Tuesday, March 20, 2012

1790s Sleeveless / Convertible Spencer: Fitting the Toile

Sleeveless spencer toile view from the front
So you thought I killed the sleeveless, convertible spencer project, did you? April Fools early, for not a bit of it; the project's alive and very well, thank you.

In fact, the little breeze of a garment is now toiled and fitted as of this morning, with the expert fitting help of my friend Jane. It is just SO much easier and more efficient to have someone help you...no wrinkles on the back, no strange puckers seen when your arms are at your side, caused by toiling with the toile with your arms up, trying awkwardly to pin! Thank you and bless you, Jane.

Besides, it was a delightful friendly morning full of excellent coffee, excellenter conversation and lunch, and a trip to admire the garden, where the asparagus is up, the spinach wintered over, the sweet peas putting out shoots, and the cut forsythia branches used as staking aids last fall have rooted and are blooming! Tough as nails is right, Jane!

A Refresher: The Design

Here below is the overall design I following. Remember it? The February 1796 Gallery of Fashion sleeveless spencer, or body, with epaulettes and chain in the back?

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Recall the pretty little inspiration sleeveless spencer from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (called by them "jacket (spencer)"?

Finally, the pattern I drew up? Have a look at the 1790s Convertible Spencer: The Actual Project Begins post. Gee, that was back in January.

Whoop! I forgot to report on how I draped the thing on a pillow dummy wearing my cross-front dress. Oh, phooey. Hope the images are still around; the old computer died, and they may have deleted. If they live still, will report in a non-chronological post.

Suffice it to say that I dressed a fat pillow, not having my dress form at hand, with my cross-front dress, and then draped the paper over it, first following the lines of the dress, seams, and then changing them to fit the lines of the Met spencer. Then I added wide seam allowances for fitting, and cut out the pattern pieces.

It felt very period to do so. I was taking the lines of a dress that I had, and adjusting them for a different style. As explained to Jane this morning, each period has its conventions in cut; the conventions are subject to endless variations, but once you learn them, you can adapt what fits you endlessly.

All right, so you are somewhat refreshed, I hope, and the fitting pictures will make more sense.

The Fitting

Swedish tracing paper has body, and is good for making toiles of fitted garments of firm fabrics, or so I have found. Plus it's easy to draw on and cut, and translucent, so it's easy to see seamlines and so on underneath.

It's also white, and I had donned a cream top this morning, and Jane's house is in neutrals. Mmm. Can you see, or shall you squint like I am right now?

Here is the back.

The back and side back seams needed no tweaking. The back fits smoothly. You can see my stays underneath (made by Sarah Jane Meister, and so comfortable!)

The back is meant to be wide and steeply angled...no tiny diamond here, more of a trapezoid.

Oh my, I just had a breathless, horrible moment, looking at that image. It appeared I had placed the straps incorrectly! Actually, while pinning everything together this morning, there was a dorky moment when I pinned the straps to the right and left of just the front pieces, and left the back hanging. Jane laughed when it wouldn't go on.However, those wide allowances for fitting are fooling the eyes. Let's look at a marked-up copy.

Hmm. Now that I look at it, I see a basic error. The garment edges are colored in blue. When pinning, I didn't fold back the armscye seam allowance. The edge of the toile is snug, but the garment line when sewn is way loose. Will have to take at least part of the seam allowance away and try the toile on again. Don't want too snug, but not this loose. Dress fabric is liable to blouse out of too-large armscyes.

Plus, while the Met spencer has very much of a squared neckline -- from an earlier garment iteration, perhaps? -- it's too boxy and too low. I like the curve of the fashion plate. Even the adjustments in red are wrong. The height is better, but I want to curve the neckline a little. Just a little, because the straps really are just rectangles, but just a wee. The plaiting of the lace trim will lend a curve.

The waistline looked too high, so I marked a lower one in red, but now am rethinking that. O Hive Mind, your thoughts?

Here is the front.

Here's another very basic error. Have a look at the pattern that I made, in the post linked above. Note how wide the fronts are. Why? I did the design so long ago the reason has escaped. Perhaps it was the fat pillow distorting the cut, perhaps it was me being generous with the double hem that I will need in the center front in which to insert a bone to each side and also lacing eyelets.

Whatever: we have TOO much fabric entirely. I have folded it in back like wings so it's pretty funny looking. In addition, am not sure whether to lace it up edge to edge or to leave a little room.

Do you think the garment would look goofy with dress showing through: this is, after all, the early Regency, not the Long 18th Century, or 1830. So I am going to lace edge to edge and if evidence shows the contrary, then eh, I take in some fabric.

Might fuss with the height of the front a bit. Imagine it without the seam allowance and it seems pretty nice...or is it?

The waistline needs shortening, just a little. Also, while my pattern includes the spencer skirts, or peplum as we would call it, the fashion plate lacks it and frankly, I think the spencer will look better without the little skirts, so I am leaving them off. Can reuse this pattern again later for a wool spencer, in which the peplum would make better sense.

Then too, two tiny vertical darts will need to be set in the chest area, as in the Met spencer, once I have donned the real dress and am working with the silk. Doing those darts now would be a study in failure.

Here are the adjustment marks:

The last image, the side view. All okay here. Didn't Sarah Jane do some pretty embroidery on those stays?

So, first fitting is done. A few tweaks, then it's on to dying the fabric lilac and cutting it out!


MrsC said...

Well it is coming along famously! Have you seen the most recent TV series of Emma by any chance? I caught the last episode the other night,and I could have cried at the costumes. They were so bad, straight out of a simplicity pattern. And the hair and accessorising too. It is such an antidote to come on here and see your beautiful, thought-out work!

Kleidung um 1800 said...

Oh yes, the joy of fitting a garment when you have a helping hand around!!!
I am really looking forward to seeing the spencer's developement. And I love that you choose to do some little changes, although I would keep the neckline in front a tad lower (maybe only an inch!)


ZipZip said...

Dear Sabine,
The helping hand makes alllll the difference.
Well, the changes are continuing. You bet, that front neckline is too high. Plus, as you will learn shortly, I am out of love with the idea of jingling epaulettes. They are too trendy for me, too, too, so I will go for something common in extants, but still featuring somewhat of that original fashion plate.

Second Hand Rose said...

Wow this sounds great and such a good idea! Good luck with it! XxxX http://thesecondhandrose.blogspot.co.uk/

ZipZip said...

Dear Second Hand Rose,

Why thank you! Sure hope it's cooler than a full spencer would be. :}

Going off to visit your blog :)