Thursday, June 30, 2011

Green 1920's Gown: And A Photoshop Experiment

Last week, I was browsing a lovely vintage and antique clothing site called Woodland Farms Vintage and I came across the above green frock.  The site says it's 1930's, but if it is, then it's VERY EARLY 30's, because it still has the low waist of the 1920's.  I've always been fascinated by the 20's and 30's, but my figure has always been a little too feminine and curvy to successfully pull off the styles of the 20's.  So, until now, I hadn't even considered making anything from that decade.  But, the lovely green color of the dress above changed my mind.  At the end of the school year, I was given a gift card from one of my students to a local fabric store.  So, I thought it was about time I use the card.  I couldn't afford silk (I also thought it would be too dressy for every day wear), and I don't like synthetic silks, so, instead, I bought some linen/rayon blend fabric that was on sale.  It's a gorgeous color! 

My dress doesn't drape as nicely as the silk one above, and I didn't copy it's more of an inspiration dress.  I'm still not convinced I look all that fabulous in 20's put it bluntly, I'm not flat chested enough.  But it was a fun project to try anyway.

 I used what I had on hand to trim my gorgeous lace, or sequin applique, but I did have a deco belt buckle in my stash.  (The color of the fabric is a bit distorted in this image.  It's not this teal in real life.) 

 The funny thing is, after I started making this dress,  Lauren, over at American Duchess put up a couple of posts about 1920's photography.  So, being in the 20's mood already, I decided to experiment with some pictures of me in my deco garb.  Here they are...some look more deco than others...but oh well...enjoy anyway!

This one's my looks the most like Hollywood 20's to me, with the high contrast, and big, dark eyes.  All it's missing is the black backdrop.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Experience with Cordwaining (a.k.a. - cobbling or shoemaking): A Failed Attempt

Last year, for the Jane Austen Festival of Louisville, I "made" my husband a pair of Regency Inspired Boots.  They are passable from a distance, but slightly obvious up-close.  They also are a bit clunky, and he couldn't dance well in them at the ball (at least he SAYS the boots were the reason for his bad dancing).  This year, Carson asked me if he could have a different pair of shoes, at least for the ball.  We priced reproduction slippers, but can't afford them.  Then I saw, and was inspired by, Sarah Jane's, and Sabine's lovely shoe making skills.  So, of course, I dove into trying to make a pair of my own.  I used some other sources for inspiration as well.  A few of them are  here, here, and here. 

I traced very close to Carson's foot, then smoothed it out a bit into the shape of a sole.

I made the sides and sole out of scrap fabric, and made them into a mock-up.  I DID try the cloth shoe on Carson at this point, and it fit well.  I only made a few minor adjustments because he thought it felt loose.

I'm sorry I didn't take step by step photos of the process, but this shows you that the sides (and sole) are made of three layers; leather (or faux leather in this case), cotton duck, and a silk lining.

You can see the shoe taking shape in this image.

I did most of the stitching on the machine, but I hand sewed the little side seams.

When sewing the upper part of the shoe to the sole, I matched up the bottom of the sole to the right side of the the shoe upper.  Keeping the lining out of the way, I stitched around the sole...

...and turned the shoe right side out.

The last step was to hand stitch the sole lining into the shoe.

And here it is (please excuse my husbands hairy legs and modern day socks).  What's wrong with it, you say?  How was it a failure?  Well, even though it's an adorable little shoe, I should NOT have made any minor adjustments, nor taken it in any.  The mock-up was made of a slightly stretchy cotton, but the shoe, being made of leather and other stiff materials, does not give.  So the original mock-up was correct.  The shoe slips off Carson's foot ever time he picks his foot up, because it's too small.  The heel doesn't fit.  Other than being a bit too small now, I suspect that the side and back of the upper part of the shoe need to be taller.  I'm really bummed about the outcome.  I mean, yes, it was a learning experience and all, and I know what to do now if I ever decide to make another slipper, but...   Maybe I  should stick to sewing clothing...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

V&A Open Robe: Decorative Work

I've been thinking the past couple of weeks about how to embellish my silk Open Robe.  The original V&A robe is outlined in some sort of gold, braided rope.  Even though I think gold, braided rope would look lovely against the gold-shot silk I used for my gown, I am not about to pay the price for a notion like that.  Another option is fur...umm, that's out too.   And then there's embroidery...not for me, I'm too heavy handed.  I looked for fringe, but everything I found reminded me too much of upholstery. I thought about trimming my robe with ribbon in a contrasting color.  That would be one way ladies of the day decorated their open robes.  But, that would also cost a pretty penny if I were to purchase the silk, or velvet ribbon that is correct for an evening gown of the mid to late 1790's.  After all, I would need at least 4 yards, maybe 5 yard of trim to complete my robe. 

(An example of a mid 18th century gown with ruching.  From the Kyoto Costume Institute )

In the end, I chose a "free," and I think delicately beautiful way of trimming my robe.  Ruching.  I say it's "free" because I used the scraps from my robe fabric.  Obviously, I initially bought the fabric, I know...but, I used scraps that were either too small, or strangely shaped and couldn't be used for any kind of garment piece.  I would have just thrown them away, so this was a way of recycling these bit of fabric.  During most of the 18th century, ruching was a very common 18th century technique.  Strips of fabric were cut into varying widths, pinked along the edges, pleated or gathered length ways and applied to the bodices and skirts of day and evening wear alike. 

( I think that's ruching trim on the robe on the left.  This image was found on Dames a la Mode. )

However, when the simplified, classical inspired fashions of the late Georgian or Regency era came along, heavy ruching went out of style.  But there are examples of extant garments, and fashion plates of gowns (mostly evening wear or full dress) with delicately gathered, thin strips of fabric applied as trim. 

Last Saturday, while enjoying a Harry Potter movie watching marathon with my dear friend Laura, I pinked tiny 1 inch wide strips of scrap fabric, and hand gathered them into bits of ruched trim.  After a 9 hour movie watching marathon, I only had enough to trim about half of my gown.  Not to despair, I have more scrap fabric.  There is going to be a LOT of piecing involved.  Thankfully, I have two weeks left until the Jane Austen Festival Ball where I will be wearing this robe.  I'm going to be gathering bits of fabric every spare moment I have.   I know my pinking shears aren't exactly the correct shape...they cut little triangles, rather than small scalloped shapes.... but they will have to do.  I doubt the average person would be able to tell, right.
Anyway, besides the ruching, the robe is finished.  Here's a small hint of what it looks like.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Bottle Green Pelisse

While searching for images of Regency era hats and parasols, I came across this GORGEOUS fashion plate.  I haven't a clue where I got it from, as I was busy chasing images down various rabbit holes and lost track of the source.  I'm guessing it's from around 1799 - 1801.  This particular fashion plate really stands out to me for several reason.  First of all, I love that the model isn't just standing around in her clothes, but rather she is putting on the pelisse.  Secondly, I really can't stop staring at the vivid color over-all and the scalloped hem at the bottom.  The asymmetrical bodice design intrigues me, as does that amazing collar. 

All this being said, I wanted to share this lovely fashion plate with you, and hint at a possible future project.  Remember how I said in this post that I would love to make something in an olive or bottle green color?  Well.....I think I've found it.  Of course, I'm trying not to spend any unnecessary amount of money on myself this year.  So, this will probably be put on the back shelf for awhile.  But, next year will be here before I know it. 

I absolutely love having a dream project in mind.  This year was the white Tidens Toj gown.  Next year...the bottle green pelisse!  Do you, or have you ever, had a sort of piece de resistance type of project that inspires you?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

V&A Open Robe: Piecing Together the Silk

(Please excuse the messy sewing area, what can I say.... and the wrinkles in the silk.  I promise I ironed every inch of this silk before I started...but with all of the cutting, pinning, sewing, etc, it doesn't look like it.  I have a feeling this one is going to be a wrinkly mess at all times.)

An update on my V&A Open Robe...
All of my silk is cut, and I've pieced it together on my manikin.  I've tried to place pins only in seam allowances, or in places that I will be stitching, as pins leave holes in silk. 

The silk isn't terribly hard to work with, but it is a bit stiff. That means it drapes differently than my cotton muslin mock-up did.  The only real issue with this was the side-front bodice pleats.  They were fiddly and I had to redo them 3 or 4 times before I got them to stay where I wanted them to stay.  Even so, I'm still not completely happy with the top edge of the pleat closest to the arm.  It buckles a bit.  But, being that it's only pinned down, I'm hoping that stitching the pleat down to the lining (like I'm doing with all of the pleats) will tame the wild parts.

The other part that buckled and wrinkled a bit on the muslin was the side bodice area.  I think I've solved what I can of this issue by inserting a pleat where a normal side seam would be.  Other than that, I think it will be what it wants to be.

I've started to construct/sew the seams together (all hand sewn, of course), and let me tell you, I sat around for a good while scratching my head and wrinkling my brow in thought before I puzzled out the order of construction.  I had a good idea of what KIND of stitching I would use for each seam.  But the problem is, it's a bit like a domino affect, one seam leads to another, and if you don't sew them in the correct order, all of the dominoes won't fall.  I really don't like redoing lets hope I got the order right.

I wanted to put this picture in here, because I'm loving the huge box pleats and double box pleats (is that even a term?) used in the skirt.  The pleats aren't sewn into place yet, only pinned, but aren't they gorgeous!

I'm not finished sewing; I only have about 1/3 of it done.  I'm confident that it will be finished before the Jane Austen Festival in July.  My only other quandary is...should I make this garment with sleeves, as the original V&A gown has? or  Should I make it sleeveless?  I've seen fashion plates showing open robes worn both ways.  It will, of course be worn over my white gown, which makes me think that making sleeves isn't necessary.  I have just enough fabric left to make two sleeves that are short in comparison to my white gown's sleeves.  They would be narrow, semi-tight sleeves, ending about mid-way between my shoulder and elbow, with the white gown sleeves showing underneath.  What say you?  Sleeves or no?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Regency Gentleman's Accessories

 During Jane Austen's time, for a man to go outside the house without a hat, well, it was very nearly the modern day equivalent to walking outside in your underwear.  It was, at the very least, disrespectful and uncouth.  A couple of months ago, after one year of reenacting without one (shame-shame), Carson finally found himself a hat.  We ordered it through Hat Crafters.  It's the #7 Empire, it's 8" tall, and it tapers in slightly at the top.  This style of topper is more specifically made for early Regency, later ones flare out at the top, but we will be using it for any Regency reenacting we do.  We can't afford two hats.  The topper fits him well.  The people at Hat Crafters were lovely to work with.  It is slightly wide on him, but that's only because he has a narrow head.  We will be putting strips of wool along the inside to fill in that space for now, but the hat should mould to his head after he wears it for a while.

Another accessory that was even more of a necessity than the hat was a pair of period appropriate spectacles.  His plastic, black-rimmed modern ones weren't cutting it.  We looked around on e-bay for a truly vintage pair, but they were priced a bit high for us.  In the end, we went with a reproduction pair from Jas. Townsend. Thankfully, Carson works for an eye glass company and can get prescription lenses put in them for next to nothing.

My husband can finally call himself a gentleman....well, in the Regency sense anyway. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

V&A Open Robe: Muslin Stage

I had the opportunity to work today on my V&A Open Robe from Pattern's of Fashion by Janet Arnold.

The focus today was on my mock-up.  There isn't any chance I'm cutting into my gorgeous silk until I've made a muslin first.  I studied the graphed pattern in Pattern's of Fashion, but I'm not the best at scaling up graphed patterns.  I guess I should say, I can do it, but I don't like to.  Too much math for my me. 
So, once again, I pulled out the trusty Swedish Tracing Paper...I'm in love with the stuff. I placed existing patterns that I own, like the back bodice pattern from my recently made 1798 gown, and the front lining pattern from my Sense and Sensibility Crossover Gown, underneath the tracing paper, looked again at the graphed pattern, and eye-balled it. I thank God every day for my artistic abilities...I would be lost without them!
(*On a side note, I did use my tape a LITTLE bit of math was done, but only the very minimal amount possible.*)

I then cut out all of my hand made patterns and pinned them to my manikin.  (Since I'm wearing the open robe over my Regency Gown, I first 'dressed-up' my manikin, so that it was padded with the correct amount of under layers.)  You can see my slightly insane process in the above pictures.  I scribble ALL OVER the pattern pieces, marking where seam allowances are needed, where I need to cut out pieces, where I need to add more fabric, etc, etc.

Then, I remove the paper from my manikin and transfer all of my graffiti into a working muslin mock-up.  This is, by the way, my muslin for the lining only...I'll get to the outer part of the robe in a second.

You can see here how the pattern pieces match up for the lining.  This robe is an interesting one to me, because there isn't a side seam.

Here's the lining pinned onto my manikin.

I really like the tailored look of this design.

The side-back seams are just SLIGHTLY curved.

Since I'm making a mock-up first, I'm using spare scraps of fabric, which means the front and back parts of the gown are in different colors. 

This is the 'flap' part of the front bodice of the gown. 

Here's the second part of the front bodice.  These pleats are a bit tricky, because they aren't straight.  They curve with the arm scythe.  They will eventually be sewn down to the lining underneath.

Here's a side view of the pleats.  Again, there isn't a side seam....I'm a bit perplexed by this.  I THINK it gets stitched down to the lining underneath the arm.  The original graphed pattern doesn't show any side pleat, or side seam, but the drawing looks like it might have another pleat there.  If it does, I think that would solve the loose, wrinkly look.  As it is, I'm not liking that seams like it should be more of a tailored fit along the side.  I've looked at several images of this gown reproduced by different people, and they all look very similar to mine at the maybe there ISN'T a seam or pleat.  I don't know...I'm confused.  Anyone out there who has made this before?  Any tips?
(By the way, the real robe will be floor length...I'm saving fabric by not making my mock-up floor length too.)

I'm really diggin' this olive green.  Maybe a future project in this color?  What do you think?

Sorry about the mottled look of the back.  Like I said, I'm using up scraps.  The back pieces go all the way from neck to floor, with extremely deep pleats from the waist down.  I'm a little perplexed on how to construct the seams at the waist point.  No instructions to go by, of course.  I know from reading up on others who have done this project, that the outer fabric is stitched down to the lining.  I guess I will just have to play around with it a bit.  I'm sure I'll be able to figure it out.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Strawberry Shortcake: A Summer Treat

It's strawberry season!

I think strawberries have got be one of my favorite foods.  I will eat them here or there, in a box, with a fox, in a tree, so let me be (alone to eat strawberries)! (Sorry, I have Dr. Seuss on the brain right now.) Seriously though...they're grand, and Jane thinks so too.  We spent some time together a couple of days ago making strawberry shortcake.  The home-made kind mind you.  Not the sponge-like stuff, covered in runny jello that you buy pre-made in the store.

We started everything off with slicing the strawberries and sprinkling a bit of sugar over them.  I'm always hesitant to add sugar to strawberries.  I think they are perfectly fine and sweet without it...but a little bit really does help to bring out the juices in the I do it for strawberry shortcake.

We used this recipe from Allrecipes as a guide for the shortcake.  The difference is, I used butter instead of shortening.  That is just a personal preference, I suppose.  I think butter has more flavor, and the shortcake turned out delicious.

If you are going to make shortcakes with your 4 year old daughter, make sure she wears a black leotard, so that the mess she makes with the flour/baking powder mixture shows up really easy in the photo...just my opinion.  Oh, and be sure that she isn't the one to cut in the butter.  Grown-ups only please.

Stirring in the egg...

...and the milk.

This was Jane's favorite part of the process.  Shortcakes are sooooo easy to make, and a lot of fun for kids.

Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker's man...roll-em-up, roll-em-up, throw-em-in-a-pan.... Ok, I know, I'm cheesy.  This is what comes from spending the hole week with my daughter.

Anyway, I added a little bit of sour cream to my whipped cream, just to give it a little tang.  Cream cheese would be a nice add-in too.

20 minutes was enough time in my oven.  The shortcake came out very moist and crumbly, and just slightly sweet.

This is what I had while Jane was taking a nap.  The grown-up version...

...and the after-nap-snack child version.

mmm....good stuff!