Trusting my costuming instincts

I feel I’ve reached a point in my costuming experience where I can safely trust my instincts. I certainly don’t know everything, but I feel like I’ve absorbed enough information that I when I imagine something in my head, I can usually find documentation for it after the fact.



For instance, I purchased some fabric on my recent trip to Williamsburg. I knew I wanted to do something transitional 1790s with it – I envisioned a dress with long sleeves, gathered front, and most importantly, a pleated back with no waist seam. I knew I had seen all three elements separately, but I couldn’t remember finding all three in one gown. There are extant examples of 1790s open robes with pleated backs, and 1780s examples gathered front round gowns, but I could only remember seeing them with a waist seam in back. Still, the idea seemed plausible. That’s the fun thing about transitional fashions; there is room to play and experiment while still staying relativity accurate. Nonetheless, I wanted some documentation, some validation that my instincts were right. I did some more digging and the gown I pictured magically materialized at the MET:


 
Gathered front, longish sleeves, pleated back with no waist seam.


Ok, so it’s not a cotton print but there are enough extant cotton print gowns from this time that I was happy to move ahead with my plan. All this rambling to say, I’ve learned to trust my gut and just take the leap if I’m inspired to make an outfit. It may seem obvious, but its really validating to reach a point in a hobby where you can feel comfortable making these assumptions. I realize this approach isn’t for everyone, especially if you are making something for reenacting purposes, but it’s a design process I really enjoy.

I’ve started the dress construction, and you can see from my Pinterest board the overall look I’m hoping to achieve.
Posted: 4/19/2014 11:45:29 AM by Aubry | with comments
Filed under: 1790s

Chocolate Brocade Details

Before I move on to my next sewing project, I wanted to share a few detail shots and construction notes from my new brocade francaise. As I mentioned earlier, the construction follows the same method I outlined in my Rose Francaise posts.


  

There is a long verticle dart hidden under the robings, and a horizontal tuck at the waist to help the skirt sit nicely over the pocket hoops.


The side skirt pleats are a pair of stacked box pleats. They are stitched together at the top, then slipped between the lining and the outer fabric.

The back pleats, insides, and sleeves. The seams were stitched by folding over one seam allowance and topstitching the fabric with a spaced backstitch. Since the brocade frays terribly, I bound the sleeve seams with vintage rayone seambinding.

 


And finally, I'll leave you with a picture of Luna, the other new addition to our kitty family:

 

Posted: 4/8/2014 1:47:04 PM by Aubry | with comments

Millinery Through Time Highlights

I was thoroughly impressed with my first conference experience at Colonial Williamsburg, last month’s 60th anniversary celebration of the Margaret Hunter Millinery Shop. The presentations were interesting and well-researched, and I came home inspired, my brain buzzing with new information and ideas. Obviously, I can’t share all of the speaker’s hard work on my blog, but I can talk about a few of the program highlights.



Monday’s program opened with a fascinating talk from Janea Whitacre, head milliner and mantua maker at CW, which included an overview of the 18th century millinery trade, as well as a discussion of the different classifications of milliner. She listed off some of the many types of milliners, such as a black milliner who deals in mourning wear; where as a white milliner would deal with wedding accessories. A private milliner would wait on a wealthy client in their home, but a chamber milliner would work and keep a stock of items in her own home. And then there is the hedge milliner, a shady figure who used the trade as a front for prostitution. As many of the other speakers would discuss, the association between milliners and dubious respectability reoccurs often in the contemporary press of the 18th and early 19th century. There was a pervasive link in the public consciousness that engaging in the millinery trade, especially without strong moral guidance, could lead to a loss of virtue in young women and eventual prostitution.    

Janea also explained how milliners might incorporate other branches of the same trade family into their business. For example, a colonial milliner might also work with a trim maker or an artificial flower maker or an embroider to complete the dress or accessory for their customer. Since all these separate skills were needed to complete a fashionable ensemble, it makes sense that they would overlap and that there would be less diversification of trade in areas with smaller populations.


Finally, the talk closed with a practical exploration of the milliner’s skills. First Janea pleated an early 18th century mantua on the form, taking it from a simple t-shaped garment into a fitted dress.


Then, apprentice milliner and mantua-maker, Sarah Woodyard, demonstrated the process of 18th century dress making on a live model. Sarah took us through the first step of cutting out or draping the lining, while Janea explained the other two steps – fitting and making up. The pattern was draped directly on the client, the fashion fabric was cut out using this pattern, and the dress constructed.


Overall, it was an absolutely fascinating way to start the conference and introduce the topics that the rest of the speakers would expand upon later in the program.
Posted: 4/3/2014 2:58:15 PM by Aubry | with comments
Filed under: conferences

Last Minute Sewing

And I’m back! I had an absolutely wonderful time at the Millinery Through Time conference at Colonial Williamsburg last week. I have some fun tidbits to share, but first I will start with what I wore.



Posing in the hotel lobby with sheep!
 
During the opening reception, attendees were encouraged to wear their favorite costume. After some initial hesitation, I decided that yes, I did need to join in on the fun and wore my chocolate brocade francaise.


It being March, I knew I would need to wear some sort of outerwear so I woulnt freeze. Of course I didn't like any of my 18th century outerwear options with my new fran├žaise, so the obvious solution was to make a new short capelet. And sew it almost entirely by hand. Less than a week before I left for Williamsburg. Considering I hate last minute projects, not my brightest plan.


The cloak is made from aqua silk taffeta (left over from my first francaise). It's interlined in flannel for extra warmth and lined in white silk taffeta from Burnley and Trowbridge. The trim is scalloped, fray checked, and whip-gathered.  Because I started this project so late, I ended up sewing on the trim in my hotel room the night before the conference. Oops! But it was finished in time and it ended up being the perfect accessory.


The lining edge is turned under and slipstitched to the body of the cloak by hand.


The only progress picture I took - complete with furry fabric weights.

Posted: 3/24/2014 12:37:48 PM by Aubry | with comments

The Francaise Dinner and Upcoming Plans

I’m back from an exciting and hectic trip to PA for the 3rd annual Francaise Dinner. Between flight delays, long drives, and inclement weather, the trip ended up being more stressful than I had planned, but I still had a wonderful time with friends and it was great to see everyone dressed in their best finery!



My new brocade francaise had it first outing, and on the whole I’m happy with how it turned out. It could use a few tweaks, but for now it’s good. I accessorized with a new blue paste parure from Dames a la Mode (I’m not one to resist new shiny), and its simplicity complimented the dress perfectly. I even got to wear earrings for the first time! I don’t have pierced ears, but Taylor offers most of her styles in clip-ons, meaning I now can have a full jewelry set. I find this way more exciting than I probably should.


 
Even more exciting is the fact that I will get to wear this dress again in less than two weeks! I will be attending the upcoming millinery conference in Williamsburg, and I plan to squeeze in at least one dress up evening while I’m there. I’m really looking forward to the conference and I hope to see some of you there!



Posted: 3/6/2014 12:55:11 PM by Aubry | with comments
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