Wednesday, March 21, 2012

An Untimely Ailment

With the pretty daffodils and hyacinths blooming everywhere and the trees flowering like mad, I should probably have Cabin Fever and want to dance around in ecstasy outside....if only the thick wall of pollen didn't bounce me backwards on my rear every time I open the door. 'Tis the season for me to stay indoors.

Instead, I've got a malady of a different kind that will lead to sore fingers, strained eyes, and a headache...Gown Fever has returned to plague me! I posted a while back on some fabric I got at's got a rough, natural look to it and has light blue & medium blue stripes with smaller white stripes. And since then, I've been on the lookout for other blue-striped fabrics in extant 18thc gowns or in art, with a couple of results that have made my mind up:

                     "A Girl Buying A Ballad" by Henry Walton from the Tate Collection

These are strikingly similar. Were it not for the sleeves I'd almost think that the extant gown was the exact one the painter was modeling his after. I think I can see robings in the painting, although the stomacher's not visible. Neither can I tell what the petticoat looks like under the apron, whether it's a different color or not, although I think it's safe to say it is not a round gown like the extant. I'm not going to be making a round gown but I'll be attempting my first real en fourreau - till now my efforts have been confined to a quarter-back gown and a very ugly Simplicity pattern that I covered over with a fake-pleated-back. Probably my gown will have a matching petticoat but I'm not sure about the chevroned stomacher because one of my gowns already has one and I'm kind of dying to try a compere stomacher. If I have enough fabric, heck, I'll do both!

This is not really a good time for a bolt of inspiration to strike, sadly, because I am going on a long-awaited trip with my folks for a week and when I get back from it, need to throw myself headlong into man-clothing that was promised a long time ago before a big camping in June. I'll be in the car a lot on the trip but there's just not enough room to lug along that many yards of fabric even if I could somehow find time to cut out the gown before Monday. Instead I'll take some smaller projects and maybe make another pair of mitts and the materials for an embroidery bag.

Something unrelated struck me today while I was glancing through some reenactment photos from Williamsburg. A couple of gowns on a few ladies (I don't think they were technically affiliated with CW, just "go-ers" in colonial clothes) It took several minutes of thinking to figure out the problem; the fabric looked good in color and material, the construction of the gowns looked decent, and the accessories seemed right. Then came a picture of one of them bent at the waist to pick something up and I realized that she didn't have stays on and neither did the other two women! They were all slim, so nothing was bulging awkwardly or curving in the wrong places, but the gowns didn't have that nice straight back or anything solid to smooth against and it made all the difference in how the gowns hung and the ladies carried themselves. I appreciate 18thc undergarments so much more than when I started sewing, and will never again go without them in a gown!


  1. Stay Lady, stay.

    Or so the song used to go, though it is remotely possible that Bob Dylan wasn't referring to 18th century under-garments. Maybe.

    Happy trip to you and YES to the dress! That's going to be phenomenal. I wait with eye-twitchingly awkward anticipation!

  2. I'm really excited about it...I might put manclothes to the side for a while longer just to get started!