Making Waves In 1925

On my to-do list for this summer was a 1920s bathing suit. At first I thought I might knit one, but I wanted a smaller project than that, and also, a friend who hand knit a swimsuit last year reported a fair bit of sagging happening when she wore hers in the water. So I decided to try a different approach and make my suit from wool jersey fabric, a historically accurate option in terms of weave and fiber for a 1920s suit, as far as I can tell from my research.

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After spending lots of time looking at inspirational images on Pinterest and compiling this board of the most inspirational images, I decided on the year 1925, when suits were getting shorter and often sported built in shorts. My main inspiration was this extant suit from 1925 at Abiti Antichi. It’s where my decorative inspiration came from and also justified the visible seam where the shorts attach to the dress. I also referenced this 1920s extant suit at All The Pretty Dresses, which shows interior finishing (serging!) and has narrower straps.

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I knew there was no chance of finding wool jersey at a local fabric store, so I searched around the internet for sources. I believe I found only three–a company in New Zealand, New Zealand Merino and Fabrics, that makes gorgeous colors and sells through their own website and through Etsy; Denver Fabrics, which had wool double knit fabric; and Nature’s Fabrics, which I had never ordered from before, but which had lovely colors. I decided on bottle green from Nature’s Fabrics and vowed to get the whole project out of just one yard.

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For a pattern, I used a tank top from Old Navy as a starting point since I liked the straps, adding length (and width since my wool jersey was less stretchy than the tank). I cut the dress pieces first, then used the extra bits to cut the shorts.

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I wanted to use the pattern from my dotty tap pants for the shorts, but I didn’t have it handy, so I pulled out a finished pair of the shorts and used that instead. Unfortunately, I was a few inches shy of being able to cut all four shorts pieces out of my leftover fabric. My solution was to cut the two fronts out and then piece the back pieces with a seam about 4″ below the waist, hoping that it wouldn’t be noticeable in the finished suit. There’s a slight line, but it’s not something I’m worried about, especially since I basically used up all the fabric I had–no adding to the stash on this project!

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The white trim came from the stash. It’s a lightweight knit terrycloth I bought at JoAnn’s when I first started sewing. I made a robe, but didn’t love it. I did, however, keep it and am happy to have repurposed the fabric.

This would have been a really speedy project if it wasn’t for the trim. I used a serger with four threads to sew/finish the seams all at once, making the construction super speedy (I think I cut and assembled the whole thing in an evening). However, the white lines took a long time to carefully machine sew on and then I still had to bind the arm and neck holes, turning the project into a multi-evening size. The time spent was worth it though, because I love the finished product!

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I love the images of the bathing suit contests here from the 1920s, in particular this one from 1926. All the bathing beauties are wearing their nice pumps with their bathing suits!

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I didn’t have time to get a sash together, but the bathing beauty look is what I was aiming for in this picture, wearing my American Duchess Seaburys with my swimsuit.

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My main goal was to have the suit for an event at the end of August, but it was done in time for a vintage beach outing in July! It was an unusually cold day and therefore the beach was pretty empty, but it meant we had the beach basically to ourselves and got some great pictures!  In August, I’m planning for the whole suit to get wet, so we’ll see how that goes! In the meantime, here are a few more fun pictures from the July beach day.

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Regency Shoe Poms!

I was very excited when Gina posted a tutorial for making shoe pom poms in September 2014. I decided then and there, while reading the post, that I needed some of my own. It only took me about 18 months to get around to it… but I am happy to report that in April 2016, I finally used Gina’s tutorial to finish making my very own!

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What prompted me to really go ahead with making the poms is that I wanted to have something to spruce up an older outfit I wore to the 4th Annual CVD Regency Dance Weekend, but didn’t have the time to create a new dress, as the Versailles sacque and 1885 Fancy Dress were all consuming. I suppose what I should really say is that what prompted me to finish the poms is the opportunity to wear them. I think I actually started them in late 2015.

Let me start by saying that Gina’s tutorial is clear and easy to follow. I highly recommend it!

My issues were all self inflicted… I carefully followed Gina’s instructions, got partway through the process and realized that the scale was much bigger than I remembered and that I didn’t like it at all on top of my foot. Oh no! (But in going back to link to Gina’s tutorial for this post I have realized that of course her poms are not the scale I wanted, because her poms are bigger than I ever intended! Oops! Totally my fault!)

The only solution I could see at the time was to cut off the ends of each pieces and re-fray the silk ends! UGH! It was not a fun process to fray the ends and I could not face the idea of doing it again. So I refused to work on the poms for months because I was so frustrated. Then, in March or April, I had the brainstorm to make the pieces shorter by cutting out the middle so I wouldn’t need to re-fray the ends. Duh! From there it was smooth sailing to finish up the poms.

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Partially finished pom on top (using Gina’s original dimensions). My completed pom on the bottom (smaller in scale). The pin is for scale.

I used a purple silk shantung from my stash for this project so it would match my other purple accessories. The back of the poms have American Duchess shoe clips attached so that I can easily clip the poms to any shoes.

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I was inspired by extant shoes with poms on the toes, such as these. You can also take a look through my Pinterest board to spot more pom-like shoe decorations.

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Poms in action! I really like the look of the neutral dress with the purple accessories.

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: Finished Shoes!

After the many coats of paint I shared about already, there was one final coat that I convinced myself had to be the last because I needed to move on and finish decorating my Kensingtons. After that I went ahead and put on a matte acrylic finisher as suggested by Lauren at American Duchess. I then made the holes for my buckles using this tutorial also from American Duchess. The shoe buckle tutorial was invaluable and made the process incredibly easy!

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Finished?

I told myself the shoes were done, but I still wasn’t entirely happy with them. I think perhaps I was not satisfied because I had painted my shoes a color I’ve only really seen in cloth shoes rather than leather. But I moved on… and then this shoe-remake popped up on Pinterest and I was captured by the idea of adding metallic lace trim to my shoes to finish them off.

And so I went on the hunt on eBay, settling on this. It was a reasonable price and arrived quite speedily. As in the inspiration re-make, I used hot glue to attach the lace to the shoes. It was easy to work with and is generally reversible if I decide to change the shoes sometime in the future (though that’s pretty unlikely…) I think the trim suits my dress fabric nicely and it was narrow enough to follow the curves of the shoe without too much hassle, even on the latchets (which were the trickiest parts).

I also considered creating a design for the toe box area of the shoe, but decided against the idea once I realized how tricky it would be to get something I like. The lace doesn’t do tight curves easily and all the ends would need to be finished if I used non continuous pieces of trim, so all the ideas I came up with were going to be time intensive or poorly executed. I decided on simplicity.

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Ta da!

Now when I look at my shoes I have a smile on my face. They finally feel done and like they make sense! Yay–cross that off the list!

  • Panniers
  • Petticoat
  • Robe a la francaise (with a subset of trimming)
  • Hair
  • Shoes
Product links in this post contain 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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Wicked, Monstrous, Silly, And A Good Time

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Some friends and I, taken by the official photographer of the night.

In the words of journalist Heywood Broun, “The Jazz Age was wicked and monstrous and silly. Unfortunately, I had a good time.” I don’t know about wicked or monstrous, but I certainly had a silly and good time recently at the Greater Boston Vintage Society’s White Lightning Ball.

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Silly faces!

I wore my 1924 robe de style from last summer, updated with new dramatic trimmings that suit the dress much better than the last iteration. It’s such a fun, unusual, and distinctive style to wear. I fielded quite a few questions about the style and happily encouraged people who knew things about it such as that it looked like Lanvin. For my hair, I didn’t have time to attempt waves, so I aimed for a romantic style that was less time consuming, inspired by these: no waves worn with a robe de style, a romantic bun (on the right), and long hair pinned up. Also, this set of drawings shows a large hair comb worn with a robe de style which reminded me that I haven’t worn mine in a long time.

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My accessories include: my vintage celluloid hair comb; silver drop earrings with peachy faux stones, which don’t often match things, so it was nice to wear them since they don’t get worn often; and a recent purchase from American Duchess, black Seaburys! (Never fear, there’s a whole post coming about the Seaburys, but for now we’re focusing on the event and the clothes.)

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This event is held at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in what was the Anderson family’s carriage house in the early 20th century. It is a large building with multiple levels used for stabling horses as well as storing carriages and cars. The upper floor of the carriage house housed an exhibit of motorcycles during the event, if you’re wondering about the background. Downstairs was the collection of Anderson family cars from the 1900s and 1910s. They were very fun to look at and so tempting to sit in… I know it wouldn’t be good for the cars… And there were security cameras… so I had to content myself with looking at them and dreaming of reproductions that we could ride in.

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My other silly accessory was a candy cigarette. It does rather add to the 20s look, but of course I don’t smoke, so there was rather a lot of me flipping it around in my hand trying to figure out how to hold it and not look ridiculous. I didn’t ever try eating it, so I can’t report how it tasted, but I was pleased that it lasted almost until the end of the night when I dropped it for the second time and it broke in half. Until then it was going strong and gave me something to do with my hands in pictures, which is always a good thing.

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Mostly I stood around and talked to friends, hatched dreamy plans for how to sit in the cars, and took pictures, but we did go out on the dance floor a few times for some Charleston. Too bad nobody got pictures of that!

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This was the third year of the event, I believe, but only the first year I had been free to attend. It was fun, and nice to attend an event that I wasn’t helping to run.

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1890s Skating Ensemble Photo Shoot

When I first wore my 1895 skating ensemble last January, I ran out of time and braid after trimming the back and sleeves. Sometime last year I ordered more of the braid from Debs Lace and Trims* and in November or December I ordered black wood toggles from eBay (super cheap, 50 for $2–I’ll have toggles for life!).

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Showing off the finished trim on the back and sleeves from the first wearing.

I’ve only found this one picture of the front of the inspiration skating jacket. It’s not as close-up as I would like, but it was enough to base a plan on for my own jacket. Using that and other images on my sewing project Pinterest board, I planned out the yardage for each new row of trim. After lots of pinning, stringing toggles, and careful sewing I had used up every single inch of the new batch of braid for a total of 10 yards of braid trim on the jacket. But the result is excellent! I’m just as chuffed with the additional trim as I was with the ensemble when I first made it.

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It didn’t snow much here this year (such a change from last year!), but we did have a day of sticky snow right after I finished the trim that was lovely to look at. I convinced Mr. Q to take pictures of me around our neighborhood the next morning while the temperature warmed up and everything began to melt. Luckily we made it out early enough in the day that there was still snow!

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Passersby were staring, a lady on a balcony started a conversation with me about my outfit, and Mr. Q was, well, out of his comfort zone. I guess I’m just used to the situation. He was not–and I was amused.

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However, despite my penchant for making really odd faces and talking when someone is trying to get a good shot of me, Mr. Q did manage to get a number of very nice pictures of the totally finished ensemble.

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As you can see, I’ve edited out the odd faces and so far only included some of the more elegant and put together ones I managed to pull off.

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Here are some silly ones. I’m not sure what’s happening this one–it looks like I’m blowing a kiss or making a wish. I might have been talking. It’s cute though!

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This was a successful pose! Sometimes I just look totally silly when I pose, but I guess curious-what’s-around-this-tree face is not so bad.

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And finally, one in which I wonder again what I’m doing… I think I was going to reach up for the tree branch, but then Mr. Q pointed out that it looked weird… It’s a fun silhouette shot, anyway.

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*If you haven’t been before, check out Debs Lace and Trims. You can’t beat her prices and most laces and trims I’ve ordered from her have been excellent, with the exception of a few stiff laces when I was hoping for soft lace. But even then, the prices are so low that I put the lace in my stash and use it for other projects without being worried I wasted my money on a product I wasn’t happy with.

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?)