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.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Fantasy fabric and Mantua Madness

 Last year, I came across the personal "Holy Grail" for which I've been searching for many years. For a long time I've been obsessed with finding a silk that resembles the "Bizarre silk" of the late 17th century and early 18th -- the only problem is that it is SO strange that there's little call for it these days! Many patterns look like a strange mishmash between medieval illuminations, acid-trip geometry, and sinuous Art Nouveau-looking plants. 

Annnnnnd then there's the eyeball panel.

I guess it's maybe supposed to be peacock feathers? But it's totally eyeballs. You're not going to talk me out of it. Can you imagine having your bed-hangings made out of that? 

So you can see why it's called "Bizarre silk"! Nowadays, there are very few patterns that even get close. Scalamandre has had a few designs that would be passable, but all are off-market and I've never been lucky enough to find a remnant. Tassinari & Chatel have a lovely design called "Persienne" that suitably mimics the influences of the East but it is prohibitively expensive, unless you’re a millionaire. I have read several plausible theories now that textiles from Japan and the Turkish empire may have greatly contributed to the rage for this nonetheless European-made fabric at the end of the 17thc. And indeed, rugs with Middle Eastern patterns and 'Chinoiserie' in wallpaper, china, fabric and furniture rapidly became de rigueur among the European upper classes (and aspiring middle!) as the 18thc went on. 

The fabric I stumbled upon certainly borrows from this tradition as well: metallic threads create the interesting geometric zigzags common in Bizarre silk, as well as fantastical bamboo stems: 

 (It came to my workplace, so of course I tore into the packaging immediately...Sharpie for scale 😂)

I took a chance on it from a tiny picture on a little-known remnant website...there was no description, only a few lines of information. It's called "Genghis Khan" and came from a now-defunct fabric designer called Font Hill (bought by Stark, then bought by Scalamandre), and is not even pure silk: it's blended with something called Cupro, which on researching is a wood fiber like Rayon, but at least it's not synthetic! 

Because it's unlike anything I've ever seen and I have found no more yardage either before or since, I was kind of terrified to cut into it! I sat on it for months, researching different extant gowns made of bizarre silk. There are a number out there, from Robes a la Anglaise (often remade from earlier dresses) to Robes Volante (my favorite style, but sadly not enough fabric for one of those!) to court gowns. Mantuas, though rare in example, are most often made of bizarre silk since the gown style ran concurrent to the height of this textile pattern's popularity.

Once I had settled on making a Mantua from my precious 5.5 yards of fabric, I had to decide on what to do for the petticoat, since I didn't have enough to match if I wanted a train on the gown! Back to Pinterest I went for fashion plates around the turn of the 18th century. One thing I noticed frequently was the color combination of red and blue:

Red solid taffeta would have been the easy choice, but I actually wanted a semi-metallic red patterned silk to provide that richness of contrast. Finally I settled upon a pineapple red-gold pattern (also fittingly exotic!) and applied several gold trims: 

Eventually I would like to add a few more rows of gold fringe and lace, but it gives the effect I was going for! 

The next thing to decide on was a pattern for the Mantua. There are no good commercial patterns...I understand that Reconstructing History has one out but it was not recommended to me by anyone. Since I find drafting from patterns in books quite easy with any style that relies on folding for the main method of fitting to the body (as opposed to lots of pieces with lots of seams...too many places to go wrong haha), I looked at Patterns of Fashion 1 by Janet Arnold, The Cut of Women's Clothes by Norah Waugh, and a little-known (in the States) book called Moden i 1700-årene by Ellen Andersen (in Danish, which I got through Interlibrary loan).  Out of the three, I found Norah Waugh's pattern the most helpful as the layout is so clean and simple.

(Not my picture, found on Pinterest)

To spare my beloved fabric, I first cut up a bedsheet in the approximate shape...I took a few basic measurements of myself in my stays, but didn't get too picky about the mockup, which I cut larger than I thought I needed since excess can always be folded out of sight with this style of gown. And it was shockingly easy! I felt like my mockup was almost spot-on for the style of mantua I was going for, right at 1700-1705, and had my actual fabric cut, folded and pinned onto my duct tape dummy within an hour (sorry if this isn’t a step-by-step tutorial, lol, all I can say is make a mockup and GO FOR IT, do the thing, it's a hard pattern/gown style to screw up!).

Some early fidgeting, without proper supports. That funny strip bumped out at and below the waist is a facing that folds back so that when you pull the skirts back to fasten into the Mantua's unmistakeable drape, you get to see a strip of the right side of the fabric.

A train! EEK!

The front folds are folded and stitched down, but I may eventually go back and unpick some of the stitches to make them nice and loose, held down only by the belt. 

The sheeeeeeeeen! Definitely looking like a Mantua now even without its cuffs and belt yet. My dummy is now significantly smaller than I am, so garments always look a bit lumpy and underwhelming on it so I didn’t take a ton of in-progress pictures. If you have made a Robe a la Anglaise, good portions of the folding and pinning will feel strangely familiar. 

We went down to the local French-built fort to take some photos and I'm so pleased with how they turned out. I'll have to take more eventually where *I* do the folding-back of the skirts because my poor husband really struggled to get them arranged just right. I wore my chemise with extra lacy engageantes sewn in, and a frelange (which I gather is the specific name for the cap see it referred to as a fontange sometimes but that may be the name of the whole ensemble on the head, curls and lappets and all). I whipped up the frelange out of a reproduction 18thc cap for the back and some lace-edged INCREDIBLY stiff organza surreptitiously held up by white pipecleaners for the weird double-frill, but I can write about that separately if anyone's interested. I find most people hate that ugly baby cap and I think it's probably why most people don't tackle this era, lolol. I don’t love the cap either but it certainly unmistakeably dates an outfit to late 17th/early 18thc!

And now...the finished Mantua! 

At this point I had my husband pull the skirts back and pin them to the belt...a little messier than I would have liked but oh well, he did his best. Next time I'm dressing at the location, I'll pre-pin it to the belt on the mannequin just the way I want, and then only have to fasten the belt, lol.

I just love this shot in the chapel for showing the beauty of the folded skirts. Many of these gowns apparently were lined with a contrasting fabric, but since I liked the backside almost as much as the front, I left it single-layered.

My hair never ever holds a curl, so my front curls are...wait for boiled Regency side-curl set, clipped onto the top of my head instead 😂 Easiest historical style I’ve ever done, since the rest of my hair is just jammed into the cap, haha. 

And that's it from me for now! There sadly won't be many opportunities for me to wear this gown as nobody in my area is interested in this era, but some day I'll get out and take some even better photos of it.

Next first foray into Late Victorian daywear! And then I’m almost caught up with documenting my costumes for the year, so I better get to making more!