Tag Archives: living history

Super Productivity! Kinda.

So first off, an apology. I’ve been searching WordPress and my own brain for ways to do this, but I can’t figure out how to put a .pdf on a blog post. You know, for patterns. I’m stuck. So for now, I must apologize. I want to share some of the patterns I’ve taken but until I can figure out a way to get them here, un-warped and un-wonky, I can’t. ūüė¶

Other than that disappointment, I’ve been sewing like mad. Mad, I tell you! I just haven’t had the time to blog about it. Or take any nice photos.

Since early January, I’ve made:

1 1910s-1920s velvet hat (HSF Challenge #2: Blue)

1 1918 wool skirt

1 1900s cotton & lace corset cover (HSF Challenge #1: Foundations)

1 1910s linen blouse

1 1910s cotton & lace slip

1 1915-1918 wool jacket

1 silk and (oops) polyester ‚ÄúVotes for Women‚ÄĚ yellow rose brooch

1 early/mid 1920s velvet evening gown (HSF Challenge #3: Stashbusting)

1 pair 1930s wool & leather spats

1 late 1920s tennis (style) dress

… and I’ve begun an 1880s-ish corset.

And as always:

1 huge mess

3 small trash bags of scraps

1 medium sized dent in my vintage button & cloth hoard

1 $15 dent in my wallet (you read that right, BOOYAH)

All the 1917-1920 clothes I meant to make for the April HSF challenge, War & Peace, but I was so excited about them I started and finished them way too early. That¬†worked out all right in the end, though, because I wore them for a women’s suffrage play I was in, with the last-minute addition of the Votes for Women brooch.

I made all these with my 1902 Singer, which felt nice, because I was using antique/accurate tools. Yep, I know, nerdy.

And because I’ve been awful at taking photos of my work, here are just the ones I’ve photographed.¬†I’ll get pictures of everything later.

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I am in LOVE with this hat. I usually can’t find something big enough to fit my hair under, so I made it extra big. It’s got that big/loose hat thing that was going on in the teens and twenties, and I can actually put my hair up under it! Yay!

I made the blouse in the photo above from one of my dad’s worn-out 18th century shirts. It was old and threadbare, so I don’t expect the¬†blouse to hold up well. I’ve already popped a few seams¬†– the fibers just fell apart. That being said, I’m surprised at how nicely the shape came out – the pattern was roughly based on one of my modern Gap button shirts. I’m excited to make another, hopefully in a nice batiste, or something that holds up better to drawn-thread work.

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The corset cover (left) was taken right from my original (right), which is just a tad too small for me – not that I’d wear it. I made it from a thrifted tablecloth, mimicking¬†the design of triangular lace¬†appliqu√©s at the neckline. I love it – it’s comfy and even though the materials and my workmanship are awfully crude compared to the original, it’s the best I’ve ever done with a sewing machine, and I’m happy.

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This is my ’20s evening gown. I wanted it to be kind of generic so I could wear it to events. The idea was to make a semi-fitted slip and to drape the velvet on that, but halfway through planning I realized I didn’t have any cloth for the slip. Being on a frenetic sewing high I made it anyway, substituting ribbon for lining. Now it looks like the dress has interior suspenders. It works nicely considering the velvet’s heavy and hot (it was a curtain! Thanks, Laura Ashley), and a lining would just make it more uncomfortable to wear. It drapes fairly well, too, so I don’t consider it a failure. And it’s super comfy!

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The beading came out okay; it looks better hanging than flat, as above. I made the mistake of putting the beads on too tightly, which messed with the straight Deco lines of the pattern I chose. Live and learn.

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This is my late twenties tennis dress. I made it, again, from a thrifted curtain and a few pieces of red bias tape. I like it; it’s very comfy. When I wore it to work with my re-worked¬†cloche and a blazer it became very early-1930s-sportswear-ish. The dress itself is very basic; sleeveless with a V-neck and the skirt has two huge box pleats at the sides.

Now I’m working on a new era: the mid-late Victorian. I’m starting with a basic corset based on an 1880s example, and I’m hoping that, for now, I can get away with the 1860s with it, too. After that comes all the rest of the underpinnings and gowns and hats and shoes and stuff, which will be … challenging. I have one long-term project, a 1900-1920s beaded purse which will take me a year, conservatively, to bead fully. It’s about 40% done right now, and I’m slowly working away at it. Good stuff!


19th century newspapers

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We had a beautiful snowfall today! Before I went outside to enjoy it, I spent a few hours inside, looking through some old newspapers.

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J. Russell’s Gazette, Commercial and Political, for Monday, July 22, 1799. Most of the ads here are from the MD/VA/PA area, Philadelphia and Washington.

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It has the usual scattering of textile, rice, coffee and tea ads.

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Not sure if that’s the Hancock of Declaration fame or not (top center of image).

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The Daily National Intelligencer, Tuesday, December 28, 1813 …

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… has this awesome advert for millinery and clothing¬†¬†…

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… and nearby, someplace to wear your new frippery.¬†I can hear Jane Austen characters squealing as I read this.

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Clothe your Lilliputians at the Lilliputian Bazaar! From the New York Daily Tribune, November 9, 1887.

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A first-class dressmaker who comes to your home and has her own machine! Cool, right?

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And from another issue of The New York Tribune, 1887, this highly amusing story. I wonder if he tried it a second time!


A new hat

I’ve been holding back my sewing appetite because I’ve had other things to do, but yesterday, I lost the fight and it resulted in a 1910s hat.

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Me doing my not-smiling thing, and my brand-new super suffragette velvet hat. I made it from a few bits of used cotton velvet, a couple pieces of canvas for stiffening/lining, and a length of narrow metal boning for the brims’ shape. I winged it; I didn’t have a pattern, and I had super luck making it, so I probably won’t be able to pull it off again. You know how those things work.

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The brim: just a loop of boning with a loop of velvet folded over.

 

 

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The sides; a wide strip of canvas folded in half lengthwise, and a somewhat wider strip of velvet pleated and sewn down to the canvas.

 

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Sides and brim, ready to be sewn together

 

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Pinning/sewing the sides to the brim.

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Inside out, sewing the top to the sides. This was later covered with a bit of that stripy material. I did completely hand-sew it, I could have used the machine on about half of it, but the rest was really better finished by hand. The visible basting stitches were an oversight that I might re-do later.

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And hat! Needs some feathers/flowers/stuff. It’s very comfy.

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It’s kind of like this purple number from The Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Click here for the item description.

And finally, yeah, I made it on a whim and I have nowhere to wear it. I’d love to make a whole suit/outfit to go with it. I have some more velvet and a lot more of the cool stripy lining material. Maybe.

 

 

 


For Continued Awesome …

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Front view, with the fronts crossed more than they would be if it was worn.

 

This is my gorgeous silk coat, ca. 1905-1910 (edit: actually 1914-17, after a little more research!). It’s 30% air, 70% held together by luck, and 100% Art Nouveau awesome. So, to keep the awesome going, I’m taking as good care of it as I can, and finishing up a pattern to it.

A pattern! The next generation! Because it’s far too delicate to be displayed, and far too awesome to sit in a acid-free box forever. It has to live on!

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With the fronts folded back. The front buttons are backed with three small 4-hole shirt buttons, to keep the main buttons attachments from pulling the cloth.

 

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Cuff detail – There are three of these silk macrame buttons down the front, with silk loops instead of button holes.

 

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The back of the collar and upper back detail

 

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Front and shoulder detail, with a silk cord appliqué at each shoulder. The appliqués have three silk tassels with silk-covered wooden beads at the ends. And, by the way, the true color. Damn digital photography in low light.

The coolest thing about this coat is that the person I bought it from said it came from a trunk with a tea gown and a bonnet (both of which I have as well, and both of which are fantastic). The bonnet is decidedly older, ca. 1875-1885, but the tea gown is the same date range as this jacket. I would love to assume they were worn together, and since the jacket is so light (it’s unlined) perhaps they were. They look great together (I put them on my mannequin for a moment last week, before I began to clean and pack them).

So here’s the gown, kind of. Beware, these are very poor photos; I took them with my phone. They’re from while the tea gown was drying after I washed it. I’ll get the gown on my mannequin for some real photos later.

The gown’s completely made of cotton netting and lace. It’s got a net under-bodice and a net under-skirt, but it’s still super transparent. It would have looked so frothy and lacy on somebody, with all the proper under-clothes. The gown itself is in super condition, just a little yellowy. It was musty and yellow-er before I washed it. These photos don’t do it justice.

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The bodice of the gown, all net and three different types of lace. It has a bloused, wrap front.

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The two-tiered skirt, all net and lace.

So I’ll get a few pictures of the stuff later, and I’ll work on the pattern. It’ll be “a la Patterns of Fashion”, just a measured drawing on graph paper, but I’ll post it for anybody who wants to spread the awesome ūüėÄ


My Late Reticule

I’ve recently joined The Historic Sew Fortnightly, which means I not only have deadlines for school and work, but also my hobby.

And I missed one!

I meant to submit this piece for the challenge that ended last night, but I missed it by half an hour. I would have been really lucky to get it done by then, considering that I hadn’t been a member of the group for long. Like, five days or something.

This project began when I decided to remake my little white reticule because it was a little too little. So I tried the big, pocket-shaped embroidered style popular in the late 1790s and early 1800s.

So here’s my adaptation; 100% hand sewn with linen thread and made with linen and cotton fabric, and a cotton cord for the drawstring. And probably about 2 cups of starch. Again, I used my huge embroidery vocabulary of two different stitches here. Completed, it’s about¬†14″ deep by 10″ wide, certainly big enough to hide¬†an iProduct in.

For reference, here are some originals from Two Nerdy History Girls here. And some variations on the theme, from the Met, here and here.

I rushed through mine and finished it to the point of being juuust useable … but now, hey, since I missed the¬†deadline, why not¬†keep working on it? I’m thinking I’ll embroider the front pieces¬†more. It could use more fancy.

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I cut two U-shaped pieces of linen, and two of cotton for the lining, and starched the bejeezus out of them because I didn’t have an embroidery hoop. I also tacked the edges together. The embroidery designs are adapted¬†from the originals linked to above.

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I gathered a strip of linen to the edges to make the sides, and used a scrap of cotton for the drawstring casing and ruffle at the top.

 

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Close-up of the embroidery, which I like, but is super basic. And that weird circle thing in the middle of the design could have been executed wayyy better. And what the heck am I going to put inside the circle? A peacock? Maybe a basket of flowers or a cornucopia? Phhh. 

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All gathered up.

 

 


An 18th Century Workman’s Apron

Last night my order from Burnley & Trowbridge came in (yayyy!!) so I was able to finish my dad’s new work apron.

My dad and I often wear aprons when we do shows. We sell metalware, which is oiled before it’s packed for a show – and then needs to be wiped down when we set up.¬†So we don’t need heavy work aprons, really, just something to protect our clothes as we’re setting up the table.

Dad had an apron made from heavy canvas in an eye-poppingly wide navy and white stripe. It didn’t fit very well and was so heavy it pulled his waistcoat down. It was also old and pretty dirty – oil doesn’t wash off so well.

His new apron is made from a lighter cotton-linen blend in a white and coffee-brown woven stripe, with thin cotton ties. I hand sewed it with linen thread. It’s a simple design; the top is a triangle and the bottom just extends into a square (but it’s cut in one piece). I hemmed the edges, added a buttonhole and a loop at the top corner, and two ties¬†at the hips.

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There’s no way to make this thing look decent if it’s not on a person.

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A buttonhole that behaved and went together well! I’m always thankful for that. I added a waxed linen loop at the top, for hanging and just in case the buttonhole didn’t let the apron fall correctly. It’s probably superfluous but whatever.¬†


Jumps 2.0

I had nothing going on this past weekend, so I cranked out my new jumps.

I machine-sewed them, which went against my new habit of hand sewing everything … but I wanted to spend more time fitting and experimenting with a new pattern then putzing with hand sewing. I’m reacting against my last stays experience: I spent a looong time hand sewing those and¬†they¬†came out very well made, but don’t fit so well.

I saved the pattern for these, so I’ll make a second, hand-sewn pair later. I want to make the second pair in white cotton and embroider them, like the original. Mine are made from about 1.5 yards of bulky cotton/linen canvas in a drab tan/olive color. I used steel¬†boning and some nice waxed cotton cord for the stay lace.

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The plan, based on a pair of 1780s-90s jumps at Colonial Williamsburg, probably worn by¬†Ann Van Rensselaer in New York. These jumps aren’t on the CW website anymore (!?!?!) but they’re in What Clothes Reveal, by Linda Baumgarten, page 211.¬†

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“cut here”

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The front part boned, and the back part chalked out.

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Ironing the ends over to sew the back pieces in.

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Handmade eyelets in between ugly machine-sewn channels. 

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On my desk, almost finished!

So right now they’re pretty much finished. They went together very quickly, and the design¬†is flattering and doesn’t use up¬†a huge amount of materials. I’ll see if I can get some nicer pictures of them soon.

 


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,

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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,

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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,

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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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Jazz Age Costuming: Starching Bedsheets

For the Jazz Age Lawn Party earlier this month, I needed to sew a handful of 1920s dresses. I wound up sewing four 1920s dresses from scratch, and one made from a modern shirt and dress. They worked, with varying degrees of success, and I wore one to the Jazz Age Lawn Party.

I had a few constraints in making¬†the dresses. I couldn’t spend a lot of time on them, I have no luck with¬†chiffon so I had to use cotton,¬†and I needed to sew them all on a sewing machine, to save time (‘m better sewing by hand). I needed dresses that didn’t require historical undergarments (I had no time to sew those) and that were easy to wear.

I used my 1920s feed sack dress as an inspiration. It’s made with a very simple pattern, made from a thin cotton print. The maker used bias tape and two types of salvaged lace as decoration. I laid the dress out and carefully took measurements from it, and drafted a pattern from that.

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The feed sack dress was made with one flat piece of fabric in the back, from the shoulders to the hemline. But more than that, this piece was folded over the shoulders, so there was no shoulder seam. At the front (dropped) waistline, the flat fabric was trimmed away and replaced with a wider piece of fabric, gathered to make a fuller skirt Рbut only in the front. That design characteristic made the dress fuller in the front, full enough to be worn comfortably; but the back is flat, disguising curves and creating a fashionable 1920s aesthetic.

I went to the garment district and picked up some nice 1920s-looking cotton prints and some solid cottons. I also sacrificed one of my bed sheets to use for scrap. I covered my trusty rusty 1902 Singer in tinfoil so the oil and rust wouldn’t stain the cloth, and I got to work.

The first dress I made was made from the bed sheet, a little white linen I had from other projects, and a handful of vintage buttons. Halfway through the dress I decided I liked it and would make it wearable. I wound up liking this one the most.

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So here’s my basic battle plan, boiled down to a downloadable format!

Step 1: Start with¬†a large rectangle. Fold it in half, as it would be over your shoulders, then fold it in half lengthwise, so you’re looking at 1/4 of the dress’ width. Cut it a bit longer than the length from your shoulders to your knees. Then fold the side over so it makes a truncated triangle, with the diagonal line spaced to mark 1/4 of your bust and hip measurements, from the lengthwise fold to the diagonal fold.¬†

Step 2: Cut at the diagonal fold line. I cut the armholes by eyeballing them, then trying the dress on after I had cut the neck hole and trimming them down.

Step 3: Cut the neck hole. Make sure you know how you will finish the collar, so you know how much selvage to leave.

Step 4: I went for a V-neckline, so I folded the extra cloth over in this picture, to see what it would look like. I eventually trimmed them off.

Step 5: After trying the cloth on, mark where the front falls, and where you would like the front waistline to sit. Then cut it off, as I marked. But only cut it off in the front. 

Step 6: Cut a wider rectangle, as long as the piece you just trimmed off but up to 2x as wide.

Step 7: Sew it to the front. The original used four large inverted pleats, so that’s what I’m using here. Gathers might work better for gauzy fabrics. Sew up the sides, and you have the basic shell of a late 1920s dress, ready to decorate!

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I made two dresses with this pattern, and a third that was a great idea but the execution could have used some tweaking.

IMG_1639¬†IMG_1643¬†This dress was made with a¬†great cotton print I found. I went with a bold appliqu√© at the neckline, and an even bolder tied collar in the back which I may just cut off because I’m really not that sartorially bold. My hat is all crushed.

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For the third¬†dress that I didn’t use my pattern for, I tried an early 1920s look, but I didn’t have enough white cotton to pull it off well. It probably would have worked better with thin white linen or silk, anyway. I had to re-sew and re-re-sew the sides, and that’s why there are ugly white lines there. My hat’s still crushed. The appliqu√© was based on this¬†Paul Poirot dress of unbelievable awesomeness.

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Step 1: Cut a rectangle out of a non-stretchy, non-gauzy cloth. Cut a slit in the narrow end, about as deep as 1/2 of the width of the narrow end.

Step 2: STARCH Рlots of it. 

Step 3: Iron one of the long edges over. It’s better to do these one at a time, so just do one for now.

Step 4: Fold diagonally from the point of the slit to the edge of the lengthwise fold, and tuck the edge under the lengthwise fold. 

Step 5: Repeat steps 3 and 4 for the other side.

Step 6: Iron until the starch is dry, then let it cool down. Clip the two points, where the selvages from the lengthwise fold are still showing. 

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The lawn party itself was very nice. It’s pretty much a daylong picnic/concert with a little dancing, a few performances, some food for sale and a little shopping on the side. We went kind of expecting to stroll around for the duration, and were a little lost; there’s not a lot of room to stroll, and by the time we got there, at midday, there wasn’t a lot of space to park a picnic. So we strolled around until our feet hurt, and then we took off.

As for next year, I now have yards and yards of cotton lace to create something super awesome from. I’m doing early 1920s – real Gatsby styles, not the mid/late 1920s like this year. And I’m¬†doing a real picnic. Get excited.


When in Rome …

I’ve seen a lot recently about Regency and Empire clothing, and so here’s my addition: this past weekend, I decided that I was going to finally finish my late 1790s-1800 outfit. Here’s what I got done in a three-day weekend:

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Shoes! A dress! And a real live corset! Yay! But no stockings yet.

Shoes:

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I came across these awesomely ridiculous pointy-toe 1980s shoes a few months ago, and have wanted to remake them into 1790s¬†shoes since then. My inspiration were mainly the blue and black shoes second from the¬†the top of American Duchess’s blog post,¬†here, which suited the toe and heel shape as well as giving me a bold design to disguise all the faded marks on the toe.

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In progress. I had to move the mid-foot seam back to the heel a little, since I couldn’t get my needle through the layers at the ball of the foot.

They were so much easier to remake than other shoes because I didn’t have to cover the toe, and because of the the sling-back design. I sewed leather to the heel, then folded it up and sewed it to the slingback. Pretty simple. I painted the toe and heel with nail polish (which looks like patent leather when it’s dried) and tacked a silk ruffle and bow to the front of each, and voila!

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They’re not perfect, but I’m pretty pleased. The paint job is a bit crude. They’re certainly garish enough.

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They really need binding around the top edge and down the seam at the back of the heel, but right now my fingers hurt from trying to sew these things, so binding will¬†come later. Another thing I’d like to do is paint the front of the heel brown, to look a little more like a sole.

Corset:

I started this corset¬†almost two years ago! I didn’t have a pattern for it;¬†I drafted it by wrapping the cotton around me and marking where I thought darts would be nice. Then I ran out of thread, wound up busy with work and school, lost interest and/or forgot about it.

So, this weekend, I picked it up again and finished it in a few hours. Booyah. It’s not super accurate, but it’s 100% hand sewn and gives the correct shape though it doesn’t have a busk yet. It’s corded a little, and it’s got four¬†pieces of boning – that’s it. It’s a bit too long to sit comfortably in. I think I can take the front up a little, but I’m just so pleased that it’s finally wearable that I don’t want to sew it anymore.

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I had an awful, awful experience when I was sewing this corset. I was holding a mug of hot coffee when I sat on the couch, and accidentally sat on the corset, and accidentally sat on a HUGE steel pin I had holding the busk channel together. It was traumatizing, and I know I’ve watched that scene in an old cartoon somewhere. I wound up with coffee scalds on my legs and a welt that made sitting a little uncomfortable for a day. I will never sit on a couch without checking first again …

Dress:

My¬†goal was to make an unlined, very light dress. I’ve seen a few Regency and Empire gowns, and am always struck at how deconstructed they are compared to 1770s and 80s clothing. So I avoided my 1812 dress pattern with puffy lined sleeves, and started from scratch: no pattern, no lining, and 100% hand sewing. I draped it on myself, which went better than I expected.

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The air conditioning dial and me.

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It needs a little more Grecian Bend for the late 1790s. I’m getting there.

My design inspiration was mainly this dress, with the sleeves de-poofed¬†a little because I wanted to go for a slightly earlier look.¬†I’ve seen a lot of neoclassical gowns that close with two tiny ties or drawstrings in the back, but that doesn’t work well if you line the bodice and have bulky machine seams. I had to line the back of my¬†bodice to help hold the weight of the skirt. Then the back didn’t quite close. Nothing uglier than corset laces sticking out of the bodice.

I came up with a kind-of solution that I’ve seen on one original: an inner flap to cover the crack where the bodice sides didn’t meet. Since this new solution doesn’t completely work (every time I move my arms it pops open again) I’ll add a third tie in the center and that should fix things. I hope.

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Ew! Still ugly!

Reticule:

Still in progress, but so far I’m super happy with the effect of the hand-sewn linen embroidery on linen. I’m going to make it a flat-bottomed bag shape, gathered with a drawstring at the top, and lined in cream silk.

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Beginnings.

And now, since I can’t seem to find a living history group in the NYC metro area, the first¬†time I may get to wear these will be in January or February. Boo.

But, on a better note, I have two awesome costumey events coming up in the summer & fall, so I’ll be sewing for those¬†soon. Yay!