Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Regency mourning

Although the "little white dress" of the Regency period might be the iconic gown that the era is best known for, black dresses during this period were also extremely popular and make equally great wardrobe builders.  This past summer, I decided to make a sheer black dress from around 1810 to wear as a mourning gown, and I've worn it to several events and have enjoyed dressing it up with a variety of accessories to get slightly different looks.

My dress is made of mystery-fiber fabric from the clearance bin of a local fabric store, and I think the whole dress ended up costing me around $10.  I sewed much of the dress on the machine, but because it is so sheer, all of the seams are carefully finished by hand on the inside.  To create the pattern for my dress, I used the very helpful diagrams and photos of a roller printed dress from the 19th US Regiment of Infantry Women's Dress page. I started out with double poof sleeves like you see in the original gown, but after wearing the dress that way a few times, I cut off the bottom poof because I thought the single puff was a little less fussy looking.  The dress closes in the back with a drawstring at the top and a single hook at the waist, and I wear it over over a white bodiced petticoat.

Madame Faber, 1816
The first time I wore this dress, I was attending a concert in a park, so I accessorized it with my black shawl, black boots, a black collet necklace and earrings, and a black Regency-style brass tiara/comb which was made by my amazingly talented friend, Megan of the Mistress of Disguise website.  I often think of tiara as a very formal thing, but when you look at Regency-era portraits, it is fairly common to see women wearing these tiara-like combs with daywear, so it's fun to be able to wear a pretty flashy accessory to a less formal event.

Princess Charlotte of Wales, 1816
On it's next wearing, I was attending a Regency ball, so I wanted to dress the outfit up some more.  I switched out the black jewelry for a rhinestone necklace, earrings, and tiara, and I also added a rhinestone clasp at the waistline under my bust. There are quite a few paintings of Regency ladies in black dresses with white satin slippers, so I picked up a pair of white Touch Ups ballet flats and added some silk ribbon ties to create a similar look.  To finish off the outfit, I wore a pair of long white vintage gloves, which really did a lot to make the outfit look more dressy.

Modes et Manières du Jour no. 27

The next time I wore this dress was to the Breakfast with the Bennetts event at Costume College, so I wanted to go for a more casual "at home" look.  I took inspiration from this fashion plate from Modes et Manières du Jour and added a splash of color with a yellow silk turban and a yellow reticule.  I made the turban using a similar method to the tutorial I posted last year, and I also sewed some fake curls to the front edge of the hat so that it would be even easier to get dressed early in the morning.  I also decided to dye my beloved pair of American Duchess nankeen boots with yellow Rit dye, which was a bit scary, but I really like the results.

I also played around with wearing this dress with an antique black lace shawl, black gloves, and my black bonnet with a lace veil over it to create more of a full-mourning look.  I doubt I'll wear it like this to many outings because the veil and shawl are pretty delicate and are prone to getting snagged on things, but it was fun to at least take a nice picture or two.

I do have one additional way that I've worn this dress, but I'll save that for its own post since it is much less orthodox.  So, I'll just end this post with a few more pictures and a "to be continued..."

As usual, more pics can be found on Flickr.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

a hobbit at faire

This year for our annual family trip to the Renaissance Faire, I decided to make myself a hobbit costume.  The theme for the weekend was Octoberfest, and since the female hobbit costumes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy are very dirndl-like, it seemed like a fitting choice.  I also have to confess that I've been daydreaming about a hobbit dress ever since Sarah from the Romantic History blog made her beautiful hobbit gown a few years ago.  Sarah makes hobbit fashion look SO GOOD!  Plus, with my love of home, food, and non-adventure, I've always identified with hobbits, so it was great fun to finally get to dress up like one!  

I started by looking through a bunch of screen caps from the movies and I modeled my dress after some of the styles that I spotted on various hobbit ladies.  My bodice is made of plaid wool cut on the bias, and the front panel is made from contrasting linen fabric with flowered ribbons criss-crossing across the front, similar to the lady on the right of this screenshot.  Like most of the LotR hobbit bodices, mine laces up the back, is bound around the edges with a contrasting fabric, and has decorative trim at the edges of the front panel.  I used my old 16th c. bodice pattern to make my bodice, and I decided to add a few strips of cable ties to the front panel to keep it smooth.  

Almost all of the hobbit ladies in the film are wearing short-sleeved blouses with a ruffle at the cuff.  Most of these blouses are a pale color instead of white, and some are embroidered or have a woven pattern.  My blouse is made of pale green cotton with a subtle woven stripe, and I used a 1980's peasant blouse pattern to construct it.  

My skirt was an older piece that I've had since I first started going to faires, but I dressed it up by adding an apron made out of striped blue and peach cotton. I also wore a gingham kerchief around my shoulders to add another layer to the mixed-matched look.  It was really fun combining so many colors and patterns in one outfit, and I think it gave my dress a fittingly rustic feel.     

Several of the hobbit women in the movie wear new-agey looking pendants on leather cords, so I picked out one of my husband's old stone necklaces to wear. I originally planned on picking out something more dainty to buy while I was the faire, but I liked getting a chance to wear this one, so in the end I decided not to switch.  

Hobbit hair is always curly, and most of the women have bangs or shorter layers on top.  I bought the Delihla wig by Mona Lisa for this costume, and think it worked perfectly for hobbit hair.  I was very pleased with the quality of this wig, and I got complements on my hair all day - I think I need to start wearing this wig all the time!  

I don't remember seeing any of the women in the first LotR movies wearing a hat (they do wear them in the Hobbit trilogy, but those hobbit costumes are more like 18th c. fashions), but I decided to add one for sun protection since it was going to be such a hot day.  I decorated a vintage straw hat that I found in an antique shop with a bit of trim and a cluster of flowers. I LOVE my hat! It's definitely my favorite part of this costume.  

And of course you can't be a hobbit without a pair of big hairy feet, so I ordered a pair of child-sized rubber hobbit feet and stitched them to a pair of my old leather clogs.  I got the idea from this tutorial for hobbit shoes, but I thought that the child-sized feet wouldn't be so big that I would trip over them all day.  After they were attached to my shoes, I repainted them with acrylic paint to make them look more realistic.  They were obviously fakes if you look close enough, but I left my skirt pretty long so that you would mostly just see the toes peeking out as I walked, and I was pretty happy with the effect.  

Here are a few more pictures from my day at faire, and you can see some additional shots on Flickr.