1630s Petticoat Plans (CoBloWriMo #27)

With the stays all done and dusted, it is time to plan ahead. A matching under-petticoat will be next. Since I am not very eager on making a farthingale of any kind, I have chosen to go with a 1630s look. Technically farthingales were already going out of fashion in France by 1620. But, better safe than sorry. ;)

The petticoat will be made of tropical wool. It is not too heavy and has enough body to support the upper layers, with or without a bumroll. I will loosely base it on these instructions by Anne Danvers. 

Up until the 1630s, cartridge pleating was the way forward. This van Dyck painting shows a good example of it. You can see the distinct skirt shape through the girl’s apron.

Portrait of a Young Girl by Anthony van Dyck (c. 1630).

With my cartridge pleating skills being more than rusty, I looked up a few cartridge pleating tutorials. Drea’s and Jennifer’s instructions were both very helpful to jog my memory. Before I get going on my petticoat, I did a quick trial run. For it, I found a willing “victim”… ;)

Practicing cartridge pleats on Cal. ;)

After this little test, I think I can start making my own, bigger petticoat. Wish me luck!

Yours, Nessa

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A Flowery Regency Straw Bonnet (CoBloWriMo #26 & HSM #8)

As you might have noticed, finishing up the 1620s stays, and a bum roll on top, has completely knocked me off the blogging train this week. So here is a catch-up post filling out several CoBloWriMo prompts (namely Small Project, Made For Myself, Event, Favourite Resource, and Media) and telling you about the straw bonnet I made for the current Historical Sew Monthly challenge. But, one after the other, before anyone gets dizzy.

First off, the “event” I made it for is the prospective photoshoot I told you about last month. In my area there are few costume groups I know and big reenactment events are few and far between. So I cannot usually attend them without traveling quite some distances. But, on the plus side, there is a lot of scenery around, such as a baroque city center nearby and a few pictorial hunting lodges. For my birthday last month, we went to Schwerin, which has a beautiful castle and park with a Georgian colonnade and all . It would have been perfect for photos. Then the weather made photos impossible with stints of pouring rain, followed by singeing sun. And traipsing in the mud would have ruined the gown…. Oh well, maybe next time.

The design for the bonnet was inspired by this French fashion plate from 1810. Especially by the second last one on the far left and a bit by the first on the far right side.

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Fashion plate of different bonnets, caps and toques from Costume Parisien (c. 1810).

This brings us to the “Media” and “Rescource” section of this post. ;) I have to say that I loove Regency-era journals and magazines such as “Ackermann’s Repository” or “La Belle Assemblée”. Mostly, for the many fashion plates but also for the other period contents, such as letters to editors, etiquette or fashion advisors, short stories, poems and musical notes. Since I got to work with extant issues of Ackermann’s Repository in person, I am more or less enchanted. I even own a Franco-German volume of “Journal des Dames”, which was a total chance find. Sadly it has no fashion plates, only the French descriptions, with German translations on every other page.

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My pride, a French-German volume of “Journal des Dames et des Modes” (c.1828).

Thanks to the Internet, many journals and plates are now freely accessible online, for all those who cannot simply pop into the nearest historical fashion archive. This is why online library databases are one of my favorite resources. These are the ones I use the most:

The Library of Congress, mostly for copies of Ackermann’s Repository, but also some fashion books.

Gallica for French journals, mainly Journal des Dames.

Google Books has some issues of La Belle Assemblée and Wiener Moden-Zeitung available. If you have no yet found a PDF copy of “Workwoman’s Guide”, you can also find it here. :)

But now, to the finished bonnet! Here it is. I used some ruffled fabric carnations and lavender ribbon for it. At first I was also contemplating white ostrich plumes. But eventually, those were saved for future projects. :)

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The finished bonnet.

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A look at the ribbon tie, wrapped under and over the crown.

I finished everything in the course of one evening, with my father looking on. When he was little, his mother befriended a professional milliner, so he has always been excited about hats and hat-making; although trimming this bonnet was nothing much to look at.

Here are the challenge facts to give you a better idea of how the bonnet came together:

The Challenge: #8 – Ridiculous.
Some of the headgear worn in the Regency era looks a bit ridiculous to the modern eye but was very stylish in the period. To make my bonnet less boring, I placed the flowers in a rather unusual way.

Materials: A pre-made straw bonnet I bought at Nehelenia Patterns some years ago; fabric flowers; satin ribbon.

Notions: Matching cotton threads.

Pattern: Based on an 1810 fashion plate.

Year: 1800-15

Time to complete: Roundabout 4 hours.

How historically accurate is it? Somewhat accurate.
The maker shaped the bonnet based on period templates. But the trimmings are made of modern materials.

First worn: Not yet. It was meant for a photoshoot, but the weather did not play along.

Total cost: About € 30 for the bonnet and € 4 for the trimmings.

Love, Nessa

Not in a million years … I thought (CoBloWriMo #20)

Tonight I have some news to share with you: Just in time for the “not in a million years” prompt I finished the binding on my 1620s stays! And this is really something I would not have believed to be doing in a million years.

When I started sewing, I was positively terrified of working on corsetry, let alone fit my own patterns. This, however, was four pairs of stays ago. And things kept getting better with each one.

The first short stays were a catastrophe. Then came the Laughing Moon long stays. They were a big challenge, but the pattern instructions were a great help, as was the generous fitting advice on the Regency Facebook groups. After that, things kept getting better.

My self-drafted morning belt went together quickly, after just a few fits of swearing over the pattern. And now, there are the 1620s stays. When I started them, I was as terrified as ever. Although, aside from being super time-consuming, I have not yet come across any bigger snags.

One thing that really helped with it was Cathy Hay’s corset binding tutorial at Your Wardrobe Unlock’d. And now, the unbelievable has happened. Here are the bound stays, drying after a little spot cleaning to remove the pattern marker. Yippee! I made the binding from leftover lavender linen. The rest of it makes up the interlining.

The bound 1620s stays.

Next up are scores of hand-sewn eyelets. Another thing I believed I would not be doing in a million years. But, oh well, one truly grows with every corsetry project!

Nessa

Loving My Awl (CoBloWriMo #18)

When there is one tool in my sewing kit I adore, it is my awl. It is a Clover tapered awl I bought when making my Regency Long Stays.

The new awl, fresh out of the corsetry supply package. ;)

Before that, I used a straight awl for leather work to poke my eyelets. Although that awl has a nice, wooden handle, that was not much fun to do. Instead of properly pushing the threads apart to form a neat hole in the fabric, the old thing snagged a bit. 

For my new “baby” that is no problem. I can also control the width of the holes better, by choosing how far I push it through. Plus, with the plastic tip on, the awl makes a great point turner. :)

My precious… awl.

Just yesterday I saw that others use and love this awl, too. Jennifer, for once, is just using it for the hand-bound eyelets on her new, gorgeous 18th-century stays. They are going to be so lovely! 

Speaking of which … I should get a move on with my 1620s pair. Binding them has thrown me off the blogging schedule a bit. But I am almost done now and ready to swing my awl. Wish me luck!

Yours, Nessa

The Edict of 1634 – A look at French Sumptuary Laws (CoBloWriMo #17)

As promised earlier this month, I have taken a look at the French sumptuary laws of 1634 for the CoBloWriMo “Written Source” theme. Since I am in the middle of making a 1620s-30s costume for a French persona, they were a must for my research, to make the outfit credible for the time period. When I looked around for sources and information on sumptuary laws in fashion, I mostly stumbled across accounts of Tudor or Elizabethan laws. For example you can find good summaries of these two legislations here, here and here.

There is much less material on the French Edict of 1634 to be found online. To be fair, the earlier English versions comprised large rule books of “who wears what”, much like they existed in the Middle Ages. Compared to them, the French sumptuary laws look almost puny. There are a whole of eight articles in the edict, mainly but not only dealing with clothing. For this post I worked with the latest version that was issued under Louis XIII on May 9th, 1634. You can find the original print here on Gallica. Other edicts that were more or less similar were in place before, with the first ones dating back to the regency of Marie de Medicis.

Around 1633, engravings appeared depicting the effects of the latest edict. Like this courtier discarding all the fancy rags he is no longer allowed to wear. In practice, however, sumptuary regulations were handled relatively laxly. This is no surprise, seeing how they were notoriously hard to police or enforce. The general rule of thumb seems to have been that, the higher your social status, the more you got away with. But, of course, others could report you if they wanted to get you in trouble. Though, somehow, I cannot see this happening much. ;)

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“Le Courtisan suivant le dernier édit” by Abraham Bosse (c. 1633)

What follows is a brief lowdown on the eight main articles, loosely translated and with some commentary for those of you who are interested in fashion laws and those looking to dress their French 1630s persona in the proper style. I just went ahead and translated everything, also those parts irrelevant to fashion itself, just to show the full scope of the edict. Comments are in round brackets (), additions for better understanding in square ones []. Here we go:

I) No cloth of gold or silver, no gold or silver ornaments.

All subjects are forbidden to wear clothing or accessories, such as belts, baldricks or sword belts, hat bands, garters aglets, scarves and laces (rubans, best understood as ribbon ties in this context) in cloth of gold or silver; with fringes, trims or embroidery of pearls or precious stones, [gold or silver] embossed patterns, cords, filigree (cannetilles) [or] buttons. [V]elvet, satin, taffeta or any other  silk fabrics, [such as] crepe or gauze, linens, striped, intermixed, laced or covered in gold or silver.

All those were forbidden on pain of confiscation although I wonder what they did with them then. In my mind I have this naughty image of the king playing dress-up. Though, probably not… ;)

II) Fine clothing was to be made of silks with no more than two rows of embellishments, each no more than 1 digit (approx. 3/4″) wide. Men could only wear trims in few places.

The finest clothing is to be made of silk fabrics, unadorned except for two rows of silk embroidery or trim (the later articles also mention braids as a third option). Each row cannot be wider than 1 doigt (digit, approx. 3/4″).
On men’s clothes, the embellishment cannot be placed around the collar or the bottom of a cloak/mantle, the shaft or side of their shoes, sleeve seams or upper sleeves, at the center back, around button closures or at the basque (this most likely refers to the bottom of doublets).

And yes, these places could NOT hold any embellishments. I double checked this. But, looking at the engraving above, almost completely unadorned male clothing was the aim of the edict. For women and children, more embellishments were allowed; see the next article.

III) Women’s, girl’s and children’s clothes could hold the prescribed two rows of embellishments in more places than men’s clothes.

The aforementioned braids (galons), embroideries and trims are only to be attached to the tops or bottoms of gowns and skirts as well as in the middle of the sleeves, also around the body or basques of gowns.

IV) No other ornaments as those mentioned before are allowed.

Other ornaments like Italian lace (broderie de Milan) or other satin embroideries (here, “broderie” most likely refers to needle lace, though) […] are forbidden on pain of confiscation.

The list goes on, spanning most of the items already mentioned under the first article, like filigree or buttons, so I left them out here.

V) No silk clothing is to be given to servants. They are supposed to wear wool, trimmed with minimal braiding.

No silk clothes are to be given to pages, servants or coachmen. They ought to be clad in wool, without velvet trim or embroidery, except for two rows of braid on the sleeves or outside of the garment.

VI) Strict punishment for those producing forbidden items of clothing.

Dressmakers, embroiderers [lace makers], doublet makers, shoemakers or others are forbidden from producing any of the banned items on pain of denouncement and exclusion from their trades.

To us this may sound harmless, but being put out of their trade meant losing their entire livelihood since it was not possible to simply enter into another trade. This was indeed a very harsh punishment.

VII) Certain metallic items could still be gold or silver.

In spite of the aforementioned ban on gold and silver ornaments, sword guards, scabbards and buckles on belts, sword belts, baldricks or hatbands can still be in gold or silver.

VIII) Material restrictions for coach builders with strict punishment of violations.

Coach builders are prohibited from using gold embroidery or embellishments inside coaches or on [seat] cushions, […] to gilt wood or line coach interiors with silk fabrics on pain of denouncement and exclusion from their trade.

With this one, I keep wondering what triggered it. Gut feeling tells me that some nobles rode in coaches more lavish than the royal ones. Looking at this article, they were probably on par with the later imperial train carriages… oh my!

In summary, the Edict of 1634 is brief and concise about its restrictions. Officially, class differences as existed in earlier sumptuary laws were not given. Though court wear has still to be seen as separate from these laws, especially as far as high nobility is concerned. A lady of quality would try and dress like the young woman in this 1634 engraving.

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“La Dame reformée suivant l’édit dernier” by Grégoire Huret (c. 1632-34).

For my persona *cheerful wave at Mademoiselle Désirée*, who is from a distinguished noble family but also more modest than most, it means less is more. Sadly, we will have to say good riddance to the super cute linen waistcoat with the silver stripes. However, nothing speaks against some good-quality embellishments. And, of course, the high nobility got away with wearing their gold and silver pretties. At least, according to period painters…

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The king’s brother rocking some serious gold and bling in 1634 (“Gaston de France” by Antony van Dyck, 1634; Musée Condé).

Nessa

Making a 1620s Busk (CoBloWriMo Day 15)

With several small projects happening at the moment, I am getting a head start on tomorrow’s “Small Project” prompt. The first project I am presenting you today is the wooden busk I made for my 1620s stays. I made it using these instructions from Drea Leed’s Elizabethan Costume page.

The finished busk.

For it, I used a 35 mm wide, 10 mm thick pine board. The finished length is 12″ (30 cm). Since the busk’s conical shape was a little trickier to work than the simple Regency-era busk I made using a paint stir stick, my dad kindly gave me a hand with the woodworking.

When it was all sanded and oiled with a tiny dash of canola oil, I felt like adding some design to the finished piece. So I scratched away with a small etching knife and created this little fleur-de-lis. Seeing how I had never etched anything before, it turned out pretty well.

My attempt at an etched fleur-de-lis.

This whole project was so small, it came together in one afternoon. And I am quite happy with it. Although it’s not a real hardwood busk as they were used in the period, it is very stable but also light to wear. The only choice of hardwood at the local store would have been beechwood. But it would have been very, very heavy. So sticking with the trusty old pine was a good idea. :)

Nessa

Top Tips for Handsewing Needles (CoBloWriMo Day 13)

Today’s CoBloWriMo prompt is “Top Tips”.

In their posts,Thedementedfairy,  Kitty Calash and Cassidy have pointed out how important handsewing and using the right materials is to achieve the best possible results. My tips are an addition to all the great handsewing advice they have already given.

Being a stickler for always using the suitable needles for each task, I have compiled some points on those pointy things for you. ;)

As someone who primarily hand-sews, I find that proper control over the needle is one of the most important things. To get it, I use the smallest, sharpest needles I can find, namely quilting “betweens”. 

Quilting betweens, sizes no. 7 & 9.

Betweens are shorter than modern standard needles. This brings them closer to historical handsewing needles which were often on the shortish side. Recently I found someone who was totally stumped at people using 1″ long needles for sewing. To be fair, it takes practice and threading them can be fiddly. 

Thus it is best to start with a slightly bigger size, like a no. 7, and to go down as you are feeling comfortable with it. I am now on a no. 9, which is the smallest size I can source locally. On the long run, downsizing is well worth it. I especially notice the difference when sewing invisible stitches, whipped gathers or tiny rolled hems. They turn out much nicer as the stitching becomes smaller and finer.

Another thing I find important is to toss your needles and take new ones regularly. On average, I do this after every second or third project. When sewing with silk or extra fine voile, I automatically take a fresh needle, just to be on the safe side.

If you are unsure if a needle is still good, pass the point over your trouser leg (or skirt ;) ) at an angle. If it scratches or snags, the needle is a goner. You can do the same with machine needles, to be sure you do not get holes in the fabric or a sewing machine on strike.

I hope these tips are no old news to you and will help you a little with your sewing. :)

Love, Nessa

A simple 1920s mantlet (CoBloWriMo Day 10)

To top off the robe de style from the previous post, I made a quick and easy flanel mantlet. For it, I used this 1921 pattern as a visual source.

An embroidered mantlet, Mode de Femme de France, c. 1821.

Mine is about knee length with my wrist-to-wrist measure as the width. As suggested in the small drawing in the bottom corner, I used a check fabric. It is pretty, with the weird side effect of de-focussing my camera at some angles. ;)

After opening up the front as shown, I hemmed the outside edges. The inner edges are wrapped with some leftover blue wool that is about 15 cm wide on the whole. Over the shoulders, I attached a similar band, embroidered with some lines of chain and stem stitch.

Embroidering the shoulder band.

To wrap the slit, I stitched in the ditch and brought the wool bands around the edge like so:

Stitching in the ditch and wrapping the band to the inside to finish.

The portion of the slit that goes over the shoulders is closed up with a short line of ladder stitch. I did this instead of the herringbone stitch suggested in the pattern.

Ladder stitching the slit in the back.

The finished product then looked like this:

The finished mantlet with trimmings.

At the bottom, the sleeves were to be  formed with the ever-popular 1920s snap cufflinks, poked through buttonholes. I found this interesting period ad for them. 

1920s advert for snap-on cufflinks (Source: Vanity Fair).

Being eager to finish the mantlet, I improvised using regular big snaps, hidden under fabric-covered buttons.

The hidden snap closure.

The mantlet wears like a charm and I would absolutely put it on for modern day wear, going with the current poncho fashion. Here some de-focused photos of the completed item.

The mantlet on me.


And a proper 20s-style back view. ;)

see you soon, Nessa

The big and fluffy 1920s Robe de Style (CoBloWriMo Day 9)

This project was finished for last Christmas. Ever since I entered it into the HSM, I have procrastinated blogging about it. Firstly, because I have not taken many photos to document making it. And secondly because the process has been full of bloopers.

On the bright side, this gown is big, pink and very poofy. Perfect for today’s prompt… So here we go. Perhaps it is not as frightful as I think. ;)

Lots of big poofiness happening here…

This robe de style has been my very first 1920s project. I made it out of a thin silk crepe. It looks pink in the photos but is in fact eggshell with tiny red woven stripes. The pattern, like all the other ones I have used to date, came from an issue of La Femme de France.

Robe de style pattern from Femme de France, 1927. Click for PDF.

The pattern in the diagram fits a wearer about 165 cm tall. Thanks to the darts, it is pretty flexible as to bust size. To make it fit me, I shortened the bodice by 15 cm and widened the front darts by 2.5 cm at the base.

The back piece of the bodice after cutting out.

And then I made the mistake. I tried to add a lining to make things less transparent. Thankfully, I was skeptical about that idea from the start and asked in the HSM Facebook group. Here Leimomi of The Dreamstress saved my potatoes by pointing out that sheer 1920s gowns were rather left unlined and worn over a dress slip. So I whipped one up, using this free pattern by American Duchess. Pressed for time I grabbed a sleek, taupe cotton poplin from the stash to make it.

The slip, before attaching the straps. As of yet, they are still a bit too long…

The pattern was meant for casual wear so the skirt hangs, rather than stands out. For formal wear, a pannier-like under-construction was used to hold them up. I substituted, using three layers of cream and rose tulle. For extra fullness, I sewed them to a canvas strip and gathered the skirt in one go.

Constructing a full skirt with tulle and canvas.

The un-trimmed robe de style.

To finish off, I added a big bow of leftover tulle and ribbons. Since the neckline decided to be a spoilsport and did not lie flat, I tackled it with some glass beads. In the end the gown was passable and I wore it to the family Christmas celebration. Forgive the weird expression in the photo. It is just that the person taking it had just told me I look like a pink elephant. It is his idea of a compliment but that only dawned on me later… At least my mother told me that her mother had owned a robe just like it. That alone made sewing this whole, poofy monstrosity worthwhile. ;)

The finished elephant robe de style.

Yours, Nessa

The 1920s Step-Chemise (CoBloWriMo Day 8)

For today’s “Vocabulary” prompt, I will tell you about the 1920s step-in chemise I finished in January. Yes… January. So it is about time you finally get to see them. Colloquially, this type of chemise with leg holes or attached knickers was also know as “Teddy” or camiknickers. It emerged for the first time in the 1910s and was more practical than long knickers as dresses gradually became shorter. It was also especially popular in the 1920s as it avoided a visible “panty line” and thus supporter the fashionable boyish silhouette.

For my pair, I used an interesting pattern from a 1921 issue of “La Mode de Femme de France”. The original thing about it is that it only consists of a single square of fabric. It as a neck hole in the center and is tied with a ribbon, either at the bust or waist line. The pattern looked so intriguing, I had to try it at once!

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Step-in chemise pattern from Mode de Femme de France (Sept. 1921). Click for original.

I made my Teddy out of a square of cotton Muslin, using the original measurements. The fit was spot-on. Although, if you are taller than me (over 5 feet) you should alter the measurements to fit you. Measure yourself from where you want the chemise to begin, down to your crotch area. This will give you half the diagonal of the square you will need. To get from here to the side length you will cut, double this measure. Then divide it by  √2. This will give you the side length.

To get the width of the center opening, use about half your circumference in the spot where you want the chemise to sit. If you are not super busty, however, the dimensions in the original pattern will do nicely. Then, to form the leg holes, cut off a bit of the two tips at the bottom, finish these edges with a small hem and add buttons or snaps for the closure. Measure and make up the straps last, when you are happy with everything else. The ribbon tying the square into a chemise is laced through a series of buttonholes. They can either by placed at the underbust or hip level. I recommend trying out both versions with a piece of ribbon before you decide where to cut and sew the buttonholes.

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The finished Teddy, laid out flat to show the make-up.

I stuck with the “empire” waistline and it turned out lovely! To spruce up the neckline a bit, I did a shell hem. This was also a suggestion pictured in the original instructions. The other was to use matching ribbon for the neckline finish and straps. To make the shell edge, I used this lovely tutorial. For some extra traction when pulling the thread taut, I cut a finger off a spandex glove and stuck it on my thumb.

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Creating the shell hem.

The finished product turned out looking very lush. All that I need to make now is a period brassiere to go on top. :)

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The finished Teddy, front view.

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The finished Teddy, back view.

Just before starting the Teddy, I finished a slip and robe de style for the family Christmas party. Tomorrow’s “big project” prompt will be perfect to tell you about that poofy little monster. Stay tuned!

Nessa