Tuesday, January 24, 2012

1790s Convertible Spencer: The Actual Project Begins

The shape.
Last fall I decided I needed a new spencer. Do you recall this series of posts? At the end, with your help, I decided on a simple "body" spencer, to which sleeves and different collars might be added or removed at will.

The Look

To the right you see the back of the design, from February 1796, Gallery of Fashion. The original description:

Afternoon dress
...Muslin petticoat, trimmed at the bottom with blue satin in vandyke scallops; short full sleeves of muslin, trimmed with blonde. Body of blue satin, trimmed round the neck with a double plaiting of blonde, and on the back with a chain; epaulettes of the same, looped with a spring chain and tassels of gold.

I will pleat net lace on to the body in lieu of a collar, and make the removeable epauletes to hold up the dress sleeves. However, I will also add a peplum.

I will wear this body in July, to this year's Jane Austen Festival at Locust Grove, as an afternoon ensemble. Hence no sleeves. It can be so hot there at that season! It will go over my existing wrapfront dress. I'd had difficulties with putting something round over something vee-necked, but think it now not an issue, as the spencer is low-necked and I can play with the dress closure.

The Extant Evidence: Inspiration Spencer from the Met

Recall this funny little garment, an apparent loving hands at home renovation of an earlier umlined garment, now at the Met? She's my inspiration garment, sans collar.

Creating the Cutting Diagram

I had already long figured out many of the details of little Met spencer's basic construction, but had not drawn myself a general diagram.

This morning I had two sunny hours, a doctor's appointment over, the boys at school, and after weeks of sickness and duties of all kinds, thought to play a little, and now was the perfect moment to make that diagram. Here they are.

Here is everything but the peplum.

I am not terribly good with a pencil, but perhaps you see how it is going. I used the original garment photos, looking at both the exterior and what I could make out of the interior to come up with the shapes. They are very simple indeed, except for that peplum.

The peplum caused some muddling around, looking in Costume Close Up for earlier jackets and how they patterned peplums, and a look through all the spencers in the Met's online collection. I came up with two scenarios for how the peplum might be constructed, and decided on the second, simpler version, based on the closest examination of that original that I could manage. My peplum is in two pieces, with points front and back, and in back, a small pleat at the side back seam to give it some puff.

The next step? To drape it in Swedish tracing paper, right over my actual dress so that I get the fitting right. Don't hold your breath: I may not get to that for a bit.

The scene of the planning. It was a pleasure.

Today I leave you with yesterday's news: the boys and I had an alphabet treasure hunt on a walk up the street. Every time we spotted something or some concept that agreed with the letter we were on, either boy or I photographed it. Here we are on "L": they are standing at the edge of a "lake" and floating a leaf boat in it. Two "L"s in one!

Very best to you all!


MrsC said...

L is also for Lovely spencer! Sort of :)I look forward to the vicarious thrill of you making it!

ZipZip said...

Dear Mrs. C.,

Giggle. Now I need to look up your latest of the play...have been writing today as yet, not reading!



The Bohemian Belle said...

you inspired me to make a sleeveless spencer myself! I promise it won't look at all like yours! but i had been racking my brain for a while now for what to do for jane fest this year. i'm making a whole new ensemble for one day but don;t really want to do a whole new dress for the other day and a sleeveless spencer is perfect! cheap and easy to make and won't gvie me a heat stroke added over my white dress. hope you don't mind me stealing your idea.

ZipZip said...

Dear Julia,
Most glad to have given you inspiration! I blog to share and exchange ideas and to enjoy connections with other costumers, so please, design away and I'll look forward to seeing what you create.

By the way, there is a bloggy movement, given much impetus by Sarah of Historical Personality Disorder and others, to make sure we all credit each other for ideas, as a point of courtesy and for documentation. So if you'd like to mention the idea on your blog I'd greatly appreciate it, and will be happy to point folks to your blog too.

Meantime, glad to have found your blog: will enjoy reading about your adventures.

Very best,


The Bohemian Belle said...

Thanks Natalie!
I'll make sure to mention how your blog inspired me to make a sleeveless spencer! it will be a while tough till i can tackle that project sooooooo much to sew this year!

Kleidung um 1800 said...

I'm super excited about this garment and how it will turn out.
It's always very rewarding to follow your research, documentation and progress. Looking forward to many more post of the progress!


ZipZip said...

Thank you both! This one should be fun...

Very best,