Saturday, January 23, 2016

HSM 2016 Challenge #1: Procrastination

Talk about procrastination! I started this dress the same time last year, after I finished a sloppy version of Sabine's short corset to wear under it. I got as far as attaching the front of the bodice to the skirt before feeling like it just wasn't working, and not having the prospect of any era-appropriate events in the near future, set it to one side. But then Regency Women's Dress came out, and I moved up to the Canadian border, and I was asked to speak about women's clothing at an event this winter, and I needed to finish this. Although it's turned out that I won't be able to do that event, I still needed to finish it!

Sometime after moving, I found a wearable mockup long corset I'd made and never gotten around to copying and doing up properly. (NB: I still haven't!) it didn't/doesn't fit quite properly, but the important thing is that it creates the 1810s silhouette, lifting the bust above the natural level. Because of this, I was able to raise the waistline of the dress to the level you see in fashion plates and portraits, which looks impossibly high. There's of course nothing wrong with preferring the lower bustline pre-1810, but using it with a dress designed for the 1810s just doesn't look right.

In my original work sessions I scaled up and cut out the pieces and did most of the seaming - the bodice, the sleeves, the skirt - but left all the raw edges. The front bodice piece was topstitched over the sides, and the sides were sewn to the backs with piping (using a narrow string for the cord; too narrow, I think). I didn't do up the back seam of the skirt, but the others were sewn with running stitches.

After picking it back up, I sewed up the back, hemmed the bottom of the skirt and sleeves, moved up the waist, and finished the neckline with piping - with a thicker cord, that Sugar 'n' Cream crochet cotton. At first I thought it'd be too thick, but after using it in the Hallowedding dress I knew it was exactly the right diameter. Then I put in large hooks on the right side of the back - one at the neckline and one at the waistline.

I saved the pintucks around the wrist for last, so I could just keep making them until the sleeves were the right length. Three seemed to do it.

I held off on making thread bars for the hooks (I put in safety pins from the wrong side as temporary bars) because I wanted to make sure it was the right size. WELL. I guess it's a good thing I did, because the dress is too big across the back. It's pinned for the photo, and I clasped my hands like that to hold it in! Unfortunately, my epiphany in scaling up patterns to fit came months after I cut out these pieces, and because my Regency corset is such a pain to put on, I hadn't put the dress itself on in a long time, and even when I did while it was in progress, I didn't have the hooks on and was kind of estimating while pinning behind myself ... It's very tricky to do these things when you live on your own.

The Challenge: January - Procrastination

Material: Checked cotton twill from Fashion Fabrics Club; twine and crochet cotton for piping

Pattern: The morning dress on pp. 62-65 of Regency Women's Dress, scaled up and "fitted" by me

Year: Early 1810s - meant for a War of 1812 event, the Battle of Ogdensburg, (which I now will not be attending because it conflicts with a vacation I'm already committed to), but appropriate from 1809 through the middle of the decade

Notions: Two (2) largeish metal hooks

How historically accurate is it? Very! The pattern was taken directly from an extant dress and only modified for size (and to turn the lower scalloped edge into a normal hem), and the entire dress is hand-sewn. However, the fabric is slightly off in that cloth with this hand and texture would have been wool in-period rather than cotton

Hours to complete: Eesh, I don't know. Maybe 20? 25 considering the unpicking and redoing? And it's technically not done, since I need to cut the back down

First worn: Nowhere, yet

Total cost: Unknown, sorry! It's been too long, I've lost track

Monday, January 4, 2016


Now that several months have passed, it's time to post about my Halloween costume. Last year, I participated in the coolest wedding - early bustle themed! Julie (the bride) made her dress from a purple faille, and got purple faille and black taffeta for all the bridesmaids for us to each make a dress or have a dress made. (And then Julie made like six other dresses, she's terrifyingly productive.)

On the lawn at Ventfort, doing photos 
The wedding was held at Ventfort Hall, a really gorgeous Gothic Revival mansion in western Massachusetts that was the most lovely setting for an historical wedding you could imagine.

Lacing corsets!
There was a makeup artist and two hairstylists; I did my own makeup, but happily acceded to the ministrations of a trained hair professional because I'm completely incapable of doing anything with my hair. I did bring the hair I've been saving from my comb, which the hairdresser used as a big rat base. (Julie also lent me a braided switch, which was put over the top.) When I took it down, there were 49 bobby pins in it!

I was privileged to button the royal boots
 For my dress, I used a pattern I'd taken the year before of a dress from the New York State Museum, which was originally sage green with beige satin trim but adapted very well to my materials for a kind of stripped-down second mourning look. Same corset as ever, but I did make a full cage bustle from a Harriets pattern. (I don't recommend it, and I've formulated a rule of thumb that if you can recognize where the image on the pattern or used to advertise it comes from - that is, the image is taken from Arnold or Waugh or Bradfield or a famous portrait or fashion plate, rather than being a drawing or photo of the garment itself - it might have some big problems.)

The dress has some problems, but I'm really happy with how tight the bodice is. My constant problem is adding too much ease because a) I'm afraid I'll make something too small and waste the fabric and b) I tend to cut a large seam allowance to allow for alteration and then sew the seam half an inch away from the edge like a doofus. But this style of bodice is really fitted all in the darts, so I was able to get it close to my shape, even if there are a handful of other fit problems.

That's me on the far left - my bustle is huge
All the bridesmaids wore these filigree masks through the ceremony and afterward, when there was a lovely dinner, and dancing. It was a fantastic event - just about all of the guests dressed up (I mean all but three, practically) and we all had a wonderful time. Unfortunately, we're all spread out over the country and don't get to see each other often, but this was such a good time.

All photos were taken by other members of the party, taken from Facebook, with permission.