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!