A Winter Wool Skirt

Over a year ago, I was reading this post on Miss Victory Violet’s blog and fell in love with her skirt. I decided then and there that I wanted one for myself a similar style, except in wool. So I went on the hunt and found a fabric I thought would do the job back in October. I was determined not to let is languish in the stash as many of my fabric purchases do and so over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend I made a skirt! I’m very pleased that I made something so shortly after the buying the fabric, especially a modern garment.

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The fabric is brown and grey herringbone with a light windowpane in red, pink, and blue. As you can see, the colors blend into more of a subtle texture than you might think when viewed from a normal distance. It’s perhaps more grey than I was envisioning, but that just means a more true brown skirt needs to be in my future, right?

The skirt closes with an invisible zipper and a button tab on the waistband. I did a rather good job matching the pattern while cutting and sewing, I think!

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The skirt is a full 3/4 circle, divided into six gores in order to keep the windowpane under control. I took the time to bind each edge with taupe hug snug, as well as the hem and around the pocket bags. It certainly added time, but makes for such a tidy interior!

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Pockets! The skirt has lovely in seam pockets. I had to get a picture showing them off in use.

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In order to help it keep the skirt keep an A-line shape, I’m wearing a recently acquired petticoat with it. I was inspired to get the petticoat after wearing my Bubble Dots skirt for modern life and feeling that the skirt was too limp. I had saved Lily’s petticoat comparison and went back to it to see what new inspiration I might have. I was re-inspired by her vintage petticoat and set off on a search to find my own for a reasonable price. There are actually sooooo many pretty vintage petticoats out there, but I stayed on track and only purchased the one, which is a slightly stiff netting. The elastic at the top was totally dead, but it was too small for me and too long anyway, so I cut off a few inches at the top, made a new casing, and inserted new elastic. Voila!

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I’m very pleased with the subtle shape this petticoat provides. It’s enough to make my fuller skirts look A-line and more flattering, but not enough that a modern person would think that I’m wearing a petticoat!

And the skirt? It’s great fun to wear. Such a nice, swishy shape. And it’s warm! Perfect for cold winter weather. Especially when worn with my somewhat new Victoria carriage boots! (They’re subtly making an appearance in the first picture and will be making more appearances. I’m wearing them pretty often!)

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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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.

Waterproof Picnic Blanket V. 1

I really don’t enjoy picnicking on wet ground, especially when it’s the sort of picnic with blankets, not chairs. I’d say that 80% of the picnics I attend are the sit on the ground sort, and I’d say the ground is at least a little bit damp at least 30% of the time.

I’d searched around a bit for a nice thick wool picnic blanket that would be generic enough to use for 19th and early 20th century picnics without looking glaringly modern, but found that the nice thick ones were more money than I wanted to pay. So I thought creatively and found a nice remnant of wool fabric to use as a picnic blanket. But it’s a little thin, and when the ground is damp the fabric doesn’t have much to defend itself.

So I thought about things some more and decided to make a non-period accurate waterproof blanket by backing my wool fabric with some waterproof modern material. I considered tarps, or a plastic-y tablecloth, or just waterproof fabric… but all of these things would cost money, even if not very much. But then I bought a new shower curtain liner for our bathroom, and I thought: “Ah ha! Now I’ll have an old already grungy large piece of waterproof plastic that I can use to back my picnic blanket!”

To make it, I first cut off the top few inches where the rusty grommets were and the bottom area where the rusty magnets were. Then, I cleaned it. (Of course, part of the point of buying a new shower curtain is that I didn’t really feel like giving the old one a really good scrub… irony!) I didn’t clean it as much as I would have if I planned to still use it in my shower, since after all the point is to put it on the dirt and grass, but I did clean it enough.

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Cutting off the top edge.

Once I had cleaned it, I laid my wool fabric piece over the plastic and cut it to be just a little smaller than the fabric. Then I used tacky glue to adhere the plastic to the back of the wool along the hems. (As a side note, Mr. Q thought I was crazy while I had all of this spread on the living room floor…)

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Gluing the plastic to the wool.

I did serge the edges of the blanket before hemming them. I figured that since I was adding inaccurate shower curtain plastic backing to my blanket a little serging couldn’t hurt!

At home, the plan seemed to be working out fine. Once the glue dried, I had a plastic-backed picnic blanket! But, in using it multiple times last summer I encountered a few flaws. #1: The plastic backing is bulky, making the blanket hard to fold/roll and take up a lot of space. #2: The tacky glue didn’t hold very well. The wool slides across the plastic when anyone sits on it, pulling at the edges. The tension has caused the two layers to detach in some places. Of course, I could have solved the second problem by sewing the layers together instead of gluing them, but I was trying to avoid sewing through plastic.

So, a partially useful solution to the waterproof blanket idea. Over the fall and winter I wasn’t super motivated to do anything with it, but perhaps now that picnic season has come again I might have to tackle the idea again and try Waterproof Blanket V. 2!

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Finally Finished: 1917 Wool Skirt

Last fall, in November I believe, I actually finished the 1917 wool skirt I’d made in 2013 as part of my 1917 Ensemble. Of course, it was wearable prior to being completed–I’d worn it for it’s original purpose and for a picnic in May 2013. But it wasn’t actually completed until I wore it last November when I also wore my 1917 Cranberry Red Scarf.

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From the Cranberry Scarf post, proof that I was wearing my wool skirt, though all the layers cover up the changes I made that completed it.
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The new placket closes with hidden skirt hooks and bars.

While the side seams, hem, and waistband were totally finished for the first wearing, the skirt never had closures. It just sat in my closet taunting me with it’s almost-finished status. When I went to finish it I realized that a side closure would make it much easier to get dresses and be less gap-y than the center back closure I had originally intended. Moving the closure meant re-do-ing the waistband, so I also used the opportunity to change out the pockets.

As a side note, pockets on day wear are genius! They’re so useful when you’re the public eye and you need to keep things like your car key, phone, and ID on you but you don’t want to leave them lying around. They free your hands from any sort of bag and ensure that your sensitive modern items are not lost or stolen. GENIUS!

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New (modern shaped) pocket.

The pockets I’d originally put in were rectangles set in vertically that extended both in front of and behind the pocket slit. They are just fine in skirts with more fullness, but for this period they were hard to get my hand in and out of. So when I was changing around the waistband, I cut out a new pocket shaped like what you would find in a modern garment. The new pocket has a facing piece of the skirt wool sewn over the muslin where it might show when I put my hand in (that’s the square set of stitching on the upper right). Because I added a side closure I only have one pocket on the other side, but it is easier to use than the old pocket style was. Both the pocket and the waistband facing are made from scrap muslin (not itchy, not slippery, and who doesn’t love using up scraps?!?).

Both sides of the skirt have four covered buttons on them. Buttons were often used in the 1910s to decorate skirts and blouses (take a look at my 1915-18 Pinterest board, for instance, and you’ll see lots of examples). These buttons are just for show, though, because the skirt closes with hidden skirt hooks and bars.

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Braving the cold to show off my completed skirt placket.

I referenced Jennifer Rosbrugh’s great placket tutorial (I could remember all the directions exactly, but it’s so much easier to just take a quick look to remember which pieces to cut to different sizes and where to put them!) and this tutorial showing how to add hidden side pockets (Again, nice to to have to think very hard: easy directions and good illustrative photos!). And I’m super pleased that the skirt is complete! Yay!

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!

Thankful For Suffrage

If you saw my last post, you were left guessing as to what event I was furiously sewing for. I think most you guessed that it had to do with women’s suffrage… Yay you! The entire event wasn’t really about suffrage, but suffrage was a part of it. We went down to Plymouth, MA to be a part of a historic village event that was linked to the main Thanksgiving parade in town.

The historic village contained various groups from the early 17th century, groups from the 18th century, Marines from 1812, a unit from the Civil War, my usual dancing friends and I representing women’s suffrage c. 1914, and paratroopers from the 1940s. The parade was…a parade. There were historic groups in it (including some of the military groups I just mentioned), there were marching bands, there were floats, there were unicycles, and there were horses doing various things.

And I’ve got pictures! To start, here are some images of the parade:

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Happy Thanksgiving! The giant inflatable turkey was pretty amusing, especially when he had to slightly deflate to get his head under the power lines!
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Often these guys are dancing with us, but at this event they were hanging out in the 1630s as the Salem Trayned Band.
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Some of our other friends: 1812 Marines.
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8 beautiful (and large!) Budweiser Clydesdales.
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4 spirited horses pulling…
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A fancy Wells Fargo stage coach!
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A super snazzy green car, with bright green trim!
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Red, white, and blue confetti in the cold, clear air near the end of the parade route.

Next, here are some images of our representation of Suffragists and our setup in the historic village:

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Setting up our tea table. Other setups included tents and smoking fires (it had rained the day before and everything was damp and mushy, so the fires didn’t really work…).
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Yes, we really did drink tea. In china cups. It actually was very nice to have hot beverages throughout the day given how cold it was outside!
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See, we’re drinking our tea!
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We didn’t march in the parade or parade around the historic village, but we did serenade the ducks in the creek behind us (and visitors walking by) with suffrage songs.
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Here we are making “serious suffrage” faces.
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Ok, smile for the camera.

The best part is that in addition to sharing a little bit about history with the public and getting to watch the Thanksgiving parade in all its glory, I was able to use this opportunity to build and wear an outfit showing off my recently completed 1917 Knitted Sweater of Angorina. I had to plan for cold weather, but I didn’t want to cover up my sweater! So I planned a faux fur hat to match an existing muff, a wool skirt, a polyester crepe blouse (in this case, the polyester was a great choice, because the fact that it wouldn’t breathe would help me stay warm and use up a random bit of fabric in my stash that had no other project in its future!), and did a mostly unnoticeable revamp on my 1860s/can-look-like-other-decades fur muff (which was essential, it turned out, for keeping my hands warm!). And to look stylish, I made gaiters to turn my 1920s American Duchess Gibsons into 19-teens looking spat-boots. And all of the fabrics were from my stash! The gaiters might just be my favorite part of the outfit, and both they and my fur hat will qualify for the next two HSF challenges, so you’ll see more detailed information on those soon! All in all, I managed to stay warm, except for my feet! I wore thick tights, but I didn’t think to wear extra socks, and my toes and feet were SO cold! Note to self: wear thick socks next time an all day outside event in the cold is on the horizon…

And here is my brand new 1917 outfit:

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Yay! New hat, revised muff, new blouse, hand knit sweater, new skirt, and new gaiters, worn with my Gibsons, my modern cashmere lined leather gloves, my 1913 petticoat pinned up to shorten its length, and a golden yellow ribbon in support of women’s suffrage. I was able to completely finish my accessories, but the blouse and skirt didn’t get as far as closures. You can’t tell of course, but safety pins are great sometimes. These two garments now live in the “need to be finished” section of my sewing list.
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One of the only back views. The blouse has neat collar details (see those cute points?) and neat cuff details you obviously can’t see. When I eventually finish the blouse and skirt I’ll post more details about their design and construction.

Despite last minute sewing for all of us, we all looked good and had fun wearing clothes from the 1910s while sharing a bit of important history with the public:

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Brown wool suit with fur trim.
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A wool plaid hobble skirt and jacket and a lovely black wool coat with fur collar.

The 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote in the US, was ratified in 1920, after over 70 years of struggle. I think it’s fitting that Thanksgiving and women’s suffrage were related events for us ladies this year. In addition to many other things, we’re thankful for those who fought to get women the right to vote!

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.

HSF #21: Trim For Evie In Time For A Ball

I’m taking a quick break from the 1950s adventure posts to insert my HSF #21 post into the mix. More 1950s coming soon!

It’s been on my sewing list for a few months to add a bit more trim to the sleeves of Evie, my most recent Civil War era dress, but I’ve been working on knitting my sweater and completing other projects, like my 1822 Walking Dress, so I hadn’t really been inspired to complete the trim. However, the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers were asked to run a ball as part of recent Civil War reenactments in Worcester, MA, and that gave me the perfect incentive to finish up trimming Evie! She also happens to be green, so this is my entry for the HSF Challenge #21: Green.

Oh yes, I forgot I had some other minor changes to make to Evie since I last wore her in March as well. Boring things, like changing out the boning at center back, and enlarging the armsceye a bit under the arm, and adding hooks and bars to connect the bodice to the skirt. I got all those things done, too, though they don’t get their own photographs. I really like the added trim. It gives the bodice a little bit more interest and helps balance out the immense skirt.

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Here is Evie, with her new sleeve trim.
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Another view. The sleeve trim is a smaller scale version of the trim on the skirt.
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A cropped version of the picture above. I can’t decide which way I like it better, so I’m including both.
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And here is what the bodice of Evie looked like before I added the sleeve trim.

Most of the trim on this dress is based on two images I discussed in this previous post: a fashion plate from 1864 and a costume made by Tirelli Costumi. The sleeve trim is based off of yet a third inspiration source: the painting, below, of Princess Helena in the Royal Collection. It’s perfect that it’s from 1864, just like my inspiration fashion plate. It’s even better that it echoes the bertha trim I already had and the zig zag on my skirt.

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This is a copy by William Corden (1819-1900) of the portrait of Princess Helena by Albert Graefle (RCIN 403988). The original was painted for Princess Helena as a birthday present for Queen Victoria on 24 May 1864. Princess Helena (1846-1923), nicknamed Lenchen, was the fifth child and third daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. She was lively, outspoken and something of a tomboy. In 1866, two years after this portrait was painted, she married Prince Christian of Schleswig Holstein and in 1916 they celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary; she was the only child of Queen Victoria to do so. Queen Victoria recorded in her Journal that ‘Lenchen’s picture by Graefle, is extremely good & pretty’.

Now, the facts:

Fabric: small bits of leftover gold silk shantung and green silk taffeta from the construction of the dress.

Pattern: none.

Year: 1864.

Notions: only thread.

How historically accurate?: Well, shantung is not accurate, but silk is (and this doesn’t look very shantung-y). I give this trim a 98% on accuracy.

Hours to complete: 4? All hand sewn.

First worn: With the new trim, on October 11, to a Civil War ball.

Total cost: $0, because it’s leftovers!

Now for the bonus part of this post where I include pictures from the Civil War ball.

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The entrance to the building had these fabulous doors.
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Each section looked like this.
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Dancing a waltz.
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Swinging skirts are fun!
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People looked very nice.
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And it was nice to see unfamiliar faces and meet new people.
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There was a constant swishing sound of skirts brushing against one another.
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The Commonwealth Vintage Dancers interspersed short performances throughout the evening.
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This is the Triplet Galop Quadrille.
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The ball room had large, dark, seriously-faced portraits around the perimeter. I’m not sure they approved of all the dancing!
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There were also Civil War era flags that the reenactors had brought to help decorate the room. And here’s a full length shot of Evie with her new sleeve trim.

I had a lovely time. This ball was nicely different than our usual evening balls with all the new faces. My senses were most struck by the abundance of rather more sturdy and thick wools worn by the military gentlemen than I am used to feeling at most balls, when there are more gentlemen in smoother wool tailcoats. The occasional feel of the thicker wool on my left arm was a tangible, and rather transporting, connection to the past. It seems quite likely that at a ball held during the Civil War a lady would have felt more thick wool on uniformed gentlemen than she might have felt at a ball pre or post war when there would have been more civilian tailcoats at a ball.

Have I inspired you to want to learn 1860s dancing and attend a ball? I’ll end with this small encouragement for your attendance at the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers’ next Civil War events. The Commonwealth Vintage Dancers have a Civil War Dance Weekend coming up in November, 2013. It’s super reasonably priced and includes lots of dance classes, two balls, and a German. There’s no experience necessary. If you’re at all interested and in the New England area you should check it out, because we’re doing lots of awesome Civil War dancing in 2014 as well (they are listed at the bottom of the Civil War Dance Weekend link, above), and why not get started learning or brushing up sooner rather than later? I’d love to see you there!

HSF #20: Finally Finished 1822 Walking Dress

…It’s only been a year! Or pretty close to a year. I posted an overview of my early 1820s project last November. The project included a petticoat, 1824 ball gown, 1822 walking dress, muff, tippet, bonnet, and chemisette. Some of these things are still in the UFO pile or on the to do list, but I’m super pleased that this post is about the completion of the 1822 walking dress!

The image below is my inspiration for the now complete walking dress. I wore it last December to go caroling outside before Fezziwig’s Ball, but at that point my time had run out and though the construction was complete there was no trim. Below the image of my inspiration is an image of the walking dress as it looked last December with no trim. And below that is an image of the now completed walking dress with trim! It certainly fits me better than the hanger, but you’ll have to wait a few months to see it on me.

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Promenade Dress. Ackerman’s Repository. December 1822.
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December 2012. Unfinished early 1820s ensemble.
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Yay! All the trim is on!

Before I share some close ups of the trim and construction, let me share the facts:

Fabric: 4-5 yds of dark pink wool, 4-5 yds of ivory super soft and thick cotton twill, 1/2 yd-ish of lavender polyester velvet, 1/2 yd-ish of lavender silk shantung,  and a bit of canvas for the collar.

Pattern: Adapted from my 1822 green ball gown pattern, I think. It’s pretty much exactly the same except that it has a higher back, collar, and sleeves. The ball gown pattern is based off of a pattern in Janet Arnold.

Year: 1822.

Notions: Pink and lavender thread, polyester batting in the hem, and hooks for the waist.

How historically accurate?: Very, having used modern materials and a few very nice looking modern fabrics . The pattern is from Janet Arnold, so you know it is good on accuracy and the trim scale and pattern is taken from a fashion plate from 1822. As a historic costume I give it 98%.

Hours to complete: Oh goodness… I’m sure the main construction took at least 40 hours and the trim took probably 50ish hours to cut, press, and hand sew. I didn’t keep track at all on this project.

First worn: To Fezziwig’s Ball in December 2012, though with trim it will debut at Fezziwig’s Ball in December 2013!

Total cost: $40 perhaps?

Ok, now for the trim and construction shots.

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Top of the sleeve. First I had to sew the bias into a tube so the raw edges would be finished and the bias could “float” without having to be sewn down all along the edges. Then I tacked the bias tubes in a zig zag then crossed and tied other zig zags to get the finished pattern.
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The front. The pattern looks very much like an oak leaf to me. The bias is stitched in a tube with the raw edges showing on the back, then the edges are stitched down all around to create the pattern.
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The sleeve. The bias is stitched on the same way as it is on the front. The motifs are sewn on the front of the arm rather than the outside.

I actually had forgotten that I’d taken these construction shots. In fact, I had totally forgotten the method I had used to construct my sleeves until I saw the picture again! These pictures where the wool looks more pink than maroon show the color best. It’s really much more vibrant, and much less brownish, than some of the pictures make it look.

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The canvas pad stitched into the collar before sewing the pieces together.
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The top of the sleeve before the gathered sleeve top was sewn on. I didn’t want to waste wool where it wouldn’t be seen, so it stops part way up the lining, then the gathered cap is sewn on and hides the raw edge of the wool.
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The lining is stab stitched to the wool at the cuff.

And just in case you want to read more about my entire project from the early 1820s, here’s a link to that category of entries on my blog. As I continue to finish up other bits and pieces I’ll keep adding them to that category, and it’s neat because the category filters only those posts so there’s a nice continuity.

Project Journal: 1822-1824 Ensemble Part I: Overview

Well, as you recently read, I have a 9 month sewing plan to get me through May of 2013. It’s not set in stone (which means that mostly I keep adding to it, not taking things away…), but it gives me a great overview of what I need to accomplish and by what month. Deadlines really help in getting things completed!

The first major portion of the sewing plan is an ensemble of clothing from about the year 1823. I’ve been doing lots of looking at fashion plates and extant clothing from the early 1820s, in books and online. Here’s a link to my pinterest board: 1820-1824. I had so many pins in the 1820-1829 board that I had to separate the decade, so I also have a separate pin board of 1825-1829.

The 9 month plan includes the following pieces: petticoat, ball gown, walking dress, muff, bonnet, and chemisette. I’ve added one more thing since the plan was created: a tippet to match the muff! Before I explain why I want these items (ie, where I plan to wear them!), let’s look at my inspiration for the items themselves!

Petticoat. Manchester City Galleries. (I’m making a petticoat out of white cotton. It is entirely hand sewn.)
Actually a Dinner Dress (but I’ll use it as a ball gown). Ackerman’s Repository. May 1824. (I guess I lied about the year… I’ve been looking at the images so much I haven’t even glanced at the date in ages! Anyway… I’m making this in apple green silk with hand sewn silk organza appliqués.)
Promenade Dress. Ackerman’s Repository. December 1822. (I am making this out of deep, rich pinkish burgundy wool with hand sewn lavender silk trim.) This is also my inspiration for the tippet. (I’m making the tippet out of white faux fur.)
Walking Dress. Ackerman’s Repository. March 1823. (I think this is where I got the year 1823 from… This is another influence on my walking dress design, especially at the collar.) This is also my inspiration for my muff. (The muff will be the same fur as the tippet, lined with pale blue silk shantung.)
Bonnet. C. 1820. The Met. (I plan to make this in lavender to match the walking dress.)
Chemisette. c. 1810-1825. Snowshill Collection. (Yes, this is one of the ones in Janet Arnold. I plan to make this out of lightweight cotton and use my fluting iron! However, I have to say that if one thing in my December-to-do doesn’t make the cut, this would be it. I really want to take my time on this and play with my fluting iron, and I’m not sure I’ll have the time on this one…)

What is all of this for, you ask? I plan to wear the whole ensemble in December when I attend Fezziwig’s Ball, a 19th century ball hosted by the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers in Salem, MA. Since it’s a ball, I’m sure you understand why the petticoat and ball gown are required! But why the outerwear? Before the ball begins, ball-goers have the opportunity to go caroling around the streets! It’s really fun, and usually pretty cold. I need to stay warm, hence the wool walking dress, tippet, and muff. The chemisette is to fill in the collar of the walking dress, and the bonnet is really icing on the cake to help pull the whole ensemble together! As an added bonus, later this winter my friends and I hope to go ice skating in 19th century dress, so this will also be my ice skating outfit!