Oh, Making Decisions is Hard!

As I mentioned in my look back at 2012 post, one of early 2013’s projects will be to paint and decorate my recently purchased American Duchess Kensingtons.

This link contains an affiliate code, which provides a small benefit to my shoe fund. This does not affect my impressions and reviews of this product.
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Kensingtons, yay! And the buckles came in that cute little bag. Love it!

When I first thought of buying Kensingtons, I was set on painting them yellow, either a lightish shade of yellow or medium yellow, like the images below.

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1775-1785. Colonial Williamsburg.
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Mid-18th Century. Bata Shoe Museum. (Those buckles are so pretty!)

But then I started looking at fashion plates… Some of them had very cute yellow shoes, but there were also some that had pink shoes that caught my eye. I love pink things… so I started thinking about painting the shoes pink.

First, fashion plates with cute pink shoes from the 1770s and 1780s.

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PINK shoes. 1778.
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PINK shoes. Gallerie des Modes, 1778.
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PINK shoes. 1778-1787.
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PINK shoes. Magasin des Modes, June 1787.
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PINK shoes. Magasin des Modes, March 1789.

Second, fashion plates with cute yellow shoes from the 1770s and 1780s.

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YELLOW shoes. c. 1776.
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YELLOW shoes. c. 1776.
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YELLOW shoes. Gallerie des Modes, 1779.
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YELLOW shoes. Magasin des Modes, April 1787.

Then I went back to looking at extant shoes and thought “perhaps two-tone shoes?” Either yellow with pink accents or pink with yellow accents… perhaps like the ones below? Here’s a fashion plate showing two-tone shoes, and there are more extant examples a little farther down in the post.

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Two-tone pink shoes. The Dress of the Year 1775 by Ann Frankland Lewis.

Another thing, I’ve noticed that many of the extant shoes I see are cloth, not leather. Well, the Kensingtons are leather, so that’s what I’ve got to work with (and I like it in a way, because the shoes will be much more durable). So then I started thinking about what I need to do to capture the 18th century in leather shoes that already have the right 18th century shape. I took a close look at the details in these next photos and analyzed what I saw.

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Light blue satin shoes with silver braid. c. 1770. The Charleston Museum. STUNNING!
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Silk. 1770s. Met.
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Silk and leather. 1770-1789. Met.
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Silk and leather. c. 1775-1785. Shoe Icons.
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Silk. 1780s. Met.

If that isn’t enough examples, you can see more on my pinterest board: Shoes: 1770-1789. The details that strike me are: the binding around the ankle opening and latchets (often in a contrasting color) and the 3D quality of the trim and fabric of the shoes… the decorations are not simply painted on, but sewn on. That’s hard with leather, but glue is a good alternative to stitching.

I’ve seen other styles of painted and decorated historic shoes on my costuming friends. And at American Duchess, Lauren has done multiple posts and tutorials about 18th century shoes that she has painted and decorated.

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Two-tone painted and bound Devonshires, from American Duchess.
pretty pink princess shoes (11 of 13)
Two-tone painted and bound Devonshires, from American Duchess.

What materials to use for decorations? Lauren used what looks like cotton bias tape, and on later Regency shoes narrow grosgrain which comes in a wide variety of colors. But the extant shoes look like they are bound with silk, so that’s what I’m going to aim for.

“What will I wear these shoes with?” is an important question I asked myself. “Well, everything I own from the 18th century until I buy another pair of 18th century shoes,” I answered. In the works right now are a taupey-brown silk petticoat, blue wool petticoat, Waverly mineral felicite jacket, and creamy quilted petticoat (you can see most of these fabrics in this previous post). In the future, I’m inspired by a purple and yellow color combination, as well as green and pinkish/red (these colors all in the fashion plates above!).

I’ve been ruminating over this decision for months so I make a choice I’m really happy with. I had all these options to think about: pink, yellow, both… It was tough. But I finally made a decision to go simple: yellow with champagne silk binding and champagne heels (saving pink for later, or removable ribbons, or other accessories). The latchets might also get pained champagne, I’m undecided on that point. Do you have thoughts about that? (More opinions is always better in these situations, you know!) I’ve got the paint from my Astorias, so that was easy… and the silk ribbon has been ordered! More to come soon!

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A Lot Of Wool: October Fabric Stash Additions

I really should post about my 9 Month Sewing Plan before posting about the additions I might have added to it (cough, cough). But oh well… These fabrics are exciting so I don’t want to wait!

The first fabric stash addition is 2 yards of Waverly Mineral Felicite. I was interested in the Curtain- Along created by  Jen of Festive Attyre, but I wasn’t inspired enough by the three Waverly curtain colors (Cream, Noir, and Crimson) to actually hop on the train (and I didn’t want to make something super similar to what other people are making). But then I started researching other color ways online and fell in love with the Mineral Felicite at onlinefabricstore.net. You can see my Pinterest board of various color ways here. The board also includes some other similar fabrics. I haven’t done all my research yet so I can only generally say that I’m planning to make a 1780s jacket out of this fabric. (And possibly something else, because 2 yards of this fabric is actually quite a lot!)

My next fabric stash addition has two parts. The first is plain weave creamy yellow silk that I bought a few months ago when buying the whole giant mound of fabric that is for my 9 Month Sewing Plan. I bought a few sections of it from the remnant table for just $6 a yard! I love prices like that! It had no definite plans, until… I was starting to near completion of my current hand sewing project and started thinking (which is almost always dangerous!) about what to hand sew next. I’ve been contemplating an 18th century quilted petticoat for about a year, but never had a real need and considered it to be overwhelming. But now the idea is sticking… and I’m planning to hand quilt a petticoat sometime in the foreseeable future! I mean, I hand piece and quilt queen size quilts, and if I can do that, I think I can tackle a petticoat. In fact, I think a queen size quilt is actually bigger… The second part of this, and the recent stash addition, is a plain weave cream colored wool to back the petticoat with (only $5 a yard!). You can see both of the fabrics in the top photo. To the right you can see the wool by itself. I’m excited… It’s going to be really amazing!

While looking at the wool wall for the petticoat backing I stumbled upon this wonderful wool plaid. There were only about 1 1/2 yards left on the bolt and it was $8 a yard, but I loved it and couldn’t let it go, even though I had no idea what I would do with it. It’s really lovely and thick, and a little fuzzy and soft, and not itchy. It’s hard to see in the picture, but it’s forest green, plum purple, dark tan, and light beige. The repeat is pretty big (I didn’t measure it, but I’d guess about 6″). After taking down this bolt, I stopped at the wool remnant table… where wool was only $3 a yard! Really nice wool! There were about ten 1-2 yard pieces of that slightly fuzzy beige wool in the picture… and I might have bought all of them! I have visions of using some of them, with the plaid, to make a bustle dress either from the 1870s or 1880s (with a train!!!). I’m still open to inspiration for this fabric, though, so who knows what else I will come up with? Does it strike you as anything in particular? I also have visions of maybe using the beige wool for an 18th century cloak, and a modern skirt, and probably other things… I have a lot of it. Whee!

I also found, at the wool remnant table, two similar but different dark blue wools. There were two pieces of each, all under 1 1/2 yards in length (and I did have to dig through a lot of blue wool, analyzing the selvedge edges of each to make sure I found matches, before I was successful). One of the two blues will be used to make a 1780s petticoat. The other… I don’t know. Maybe a cloak, instead of the beige wool? Blue cloaks were more common than brown in the 18th century, I believe. And I’m not sure that the beige is the right shade of brown, anyway. I have more research to do on that before I make a decision. One of the blues is more purple-y than that other (and I think I do like that one best!) but I’m not sure if it’s too purple-y for the 18th century. Although if they are not next to each other they just look navy and are almost impossible to tell apart, so I’m not sure it matters. On the left is another view of the same fabrics.

Well, as you can see, I was sort of struck by an 18th century inspiration… so most of these new additions relate to new 18th century projects. Yikes, I had better go sew, or my stack of to-be-used fabric might just envelop me!

Chalk It Up To Experience (Remade Robe a la Anglaise)

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.

Here we are!

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.

Last year, for comparison.

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!

Robe a la anglaise worn a la polonaise.

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.

Robe retroussee dans les poches. KCI. c. 1780. French.  In “…the “retroussée dans les poches”… [The] gown’s hem is pulled out from slits in either side, and draped on the back.” (From KCI) Okay, not actually a polonaise, but very similar.
Robe a la polonaise. KCI. c. 1780. French.

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!).

Bun roll hair.

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.

Rather sad petticoat, but fabulous new muff!

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!

You can see the down filled pillow inside. The two ends have a silk ribbon running through a channel. You simply pull the ribbon to gather the ends and then tie them to secure the gathers. You simply have to untie the ribbons to loosen the gathers and change the cover!

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!

New caraco and quilted petticoat.
New jacket! In a day! You can read more at Jenni’s blog: here.
I really enjoy this pond. That willow on the right is the very same one we took pictures at last year!
It was chilly, so we stopped in the tavern at the inn to warm up a bit.
In front of the real fire! It was really pleasant.
Of course, I took this picture to be silly. There was a lot of picture taking and iphone-ing
Shoe shot! With our “chaperone,” who was obviously not wearing historic clothes.

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!…

Project Journal: 1780s Ensemble Part VI: Open Gown and Petticoat

1780s ensemble: petticoat and open gown

I constructed this 1780s ensemble to wear to various 18th century events. If you remember, I decided in the beginning of September to construct a robe a la anglaise and accompanying undergarments. Most of my commentary can be confined to captions (which also allows me to include more photos, so that is exciting!). Enjoy!

I attended the Sudbury Colonial Faire with friends: Carly and Katy
We found a nice woodsy background to take pictures of our outfits
And it’s imperative that you look at the camera sometimes!
We took in the sights (mostly that meant watching the fife and drum units)
The vendors were also dressed in period clothing, but most of the spectators were not: we were asked many times to have our photo taken with random people (and then even more random people snuck in to take cell phone pictures that they didn’t ask permission to take!)
Ooo, this is a good one because you can see the pleated trim on my bodice
(warning: inside joke coming) Jenny, you will appreciate my pumpkin picture! Happy fall and happy birthday!
We found this really adorable garden that was so inspirational for more pictures!
The garden has a bench that is perfect for a quick break and a few photos
We traded cameras so that we would get pictures of ourselves on our own cameras! Genius!
Then we saw this lovely section of the garden and had to take more pictures
There was this great dried branch on the ground that was a perfect picture prop!
I made friends with the bust on the brick wall and he was accessorized with the dried leaves
I really enjoy shadow pictures, but this is especially great because you can see my silhouette!
We were lured out of the garden by a glimpse of this fabulous pond!
And upon closer inspection, the pond had a picture perfect bench just waiting for us!
So of course we all had to take turns being picturesque on the bench
It was a lovely setting!
We finished up the evening by joining more friends at a ball

Project Journal: 1780s Ensemble Part V: Completed Stays

Wohoo! My 1780s stays are complete! I think they turned out quite well. They certainly resembles my inspiration image. You can see that image and read more about the construction of these stays by reading this previous post.

Finished front
I used 1/4" linen tape for the lacing
The lacing holes are hand sewn eyelets
Side view
Side front view

I made the chemise as well. It is just a simple linen tee shape without set in sleeves. It is mid calf length and has a low neckline in front and back.

Soon I’ll post pictures of the finished 1780s exterior garments as well!

Project Journal: 1780s Ensemble Part IV: Construction of Stays

c. 1780 Corset at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

As I mentioned in my last post in this Project Journal, I decided to make a pair of stays like the one to the right. I like the unique features of these: specifically the use of colorful fabric, the fact that this is fully boned, and the cording in each seam as well as the absence of shoulder straps and tabs. I adapted a pattern from Corsets and Crinolines by Norah Waugh. The pattern I started with had straps and tabs but I eliminated those elements to reproduce the pattern of these inspirational stays.

Cane boning

I decided to use cane boning for these stays for a few reasons: 1) I wanted to try a new material for boning 2) cane boning is period correct for the 1780s 3) given the amount of boning needed for a fully boned pair of stays the cane boning was much more cost effective (you can see the quantity on the left–it was about $15 from Wm. Booth, Draper) and 4) the cane boning seemed like it would be super easy to manipulate and, most importantly, to cut (and it was! normal scissors easily cut the correct lengths needed and it was easy to round the ends a little bit as well!). I actually only wound up using approximately half of the cane boning that I bought, so that means that I have plenty to use for another future project!

The silk that I decided to use as my exterior fabric is a fabulous damask. I originally thought about stitching my boning channels through the exterior fabric (as in my inspirational piece) but decided against that idea on this fabric, because it would really have just been way to much going on with the pattern and so many stitch lines. You can see the silk pattern a few pictures father down.

Stitching the boning channels

I didn’t want to stitch boning channels through my silk so I started the construction process by stitching the boning channels through two layers of cotton. You can see that I drew lines on the fabric so I could make nice, straight lines. The nice this about this is that I covered the pencil marking side with the silk, so on the inside of the finished corset all you can see is the stitching with no indication of pencil lines!

You can see the pencil guide lines on this side of the corset
On this side there are no pencil lines!

I did want my silk to roll around the center back opening on each side and then be included in the seam attaching center back to the next piece, so I stitched those silk pieces into the seams of the cotton. I just kept the silk out of the way while sewing the boning channels. Then, once the boning was complete, I stitched the remaining silk pieces to the flapping center back pieces and turned the whole thing so that the silk was on the outside with the seams facing the side of the cotton that had the pencil lines drawn on. Thus, the silk is just a covering for the cotton, it is not actually attached into the seams of the cotton except on the inside at the side back seam. You can see what I mean in the pictures below.

Stays with the boning channels sewn (you can see that only the center back silk pieces are attached at this point)
Stays with the cane boning inserted, before the silk is sewn on
The silk has been attached (you can see the cording and the pattern on the silk in this picture)

At this point the stays are almost finished! The last few tasks are to bind the edges (I’ll be using bias strips cut from the same cotton as the cording and lining) and work hand sewn eyelets along each side of center back. More pictures to come!

Project Journal: 1780s Ensemble Part III: Undergarments and Sources

I’ve decided to build a Robe a l’Anglaise, in addition to a chemise and pair of stays to wear under it. You can look at this post to see pictures of the Robe a l’Anglaise. The style of stays that I plan to use is the one below left: no straps allow ease of movement in the upper body, which is more suitable for dancing. The corset on the right is from the same period: I include it for informational and comparison purposes. Many stays at this time were either made of patterned or colored cloth, as these two are, and I enjoy the use of color on the undergarments.

c. 1780 Wool and Linen Corset and the Metropolitan Museum of Art
c. 1780 Silk Stays at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The chemises that were worn under these stays were fairly simple and almost always constructed of linen. Here are a few examples.

c. 1780 Linen and Cotton Chemise at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
1780-1800 Linen Chemise at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
1790-1810 Linen Chemise at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

I’ve collected some interesting (and sometimes conflicting) information regarding clothing from this period: these sources below were most helpful.

One of the best resources for this project is The Cut of Women’s Clothes: 1600-1930 by Norah Waugh. This book has images, patterns, contemporary quotes and construction details. It’s a great reference book to have access to for historic projects. Another wonderful reference book is Patterns of Fashion 1: 1660-1860 by Janet Arnold. This book is great supplement to Norah Waugh because it has an abundance of great drawings to explain the construction of garments. Another book that I know would have been useful to have is Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Fashion in Detail by Avril Hart and Susan North.

This website is also a great resource: La Couturiere Parisienne. It includes a fantastic collection of fashion plates, paintings, construction and pattern information, as well as fabric and color research for clothing from the 1400s through the 1900s. (Just a quick note that it can be viewed in English or German, and if you suddenly find yourself viewing it in German look to the top right for a little icon that you can click to switch it back to English.)

In terms of the materials needed for these items I found a great source for this project and future projects here: Wm. Booth, Draper. This website has all sorts of great things. For example, low prices on yardage of linen, cotton, and silk (in 18th century patterns and colors) and cane boning for corsets.