Monday, March 07, 2011

Plans for the 2011 Jane Austen Festival Ensemble

I plan to attend the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville for a third year. I'll go with friends, same as always, and hope to meet other online friends and acquaintances there too!
Have been planning the ensembles since Christmastime. They are both based on garments I have already: it's the details that will make these fun to wear. Here's a preview.
Plate 8, March 1795, Luxus.
"Eine junge teutche Dame in
Englischer Tracht."

Morning Toilette

Given last year's phenomenal heat -- 95 degrees in the shade and muggy! -- I am going for coooool, breathy, breezy wear.

Back in the day, a chemise dress would have been a common natural choice for hot weather in the Southern sections of the New World or the Caribbean. The wrapfront dress was a new take on the chemise dress and it was very popular indeed, In England, Europe, and the New World.

My basic ensemble is taken directly from Journal des Luxus und der Moden, Plate 8, from March 1795. The plate shows a young German lady wearing an English-style Tracht, or usual day dress. In another post I'll offer the full translation of the description that came with the plate...and especially of a special item worn under the outer dress.

Note that the reporter in the March issue wrote from London and says that this is an English style. Indeed, a quick comparison last evening of plates from English and European publications, courtesy Collection Maciet and Google, added support to the idea of an "English look". Ooh, research fodder for a comparative study that may bring back to common knowledge the names and sources of contemporary stylistic themes! That has to wait, though. Back to business.

I have the dress already, a voile wrapfront dress commissioned from the lovely Geneece Arnold early last fall (As you know, lately I've been unable to do much sewing myself). On request, she left all hems and trim off, so I will add the ruffle along with a tuck above the hem ruffle. Tucks are so handy: I can regulate the dress train in back this way, as need requires. Mmm. Need to consult some plates, prints, and paintings to get the right combination, since I am adding to the design here.

A tiny attached bumroll will fluff out the back. Will make it out of three giant pom-poms of cotton sugar-'n-cream yarn, after an extant example...I've mislaid the picture and source, worse luck. :}

I will wear a sage green underdress in plain habotai silk (from the stash), using the same bodice as for the dress, but fixed to a waistband, not wrapped. Will make this and am considering ripping it out by machine rather than handsewing it. Mmm, time to consult Janet Arnold and Sarah Jane...she has a new vee-front dress with separate bodice.
My wiglet: it needs extending
across the top and sides to
fill it out.

The underpinnings: chemise, Sarah Jane Meister's embroidered stays, and a strapped muslin underpetticoat, all in possession already.

The sash will be in green silk satin, with matching armbands. Need to purchase about two yards fabric, cut, and treat the fabric edges with gum arabic, a period solution to the problem of fraying. Mental note: get gum arabic, which I can use in cooking, too. Sure wish I had real ribbon, but have not run into adequate lengths of antique ribbon I feel safe using.

The modified turban will be in green and white silk gauze. I have mounds of gauze and will paint the stripes with dye and fringe the ends.

Jewelry: the necklace will be double stranded, but of coral. Ditto earrings. Have materials, need to make up.

Hair: I have a wiglet I made last fall but will need to extend it a bit. Have plenty of hair in the stash already, so no cost there.

Green fan -- already in possession, and green or cream silk pointed-toe slippers, most likely modified Indian Khussa shoes. I need inexpensive summer shoes anyway, so boom.

No reticule: I am making pockets to hold my needs. Fabric and twill tape already in hand.

Shawl of embroidered Indian cotton, edged with a narrow whipped frill. Fabric located, need to purchase and make up. With the heat, may not need it, and with expense...may probably toss plans.

The robe from the back, as
worn last year.
Ball Toilette

You'll see the white silk open robe again, but it's been heavily remade since last year and fits far better.

The petticoat is the big change. If all works out, I will wear a cotton gauze petticoat, spangled in metal sequins and embroidered per the November 1795 Luxus issue. None of the other original patterns I have seen hold a candle to it.

If the embroidery project falls flat -- which it very well may since it's the epitome of a Grand Plan, then a silk voile petticoat, again spangled. Spangled skirts were popular fashion magazine items in 1795-1796. Was it the Kyoto Institute or the Met that that has the famous picture of a a trio of manniquins, one in a gauze spangled robe? Have to check and get back with you. The spangles I will purchase from a specialty supplier; they are handmade.

November 1795 afternoon dress in the English fashion,
from Luxus, "richly embroidered". 
The petticoat is dead simple to make, perhaps 1.5 hours of work; it's the embellishment that's probably the biggest project this year.

Underpinnings: cotton chemise, my fully boned transition stays, strapped petticoat, and second cream silk petticoat on which the gauze petticoat will lie. All made already.

The robe will be held by a blue silk satin belt and closed...well, that is a mystery right now. This calls for research. I will use some of the same satin batch for the belt as for the ribbons in the day dress.

Single strand of paste jewels,
The neckline tucker will be Edwardian lace that looks about right, from my collection. Needs tacking into the dress.

For jewelry, a double-strand necklace of baroque freshwater pearls, with cabochon pendant,and matching pearl hoop earrings, all in possession but not yet made up. Paste jewels would be appropriate, given the lighting of many ball rooms back then, but would be expensive and fiddly to make, although a single strand would be easy to find vintage. Such jewelry was by no means out of fashion at this date. See the paste necklace from the Victoria and Albert Museum, number M.66-1925. After all, the afternoon ensemble in Luxus called for brilliants and diamonds. Please register shock: so over the top, so ancien Regime! More practically speaking, the festival ball room is likely to be so highly lit that the results might be garish, so pearls are probably a better choice. 

My fan, in progress.
Hair in locks -- that wiglet again :) -- with a bandeau of blue habotai silk from the stash that I dye myself, the crown draped with silk gauze, and in front, an aigrette of small spiky plumes. Comb ornamented with freshwater pearls to hold the back hair. Have to cut the gauze, create the aigrette and design a clasp for it, and finish the comb, which is now in progress. This is where my friend Polly Singer comes in. She is teaching a class for us on turbans in June. Shameless plug: an FIT trained milliner, she designs for Ascot, the Derby, public figures, "hatty" events, and all kinds of occasions large and small, and I am in awe of her abilities.

Elbow length white gloves, cream silk slippers, again those Khussa shoes. The gloves are an issue: I have vintage elbow length ones, but our gloves these days are tight and I do not want mine to be.

Painted fan - in progress.

Potentially a silk reticule, with painted sprigs, or just spangled. Our sewing society is on schedule to make reticules in April.

This is going to be fun! Time is the biggest issue. The two hardest items to find time given my schedule for are the spangled/embroidered petticoat, the underdress, and hemming the shawl. The rest is little stuff that's fun to do of an evening, in small bits, as relaxation, or at our sewing society meetings. Perfect for a busy springtime, when the boys and I have adventures to venture out on, when the yard and garden need the most help, and while work is incredibly stressful and keeps spilling into non-work hours. I hope I can make these little projects a way to engage the brain and to unwind, not wind up.

What are your plans for events? Are you having fun dreaming and breaking down ensembles into their component tasks?


Anonymous said...

It all sounds FANTASTIC. I can't wait to see you all dressed up!

MrsC said...

Sounds amazing! Did you see that Lauren the American Duchess is having silk shoes made for sale? Dyeable also. Could be most useful :) I know the picture you mean of the three dresses and can't find it but I am pretty sure it's from the Met. Gorgeous. I do hope you find time to do it as so few people seem to take on the amount of embellishment the original dresses would have had and I do love me a nice bit of froufrou!

ZipZipInkspot said...

renna_darling, thank you! I hoped it would be a nice plan. Plans are all very well, though, now for execution. Today I happen to have some gift time so am figuring out the earrings and necklaces a little better. Reading up in the fashion mags, checking the extants, to make sure I get decent designs.

Mrs. C., I wasn't nuts then...glad you recall the same picture. Even think I have the original Met publication it came out in. Time to consult the bookshelves.

Yes, I love frou-frou too, especially swags and ruches and flowers and things that flutter. As I know you do too, recalling one of the lovely ensembles you had at a ball last year, was it?

Very best,


MrsC said...

Not me Natalie, I wore a very simple high-waisted silk cotton dress with a sort of Aubrey Beardsley blue and white bordered print to one, and my belly dancing outfit to the other. :) I do like 3-d stuff, especially on stage, but I really love flatwork, whether it's embroidered, appliqued, quilted or corded/couched, I think it brings a gown to life. That's why I convinced the Dreamstress to team up with me on the laurel dress, mind you she only agreed because by 1911, machine couching was historically accurate! But I'm not too much of a purist with historic clothing and techniques if it means getting a more elaborate look. It's the full on borders and petticoats and stomachers that send shivers down my maximalist spine ;-)

ZipZipInkspot said...

Dear Mrs. C.,
Wroops! As my twins would say. Have to go look up those pictures again. You all appeared to have such a good time.

Yes, I like flatwork too, especially fine embroidery. I go back and forth on accuracy, and occasionally have lusted after one of those ridiculously expensive embroidery machines, so that I could make to-die-for embroideries. That's not going to happen *any* time soon. Meantime, it's needle and thread and whiled-away evenings.

Very best,