Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
First the caraco--it's JP Ryan's pattern, and it went off swimmingly, as I had anticipated. My by now well-worn copy of her pattern seems to only get better with age. Differences from hers: The sleeves, clearly. And I didn't reinforce or use hooks and eyes in the front. I found that simply pinning the front closed over stays did just fine, thank you much, and leaves the garment quite a bit more adjustable.
And a quick note on the fabric--it's a block print cotton procured from Heritage Trading Company on Ebay. It's actually done by hand, which you can tell if you get a close-up look--the borders are imprecise from one layer of printing to another. This family has been printing cottons in the same village in India for over two hundred years, and their stuff is not only beautiful but priced very well, too.
But what you all really came for--the sleeves. They're two layers of linen and one layer of printed cotton. They start out looking like this (general shape nipped from Patterns of Fashion by Janet Arnold):
Then I hemmed them (by hand, natch, while watching terrible SciFi channel original movies with my husband...did I say terrible? I meant gloriously bad), and pleated them so that they looked like this:
I then set the linen pieces into the sleeves (faked the piece out thinking I was just going to hem the lining and shell together then wham! linen engageant between the layers) and tacked the cotton on the outside of the sleeve. Then the piece de resistance: the border of the cotton was a strip of contrasting print, which I pinked and box pleated, then tacked it on top of the whole business.
Quite a bit of work for a bit of sleeve fluff, but God is in the details (wait, or is it the devil is in the details? Which is it? Anyone?) and I'm pretty pleased with the result.
Now, looking forward to wearing this when the weather turns sweltering this summer--the cotton is wonderfully lightweight, which will be a welcome change from my midweight linen work gown. Fan, hat, and shade, and I shall be quite pleased to be a lady of leisure...until the dishes need to be washed and the stew put on for dinner.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
...as they're almost as ubiquitous as the wide-hipped paniers and the flowy pleates of the saque-back for indicating eighteenth-century-wear.
I've never been so fond of them. For one, that's a heck of a lot of fluff. I don't really do fluff. For another, I portray a middling sort--my best ballgown might have more frills, but on a daily basis I really don't need that much, well, fluff getting in the way. But I've been making nicer things lately, and nothing ups the ante of a gown quicker than adding a few choice details (and a bum roll). Over-the-top fluff is, of course, optional.
Plus, they're not all lace. I had associated them with flowing lace for so long that I'd overlooked the lovely whitework and plain linen versions. A few examples of variations on a theme:
Not, you understand, that I have a whole lot against lace. But I do have a mindset when it comes to eighteenth century clothing that, if I can't find a reasonable fascimile in reproduction/modern fabrics or notions, I shan't touch it at all. Lace is generally like this. Eighteenth-century lace was handmade with fine silk threads and has lovely drape, nothing like most modern lace, which is not only generally stiffly synthetic but also generally done in patterns not used in the eighteenth century. Like big, fat cabbage roses. But I digress.
I had avoided engageantes to avoid lace, and decided that there was no reason I couldn't spice up my latest caraco with simple pleated linen. Fruits of labor forthcoming--one double-layer linen engageante and the accomapanying printed cotton one that matches the gown is finished.
There's a bit of disparity over whether engeageantes are attached to shift sleeves or gown sleeves. I've decided that it's most likely, as is much else with fashion, a case of any, either, or both, with individuals doing what worked best for them. In my case, I don't want every gown having a cascade of ruffle, so I'll be attaching to this gown only. Making things like this detachable, of course, was a wise eighteenth-century move: you could pull the fancy bits off for laundering and not worry that you'd get your shift back from the laundress with froth detached.
Now to hem and pleat the second engageante, attach both to to the sleeves, and trim! Pictures soon...
Monday, March 22, 2010
I can see the appeal after a week there. It's gorgeous--a fun city to explore, Puget Sound shimmering in the horizon (yes, shimmering--because it was sunny in Seattle), the moutains visible in the distnace, interupting the sky (again, yes, visible--because again, sunny in Seattle).
And just outside the city, the beautiful Cascades. A good friend of mine from college took me out to the Cascades, and we took a sumptuous hours-long hike. He likes to take pictures:
And this is my favorite one my friend took of me--I found these tiny, translucent bell-shaped flowers hanging like droplets of water from a bush, and stopped to take a closer look. My friend suggested that we taste them. We did. They weren't too exciting.
So, a great, relaxing week with fabulous people. I'll be honest--wish I wasn't back--is moving to the Northwest in my future? OK, probably not--but I will most certainly be back.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
...well, yes, that, too.
A print from 1788 (found at the Lewis Walpole library) depicting a delightful marqee tent with lovely furnishings. And a sofa, too.
I won't get too annoying, but had to point out one telling detail--the sword and gorget hanging behind the woman's hat are the trappings of an officer, indicating just what sort of man has been ensnared. The lady in question is wearing what would be a conservative riding habit (she even has her crop in hand...wonder whyever she would still be carrying that, hmmm) but has it unbuttoned and without shift or shirt covering decolletage in the most provocative fashion.
And another phrase I had not realized dated from the eighteenth century--Man Trap!
Friday, March 5, 2010
One of my favorite works by C.S. Lewis is The Four Loves, which of course, being by C.S. Lewis, explores the concept of love from a Christian perspective. But it also makes the point that love is not an emotion defined by romance--love can also be familial, camaraderie, and the elusive God-like charity of giving without bounds. And of course, our own lives inform us of this, too--we know by experience that love is not merely romance and lust. Our first loves, after all, were our parents, our siblings, even our pets.
So I approached Biljana's post and tried to think of a book that didn't have love in it, love driving the characters to act and pursuing their thoughts. I mentioned All Quiet on the Western Front, one of my favorite books, and the fact that, though there really isn't any romance in it, it's a story of brotherly love and camaraderie. The Picture of Dorian Gray--narcisistic self-love gone horribly awry. And others--The Life of Pi--that beautiful illusion is created out of love, isn't it? The Little House books--even before Almanzo, Laura's life is driven by the love she has for her family. And so it could go on and on.
And I think I know the reason why. This is where I know I go a bit off the grid, but here it is: Every life is a love story. I decided this, strangely enough, at my grandfather's funeral. Before the mass, there was a family-only visitation, to give us a reprieve from the hundreds of people at the open visitation the night before. And there had been hundreds. My grandfather was a professor and author, very active in his political and religious communities, and I suppose I had always defined his life that way. He wrote thirteen books, hundreds of articles, founded a university newspaper. There are Wikipedia entries that mention his work. He was successful.
But during that family-only visitation, I watched while my grandmother knelt by his casket in well-rehearsed Catholic posture, as she had in church every week beside him, and said her farewells. It struck me--my grandparents' life was a love story. People who I never would have thought of as the hero and heroine of their own love story were, in fact, the central characters in a romance. And so it is for everyone. Some peoples' love stories might veer toward the parental or to friendships or even to a life's work focused on helping others or academic progress. (Though I do maintain that wedged in everyone's life is a seed of romance that sprouted at some point. It may have grown slowly and beautifully over time as my grandparents' did, it may have bloomed brilliantly and flourished briefly, it may have been only a tiny seedling that never grew beyond a few leaves and that no one ever saw, but it was there.)
So, believeable fiction must imitate life and be motivated by the same things. So, if every life is a love story--not necessarily a romance, but a love story--so then, fiction follows.
What do you think--is every life a love story, or am I off my nut? Can you think of works of fiction that aren't threaded through with love of one kind or another?