|My, aren't we fine, although blown about and rained upon by a storm getting to the ball. |
The altered open robe and petticoat as worn to this year's Jane Austen
Festival ball. That's Polly with me: we had
Eleven years ago this summer, almost to the week, the costume I am most proud of -- self drafted, hand sewn and hand-embroidered -- left my hands and needle, was packed in a dress bag, driven to Louisville, and worn at the Jane Austen Ball. For several years after, I wore the circa 1795 cream open robe for different events and with different petticoats and accessories. I felt as elegant in it as in anything I've ever worn for any reason.
In 2019, when I thought to try on the robe, not only were the heavily boned stays to go under it unbearably tight, but it got stuck on my shoulders, half on, half off, and it took an awful deal of wriggling to work my way out. Phoo...phoooeeey, as Pogo would say.
The pretty kitty in the GIF managed their extrication more elegantly than I did.
Well, here it is 2021 and the robe was still sausage-tight despite a few pounds gone. Walk away from my favorite outfit? No, no no. Time to enlarge it, much as people back in the day would have*. Here then is the tale of alterations.
* For example, see "The Multiple Lives of Clothes: Alteration and Reuse of Women’s Eighteenth-Century Apparel in England" by Carolyn Dowdell. PhD thesis, Queen's University, 2015.
Enlarging the Body of the Bodice, Part 1
This process suffered an initial hitch although the results ended up well. At first all that seemed needed was adding a narrow panel of fabric under the armscye, adding width where I was thicker than 10 years ago. So I disassembled one side of the dress, removing the sleeve and the front piece.
Why just one side? So that
- I could look at the hand stitches used originally, and replicate them -- each section is sewn using the seam and stitch best meant for the purpose, mostly lapped seams and spaced backstitch. Boy, did this reduce thinking and worrying time.
- I could see exactly how much fabric was added and test the fit a little compared to the original. That plan worked just barely well enough.
I took as exact a pattern of the front piece as I could by laying it onto a large piece of newsprint and tracing around it, and worked out a little additional pattern piece to go next to the front piece under the armpit. Here it is, below.
|The new front piece, both lining and fashion fabric, basted together |
and pinned to the rest of the robe to test it.
|Spaced-backstitching the sleeve into place.|
Try-on and Completing the Sewing
Re-attaching the Robe Skirts
|The back of the gown narrowly pleated and whipped to the finished bodice bottom.|
Re-attaching Lace Trim
|The lace, tacked on|
Worn to a Ball
|Wrapping a vintage silk taffeta sash in the hair and draping a lock of hair over it.|
Arrr, the wind blew the lace around.
|Happy but attempting to remain dry|
on the second deck
|Missy kitty napping in my mother's den. She's mostly Maine Coon, has|
short little legs, big soft paws, an awesome amount of fur,
and a sweet, calm and affectionate nature.
Her fur curls on her tummy!