Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Countess of Provence Gown

In the last couple months, I've had a chance to finish up some things that have been languishing on the "almost finished" pile. When I have no deadline, I have a terrible habit of getting 99% of the way through a project... and then stopping. I have no idea why! And there a garment will sit, and sit, and sit.

On the bright side, this means that when I finally get around to resuming, the project is almost done!

My most recent ensemble to be completed is a similar gown to the one worn by Marie Josephine of Savoy, Countess of Provence, in the following portrait. I love the gown. I love pretty much anything white. And that cap, pouf, whatever it is... is just wild!

Painting by Alexander Kucharsky, circa 1790.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A Turn of the Century Foundation Skirt

After going through the evening gown I shared in my last post. I started on a foundation skirt for my own evening gown. A foundation skirt is basically a very engineered petticoat that goes under a gown, once skirts stop routinely being lined, around the turn of the 20th century.

To construct this skirt, I gathered my information from a few different places, since I have never actually seen one in person. Authentic Victorian Dressmaking Techniques, edited by Kristina Harris, is indispensable. It's a copy of Butterick's 1905 manual, Dressmaking, Up to Date. If you don't already have one, get a copy! It explains pretty much everything I did to make this skirt, as well as everything else you might ever need to know about turn of the century sewing. I'll make a note on what pages the info came from throughout the post.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Inside a Turn of the Century Evening Gown, Part 2: The Skirt

Yesterday I shared pictures of the bodice. While the inside of the bodice is fairly messy and pieced, the skirt of this gown is fantastic! It is so heavy and engineered!

I'm always really excited to get to study a skirt, since they seem to rarely survive, while bodices, which don't employ yards and yards of fabric just waiting to be remade, are so much more common.

The shape is fairly simple. Here is is laid flat. The CB is to the right, CF on the left. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Inside a Turn of the Century Evening Gown, Part 1: The Bodice

It's been a while since I've shared the insides of one of my collection. I pulled this gown out of the tissue to study the insides for a new evening gown I have started. This dress looks like it could be home-made, but if it was, it was made by someone who knew what they were doing. I suppose it could have been made by a private dressmaker, but I very much doubt it came from any kind of fashion house or department store. There are no labels and the inside is kind of a mess. Of course, the messy insides are my favorite! So, on to the masses of pictures!

I'll start with the bodice today. The skirt will follow, since there are just too many pictures for one post!


Monday, June 5, 2017

The Remade Chintz Gown

This dress started life back in 2012. I wore it for a 4th of July Parade. It was fun, but it was also all kinds of wrong. Machine sewn, modern pattern, petticoat too short, weird cotton lining, zig zag stitching, panniers.... Yikes. I mean, the list went on. I was never, ever going to wear that dress again.

But, the fabric was worth saving. A lovely, printed cotton chintz.

In 2014 I decided to rip it all apart and reuse the material. I'm embarrassed to say it took three years to get around to finishing it. 

So, apart came every seam, and eventually it became a dress again. A better dress. I reassembled the pieces, reshaping and refitting where necessary and hand stitching them back together as one would construct a gown using 18th century methods. 

I also remade the petticoat. Luckily, I still had fabric left over and was able to recut the whole thing. I saved the old petticoat to use for something else someday. Long sleeves maybe...


So bottom line, it's not a new concept, but always buy the best fabric you can. Even if you're skills and knowledge aren't up to it at the time, there is always the future!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Rose Gold 30's Evening Gown

Over Derby Weekend, we had tickets to one of the black tie galas. I am such a sucker for an opportunity to dress up in black tie!

I've been wanting a satin 1930's evening gown for ages, so I took this opportunity to make one! And the color fit perfectly for the June's Historical Sew Monthly challenge: metallics.

I used Vintage Pattern Lending Library's #T6573. Great dress. Very forgiving size-wise as it's such a loose style. I did have to add about an inch to the hem, and probably could have added a bit more. I am only 5'4", so definitely check the length if you use this pattern! I opted out of adding the fabric flowers at the front, since this wasn't actually a costume event, and wanted to keep everything simple. I really wanted to make an evening jacket for it, but just ran out of time. Next time!

Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures of the gown until very late in the evening, so it's a bit wrinkly. Not to mention, my hair had kind of had it with the humidity. On the other hand, I was able to get a couple pictures in the lobby with no people around, so there is always a silver lining :)

So, the facts:

The Challenge: June, Metallics

Material: Silk crepe back satin

Pattern: Vintage Pattern Lending Library's #T6573

Year: Late 1930's

Notions: Thread, snaps, hook and eye

How historically accurate is it? I want to say totally, though I haven't yet personally seen a 30's dress with machine rolled hems. Though, I do have some very old rolled hem feet and it suggests it in my 1940's sewing book. Just throwing that out there.

Hours to complete: Maybe a week of sewing, here and there. I let the dress hang a couple days before hemming it.

First worn: Last weekend

Total cost: A few yards of silk crepe back satin


Construction of the dress went easily for the most part, but it got a little fiddly attaching the top of the train to the waist of the dress. The pattern directions got a little hazy there, and I'm sure I just interpreted them wrong. But because of the nature of the silk, I couldn't play around with it too much, so I picked a method and went with it.

I chose to hem the dress mostly with a narrow hem foot, since it suggested this in my 1940's Ruth Wyeth Spears sewing book. Very easy! I bound the neckline and arm holes with bias binding. I love the top stitching and cut of the bodice. It's kind of sporty.

The inside seams were pinked, since apparently over casting would have been a "waste of time." I love this:

The dress closes with at the side. As suggested in the sewing book, I put a hook and eye at the waist, where there would be the most stress. The rest of the placket is fastened with snaps.

Under the dress, I wore a low backed slip, made from Vintage Pattern Lending Library's 1930 Slip Pattern. I omitted the vertical darts (time constraints) and the side closure. The side closure was unnecessary since the slip had ample room to be put on over the head because of the low back. I also made a matching pair of tap pants from similar colored silk charmeuse. I used Mrs Depew's 1930's Tap Pants Pattern again. I used the fabric satin side in on the pants (which is so nice against the skin!), but satin side out for the slip, so the dress fabric would slide over it better.

I would have loved to wear a girdle with it, which would have really smoothed out the tummy area (I really need to lay off the snacks...), but since it wasn't actually a 1930's event, and I didn't have a lot of time, I said eh. Of course, if it was properly fit, I guess it wouldn't have really shown... Just another thing to add to that endless to-do list!

Good night!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Well, it started as a square...

For April's Historical Sew Monthly's challenge (circles, squares and rectangles), I decided a finishing up a fichu was a good (and easy) idea. And it went toward finishing with one of my current outfits. I like using the challenges as inspiration to get things finished that I have left lying around.

It all started easily enough as a nice square, but because of the body and crispness of the silk gauze,  when it was doubled and put around my neck, it was like huuuuuuuge. Way too much of a good thing. So, I cut it in half, and then kept trying on and trimming until it looked ok. It ended up resembling one of the shaped-neckline kerchiefs, like this one, from the Manchester Art Gallery.