Friday, December 14, 2018

2018 Year in Review

It's been quite the year!

Not that you could possibly know that, given how little I've blogged...oops. But it's the time of year in which we review our work and reflect on the year to come, so what better opportunity to renew blogging efforts?

This year has been eventful for me in the life-way, which is part of why I haven't been blogging. There's just been a lot going on! And honestly, not a lot of sewing. But I'm hoping that will change with the list of projects I have planned for 2019!

But before plans, the 2018 review...

I got engaged!

I made a new silk 1860s ballgown and wore it to Returning Heroes, our annual costume-required ball
I clearly planned to blog about this...but never did


I attended the Bath Victorian Ball in a new dress, and I did actually manage to blog about it
Also: I graduated!


I partnered with Emily and the Vintage Express to put together a WWII display as part of the Strawberry Banke Museum American Lives event 

We demonstrated a variety of roles people played during the war, and Emily and I focused on women in the armed services. Here I am in my summer WAC uniform looking very was almost 100 degrees and super humid!


I took an adventure to Baker's Island, where intrepid adventuring friends and I mostly survived and entertained boats of tourists! 

I also revisited the Crane Estate for their Roaring 20s Lawn Party
and I did actually sew some things! I forgot. For Gatsby on the Isles I whipped up a quick and dirty 1920s bathing suit...

...and finished this pink striped summer dress I started a lot of years (and two apartments) ago. Whew!


Back to Hogwarts (and Knockturn Alley) on a weekend getaway!

Mostly October was just work (and work travel), but we also took engagement photos with our AMAZING AMAZING wedding photographers, so I am throwing one in here!


December means Fezziwig's Ball! This wasn't an exciting costuming event this time, but that's ok! Because it was a great year for friends both old and new. 

plaid brings people together ;) Hi Kenna!

I AM YOUR GHOST HOST--wait, wrong...hmm.

So that's it! Not much of a sewing year, but definitely A Year. Thank you so much to everyone who has said hello at events or left me notes on Instagram. I love that this hobby is full of such wonderful, nerdy,  interesting people. I hope your holiday season is full of good cheer!

And to round things off...I have set myself what I think is a reasonable list of 2019 projects. I feel pretty on top of wedding things right now, but that house of cards is sure to tumble at any moment. Right? right. So it goes. For posterity, here is what I hope to do (and blog about):

Early 1870s winter ensemble
Regency pelisse 
Tartan 1860s re-make 
Chemises and petticoats (because I realized my go-to 1860s chemise is from 2007...eek!)
Bonus Round: something new for Fezziwig's next year

I always try to set myself a goal in addition to projects I hope to accomplish. This year, my goal is accessories. Not necessarily making them, but at least spending the time to acquire them or alter things to be appropriate. Because accessories really do make the time travel magic happen, and I'm always happier with the dress I've made when it feels like a real ensemble. So let's see how I do with that!

COME AT ME 2019!

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Fussbudget: 1873-4 Dress Details

While in the past I have thrown together bustled ensembles for steampunk events and college shenanigans, before April I had never attempted an actual 1870s gown. So when I started this project, I told myself I just needed to go slowly and focus on making something that fit well.

But then I got...fussy.

And by fussy, I mean I couldn't get Tissot and The Buccaneers out of my head, and so my simple plan somehow developed a lot more ruffles. The romancey cupcakey dresses I imagined in palaces were the only thing I wanted to make. 

"Too Early" by James Tissot, 1873
Then once I had an idea in my head, I didn't want to give it up--which made finding fabric a lot more difficult! As time ticked towards my flight and I got more desperate, I tried something crazy and ordered sheer cotton voile curtains on Amazon. They were available on Prime, they were a nice stripe, and they would have to do. Once they came, I took a quick trip to Homegoods with The Boy, who helped my sort through bedding options to find a suitable set of queen-sized cotton sateen sheets to use as an underlayer.

In the end, this ended up being a blessing in disguise because as I ruffled away I ran out of fabric...but it was easy to order more curtains from Amazon! Even so I don't think I would recommend the home furnishings approach to fabric shopping--everything I bought swore it was 100% cotton, and not a bit of it was. This was some dead Dino all the way.

I was also lucky in that several years ago I made my first 1870s dress, modifying a Truly Victorian pattern to work with a natural form silhouette. I still had the pattern pieces already fit to my body, so I was able to save a lot of time by being able to just cut things out and go! This time I used the original back pleats since I wanted the bustle silhouette. (I took a look at the TV website and I no longer see this particular pattern listed, unfortunately, so I couldn't figure out the number!)

The sleeves I cut just using a little math, and consist of a striped bias-cut overpuff with a fitted gold undersleeve. 

Like many women traveling to Bath before me throughout the 19th century, I bought some accessories at the indoor market (friends are a great and terrible influence). So I also dressed the bodice with a new metalwork brooch and my hair with a gold and pearl comb, which worked well with the earrings and necklace I had already planned to wear, and I think the brooch especially finishes the bodice nicely. I would have been rather plain without it!

back pleats in the bodice

can you see my secret plaid on the overskirt? when the sheer layers of stripes overlap magic happens!
For the skirts I started with TV208 (trained skirt ensemble), which includes both under and overskirts in the pattern. For the underskirt I actually made two skirts: a cotton sheet base layer and a sheer curtain with vertical stripes. I also included a pocket for the first time! Oh my goodness, I want to put pockets in everything now. It was way easier than I expected and so useful. The skirts are assembled separately (the pocket is in the base layer and the sheer stripes have a pocket slit in the side seam), but attached as one to the waistband.

I cut both skirts without a train, as this ensemble was purpose-made for dancing. (PSA: never drag your train on the dance floor!!!)

For the overskirt I used apron front B and a draped/improvised back based on the little fabric I had left. Both are cut with the stripes going horizontally. I plan to order more fabric to improve the back in the future! I also added a butt bow based on some fashion plates from 1873-1874 made out of a pillow case from sheet set.

Finally, everything is trimmed with bias ruffles (2 ruffle layers on the underskirt, 1 on the apron) and pleated satin ribbon trim. I couldn't find multiple widths of the same cream ribbon, so I folded it to create proportional ribbon sizes for each layer: the underskirt is the full width (2" I think?), the apron is 3/4 width, and the bodice is 1/2 width. (Many many thanks to Peryn and Emma for help slamming the last bits of trim and hooks and eyes onto the bodice the day of the ball!)

While there are a few things I plan to adjust before I wear this again (if I ever wear this again...I don't typically do 70s!), overall I am quite pleased with the way this turned out. Being fussy (and working with incredibly fussy fabric) had a happy ending!

yes yes, I'm a ballerina.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Buccaneers Take Bath

At the beginning of May I found myself drinking Prosecco at 1 in the morning with a very dear friend, debating dance history technicalities over onion tarts. We had just attended the Bath Victorian Ball, and we were savoring the moment. Given that she lives across the ocean from me now, our chances to dance together are was such a treat to get to see her!

Whenever I am lucky enough to attend a historic dance event abroad, I am reminded of Wharton's unfinished novel (and the 1990s mini-series) The Buccaneers. I am usually in a pod of friends--also all American ladies--and while we are quite well trained in the dancing, we never quite fit in with the unique historic dance culture of the place we're visiting. We change partners too frequently, we swap spots in the set between dances, we don't know the "customs of the country" (as Wharton would put it).

But if I do say so myself, we clean up rather well.

At events like this I always feel a bit like Nan and company, shipped off to England to make matches in old society (well, without the pressure to marry a Duke, that is). And I think that pushed The Buccaneers to the front of my mind when I started working on an early bustle period dress for this event (to match Emma's fabulous Huffle-bustle!). The result is a fussy, ruffly, ribbony, shimmery thing, which I promise to discuss in detail soon.

But first, I wanted to share my favorite pictures of the evening: our Buccaneers moment gossiping by a fireplace in the Assembly Rooms. Now all we need is a proposal and a scandal! (Just kidding, we managed to have a lovely evening without either.)

And of course, butt bow posing commenced!

It was an incredible evening, and I had so much fun dancing in the AMAZING Bath Assembly Rooms! What elegant surroundings! Even if I am ever a fish out of water, it's practically worth the flight for the chandeliers alone. 

As always, my favorite part of the evening was getting to dance with friends old and new. It is social dancing, after all! A particularly brilliant moment was Mr. Hart's Lancers, as Emma and I spent a week last summer studying Lancers quadrilles in Denmark. It was awesome to stretch the brain muscles, and to so immediately slide back into being a well-oiled machine. I suppose quadrilles are growing on me after all ;)

I think this was the moment we realized the arrangement for the dance was selections from The Mikado, which we both know well!

such satisfying swoop!
I have to admit, in the States we do our balls on modern time, and attending a more "realistic" ball (with a supper break at almost 10pm) was exhausting! Flopping after the ball was all the more satisfying for it.

Cheers to friendship, dancing, bustles, and intrigue!