Sunday, August 29, 2010

1930's Style Red and Cream Cotton Dress

At last I have some pictures of my 1930's style red and cream dress! I've had this done for a while and have worn it a lot. It is definitely a new favorite. It's a bit difficult for me to go through the murk and mire of 1860's fashion that has more recently been going through my head, but I believe with this dress I wanted to go for a more early-to-mid 30's look with slightly longer, slimmer skirts, more flare at the hem and with a lot of emphasis on the shoulder/neckline area.

There were two dresses I based this one off of. One was a reprinted Past Patterns pattern for an earlier 1930's dress, and one was in an ad from a 1934 Sears Catalog. The pattern is very basic. The bodice is my base one that is slashed and spread at the chest level for some fullness to be gathered into a center front seam. The sleeves are circular two layer flutter sleeves with the upper sleeve being slightly smaller than the under sleeve. The skirt is made in six gores and is cut to be a little generous at the waist, fitting not too loose nor too tight over the hips and coming in again around knee level to create a little shaping before finally flaring out into a trumpet like shape at the hem, which ends a bit above the ankle.

The fabric is a lovely 100% cotton voile I got from Jo Anns last year. It was on clearance in the home dec department. The red floral print is HUGE so I wasn't sure how well it would look as a garment. But I was pleasantly suprised it worked quite well for a dress. I just had to be careful where I placed the big floral motifs so I would not end up looking lopsided when I wore the dress! I squeezed this dress out of 3 yards of fabric with almost a half yard left to spare. I love dresses that take such little bits of fabric. :) The fabric is very sheer so I had to make a slip to wear under it - which you have already seen in my post quite a few post backs about the ultra-modern 1930's bias cup slip. :P

I have more 30's dresses planned! I even bought fabric a few weeks ago for another summer style one; a pretty blue-green cotton printed with pink flowers. I hope I get a chance to make it while it is still warm enough to wear it! I just need to get through reenacting season with my interest in the 30's intact. Reenacting sewing has a way of draining my mind of everything but the 1860's. ;) This week it's mens clothes. . .and finishing my new quilt, if I get the time!


Monday, August 23, 2010

Galesburg Heritage Days

Our fall reenacting season kicked off this past weekend. Despite a little rain and a camp-site that was a wee bit too small for our unit, it was a lovely weekend and we all had a great time. However, I am t.i.r.e.d.! And coming back from an event - especially a warm one - makes me appreciate my own bathroom and my own shower and my own bed a whole lot more than usual. Ummm. Luxery.

We had a nice size group with us this year. Jenny P. and her husband came out as well as my friend Peter. Miss C. also attended with us, this being her first event. Being in good company always makes an event far nicer than being alone.

I am exhausted and really don't have much time to write a nice blog post about the event. However, I do have some pictures from this weekend up here: Galesburg Pics We have a dial up internet connection and I thought it would be easier to just link to this page than upload all the pictures all over again here!

Our next event is a dance on the 4th of September. It will just be David and I that day, along with our friend Peter. I am contemplating making up my ball gown for it, though it will be only an outside dance. We'll see what happens when I get some energy back! ;)

Have a lovely week!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Smallest Kepi

I have made a lot of American Civil War reenactment clothing over the years. However, I have never made a kepi before and I have never made anything for an animal before. When our unit commander asked me a few months ago if I thought I could make a kepi for our units mascot, a little yorkie-poo doggie named McGregor I hesitated at first. But then he said "I know you probably can't do this. . ." and that was it. I just had to prove I could!
The kepi was probably the most common form of headgear worn by Union troops in the 1860's. If I remember correctly, the kepi was adopted from the French army. They are impractical things, of course, but the army didn't seem to think of practicality in the clothing they issued at times. :) I began to study David's kepis to get an idea of the shape and realized a kepi is a pretty basic thing, after all. A circular, stiffened crown, a shaped band, a rectangular band on the bottom, a leather brim and leather chin strap- which, if pictorial evidence is any guide, was hardly ever used as a chin strap and served mainly as a decorative addition to the kepi.

For McGregor's kepi I asked for his weight and used a similary sized stuffed animal as a guide. I used scraps of blue wool flannel left over from David's sack coat for the main part, lined it with black polished cotton and used bits of soft, old black leather from an ancient duffel bag in my possession for the brim and the chin strap. Alas, I did not have any small Federal Eagle buttons to put on the kepi so two four-hole brass buttons were used instead.

To accomodate pointy doggie ears I added narrow black grosgrain ribbon in V shapes at each side. A long tie was attached to the point of each V to tie under his chin. Modeling the kepi is little David's stuffed doggie who has approximately the same size head as McGregor.

I'm crossing my fingers that this will fit him. . .hopefully it will. I will find out Friday!


Monday, August 16, 2010

Finished Wrapper and Thoughts on Modesty

For my dear readers who have so patiently endured the construction posts detailing the making of this garment, I thank you for your longsuffering. The wrapper is done - except the petticoat, but it is totally wearable as-is with plain petticoats - and, until I decide I need to make another one, you will hear of the wrapper no more. At least, potentially. :)
However, this will not be just a wrapper-post. I will get into the dangerous waters of talking about modesty. I don’t want to talk about it but feel that I ought to since, it seems, more often lately, I have heard from ladies and young ladies who admire modest attire and take it for granted that I am a modestly dressed person. For the past few months I have felt very hypocritical about allowing such things to be thought - because, the truth is, I don’t believe, per se, in “modesty”.

I *used* to. Oh yes, for many years I draped myself in long, dark clothes which slowly crept into historic fashion, which I totally fell in love with. My mother was concerned at the time because she thought I was becoming legalistic. I thought I wasn’t - but I was. In my late teens I was so judgemental and critical of others who did not have the same standards of dress that I did. The Lord is so gracious, and thankfully has shown me, gently, that my ways are not His ways. . .and He leads everyone according to His plan for them. My clothes are my own matters. Other people’s clothes are their own matters. I have enough to do trying to run my own life. Other people have enough to do running their own lives!

When I went to college at age 18, I wore “weird” clothes. They probably would be considered modest by most modern day people, but I didn’t really wear them *because* they were modest. It was because I thought they were pretty, a little different and it was what I liked. I experienced some snobbery from other “modestly” dressed girls, who usually had cliques and little sub-groups. I felt they didn't like me or accept me because I didn't wear what they did - jean skirts with slits in the back or sides, polo shirts and the latest in runniing shoes. My gunne sax dresses, lacey shawls and granny boots condemned me to other "black sheep" - who were, in fact, some of the most interesting people I've ever known. I felt an outcast. One person who was always very nice and pleasant was a girl with dreadlocks and who dressed in Goth style clothing. I never knew her name, but we chatted in the bathroom or the halls and smiled and nodded when we’d pass each other on the way to classes. She told me she liked the way I dressed and often asked about different skirts I wore or a long green coat I patterned and made. My best girl friend in college was Joyce, who never wore skirts or dresses. In fact, on the last day of class she said she’d wear a skirt if I wore trousers (since she had never seen me in pants!) so we did. :)

I could go on and on with similar experiences - but in the end, I realized that trying to be modest was not for me because it automaticaly made me have a bad attitude towards those who were not dressed as I thought they should be. My own thoughts of modesty set a standard I thought everyone should adhere to! So now I just dress in what works for me and how I feel God wants *me* to dress. And *for me*. I have come to the conclusion that what is right *for me* is probably not just right for everyone else. Look at the idea of modesty. For some it means to be clad head to toe in long, loose garments with head coverings and thick dark stockings and shoes. For others, a long denim skirt and a comfortably loose t-shirt does the trick. For others, a knee-length skirt or even trousers is enough to make them feel comfortable. Other girls like to wear short-shorts and cropped tops. And everyone in these cases may feel they are dressed comfortable, attractively and appropriately. Will they all agree with each other? Probably most definitely not! But they have chosen what they feel is the best choice for themselves, for whatever reasons or standards they have.
I like long skirts. I like clothes that do not emphasize every roll or bump. I like historic fashion. Okay. I LOVE historic fashion!! So that is what influences my clothing choices. Is my clothing “modest”? To me, it is. But I prefer not to use the word “modest” since it really has no set meaning that is the same for each person. And historic fashion is not necessarily modest. In fact, almost ever fashion era I've studied emphasizes the female form which many do not consider to be modest. Women "back then" wanted to appear attractive and desirable. Human nature has not changed with the years.  My mother told me several times about how she thought regency gowns could be immodest because they emphasize the bosom, and how 1860's styles could be considered immodest because they are so tightly fitted through the bodice. And - her observations are totally right.
So yesterday I wore my wrapper in public, to several stores and to a park where we picnicked and walked around. It was fun, I felt comfortable and I found out that yes, a supportive undergarment of some kind is necessary with this. :P

And a girl with short shorts told me she liked it. :)



Friday, August 13, 2010

Wrapper Progress - Facings, Hems and Sleeves

I got the facings on the long front openings sewn down yesterday and then attached the hem facing. The hem facing is about 4" wide and protects the hem from wear and tear. It is a fun pinkish red print that is a cheerful glimpse of color - not that anyone is supposed to see it!

After that I sewed up the sleeves. They are a variation of my basic one piece coat sleeve. They are still cut on the fold, but the bottom edge is curved and belled slightly. They come to just above my wrist and will be worn with open undersleeves. This eliminates a close fitting cuff for maximum coolness; after all, this wrapper is meant to be hot-weather wear. If I like it a lot I may make another one specifically for cooler weather. I sewed a band of horizontal stripes to each sleeve to visually emphasize the width of the sleeve. The band is sewn down by machine close to the folded edge. This was a lot quicker to do than sewing it down by hand!

The skirt also got a horizontal striped band. The band is about 2 3/4" wide and is placed 8" above the hem. This seemed to work best for my height and figure and for the fact that this probably will not be worn over a cage. I would probably have made the band a little wider and a little higher up on the skirt if I were to wear this mainly over a cage.
Next I piped the armscyes. I had to piece in a little bit on the back armscye. For some reason I cut it weird and the sleeve would not have set smoothly unless I pieced in a half circle shape on each back shoulder. That done, I set in the sleeves. They have two small pleats at the back shoulder to create room for movement.

Try on time! Here I just threw it on over my modern clothes and tied the belt loosely in the front. So far it seems to be working well. The basic construction of the wrapper is now done. Yeah! Now I need to sew hook and eyes to the lining and I am contemplating making functional buttonholes to close the outer layer of the wrapper at the front. I have some pretty mother-of-pearl buttons I'd like to use for the front (it will be closed to the waist) but I need to do a little more research to make sure that they are okay to use before I put them on.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wrapper Progress - Bodice Fronts, Lining and Tie Belt

 I may be posting a little more often over the next few days as I work more on my wrapper. This is more for my benefit than for any assumed interest of my dear readers - for, alas, I often make something and then when I want to make a similar item, I have forgotten how I made the first one!

Since yesterday, I have whipped on the skirt to the bodice back and sides and attached the bodice front pieces. The bodice fronts are cut with the bodice and skirts all in one, eliminating a waist seam for the center front. The bodice fronts are also cut quite wide (half of a 45" panel for each front bodice piece) and the excess width is pleated into the shoulder to create fullness over the bosom and into the skirts. The white cotton lining, however, is cut without the extra width and is cut to end at the waistline. I turned up a narrow casing at the bottom of each front lining for a drawstring to adjust the fit at the waist. Any extra fullness on the drawstring comes only from what would in an ordinary dress be darted, so there will not be much bulk there.
After sewing the center fronts to the wrapper and stitching the shoulder seam, I decided to try it on to see if the fit was working. So far so good! The pleats need to be pressed and I need to turn and stitch the self facings on the front openings but otherwise, I'm thrilled with it!
I cut the neckline down to a V shape and piped the edge. I want the lining to close seperately from the outer layer so clipped the seam allowance of the lining only a few inches up from the center front edge of the bodice. This clipped area I turned to the inside and hemmed down by hand.

Here's a picture showing the lining and the drawstring to adjust the waist. From what I've read, it was more common to have the lining fitted with darts but I chose to use a drawstring for a few reasons. 1. This will not be worn with a corset. I don't know about you ladies, but my body certainly is NOT the same from day to day. Especially during "that time of month" and some days my clothing fits tighter or looser than others. I don't want a closely fitted darted lining if some days I need to let things out a little. Especially when its hot. 2. The drawstring will be very handy if, Lord willing, we are ever expecting again. If that happens, I can even leave the lining unfastened on the inside to allow for belly expansion and use the drawstring to tie the lining shut at the waistline over the bump.

Now I need to work on the sleeves and the skirt hem. . .I should definitely be finished before next weekend! I can't wait to wear it!


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tunics Done and Wrapper Started

The two extra tunics for young Patrick are finished. I do say, this tunic style is by far the quickest and easiest I have ever sewn up. 2 hours per tunic and there ya go. These were finished and delivered yesterday, so hopefully young Master P. will be cool and comfortable during the rest of our hot reenactments. Since he is growing quickly he got an A line style that can be worn til it is hip length. The belt is simply pinned into place at the side seams right now and his mother can adjust the belt to accomodate his waist placement as he grows. This style is great because all that really needs to be fitted is the neckline, shoulders and armscyes. Everything else can be as baggy as you please - it all is pulled in at the waistline with the belt so there is lots of growing room.
The blue one is a solid cotton. Yes, a solid cotton. It is true that solid cottons were not generally used for clothing during the 1860's. However, this particular cotton is very thick and is definitely not your regular run-of-the-mill quilting weight cotton. Since it is an identical hue to a ballgown I made for this young mans mother earlier this year I went with it and for all intents and purposes, this is a fine wool tunic. :) It is trimmed with black braid down the front and at the belt and black decorative buttons and is intended for church and dressier occasions.

The plaid tunic is brown and tan and green and is trimmed up in green. It is a lightweight cotton and will be a good play outfit. The dark plaid will hide stains - I love plaids for this reason! Stains and little boys just seem to go together it seems.
With the tunics out of the way I've started my wrapper. Yay! I have it all cut out and partly sewn together. It will have a V-neck, slightly short, open coat sleeves with loose lace trimmed undersleeves and a decorative white petticoat. Here is a picture of the back and side bodice pieces with the skirt pinned and ready to be whipped to the bottom piped edge of the waistband. I thought I would have to fit a new muslin since this will not be worn with a corset but much to my suprise, my muslin fit very well without a corset! Now that is odd! I must be extra squishy or else I have lost some more weight since the last dress I've made. I think I'll go with the idea I've lost some more weight. It is more appealing to me. :)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tunics and the Boys Who Wear Them

I finished sewing on the trim on the boys new tunics this morning and now all that is left to do is work the buttonholes and attach the buttons in the back. I had hoped to have them done so I could start my wrapper today but I found out I will be making a couple of tunics for a 5 year old boy in our group before our next event so it doesn't matter - the tunics must be done before the wrapper is. I can live without a wrapper if need be.
These tunics are cut on the bias except for the back bodice pieces. I like the visual effect of bias plaid but it wasn't as easy to work with as the usual straight grain pieces I use. The finished garments just don't have that crisp look. But it is a period style and one I had not tried yet. It was a fun project, even if I did run into a few problems when making these up!

Judah's tunic is green and blue plaid and is trimmed with green bias strips and plain gold colored metal buttons. I somehow have my doubts about those buttons - they seem a little too big to me. But Judah wanted some shiny gold buttons like Daddy wears on his uniforms and these were all I had on hand.

David's tunic was, I thought, a red plaid cotton but on closer inspection, stimulated by David's horrified exclamation last night, "Sarah, his tunic is pink!" I determined that the plaid is, instead, a light red. :P It is trimmed similarly to my inpsiration image and has two narrow rows of dark red trim at the hem and at the sleeves. I may put black buttons down the front but I haven't decided yet if it will look right or not.

The style is a basic rather roomy, lightly gathered at the waist bodice with a jewel neck and loose sleeves, a narrow waistband and a skirt that reaches just to the knee. I hope they will last the boys through next summer.

Off to cut out some more tunics. . .


Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Great Pre-Event Sewing Spree

After taking the month of July off from reenacting, with the exception of a small (and rather disjointed) living history last weekend, we are gearing up for our fall season - always a particularly busy one. Fall is a great time to have events. I have fond memories of crisp autumn mornings, walking in leather boots on leaf-carpeted paths, a warm wool shawl pulled tight against my shoulders, enjoying the brisk air, the smell of wood smoke and the low murmur of conversation. Dappled sunshine falling through half-bare tree limbs, catching the gold and crimson and warm browns of changing foliage. Birds aloft on their way to southern climates, leaving me, as always, wondrous and pondering at being left behind, and the sheer lowly state of our existence and our perspective from always dwelling on the earth. Oh yes, August thru October are grand months for reenactments although one never knows quite what to expect, weather-wise. 100 degrees? Or 60?

August is most usually a very hot month. Sometimes not quite so hot as June reenactments but hot nevertheless. Because of that I decided to make us some more warm weather items to help us be cool and comfortable during these last weeks of summer. Our next event is two weeks away and I've been working on some light shirts for David, light cotton short sleeve tunics for the boys and a wrapper for me. The wrapper can be worn with or without a corset - and in very hot weather, it is nice to not *have* to wear a corset. It may not be the most *proper* garment to wear in mixed company but after experiencing a week-long rash on my torso from sweating in my corset a whole weekend back in June, it's nice to have an option to not wear a corset if needed.

Malachi needs nothing, but I feel bad leaving him out of my sewing plans. I'm tentatively planning a short sleeve gown with baste-in long undersleeves made of the same fabric so he can wear the gown when it gets cooler out too. I have a pretty black and white print that looks gray from any distance that will look well on him, I think.

So far I've finished David's shirts for our next event. One is a lightweight (almost sheer) cotton with a blue stripe. The other is the dark blue cotton spotted print I've used for the boys tunics and a dress for Malachi. The pattern is a new favorite; the Laughing Moon Mens Victorian Shirt pattern. With some tweaking to make it more appropriate for the 1860's, it's a great pattern. The fit is good, the sizing true and the result is a very sturdy garment. Every seam is completely finished. The shirts I made David are from the "work shirt" option. These shirts have an attached collar made of the same fabric as the shirt. There are other options in the pattern to create a detchable collar with a collar stand that buttons to the shirt so you can change them out when they are soiled. The pattern also contains an option for a pleated-front shirt which is next on my list of shirts for David. . .he has wanted one for years.

I have the boys plaid cotton out and waiting to be cut into. I hope to get a good chunk of work done on them today, if not finish them completely. Then it is on to my wrapper which will be in an olive green, cream and brown stripe. After seeing the beautiful wrapper Mrs. G at (sorry, blogger is not letting me make links properly right now) just made for her daughter, I am thinking of leaving my wrapper open in front below the waist and making a decorative petticoat to wear under it. We'll see. I think the white petticoat and possibly white undersleeves and, of course, a white collar, would really help soften the somewhat harsh effect of the striped cotton.

And in closing, I'm sorry I have not posted much at all lately - I sometimes get interested in other things and blogging becomes a chore rather than a delight. :P This week I've been working on finishing our bathroom (needs paint, which I'll do this afternoon) and getting Davids shirts done. And making pasta sauce. And canning tomatoes. And rearranging our computer/sewing room. I got rid of a big shelf and gave it to the boys to use for their toys (much handier for them than a basket to keep everything piled in) and decluttered a lot.

And my lovely little sewing companion;

I will try to get pictures of my red and cream 30's dress this weekend. I've had it done for almost two weeks and have worn it several times already - definitely a new favorite!