16 July 2015

White 18th Century Stockings

Although I have a perfectly serviceable pair of blue stockings, I really wanted a white pair to match the rest of my undergarments. I hated sewing the first pair, and I was happy to find that doing it a second time wasn't as painful. After bleaching it , I had enough cotton knit left over to make two white pairs. I have the second pair cut out and sitting in my stash, but no real reason to make them up any time soon.

18th century stockings with shoes

In the later half of the 1700's stockings became a little less gaudy and colourful, and I wanted some simple white on white embroidery. The embroidery floss I used wasn't quite white, but a slightly blueish white I picked up in a clearance sale. I like the subtle colour it adds, especially since the clocks are minimally decorated, but it doesn't show up in photos.

I did plan on doing a little monogram or some other embroidery at the top of the clock, similar to my other pair. I tried to do a monogram and it just wasn't working - I couldn't find the balance between simplicity for ease of stitching and a good design. I did a monogram on one clock but unpicked it...and managed to tear a hole in the fabric while I was at it. I patched it up with some white thread, and I don't think it's too noticable.

The cotton knit was much thinner than I remembered. I doubt the bleaching changed it, but the thinness is much more noticeable in this white pair than in the blue pair. If I ever need to make another pair i'd definitely look out for a thicker knit, I have a feeling it would be easier to embroider too.

After wearing my blue stockings for a while I noticed that the tops sagged quite badly. This could be a fitting issue, since there was a long gap between making the pattern and making the stockings, or something else. My garters do a great job of keeping them up, but the rest of the stocking ends up folded down over them. So for this pair I cheated and added some elastic to the top. It does the trick and stops them sagging and flapping around over my knees.

You might have noticed that the toe area doesn't fit quite as well as the blue pair. Usually i'd try them on, see where my toes end up and cut diagonally across from my big toe to my little toe to form the toe area. For this pair I guessed and just cut straight across. Although modern socks and stockings have a straight toe area, the amount of stretching they do means the toe area fits regardless. 18th century stockings are much more tailored, and rely on a precise fit to the wearers leg with a little bit of give. Let my example be a lesson - always measure and cut your toes!

Although plainer then I intended, i'm very happy with these stockings. They fit better than my last attempt, they're pretty, and they match the rest of my clothes (and my shoes!) much better. They were one hundred percent hand sewn too! If you want to make your own pair you can check out my construction post which details the fabric I used, the pattern I made and how I pieced them together.  

24 May 2015

Caramel Striped Robe à L'anglaise - Part One

I started this blog July of last year, and after spending so long making undergarments it felt like i'd never make progress. I'm now finally ready to start making dresses, along with a whole host of other fun things - like hats and fichus and aprons!

Although I have so many dream dresses (who doesn't?), there was one that I knew I wanted to make for my first dress. The concept has been pretty clear in my head since I started this blog, my shoes in particular were made to match it.

18th century Robe A L'Anglaise Retroussee concept art

Heavily inspired by the dress below from the 2008 movie The Duchess, I'm hoping for a froofy, poofy explosion of warm caramel colours and pretty accessories. As much as I adore the pastel colours of Marie Antoinette (2006), i'm much more drawn to the cream and blue dresses of The Duchess. The original Duchess dress has lots of olive tones which i'm not fond of, i'll be sticking to creams and browns with white or peachy accessories. The dress will be silk, as it's much easier to find passable striped silk in my price range than it is to find 18th century looking cottons or linens. The back won't be en fourreau, the bodice and skirt will be cut as one. This seems to be more accurate for the 1780's, and much less scary for me to attempt.

The Duchess 18th century movie dress display
I knew that I was going to need a pattern for this first dress, I don't have a dressform to drape on and I wanted the process to be as painless as possible. I rented Patterns of Fashion 1 by Janet Arnold and
Costume in Detail: Women's Dress, 1730-1930 by Nancy Bradfield from my library, and I highly recommend them. I'm not sure how easy they are to find copies of, but there is so much great information. If you want to make any sort of historical clothing they're a great place to start.

Janet Arnold Patterns of Fashion pattern scaling

From Patterns of Fashion I'm using the "Polonaise with detachable lawn ruffles c. 1770 - 1985" pattern on page 39, which is conveniently featured in Costume in Detail. The Costume in Detail version has no pattern, but it does have sketches of the dress from various angle and lots of detailed measurements and construction notes.

I photocopied the pattern pieces I needed (bodice and sleeves) on a 1:1 scale, then used these wonderful instructions from The Tudor Tailor to scale the patterns up on wrapping paper. Although the bodices of these dresses are very closely fitted, the pattern pieces are so simple you can fudge the measurements a little and just correct them with a muslin.

Janet Arnold Patterns of Fashion pattern scaling
Janet Arnold Patterns of Fashion pattern scaling

The original owner of the dress i'm patterning from was a Miss Massey of County Limerick, Ireland. Aside from the frickin' awesome fact that i'm remaking a dress worn by a woman over 200 years ago, the original has lots of notes and details made about it. Costume in Detail said that the waist of the original was 30", which conveniently matches me perfectly. The sleeves and bust needed adjusting though, and I used the side seam, centre front and centre back measurements to figure out where other adjustments might be needed.

Janet Arnold Patterns of Fashion pattern scaling

 I made another wrapping paper copy of the master pattern, and set about adding the extra inches or taking them off where they were needed. I wasn't too fussed about cutting up the master sleeve pattern piece, but I kept the rest of the bodice intact.

Janet Arnold Patterns of Fashion pattern scaling

Janet Arnold Patterns of Fashion pattern scaling

Now I have a nice pattern to transfer to a muslin, and with any luck it will need minimal adjustments. Since silk is expensive and scary, i've resolved to make as many muslins as I need to so that I can be confident my silk version will fit nicely straight away.

After I had all my adjusted pattern pieces done, I was about to start cutting and sewing when I remembered that the bodice will be boned, most likely with cable ties. I decided not to make and try on the muslin without the boning in, to try and get an accurate fit. So my next step is to find some big white cable ties and time to work with the mockup properly. Getting into my stays and all my skirts then trying to sew is a hassle, to say the least. Oh the joys of a dressform-less sewer. 

Janet Arnold Patterns of Fashion pattern scaling

In the meantime my silk samples arrived. After much research I decided to buy from Puresilks, who also operate under B.R. Exports and have an eBay store. I ordered two samples, and they sent me four instead! The two samples in the middle where the ones I ordered, and thank goodness they sent me extras as those wouldn't work at all.

Silk stripe taffeta dupioni 18th century

The far right taffeta is some sort of 1970's wallpaper pattern, let's just not talk about it. The olive and gold stripe is a taffeta, and I can see it working nicely as a dress but the colours aren't to my taste at all. The bold stripe second from the left is a dupioni, it's nice but the stripe is too wide for clothing. Finally, the dupioni on the far left is nearly perfect - the colours are what I wanted and the stripe is nicely proportional. Since it's a dupioni instead of a taffeta it's not that historically accurate, but it's much prettier and cheaper!

Hopefully i'll be able to find some time to work on my muslin in the near future, just writing this post has made me excited to continue working on it!