An Embroidered Letter Case

I have a weakness for historical accessories. From jewelry to reticules, they are often my favorite part of an outfit. One accessory I’ve long wanted to make is an embroidered letter case or wallet. What could be more perfect for carrying things like money or hotel keys at an event? No more loosing things at the bottom of my pocket or purse!

Beautiful and often highly decorative, yet practical, it’s easy to find extant wallets in museum collections and other places online. The plethora and variety still existing suggests these were a popular accessory but you don’t often see them reproduced. I had wanted to make my own for several years, and I even went so far as to embroider the design two years ago, but I was intimidated when it came to constructing the actual wallet. I set the embroidery aside until last month when I decided I had to finish it for Jenny-Rose’s birthday party.

To construct the wallet I cut out a base from poster board, creasing it where the wallet folded. I then glued the embroidered silk satin to the form and mounted the silk taffeta lining to the satin by hand once the glue was dry. The gussets were hemmed then sandwiched between the lining and outer fabric. It closes with two pieces of silk ribbon, wrapped around and tied in a bow.

In the end, it was much easier to construct than I feared and now I have ideas for half a dozen more!  I want to make a slightly smaller wallet next (to more easily fit in my 18th century pockets), with multiple sections and more embroidery. Also, I want to experiment with the inner stiffener. The poster board worked okay, but it’s a little flimsy. I’m thinking maybe buckram or a thin cardboard would be better.

Posted: 11/19/2014 10:01:41 PM by Aubry | with comments
Filed under: Georgian accessories

Catching my breath.

Life is always crazy, but I’ve felt like I haven't had a chance to stop and take a breath the whole month of October. I came home from Jenny-Rose's party and have been desperately trying to catch up with real life. Things are slowing down and I am finally able to share a bit about the party.

The party was amazing, as expected. Really, Jenny-Rose and her family are the ultimate hosts - warm and welcoming, they always go out of their way to make you feel at home. Plus they know how to throw a damn good party! We started the day with breakfast in our 18th century lounge wear. I wore my banyan (with period appropriate sweater underneath) and lace trimmed cap. There was coffee, tea, hot chocolate, mimosas (all of which I sampled) and incredibly delicious chelsea buns (like cinnamon rolls but 100 times more amazing).

Then, we leisurely dressed and help set up for the hunting picnic outside. It was only a picnic in the loosest sense of the word. We ate at a table with real tablecloths, china, and silver, sipped champagne and stuffed ourselves with amazing 18th century food. Not surprisingly, Jenny-Rose and her dad went above and beyond to make sure the vegetarians had plenty to eat. No mean feat in Georgian cooking! After dinner there was outdoor fun with croquet, badminton, and graces for some while others, such as my lazy self, relaxed on the lawn. It was a beautiful day, and warm enough for me to wear my riding habit without the jacket. I had full range of motion in my arms. It was great!

After a bit of clean up, it was time to change for the evening festivities. We ate cake, played cards, chatted and drank more champagne. I wore my new Italian nightgown, and while it needs a few tweaks before its next outing, I’m really pleased with the silhouette. A combination of lack of sleep and a multi-day migraine meant, I wasn’t at my best over the weekend. It took all I had to just stay present during the party. I didn’t have the extra energy to take many pictures, but I still had a wonderful time with such lovely people. I’ll have a better write up of my dress coming soon, but I’ll leave you with my party pictures for now.

An 18th century filled day.
Posted: 10/28/2014 6:16:12 PM by Aubry | with comments
Filed under: 1780s, events, friends

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
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