Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Threaded Bliss

A Lavender Silk English Gown, 1770-1780

Jonathan Trumbull, Jr. House, August 2012.

This gown was finished in January for our annual English country dance ball, and then I wore it again for our regiment's George Washington Ball a month later.  Both times, I forgot (surprise, surprise!) to give it the "Threaded Bliss" treatment.  Having only military-type events in the spring and summer, I haven't had much of a chance to wear any silk since February, so when we were invited to give a fashion show and lecture at the Jonathan Trumbull, Jr. House a couple of weeks ago, I seized the opportunity and pulled out the gown once again.  Now I'm glad I neglected to do this post earlier, because we were able to get some lovely shots with the Trumbull House's perfect period setting.

The pattern: Draped by me.

lavender silk taffeta English gown, 1770-1780
Elm City Assembly, January 2012.

Construction details: The gown is entirely hand sewn.  The construction process for this gown is identical to all our other "en fourreau" English gowns, so I won't repeat myself.  If you're interested, check out this earlier post for details.

Back shot.  Pray excuse the skirt rumples; I just stood
up and didn't realize the gown needed to be smoothed so badly!
Jonathan Trumbull, Jr. House, August 2012.

The trim is a simple box-pleated design that accentuates the neckline and ends of the sleeves.  Nothing complicated, but just enough to add a splash of dimension and interest.

lavender silk taffeta English gown, 1770-1780
Detail of the box-pleated trim at the back of the neckline.

The fabric: A gorgeous lightweight lavender silk taffeta from Burnley and Trowbridge.  This fabric is a dream to wear because it's so light and crisp and just makes me feel pretty!

Jonathan Trumbull, Jr. House, August 2012.

Finishing the look: The skirts of the gown and the petticoat are cut to be worn over a small hoop (the one that was first made to be worn with the sea green cotton gown); this gives the hips just enough fashionable width to make the waist appear a teensy bit smaller, and also helps the skirts poof subtly.  After seeing it in the pictures, I'm thinking that I want a slightly larger one for my next silk gown, just to add a tad bit more emphasis.  Also worn under the gown are a shift, my Diderot stays, and a striped linen underpetticoat.

To accessorize this gown to represent the "good" day wear of an upper-middling-class lady, I added a self-striped cotton voile neck handkerchief, a double-strand pearl necklace secured with a silk satin ribbon, and silver and pearl drop earrings by Janice Erickson Smith.  My cap is a striped sheer linen trimmed with ivory silk taffeta ribbons, the very fine handwork of Mistress Nicole.

Jonathan Trumbull, Jr. House, August 2012.

I also made a breastknot of silk satin ribbon (also from B&T) and paper flowers to give a little dimension to the front of the gown.

A breastknot of silk satin ribbon and paper flowers, which could be worn
either at center front or to one side of the gown's neckline.

Completing the ensemble is a coordinating striped silk gauze covered hat, trimmed in the same lavender silk satin ribbon as the breastknot.  You might recognize this hat from the previous post with the blue chintz jacket and ivory petticoat.  Even though I made the hat to go with this lavender gown, I actually haven't worn the two together yet!

The hat in action, paired with the blue chintz jacket and ivory taffeta petticoat.
Colonial Williamsburg, May 2012.

The hat is inspired by this 1782 print:

"A rich privateer brought safe into port by two first rates," 1782.
Image linked from the Lewis Walpole Library.

As in the print, I used a wide ribbon to create poofs around the crown and for the ties.  The gauze is tacked down to the crown to create the poofs, and then is smoothed over the brim and pulled underneath, finally secured inside, beneath the crown.  The one change I made to the inspiration hat was that the one in the print appears to be have the underside of its brim lined in the same lavender color.  I was going to do this using the silk from my gown, but I ended up having only the tiniest of scraps left.  I opted instead to simply encase the edge of the brim with ivory silk satin ribbon instead, to help secure the gauze and to give the brim a bit more of a finished look.

striped silk gauze hat
Silk gauze covered hat, trimmed in silk satin ribbons.

The full flickr set of this project can be viewed here.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Fashions from Godey's Lady's Book, February 1853

As we mentioned in the first post in this series, we recently stumbled across a bound volume of Godey's Lady's Book from 1853. Once a month now, I'll post the collection of fashion-related plates and articles that appeared in each monthly issue.  January's fashions can be found here.

I apologize in advance for the quality of the images. Although I have a scanner, I've discovered that there's no way I can preserve the integrity of the already fragile binding of the book and lay it flat. That means photos are the only options, and even those are difficult to achieve because of the tightly bound pages. I've done my best to ensure that everything is as clear and visible and undistorted as possible, but if there's something you really can't read or see and would like to have clarified, just let me know and I'll see what more I can do. I've set the images up so that if you click on them, they'll link you to their flickr page, where you'll be able to enlarge them all considerably and thus more easily read each one. Enjoy!

Godey's Lady's Book, February 1853 1
1853 Riding habit.
"Riding dress of an entirely new style, and intended for the coming spring season.  The habit itself is of black pelisse cloth (a light broadcloth), the skirt being separate from the corsage, and plaited with broad plaits into a band, hooked or buttoned firmly about the waist.  The basque is cut away very much in front, and displays a vest of buff fastened with small gilt buttons.  The trimming upon the basque, and to the left of the skirt, is a rich ribbon or fold of green moir d'antique; the broad Vandyke collar of plain linen is fastened by a black silk necktie.  Brown beaver hat, with a heavy plume, and gauntlet gloves, complete this elegant equestrian costume."

Godey's Lady's Book, February 1853 2
A necktie in tapisserie d'auxerre.

Godey's Lady's Book, February 1853 3
An invalid's cap and a nightcap;
pattern for eyelet-hole edging.

Godey's Lady's Book, February 1853 4
"Fig. 1st. - Walking dress of brown cashmere, the skirt composed of five flounces, edged with heavy embroidery of dots, to imitate raised velvet spots, in large scallops.  The basque is trimmed to correspond, and the sleeves are in full flounces to match the skirt, a heavy, but novel style.  Full cambric undersleeves, with two deep ruffles at the wrist, to carry out the complete effect of the dress, and a chemisette en suite.  White satin and rich silk bonnet, with a wreath of blue convolvulus inside the brim; a heavy veil of blonde is the only external ornament.
"Fig. 2d. - Evening-dress of white Swiss muslin, intended for a young girl just entering society.  The skirt is in four deep flounces, edged with an embroidery of scallops.  The corsage is round, the fullness being disposed sheaf fashion from the waist to the shoulder, where it is edged by a narrow Velencienne lace.  The sleeves are arranged to correspond, and the sole trimming consists of a broad ribbon of bright plaids, white and blue, green and rose color, or any other shade that may strike the fancy, placed en V on the back of the corsage, and from the shoulder to the waist, where it is confined by a girdle, and falls nearly to the hem of the dress in long flowing ends, like a scarf."

If you'd like to use or re-post or share these images, you're certainly welcome to do so. The only thing we ask is that credit is given where due: please provide a link back to this blog with the re-posted picture. Thanks!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Late-summer Rambles in Williamsburg

We just took a quick trip to Colonial Williamsburg last weekend and brought along a family friend who has never been before.  It was a lot of fun introducing her to one of our favorite places, and she enjoyed finally getting to see things for herself, after hearing the two of us jabber about CW for twenty-odd years!  Here are a handful of some of my favorite photos from our all-too-brief visit.  Enjoy!

  Colonial Williamsburg
The Peyton Randolph House with a wee visitor perched on the fence.

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg
The Public Hospital.

In one of our favorite sites in town, the Margaret Hunter Millinery Shop, we found the ladies hard at work remodeling an old cotton print sacque back gown into an English gown of the very latest fashion.  Here, we were also most delighted to finally make the formal acquaintance of Samantha of The Couture Courtesan, who is finishing up her summer internship in the shop.  It was lovely to finally meet you!

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg
A Friday evening sunset, as viewed from inside the Capitol's walls.

On Saturday, we caught one of the new Revolutionary City scenes, which fully engages visitors in a reenactment of the storming of the Governor's Palace during the "Gunpowder Incident."  The day after the Battle of Lexington and Concord, Governor Dunmore had the stored gunpowder removed from the city's magazine in the middle of the night.  The citizens awoke the next morning to news of the stolen powder and immediately assembled on the Palace green to debate an appropriate response.  In this new scene, actors interpret the views of various townspeople and encourage active discussions with the audience about the next move to be made.  Some argue for a peaceful resolution with the Governor to avoid violent conflict, while others advocate swift, decisive action against the representative of the crown to let him know that the colonists will not stand for their rights to be violated in such a way.

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg
Demanding immediate action against Governor Dunmore.

Colonial Williamsburg
The Governor anxiously watching the crowds of "colonists"
assembling on the Green, ready to march to the Palace to demand
the return of the stolen powder.

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg
The gardens of the Wythe property.

Additional photos from this visit can be found in our flickr set.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Threaded Bliss

Tobacco Brown Linen Round Gown,

Rock Ford Plantation, Lancaster PA

We began working on this gown in December of 2010, and then it got buried beneath all sorts of other projects in the bottomless basket of "in-progress" garments.  Ashley dug it out last summer, hoping to finish it in time for the shoe workshop, and we almost got it done...all but the hem!  Then it got buried again and we more or less forgot about it until we discovered it in the basket, pleasantly surprised to find it all but complete.  Ashley finished up the hem and then wore it for the first time - a year and a half after starting it! - to Rock Ford a couple of months ago.

The pattern: Draped by me.  It is basically identical to Ashley's lavender linen gown, with the exception that the skirt is sewn on with whipstitches (instead of the backstitches I used on the lavender gown), and, of course, with the exception of the added center-front panel.

The back of the round gown.
Jonathan Trumbull, Jr. House, August 2012.

Inspirations: Though not nearly as common as "open robes" (i.e. gowns with open skirts, intended to be worn with a separate petticoat), round gowns can be found without too much searching in most of the major costume collections.  The majority are dated to the last quarter of the century (about 1770 to 1790ish), and I've found them in wool, silk, and cotton, but it's pretty safe to assume they would have been made in linen as well (if someone has located an elusive linen example, please let me know!).

One of my favorite round gown inspiration sources come from the Historic Deerfield collection (HD 2002.11).  The textile more than anything else suggests a later date that what Ashley and I were looking for in ours; because of the dark ground, this one most definitely dates to the 1780s.  I wish I could find a picture of the back to see how the pleats are arranged.  One of these days, I'll get myself up to Deerfield to check it out in person because I've got almost identical fabric in my stash just waiting for a reproduction!

A round gown dating to the 1780s in the collection of Historic Deerfield.

A similar - in both textile and style - gown is also at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, dated to 1774:

Met 26.38a–d front
Printed cotton round gown, 1774.
Acc. no. 26.38a-d
Image linked from the Met Museum's online database.

And here's one of Ashley's all-time-favorite gowns, which just happens to be a round gown as well, made in silk damask:

Met 1994.406a–c
A silk round gown from the Met, ca. 1775.
Acc. no. 1994.406a
Image linked from the Met Museum's online database.

Construction details: The gown is hand-sewn, as always, using period construction techniques.  The back, bodice, and sleeves are draped and constructed in exactly the same way as any English gown.

Rock Ford Plantation, Lancaster PA
The standard English "en fourreau" pleats of the back of the gown.
Rock Ford Plantation, June 2012.

Rock Ford Plantation, Lancaster PA
Detail of the back pleats.

Where the round gown differs, of course, is in the skirt; rather than being open in the front, a drop-front panel fills in that space, so that the entire gown is a single piece.  In the picture below, you can see the "apron" front panel pleated, as any petticoat would be, to a tape, and folded down to reveal the interior of the gown.

"tobacco brown" linen round gown, 1770s

The gown ties on much like a petticoat would.  First, the front panel is tied around the waist in the back.  Then there is a tape sewn to the interior back of the bodice, which is brought forward to tie around the waist in front.

"tobacco brown" linen round gown, 1770s

The bodice then pins closed over this, as the standard center-front-closure gown always does.

"tobacco brown" linen round gown, 1770s

The front of the gown, with the bodice pinning closed
over the attached front skirt panel.
Jonathan Trumbull, Jr. House, August 2012.

The most challenging part of making this gown was squeezing it out of 3 yards of fabric.  It's a good thing Ashley is tiny, that's all I have to say!

The fabric: A lovely lightweight linen in a tobacco brown color.  Ashley found this at Joann years ago and was saving it for a summer camp-wear gown.

Finishing the look: The first time Ashley wore the gown at Rock Ford in June, she accessorized it as a camp-following 18th-century woman would: with a printed cotton neck handkerchief and a green checked apron that would help obscure any soot or grease from the cooking fire.  She also added gold stockings, the deep dye color yet again serving to hide any dirt or dust acquired during a hard day walking and at work.  The straw hat trimmed with ruched aqua ribbons helps protect that fashionable pale 18th-century complexion.  Underneath are, as always, a white linen shift, fully-boned stays, and an underpetticoat of striped linen.

Rock Ford Plantation, Lancaster PA
Rock Ford, June 2012.

Rock Ford Plantation, Lancaster PA
Rock Ford, June 2012.

For the presentation and fashion show program we recently gave at the Jonathan Trumbull, Jr. House, she dressed the gown up a bit by substituting white accessories.  The crisp white self-checked linen handkerchief and apron (which can also be seen here, worn with my peachy linen gown), along with the white stockings and the green glass beads, pull the gown into a middling class impression, which was in accordance with the setting of our program.


The full flickr set for this gown can be found here.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Threaded Bliss

1770s Gold Linen Jacket

Rock Ford Plantation, Lancaster PA
Rock Ford Plantation, June 2012.

This is the first jacket Ashley has ever sewn entirely by herself.  She finished it a year ago in time for the shoe workshop and wore it for the first time there; since then, she's worn it to several other events, and each time we've taken pictures and then forgotten to give it a proper write-up.  So here it is!

gold linen jacket, 1770s
Front of the jacket, opened to reveal the lining.

The pattern: The body of the jacket is based largely on "Jacket C" on page 26 of Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 1, with slight tweaks here and there (like cutting the front piece as an entirely separate piece with the gusset as part of it, just to speed things up a bit).  The sleeves are the same as those on Ashley's Wetherburn jacket, which is copied from the pattern in Costume Close-up.

Inspirations: The color of the jacket was inspired by this original silk jacket of a similar style at the Met (acc. no. 2010.342):

A silk jacket from the 1700s in the collection of the Metropolitan
Museum of Art (acc. no. 2010.342).
Photo linked from the Met collections online database.

Construction details: The jacket is entirely hand sewn by Ashley.  The construction process of this jacket is almost identical to the that of the Costume Close-up jacket, which is detailed in our tutorial series.  The one major difference is that instead of closing with a pinned stomacher front (as does the Wetherburn jacket) or with a laced stomacher front (as does the blue chintz jacket), this one pins closed at center front, as per the original in Arnold. 

gold linen jacket, 1770s
Front of the jacket that pins closed.  You can see that the "gusset"
pieces have been cut as one with the front body pieces.

It also does not have the slits at the front sides; instead, the "gusset" (which we made part of the skirt of the front piece instead to save time) gives the jacket's skirt body enough to accommodate the fullness of the petticoat without the need of the slit.

gold linen jacket, 1770s
Back of the jacket.

gold linen jacket, 1770s
Detail of the back shoulder and sleeve cap.

The fabric: A goldenrod light/medium-weight linen, part of that super-lucky Denver Fabrics stash purchase that also included the linen for the lavender gown and the peachy gown.

Finishing the look: At the shoe workshop, the first time she wore it, Ashley paired the jacket with a teal linen petticoat and a block-printed cotton neck handkerchief tucked in front and left out in the back.  Underneath are a linen shift, fully-boned stays, and a linen underpetticoat.

Making up a thread at the shoe workshop.
Eastfield Village, August 2011.

For the last couple of events, she has coupled it with a navy linen petticoat and the same kerchief.  She also added a bum roll to help hold out the full skirt of the jacket, which gives it the cute and jaunty little back poof so fashionable in the late 1770s and early 1780s (the "header" picture has a good view of this, too).

Mmmmm, apple!  But it's a nice shot of the jacket!
Rock Ford Plantation, June 2012.

Rock Ford Plantation, Lancaster PA
Cleaning up after dinner.
Rock Ford Plantation, June 2012.