Happy News! Our little Jane Austen Sewing Society will be volunteering for the Summer Symposium of the Costume Society of America, Southeastern Region. At their kickoff reception at the Ashland Estate, we will demonstrate fine handsewing along with fan games, while we wear Full Dress suitable for outdoors, a la Ranelagh. We're all really looking forward to the opportunity to volunteer, and if I get the opportunity, I will post about it.
Meanwhile, the serious news. This blog is going on semi to full hiatus for another period. The boys start nursery school in a month or so, and our house renovation needs more of my attention. Therefore, the hobby must step aside once again.
I've enjoyed this last six months or so of fun with getting ready for the Jane Austen festival, and down the road hope to return with more translations from Journal des Luxus und der Moden, more costume research, and more experiments in period sewing.
Meanwhile, happy summertime to everyone, and I will see you again, on and off, later this year.
Monday, July 18, 2011
|Some of the accessories used in the ensemble,|
Squinting at the images? For big views, please click on them.
Let's take it from the top, shall we?
Ugh, I almost deleted that, but, let it go...I am talking about hairstyles, with or without toupees.
By the way, the Gallery of Fashion uses the term toupee all the time, and doesn't necessarily mean a rat-sized piece of obviously fake hair glued to a man's head, but the hairstyling at the top of the head.
In case you've forgotten the look of the entire ensemble already, here it is from the side:
|A little play in blue and white and sepia.|
The inspiration was this 1795 'do, as you may recall, made with a satin chiffonet (wrap), spangled, and with a diamond brooch and two ostrich plumes.
|Gallery of Fashion, 1795, detail.|
I had one issue with the headdress. Underneath is a bandeau made according to Lynn McMaster's tutorial (see previous post). Well, the feathers refused to hold that well. One really needs to have LONG wires to stick the plumes in.
Yet are wires necessary? Nicole of Diary of a Mantua Maker located a fascinating print in the Yale Lewis Walpole Library Digital Collection, titled "Beauty and Fashion", from 1797. First, the full print, and then let's look at a detail.
The mezzotint shows two women at work in what may be a home, given the mirror and pretty wallpaper and patterned fitted carpet and nice table, but also might be a shop. I am not versed enough in prints to know.
You see that they are wearing their headdresses and hats indoors. One sees this all the time. It may have been practical, given cold weather, and it may have been fashionable, and it may have been an artist's caprice, although even amateurs drew women wearing their headwear, not just caps, indoors.
Here's the detail, above, that has me all excited. The lady on the left is sewing a plume to the chiffonet, which is at least partly constructed of ribbons. See how stiff the chiffonet is? See how it holds its shape in her hands? It's constructed (!), not wrapped on the head. There must be a substructure, a stiff bandeau, to which that plume is being sewn. Otherwise the chiffonet would be floppy.
Some wraps were just that, wrapped...there are prints satirizing the process...but this one is premade, and it means I can construct mine, get it just so, sew the plumes to it tightly, and never worry my head again about trying to wrap the thing again or about falling feathers. O happy day that this nugget of historical experience revealed itself.
A second detail showing the tools of the trade. Scissors, of course, small ones, and lace, which I think is the spotted stuff hanging off the table, and a roll of striped ribbin, and what may be a pattern or cut-out piece of fabric. Pins everywhere. They are mid-length and they have small heads.
This is what I love about this hobby: the chance to discover the material culture and the experiences behind it.
What I still do not have the way I want it is the hair.
The hairstyles of the day were so full that to look like a fashion plate, even with very long thick hair one still would have had to employ hair switches or a wig. Portrait miniatures, full portraits, and prints show a variety of looks, some full, some obviously just natural hair, thick, thin, curly, or straight. See the 1790s Fashion: A Transition from The Enlightenment to Regency posts and browse the images to get a clearer idea.
I was aiming for a Miss Frankland's hair in "The Frankland Sisters" portrait by John Hoppner (1795).
|Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.|
To make the hairstyle, I pulled most of my back hair into a loose ponytail, secured it with an elastic band, then pulled the tail up the back of my head and pushed that giant curved haircomb you see in the topmost image down on it. The front and side hair were left hanging, and the remainder of the back hair ditto. I had no hair to hang down, much less enough to create the looped chignons of the fashion plate as well as the mezzotint about, so opted for this simpler, slightly later style.
When wound with that silk, the hairstyle flattened, and didn't have the length to work. The curls were too snakey thin, too. Solution? I will have to puff the natural curls more, lie the chiffonet on top more lightly, and hide some imitation locks underneath, in an effort to get the 1794-5 look.
Oh, about that comb. The base is a gift from Polly. I took an old pearl necklace I had that had broken, trimmed it to fit, and wrapped it to the comb with thin jewelry wire. Voila. It'll do, and can be taken apart and the base reused.
A final note about that mezzotint print above. Do you see the shorter hair the women are sporting? Plus that both women have hair that lies in soft waves rather than all-out curls? By 1797 big hair was bye-bye, that's one message, and second, that not everyone strove to sport little curly tops. I see this in other Lewis Walpole prints, bye the bye. If you use the link above and browse the library's holdings, you can see for yourself.
Yes, the belt. The one item for which I do not have a proper reference. It just felt right. Belts were used, no doubt about that, and the design on the belt fits right in, but its size and shape? I am not certain. Further research needed.
The fabric part's construction is simple, and I made no attempt, other than sticking to handsewing to make it perfectly period. A length of silk is just folded over a core of stiff cotton duck, and overcast down. Then one end is threaded through the buckle, then end turned over, and stitched closed, just as in any belt. The other end is whipped closed.
The belt buckle, front. If you click the image, you will see the cut steel details. The color varies, showing a bit of damage. I am thinking it very late Victorian or Edwardian based on its large size and the curve it makes, perfect for going around a waist. I have another, definitely Victorian/Edwardian one in faux jet of a similar design, bought at the same time and from the same source...both were in a grab bag, I think, for pennies. Those years, the 1890s through the 1910s, were a Golden Age for belts with sashes.
The belt buckle from its back. Note the rivets. This is a true cut steel piece, interestingly with a gold color on the main frame, which is not terribly usual.
On the back, three roundels composed of vintage glass circles shaped and colored to imitate cut steel (from Bumbershoot Supplies, again), sewn down, and then surrounded by purl frieze, and a star of frieze sewn inside.
All I did here was to paint, in gold acrylics, an Adamesque design with swags and bellflowers and plain bands, both ubiquitous motifs from the 1760s onward, on a pretty sea-blue fan. Here the blue is stronger; the lower photo has truer color.
The stick ends are gold-painted, too, and a row of small dots spots the sticks just below the paper.
No particular model was followed, here. Rather, over the past year I reviewed lots of images of fan leaves from the Victoria and Albert, the British Museum, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and absorbed the things I liked. Then, having having drawn Adamesque designs for cards and whatnot for fun over the years, just came up with a design out of the head and painted it, on the spot and with a small brush, loosely and without particular worry.
I am very happy with the results. It is airy, subdued, and warm, the gold and blue reminding me of sky and sunlight.
Its only issue: meant to sparkle in dim lighting, it -- doesn't. The gold paint is best for daytime. No wonder some fans were glued with spangles! Next time, I spot some spangles on.
A detail, below.
That ends the series. I hope you've enjoyed it. You'll see this ensemble again, tweaked. More about the occasion soon. It's a very exciting opportunity that our little sewing group is honored to be a part of.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
|The goldwork petticoat|
Please click on images to see larger versions, and warning, this post is image-heavy.
I love the cumulative effect of the goldwork: shine and sparkle, depth and dimension. Also elegant: none of this is flashy the way an all-over, pavee treatment might be.
In fact, a second experiment is in the works: I took last year's petticoat and am experimenting with a combination of silk embroidery, couching with gold passing thread, along with the techniques you will see below. The pattern comes from Luxus und der Moden (yes, Sabine, that pattern from earlier this year!) That project is a long-term one that may take a year or so to complete.
The petticoat is made of a silk and cotton blend from Thai Silks. The fabric has super drape and the perfect amount of sheerness, and the weave is tight enough for good looks, but loose enough to permit ease in embroidery.
It is constructed in the manner traditional to the 18th century as a whole. Should you wish a tuturial, you cannot go wrong with "The Standard Eighteenth Century Petticoat" on A Fashionable Frolick or from Costume Close-Up.
The Goldwork Embroidery
|"Fortune", a Directoire-era French ensemble, featuring|
a dress with goldwork embroidery.
From Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion.
Goldwork had been popular at least from the seventeenth century, and would remain so until the fashion appears to have mostly faded sometime in the nineteenth century. Goldwork allowed the wearer to sparkle and gleam and "show" to advantage. It was a feature of Afternoon Dress and Full Dress; it would have been in poor taste to display gold in Undress, so far as I can discern.
Goldwork was usually, though not always, professionally done, and ranged from expensive to staggeringly expensive. The threads and spangles and foils were of real gold or gold plus a base metal, and there was a fashion for taking apart goldwork and melting it down for the gold. It still is expensive, one reason that I have used it sparingly.
|An example of a sprig motif on my petticoat. |
This one has a brilliant attached. The brilliant will soon
be surrounded by a circle of purl.
I spaced the sprigs using one of several Gallery of Fashion plates that specify embroidery in gold, but more sparingly than most pictured, too sparingly, as it turned out. I have not found gold-sprigged extant petticoats to date, and only one dress in the Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion, a Directoire dress of similar date, is sprigged, also sparingly, but it also has a heavily embroidered motif at the bottom.
Working the Embroidery
The sprigs include three basic motifs, all based on motifs that appear in pages 39-54 of 18th Century Embroidery Techniques.
They are made with gold frieze and spangles rescued from a cutter Indian garment. That garment was also terrifically hard to find, for there are few out there that I would feel okay cutting into.
|Another sprig sample. My thumbnail gives you|
an idea of the sprig's size.
The frieze, a gold-coated wire, wound very tightly in a squared pattern to enhance sparkle, is of the Indian Sadi variety and is a little looser than European frieze. To apply it, one cuts the wire to the length desired, and then threads it like a bead. I used gold-dyed Ver a Soie silk "Paris" thread from Hedgehog Handworks, an utter joy to work with. I would recommend only silk for a project like this; it is very strong.
|Yet another sprig motif.|
The spangles are then backstitched in place. Because I used so many spangles and this was my first project, I opted for the vintage non-metal spangles from the Indian cutter garment. Real spangles are expensive, but they do have a far superior shine and weight, and for an important garment, I'd save up and use them instead. Dream on, Natalie. Berlin Embroidery carries them, as does Hedgehog Handworks. (I used my small batch on the reticule).
|A sample of an individual spangle-purl combination.|
Individual spangles were sprinkled over the surface. To attach them, I used the traditional method of stringing first a spangle and then a tiny piece of frieze on the thread, and then sewing both on by running the thread back through the hole. Each is attached separately, for connecting threads would show through the thin fabric.
My petticoat is sprigged, as described above, in a band to above the knees, and then set with a fringe to flutter intoxicately at the feet, which it did, in fact, do very well.
The fringe is stritched with large stitches of doubled, waxed thread such that the fringe stops a bit above the hem so that the wearer will not damage it.
|Image courtesy Kyoto Costume Insitute.|
|The reverse of the fringe, showing the stitches that attach it|
to the fabric.
A Delicate Product, Slow to Make
Two giant caveats about goldwork, aside from the expense:
- It is very delicate. The purl frieze is superfine metal wire. The ends, which are barely visible to the eye, have a tendency to catch on fabrics and can pull them. Worse, once caught, if the wire is pulled, it will uncoil and can never be coiled up again. A few good pulls and you are well on your way to a garment which must be redone.
- It tarnishes. Gold threads and spangles, these days anyway, have base metal in them. They must be kept out of sunlight, and you should avoid touching them while working with them as much as possible, and always afterwards. With good care, the garment being kept well wrapped in muslin and kept in the dark, tarnish can be kept away for some years, but eventually the gold will lose its gleam. This is ephemeral art...
Thursday, July 14, 2011
|Image courtesy Hannah.|
Thank you so much!
As always, please click on the images to view larger versions.
I was fairly pleased with the overall effect of the ensemble. As an experiment, it rates maybe a 7. Overall things to improve:
- The robe still was a bit loose on me, no matter how tightly the front might be pinned. Must see if alterations needed. I understand that robes were meant to accommodate for changes in weight and bulk: let us experiment some more on what pins can do.
- The goldworked petticoat lacks enough shine. I spaced the motifs on the sparing side. Easy enough to correct: add more!
- Feather headdress needed more securing. I will talk more about that later.
Plus, the robe's edge-to-edge front closing and conservative cut -- which take their cue from earlier decades -- are from several 1790s dresses in Nancy Bradfield's Costume in Detail. I used this design because I liked the cut and it seemed to suit my age well.
The petticoat is inspired by two Gallery of Fashion plates and the motifs embroidered on it come from elements of actual 18th century goldwork embroidery in 18th Century Embroidery Techniques.
Figure XLII, the rightmost figure in the February 1795 plate above, wears a gold sprigged and fringed petticoat. Whenever the text refers to "gold", I take it to mean goldwork and "silver" I take to mean goldwork done in silver, which was also very popular. The text, so far as I can tell from unscientific reading, usually calls other embroidery colored or gives specific colors, such as black. It is possible that the term gold means gold-colored silks or cotton, but I suspect that, given how prevalent goldwork was among the bon ton, real gold is meant. For more information, see 18th Century Embroidery Techniques and Napoleon, The Empire of Fashion.
Here below is the other plate, from December 1794; figure 35 is my inspiration.
The Headdress Inspiration
The headdress is taken from a specific figure, no. 37 from January 1795, shown above. It is described thus: "Chiffonet of white satin, two white ostrich feathers, and a large diamond pin placed on the left side."
The robe is hand sewn except for the hem, on which I used a chainstitch Willcox and Gibbs treadle with hemmer attachment, having run out of time last year.
It's made of, yes, that same cream silk dupioni, and employs the traditional construction methods described so well in Costume Close Up and in other posts on this blog, to wit:
The front and lining of each bodice piece treated separately: basted together, the edges turning in.
- Each piece sandwiched with the next to create a lapped seam and backstitch of combination stitched down.
- All edges finished by combination stitching the turned-in seams (but one of seveal ways to do it).
- The sleeves backstitched at the bottom half, then set on a manniquin (which should have been a live person), the shoulder straps laid atop, and stitched down. The insides left unfinished for easier renovation.
- The skirt top turned under, and carefully whipped to the extreme bottom edge of the bodice.
- The skirt hems turned to a small hem and combination stitched, except the bottom hem, which was machined.
For detailed instructions on how to sew in this manner, please refer to the Costuming Research and Documentation page on this blog, where I have links to tutorials.
Above, the lace on the dress.
The dress opened up to show the interior. Note the modesty panels that are sewn to the side seams. When donning the robe, first one panel is wrapped over the stays and pinned there securely, then the other ditto.
Then the robe front pieces are lapped tightly to fit as smoothly as possible. The drawstrings at the top are pulled tight and tied.
Then small pins are inserted horizontally into the edge -- between the fashion fabric and the lining -- of the overlapping piece, and then caught in the underlapped piece. I insert a pin almost every inch. This holds the gown securely closed, invisibly.
Above, how the lace is tacked on. It is easily removable.
How the skirts are attached to the bodice. You can also see the two seams attaching the vee-shaped back piece to the two side back pieces.
The armscye, showing the stitching as well as the basting.
That's it for the robe. Next time, the pettioat, embroidered in gold purl and spangles and pastes!
Monday, July 11, 2011
|Jenni Miller, on right, and myself.|
Image courtesy Sarah Jane Meister.
As always, please click on the pictures to see larger views.
|Jenni and Carson Miller.|
How nice to finally hug Sarah Jane, with whom I've corresponded and whose blog I've read for what, three or four years now, and to meet part of her family into the bargain. To Sharon, Julie R. Deanna, Hannah, Maria, Kathy, and Nora, to Capt. and Mrs. May and the Doctor and Miss Waterman, to the kind JASNA volunteers with whom I worked Sunday afternoon and promptly forgot your names because I didn't want to forget how to handle a credit card, and to everyone whose name I leave off unfortunately through bad memory and I hope you'll forgive me for it, thank you. What a very nice time.
I only wish I had more pictures of you all as mementos. The camera was buried in my sewing bag, and so bulky and modern it was hard to pull out with so many visitors watching. Besides, the darn flash was off, and the pictures I took were very poor quality, so poor it's hard to make out faces. So most images in this post are courtesy Sarah Jane Meister and Jenni Miller.
|A domestic moment. Sarah Jane Meister with her son, Malachi,|
A weekend of gallantry and wit. Jenni accepts a bow from her husband. Carson has a gentle sense of humor.
An Unfortunate Incident That Ends Well
|Jenni displays her fan, self-painted, to Maria Clemmons and me.|
|Polly and I, with Locust Grove in the background.|
Polly is wearing her block
Print open robe ensemble
and her new bonnet, prettily
|Captain and Mrs. May picnic. Both were saviors.|
Image courtesy Jenni Miller.
Did you know that a cold drink placed on the carotid artery on the side of your neck will cool your blood, and that a wetted handkerchief on the back of your neck is wonderfully cooling and comforting, and that the effect lasts so long as there is water to evaporate in it? Important things to remember, wherever you are in the heat.
|What on earth do I smell? Or is it pride?|
I am prejudiced against this photo,
but find it funny and apt. Image courtesy sarah Jane Meister.
Anyhow, the Doctor and Capt. May escorted me to a cooler spot, and after about a half an hour, I was well enough to enjoy the rest of the afternoon. Thank you again; you all of you were very kind and a pleasure to get to know. So sorry to hear too that you, Miss Waterman, and your mother too, were next to fall prey to the heat. What an afternoon!
A Second Unfortunate Series of Incidents, Also Well Ended...What a Ball!
|Miss Waterman looks on|
from a gallery. Her kindness,
along with her fan, had
saved me from fainting
earlier in the day.
Image courtesy Jenni Miller.
But wait, there's more. The B&B incident cost us over two hours of time before the ball -- time to find new lodging and multiple lengthy phone calls with the credit card company to contest the charge -- and on the way to the ball Polly and I got lost in a largely deserted and iffy part of Louisville, before finding the ballroom, 45 minutes before it ended. And immediately relost ourselves going home afterwards.
Once again, I am grateful for friends, for dinner with Polly and Sharon was delightful and relaxing, and the ball, if short for us and undanceable for me -- too, too tight shoes, ouch! -- was so pretty to watch and to listen to, that it all was worth it.
|This image of the ball is too bright. It was far more|
Spalding University has just the ballroom for a Regency Assembly: very high ceilings, springy wood floor, multiple chandeliers with a soft yellow glow, and best of all, banks of enormous windows on one wall with a city view and second-floor galleries (!) on two sides with candle-lit tables (!) from which to watch several hundred (!) dancers below, and some of my favorite, lyrical dance tunes in the world, live! The JASNA volunteers had taken full advantage of the opportunity, and it was decorated with magnolia -- oh, the scent! So what if the air was a little warm? It was really, really neat.
|Jenni and Carson, ready for the ball.|
Image courtesy Sarah Jane Meister.
|The almost-ghost and her friend.|
Image courtesy Sarah Jane Meister.
The gown is last year's creation, with the addition of that lace, and a fresh silk and cotton voile petticoat, which I embroidered in goldwork and paste (vintage chaton rose rhinestones) sprigs, and bullion fringe, also vintage.
It is worn with a self fabric belt with an Edwardian-era buckle studded with cut steel and a full headdress consisting of a spangled chiffonet, now known as a wrap, to match, closed with a vintage pearl and steel brooch and two ostrich feathers, one of which is in the process of falling off. At the neck, the requisite large beads. On the hands, faux silk white gloves. In the hands, the day's spangled reticule, and a new fan, which I painted in gold in an Adamesque design. The shoes? Nice leather with very high toes and low heels..sadly not Louis style, and painfully tight. Well, they were free.
Next time, details on the ensembles and how they were achieved.
Friday, July 08, 2011
|Most of the ball ensemble. The gown fits with the |
different stays! The bandeau is not sliding off!
As always, please click on the photos to see a larger version.
My one concern: the gown is almost too big. I've lost over 20 pounds since it was made and although such dresses are forgiving, being able to be pinned more or less tightly, I see wrinkles near the shoulder line. Ah well. To late for alterations right now!
The missing items:
- the rest of the headdress, including hairstyle
- the belt
- the gloves
- the ballgown polonaised for dancing
No more dress gaposis, courtesy Nicole at Diary of a Mantua Maker. She had described pinning the dress horizontally.
I got the idea to pin in horizontally through the very edge, not from the outside of the exterior fabric at all, through the lining of the front and into the rest of the dress. One inch apart all the up, and easy does it, and voila!
Bandeau: a length of buckram made into circlet and folded in half for strength. Muslin tube gathered onto it. Two long hatpins from my maternal grandmother stuck up through the bottom and inserted into the plumes. Vintage freshwater pearl and cut steel brooch pinned on. I love that brooch.
|The belt buckle chosen.|
The Cloak, Completed Enough to Wear
Here is the cloak! It still lacks the frill down one long edge, but not all cloaks were fully frilled, and it's just plain fun as it is. Such items were often worn just as below, casually half-knotted in front. It's such a fun accessory that it's going to turn up in my modern wardrobe.
|The cloak, as worn.|
The little fan still needs a coat of matte medium. It's not the best, but it will do. You should see Jenni's. I only drew/painted part of mine; she did the entire thing.
Signing Off Until Next Week
Am off to the festival as of the morning, and still lots of prep work to do. So off we go!
Happy weekend to every one of you!