I recently met up with friends from the Massachusetts Costumers to attend a colonial faire. It was a cold, damp, day so we had the opportunity to pull out warm clothes and accessories like mitts, muffs, and cloaks.
I wore the 1780s green striped robe a la anglaise I made last September, but I changed some things in an effort to make the ensemble look less costume-y.
First, I made a matching petticoat out of the remaining bit of striped fabric I had. I had enough to make the front stripes run vertically, but in the back the stripes are only vertical for about 12″ and then I hd to do lots of piecing to even have enough fabric. Right above the vertical stripes are stripes that run horizontal, and above that are remnants of my green 1900 skirt from Newport. And I really do mean remnants! There are 3 rows of pieced in remnants, some of those are even pieced together with vertical seams to be wide enough! Of course, you can’t see all of the crazy piecing, since the skirt of the anglaise covers it. And I was rather in a hurry while doing all of this, so I have to confess that I did not iron any of my seams… or my hem… Bad behavior, I know!
Second, I decided to wear the anglaise a la polonaise. I did this in part to keep it out of the mud in the fields we would be wandering through, and partly because I found multiple examples of striped robes a la anglaise with matching petticoats that were worn a la polonaise.
Third, I decided against wearing the straw hat I wore last year. The shape of the brim is good, but the crown is too high for the 18th century and the ribbon wasn’t sewn on in an 18th century decorative way. I thought of adding that same blue silk ribbon to my 1912 ivory mushroom hat since that hat shape also appears in the 18th century… but it seemed a bit too much to have an ivory silk hat to wander around muddy fields. Plus, after completing my hair style, I realized that I hadn’t made my hair big enough to support the hat (and I didn’t want to cover up the rolls I had attempted in the back!).
Fourth, I attempted a new hair style with rolls in the back. I don’t think I quite made it, since it kind of looks like edible buns on the back of my head… But it was an experiment, and I learned some things, so it wasn’t a total bust. I separated the hair on the front part of my head and brushed it out and hair sprayed it upside down to add volume. Then I actually put it into a pony tail on the back of my head, which I pinned in place to create the poof in front. I then separated the pony tail into those three sections and rolled them individually. I took the remaining bottom section of hair, brushed it out a little, and pinned it up so it would fall from the bottom roll, rather than the base of my scalp.
Fifth, I wore my new 18th century muff! The muff is from one of the classes I took at Dress U this summer, with Stephanie Pool. It’s stuffed with 100% down and is super warm. The blue silk cover is removable, so I can make lots of covers and have interchangeable muffs! I was hoping to have the blue silk ribbon on my head to complement the muff, but that didn’t happen. Incidentally, muffs make rather good pockets… I was able to put a little bag with my phone, money, etc. in it as well as my camera inside my muff!
I did sort of give up and not try super hard for accuracy when I was getting dressed. I decided not to wear stockings, because I didn’t want them to get dirty. I couldn’t find any shoes that were remotely 18th century-like. I clearly need to make some under petticoats and readdress my bum pad/roll situation (I had also made my bum pad smaller, since it seemed so large last year… but this year my skirts looked a little sad and droopy… so maybe I went too far?). I need to actually hem the silk tucked into my bodice, so it’s not a full square of fabric… Oh also, I guess I need to make some simple pockets, until I learn embroidery and make some fancy embroidery pockets as I mentioned earlier this year.
At this point, I am going to freely admit that I rather failed at creating an outfit that is historic clothing, rather than a historic costume. Certainly, there are some aspects of this ensemble that are correct. For example, I’m very pleased that I cut my sleeves so that the stripes go around my arm, not vertically. I think my trim is well done and really makes good use of the fabric I selected. And I like the scale of my stripes, but feel that the fabric is really not the right choice for a piece of historic clothing, rather than a historic costume. In addition to that knowledge, I have learned a lot about the construction of 18th century clothing, which I did not know when I made this last year. For example, I now know how to make petticoats the correct way, and how to construct the bodice of the robe the correct way, and how to sew the shoulder straps the correct way. I plan to make more 18th century things in the next year, so I will be sharing these sources with you as I go so that you will be able to gain this knowledge as well.
In the end, I’ve chalked this green anglaise up to experience, as every seamstress has to do, now and again. We all have to start somewhere. It’s pretty rare that the first thing you make from a totally new era is as correct as you want it to be!
Here’s a few more shots from the day, of me and my companions. Enjoy!
Oh yes, and I’ve realized I don’t have any shoes that are remotely 18th century-like. So I need to deal with that too… I want yellow ones!…