Friday, April 26, 2013

1860 Cotton Brocade Ensemble

Stars & Stripes Apple Pie with a Lily border
I had every good intention of attending the Costa Mesa Civil War event, but logistics conspired against me.  I had worked on a new gown and had even made an apple pie for the Ladies Tea. 

1860 Peg Sleeve
I knew I wanted to go with the big hoop skirt, I also knew I did not want to go with the pagoda sleeves styling, so that was going to push my gown in the late 1850's to early 1860's era.  I did my research, and found several V-necked bodices (usually for Summer Gowns) with a straight or “Peg” sleeve from around the 1855ish and later timeframe.  This was going to be my inspirational jumping off point.

For the gown, I used one of my old favorites, the Simplicity 3727 (see my previous post “Flirting with Civil War Fashions") pattern for the skirt and as a starting point for my bodice.  I did change the collar configuration as well as the sleeves. 

Have you ever looked at your high necked bodice and wondered, “What if I just fold the edges down and make a V-neck?”  Well, that was my idea as well.  How difficult would it be to make the change?  I used the same basic bodice pieces and just changed out the interior facing piece.  The facing needed to be much bigger if I was going to lay the collars edges back.  I played around with the facing and got it to work just perfectly.  Not even a difficult change to factor in - I would encourage anyone to consider something like this minor change for one of your upcoming gowns! 

Gathered Sleeve Cap
Next, was the sleeve configuration.  Straight sleeves were certainly not the norm for the late 1850 or 1860s, but they did exist.  I found several references to them as “Peg” sleeves.  Some sleeves had the gathering at the sleeve cap, some at the elbow, some had pleating, and some were just plain straight.  I decided to factor in the sleeves from Butterick B5832, which is suppose to be a modified “Romantic Era” pattern with modern techniques like a zipper (Gasp!  LOL)  I liked the sleeves.  Heck, I purchased the pattern just because of the sleeves.  The pattern called for a lot of piping, which I left out.  I must admit the sleeves were very labor intensive.  Start to finish was about five hours just for the two sleeves, but I love they way they turned out.

The skirt has approximately 5 ½ yds.  There are no pattern pieces, you just cut four really big pieces of fabric and start sewing them together.  It calls for cartridge pleating, but I went with a really tight basic gathering and it works for me.  The pattern also includes a “Bustle” but it really looks more like a “bumroll” – LOL.  It really helps give your gown the Bell Shape for the bodice peplum to lay correctly.  The skirt has a great little drop yoke in the back to accommodate the bustle. 
This is w/only the tulle petticoat -
picture another foot on each side when
all undergarment are in place!
I was really pushing the edge with my fabric choice due to the overall weight of the fabric.  A heavy cotton brocade with a cream background, white and taupe roses with sage green leaves.  I loved the pattern and the fact that it was cotton, but the gown is very heavy.  I needed a large hoop skirt, a full flounce tulle petticoat, (ballgown sized), a cotton petticoat, another tulle petticoat, plus the bumroll to get the proper look.  While the underpinnings may not be period correct, it was more important to me to get the proper exterior silhouette.  It really made me sympathize with those ladies that actually had to wear these gowns with all the necessary undergarments that society dictated was mandatory.  I have noticed when I wear these big hooped dresses I actually have to change the pace of my walking to accommodate the movement of my hoop skirts, as well as simply being more aware of my much larger personal space.

All button are in place, but for a quick shot
I only used a couple to fasten close.
Turned back lapels (Revers) and vintage
lace under collar.

Next, I had the perfect vintage straw hat to finish off the late 1850 to 1860's look I was going for.  The low sloped crown with the wide brim was trimmed with vintage flowers, feathers, and ribbon.   While I love bonnets on other ladies, on me - they just looks ridiculous.  So, when I was researching appropriate headwear for the era, this was a great “hat” that I knew I would enjoy wearing.  This lovely confection is a gorgeous golden sand colored straw that compliments the colors in the gown exactly.  I had been given a really sad and beat-up 1960’s bubble hat the seller was going to throw it away, so I asked if I could save it, and he gave it to me.  I re-purposed the off-white velvet and chiffon roses as well as the green silk velvet ribbon.  The nap on the green velvet was so plush it almost felt like fur!  A good rinse, dry, and a quick press with a cloth and the velvet ribbon was as good as new! 

Sleeve detail showing crochet trim
Lastly, I added a vintage lace collar, some vintage crochet trimming on the sleeves in place of the piping, a taupe grosgrain ribbon belt, and some vintage cream colored ribbon lace trim on the ruffle of the skirt.  Start to finish was seven days working on and off.  It was another great sewing adventure with a few added challenges just to keep things interesting!  Enjoy!   

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Flirting with 1940 Fashion

Well, our small group had a fun time at the OC Great Park Chamber Music and Picnic event dressed in our 1940’s attire.  The Park had a retro "Farmers to Flyers” art exhibit covering the start of the El Toro Marine Base in the 1940s to current times.  From there we enjoyed the final installment performance of the OC Great Parks Chamber Music series, which was all classical music from 1940’s as well. 

For this outing I opted to go with an actual 1940s Butterick Pattern #4381.  What drew my attention was the clever little “Bustle” back on the jacket.  I think if the ruffles had gone all the way around to the front it might have been called a peplum, but as it was only on the back the pattern referred to it as a “bustle”.  I also really liked the way the front of the suit looked so fitted, but the back of the jacket had this flirty little ruffled bustle and the skirt had a lot of softly gathered fabric with great movement.   So feminine!   

Now, you can see from the picture it was a Size 14 w/a 32” bust and a 23” waist!  LOL  Might be more like a size four by today’s measurement standards.  I needed to scale it up to my size, and knew it was going to be a challenge. 

  I started with the skirt.  I hand scaled, cut, and sewed it three times before I got it to drape correctly in the back.  After that I knew I was going to be in trouble with the jacket.  So, I cheated.  I hand drafted all the pattern pieces, taped them all  together, and went to Kinko’s and enlarged it 120%.   Next time I will make sure to get the 25% off coupon!  So, I get this revised pattern home, cut it out, and try pinning it onto my dress form just to see if we are still in the range for a fit, and as luck would have it, for the most part, it was right on with a few minor corrections!  I did decide to make two mock-ups for the bodice for sizing, but felt I was right on for the last one.  Third time was a charm!

I really liked the short sleeved version, and had found a brilliant turquoise, medium weight, linen up at the LA Garment District that was in my stash, then I opted for a true black linen for the skirt.   Lastly, I had purchased some vintage black 1 ½” buttons at the Irvine Antique Market the month prior, so I was finally ready to cut. 

I love washed linen, the more it is washed the softer it becomes.  I know it wrinkles, but that’s a small price to pay for how comfortable it can be on warm days, and how great it drapes and flows.   The skirt came together quickly and easily, cut to fitting probably less than three hours with a metal zipper (lol – as they did not have synthetics ones yet right?  So ugly it was cute!).

The jacket, well that was certainly a problem right from the start even with the upsizing.   Can you say “shoulder padding”?  Absolutely necessary to give it the correct fit and fall of the fabric on the jacket.  I tried it on the first time without the shoulder pads and was going crazy as it was drooping at the shoulders approximately one inch, then it hit me – I forgot to insert the pads, added the padding and walla – perfection!  

Finished hem on Left & Right w/unfinished hem in the middle

Next, there were so many little ridiculous sewing instructions that I wanted to cry.  I am including a photo of just one.  I have two finished hemmed edges and a third “middle section” that ends up unfinished that now has to be hand tacked to line up correctly with the other two hemlines on the jacket.  You can see exactly what I was working with in the picture of the pattern instructions.  Those were the easy fixes.  The rest was a struggle.  It was the instructions; I just could not make them work to my full satisfaction.  I think I ripped it apart more than it was actually sewn together.  The collar was a nightmare from the get go.  It had an interior facing that was attached after the exterior portion was attached to the jacket bodice and it had squared edges at the shoulders.  The collar itself has a softly curved edge.  I knew where I needed to get to; I just could not get the pieces to fall into place easily.  There are eleven pieces or twenty-two pieces total to the bodice after you doubled it, and I opted not to line this jacket due to a time constraint.  I finally resorted to an age old panacea, wine!  After a couple of glasses, I was ready to get back into the ring with this jacket and wrestle it to a finish!  

I wore the finished ensemble with some basic black 2” T-strap pumps, a vintage black handbag, vintage beaded black ¾ length gloves, and I finished it off with a vintage black felt tilt hat with some greenish blue feathers and net veil.  I am such a fiend for hats with veils.  I really made the entire outfit so I could wear the hat!

My hairstyle was researched as well.  It was a low, thick “Victory Roll” on the sides and back, and was finished off by pulling the front sides up into a soft bun that I then used to anchor the hat pins to for the tilt hat.

 From the first day I took the pattern pieces out of the envelope (very carefully as both the envelope and the pattern pieces themselves were very fragile) to the day I wore the outfit was only seven days.  It was a big challenge, and I am proud that I pulled it off.  

Looking at it objectively, I made this suit three times – never the same way twice, as I was tweaking it each time.  I will probably remake it again, and the one big change I will make next time will be to shorten it length-wise.  I had originally thought when looking at the picture that the arched panel on the front of the jacket was a couple of inches lower than the waist, or at high hip, but now I think it should be at the waist.  I will also go with a longer hem.  I think at THAT point it will be perfect, but I really liked how this version turned out and it was a lot of fun to wear.  Enjoy!

PS: Yes, I know that Simplicity has a pattern similar, but it lacks the draping in the back of the skirt that I liked, and does not have the double ruffled bustle back on the jacket either.  Plus, I wanted to work with an actual vintage pattern