Category Archives: 18th Century Costumes

The Scarlet Pimpernel

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The Scarlet Pimpernel
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They seek him here, they seek him there, Those Frenchies seek him everywhere

Wherein my husband is a very “good sport”

Or at least that’s what my mother persists in telling me constantly.  Jenny-Rose and her family (they’re all just as amazing and talented but I don’t think they have blogs…) decided to host a very swanky 18th century dinner party called The Pimpernel Dinner, and one cannot have a Pimpernel Dinner without well a Pimpernel. So who’s got a husband with great acting chops and will wear whatever he’s handed? *looks around the room*…*crickets*…shit I’m making menswear again aren’t I?

Now I’m really not a fan of menswear making for a few reasons.

  1. I don’t get to swan around in the results and look pretty.
  2. Men are strangely shaped with bits in places. BITS I SAY.
  3. Pants.

The Inspiration:

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And that sassy pose

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They seem to have suffered microcephaly a lot though.

One of the things I like about this period in menswear is how patently ridiculous it gets. You do see some matched three piece suits, but more often then not it’s a free for all. My friend Ginger nicely picked up some silks in the L.A. Garment district for his jacket and breeches and I found some fabric for the waistcoat online. What I didn’t have a lot of was time (we’ll leave out the part about the party being announced like a year in advance or that I committed to two major events two weeks apart and that was probably maybe my fault…I said we won’t discuss it).


Breeches:

I was trying to keep the budget for this monstrosity to within semi-reasonable levels. I splurged on the silk so one of the ways I save money was to re-use a pattern I had for breeches that was just slightly off period. a68ec9e4f1a67f1d7a0571bf977ae08c

Technically this pattern by Country Wives is for 1800-1825 but the narrow fall is close enough and I was working with what I had.

I shortened the legs, then tried him on the victim husband and took in the legs till we reached foppish-vacuum-sealed and added knee bands. My knee bands gaped just a tiny bit…so bows.

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Waistcoat:

I used the pattern I draped for his Mr. Darcy waistcoat and added to the length and front width. Re-drafted the collar. It’s really a beautifully embroidered waistcoat…too bad you can’t see it worth a damn. I should have just skipped it.

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after party shenanigans


Coat:

For the coat I did spring for a real pattern and bought Laughing Moon 124. A word to younger costumers, when you’re choosing where to invest and where to cut corners. Sometimes if you don’t have the right sleeve pattern it’s worth the money to pay someone else.

Lets take a moment to appreciate the absurdity of the collar. I meant to cut it down to be more proportionate to Rob’s average height, but 11pm Robin forgot. So absurdity it is! For next wearing I would like to properly finish it with all the called for buttons, shorten it about 2″ and shorten the sleeves an inch. But considering I did zero mock ups and just made it…I got away with highway robbery in terms of fit.

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how DARE YOU MADAM! With Modern Mantua Maker.

His stockings were borrowed from my closet, Amanda gave them to me for Christmas a few years ago so I can’t be sure, but knowing her shopping habits they’re from sockdreams. (regardless of these stockings another highly recommended shop). And the absurd pointy shoes were from target the night before. Yeah the costume gods smiled on me on that one.

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There was stiff battle required to save the champagne!

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With two of our three beautiful hosts

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I happily re-wore my copper open robe and feel beautiful

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Did I mention the location was stunning?

Wow you’re still reading? Colour me impressed. Thank you to Ginger for getting fabric in LA, thanks to Jenny-Rose for styling his delightful hair and thanks to my husband for always being a good sport.

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Copper 1790s Open Robe

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Copper 1790s Open Robe

Every year the Dallas Ft. Worth Costumers Guild hosts a stunning Georgian Picnic, and every year us on the east coast wish we were as cool. So this year Amanda and I decided we should have a knock off version here.  Think of it as the bag you buy on the street that’s by “Coach” but they spelled it with a K.


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We set a really wide date range as “Georgian” can go 1714-1830 if you really push it, so anyone who wanted to come could find an outfit. The location we picked was Historic Strawberry Mansion in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia (mostly on a random internet search and let me tell you it was perfection and they are SO NICE). As Strawberry Mansion was heavy remodeled in the Federal Style I decided I wanted something at the turn of the century.

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A well dressed man, the best of accessories

Years ago Amanda gave me this gorgeous copper silk that told me it wanted to be an open robe, then I just hadn’t had an event to make said open robe FOR and it languished…no longer!

Looking around I was heavily inspired by robes with elaborate pleated backs. What can I say I’m incapable of picking the easy thing.

I started with my basic regency bodice, which is a heavily bastardized version of the Simplicity regency pattern. Did two more mock ups than I would like to discuss and cut out the lining from plain cotton broadcloth. Then I cut a width of silk  a few inches longer than my center back length to allow for wiggle room.

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I started by folding the width in half. This silk was 40″ wide giving me 20″ of pleating on each side. But if you had wider fabric you could use deeper pleats or take them all the way to the edges. In the above photo you can see that the first time I pleated it up I went with more vertical parallel pleats and decided they weren’t as flattering as curving them.

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I promise it only LOOKS asymmetrical because I hadn’t trimmed it evenly…and got most of the way through and realized I had 10 pleats on one side and 11 on the other…I curse a lot then fixed it.

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From there it was a “simple” matter of carefully sewing down down the pleats. One at a time.

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After I sewed all the pleats down I laid the pattern back over the back and trued up the piece as it had skewed and stretched with sewing. I folded the side of the side backs down and top stitched them down so they would blend with the rest of the pleats. I hemmed the neckline, armscyes and sewed the two skirt panels together….then I was out of time.

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I had a 12 hour work day and then guests coming and the poor thing was going to be in the UFO bin forever…but did I mention how AMAZING my friends are? I walked in the door from work on Friday night and Carolyn and Taylor were hemming my skirt..and did I mention they’re hella faster than I am at hand sewing?

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TA-DAAAAAAA

Basically what I’m saying is I can claim like 50% of this dress. And I am enterally grateful to them because I felt SO FANTASTIC wearing it. My “turban” is just a strip of leftover silk. I’m wearing the Dames a la mode Jane Austen cross and new turquoise earrings.

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why is my mom always saying he’s such a “good sport”

 

 

I can heartily endorse everyone make an open robe as they are ridiculously fun to swan around in. We’ll just pretend that my hem didn’t get dragged around the lawn…

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And if you get the chance? VISIT STRAWBERRY MANSION

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and never take yourself too seriously

Thank you to Taylor, Carolyn, Adrienne and Amanda for photos!

Lavender Anglaise

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Lavender Anglaise

Once upon a time in a far away land (Pennsylvania circa 2008) I was working as an indentured servant to the lady Joann. I noticed amongst her wares this lavender silk dupioni. Since it was of fairly low quality and left over from someone’s special order it languished, and languished, until finally she let the price go to something I could afford on my pitiful salary. I planned to make the lavender dress in Costume Close Up. Just as soon as I thought my skills would do it justice….

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In the Colonial Williamsburg collection

Then I waited and waited till I achieved the mythical sewing mastery I was hoping for…………………………Finally Amanda asked if I would participate in a “dress in a day” style demo for a The Indian King Tavern where she volunteers, oh and did anyone have a dress length of silk?

When in doubt, if you don’t have the skill level to do your fabric justice? TRICK SOMEONE MORE TALENTED INTO IT!

We began with a linen lining cut to my 18th century body block. Amanda and Alice draped and pinned the en fourreau pleats.  For those NOT 18th century sewing nerds that means that those beautiful pleats going down the back start as one long piece of fabric from neck to floor and the pleats are shaped on the back and flare into the skirt. And when your friends have perfect tiny stitches the effect is quite beautiful. Adrienne worked on the petticoat. I stood there and looked helpful.

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fun fact my left hip is higher, yay scoliosis! 

We got…maybe 2/3 of the dress finished at the demonstration. While we’ve done a dress in a day in the past and ended up with a lot more dress, it’s just slower when you’re enjoying chatting with the public.

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I got the better end of the deal, it was 90 degrees in there, my undies WAY comfier                  Photo from the Friends of the IKT facebook page

Because we did not finish the dress in one day I took it home and did the finishing bits. It was much more pleasant to sew a fully fitted dress that I just had to hem and finish edges on. Oh and sleeves.

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We thought we would visit the IKT the week later for their presentation on tea in the 18th century (which was excellent) and to show off the finished gown. I borrowed Amanda’s DELIGHTFUL cupcake hat. I cried a little when I gave it back.

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Overall I’m really happy with this dress. I wore it polonaised like the original in the Colonial Williamsburg collection.  The silk is really poor quality so it put purple fluff fibers EVERYWHERE.

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We got asked a lot of questions about buttons and why didn’t women’s wear feature more buttons? And the best I can say (having not done a thesis on this) is that some women’s wear did have buttons, but experience has just told me how easy it is to adjust the fit on a pinned dress. Plus something with so little ease is hard to keep the buttons from pulling and rumpling.

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So that’s a huge costume off my bucket list. What dresses are on YOUR bucket list? Do you have any perfect fabric stashed for a someday project when you feel brave enough?

Now who wants to help me distract Amanda so I can make off with her hat forever…

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Orange Pet en l’aire

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Orange Pet en l’aire

In my last post I casually teased that I went to Jennylafleur’s AMAZING Big Ass Hat Tea, it was pretty overwhelmingly fabulous.

An invitation to a Jennylafleur party is basically the golden ticket of costume events, and I felt pressure to live up to the people I would be with. I was waffling around trying to decide what on earth I wanted to make for this era I don’t really feel good in and my awesome friend Adrienne plopped orange check silk in my lap…yes the largest part of it is earmarked for my Gettysburg ballgown this year buuuuuut…a minimal amount of debate later (I.E. 30min over tea and cookies at sewing day) a plan was concocted for a pet en l’aire or caraco jacket.

 

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I am a big fan of this one in the LACMA collection

I started with Katherine’s francaise tutorial. If you’ve never read it and ever wondered anything about how to construct a francaise gown I demand you stop and read it…hold on I’ll wait…It blew your mind and made it all make sense didn’t it?!

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draping the back pleats on top of the fitted lining

Basically I followed the francaise tutorial but in short. Instead of inserting full side panels I laid out my side seams about 8″ in from the edge of the fabric to build in the skirting.

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sewing pleats

I hand sewed all of it, mostly because I find period construction techniques just work better with hand sewing. Well that and I happen to find it really relaxing.

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Smoothing on the front panel..see that waist wrinkle?..more on that later

I did struggle with the waist dart, in the end, I let it win. I didn’t WANT to put in a waist dart, but there are originals that have one and sometimes you just gotta listen to what the fabric wants.

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Jerk. Please admire the AMAZING carpeting in my sewing room too.

In the end I was moderately happy. I need to insert a little gusset under the arm to increase movement. But it was comfy enough that I stayed in it for 12 hours without noticing the time flying by.

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I borrowed Jenny-Rose’s petticoat, Adrienne’s hat, Jenny-Rose’s cap, Bridget’s earrings…it was a team effort.

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I did back lacing down the lining for adjustability, and bonus tie peeking

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It’s hard enough finding pictures I don’t look dumb in..closed eyes is bound to happen…also my petticoat came untied playing aggressive Graces

A huge thank you is due to our gracious hosts Jenny-Rose and the whole White Family. They throw a party like none other.

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Modeling Jenny-rose’s hat. Tell me that’s not a confection of delight.

Ft Fred Market Fair 2013

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Ft Fred Market Fair 2013

On Saturday I journeyed to Ft. Fred for Market Fair for the first time. I had a marvelous time! What a great 18th century shopping experience.  But sadly my dear friend J couldn’t make it, you see she’s getting married and had important bride-things to do. So since she wasn’t with us I thought I’d see what kind of silly wedding gifts I could find for her at an 18th century market fair.

Lets see we’ve got:

How about a lovely collapsable BBQ?

How about a lovely collapsable BBQ?

How about a nice dead animal for your head?

How about a nice dead animal for your head?

the ORIGINAL Spork. Spon

the ORIGINAL Spork. Fork on one end spoon on the other.

A nice bear skin rug for those romantic newly wed nights

A nice bear skin rug for those romantic newly wed nights

Incase he cuts paper with your fabric scissors.

Incase he cuts paper with your fabric scissors.

I have no idea what this is.

I have no idea what this is.

NO WAIT I FOUND THE PERFECT GIFT!

Loin cloth for those frisky newly weds

Loin cloth for those frisky newly weds

Phew all this shopping wears a girl out!  Photo thanks to InTheLongRun

Phew all this shopping wears a girl out!
Photo thanks to InTheLongRun

Dress In a Day

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Dress In a Day

Well the cat is out of the bag so to speak so I’m allowed to reveal my part in our dress in a day project. Amanda posted on her LJ about the video from Colonial Williamsburg and we may or may not have taken it as a challenge. What can I say we’re ambitious.

Amanda has posted all the lovely finished pictures so I’ll just post the one I stole from her…

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Amanda in the finished dress.

A few words about the techniques we used. We followed the construction techniques of the lavender dress in Costume Close-up. The original parameters were 1. Solid color, 2. Closed front NO matching petticoat and 3. Only very simple pinked trim…don’t let Amanda design gowns for one day projects.

So why did we make the dress for Amanda and not Alice or I? We tossed it around a lot and Amanda really did try to convince us to make one for either of us. but she has two things I don’t: 1. a really solid body block to base it off of and 2. She’s TINY so her seams are half the size of mine. Don’t underestimate short seams when sewing by hand in a day.

We started with it all cut out sans sleeves around 10am. Lunchtime saw the first fitting done and all of the bodice constructed sans sleeves. By dinner time we had the functional part of the dress finished. And I have full faith that with different trim we’d easily have finished the whole thing.

And I shall leave you with a few in-progress shots.

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First Fitting

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Second Fitting

Second fitting

Second fitting

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we went through Four pots of Sticky Toffee Pudding tea

we went through Four pots of Sticky Toffee Pudding tea