Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dutch print madness

Around the beginning of July, I stumbled across a photo of a fabulously kooky mixed-and-matched print outfit from the 1770s.  OMG, I was in love!  It was so different from how you usually see printed garments worn, and I loved the carefree combination of patterns and colors.  It felt wrong, but somehow oh so right!

At first I still had a hard time believing that 18th c. women actually wore different prints together like this, but when I started poking around in period illustrations, I discovered that this example is actually quite tame compared to some of the wackadoodle combinations that show up in period artwork.  I gathered some examples and put them in a Pinterest board, and any time I started getting cold feet about making my own mix-and-match print outfit, I would go back and look through them again to reassure myself that I hadn't completely lost my marbles.

What I discovered is that this style is much more middle class and rural in nature, and you can definitely see the origins of folk dress in this type of look.  Also, while I found examples from a number of countries, it seems to be the most popular in Dutch fashions, which makes sense considering that this was the home for a lot of the manufacturing of printed chintzes.

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I never thought I would find appropriate prints that I could afford for this project, but just when I had given up hope, I lucked out and found some $19 Indienne-style printed curtain panels at Lowe's Hardware while I was shopping for a lawn mower.  I took that as a sign from the costume gods that I MUST make this outfit!  One curtain became my petticoat, and then I had another amazing stroke of luck when I discovered that a local quilting store called Happiness is Quilting carries a wide range of Den Haan & Wagenmakers reproduction Dutch chintzes. OMG, fabric *squee!*  The reproduction chintz is crazy expensive, but I realized that I could make the infamous Costume Close-Up swallowtail jacket with just  a yard of fabric, so I decided to go ahead and splurge on it.  I'm really glad I got to look through a lot of the prints in person because some of the colors look quite different in real life, and it really helped to see the scale of the prints together.

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The entire outfit is 100% hand sewn using period techniques.  I've been costuming for over a decade now, but hand sewing a whole dress is a first for me, and I'm really proud of myself for pulling it off.  It actually went much faster than expected, and I totally enjoyed the process.  I used the jacket tutorial and petticoat tutorials from the blog Fashionable Frolic to help me figure out the construction techniques, and I am SO grateful to her for sharing those incredibly helpful guides.  The only change that I made was to modify the jacket so it closes in the front with hooks instead of lacing over a stomacher.  This particular jacket pattern is so crazy popular with 18th c. costumers and reenactors that I just wanted mine to be a little bit different.

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I know that the mixed print look is a bit bizarre to our modern eyes, so I also made a solid colored wool petticoat to wear with the jacket when I want to be more "normal" looking.  I definitely need a few more petticoats to wear under this one to fluff my skirt out a bit more, but I have plenty of time to go back and do that in the future.  I also thought it might be nice to make a silk petticoat so I could dress it up a little and hopefully have it pass for casual daywear for a more upper class lady.

For the accessories, I'm wearing a simple linen cap made from my own trial-and-error pattern, a windowpane checked linen neckerchief, and a semi-sheer silk apron.  I'm not a huge fan of caps and aprons because they feel so butter-churner-y to me, but it is almost impossible to find an image of a middle-class woman in the 1770's without these accessories, so I finally gave in and embraced my inner churner.  I actually wanted to wear a patterned apron or neckerchief to add yet another layer a print madness to my ensemble, but I ran out of money so I had to settle for solids from my stash.  But that's probably for the best.  I wouldn't want to cause permanent eye-crossing damage to innocent bystanders.

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I am a very matchy-matchy person by nature, so I think I was drawn to this project because it really forced me to get out of my modern mindset and push my own boundaries.  I know it's not a look that everyone will love, but I really enjoyed this little foray into Dutch print madness.  It was definitely a fun change of pace.  If you are interested, I have even more pictures of this outfit on flickr.

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36 comments:

Jo said...

I love the mismatched prints! Love them! Your costumes always look so good. Not just good, but somehow belonging to a real person, not costume-y. This one is another beauty.

Lauren R said...

Wonderful article, references, and of course, your finished outfit. You are a constant inspiration to me, Jen!

Agnes said...

Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful!!! all the prints are just smashing together.

thepragmaticcostumer said...

I love the mash-up! The Dutch certainly know how to be fashion fabulous. The solid apron and cap actually tie the two prints together beautifully. Definitely jealous. :)

ravenessdotcom said...

It really looks wonderful. Who takes the pictures?

Lorna McKenzie said...

Totally fabulous, you look like you have stepped out of a Dutch print, hand sewn as well, Huzzah for that effort. The whole ensemble works so well.

Loren Dearborn said...

So pretty, I really love this idea and how you brought it to life.

Andrew Schroeder said...

You look great! I do have to wonder, though, whether that jacket and petticoat combo may have been a case of the institution that owns them pairing them together, when they weren't necessarily worn together.

K2 said...

Oooh. I would love to see it with a third print for the apron. In the interest of being authentic, of course.

Jen Thompson said...

ravenessdotcom - I take all the pictures by myself with a tripod and automatic timer. It takes a lot of trial and error to get a good shot, but I'd really rather do it myself than make somebody else takes pics of me. I always feel so self conscious when other people take pics of me... not to mention guilty for taking up their time.

Andrew - who knows if that specific jacket and petticoat were worn together originally, but there are lots of illustrations showing women in mis-matched print outfits, so that is definitely a documentable look.

K2 - I totally agree! I'm hoping that someday I can add a patterned bib apron to the mix on this outfit. It would be so crazy, but so authentic!

saraquill said...

Yay for the color explosion!

Kendra said...

SO PRETTY! Embrace your inner churner ;)

I love it, it's super pretty, and I agree, could totally be dressed up. You always look like you're wearing CLOTHES, and this is another example. Gorgeous!

The Choll said...

I have been gleefully stealing pictures off of your Pinterest board on 18th century mix-n-match for weeks. I have a pet peeve about the reenacting "rule" regarding mixing patterns. You wear the jacket and petticoat beautifully!

eva´s kleidertruhe said...

OMG! You look fabulous!!!

Karen said...

They really work and there's historical precedent - I think they are just fabulously done - its so hard to discipline oneself to get the right fabrics, the right techniques, to make believable real looking clothes and you've done it. Love the little scarf- its just right too!

Kleidung um 1800 said...

I love your ensemble and you do look perfect with the cap and apron...my favourite picture is the one with the basket full of apples!
And "yah" for handsewing! Isn't the process itself wonderful? I wish it would become as popular as (hand)knitting and more people would start seeing it as fun/pleasure rather than a duty/labour.
Sabine

Eva said...

I think you look absolutely wonderful and I really enjoy your Pinterest collection and it may even make me do something new 18th century, because I love them. Since you know me I guess you are not surprised by this ;)

Maggie said...

I LOVE this outfit on you! You look wonderful and not butter-churny! The photos you took are gorgeous too! <3

Tonya said...

Good gracious, the arch and apple pics could be paintings! It's absolutely fabulous!!!

Erin Thornton/Emelote of Calais said...

I love the look of this outfit! Just keep adding prints to it as time goes on...maybe add a printed apron later...the great thing about this outfit, is that as you find fabrics it can change the outfit! I love it!

Lindsey said...

That is so beautiful! I don't think the mix and match prints is eye-searing at all, it's just lovely and eclectic! And the fit is just perfect. What a nice surprise. ;)

opusanglicanum said...

I think its brave to handsew cotton - I oftne handsew outfits of linen, silk or wool, but i absolutely hate sewing cotton.

my mum researches english folk costume and they're often quite mix and match as well, its not that uncommon

i think it looks good

Cathlin said...

I completely adore this look! I love the prints together. It's just wonderful!

Alexa said...

This is so cute, I'm dying! I noticed that most of your pinterest references were German or Dutch. Did you find anything indicating that American or British women did this same thing so often? (At least middle class, I mean... I think lower-class would wear whatever combination they wanted, getting clothes second-hand and such.) I really want to do this but my reenacting group is never going to go for it unless we get more American references :) Any suggestions of where I can look?

Keep up the awesome research -I always love your posts!

MrsC said...

It makes so much sense, by mixing up patterned pieces, you get more combos and more wear out of all of them. And patterned fabric is more practical as it doesn't show stains and wear as much as plain. Also I wonder if in Holland at the time, the chintzes were a cheaper option, or at least they emulate upper class brocades and embroidered fabrics but at 'affordable'prices? So a combo of pragmatism and extravagance - sounds very middle calss Dutch to me! ;-) Beautifully made too!

Laurie said...

Beyond stunning, I want to do this!

fiofiorina said...

Fabulous! And huzzah! for interesting print mixes!

An Historical Lady said...

Great job! I have long been a fan of the Dutch chintzes at Happiness is Quilting, but have not yet purchased them as they are frightfully expensive! You look lovely...
http://anhistoricallady.blogspot.com

Bronwyn Caldwell said...

May I ask how you got your hair to poof up in front? I have been trying to achieve this look, complemented with my cap, for ages, with no luck!

E.L. Silfies said...

Your photography is beautiful, not jarring at all to the feeling of the pieces.

Lady D said...

I love this outfit. Maybe its coz my ancestors around this time came from holland...or that I love combining prints an a reckless fashion.

Claartje Steenbergen-Dekker said...

Maybe because I'm Dutch but the mixed pattern thing doesn't look weird to me, haha.

I think you did a great job, the skirt and top are wonderful

Alicja Byrska said...

Ach!!!

Amanda Hill said...

Hello! Do you make dresses on commission? I am looking for someone to make a historic dress for me. My email is amanda_jo_hill@yahoo.com if you are interested.

Abigail Shelly said...

Gorgeous! May I ask where you got the pattern for the cap? I don't believe I've seen one like that before and I like!

Abigail Shelly said...

Gorgeous! May I ask where you got the pattern for the cap? I don't believe I've seen one like that before and I like!

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