Wednesday, November 30, 2011

1840's Inspiration

I just came across this dress today and it is almost exactly what I want! And oh, the fabric is to die for. Gorgeousness!

It looks like the front bodice is cut on the bias with one dart on each side. The skirt looks like it is gathered to a round waist with the front bodice point floating over it. The way the sleeves are cut, it would be easy to make an upper sleeve with a detachable lower sleeve like the 1841-43 wool dress on page 175 of Costume in Detail. I do want to make a tight skinny sleeve though, with maybe a bias ruffle or two part way down the arm.

I did find this image today on the Truly Victorian website. It shows a 40's dress (although it looks like an evening dress) with princess seams on the front - no darts - which would be easier for me to fit since I already have a pattern just like this.

Right now my dilemma is my skirt supports. How does one get a long flat pointed waist to look right over full gathered round petticoats? I am trying to decide if I need to make a few new petticoats on V yoke waistbands or just work with what I have already.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Dress - 1840's?

Thanks for the overwhelming encouragement you all sent me after my last post - wow. I feel somewhat silly for venting like that, but on the other hand, I don't think I need to be ashamed of my feelings either, since feelings are real and true. Like one of you so truly said, you can change your mind, but you can't change your feelings.

Anyway, I appreciate it. You are all awesome.

So, since Thanksgiving is officially over and there is less than four weeks until Christmas, I am starting to think about my Christmas dress. Last year I made a late 1850's basque bodice to go with my silk skirt, but this year I think I am going to go for something totally different. At least, different for me. Taking a hint from Lauren at The Lady of Portland House, I'm going to try out a dress from a decade I've never done before, the 1840's.

Reason? I love, love, love Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol  and we just finished watching, our annual after-Thanksgiving tradition, the movie version with Patrick Stewart (I love him) and so. I am inspired.
The engagingly begrudgeful Mr. Scrooge

The 1840's fascinate me as the start of the Victorian era. I like the silhouette from this decade very much and the bonnets and hair are just gorgeous.

David also loves the men's clothing from this era. He told me he is looking forward to being old enough to portray a Mexican War veteran at Civil War reenactments and he wishes that there was some group around here that did 1840's. He loves the military uniforms, the civilian clothes and the facial hair of these interesting years. He loves the history. He was very happy when I told him I was thinking of making an 1840's dress sometime soon. He told me he thinks I should go for something from 1846 but I think I will go just a wee bit earlier.
I just love this dress. Maybe not the large collar, but I like the clean simple lines of the skirt and bodice. 

The pattern for a basic bodice from the 40's looks simple enough and not that different from 1860's styles. I plan to modify my basic 1860's bodice pattern  by making it back closing, with a pointed front and a wide neckline, with the front bodice cut in two pieces and fitted with one or two darts on each side. In fact, I think my basic ballgown pattern would work as a starting point for an 1840's dress bodice. It already has all the features except the front is fitted with princess seams instead of darts.

dresses 1840-1845
I'm heavily inspired by these two dresses from Patterns of Fashion 1 and Costume in Detail. I plan on using undergarments I already have. My petticoats I use for 60's stuff will work just fine, as will my chemises and drawers, stockings and shoes, and I'm using my long stays for the corset since it gives a similar look to 40's corsets with a rigid front busk and gusseted cups.

The fabric I am using has been sitting on my shelf for a few years. I don't know if it is totally period correct but since I'm not wearing it to any living history event I don't really care if it is 100% correct or not. I got this fabric initially to make an 1860's wrapper from but then I found out that stripes that have printed designs ON the stripes are not appropriate for the 60's. Disappointment. But I think it will look nice made into a 40's style. I love striped prints for styles that can be cut on the bias. Bias cut stripes are just amazing things, I think. :) Yummmmm. Bias bits on the dress. A bias bodice. If I can squeeze it out of the 6 yards I have to work with, a bias flounce on the skirt. Bias piping for ALL the bodice seams. I think I am going to be in love!

Don't you just love holiday dresses? :) Do any of you have any special frocks  you are working on for the Christmas season?


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mid-19th Century Quilted Bonnet

I recently was lucky enough to purchase one of Anna Worden Baursmith's pattern for a quilted winter hood. I have been coveting one of her hoods since she started making and selling them earlier this fall, but not having a ton of spare cash lying around, I figured that having one of these hoods was just a dream. But! To cater to her seamstress admirers, she also put out a pattern for her hoods and I snatched one up.

I just finished my first hood from this pattern and I am really very happy with how it came out. It's nice being able to use a pattern and not have to alter it or toss the instructions and make it up on your own. Plus the booklet that comes with the pattern is jam packed with helpful tips, observations, research and documentation.

This hood is shaped more like a fashion bonnet. The past hoods I have made have all been very sunbonnet-like, so it was nice to have a change from that with this pattern. Both styles are correct for the era, but I think this one has a more restrained and formal appearance than ones that are based on a sunbonnet style. It would be lovely to wear for period church services, I daresay even weddings or funerals, shopping, visiting and even Christmas caroling.

I made mine from a pair of silk dress slacks I got at the thrift shop. It was part of a silk pantsuit I got for a few dollars. I am not a fan of the pantsuit look (at least on myself) but the jacket was very cute, and I saved the pants to cut up and use for a project like this. It's actually a really nice silk. It is lined with white cotton sateen and interlined with 2 layers of cotton batting and all hand quilted. It was a little difficult (and painful at times) to quilt the silk since it is so tightly woven the needle would not easily slip into the fabric, but at last the job was done although some of the lines came out a bit crookedy.

I like it. Despite the fact that no wool was used, it really is nice and light and warm. It will be my awesome go-to bonnet for any event that will be taking place in less than 65 degrees.

I did make one little alteration to the pattern. Made up exactly as the pattern said, the neck was a little loose on me. So I made a small box pleat at the center back edge of the tip. It took in the neckline just the little bit I needed.

I have a huge lime green silk shirt that I think I will try to make another one in. What I will do with a lime green bonnet I have no idea. But I think it will look awesome, especially if I can find a little bit of fur to trim it in.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Metamora Courthouse Demo for Veterans Day

It was a pleasant day yesterday for the 108th demonstration at the courthouse. November surprised with a brief lull from the cold and blustery days we have been experiencing and though the day was windy, it was sunny and warm.

Judah found out that his beloved grandma was coming to our house to watch Malachi and he decided that he, too, would rather stay with her than go to the demonstration. David and I found ourselves alone with our oldest son for perhaps the first time in several years! Judah willingly shared his new tunic with his brother, so David looked festive and patriotic in his red, white and blue ensemble.

There was a memorial wall for fallen Illinois veterans in the side yard, displays and refreshments downstairs, and upstairs there were several talks over the course of the afternoon, touching on such subjects as Victorian mourning customs, the war of 1812, and the 1860's Navy. I was nervous about talking about women's fashions of the 1860's in front of an audience but all in all I got through it without fainting or forgetting what I wanted to say. I think it went all right!

David set up his display of tools and medicines on the west side of the old courtroom. It all looked very well, but he was exceedingly nervous because the table he is sitting at in this photo is one that is documented that Abraham Lincoln actually used - in fact, there is a space cut out of the apron at the back of the table so Mr. Lincoln's knees would fit beneath it!

David, being of nearly exactly the same height as Mr. Lincoln, found this arrangement very comfortable and convenient. He still was a little awed, though, to be sitting at and using a table that Mr. Lincoln used so many years ago.

Not the least of many pleasantries of the day was seeing Major Ron and my own dear Captain in their new coats. Here they pause from their duties in the evening for a quick photo.

And it was also nice to see Bill in the navy uniform I made for him last year. That was a very fun uniform to create and he does look very dashing in it.

The 108th had a good turnout. We even recruited a new member! David's good friend, in the role of hospital steward, and his good friend's good wife will hopefully be joining us for many events in the future. We still don't know what Peter really is though. I don't think Peter himself really knows. He has played in the role of hospital attendant but his real joy is sheer socializing. . .he can talk about almost anything to almost anyone. I think he should be permanently arranged in the role of visiting civilian, don't you think?

He and I can be way too silly though. David looks upon our capers with a tolerant, indulgent sigh. When shall we grow up? Not as long as there are silly things to do and generous fence-posts on which to place a camera with a timer, and resultant pictures to laugh over despite the fact they may be blurry and dim. ;)

This is the one (bit blurry and dim!) picture I got of the dress I wore. I am wearing my regency stays with it since I used my other corset for the demonstration. Much to my surprise, this dress actually fits me much better with the stays than with the corset. This fact intrigues me greatly so I think an experimentation with a gusseted corset cut down from the regency stays pattern will be in order for the winter. I love my gray linen corset but I do think the bust line it gives is a little too low, and the breasts are splayed so far apart in that corset, it's hard to fit over it.

And that is the last of our living histories or demonstrations until next year, except for the ball at the GAR hall the day after Thanksgiving!


Friday, November 11, 2011

A Bigger Tunic for Judah

This Sunday I our 1860's medical reenacting unit has been invited to a demonstration at a local historic site. I was asked to give a talk on ladies 1860's fashions - a first for me! - and have been busy getting things together for that. However, one other important thing was a new tunic for Judah. After our last reenactment I was mortified to see how short and skimpy his clothes looked. He has grown a lot over the summer.
The back bodice is pieced about 2" above the waistband, all the way across

The pattern I use for the boys tunics has been one that has morphed into existence from the first little bodice pattern I drafted for David's first baby gown, nearly five years ago:
Little boys DID wear pink! :D

As the boys got bigger, I just added length and width as needed. ;) This week, we sized up the 4T pattern for their tunics into a 5T. To do that, I just had Judah put on his old tunics and marked where he needed width and length added and how much! No rocket science here.
Playing with the wheel on the horse Daddy made him

To test out the new pattern I cut down a thrifted shirt. It was a plain, button up style shirt I got during one of those infamous fill-a-bag-for-$1 sales. Due to the size of the shirt (medium) and the size of Judah, I had to end up piecing some of the tunic. It is pieced in five spots, which makes me feel kind of chintzy and cheap. : / But, it works, he has a tunic, and piecing is a period correct practice!

I used some blue cotton twill tape for simple trim. Judah agreed to pose for a few pictures, although after a few minutes he grew weary of the pursuit.

The waist is a little low, but that is on purpose, as I hope he gets a lot of wear out of this. It seems my boys do a lot more growing lengthwise than widthwise. The sleeves are slightly belled open sleeves that he can wear as is in the summer and with a white undershirt / bodice / waist in the cooler months.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Good-Bye, Coat!

For the last month or so my half of the office has been companionably inhabited by an 1860's federal officers frock coat, as well as an 1860's federal officers shell jacket. In various stages of completion, they had become a fixture of sorts in my sewing space. Kind of like headless, silent, saintly spirits of inspiration. Ghosts from the past. While I worked on my 1930's bra, they quietly watched over me. While I made my 1780's dress in a hectic flurry of activity, their patient presence wafted perfumes of quietude into the fray of shears, thread, and tiny bobbins winding furiously on my machine. They have become - friends.
A shell jacket fit for a Major! ;) 

This morning, however, their places are empty. David's frock coat has been locked up in his "reenacting closet" where he keeps his uniforms and accessories and the shell jacket has gone to its long awaited home with Major Ron. Both coats will make their debut this weekend and I have fond hopes of getting a photograph of David and Ron together, wearing them.
Two of fourteen buttons and buttonholes on the front of Major Ron's shell jacket

It is kind of bittersweet to come to the end of an interesting sewing project. I may gripe about making frock coats. I hate putting in tail pockets. The quilting - especially the quilting I did on these coats - takes forever. There are so many aspects of 1860's tailoring that are just not easy. But underneath my annoyance, I think I really enjoy the challenges. I think as I get through each one and see the project come together, bit by bit, I get a costumers high.
The quilting David convinced me to attempt in his new frock coat, and which, of course, Major Ron's needed as well

So, good-bye coats! I will miss your pleasant visage when I look up from whatever project I am currently obsessing over but I look forward to seeing you both in use, in the field, during the parade, in the ball-room, on two very fine looking gentlemen of my acquaintance.
An in-progress shot of David's coat, from about a month ago


Friday, November 4, 2011

Pink 1920's Dress ~ Finished

I finally finished the renovated linen dress. It ended up taking me a lot longer to finish than if I had just started from scratch and used new material, but, hey, it was kind of fun figuring out how to transform the linen dress and some pink fabric into a 20's style.

Last time I posted, my dress had the side panels attached for a fuller skirt:

However, the bodice hung rather loosely and unattractively so I took in the bodice. First I removed the sleeves, then raise the whole dress at the shoulders. Then I took in the side seams of the bodice so it fit me better.Then I added a band of the pink gauze to the original cap sleeves on the dress, and a slightly flared band below that, of scraps left from the pink linen when I cut the sides off the skirt.

After that, my dilemma was deciding how to finish off the dress. Originally I was going to go with a scarf-type trim, like this: (which I must mention I still really like. . .I really liked the drapiness of it)

But my children kept thinking that the scarf-type trim was a kind of tail they could yank and pull on. Plus it gave a very unflattering silhouette from the side.

Next I tried a V-shaped piece of the gauze. I kind of liked how that looked, so I decided to go with that.

Since pink does not go very well with my hennaed hair color, I thought a contrasting color would help soften the transition from the pink dress to my reddish hair. This cream colored antique lace from Natalie was just right, and I had just exactly enough to sew a few rows across the V shaped area on the front bodice.

The belt tabs were. . .boring. From any distance at all, they melted into the skirt and you could not even tell they were there. I was very sick yesterday so spent the afternoon curled up in David's bathrobe, in bed and chain stitched in cream colored thread all around the belt tabs to help them stand out more. I also made covered buttons by covering metal washers with the pink gauze, and sewed them to the belt tabs to make them look more belt-like. :)

I am really pleased with how the dress finished up. It's definitely *pink* but sometimes a pink dress is the perfect dress to wear!

I am loving this style for everyday use since it is *so* comfortable. No zippers. No buttons. No hooks. No fitted bands. Nothing. It just slips on over the head and hangs there. The skirt is a perfect, practical everyday length and the fullness is just right for comfortably moving.

I tried to put my hair up in a different way by simulating a short cut look. I think I like a tightly-pulled back chignon better.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

1920's Trim Possibilities

Happy 1st of November! (can it BE November already??) This morning David woke up and the first thing he sleepily mumbled to me was "Happy All Saints Day". After he got that all-important greeting off his chest, he seemed much relieved. So I pass on his greeting to you all: Happy All Saints Day!

Did any of you do anything fun last night? I never celebrated Halloween growing up but last year we did take the boys out trick or treating. David grew up with that tradition and I thought we could try it. The boys had fun last year and had even more fun this year despite the chill. They covered about twice as much ground as they did last year - even Malachi - and came home with their pumpkin buckets stuffed with fun-size Snicker bars, packets of Skittles and M & M's, toosie pops and that dreadful nightmarish creation of "Fun Dip" sticks, in packets,with chemically-looking colored sugar to dip them into.

Last night I finished sewing down the other belt tab and sewed up the hem. So structurally the dress is done and I just need to decide on how to finish it. I was browsing through my collected images of 1920's dresses and found a few possibilities.

Note: I have NO idea where I saved all these pictures from so if there is a picture posted that violates a copyright, please let me know and I will remove it asap!

First up is this one. The neckline is wide and scooped yet is finished with a big floppy collar. I like how it makes the dress more "dressy" than a plain unfinished neckline.

Then there is this one. I like how it looks but am afraid that with my renovated dress, it would just scream "1980's!". I remember collars like this being popular when I was a little girl in the late 80's, early 90's. I want my dress to definitely be more reminiscent of the 1920's than the 1980's (which can be tricky, because some of the style details WERE very similar in those two decades!)

This one has a V-shaped detail at the neckline AND a collar.

These three dresses from 1923 are just gorgeous. Love them! I especially like the one in the middle. I like the sleeve style a lot (a different, lighter fabric for the lower sleeve, which would work well with my cotton gauze fabric) and I love the hat. Oh yes. I LOVE the hat. I think I could easily make the bodice/sleeves on my dress look similar to this one.

This one has a center front panel on the bodice that contrasts with the rest of the dress. And a sash at the waistline. I like it. Maybe I could do rows of trim simulating a center front panel on the bodice?

THIS dress is just perfectly gorgeous. I can't describe it. It's perfect. I do plan on making a repro of this one but for now, I am liking the little tucks at the neckline.

This one also appears to have tucks at the neckline that go down into tucks at the waist. So I think my idea of taking in the neckline with a few little tucks will be okay.

This dress is from later in the 20's but also have a V shape contrast area on the front bodice. I am assuming this is because of the little coat that matches the skirt, and the skirt is attached to a plain bodice. However, the look is pretty, and slimming too which is a nice thing in dresses like these which make you look all the same width from shoulder to hem! Unless you are naturally straight and slender I think trim is VERY important to get the right visual effect.

Now I must be off and vigilant in my guarding of the candy-buckets. Or else my children will be running on a sugar high for an indefinite period of time. And that would not be good.