Thursday, June 19, 2014

HSF 11: The Politics of Fashion - Chemise de la Reine and Bergère Hat

I ended up doing a bit of a whirlwind entry for the latest challenge at the Historical Sew Fortnightly. The theme was The Politics of Fashion, where we were challenged to create something that demonstrates the interactions between dress and political history.  As I'd been focusing on the 18th century lately, I decided to try to find something from around about that time.  Following shortly after the time that my court gown is from would be the time leading up to the French Revolution.  Those decades were rife with political and social change, a great example of which was the fad amongst wealthy women to dress in a style reminiscent of the working class women of agricultural areas.  The chemise a la reine was often paired with straw bergère or shepherdess hat.  The look was supposed to bring to mind the simple, carefree life enjoyed by no actual shepherdess, ever.  It was also an example of a simplification in the style of dress of the upper classes in response to significant social pressures from the masses.  Sarah Lorraine of Mode Historique is doing her master's degree research on the chemise a la reine and has some great information up that I found super helpful.

What I loved about the dress was how simple it was (relatively speaking), as well as how comfortable.  The bodice and sleeves are gathered, not fitted.  And if I wanted to skip my stays, the pair of quilted jumps I'm working on would do just as well.  Bonus points that I had plenty of that window pane cotton lawn that I did the smocked bib Regency apron out of and this made a nice little side track from the court gown project.  I found a scan from The Cut of Women's Clothes 1600-1930 by Norah Waugh that sketched out the basic shape of the gown and I used that as my starting point.  (as well as ordering a copy of the book for myself, as it was looking pretty useful).  I decided to go with an open front gown so that I had the option to wear it over a colored petticoat, should the inclination arise.  Yay for options.  I skipped adding any sort of front closure beyond the drawstring at the neckline.  Once the sash is in place, everything holds itself together quite nicely.  To hide the bow from the drawstring, I plan to wear this brooch with an image of Gainsborough's Blue Boy on it.

The sleeves were gathered once above the elbow, but I put no gathering in at the waist as I found it fairly easy to arrange the fullness to my liking and then hold it in place with the sash.  Thanks to Katherine for pointing out that, unlike how it was illustrated in Waugh's book, the channel for gathering the waist would not actually be along the straight of grain but curved to fit around the hips.  Without that heads up, I'd have likely gone ahead and put it in following the weave of the fabric and then had to invent new swear words when having to pick the white stitches out of the white lawn.  I may revisit the notion of the drawstring waist  later, after I've had a chance to wear it around a bit.

All told, the dress probably took about 20 hours to make, but a lot of that time was spent hand sewing a rolled hem for the ruffles on the cuffs and neckline.  The sash and contrasting bands on the sleeves were made from silk taffeta.  The sleeve bands were just strips of fabric with the long ends folded under that were tack stitched directly on top of the gathered channels.  The sash was three 10 inch wide widths of 54" fabric that were sewn into one long strip and then into a tube that was turned inside out.  The ends were tucked under to form a point and I've ordered some spring green silk cord to make a pair of tassels out of that I'll hang off the ends.  

I hope I don't regret putting a train on a white dress.

The hat was a garden hat I picked up at the Goodwill and modified.  There are a million tutorials out there for making a make-do 18th century straw hat if you need one, but it's terribly simple in concept.  You just cut a section of the crown height out to drop it down to the desired height, then sew/glue/fuse with mastiff spit the crown back onto the bring and cover your likely terribly ugly hack job with a hand band and decorations.  I tried meticulously hand sewing the crown back onto the brim, but the woven straw wasn't keen on the notion of holding together, so I went back and slathered on a frankly obscene amount of tacky glue to finish the job.  I fashioned a bow out of the last of the light green taffeta and paired it with a bit of this blue-green silk shambala that I impulse bought from Silk Baron because it looked interesting.  The fabric is a blend of three different silks and it takes up dye in an interesting varigated pattern.  As is, I feel like the hat is missing something, but I can't tell what.  Maybe some fake wildflowers?  Some lace?  I don't want to do ties as I'll be using a hat pin to affix the hat to an as yet unmade tragic abuse of a curly wig.

It's not often that I pick a project simple enough for me to do up an entire outfit in just over a week.  I'm aiming to wear this number to the Fantasy Tea at Costume College.  

Some other useful blog posts:

Thursday, June 5, 2014

HSF Challenge #10: Art - the skirts for the 18th century court gown

The 18th century court gown project is coming right along.  After this, it's just the bodice and the wig that's left and it'll be done!  The skirts on this monstrosity took a bit of thinking, actually.  There were several different ways I could have done it.  The major decision here was how to do that open front.  I had originally thought that it would be the most fabric-conservative if I just simulated the appearance by applying the fur trim.  But then I worried about that looking TOO false.  Even if I shortened the hem on the center panel and layered the fur, the whole piece would still move as one when I walked.  On the other extreme, making a full under petticoat seemed wasteful, and there was NO WAY that I was using up any more of that silk than I absolutely had to.  

So to compromise, what I ended up doing was making a single panel and attaching it to the ivory petticoat.  The panel is single width (45") wide and flat-lined with some of the leftovers of that lurid pepto pink cotton sheeting that I used to make the panniers.  I've given myself permission to machine sew all of the internal seams on this project, so that sped things up quite a bit.  I also basted the two layers together under each of the fur swags with a zig zag stitch on the machine.  This helped avoid puckering of the silk since the two layers were feeding under the machine's foot at a different rate.  The whole panel was then inserted into the waistband on the ivory petticoat and is currently held out with safety pins, although I'll go back and tack stitch it in place once I've decided just how much it needs to be stretched.  The panel is heavy, and is sagging  bit here on the dress form, but when I wear it over stays, there's enough waist-to-hip contrast that it stays up nicely.

The next decision had to do with cutting panels.  The ivory petticoat was cut in four panels, then pleated to curve up over the humps of the panniers.  The silk is so light, I was afraid of putting any vertical seams into it.  I could have flat-lined it, but then I'd have lost that lovely flowy feel of it.  So instead of cutting 46" long panels and sewing them together (2" longer than the petticoat), I just cut one long length of 45" wide fabric and wrapped it around.  Luckily, the pattern of the jacquard is intricate and not terribly direction-specific, so no worries there.  The cut ends were faced with 3" wide strips of cotton sheeting and red silk - the silk to keep it pretty if the ends flap open and the cotton to give me something weighty to attach the fur to.  This left me just a touch short on length.  One of the patterns that I had been playing around with was of the 1751 coronation robes of Queen Louise Ulrica of Sweden (as patterned out in History of Costume, From the Ancient Egyptians to the Twentieth Century by Blanche Payne).  In this dress, there was a keyhole-shaped piece of fabric that went over the top of the panniers that the panels were sewn into.  S and X being the front and back at the waist and V being the most lateral point of the hips.

I set up the panniers and petticoat on the dress form, then took the single length of skirt and made a narrow hand sewn hem along one selvedge.  I then pinned the piece to the petticoat adjusting so that I had an even hem all the way around.  I took a piece of scrap cotton and laid it over the gaping holes above each hip and outlined the shape of the piece that I needed to fill it in.  I cut a pair of these out of the silk and used a narrow strip of fabric to face a slit just a bit forward of the center of each piece so that I could access pockets.  The narrow ends are for wrapping tot he front and were faced with silk that had been flat-lined with the cotton.  These are the bits where the vertical strips of fur will hang down from and, as they'll just be pinned to the stomacher, they needed to be finished.  The larger, sweeping curve was left with 1/2" seam allowance as it'll be sewn into the back waist of the bodice.

Instead of making large box pleats, like I did on the petticoat, I gathered all of the excess fabric over the hips.  I turned under a narrow seam on the keyhole piece and basted it in place, then pinned it to the skirt panels so that it only just covered the narrow selvedge and the entire thing was whip stitched into place.

Showing off just how much narrower I got the panniers to go by tightening the internal ties a bit.

And the specifics for the Historical Sew Fortnightly:
What the item is: the skirts for my 18th century court gown project
The Challenge: #10 Art
Your inspiration: portrait of Queen Maria Carolina, painted by Francesco Liani, ca. 1770s
Fabric: red silk jacquard with leaf and scroll pattern, "grizzly" synthetic fur, some of the pepto pink cotton sheeting leftover from the panniers project for flat-lining and facings.
Pattern: none/draped
Year: 1770s
Notions: cotton thread
How historically accurate is it? Pretty damn close
Hours to complete: around about 14, me thinks
First worn: it's for the gala at Costume College
Total cost: $150-ish

Also, holy crap, these things are HUGE!  I was as wide as the kitchen.  I know I'm not the only one showing up to the Costume College gala in a court gown, so I just have to wonder.  Has anyone thought about how on earth we're all supposed to sit down for dinner?  Will everyone in a hoop skirt be sorted to the left to sit at the tables with chairs spaced farther apart?

I suppose that if we get kicked out of the hotel for partying too hard, we can always camp out under it.  ;)