Sunday, September 28, 2014

Corset Musings

I've been working on my 1880's ensemble for a while now.  You've seen me work my way through all the bottom pieces (bustle, petticoat, skirt), but I've been really hesitant to start on the top pieces (corset, bodice) because, well, those are hard.

It's pretty easy to fit a skirt.  Waist and hips measurement check?  Okay then, good to go.  But a bodice and a corset is much harder (and I'm not just talking about my old nemesis sleeves).  A corset is a shell of yourself which has to support you and confine you while not hurting you in any way. Without resorting to spandex, that's tricky.

And, I'm doing something new.  Last year I made an 1880's corset for my somewhat-steampunk outfit, using the Truly Victorian pattern that I've had for ages.  And it was fine, though it made me more flat chested than I am in real life, and made my lower back ache after a couple hours of wear. This time I had Dan duct tape me up, to literally create a shell of myself.  Today I turned that shell into a pattern (meaning I drew some lines on it and cut it into pieces. Though to be fair, deciding where to put those lines took a lot of time and trouble.).

About half way through this process I was talking to Dan about why I was so hesitant to start, why I'm hesitant to continue, why I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing and he said something like the following. "So you're telling me that you've never done this [method of drafting] before, and much of they way you're going to construct it is different than the last one, but you're expecting this to be perfect the first time?" And my response was, "After my mock-ups, yes."

That's a problem.  My lovely husband reminded me that expectations can be set too high.  That no one ever achieves perfection, especially from a first try, and that this process is about learning, not achieving.

Anybody want to come stencil that on the wall for me?  Or tattoo it on my forearm?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

HSF '14: A Regency Beret

This fortnightly challenge is Yellow.  And anyone who knows me knows I really don't wear yellow. At all.  Looking through my fabric, the only even-close-to-yellow fabric I own is the gold silk I made last year's Celebrate dress out of, and the same fabric I used for the lining in the Regency reticule I just made.  (I bought way too much of that fabric)

As I had a ton of the gold silk, and I had just been through the La Mode Bagatelle pattern with the reticule (which includes pieces for pretty much all Regency outfit components you could ever want), and remembered that they had a beret pattern, I decided to give that a go.  It's possible my fabric is too stiff, and I don't think I have a dress yet to wear it with, as it would be too spot on with the Celebrate dress, but I enjoyed the exercise, and now I know how big the beret will be if I ever want to make another from that pattern.

And my fabric is so stiff, my beret could
probably double as a chef's hat.

The Challenge: Yellow

Fabric: Scrap silk I had left over from last year's Celebrate! challenge

Pattern: To make things super easy I used the La Mode Bagatelle pattern

Year: early 1800's

Notions: None

How historically accurate is it? Pretty good.

Hours to complete: 3.5 (I had forgotten how tricky the stiff, tightly woven silk was to hand sew)

First worn: Not yet, but yay for another accessory!

Total cost: Free, as the fabric was from stash, but $2.50 otherwise as the silk I bought was $5 per yard.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

At the Manchester Art Gallery

Most historic costumers have heard about the Manchester Art Gallery.  The museum has a whole building dedicated to their historic costume collection.  And from what I understand, it's extensive, though the dedicated building really isn't.  But this post isn't on the Platt Hall of Costume (I'll get there later), it's on the Art Gallery proper.

While I was in Manchester, the Art Gallery had on display a collection of garments from the British Cotton Board, whose job it was to promote cotton in all industries, including fashion.  The garments on display were really interesting, though they were all from the early 1950's which isn't my era. These dresses were produced as examples only, so they were only worn at the Cotton Board's annual runway show (so once).  The accompanying text pointed out that some of the dresses look great in cotton, and some look like bed sheets. Also, they were sewn for the runway, so they definitely don't have couture finishing techniques and some even had really obvious stitching (to be fair, most looked ready to wear).  As I understand it, the Cotton Board had a hard time convincing the masses to leave their beautiful silk evening dresses behind and start wearing cotton ones instead.

First up, a cotton organdy wedding dress.  Knowing how stiff my organdy petticoat is, I really hope they used the softer version.

This "Cotton Doeskin Summer Dress" from 1953 was probably my favorite.  The sleeve construction is really interesting, and I think they put a pocket in a dart, which is always cool.

At the other end of the spectrum is this "Cotton Poplin Evening Dress" which really does look like bed sheets (it also looks really heavy) and has really obvious stitching.

And the last I'll show is this adorable 1957 summer dress made from "horizontally printed fabric". The photo of the back is out of focus, but it gives you an idea about the back neckline.  I'm guessing this fabric was printed with this specific dress in mind, but I really love how the pleating uses the fabric to its advantage.

I also, of course, explored the rest of the Gallery.  Upstairs I found several paintings of note. Including one of the most ridiculous depictions of armor I have ever seen.  Seriously--he's not actually naked and just painted grey.  I know this because his hands are a normal human color.

The Earl of Warwick's Vow by Henry Tresham (1797)

A typical Regency scene which was apparently mocked in the press.

Possibly my first Tissot (at least my first now that I'm extremely interested in the time period).  And it was AMAZING.  He truly is a wonder at depicting textiles.  Though, does anyone else see the resemblance between the violinist and the woman in front with the fan?

Hush! (also known as The Concert) by James Tissot (1875)

And several beautiful Pre-Raphaelite paintings, which made me long for some of my art history textbooks back in the US.

Hylas and the Nymphs by John William Waterhouse (1896)

Work by Ford Maddox Brown (1852 - 1856)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

On the Heels of Jane Eyre and Elizabeth Bennet

About a month and a half ago now, Dan and I spent a week in Manchester, UK.  As with Trieste, he had a conference to attend, and I got to do the sightseeing thing.

Our very first day we made a rather bold (for us anyway) move and went hiking for several hours. We landed around 10, arrived at the hotel around 11, and decided that instead of sitting around, we should go hiking.  In planning for the trip, I had come across a trail that featured sites from Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice.  It sounded like our kind of hike.  You can find it here if you want; I highly recommend it if you're ever in the area.

Close to Manchester is the Peak District, which I knew of because it's where Mr. and Mrs. Gardner go with Lizzie in P&P when they can't make it all the way to the Lake District.  It is also where Charlotte Brontë spent time while she was writing Jane Eyre.  This is where we headed.

Our walk started out in beautiful green rolling hills, crossing through sheep paddocks and making sure we latched gates as we left.

The first literary hot spot was a surprisingly small manor house that provided inspiration for Thornfield.  In reality, it's called North Lees Hall.  As you approach it, it looks like you can't see all of it through the trees.

But as you come around the other side, you realize it's like a cottage, with a weird boxy 3-story extension hanging off one side.  A bit of a disappointment as far as Thornfield manor goes.

After that we wound our way through forest and more paddocks, working our way up to the top of Stanage Edge. This cliff provides amazing views of the countryside, and is the iconic spot Keira Knightly stands with arms wide as the camera pans around her. (You know the one I'm talking about.)  This was a great place to explore, even though Dan started hyperventilating every time I got close to the edge.

It was more than a bit windy.

The view from the walk down.  You can see better how sheer
the cliffs are.

Looking the other way from the cliffs, you can see some of the moors that Jane Eyre gets lost in as she's running from Thornfield.

Descending from the cliffs, we ended our journey at the Hathersage Churchyard, where Little John of Robin Hood fame is said to be buried, though his tombstone looked a little newer than it should.

All in all, a good start to a vacation!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

HSF '14: Regency Reticule

This challenge is all about terminology.  The Dreamstress (who started this whole thing) has compiled a Historical Fashion and Textile Encyclopedia, full of words you may come across in fashion plate descriptions or period sources.  Words like "Brummel Bodice" (men's stays), "Bosom Friend" (a long scarf-like thing you'd wrap around your upper half to keep warm), and "Ikat" (a fabric where the warp threads have been dyed or printed that, when woven, produces a blurred image).

My word is "Reticule", which is simply a small, drawstring women's purse.  They became common in the early 1800's when the slim silhouette didn't allow for hidden pockets sewn into skirts.  For that reason, early reticules were considered scandalous, because pockets had always been classed as undergarments (they were separate from the actual skirt, you reached through an opening in a skirt seam to get to them), and now they were suddenly being worn on the outside of the body.

This was supposed to be a really quick challenge, as I'm still working up to my last two 1880's pieces (corset and bodice).  But in the end, a plain grey reticule wasn't fancy enough, so I decided to add some embroidery.

I was inspired by the tone on tone embroidery that you sometimes see in early reticules.  All the examples I've seen have been white on white, but I decided that grey on grey would work for me.

From the Met Museum

I also decided on a common design, that of a basket of flowers on one side, and my initial in a (very) simple wreath shape on the other.  I still wanted this project to go quickly, so I didn't use any fancy stitches, just a simple backstitch.
From the Met
From the Met
And mine:

The pattern I found online and traced onto the bag.  It's more
abstract than it probably should have been, but I like it.

The Challenge: Terminology

Fabric: Scrap silk I had left over from last year's Celebrate! challenge

Pattern: To make things super easy I used the La Mode Bagatelle pattern

Year: early 1800's

Notions: Cotton thread for the embroidery (should have used silk, but I had cotton on hand)

How historically accurate is it? Pretty good.

Hours to complete: about 12 with the embroidery

First worn: Not yet, but I'm really pleased to have an accessory for a dress I made a year ago.

Total cost: I'd call this one free as my costs were counted last December.