Sunday, 27 December 2015

Countdown to New Year No3: Two 1940s frocks

As well as Victorian fashion and re-enactment, I also love 1940s events and styles. These are just two of the dresses I have made for World War II events. A lot of my everyday wardrobe is based on 1940s and 1950s patterns and styles but these dresses were made specifically for costumed events - the day dress for attending a vintage car rally (dress just right and you can usually hitch a ride in a very nice car!) and the black and red ensemble for a "Down in the Shelters" dance evening. Having said that, I have worn both of them since for other things too - I like wearing them so much!

I can't find the patterns that I used right now, but both were original 1940s patterns, featuring typical narrow skirts and interesting details on the bodices and sleeves. I love working with originals from this era - they always fit me so well and make up easily. Modern patterns seem to have so many things that don't quite match up or fit but 1940s patterns are so easy to work with.

Making a friend...
Car shopping!!
Both of these dresses were made using printed cottons found in local fabric stores. I knew I wanted to make a 1940s dress with the brown as soon as I saw it and as for the red tulips, I just couldn't leave that in the store. The brown has a nice crisp cotton finish but the black and red has a soft, silky texture that made it just perfect for an evening dress.

The pattern I chose also included a jacket which I made in black velvet - unfortunately in these pictures it is obscuring the beautiful sweetheart neckline of the dress. Still, I love these pictures...

And that leaves just one more post to go in my countdown to the New Year. I will finally have shared all of my past costumes and be ready to begin the New Year as I mean to go on with lots of new and exciting projects.

Countdown to New Year No2: An 1860s picnic outfit

This outfit was planned for a Victorian picnic on the Isle of Wight. As mentioned in my previous post, I had chosen to make a Garibaldi blouse to wear with a crinoline skirt. I felt that this 1860s fashion was perfect for the relaxed atmosphere of a picnic as well as being light and comfortable for wearing outdoors in hot weather. I used Truly Victorian's TV441 1861 Garibaldi Blouse Pattern to draft the blouse and then added my own touch by hand embroidering the front yoke panels.

To do this I took another piece of the same cotton, wider than the pattern piece and created rows of tiny vertical pin tucks. Between these I removed some of the vertical threads to create drawn-thread embroidery. I then cut out the pattern piece from these prepared pieces of fabric and basted them to the plain cotton piece for support and made up the blouse as per the instructions.

 I finished the neck, yoke edge and cuffs with cotton tape that was box pleated with the edges of each pleat caught together in the centre to create a three-dimensional effect. This was based on some trimming ideas that I came across in an 1860s magazine. It took time and perseverance to complete but was well worth the effort in the end.

I wore the blouse with a very large pleated crinoline skirt. I miscalculated when I was cutting the skirt and accidentally made it up with four panels ( cut from the full width of my cotton-rich curtaining fabric) when I only really needed three. The result is a luxuriously full skirt that really captures the size and scale of an 1860s skirt even when worn over a smaller, round crinoline. It is heavy to wear but I enjoy the look that it creates. I finished the waist with a sash sewn from pleated cheap pashmina scarves.

And doesn't it look beautiful set against the sea...If only this photograph was a painting!
Perhaps something like this by Eugène Louis Boudin

The Beach at Trouville, the Empress Eugénie

by Eugène Louis Boudin

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Countdown to New Year No1: an 1860s Garibaldi blouse

Last summer I decided to make a Garibaldi blouse or Canezou with drawn thread embroidery. Before spending hours on the embroidery, I made up a test version of the blouse using plain cotton curtain lining. As it turned out, this made a nice and lighter alternative to the fringed bodice of my walking costume and teams very nicely with the skirt. These are some of the pictures that we took of the ensemble at St Mildred's Church, Whippingham on the Isle of Wight, Queen Victoria's chapel when she stayed at Osbourne House.

Oh dear, can it really be Boxing day already?!

I have been absent from this blog for some time now for a number of reasons. During November I put all of my projects on hold in order to complete a special dress for my Masters graduation and no sooner had I completed the dress and worn it for my special day than my sewing machine was requisitioned by Christmas Elves who have been occupying the workshop ever since! I have not, therefore, been idle but was unfortunately a little short of time for sharing.

I did, however, make a resolution to post all of my completed costumes before the end of the year, which leaves me only a few days to keep my promise to myself and to share all of my remaining photographs.

I thought I would start with the graduation dress. I didn't post these immediately because I was saving the dress as a surprise for my Mum. She knew I was making a dress but I didn't tell her anything about it.

I purchased the pattern from the Vintage Pattern Shop on ebay. It is a beautiful late 1950s wedding dress pattern, but made up in the shorter length it makes a stunning evening or occasion dress.

I was especially drawn to the way the back is cut and the beautiful double pleats. My dress had to be in a dark colour so I chose navy blue. I was very lucky to find a really lovely quilting cotton in my local fabric store with an overall pattern in a slightly lighter blue. It is excellent quality and has a lovely drape.

The dress took quite a while to complete as I decided to make a test version up first in some fabric that I had in my stash. Just as well I did though as there were a few alterations I had to make. The pattern was a size too small so I had to let out the bust and hips. Also, when I tried on the dress for the first time the bust didn't fit right no matter what bra I tried it with. That was until I thought to try it with my Victorian corset. Turns out the shape was absolutely perfect (and when you think about it the 1850s and 1950s silhouettes are quite similar and corsets were still fashionable in the 1950s). Wearing it with corset also meant that I was able to take in the waist to create a very Dior-esque New Look silhouette!

All in all, I was very pleased with the way the dress turned out. I wore it with two 1950s style net petticoats to hold out the skirts and it was a real joy to wear - comfortable because it fitted so well and undeniably glamorous. The perfect dress for a perfect day.

Monday, 7 December 2015

New Shop

News Flash: La Belle Modiste has now opened a new shop on Etsy. Click here to see the items I currently have for sale....

Sunday, 22 November 2015

A saucy afternoon at the seaside, sometime in the 1890s...

I don't know why I was thinking about New Year's resolutions the other day but it inspired me to make an Old Year's resolution concerning this blog. I have so many costume plans, designs and fabrics all waiting to be realised that I want to get started in January and try to complete at least one full outfit for myself every three months. And in order to keep my blog updated with these new costume adventures, I have decided to try and post all of my backlog of past costumes before the end of the year.

Now to anyone who has read my blog before this will probably sound familiar! This is not the first time that I have aimed to have all of my old photographs and costumes uploaded. However, I am going to give it a good try this time.

Today I have chosen a costume that I created for an event on the Isle of Wight two summers ago. It is not exactly appropriate for the current weather, but for those of you who are not enjoying the shortening days and descending temperatures this will be a reminder of sunnier days.

After a Victorian Picnic in the country park, with Her Majesty Queen Victoria in attendance, a bathing belles competition was organised on the beach. For this event, I designed this bathing costume using Folkwear's pattern 253.

Pattern by Folkwear

Although navy blue was a very common choice for bathing suits at this period I looked at as many fashion plates as I could find and white suits were also fashionable. This made this a very economical project, which was just as well as I had just made a number of other more complex and costly outfits. I used a fairly heavy plain white cotton, with a red cotton for the collar, red rick rack trim and tiny red buttons.

I designed the pattern for the shoes myself to complete the outfit. I used the leftovers of the red cotton, with leather encased inside the sole to make them more comfortable to walk in. I got the shape just by experimenting with pieces of newspaper round my feet, and although they were a little bit clumsy to wear in real life, they do complete the look in the pictures. I hope next time to be able to improve on my pattern. They are laced with some red cord that I found serendipitously in my Mum's haberdashery stash.

As you can see, my photo editing skills are fairly basic - many thanks to Paint for the disguising of the modern people who wondered into the frame!
To impress the judges, I was also very badly behaved (for a Victorian lady) and demonstrated the full workings of my costume by removing my wrap-around skirt to reveal the swimming bloomers (made in one piece with the blouse like combinations). Here is a shot taken later that shows the suit without the skirt.

And of course, dressed like this I couldn't resist having some fun! This included posing for some saucy postcard snaps. I was just messing around and my Dad was taking the pictures. Little did I realise, until I looked away from the camera, that so were a lot of other men all lined up behind him on the beach!!

And then there's this one...

Did I actually take a swim? Well, let's just say that I'm not sure that the red cotton is colourfast and although it was sunny it was a very windy day and I didn't fancy testing the water temperature or being swept away to sea!!

Sunday, 8 November 2015

My first adventure into the 1880s

With all the leaves changing colours I thought I would share this outfit which has very autumnal tones even if I did wear it during the summer!

This was my very first 1880s bustle dress, made for a Victorian event on the Isle of Wight's steam railway last year. Although the railway did exist in the 1860s, I decided that clambering on and off of trains all weekend in a crinoline was not going to be practical. Moreover, I was eager to try out a new decade of Victorian fashion and the bustle silhouette.

The outfit was made using all Truly Victorian patterns : the TV101 Petticoat with wire bustle, TV170 Victorian Petticoats, TV261 1885 Four-gore Underskirt, TV364 Autumn Overskirt and TV463 1884 French Vest Bodice.

TV 101 - Image from Vena Cava Design
TV 170 - Image from Vena Cava Design

TV 261 - Image from Vena Cava Design
TV364 - Image from Vena Cava Design
TV 463 - Image from Vena Cava Design
I used two very reasonably priced curtaining fabrics that I found at a local fabric store - a rust-coloured faux silk and a thick rich brown cotton cloth, with white cotton undergarments trimmed with broderie anglais. The buttons are tiny antique glass buttons from a Czech factory with amber coloured centres each featuring a cameo, held in brass-coloured metal frames.

I very much enjoyed wearing this dress and it was the perfect choice for steam travel. Easy to wear and to ride on the trains.

I accessorised with vintage rust-coloured gloves, a small antique wooden case, my Vena Cava lace parasol (although I can't wait to have a go at covering my own parasol) and a small bonnet made using the same materials as the outfit and Lynn McMasters late Victorian pattern.

And I had lots of fun posing for photographs on and off of the trains, including some beautiful shots taken by a photographer friend who created some really lovely images for me.

Photographs courtesy of David White Photography, Ventnor, IoW
Photograph courtesy of David White Photography, Ventnor, IoW
I even considered running away to pursue a career on the stage with Mr Alexander's Travelling Show! He very kindly let me make use of his beautiful stage for a photo shoot and I made the most of the opportunity to try out some theatrical poses!

With Mr Alexander, and auditioning....(for what I'm not quite sure!)

Later, when the heat finally got to me and the public had gone home, I did something very un-Victorian and decided to remove my dress and relax in my underwear. This may have been very unlady-like and inauthentic but it did mean that I got some nice pictures of my underpinnings!

All in all this is probably my favourite of all of my outfits so far and I am keen to do more 1880s in the future. I already have all sorts of things in my stash lined up for bustle projects- fabrics and trimmings and buttons.... I can't wait!