Thursday, October 27, 2011

Busy Fall Things

Stuff I did this week that will someday be posted here for your enjoyment:

1) Pumpkin pie from scratch. Not as hard as feared. As yet untasted.

2) Finished the short cloak--as in, finished the edges. With fancy-schmancy matching silk ribbon. Hours of hand-sewing to Mad Men on Netflix, folks. (Sidenote: Is it coincidence or subconciously driven Mad Men aesthetics that have made me wear skirts and dresses almost every day the last couple weeks?)

3) Fixed Felicity's balance problem. My dress form was missing a couple slats on her stand--and she fell over a lot. Sometimes on me. Crafty solution achieved.

4) Solved my "no light to sew by in the living room" problem (making #2 possible without loss of eyesight).

5) Prepped for this weekend--the last event of the season. Kentuckians, take note.

6) Considering that my 300th post passed without notice and thinking about a little virtual shindig for the 350th. Thoughts? Would ya'll like a contest, a giveaway, a linkey-do-celebration?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Funnies, Historical-Style: Jack's Prize

I think I've mentioned before my mild obsession with the Lewis Walpole library, a collection of historical prints, mainly cartoons and humorous reproductions. If you're researching ordinary-people clothing, as I am wont to do, these kinds of pictorial primary sources are invaluable. One of the common complaints of reproducing lower or middling class clothing is the lack of pictorial sources aside from portraits. Complain no longer. Go browse.

For your amusement today, a pair of prints. Taken at face value, they may seem innocent (and the ladies' clothes are lovely. I heart the gigantic hats!).

But read the captions.
Jack on a Cruise: Avast there! Back your Maintopsail


Jack Got Safe Into Port With His Prize

Ok, so perhaps still somewhat innocent, or at least not overt. Weird wording about a guy named Jack courting a lady. Except...Jack is not merely Jack. Jack is shorthand for a sailor--and the fellow is dressed in a style normal for a sailor. And then the odd captions make much more sense.

A cruise was (and still is) the term for a naval vessel's time at sea. In the 18th century, a cruise was also generally considered a time during which a ship would attempt to engage in naval battles and take prizes--taking another ship meant that the victor had claim to the goods on board and even the ship itself. So, Jack is on a cruise--for a very particular kind of prize. The second print shows us that he's proven successful--he's come back to "port" with his prize.

And the prize? Well, proper ladies probably wouldn't go in for dalliances with sailors. The stereotype of pairing prostitutes and sailors was alive and well in the 18th century--it may be assumed that this woman could be a professional. Or perhaps she is an unsuspecting woman about to be loved and left. I tend to assume the former--mostly from the large quantities of other prints on Walpole from the period that feature ladies of the evening!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sapphire Gown

The Sapphire Gown stepped out for the first time on Friday, and the setting couldn't have been more perfect. Location? Early 20th century resort hotel. Event? Ball celebrating the 236th birthday of the United States Navy. With cake.


I think the ceiling might be my favorite architectural feature in hotel lobby--crick in the neck from staring up all night!


I need to learn to take pictures before dancing for a couple hours and wearing off most of my makeup. The requisite front shot; love how the front drape and the vintage brooch turned out:


And the back, with the mini-bustle and pleated chiffon on the side. Plus the hair I did myself. Me+tail comb+metric ton aerosol hairspray=slightly scary bathroom but hair that will.not.move:

Overall, I'm very happy with how this turned out! Lessons learned:

1) Dress form = amazingness. So many things went so much better using Felicity, my felicitous dress form. Fitting, setting the zipper, and, most of all, the chiffon draping and mini-bustle arranging.

2) Creating a boned foundation piece for the interior of the gown is priceless. It took some extra time, but the results speak for themselves. The gown held up--literally. And the fit could not have been better having the extra support.

3) You can take inspiration from any time period you want and create a modern gown. Really, really.

Evening highlight? The keynote speaker, an admiral-y type, asked my husband what kind of music he wanted to request (the usual small-talk-y kind of thing). He answered, of course, swing--and whether the admiral made it happen or someone else requested, we got to dance to a mini-swing-set! All in all, a lovely evening!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Block Print Jacket Ensemble--First Wearing

A couple of weeks ago, I met up with Mother for an event that's smack-dab in between our towns--and dressed her in her new ensemble. I ultimately decided to trim the sleeves and jacket front, but leave the hem alone to avoid this getting too busy. I couldn't find my sheer apron, but hope to for the next event we're both at so I can experiment some more with accessories.

I think I like the ensemble from the back best:

Everything swishes perfectly when she walks! and I love the fit and flare of this particular jacket style.

And the front. Some slight lacing issues--I need to add another couple of loops for lacing. And poor Mother--she really needs stays that fit her better. These are too short and it caused some issues with the neckline of the jacket.

We had fun taking these pictures--not included here are the half a dozen with my uncle popping into the shot, lurking behind Mother, peering out from behind Mother, and picking his nose behind Mother. For funsies.

Block prints are more fun in pairs:

I'd like to make her a gown in future--she only has jackets and petticoats, and has a great figure for a round gown!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sapphire Gown: First Look

I finished the Sapphire Gown last night after steady progress all weekend. I still need to do a final press (especially on the still-rumpled hem) and add in a hook and eye to the top of the back closure. But since I could put it on for a final fitting, I count it as done.

Can I simply share that having a dress form makes this whole process so much easier? Last year I did a freehand drape on the front of a gown bodice, and doing so on oneself is not only pesky but painful when one has a tendency to drive pins into ones flesh. And my favorite part of modern gown making is the final tweaking by hand.

So--a few sneak peek pictures before the gown makes its debut this Friday:

Detail of the skirt back--mini bustle:


Detail of pleated chiffon on the side:


The final touch--a vintage brooch I bought last weekend at the antique mall:


I'm thrilled with how this came out! I was concerned that the look would end up too historical and costumey, or lacking the original inspiration. I think it managed to walk the line--but I'll leave the final say up to you once I post final pics next week!

Monday, October 10, 2011

All in the Details: Eighteenth Century Accessories

I love my gowns. I really do. But the secret to eighteenth-century awesome? It's in the details. The best ensembles I've seen had great clothing as a base--but they hit awesome with a heavy inclusion of accessories.

So, I've made it a point to focus more on my accessories this year. I'm pretty pleased with the results:
A) Hat of Win. I love all my hats--my beat-up chip hat with ribbon trim (for my "I'm scraping bottom here but darn it, I shall still look nice!" campfollower look), my extra-large bergere (for pastoral whimsyness). But the Hat of Win accomplishes everything one could want in an 18th century topper--a certain je ne sais quoi of angled perfection. Plus pretty ribbons. And a large hatpin. And sun-shielding properties.

B) The basic cap underneath. I think the silk organza Snow Beast elevates the look even more. First advice for novice costumers and reenactors? Find the cap style that suits YOU. It's incredible--one person's laughable joke of a cap looks stunning on someone else. Then top it with a ribbon. It takes almost any cap from "thing you need to wear on your head" to "ladylike fashion statement."

C) Paste earrings. I have a variety of 18th century earrings (including faux pearls and simple silver), but my ornate paste ones are my favorites. In fact, I'm wearing them right now with my 21st outfit. What is paste? It's costume jewelry--cut glass set in metal, "pasted" in so to speak. Beautiful examples survive of detailed, decadent, and droolworthy paste jewelry. Plus, since it's not real stuff, I don't worry about losing it.

D) Silk kercheif. This one's practical (like the straw hat--works better than sunglasses for eliminating squinting). I hate getting sunburned. I especially hate my neck and shoulders getting sunburned. Tuck a silk kercheif in your neckline, and you don't get sunburned. Plus, it's such a lovely vanilla color in real life--matches absolutely everything.

E) "Coral" necklace. Eighteenth-century folks loved their coral. Today, of course, we know that it's a vital, living building block to an entire ecosystem, so we've knocked it off with the rampant harvesting (well, mostly knocked it off). Which is all the better, really, for authenticity sake. Why? The deep, rich red tones prized in the eighteenth century are nearly impossible to find in nature today (three guesses why...). So I've made do with a set of resin beads whose color and texture mimic natural coral.

F) Gown trim. Some might consider this part of the gown. I consider it an accessory. Why? Well, a) it's just for decoration. And b) my trims, like their 18th century forebears, can be removed and changed at will. Kind of in-depth accessorizing, but keeps the gown looking fresh. The neck and sleeves have pinked, box-pleated trim, and there's a single-layer engeageant at the sleeve hem.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Whirlwind of Mending

Has it really been a week since the last time I posted? Looks like...but you see, the weather has been beautiful since last Friday, including a crisp and bright weekend to debut the short cloak and mild afternoons and evenings every day this week for walks and savoring the last days of wine on the porch before the cold winds will drive us inside. So I couldn't tie myself down to a keyboard.

Still, I've been busy. I even have a Friday Five--sewing mini-projects completed this week:

1) Fixed weird boning issue with stays. When I ordered boning for the new stays, you may recall that what arrived what not what I planned for. Which meant I was short two out of three long bones for the horizontal front pieces. Solution? Hardware store, cable ties, quick snip and slip of cut-to-size heavy-duty plastic strips.

2) Fixed weird jacket front issue. My wool jacket was being cranky--slippery boning and fussy eyelets. Cable ties take two. And, resolved. (Sensing a theme here on cable ties?)

3) Fixed a hem. On normal, 21st century dress pants. No cable ties involved. Pretty boring.

4) Fixed the weird wrinkling issue with gown. Stripped the red silk gown of hooks, eyes, boning, and refitted it slightly to the new stays. Should be able to be pinned now, rather than hooks and eyes (which I never liked anyway).

5) Worked on Snow Beast #2. It would have been completed save the fact that ruffle attempt #1 looked ridiculous. As in, cartoon baby bonnet ridiculous. Or Alice in Wonderland oyster babies. Whatever. Ridiculous.

Now that I'm done fixing things--I'm looking forward to new projects! I have a pair of stays to make for a friend (hopefully eliminating the weird issues a la #1 of this list) and the Sapphire Gown to finish for the Navy Ball...next weekend! Better get crackin'!

What does the weekend hold in store for you? I plan to drink a pint of sunlight and roll around in some multicolored leaves, myself.