Monday, April 25, 2011

A New Civil War Corset

I have grand plans for this summer! I'm hoping to attend Under the Red Coat in Williamsburg and the Gettysburg reenactment. I have plans for the costumes I'd like to make, but I feel like posting my intentions and project plans would jinx getting them completed in time. Since none of my costumes are currently fitting, this means I need to start from the inside out. So first up: a new civil war corset.I decided to try Simplicity 2890 because it has some extended sizes and I wouldn't have to size-up the pattern. I made pretty quick progress this weekend, and have completely assembled the corset, added the gores, and sewn in the boning tape. Below is a shot of the completed bust gores:I'm over half way done setting in the grommets, but had to take a break since I bruised my hands with my eyelet tool.

I have to say that so far I'm not that impressed with this pattern. I ordered boning according to the back of the pattern, but they don't fit (they're about 2-3 inches too short). I also don't like that this is a single-layer corset, and that the gores are one-size-fits all instead of different cup sizes. I've now tried all three Simplicity corset patterns (the current pattern, Martha McCain's 5726, and Martha McCain's 7215). My pink satin corset from Simplicity 7215 remains my favorite (I may have to redraft the pattern and make it again).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

18th Century Wigs

Wigs (or 18th century hair, if you're blessed with hair long enough) has always fascinated me. I remember reading about La Belle Poule (the ship-in-the-hair style) when I was a kid and marveling at how silly it was. Now, of course, I'm obsessed enough with the 18th century that I'd actually give it a try. :) I can't remember where I came across this 18th century illustration of hair styles, but I love that each one has its own name:

I was thrilled to make it to the Wig Maker during my latest trip to Williamsburg. Check out their new Facebook page. They're not always open on the weekend when I tend to visit, so it was a treat. The wig maker was restyling the governor's wife's wig. It still blows my mind to think that ladies would shave their heads if they wanted to wear a wig. I wonder how common ladies wigs were vs. getting your own hair styled. Does anyone know?


There were all sorts of new wigs on display. In the past, it seems like the store generally had men's wigs on display, but this time there were tons of ladies' wigs. This one is actually a man's wig (can you imagine what a dandy a guy would have to be to wear one of these?). It makes me think of the hairstylist Leonard in Sophia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette."

I LOVE this wig, because it's my hair color and has peacock feathers. I have no idea what's up with the scissors. I think maybe they were on the shelf in the background (not IN the wig), but I didn't notice it when I took the photo.

I love the one on the left. The pretty pin curls toward the top are my favorite.


And here's my favorite. What's not to love? It's the powdery ideal of the 1770's and doesn't look anything like the horrid white wigs costume shops sell (I do realize comparing the quality between costume wigs and the Williamsburg Wig Maker is like comparing a Fiat to a Ferrari, but that's what came to mind).
Check out all the little side curls piled one on top of the other! That, combined with the twisted chignon and feathers, it's just to die for!! I want one. I'm not very talented when it comes to hairstyling, or I'd have already bought a wig and tried my own hand at creating an 18th century poof. Kendra has a great tutorial on how to style a 1770's wig, and Abby of "Stay-ing Alive" has a great 1780's hedgehog tutorial if you are more talented at hairstyling.

I'm hoping that there will be a wig workshop in my future or that I cajole my way onto the wigmaker's wait list.

Monday, April 18, 2011

18th Century Calash Bonnet

Today I'm going to review my Calash bonnet project from the Burnley & Trowbridge workshop. These somewhat goofy looking bonnets served a fairly practical purpose - to protect a lady's hairstyle from the elements. I found a few period illustrations of a Calash showing enormous examples, most likely from the 1770's:

Here a smaller portrayal of a Calash bonnet, also from the 1770's (the portrait is titled "Miss Crewe"):
This is most likely a satire portrayal of a calash, but I like that it's a more rounded shape consistent with the hairstyles of the 1780s. It also shows off the lead string or ribbon that's sewn onto the calash. The bonnets are very lightweight, and a lady could hold onto the ribbon to keep the calash from blowing off. Janea told us that contemporary lady magazines frowned upon young ladies who snapped their calash ribbons in order to be noticed by passing gentlemen. Shocking!
Here's Emma modeling the milliner shop's calash that's based off the Spruce Sportsman. The reeds in that sucker are 40 inches long!

Here's my calash in progress. I chose a green silk with pink lining, similar to this calash at the MET. I worked all the channels by hand with silk thread. This is one of the few projects I've made that is 100% hand-sewn.Here's the finished product from the side:Here's a nice shot of the contrasting lining. I can't find the reference, but apparently this color combination was compared to a blushing rose. Although they appear slightly cumbersome to the modern eye, apparently calashes could be very romantic (or coquetish...if you go around snapping your ribbons) accessories.And here's the back, finished off with a small ruffle and bow.And here I am with the obligatory mirror shot. Don't I look period correct with my shorn hair, glasses, and red t-shirt? I just didn't have the energy to dig out my wig. But, you can see that I have plenty of room for a towering coiffure.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

18th Century Mitts

Next up from my weekend in Williamsburg: mitts!! I've always wanted a very pretty pair of mitts, but I could only find wool/linen mitts that were cut too big or too small. This way, I got to make a fancy set of mitts fit to me.
Here's an example of 18th century mitts (the painting is called the Lady with the Veil). I love the raspberry changeable silk with the blue lining. Isn't that a fantastic color combination?! It wouldn't work with any of my dresses, so I decided to go with something else. There's something very coquettish, though, about having the tip of the mitt flipped back to reveal the lining.Here was the inspiration for my project - a pair of silk mitts from Colonial Williamsburg's collection. It helped that there was a reproduction of these available to look at during the workshop. I made a simpler version of this pair: I ditched the inner arm cut-out, green accents instead of blue, no leather lining, and less embroidery because I just don't have the patience.Here I am getting the muslin for my mitt pattern fitted. There definitely seemed to be an art in getting things to fit properly. Sarah, from the Mantua Maker shop, was a pro and tugging, tucking, and otherwise getting the uncooperative fabric to conform to my hand. Here's a shot of the finished product (ignore the non-period fingernails). The fabric is a duchess silk satin. I saw it and immediately fell in love (I was actually holding another bolt of fabric for my mitts when I spotted this fabric underneath a pile on the fabric table). Little did a know that there's a story behind the fabric: the satin was a remnant from Vera Wang! Yes folks, I made a pair of mitts out of the fabric Vera Wang uses in her $5,000-and-up wedding dresses. Pretty neat, huh? Here's a shot with the tips flipped back to show off the sea-green silk taffeta lining.
I decided to finish the edge of my mitts the same in the same manner as my inspiration gloves: a herringbone embroidery stitch up the side in silk embroidery thread.
This is what it looks like when I'm wearing it. The camera didn't do a great job of capturing the stitches, but you get the gist.

Friday, April 08, 2011

18th Century Muffs

Ah...muffs. What an elegant accessory! I can't imagine why they fell out of style. Especially the very clever 19th century muffs that had hidden pockets inside. Apparently 18th century muffs did not commonly have pockets. Fur and feathers seem to be most commonly depicted in 18th century fashion plates. The period examples I have found, however, are not dominated by fur/feathers (though the MET has one in its collection). Maybe they were just considered more fashionable/desirable but were more expensive? Anyone know? Here's a 1770's French fashion plate from Galleries des Modes et Costumes Francais showing what appears to be a fur muff:


The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has several muffs in its collection, including some very pretty silk muffs. The one below features gorgeous silk satin and a portrait medallion. Portrait medallions seem to have been pretty popular decorations for muffs, but since I don't want to mess around with printing out an image with my printer on silk, I decided to forgo this option.

I really liked this example as well. It features some gorgeous detail work, including fly fringe. Having learned how to make fly fringe during the last class I took with Burnley & Trowbridge, I can tell you that's a big time investment! I think I managed about 6 inches of fringe after four hours of labor.
I have Emma from the Mantua Maker's shop to thank for helping choose this amazing color combination. I had already decided to go with green silk for my muff because I thought it would go nicely with my pink Robe Francaise. When I couldn't decide on how to trim the muff, Emma steered me towards the gorgeous peach silk ribbon. One of the great things about the muff is that it's essentially a pillow cover. I made a linen tube and filled it with wool batting for the inside. The silk cover slides on and off the pillow, so I can make as many silk covers as I want! That's nice since it seems like I'm always new gown in completely different colors.Here's the finished product! Doesn't it make you think of candy? A salt water taffy, or maybe French Macaroons? I definitely fell victim to the color palate from Sophia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette," but who cares?!Here are all the lovely muffs that were made during the Burnley & Trowbridge workshop.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

18th Century Fashion Accessories

It's spring, which must mean it's time for another fabulous Burnley & Trowbridge workshop! I really missed attending these workshops: while I was in Colorado last year I missed out on the polonaise workshop I'd been begging and pleading for.

This workshop focused on "Calashes, Bonnets, Mitts & Lovely Little Bags," or the accessories of the late 18th & Early 19th Century. The accessories can really make the outfit and contribute to the authenticity of a look. Feast your eyes on all the eye candy accessories they brought with them to display at the workshop:Over the course of three days the ladies from the Margaret Hunter Mantua shop in Colonial Williamsburg and Angela of Burnley & Trowbridge taught us how to make little inked bags, calash bonnets, muffs, and mitts. No visit to Williamsburg is complete without a visit to the Mantua shop, and this time I was thrilled to see a little miniature doll-sized store on display. Look at the wee little stays, hoops, and pocket!!

I'm going to post separately about each project, starting here with the inked bags. Apparently these friendship bags were common in the early 19th century. The PowerPoint that Burnley & Trowbridge showed us had lots of period examples of these bags, but unfortunately I can't find any images online. You gave these bags to friends and loved ones as little tokens. There were even some really neat examples of these bags made in pink with abolitionist messages printed on them.
Black ink was applied directly to the cotton in order to mimic embroidery. We used a light box to trace out the images we liked. Here's the front of my bag: And the back of my bag which is a Jane Austin quote about a friendship bag: Unfortunately my back started hurting pretty quickly bending over the light box, or I might have made a more elaborate bag. Still, I was very pleased with how it turned out. I especially like the fringed edge, the hand braided decorative cording that I made, and the handmade tassels...which I just realized are not in my photograph. Oh well.