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Sunday, July 18, 2010

18th Century Clothes for Courtney

Or, my first full 18th c wardrobe commission.

This is my friend Courtney, who asked me to make an 18th century gown and underpinnings for the upcoming home school week at Colonial Williamsburg in September. Last week we met up at the fabric store and plotted out exactly what she wanted! I'm making stays, pockets, a shift, a petticoat and a robe a la anglaise with a stomacher for her. I'm very excited because this is the largest commission I've done so far!

Starting with the stays seemed like the most logical course of action, as they are absolutely necessary before I can take proper measurements for the gown. Courtney asked for back-lacing, half-boned, strapless stays with horizontal boning across the front, similar to the Period Impressions pattern here. In my humble personal opinion, I have found this style of stays to provide a bit more flexibility, which is what Courtney wanted! She chose a thick, natural cotton duck for her stays, and I'll be binding the edges with a blue cotton blend I have in my stash. The pattern was custom drafted to fit her measurements, leaving a gap of 3-4 inches in the back after she laces in. I expect the stays to be finished, except for binding the edges, by Tuesday, and I'll take pictures then so you all can see what I've been working on!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Purtyfulness, and a Brief History of the Parasol

When I was a little kid, I had the most fantastic red, green, blue, and yellow umbrella. I carried that thing around rain or shine, and pretended on a routine basis that it was a parasol. Last month, I bought my first real parasol, and decided to research their history. During the 18th century, parasols were useful for preventing sunburns or tans. Contrary to the orange fake-bakers of today, pale skin was considered very fashionable and beautiful!

Parasol frames were commonly made of wood or whalebone. Overall, the covers were rather simple, without ruffles, lace, or fringe, as seen in the 19th century.

The most common colour for 18th c. parasols was green, as seen in the above image and the 1777 Francisco de Goya painting below. Most 18th c parasols had a height of around 80 cm. The early-mid 1700s parasol pictured above can be seen here at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and is 82.3 cm tall.
Parasols for the Historical Costumer

Believe me when I say that there is a small amount of information available about parasols, and I don't know of any books on them. When seeking a parasol to complete your polonaise, your best bet is to buy vintage, but be warned-- many times, parasols can be pricey. The black and white striped parasol I bought yesterday cost me $40 after I'd haggled it down, and the condition is not perfect- the cover is faded to an almost greyish brown stripe and there are a few small holes. However, the frame and spokes (aluminum and wood) are in very good condition, which seems to be the main thing when buying. On the other hand, I bought a vintage 50's blue silk Asian style parasol for $7 and feel like I got a decent deal. So it all depends on where you look and what you find.

Essentially, as with any accessory you buy/make to complete your historical outfits, do your research! Some more resources on 18th c. parasols can be found here, here, and here! If anyone has anything to add, please let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

How to make a chemise gown that won't make you want to hurt people/won't look like the mumu from hades!

The chemise gown is a tricky thing. So I decided to post a little how-to with tips for making a totally awesome one! If my dear readers have any tricks of their own, I'd love if you left them in the comments below!

  • Step 1: In my humble personal opinion, the key to making your chemise gown look less like a mighty poof of material/your grandmother's curtains is a fitted back. No matter how little or big you are, a little fitting goes a long way. For my gown, I used my standard quarter back pattern that I drafted for my gold polonaise. I lined the back but not the front.
  • Step 2: Next, I cut two panels the width of my fabric and stitched them together, then sewed a channel and the top and, using a cord, gathered them to fit the back of my gown. I think that the gathering added just enough poof, which I don't suppose I'd get from pleating. These panels were cut with a slanty hem so I'd have a little train for the skirt.

  • Step 3: I attached shoulder pieces to the back, which also formed the arm holes and attached to the front of the gown.
  • Step 4: The front is actually just a single, 1-piece panel of material! I stitched a channel in the top, which the blue ribbon is threaded through and comes out through an eyelet I put in the middle. The top of the panel was attached to the shoulder pieces, and the rest of the arm holes were cut out of the first panel. The front and the back were then attached together.

  • Step 5: To form the waist, I sewed a channel down the center of my fabric using bias tape and ran cord through it, then made a buttonhole for the cord to come out in the center front. The channel starts at the 'waist' of the back and continues up to the center front waist, arching up just slightly, as you can see from the picture.
  • Step 6: Add your sleeves of choice! Instead of a more fitted sleeve, I made poofy ones, similar to the ones on my shift.

  • Step 7: Use the cord and the ribbon to gather the front! :D

  • Step 7: Hem it, trim it, and wear it! A sash and a GREAT hat (with feathers, ribbons, etc.) complete the awesomeness.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Coming Soon

How to make a chemise gown that won't make you want to hurt people/won't look like the mumu from hades!

Coming very, very soon, and with pictures!