1817 Gold Stripes And Face Framing Curls

Back in February, I was able to re-wear my 1817 Gold Stripe Duchess Gown to The Commonwealth Vintage Dancers’ annual Regency Ball.

I love this dress! The sheer fabric is unusual to see in modern recreation settings and has lots of body, making for a lovely shape that is fun to dance in. It turns out that the gold stripe is rather neutral, so I’ve had fun accessorizing it in different ways this spring. We’ll start with this wearing, but there’s another one to blog about as well!

This time I decided to add a bit of color to the dress by adding a wide chartreuse organza sash with a simple bow in the back and rather long ends. (I’m all for variation in ribbon sashes for Regency dresses. In fact, I wrote a post detailing different sash styles a number of years ago!)

I also added lovely new jewelry from In The Long Run Designs. The color I chose, jonquil, is a light yellow color . It compliments my skin tone and adds quite a bit of neutral-toned sparkle to my ensembles (the goal was to match as many dresses as possible so I can get the most use out of the set).

The day of the ball I thought I had lots of time and so I decided on a whim to do a complicated hair style with face curls. It turns out I was off by an hour but I didn’t realize it until I was in the car! Thankfully I arrived in time and didn’t cause anyone else issues with my lateness. Oops! But I was very pleased with my hair (and the fact that it was done before I arrived to get dressed definitely helped offset the fact that I was late).

The hairstyle is directly inspired by the following image of Maria Leopoldine of Austria from 1815 (source). I have a note that it was painted by Friedrich Johann Gottlieb Lieder but I can’t find documentation for that detail outside of my note-to-self. Maria Leopoldine caught my eye because I love big braid buns (my hair does volume so well!) and I thought it was high time to try face curls again (see my 2014 attempt and a different narrower circumference of curl in 2016 to see other attempts I’ve posted about).

So off I went with a curling iron to try and reproduce this hairstyle. Given that I thought I had lots of time, I even took photos of the process so I could share it with you!

Let me start by saying that yes, even though my hair is curly I still use a curling iron (or other curling method) to get precise curls. To show the difference, here’s my hair at a partially done stage. You can see the curling iron curls to the left of my forehead and chin with my natural curls being held sideways in between them and on the right side of my face.

How did I get to that point? I’ve determined that great looking historical hairstyles are often styled in many parts. The complicated thing about face framing curls with my hair is that it’s all quite long: past my shoulders when it’s curly and almost to the middle of my back when it’s straight. I don’t have short lengths around my face to curl, so I have to fake it with long lengths that are pinned up to be shorter.

To begin, I split each half of my hair into sections–a front top section, a back top section, a section behind my ear, and the rest of the hair on the back of my head. In the photo above, I’ve already used the curling iron to curl the top back section of hair, pinned up some of the length, and used the front top section of hair to smooth out and cover up the pinned up length. I’ve also curled the back section behind my ear and pinned the curls up to shorten them as well. The rest of the hair is being held out to the side so you can see the different sections I’m referring to.

I realized after taking that photo that I should show a better example of what all of those words mean. So in the next photo I’ve let go of the back section and put a loose hair tie around it to keep it separate from my nicely curled sections. And I’ve curled the back top section of the other side of my hair, but I haven’t pinned those curls up to shorten or arrange them. I’m holding the front top section up in the air so you can see how untamed the curling iron curls look before being arranged.

The curls are the hard part. After arranging the top front sections and pinning them down around the back of my head it was a matter of wrapping and pinning up the back sections to look nice and make a big bun on the top of my head. I’m pretty sure I used a big bun form under there (the medium one from my Versailles hair in 2016–and for reference that post pretty clearly shows how long my hair is–it’s great for volume but can be a lot to wrangle), but it’s hard to remember as that was now almost three months ago and I didn’t take photos of those steps!

The final step was to wrap and pin my trusty (and yikes, 15 years old!) faux braid around the bun and give the whole thing a liberal dose of hairspray!

I love that I’ve found a new look for this dress and a new historical hairstyle. Looking at the photos, it doesn’t look like my braid bun is quite as large or wide as Maria Leopoldine’s (I’ll have to try again someday!). Despite that, I was very pleased with the face framing curls and the bouncing curls behind my ears. The style felt very regal!

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1925 Lace Cloche

I knew I wanted a cloche to go with my 1925 Blue Coral Dress from early on in the process of making it. It was going to be hot when I wore the dress, so I knew I wanted something that would both look and feel lightweight. Turns out any hat was warmer than a bare head (well, one with hair on it!), but that being said, I think this was on the right track with a lightweight hat.

I considered making the cloche from fabric, but couldn’t decide on a style with seams that I liked. However, as I was browsing my Pinterest board, my eyes kept settling on straw, horsehair, and lace hats. It seemed like that was the way to go.

I didn’t have any particular materials on hand or in mind for that type of hat but I had come across a modern cotton lace cloche on Amazon for $14 that seemed like a good starting point. It’s no longer available, but I’m sure a careful search could find something similar. To the right is what it looked like before I started changing it up.

Generally, modern cloches have such a deep crown that they don’t leave any space for hair arranged on the back of the head. I have long hair, so that just doesn’t work for me. Cloches from the 1920s frequently have a cutout in the back to allow for your neck… or hair! They also have more interesting brims than modern cloches often do. Perfect. That’s what I wanted. An interesting brim and a cutout for my hair.

With my design plan in place, I started disassembling the modern cloche. First, I removed the braided band and flower. Then, I started unwrapping the lace on the brim, taking out the stitching that held one circumference to the next. I stopped at the bottom of the crown. I removed the inner hat band for most of the way around the hat, so I could stitch the new brim shape and the back cutout without stitching through the hat band.

Next, I played with the lace I had unwrapped for the brim to decide on a new shape. Once I made some decisions I had to make a few shorter pieces out of the lace, but most of it I tried to keep intact. In the back, I decided where I wanted my cut out to be… and cut it! Then I bound the edge using the lace and topstitched it down to encase the edges.

It was a bit tricky to find an acceptable shape for the new brim. The first few tries were so similar in shape to the crown of the hat that they hardly showed when I put it on my head. I ended up with a brim that flares out a bit so it stands away from the crown of the hat, especially in the front. I had to be careful to cover the ends of the plastic horsehair braid that backs the cotton lace, as it is very poky when cut. I covered the ends either by turning them under or having the inner hat band cover them.

After sorting out the brim and back cutout it was time to reattach the inner hat band. Then I sewed on my trim. Here’s what the hat looked like on the inside after all that.

I’ve loved Leimomi’s cloche decoration in this post since she posted about it in 2014. Having that in mind, I thought of what bits of trim I already had in my stash and what might work for this hat. I decided on a random yard of navy grosgrain ribbon, which I cut into thirds, pleated, and attached in imitation of this hat.

When I styled my hair, I tried to have hair come down to my jawline more than I usually do. I think cloches look less silly if there is some hair showing around them. My hair didn’t really look like a bob, but at least there was some hair showing in the front. In the back, it was pinned into a low twist-y mass of curls.

The great thing about the materials of this hat is that they are intended to be flexible for packing and traveling. Not only is it easy to store this hat but it’s also easy to remove it at a picnic and leave it on the blanket or put it in a bag without worrying that it will be damaged. It can get crushed and bounce back into shape!

In the end, I continue to think my head looks like an egg when I wear a cloche. I like styles that don’t hug my head better! That’s my own feeling–other people don’t think it’s nearly as egg-like as I do! But as egg-heads go, this was better than some attempts, so I think we’ll call it a success! It certainly looks cute on the fence!

The Simple, The Complicated, & The Continent Part II

In Part I of The Simple, The Complicated, & The Continent, I shared casual pictures from the mid-19th century dance week I attended last August. Now it’s time for the (mostly) more elegant pictures of the formal balls from the week. You’ll see why I say mostly elegant… there are some silly pictures, too!

On the Wednesday of the dance week we had an informal ball at the school. In terms of dancing, it went generally well. We’d had two days of dance classes and we weren’t completed exhausted yet. Everyone looked lovely so it was fun, as always, to admire other people’s ensembles. We were informed that the social custom of Denmark is to only post photos of other people if you have their permission, so I don’t have too many photos I can share of the informal ball, in particular. It’s a reasonable custom, I think, just quite different from what we’re used to in America. It really is the Wild West of willy-nilly picture posting here! Maybe the Wild West village on the grounds of the school made more sense than I thought…

So here I am dressed for the informal ball. My hair was frizzy and big by the evening of the day so I decided to run with it! Big round hair is perfect for the 1858 anyway. I wore Georgina, with her evening bodice. Actually, all of the Americans wore our mid-19th century cotton ballgowns (many of which you can see in this past post), which quite impressed many of the other attendees. We were told that fabrics like these are difficult to find in and around Denmark.

After another two days of classes, the week ended with a formal dinner and ball. We were bussed to the town where these events were to be held (and it was quite an adventure, getting all the large dresses onto the tour buses and into the seats!) and then did a small walking tour of the town before dinner. A new friend snapped this photo of me traipsing across the street after getting some photos taken. I chose my matching crocs to wear around the town before going into dinner and the ball, but I didn’t think anyone would see them!

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Dinner was lovely and then it was time for the ball. It was quite exciting to be attending a formal ball on ‘the continent!’ It sounds so fashionable in a 19th century way!

The ballroom contained actual candles! These are forbidden in many of the halls I normally get to dance in, so that was a nice novelty. They were especially lovely as the light faded outside.

Our hosts provided us with dance cards, which had a convenient hook for hanging the dance card off of a belt or waistband. In my case, the belt on my dress was perfect!

The ballroom was rather small for the number of people we squashed into it, but I suppose that is probably rather accurate for some events in the 19th century. It did mean that the room became quite hot, so I spent a fair bit of time enjoying the lovely garden outside.

As you can see, I wore Eleanor, my plaid silk ball gown. It was a good choice for traveling and it was fun to be elegantly simple in my clothing choice.

Capturing the photographer in a photo! Isn’t it lovely how well their dresses coordinate with the colors in the garden?

Why was I lifting my skirt so scandalously? I think to see how high I could easily lift my leg in my dress. Or perhaps to check my balance? Doesn’t really matter, does it? Silly photos are fun!

I did get permission to share this photo of me with two new friends. Our colors coordinated so well and that uniform was absolutely stunning! And it had fur on the cuffs. Such soft fur! I bet it was boiling hot, but it was also quite dashing!

Unfortunately, by this point in the week we were all brain-dead, so the room in general didn’t do a great job of executing all the dancing we had been working on without many mistakes. That felt like rather a let down, sadly, as it would have been nice to dance at a ball on ‘the continent’ with perfect execution. I guess this gives me another reason to go back and try again some day!

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1864 Evie Hair (Returning Heroes Ball 2018)

In March, I again had the pleasure of attending The Commonwealth Vintage Dancers‘ annual Returning Heroes Ball (you can read about other years I’ve attended here). I decided to wear Evie, my 1864 ballgown, simply because it had been a year or so since the last time I wore that particular gown.

In order to change things up I did two things differently with this wearing: I wore different earrings and did my hair differently. Small changes, but it makes wearing an old dress feel new and exciting!

I don’t think I’ve ever worn these earrings for mid-19th century events before (only for things later and earlier than this period), though now that I’ve tried it I think they work quite well. I made them from triple drop earrings that I bought from a modern store (I forget now, but I think it was New York and Company). I just took off the bottom drop and attached them to clip hardware. They catch the light and sparkle nicely.

1860s and earrings together reminds me of the scene in Gone With The Wind in which a straggling soldier try to steal ‘ear bobs’ from the house. Not that these look at all similar (and luckily my story ends on a happier note than that scene), but a GWTW reference generally makes me smile.

I was going to do a simple hairstyle (my usual go-to c.1860 style with a center part and the hair in a low mass at the back of my head), but as I was getting ready I chanced a look at Pinterest and got excited about trying a more complicated style than I usually do. In particular, I liked the puffed fronts on some of these styles from 1864 and the curls on the sides like some of these from 1861.

I sort of mashed these two looks together, using small rats to puff the front sections of hair and a curling iron to get smooth curls for the sides. My hair is getting to be so long that I had to pin the hanging curls up to shorten them! The rest of my hair was just twisted and pinned on my neck without too much attention paid to it. I was running out of time and knew I’d be adding my hair piece on top, which would cover most of the back of my hair anyway.

I really like the end result for this particular dress of mine. I feel it compliments the hair piece and the silk dress nicely. Isn’t it lovely when all these little details come together to create one cohesive end result? Yay!

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If At First You Don’t Succeed… (HSM #1)

I made this 1928 evening dress and first wore it in 2012. Back then it was simple, with just a small cascade of fabric and no sash or bow (I show the construction in detail in this past post). Three years later, I decided to add the sash, bow, and extra cascade of fabric (and wrote a post about it). I liked the effect but wasn’t pleased with the slippery silk moving all over and sliding around. The armholes were also a bit high under the arms from the beginning, causing the trim to dig in a bit which wasn’t very comfortable.

Due to these issues and the addition of other 1920s evening dresses to my wardrobe I hadn’t worn this dress in a few years. But for an event this January, I decided to give it another go. Luckily, the dress still fit and didn’t cling in unwanted places! The first HSM challenge of 2018, Mend, Reshape, Refashion, was the perfect complement for the updates I wanted to complete.

To be specific about the updates, this time I lowered the armholes about 1″ and then pieced in extra trim to fill in the gap, sewed the sash/bow in place, and added an interior waistband that supports the weight of the bow and keeps the dress from pulling down on one side.

Our hotel room had a bonus vanity table and stool that was a perfect prop for photos…

I did my hair like I did last year but added a gold hair comb I recently discovered at my parent’s house. I’m pretty sure my mom gave it to me when I was a child or maybe a teenager… It’s just been sitting there waiting for me to put it to use again!

Just the facts:

Fabric: The only new fabric was a scrap of tightly woven polyester for an inner waistband.

Pattern: My own, based on measurements.

Year: 1928.

Notions: Extra trim to piece under the arms, thread.

How historically accurate is it?: Let’s say 95%, with points lost for the polyester.

Hours to complete: The updates took about 4 hours. I felt like hand sewing most of it so I could watch Netflix!

First worn: With the updates in January, 2018.

Total cost: Free!

I love how this dress looks and fits now! Yay! It only took three tries… It’s a good lesson: if you don’t succeed the first time, try again! And keep trying…! Third time is the charm on this one!

 

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1933 Dress & Hat In Green & Gold (HSM #10)

The summer was incredibly busy and the things I was making unfortunately didn’t fit into the HSM challenges, but I’m hoping to get back to it for the end of the year. In that spirit, I finished a dress that qualifies for the HSM Challenge #10: Out Of Your Comfort Zone. I’m a bit late posting about it because it took me two tries to have a successful photo shoot and then a bit of time to edit my photos, but nevertheless, the dress was completed within the deadline. It qualifies in that I’m expanding into 1930s daywear with the making of this dress.

Unlike some garments I make which have a specific wearing in mind, this was different in that I was trying the idea out to see if this 1933 shape would be flattering on me. I do like the silhouette a lot and so hopefully I’ll make more similar dresses in the future. The years right around 1933 are a great mix of awfully silly, with their big neck frills/bows and unusual sleeves, and wonderfully elegant, with long hems that look especially flattering on those of us blessed with height.

The inspiration for this dress came from looking through many books of 1930s clothing. I wanted to try out the longer length bias skirt and I liked the bust spray detail I found along the way in 1930s Fashion: The Definitive Sourcebook (page 308). It’s not as crazy as some early 1930s neck frills, making it a good starting point for getting into this decade. (Look at these examples of neck bows from 1934, for example. They make my dress look subdued.) I did add some interesting sleeves though, based on a 1933 pattern for different sleeve types.

As I mentioned, I did two photo shoots for this dress. The first one failed pretty horribly, as I was out in public, pressed for time, and my phone camera wasn’t cooperating with me. But the second photo shoot was much more successful! It may have taken over 300 photos to get ones that I like, but because I was using a timer with burst photos on my camera I could run back and forth across my yard to my heart’s content, practicing all my best dramatic poses and facial expressions. Unfortunately, my phone camera isn’t outstanding enough to have taken great photos with the slanting afternoon sunlight. I’m calling it ‘artsy.’ (What I really need is an event to wear this to in a good-picture-background-setting, so that I can get better quality pictures…)

Anyway, here are the facts (just for the dress, as the hat doesn’t really qualify for the HSM):

Fabric: Green and gold small windowpane mystery (but likely polyester) fabric and gold silk scraps.

Pattern: My own. I draped the bodice and skirt pieces and referenced images to flat pattern the sleeves.

Year: 1933.

Notions: Thread, zipper, hooks, and hug snug.

How historically accurate is it?: Let’s say 95%. It’s entirely recognizable in its own time and made in a way that is straightforward and consistent with historic garments. The materials are not 100% accurate.

Hours to complete: 5-10 sounds likely, although I spread making this out over about a year, so it’s pretty hard to remember!

First worn: October 2017, for pictures.

Total cost: $1/yard for the fabric and all the notions from the stash, so let’s say $4. Win!

The back of the dress is pretty plain. All the interesting details are on the front. But here it is, for the sake of documenting all of the angles.

On the inside, the dress looks like this. The seam allowances are either left raw if they are on the bias or pinked if they are on the straight of grain. The neck is finished with a facing which is tacked in place. There are moderate shoulder pads to help achieve the correct silhouette. The bottom edge is finished with hug snug and an invisible hem. The dress closes on the side with a hand sewn zipper. There is a self fabric belt as well.

Now for a bit about my hat and hairstyle. First, the hat is a remake of a wool velour hat I purchased for $5 at a theatre sale. It was a bowler shape originally. I cut off the brim, cut down the crown, reattached the two, and then took some tucks in the crown to give it a more unique shape.

Hair-style-wise, I was going to do my usual close to my head 1920s/30s style (I explained and documented it in this past post) but it didn’t seem to compliment my hat, so I decided to try a more down around the chin, lightly curled bob style.

My method for this is as follows: I started with wet hair and a bit of Tigi Small Talk. I parted my hair on the side and added wave clips (3 on the longer side and 1 on the shorter side). Then I braided the rest of my hair to keep it damp while the front dried. A few hours later, I removed the wave clips and ran my fingers through the front sections to loosen them up a bit. To create the chin length look, I looped up large sections of my hair and pinned them to the top of my head. The hat hid all the pinned up bits nicely. My hair has much less volume when it’s damp (and even after it’s dried in a not-voluminous way if I don’t touch it at all), so the chin length curls had a nice close to the head look to them.

I’m pretty pleased with this hairstyle. It will definitely get tried out again someday. The outfit is fun, too! I love that the hat matches perfectly and ties the whole thing together. Plus, it reminds me of autumn, my favorite season.

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1850s Chenille Headdress At The Victoria & Albert Ball

It’s been almost exactly a year since the inspiration for a new mid-19th century headdress stuck in my mind. I was attending a workshop at the Civil War Weekend last October and watching others make lovely floral headdresses with low hanging flowers, like this. Another inspiration headdress was similar in having two sections of decoration on each side of a headband, but made of loops of silk chenille rather than flowers. I decided then and there that I wanted to try out this more unusual style. The image below was my main inspiration, followed by a similar style made of silk ribbon.

MFA. Hair Ornament. Mid 19-th Century. Accession number 53.2245.

MFA. Headdress. Mid 19-th Century. Accession number 51.376.

It’s charming, right? I thought it would be silly, fun, and different, so I went on a hunt for chenille yarn to complement one of my mid-19th century dresses, Annabelle. It was rather harder than I thought it would be to find just the shade of purple that I was looking for as well as an off white, but I persevered and found them on Esty.

The base of my headdress is millinery wire. I formed loops at the ends in order to have a section to easily bobby pin to my hair. The over-the-head millinery wire is covered in black acrylic yarn from the stash to blend in with my hair, while the ends are black because I colored them with a sharpie–easy and quick. No yarn to get stuck in the bobby pins on the ends.

The loops of chenille vary in length. Each piece was folded in half, twisted, and then tied to the base. The chenille I found is not as plush as my inspiration, but with overlapping twists I was able to achieve a similar overall shape.

Here are two pictures of the headdress, one from the back, which better shows off the chenille headdress, and one from the front, which also shows one of our lovely bouquets from the ball.

As the title mentions, I was able to wear this ensemble to a mid-19th century Victoria and Albert themed ball. In addition to the usual loveliness of balls (live music, refreshments, etc.), we had added decorations, special fan shaped dance cards, a quadrille performance, and sashes. Here are the dance cards laid out on a silver tray in the entryway.

And here’s the whole ensemble worn with my sash. The chenille frames the sides of my face and puffs out a bit farther than my hair. Fun and different! I really like this somewhat quirky and unusual headdress!