Did you use only natural dyes available to the Norse? Did you raise the sheep and shear it and was it a breed the Vikings had? Did you cast the jewelry yourself? Was it based on an extant find? Show me a picture and prove it. I don't care if it's hot where you live, I wear wool year round and I don't overheat."

Seriously. That is how it goes. I can understand when a person who makes something "Norse inspired" gets told that their Celtic embroidery, cotton dress with grommets, or Vikings TV show copy isn't what the group is all about. I totally respect that. But where do we, as SCAdians, draw that line? I like to be accurate within reason. I consistently strive to do better once I know better. But I am now of the opinion that when it comes to "Viking" clothes, cutting some slack is fair, because the archeological evidence is not extremely easy to interpret or discover. 

Many of us do not have the time or budget to do things 100% accurate, even if we had all the knowledge to do everything from scratch ourselves. While I might suggest that a person save up to afford linen over cotton, I will certainly not expect someone to weave their own fabric or dye it themselves with plants they pulled out of the ground in Sweden. These are skill sets acquired after years of study. It is unreasonable to expect someone to be skilled at every aspect of the creation process. I believe the SCA is pretty fair in this regard. I have encountered some Laurels in the SCA who really can do all the things listed, and make something entirely from scratch, and this is phenomenal. But most of us don't have the knowledge or time to go this far. I respect it, and I admit that I may not ever go so far as to shear a sheep I raised in my backyard and use my own urine to set the dye from the cochineal insect I gathered off a cactus. Did I get that right? I had to Google it.

But while doing my research, I came across some people who do not cut any corners and do everything exactly as found in a grave in one location and one time period. If we all did this, we'd be wearing a Viking uniform. I highly respect the people who have the time, budget, and knowledge to make everything as accurately as possible. However, I am glad that the SCA doesn't hold itself to such high standards- I cannot meet them regarding Norse clothing (or maybe any other era despite my hard work). I think there is room for improvement in the SCA, and once you know better and can afford better, do better. I am trying to meet this goal every day.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Completed Norse / Viking Outfit - First Pictures

I have a really long write-up planned for my new Norse outfit, but seeing as the outfit is finished and I won't have time to do the big post for a couple weeks, I've decided to do a brief post with some simple pictures first. I plan to get in the outfit and style my hair and take some outdoor pictures, but I have been very busy in my modern life, and the weather here in MT has been so darn cold, that I haven't yet managed to get dressed up and take the pictures. But I will! This outfit demands some great pictures. At the very least, I'm wearing the outfit to Artemisia's March Coronation event in three weeks, so lots of pictures will happen then.

The layers consist of:
-a lavender linen underdress with white stem stitch embroidery at the cuffs and neckline
-a charcoal apron dress made from heavy cotton flannel with a herringbone pattern. This fabric mimis wool herringbone very closely. The dress is edged with white silk topped with linen tablet woven trim
-a wool herringbone caftan, edged with purple silk taffeta and topped with silk tablet woven trim, with a silver clasp at the natural waist to hold it shut
-a purse, sometimes called a Hedeby/Haithabu bag. The wood handles are from Etsy, and I used orange herringbone linen fabric, the leftovers of the dress trim, and some purple cotton thread to attach the pouch to the handles

I really like all the layers of purple, the varying textures of the fabrics, and of course the accessories that bring it all together and make it a bit fancier. The brooches are from Raymond's Quiet Press- in hindsight, I wish I had bought a bigger size. These look good but I'm not a petite woman and I thought I wanted smaller brooches. Turns out I could easily carry a bigger brooch set on my wide shoulders!

I made the swag necklace with beads from our local bead store. Some are semi-precious, some are glass, four are metal, and the white ones are bone, including the bird pendant and the spacers against the brooches. I added my Mjolnir (Thor's Hammer) pendant to the swag instead of wearing it as a separate necklace, and I definitely like it this way.

The belt is inkle woven, and I have read that inkle weaving as is typically done today only dates to the 19th century, not the 9th as I'm going for with this outfit. I've also heard that not using a loom to inkle is period, but I don't know anything (ANYTHING) about weaving. I bought this belt a couple years ago, and the colors happened to match perfectly, so for now I'm going to pair it with the outfit.

 The clasp on the caftan was a gift from my mother last summer. She happened by a Mountain Man Rendezvous in Wyoming, and thought I would like it. I didn't know what I would ever use it for until the caftan was already complete, and the clasp works really well with the outfit. It has a three circle design with swirled inner circles, not unlike some designs I've seen on extant Norse jewelry. I'll find images of those for documentation on my later post.

The big post will be my documentation for the projects, how I went about researching the outfit, and why I decided to deviate from absolute historical accuracy. I'm excited to put my thoughts on wearing Norse in the SCA out in the blogosphere. The post will basically say: here is what we know they did in period, here is what I did, and here is why some of my stuff is plausibly period, and here is why some of my stuff is not quite right, and this is why I chose to do it this way. It's also about why I think we should be more flexible in the SCA regarding Norse clothing, which is something I never thought I would say. So keep an eye out for that post in a couple weeks!