Category Archives: Hoops and Bustles

Sophie, 1861 Cotton Print (HSM #8)

Last week, I introduced Eleanor, a newly made plaid gown from 1862. Today’s introduction is to Eleanor’s friend, Sophie. Sophie actually came first, back during the summer when I was intending to participate in the same dance performance for which I’ve worn Georgina in the past (here are a selection of past posts about Georgina: the construction which is similar in some ways to Sophie, Georgina in action, and Georgina with a new collar).

This year, the performance was rescheduled due to rain and I couldn’t attend the new date, meaning that the new dress, Sophie, languished until October, when I was able to wear it during part of a recent mid-19th century dance weekend. The nice thing about the delay is that the pictures all have stunning fall leaves, which would not have been in the case in the summer.

img_3450-1

Also, had I worn this dress on the first intended date, it would not have been entirely completed. Having extra time allowed me to officially finish all the trim and closures which made this dress the perfect entry for the Historical Sew Monthly challenge #8 “Pattern – make something in pattern, the bolder and wilder the better.” I didn’t have any pictures of the dress on a body at that point, so I submitted a rather sad picture of the dress on a hanger at that time. It’s exciting to have real pictures now!

Just the facts:

Fabric: 7.5 yards cotton print.

Pattern: Adapted from Past Patterns #701, 1850-1867 Gathered and Fitted Bodices.

Year: 1860-1863 based on my extant inspiration, but I’m calling it 1861.

Notions: Thread, hooks and bars, muslin scraps, and narrow yarn for cording.

How historically accurate is it?: I’m going to go with 95% on this one. This is as accurate as I can be given the research I have done and the materials I used, though the use of a facing on the front edges is guesswork. Regardless, this would be entirely recognizable in its time.

Hours to complete: Unknown. A fair bit.

First worn: October 23 for an afternoon tea and dance games.

Total cost: $23.

img_3451-1

Sophie was directly inspired by this extant dress at the Kent State University Museum. I was considering what to wear for the performance, thinking that I’d worn Georgina enough to want something new, that I’d had an 1860s cotton print fabric in my stash for a few years, and then I remembered this dress. I decided to leave off the ruffle on the skirt (and also didn’t have enough fabric), but was so pleased that my cotton print is so perfectly suited for playing with the pattern in the same way as the extant dress!

19861270001

Dresses from this period with v necks are not common, but they do exist. This Pinterest board has lots of examples. My Pinterest board has a few other dresses that helped move me along as well.

As I mentioned in my post about Eleanor, finding and making use of subtle differences between dresses from similar years brings me joy. For example, Sophie has a v neck, no boning, cartridge pleated sleeves, gathered trim, and is actually sewn together as a dress, rather than hooking together at the waistband as with all my other dresses from this period.

img_3461-1

img_3464-1

img_3467-1

In other ways, Sophie is similar to Georgina, being partially machine and partially hand sewn, having a cartridge pleated skirt, cuffs with little ruffles at the ends, and pockets.

img_3462-1

Personally, I love having pockets in day dresses. It brings me peace of mind to know that modern things like my keys are close by and not sitting around somewhere. Plus, chapstick, fan, gloves, etc. are also excellent choices for stashing in pockets. These pockets, which you can see the top of in the picture below, are sewn in the same way as Georgina’s pockets, shown here. I love this collection of references to pockets from the 1840s, 50s, and 60s that Anna Worden Bauersmith put together. I’ve been waiting for just the right moment to share it for what seems like ages.

img_1871

Here are two more interior shots of the dress. The first shows the muslin facings. I don’t have documentation for this method being used to finish a lightweight summer cotton dress, but it makes sense that this method might have been used to finish the edges nicely while keeping the main body of the dress breathable and light. The second picture shows in the inside of the top of the sleeve, particularly to show the cartridge pleats.

img_1874

img_1872

In addition to the dress, I also made a new cage crinoline. I’ve been wanting a slightly smaller, less bell shaped one, particularly to wear with cotton dresses. I love my old cage crinoline (seen here) for evening dresses, but it is just a bit too much for a more practical daytime look. The new crinoline shape just looks ‘right’ with the cotton dress. The difference is subtle, but pleasing. Unfortunately, it did not perform well in its first wearing. The vertical tapes were sliding all over the place and causing the hoops to drop and be tripped on. Not good! It needs revision before being finished and shared, so for now you’ll just have to believe that I’m wearing it with this dress.

Now that you’ve heard all about the dress itself, here are some pretty pictures of it in action. These first ones are in the spirit of the development of rural cemeteries in the mid-19th century, which you can read more about in this blog post at Plaid Petticoats.

img_3492-1

img_3480-1

The next few are a celebration of the autumn season. The gorgeous leaves were beckoning us to have some laughs. Incidentally, I tend to jump in the air with my arms up whenever I’m having an amazing time in this period. Take this memory, for example. I’m doing pretty much the exact same thing!

img_3522-1

img_3525-1

img_3526-1

img_3543-1

We have so many things to be grateful for. I am always thankful for the many blessings in my life, particularly at this time of year. I hope that your life is also overflowing with blessings and reasons to give thanks, in autumn and always.

img_1956-1

Advertisements

1885 Night Sky Fancy Dress

It has been a goal to make a specifically fancy dress outfit for years, but particularly since I made a makeshift 1860s flower basket fancy dress outfit in 2015. This May I had the perfect opportunity in the form of a fancy dress ball!

I decided to make an 1880s bustle dress because I already had all the undergarments, including my still-new-feeling 1880s steam molded corset, and because it’s a period of dress that I rarely wear, especially for dancing. I wanted to experiment with dancing in a bustle to see how it worked and what it felt like.

Design-wise, I was inspired by Mrs. Alice Gwynn Vanderbilt’s Electric Light fancy dress outfit made by Worth in 1883, but wanted to adapt the idea to fabrics I already had on hand. Since the fabric I came up with was navy blue, I decided on Night Sky as my inspiration.

2753c5268e0e74e0fc49e0c0d77e3053

Mrs. Alice Gwynn Vanderbilt’s Electric Light fancy dress outfit, 1883

I started my outfit in January and worked on it over the next four months or so, but despite all that preparation time I was still working on it right up until the day before the event. Luckily, I did the vast majority of the work of cutting, sewing, and fitting before March and April when I became super busy. Tasks left at that point included finishing the bodice edges, trimming, and closures.

IMG_0999 (1)

In addition to the Mrs. Vanderbilt’s inspiration I also looked at other 1880s skirts for draping ideas and other 1880s fancy dress outfits for trimming ideas. You can see the most inspiring images and extant garments on my Pinterest board for this project here.

For ease of documentation, I’ll do the facts as with the HSF:

Fabric: 2-3 yards of navy blue cotton twill for underskirt, 6ish yards of navy blue polyester charmeuse, 1ish yard of pink cotton twill for flat lining, and 1-2yds of silver net.

Pattern: My 1885 Frills and Furbelows Bustle Dress pattern, adapted for evening and for the style of skirt desired.

Year: 1885.

Notions: A 3yd tinsel garland, 6 star brooches, 3yds of navy polyester ribbon for lacing, hook and bar closures for the skirt, and thread.

How historically accurate is it?: 90%. Recognizable in it’s own time, certainly. Reasonable construction, certainly. Materials, not so much. It was much more important to use what was on hand than to purchase new fabrics, especially since this is an outfit that I don’t see getting a lot of use.

Hours to complete: Tons. I didn’t keep track. Bustles are fussy and require lots of time with a dress form to achieve an elegant drape.

First worn: May 21.

Total cost: Most of the fabrics were in the stash with the exception of the silver net and most of the notions were purchased cheaply on eBay. Let’s say $20.

IMG_1011 (1)

For the photos I wore the dress with my black Seaburys and the new rhinestone shoe clips that I purchased in March. It was quite sparkly and elegant, but for dancing I changed into navy blue velvet flats. They were just as cute but did not get the special treatment of being shown off in photos.

I had the grand idea to use my curly hair ends flipped up on top of my head like the curled fringe popular in the 1880s. It’s also long enough that I was able to make the bun shape on the back also using only my natural hair. I pinned in star brooches to match those on my dress as decoration.

IMG_1034 (1)

All in all I’m quite happy with the final result! Dancing in the bustle was just as easy as any other Victorian style. The differences were that all the extra fabric was behind me making some movements more challenging due to space such as during a quadrille, and that the bustle and layers of fabric on the back gathered a fair bit of momentum when turning, creating quite a swish!

Construction wise the only change I would like to make after one wearing is to bone the center back edges so that the back lies flat when laced onto my body and to sew in a matching fabric piece behind the lacing holes to hide any white from undergarments that wants to peak out. I’ll also need to wear a different chemise or tuck the top down so there’s not white cotton poking out at the armholes. However, these are minor changes and I’m not sure when I’ll have the opportunity to wear this again so it might be awhile before they happen.

IMG_1023 (1)

For this ball we set up a double sided picture backdrop, one side of which you’ve already seen. The other side included a large stuffed jaguar/panther I dubbed Jaggy for the night. You often see backdrops in regular Victorian photos as well as fancy dress photos. Unfortunately, with my heels on I was too tall for them! Oops! Being too tall inspired me to take some fun sitting photos.

IMG_1094 (1)

Hanging out with Jaggy.

IMG_1097 (1)

Tired after a night of dancing.

For decoration out of the ordinary, we had the lucky and unexpected use of the fabulous blue and turquoise lanterns in many of the pictures as well as multicolored paper lanterns with lights inside. We put the lanterns around the room in glass vases as bouquets. First, a picture from the set up part of the evening. Second, a picture with some lanterns creeping into the photo.

IMG_0973 (1)

IMG_1080 (1)

Fancy dress outfit, check!

Belated HSF 2013 #13: 1885 Frills and Furbelows

For my 300th post on the blog, I thought I’d share a dress that makes me smile. This dress makes me smile because of the frilliness of it which reminds me of Anne of Green Gables, because of the fact that it was very enjoyable and comfortable to wear, because I love that it is a UFO from 2013 that is finally complete, and because of the stunning backdrop I had for the pictures of it, which also remind me of Anne of Green Gables.

IMG_2725

I wore this dress to the Nahant Vintage Dance Weekend Formal Tea and Seaside Promenade in August. It was also the first outing for the my new 1880s steam molded corset and my recently made 1885 straw hat. I am pleased to report that they were all comfortable garments and accessories to wear. Being heavily boned, the corset was very supportive and thankfully didn’t feel heavy, and because it is shaped exactly to my body it was super comfortable–smoothing my figure without squishing it uncomfortably. The dress was perfectly reasonable to wear, with the exception of sitting, which required a slight sideways perch that was a bit precarious. And the hat stayed in place perfectly with two hat pins, as you can see from the pictures where my head is tilted in various directions.

IMG_2699

IMG_2689

IMG_2698

This dress has an association in my head with the puffed sleeves that Anne wants in Anne of Green Gables. While being from the wrong decade, it seems exactly like the sort of dress covered in frills and furbelows that Marilla wouldn’t waste fabric on. And just like Anne, I would often rather have the ridiculous, fashionable styles in historical clothing than the plain and sensible ones!

MARILLA: I’m not going to pamper your vanity. These are good and sensible dresses. This one is for Sunday, and the others you can wear to school.

ANNE: I am greatful, but I’d be even more grateful if you’d made this one with puffed sleeves.

MARILLA: I cannot waste material on ridiculous looking frills and furbelows. Plain and sensible is best.

ANNE: I’ve always dreamed of going to a picnic in puffed sleeves. I’d rather look ridiculous with everyone else than plain and sensible all by myself.

IMG_2706

This dress was started in 2013. I had grand hopes of finishing it that summer for the Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge #13: Lace and Lacing

Lacing is one of the simplest and oldest forms of fastening a garment, eminently practical, and occasionally decorative.  Lace has been one of the most valuable and desirable textiles for centuries, legislated, coveted, at times worth more than its weight in gold, passed down from one garment to the next over centuries. Elaborate and delicate it is eminently decorative, and rarely practical.  Celebrate the practicality of lacing, and the decorative frivolity of lace, with a garment that laces or has lace trim, or both.

And while I did make significant progress on the skirt that summer (getting all of the trimming figured out, cut, and assembled, as well as getting the skirt base and side panels constructed), I didn’t get anywhere near far enough along to have a wearable outfit. So it sat in my “in-progress” sewing box with hopes to be worked on, but didn’t really make it to the top of my sewing list again until this summer. I had enlarged and sized a pattern from Janet Arnold in between 2013 and 2015, even cutting and assembling a mockup, but that had been waiting for a fitting because I wanted to wear my new specifically 1880s corset with the dress and the new corset didn’t get completed until June. Once I had the corset done, I set to work on the dress again, fitting the mockup bodice, finishing the skirt, and making the bodice, as well as a slight delay while I made the hat to match. It’s handy to make a hat part-way through the process of making the dress, because you don’t wind up running out of time at the end and not having matching accessories!

IMG_2772

The first inspiration for my dress was this white summer dress at the LACMA. The skirt was pretty much directly taken from the original, except for the back, which has a cascade of fabric instead of tucks as on the original–I figured there was already enough fluff for me on the front of the dress. I originally planned to edge all the front ruffles in lace as well, but ran out of lace. Running out of lace also made me rethink how I was going to trim the bodice. I went back to my inspiration boards and found these dresses with inspiring bodice treatments: a seaside ensemble and an afternoon dress with very different fabrics and intent, but I thought this could be adapted for my summery seaside dress. I had only a few yards of lace left when I got to working on the bodice and I decided to save some for edging the top of the 1880s corset because the shape of the lace is perfect, but that didn’t leave me much for the bodice. It turns out I had just enough to execute the final trimming plan I decided on.

IMG_2754

Since this was originally intended to be part of the HSF, here are just the facts:

Fabric: 7ish, I think, yards of cream satin stripe cotton, 1/3ish of a yard of blue polished cotton, and 1.5 yards or so of cream polished cotton for flat lining the bodice.

Pattern: Created by me, but the shapes are based on a dress in Janet Arnold.

Year: 1885.

Notions: 9 yards of ivory lace, hooks and eyes, scraps of white cotton for finishing off the bodice edges, and vintage ivory buttons.

How historically accurate is it?: As accurate as I can be using the research I’ve done and the materials that are available in 2015. It definitely passes Leimomi’s test of being recognizable in its own time.

Hours to complete: Tons over two years.

First worn: In August 2015.

Total cost: I bought the all the cottons for super cheap, probably $3/yard, the lace was probably about $8, the buttons were a few dollars, and the rest was from the stash, so around $30-$35.

There were so many good pictures it was very hard to limit myself for this post! So here’s some more, with a bit of commentary to go along with them.

We had a beautiful day for the Tea and Promenade. It had been very hot prior to this, but the day of the event was a little cooler and the stiff ocean breezes made for a temperature that felt perfect for me in my layers and ¾ sleeves. The formal tea part of the day was at Egg Rock on Nahant (the same location as the Formal Soiree I attended last August). There was a lovely concert inside the house as well as guests lounging around outside, including me, playing croquet. At that point the stiff breeze had me worried that my hat wouldn’t stay on without pulling at my hair, so I chose not to wear it for awhile. (Thank goodness I gave it a try later, though, because it is perfect with the dress and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss wearing the two together!)

IMG_2668

11866207_10153557263049588_8661903483348243128_n

After the concert and some refreshments, the guests assembled for the promenade. As you would expect, we stopped traffic, attracted stares, and received questions from the more brave souls who would talk to us rather than just making up stories in their heads about our unusual clothing. The promenade took us to East Point, former site of the 19th century Nahant Hotel. The hotel is no longer standing, but there were stunning views of the Atlantic and the rocky coast to clamber on!

IMG_2716

IMG_2721

IMG_2735

IMG_2737 (1)

IMG_2742

IMG_2750

IMG_2776

Not me, but such a gorgeous view and cute picture that I had to share it, too!

IMG_2766

Some of us decided to head back a little early so we could stop at a small beach we had passed on our way to East Point and go wading! After the walk, the cold Atlantic water felt quite good on our feet. Here I am with stockings and shoes off, ready to head into the water.

IMG_2785

And here I am, wading in my bustle dress!

IMG_2816

There’s this picture of two ladies in bustle dresses from 1885 who look like they are collecting shells. That’s what I had in mind when I took this next picture, although looking at the 1885 picture again I see that the ladies in the picture are still wearing their stockings and shoes… I guess I’m pretty scandalous for 1885 in my bare legs and feet!

IMG_2827

Here we are, the whole wading group. It was a pretty fun adventure. I don’t think I’ve been wading in historical clothing since Newport in 2012.

IMG_2789

IMG_2810

HSF/M #7: 1885 Straw Hat

This month’s HSF/M challenge is “Accessorize.” In preparation for the first wearing of a new 1885 outfit next month, I made up a hat to match.

IMG_2446

I chose to make a flowerpot shaped hat, a style that is quite common in the mid-1880s. You can see other examples of this style and others on my 1880s headwear Pinterest board.

The straw base of this hat has seen multiple previous shapes that failed in creating a look I was happy with. (You can see one of the old iterations in this previous post from 2012. And as a side note, I really need to wear the other clothes in that post again–it’s been awhile and they’re cute!) So I was happy to reblock the straw into a new shape (that I am very happy with!).

IMG_2398I made my hat block out of packing foam stuff that I masking taped around a lysol wipe container–make do with what you have, right? To begin, I wet the straw, then used a paintbrush to cover the straw with a layer of my sizing (a bit of elmer’s glue dissolved in water–no formula, I just winged it). In order to keep the straw in place while the hat was drying overnight I used yarn tied and pinned in strategic locations to keep everything in place. I wanted to use twine, but we’d run out, so I made do again. As you can see, there is a random seam in the middle of the hat crown, because in the past it had made sense to have a crown separate from a brim, but for this hat I needed some of the old brim to become the crown. (The seam was later covered by the tulle trimming.)

IMG_2396

My inspiration for the trimming of this flowerpot hat is this fashion plate. The lady on the left happens to be wearing an outfit in the same colors as my outfit and the fashion plate is dated only one year later. I used materials I had on hand, but was inspired in general by her trim placement and scale.

IMG_2449

Side view.

IMG_2450

Side back view.

Just the facts:

Fabric: A bit of blue silk shantung for binding and a length of 6″ wide tulle.

Pattern: None.

Year: c. 1885.

Notions: French crinoline for binding the straw edges, thread, millinery grosgrain for the inner hat band, elmer’s glue for sizing, and vintage millinery flowers.

How historically accurate is it?: As accurate as I can be using the research I’ve done and the materials that are available in 2015. It definitely passes Leimomi’s test of being recognizable in its own time.

Hours to complete: All hand sewn, so a few mostly on the brim binding. Then a whole lot of days debating over the placement of the flowers–actually sewing them on didn’t take very long.

First worn: Has not been worn yet, but I have plans to wear it in August.

Total cost: Free! All from the stash!

1860s Flower Basket Fancy Dress

A few weekends ago now, I went to an event at The Down Town Association in New York. It was an event out of my usual ordinary line of events and so I took the opportunity to create something out of the ordinary to wear. The title of the post rather gives it away… but I only had a week to put my outfit together!

20493f96d0c4b86b724418e53a1d9f25

Flower Basket, 1860s. This design was created by Jules Helleu or Léon Sault, possibly for Charles Frederick Worth.

Using this image as my inspiration, I determined that I needed to make a flower basket, but that I could use Annabelle as the base for the floral dress. I also wanted to use only items from my stash, thus limiting my options a little bit. So I spent my weeknights creating a fabric basket that fit over my hoops and then furiously pinned flowers to my skirt the day we were leaving for New York in the hopes that they would look good and at least a little like my inspiration image…

IMG_2154

(What does a flower basket do with her hands without a bouquet?)

In the end, I enjoyed my flower basket very much, but didn’t like the fact that my furious pinning job didn’t really achieve the cascading flower look I was going for and that Annabelle’s pre-existing flowers were rather heavier looking than I had hoped, also contributing to the lack of cascading flower look. Maybe someday I’ll try again with the same basket and a different, or differently modified dress, but it was fun to do something different even if the results were not as great as I hoped for.

IMG_0622

I like the basket when you don’t see the skirt flowers.

IMG_0618

(Maybe a flower basket holds her handles?)

As I mentioned, this event was held at The Down Town Association in New York, which was established in 1860 (perfect for my fancy dress!). As far as I can tell the association is still housed in the same building they’ve been in since 1860. It was quite lovely inside, with detailed architecture and beautiful rooms. One room was a library full of a rather random collection of books. I enjoy perusing books and so proceeded to examine the titles closely. And guess what I found? A volume of Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage from 1912!

This excited me quite a bit, not only because it was from 1912, but I think also because it reminded me of Persuasion, in which Mr. Elliot is described as putting Burke’s Peerage in a position of honor in his estimation of important things in the world. Regardless, I got distracted and insisted that I needed to take pictures and look through.

IMG_2122 2

IMG_2124 1

IMG_2131 1

IMG_2130 2

IMG_0604

Here I am, reading Burke’s Peerage!

Burke’s Peerage certainly is an undertaking, and this volume only covered the alphabet through letter L! Unfortunately, I didn’t spot a second volume in the library, but I hope it’s there somewhere.

Take A Break With Me

My life is still unexpectedly busy and my only sewing has been decor-related as a result. What do I mean, you ask? The story (with pictures!) is coming sometime soon in an upcoming post, but for now I’m leaving only that hint.

This weekend, though (unlike last weekend!), I’ll be taking a break from my decor-realted activities. And if you’re in the Boston area and you don’t yet have plans for November 8th and 9th, you might consider joining the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers at a Civil War Dance Weekend in Chelmsford, MA. I’ll be there dancing the weekend away and would be pleased to see you there.

Not able to join us for this dance weekend? There’s an annual holiday ball in December and a special 1890s weekend in January coming up! Details can be found here. And if you’re just too far away to be in person at any of these events, I hope you still enjoyed the brief video and that you’ll enjoy the pictures of these events that will be included in future posts!

A Collar For Georgina

You might recall that last July our vintage dance group performed on George’s Island, in the Boston Harbor, after which we took time to explore the fort located on the island. It was great fun, though super hot, and I was able to wear a new reproduction cotton print dress, named Georgina, and a new straw hat to match.

We performed on George’s Island again this year and were quite thankful that the weather was slightly cloudy and at least 15 degrees cooler than last year! It was a great opportunity for all of us to wear our cotton print day dresses again and it was neat to see the entire dance troupe all wearing cotton dresses with a pattern (no solids to be seen!).

I wore Georgina just as I did last year, the only difference being that I took a little bit of time to make a collar for this year. I had wanted to last year but ran out of time. It seemed more important to have the dress than to have a collar without the dress… But it was entirely feasible this year to add just the small item of the collar and I do think it really completes my outfit quite nicely.

IMG_9688 (1 of 1)

New collar!

This year, our friend with the camera had purchased a new, special, Petzval lens (you can learn more about it and 19th century photography here at her blog). It’s a modern digital version of a historic lens. I love the pictures it produces! I’ve been told that the background is sort of swirled when the picture is captured, but to me it just looks nicely diffused and out of focus. It’s a lovely contrast to the foreground, which stays nicely in focus. All of these pictures were taken in color, but some of them are much more stunning in black and white.

BW-9698 (1 of 1)

This one captures the breeze and a bit of sun squint…

IMG_9679 (1 of 1)

This one a burst of joy and laughter…

BW-9674 (1 of 1)

This one the tired desire for food during a picnic break…

BW-9684 (1 of 1)

And this one just a simple stroll across the lawn.

This last one made use of a special part of the new lens. There is a piece which can be changed out and which creates the interesting background variations. All of the previous pictures were taken using the piece which blurs the background, but this last one was taken using the piece which causes the light in the background to be star shaped. Isn’t that neat?

IMG_9711 (1 of 1)

Fixing my wind swept and straw hat frizzed hair… with stars in the leaves!

 The collar is constructed from 2 layers of ivory cotton from my small bits stash (at least, it’s likely cotton… I don’t remember where it came from and there was the perfect amount, so I just went with it without knowing the details). It is edged with ivory lace. I made the pattern directly on Georgina’s day bodice so that it would fit the neck perfectly. It’s mostly machine sewn with hand finishing. It is lightly basted on to the piping at the neck edge of the bodice so that I can easily remove it if I want to in the future. I’m quite satisfied. I like the scale, the lace, and I think it adds a nice 1850s touch, completing the ensemble.