Project Journal: Versailles Sacque: Construction Details

It’s time for some in depth detail about the construction of the robe a la francaise I wore to Versailles in May. My original plan was to use pink silk in my fabric stash to create a robe de cour inspired by Maria Federovna, but I realized when I went to cut out the pieces that I did not have enough fabric.

The change in plan resulted in new fabric and a new plan. I stuck with the decade of the 1770s, but decided to make a robe a la francaise, or sacque, instead of a robe de cour as it seemed like a garment I might be more likely to wear again in the future. Accordingly, I found and ordered new fabric: 11 yards of a very lightweight changeable silk ‘lutestring’ from Burnley and Trowbridge. Luckily, the new fabric still worked with the metallic silver net I’d purchased for trim. It’s the same metallic silver net that is on my 1885 Night Sky Fancy Dress, just cut into strips.

The pattern is from JP Ryan: it’s the Pet en Lair pattern, lengthened to create a gown as they suggest. Underneath I’m wearing a shift, stays, pocketsMr. Panniers, a generic 18th century petticoat, and the petticoat that matches the gown. I also have American Duchess clocked stockings and embellished American Duchess Kensingtons. All my jewelry is from eBay. You can read more about how I created my hairstyle and the hair ornament in this past post.

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Regarding the pattern, I found some of the directions to be confusing. For example, making the petticoat seemed way overcomplicated.   You can read more details about how I made my petticoat here. Also, I found the directions for pleating the front robings/facing and the back pleats quite confusing. There, I was saved by this post written by AJ who also used the JP Ryan pattern, got confused, and posted about the confusing bits. Very helpful! Aside from the confusing directions, the gown pieces went together perfectly with no trouble. I did have to alter the front strap area to make the front sit flat against my body. Two friends who used this same pattern did not have to make that adjustment, so I chalk it up to differing body shapes but do not think it negatively affects the pattern.

IMG_0687 (1)The lining of the gown is made from a one yard piece of cotton/linen blend from my stash. Also from my stash and used inside the gown were a scrap of medium blue linen and a scrap of medium blue cotton twill used to interface the stomacher. These were all the bits left of those three stash fabrics–yay! I was also amused that all of the random non-silk fabrics in this gown and petticoat wound up being blue. I used my lining as my mockup, meaning that I had to take a dart in the front strap area, but was able to adjust the pattern to eliminate the dart before cutting out the silk.

The back of the lining is adjustable using a tie threaded through eyelets. The edges are boned with reed. The pattern suggests ties, but you also see lacing in extant garments and this seemed easier to adjust and that it would use less length for the tie(s). There are examples of both ties and lacing on my Pinterest board for this project. The tie is a 1/4″ cotton twill tape. It’s not accurate, but did the job.

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Underneath the decorative stomacher, the gown closes with lacing panels attached to the lining. Again, mine laces closed using twill tape.

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This is the inside of the front lacing panels. You can see the medium blue linen backing. I think I had run out of the cotton/linen blend at that point. As is usual with 18th century garments, the armhole is left unfinished.

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Here’s a close up of the back pleats. These are stitched all the way through to the lining. The directions for the pleats were slightly confusing, but made sense once I started fiddling with my fabric. It was important that I had transferred all the markings from the pattern to make the pleating easier to understand. The pattern uses another four pleats pleats, underneath these, that you can’t see to add volume to the back.

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Due to the unexpected nature of the purchase of the silk fabric for this gown, I decided to do that fabric justice by hand sewing the entire garment. So in addition to the exterior stitching like that anchoring the pleats on the back, all of the interior seams are also hand sewn. I rather enjoy hand sewing and it makes a lot more sense given the way 18th century garments were constructed.

Here is the gown mostly sewn in its essential elements, but lacking trim. The sleeve flounces were individually gathered and sewn to the arm openings. They are pinked with scalloped shears on the top and bottom edges.

The following image is the gown that I followed in terms of trim placement. It took many more hours than I thought it would to pin the trim on. Those big waves are more complicated than they look, plus I had the challenge of creating the smaller scallops as I went along as well. All of the trim had to be sewn along both sides and tacked at each scrunch after it had been pinned.

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Robe a la Francaise. 1765. LACMA.

You can see that I pressed my robings down all the way to the hem, though once the trim was applied on top it was really not very noticeable. I like the finished result, but I think it’s worth pointing out that this pattern is designed to have a wide stomacher. I was envisioning it coming out a little narrower at the waist. But I think adjusting the back opening enough to make a noticeable difference would only create awkward wrinkles under the arms.

The finished stomacher was covered in scalloped trim and finished off with a sparkly brooch. I went to France with an untrimmed stomacher and no clear idea about how I wanted to trim it except that I wanted it to be an all over metallic feast for the eyes. Luckily, early in the trip I was able to go see the 300 Centuries of Fashion exhibit at Les Arts Decoratifs. In addition to being amazing (I got to stand within 6 feet of Dior’s Bar Suit and see many garments I’ve only ever seen on Pinterest!), I also took a picture of a stomacher that was inspirational in terms of the overall wavy patterns and filler shapes. That picture is below.

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Trimming the stomacher took place in the evenings in the few days before the special event. Here is the stomacher in progress. I took it specifically to show the amazing green color that the fabric can appear from some angles. I was hoping to get a picture of the finished gown looking this color, but had to be content with seeing shades of green in some of the pictures as we didn’t capture any where the whole gown was this color.

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Another part of the dress that was finished in France were my engageants. The pattern includes flounces of two lengths to be made of silk and then one longer flounce for an under flounce or engageant. I sacrificed some lace I’ve been intending for another project, threw some darts in at the longest section to get the scalloped edge to be the right shape, and filled in the length with a bit of mystery ivory sheer. The resulting flounce was gathered and sewn to a cotton tape that was basted into the arm opening.

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It sure sounds like a lot of work, recounting these bits of the process. It was! And it paid off. I’m very pleased with the gown. And very pleased that this picture captures some of the stunning green in the fabric!

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Project Journal: Versailles Sacque: A Pretty Petticoat

The petticoat for my Versailles Sacque has been done for a few weeks now, but was waiting in the blog post queue to have its progress made public. It’s sort of boring to look at the whole petticoat, because it’s just a petticoat with longer sides than normal, so I’ve focused the pictures on the more interesting waistband section of the petticoat. (As you can see, this picture was taken before I ironed the front of the petticoat…)

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In making the petticoat I referenced Katherine’s 18th Century Petticoat Tutorial and The Standard 18th Century Petticoat Tutorial at A Fashionable Frolick. The nice thing about Katherine’s tutorial is that it’s adjusted for a petticoat to go over pocket hoops, while the great thing about the tutorial at A Fashionable Frolick is that it has tons of detailed construction information like which stitches to use. Both tutorials are clear and very helpful.

When it came to pleating, I thought I might struggle as Mr. Panniers is larger than normal pocket hoops, but I found that once I put the petticoat on the dress form with Mr. Panniers underneath I could neatly arrange the pleats around the waist and not go into the extra complicated pleated needed for a very square and wide pannier shape (such as in Katherine’s court gown and Kendra’s court gown). Whew! I placed all my pleats off to the side (further than I would for a normal 18th century petticoat) to keep the front of the petticoat flat where the trim will be visible between the fronts of the sacque.

The front panel of my petticoat is the fashionable silk that my sacque is/will be made of. (Enjoy the sneak peak!) The back panels are the same blue mystery fabric that Mr. Panniers is made of. The ties are polyester ribbon to match the silk, because hey, I was already fudging the accuracy of materials with the mystery fabric but on the other hand the color compliments the silk very nicely!

Here’s what the inside looks like. The extra fabric at the top of the petticoat is turned to the inside, slit up the middle to accommodate the curved top edge, and left raw.

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And here is the back. The petticoat is hand sewn. The center back seam is felled mostly because I am slightly obsessive with having nice insides and the other two seams are selvedges. For some reason the raw edges across the top don’t bother me. Go figure.

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I’ve also been playing with hair styling. I’m not satisfied yet, so I don’t consider it done, but at least I’ve made a start! The sacque is coming along nicely, too!

  • Panniers
  • Petticoat
  • Robe a la francaise (with a subset of trimming)
  • Hair
  • Shoes

Project Journal: 1880s Steam Molded Corset: Finished Corset Photo Shoot

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I’m excited that the 1880s corset I made last summer is finally, actually, finished! I got around to adding the finishing touches, lace and ribbon around the top, over the fall. Now there is nothing left to sew, and, after two wearings I can say with confidence that there are no little alterations I want to do! Yay!

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The first wearing was in August last year, with my 1885 frills and furbelows dress. The second wearing was in January this year, under my new 1899 evening gown. Both times I found the corset to be extremely comfortable to wear. And in January, I was able to get pictures of the completely finished corset! So, without further explanation, here is the corset in its finished form. (If you didn’t get to read all the intricate details of the patterning, construction, and steaming process, you can see all past posts here, in the project journal.)

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The super frilly petticoat was a great prop for these photos! (I’m much better at looking natural rather than awkward when I have props!). It’s from 1903 and was finished in 2011. I’ve worn it many times but have never taken photos of it on me. It’s entirely silk, with two layers of flounces, both made of multiple gathered circles and edged with wide lace in a scallop pattern. It closes with a silk ribbon that threads through the waistband in manner described in Authentic Victorian Dressmaking Techniques. It’s decadent to wear–it makes rustling sounds, has great body, and when you take it off it stands up on it’s own! I can’t remember how many yards of fabric went into this petticoat, but I know it was a lot, with all the circles in the flounces!

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In these examples, you can see the petticoat being worn with clothes on top: I’m wearing it to wade at the beach in 2012 and to give volume to a summer ensemble in 2012, but I’m also wearing it under probably every outfit you can find on the blog from the 1890s or 1900s, even if you can’t see it. (If you’re curious, here’s what it looked like in a half finished state.)

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Awesome petticoat aside, this corset is pretty decadent to wear, also. Silk, tons of curvy seams and bones, perfectly fitted, lovingly, painstakingly, and beautifully sewn… what’s not to like!

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Thanks to the usual camera toting culprit for doing a corset photo shoot with me in the midst of getting dressed for a ball! You know who you are.

(As a side note, it’s a challenge to take historical clothing underwear pictures that look reasonably like historical photos and images but don’t go into the modern lingerie photo direction. See the inspiration here and here? I tried this as well as the standing pose in the second link, but awkward really describes the outcome. But I think we did pretty well in the end. It’s amusing to feel these photos are revealing when I’m quite dressed by modern standards… Do you feel the same way about taking pictures in your historical underwear?)

Vernet Project: Making Progress

Our group’s early December deadline to finish sewing our Vernet Projects is fast approaching! Thank goodness we’ve had all year to work on these–mine has been quite a project with all the hand sewing and patterning and learning new skills. Of my five pieces, one is totally done, two have less than three tasks left to be finished, and 2 are still about halfway completed. It won’t quite be furious sewing, but I do have to keep at it to get it done in time. For now, here is proof that I’ve been making progress!

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Starting December 7th, you should check in often with the group on Facebook to see each recreation released side by side with the original Vernet fashion plate. It’s going to be really, really amazing to see these crazy and beautiful fashion plates in 3D form!

HSF/M #1: 1895 Hug-able Skating Costume

This is one of my favorite outfits of all time. I just want to hug myself, with all the fur, and I love the trim on the back! The whole thing is so cozy and so hug-able and the skirt has such a nice drape and the accessories work so well… and I actually got to go skating in it! I am just utterly chuffed (to use a British word) with the whole thing!

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I was on the fence about whether this outfit would apply to the Historical Sew Fortnightly/Monthly Challenge #1: Foundations, but then I read Leimomi’s teaser post about her foundation entry in which she reminds us about different interpretations of foundations and the intent of this challenge to create loose guidelines open to interpretation.

I was convinced (or pushed off the fence, if you prefer to think of it in that amusing way). I’m claiming my all new 1895 skating outfit for the first challenge of the new year! It does rather stretch the idea of foundations. Is the skirt a foundation because it is literally worn below the jacket, thus being a foundation as you would think of one in a building? Or is the bodice a foundation, because my direct inspiration is a lonely jacket without a skirt and therefore it is the foundation of the outfit because I wouldn’t have made the skirt without having the jacket? Either way, there is an element of a foundation in there.

Just the facts:

Fabric: 5 yds of ivory wool, about ⅓ to ½ yd of dark brown faux fur, probably about 3 yds of scrap muslin for flat lining the jacket, a bit of scrap canvas to stiffen the collar, and a bit of ivory flannel to line the inside of the collar.

Pattern: Made by me and based on my inspiration jacket as well as patterns published in Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns (a Dover book).

Year: c. 1895.

Notions: 5 yds of brown braid, thread, a bit of high loft polyester batting to keep the sleeves puffed out, about 1 yd of ivory hug snug to finish the bottom of the jacket, hooks and bars for the skirt, and thread.

How historically accurate is it? Pretty darn good. Definitely recognizable by someone in the 1890s. The construction is accurate, aside from the use of hug snug instead of bias and faux fur instead of real fur. So, 95%.

Hours to complete: Um… As usual, I did not keep track. I definitely spent at least 15 hours the few days before the event sewing on my braid and fur trim… Plus full days of pattern making, fitting, cutting, and sewing. Maybe 30-40 hours? I care so much more about the finished project than the time it takes to get there! And I loved sewing this, so I didn’t mind that it took time!

First worn: To a skating party that was part of the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers‘ 1890s weekend in January.

Total cost: $75 for the wool, probably about $8 for the fur yardage I used for this project, $4 for the braid, and the rest from the stash = $87

My accessories were a matching fur muff that I made a few years ago and wore once for caroling (with my as-yet-undocumented 1860s winter cape) but more often with my 1917 winter ensemble and a revamp of my 1883 wool hat. I didn’t have time to make a new hat because of all the last minute fur and trim sewing, so I pinned a fur scrap around the 1883 hat and added some feathers to stand up a bit more like 1890s hats and called it good. My main inspiration (and the reason I feel it was an acceptable looking style to have the squashy fedora hat look in the 1890s) was this image.

For good measure, here’s my Pinterest board for the entire project. And here are pictures of us skating (with ice skates: all our snow and cold weather does occasionally come in handy here in Boston)!

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Yes, we just crashed a local outdoor ice rink on a Sunday afternoon. One of the attendees even wore vintage skates! Turns out they can be hard to skate in because they’re not very supportive… but they looked fantastic! We got lots of comments from people asking what we were doing, why we were dressed up, and that we looked good. I was asked by multiple groups of young girls why I was dressed up and one group in particular asked what the swirly thing was that I had, which I got to explain was a muff to keep my hands warm!

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Here’s our skating group. People came in a variety of late 19th century and early 20th century winter outfits as well as modern clothes.

With my skating ensemble I wore fleece lined tights (modern, but warm so I didn’t care), knee high bamboo socks (modern again), my 1903 silk petticoat (super useful for the 1890s, also), a modern tank top (instead of combinations, because I needed to go to work later in the afternoon and change out of my outfit in the back seat of my car without being indecent…), my 1895 corset, and a long sleeve modern waffle tee (mostly to shield my skin against the wool seam allowances and also for warmth). And I was perfectly warm wearing this out for skating on a day that was sunny and right around freezing. In fact, with the muff and wool hat I actually was too warm at times.

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Pleased, chuffed, and smiling all afternoon! So fun! Maybe we will get to go skating again this winter!

1950s Adventures Part II: Autumn Colors

Back to 1950s adventures! I started the adventures with my previous post about the beginning of our day at a 50s themed diner. After leaving the diner we wanted to get some pictures with the beautiful New England autumn colors in the background, so we thought we’d find a place along the side of the road. We took a wrong turn over a bridge and got a little confused, but the confusion wound up with us driving past a lovely side road/private drive with lots of lovely trees and rock clumps. Rather impulsively, we pulled over a hopped out to take some pictures… and here are some of the results!

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Autumn in New England!
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Striking a pose at the base of the road we stopped on.
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There’s a song that used to play on the Oldies radio station when I was young: “Secret Agent Man”–when I look at this picture I start singing that song in my head… “They’ve given you a number, and taken away your name… (instrumental: doo da doo da doo da doo da doo da doo…) Secret Agent Man!”
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This looks like it’s straight out of the autumn edition of a clothing catalog.
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We were playing pass-around-my-petticoat so no one would feel left out.
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Petticoat!
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There were so many fun places to take photos!
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Group shot on the rocks.
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Serious faces. It has since been determined that if we were to start a hipster band named Queens of Rock, this would be the cover of our first album “Colors of Fall.” Of course, we’d be super obscure and you wouldn’t have heard of us…
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The colors are so complimentary! And the glasses are cute.
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Showing off my more casual, modern footwear… purple crocs that match my dress!

So there you go. I hope you enjoyed all the leaves! Next stop is the roller rink…

Belated HSF #11: 18th Century Apricot Petticoat

Life! Is often great, but does rather get in the way of sewing plans sometimes…

This HSF challenge #11 had a due date of June 3rd. I actually finished sewing on June 18th, but I’ve been busy posting about other things so this has been even further delayed. Oh well, I had the best of intentions: to complete this 18th century petticoat for the Squares, Rectangles, and Triangles Challenge.

Description:
Many historical garments, and the costumes of many people around the world, use basic geometric shapes as their basis. In this challenge make a garment made entirely of squares, rectangles and triangles (with one curve allowed), whether it is an 18th century kimono, a flounced 1850s skirt, or a medieval shift.
 
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Apricot (orange) 18th century under petticoat.

Just the facts:

Fabric: Almost all of 4yds of apricot cotton I bought back in January.

Pattern: None, but I referenced both of these tutorials on constructing 18th century petticoats.  Katherine’s tutorial is for a petticoat with an uneven length (to go over panniers, or a bum roll, for example). Rebecca’s tutorial is for a petticoat with an even length (the same length all the way around, to be worn without extra supports). Both tutorials have construction information, Rebecca’s includes a bit more detail in terms of which stitches and methods to use.

Year: Loosely 1700-1790.

Notions: Thread, yellow polyester ribbon for ties.

How historically accurate?: I give it 70%. Accuracy gets knocked down because: 1- the color is a bit vibrant for the period (but it’s an under petticoat, and I wanted it to be fun!), 2- all unseen seams are machine sewn, 3- I used bright yellow polyester ribbon for ties, 4- I haven’t seen much research that shows cotton being used at this time for a single plain petticoat of this sort. On the other hand: 1- all finishing was done by hand, 2- the dimensions and method of creation are historically accurate.

Hours to complete: 6 or 7? I can’t really remember…

First worn: Well, Squishy wore it for pictures!

Total cost: $12 for the fabric. The ribbon is leftover from my childhood craft projects…

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Side view.
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Front. See the yellow ribbon?
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Back. I love how the pleats fan out.

I chose to bind the top with self fabric and use polyester ties in a fun color for this petticoat, since I knew it wouldn’t be seen and I might as well use some of those things from my stash! The back half of the petticoat ties in front, then the front ties wrap all the way around to the front and also tie in front. That’s why you can see all the yellow ribbon crossing in the back. This method used a solid 3 yds of ribbon, though the ends I have to tie with are generous and could probably be shorter if I wanted to save on tie length.

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Back tied in front before the front gets tied. There are hemmed pocket slit openings on each side.

I just love the color of this petticoat. It’s so bright and sunny and cheerful, especially with the yellow ribbons! There’s also a sneak peek in this last picture at what will likely be a future HSF item: the bum roll… more on that soon-ish.