Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Side foray into Regency

It's been a busy last couple of months as I have been dipping my toe for the first time into Regency-wear. I have a LOT to learn yet about the subtleties of the different decades, but have been so pleased by how quickly and easy Regency gowns seem to go together after years of making 18th-century clothing.

For a little bit there I thought I was going with some friends to the Jane Austen Festival in Kentucky, but have a scheduling conflict that won't allow it this year. Nonetheless, next year hopefully I'll be prepared! In the meantime I'll have to enjoy everyone else's pretty pictures.

Some lovely striped silk had been languishing in my stash for years, bought from Cynthia of Redthreaded's Etsy shop a long time ago. It was too light and delicate for 18th-century wear but I think it made a lovely Regency evening-gown! I can't wait to wear it to a dance.

I also dyed some little pointed-toe flats from a hideous flourescent orange/coral to a rust-red, and sewed some trim on them -- if I hadn't been impatient I would have been smart and ordered some Petersham ribbon so as not to get the wrinkling around the curves of the shoe. May yet one day rip it all off and do it right. 

 Someday I plan to buy all my dream jewelry from At the Sign of the Grey Horse, In The Long Run Designs and Dames a la Mode, but alas, while I am on a fairly strict budget I'll have to make my own. Still, I was very pleased how this coral necklace (beads from Michaels) and collet necklace (beads from Etsy) turned out! They'll hold me until I can indulge in quality gorgeousness.

This past weekend was the annual summer Rendezvous at Fort de Chartres, and Saturday was disgustingly sticky as usual. Still, some of us from the newly-formed St. Louis Georgian Sewing Society (we're on Instagram and Facebook now!) found each other and had a sassy little hang-out. From left to right, Emily in her gorgeous new anglaise and fun hat, Kat in regional German attire, me as "comfortable" because I'm lazy at this event, and Kim in a fun floral and stripe combo. We looked awesome, especially considering the indifferent standards of this weird event (supposed to be 1720-1820 Nouvelle France, but mostly populated by half-naked 'mountain men,' teepees, and women in ugly chemises/Little House on the Prairie cabbage rose dresses. Ick).

You'd think that after hanging around in the heat all day I'd have slept really well that night when we got home. But no, the insomnia kicked in and while I frustratedly twiddled my thumbs a genius (?) idea came to me to whip up a bonnet, since I was contemplating wearing Regency the next day after suffering through the heat in 18th century stays. So I started with a hat from Dollar General that I'd never worn and probably never would:

I cut it about at the halfway mark where the lettering stopped. Bending the now-cut brim back, I got it to a point where I felt like it could look somewhat Regency, and sewed it there.  

If I had had more time, I would have covered the whole crown with lovely puffy fabric to hide the brim-manipulation, but by this point it was about 2am and I knew if I didn't put something on it and force myself to bed, I'd be too sleep-deprived to enjoy the next day of Rendezvous. So I threw some dotted veil at it and tacked some silk flowers on and called it a night, lol! In the borrowed and paraphrased words of Pride and Prejudice "I shall pull it to pieces and make something better" although I don't think it is "very ugly" like Lydia Bennet's bonnet.

I think it did the trick with my (also new) floral gown. It's more 1790s with the straight sleeves and pleated back (hopefully I'll get some good photos of that eventually, I did something similar to the Tidens Toj bridal gown) so some day I'll style it correctly with a turban, loose long curls, and a sash, rather than the bonnet and all my hair up. Regency is so comfortable on hot days....I am QUITE in love with it and will be very tempted to always go for it at this event.

That's it from me for now....more to come as I'm groaning my way through menswear so my husband has SOME sort of an 18th century suit to wear to the St. Louis Georgians Francaise Tea in August.  

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Robe a la Francaise That Took Forever

Somewhere way back in my blogging, I apprehensively started draping my first sacque. I'll readily admit that it's made from thrift store fabric that seems to be some sort of silk blend but because I'm not sure what, I can't claim it's an accurate fabric (and probably that's for the best considering some of the minor mistakes I made). The construction itself, however, was as accurate as I could make it, as it is entirely hand-sewn, and I spent a lot of time looking at museum extants and the sacques in Janet Arnold. 

I preferred to have this be a long organic process so that I could be thinking about why these gowns were constructed the way they were, while enjoying the hand-sewing. I wasn't counting on it being a THREE YEAR long process, but having unwisely started it before my wedding, and then adjusting to moving in with my husband and shuffling all our things around in a small house for a couple of years, it took me a while to finally get back to this large project to finish it! 

Last Saturday, with a newly formed group of costuming & reenacting friends, I was able to get out to the botanical gardens to take a few photos. Rain threatened for a good part of the late morning and those of us who stuck around to take our own photos got sprinkled on (so again, good thing this gown isn't 100% silk!). I made my poor friends take about a million pictures of the back of the gown, because obviously that's the best part of a robe a la francaise, right? On to the snapshots!

 The staff at the historic house in the middle of the gardens hunted up their cardboard cutout of the gardens' founder, Henry Shaw, and made us take a picture with him. We had a good spread of eras represented!

 The Shoe Shot. My pretty American Duchess Georgies with their Fleur buckles. They've taken a beating over the years but are still fairly comfortable!

 Lunch in the garden cafe! We were kind of celebrities all day...I had a random child thrust into my arms for a photo and we were stopped by tourists and photographers alike. 

 One of my favorite photos of the day. 

 Windy and wet and kind of romantic.

 These two photos below were taken by the talented Genevieve Nadeau, who is the daughter of one of the ladies in our group and who came along to photograph during the first half of the day. I'm eager to see the rest of her pictures but here's our lovely group shot and a cropped one below that.

 It was a delightful outing, weather notwithstanding (this has been the longest dreariest winter and spring is very slow to make progress), and the sacque now needs a careful bath, but after languishing in the unfinished pile for some time, I'm sure even it was glad to see some daylight!

Likely next week I'll be done with a gold striped silk Regency gown that I'm eager to show as well.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Projects of the past year

Bonjour, mes amis! 
I can't believe it's been over a year since I posted anything here. Not for lack of projects, but the interest in documenting them has just not been there. I've had my interest revitalized by a sewing group that has started up here in the St. Louis area, spearheaded by my new friend Christine (who has been uploading some really very superior projects and especially drool-worthy 18th-century embroidery done on some machines I've never seen the like of). I don't think she would mind me linking her site at https://sewstine.com/ and you should check it out if you're in need of inspiration....she has certainly un-stuck me!

Last summer, my husband and I went down to Fort de Chartres as usual, and I've been embracing the farm-wife persona (don't mind my bedgown sleeves looking so long -- they're supposed to be rolled up but I'm going to have to tack them down a bit). In the miserable heat it is nice to be able to forgo stays at an event once in a while. I've mentioned this before, but with the Fort being down in the American River Bottom, the humidity is like none other as it settles in the "bowl" created by the high bluffs on all sides and there is almost never any breeze. Summer events are hard to breathe through sometimes! I've been loving my wooden French "sabots," who would have thought that wood shoes could be even remotely comfortable? They're great for walking through wet grass, and easy to slip off and on when you're resting.


There are a number of garments made of "indienne" mentioned in inventories from the area surrounding the fort, so I enjoyed mixing some prints in colors that might have been common. Apparently I'm always ready for a drink...I don't think there are any photos where I'm not holding a cup, haha. 

I probably had my blue stays finished the last time I wrote and I don't know if I added a picture, but here's a quick photo of them right before finishing the binding. They're half-boned blue linen,  but since this picture was taken I had to convert them to front-lacing for ease of getting in and out. They're fairly comfortable but I think the next set I make will be strapless again. I'm just not fond of straps! And I need to remind myself to stop making square tabs...they're very ugly, haha.

Since our St. Louis group is for 18th and early 19th century, I am starting on some Regency projects. It's not something I've ever prioritized before, but being a huge Jane Austen book and film lover, I could see getting into the cute day-dresses, the spencers, the pretty little bonnets and reticules. So far I have a shift:

...a set of short stays (I don't need much support so I went for a very lightly boned single-gusset style)

and I finished a white apron-front basic gown that I don't have any good pictures of yet. I am pleased with how the back pleats turned out so I'll have to take some photos soon. My next project is supposed to be the striped gold and cream silk over-gown, but I found a flaw in the middle of the fabric that I worry will be difficult to work around! Might have to scrap that idea and get different fabric, sadly.

 And I will leave you with a little teaser of the project that has been eating up all my free time lately...but it deserves a post of its own, hopefully coming soon!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Maybe dead, but not idle!

Yes, I know it looks like I haven't been doing anything, but really, I have! Ok, a lot of to-do lists are lying around but that counts toward something, surely!  Actually, I finished a striped bedgown and half-boned blue stays that are moderately more comfortable than my fully boned ones, but the shape could use some re-working; I'm very short-waisted and the stays ended up long-waisted. And why oh why didn't I make them front-lacing?! Having a husband to lace is not at all useful when he's in bed by 9pm because what seamstress ever accomplishes anything of note until the 9:30 - 2am time slot?

My current large project is a very respectable dusky-blue sacque that has languished on the back burner for the last year, and it's now about 3/4 done. Hopefully I remember to get some pictures tonight. It has a few construction issues since I'm drafting rather than going by a pattern, which makes me very glad that this was just thrift-store fabric I chose for the first-ever sacque. All the more reason to make another one at a later date. This one was meant to be more middle-century middle class, since that's the most useful to me in Nouvelle France, but part of me is so tempted to go Versailles-level crazy on it.

However, I can't very well tote seven yards of fabric back and forth to work without something horrible happening to it, and since I like to have a sewing project, it has to be something small. 

My mother-in-law and I took a trip to IKEA recently, where I bought some of the Sigbritt fabric for a future jacket:

(I think it's very pretty and it looks a good deal like some extant Indienne prints I've seen)


 an artist's figure. What?
Meet Renee. She's in early stages but eventually she will have real hair and a wardrobe of clothes. I half-finished her little chemise tonight during my dinner break. If she looks sassy it's because she's named after one of the more documented French women in the area, Renee Drouin, who outlived at least three husbands (she loved sergeants in particular, must have been the uniform), conducted several side businesses like laundry and inn keeping, and is so far the ONLY named seamstress I have found in any records around here, so I feel a kinship to her! Renee the Doll will hopefully be a fun teaching tool about 18th century clothing because for some reason eyebrows start raising when I start stripping in front of people to show them all my layers. Up next: a teeny tiny pair of stays. And maybe hair. My co-worker thought it might be a voodoo doll tonight. Oops.

                             (She's showing off the itty bitty gussets in her not-yet-hemmed chemise)

I've always loved 18th century dolls, and while Renee won't be extremely accurate (I'll leave that up to my idols over at The Old Pretenders), hopefully when I'm done she'll look like a little French lady with hair I can dress up or down depending on her wardrobe. From habitant to fine lady, she'll eventually show off some of the various styles of clothing mentioned in local inventories. It'll be a lot easier to get clothes off and on her than myself!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Ball...of sorts.

Just south of us is a tiny French town with deep 18th century roots, and every year they throw a "12th Night Ball." It's a fascinating mishmash of re-enactors, people who just like dressing up, people who don't dress up at all, and a lot of little teenagers in prom gowns. Quite the mix. But hubby and I were excited to go because we had taken a dance lesson the month before and really enjoyed it, and were encouraged by the teacher to come to 12th night to help keep order along with the other couples who had been taking lessons. I'm sure the dances don't seem very complicated to most people but I have two left feet and a desperate desire to get it right. My gentleman had to keep kicking me in the shin and saying "It's just a dance, stop stressing!"  We had a great deal of fun though and danced for hours!

            The paper called up any participants from the neighboring county so we did get to be in the newspaper later!
   My lovely handmade shoes did pretty well for the night although I started to get blistery toward the end.

It took us a little while to remember what we'd learned at lessons, I'm sure the poor teacher felt like she was herding cats from the stage. I took my neck handkerchief off...too hot...but should have taken the apron off too...oh the things we regret when photo evidence turns up.

I've given up on a pair of stays I was hoping to finish soon and think I'll just do slightly boned jumps. I've got nothing to support!

Hopefully next time I post, I'll have pictures of my finished crafting room which has been loooong in the making, but now has beautiful shelves full of folded fabric, and a cheerful color theme of light grey, gold and hot pink. Can't wait to finish it up soon!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

*creeps in slowly*

What a disgraceful lapse of costumery and news...but I have a legitimate excuse! I am now married and trying to keep house with a lovely but absentminded husband, a giant hunting dog, and a very young and incontinent puppy. Good heavens. 90% of my time at home (which isn't much since I'm still working full time) feels like it's spent cleaning up other people's/animals messes and the other 10% is used for looking in despair at the jumble of fabric/trim/art supplies in my new craft room. Which occasionally has water running through it thanks to a leaky basement, yay!

That being said, at present I'm back in the swing of sewing because the debilitating migraines have lessened and I've actually felt very anxious and unsettled during the long stretch of time when I couldn't do anything hobby-related.

On the work table right now: a striped 1750s vest for hubby, a maroon brocade one, and a maroon 1750s-60s coat (that will be plain for a while but eventually I'd like to try my hand at embroidering button covers and maybe down the front of the coat edges and pocket flaps.)

Also I have finished a brown work gown (I might have gotten that mostly done last time I posted though), and here are a few photos of that in action at the local Fort:

                                                            My good man and myself

                                                           ...and with some friends.
          Yes, I do favor Chardin-sized aprons...the more voluminous, the better. When in New France...

By the end of this week I will have a chintz shortgown finished for a local dance so I'm hoping there will be pictures from that this Saturday). The much-neglected blue sacque may yet get finished in the next couple of months, even my mother is eager to see me get done with that because it's such an ambitious project and I mean to trim it nicely...we'll see.

I'd love to do the HSF '16 but I think I'll just plug along at my own pace and enjoy everyone else's inspiration. Deadlines seem to have the exact opposite effect on me than is intended.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Alas, poor Annabelle

I would apologize for my lonnnng absence but I have not the mental energy for abasement right now. Suffice it to say that severe and frequent migraines have been taking quite a toll on my sewing and I don't have a whole lot to show for the past months! Little by little I have been working on the dusk-blue sacque and hopefully will have some pictures soon. The petticoat is finished; since I've made a number of them by hand before, I thought that was the easiest bit to get going on during a time when I was barely dragging myself to and from work, but following several lovely blogger tutorials I'm doing quite well on draping the rest of the gown.

I DID manage a pair of pocket hoops though! They are regrettably mostly machine sewn, which if didn't want to resort to as I was hoping to have a totally hand-made ensemble from the underthings up, but when health is involved sometimes it's best to just admit defeat.

I also hand-sewed a white, very light cotton-linen under-petticoat to go over the panniers but under the silk petticoat, for extra floof, and it will be getting a ruffle at the bottom to help kick the silk petticoat out a little more. So I haven't been entirely idle, just unfortunately not making as much progress as I would have liked to this year :(