Sunday, March 19, 2017

1850's Flounced Skirt with Sheer Basque

I love the 1850's.  I love the fru-fru puffiness with layers upon layers of silks, ribbons, and lace.  I like the detailedness of it all.  Luckily, I do far more docenting (at a house that was built in 1853) than 'reenacting' so I have the ability to do a variety of dresses and get use out of them.  Now, mostly I use my 1860's gowns for Liendo, but I've always wanted one REALLY 1850's dress.  You know, something that is so 50's.  Very intricate and full.


Fortunately, Puresilks recently had some silk at $6 a yard so I snapped up 2 dress lengths.  The people at PureSilks were awesome!  Neither of the colors that were $6 were in stock, so they let me pick any custom color I wanted.  I ordered one in an emerald green shot with electric blue.  Ther other one was a sky blue tissue taffeta.  Even though it was blue, I immediately thought of these dresses:

Even though they were pink, I felt the blue fabric wanted to be made into something like this.  Plus, they have my absolute 2 favorite things in dresses: flounces and scallops.  Perfect!

I wanted to have them done before Landmark Inn on March 18th.  I got the fabric March 14th and spent the better part of 2 days figuring out the math to make the flounces.  I still don't have it right.  When I gauged the skirt, it pulled up the top layer and made it shorter, thus making it look like the second flounce was much too long.  All I need to do is put the second flounce 2 inches higher.  It shouldn't take too long, but I went ahead and wore the skirt anyway.

With the skirt, I made a sheer voile basque with it.  The weather was going to be over 80 degrees Fahrenheit so I didn't want to wear my velvet basque.  The effect turned out quite lovely and it was very cool.  I wore with the ensemble a straw hat trimmed with green and blue ribbon, covered in the veil (I got neither the new bonnet or the parasol completed in time).

The flounces themselves have little scallops within the larger scallops.  I accomplished this is a scallop rotary blade. Here are some pictures of the progress and some close ups of the flounces.

I didn't use anything to keep them from fraying so they are fraying a little.  Not a lot, though.  I used some fray check for the very bottom tier because I knew it would get a lot of wear.  It discolored the silk a little so I decided to only do that for that flounce.

I like the seated pictures best because they don't show the unevenness of the tiers.  That will need to be fixed before I wear it again.  I am very pleased with the overall effect, though, and look forward to my next project.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Parasol Transformation... From Battenburg to 1850's, Part One: Research

When I first started living history, I felt the need to buy a parasol.  I couldn't afford a *real* parasol at the time so I bought a cheap $10 child's size Battenburg parasol and recovered it in silk scraps for my first event.

I bought this one because it was made of wood with nearly no plastic.  The ribs are metal and the tips, finial, and handle are wooden.  The only plastic is the piece that pushes the ribs up to open the parasol.  I knew that Battenburg lace was not correct for mid-century parasols, but figured that I could recover it in silk scraps for my first event and eventually fix it up to where it is really presentable.  When opened, the diameter of the parasol is about 20", which fits in around where most period ones were.

Here is how the current parasol sits:

Now the parasol handle is much too short for period usage.  I decided that I wanted to make a folding parasol and add length that way.  Now the decision was what medium to make the handle from.

I could have someone whittle down a wooden one.  Other options included making reproduction (imitation) coral from resin (a period recipe) but I couldn't figure out how to make a nice mold.  Someone on the Sewing Academy mentioned trying to use polymer clay to make a reproduction coral.  I decided to try something similar, except use an off-white clay to imitate bone/ivory instead.  I would really like to try coral someday, but white/off-white clay was much cheaper than the red.  I might try coral for some jewelry pieces.

I'm going to make my parasol with fringe.  The silk I'm recovering it with is emerald green (or possibly chocolate brown-I haven't decided yet).  I can either fringe it in green (or brown), or fringe some of the white silk I have and use that instead.  Here are some examples of period parasols with fringe and intricate coral/bone handles:

I'm using these two coral handles as my inspiration:

I used to do quite a bit of cake decorating with fondant.  Theoretically, playing with clay uses the same principles. I guess we'll find out if I still have the skills or not.  I'm going to use my fondant tools to be working on the roses and I bought a mold for the leaves.  I should be able to get everything else the way I want it.  I think I have the folding mechanism figured out, too, but I need to play with it some more.  It needs to be done by next Saturday because I have an 1850's event at the Landmark Inn in Castroville then.  It'll get worked on quickly because I have several other projects I want done before Castroville, too.  It's a good thing it's spring break!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Lilac and Chantilly Evening Gown

I love Chantilly lace.  Always have.  When I was just started living history, I can remember seeing huge shawls and frothy skirt tiers of that gorgeous black silk lace.  I immediately fell in love and wanted a gown with just layers and layers of that beautiful stuff.

Square Chantilly Shawl
Chantilly Fichu

CDV of a Ballgown
1840's Image of a Shawl

Evening Gown with a Chantilly Overskirt
French Fashion Plate with Chantilly Skirt

Chantilly Lace Parasol
Chantilly Parasol ca. 1865, my personal collection

Like many who see these lovely creations, I was quickly disappointed when I realized that silk Chantilly is no longer made.  The nylon stuff feels nothing like silk and is incorrect in pattern, anyway.  The only way is to use original lace-which is super rare and expensive, not to mention fragile.  However, it was the same in the period (at least, it was expensive), therefore, the amount and the status of the women who owned these pieces are a very small amount of people-very wealthy women of status.

Now, I don't do a lot of living history.  I mostly dress up and look pretty, so I have a reason to look wealthy.  Most of my 'dressing out' is done at Liendo Plantation where the income of the family (the Groce family) in the period was over $100,000 a year.  I looked it up.  They were basically making $3 million dollars a year.  These are the type of people who would most likely own items of this quality.  I feel in order to properly interpret (even though I am not in character) the type of people who lived in this house, my clothes need to reflect what they had access to and might have owned.  I need to look like someone of their status.  Just because we were in the middle of rural Texas doesn't mean that these items were unavailable or one wouldn't have worn them.  There was society in Texas during this time.  Galveston was booming.  Austin was doing really well.  People dressed like they did in other places, according to their station.  So, I feel that I should, too.

The plantation house at Liendo

So I waited.  When a good deal came up, I would snatch it up.  Now I have several pieces; not a lot, but enough to satisfy my want of Chantilly.  I shared photos of my original shawl last post.  Above, you can see my parasol.  I also have a bertha length that will be put on the gold and black plaid silk (as soon as I get the bodice fitted).  When I first wore the lilac shot silver dress (see previous post), I wore a bertha made with silk organza and original Maltese lace.  That will be going onto a new gown (to be decided later).  I knew that the lilac gown would look lovely with Chantilly.  So I made up the bertha just to be able to wear it, knowing that it would go on something else later.

I recently found a length of about 5 yards of 11" Chantilly from France that I bought for the skirt. Then I found a 5" Chantilly in a length long enough to do something on the bodice and for undersleeves.

        Chantilly in progress.  I couldn't
                                                         decide what to do
                                                                with it all!

I had way too much fun playing with it all.  I thought I knew what I wanted to do with it, but as I pinned the lace on (around the neckline, across the skirt), I didn't think anything looked good.  So I went back and researched.  Then I found a PERFECT fashion plate.  Okay, not perfect.  But eerily similar to my dress.
La Mode Illustrée, May 1864
Okay.  Pretty dress.  Purple and Chantilly, just like I was going for.  So I found the magazine and translated the description from the original French.  Turns out, the dress in question is a lilac and silver shot taffeta.  Coincidence?  Exact fabric trimmed in the exact materials as I wanted?  Now, I didn't have enough of the 11" Chantilly to do both layers.  So I went with a combination.  I made it mostly straight around in the back like the bottom layer, but pulled the lace up to make a scallop on the front.  I may eventually put two little bows on the top pieces but more on that layer.

The fashion plate describes the bodice as a lace fichu that connects in the back.  I didn't have quite enough of the 5" in for that (actually I did, but I wanted to make undersleeves of the same lace and didn't have enough for both).  So my solution was another original:

It crosses like a fichu, but uses MUCH less lace.  Perfect!  I already had made 3 bows for the white Maltese lace bertha so I could use those instead of the flowers on the original.

Here's the finished gown:

   Pirate loves dresses with a hoopskirt!  She feels the need to inspect all my gowns before they are                                                                                 worn.

I am going to eventually add a pleating of silver silk ribbon on the top of the lace like the original evening gown.  Other than that, the dress is complete.  Paula made most of the gown about 15 years ago but never wore the evening gown (there's also a day bodice that I haven't worked on yet).  The skirt was already completed for me (completely lined with polished cotton) and mostly finished the bodice.  I put in the sleeves, put the piping in, and, of course, put all the lace on the gown.