Monday, July 18, 2011

Volunteering for the Costume Society of America...and a Hiatus

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.

Accessories: 1795 Full Dress Ensemble in Cream Silk, Part 3

Some of the accessories used in the ensemble,
More 1795 Full Dress ensemble details, this time the all-important accessories, from hair to fan.


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.
Well, I had a vintage freshwater pearl and steel brooch instead, and not all the spangles are yet applied to the chiffonet, and the fabric is dupioni not satin, but the ends are pinked, as in the figure, and the affair is tied as in the figure as well as Polly and I were able to get it.

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.
My own hair is quite thick and curly, but not quite shoulder length.

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.

The Belt

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.

The Fan

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

1790s Goldwork-Embroidered Petticoat: 1795 Full Dress Ensemble in Cream Silk: Part 2

The goldwork petticoat
Are you ready for the petticoat? I am so excited to have made it, even though I discovered it needs more embroidery. This is part two, by the way, in a series about the 1795 Full Dress ensemble I made for this year's Jane Austen Festival in Louisville. (See part 1.)

The petticoat is embroidered in goldwork, described below. As a first experiment in this type of embroidery, it went well. Now to add motifs to those already there to give the effect more ooomph. I am looking forward to that. It's the kind of work I adore. Yes Mom, I can hear you laughing: as a child seed beading and making minature furniture were favorite hobbies.

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.

Constructing the Petticoat

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.

About the waistline: this petticoat has the 1795 higher waistline. In this dress, the petticoat is held up by small loops buttoned to the stays: four loops in front (two to each side of the center stays closure) and three in back. You could also hold it up by pinning the tape waistband carefully to the stays, or with straps. There is some argument concerning the use of buttons and loops in the era, but I opted for it anyway.

About the length: The petticoat length is to the bottom of the anklebone, so that I would not trip when dancing.

Given the fabric's sheerness, I was able to finely gather the fabric to the waistband. First I folded over the raw edge to just over a half inch. Then I divided the entire circumference into quarters. Then, separately for each quarter, the fabric at the top was gathered twice, each gathering row separated by about a half inch. Then I pulled in the gathers, spaced them evenly, and whipped the valley between each gather separately to the cotton tape waistband. The whip stitches nip just a over an eighth inch of fabric at the top, and the gathering stitches are left in to help hold the gathers in place. This traditional treatment keeps each gather standing straight and unsquashed and allows it to pivot on the waistband for freer movement.

The Goldwork Embroidery

"Fortune", a Directoire-era French ensemble, featuring
a dress with goldwork embroidery.
From Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion.
The petticoat is embroidered in goldwork, using a combination of flat spangles, purl  (bullion) frieze, bullion fringe, and "pastes" made from vintage rhinestones from Bumbershoot Supplies, a supplier in Oregon who has been most kind.

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.

If you are interested in the subject, you'd do well to start with Gail Marsh's 18th Century Embroidery Techniques, which explains the workshops, the materials, the methods, and shows actual examples, in enough detail that someone with a little embroidery experience can latch on to it and go forth -- with care. Online, Mary Corbett's Needle 'N Thread has really useful posts on goldwork projects, as well as reviews of relevant books.

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 embroidery process is pleasant. It is slow, yes, but the planning of the motifs is fun, and executing them, while exacting, has scope for creativity, for one never knows exactly how the purl will lie, and if it moves on its own to a different position, sometimes that position is more artistic than the planned version, allowing creativity and inspiration some room. This is dynamic work.

Another example of a sprig motif. The flower stamens
are composed of a central spangle, upon which have been
sewn bits of purl. Each stamen is started by pulling the
thread up through the spangle's center hole, threading
the purl bead on, and then pulling the thread to the
back of the work again near an outer spangle.

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.

Anyhow, to start a motif, one pulls the needle from the reverse of the work, threads on the frieze, than plunges the needle back through the fabric. Very short lengths will lay flat, but longer lengths need to be couched down at intervals to hold them in position.

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).

For the pastes, I threaded a spangle on a long piece of silk thread, holding it with a half knot, applied a 4 mm chaton rose foil-backed glass rhinestone to an individual spangle with glue, set it in place, then threaded one end in a needle, plunged that thread to the back, pulled the thread loose, threaded the other end of thread, and plunged that through. Finally I tied the spangle on with a surgeon's knot to hold it fast. Each paste should be surrounded by a ring of purl to help hold it and hide threads: I have yet to do this. (Edited August 1: the surgeon's knot is not enough to hold the pastes in place. Several have come off. I am experimenting with gluing the threads closed. Not gluing the pastes to the fabric, mind, but the thread tie ends.)

Back in the day, pastes would have been of foil-backed glass too, and glued to a spangle or pasteboard base, but the base would have holes around the edge to sew the paste down, and of course the glue used would have been different. In future I may use cardboard, as it will hold the pastes flatter.
A sample of an individual spangle-purl combination.
Exciting, eh?

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.

The Fringe

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.

This way of positioning the fringe is found in an extant Italian 1795 round gown in the Kyoto Costume Institute Archives; see the detail below:

Image courtesy Kyoto Costume Insitute.

Bullion fringes are very hard to find and it was several months before some bits surfaced locally. They are indeed of gold bullion and are heavy. The fringe is attached to a "lace" threaded with flat gold wire known as plate. The entire fringe was very tarnished and the tarnish proved unremoveable (on a test piece), so it lacks the gorgeous gold color of a fresh piece. I decided that the effect was so important that a mix of tarnished and untarnished elements in the skirt would still work.

Following an extant example, I will be threading a spangled row above the lace header in the future.

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...
Despite the small size of each motif, each one took about 25 minutes to complete; there are four rows of about eight motifs each, plus the individual spangles are individually attached, and the fringe laid. Therefore, this experiment showed me that goldwork is not fast work, by any means. I noted that my speed increased only a certain amount with experience. In contrast to plain sewing, in which there are usually expanses of repetition, this sort of embroidery requires close attention and much picking up and putting down of scissors, spangles, and pieces of purl, much shaping and laying with tweezers and pins and the like. It's fiddly, and speed can only increase so much. Also, mistakes cannot be hidden; you either live with them or redo your work.

(Edited August 1) Despite all this, I am doing more goldwork over time. First, am already adding several more rows of  motifs in between the current sets on this petticoat; these rows feature two new motifs. Someday, maybe Napoleon dress referenced above? Again, dream on, but in the middle of wintertime, one motif at a time, what a nice, bright yellow sunny interlude.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Cream Silk Robe: 1795 Full Dress Ensemble, Part 1

Image courtesy Hannah.
Thank you so much!
As promised, here are details concerning the Full Dress ensemble I wore at the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville last weekend about which I posted earlier.  The post is in multiple parts; this one is about the inspirations and the robe. The next is about the  Goldwork-embroidered petticoat, while the following will cover accessories, including hair. Warning: this post is picture heavy.

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. 
  • Our ballroom lacked a traditional anteroom with a mirror, and the ensemble sorely needed a check before entry, because I did not know that the dress lace at the neckline had partly folded underneath, and the feathers needed adjusting. Lesson: find a bathroom and take your time

Preview for the next post: all about
making a goldwork-embroidered petticoat.

The Ensemble Inspiration

The ensemble has its roots in several Gallery of Fashion plates extant garments and portraits.

The Robe Inspiration

The robe I actually made last year, although I did not write about it until a September picnic, and you are already aware of the roots of its lace. You may not know, though, that the back of the gown itself has its roots in the same dress, " the silver round gown" from Karen Augusta. As you will see below, I used the same vee cut for the center back as on this gown. It has a wonderfully vertical, narrowing effect entirely lacking in diamond-shaped back pieces.

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."

Robe Construction

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

The 2011 Jane Austen Festival at Locust Grove, Louisville

Jenni Miller, on right, and myself.
Image courtesy Sarah Jane Meister.
Behatted, begrimed, and behappy, I was writing this still in my Morning ensemble, straight after getting home yesterday. Curte called to say he had the boys at Spindletop swimming, and gave me the evening off, sweet man! I had expected to come straight home and step right in to dinner and bedtime chores. It was such a good trip that I couldn't help writing immediately. It was the first night away on my own with friends in several years; what fun!

As always, please click on the pictures to see larger views.

Jenni and Carson Miller.
This year's Jane Austen Festival was the best yet. Well organized, good events to attend; even if insurance cancelled the archery contest and side-saddle riding demonstration, we could still witness a duel and learn how these things went off and why, watch Nora make fine lace -- and I mean reseau-based net lace with over 150 pins and goodness knows how many bobbins going at once -- enjoy an excellent afternoon tea, well made, with pots of five different kinds of properly brewed tea going round continually, wander the gardens, listen to lectures and shows, talk costume shop -- and best of all, meet friends old and new.

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,
and Jenni.

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.
Saturday afternoon brought brutal heat. While Locust Grove itself is placed in a both beautiful  and practical position at the crest of a series of tiny rumpled rises and hills so that it catches available breezes and is shaded by a true park, Louisville as a whole is spread flat like the Ohio River mud that most likely underlies it, and summer heat lays down an uncomfortable and unhealthy blanket right on top. The little hilltop wasn't enough to escape yesterday's blanket, and even beneath the trees, we braised underneath it until overdone.

Polly and I, with Locust Grove in the background.
Polly is wearing her block
Print open robe ensemble
and her new bonnet, prettily
At one point, feeling faint under an unbearably hot tent, I wandered over to a blanket where some picnickers were lounging and, recognizing several of them by sight, we made introductions; you may recognize Miss Waterman, Capt. May and his wife from Miss Waterman's blog, which is such fun to read. We were just getting started when, had there been no blanket and an excuse to sit, I'd have slid, bump, into a dead faint, a minute or two later. I am very grateful for their help and care, for had I fully gone under that awful black wave that starts at the top of your head and travels downward, blocking light and life like drowning, but upside down, it it would've have been a message to Curte and homeward bound for me.

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.
The gods weren't through with us yet. I had booked two friends, Polly and Sharon, and I a suite at a local B&B --  it was to be a special treat.  It won't do to go into details, but our arrival was so unpleasant and the room not as advertised, that none of the three of us felt safe and we left. I've never had such an experience before and hope not to again; thinking about it is upsetting.

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
softly lit.

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.
Here, at the very end, a lone, lorn image of a very tired woman and her fresher friend, or fresher looking, anyhow. Later I heard she had suffered a terrible headache. This is the only image available, so far, of my ball ensemble. It was almost 10:30, and the day's events had done their work to a 47-year-old face, but let's ignore the tired stare and deeply carven eyes, for there is the ball ensemble on which bits and tads of evenings and tips and tots of other moments have been spent.

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

1795 Cream Silk Full-Dress Ensemble Grand Try-On

Most of the ball ensemble. The gown fits with the
different stays! The bandeau is not sliding off!

Have just tried on MOST of the ball ensemble. The main thing was to make sure that the gown would fit properly and that the headdress bandeau -- the base for the rest of the headdress, which will be wrapped on before the ball tomorrow -- will hold. Check-ish, and check.

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
Fitting Notes

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.

Well, the originally planned belt buckle just didn't go with the new petticoat, the details of which you cannot see but will later. The other belt ideas were too small. I chose instead an Edwardian-era shaped buckle of Neoclassical design. It's larger and the horizontal motion fits the dress and goes to the edges of the robe skirts. The color (hint) coordinates with the petticoat.

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!