Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The dreamy pastel Pet En L'air gets some sunshine

It's a joy to have finally gotten to photograph this ensemble, and between the dress and the much-improved camera of my newer phone, I finally got some pictures of myself in 18thc clothing that I'm quite proud of. This photo is probably my favorite, just for the soft, artistic quality of it: 

For more details, read on!

This fabric was pointed out to me by a friend who noticed it on clearance on Hallie Larkin's website, "At the Sign of the Golden Scissors." Though the rest of the site is now defunct, Ms. Larkin (or somebody) still seems to de-stash material there from time to time; I recently got a large bag of various sheer silk remnants for trims, caps, etc. I've also gotten from her clearance an incredibly discounted remnant of Scalamandre yellow silk with birds and bouquets that hopefully will some day go into a Dangerous Liaisons-inspired 18thc riding jacket like the one worn by the Marquise when she arrives at the country estate to 'comfort' Cecile.

But this striped taffeta (technically a lisere, I think, due to the woven nature of the botanical border) was love at first sight, and the first piece I got from there. As there were 7 yards, at first I thought "oh I'll just do a delightful sacque" but of course, there could be no matching petticoat with that short of a length of silk. Since the stripes, a dusty pale blue and indescribable smoky cream, were both proving difficult to match for a solid-colored petticoat, I decided against a full Robe a la Francaise, and instead cut out a pet en l'air. This I did two years ago, roughly around the same time I cut out both my black sacque and the bronze one, which both then went with me to Costume College. So the Pet just languished in a zipped clothing bag for over a year, waiting to be tackled.

For me, the JP Ryan pattern always goes together fairly smoothly (although I always have to refer back to AJ's deciphering of the robing folds because WHAT THE HECK JP RYAN. How did you think those directions were clear?!).  Now, unfortunately for me, the almost satin nature of this particular taffeta made it work loose from its ironed robing pleats down the front while I was trying to fit the outer fabric to the lining. If I had stopped and taken the time to re-pleat them, it would have been far better, but I charged ahead with reckless abandon and then had to tack down a LOT of stray fabric. At some point it'll have to be redone, as it's affecting the fit of the torso too loosely.

Fit issues aside, before even sewing up the gown, I had been busily making trim for it at nights while watching tv. I was somehow able to get the exact colors from a cardmaking trim shop on Etsy, and painstakingly cut and tied little bows of the blue onto the cream. Actually it went quite a bit faster than I was anticipating, but I wanted something that looked like fly trim.

Because I didn't want to be making it for forever, I did just enough to go along the edge of the sleeve ruffle, in the center of my trim around the neck/robings and on the stomacher.
The back pleats are always my favorite part.

My sleeve ruffle lace (engageantes is the French term, I think) is vintage, probably Edwardian...I try not to cut nice lace up, but a lot of what I intentionally buy is in poor condition and needs mending of good-sized holes, or has stains that have to be hidden. Not only is it usually less expensive, but that way I don't feel guilty actually using lovely old lace. I make all my engageantes on white cotton bands, so that the only thing I am basting through when attaching the ruffles to the gown is the band, rather than the fragile lace. This way too I can swap them in and out of different dresses. I think I have four interchangeable sets now!
The earrings are from an Etsy shop called EverThineCo. and I just HAD to have them when I saw them. They're usually quite pricey at $80, but you can often catch them on a half-off sale if you wait long enough, which is what I did. I think they're replicas of a famous pair that Liz Taylor had commissioned, but clearly modeled off a Georgian girandole.  My brooch was an incredibly lucky vintage Etsy's a copy of an 18thc Saint Lô cross from France, and it has a hidden bale on the back so you could also wear it as a necklace pendant. The original is at the Met Museum and is silver as most of them were, but I quite like the gold.

Juvenile-me gets a kick out of the fact the Pet en L'air in some instances in the French of antiquity means literally 'fart in the wind' (yeah I know, I'm supposed to be GENTEEL musings, sorry, I have to suspend that for a sec) and this picture fully illustrates why, lol.  WHEEEEEEEE (ok I'm done).

I'm in love with the powdery sky blue against the gentle just does everything for my pastel 2006-Marie-Antoinette-film-worshipping aesthetic, haha. 

The other thing I was really pleased about was my hair cooperating, for once. I have extremely long hair, down to my waist almost all the time, and you'd think "oh that's great for historical styles." Nope. I'd probably be better off with mid-back-length hair for workability. But in this case I started with day-old hair, slightly oily like mine often is, and I powdered the heck out of it with my favorite rose powder from Colonial Williamsburg. That gives my very fine, slick, straight hair enough body and grip that I can start to shape it. Then I section off the hair around my face and comb it forward over my face, secure a rat behind it (in this case, a fist-sized amount of my own washed hair from many daily brushings) and sweep my hair back over the rat. This gives me enough height that I can then gently curl and twist the rest of my hair up and keep pinning here and there. 

 I have two buckles on either side -- these are easy to make with strands of faux hair...cover a 1" dowel (or even a broomstick) with waxed paper, and dab a little craft glue onto the waxed paper. Take your strand of faux hair and wind it over the glue. I kept painting glue onto the hair as I wrapped it, until I had a good tight roll, and slid it off the end of my dowel to dry. This did take some finagling, and don't be surprised if your craft glue collects some wax paper when you finally peel it off the curl/roll, but the point for me was to get some 'invisible' forms over which to roll small strands of my own hair, which is exactly what I did here, then pinned the full buckle onto my head through each end of the roll.   

Once I had done as much with my hair as I cared to, any spots that looked a little flat or lacking benefited from a few faux flowers artfully stuck in there.

And voila, the finished pet en l'air with fully dressed hair and very 'extra' accessories!

Monday, May 10, 2021

Regency versatility: 1 gown, 2 looks.

 Oops it's been a while, and there's a striped silk pet en l'air between this Regency gown and the last post about my quilted hooded jacket, but I haven't taken any good pictures of that yet!

Before I get too much farther into this, I'm just going to say right off the bat that I used Laughing Moon #130 for the gown and I do NOT recommend it without a great deal of alteration. The way it ties is frankly bizarre and not secure without a lot of pins, and it caused me a great deal of angst about the frumpyness of the silhouette. Even with pandemic weight gains, I didn't feel like I should look like that much of a potato (however excellent and boiled): 

This pattern does something bizarre at the waist...the apron front wraps around and ties UNDER the back of the gown, behind the back skirts. I read the instructions over and over but the pattern picture also makes it very clear that's what you're supposed to do. So I definitely changed that by adding self-fabric belt loops and tied around the outer back like I'm used to. I also strongly disliked that the bodice is so unsecured to anything (the little crossover flaps just supposedly tuck into the waistband and that's enough? Not for me!). I tacked down one side of the wrap-front to the apron waist to at least give me a little more security because pins just were not doing it for me. Love my fabric though, which was silk bought during a sale from Ensembles of the Past! Sara is lovely to get things from (and just as sweet in person).

So after making the gown FEEL a little more secure, I turned to extants to help me jazz it up a bit. Because of my long-term costuming goal of trying to make one outfit from each decade of 1620-1920, I wanted something from the 1820s as I already had other gowns to fit other Regency decades. Luckily, this beauty had popped up from the Cora Ginsburg Spring catalog.

Gauze Evening Dress with self-fabric trimming
(English, ca 1823-24)
Evening gowns in the early 1820s frequently had cross-over style bodices, puffy cap sleeves (often with a tulle or gauze overlay to make it look even more like a soft frothy cloud) and a design at the hem, also usually puffy. Because I was already starting to think of versatility, I decided against the hem design in case I wanted to dress it down for daywear, but felt the sleeves were a must-do.
Fortunately Sara also had an interesting sheer window-pane fabric in her shop as well and she was happy to match it to her remnant of the plaid silk I bought, and reassured me that it would work. I decided to make a detachable overlay that could be easily basted over the existing plain puffed sleeve for a little extra drama. They ended up looking like little dirigibles, which amused me greatly.
While the ribbon banding at the armscye is more fanciful than historical from this time, it does add a little glitz by candle-light. I also added a gold/olive/beige Indian-style ribbon trim to both sleeves and neckline: 
And the finished result for evening wear came out like this!

The tiara is from BeElemental (but I don't recommend them unless you're willing to wait months for shipping overseas) and the long pearl and moonstone earrings are from Lady Detalle.  I need to find some over-elbow gloves but I've been searching for ages with no luck, so I may have to eventually make my own. I also had to buy more trim for the waist because I liked the look of it on the Cora Ginsburg extant, but it hadn't arrived by time I was taking photos.

But wait, there's more! 

This gown was also begging to have a day iteration, and luckily I had just the extant gown in mind! 

The extant is cotton, but the color and the plaid made me feel confident this style would work fine with my current project. I think it works!

As you can see, I removed the evening gown's sleeve overlay (which was intentionally barely basted in) and added sleeve extensions. I also added a shawl collar with ruffle, which I tacked in very lightly with stitches that will be easy to remove. The shawl collar then hides the fancy trim of the evening gown version, which I left intact underneath.

In this way I have two gowns for different times of the day, and it only takes about a half an hour to switch from one to the other by removing or adding components. This was really an enjoyable process once I figured out where to go with the project!

Friday, January 22, 2021

An 18thc hooded jacket

 Aha, I am back after the holidays! Frustratingly, I have been dealing with a lot of joint pain, mostly in my hands, since March of 2020, and it comes and goes, but I think the cold weather has really slowed me down. Lots of visits to the rheumatologist with no clear answers other than 'maybe RA' and definitely mild carpal tunnel after a very expensive nerve study, so I need to be more diligent about wearing braces, resting adequately, and learning better hand and arm stretches.

But I really enjoyed making this quick and easy (mostly) hooded jacket out of pre-quilted silk! 

I started this with a couple of inspirations in mind -- one from a portrait, one from an extant, and something sort of in-between happened! 

Here's the portrait I really liked, "Baroness Magdalene Charlotte Hedevig Løvenskiold, nee Numsen" by Jens Juel, 1772. I definitely borrowed her blue bow, plain stomacher, and the sleeves that end right at the elbow with trim before the lower sleeves are added.



The extant that I loved is at The Met, and is not hooded, but is quilted! It's just labeled "Ensemble" from 1760ish.

Because I didn't want the hassle of constructing a full button-front waistcoat, I decided against doing a true Brunswick jacket. Often those are a bit longer, have more details, and usually have longer sleeve ruffles which I struggled to envision working in quilted fabric. But there are so many portraits with stomacher-front hooded jackets that I felt that was a better fit for my medium this time! 

It actually turned out to be super simple to take the longest jacket from the trusty J.P. Ryan "jack-pack" (as I like to call that delightfully useful pattern set) and attach the pleated hood from the cape in the book "Fitting and Proper" by Sharon Burnston.

To me, the silhouette is quite pleasing, and it went together extremely quickly!

I loved how the fan pleats in the hood turned can see what body this fabric has to it because it turned out I didn't even need my styrofoam head to keep it up, haha!

And it's hard to see here but I just mirrored the same hood pattern for the lining, only in a rose-gold dupioni I had lying around. Dupioni is too slubby to be accurate for the 18thc, but as I machined most of the gown's unseen seams to save my poor hands, and the silk itself is clearly machine-quilted, it seemed ridiculous to then obsess over such niceties as a slightly-off silk weave for some hood lining. I wanted a color that would flatter my skin tone when the hood was actually up, too, and this was good stash-busting because I didn't know what else to do with dupioni.

The contrast of two golds is something kind of fun yet true to many 18thc ensembles in portraits.
 I can't remember now what went wrong with the sleeves that I discarded my first set, thank goodness I had lots of this quilted silk! But the discarded set actually turned out perfect to become the lower detachable sleeves of the jacket...I simply finished them off with a sheer white cotton ruffle and then basted them into the jacket at the elbow. 

The trim, on the other hand...ha. So here I was congratulating myself about how much time I'd saved by getting pre-quilted 100% silk. It was just $10 a yard when I bought it (FabricGuru has absolutely ludicrous deals sometimes, y'all, it just takes regular searching).  
But I somehow never stopped to think that if I wanted the pretty ruched or ruffled trim of both my inspiration portrait and the outfit at The Met, I might need a solid UNQUILTED silk. Good job, Anna. After trying swatches from various silk sellers like Renaissance and Silk Baron, I just couldn't get a good match in any taffetas out there; this is a true bright goldy gold.

So I had to start cutting strips and using a seam-ripper to UNPICK all the quilting for the trim. 

Anyway. Hours of unpicking later, I lucked out that with a little fingernail scratching and hot ironing, the holes from the machine quilting are unnoticeable, especially being gathered. But I don't have the trim done around the bottom of the jacket yet like I'd planned, nor any trim on the petticoat...I doubt I'll do a deep ruffle like The Met's petticoat, I have a hunch that the leftover unpicked diamond pattern holes on the fabric will probably be too obvious for that. But maybe a nice row of ruched or pleated trim will add just enough interest for my taste. Eventually, when I have more patience.

My lovely friend Emily (@historicthimble on Instagram) talked me into coming out of my hole for a socially distanced walk in historic downtown St. Charles; it was delightful! I had no idea how many beautiful old buildings still stood. And the fact that many of the Christmas decorations were still up just lent extra cheer to the outing.

Emily whipped up a red wool cloak to go with her beautiful Italian gown, and looked so charming next to all the red ribbons and greenery: 

(Such wealth, a pineapple!)

It was below freezing and I was SO grateful for being able to put some underlayers on beneath the quilted jacket! Actually at some points, we were both HOT in our respective outfits!

My fur muff was perfect for hiding my phone inside the whole time, lol! And much appreciated on the hands when the wind blew. It's made out of strips from a vintage stole I found at the thrift store.

I did NOT have a bum roll on and you can see how poofy the quilting makes this whole ensemble! The cap is made of silk gauze, also a recently finished project, from the J.P. Ryan Dormeuse pattern which you can find at Burnley & Trowbridge right now. I highly recommend it, I thought it was really easy and turned out a super cute cap. It'll look even better when I put some height in my hair! It's generally got more floof at the front around the face but I was having issues keeping it on with my slick hair so I pinned it in a couple of spots.

So that was my December make. On the first day of January I started a striped silk taffeta pet-en-l'air/short sacque, and it should be done by the end of this month! Here's a sneak peak of this gooorgeous striped blue and smoky cream silk I got from a remnant sale from Hallie Larkin (aka At the Sign of the Golden Scissors)!

Till next time!

Monday, December 7, 2020

An Edwardian walking outfit

So this is a new era for me! Other than making a 4-gore wool skirt for a suffragist costume for Costume College 2019, I haven't messed with anything Edwardian at all. Being not even slightly comfortable with tailoring, I picked a commercial pattern for the jacket which was Angela Clayton's McCall 7732...and in retrospect I should have just gone with an indie pattern. OH WELL.  So this image found on Pinterest below, a plate from 1897, was my sort-of inspiration once I decided my mock-up fabric was actually going to be my 'real' fabric, haha.

And then me in all my "no idea what I'm doing" glory. NAILED IT, right? 😂

 Ok so there's clearly some big differences, but I did enjoy making this so I'll show you some details and my walk with some of the STL Georgians at the most beauuuutiful cemetery. 

The jacket ended up frequently not making sense to me at various points in the construction (shocker, coming from a Big Three pattern company). But the back turned out nicely!

I forgot that pattern matching takes up SO much more fabric than solids, so it's a good thing I had already made the skirt first before tackling the jacket! I didn't bother with the McCalls pattern for the skirt because I wasn't interested in the decorative aspects of that one, so I happily sprung for the Black Snail #0414 1890 Fan Skirt and it was a dream to work with. Super easy, done in a night, will look even better once I stop being a lazy bum and MAKE a bum(pad) and good crisp cotton petticoat. Did not line it as my (hopefully) cotton fabric was quite a good hefty weave. Thank you, thrift store! Initially, I was going to have this all be just a mock-up and make my actual Edwardian outfit out of a really inexpensive silk taffeta I had found (also plaid) but now I'm saving that for an 1830s gown instead because I feel like this turned out satisfactory ENOUGH to wear for some Edwardian events.

VERY busy, but I really kind of like it. The 'puff' of the sleeve heads isn't as obvious as I'd like it, but by the late 1890s it seems they were slimming down anyway.

This front is what I'm not overjoyed about. I just don't get those two weird little 'flap' pieces that start under the bust and I haven't seen any fashion plates with this curved-front opening beginning quite so high. I guess the idea is to keep you from having a bunch of darts in the front? I don't think it's very effective here though. Whatever. I trimmed it out with green velvet ribbon and some little shamrock curlies and it is what it is, which is wearable.

But I needed a jaunty little hat! And I had nothing suitable to retrim, not having done this era, so I rummaged in my craft room and came up with a plastic canvas and some jewelry wire, and just started cutting.

Sewed some black velvet over it, and hey, a pert little hat! Luckily the velvet pretty much absorbs all light and you can't see that I really don't know what I'm doing with any of this process, lol.
My husband's a duck and goose hunter, and I have hand-me-down peacock feathers from my grandma, so throw all that together with ribbon (which matches better in real life than in pictures) and voila! Some kind of hat!

From my photoshoot with the striped macaron 18thc gown, I learned from watching the hairdresser that I have so much hair now that I can rat it up and effectively get a bit of height to it without underlying hair pieces. 

This is kind of where I'm starting to see some problems with my choices this day. I decided when I woke up that I didn't want to put my corset on because I was stiff and sore (going through a lot of testing lately to figure out what's wrong with my joints and it's likely rheumatoid arthritis). But in future I can tell that I'm going to need to do that to avoid this kind of lumpy, frowsy look I had going on around the middle, haha. I'd look solidly brick-like either way, but a corset would make it a smooth, contained solid.  Next time, next time. 
I'm also noticing with this jacket that it really needs a second point of fastening to pull it together more around the's far too loose with just the one hook and eye at the bust.

And so, with cloth mask made from leftover scraps, I ventured out to the Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis to see friends at a distance! We took off our masks for single photos, but tried to be as safe as possible.  The cemetery was STUNNING, my pictures don't do nearly justice, but it is many acres of lovely old stones on rolling hills (and lots of mausoleums built into the sides of hills that I only found after we were done with our walk). It's also an arboretum, and on this sunny fall day, the trees losing their leaves made a constant golden shower of confetti around us. The perfect lifting of spirits cooped up inside too long! 

Camille had the cutest little witch hat to go with her Edwardian outfit, as this was in October! And also the cutest pupper. 

One of the only decent shots I was able to get of myself this day, lol, I'm rapidly realizing that group events are just NOT good places to get full outfit pictures, I'll just have to go do those on my own with a tripod at another time to get satisfactory documentation photos. Hopefully with a better phone camera soon. 

Hairan, Makia, Emily and Camille admiring the pupper, with Kim in the foreground (I can't remember the support-menfolks' names, sorry guys, but it was nice of you to come along with your ladies to take pictures!).

(trying to be artsy with Kim's photo but alas, a daguerreotype it is not)

LOOK. Look at this sassy fluff. So beautiful, so ladylike, such a sploot.
Afterwards, we went our separate ways, and I called my parents to see if they wanted to come out in the front yard at their house for a look at my new endeavor. My mom always likes to take photos of me so she insisted, and I'm glad that she did because the better pictures of the day came out of it.

You can see how nice and full this skirt COULD be, if I had the right supports under it. It will happen eventually! If I need to line the lower hem with something stiff eventually, I can do that as well.

And now I am all caught up with my makes for the year! Currently (slowly, thanks arthritic hands) moving along with a 1760ish pre-quilted silk Brunswick and petticoat that is going to be just lovely for winter.