Sunday, 22 February 2015

HSF February: Blue - Mid-Victorian Corset

Now that the Regency ball is done, I've had time to work on my next project: an 1876 corset of blue silk, inspired by this one from the 1850s:

Now, obviously this corset is from the 1850s, and mine is from the 1870s, and I'll also be wearing it under my 1840s gown. Unfortunately I am a student and I don't have the resources to make as many corsets as I would really like to, so this is the way it has to be. The shape of the 1870s corset is quite similar to that of the earlier versions, and I've modified it a bit in order to get it closer to the intended silhouette. Moreover, the construction is not so different: it, like the 1850s corset above, has two bust gussets, a dip at the center front bustline, deep, low hips with a lot of flare, and a sharp curve in at the waist. I unfortunately don't have the bust required to pull off such a beautifully curvy silhouette, and my bust gussets can't extend so far down towards the waist, but there's evidence for shorter gussets, too, in corsets of all the periods I mentioned.

It is re-drafted from a pattern in the 1876 issue of De Gracieuse, which is all in Dutch and lacks a high-resolution pattern online. Yay! (It's the bottom left-hand corset in the image linked above, but it won't be as long in front and it won't be quite so curvy at the bust - in fact, it will look a little more like the bottom right-hand corset.) Before the Automobile has actually made the same corset in the past, but I think our two versions will come out looking significantly different. It's always interesting to see how the same pattern morphs and changes on different body types.

I don't have photos of the mockup on me, but here are shots of it lying flat:


As you can see, I had to extend the waist a fair bit (about 2.5", actually - but I think I might take a half inch out again and extend it up at the top instead) as I have quite a long torso, both in modern terms and compared with smaller Victorian dimensions. I only extended it on one side, because I still need to cut a proper mockup in coutil, bone it with actual bones instead of loosely-stitched-on cable ties, and use a busk and full-length lacing (the only lacing strips I had on hand are very short).

Thus, I consider this part way between a draping session and a first mockup - it was really just to get the pattern right, and now I'll begin actually fitting it.

Mockup 2.0 will be done in coutil with some sort of plain-weave fashion fabric because this is the only way to get a really accurate read on how the final corset will behave. Like the final corset, the pieces will be roll-basted into slightly domed shapes before being stitched together, to help them conform to the curves required of them without wrinkling.

I believe I underestimated the time this will take, as my last corset was the red 1890s, which had no gussets and thus needed only one mockup after the initial re-drafting process. Altogether it took only a week from drafting to flossing; I've already spent three-ish days on this one. So it might not be done in time for February's challenge, but I'll give it a shot, and at least post my progress.

More soon!

Thursday, 19 February 2015

1815 Ball Gown

So, as some of you will recall, my January: Foundations entry was 1815 undergarments for a ball gown, which was to be worn on Valentines Day at a Regency ball here in Halifax. The ball was Saturday evening, and as of 4 am on Friday morning, my gown looked like this:

Promising, right?

There was some discussion on my facebook page as to whether or not I would get it done (I'm pleased to report that people seemed to have faith in me), and although I determined that I would, I knew that it would likely be without sleep. But hell if I was going to miss the only regency event before I leave Nova Scotia, especially after putting so much work into the ensemble already!

I put the bodice away at this point and got 2.5 hours of sleep before a full day of classes on Friday. I stitched much of the skirt during lectures and at singing practice, and when I got home around midnight I still had a couple of skirt seams and the cartridge pleating to do before I could even attach it to the bodice, let alone think about sleeves or a hem. Part of what was taking so long is that the sheer and fragile silk prevented me from leaving seams unfinished, even for one event.

I worked through the night along with my roommate Breeze, who was also making her gown (by machine, which was smarter - but I can't bring myself to machine sew historical stuff, especially when the fabric is nice). By about 11 am the skirt was on and both sleeves were finished and set in. We went to the mall to get flats for the event, since neither of us had period or even period-ish shoes, and hurried home as fast as we could. I put on everything and we marked my hem. By now it was about 3:00, and we had to be ready by about 4:45. I pinned the gold binding around the hem while Breeze curled my hair and put her own into a bun. Then I put the gown aside and we used just about every bobby pin in the house to do each other's hair. At 4:45 we packed everything up - just in time, because our ride was out front.

On the way to the event I stitched my hem, and the gown was finished.

It is made of a sheer white striped silk organza base, with figured stripes of gold silk cut from a larger length of silk organza as trim. It's completely hand-stitched using silk thread, with lapped seams on the bodice and felled seams on the skirt, and a cartridge-pleated CB section. There's a linen lining in the bodice for strength, and linen tape to lace it up the back.

It is worn over a cotton chemise, cotton short stays, a cotton petticoat, and a cotton drop-front undergown (see my January: Foundations post for these).

Here are some photos taken at the event by Dianne Grant:

My back hem got a little hiked up here - woops! It is actually level...

I'm so proud of Breeze's hair! And she did an awesome job on mine.
I'm wearing the gown with vintage ivory kid gloves and a lot of pearls (and we won't mention the shoes ever again). Oh - and fun silk clocked stockings (from AD) which only show when I'm dancing, or when Breeze and I are being silly.

The evening was wonderful! In the 72 hours before the event, I spent only 2.5 hours sleeping, but somehow I had energy to dance and enjoyed myself very much. The excellent food, researched and made by some wonderful NSCC (I think?) students, perked me up a bit too.

The Regency skirt-hike, or "wedgie pose"
Here are some close-ups of the gown fabric, and of the eyelets in back (which are covered by trim but which are all nicely bound in silk thread and deserve a photo).

Okay so I don't actually have any close-ups. But they exist! And they're tiny and even! =P
At the end of the night, it took about 10 minutes to extricate all the bobby pins from each other's hair, and no wonder:

I will leave you with this stunningly elegant piece of admirable decorum, in the form of a selfie taken at the ball:

We would do so well in the Regency.

And now I'm working on my entry for February's challenge, "Blue," which is a new 1860s corset! Updates on that soon; I'm still in the fiddling-with-the-pattern stage.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

HSF January: Regency Foundations

If you've just arrived to the HSM-nee-F party and aren't sure what's going on, you'll find a button on my sidebar which will take you to the page for the Historical Sew-Monthly (formerly the Historical Sew-Fortnightly) on Leimomi's blog 'The Dreamstress.' It's great fun!

January's challenge was "Foundations," and I'm only a couple of days late! Well, four...but the stays and petticoat were both done by the second week of January, and the undergown was done on time except for one of the hem tucks and the sleeves; I just didn't have a chance to get photos until this morning. But anyways, here it all is.

I interpreted 'foundations' fairly literally, as I made all the undergarments necessary for my 1815 ball gown, which needs to be ready by the 14th of this month (sdkjfkdsjf!!!). However, these garments also provide the 'foundation' for a whole new era in my wardrobe, as I have never done early 19th century before. To this end, I made each of the garments quite versatile, and able to cover everything from around 1800-1830. Everything is hand-stitched, and made as accurately as possible.

The Challenge: Foundations

Fabric: Mostly cotton, of several types and weights.

Pattern: All my own patterns, draped based on museum garments and with some pattern-shape cues from Janet Arnold.

Year: 1800-1830, but for my current purposes, 1815. The stays and petticoat are the most versatile; the undergown is best suited to around 1810-1830, as it is quite stiff and full.

Notions: Cable ties for boning the stays and the lacing panels on the undergown, a wooden paint stick busk, some hooks and eyes on the petticoat, and a bunch of cotton twill tape.

How historically accurate is it? Around 90%, I think. All the patterns are accurate and based on museum garments, the fabrics are accurate, everything is made of natural fibers, and I stitched everything by hand, but the boning is plastic and I did use polyester thread because I hate sewing with cotton and I didn't have any linen fine enough.

Hours to complete: I never keep track. Not as long as I expected, actually. But a while.

First worn: Only to take photos. But it will be worn on the 14th of February!

Total cost: The undergown is around 3 yards of mercerized cotton at $5/yard, the petticoat is 2 yards of muslin at $2/yard, and the stays are entirely stash fabric. The paint stick was hanging out in my basement, the cable ties are from my considerable selection of various weights and widths, the hooks and eyes and thread were all stash, and the cotton twill tape was purchased for about $10 altogether. So for the entire set, around $29 Canadian. Pretty good!

And here are some photos!

Stays - began stitching December 27, finished in the first week of January.

I put a blog post up about the short stays and the petticoat about a week ago, so you can click back a couple of entries if you want to see worse photos but more information on those. =)

Right now I'm being lazy and just posting the pages from my portfolio, because they're all nice and formatted with the best photos, but if you're curious about construction photos or shots of the insides, please do let me know and I'm happy to post a few!
Petticoat - began stitching in the first week of January, and finished about four days later.

The bodice is double-layered, and the skirt is a single, very sheer layer.

These photos are from a photoshoot I did with my friend Greta, who was lovely enough to come over and take good photos for me even though she's super busy. I'm afraid the photos of the undergown are not nearly so nice.

Undergown - began stitching about half way through January, and finished yesterday. Made of 3 or 4 yards of mercerized cotton (I actually can't remember how much...woops). Drop-front construction with lacing under the bib and a tucked hem. Hand-stitched. Made so it can be worn under both day and evening gowns. This was my first ever attempt at the bib-front construction, and although there are a couple of things I would change next time, I'm pretty happy with it.

Below, you can see a close-up of the front when all done up (sorry for having the tie in front; I had no one to help me and I can't get it tight enough behind my own back), and a photo of just the lacing under the bib done up, with all the other pieces and ties hanging loose. First the back piece wraps forward, and the twill ties go through little thread loops along the bottom of the bodice to tie at center front. Then the front comes up, the bib gets pinned through all the layers at the top (I pin it right through to the stays straps to keep everything in place), the ties go through more little thread loops along the back bodice edge, and tie (usually) at center back.

Overall, I'm quite happy with everything. I guess the true test will be in 10 days, when I put the finished ball gown over top of everything...