Category Archives: Accessories

A Chemisette (HSM #3)

I’ve wanted a Regency chemisette to complete my daytime looks since 2012, even going so far as to purchase a specific tool with the intent on using it for a chemisette ruffle. (Unfortunately, my cast iron crinkle cutter has been a very useful doorstop for the last few years but hasn’t been used at all for its actual purpose! To be fair, it still hasn’t been used for its actual purpose, but at least I know now that I have a chemisette pattern that fits, which makes me more likely to try it out for a more finely pleated collar version in the future.)

I’m so happy with this chemisette! I had sized up a chemisette pattern from Janet Arnold years ago, but it didn’t fit me as is, so for this I used the pattern for a pelisse I’m working on as a starting point for fit and the Janet Arnold pattern as a reference for grain lines and overall shape.

The fabric is ‘silky cotton voile’ from Dharma Trading. I used it for Annabelle, one of my mid-19th century dresses and had the perfect long straight scraps left for cutting out a chemisette! The weight of the fabric is lovely and so comfortable to wear and it’s nice and sheer just like a chemisette should be. Plus, it behaved so well, finger pressing as I did the seams and the pleats on the two collar layers.

I decided to add this garment to the list of Regency things I’m trying to get together for an event in April rather at the last minute. I was going on vacation with a very long travel time ahead of me and decided that having a hand sewing project would suit me very well. I found the time to cut the pieces and then hand sewed most of it while I was away, using nail clippers as my scissors. (I didn’t want to get in an argument with TSA about how the length of the blade on my thread snipping scissors actually is within their regulations.)

The chemisette uses a combination of running, whip, and slip stitches for the seams and narrow hems. It ties below the bust using a 1/4″ cotton twill tape. I thought of putting a closure at the neck, but decided against it as there are images of chemisettes being worn open at the neck (like this) and I really like that look on me rather than the head-on-a-platter look of it closed (see a mix of styles including that here). If I had closures but decided to wear the chemisette open at the neck you would see them and I don’t love that idea.

March’s HSM challenge is The Great Outdoors and I’m calling this chemisette a fit for the challenge, as I intend to wear it with a pelisse for an outdoor promenade. Plus, chemisettes are useful for protecting the skin from the sun (which of course you are so much more likely to be exposed to while outdoors!).

So, here are just the facts.

Fabric: Leftover bits of silky cotton voile from another project.

Pattern: Based off of my own, but referencing those in Janet Arnold.

Year: c. 1810.

Notions: Thread and 1/4″ cotton twill tape.

How historically accurate is it?: I’m going to go with 100% on this one. The materials are good and so is the method.

Hours to complete: I didn’t pay attention because I was leisurely sewing this while on vacation. Maybe 8-10?

First worn: Will be worn in April.

Total cost: All from the stash! Free!

Vernet Project: Petticoat and Muff Details

As the end of this year draws nearer, I feel the urge to complete my plan to share all the details of my 1814 Vernet Ensemble before the end of 2016. In order to do that, I have the smaller garments to discuss (petticoat and muff) and the witzchoura itself, which I know some people have had questions about for probably about a year. Sorry to keep you waiting!

As I’m saving the witzchoura to be the grand finale, today I want to share some details about the petticoat and muff. First, here are some repeat pictures of the full ensemble in case you’ve started reading since this project was unveiled. Both of these pictures are from my Vernet Project photo shoot in 2015. They give you a good glimpse at the petticoat and the muff.

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The muff exterior is the same faux fur as the trim on the witzchoura. The lining is an ivory cotton flannel, which feels warmer on the hands than a silk lining and which I don’t think is out of the realm of possibility in terms of historical reasonability (a theory I have tested out with multiple muffs over the last few years).

In order to get the distinctly Regency style of a beehive style muff, the inner flannel lining is substantially smaller in dimension than the exterior fur. Layers of high loft polyester batting fill in the shape and the fur actually wraps to the inside of the lining for a few inches on each side and is gathered to fit the smaller circumference of the lining. The result is a very large and very cozy muff. (This method is different than making the interior and exterior the same or similar in dimensions, resulting a muff that looks like my 1822 one. The blog post sharing details about that muff has lots of great images of both types of muffs from this period, if you want to see more. Also, it’s worth noting that polyester batting would not have been used to keep one’s hands warm in the early 19th century, but that I chose that materials because I had it on hand and it is not visible.)

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The petticoat is the only piece of my Vernet project that existed before I agreed to participate. It started life as part of a dress, but was removed and languished for years. Turns out I had made it too narrow to dance in, which isn’t very useful in my life. On the bright side, I had just enough of the cotton fabric left to add another panel, thus making the hem circumference much more wearable.

The petticoat had an attached sleeveless bodice before the addition of extra fabric in the skirt, so after adding fullness I was able to simply reattach the bodice. The edges of the bodice are narrow hemmed and it closes at center front with a tie at the waist and a button and loop at the bust. This past blog post discusses extant sleeveless underdresses or petticoats such as this. As with everything else in this project, both this petticoat and the muff are entirely hand sewn.

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The only other changes I needed to make to the petticoat to use it for the Vernet Project were at the hem. I started by adding lace that mimicked the shape of the embroidery seen in my Vernet fashion plate. I whip stitched the lace on with small stitches and then cut away the fabric behind the lace, creating a lovely scalloped hem.

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After trying on the petticoat with the finished hem, I decided it was too long and took a tuck above the hem to shorten it. You can see the tuck in one of the photo shoot pictures early in this post.

This final picture is from when I was hemming the witzchoura. While I had that garment on the dress form I also put the petticoat on to determine the placement  of the lace on the previously hemmed petticoat.

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And that’s it! Those two garments were minor in scale compared to the toque de velours, silly shoes, and the witzchoura itself, both in terms of materials and sheer volume of work involved.

An Introduction To Eleanor (HSM #10)

The Historical Sew Monthly challenge for October is Heroes – Make a garment inspired by your historical hero, or your historical costuming hero.

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You may or may not know that one of my favorite movies is Gone With The Wind. (I posted about this topic years ago when the blog was in its infancy–most of what I claimed then is still true and the 1860s will always have a special place in my heart, but I can now say that other periods give me excited wiggles too!) You can read the old blog post to get more specifics, but the essential point is that despite her personal shortcomings and the turbulent and controversial history of the period, Scarlett reminds me of the clothing that I love and therefore is an historical costuming hero to me.

And this gown has an added historical hero, Eleanor ‘Felcie’ Bull, who came to my rescue when I was contemplating what sleeve style to give my dress.

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Eleanor “Felicie” Bull. 1863.

Prior to finding her image, I had been planning to name this dress Johanna, in honor of the friend who convinced me that I needed the fabric a few years ago. But I had sort of decided this was weird, since all my other dresses from this period have names that I like, but that are not from a specific living person. Once I found this image I was completely overtaken with excitement–I love the name Eleanor and there she was, helping me out! The choice was obvious.

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I made a new hair decoration to go with Eleanor. I had the perfect stem of purple velvet leaves, but no flowers to match the dress. So I dyed some white millinery flowers to a golden yellow. They have a fluffier texture than before being dyed, but the color is perfect. Using millinery flowers brings me so much joy, because it’s easy to shape any section since each stem is fully wired. And I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to wear my Dames a la Mode purple earrings and necklace.

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Regarding dress construction, we must start with a bit of a personal habit, or perhaps a theory, though I’m not sure it’s as thought out as that. When the opportunities arise for me to make multiple garments from the same period that could be carbon copies of each other in different fabrics (so much speedier on the patterning and planning front!), I hardly ever take that easy road. I am drawn to exploring the small variations.

So it is with Eleanor. I decided to: knife pleat her skirt instead of box pleating, cartridge pleating, or gathering; to make a plain darted bodice instead of using seams or gathers; to make the bodice straight across all around, which is more unusual for evening gowns made of silk than having points in front and back; to overlap and topstitch her side back seams; to omit the oft-seen bertha around the neckline; and to have single puff bias cut sleeves. These things all make this dress just slightly different than my others from this period, adding a bit of thought and time to the process. And if we’re talking about time, let’s just mention how mind-boggling cutting plaid pieces with curved seams and darts is when the pattern matching is important to you!

I collected images of plaid gowns with a focus on evening bodices and noticed these features, which is why I decided on them. The most useful images are in one place here, on my Pinterest board for the project. I was contemplating the sleeve type when I came across Eleanor ‘Felcie’ Bull. Interestingly, she shows all of those traits I’d decided on. I loved her simple sleeves and restrained bodice trimming, which then set me on an extensive Ebay and Etsy hunt to find just the right brooches to replicate her style. Yes, I did look through about 150 pages of bow brooches to find just the right one for less than $15. Plus many pages of gold oval brooches. I couldn’t have wished for better results! Remember the look I gave you a look a few posts ago? The only thing I did was to brush the oval brooch (which is new, not vintage) with a bit of brown acrylic paint to bring it down to the old gold color of the bow brooch.

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Other construction details include flatlining the bodice and facing the skirt in a remnant of dusty mauve cotton from my stash (used it up, yay!), creating boning channels in the darts to keep the front nicely shaped, and finishing the neck and bottom edge of the bodice as well as the armholes with very narrow cording.

Just the facts:

Fabric: About 6 yards of silk taffeta and 1 yard of cotton.

Pattern: Adapted from Past Patterns #702, 1850s-1863 Dart Fitted Bodices and Period Costumes for Stage and Screen as a reference for the sleeves.

Year: 1862, given the details that I decided on.

Notions: Thread, hooks and bars, canvas to interline the belt, narrow yarn for cording, and plastic wire ties for boning the bodice.

How historically accurate is it?: I’m going to go with 99% on this one. Materials and methods are well researched and executed. This would be entirely recognizable in its time.

Hours to complete: I really didn’t keep track. But I can safely say many!

First worn: October 22 for a ball.

Total cost: $98 total: $68 for the silk, $10 for bow brooch, and $18 for the oval brooch.

I’ll end this with my photographic homage to Eleanor ‘Felcie’ Bull.

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Picturesque Regency Moments

During this year’s Regency Dance Weekend, we captured some of my all time absolute favorite shots of my Tree Gown. I saved them for this post rather than including them in the overview of the weekend.

These first few were taken at our hotel. While the blue walls don’t scream Regency to me, they do coordinate nicely with my dress and make for a stunning background. The idea behind these is along Lizzy Bennet lines–lounging in a windowsill while comfortably contemplating life. This gown has the most beautiful drape to the skirt! It’s soft and full without being too fluffy.

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The next batch was taken at tea. One of my friends had brought the book and it is perfect for us, since we know a dance called Sir Roger de Coverley that was danced during this period. I had to pose with it!

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Then we went on our promenade, where we got some excellent photos of the gown with accessories: shawl, spencer, and bonnet. I like how the tree mimics the flowers on my bonnet.

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Mixing up my Jane Austen stories, these pictures by the water remind me so much of Persuasion and the unfortunate visit to Lyme. I just love everything about this outfit! The fabrics, the details in the trimmings… it all coordinates so well without being perfectly matching!

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Gibson Girl Vignette

In September, my friends and I had a last picnic of the season to take advantage of the summer weather before it faded into fall. Along with other picnics we’ve had in the past, we again met up in the Boston Public Garden with our picnic blankets, food, drink, and croquet set.

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We’d decided on a turn of the 20th century theme for our clothing and I took the opportunity to dig a 1903 outfit out of the closet that I don’t think I’ve worn since 2012, at Dress U and Newport Vintage Dance Week. It’s an orchid lawn skirt (and a bolero I didn’t wear this time) and a white silk and cotton lace blouse.

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This wearing, my hat had been re-trimmed in a more pleasing fashion than when I wore it in 2012 (in fact, all the lovely millinery flowers are only pinned on so it’s easy to change, not that I’ve bothered since I put the flowers on about two years ago) and I had practiced my Gibson Girl hair in January and now know how to achieve the look with minimal effort.

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I was very pleased with the result! Next time I plan to wear a hat with a Gibson Girl style I’ll put the opening of my hair pad at the top of my head rather than the bottom, and likely leave a little space to make the front a bit more flat so my hat doesn’t tilt up. Where’s the fun if I don’t learn something new every time I wear historical clothing?

A Hint Of Coming Projects

It’s pretty busy here at the moment. I’ve been spending most of my energy doing productive life things, which hasn’t left a lot of energy for writing blog posts. In the meantime, I’ve been plotting what my next projects will be. The big ones on the to-do list right now are a new 1860s evening gown for later in October and a first ever 1830s evening gown for December. I thought I’d share a little taste of those two projects. Sparkly bits that will be incorporated into each gown!

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Summer Dots

In June, I went to a picnic in the Boston Public Garden. As it was an open era event, I decided to wear my 1953 dot dress because it is easy and cool to wear in the summer heat.

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I took a long time styling my hair to look like this image from 1954. It’s quite a feat to tame the frizz and there was a moment of woe and frustration, but I didn’t have time to start again, so I continued on and was happy with the end result despite the angst in the middle of the process. Looking effortless is so much work!

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Charm Magazine, 1954

Picnicking! I plopped down to eat and then didn’t move much until picture time.

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I love how the pictures turned out! I purchased a new parasol to use this summer for 1920s events, but it matched this dress very nicely so I brought it along to the picnic. Raspberry is one of my favorite colors.

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There was a crowd of people watching the picnic most of the day, but we managed to get a lot of pictures without them. Yay! I don’t mind being gawked at (I’m rather used to it actually) but I do usually like images that don’t have modern dressed people in the background better.

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The palms remind me of Florida, and this picture’s story in my head is that I’m on vacation there in the 1950s.

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I may look composed in these pictures, but when I run out of pre-thought pose ideas chaos ensures. I often start waving my arms around wildly, talking (producing odd faces when captured as a picture), and flinging my legs around. Here’s an example. There are a a range of caption ideas that pop into my head here: ‘hi-ya!’ and ‘at the bat’ most often.

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I hope you’re enjoying your summer, too! It’s so nice that the days are long and there are lovely days for sitting in the park or other outdoor activities!