Sunday, February 19, 2012

Winter of the White Dress


This weekend was the Antique Elegance Show, and I ended up wearing my white 1790's round gown for the 3rd time in 4 months.  I think that's a new record for me since I usually hate to repeat costumes.  But each time I've worn it in a slightly different way, which is one of the most wonderful things about Regency dresses - they are so versatile!

This time, I wore the dress alone with just a silk sash wrapped around my waist and shoulders in a way that is similar to these illustrations.  I've read that this revolutionary fad was known as croisures à la victime, making a symbolic "x-marks the spot" on a woman's back.

 I'm not sure if this is true or just a fashion myth, but here's an interesting webpage about it.

I also wore my new-and-improved paisley shawl.  After I wore it last month, I decided to buy a second shawl that was the same as the first and sew them together to make one super-long shawl, which is much more appropriate for this era. I'm so much happier with it now, and it might be my new favorite accessory ever.  I also wore my turban from the first wearing of this dress, but I left off the wheat spray so I wouldn't be as likely to knock things over with my crazy headwear in the booths while shopping.

I didn't buy very much this time at the show, but I had fun hanging out with some friends, lusting over the gorgeous fur muffs and seeing all the antique dresses. And as always, it was wonderful to have an excuse to dress up.  Here are a few more pictures of my dress just for the heck of it.



Saturday, February 11, 2012

DIY spats pattern

The 1890's cycling costume that I'm working on right now shows off a bit of leg, so I need to pay more attention to my footwear than normal.  I usually just wear a pair of black pumps and black stockings with my Victorian costumes, but I decided to make myself a pair or tall spats, also known as gaiters, for this costume.  I actually have a period pattern for knee-high gaiters taken from a Victorian fashion magazine, but I've discovered from previous attempts to make them that my ankles and feet are way too big to fit the pattern very well.  So instead of making a lot of alterations to that pattern, I thought it might be fun to show you haw to make your very own spats pattern.  These work great with steampunk and neo-Victorian outfits too if you are not into the historical costuming thing.
Step 1: Figure out what shoes you are going to wear with you spats or gaiters.  Basic pumps with a high vamp work the best, but spats cover a world of shoe flaws, so you could make these to go with a lot of different styles.  Bonus points if you can find some pumps with spool heels.  Put on one shoe, then find a sacrificial pair of stockings and cut it off at the thigh.  Put the stocking on OVER your shoe.

Step 2: Get some duct tape and start wrapping it around your leg.  Start at the ankle first, then work your way up.  DO NOT pull the tape too tight so that it squeezes the flesh in your leg.  You just want it to be snug and fit smoothly - not reshape anything.  I prefer to use smaller cuts of tape that don't even reach all the way around my leg because there is less wrinkling that way.  Since most of your leg is shaped like a cone vs. a tube, it helps to angle your tape diagonally instead of trying to wrap it in perfectly horizontal rings.  Switch directions with the tape and layer the pieces until you cover the entire surface of your calf (or however high you want your spats/gaiters to go).

Step 3: Next, you will start covering the foot with tape, but leave the ankle alone for now.  Start by creating an anchoring strip that wraps around the entire foot at the instep. This keeps the stocking from shifting around on your foot while you work.  Continue covering the top and sides of the foot with smaller pieces of tape going whichever direction will give you the flattest surface.  You don't need a ton of layers, but try to make sure that your foot is covered with 2 layers in most areas to make sure the tape doesn't stretch or slide.  You don't have to worry about covering the toes or the sole since these areas are not included in the spats.

Step 4:  Start filling in the area between the ankle and the leg.  Try to use an X pattern with the tape to cover the larger spaces, then fill in the gaps with smaller cuts of tape.  Don't be afraid to cut narrower strips if that helps - especially for the front or back of the ankle where the curve of the foot is the most extreme.   Make sure you are standing or at least have your leg at a right angle to the floor for this step or else your finished spats won't fit right.  Once you get the ankle covered, try not to walk around anymore since it will cause wrinkling in the tape if you bend your foot too much, and that makes it more difficult to trace an accurate pattern.

Step 5:  The heel is one of the trickiest parts to cover since it is so round.  I wrapped a single piece of tape around the back then snipped the tape every inch or so and overlapped the cut edges to make it lay flat over the curve.   You could also cut narrower pieces of tape to cover the heel since the smaller the tape is, the less it will wrinkle.  It doesn't have to be PERFECTLY flat, but you just don't want large wrinkles or places where the tape gapes away from your foot.

Step 6: You now have a fully wrapped leg. Hooray! Take a sharpie and draw a line down the middle of your leg in the center-front and center-back. If you have somebody who can do this for you, it is a huge help. If you don't have anybody there, all you really need is the center-front line, and then you can draw in the rest once it is off your foot.

Step 7: With a pair of sharp scissors, cut the tape and stocking down the center front line. Once you get past your ankle, you should be able to slip the entire thing off, and then you can put you hand inside of the taped form so that you can better guide your scissors to make sure you don't cut your shoe. I also recommend marking the opening of your shoe on the tape before you cut it off so that you are sure that you spat or gaiter is big enough to cover the edges of your shoe. I couldn't feel the edge of my shoe through the tape while it was one me, so I had to wait until I could remove my foot and then I could feel the edge and trace it.

If you didn't do this while the form was still on your body, draw a line down the outside of the leg for the button opening. I started drawing this opening like Victorian button boots where the edge curves to the front of the foot, but then I looked up some pictures of tall spats, and I realized that this line should be straight and end between the heel and the buckle that holds the spat on your foot. I corrected this before I cut it out. You will also need to draw the shape that you want the bottom and top edges to be. Some period spats had a little dip where the strap that goes under your foot attaches, but others are smooth all the way around the bottom.

Step 8: Cut your tape pattern along the center back and side button lines and lay the pieces out on paper. The tape pieces will probably not lay completely flat, but smooth them out as much as you can and trace around the pieces. You will need to add an underlap on the side opening for the buttons, and a seam allowance to the center front and center back seams. If you are making your spats out of a fabric that frays, you will also need to add seam allowance to the top and bottom edges unless you are going to use some type of binding for the edges.

BTW, I ended up with a curve in my pattern when I cut the button opening line down the side of the leg.  I haven't noticed this shape in period spats - it is usually very straight.  I'm not sure if I am going to keep it curvy or try to straighten the edge out some more.

Step 9: Make a mockup and try on your gaiters or spats.  I made my mockup out of craft felt, but anything sturdy like thick denim or upholstery fabric would also work great.  Pin them closed on the side, then mark any areas that need adjustments.  On my gaiters, I had to take out some of the curve over the calf, and I also tweaked the shape of the flap over the foot a bit.  Transfer your adjustments back to the paper pattern, and if necessary, make a 2nd mockup to test your changes.

Congratulations!  You now have a custom pattern for Victorian or Edwardian spats!

Traditionally, spats and gaiters were made out of wool felt, leather, or canvas, but you could also make them out of other types of fabric.  And if you didn't want them to button up the sides, lacing or buckles would do the trick nicely as well.  At this point, I need to go buy some fabric and buttons, but then I hope to come back with Part 2 of this tutorial to tell you how to construct your fabulous footwear.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cycling costume, take 2

So after letting the mid-1890's jacket sit in the naughty pile for a few weeks, I finally decided to put it on indefinite hold and focus on something easier for our upcoming Steampunk event.  This is an incredibly busy time of year for me, and while I think the jacket could still be amazing if done right, I don't think I have the time or patience for all that tailoring right now.

I'm still going to make an 1890's cycling costume though - but this time it will be a blouse and skirt.  Once again, I made a Pinterest board of inspiration pics to get me started.  There are some amazing outfits there, but I was most attracted to the look of a calf-length skirt and a plaid or striped blouse:

Source: via Jennifer on Pinterest

Source: via Jennifer on Pinterest

So now that I have a plan, the next step is to come up with a pattern.  I pulled out my two Kristina Harris books on 1890's patterns, and I found a blouse from 1894 that I liked.  I used my trusty apportioning scales from the Edwardian Modiste book to enlarge the pattern (technique previously blogged about here), and once again, it fit great with just a few tiny alterations.  But I wasn't crazy about the huge sleeves in this pattern, so I decided to exchange them with a different style.  Seven sleeves later, and I think we have a winner!   LOL!  But honestly, I was having a blast drawing up these patterns and testing them out, and I thought it would be useful for both me and others to see a variety of sleeve styles from these books in the flesh.  By the way, I'm abbreviating the book titles to AVFP for Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns and 59ATCFP for for 59 Authentic Turn-of-the-Century Fashion Patterns.  So here are my options:

1. Small sleeve puff, 1893, AVFP p. 32
Before I started making these patterns, I thought this would be my favorite.  I still think the sleeve is cute, but it is smaller than I thought it would be, and I think it works better as a double puff like you see in the illustration.  The puff could easily be altered to be larger if I wanted to do that, but I think I would prefer to stick closely to the original patterns for this project.  In this picture, I'm wearing the puff part with a tight fitting sleeve lining that comes with a lot of the leg-o-mutton patterns.

2. Medium sleeve puff, 1893, AVFP p. 92
After seeing that the first puff was too small, I thought that this one would be a perfect fit, but I was pretty unhappy with the way it made up.  The sleeve puff seemed much more rounded in the illustration, and mine is annoyingly long and flat.  Again, I could add more width on my own, but I thought I'd try the next size up and see how I liked that.

3. LARGE sleeve puff, 1894, AVFP p. 99
OMG what a difference a year makes!  These Belle Epoque ladies were not messing around when it came to sleeves!  This is the pattern that I am using for my bodice, so I figured that I might as well try the larger sized puff while I was at it, but now I feel like I'm being eaten alive by my sleeve.  And this is a little limp too - imagine what it would be like with stuffing and that extra ruffle on top.  Madness! 

Unfortunately, there is no in-between size to bridge the gap between the too-small medium puff and the gargantuan large puff in these books.  There is one sleeve style with a double puff that might be less ostentatious, but I really didn't want a double puff for this particular outfit, so I didn't bother to make that one up.

4. Sleeve for a stout woman, 1893, 59ATCFP p. 79
So now that I exhausted my straight-from-the-pattern puff sleeve options, I decide to try some leg-o-mutton styles.  This one was disappointingly small compared to the illustration.  It was slightly wider that the sleeve lining that I had been using with the puff sleeves, but there wasn't a lot of fullness at the top.  It looked like a sleeve from the early 90's vs. the mid 90's, which probably makes sense since a lot of the stout patterns are intended for older women who are less likely to follow the latest trends.  And BTW, this sleeve pattern was designed for women with a 36" bust or larger, so their definition of "stout" should be taken with a grain of salt. 

5. Wrinkled muttonleg, 1893, 59ATCFP p. 66
The illustration for this one looked like a hot mess, but I was pleasantly surprised by the way that it turned out in the flesh.  The sleeve-head has obvious fullness without being ridiculously huge, and there is some gathering down the length of the arm which gives it some interesting horizontal wrinkles in addition to the fullness at the top.  I really liked this one, but while I was on a roll, I thought that I would try two more mutton styles to see how they compare.

6. Balloon sleeve, 1893, 59ATCFP p. 54
The illustration for this sleeve looked like it wasn't much bigger than the wrinkled muttonleg, but the real sleeve is actually quite large.  It is just as wide as the mutton leg sleeve shown below, but it's even taller so it drapes more.  This is a perfect example of how deceptive the fashion drawings can be.  I don't hate this one, but it is so floppy that I'm afraid that I'd be constantly fussing with all that extra fabric to get it to flop in an attractive manner.

7. Mutton leg sleeve, 1894, AVFP p. 57
I wasn't planning on making this one up since the illustration makes it look MASSIVE, but after I realized that it was smaller than the balloon sleeve, I thought I'd give it a try.  There's nothing wrong with this sleeve, and I think if I tightened up the forearm a little it would be pretty cute.  Even though I don't think I'll use it for my blouse, I'm glad I tried it.  I've never been a big fan of the huge 1890's sleeves, but this actually wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  

So now after seeing my 7 options, I think I like #5, the wrinkled muttonleg, the best, which was totally a surprise for me.  But I think it strikes a nice balance between being too big and too small, and the unusual method of gathering gives it some nice visual interest.  And as a bonus, I think it looks very similar to the charming blouse seen in this illustration.  Now on to the real sewing!

Source: via Jennifer on Pinterest