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 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!