Saturday, 31 January 2015

Motivation or Madness?

I haven't had the chance to sew properly for months and I am nowhere near my goal of posting my backlog of un-shared costumes...BUT...

I have decided to join The Historical Sew Monthly 2015!

I am still not convinced that this is an entirely good idea considering the amount of studying I have to do and the fact that I have to produce a Masters dissertation by the end of August. However, it is something that I have always wanted to do.

I started to make costumes about 2 years ago and one of the main things that spurred me on to finally do something I’d always dreamed of was reading other costumer’s blogs. I especially enjoyed seeing the things that people had made for challenges like the Historical Sew Challenge and I love the idea of sharing projects with a common goal.

So I am hoping that the challenges will motivate me to produce at least some small items this year in between my studies. Unfortunately I have already missed January but I know that I won't be able to complete all of the challenges this year. That really would be madness!! However, after careful contemplation of the list I think a minimum of four challenges is a good starting point…And maybe I can combine some of the challenges and cover more of them with a 2-in-1 approach. We'll see...

Anyway here is the list:

I already have some ideas brewing for ways of combining January and February and creating a small blue foundation garment... But more to follow on that later. Now I have to make a start on some real work!

Thursday, 29 January 2015

An 1858 Walking Dress

Photograph by Jenny Edmiston

My second ever costume was this 1850s walking dress. It's was all very well having a beautiful ballgown, but it's of little use during daylight hours! So, as the festival I was attending lasted over a week with lots of outdoor events during the day, I wanted to be able to make the most of these opportunities to dress in costume.

I would have liked to have a few more changes in my wardrobe, but I only had very limited time to get my dresses finished and by the time the ballgown was complete I only had a few days to come up with some suitable daytime attire.

I went for the quickest and simplest option with the skirt by cutting three rectangles from the full width of my fabric and pleating them directly onto my dress form as per Truly Victorian's instructions on the ballgown pattern. This method is rather prickly as it involves a lot of pins but I have used it since and find it works quickly and effectively every time.

Then for the jacket I used Simplicity's Civil War Pattern (3727).
Simplicity 3727
Image from sew'n'sew patterns on ebay

I absolutely loved the pagoda sleeves on this pattern and also based my trimming on the fringe you can see in the picture. I flat-lined the jacket (but not the sleeves) with stiff cream cotton curtain lining and hand-stitched steel boning from Vena Cava Design to the seams. The collar and the engageantes were made separately, trimmed with a broderie anglais edging and tacked to the sleeves and neckline.

I found that the jacket went together really quickly and I enjoyed working with the flat-lined pieces which are very easy to handle. The hard work was the trim which I sewed on by hand - I think this probably took longer than the rest of the sewing put together! Not helped by the fact that I baulked at the price of velvet ribbon and economised by buying cotton velvet fabric instead and cutting it into strips myself.

But I think the result was worth it:

I accessorised the dress with a black lace parasol and fan from Vena Cava Design, white cotton gloves and a bonnet that I made by cutting a small section out of the back of an ordinary cheap straw sunhat and decorating with ribbon and artificial flowers.

I love wearing this dress because the fabric is actually very light and it moves beautifully. It also makes my laugh because my brothers call it the "cowgirl jacket" on account of all the fringe!

Unfortunately I don't have a good picture of the sides or the back but the peplum is shaped into lovely points like the ones at the front.

Photograph by Jenny Edmiston

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

An 1858 ballgown with petal skirt, part III (more pictures)

And here are some more pictures of the dress at the festival. As I only had the one evening gown, I wore it to two balls.

I also entered it into one of the best dressed competitions (Costume Cavalcade for Original Costumes and Reproductions from authentic patterns) and was delighted to be awarded first prize.

However, as a result of wearing the gown outdoors in the midday sun for the competition (which a well-mannered Victorian lady would never do!) I ended up with a lovely sunburn in the exact shape of the neckline, complete with petals from the roses on the shoulders. Not very authentic at all, but in the pictures from the second ball I have a decidedly rosy glow!

One of my "official" portraits from the ball - unfortunately I hadn't realised how creased the skirt was until I saw the photograph. However the sepia tone does disguise my sunburn!
Photograph by: Jenny Edmiston

First and Second Place in the best dressed competition. I think we make a lovely pair and I was so pleased with my tiny trophy. It was really lovely to be chosen as the winner especially as this was my first ever costume.
On the steps - this is here for no other reason than the fact that I love the shape of the skirt in this picture. I enjoy the feeling of going down steps in a crinoline too - it feels so elegant.

And finally... in the line up for the competition. I'm not quite sure why I look like I'm giving a speech though!

An 1858 Ballgown with petal skirt, part II

Having chosen my patterns it was time for a little research - if you can  really call drooling over fashion plates research!

I also looked at a few extant garments and was delighted to find that, although my fabric wasn't silk, the colour at least was very authentic.

An 1860s pink dress in almost exactly the same shade as my fabric! And it even has the moiré effect.
Pink seems to have been very popular, especially for evening gowns, and after looking at a number of fashion plates I noticed that pink combined with white and a touch of green seemed to be a common combination.

Flowers also seemed to be a recurring feature, so I went with a flower garden theme that fitted well with the petal effect of the skirt pattern.

This was my design sketch:

A quick pencil sketch of my design, looking a bit worse for wear after being shoved into various bags for trips to the fabric shop! I had quite a few of these on various bits of paper and the corners of notebook pages. I was so excited about making the dress that any time I had a moment spare I would make a little sketch of it!

And, once I had all of the necessary materials assembled, after a few days of very hard work and late nights, this was the final result:

A nice picture of the dress as it appeared at its first ball - and before it got creased!
I was very happy with the way that the dress went together. I found the pattern instructions for drafting the bodice quite easy to follow (with a bit of help from my Mum for the fitting) and I was really pleased with how well the bodice fitted when finished. The different size pieces for back and front was as system I had never come across before but it worked really well for me.

It was also my first attempt at boning. I used finished lengths of steel boning from Vena Cava Design in channels that I stitched from the lining material then attached by hand. It was a bit tricky at first but made a real difference to the smoothness of the bodice and made the whole thing feel very secure when it was on.

The skirt was very heavy to wear due to the weight of all the fabric and the layers and I didn't manage to neaten all of the underside of the petals where the white pleated ruffles were attached before the ball, but that didn't stop me from dancing the whole night long! I had never danced Victorian sequence dances before but I absolutely loved it. I was very glad of the fan though as it got very warm inside there!

I wore the gown with a pair of peach ballerina's demi-pointe shoes, which were the closest shape I could find to 19th century dance slippers, white cotton gloves (the gloves that my Grandma wore to her wedding) and a headdress that consisted of a white lace snood decorated with ribbon to match the dress and artificial white carnations.

All in all, I was very pleased with the final effect and very proud of my very first Victorian costume.

Friday, 23 January 2015

An 1858 Ballgown with petal skirt

Given the choice, I am always attracted to beautiful clothes over the more practical ones and this was no exception. As I was making the costumes to be worn at a festival that lasted over a week, it would have made sense to begin with a gown that could be worn outside in the daytime. But my love of sumptuous evening gowns and the lure of a real Victorian ball was too great to resist. So my first real costume project after the underthings was a ballgown.

When browsing Truly Victorian patterns, I immediately fell in love with their 1850s petal ballgown skirt (TV246) which teamed perfectly with the 1860s Ballgown bodice (TV442).

TV246 Petal Ballgown Skirt

TV442 1860s Ballgown Bodice

These two patterns therefore formed the basis of my inspiration for the design of the dress, along with a roll of salmony peach-coloured fabric with a watered effect to resemble moiré silk that I acquired very cheaply at a closing down sale at a local curtain and fabric store.

To be continued...

Long time, no posts!

I can't quite believe that nine months have passed since I last posted. It seems that trying to maintain a blog whilst working full time in teaching and finding time to sew the costumes that were to feature on said blog was a rather overly-optimistic undertaking. And that's putting it lightly!

It seemed like a really brilliant idea at the time. Since it was reading blogs that introduced me to costuming and inspired me to start sewing my own costumes in the first place, I was really excited about sharing my creations and experiences. But setting up the blog in the holidays was one thing. Finding time to update it once I had gone back to work (in the busiest term of the year) was another...

Not only that but it was quite a difficult year and what with one thing and another the blog, sadly, slipped to the bottom of the priority list. Of course, the obvious time to start again would have been the summer holidays but I was so busy with sewing and events that it just didn't happen.

However, I have since left teaching to return University and, although I'm not sure that I have any more time than last year, as I am studying historical dress and fashion, my costuming has in a way become part of my work. So my New Year's resolution is to start posting more often and to catch up with my backlog of un-shared finished costume projects.

I hope you enjoy them.