Sunday, February 27, 2011

Finished! Long Regency Stays!

They are done.

I'm happy with them. Quite so, indeed. Every time I make a corset, I think it is the most comfortable one I have made yet. I do think so about this one. I like it a lot. True, it is hard to get into without help and David finds some sort of twisted, hysterical amusement in me crying out to him "Help! I'm stuck!" when, several times after the last few days, I have become so firmly wedged into the stays as I struggle to put them on, that I need his help in tugging them down into place. Two options here; get a ladies maid, or use longer laces so I can unlace them more widely in order to put them on over my head with ease.

I think I'll go with the longer laces.

I'm wearing the stays over my medieval shift, since I don't currently have an accurate regency shift. The last one I made was way too full and the drawstrings kept breaking, so a new one is being planned. For now, this one will work (at least with long sleeved gowns). The construction is almost the same anyway. Funny how little things can change within 500 of years of fashion.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Long Regency Stays - Progress Update #2

I think I am going to be very happy with these stays. They fit just as I had hoped they would, give a good shape and I have a nice wide 4" gap evenly spaced down the back lacing. Yeah! I was somewhat hesitant about making these since I started working out and counting calories after Christmas and hoped to loose weight. I am thinking I am about half way there, and was worried that if I made stays *now*, they might not fit if I keep loosing. However, with the wide lacing gap I hope I can fit into them for a while. I really don't see myself getting too thin to wear these, at least for a long time. I wish weight came off as easily as it goes on. . .sigh. . .

All that I have left to do is to bind the bottom edge. Since my last post, I added some cording to just under the bust area, some cording at the back and put in a total of 10 bones. I was going to go with just 6, but then upped it to 8 and then, finally, to 10. This seems a little too boned but I am most comfortable in it. I have become accustomed to some degree of firmness in my corsets since I mainly do 1860's, so a very minimally boned corset just felt a little loose to me. Four bones are at the back - one on each side of the eyelets - and then there are three on each side panel. The lacing is cross lacing. I know spiral may be more appropriate for this period, but Katherine pointed out in her documentation of her regency corset that cross lacing did exist in corsets of the time.

My busk is the beloved paint-stick which David carefully sanded and shaped for me and inscribed with his own sweet message. :) It really works awesomely. It is exactly the right length and I can sit without my bust being shoved up under my chin. Perfect. Plus, the paint stick was free. You can't beat that.

Well dearies, I am off to bake up a pan of browned butter brownies. The recipe comes from last months issue of Bon Appetit and is, I think, a new staple recipe in my collection. They are simply divine. Chocolate once in a while doesn't hurt anyone, does it now?

Have a fantastic weekend!


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Long Regency Stays - Progress

So, long regency stays are one type of corset I have never done before. I've made several variations of short stays and I used the Mantua Maker regency corset pattern to make 1820's/1830's stays (see two posts below) but this is my first, real, long regency corset.

I don't know why I have been so afraid of making long stays. The cording always looked so time consuming and the style looked very critically fitted in order to perfectly get that "lift and seperate" look. Well, I washed my fabric two days ago and cut out the stays yesterday and guess what. It's not that hard.

I used the Mantua Maker pattern, the version I fitted to myself last fall. I had to take the pattern in one inch all the way around and then four inches more at the hips. I also shortened the bust gussets by one inch.

The pieces were easy to sew together. I've done corsets before, and that is no problem. The cording was different, for me. I have never really corded a corset before. I opted for cording only on the front panel and running down the side of the front hip gusset. I thought about putting more cording in the back panel, but decided it wasn't really necessary at this point. I used a blue marking pencil to pencil my cording lines - all straight, for ease of sewing - and sewed the channels and then threaded the cotton cord through with a bobby pin. I will have bones at the back opening, on either side of the lacing eyelets, and also one bone at each side panel. That's it - the wooden busk will do the rest. I personally think the cording is more for decorative reasons that true support, to be honest.

I've put about five hours of work into the stays so far. All that is left is working the eyelets and binding the thing - really - that's it! I was thinking this would take me at least a few weeks to complete and am shocked to realize that I will most likely have it finished this weekend. I suppose it would take me longer if I were hand sewing the whole thing, but I am sticking to my usual historic-clothing-construction philosophy: If it will be Seen, do it by hand. If it's on the inside, don't worry about using a straight machine stitch, for Pete's sake! ;)

I'm really hoping The Cut of Men's Clothes comes in to the library soon. I think I will be ready to start on David's regency things before too long!


Friday, February 18, 2011

Regency Stays Experts - Opinions and Advice Please!

With my thoughts turned towards the Jane Austen Festival this summer, I have been trying to decide what gowns to make and, therefore, what undergarments I will need to make first, since I'm not really pleased with my 1790's short stays anymore (the ones with the gathered cups) because, #1, they are starting to become too large for me, which is uncomfortable as it makes the shift rub against my skin and #2, they do not provide as nice a line as I might wish. I was once a C cup. I hope to be one again. In the meantime, I don't need to be wearing something that makes me look twenty pounds heavier on top. The stays I have been using push the bosom together making a "mono bosom" look. It's really not that flattering to me, I am afraid.

I got some fabric for new stays. I have the Mantua Maker regency stays pattern and last year I made it, with a few modifications, for late 1820's/1830's wear. I made my own gussets and did not use the ones included in the pattern. I also made a more nipped in waistline instead of going with the more tubular shape often seen in true regency corsets.

I want to start work on my stays soon. Today I pulled out the stays I made last year from the Mantua Maker pattern and tried them on to see what adjustments I will have to make for a more regency silhouette. I know I'll have to make them much smaller around my hips (so far, all the weight loss seems to be coming from my hips and bust! It would be nice to loose some from the waist too! But I'll take what I can get!) but I would like experts opinions on the bust area of the stays. Is it high enough? I tried on my new regency dress with the stays and I really like how it looks with these stays a lot better than with the 1790's stays. These stays incorporate the use of a busk, which really helps with support and gives the bosom the characteristic "lift and seperate" look.

I know the regency bustline was really high and kind of "shelf" like. These stays don't really give a "shelf" appearance, but they do lift the bustline pretty high; in fact, I don't physically think I could lift it any higher. So, should I stick with these size gussets? Or is there a way I can modify the gussets to give more of a shelf appearance?

Another problem that you can see is that, due to the cut of the bodice, you can clearly see the top of the stays in the middle of the bodice. :( Any suggestions on how I could fix that problem? A brooch? Lace along the bodice edge?

So if these stays will work. . .all I will need to do is use the same pattern I used for these and make the hips a tad smaller. It would be a lot less work than going through the inconvenience of making mock ups of gussets and such! :P

This is all very new to me so please jump in with your advice and opinions!


Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Nancy Drew 1940's Dress!

The past few weeks I've been re reading the Nancy Drew books I adored as a child. I haven't read them for years but my mom was getting rid of a big pile of books and asked me if I'd like to go through them before she did. I snagged some Nancy Drew books, Hardy Boy books and some Boxcar Children books, for good measure. (Yes, I loved mysteries as a child. Still do.)
So, when I realized I had a wedding coming up and had nothing to wear, I was inspired by the adventurous, courageous, intelligent young ladies in the Nancy Drew books who, no matter what kind of situation they found themselves in, were always feminine and charming and properly attired. No man suits or t shirts and jeans for these women, people! They piloted airplanes, rode horseback, explored underground caves and tunnels and haunted houses and deciphered codes, all while being decidedly feminine.

In my previous post I shared the vintage 1940's pattern I was inspired by. I finally finished the dress today and am really happy with how it came out. I was really afraid of the fabric being too plain and ugly to wear to a wedding, but now I'm having second thoughts. I did buy a modern outfit to wear in case this one didn't work out so I'm not sure yet which one I will end up using. Ladies, your opinions and advice is needed! Would you wear something like this to a wedding? For comparison purposes, the modern outfit is an ankle-length black pig suede A line skirt, very flared and twirly, and a silky black and pink floral blouse with a V neck and flutter sleeves and a handkerchief hem, with black leather dress boots.

Since becoming interested in the 40's I've been looking around for red lipstick. I don't usually wear make up (well, besides clear powder and chap stick) but red lipstick is kinda a 40's thing, you know. Like the hoop skirt in the 1860's. It's the sign of the times. So, I've found it really hard to find a basic, red lipstick. There are so many options available it seems. I have a few different shades now and the one I like best is called British Red, but it still is a bit orangey, it seems. So I'm still on the hunt for The Perfect Red Lipstick.

David usually is not that interested in my attempts at historic recreations but he did like this one. He seems to like the vintage styles I've toyed with better than, say, the regency or Romantic period. He told me that it looks "like something Susan would have worn before she came to Narnia." From him, that is definitely a compliment worth having.

I still need to figure out a better hair style. My hair was NOT cooperative today! It must be the changing weather. All our snow from a few weeks ago is nearly gone and today it is supposed to get above *60* degrees!!! Spring is on the way!


Monday, February 14, 2011

Inspired by the 1940's. . .

I've been thinking a lot about summer dresses lately. Maybe it's because I am really getting tired of seeing the old, tired snow outside and maybe it's because I'm excited about the prospect of visiting my grandfather in the East this summer and want to be appropriately attired for such pleasures as beach-walking and historic-site-touring. Whatever the case may be, I've been encouraging my interest in vintage styles because 1) I have come to realize that, much as I may adore Victorian and other similarly "outdated" styles, I hardly ever wear them once I have made them because I don't like being stared at and 2) vintage styles from the 30's and 40's usually take much less fabric than Victorian styles and are cooler to wear, easier to care for and sew up quickly.

I came across this lovely pattern and decided I loved the style. I draped a pattern last week and started work on a dress right away. I used a mystery fabric I got from the thrift shop; I believe it to be a linen/cotton blend based on how it feels but it may be pure cotton. I am almost done with it and since this first dress is rather plain and severe, will be making another one in a prettier print with a more swirly skirt. For my version, I shortened the skirt to just below the knee as that seems a standard 40's length for daywear and changed the neckline to a V (more flattering to me) and put sleeves on it. I love the little gathered straps on the original pattern though. . .I may have to try that for my vacationing dress!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Finished ~ Green Regency Daydress

Well, 'tis Sunday already and to start off the new week, I had David take some pictures of the green regency gown. Yes, it is finally finished! I am very glad since I was beginning to grow rather tired of seeing it hanging, limp and unfinished, in the sewing room. I have already spoke of its construction so much that there is really not much more to say about it! So here are my attempts at looking like a regency lady. :)

Although I don't wear this style terribly often (okay, hardly ever! I have gone back to wearing modern clothes all the time) I do plan on making another regency gown for Easter. My dear friend Lauren from The Lady of Portland House has given me some fabulous ideas for a sheer white striped cotton fabric I have and yesterday David bought me several yards of a pretty blue cotton print that will become a half-robe to wear over the white round gown. To add more excitement to the mix, we are also tentatively planning on attending the Jane Austen festival in Louisville, KY this summer. David has to submit his list for requested weekends off at work this week, so hopefully he will be able to get the time off that we will need! So if we DO go to that, I will have an excuse to make a regency ball gown with the leftover fabric from my 1860's ballgown. So, ah yes, there does seem to be a theme for my future sewing plans.

Have a wonderful week my dears!