Costume Plans For 2017

It seems the promise to bring you up to speed with this year’s costume plans “soon” now translates into “come April”.  Oops! This is what happens when you get caught between job hunting and moving house… The latter has just been accomplished successfully. So now the update on my historical sewing plans for 2017 can finally go ahead.

Without consciously planning it, my 2017 motto will be “A hundred years forward, two hundred years back” with respect to my usual Regency-era comfort zone. This means I want to work on some costume items from both the 1920s and the French cavalier era, around 1625-30. Both periods are well outside my comfort zone, so I am also planning some Regency items, to steady my nerves in between learning about new-to-me eras. ;)

The 1920s endeavor has already been underway since December. So far, I have finished four pieces for a basic 1920s evening wardrobe. With the evening mantle I made for the Historical Sew Monthly’s March challenge, all that is still missing for now is a matching bra. The plan is to get cracking on it at some point later this year. The pattern for it will come from a 1925 French fashion magazine. And, of course, I will show you the other finished items in a series of catch-up posts!

Brassiere pattern from “La Mode du jour” (1925). Click image for a PDF pattern!

The next big, slightly crazy, project I am just about to start is a journey to the late 1620s. Some time ago, I rediscovered my childhood love of “The Three Musketeers”. This also threw me into a little research frenzy on Cavalier Era costume. This way I learned that it is among the somewhat less popular and more scarcely researched costume eras. Though with the new Renaissance Costume books by Jenny Tiramani, Susan North and colleagues coming out, there has been more general interest lately. And, of course, I jumped right at the challenge…

For now I am hoping to put together one ensemble, to get a feel for the period. I am trying to keep it simple with a smock, bodice/stays, a bum roll (which I already have, yay!), petticoat, overdress and stomacher. Right now I am about to pattern a smock from “Patterns of Fashion 4”. The one in the picture is in the book, too. But I might be leaning more towards a low-neck version at the moment. We shall see how this quest will end! ;)

Woman’s linen smock, Museum of London (c. 1600-18).

The plan to make an overdress came together the moment I saw this gorgeous violet gown at Rüstkammer Dresden. Is it not absolutely lovely?

Violet silk overdress, German, Rüstkammer Dresden (c. 1630-35).

A flat lace collar is also in planning, but perhaps not for this year. I quite like the one in this painting from the 1630s:

Young lady with a plumed headdress, Artist unknown, Manchester City Galleries (c. 1633).

Now that we have arrived at plumes and portraits, I want to share one of my favorite Baroque paintings with you. Naturally my first go at the era will look nothing like this lady’s stunning velvet costume. But, there is nothing wrong with some motivation for the future. :)

Portrait of Saskia van Uylenburg by Rembrandt (c. 1633-34), Gemäldegalerie Kassel.

Aside from these two huge detours in time, some Regency sewing will also be happening. My first Regency project this spring will be a simple white dress to combine with more colorful accessories. I am going for something basic that is not super sheer and matches well with a range of styles. Something like this neat gown in the Met Museum collection:

Sprigged cotton dress, American, Metropolitan Museum (c. 1800-05).

For it I am using the Laughing Moon #130 wrapping front gown pattern. As a sleeve option I am favoring elbow-length sleeves. They are simply the best sleeve option if you ask me. Who agrees?

Laughing Moon Mercantile pattern #130.

Last but not least, this brings me to the aforementioned “colorful accessories”. For this year, I am aiming to make a sleeveless bodice/spencer to go with the white dress. Shape-wise I am looking at something like this one from the Met:

Cotton bodice, American, Metropolitan Museum (early 19th century).

But I want mine to add a splotch of color to the outfit, like the orange example in the fashion plate below. Also have a look at the lady’s wacky “bonnet” hairdo. I have a scrap of leftover IKEA reproduction cotton set aside for my bodice. The floral pattern should be really fun to work with. I am so excited to see how it will turn out!

Fashion plate from Costume Parisien (c.1800).

To be honest, as excited as I am for the Regency projects I have laid out for 2017 so far (maybe some more will follow), I am more than a bit nervous about my self-imposed 17th-century mammoth project. No matter how well it will go, the chances of finishing everything this year are slim. On the upside, you might get to see even more Regency items when things are stalling. ;) I know I can count on your moral support with this challenge and promise not to mope too much when things take up the next five years or so…

For now it is back to the sewing table with me. At the moment, the smock and Regency gown are pulling straws to see which one will be made up first. ;) I will keep you posted on the outcome. Thank you for your ongoing patience with me and the blog!

Much love, Nessa

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More Catching Up: A Red Cloak

Last autumn, I made a new cloak to accompany me to one of my first historical outings, a reenactor’s market. It took place in early October, so my blue wool cloak was too warm and my new linen spencer was a bit too airy. So I went out hunting for a medium-weight, cozy fabric and found just the thing on sale: a dark red felted cotton. It is not really a felt but has a soft, woolly surface texture that leans more towards flannel. Hard to describe, really. I am still no entirely sure whether it would have been used in period, but the color persuaded me to go for it.

In the early Regency era, cardinal red walking cloaks were all the rage. They had already been a fashion item during Georgian times so their passing on into the next century posed a bit of an anachronism. The construction stayed about the same over time, but I have the impression that cloaks became a bit “leaner” in design as they moved on into Regency. The pattern I used was the free walking cloak pattern from the Jane Austen Center. I saved it a long time ago, before they chose to make this content registration only. It is still strange to me why they did this, but I will let that be their business… ;)

All in all, the pattern is not very complicated. The body is a semi-circle with a radius of 150 cm. Being a bit short, my semi-circle has a radius of 130 cm, minus 12 cm for a round neck-opening. I drew the circle directly on the fabric. To make drawing and cutting easier, I took a 260 cm long and 130 cm wide fabric piece and folded it lengthwise before I started. Here is the finished body on the dress form.

The cloak body.

The cloak body.

Afterwards I made up a hood with a self-fabric lining. Then I simply gathered the neckline and sandwiched it between those two layers.

Gathering the neckline.

Gathering the neckline.

The hood shape more or less follows Marquise’s instructions for an 18th-century mantelet; with the exception that the top corner is rounded off and not clipped. After learning how to make proper radial pleats during the baby cap project for my cousins, I decided to add a few. They came out lovely:

Some cute radial pleats on the hood. :)

Some cute radial pleats on the hood. :)

One thing that did not really come out well was the trim. I had made up some hand-gathered ruffles from looong strips of fabric. They started at about 5 times their finished length (wow!) They turned out too heavy, meddling with the hang of the cloak. Since they looked so pretty and a lot of time had gone into making them, I kept them around for future projects. We will see what becomes of them. ;)

Lengths and lengths of hand-ruffled trim.

Lengths and lengths of hand-ruffled trim.

The finished product ties with 2.5 cm seam tape in a matching shade of red. It is all rather plain now, but a real joy to wear. It coordinated well with my working-class costume and kept me warm all day.

The finished cloak.

The finished item. I was so excited of show it off, I forgot my shoes…

And the back.

A look at the back.

Some of the people I met on the road to the event took an interest and started telling me about their friends or family who also wear cloaks at LARP events. I was not really prepared for this. So I told them some more about my costume and fashion in the early Regency era in general. Most were a little surprised that cloaks had still been a thing in the 19th century.

I am glad they know now, because cloaks, from any period, are one of my absolute favorite things to make. They are easy and pretty addictive. That being said, I *might* be working on the next one already; this time from a period where you would not really expect it. I will tell you some more about it in the upcoming planning post for 2017. That is, once I have made sense of my notes at last. It will not be long now… ;)

Until very soon, Nessa

An Everyday Regency Morning Belt

Over the past few months, a discussion about wearing historical costume for everyday occasions has made the rounds in some online costuming groups. This reminded me of how much I love wearing Regency underpinnings with modern outfits. Half a year ago, I finally got around to making the Regency-era morning belt I have wanted to make for so long now. Since then, I have worn it under historical costume, but it has also had more than a few cameos as a bra replacement. Worn over a fitted camisole or t-shirt, it is super comfortable, much more than most modern bras. And, since a morning belt involves next to no lacing, it comes on and off more quickly than a pair of stays. :)

In today’s post, I will share the research and drafting / making process with you, so you can go on and make your own morning belt. The research has proven a little tricky, since extant examples of Regency-era morning belts are scarce, or at least somewhat hard to identify. But more on that in a moment!

Some Morning Belt Research

The one thing that has kept me from making the morning belt for so long (years, actually!) is that fact that this style is one of the least documented known Regency undergarments. The closest surviving examples to be found today are various sets of boned half stays. Examples of this are the Utrecht half stays Sabine has taken a pattern from and this corselet held at the Musée Galliera:

Corselet (Palais Galliera, c. 1820)

Corselet (Palais Galliera, c. 1820)

Corselet (Palais Galliera, c. 1820)

Since only very little information on the wearers and the occasion of wear exists, we can only assume that they have been used for morning / undress or maternity wear. And it seems very likely.  Still, I have always missed a clear link between these examples and the ominous “morning belt” from period texts. So I did a little digging.

On a whim, I started searching in French. This way I stumbled into a period book I had not know before the “Manuel des dames” by Madame Clenart, whose real name was Élisabeth-Félicie Bayle-Mouillart. You can access the full text here at Gallica. This is a second edition from 1833, but the content seems to date back to at least the early 1820, so it is a great resource for the mid to late Regency era. And it really is pure gold, it does no only hold advice on corsetry, fashion and manners but recipes for cosmetics, perfumes and some laundry directions for dress fabrics, among other things.

The corsetry chapter lists many types of stays, featuring suggestions on stays for maternity wear and instructions on turning a regular pair of stays into a corset à la prasseuse (the period equivalent of fan-lacing). This chapter also describes mornings belts and gives some instructions of how to make them up:

Extract from “Manuel des Dames” (2nd edition, c.1833).

In short, this extract gives the following hints for the construction of a morning belt (from what I could gather with my very basic French):

Half-stays for the morning are about 8 to 10 inches high (I understood this to be the back length), corded or lightly boned. The top part is shaped like it would be in a regular pair of stays, but the back ends in two long tabs that tie at the front with thread ribbon. They are very convenient for dressing in the morning, plan on going on a bath later or when you are in a hurry to get dressed. I do not know about you, but this sounds perfect to me on an average morning!
Fabric suggestion include white cotton or coutil for summer and nankeen or grey cotton canvas for winter wear. A lining in a matching colour is also suggested to make the morning belt more durable.

From this I gathered that morning belts also featured the crossover back tabs seen in the half stays above. Although they do not quite resemble those in the Galliera example, but come very close to those of the Utrecht stays.

Half-boned stays (Centraal Museum, c.1820).

Half-boned stays (Centraal Museum, c.1820).

On a side note, you can also find this kind of crossover wrapping for shape in a more unusual Regency-era garment. This bust (under-) bodice at the Victoria & Albert Museum:

Bust bodice ( V&A, c. 1820-29).

Bust bodice ( V&A, c. 1820-29).

After gathering this information, I finally felt confident to delve right into drafting my morning belt.

The Pattern

Since this has been my first venture into drafting a piece of corsetry, I decided to use these  drafting instructions for short stays by Mistress of Disguise. They also work wonderfully for actually making short stays. ;)

I started by following the instructions given for the front and back / side back pieces. The only thing I did differently was to use a slightly longer back length (9″ instead of the given 8″). For the bust gussets I cheated and used my size gusset from the Laughing Moon #115 pattern. I left out the straps and included them in the back piece later on.

To create the crossover back tabs, I turned to the pattern for the Utrecht stays by Sabine as a rough guide. First, I created the overlapping section at the center back. For this I drew two lines. The first was a straight extension of they stays’ bottom (underbust) line. Its length was equal to about 1/8 of my underbust measurement. I redrew this line later. Then I connected the end point to the top end of the CB line with a diagonal.

From here I rotated the back pattern piece outwards until the diagonal line was perfectly vertical. I will show you what I mean by this on the finished pattern piece in the picture below. When cutting out, the straight grain will run along this line, too. (Sorry about the slightly rumpled look. For some reason I could not find my original pattern draft…)

The rotated back pattern piece.

The rotated back pattern piece.

Now I elongated the vertical line by the length of my side back piece (again 1/8 underbust) plus two or so extra inches that would got over to the front at the sides. At the bottom edge of the line, I drew a perpendicular that was 2 1/2″ long. This marks the later front width of the tabs. Now I went back to the original bottom edge of the CB line from the initial draft. and connected it to the end point of the short perpendicular line with a long curve.

For the strap, I did a similar thing. I extended the top of the long vertical line by the desired strap length (14″ in my case). Again, there is a perpendicular line at the top edge, 2 1/2″ long. From its end point, I drew another line, parallel to the vertical. To get the length of the line I calculated my strap length – shoulder to underbust length at CB. This way I made sure that only a narrow strap shows at the front.

To shape the top curve, I extended the curve on top of the side back piece, across the back piece, until it reached the end point of the parallel.  The finished back pattern looks like this: Originally the strap was a part of the back piece. But when doing the final mock-up, I decided to make it into a separate piece to reduce some of the strain on the fabric. The seam runs in a spot where the mock-up had a little pucker. There is now no pucker in the end result. ;)

The finished back and strap pieces.

The finished back and strap pieces.

Making Up The Morning Belt

When making morning belt, I used up the leftovers from my long stays. Thus I made them out of two layers, an outer layer of white cotton twill and a sateen lining. After putting in the gussets and sewing together the individual layers, I joined them together by stitching through the side and side back seams. This minimized the amount of basting at this stage and made for nice, extra durable seams on the finished corset.

Joining the layers by stitching through the side seams.

Joining the layers together by stitching through the side seams.

For the light boning, I used four rows of cording with 1/4″ kitchen twine over the side back seams and two rows of cording plus a small piece of heavy-duty cable tie at the side seams. For the busk, I made a teeny 4″ wooden busk from a paint stirrer, using my own busk tutorial. With some hindsight from the last time though, I did not oil it as profusely as the last one. ;)

A tiny 4

A tiny 4″ busk.

After adding four hand-bound eyelets to tie the straps to the front, I started binding the morning belt with cotton bias tape. I bound the short edges of the bottom tabs individually then sandwiched the twill ribbon that ties at the front in between. Then I went about the remaining binding as usual. The top binding at the front holds a small 1/2″ drawstring that keeps the ladies in check.

On the dress form, the finished morning belt looks like this. It fits much better on my ( somewhat more squishy) self and I really love how it came out.

The finished morning belt, front view. :)

The finished morning belt, front view. :)

The finished morning belt, crossover back view. ;)

The finished morning belt, crossover back view. ;)

Close-up of the strap lacing and side boning.

Close-up of the strap lacing and side boning.

Cording at the side back seam.

Cording at the side back seam.

Now I am so happy that I finally got to make this piece of Regency corsetry for modern ladies in a rush to get dressed! :D I hope you enjoyed this rather long post and it has shed some light on the making of a morning belt. If you have questions, please feel free to ask them here at any time. Wishing you all a lovely rest of the week!

Cheers, Nessa

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Head Coverings c. 1800: A simple linen cap

Following the old saying “out with the old in with the new” I will start the new year with a long overdue catch-up post. It will be one in a series, since there are still some pretty things from last year I would love to share with you. And with the new Historical Sew Monthly challenges and a heap of fresh sewing ideas, there are new projects awaiting as well.

Today I am going to provide you with some long overdue picture “spam” of the late 18th/early 19th century linen cap I made to go with my short gown. It is really simple but I love it to bits and wear it the most of all my Regency-era caps. For it I used view 3 (bottom left) from the Mill Farm late 18th-century caps pattern, with a few changes to the original make-up.

Mill Farm 18th-century caps pattern.

Mill Farm 18th-century caps pattern.

The changes I made were really few, based on personal taste. For once, I cut out two brim pieces and sandwiched the crown and trim between them. Here the pattern called for a single, hemmed brim to which the hemmed crown and ruffle are attached with whipped gathers. This is the more historically accurate approach for the late 18th century. Since I was not so happy with my whipped gathering skills and was using an itty bitty bobbin lace trim, I opted for the “sandwich” method instead.

Another thing I changed was to add a 1/4″ double-fold casing at the bottom of the crown. It holds a drawstring that holds my rebellious hair in check. I did not add anything for it, since this edge was originally reserved for a 1/4″ rolled hem. In the picture you can see the small hand-bound eyelets for the ties. They work very well on those naughty hairs. ;)

The crown with the finished drawstring casing.

The crown with the finished drawstring casing.

Once the casing was done, the cap went together quickly, even by hand. It helped that the linen was super soft and worked like a charm. The trickiest part was the fiddly eyelet lace for the trim. Though, once the ends were finished and it was attached, it looked so lovely. :) Here are a few images of the finished item, on both Jane (my hat form) and myself:

The finished linen cap, side view.

The finished linen cap, side view.

The finished cap, top view.

The finished cap, top view.

The finished cap, front view.

The finished cap, front view.

The cap on myself. :)

The cap on myself.

And a bit more of the back. :)

And a bit more of the back. :)

And that was it already. I cannot say often enough how happy this simple little project made me, since I completed it mid-thesis when I needed something pretty to distract myself from the work. Now the thesis is finally, finally handed in and I am looking forward to creating new, lovely items for my historical wardrobe.

Once I have fudged out what to make for this year’s HSM challenges, I will share my plans with you. If all works out, I am going to spend some time sewing outside my Regency comfort zone, trying out some new fashion eras. Some of you have already spotted my 1920s robe de style on the Facebook page. It has been my first venture into a different century. I will keep you posted on the other projects to come.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy and joyful 2017. I am excited to see your new, gorgeous sewing creations this year. :)

Until very soon, Nessa

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

“Kissing Under The Mistletoe” (c. 1801)

Wishing all of my readers merry, joyful and peaceful Christmas days and a happy, healthy and fulfilling new year 2017! May all your wishes come true!

This year has been a little turbulent on my side and I hope you can forgive the long silences on the blog. Within the next few weeks, normal actiity shall finally commence again. Until then, I wish you and yours all the best!

Much love, Nessa

Head Coverings c. 1800: A Bergére-style Bonnet

After another week full of jumble, I want to add a little prettiness to this last day of the week. So I am sharing with you (at last) the early-Regency hat I made for this month’s “Heroes” challenge at the Historical Sew Monthly. The task was to create an item inspired by one of our historical fashion or costuming heroes. Some of the entries I have seen so far are some absolutely stunning costumes offering homage to a wide scale of historical and fictional costume heroes. For example, this very gorgeous open robe Crystal made, inspired by Janet Arnold and some of our fellow historical costumers.

My own entry is a much smaller thing, due to the thesis having seen its hottest phase in July / August (perhaps you can spot some of the paper chaos going on in some of my photos ;) ). It is my third jab at making the bergére hat I have wanted to make for song long now. It is inspired by and based on this tutorial by the Dreamstress whose blog has been a big inspiration for me to get into historical costuming. This makes her my “hero” for the challenge.

But wait… is a bergére not more of an 18th-century item? You are right. Those flat-topped, wide-brimmed straw (and sometimes also felt) hats were an accessory that fit in with the “pastoral” themes of fashion throughout the 18th-century. Here is just one of the many portraits: Eleanor Frances Dixie wearing one of hers with a beautifully patterned sacque gown.

Eleanor Frances Dixie by Henry Pickering (c. 1753).

Eleanor Frances Dixie by Henry Pickering (c. 1753).

At the end of the 18th century, however, the bergére did not disappear completely. Instead it lingered around into the early Regency years (if not longer in the lower classes). Although an interesting new style of wearing these hats emerged around 1800. For this time, there is some proof of the hats being worn tied down with a scarf or ribbon. For once, I found this 1797 portrait by Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun of a young lady who seems to have secured hers against a storm.

Portrait of a Young Woman by Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun (c.1797; MFA Boston).

Portrait of a Young Woman by Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun (c.1797; MFA Boston).

And this portrait of Henrietta Marchant from 1800 shows the style I was going for more clearly:

Henrietta Marchant (Mrs. Robert Liston) by Gilbert Stuart (c.1800; National Gallery of Art).

Henrietta Marchant (Mrs. Robert Liston) by Gilbert Stuart (c.1800; National Gallery).

This style, which has informally also been called a “gypsy bonnet” because of its somewhat “adventurous” look was my solution to fit the bergére into my main costuming period. To help me along with shaping it, I used these tips from Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion website (scroll down to the “Bonnets” section). Here is how mine came out, in a few photos, from start to finish:

The hat I started with: A real straw boater from Claire's.

The hat I started with: A real straw boater from Claire’s.

I started with this straw hat my parents and I found on my birthday in July. Following the tutorial, I began by separating the crown from the brim, leaving the bottom three rows of it on the brim to be ironed down. I took out about two rows of straw braid in the middle and left the top bit of the crow as is. Since it already had quite sharp angles, I did not have to iron it. They brim I flattened into shape by putting it under a wet towel and ironing over it on medium-high. After sewing the two parts back together, the basic bergére was done.

The finished basic bergére.

The finished basic bergére.

While the hat was still flat, I trimmed it with a red bias strip, about 3/4″ wide after hemming. Bias is really fun to work with when trimming unevenly shaped hat or bonnets. As my hat was oval, it saved me some easing and swearing. ;)

Trimmed with the bias band.

Trimmed with the bias band.

Now came the fun part of molding the hat. This is not strictly necessary, but it makes tying the finished bonnet a lot easier since the brim does not need to be tackled into shape every time. For this I pinned the seam tape I used as a tie into the spot where I wanted it to sit and tied it down firmly on my hat stand. Then I sprayed it with water and let it sit there for about a week. After about three days, I repeated the spraying, just to be sure.

The bonnet molding on the stand.

The bonnet being molded on the stand.

Once the bonnet was in shape, all I had to do was to tack down the tie in several places.

A top view, with the tie stitched in place.

A top view, with the tie stitched in place.

And here is the finished project. Since I still struggle a little with hat-making, the result is perhaps not the most refined head covering; but it is absolutely wearable. And I find it pretty cute, too. :)

The finished hat / bonnet.

The finished bergére-style hat / bonnet.

And now it is back to the last few days of the thesis for me. I hope this post added a little “pretty” to your pre-Halloween Sunday, as it did to mine. Very soon (hopefully) I will try to show you the other early period head covering I made this summer. And please, have a lovely week and a Happy Halloween tomorrow!

Until very soon, Nessa

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A Shortgown At Last

Finally, I got to compile the long-overdue post on my beloved shortgown I finished a few months ago. To start off, here is the finished product: I took these pictures after wearing it to one of my very first costume events (a historical market) so it is not perfectly pressed. ;)

The finished shortgown.

The finished shortgown.

The back, with pleats and a little bow.

The back, with pleats and a little bow.

The fabric I used was a gift from a dear friend who is a Regency/Federal-era costumer herself. She was very, very kind to send it across the Pond after I had spent weeks not finding a suitable fabric for the gown I liked. I am so glad she could help me out. But before I got to work with this beautiful fabric, which is a light, printed quilting cotton, I delved into research to get inspired about possible patterns.

Some Research
To begin with, shortgowns were present in women’s wardrobes in the 18th and early 19th centuries. In the 18th century the were also often known as bedgowns or manteaux de lit. And, while the general style of the gown stayed the same over time, some little details in the cut and shaping changed: Earlier versions of shortgowns were often cut from one piece and more or less symmetrical, with a front opening and a flared skirt section, shaped using pleating and / or tucking. Marquise wrote up some very good instructions for an 18th-century bedgown, based on Garsault’s book, here. Another example for this style, but with a more flared skirt, is the Kallfors gown from Sweden. The reproduction in the link also comes with a pattern. :)

And, while one-piece versions seemed to have been the rule, it is not uncommon to find gowns where the skirt section has been pieced on. This was done in the Kallfors shortgown, too. But it is not easy to spot from further away. Here is another Swedish example from Digitalt Museum where the piecing is more obvious in the lovely, bold stripe pattern.

A mid 18th-century Swedish bedgown from Digitalt Museum.

A mid 18th-century Swedish bedgown from Digitalt Museum.

As time went on towards the Regency era, narrower shoulders and slightly deeper necklines made an appearance as working-class women began to adapt the look that was fashionable at the time. Isabella of the Two Nerdy History Girls wrote a very nice post that sums up these developments. With the changes in shaping, neckline and waist drawstring began to be used in shortgowns. Here is a Dutch example from the very early 19th century that seems to have a neckline drawstring and sports a leaner silhouette than the more flared earlier gowns.

Early 19th-century shortgown from Friesland (Source: Memory of the Netherlands database).

Early 19th-century shortgown from Friesland (Source: Memory of the Netherlands database).

Another Dutch gown, where the drawstrings are a bit more prominent is this brown one. It has a visible join and drawstring at the waits, though the join might also be a casing sewn as a tuck. To me, this one looks super cute and very “Regency” and so it became the main inspiration for my project. Below, I will tell you how I went about making it.

Another Dutch shortgown, probably 19th century, from Amsterdam Museum.

Another Dutch shortgown, probably 19th century, from Amsterdam Museum.

The Making
To make mine, I played around with the Sense & Sensibility ELC pattern I used for my stripe dress last winter. I went with the long-sleeve version of the bodice pattern. The only difference was that I included a front opening. For this, I added an overlap of 3/4″ at the center front and cut two halves of the front piece, instead of a whole one. Here is a photo of my cutting layout and the lovely brown fabric:

The bodice pattern and layout. :)

The bodice pattern and layout. :)

To finish the front overlap, I pressed over 1/8″ and sewed a tiny hand-rolled hem on either side. I think this is how I finally fell in love with making them. They did not take long and came out looking really cute, almost like iced on. After finishing them, I sewed the rest of the bodice according to package… erm pattern instructions. ;)

The 1/8

The 1/8″ rolled hem on the bodice front.

And the finished bodice, with drawstring neckline.

And the finished bodice, with drawstring neckline.

The neckline drawstring casing I made of self-fabric bias binding, also based on the pattern. For the top closure, I sewed two small eyelets into the inside of the casing. They are set off by about 1/2″ so that they tie safely on the inside.

One of the two CF eyelets. :)

One of the two center-front eyelets. Below you also see the casing for the waist drawstring. :)

Like in some of the earlier extant gowns, I also made a separate skirt piece. I had two rectangles for the front that were 8″ long, plus 1 1/4″ for the top and bottom seams. They attach to the back piece at the bodice’s side seam. For the back piece, I played around with the pattern’s skirt piece, which has a curved top seam line. I trimmed it down to 28″ width, to accommodate one box pleat at center back and four small knife pleats on either side. At CB, the piece was about 11″ high and it went down to 8″ on either edge, to fit the front pieces. After sewing the three pieces together, I added two more tiny 1/8″ hems at center front.

The skirt piece, sewn together and hemmed.

The skirt piece, sewn together and hemmed at center front.

After attaching the skirt to the gown, I finished the skirt seam with bias binding. I then sewed it up into the bodice from CF to the side back seam line to form two drawstring casings. The strings tie up to pieces of cord near the back. To finish off, I finally added a little decorative bow to the back. It helps to cinch up the waistline and nicely brings out the pleats. :)

Another “gimmick” my shortgown has is a bodice “lining” piece that keeps everything in place. It was a feature of the S&S pattern and I decided to keep it, since it helps a lot with keeping the gown straight over the stays.

The bodice

The bodice “lining” from scrap fabric.

When I wore it to the event, the lining and outer gown were held together by a total of 30 (!) short pins. And, after spending six hours plus in costume, the whole construction had not budged an inch. I also wore the fichu on the occasion, using even more pins on it and it behaved very well, too. This taught me again that pins really are a great period closure method. And that, no, they do not prick and poke you at all. :D

So, all in all, I am very happy with my first shortgown and actually having worn it “in public” for an event. Here is hoping that I can repeat this again soon.  Until then, it is back to the thesis and more sewing (yay!). Wishing you all a relaxed remainder of the weekend.

Love, Nessa

 

 

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Catching Up: Just a little Fichu

The past week has been a bit busier than expected. So, today’s catch up post will deal with a small, yet nifty, little clothing item: a fichu to go with my working-class ensemble. The one I chose to make is simple, tuckable triangle.

To make it, I had a look at this post from the Oregon Regency Society. It covers fichus in many shapes and sizes. Looking at it tempts me to make at least one of each. One can never have too many fichus … ;) The measurements given in the post may vary based on the wearer’s shoulder width and the back length at the underbust line.

The fichu, 40

The finished fichu, 40″ wide and 18″ high.

I made my triangle 40″ wide at the base and 18″ high, as suggested in the post. It worked fine. The next time, though, I would add another 4″ or so to the long edge. I cut the triangle from an 18″ x 40″ rectangle, with the long edge folded in half. The fabric I used was a sheer cotton voile “lining” a local store carries as a basic.

The two short edges are finished with 1/8″ rolled hems, using my favourite method. On the long side, I got a bit lazy and just hid the raw edge under the lace trim. For that, I ironed under 1/8″ of the fabric, stuck the bobbin lace on top of it and hand-sewed it down with a small running stitch, close to the fabric edge. Since the finished lace edge was about 1/4″ wide, it covered the raw bit no problem. Here is a close-up of the finished trim:

The edge finish.

The edge finish.

I chose to have the lace edge on the back of the fichu, but it would also look nifty on the “good” side. Now the narrow bobbin loops peeking out from under the fold look pretty cute when I wear it. It goes together well with the sheer fabric and does not look too massive. Here is a look at the fichu tucked under the shortgown I still need to blog about.

The front view.

The front view.

The back view.

The back view.

Since it was my first, tucking the  fichu took a little practice. After a playing around for a while, I found that the simplest way to keep it in place was to pin it directly to the stays. When using a simple petticoat, the straps can help to hold it in place. Normal straight pins work well; but for the last event I cheated and used three medium-size safety pins, just to be sure. ;)

I hope you had a good week and found this quick post enjoyable. As the thesis goes into its final throes, a few shorter posts may follow. But I am hoping that I will get to tell you about the shortgown from the pictures very soon. So please stay tuned! :)

Much love, Nessa

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Catching up: A linen and silk spencer

Can you believe it has been half a year already? When I decided to leave the blogging part of my life to graduate, I thought I would be back with you after a much shorter while. Now, six months later, I am still working on the master’s thesis, hoping to finish it this month at last. But I have missed you and the blog so badly that I have decided to slowly return now. Plus, I have been sewing a great deal, since it helped me to stay focused and gave me little moments of contentment when the thesis did not really co-operate in that respect. ;)

By now, the queue of projects and little things I am aching to share has become quite long. So it is about time to pick up the threads and start catching up! In this post, I will tell you about the first thing I began to make a little while after my last entry: a linen and silk spencer jacket.

I made it up based on this gorgeous extant roller print spencer from the Genesee Country Village Museum’s collection. The original is made up from a cotton print fabric, in very lovely shades of red. For mine, I used some medium blue linen. I had found just over a yard of it on the leftovers table at my favourite fabric store.

While the original is lined with unbleached muslin, mine got a lining of unbleached silk noil. Noil is a fabric made from the waste fibres combed out in the silk production. While it is usually coarse and not really nice to look at, it handles almost exactly like other silks but is much more affordable. So it worked very well as a nice, warming lining.

The pattern of the extant spencer at the GCVM.

The pattern of the extant spencer at GCVM.

Here is the pattern taken from the museum piece. It has only been the second time I worked with an extant pattern and so I was a little anxious. Though, as far as alterations go, I had to change only very little. Basically, I graded up the bottom halves of the bodice pieces to my underbust measurement, using the waistband (at the top) as a guide. Another thing I did was to extend the shoulder seams to my measurements. The rest I left as is. Especially with the sleeves, it was a little gamble. But since the original sleeve cap had lots of gathers, I got away with it. ;)

Still, it took me a good three weeks to get from the first mock-up to the finished pattern. Though the pattern mostly needed some taking in and lengthening, I was very determined to stick to the “measure twice, cut once” rule because there was not much of the lovely blue linen to waste. In the end, the only part I left unchanged was the armscye and the sleeve. They matched up very well and fit like a charm! Even on modern patterns, this hardly ever happens for me so I did a little happy dance after setting the sleeve into the final mock-up on first go. Yay!

The initial-mock up: a little short, but very roomy.

Yippee, the sleeve going in on the first try!

Yippee, the sleeve going in on the first try!

Cutting out: Not and inch of fabric to waste.

Cutting out: Not and inch of fabric to waste.

The bodice coming together.

The bodice coming together.

The basic spencer with sleeves and the lining basted to.

The spencer, with sleeves and the lining basted to.

Assembling the outer fabric and lining pieces was pretty straightforward altogether. Once the bodice had come together, I more or less flat-lined the bodice, sleeves and collar by basting and then sewing everything together. All the outer edges were left raw as I finished them up with a row of piping and self-fabric bias strips, as it was done on the original. Below you can see the lining process for the sleeves where I basted and then slip-stitched the lining’s bottom hem before sewing up the side seams.

The slip-stitched lining at the sleeve's bottom.

Slip-stitched the lining to the sleeve’s bottom…

... then sewing up the side seams of both layers in one go.

… then sewing up the side seams of both layers in one go.

The raw edge on the linen I finished by applying cotton piping to the right side, un-corded edge to the raw edge. This was then enclosed in a 1 1/2″ wide bias cuff from self fabric. The same method I used on the collar. It is a simple round collar with single under-layer of cotton canvas, sewn to the neck edge individually. The bias strip I used for binding here was 2″ wide with about two thirds of it folded into the underside. Amazingly, this trim was enough to make it all lie flat. But then this has also worked on the original. ;)

Sewing the collar around the neck edge (sorry for the blurry photo).

Sewing the collar around the neck edge (sorry for the blurry photo).

The finished collar trim, top and bottom.

The finished collar trim, top and bottom.

Matching trims!

Matching trims!

Finally, the bottom edge was finished with the waistband. It is reinforced with a strip of canvas and has a short overlapping placket hooked shut at the center front. And this was the making process already. The last thing that was missing, was the closure. It is one of the things I like best about the spencer, since it is simple and genius at the same time. Basically it is a cleverly hidden hook-and-eye closure with the eyes sitting over the inside edge at CF and the hooks sewn to a tape underneath the overlapping side. Once you close it, it is completely hidden from view. The hooks are spaced unevenly, with smaller distances at the top and bigger ones towards the bottom. This was also done on the extant spencer and ensures a nice, secure fit.

The hidden closure.

The hidden closure.

And here is the finished piece. I wore it over my blue cotton petticoat, since it was the closest thing to hand and I was a bit excited about finally taking some pictures and entering the finished product into the Historical Sew Monthly’s “Travel” challenge. Now I am glad that I finally got to share the whole documentation with you. I hope you can forgive some of the atrocious photos. My new camera is not very well-behaved in artificial lighting but, at the time, it was the only light available… a by-product of writing by day and sewing by night. ;)

The finished linen and silk spencer... after about five weeks.

The finished linen and silk spencer… after about five weeks.

The back view, by daylight. I was so excited to be done, I completely forgot to iron the waistband. ;)

The back view, by daylight. I was so excited to be done, I completely forgot to iron it. ;)

This concludes my very first post in what has felt like ages. I have missed you all so much! Funnily, the number of the blog’s followers on Facebook has exploded during the idle months. We are not at over 300. Wow! This still leaves me baffled and in awe. I am very happy people stay so supportive and interested, even during longer times of hiatus. Still I am overjoyed to be back. Please give me a little while to catch up on all you have been up to in the past months. It feels like I have missed a great deal of wonderful things!

Much Love, Nessa

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Covering Baby’s Head – Georgian Style

Recently, there have been two new additions to my extended family: Two new baby cousins were born in March and April. They are both girls and look absolutely adorable. To welcome them into their lives, I decided to sew a little gift for each of them. Fitting with the HSM “Protection” challenge, I decided to make a pair of historically inspired baby bonnets. Since I have never sewn any clothing for babies before, it was a sewing adventure I was itching to embark on.

True to my favourite era, I decided to go for a Georgian / early Regency style bonnet. Since time was a bit short to get everything done for the baby girls’ arrival, I opted for a simple style, like the one in this 1801 plate from Costume Parisien:

Mother and child fashion plate; Costume Parisien, c. 1801.

This style corresponds fairly well to this extant American infant’s cap from the late 18th century.

Infant’s cap, second half of the 18th century, American; MFA Boston.

This is the simplest style of period baby caps to be found. It usually consists of two pieces: a narrowly hemmed head-piece and a ruffle or lace edging. Ties were optional and seem to be missing from many surviving bonnets. Beyond this very basic style, quite a lot of bonnets had extra decorations. Lace insets at the back of the head were a very frequent decorative addition, as you can see in this other cap from the MFA.

Infant’s cap with inset lace, 18th century, American; MFA, Boston.

Beyond that, some extant caps show off some very fine, drool-worthy embroidery in white, or sometimes even colored, thread. The early 19th-century example below is one of my favorites. Reaching this skill-level at white embroidery is definitely one of my long-term goals. ;)

Embroider baby cap, early 19th century, British; Textile Museum of Canada.

For my cap, I used Sharon Ann Burnston’s basic 18th-century baby cap pattern and tutorial. The original pattern is sized to fit a very small infant. So, after talking to some other seamstresses who have made it up before and also to the pattern creator herself, I decided to scale it up to about 125% of the size. This way my little cousins can grow into their bonnets over the next few months. :) Here are some detail pictures of how I made up the caps. Since they were so small and my sewing machine needed some maintenance, I sewed everything by hand. It was the quickest, easiest way.

The narrow-hemmed main piece.

After cutting out the pattern from a leftover piece of printed Swiss-dot cotton, I narrowly hemmed the bonnet’s main piece, using the rolled-hem stitch I talked about in this post from last December.

The laddered back edges, sewn 2/3 of the way.

Afterwards, I folded the bonnet in half, butting up the back edges. They were then sewn together about 2/3 of the way from the bottom edge. For this I used a ladder stitch. It is a more or less invisible stitch that can best be described as a straight version of the slip stitch, going from side to side in parallel, horizontal lines.

The radial pleats, outside view.

The radial pleats, inside view.

The open portion at the top of the back edge was gathered into radial pleats, using a circle of evenly spaced gathering stitches, about 1/2″ away from the center. I used a sturdier fillet crochet cotton yarn for this step. Pulling the gathers taut on both sides, created the little rosette you can see in the bottom picture. To secure everything, I tied the thread ends into a firm double knot. Then I back-stitched and buried each thread in the seam.

The lace attached to the bonnet.

Last I stitched some cotton lace to the hemmed edge, all around the cap. After that all I had to do was to add the ties at the “x” marks. For this, I used two 7″ long pieces of 1/2″ wide cotton hem tape. And here is what the finished baby bonnet looks like:

The finished baby bonnet, with ties.

Making one bonnet took about ten hours, or three evenings while taking a break from study and paper writing. ;) I am very happy with the outcome. And, hearing back from the new babies’ mothers, they were very pleased to receive them as a surprise gift in the mail. Now I cannot wait to see the bonnets on my little cousins’, once they have grown into them. :)

I should really try and sew for friends and family more often. But this year, time is extra short *sigh*. Although I am hoping to see you all again very soon.

All the best, Nessa