Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Death Becomes Her & Kimono: A Modern History

Thanks to The Met, there’s tons of awesome clothes to check out for the next few months!

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1870-1872 ensemble, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire is open until February 1st in the fancy new-ish Anna Wintour Costume Center’s Carl and Iris Barrel Apfel Gallery, which can be reached by winding through 4,000 years of Egyptian art. It’s worth asking three or four security guards the way; don’t give up. And if you have the chance, go soon, it’s perfect for Halloween!

It’s fully handicapped accessible, but if you have the option, go down the stairs. They’re wide and have a few landings, so they’re not too strenuous. The walls along the stairs are painted with folk-art style, life-size black weeping willows – it sets the mood, especially as you walk down into the dark gallery with 1890s requiems playing in the background. Yeah!

Inside, there are about 30 ensembles from the early 19th to early 20th centuries. All are on nice mannequins with historic hairstyles in white wigs, and many have coordinating hats or veils. There are two men’s outfits, and one child’s dress, but mostly there are women’s clothes, hats, and accessories. Contemporary quotes are projected on the walls, and fashion plates are hung in one gallery.

While every piece in there is fascinating, some really stand out. One is a mourning gown worn by Queen Victoria, and two gowns worn by a princess (I forget who, sorry) in mourning for Queen Victoria. These two gowns are incredible – all glitter and spangles. There’s a bright purple ensemble from about 1895, and a late 1860s wedding gown made in partial mourning in respect for those lost in the Civil War.

So go see it! It’s great – very Gothic and Victorian and super interesting. The only truly bad thing about it is there’s no catalog!

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Over Robe (Uchikake) with Shell-Matching Game Boxes, mid-19th century. Lent by Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. William Sturgis Bigelow Collection.

Kimono: A Modern History is also super good. This exhibit is up in the Arts of Japan galleries on the second floor until January 19th. The gallery begins with scraps of silk from before the 18th century. After that, some absolutely gorgeous Edo period kimono are displayed: think like-new metal and silk embroidery, eye popping colors and incredibly intricate work. Most of these pieces are displayed on racks, not mannequins, which shows the artwork much better since it’s flat.

The exhibit shows some working kimonos, especially those for firemen, some export garments and things made from exported silk in vaguely Asian-inspired designs, and then, a really interesting little collection of 1920s-1940s wartime and propaganda kimono. Who’d have thought?

(A tip for those who visit: ask a security guard to show you the staircase to the 3rd floor Chinese gallery nearby. There’s a single room up there filled with Chinese clothing from about the same period (18th century & up). It’s worth checking out!)

Kimono: A Modern History has a catalog which looks really good, too – I haven’t bought it yet but I think sometime soon I’ll pick one up.

So there’s my overview-in-a-nutshell! Enjoy!


Tomorrow = 20 days

I didn’t expect to be so busy with school this month, so writing a blog post had to be delayed. But I’ve been sewing for short amounts of time every so often, and I’ve gotten a lot more done!

1) The bodiced/un-bodiced petticoat hasn’t been altered yet; I guess I got bored,

2) My printed blue cotton dress is now finished; I added hooks & eyes to the back (not my original plan, and not how the original closed, but now it’s wearable),

3) I made a nice white linen chemisette with cotton lace trim,

chemisette 2014

I eyeballed this from the earliest, simplest, documented chemisette I could find. It’s probably most accurate for 1800-1815. The collar doesn’t really fall the way the original did. I really wanted a dorset button for the closure under the collar, but I couldn’t find my button stash at the time. If I find it I’ll upgrade from this mismatched hook & eye.

4) I’ve gotten about halfway done with that 1760s waistcoat I began a little while back,

waistcoat 2014

It’s wrinkly and saggy on my tiny hanger, but look at that wool. It’s black with a white diaper pattern woven in, and it’s gorgeous. The rest of the waistcoat is made from some of the nicest linen I’ve ever found. I’m really excited for how it’s turning out!

5) because I wanted a cool hat, I made a small, green linen calash,

Calash 2014

I dyed linen green, and I chucked a spool of linen thread in the dye too – but of course it didn’t take color so well, so I had to Sharpie the thread darker later. And I didn’t take enough photos of the process, but the body of the calash is basically a rectangle with a number of metal bones running through it, and the ends of that are gathered to a binding. The back is a teardrop shape, boned, and the calash body is gathered to that.

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Finished! It’s not perfect but it’s cool. It turned out a little too small; the ridges touch the top of my head. I also made it too long, so I had to add thread stops inside to keep it from extending fully. Right now it has icky polyester ribbons, but I want to get some nice silk ones for it soon.

6) and because I don’t know when to stop, I decided that I need a nice comfy pair of half-boned 1780s stays. They’d be better for the events I do, which involve setting up displays and then sitting for hours on end – something my fully boned 1740s/60s stays aren’t so nice for. I haven’t taken scissors to cloth yet, though, I’m still thinking about how to do those. Later.

 

And finally, a tiny life hack. I needed to shape and pad out this mannequin a lot to photograph my 1880s bodice, and my epiphany was to use old shoulder pads. I pinned them to the mannequin making sure the pin heads were flush. They really helped puff out the tails. I’m thinking of making some ‘for real’, with nice cotton and fiberfill.

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Finished and … not so finished

It’s done! The un-bodiced, bodiced petticoat. Could use a good ironing.

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But as I look at it, I see a mistake. I should have concentrated the gathers further to the back. Right now I think they’re going to be under my arms, which will make the dress over them wrinkle and bulge.

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Sigh. So I’ll try it on tomorrow and see if I can make it work. If not, I’ll rip the sides of the waistband out and re-sew it. Yayyy.


Sewing, sewing, sewy sewing

My hands hurt.

In the past few days, I’ve hand-sewn half a silk regency gown, half a bodiced regency petticoat, finished repairing a quilt for a friend (by hand), begun a c. 1760-70 linen and figured wool waistcoat for my dad, and made a hand-embroidered reticule.

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It’s kind of saggy-looking without anything in it. Linen with linen embroidery, cardboard base, and a silk bow. Eventually I’ll add some nice silk handles/drawstrings.

I’ve shelved the cote idea until next year’s Renn Faires. I don’t have the time to sew a new cote this year. Meh.

I’ve been putting more time into is my 1790-1810s clothing. I’m realizing that I’m really lumping a lot of variances into one outfit. I’d love to specify the outfit to a smaller, earlier year span, but that’s going to have to wait, too.

So today I’m (writing my paper for school) assembling a bodiced petticoat, which is  confusing me. Not over the construction, that’s fairly straightforward, but over its actual existence. The bodiced petticoats I see seem to actually be bodiced skirts, meant to be seen, and worn with a short jacket over them.

I’m having trouble finding attributed 1790s-1810s petticoats. Usually I would interpret that as meaning this garment wasn’t so popular.

But women had to wear petticoats, right? From what I can tell from prints and paintings, women’s skirts are too full in general to be just a dress skirt worn over a chemise. Maybe the petticoats of that era were often remade into other garments, and just didn’t survive very well. Or maybe I’m missing something!

I found one from The Met: linen, from America, and dating from the early 19th century – and the only photo of it is super cropped.

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Bodiced petticoat, from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

You can still tell that it’s got little straps over the shoulders, a surprisingly low waist, and a drawstring neckline that ties near the left armpit. It’s almost a modern slip, rather than a petticoat.

I’ve also seen a few unattributed photos of empire/regency bodiced petticoats floating around the interwebs – some have bodices, and some just have little suspenders. I think I’ll go with the suspender model; while I can’t find much to back up this style, it makes sense to me, and will eliminate some bulk, since I’ll be probably wearing it in warm weather and inside heated buildings.

So my petticoat is made of a nice, fine 100% linen, and all hand sewn with linen thread.

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I left the selvage at the hemline and added a pleat. I’m hoping this adds a little more body to the skirt, especially at the back.

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The waistband, halfway pinned on.

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… and now halfway sewn on …

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… and finished, with the gathers concentrated at the back. I was lazy and didn’t want to go buy tape for the ties, so I just cut the selvage off some linen. It’ll work for a few wearings. The ties are sewn into the waistband a few inches in, so they serve as a partial drawstring.

So now all that’s left is to add the suspender-things and try it on …