Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Star Dress: A Fairly Faithful Reproduction

I rarely copy original garments exactly.  I usually pull bits and pieces from different photographs, originals, etc.  I'll pull sleeves from one gown, accessories from another, trim from a CDV, hairstyle from a fashion plate, etc.  However, when I saw the 'star dress' from the Museum of London, I knew I wanted to recreate it as closely as I was able.

Beautiful dress, no?  I have spent 3 years (searching 3 countries and 4 states) trying to find fabric for it.  As I mentioned in a previous post, it doesn't exist.  You can find blue with white stars, white with uneven blue stars (not appropriate), red and white with blue stars, etc.  I did end up finding a white with navy stars fabric but it was in no way fine enough for this project.

I could have had it custom printed onto white fabric but I had trouble finding a place with a voile sheer enough for the project.  Not to mention that custom printing is expensive.

I still wanted the dress.  Therefore, I bought 10 yards of Indian voile on Etsy.  It came in super nice and fine-perfect for what I needed.  I wish I had bought more for other projects the stuff is so nice!  Also on Etsy, I bought a star stamp.  Mine is 2 inches across.  It looks like the original may be 1 1/2, but there are no measurements.  I did my best.

Finding ink was a problem.  The fabric ink pads didn't work.  I went through about 5 ink pads before finding one that worked.  The color was a little bit more navy than I would have liked, but it worked and it didn't bleed so I used it.

The process was fairly simple.  I measured out the stars so that they would be 5 1/2 inches apart tip to tip.  I put them in the same design as the original (rows).  Some I had to stamp 2 or three times to get enough ink on it.

It took a fair while.  It got easier towards the end and I was just cranking them out but it was still a lot of work.  It turned out nice, though.

My next step was making the dress.  This really takes no time at all.  I've done so many of them now it's just second nature.  I have my own pattern that I have drafted and I know how to make it up so it was super simple.  I lined it with a nice 200 thread count cotton since I didn't have any cotton sateen on hand.  I did half high lining like the original.  I considered adding some lace to the top of it but then remembered that I'm trying to do a faithful reproduction so I ended up leaving it be.  I only did hooks and eyes up to where the lining ended.  The top will be closed with a brooch.

The skirt is unlined, just faced with more of the 200 thread count cotton.  I did not add a pocket because I felt it would be too see through.  I know original sheers had them, I just didn't see it working out.  I might go back and add one later.

The sleeves are bishop, much like the original.  They are fitted to the arm hole but fuller on the bottom.

The collar and cuffs I had embroidered using an 1850's pattern from Peterson's Magazine.  I didn't do the full collar, just the top part with the flowers and the beading.  I tried putting a plain collar on the dress but because the dress is so plain to begin with, it didn't look right so I felt I needed to add some more detail.

To top it all off, I made a sash to go with the gown.  Mine is made of silk habotai (8mm) because I couldn't find any silk taffeta in navy that would get to my house in time for me to make the sash before Liendo.  I thought about using a ribbon, but couldn't find a thick enough ribbon that didn't look totally synthetic. I used 1861 Godey's to help me with reproducing the sash.

It's not a stitch for stitch reproduction, but it is the closest I have come to copying an original and I feel pleased with the result.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Restoration of a Post War Parasol

About a year ago, I purchased a lovely post war Chantilly parasol.

Parasol as it stood when I bought it

The handle and finial are bone and the rest of the frame is brass.  The parasol is covered in a thin brown taffeta, lined in a cream china silk, and then covered with Chantilly lace.  The whole confection is quite lovely.

Anyway, after I bought it, the silk split so I needed to recover the parasol.  I bought some thin silk on Ebay that was only a shade darker than the original.  It's a bit thinner than the original silk, but since it would be covered by the lace, I figured it really didn't matter.

Original cover on top of the new fabric

I bought some off-white lining on Ebay, as well.  It came in white, not off-white, but I used it anyway.

Original lining next to the fabric I used to line the parasol

First, I took off the original lace, silks, as well as the handle (it comes apart in 2 pieces!) and finial.  Here are all the pieces uncovered:

I used one of the brown silk panels to make a pattern.  I used the same pattern for the cover and lining.  Then I sewed the 8 pieces together for both the brown and white fabric.  After that, I used some scalloped scrapbooking scissors (also from Ebay!) to cut scallops around the edges, just like the original.

I free handed these, and found I was much happier than when I chalked out the pattern.

The brass on the handle was quite dirty, so I mixed together some baking soda and lemon juice and rubbed it on with an old rag.  Let me tell you, that mixture is amazing!  I couldn't quite get a clear picture of it, but you can see the brightness and then the near blackness that the brass was:

After that, it was all downhill.  I simply sewed on the lining, then the cover.  Finally, I put the Chantilly on and screwed all the bone pieces back on.

Monday, June 19, 2017

There's a Bee in my Bonnet... Veil

I am a HUGE proponent of veils.  I love them.  They are so clever and pretty.  Veils work on same the principle as our modern sunglasses, to shade the eyes from the glare of the sun.  Personal experience speaking-they really do work!  Plus, they can be so pretty-both put over the face and thrown back over the bonnet when not in use.

I began with one rectangular veil and one demi-moon veil, both done in net.  You can also choose to make a veil out of crepe (for mourning, generally) or even silk gauze or like fabrics (these can be done in colors!  I've seen period references to brown and blue (mostly) but also to other colors like green!).  Generally, veils were either rectangular or demi-moon shaped, as so:

Rectangular veil; MFA Boston
Demi-moon bonnet veil; Metropolitan Museum of Art

Netted veils were netted as veils, usually; i.e., they were not dotted net with an attached edging.  The edging and the dotted part were a single piece that was made.  Sadly, the only way to get a real veil like this is to use an original.  However, one can approximate a period veil.  It will never be 100% authentic, but when is anything we do 100% correct?  We still use modern fabric, made with modern machines, dyed with (generally) modern dyes, from modern sources (whether silk worm, breeds of sheep, or modern varieties of cotton and flax).  Our goal as living historians is merely to get as close as we possibly can to what 'they' did.  Most of us understand that we will never be 100% correct.  We can only get close.

Anyway, to approximate a netted veil, you will need 1/2 yard of point d'Espirit (dotted netting), 1 3/4-2 yards of beading, a little less than 4 yards of lace edging, anywhere from 1" to 3" wide, and about 2 yards of black silk ribbon about 1/4" wide.  This will make two veils.  The links I did provide are where I usually get my supply.  I would suggest black for any lace veils as black does it's job (protecting your eyes from the sun's glare) a lot better than white.

The process is simple-cut the point d'Espirit in half and then into your desired shape (rectangular or demi-moon).  Be sure to look at originals to get the veil's sizing right for your era.  Ebay is awesome because they tend to do measurements more than most museums.  Trim out the bottom and sides (for a rectangular veil) or across the curved surface (for a demi-moon veil) with your edging.  Run the beading across the top then run the ribbon through the beading.  This is to gather up the edge of the veil to fit your bonnet or hat.  I generally pin my veils on with a simple straight pin.

It was these directions I followed when I made the bee veil.  Of course, I added some beads in the shape of bees and flowers to the material list.  The original had flowers and bees made from straw veneer and was not made from dotted netting.  It was plain black netting (which is cheaper, but I wanted a guide to be sure all my flowers ended up in the right spot).  I could not find straw veneer bees and flowers, and since I did not want to use plastic, I used gold beads.  I bought them off Etsy.  They do make the bonnet a great deal heavier than before but the effect is lovely and it is not so heavy as to be cumbersome.  Here is the completed bonnet veil (worn on the completed 1870's hat):

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Rosette Dress

It is always a privilege and a pleasure to go to Leindo each month.  I enjoy it so.  My plan this month was to wear the lilac shot silk evening gown so I could get better pictures but then I realized I had forgotten to take pictures of the rosette dress last month so I wore that instead.  I'll be in Ukraine next month and possibly in a wedding in August so my next day at Leindo could possibly not be until September.  Scary thought!  I plan on getting the star voile dress stamped and done before then so I can wear that.

Anyway, I posted pictures before of how I made the rosettes on this gown, so I thought I would share some completed photos of the gown.

I wore the gown with an organdy collar and matching undersleeves (You can find the whitework edging and beading at Farmhouse Fabrics, just search lily of the valley and scroll down to the Swiss embroidered organdy beading and edging.  I get most of my whitework from Farmhouse Fabrics-they have a good selection and it is all good quality and natural fibers.).  I put some black silk ribbon underneath the beading on the undersleeves like these original 1850's net undersleeves off Ebay:

I didn't wear a brooch because of the rosettes, but I did wear a pair of "micromosaic" earrings.  Okay.  They're really vintage floral cameos, for which I have not found documentation (floral cameos, that is.  Cameos were usually in human and *occasionally* animal forms).  I call mine micromosaic because they are reminiscent of micromosaic earrings of the time which did come in floral patterns.

My "micromosaic" earrings and brooch
Here are some examples of original micromosaic jewelry sets:

Spaniel earrings and brooch, c. 1860 from Ebay

Italian Roccheggiani Dove earrings and brooch, c. 1860 from Ebay

As for the dress itself, the rosettes have already been shared.  The sleeve caps were supposed to be pointed but it didn't look right so I folded the points up and made a sort of geometric design with them.

They are more even than the picture suggests.

On the bottom of the sleeve, I put strips of velvet ribbon and some covered buttons, just like in the original gown.

I also put more velvet on the bodice.

Close up of the organdy whitework collar.

I'm not sure what I will do next.  I have a while before I do anything else so I'm not pressed for time.  I have LOTS of fabric to keep me busy, though.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Additions to the Stash and a New Era

Now that I am *finally* out of school (well, the kids are out-I still have to go to work next week.  But, hey, I can get a lot of stuff done without 20 6-year-olds running around.  I plan on throwing on a Disney movie and just cleaning things out.  Should be fun.), I've really been thinking about how I'm going to spend my time.  I usually spend the majority of my summer in Ukraine, however, this year, I will only be there for about 7 days (then taking a mini-trip to Virginia with mom and sis) so I have a lot more summer than I am used to.  I have to start back at school the first week in August, so I basically have a little less than two months of time to keep myself occupied.

I have plenty of projects-the trouble is where to start!  I'm trying to prioritize them the best I can (what I want for Liendo the next few months, what am I going to wear to Neill-Cochran in September, and of course, there's Welbourne in October).  Well, I went to a school event last week at Liendo, and realized that I do not have a SINGLE cotton dress in my wardrobe beyond two wash dresses that I never wear because I usually do high class events.  Not a single cotton sheer and not a one nice cotton dress.  Nothing.  I live in Texas.  I decided this was unacceptable so the first order of business is to make a cotton sheer.  But of course, this area of my wardrobe is severely lacking in this area so it can't be just ONE cotton sheer.  Oh no, currently, I have two lengths in my stash and a semi-sheer from 6 years ago that got the gauging ripped out and the bodice is about 6" too small all the way around that I may get around to fixing.

Anyway, one of my favorite original sheer gowns is this one:

Would you believe that you can't find a white fabric printed with blue stars?  Forget sheer for a moment-it still just doesn't exist.  I can find blue with white stars, white with red and blue stars, but no white with blue stars.  Well, I wasn't giving up.  I bought 10 yards of voile from a seller in India.  Just plain voile, mind you, and a solid star stamp from Etsy.  Yep, I'm going to make the fabric myself.  I'm going to have to experiment on what inks to use (there will be a post!).  There are some other people who have experimented and I'm going to use their findings and try it myself.  It's a cotton, so it will be washed.  Therefore, I need a stamp that will not bleed or fade.  We'll see what I figure out.  Now, of course, I'm in the market for a length of blue silk for the sash, too.

I also bought a length of this:

It's a blue plaid cotton organdy.  I bought the blue and Paula bought a length of the green.

I haven't decided exactly on style yet.  I do like this idea (minus the ruffles) with the open sleeve and fichu:

The fabric itself reminds me a lot of this dress, but I'm not making an evening gown:

I also like this gown:

I guess I'll figure it out.  So those are my two sheer dress plans.  In addition to sheers, Fabric Mart also had a really good sale on silk taffeta a few weeks ago, so I picked up a couple of dress lengths.  Here's what I got:

I also have a dress length of purple shot emerald green (I'm dubbing it the 'peacock dress') from

Also from Fabric Mart, I got 1 yard each of:

I already have plans for them, and I'll write about that later.

Anyway, I also want some more veils.  I can deal with my one hat veil (I only have two hats and I usually just wear the one) but only having one bonnet veil (well, two, if you count the original but I don't wear that one) is kind of a pain.  I don't like switching them out.  So I've been wearing the same bonnet for 6 months straight so I don't have to change it around.  I've even been picking out which dresses I wear based on which bonnet I have the veil on.  I bought a half yard of point d'Espirit (the dotted cotton netting), so I can make two veils.  I could do with another plain one, but for the other one, I REALLY want this veil:

I've always loved this veil.  I come from a family of beekeepers so it is even more appropriate.  I already bought all the supplies (the beading that goes on the top of the veil has not arrived yet).

I couldn't find yellow bees and flowers without them being plastic so I stuck with gold.  I think the overall effect will work.

In other projects, I've decided to embark on a new era.  Literally.  As in, non-hoop era.  I've done other eras before when I worked at the Bell County Museum but it was all 20th century stuff which is decidedly easier than 19th century (underpinnings become easier and fewer).  I've decided to try my hand at the early bustle era, namely 1875-ish.  The reason for this expedition is really two fold.  I could, perhaps get out a little more if I had more of a variety.  Also, for the Texas Living History Association's conference every year, we are usually in historic buildings for the conference.  The association encourages people to dress out for the conference but since the majority of the buildings and rooms we spend our time in were not 1850's and 1860's, the doorways and hallways are decidedly too small for hoopskirts.  Especially when you add 20-30 people a session to a tight room.  I wanted to make something that was still pretty, still 'comfortable' (as in, close enough to the 1860's so that I could get away with using same corset, chemise, etc.), but less full around the hips.  I am not a fan AT ALL of the 1830's and 40's so those were out of the question.  I have always been a fan of the slightly trained 1870's skirts with their overskirts so hence my new era.  They are flat on the front and mostly flat against the sides, so no taking up tons of room in tiny spaces.

I decided I wanted a blue striped fabric.  I searched around before finding this on Spoonflower:

So pretty!  Unfortunately, Spoonflower has dropped their cotton/silk blend so I had to order it in straight cotton poplin.  I can always fib and say it's a cotton/silk blend.  Anyway, as I was looking at the fabric, I realized that it was Christine's Wishing Gown fabric from Phantom of the Opera-one of my favorite musicals.  Well, now I had to buy it.  It is so pretty!  I wish I could get it in silk taffeta just like the musical's dress (which, by the way, is a blue shot green silk taffeta).  But the poplin should suffice.  Poplin usually has a sheen to it, making the lie about it being part silk more believable.

Anyway, as far at styling goes, I really like this dress:

I might add a slight train towards the back, but otherwise, it is perfect.  I love the little trim details in the gold, although I might go for a silver, white, or black to go more with the print.  I might just edge everything in it, as opposed to doing the pleating to save on fabric (I bought enough to do an 1870's dress and a cotton 1860's dress, if I'm really careful about how I cut it).  Once I get the fabric in, I'll decide what color the edge it in.  I'm thinking velvet.  The musical's dress is trimmed in black velvet. I might like mine with a silver color. I'm thinking of doing a v-neck and keeping the sleeves in the original.

Because the conference to which I'll be wearing this gown is usually in several buildings (read: walking outside a lot) and in January, I decided I also needed a hat/bonnet and some form of outerwear.  I might end up putting the bee veil on it, too, just for fun.  The bonnet is my own pattern (more on it when I get it complete) and was more or less supposed to resemble this one:

I would wear it further up on my head if I were to put a veil on it.  I haven't decided how to trim it, yet.  Of course, this means I can use my 1865-1870 chantilly parasol I bought last year.  The silk is still split, but I bought some brown silk to replace it and will be doing that, soon.  I think I will cover the hat in the same silk.

So, that's headgear.  I have plenty of broochs and other jewelry that will work with a slight date change.  I'll be wearing my hair bun on top curls on bottom like so many original photographs I have seen.

Finally, outerwear.  Although it is more my era as opposed to 1870's, I really like this cloak:

I like the color, the scallops-everything about it.  AND I can use it for 1860's, too!  I might skip the embroidery for now, but it can always be added later.  I bought some burgundy wool online that I will use to make the cloak and a hood.

I also bought some cream colored silk to line the cloak with.  I still need to find some ribbon to clasp it.  I haven't decided if I want to add a hood to the cloak or wear them separately.  I have seen originals for both ways.  I might just keep them separate.

So those are my summer projects.  I'm prioritizing the sheers, veils, and the 1870's stuff.  Everything else will be 'if I get the other stuff done' projects.  In progress and Leindo posts to come.