Thursday, December 31, 2015

Vernet 1814: The Spencer - Construction

Let's learn about the spencer in my Vernet fashion plate, shall we..

First's actually called a Canezou, which was a very popular style of outerwear in 1811.  Made of cotton/silk velvet, lined with silk, decorated with fringe, and EXTREMELY tight fitting, this is a luxury garment in every way.

I decided to try out a new (to me) stitch that was used in the early 19th century (and previously,) the Bourdon Stitch.  Natalie tipped me off (and we experimented together) on this stitch.  Our knowledge was gleaned from Temps d'Elegance.  She's such an incredibly smart woman, and her blog is an invaluable resource.  She has a drawn out tutorial of this stitching method on her blog, but I wanted to give you a visual of how it worked out for me.
You start with sewing each piece separately with a simple running-back stitch, lining and outer fabric together, right-sides facing each other.  Once the piece is sewn at the seam, turn the piece right side out and press.  At this point, there should be NO seam allowance.

Pin one piece to the next, right sides facing each other.

Knot the end of your thread, and start by placing the needle through the edge of the lining on the right piece.  Pull the thread all the way through.

Next, cross your needle over to the left side piece, and pierce all the way through the two layers of outer fabric right at the edge.

Pull the thread all the way through and tighten slightly.  You're creating a hinge here, so you don't want it too tight.  Then, begin again just a few centimeters above that stitch....pierce through the right side lining fabric at the edge...cross your needle over to the left side, and pierce through both layers of outer fabric...pull tight...begin again, etc, etc.

Once you've gone all the way up the seam, it will look like this.

Open the fabric at the seam, and use your fingers to work up the 'spine' of the seam until the piece is flat.

Turn the piece over, and it will look like this from the outside.

Attach together each piece of the bodice in the same fashion.

Here's a peek at the inside of the Canezou.  Attaching the collar and decorative hem was done after the sleeves.  Short sleeves only are sewn onto the body of the spencer.  I stitched on narrow tape ties to the sleeve seams, so that I could attach the long sleeves at my convenience.

I have been affectionately calling the long sleeves "lobster claws."

The cuff is finger length, and decorative triangles rim the edge.  The long sleeves in the fashion plate are skin tight.  To make sure my sleeves fit as close as possible, I cut the fabric on the bias, so that it had a bit of a stretch to it.

Let's talk fringe for a moment.  I made a post previously about how I was following in the footsteps of the frangeirs.  Let's just say that I couldn't keep up with them.  I loved the weaving process, but my fringe just wasn't turning out good enough for this project.  Perhaps it was the material I was chenille is a beast that refuses to be tamed.  So, in the end, I purchased rayon (yes I know, it's not period) fringe.  Rayon is very close to silk in feel and quality, and it worked perfectly for this project.

I'm not really into fringe normally, so as soon as this outfit gets one good wear out of it, I plan on removing the fringe from the short sleeves and redoing them.

The collar...oh, the fashionably high and stiff...but so impractical!  Four inches high at its peak, it is boned to make it stand.  Decorated with triangle trimming around the top edge, if the sleeves are "lobster claws," then the collar is a "dragons mouth."  Again, this will be something I alter.  I love the design, but lowering the height of the collar will make this spencer much more practical to wear at events.

The back of the canezou is cut with a typical diamond shape.  There is no shortage of spencers made in this common fashion, and it wasn't hard to find more examples of this kind through museum extant pieces or other fashion plates.  Take a look at my Pinterest board for a plethora of similar images.

The last piece of the puzzle is done.  Next up, the big reveal.  Do I measure up to Vernet's image?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Vernet 1814: The Love Knot

I'm officially calling this the "what is that thing around her neck" post. 
Vernet apparently couldn't be bothered when it came to detailing the jewelry around his model's neck.   To me, when I first glanced at the figure, it looked like she was either wearing a large pretzel, or a dollar sign.  Since she isn't a white, rapping, 1990's gangster wanna-be, I quickly ruled out the dollar sign.  But a pretzel...surely there was something more rational.  What looks like a pretzel from a distance, but would have been aesthetically pleasing to the fashion world of the Regency era...classical jewelry....snakes?  Yes, snakes were a trend...but more importantly, what did their twisting, knotted, eternal bodies represent?  
The hive minds of the Vernet participants led to the conclusion of the "love knot."  The love knot is an image repeatedly used in art and fashion for thousands of years.  From the Celts, the Romans, the Georgians, the Victorians, the Edwardians, and on into the late 20th century...the love knot is present as what it symbolizes, it is eternal. 

So I went on a hunt for images of Georgian era love knot jewelry.  It wasn't too hard to locate a few that still exist.

First up, a Georgian wax seal fob that features a love knot.  See it there, between the dove?

Next, a Georgian, serpentine love knot for mourning, made out of braided hair. 
(Sorry, the auction no longer exists, so no source.)

Here's a link to a Georgian snake pin that has been altered into a necklace.

And another Georgian love knot pin that no longer is up for auction (so no link).  This one is a knot, but isn't in the form of a serpent. 

This Georgian love knot is actually quite similar in shape to the one I ended up buying for my outfit.

And finally, the Georgian love knot  that I think most closely resembles the one that Vernet was attempting to draw on his model.

To show you that the love knot continues to be a popular choice of jewelry on up until our currant age, here are a few more to feast your eyes on...

late Edwardian.

My broach, c.1950's
(Obviously, I wasn't able to afford a genuine Georgian love knot.  I got mine for $1.50 on Ebay.)

(Not so attractive, in my opinion.)

So, mystery solved...a love knot, it is then.  I wonder who it was that she loved?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Vernet 1814: The Dress, Part 2

The end of the year is here, and if you haven't been following the Vernet project thus far, now's the time to do so.  Hop on over to the Vernet Facebook community page to see how everyone's outfits are turning out.  

My outfit is finished, and has been presented on the Facebook page, but I have been overwhelmingly busy this holiday season.  I apologize for leaving you in the lurch. 

If you scrutinize my Vernet fashion plate with an intense magnifying glass (wink,) you will notice that five layers of ruffles at the bottom of the gown are actually 10 layers.  Each row features a double layer of slightly gathered fabric, with the top layer being semi-sheer and ending about a 1/2 inch above the under layer. I chose to use some cotton voile that I had in my stash for the semi-sheer ruffles.  My dress being made of Perkale, a fabric that is absolutely NOT sheer, I wondered if there were other examples of garments made with two different kinds of fabric.  Thanks to Katherine of The Fashionable Past (who is also a participant in the Vernet project,) I am able to show you an example of such a garment.  

Take a closer look at this pelisse from the MET and you will notice the ruffled hem, cuffs, and collar are of a semi-sheer material, while the rest of the pelisse is made of a dense cotton that is most likely Perkale.

Hemming and gathering ten layers of ruffles was not something I enjoyed, and I was hard pressed to want to finish this dress because of the ruffles.  I am not a frills kind of girl, and I can guarantee you that after I give this outfit one good wear, most of the ruffles will be taken off.  It's hard to want to keep going on something that you don't like.  But, Vernet was calling to me, and with his wacky spirit as my guide, I finished the dress.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Vernet 1814: The Dress, part 1

The top of my Vernet dress is hidden by (I'll just go ahead and say it since you've probably already figured it out...) a spencer.  I've already said in a previous post that I was going to make the top of the gown simple and cover it with a chemisette.  With the chemisette made, the time came to actually make the top of the dress.  

My gown is described as a "Robe de Perkale."  Perkale cotton is a bit hard to find new, but if you are a sleuth on ebay, there are some good vintage sheet finds out there.  I decided to go with new Pimatex cotton instead.  It is a similar type of cotton, dense and with a slight sheen to it.  It's a nightmare to hand sew, by the way.  One painful stitch at a time, and you develop calloused fingers by the end.

So, it turns out that I decided a bit hastily that I wanted my gown to be a gathered drop front gown.  Haste makes waste they say, and they're right.

I say hasty, because I failed to notice a tiny detail on the fashion plate that was a HUGE clue to what style of gown was hidden under the spencer.  

When I reveal my fashion plate at the end, you will notice a small vertical slit down the center front of the gown, just under the spencer. (similar to what you see above)  This slit is the says that the gown had a center front opening.  So, back to the drawing board I went, seam ripper in hand, and I designed a new, more simple gown bodice.

It's terrifyingly simple...almost boring...but I'm ok with that, because there's enough gaudiness in other aspects of the outfit to make up for it.  I wanted the gown to be sleeveless for two reasons: 1. It's cooler to wear.  2. Less bulk under a tight fitting spener.  After-all, a bare arm would be enticingly scandalous to a Merveilleuse.

Now, back I go to the never ending story of hemming and trim making.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Vernet 1814: Trimmings

With school starting back up, I've barely had time to breath.  So, one way I've tried to keep on top of this Vernet project is to squeeze in the little things during lunch break, or while winding down and watching a show before bed.  I'm calling this the "hum-drums" of this sewing project.  With repetitive motion and mind numbing sameness, I'm trying not to fall asleep before it's all over, and I'll attempt to not put you to sleep with this post.

Hum-drum #1...roll hemming 1,040 inches (approximately 87 feet) of cotton for the gown trimmings.

Hum-drum #2...weaving 90 yards of Au Ver A Soie Co. silk chenille thread (from Hedgehog Handworks - Joady is a saint to work with, by the way.) *Chenille means caterpillar in French! Isn't that cute!*  

Why weaving, you say?  Well, instead of buying ready made fringe like any sane person would, I'm following in the footsteps of the French Frangiers, or "fringe makers," and making my own. 

 I actually love weaving, so it's not really too bad...not as bad as the roll hemming at least...there's just a lot of it to do.  

Create a narrow warp, and weave the weft to your desired length.  Then, back stitch up one vertical side between the outer two warp threads just to hold the chenille in place.

Cut lose the outer two (or three is what I did) warp threads on the side that you back stitched, and knot them tightly and close to each end of the weft threads.

Then release the remaining warp threads on both ends of the loom.

Set it down with the back stitched edge to the top (this picture is upside down unfortunately), and dab fray-check along the bottom edge of the chenille thread.  Let the fray-check dry.

Once dry, remove the untied warp threads (the ones you knotted at the top are still there.)

Then carefully cut open each loop of thread along the bottom where the fray-check is.

Straighten your fringe, and it's ready to be attached where ever you need it.