Friday, March 17, 2017

Bernhard Stays, Round #2, part 1

Remember how I started the J. S. Bernhardt stays, three years ago (how has it been three years?!!)? And then my dog ate them and I gave up?

Well, they are back on the table. I recently dug the beginnings of my former stays out of my scrapbox, where I had chucked them in discouragement after finding that Walter had nommed them. After a bit of smoothing and cleaning, I discovered that the body (which I had started the finer details on) was actually intact - he had done the most damage on the gussets. Hooray!

However. I know I have gained probably 15-20lb in the past three years (also, how did that happen?!) So I thought I should try the mockup on to see how it fits now. Good thing I did! My bra size was 34D then - now it is 34DDD. And my whole body is somewhat wider than before (the lacing gap is 3" wider than in 2014).

So goes life. But I am a big fan of embracing my body (although it is a bit disheartening to compare the EXACT same mockup on myself over time and pounds :| ) AND the advantage of my new size means that I can experiment with this design on an even curvier shape! The technical nerd in me is cool with that.

What happens when you try to put on your mockup alone.
Also pictured: when you don't consider your footwear choices before taking photos.

First things first: those bust gussets. Way too small. As soon as I put on the stays, I felt unpleasantly squished, not comfortably embraced. Even after scooping and lifting (a life skill for humans with breasts), I felt squashed. And simultaneously precariously plopped on top of those leetle gussets. Sooo... chopped right through one side to compare. This revealed that the gusset needs to be 1.5x wider than before, and about 0.5" longer. Freeedooommmmm for the breast! Below you can see a comparison of the chopped side (on your left), and the old non-chopped side (your right). The old gusset does create a nice "shelf" effect, but it is not comfortable. I am going to compromise with slightly less shelf and more comfort.

Old gusset = period-appropriate shelf, but discomfort.

Chopped gusset = freedom and a renewed zest for life.
One new thing I also discovered, per breast size increase, was an unattractive side-boob bulge. This will be slightly more held in check when the straps criss-cross in the back, but I don't think that will entirely cure it. I am going to make the bet that moving the gussets outward by 0.5" will help mollify this.

Aaaand, now we come to the back, which is a bit of a debacle. See that lacing gap? Huge. Which means the hip gussets are shifted too far over to the sides of my body. Wrinkles galore. Also, my swayback does not help this. Mulling over how to adjust this and get a nice smooth back. Any ideas?

The next question is... power through another mockup or try going straight to fabric? I'm tempted to go straight to fabric. But that back is clearly unbeautiful, and I would probably regret hand stitching all those eyelets into an ill-fitting back. This is the decision of the day.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

1790 - 1810 Shift

This past weekend's project was the innermost layer of an outfit - a shift! My old shift was made out of a rather heavy, draping "linen look" fabric from Jo-Ann's tennish years ago, sooo... time for a new one.

Inspiration? It is a pretty basic shift, like any number of shifts from 1770-1810. If I had to pick a particular reference I would offer this one: 

Shift, American, early 19th century, MFA, 99.664.51
Mine has no sleeve ruffles, partly because I don't have fine enough fabric (the fabric used for ruffles was often finer than the linen used for the body of shifts or shirts), and partly because I wasn't sure I would like the look (would they show under long sleeves? Would they look cluttered under sheer puff sleeves?) and partly because I just wanted to make a quick and basic project that was easy from start to finish. The sleeves are also slightly shorter. But the body is cut as one (without side gores), as shown in the MFA example. 

All seams are felled with a blind stitch, and the hems are stitched with the same. 

The drawcord channel is simply the neckline edge folded twice. At center front, I cut a slit and finished the edge with thread and a buttonhole stitch. Slightly below that, I embroidered my initials (the "D" ended up leaving a little more room for imagination than preferable, but not enough to rip out and restitch.) 

What propelled me to make this shift this past weekend was actually this little conversation in the Historical Sew Fortnightly Facebook group, about how to flat fell a gusset without puckers. I made a line-drawn step-by-step guide, which may not be less confusing than any other explanation... but it is one more something that might make sense to somebody! 

Exterior gusset construction.Side body seam and the sleeve seam in felled opposite directions just for aesthetic appeal.

Interior gusset construction - note the slightly elongated shape of the corners where they meet the side body and sleeve.

While I was hoping to enter a chemisette for the HSF Firsts & Lasts challenge, that probably won't be finished for a while yet, so this will be my entry (even though this is already way past the deadline!) These are the deets: 

The Challenge: Firsts & Lasts - this is the first garment to be worn on the body. Unless drawers are involved, in which case those might go on first. But I don't wear drawers with my Regency kits, so this counts as the first item put on! 

Material: This cotton/linen blend (I was in a hurry when I ordered and missed that the fabric was a blend, but I have it now so it will have to be used!)

Pattern: My own, based off of extant shifts. 

Year: 1780-1810

Notions: Cotton string, stolen from a length of drapery pleating tape I had in my trim box. 

How historically accurate is it? The fabric is not quite right, as it's a blend. The thread is poly and the primary construction seams were machine-stitched. However, the pattern is fairly authentic, and the secondary seaming (flat-felling) and hems are hand-stitched. I'd give this a 75%. 

Hours to complete: Around 8, and most of that was felling the seams and hemming. Actual pattern, cutting, and basic construction probably took 2-3 hours. 

First worn: Haven't worn it yet! 

Total cost: About $20 for the fabric, as I already thread and string (which would probably add up to around $4-5). So a decent estimate for this would be $25

Pictures on a body coming soon! 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Zippable Regency Gown

This week, I finished a commission inspired by this 1810 gown from the MET:

Cotton Dress, American, c. 1810-15, MET, 1999.224

The fabric of my dress is a lightweight, embroidered, cotton voile. I purchased mine from a shop in Atlanta, but it is almost identical to this fabric offered by Burnley and Trowbridge. The customer I was working with most definitely did not want a white dress, but almost all the voile fabric I found with any kind of interesting embroidery or stripe detail was to be found in white! Solution: dye it. The last time I dyed any signifiant length of fabric was in college, but it was pretty successful then, so I decided to dye the white fabric to the dove grey that my customer wanted. The color selected was one of Dharma's procion dyes, Mist Gray. It produced a soft lavender gray. There are some great dye tutorials out there, so I won't add a tutorial, but here is a snapshot of the process!

1. The necessary stuff! 2. Dye mixed and added to tub. 3. Stirred.
4. Salt added! 5. Stirred. 6. Calsolene oil added! Just a smidge.
7. Fabric dumped in. 8. Soda Ash added (CAREFULLY). 9. Stir. And stir and stir. 
I didn't take many in-progress photos (it is so hard to remember to do this), but I did photograph the finished garment. It is a floor-length gown with short puff sleeves, and removable long sleeves. The lining extends to the body and skirt (the sleeves are unlined).

The lower sleeves attach to the band of the short puff sleeves with hooks and hand-stitched eyes (effectively loose bar tacks.) I interfaced the interior of the puff sleeve band ONLY, cutting it off at the seam allowances, so it was pretty sturdy for the stitched eyes. I handmade the eyeloops because when the lower sleeves are removed, that area would rub against skin, and I didn't want stiff metal eyes to aggravate the soft skin inside the arm. For the undersleeves, I interfaced about 3/4" from the top, and finished the edge with a 5/8" wide bias binding, stitched to the interior of the sleeve. This rendered it sturdy enough for hooks.

Since there is a little variation in the placement of each hook and eye on
each sleeve, I embroidered them to indicate which is right and left.
This customer is a dancer, and wanted to make sure she could lift her arms over her head, so I added in a little fish gusset under the arms. A little extra flexibility goes a long way!

The sweet little puffed sleeves are adorable, in my opinion. When the sleeves are removed, the silhouette feels so different! Removable sleeves = two dresses in one!

My favourite part of this dress is actually... the closure in the back! While I love making historically authentic garments, I love my customers wearing them even more, and this customer wanted to be able to easily get into and out of her dress all by herself. So I used an invisible zipper and some covered buttons left over from a wedding gown I made a while back, and created a lapped closure. In order to keep the lapped bit shut, I added a couple tiny hooks and eyes.

This shows a tiny glimpse of the skirt lining, pleated
with much larger and less tedious pleats than the exterior
Below are some obligatory guts pictures. The gathered outer bodice was lined with a fitted lining. The exterior fabric is gathered at center front and totally adjustable at the top edge with a narrow striped drawcord. The sleeve edges are whipped - I debated binding them, but felt it would add a lot of bulk, especially in an area that has a bit of extra fabric anyway because of the gusset. At the top of the shoulder are tiny snap straps to hold a bra strap, since this dress would not be worn with stays.

And that's it! This was a super fun project, and the customer was awesome to work with. We met a total of three times: first to measure and talk design details/fabric, second to fit the muslin and confirm the color via dyed swatches, and third to fit the actual dress in its semi-finished state (confirming things like hem lengths, how the fit feels in final fabric, etc.) First costume of 2017, finished!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Gallows, Bretelles, and Braces

Suspender or brace, French or English, early 19th century, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, 38.1223a

In order to assist in keeping my dear Kenny Dean's pants aloft, for he is indeed a slim lad, I have set out to make him a pair of braces. Ideally braces authentic to 1800-1810.

Braces seem to have really become a thing after the first quarter of the 19th century. In the 1820s, a manufacturer by the name of Albert Thurston began mass-producing braces in London. Patents were filed by manufacturers as business on this accessory began to pick up. The history of braces past that point is fairly easy to locate, but I am trying to pin down the form that braces took before that decade.

I was unable to find an image of the eminent Albert Thurston,
so here is a picture of Daniel Craig in Thurston suspenders, instead.
Because a little Daniel Craig never ruined anybody's day.

Trawling through online museum collections yields a number of suspenderish items catalogued as, "early 19th century," or the still more vague, "19th century." However, a couple of prints popped up, the most interesting of which is the following, ca. 1790s (found via Ran Away From the Subscriber). The signage in this print advertises, "nete Gallows for Breaches," (gallows are another term for braces). The bright red braces advertised can be seen hanging on a line inside the shop. Interestingly, these are criss-crossed braces, and I haven't been able to find any museum pieces catalogued under this time period that are attached like that.

The British Museum, 1935, 0522.1.204

Having established, if somewhat tenuously, that braces were a solid thing in the 1790s, I cast about for some extant pieces.

The following pairs, located at the MFA, utilize the spring-elastic system seen on garters of around the same period. I am puzzled, however, as to how the braces were kept on at the other end - there is no buttonhole or clip! Is something hidden under there? Was one end tacked down and the other left to be buttoned on or off?

Brace, French, 1800-1830, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, 43.2006a
Braces, French, 1790-1820, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, 41.181a

My favourite museum, the MET, had very few results that approached my preferred time frame. However, this interesting bit of something popped up, which appears to have a flap covering something at one end (and no buttonhole at either end, so maybe the dark red under-flap contains a buttonhole or buckle of some kind): 

Suspenders, European, mid-18th century, Metropolitan Museum of Art, C.I.44.8.50a, b

And finally, one more 1791 print that indicates the braces/gallows buttoned at the front. This is a satirical print, though, and shows the braces crossed at the front (which seems uncomfortable and impractical), so it must be taken with a grain of salt. But there are definitely braces involved at this point in time! 

The British Museum, 1878, 1014.8
The above examples at least give me a point at which to start. I am encouraged that at least one of the above examples uses pre-embroidered ribbon (to all appearances). Not sure if I am up to embroidering all those tiny scenes that seemed so popular on other pairs of braces at the time period.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Buttonholes and more buttonholes

This week I pulled Kenny's breeches out of the closet and have been busily stitching up buttonholes, so that he can actually put them on and take them off without a needle and thread to keep them up.

It takes me approximately one episode of Upstairs Downstairs for each buttonhole. I ran out of episodes on the last one at the waist (still have the leg-buttons to do.) My stitches are improving, but it's a slow business.

Sneak peek! We'll do a photoshoot later, after I have figured out how to handle the legs.

Friday, March 4, 2016

HSM 2016 - Regency Red Pleated Petticoat

Last night, I finally competed (a bit belatedly) my first attempt at a challenge for HSM 2016 - February's Tucks and Pleating challenge!

A while ago I purchased some red linen, sure that I could find some historical costuming use for it. When I completed my short gown last year, I realized that I need a petticoat to go under it. When I saw Katherine's lovely petticoat and short gown, the idea for this red pleated petti was born!

My inspiration is a bit sketch - I pulled from a few different sources and tried to common-sense the what I couldn't confirm. I HOPE that this is a reasonably authentic way to put together a high-waisted petticoat for 1790-1800, but I'll need to do more digging to confirm. Some of my sources for inspiration were:

This was a first for me in the hand-sewing department. It is 100% hand-sewn (usually I cheat and stitch the longer invisible seams with a machine). While this approach meant it took longer than I had expected, it was surprisingly therapeutic. And it was satisfying to see my stitches get straighter and more even the farther along I got. Practice definitely does make perfect!

Because I had very limited yardage of this fabric, I had to do a bit of piecing to get two sizable rectangles for the skirt. You can slightly see the piecing in the photo below of the skirt back.

I made the skirt back wider than the skirt front, to get some extra fullness out of the back. All the seams are flat-felled, so there are zero raw edges visible. That took... pretty much forever. At the side seams, I finished each edge separately to about 9" from the top edge, to form a pocket slit (added to the project list: pockets!) 

Separately finished side seams, to about 9"
below top edge of the skirt panels.

Because my fabric was so limited, I had just enough to reach from a high waist to the ground, so I added a deep hem facing to finish the edge. I haven't seen this on turn of the century petticoats (mostly because I haven't seen many turn of the century petticoats), but they are evident on petticoats pre-1790, so I am assuming this is a reasonably authentic solution.  

Skirt inside-out - this photo really clearly shows the
piecing on the skirt!

The waistband construction was simple - I pleated the skirt sections into separate front and back waistband pieces, then folded over the waistband and whipped it down on the inside. The pleating was an adventure... I eyeballed and stitched half of the back waistband in front of a documentary night before last. The next morning I realized my pleating was atrocious! 

Que horrer! 
I made sure to tidily pin the pleats on the other side...
And couldn't resist ripping out the first side and re-pleating it!
After the waistband was on, it was easy as peas to add the tape ties and linen straps. I put it on my dummy (now named Ruth, in honor of the sad display dummy that lingered around the office at work until she one day mysteriously disappeared) with Kenny's linen shirt, and betook myself to the balcony. 

Front, untied. The straps are the only thing holding it up.
Back, untied. I placed the back straps much closer together to
accommodate the narrow backs on dresses/bodices of the time.

The ties and how they are worn replicate a standard late 18th c. petticoat - ties on the back are pulled forward and tied at the front, and the ties on the front are wrapped all the way around the body and also tied in the front. Both knots are tucked under the waistband for maximum invisibility. 
Back ties pulled up and tied in front.
Front ties wrapped around the back, crossing
over each other to return to the front again.
The final effect is nice and tidy! I especially love the pocket slits - I extended the front waisband a little longer on each side so that the top edge of the slits overlap each other, preventing gapping. 
Front, tied.
Back, tied.
Pocket slits! They stay closed when hanging.

Finally, just because I love seeing the guts of costumes, and just in case you might too; the inside-out petticoat. As you can see in the back view, I made the straps a little over-long. Just in case a) I get bigger, or b) I want to lend this out to somebody of different dimensions than myself. 
Front (interior), tied.
Back (interior) tied.
Front top - you can see the straps are just stitched on with
a single line of stitching - easy to take out and move around!
Back top - here you see the longer straps, for adjustability.

And now, the HSM deets: 

The Challenge: #2, Tucks & Pleats
Material: Linen for the body and straps, cotton twill tape for the ties. 
Pattern: Cobbled together based on multiple inspiration. 
Year: 1790-1800
Notions: Gutermann cotton and poly threads. 
How historically accurate is it? I would like to estimate around 80%. The majority of materials are technically appropriate for the time, although the quality of the fabric is maybe a bit too slubby and rough. The construction makes sense for the time, but is a bit of a question mark.
Hours to complete: maybe 30? Maybe a bit less. 
First worn: Haven't worn it yet! 
Total cost: Most of the materials were stash, from a while ago... I would estimate, all told, probably under $20.