Sunday, February 8, 2015

1922 Robe de Style

For this year's Historical Ball at Historic Locust Grove, I decided I would make a gown I'd been in love with forever and vowed to make if I ever got into the 1920's: this 1922 Robe de Style by Jeanne Lanvin.

I also turned 21 this January, so I thought it would be a cute item to wear when visiting a prohibition-style museum in Louisville for prolonging the birthday celebrations.  

Oh, but wait... I know nothing about the 20's!

I knew there were sewing machines, that the styles went kinda crazy and kinda loose, but that's about it.  I had been inspired by amazing seamstresses like KatherineSamanthaGinger, and Amy-Lee who made beautiful Robe de Styles and knew that I could do it.  I asked Katherine for help and she guided me towards some really helpful info about patterns, construction, and Robe de Style history.  Together (though I didn't help very much) we figured out that this style was likely darted on the front and the back, had no shoulder seam, closed on the side, and was likely worn without the classic Robe de Style pocket hoops (yay, less work for me!)

Originally I was going to cheat and use a modern bra and vintage girdle to approximate the 1920's shape but after asking my friends I realized that I was never going to be happy with that and I didn't want to make a silk gown based off of an improper silhouette for the period.  So I took a slight detour and drafted a brassiere from a 1922 manual, made of cotton twill.

Silly face costume pictures are my forte!

After that finished (and still isn't really finished, I need to bind the edges) I could get on to the main event.  I began by drafting up a pattern for a 1929 Robe de Style in Women's Wear of the 1920's.  It wasn't too far from my measurements so it didn't take much work.  Unfortunately though, this style of gown had a bust dart, a shoulder seam, and no sleeves so I had to change it a lot before it would work for my Robe de Style.

The first mock up went well.  It was a little tighter than I had hoped for and there was still the no-sleeves issue, but all in all the first try fit decently well.

I then went on to try and fix the no-sleeves issue.  I lined up the two pattern pieces on paper so that the shoulder seams touched and the CF seams were even, and redrew the pieces so that there was no shoulder seam and also a short sleeve.

Other than slight fixes on the side seams and neckline, I really liked how it turned out.  Since I had a week to make it, at that point, I fixed a few things as I altered the old pattern (added a dip in front, narrowed the neckline, shortened the sleeves) and didn't mock up again.  And boy, hindsight is 20/20... but we'll get to that later.

I purchased the cream silk taffeta from Renaissance Fabrics and decided to shop for silks for the flowers from my own stash since I wasn't dead-set on being nitpicky about the colors of the flowers for my new gown.  I chose the four on the left since the colors worked well together and they were all shot silks.  I also used black silk for some of the flowers and green/black shot silk for the leaves.

So, by the end of Sunday evening the cream silk and muslin lining were both cut out, and by the end of Monday evening the bodice was complete and the skirt panels had been sewn together.  Talk about relief!  That was exactly the confidence boost I needed to keep me going.  I tried on the bodice after I finished it and the neckline was a lot higher than I anticipated, so I cut it down about two inches and it was a very quick fix.

Pre-neckline fix, and it doesn't much look like the original!

Much better.

Tuesday's job was attaching the skirt to the bodice, and I wasn't looking forward to this because gathering is my least favorite thing in the sewing universe!  I will pleat any day, hundreds of yards of fabric, but gathering? Don't make me do it!

To help, I used my pressing ham.  I stuck pins directly into the ham once I got the gathering to a fullness I liked, and then carefully repositioned them when I was finished gathering that section.

I tried to do stroked gathers but then I half-assed it and they ended up being just like regular gathers.  Oh well.  For time's sake, at least the skirt was on the gown!

For the flower petals, I figured out that the petals on the original were basically a heart with the point cut off, so I used this to design mine.  I measured the skirt to figure out how large the flowers needed to be and cut the petals accordingly.  For ages and ages I cut those petals that I didn't have any energy left in me on Tuesday night to sew them together.  I decided I would leave those for Wednesday morning/afternoon... and of course I did maybe 10% of all of the petals I needed to do.  My machine started acting up as well and I decided to take a break from sewing on Wednesday night and start anew on Thursday.

Except Thursday was the last day I really had to work on it, since Friday I had to drive to Louisville right after class and Saturday was the event!  I buckled down and sewed all the flower petals together first (my machine was threaded with that color thread), then went about finishing the rest of the gown.  I finished the waist edge of the bodice and made the placket with snap tape, then tried on the gown.

That in my hand?  That's bunches of excess fabric.

Yep... it didn't fit!  And not only didn't it fit, it REALLY didn't fit.  This was way far outside of normal 1920's looseness and ended up just being bad planning on my part.  I should have made that muslin!!  I'm attempting to figure out what caused the fit to be so bad.  I might have added a little too much when I redrew the pattern pieces, and I also haven't been in excellent health lately so I could have lost some weight in between fitting the muslin and trying the dress on.  It was likely a combination of the two.

After that initial freak out, I pulled some fabric near the back darts and realized that I could easily make those larger and fix the shape of the dress without ruining the front.  Success!!  I still kept it a little loose, since even the Robe de Style wasn't super tight on the figure.

Much better!

The back doesn't look perfect, but hey, in comparison... After the sleeves were hemmed I went on to flip out the flower petals and assemble them.  That took forever (it's a theme!).  I ended up zig-zagging the petals onto a circle of felt, then hand stitching a center over the stitches.

By the end of Thursday night, I had a dress almost complete and trim almost complete!  I was worried that it wouldn't be done in time but everything went so well.  I didn't get to sleep until terrifyingly late on Thursday but it was definitely worth it.

On Friday I hemmed the gown and finished the flowers, then pinned them onto the dress.  I basted the flowers onto the gown on Saturday (it's not a Melissa project if I'm not working right before the event) and went out in search of chicken noodle soup.

The event itself was lovely!  I didn't dance much, and in fact spent most of my time in the whist room with my friends.  I accessorized the gown with some jewelry my dear friend Toni lended to me, gloves from Toni as well, seamed stockings, character shoes from ye olde days of musical theater, and a lovely tiara that I won in a giveaway from Julie - The Fat Reenactress.  Please enjoy the pictures!

Sam went in his usual 1816 garb.

I'm so happy with how this gown turned out!

Awesome tiara and crazy makeup - I would never do this makeup out of a period setting but in the 1920's, it's an absolute must!

Toni, the Accessory Queen herself, and her adorable pups Bingley and Tilney!

The Challenge: February: Blue
Fabric: Cream silk taffeta and silk taffeta in cool colors - blues, purples, and green. Some black, as well, for good measure.
Pattern: 1929 Robe de Style from Women's Wear of the 1920's with massive alterations.
Year: 1922
Notions: Cream cotton thread, cream silk thread, cotton muslin for lining, black polyester thread, polyester felt.
How historically accurate is it? I did use polyester felt and polyester thread because it was what I already had, and the cotton muslin lining is not entirely perfect (they would have used a better quality cotton than what I had on hand).  The placket was also entirely baffling and I probably got that wrong.  Therefore, I'd give it about 85%.
Hours to complete: I'd guess about 30, start to finish.
First worn: Locust Grove Historical Ball, 7 February, 2015
Total cost: Around $70, accounting for the amount of cream silk and the trace amounts of colored silks I used.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Linen Tailcoat, c. 1815

After looking at Sam at Jane Austen Festival and realizing that he was wearing every article of Regency clothing he had, I jumped into a frenzy of sewing for him that hasn't quite stopped.  Number one on the list was a new linen coat for him.  He is now a costumed interpreter at Historic Locust Grove and their period of interpretation is 1816, so he needed a new coat since his late-1790's secondhand coat would not work.  We decided to base it off of this original in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is dated 1815.

We found the perfect fabric at Regency Revisited, which you might recognize from Sam's Civil War-era waistcoat that I made last year.  Thankfully, Walt and Jan still had it in stock and we could get some for this coat!  

We began by mocking up the pattern.  We used Laughing Moon #122 with some alterations to the collar and lapel.

It got off to a rocky start - right off the bat I had to piece the collar because we forgot to cut 4 pieces and only cut two.

Only to find this giant chunk of fabric left over from the waistcoat after all of the piecing!

Next up came padstitching the collar - gotta love it when it stands up by itself!

I'm so happy with my topstitching on the collar and lapel - look how neat it is!

In true Deviant Dressmaker fashion, this was finished the morning of the event. We were hemming and sewing buttons on the coat until the opening of 200 Years on the Ohio!  Oh well, it is finished, and looks amazing.  And a sewing machine never touched it!  Sam has worn it for multiple events since then and it's holding up very well.  I can't say the same of his breeches, but that's a story for another day!

Check him out :)

200 Years on the Ohio - photo by Past Impressions Photography

200 Years on the Ohio - Photo by J. Meyer

During one of my cooking demonstrations at the antiques fair at Locust Grove - Photo by Story Moon Photography

The Locust Grove costumed interpreters perform at the Annual Meeting - Photo by Story Moon Photography

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Louisville Jane Austen Festival

Hello everyone!  Long time, no talk!  In the weeks leading up to the Jane Austen Festival, I feverishly sewed quite a lot, and in the weeks after, I completely crashed from all of the stress.  Finally I'm getting on my feet again!  With all of the stress that Jane Fest brought, it was immensely fun and worth all of the work.

The weekend began with an early morning drive to Louisville in order to drop off two pairs of trousers and one waistcoat for my dear friend Julia at Bingley's Teas.  After that we wondered around for a bit and finally ended up at the home of our dear friends, Brian and Amy, who were hosting my dear Regency sister, Erica.  We sat around, sewed a bit, and ate pizza until we were ready to Twilight Shop.  I wasn't feeling well so I didn't think I wanted to dress out for the shopping... but about 1 hour until showtime I made the snap decision to dress out anyway!  Monsieur Stay-Lacer Brian aided in my dressing and we went and shopped until we dropped.

Mr. Cushing has many talents. Photo by Amy Liebert.

Saturday brought lots of fun!  We spent most of the day practicing our first-person impressions with Brian and Amy, which was quite fun.  I wore a new gown based off of this original from the Bath Fashion Museum:

I decided to shorten the waistband and make the skirt flat-fronted in order for it to be suited for a time closer to 1815 than 1820.

I accessorized with the bonnet I made in Lydia Fast's workshop, with added cherry blossoms.  Photo by Reva Shottenstein.

There was a light rain in the afternoon, so I covered my bonnet with my wool shawl, courtesy of Maggie :) Photo by Janet Abell

Mr. Loomis had a grand old time, getting to join the boys at the Hellfire Club (don't worry, we had our own inaugural meeting of the Sweet Angels Temperance Society) and serving Mr. Cushing as his second in the duel!  We finished the evening with a fun get-together at Brian and Amy's, watching Blackadder and playing Question and Answers.

For Sunday, I refashioned the first Regency gown I made.  I was just a novice seamstress when I had made that gown and it was no longer indicative of my skill as a seamstress.  I threw it into a corner of my closet and vowed never to wear it again.  

Not only was it an earlier style than the period I currently portray, but it also had some crazy horrible stitching, an accidentally unlined back, and overall clumsy construction.

In my scramble to get gowns ready for the festival, I saw this original on Pinterest, and I was absolutely taken.  I knew I needed to make it, and my old gown was the perfect canvas to start on.

I essentially tore the gown apart, recut the bodice, added piping to the skirt, changed the sleeves, and put it back together.  Then, in a moment of blind faith, I threw it into a dyepot and prayed!  And I LOVE IT!

Photo by Jessica Bagley.  The hat was purchased from Lydia Fast on Friday night, and worked perfectly with the gown!  Maggie, again, helped me out and made the ruff for me to wear.

All in all, we had the greatest time.  It's hard to express how dear this event is to my heart, and I can't wait for next year!

With love and care,
Mifs. M. Alexander

photo by Dale Matthews

photo by Janet Abell

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Regency Clothing for Mr. Loomis

This past weekend Mr. Loomis and I were honored to go to an event at Historic Tunnel Mill, a lovely up-and-coming historic site just outside of Louisville, KY.  This was Mr. Loomis's first event in 1812 clothing, and he thoroughly enjoyed it.  In preparation I completed a few projects that were in my mind to make since Jane Austen Festival last July--clothes worthy of a Regency Dandy.

First was the shirt.  To be honest, I picked up and put down this project so many times that I forget how long it took me!  I had it on the roster since Fall of last year, and it's not even completed yet (it still needs a few reinforcements).  I used the Kannik's Korner pattern and a very light, delightful handkerchief linen.

A picture of the shirt in progress--I'm immensely pleased with the little chest ruffle.

Next on the list was fall-front breeches.  I used the Kannik's Korner trouser pattern modified into breeches--I think next I'll make him a pair with a shaped seat and a slightly tighter leg.

Sam helped cut them out before a night of English Country Dancing--very appropriate!

Before I put the fall buttons on, this was their state.  Fall fronts really aren't that difficult, it's just a matter of motivation!

Next up was a double breasted waistcoat.  I made the mistake of only getting 1/2 yard of silk (and in a stripe!) so it was a headache to cut it out, but I did it without having to piece anything!  I had made a waistcoat before for my friend David, but it was single breasted and had no welt pockets--needless to say this one was an experience and a half.  I had to alter the pattern to account for the double-breast, had to attach twice the buttons and sew my very first welt pockets ever.  I'm pleased with how it turned out!

This is the waistcoat that served as the main piece of inspiration for Sam's waistcoat.

This is the fabric I had left after cutting the waistcoat out--I really pushed the limits on this one!

Preparing to padstitch (one of my favorite things!)


My first completed welt pocket!  I sewed these very late at night--I was tempted to leave them off of this waistcoat but they really did improve the look.

Since I'm a procrastinator, I didn't get his wool tailcoat finished quite yet, but my dear friends Julie and Terry sold us one of Terry's old tailcoats, which fit Sam impeccably.  He wore a straw hat from Regency Revisited and brown-top boots from Fugawee (a little present for our one year anniversary coming up!)  Here is him all dressed out and looking sharp.

Doesn't he look handsome?

A view of the back

Showing off the waistcoat--we've decided to make the blue wool into a tailcoat that just barely buttons in the front so he can wear it open and show this lovely thing off!

It came down to the wire on a few of the projects but I'm so happy we got him out for his first 1812 event!  He's very excited and can't wait to go to another reenactment--and neither can I!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #5: Bodice

For a recent clothing presentation for my Jane Austen class, I completed a (hasty) reproduction of this gown from an 1812 Costume Parisien fashion plate:

The fabric is a lovely plaid that I got for dirt cheap ($1 a yard!) a while back.  I, of course, have a sizeable stash of white fabric, but since I was making this dress very quickly I didn't want to dip into my strategic muslin reserves.

I cut an 1860's bodice and sleeves out of the fabric before giving up on making it before Gettysburg.  And yes, after making the entire 1812 gown I still have enough for an 1860's sheer!

This was also the first gown that I draped on myself.  I'm decently satisfied with how it turned out.  I think I need to change the placement of the gathers if I make it again.

My first adventure in bodice draping!  I literally threw muslin on myself and fiddled with it until it looked ok.

I began on the gown on Friday evening after class, worked on it all weekend, through the next week (and midterms!) and finally finished it at 3 AM on Friday morning.  I think it turned out pretty well for a 1-week dress, although I am tempted to do a bit of alteration on the ruffle.  That's what happens when you decide to put one on at midnight the night before your presentation!

The day of the presentation I accessorized with my bonnet and a pair of vintage gloves.  Another warning against 3 AM ruffle sewing--look at the bottom of my gown.  See how it is bunched up?  Yeah.  I didn't notice that until looking at these pictures.  Le sigh.

All things considered, it was a fun experience.  Here are a few more pictures of me in the gown (my apologies for it being a bit wrinkled)

The Challenge: #5: Bodice
Fabric: A few yards of plaid 100% cotton lawn, lined in cotton muslin
Pattern: my own
Year: 1812
Notions: Three hooks, some cord for the ruffle, and polyester thread
How historically accurate is it?: All in all I'd say 60% since the bodice is flatlined, most interior seams are sewn by machine, and the specific plaid pattern is debatable.
First worn: For a presentation for my Jane Austen class
Total cost: Less than 10$!

Also, if you're interested, my friend Sabine at Kleiding um 1800 reproduced the same gown.  Go check it out!