Friday, 30 August 2013

What decade are you and where do you want to be?

The 18th century society I belong to, Gustafs Skål has a Facebook-page and recently there was a question of why you are a member. For me it’s about friendship, a large part of my friends can be found there, but it is also, quite naturally, about a love for history and the joy of making clothes. When I first joined I wanted to make historical clothes for myself and though I have always been partial to the 18th century, the real reason that I have almost exclusively sewn 18th century clothes for the past 11 years is because Gustafs Skål was there when I was looking for some kind of historical society that would allowed me to make costumes. It could very easily have been another époque as I’m partial to other times as well. You have probably not missed my love for the 17th century and I have never really let go of my dream of having an outfit from, at least, each of the past 600 years, or so. But Gustafs Skål was easy to find, it was active and people there were friendly and welcoming, and as it is so much more fun to make clothes when you know when you will wear them, that has been the century I have drawn my inspiration from.

Marie Antoinette, Queen of France by Jean-Baptiste Gautier Dagoty, 1775
But has it, really? I find that I have been thinking of which period I choose to re-create and, indeed, what other people do around me, and I’m curious. If you would say, in broad terms, that you do Medieval, 16th century or 18th century or any other time, what periods, more exactly, do you make? I know there are some who are very versatile and do many different times, but many, probably the most, of us, keep ourselves to a much narrower time frame. When it comes to the 18th century, I would say that the majority of costumes made can be found in the range 1770-1800. I know I do, most of the time and so do most of the people I know as well. But why? It is only a third of the century, after all.

Should we blame Marie Antoinette? In her court gown has it all. Big hair, big skirts, frills and lace. It is, for so many of us, the archetype of an 18th century woman, blithely forgetting that big hair wasn’t fashionable for most of the 18th century and the large panier had largely fallen out of fashion in the 1770’s except as very formal wear. If you opt for he last 30 years of the 18th century you can take your pick from the simple to the grand and you still get to have poufy hair.

I love the early 18th century. I think mantuas are a scream and small rococo-hair so elegant. And I love the large paniers hat looks so absurd. My first big 18th century love was the 1740’s. So why do I do so little from that period? For several reasons, I think.

Budget, for example. Big paniers may not really demand more fabric than pocket hoops (depending on you construct your petticoat), but definitely more than petticoats worn with a cul. And the late 18th century made cotton more and more popular, which for the modern wallet are much more affordable than silk. That goes for men’s clothes as well, early 18th century demand more fabric of boat coats and waistcoats.

Then there is peer pressure. That sounds a bit harsh, but we all draw inspiration from each other, online and face to face. Gustafs Skål has a (not strictly enforced) timeline of 1746-1792, the life of Gustaf III of Sweden. Still, most do the late 18th century and if you meet people dressed in beautiful clothes you get inspired by them.

Study of a girl facing left by Carle van Loo
Simplicity. Small petticoats are easier to handle than big ones. Large paniers are a bit of a handful to navigate. Also, silly as it sounds, are big hair. Anyone who has tried to make it on yourself knows how hard they are to make and the toll they take on your arms. But you can wear a wig. A well-styled and well-cared for wig is something that you can more or less plop down on your head any you are set to go. True, you could have an equally style Rococo-wig but in all my years I have actually one seen one of those! And almost none that have taken the effort to style their own hair. If you do early 18th century you almost always make a high bun with a cap. Which is period, but I would love to see someone in one of the more complicated styles that were around.

And, for me, there is vanity. The late 18th century suits me. It suits my figure as it is curvier and no matter how much I bone my stays my body won’t conform to the ramrod straightness of the earlier decades. And fluffy hair looks better than strict.

I would like to venture out, though. I’m currently making yet another 1790’s gown and though I think it will be lovely and that it will be useful, it is still the fourth garment made after the same basic pattern that I have made these past years. It has become my go-to pattern, if you like. So I have deliberately been looking at the earlier decades of the 18th century to see if there are any styles I ought to try out. Some day, when my to-do list are shorter, but still. One can always plan ahead.
A mantua, of course. Also, hair in the very early 18th century was quite fluffy.
Mantua, ca 1720

Mantua ca 1708
The Marchioness Angela Maria Lombardi, ca 1710
A riding habit. I have wanted one for 11 years and again, early 18th century and at semi-big hair.
18th century French school

Henrietta Cavendish Holles, Countess of Oxford by Godfrey Kneller,1714
A Robe Batante or Volante. Actually, that one has been in the pipeline for ages. I remember that every summer when I wish I could lounge around without stays on a hot 18th century event.

Mrs. Elizabeth Symonds by Allan Ramsey, 1740

And even if the smallset 18th century hair doesn't suit me, there is the 1760's where hair is getting some volume and is, I think, very pretty.

Natalia Alexandrovna Repnina by Per Krafft, 1768-69

Lady Georgian Poyntz by Thomas Gainsborough, 1765

Maria Gunning, Countess of Coventry by Hugh Douglas Hamilton, probably 1760 as she dies that year.

Portrait of a lady by Francis Cotes, 1768
And what about you? My post focus on the 18th century and upper class clothing, but I would love to hear what favourite decade you have and why. And what you would like t make that you somehow never get around doing

Monday, 26 August 2013

The foundation of the 1630's gown

So, here I was, happily sewing the boning channels in the foundation when I idly glance at the pattern and realize that I have assumed something of the pattern that is completely wrong. As you can see on my pattern, I have placed the lacing panel at the front.

In reality, which you can clearly see both on the pattern and the X-ray, the lacing panel is actually placed on top of the front/side piece.

I have stared and stared at this pattern and haven’t even noticed it until now. However, in reality it doesn’t matter much for my fit. I still need to make the front a little different to ensure a good fit.

The fit after the foundation has been boned is quite good, I’m thankful to say. Here it is machine basted together, but will be ripped apart and be separately covered with taffeta before assembled permanently. The front doesn’t lace completely shut, which is according to plan. Experience has told me that it will be laced shut after a while.
The back, however, is still, even if I made it significantly narrower, still a bit wide. I will let it be, though. With the shell fabric on top and then a collar, I doubt that it will be noticeable.

There is also a lot of cleavage. It is kind of hard of me to not have, being amply endowed, but that will be better too when I can lace it shut. The taffeta stomacher will be boned too and give some additional support.

The taffeta shell fabric. Front and back are longer than the foundation and there are also six gussets to give additional hip width. Fabric is always hard to get right on photos. The taffeta is actually two toned in purple and pink.

It looks a little better here, but a bit too yellow.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

18th Century Court Ensembles Project (Or I am a lemming)

Remember the Robe de Cour-project I started two years ago? The truth is that I really did go a bit nut about it, developed a very strong aversion against my shell fabric and quit. But the foundation for the bodice is done and I “just” have to cover it, make the petticoat ad sleeves and decorate it. So when Kendra of Demodé announcedthat she going to make one, and wouldn’t it be nice if more did too, well, what excuses have I left?

But as so often when it comes to costume, I got all contrary with myself and quickly decided that what I really want is the court gown that became the official court wear in Sweden in the 1770's, Gustaf III’s national suit. And I don’t want the black one which I already have the fabric for, but the gala version, which is in white with pale blue decorations. The gown consists of the parts, a sleeveless bodice, a petticoat worn with pocket hoops and a robe with a train, which is worn a la polonaise. The sleeves have the distinctive lattice decoration, which is more striking in the black version than the white, I admit. The national suit wasn’t supposed to change with fashion, but of course it did anyway, and I plan to make mine late 1780. That is purely because J has the gala version for men, which is pale blue with white details, and his is from that period.

There are, as far as I know, no paintings of the gala version, but here is a drawing.
The only extant gown preserved is one in the version for ladies who hasn't been presented at court, de difference is no latticed sleeves and the train is shorter.

Worn as wedding gown by Sofia Lovisa Brüch in 1780

Monday, 19 August 2013

Starting the 1630's gown

Vacation is over and a nice vacation it was too, I have no complaints at all. Now I have a tremendous backlog of blogs to read- it will probably take me a week or so. My sewing plans for the rest of the year is to continue to finish my already started to project. I haven’t been completely good there; I have started a few completely new ones this year. The current example is a striped 1790’s gown. I’m making it completely by hand and am just about to set the sleevils. I have also, finally, started the 1630’s gown! I have been a bit angsty over the pattern, but then I realized that I could use my 1790’s stays. It may sound strange, but actually makes sense, because the back seam is placed in just about the right place and it is also raised to hit just above the waist.
So I traced the stays onto paper, and then draw in the right shape for the bodice. The pattern for the original can be found in Seventeenth-Century Women's Dress Patterns by Jenny Tiramani and Susan North. The foundation is in linen canvas, enforced by both buckram and boning, and it seems likely that it could be used without stays and that is how I want to interpret it. There is a problem with that with the original because the front is laced with a panel that is just about 10 cm high, stopping well beneath the bust. As breasts were not left to roam free, this may mean that stays were worn underneath it, but it can also mean that a now missing, boned stomacher was worn with it.

Here is the finished pattern. The original lines of the stays can be seen as a faint line. The pattern has a narrow back piece and a long front/back piece as well as the lacing panel. The areas shaded with blue are reinforced with heavy buckram and the red with a lighter weight. I haven’t drawn in the boning channels, but there are horizontal ones at the back and a few for every reinforced part. The original has much wider boning than I have, so I will have more boning channels. I will also sew it on machine; the canvas and buckram are much too hard to my hands for something else.

After a quick fitting it was clear that the back was too wide and the shoulder straps too long, but that are easy fixes. I also decided against a stomacher and will instead raise the front almost up the faint lines of the stays. It is purely for comfort, from experience I know that an extra stomacher in stays is fiddly and my heavy bosom wants to escape, it is better to have all together. This might not be the period correct way of doing it, but I feel that it will be the best solution for me. A slender person with a smaller bust could probably use the stomacher option with excellent results.

Excuse the terribly crooked shift, that is also inisde out.
I had intended to find buckram in two different weights, but I also wanted to start this project now, so instead I will use the same linen canvas as the foundation instead of the heavy buckram. I am currently sewing the boning channels and pad stitch the various interfacings to the foundation. The shell fabric basically uses the same pattern, only it is longer with slashes for the gussets. Each pattern piece will be finished with foundation and shell fabric before the whole bodice is to be assembled. There are also wings to be cut, boned and covered with fabric and, of course, the enormous sleeves. All in dark purple taffeta.


Sunday, 11 August 2013

Making a 17th century shirt- The finished shirt

Yesterday I took the very last stitches and I'm quite pleased and so is J. As this is the very first item of his 17th century outfit the pictures are a bit out of context, I think it will look a lot better with the proper clothes! I have a feeling the sleeves are a bit too long, but then they have the same measurements as the original shirt, so with the proper jacket it may be perfectly fine. For the moment the ties are made out of cotton tape, but as soon as I find linen tape I am going to change them. I was terribly afraid that the collar would be too narrow, but it is perhaps a bit too wide. The shirt is completely hand sewn and I started it two months ago, though I can't say that I have stithed on it daily.

Previous posts:

Preparations and cutting

The cuffs are made exactly the same way as the collar, except that the sleeve is evenly gathered and has buttonholes at the ends for the ribbon that ties them.

The slit in the sleeve has a tiny, 0.5 cm long bar worked in buttonhole stitch to prevent tearing.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

18th century days at Skansen

I am still on vacation, which is why I'm so quiet and is having a good time. I have ventured into new areas of cyberspace and is testing both Instagram and Twitter. I plan to keep them Close to this and Madame Isis Toiltte in subject and if you are interested, then the accounts are both called isiswardrobe. There will be cat and dog Pictures, though. And, of course, I have spent some time in the 18th Century. The museum Skansen had their annual 18th Century weeks in July and as usual Gustafs Skål was there to add to the amusement. I also got a chance to try out some coloured hair powder, which you can see here.

Looking sweet. Also having pink hair powder.

Tove the maid is looking extremely dubious.

Back to nature.

On day two I left the 1780's and went for the 1740's instead.

A temporary change of cavalier as Anders was the only other one dressed in the 1740's, wearing a quilted waistcoat with sleeves.
The Lovely Little gazebo in the garden was open for once, so we could go inside and see the painted interior.

J looking like he is contemplating life's sorrows this beautiful day.

Aggi, the stern governess.

J in the Swedish national suit, everyday court version.

The fortune teller and her cards. She foresaw that a visiting squirell would be able to succesfully steal something, just moments before he jumped up at our table and got away with a tasty morsel.

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