Saturday, December 31, 2011

Threaded Bliss

A Red Floral Print English Gown, 1770-1780

red floral print anglaise, 1770-1780
The gown paired with a red silk petticoat.
Photo taken at Colonial Williamsburg, December 2011.

In keeping with the spirit of the holidays, here's a project in the festive, seasonal colors of red and white!  This gown was finished in mid-June and worn for the first time during our regimental tavern dinner during this past summer's Under the Redcoat.  When I brought it out to wear for Grand Illumination a couple of weeks ago, I realized I had neglected to post about it!

The pattern: Draped by me.  The slightly curved back neckline is a feature of the "en fourreau" gown on page 36 of Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 1; I copied it on Ashley's "DAR gown" and liked the way it looked so much that I decided to do my next gown the same way!  The more modest size of the "en fourreau" back pleats (neither very wide nor very narrow) and their relatively "triangular" shape date this gown generally to the early to middle part of the 1770s.

red floral print anglaise, 1770-1780
The slightly curved back neckline.
Photo taken at Colonial Williamsburg, July 2011.

Construction details: As the construction details for this gown are identical to those on Ashley's lavender linen and DAR gowns, I'll avoid being repetitive by only offering some additional comments here that are specifically related to my experience with this particular project.  I also haven't taken any interior shots, as these too closely resemble those found in the two previous posts.

The biggest challenge to doing this gown for myself was that instead of having a real body to drape on, as I do when I do Ashley's clothes, I had to cut it for myself on a (cheap and icky) dressform that doesn't accommodate my stays in a very satisfactory way.  In other words, I can get the proper bodice measurements using my undergarmented dressform, but anything above the bust (armscyes and shoulder areas, cutting the neckline) is impossible on my plastic horror of a form and has to be done by putting everything on myself and looking in the mirror as I mark lines and make adjustments...and take it off and tweak...and put it back on and tweak...and take it off and tweak some know how this story goes!  It's a bit awkward and it takes longer than having a real body to drape on, but I've done several eighteenth-century gowns for myself already using this method and it's worked out fairly well.  I'm currently searching for a more malleable, actual-body-approximating dressform with the hope of facilitating the self-draping, so fingers crossed I find something soon!  Laurie, our friend from Teacups in the Garden, has recommended Uniquely You, which I'm leaning towards at the moment.  If anyone else has a suggestion, I'd be very happy to hear it!

red floral print anglaise, 1770-1780
The back of the gown, showing the "en fourreau" pleats.

The fabric: If this print looks vaguely familiar, you're right!  This is the red version of the blue print I used on my quarter back gown (which, coincidentally, I'm in the process of pulling apart and remaking...more to come on that!).  It is an out-of-print (sadly, because it's so perfectly period!) Laura Ashley print in a 90% cotton/10% linen blend.  The texture is fantastic; rather than having the smooth hand that we associate with finer imported cottons of the period, it has a very "homespun" feel, a tad bit heavier than a period chintz or other cotton print, and very similar to the rougher textures that can be seen on the cotton and cotton blend textile tokens in John Styles' books.  The interpretive possibilities this opens up are very exciting!  In Fashion's Favourite: The Cotton Trade and the Consumer in Britain, 1660-1800, Beverly Lemire explores the rapid expansion of the cotton industry - both European-produced and imported - during the last quarter of the 18th century and the subsequent spread of cotton's popularity amongst not only the middling classes, but also the working classes, who suddenly found these bright and fashionable prints well within their financial means (pgs. 96-108).

red floral print anglaise, 1770-1780
Photo taken at Colonial Williamsburg, July 2011.

Finishing the look: Because this is a single color cotton print, and because of the weave and the mixed content of this textile, it can feasibly be worn as either a middling day wear impression or as the "nicer" garment of a woman slightly lower on the social scale.  The petticoat choice and the addition of particular accessories (or lack thereof) help convey one identity or another.

There are three petticoats that coordinate with this gown.  One is the red silk petticoat pictured in the "header" photo above.  The second is a matching petticoat, the "middle" degree of poshness, if you will, that is possible for this gown.

red floral print anglaise, 1770-1780
With a matching petticoat.
Photo taken at Colonial Williamsburg, July 2011.

The third option I've made is a solid red cotton twill of a weight that matches the gown itself, which works nicely because it drapes in a similar way when worn.

red floral print anglaise, 1770-1780

In the outdoor photos and the "header" photo, the gown is accessorized with a cotton lawn neck handkerchief, a linen lawn cap, a single strand of pearls, my favorite pair of silver pearl drop earrings (by Janice Erickson Smith), and a silver pocket watch, to represent the dress of the middling sort.  The indoor Christmas tree pictures pair the gown with the cotton twill petticoat and a plain-weave linen neck handkerchief to convey a slight downplay in the social status of its wearer.  As always, the outfit is pictured being worn over my Diderot stays and two linen petticoats.

When I took the pictures with the red cotton petticoat, I made the addition of a small hoop, just because I was playing around and wanted to see how it suited the shape of this gown (this is the hoop that's mentioned in the post about Ashley's sea green gown).  The shape it provides is consistent with the early to mid 1770s, when fullness at the sides of the body returned briefly, before being replaced by the fullness at the back which characterizes the silhouettes of the 1780s.  The hoop helps to hold out the skirts nicely (especially when they're worn "a la polonaise"), and after testing it out on the dressform, I wish I had thought to make at least one of my petticoats to accommodate it!  Alas, I did not, because I made the gown and its petticoats to be worn as the "for good" ensemble of a UTR camp-following lady who probably wouldn't have been able to tote a hoop along with her!  Ah well, next time.  At least it works for the sake of the pictures!  :-)

red floral print anglaise, 1770-1780
The "a la polonaise" skirts of the back of the gown, supported by a small hoop.

Additional photos of this project can be found on its flickr set.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Threaded Bliss

Silk Accessories in Black and Blue, 1770s

black and blue silk accessories, 1770-1785
Photo taken at Colonial Williamsburg, December 2011.

Inspired by March's accessories symposium, and finding myself with a bit of fabric left over from my blue and ivory changeable silk taffeta petticoat, I decided I wanted to make some accessories to coordinate with the petticoat and the chintz jacket I'd be wearing with it.  Since the jacket was completed in time to wear to Williamsburg for our Grand Illumination visit, I decided on a new muff cover and a matching covered hat.  Here they are!

black and blue silk accessories, 1770-1785

The pattern: The pattern of the muff cover is taken off of the one I made at the silk muff workshop at CW in March.  It's a very simple rectangular design with channels to gather up the ends to secure the seperate pillow inside.  The straw hat I used logically became the pattern for its own cover, as I just traced the brim to cut the top and underside coverings.  Very easy!

Inspirations: I began with an inspiration for the hat, which I found months ago and have been wanting to make ever since.  I had some left over ivory silk taffeta from one of the petticoats I'd just made to go with my blue chintz jacket, and thought I'd do an exact copy of this hat from a 1756 Reynolds portrait of Lady Chambers.  The features that particularly drew me to this design were the contrast between the base color and the trim, and the way that it is highlighted by lining the underside of the hat in the accent color.

Catherine, Lady Chambers, by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1756).

But as I set about cutting out my fabric, I saw the remainder of the black silk taffeta left from my bonnet sticking out of my scrap pile next to me, and I pulled it out and tried how the blue looked next to the black.  Although I did love the ivory with the blue - especially because the blue is shot with ivory - the black just seemed so much more striking.  Then, too, black covered hats seem to have been very popular in the 1770s and very early 1780s, so selecting the black taffeta instead of the ivory also made sense fashion-wise since I was planning to wear the hat with my new 1775-1785 jacket.  So I rummaged through my picture files again and found this image of a black covered hat from 1778:

"The Studious Beauty" (1778).
Image linked from the Lewis Walpole Library.

In the end, as you can see, I used the first image as the primary source for my hat's design, with its contrasting lining and trim colors, just adding the ruched black trim around the edge of the brim that is featured in this second image to help "update" the Reynolds hat to the late 1770s.

I don't really have a single inspiration source for the muff design; its poofs are simply intended to echo those found around the crown of the hat.  Considering that such fabric and ribbon poofs were fashionable not only on hats during this decade, but also as trim on caps, gowns, and even mantles, I figured I was pretty safe putting them on a muff as well.  :-)

Construction details: For details on the construction of the muff cover, see my previous post about the green/ivory silk muff from the workshop.  The blue poofs are quite simply a length of silk gathered at regular intervals.  The same fabric forms the "ribbon" ties that gather the ends of the muff.

black and blue silk muff, 1770-1785

The covering of the hat was also quite easy.  I used the straw hat blank to trace a pattern to cover the top; this was sewn down first.  I then made a hole at the center top of the crown and snipped down a bit on all sides to accomodate the rise of the crown.  Then I took a circle of black taffeta to cover the crown and stitched that down.  The blue trim came next.  As with the muff, this is just a strip of fabric gathered at intervals to form the poofs, and finished at the end into a big bow that hangs down to one side, like in the Reynolds portrait (though it's a little tough to see!).  The black taffeta self-trim around the edge of the brim is made in a similar way, being nothing more than a strip of fabric ruched to create texture and stitched down through both the taffeta and the straw to hold it securely in place.

black and blue silk hat, 1770-1785

The lining was applied next, its pattern taken in the same way as the top cover.  It is stitched down around the edge of the crown and again around the edge of brim, where the stitches are concealed by the ruched black trim.  The lining in turn conceals all of the stitching from the trim from the top.  The final steps were to cut a circle for the crown lining and slipstich it into place, and then to tack on the blue "ribbon" ties.

black and blue silk hat, 1770-1785

The fabric: The top of the hat and the hat's brim trimming, as well as the muff cover, are done in an Italian black silk taffeta (the same that I used on my bonnet).  The underside lining of the hat, as well as the trim on both the hat and muff, comes from the blue and ivory silk taffeta I used on the petticoat that coordinates with my blue chintz jacket.

black and blue silk accessories, 1770-1785
Photo taken at Colonial Williamsburg, December 2011.

Finishing the look: Although I'm not usually into matchy-matchy accessories, particularly when it comes to the eighteenth century, and although I wasn't too sure about how the black would look, in the end, I really like what the "pop" of the black does for the blue, and how nicely it helps to pull the outfit together.  And although the thought of this didn't even occur to me when I selected the black over the ivory as my base color, I was quite excited at how nicely the accessories ended up working with my old black mantle!  It made me feel so seasonably wintery for the Grand Illumination weekend...even though it was almost 70 degrees the day we took pictures!

black and blue silk accessories, 1770-1785
Photo taken at Colonial Williamsburg, December 2011.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pretties from the Past

Milliner's shop, Colonial Williamsburg
The dolls preparing their tiny but oh-so-elegant and fashionable
wardrobe for holiday festivities.

Our entire family was in Williamsburg a couple of weeks ago to enjoy (for the very first time!) the Grand Illumination festivities.  Ashley will be sharing a report of that shortly, but in the meantime, here's a little collection of pictures from our obligatory visit(s) to the Margaret Hunter Shop. As is tradition with Colonial Williamsburg (a modern tradition, not a colonial one, that is!), the shop front was bedecked with an evergreen wreath embellished by the ladies of the shop and designed to reflect the trades practiced within it. This year's wreath included two adorable little fashion dolls in their cardinal red cloaks, a set of pockets, some beribboned straw hats, and a cute little red and white muff.

Christmas decorations at Colonial Williamsburg

In front of the large windows of the shop were smaller wreaths suspended by red ribbons and very simply adorned with red cloth hearts. Aren't they really cute?

Christmas decorations at Colonial Williamsburg

Inside, we found the ladies hard at work on a new bedgown one afternoon. It's made of a purple and white spotted cotton, a resist print that looks strikingly similar to the one pictured in Walton's famous Plucking the Turkey (1776). It will be quite lovely when finished and it got me thinking that we really don't see enough spotted cottons amongst re-enactor and costumer reproduction eigtheenth-century clothing!

Milliner's shop, Colonial Williamsburg

As usual, the counters of the shop were ladden with all sorts of goodies, from this elegant fashion doll presiding over some wares,...

Milliner's shop, Colonial Williamsburg this striped silk child's gown and striped infant stays,...

Milliner's shop, Colonial Williamsburg this hand-quilted velvet pudding cap, which I never tire of seeing.  It is copied from an original made of cotton velvet in the CW collection (acc. no. 1952-55).

Milliner's shop, Colonial Williamsburg

Dressed in a stunning silk ensemble and gauze cap, Miss Emma was perched close by the window to catch the last of the afternoon sun, hard at work on some ruffles and looking like a period painting herself!

Milliner's shop, Colonial Williamsburg

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Best wishes to all of our readers and friends for a healthy and joyous holiday season!

Friday, December 23, 2011

A "Threaded Bliss" Tutorial

Reproducing the Costume Close-up Jacket, 1775-1785:
A Step-by-Step Guide
Part Three

In the first installment of this tutorial, we covered fabric selection, enlarging the book pattern, and completing the sleeves.  The second installment looked at assembling the bodice pieces and finishing the front, back neckline, and bottom edges of the jacket.  This final installment concludes by focusing on all of the details you need to complete your jacket project, as well as your outfit as a whole.

Construction details: ...continued...

The Bodice: ...continued...
6) To finish the two slits at the front of the jacket, prepare two pieces of self-fabric binding.  Cut two strips of fabric 1" wide and 10" long.  Fold the strips in half lengthwise and crease to mark that measurement.  Then, holding the fabric wrong side up, fold the sides in to meet that center fold mark and then fold the whole thing in half again, re-creasing the center fold.  The creates finished edges that will bind the slits.

Folding the strips to create the binding for the front "slits" that
shape the front the jacket.

Begin attaching your binding at one end of the bottom of the slit, leaving about 1/2" hanging over the bottom edge of the jacket.  Work the binding around the slit, carefully fiddling it into the top corner and back down around the other side.  With the jacket laying right side up, fold the ends of the binding under, so that they cover the hem, and tuck them under the binding on the other side.  Use a slipstitch or a plain hem stitch to tack down the binding on both the outer side and the lining side of the jacket.  (#53-57)

A completed front slit.

7) Next come the eyelets down the front.  The original jacket has ten eyelets on each side, though the line drawing in Costume Close-up only shows nine per side.  I opted for eight in this project, though I did nine in the pink/green/yellow Indian print, and none at all on my first version for Ashley because she perferred the cleaner look of pinned-in stomacher, rather than a laced-on one.  The long and short of it is that there is no hard and fast rule about the number of eyelets on any garment: even stays varied considerably from widely spaced lacing holes to very closely placed ones, and with a jacket, you have the option (as with a gown) to simply pin the stomacher, too.  Look through some period images of jackets to get a sense of how fashions were trending as far as lacing spacing, and of what look you prefer, and also consider how high or low your waist is and what looks best with your own proportions when calculating the number of lacing holes.  I don't think I'd go less than maybe 7 on each side and probably no more than 10 or 11. 

Mark your eyelets on the lining side of the jacket, making sure they will lace straight and not spiral (as you would for stays.  I haven't found an image of a spiral-laced jacket, but if anyone else has, do please let me know so I can correct this!).

Mark the placement of the eyelets on the lining side, down
both sides of the center front of the jacket.

Using an awl, proceed eyelet by eyelet, making your hole and then finishing it before moving on to the next. Use an overcasting stitch, rather than a buttonhole stitch, to make your eyelets and work though both layers. As you move on to the next eyelet, do not cut your thread; carry it from one lacing hole to the next, as this will help keep the threads strong. This technique was used in the original jacket, and you can see an excellent picture of it in Costume Close-up, pg. 42. (#58-60)

blue chintz jacket 59
Completed eyelets.

blue chintz jacket 60
The eyelets viewed from the lining side.  Note the threads
carried from one to the next.

Setting the Sleeves:
1) Before setting in the sleeves, attach the front of the shoulder pieces with lapped seams.  Fold under the seam allowance of the front (straight) edge of the outer fabric shoulder pieces, place them over the seam allowance of the top edge of the jacket fronts, and stitch them down using a spaced backstitch or plain backstitch (again, whichever stitch you've been using thus far). 

blue chintz jacket 62
Attach the shoulder piece at the front using a lapped seam (here, the
shoulder piece is at the bottom of the photo, with the body of the jacket at the top).

Then turn the jacket lining side up and do the same for the lining pieces of the shoulder, folding their allowances under and slipstitching them down to cover the backstitching you just did.  (#61-63)

blue chintz jacket 63
Completing the lapped seam for the shoulder pieces, folding under the
lining and slipstitching it into place.

2) Pin the sleeve into the bottom half of the armscye, positionng the sleeve seam so that it falls about 1" below the shoulder seam you just completed (**Note: this is where the sleeve seam falls in the original, and where mine fell as well, but yours might need to be different based on your own body type.  The position of the sleeve within the armscye should be something you worked out in the muslin/patterning stage, but if it isn't, be sure you do that now before proceeding).  Begin pinning at the sleeve seam and continue around the underarm area until you are within 1" of the top edge of the armscye on the back pieces.  Backstitch - and here you have to use a regular backstitch for strength - the sleeve in between these two points, leaving the top shoulder part free.  Repeat for the other sleeve.

Shoulders and Finishing the Neckline:
1) Put the jacket on over your stays and lace it closed. Pull only the lining part of the shoulder piece back to meet the top part of the back and pin it so it fits snugly.  Once you get the fit, fold over the seam allowance of this lining piece along the neckline only.  Backstitch the seam, thus compeleting the armscye and preparing the way to finish setting in the sleeve.  Repeat for the other side.

If you have someone who can help you, they can stitch these seams without you having to remove the jacket, but if you don't have the extra set of hands, unfortunately you'll have to unlace and shed the jacket momentarily to sew your shoulder straps down before proceding.  (**Note: the photos show this step and the next one being done on a dressform, but I do not recommend doing it this way because chances are the shape and angle of your shoulders change when you wear your stays, so the shoulder and sleeve cap will not fit correctly unless you fit them directly to your own body.  I fit mine to myself and then switched the jacket to the dressform only so that I could get a good view for these pictures)  (#64)

Pull the lining of the shoulder piece over your shoulder to meet the
back piece and secure it into place with backstitches.  Before you sew the
seam, be sure you have folded over the seam allowance of this lining piece
along the neckline edge.

2) Put the jacket on again and lace it closed.  Pin the sleeve head onto the lining piece of the shoulder, adding small pleats as necessary to make it fit your shoulder.  Stitch down the sleeve head to the lining as close as you can to the edge of the sleeve to ensure that these stitches will not show in the next step. (#65-66)

Fit the sleeve cap to your shoulder, pleating as necessary to make it fit.

3) This step can be completed on a dressform without compromising the fit, since you've already secured all of the necessary measurements.  Pull the outer fabric shoulder piece to cover the sleeve cap and lining.  Fold under its seam allowances on its remaining three sides and pin it into place.  Using a spaced backstitch (or plain backstitch), sew down the shoulder piece where it meets the back and along the edge that covers the top of the sleeve.

blue chintz jacket 67
A spaced backstitch secures the outer fabric shoulder piece to the
back and to the top of the sleeve.

Fold in the seam allowances of the remainder of the neckline on the two front pieces.  Then, using le point a rabattre sous la main, finish the neckline from the back of each shoulder to the top of the fronts. (#67-68)

blue chintz jacket 68
Using le point a rabattre sous la main, finish the remainder of the neckline
along the shoulder piece and down the front pieces.

Congratulations, you've just completed your own reproduction of "the Costume Close-up jacket"!  If you do use this tutorial to create something, please send us a link and/or photo - we'd love to see what you make!  And, as always, if you'd like to offer suggestions or corrections to any of these steps, I'm always happy and grateful to receive your input and advice.  :-)

Optional - Making a Stomacher:
1) Because of the gap that remains when the original jacket is laced, Baumgarten speculates that a matching stomacher could possibly have existed.  Of course, it is perfectly acceptable to lace your jacket over your bare stays with only a neck handkerchief filling in behind the laces.  But just in case you'd like to make a stomacher, we'll cover that process here.  It's really quite easy: with your completed jacket laced closed over your stays, meausure the width of the gap at the top and at the waistline.  Also, measure from about 1/4" to 1/2" above the topmost lace (depending on how high your want your stomacher neckline to be) down to wherever you like your stomacher to end below your waistline.  Add 3" to the width measurements and 1/2" to the length measurement.  Using these measurements, sketch a stomacher shape onto a piece of linen lining.  You can choose to make your stomacher with a pointed or rounded bottom; either is accurate for this period.

2) Cut out your stomacher in both linen lining and outer fabric.  As you did to finish the ends of the sleeves and the edges of the jacket, turn the edges of both lining and outer fabric in towards each other, again allowing the outer fabric to be turned ever-so-slightly less than the lining so that it remains visible all the way around when viewed from the lining side of the stomacher.  Using le point a rabattre sous la main, finish the edges of the entire stomacher, and you're done! (#69-72)

The stomacher edges of both outer fabric and lining folded
in towards each other...

...and finished using le point a rabattre sous la main.

Finishing the look: As I mentioned in the first installment of this tutorial set, one of the things that makes a jacket like this so fun is how versatile it can be: an expensive cotton print can be dressed up with a silk petticoat for a middling- or upper-class "every day" impression, or dressed down with a linen petticoat for a "best" lower class look.  My personal favorite choices with my jacket are the blue/ivory changeable silk taffeta pictured in several of the previous photos, and the ivory silk taffeta in the photo at right (sorry, I didn't get a more scenic one in that petticoat!).  With both petticoats, I laced the jacket with ivory silk taffeta ribbon.  I also have a blue stuff petticoat that coordinates with this jacket (which I haven't actually worn yet!); with something like a wool/silk blend, I could appropriately opt for either the silk ribbon or a "less formal" choice like a narrow cotton or wool tape or cording to lace the jacket.

blue chintz Costume Close-up jacketBecause of the cut of the skirt on this jacket, it is necessary to wear it with some kind of bum roll or pad to achieve the proper, fashionable sillouette.  It also helps the tails "poof" elegantly at the back.  Be sure to cut your petticoat to accomodate the extra bum room (always shape your petticoat from the waistline, not the hemline.  Period petticoats were consistently cut on the straight of grain at the hem).

In the pictures, I've added a cotton lawn neck handkerchief and a fine linen striped cap trimmed in ivory silk taffeta ribbon (the beautiful handwork of Mistress Nicole at Golden Hind Millinery, thank you again!), as well as pearl drop earrings (by Janice Erickson Smith) and a pearl necklace (by Ashley!) to complete the middling-class day wear look.  As always, underneath are my 1780 Diderot stays and two linen petticoats.

The hat and muff featured in the "header" pictures of each of the installments were made to coordinate with this outfit, as I used the leftover bits of blue/ivory silk from my petticoat as trimmings.  If you're curious about these accessories, check back for the next Threaded Bliss post!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Tasty Treat that is Jane Austen!

Our last English country dance meeting of the year was this past Friday, which also just so happened to be Jane Austen's 236th birthday.  One of our fellow dancers, the prodigiously clever and oh-so-talented Mistress S, who is a devoted enthusiast of everything Austen, brought a special treat to share during our break:


They're chocolate Austen cookies!  We were so impressed!  Mistress S designed and made the cookie cutter herself.  It is taken directly from the famous "L'aimable Jane" silhouette, which appeared in an early copy of Mansfield Park.  The artist of the silhouette cutting is unknown, and it cannot be conclusively proven that it is a depiction of Austen herself, but logic suggests that it probably is.  Isn't it incredible how close the cookies replicate the actual silhouette?  Needless to say, after munching down Austen heads, we all felt immensely more witty for the remainder of the evening.  :-)  Thank you, S, for sharing your splendid treats with us all!

The "L'aimable Jane" silhouette, believed to be of Jane Austen.
Image linked from the National Portrait Gallery.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

National Trust Collections Online

As I'm sure many of you have read by now, considering how quickly the news has spread only yesterday on Facebook and throughout multiple blogs, the UK's highly respected National Trust has recently launched a searchable online database of their extensive collections of historical objects - including their very prestigious costume and textiles collection!  Some of the items from the National Trust costume collection are patterned in the books of Janet Arnold; many others are sketched and described in great detail in Nancy Bradfield's Costume in Detail; still others are pictured in glorious detail in Jane Ashelford's The Art of Dress (just recently republished) and in the ...from the Snowshill series (sadly getting increasingly harder to find).

A silk sack, 1770-1774.  Don't you love the way the pleats have been laid?
Image linked from the National Trust Collections.

Be sure to add this link to your "must-go-to" list when doing research!  Most of the object listings include photos, some with multiple views and many with zoom capabilities, so you can check out all those mouth-watering construction details up close.  With everything from stockings, caps, and hats, to shoes, fans, and umbrellas, to men's waistcoats and breeches, to gowns, jackets, and petticoats, this online database makes a tremendous contribution to costume and textile research by making such a renowned collection more widely accessible than ever.

Extant covered hats from the 18th century are quite difficult to find, so this one,
now viewable online at the National Trust's collections database
is extra special.  It is dated 1730-1770.
Image linked from the National Trust Collections.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A "Threaded Bliss" Tutorial

Reproducing the Costume Close-up Jacket, 1775-1785:
A Step-by-Step Guide
Part Two

Blue chintz reproduction jacket, 1775-1785
The back of the jacket.
Photo taken at Colonial Williamsburg, December 2011.

In the previous installment of this tutorial, the background information of this project, as well as the steps detailing the construction of the sleeves, were outlined.  Don't miss that post before reading this one!  This second part of our Costume Close-up jacket tutorial will cover the construction of the jacket's bodice.

Construction details: ...continued...

The Bodice:
There are two possible ways to do the center-back seam of the jacket.  One is as a lapped seam, which is consistent with the technique used in the side seams of the original.  The other is as a plain, backstitched seam, pressed open, with the lining constructed separately and the two laid wrong sides together (more similar to a gown center-back seam, in other words).  Costume Close-up does not specify which method was used for the center-back seam and my pictures of the extant jacket, alas, aren't conclusive, either.  Either method would be acceptable, so choose which look you prefer.  On my first jacket, I used a lapped seam; on the blue chintz pictured here, I opted for a plain seam.  Below, I'll detail both methods so you can choose.

Option A: Lapped Seam:
1) For one side of the back pieces, baste the outer fabric and lining together.  On only the outer fabric of the other back piece, fold under the center back seam allowance (and crease it, baste it, or pin it in place, whichever technique you feel most comfortable with).

Position both back pieces with the outer fabric right-side up.  Place the single-layer outer-fabric-only piece over the center-back seam allowance of the basted piece.  Use the seam allowance you've just folded to match up this center back seam.  Then sew through all three (well, actually it's four if you count the fold as two) layers - the folded outer fabric, and the basted outer and lining piece - using a backstitch or spaced backstitch to complete this lapped seam.  Use whichever stitch you used to sew the lapped seam of the elbow darts, so that all of the seams remain consistent throughout the jacket.  Begin sewing about 1/2" down from the neckline.

Fold under the seam allowance of the remaining lining piece.  Matching it up at all key points to its coordinating outer fabric piece, place it over the seam you just sewed and slipstitch it into place to cover and protect those stitches.  Then baste the lining and outer fabric together along all of the other edges.

Option B:
1) On the wrong side of one of your back pieces (outer fabric only), mark the seam allowance at the center back.  Then place the two back pieces - outer fabric only for each - right sides together and backstitch the two back pieces together along the allowance line you just marked.  Press the seam open.

Repeat for the two back lining pieces, so that you now have two backs: one in the outer fabric and one in the lining.

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Outer back pieces pinned together at center back, and lining pieces
pinned together at center back.  The seam allowances are marked
on each to guide the backstitched seams.

Lay the outer fabric back over the lining back, wrong sides together, and pin them along the center back seam so that they do not shift and remain perfectly in line with each other.  Using a tiny running or combination stitch, sew down the center of that seam to join the two backs together.  Your stitches will disappear into the seam line.  The pieces should be joined from about 1/2" down from the neckline to 1/2" above where the waistline notch mark is (be sure this mark is transferred from the original pattern!).  Once this is finished, baste together the outer fabric and lining around the edges to fully join them together so they won't shift in the next step. (#26-29)

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Joining the outer fabric back to the lining back along the center back seam.

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The completed back seam!

That's it for the options.  Now on to what we can confidently determine from the original jacket!

2) Baste together the outer fabric and lining pieces for each of the front/side pieces (wrong sides together).  Along the side seams, make your basting stitches a couple of inches away from the edge.  This will help with the next step: mark the side seam allowance on the wrong wide of the outer fabric and turn it under, clipping the corner slightly so that it lays flat.  Be sure to turn under only the outer fabric! (#30-33)

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Mark the seam allowance for the side seam and turn it under, clipping the corner.

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Turn under the seam allowance of the outer fabric only.

3) If you chose Option A for Step 1, this part will sound familiar!  Position one of the front pieces and the back piece right sides up.  Lay the seam allowance of the front piece over the side seam allowance of the back piece, using the turned under seam allowance of the former to match up your edges.  Pin it into place, being careful not to catch the lining of the front piece in this seam.  Using a spaced backstitch or a regular backstitich (whichever you've been using), sew this seam from the very top down to about 1/2" from the edge of the bottom hem line.  The seam should be sewn through three (or four, if you're being technical about it!) layers: the front piece's outer fabric (and the bit of it that's folded under in the seam allowance), and the back piece's outer fabric and lining.

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Fold under the seam allowance of the front piece (outer fabric only) 
and place it over the side-seam allowance of the back piece.

As you proceed around corners at the waistline, carefully work the fabric so that it lays flat as you sew. (#34-42)

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Carefully maneuver the fabric around the corner, so that it lays flat.

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Backstitch through the three (or four!) layers of the seam,
being carefully not to catch the lining of the front piece in this seam.

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A close-up of the spaced backstitch of the side seam.

Repeat for the other side.

4) Flip the jacket so the lining side is up.  Fold under the seam allowances of the front pieces' linings to cover the two seams you just sewed (again, clipping the corner slightly as necessary) and slipstitch them down. (#43-47)

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Fold under the seam allowance of the front lining to cover
the seam you just sewed (clipping at the corner as necessary).

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Using a slipstitch, secure down the front lining to the back lining,
being careful not to go through the outer fabric.

Again, sew from the top to 1/2" from the bottom - don't go all the way down!

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The bottom 1/2" of this lapped seam remains unsewn for all layers.
This enables you to fold under each piece in the next step to finish the edges.

5) This step replicates what you did to finish the ends of the sleeves in Part One, Step 4.  Fold under the seam allowances of both the outer fabric and the lining (i.e. fold them in towards each other, so the raw edges of each will be concealed) about 1/8"-1/4" down the straight fronts of the jacket (don't do the neckline curves yet) and all the way around the bottom skirt hem, over the points of the tails as well.  Fold the lining in ever-so-slightly more so that the edge of the outer fabric peeks above it when viewed from the lining side of the sleeve.

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Fold the lining and the outer fabric under (i.e. in towards each other). 
The lining should be folded in ever so slightly more than the outer fabric,
so that the outer fabric is visible when viewed from the lining side.

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Folding in the corners of the tails.  The lining is treated the same way
and then laid down on top and finished in the same way as below.

Using le point a rabattre sous la main, the stitch illustrated by Baumgarten on page 8 and identified as having been used on the original jacket, finish all of these edges.  When you get to the vent/slit marking at the bottom of the front pieces (make sure you've transferred these marks from the original!), stop sewing about 1/4" away from it. Tie off your thread completely; otherwise, when you cut the slits, you'll break the seam you're working on. Begin sewing again on the other side of the slit, again about 1/4" away from the marked line.

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Do not sew over the mark of the front slits.  Leave about 1/4" on either side of each
unsewn so that you won't snip your thread when you cut the slits later.

Then do the back neckline edge the same way.  You only have to finish the top, curved edge of the joined back pieces - don't do the straight edges where the shoulder pieces will be joined.  (#48-52)

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Finish the neckline in the same way as above.

**Please note: The original jacket includes interfacing that supports the lacing holes at the center fronts.  I have omitted this from my version for the simple reason that I have found the interfacing to be unnecessary in my previous project.  I used it in the first version for Ashley, but then somehow just forgot about it in the Indian cotton jacket (that was a really quick project), and despite lots of hard wear in camp over the summer, the holes remain perfect without the added support from any interfacing (and both of my fabrics in that jacket are fairly thin).  Because all of the pressure of body movement falls on your stays and not your outer garment, the holes will not pull or tear, even without the interfacing layer.  All of that is just to say that in the case of interfacing, I have consciously diverged from the original, and the choice to do so on your own piece is, of course, yours.  It is easily added in before you begin turning under your edges; the finishing technique will not change with interfacing sandwiched between the two layers.**

That's it for this portion of the tutorial.  Up next will be completing the eyelets and those front slits, setting the sleeves, and finishing the shoulders and neckline.  We'll also cover making up the optional stomacher.