Monday, December 19, 2016

a round gown with Vandyke scollops

I have always had an obsession with quirky trends from fashion history, and one of my favorites is a late 18th-century fad that used a row of small triangles to decorate the borders of gowns, hats, and shoes.  I have seen modern historians refer to this design feature as "sawtooth" trim, but the the English fashion magazines from this era always refer it to as "Vandyke scollops" - named after the large pointed lace trim that was common in the works of the 17th century Dutch artist, Anthony Van Dyke.  This style of trim seemed to be quite popular for about 20 years, and it not only reflected the Georgians' love of sartorial historicism during this period, but it also was a surprisingly easy and cost-effective decorative technique.  With just a bit of scrap fabric, a seamstress could create eye-catching and fashionable embellishment on an otherwise simple dress.  
This past summer, I found myself in need of a new gown to wear to the Gala at Costume College, so I decided to make a new silk round gown and matching sleeveless spencer with Vandyke scollops.  I based the construction of my dress on this Italian round gown and spencer from the Met, although I did change a few details, such as using shorter sleeves and raising the waistline so that it better matched the Gallery of Fashion illustration from 1796 shown above.  

I was quite fascinated by the construction of this Italian gown's bodice, since it seemed to feature flaps that are gathered up on cords in the front.  Most round gowns from this period have the bodice and skirt all in one piece, but in this gown, you can see that the bodice is more heavily gathered that the skirt, which would help to fine-tune the fullness of each piece.  Although there aren't enough photos to tell how the original bodice is constructed under the flap, I used an educated guess and decided to make a lightly gathered bodice attached to the skirt, and then a heavily gathered section to cover it.  This type of double-layer construction would also explain a few surviving gowns with odd flappy bits at the sides that museums never seem to know how to style.  

The Vandyke trim is quite bold - especially on the front of the spencer - and while I do like quirky fashions, it's nice that I can also wear the dress without the spencer for a slightly less busy look.  

I am wearing this dress with my transitional stays, a taffeta petticoat, an old velvet turban, and my new muff.  As usual, 1790s fashions tend to not be the easiest style for modern audiences to appreciate, but for some reason I adore them!  The skirts are so full and the waists are so high that it does create a very odd silhouette, but when these outfits are all put together with the right accessories, I think they feel so glamorous and dramatic - especially from the back!  

If you'd like to see more photos of this outfit, you can find them on flickr.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

1795 Half-Mourning Robe

Every year, the DFWCG holds a Georgian Picnic, and as usual, I waited until the very last minute to decide what to wear.  I had originally planned on wearing something old, but my state of mind since the election has been pretty gloomy, so I decided to wear my heart on my sleeve and make another mourning gown.

I was originally inspired by a fashion plate from Gallery of Fashion showing an "afternoon dress, in half-mourning" that combined a black robe with a white round gown.  I already had a white gown, and I found a 3 yard piece of black wool in my stash that would work great for the robe. Luckily, I also had some good 1790s patterns that I had drafted for previous projects, so it ended up being a really quick and easy garment to put together.

A black robe on its own is pretty boring, but I also found lots of examples of 1790s robes edged with fur, which seemed like a perfect choice for a November picnic (you can see a variety of robe fashion plates here).  I picked up a yard of faux fur and used this to trim the edges of the robe, and I also made a new muff since the 1790s is ALL about the accessories.

Turbans are the most common type of headwear that women seemed to wear with this type of gown, and the crazy-long feathers add such a fun finishing touch.  Since I was short on time, I made a really simple fixed turban by tacking a long strip of silk over a wool hat blank.  I also wore my curly grey wig to try to mimic the look of the ladies in these fashion plates.

So that's pretty much it!  My obsession with 1790's fashion knows no bounds, and it was a lot of fun to make another robe to add to my growing collection.

As usual, I'll post a few of my favorite photos here, and the rest are on Flickr.

Friday, May 27, 2016

rewear and refresh

Soooo... it's been 6 months since my last blog post, and I thought I'd drop in and let you all know what I've been up to. I had a big push of productivity last spring and summer, but then I crashed after Costume College and desperately needed some time to hibernate and recuperate. It's been good. I really needed a break from sewing to recharge my batteries a bit. But I haven't stopped going to costume events during this past year - I've just been rewearing older pieces from my wardrobe and giving each outfit a few tweaks to make them feel more fun.

I started off last January by wearing my mourning calico to a exhibition of artwork by Gustave Caillebotte. I took this opportunity to make a new set of white collar and cuffs to finish off the dress. The inner collar and cuffs are items that you almost always see in original Victorian fashion plates and photographs, but as modern costumers, we tend to leave them off - probably because they were separate items and aren't typically included in the display of surviving Victorian garments in museums, so our eyes aren't as accustomed to seeing them there. But 19th century women used the inner collar and cuffs to protect the dress from dirt and body oils, and they could be easily removed and laundered, so it makes sense that they were essential finishing touches during the period. I ran out of time and didn't get to finish my own collar and cuffs for the first wearing of this dress at Costume College, but the dress feels SO much more complete now that I have them.

You can see the difference between the dress with and without the collar/cuffs in these pictures, and I also wore a new bow at the neckline to change things up a bit more. It's a subtle change, but I like it a lot better this way. The cuffs are just rectangular strips of cotton edged with eyelet that I tacked to the inside of the sleeves. The collar came from a mysterious little pattern on page 294 of Fashions of the Gilded Age, Vol. 2. The diagram is not labeled and there's no illustration showing what the pattern piece looks like when made up, but I suspected that it was one of those jaunty winged collars that you see so often during the natural form years. Sure enough - it worked perfectly!  

My next event was a trip to the Cowgirl Museum, so I decided to restyle my Victorian cycling outfit with some new accessories to give it more of an Old West look. This one didn't require any sewing at all, which was a wonderful treat. I just wore a different hat, a bandanna, some leather gloves, and an old belt and pouch with a turquoise brooch in the place of a buckle. I wish I could claim that the holster was mine too, but this piece was just on loan from my friend Christy for this picture.  

I found it amusing that Christy had also restyled one of her old dresses to give it a cowgirl vibe, and we happened to have worn these outfits together at another event 4 years ago. Even when we were supposed to be proper ladies, we still couldn't resist pretending to be outlaws! I guess it just runs in our Texas blood.

Finally, the local costume guild organized an 18th c. dinner party, so I decided to wear my black chemise once again. To change this one up, I wore my big embroidered kerchief, a new purple striped sash, and I rewound my turban with some purplish-grey silk. But most importantly, I styled a new wig that matches my natural haircolor, which was a HUGE improvement! (Good lord! What was I thinking with that crazy blond mess on my head?!)  

I have a bad habit of wanting to make new costumes for EVERY event that I go to, but this year has made me grateful to have some good pieces in my wardrobe that I can rework and rewear in different ways. Plus, I've really enjoyed focusing on the stress-free fun of wearing costumes vs. the often exhausting process of making them. I have to admit that I'm itching to make some new things again, and I've already started one big project that I'll be sharing here soon. But hopefully I'll be able to stay a little more balanced with my work load in the future, and I think this sewing hiatus has taught me to appreciate my older costumes a lot more than I used to.

BTW - if you'd like to see more pics from my recent costumed adventures, feel free to check out my flickr. Even when I'm not blogging, flickr is one place that always stays updated because I like to share my pics with my wonderful friends in the DFWCG. And if you happen to be in the area - come out and join us! We'll be adding a bunch of new events to our calendar over the next week!