Accepting Imperfection

With the event less than a week away I’ve finished my new striped dress, including the dreaded sleevils, but the accessories and habit revamp haven’t gone according to plan.

First I cut the cap too large and then I trimmed it down too far and it was too small. So frustrating and such a sad waste of beautiful silk! (Although, I can reuse it for something later.) Then when I attempted to fix the armscythes on my habit, I realized it would require me to recut the entire front of the jacket, and I just don’t have time or inclination for that. I almost started trying to style a new wig for myself, but I know better than to try hair in a frazzled state. It’s my nemesis at the best of times and I would probably destroy the wig if I was on a deadline.

So I’m accepting my imperfections – the wrinkles on my new dress bodice, the T-Rex arms on my riding habit, wearing my old wig, and no new cap. I could spend the next week frantically trying to fix everything and maybe show up with a perfect outfit, or I could just embrace the flaws and arrive relatively stress free. It’s a bit lazy, I know, but I have to remind myself sometime imperfection is ok. There is too much stress and pressure in real life; I don’t need to give myself more. So  I’m going to go to the event, have a great time with friends I see only once or twice a year, and feel like a pretty princess. And that is good enough.

Posted: 10/12/2014 1:39:18 PM by Aubry | with comments
Filed under: 1780s

Italian Nightgown Progress

Progress on my new 1780s Italian nightgown has been steady but slow. We are in the middle of remodeling our kitchen, plus I decided to hand sew the entire thing, meaning I have very little to show for the past month.  But the dress is coming together beautifully, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

This project has been such a fun experiment! The divided bum roll makes such a dramatic silhouette and really emphasizes the skirt pleats and curved back seams. When I started pleating and attaching the skirt to the bodice over the new rump so much about the construction on extant gowns clicked!  It suddenly made sense why the skirt was shaped and pleated to curve around the sides but meet in the center. Really, it was another light bulb moment. (This project is full of them, it seems.)

Now I just have sleeves and trim left to add before the party in 3 weeks. I’m also hoping to make some new accessories, including a new poufy cap and maybe a new wig, and I need to tweak my riding habit slightly before I wear it again. The front armscythes are way too tight and I would like to eat and move comfortably in this outfit.

Posted: 9/26/2014 1:19:50 PM by Aubry | with comments
Filed under: 1780s

The Bum Shop

Before I could start patterning my new 1780s gown, I needed a new and improved skirt support.

"The Bum Shop",1785. Lewis Walpole Library.

With my previous attempt at this style, I wasn’t entirely happy with shape of the back of the skirt. I used my standard bumroll, which works for some outfits, but doesn’t give the dramatic hip flare or accentuate the bottom bodice point like you see so often in portraits and fashion plates of the mid to late 1780s. When I saw the divided bumroll that the Colonial Williamsburg milliners made to go under the Italian gown worn during the March conference, it was like a light bulb went off in my head. A complete ah hah moment! That is how you get that shape!  Using "The Bum Shop" print, as well as the CW milliner’s version as inspiration, I decided to try my hand at this style of skirt support.

My new rump is made from pale pink striped linen (to match my petticoat and other undies, because I’m cool like that). It is two separate pillows attached to a half petticoat. Each piece was assembled separately and then the pillows were whipstitched to the petticoat waistband. I have no idea if this is how it was constructed in the period, but it seemed logical to me.

 I’ve never made a skirt support with an attached petticoat, but I was pleasantly surprised at the extra fullness it added to the skirt, as well as the way it actually supported the pillows, keeping the close against my back instead of slipping down like my others always do. I also made it with a wide waistband instead of ties to help keep it snug against my waist/hips and keep the pressure off my lower back.  Both features really helped make this the most comfortable 18th century skirt support I’ve ever worn. I can’t wait to experiment with more styles and see if this theory holds true!

Posted: 9/5/2014 3:20:43 PM by Aubry | with comments
Filed under: 1780s

Moving On – The Italian Nightgown

With Costume College over, it’s time to start prepping for my next event.

In October I will be attending an 18th century weekend party. Because it’s a multipart event, I will need a full wardrobe – a breakfast/lounging outfit, something to wear for an outdoor picnic, and an evening dress. I have plenty of ideas for new dresses for each change, but I’m trying to stay practical and realistic so I will only be making one new outfit (unless I magically end up with a lot of extra free time in the coming months). I’ll wear my brocade banyan for breakfast, maybe with a new pair of jumps so I don’t have to wear a corset first thing in the morning, and for the picnic my blue-green riding habit will be just right. That just leaves me with something new and shiny to make for the evening party.

The dress code for the party is 1780s, meaning it’s the perfect opportunity to try an idea that has been floating around in my head for months. I have some blue pinstripe silk taffeta in my stash that will make a lovely late 1780s evening gown with curved back seams, a long center back point, and a dramatically dived false rump. I made a Pinterest board (because that’s what I do), but one of my biggest inspirations is the green striped dress in this portrait.  I love the three-quarter length sleeves and the overall silhouette.

I plan to accessorize the dress with a peridot parure (from Dames a la Mode), some green bows, and a new sheer poufy cap thing ™. I even found navy and gold dot silk organza that will make a wonderful accent for the cap! 
Posted: 8/15/2014 9:03:28 PM by Aubry | with comments
Filed under: 1780s

The Navy Figured Spencer and Green Bonnet

My original plan for the Costume College Ice Cream Social was to join in on the Game of Thrones fun. I had a Margaery Tyrell inspired costume planned and even started when I ran into trouble. My perfectly fitted pattern didn’t translate into a perfectly fitted bodice, and while the costume isn’t a total loss, it needs work. More work and mental energy than I had time for with a deadline looming.

Photo courtesy of Sara at Gilded Garb

Obviously, I needed a quick and easy new outfit to wear. Thank goodness for base patterns that fit! Inspired by this spencer at the MET, I modified pattern from my cross-front dress, scooping the front neckline and changing the back seamlines to make a more dramatic diamond shape. The back could be a lot narrower (as you see in so many originals), but that would have required redrafting the sleeve and I did not have the time or the patience for that. For more of my spencer inspiration, you can check out my Pinterest board.

The spencer is made from navy figured silk from Burnley and Trowbridge. The fabric has a woven stripe alternating with little green dots and is just lovely! I lined it in navy taffeta, and with the exception of a few details, it is constructed almost entirely by machine. I planned to add self-trim like the extant spencer, but in the end I loved the elegant simplicity of the untrimmed neckline.

The bonnet was a happy accident. I was attempting to pattern a hat like this, but since I'm a indifferent milliner at the best of times I ended up with a bonnet. It was super cute so I just went with it. All my good hats are really just flukes.  The bonnet is a buckram base, wired for support, and mulled with cotton flannel. The outer layer is green silk taffeta, with a pleated crown for interest. I lined the brim with pleated white taffeta and decorated the hat with self-fabric bows and my favorite spray of pink flowers. The trimmings are just pinned on so I can swap them out later for a different look. I'm all about re-purposing accessories and trims, if you couldn't tell.

Photo courtesy of Sara at Gilded Garb

Posted: 8/10/2014 5:28:08 PM by Aubry | with comments
Filed under: 1790s, 1800s
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