18th century frolicking

Last week was a flurry of sewing. We had an 18th century event that was fast approaching, and a client’s project that just would not go together right kept pushing off my personal sewing time. In the end, I did manage to get everyone clothed, even if it meant a severe lack of sleep for a few days.

Now for photos of the fun!

The Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain were in Port Angeles this weekend, fighting a mock battle on the open seas. We attended with a local costuming group and had picnic on the pier during the battle.

Admiring the Hawaiian Chieftan before the battle.

I’m on the left, in my new gaulle and a straw hat with some hastily tacked on ribbon. My friend Zoe is on the right, in the new gown that I, bad influence that I am, encouraged her to make the night before. And of course, Zoe’s adorable baby decked out in vintage white gowns.

Tea on the pier.

We unpacked a pretty little picnic, complete with china and silver, and settled down to watch the ships. Chris was offered a spot on board at the last minute, so he rushed off and left the ladies to watch from shore.  More sandwiches and tea for us!   Based on weather reports, we expect clouds and scattered showers, but it turned out to be a glorious, sunny day.

Denise and Holly after tea.

After tea, we posed for pictures of the new gowns.  Me in my gaulle, and Holly in a new jacket and petticoat.  The jacket is listed in my laundry list from last week as a polonaise.  When we found the fabric, we only had 2 yards and decided to do a jacket. Then I found more fabric online, and we ordered it thinking I would make the polonaise instead.  The skirt was assembled and hemmed before I realized that it was the same designer, same manufacturer, and same collection – but from the next year.   Very similar, but also very different.  There was no way to put the two into the same gown, so we went back to the original plan of a jacket. It took a lot of planning to piece together a peplum and trim from the remaining fabric.  Not thinking I needed to be extremely frugal, I hadn’t been, of course.  In case we do track down more fabric, I left the back point of the bodice intact, and simply tacked it inside when I added the peplum.  I added ruched fabric trim around the neckline, sleeves and peplum, and antique lace flounces at the elbow. Holly got a new hat for the occasion, which was decked out with some scrumptious vintage ribbon.

Me posing in my new gaulle, with a breeze adding some artistic flair.

A closer look at my new frock.  The fabric is very light cotton, with a tiny openwork stripe.  It is made from fabric I picked up in LA for $2 a pound, then tossed in a pot with Rit color remover.  It turned out just right for a light floaty dress. The back is fitted, based on a Regency gown pattern that I lowered the waist on.  Two widths of fabric are gathered into the back. The front is a single width of fabric, with bodice and skirt pieces seamed at the waist. The bodice is open at center front, and tied closed with the 3 drawstrings.  I originally planned to do some sort of drop front, but was so tired by the time I got to that part that the drawstrings seemed easier. It worked perfectly, so I’ll probably stick with that method for any future chemise dresses.  The top hem and waistline seam are drawstring casings; the third casing is formed by a tiny tuck under the bust, with the tucked fabric inside the bodice.  I wanted something that was narrow, wouldn’t add bulk when gathered, and wouldn’t show through the fabric.  The tuck was the perfect solution.   The back and shoulder straps are lined with white muslin.  It is worn over my new stays, unbound and unfinished, but wearing them told me what changes I need to make before finishing them.  I wore my Regency shift under the stays, and my corded bodice petticoat over, to help muffle the lines of the stays and keep them from showing through.  A pink silk taffeta sash and a cameo were my accessories for the day. I intended to have big hair and an even bigger hat, but those will come later.  In the meantime, my curly bangs succumbed to the sea breeze and made a brave attempt at frizzing into a hedgehog.

A dapper Regency gent.

Our friend Chris in the Regency garb I made for him. His 18th century coat is still in pieces, and I wouldn’t let him wear the silk waistcoat in the forecasted rain.  Good thing, too, since he not only got to board the ship, but helped the crew manage the sails!   He’s wearing a white linen shirt and cravat, with a blue silk waistcoat, black wool breeches trimmed with soutache braid, and a cutaway wool coat, all made from my own patterns.  Chris helped research the patterning and sewing, and we both learned a lot.  I see several areas I’d like to improve in the next coat, but I dont think I could have seen most of them until he was wearing it.  If time allows, I’d love to rework the pattern and make another coat, this time with more hand sewing, possibly in time to submit to the DPP project next February.

We had such a fun time playing in our new clothes. Luckily, there are several more 18th century events coming up so we’ll have plenty of opportunity to wear them again.

A leisurely stroll on the pier.


Up-cycling, from 1918

Woman’s World, April 1918, from the article “Hooverizing” with the Needle: There’s nothing new under the sun, so don’t worry if you have to make over your last year’s dresses, by The “Make-Over Lady”

For Daddy’s Little Girl: When a certain young lady begins to creep and use herself as a dust mop over the floors, white dresses are out of the question. One may even have fleeting visions of a potato sack as the only solution. But did you know that Daddy’s colored shirts, when they wear out around the neck, are just the thing for wee dress protectors. See Fig. 14. Turn the front to the back and you are saved the labor of buttons and buttonholes. Any little dress pattern you may have will do to cut it by. The collar may have a little crocheted edging in a dainty color.

Everything old really is new again. I’ve seen this same idea on many craft blogs, as an “up-cycled” toddler dress tutorial. Whether it’s 1918 or 2011, it’s still a cute dress!

In the studio

There is lots going on in the studio right now, but no pictures – yet.

– I just finished sawing, sanding, padding, and covering one of the foam display forms to be a fairly accurate body double for myself. The finished form looks like it should work for both modern and historic garments. I tried on all my corsets on both of us, and the measurements are very close. I’m very excited that I no longer have to beg someone to come fit me when it’s my turn for new clothes.
– An 18th century polonaise in a red and ivory floral with an ivory linen petticoat. To be paired with a low-crowned straw hat.
– A chemise a la reine, or more precisely, a gaulle, since I’m planning to make it with a fitted back and that seems to be the difference between the two styles. When I was in LA, I picked up yards and yards of sheer striped fabric by the pound, in a dusty aqua and a medium-bright pink. 6 yards of the pink went into a pot with some Rit color remover, and I now have sheer white but still faintly pink fabric for the gaulle. I found pink silk taffeta for a sash and hat trimmings.
– Big floofy hedgehog wigs to go with both the 18th century outfits. I’ve never worn or worked with wigs before, so flying by the seat of my pants, but it’s kind of fun.
– I’m working on a commissioned apron, and finally found the colors and print I had in mind so that can get started in earnest.
– Still finishing a 50’s-inspired chiffon gown with a pleated bodice. It’s for ballroom dance, and the stretch factor has been a real challenge, causing it to take many times longer than a regular, woven fabric gown would have taken. It’s pretty much finished, and though it is not exactly what I was aiming for, the client seems happy with it. The invisible zip was fighting us, so I have a new zipper by a different manufacturer, and we’ll see if that finally gets this project out the door.

I have a long list of projects after this, including some 1890’s pieces for day and evening, a 1918 blouse and skirt to finish up, an 18th century jacket and more petticoats, starting projects for the 1812/1912 DPP, and that damn 18th century coat from the last DPP. I’ve been avoiding it since February, a little afraid to go assess the mistake I made during the last frantic push to finish. But, I want him to wear it for Bastille Day, which is approaching quickly, so I need to take a look at it soon.