Sunday, November 11, 2012

Burnley and Trowbridge Gown Draping Workshop

Last Friday, Ashley and I indulged ourselves with a weekend of pretty dresses, playing with fabric, and good company for Burnley and Trowbridge's latest gown-draping workshop.  We've been eagerly anticipating the opportunity to do a gown workshop for literally years now, but they've typically been held in the summer when neither of our schedules would permit us to attend.  This year's fall offering was a most welcome surprise and we jumped at the chance to go.  We were also thrilled that our friend Laurie was able to join us for the weekend of fun!

The workshop was led by Colonial Williamsburg's mistress of the trades of millinery and mantua-making, Janea Whitacre.  Janea arrived Friday morning looking like she just walked out of - you guessed it - Meet Felicity, so of course the entire room of ladies sighed and oogled her "Felicity fabric" gown.  What little girl at heart can resist that print?  Especially when at least two of us (ahem) in the room could very legitimately blame Felicity for our life-long obsession with history and historical fashion?  :-)

Demonstrating the art of draping a sleeve.

Our first task, I was overjoyed to hear, would be learning to drape sleeves.  If you've read any of our previous "Threaded Bliss" posts, you know how much I struggle with sleeves, both patterning and setting them, and remedying that situation was one of the reasons I really wanted to take this workshop.  So here we are, diligently working on our sleeves...

Ashley cutting her sleeves out.

Me working on finishing my sleeves.

As you can see in the picture, Ashley chose to bring a gorgeous "bottle green" lightweight worsted for her gown. She's been saving it in her stash for a couple of years now, waiting to use it on the very first gown she'd make all by herself. I finally decided it was time to muster up the courage to cut into my stash of the CW reproduction print that's copied from the now infamous gown on pages 48 and 49 of What Clothes Reveal.  I'm so glad I saved it for a workshop rather than tackling it alone because Janea worked some serious miracles helping me figure out the ideal way to make this impossible print work.

Discussing options and techniques for constructing the gown's back pleats.

Saturday began with finishing up our gown backs that we started the afternoon before, and then we proceeded to draping the bodice fronts.  Janea took a slightly different approach to the order of things this time around, opting to have us only concentrate on the top half of our gowns first, to be sure we'd have plenty of time to get adequate help with the perennial trouble spot of fitting shoulders and sleeves before the end of the weekend (I was so glad to know I'm not the only one wary of sleeves!).  This is why you see the bottom parts of our gown bodices not yet looking "normal" in most of these pictures!

Draping buddies fitting bodice fronts to backs.

Double-checking back symmetry.

My gown as of Saturday afternoon!

Ashley doing my shoulder straps.
Photo very kindly taken and sent to us by Laurie.

Saturday evening, our homework was to work on shoulder straps and attaching our sleeves, so Ashley and I headed over to Laurie's hotel to see how far we could get.  More than slightly delirious from lack of sleep, that ended up not being very far at all...:-)...which was fine in the end because we had plenty of time the next morning to keep working and to get some extra help.  I still don't like sleeves, but I definitely feel much more confident about attacking them after all the guidance Janea gave on them throughout the weekend.  Laurie did a splendid job fitting mine, and I hope I was at least adequate in my efforts on hers!  :-)

Saturday's late-night homework attempts.

Sunday, our final day, was spent finishing up sleeves, shaping the bodice along the waistline, and pleating in the gown skirts.  Neither Ashley nor I got that far, but we left well equipped with everything we'd need to finish on our own.  Many of the ladies were nearly done with their gowns by the end of the day; I was so impressed by their speed throughout the weekend, and their work came out so lovely.

Finishing the waistline.

B&T gown workshop 11
Ashley attaching shoulder straps.

Although it was an incredibly busy weekend, it was certainly a productive one, and we're both eagerly anticipating finishing our gowns for upcoming holiday events.  Stay tuned for the finished products!  Many thanks again to Mistress Janea and the lovely folks at Burnley and Trowbridge for hosting yet another fantastic workshop.  We're already looking forward to the next one!

Additional photos from the workshop can be found in our flickr set.

If you're interested in participating in an upcoming historical fashion workshop, keep checking Burnley and Trowbridge's facebook page for the latest list of offerings and soon-to-come spring updates!


An Historical Lady said...

Hello ladies,
Thanks for this great post! I don't sew, so getting a gown made has always been a huge hassle, not to mention expense. Finding someone to make them is almost impossible in New England---who knew.
You always do such a grand job, and I love to read all your 18thc. sewing adventures.

An Historical Lady said...

Dear Ashley and Rebecca,
This may sound ignorant, but do you refer to Felicity of the film Felicity an American Girl in 1775 Williamsburg? If so, I have to say that that has long been one of my favorite movies! Even hubby loves it, and we have it and watch it every Christmas! No matter how old I get, I still love every minute of it!

lahbluebonnet said...

Oh my let me assure all the dear readers that I am most pleased with the sleeves that Rebecca draped on me. I do believe the sleeve portion of the class had the best tips and I for one now feel empowered! Rebecca, if you want, I'll attempt your future sleeves too! ;)
Looking forward to another gown workshop with Rebecca and Ashley!

Rebecca said...

Laurie, if sleeve-draping isn't motivation enough to relocate to VA, I don't know what is! ;-) We'll definitely have to start scheduling periodic sleeve meetings from now on! :-)

Mary, I was actually talking about the "Felicity" series of books that came out in 1990, with a doll and historically accurate accessories. The doll came with a dress that used that fabric, which was reproduced from an original mid-1770s French roller-printed cotton. My books (and my doll!) are falling apart, I loved them so much growing up! I've seen the movie, which is loosely based on the books, and I agree, it's quite charming. If you haven't read the books, you should! They're written for children, of course, but the stories are great and very entertaining and the attention to historical detail is superb. It certainly worked to inspire us into life-long history obsessions! :-)

An Historical Lady said...

Hi Rebecca,
I knew about the Felicity book and doll years ago, and will now have to read it! We still enjoy the movie so much, especially around the holidays...
Wishing you both a most wonderful Thanksgiving,