Friday, February 10, 2017

Liebster Blog Award!

I'm trying to have 2017 be a year of cleansing, and that means cleaning out my drafts folder too! Cassidy, fabulous author of A Most Beguiling Accomplishment, nominated me for a Liebster Award back in June. If you're unfamiliar with the rules, each nominee is asked to answer their nominator's interview questions, nominate 11 bloggers with less than 200 followers for the award, and offer interview questions for them to answer, should they choose to accept the mission. Cassidy has some great questions, and I've been working on answers!

let the interview begin!

What is the history mystery (including but not limited to historical fashion) that you would most like to solve?
What is the period or area of historical dress that you first began to concentrate on?
I don't do much of it anymore (so many periods! so little time!), but my first period was the 1860s (American Civil War). In middle and high school I was in a group of living history volunteers in the greater Boston area that researched, constructed, and performed local programs. One of our main periods was the 1860s, and the clothes really spoke to me. I started with day wear, and then evening dresses when a friend introduced me to vintage dance. 

Do you belong to a costuming or reenacting group?
I do! If you'd like to experience a social evening in your favorite period, get into the past for the weekend, or just learn some really fun dancing, you should check out the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers. Most of the outfits and outings I post about involve CVD or CVD friends. The group is a non-profit organization devoted to the study and reconstruction of period dances, including performances and participatory events where we teach. 
I am lucky enough to live in an area with many vintage-themed groups, so I have my pick of events from the Greater Boston Vintage Society and Tweed Outing ClubI have also attended World War II events as a member of the Big Red One Living History Organization, and hope to get involved with the 1st WAC Separate Battalion soon!

What is an area that you fancy studying or sewing that you do not currently do?
 I'd also love to try out a bustle ensemble sometime! But as I don't attend any events in that era, it's not been a high-priority project. There are also some 1950s dresses on my wish list, but somehow I never get to them. Maybe this year... :)

costume sketch by Edith Head for Rosemary Clooney in White Christmas: inspiration for a 50s project that's been on my list for years!

Is there a particular technique that you'd like to learn, but haven't had the time or a project to do it in?
I would love to learn more about tailoring! There are a couple of 1910s suits on my wish list, but I don't feel like I know enough about tailoring to hit that yet. I think if I were less intimidated I might move those projects up the list. One is a suit inspired by a photograph from the family archives, so I really want to do it justice.

What would you make if time and budget (and event) were of no concern?
Something heavily embroidered, probably Regency but maybe 1890s? I used to do 19th century embroidery to moderate my stress in college--mostly little samplers and things but I did do one Regency ball gown! Now I just never feel like I want to commit to the time and fore-planning a project like that would take, but I'd love to someday.

Is there a particular museum exhibition you'd like to go back in time or travel across the world to see?
I love museum exhibitions, and so this was a hard question! I was tied on two. First, I think I would pick the Paris Salon of 1877, in which May Alcott's still life was displayed. After years researching and playing May, I would love the chance to attend this moment, which was one of her most public successes. Second, how cool would it be to attend the Great Exhibition of 1851?! It would be an incredible opportunity to see a moment where science, industry, innovation, and fashion all collided during a turning point of the industrial revolution.

still life by May Alcott, courtesy of LMAMA
What's your favorite reference book or fashion history text?
I have two again: for actual support with construction, the first place I look is always Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion. Even just seeing the pattern pieces can help me determine if I'm aiming for the right shapes. For inspiration, I love 19th Century in Detail from the V&A. It's one of my favorite sources for trim, cool fabrics, and interior shots.
I'm also a huge fan of museum catalogs-either as a way to take home exhibits I really loved, or to get a glimpse of exhibits I couldn't see. Impressionism and Fashion from the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a great one.

If you could design your perfect historical reenactment event, what would it be like and where?
ooooh, great question! I would love to organize a series of events that focus on the diversity we usually don't see represented-a variety of people representing different classes, in different jobs, of different races...basically, what somewhere like Boston would have "actually" looked like. There are some people doing great work to this end already, so I hope to attend some of their events! 
I'd also love to flip the traditional timeline event (which typically includes military units) on its head and do a women's history timeline that invites living history groups and military units (like WWII WAVEs and WACs) that are primarily focused on (and lead by) women.

What motivates you in your historical recreation and/or public education?
I've always loved history, and the more I learn about where we've gone before (especially regarding technology and cultural trends), the more I recognize the cyclical nature of our experiences. I want to share that recognition with others, in hopes that we can all learn from the past.'s fun! Getting to learn through experience while wearing great clothes is hard to beat :)

Do you like reading historical and/or classic fiction? (For the latter, I include any old books, whether or not they're critically esteemed.)
I don't read much historical fiction anymore, although I used to quite a bit. I do still read a lot of classic fiction. Although to be honest, as I'm currently in grad school I don't read much at all. In between semesters I marathon through books before I have to start homework again! This break I re-read Persuasion, and went on a women in STEM non-fiction kick with Rise of the Rocket Girls and Hidden Figures

a throwback-reading War and Peace in a you do.

I am cheating slightly and posting fewer than 11 nominees, because it turns out that most of the blogs I read have more than 200 followers! So here they are:

Our Girl History-I love reading Eliza's posts on working at a historical sight, and her thoughts on the role of women as both historical voices we need to interpret and as interpreters dealing with the public. 

Ballgown In a Backpack-Emma just started blogging, but so far her posts have been entertaining and interesting! I look forward to seeing what else she pulls out of the bag. Puns!

Fishy Fashion and Maritime Modes-This is a topic I don't know anything about, and it's interesting to see how material culture is re-created and well as how modern people respond!

The Laced Angel-ok, this one is slightly out of the follower limit, but I get some much hair inspiration from here that I couldn't leave it off!

The Quintessential Clothes Pen- Quinn does such a good job documenting her sewing process and construction! Plus, her insides are as neat as her outsides :)

Here are my questions for you all, should you choose to participate:
1. How did you start making historical garments?
2. What is your favorite part of blogging?
3. Describe a time you struggled with a historical project. What did you learn from the experience?
4. If money and restoration were no object, what piece of historical technology would you love to try using? 
5. Do you watch or listen to anything while you sew? If so, what is your favorite background?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Late Regency Pelisse Inspiration

The Regency season is upon me! Or rather, I have a bunch of Regency events coming up (wooo! exciting!), and I will be a much happier dancer if I have new clothes. Due to ongoing undergarment problems, I've held off on making any new Regency ensembles. That was definitely the right decision, but now that my silhouette is sorted, I'm excited for some new frocks!

in a very old frock at the 2016 Regency Weekend-a frock that was only every supposed to be a pattern test, but then I never made another one!
In the plans are three new garments: a ballgown, a day dress, and a pelisse. My grand plot is to work out a base dress pattern with gathered front and plain front options that fits me really well, and that I can use as a base for any future Regency projects. To accomplish this I'm starting with Janet Arnold, because there happens to be a dress in Patterns of Fashion that fits me really well. I'm in the process of mockups right now, but I'm also planning that third piece. A pelisse has been on my list since I started doing Regency in 2012...and I've had the fabric for one since then too!

Yep, I admit it, this is a long-time stash project. I bought grey-blue velvet and pumpkin taffeta for a pelisse during a sale on New Years Day 2013. The pretty pile has been languishing in a tub ever since, in three different apartments. So I'm thrilled to finally be starting this project!

I haven't totally figured out the exact details, but I'm leaning towards a "van dyked"/pointed motif. Here are my inspiration images, which (almost) all include a base color and contrasting color:

fashion plate, 1822
La Belle Assemblee, 1817
La Belle Assemblee, 1818
The Mirror of Fashion, 1815
Ackerman's Repository, 1818
I am especially leaning towards the first image (white with blue), but I want a larger collar so there will definitely be some other elements. I'll just have to see what I'm struck by once the base garment is up and running!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Note of Thanks

It is customary at the turn of the year to review sewing accomplishments and set goals for the upcoming year. This year, I'm not going to set any new goals because really, I just started following by 2015 goal to take my time and not skip steps of projects...and it's going well! So I'm going to work on keeping that up, rather than making new goals.

I'm also not going to do my standard month-by-month sewing review, because honestly, I didn't make that much this year. I made a few big projects well, and I'm happy with that. Instead, here is a review of my top five adventures!

Gathering this fall for an 1860s weekend, I got to focus on my photography--it was a stressful Fall, but a fun interlude!

The Boy came along for a summer 1920s adventure! He won't be making regular blog appearances, but sometimes it's fun to have him join me in the crazy for a bit :)

I participated in the Historical Sew Monthly for the first time! I didn't actually blog about many of my entries, but it was a blast to be part of the HSM community and to see everyone's projects.

My Starfleet crew is fierce, brilliant, and coming for you. I love that our crew grows every year!

An adventure of palatial proportions (heh...sorry...) to Versailles--this isn't top of the list for its location, but because it was a chance to do something really insane with some of my favorite people. And to make new friends along the way!

I'm grateful for a year full of new and old friends, new and old places, and willing photography subjects. I started off 2017 with a meeting of awesome historically-minded women, and I hope that is the first of many! I hope all of you have things to make you feel optimistic about the coming year, even when the outlook is bleak. I look forward to sharing more adventures with you. Here's to a new year!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Gaggle of 1830s

I don't know why, but "gaggle" just seems like the right term for people in 1830s clothes!

Through a mix of intention and serendipity, I wasn't alone on my 1830s adventure for Fezziwig's this year. A bunch of us ended up taking a break during the same dance to take pictures, so with help from an obliging gentleman we captured to shots of a bunch of 1830s ladies. I think what I love most about these images is how complimentary our ensembles are while all being totally unique to our personal styles.


So there you have it! I'll be away over the holidays for the first time, so things will be a bit quiet here until the new year. So have a very happy holiday season, and best wishes for 2017!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Put a Bird On It

Last Saturday was Fezziwig's, and the first wearing of my 1830s dress! I was so pleased with the way this came out, from my petticoats to my hair. Best of all, while my hair definitely started to get heavy late in the evening, my dress was super comfy all night. That doesn't happen very often, usually something isn't sitting right, or pulls, or slides off...but not this time! It was a great feeling!

I've previously posted about the inspiration and construction of this dress, so all that's left to say is that I was quite pleased with my decision to use tulle as the sheer over-layer. It had an airy, invisible quality that made me feel like a Christmas tree topper.

basically the only picture that shows the vertical pleating on the bodice
the belt buckle I polished was a perfect touch!
My truly fluffy 1830s silhouette is thanks to a "carrot" bustle pad (like these originals) and a very not historical stiff net a-line wedding crinoline I bought on ebay for super cheap. When I first tried it on the net started about two thirds down my hip (because modern styles call for that), so I took it up with safety pins just before the ball to bring the fluff right up to the waist, where I wanted it. I threw a thin cotton petticoat over the top to smooth things out (I have a couple "all purpose" pettis that are wide enough enough for 1860s hoops but hemmed for wear without as needed), and that was that!

And then of course there was my hair, which was the bird on top of the tree. (maybe? no? not as good as icing on the cake, fine.)

The braid wreath is made of jewelry wire with fake hair hot-glued to it, then decorated with gold and red holly berries from the Christmas clearance bin at JoAnn's. It's pinned in and surrounded by my actual hair, which is curly so it's easy to blend. My plan had been to have a vertical loop in addition to the braid, like this fashion plate. After a collapse into a gluey, plastic-hair mess, the plan had to change. But I think the addition of the decorations make up for it, and maybe I'll try loops again for next time!

The side curls are bangs that I curled based on the Laced Angel's Romantic hair. They worked really well, because they saved my hair for anchoring the giant braid. The bird was a last-minute addition after a friend decided she didn't need it. It was the perfect touch!

I'd love to wear this again for a photo shoot, because I was so busy running around setting up/hosting the ball that I manage to look a bit rumpled in every picture...not to mention all my photos came out weirdly noisy. Harumph. But I was so happy wearing this dress, it doesn't much matter. I look forward to styling this dress in new and different ways (a tartan sash must happen, of course!) in the future.

Oh--and Mom's dress came out great too! She looked awesome.

I don't remember what was said but there isn't a single picture in which I'm not laughing...

Saturday, December 10, 2016

A Little Bit of Shine

One last progress post about my 1830s ensemble. I realized pretty early on that I wasn't going to get my act together on a sash like my inspiration painting, because at the point where the dress is real silk I want an actual silk tartan for the sash. And real silk tartan is hard to find over here! So I decided to pause until I could get exactly what I wanted, and in the meantime I am making a velvet belt with a buckle to wear for the ball. It will also give me some options for future wearings, because options are great.

Belt inspiration:

1832, Countess Julie von Woyna by Friedrich von Amerling
1826, Eugenie Hortense Auguste Napoleon de Beauharnais by Joseph Karl Stieler
1820s, FIDM
1832, Le Journal Des Dames et Des Modes
I did some internet searching, and found a lovely antique belt buckle on Etsy that was a good, sort-of-rectangular shape. It was super cheap, probably because it was so tarnished it was basically black! So after ensuring it was actual brass (and not just brass plated), I did some scrubbing with lemon juice and baking soda. What a difference!

upon arrival--it looks shinier here than it did in person

while polishing-I used a toothbrush and paper towel to alternate circular wiping motions and attacking the tiny crevices

good as new!
It's amazing what a difference accessories make. It really brings the ensemble together!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

"Funemployment," or, The Luxury of Indecision

I am very excited to say that I got a new job, and I had a whole week off in between! So this week I've been enjoying the luxury of working on projects and finals without anything else on the books--just get up, sew, do homework, sew more, etc. Glorious!

This includes two big developments: I am almost done with my 1830s dress, and I decided to make my mother an 1850s outfit for the ball. So I've been hard at work! Both dresses were tried on for the first time this evening for last alterations, and I am unspeakably pleased so far. I promise to post detailed pictures once they've been worn and photographed, but in the meantime I have some cell phone progress shots. Because I had time to think about taking progress shots! And only swore a lot of the time but not all the time! Ha.

Before my week off, I actually did some significant work on the bodice beginning in late October, because we had sewing circle. Over the course of the October and November sessions I mocked up the pattern (TV455), made adjustments, and assembled the actual bodice so that I could have help fitting the darts. I find it much easier to have someone do that while I'm wearing the bodice! Then I cut an overlayer out of my bridal tulle that was wider across the front and back than my actual bodice (but actual size around the arm holes). I matched the arm holes and shoulders of the bridal tulle, and then painstakingly created tiny folds to pleat up the excess width. I tacked each tulle pleat to the silk bodice in three places (top, waist, bottom) as invisibly as possible, then bound the neck with piping and added a non-tulle-d waistband, which further lock down the pleats.

matching up the arm holes to start pleating the tulle

checking the look halfway

I also created long tulle oversleeves and short puffed silk undersleeves and attached those over Thanksgiving, so the bodice was in pretty good shape before my week off (which also never happens). I'd also already cut and assembled the skirt, so I had a large tube ready to go. This is when that indecision starts--I originally planned to make a padded, three-dimensional rolled hem in silk at the bottom of the tulle overskirt. I messed this up right away by sewing it together upside-down, and had to pick itty-bitty stitches out of the tulle (which took forever and was absolutely miserable), then once I'd fixed it, stuffed the tube, and sewn it shut...I decided I didn't like it. It seemed clunky, it wouldn't lay right, and it just made me sad! So I slept on it, and didn't touch it the next day. Instead, I worked on my mother's dress so that I felt good about progress. When I went back to my dress, I decided that yes, I really did hate the overskirt. So I made an entirely new one (luckily I had enough tulle) with no hem decoration and basted it to my silk. The two layers are cartridge pleated as one to the waistband, and the excess tulle (folded to the inside to adjust the length) adds some nice volume--almost like an extra petticoat.

Speaking of cartridge pleating...I did that! I usually don't have time, because it is hugely time-consuming. But I love the way they make the skirt hang, so since I had the time I took advantage of it!\. To further help give the skirt some body, I used craft felt to pad the skirt hem (based on this blog post). I sewed my felt to the silk as a facing, so it was super easy, lightweight, and rather stiff. It's not perfectly accurate, but not horribly off either. Definitely a trick I'll keep in mind for future skirts.

facing the hem with felt

marking cartridge pleats
stitching the pleats while watching The Crown, which I greatly enjoyed! Also, cat, because of course she needed to be on my lap for this

pleats drawn up and pinned to the waist

from the front
 I've also started finishing all the little bits, like putting cuffs on the sleeves and bias-binding the sleeve openings. I still need to sew down the neck piping and add closures, but otherwise this is basically done with a whole week to go until the ball! INSANITY. It's a pretty great feeling. (or it would be, but also finals. Still, better than sewing and finals...)

cuffs and binding on the oversleeves
My mother's dress is in pretty good shape as well-the bodice is done except for closures and hand finishing, and has been passed off to Mom to finish on her own this week. I measured the skirt for length this evening after assembling and hemming it over the week, so now I can adjust accordingly and attach it to the waist band. Then that's it, she's done too!

cutting the lining from scraps of Christmas print, because why not!

laying out skirt panels
On to Fezziwig's!