Wednesday, December 8, 2021

1830s cotton gown


In my quest to do as many decades of popular European fashion history as possible, I always assumed the 1830s would be the LAST I'd ever hit up. Those crazy sleeves! Those uber-feminine prints! THAT HAIR! But for some reason, after seeing this gown on Etsy (it's still there for a cool $3800) I really started to get the burning desire to jump in:

There seem to be quite a few examples like this in museums -- light ground cotton, with floral print, geometric, or a combination of both.

Armed with that knowledge, I bounded off to Thousands of Bolts (my go-to website for inexpensive cotton) and found a great pink floral-and-geometric to fit the bill. It arrived, I cut into Truly Victorian's TV455, and apparently I was SO excited that apparently I didn't take a single progress picture until I hit this point:

But then I started running into some issues, namely that even though I have the Bootstrap dummy which is made to my size, I didn't have the confidence that I was fitting it correctly. I have joint issues that make some movements really uncomfortable so I almost NEVER make a back-closing gown which I hate taking off and on, and the frustration of this made me sew up the back and open it instead down the front seam, just like the gown that inspired me on Etsy. I also cut down and rounded the neckline a bit more because I felt like it was just too high and restrictive.

Here you can see it opened up down the front as I'm also trying to draft a couple of types of pelerines, the large cape-like shawls that were so common to the era. 

Being that this is such a light cotton and most likely to be a summer-time frock, I wasn't too fond of the idea of big puffy hot pillows bound to my upper arms to pad out the ludicrous sleeves. Luckily, I had stumbled across Kendra's great blog post on drafting her sleeve supports, and there is some historical precedence for these 'crinoline' type of boned puffers!  

I sewed up a little sleeve cap insert and added a heavy-duty zip tie to the bottom (ok, it's two taped together because I don't think they come that long) like a tiny hoop-skirt. I ended up having to soften the edge of it with a quick and dirty tulle ruffle because it was showing too harshly through the very light cotton of the gown sleeve, but that only adds to the puffery.

 Not sure why I was watching Emma while doing 1830s things but hey

And it WORKED. Boy howdy did it work:

 KAPOOOOFFPH. Hi neighbors, don't mind me in my dress with built-in WaterWings.

I chortled when I saw these pictures. A lot. There's something about just full-on embracing a really ridiculous style that tickles me pink, and I'm SO glad I went for it.

These shoes were an exciting find to me -- Target flats with quite square toes (too bad I took this picture in the grass where you can't see it, but they are really a great shape). I sewed some ribbon ties onto them and they're just about perfect.

 The dogs weren't too happy because there were no butterflies to be had, so I stalked them instead in the yard. I opted not to go full-crazy in making a corded petticoat (sorry, not THAT obsessed with this era) and instead wore my quilted puffer petticoat and felt like it did the trick. If I wear this to an event, I might try starching a light cotton petticoat to go over that for even more oomph. Was I wearing a corset or stays? Nnnno.
My hair is all my own....because I bought it. I actually have hair down to my waist but it neither curls nor cooperates, so the side-curls are 'sideswept bangs' from Amazon, wrapped around foam rollers and dunked in boiling water for a minute, then left to completely dry before removing the curlers. They're great because I can clip them in for any number of historical hairstyles...1710s, 1810s, 1830s....I could probably even pin them to the very front of my forehead for that funny curly mop look in the 1880s. The braids are also hairpieces wrapped around my real bun. Throw a few flowers in for a springy look....but keep reading for when things get wild.

I made my own gold 'torpedo' earrings, and got into that weird shoulder-necklace trend as well with some box-chain from Etsy, then whipped up a sheer pelerine and combined it with my Regency chemisette for the extra whitework look. The pin is an actual antique piece, and the 'belt buckle' is just a brass stamping from Etsy with a wire slider glued to the back of it.

But wait, there's more! 😂

 For the fun of it, when the weather started getting chillier, I also made a self-fabric pelerine, seen with some museum extants.

For some reason it makes everything feel very 1990s Laura Ashley to me, but I'm nostalgic so I can roll with that. I think this would be a great piece for traveling or even just a breezier outdoor stroll, to both protect the dress and cover the neckline and shoulders a little more for warmth.
Much pink. Very geometric. Large overstuffed Grandma-chair.
And then I reallllly lost my marbles and tried an 1830s formal hair-style. It wouldn't have been worn with a day gown like this, but there are a few fashion plates out there that make me think I could insert short sleeves and more lace around a lowered neck-line and get away with it:

So I pulled out ALL my hairpieces, birds, flowers, feathers, you name it...

And there we have it. Peak Ludicrousness. I snorted a lot, giggled a lot, and considered going to the grocery store like this because who WOULDN'T find a little joy in seeing something this silly and extra? 💖

Rendezvous 2021

 Generally the Rendezvous at Fort de Chartres is held in June, but because of the pandemic it got pushed back to September. I was so ready to have a nice outdoor event and while the weekend temperature was still pretty toasty in the mid to upper 80s (F), the humidity wasn't as oppressive as it usually is at the June event. 

Thanks to the old 'pandemic pounds' (and the nagging feeling of boredom with my past lower-class wardrobe) I found myself eager to make a couple of looser, no-frills cotton jackets with fabric from my stash.

Cotton was a fairly frequently named fabric in local inventories, particularly in women's gowns of indienne, vibrantly floral-printed. As New Orleans stood just a jaunt down the Mississippi River, which was regularly sailed by the trappers and merchants of the area to sell furs and grain, nice new goods also made their way back up to the Kaskaskia/Prairie du Rocher/Cahokia corridor.

Neither of the prints I used are historical reproductions to my knowledge, but they seemed semi-plausible based on many sample books and resources I've looked at, including the fascinating extra photos from the London Foundling Hospital that Angela of Burnley & Trowbridge was able to show us only during an in-person powerpoint at Costume many small prints and geometric patterns that we wouldn't think of as being common in the 18thc.

I chose an indigo floral and geometric print for the first one, and assembled it from the trusty J.P. Ryan 'jacket pack' (what a gift that keeps on giving, lol).


You can see it's fairly basic -- although I wore stays with it, I wasn't intending it to be anything more exciting than a working-woman's nicest jacket. 
 I paired it with a basic cap, B&T handkerchief, a bibbed apron (common for French women, not so much for an English/American impression), and my new American Duchess Sophie mules. My set of household keys and pincushion are hanging a bit too low for practicality but I had just climbed out of the back of my friend's van where she had shut and locked her keys in the front, hence the bow for MY keys had come untied in the mad scramble, haha.
All rumpled up in back from Operation Key Rescue, but having a whale of a time! My apron probably should be a bit shorter than my petticoats, but I wasn't about to last-minute hem it, BECAUSE...
....I was last-minute hemming my new cranberry linen petticoat for Day 2 😂  Despite the key-rescue incident, Kim and I had a lovely time under the shade of the fly, just chatting and pretending not to notice the photographers (although Erica, a lovely local lady, caught us grinning at her here). 

My second jacket was a two-yard piece that I had bought to supplement a Regency gown I felt wasn't full enough in the skirts....but lo and behold when it arrived, it was a white ground rather than ivory! Feeling foolish, I stowed it in the stash for a good while, and pulled it out to make something light. 2 yards is not enough for the view I had chosen from the 'jacket pack' so I knew there would be some piecing, and I enjoyed turning the pattern paper this way and that to figure out where it would be the least intrusive.

I ended up piecing in at the shoulders, which makes sense because many gowns have this piece to assist in setting sleeves:

...and at the back where the jacket's 'skirts' begin:

It's not a very meticulous piecing job, in fact I had no choice but to have one of those back skirt pieces with the print running slightly on the diagonal because I was down to scraps, but I guarantee unless I pointed it out and mentioned it to someone, most people wouldn't notice.
On Day 2, I was extremely glad to be wearing a light color because we walked around a lot and it got up to 86F.  The folks running the Fort's fashion show were kind enough to draft me, and there was much interest in my American Duchess Kensington shoes, which I had painted a favorite local French shade of blue.
behold mine saucy ankles
.....and nobody noticed my pieced back, and I wasn't going to mention it either 😁 
To continue to stay as cool as possible, I also wore a sheer cap, made from the J.P. Ryan Dormeuse pattern (so cute, even if it looks like a face-eating jellyfish and my husband was aghast at the floof) and a cross-over sheer white cotton handkerchief. 

Naps were taken mid-day in the shade, particularly by my husband, whose tolerance of walking the market tents only extends so far and once he's hit the food tents, it's over.

Some bottles were drained, and bread was....very much not eaten...because that loaf is approximately 4 years old. When I went looking through my re-enactment bins for candlesticks, there it was, from the LAST event we had set up a tent at, as pristine as could be but absolutely hard as a rock. People visiting the tent got such a kick out of my petrified pain (French for bread). I really could have caused a 'pain' with it if I'd thrown it at someone.

We were all glad when night fell and the temperature cooled off. I always feel like evening is when the real magic happens -- sneaky modern conveniences are painted over by darkness, hundreds of tents are lit up with not an electric light in sight, people walk to and from camps with lanterns. I was very excited my new iphone did a good job taking night photos.

It was a bit too breezy for the chandelier -- I need to look for glass shades for the candles, I guess! But as I tried to protect my card game from dripping wax, my mother-in-law caught this photo where the candle-light gives everything a painterly glow.

When the wind proved too much for candelabras to stay lit (look at that wax drip!), we wandered on up to the fort to watch the dancing, which is always amusing and looks like chaos until folks learn the motions. The usual caller couldn't make it last-minute, so my poor friend Martin was left to do the cat-herding this time. My husband and I have had a few lessons but decided to stay out of the mess this time. It made for great pictures though! 

The blurred dancers could almost be ghosts of past inhabitants of the fort and nearby town

We climbed up into the guard tower to watch from above and it was like stepping back in time to see the lawn lit with dozens of lanterns.

Ending up at a campfire with friends and music and good conversation is always my goal at an event....luckily that order is never too tall to be met!