April Tea Party Winners

Six Year Blog Anniversary WINNERS: Carla Gade - Pattern for Romance audiobooks go to Andrea Stephens and Megs Minutes and winner of Love's Compas is Terressa Thornton, PEGG THOMAS's signed copy of The Pony Express Romance Collection is Debra Smith, Janet Grunst's debut book goes to Kathleen Maher, Carrie Fancett Pagels' winner's choice goes to: Connie Saunders, Denise Weimer's print winner of, Angela Couch's winner's choice goes to Susan Johnson, Debra E. Marvin reader's choice of any of her novellas or a paperback of Saguaro Sunset novella -- Teri DiVincenzo and Lynne Feurstein, Jennifer Hudson Taylor's "For Love or Country" go to: Lucy Reynolds, Bree Herron and Mary Ellen Goodwin, Shannon McNear's winners are Becky Dempsey for Pioneer Christmas and Michelle Hayes for Most Eligible Bachelor, Roseanna White's winner for Love Finds You in Annapolis is Becky Smith.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Adventures in Historically Accurate Costuming, Part Two

So, picking up the saga from my first post on sewing an 18c outfit ...

I decided I needed a shift (the sleeves on my cotton medieval chemise were far too full to fit inside the very fitted ones of an 18c gown), basic stays (I planned to make a cardboard mockup as phase one of fitting for “real” ones, and I’d heard of at least one person wearing the mockup to an event, so that couldn’t be so bad, could it?), an under-petticoat made over from an old linen skirt, and a basic gown and matching petticoat. I’d purchased some linen, both white and natural, on sale a few months ago. I was working from plans I’d found online at a source recommended by those experienced in the hobby of period reenacting. This meant no pattern as such, just measurements taken on myself and then translated to lines, angles and curves on a folded length of fabric. (I found the shift instructions on marariley.net. Great site overall for information on period dress!)

First attempt at cutting out the body of the shift
I’ll spare you the bulk of the story, but my first attempt at a shift resulted in a garment that was absolutely HUGE. A fellow seamstress very kindly gave me a piece of linen she’d purchased then found unsuitable for what she’d wanted, so I tried again. Much better—the neckline is still too wide, but I realized the directions are intended for use of a drawstring, which I didn’t plan on doing. (There’s actually less provenance for a drawstring neckline than a plain, flat seam.)

Coming up with a workable cardboard stays mockup was also interesting. Using a JP Ryan pattern for mid-18th century stays, I cut each piece separately, minus seam allowances, the boning lines parallel with the corrugation, then taped them together.

First stays mockup, taped and ready for laces
The first stays mockup--so long! So awkward!
 (See how the tabs stick straight out, especially along the back and sides?)

My second mockup, shift, and petticoat
Wearing them was both easier and harder than I expected. Easier, in that I expected the support aspect but they weren’t as constricting as I was afraid they might be. I could move around easily, although they certainly make you sit up and pay attention to your posture, which was their intended purpose. Harder, in that I experienced some cramping across my hips after wearing them for longer than 20 minutes. I kept reminding myself I only had to be able to wear them for a couple of hours, and that real stays would, by all accounts, be much more comfortable. In search of a better fit, I cut new pieces—shorter this time, and made them front-lacing with a stomacher (a separate, roughly triangular piece for the front), which didn’t work very well. In desperation, I reinforced the front sections, which had buckled a little in the fitting, and made it more closely laced in front, then with lots of tape reinforcement across the tabs to make them lie down, called it mostly good.

Finally, it was time to take the plunge on the gown. Using the JP Ryan pattern for a gown l’anglaise, I first did a bodice mockup in unbleached muslin (right now it doubles as the lining—I might redo it later in linen). The fit was decent enough, so with much fear and trembling, I began cutting on the fabulous lightweight worsted wool suiting I’d found online. It’s described as “maroon” but depending upon the light, it looks cranberry or claret. Regardless, it was wonderful to work with. The bodice went together fairly well ...
Pleating the skirt before attaching

That point is awfully bunchy ...
   ... and then came the skirt, with its yards of hand pleating, and eventually sewing—by machine, because it’s an area that won’t show. I did have to redo a bit of the seam, near the point of the back, since it puckered and bunched the first time.

Once I had the lining mostly in and put together the matching petticoat, I had to try everything on again. I pinned the front with a few long florist’s pins, and my daughter helped me mark a hem. That was just a couple of days before the conference ....
Separate skirt and matching petticoat

The gown wouldn’t really be “finished,” but I did manage to get white linen sleeve flounces put in. At the last minute I decided to go with pinning the front closed, and guess what? It was also easier than I expected to weave the pin in and out, and make it secure. I felt a strange new fellowship with the women of the eighteenth century ...

So, I wore my gown for the ACFW conference and had a fabulous time, but after about three hours, my hips and lower back were in some moderate pain. I sadly exchanged the ensemble for a hot shower and comfy modern clothes. By the time I left the conference, I’d decided to get at least the skeleton of a pair of real stays finished by the time my book launch party rolled around—they couldn’t be any worse than the cardboard mockup—but that’s a tale for another segment!

The lovely Beth Goddard & I at ACFW

(Since I came home from conference to the news of a job offer out of state for my husband, and an impending move, my attending the author signing at the November reenactment is currently in question, but I promise to finish with either a recap of that or a review of what I’ve learned about this particular brand of research! Thank you all so much for your patience.)

14 comments:

  1. We made corsets (circa 1900) for my college's costume shop. They are work! Clever idea to use cardboard to avoid all the expense, especially since it looks like it did what you wanted. The main thing I remember about sizing them is that the two sides of the back should never meet, if a corset is to fit properly. Looks like you got it right! Lovely dress, too!

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    1. Thank you, Rachael! I'd love to do a whole piece just on stays/corsets ... they're a much misunderstood piece of gear, and there are SO many differences between 18c and 19c! :-) I confess, I got the idea from hanging out on reenactor's lists online, and probably could have fine-tuned the cardboard if I'd had more time. Doing the real stays has been an adventure all its own, and I'm looking forward to sharing that in the next installment.

      Thanks again for stopping by!

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  2. What a challenging endeavor that you handle with such panache! Love this, Shannon!

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    1. Thanks, Anna dear! I could really get lost in recounting the details ... :-P

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  3. You looked terrific, Shannon! Bravo to you for all the time and work you put into making such a lovely outfit.

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    1. Thanks so much, Janet!! <3 It has been a lot of fun, actually. :-)

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  4. I am SO impressed, Shannon. Sewing is one thing I could never pick up and do well, though I did try in my younger years. Love the gown! I have one (plus the shift and stays), made by a costumer but it is not reenactment worthy. It has a zipper!

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    1. Wow, Lori, you have me blushing! Thanks so much. But you draw and paint, don't you, and I have no NO talent where those are concerned. :-)

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  5. What a talented "crafty" lady you are, Shannon! I love the outside look of the historic dresses, but lose it when I see the uncomfortable insides! Blessings, Elva Cobb Martin

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    1. Thank you, Elva, you're very kind! In the last installment, next month, I'll be talking about what a surprise the actual stays were to wear--especially after doing the cardboard! :-) They really aren't terrible! (Different, yes, but not terrible.)

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  6. You looked FAB at conference, Shannon. I broke down today and purchased some of the pieces at the Battle of the Hook reenactment! They were so much more reasonable that one of the places near where I live (about at third the cost!) that I couldn't reist. So this is Christmas and birthday gift to moi! I plan to make a red wool cape, though, Shannon and will be writing up a post about that. I intend to consult you. I haven't sewn in years. I sewed a brown Jedi master cape but I suspect this one shall look a little different! Thanks, Shannon--great post!

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    1. I bet that'll be gorgeous! And you're welcome ... hoping I can finish off the topic stellarly in a few days. :-)

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  7. Oh ya, love that red dress Shannon McNear, so nice ! I use to have boning for making those stays... corsets and such... loving the posts ladies.... looking forward to more this week.
    Hugs
    Faithful Acres Books
    faithfulacresbooks@gmail.com

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    1. Thanks so much, Linda! Glad you're enjoying the posts. :-)

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