Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Drawstring Block Print Regency Gown and Spencer.

A little diversion from the 18th century--

I decided that I needed a more common gown for Regency events and I didn't want to invest a lot of money.  I found a small Indian block print on Ebay that I liked and got 5 yards of it.  The width was only 42 inches wide so it took all 5 yards to make a simple drawstring gown.  I used the Sense & Sensibility Elegant Lady's Closet pattern with a few easy changes:  I added 4 inches to the width of the front so that I would have more gathers on the bodice and I lowered the neckline by 2 inches.  I also made the lower drawstring so that it tied at the center front inside the gown and made the sleeve band narrower.  The gown was entirely stitched by hand using tiny French seams on the skirt and flat felled seams on the lined bodice.  This is a really comfy gown for a hot day.  Here is the fitting:


The Spencer was a little more challenging.  I love the sketch of the spotted muslin Spencer in the book Costume in Detail.  I decided that I would make a similar one out of olive green cotton to go with my gown.  Here is what I had to work with.


The bodice front looks just like the bodice of my gown.  I thought it would be easy enough to adapt the same dress pattern for this project. The original is unlined so I decided mine would be as well.  I cut the back pieces the same as the gown.  I used the front lining pieces and raised the neckline so the finished bodice would be 5 inches high.  I also widened the shoulder pieces slightly.   I lengthened the short sleeve to a finished length of 7 inches as indicated in the drawing and cut the long sleeve included in the pattern.  I left the long sleeve plain instead of making one with the gathered cuff described in the book as my fabric is heavier than the sheer muslin the original was made of.  I also made a very narrow band for the short sleeve as the original has a drawstring and I didn't want a white cord with the green fabric.  I drafted a piece with 3 points --the center being 4 1/2 inches long, the side points being 4 inches long.  The width of the piece with the points was 9 inches wide.  I roll hemmed the pointed piece.  

I stitched the bodice together with felled seams then I stitched the sleeve seams. I cut away 1/4 inch of the lower armscye to make it a little roomier.  I had to baste in each layer of the sleeve separately. The pointed piece was first and I eased it to 8 inches.  Then I basted the short sleeve in which you can see below.


I pinned the long sleeve in and backstitched through all the layers.

The neck edge and the bottom edge had the hems pressed in --1/4 inch turned in then 3/8 inch turned in.  The left front edge was turned in half inch before pressing the neck and bottom edges.  The right front was turned in half in twice AFTER pressing the hems.  An eyelet was made on the right front in the hem at the neck and bottom edges.  This created a flap that covered the ties when the Spencer was closed as in the original.  I used 1/4 inch cotton twill tape and threaded it through both casings.  I stitched the tape in place at the side seams on the bottom edge and at the shoulder seam at the top edge so that the gathers would only be in the front.


The final outfit consisted of my chemise and stays with a strapped white petticoat, chemisette, the new gown and the Spencer.  I wore my Regency cap with no bonnet as I hadn't finished it in time.  I was so glad to have the Spencer as it was cool that day and it added just the right amount of warmth for the day.


I was pleased with the way this turned out.  I really love Costume in Detail.  The sketches are really detailed enough that you can reproduce the outfits with patterns you may have or by draping.  I've found a couple of gowns that are on my list to make at some point.  It's a great book to have in your costuming library.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

White Dotted Swiss Regency Gown

Another event, another gown.  I've loved dotted Swiss since I was a kid.  I found some lovely sheer cotton dotted Swiss lawn with elongated dots on Ebay so I decided it was time for a summer gown.  I decided that I wanted to make this fashion plate into more of a day gown.  The picture itself looks like a ball gown but I figured that eliminating the train and wearing it with a nice chemisette would work.

I think it's the sleeve that I'm particularly drawn to.  There's just something about the ruching on the sheer fabric that I love.  I analyzed the fashion plate to determine the bodice and sleeve styling and I decided that I would make this an apron front gown simply so I could dress myself.  I just can't manage gowns that button or tie in back and I'm at a loss when there is no one at home to help me.  Looking at the picture above, however, it looks like the gown in the illustration was probably one that buttoned in the back.

I had never made an apron front gown before but I stumbled upon this set of costume tutorial pictures on Flickr which made the construction quite clear.

I settled on using the Elegant Lady's Closet pattern by Sense and Sensibility because I had already muslined it and I thought I could make it work.

I decided that I would use the back bodice pieces, the skirt pieces and the front lining pieces to make the bodice and I'd draft my own bib front and alter the short sleeve pattern.

Here's what the bodice is like on the pattern.

Lining

I tried this gown on to see how much I'd need to adjust the lining pieces.  I made them 1 inch higher so they'd cover my stays and I made the shoulder strap 1/4 inch wider.  I also extended the front edge by 2 inches.

I cut all of the bodice back pieces and the new bodice front (old lining) pieces out of the dotted Swiss and some white muslin for lining.  I treated the two layers as one and sewed the back seams in small French seams.  I basted the front pieces together and stitched them to the back at the sides and shoulders using French seams.

I decided the openings in the skirt would be at the side seams.  I cut out the skirt pieces, extending the back skirt piece 2 inches at the side seam for the under lap.  I looked at some extants in Costume in Detail and Patterns of Fashion to figure out how long to make the split and I determined 12 inches was appropriate so I stitched the side seams in the skirt and left an opening of 12.5 inches.  I used French seams.  I turned under the edges of the opening and stitched them with running stitch.  The back of the skirt was gathered and stitched to the bodice with the side edges extending past the side seams.


You can see how the front will overlap.

I tried it on to check for fit.  I intended at this point to eliminate some layers.  The front pieces will over lap each other and I didn't want 4 layers of fabric.  The bottom layer would be the muslin lining only and the top layer would be the dotted Swiss only.  I marked where the excess layers would be cut away.  I also determined that I needed to add some little pleats under the bust to make it fit better.

Then I pinned the front skirt in place and adjusted the gathers so that the edges of the front skirt would end at the bodice side seams, overlapping the back skirt pieces a couple of inches.
The extra layers were cut away with the cut edge being turned under and secured with running stitch. The gown was tried on the dress form

To draft the front bib pieces, I used the wrap front pattern piece to get the correct curve for the bottom edge of the piece.  I cut a large piece of Swedish tracing paper, pinned 4 small pleats in it and pinned it to the dress form.

I used a marker to draw the shape I wanted.  Here you can see how it compares to the original pattern piece.

I checked the fit of the new pattern piece.

I cut two pieces out of dotted Swiss and lining, stitched them right sides together and turned them right side out after trimming the seam allowance to a scant 1/8 inch.  Then I stitched the pleats in.  I pinned them to the gown to check the position and then stitched them together.


I cut a band 2.5 inches wide and the length of the top of the front skirt plus one inch.  I folded in the ends 1/2" and folded it in half lengthwise.  I placed the raw edges against the top of the skirt right side then placed the bib top right side down and sewed the layers together.  The band and the skirt extended beyond the bib top by about 2 inches.  I folded the band and the seam allowances up toward the bodice, grading the layers.  I stitched half inch wide cotton tape over the seam allowances to finish them and did the same to the back bodice.  I also stitched 1/4" tape to the edges of the back skirt and to the edges of the front skirt.  Then I made thread loops at the back bodice seams.  You can see how this works at the Flickr stream I linked above.

Now I had to get to work on the sleeves.  I used the short sleeve in the pattern, lengthened it by about 3 inches, and made it about 10 inches wider.  I drew a circle in what I determined to be the center of the sleeve with two ruching lines.  I machine gathered these lines on a muslin and it seamed like it would work if I added another 4 inches or so to the width of the sleeve.  You can see where I redrew the circle over the added 4 inches. 


The sleeves were cut out of the dotted Swiss and the marks were traced onto the fabric with water soluble marker.

I ran gathering stitches at the bottom of the sleeve and the top using the machine.  Then I cut a bias strip about 2.5 inches wide by the size of my bicep plus ease.  I folded it in half lengthwise and gathered the base of the sleeve to the raw edges of the binding.  The binding was pressed down and will be turned to the wrong side of the sleeve later.

For the ruching, first I gathered the circle.  I gathered one forth of the circle at a time, drawing that section up to about 1 inch and making a locking stitch.  

Then I gathered on the ruching lines, drawing the gathers up until the sleeves measured the size of my arm plus wearing ease.

I was worried about the ruching stitches breaking so I pinned 1/4 inch cotton tape to the wrong side of the stitches, running it across the circle:

This was stitched on from the front using spaced back stitches.  Then the round puff was positioned and a couple of stitches were taken in the middle of it, securing it to the tape.


Once the ruching was completed, the sleeve seam was sewn and the binding was turned to the inside and stitched in place.   One problem now is that the ruching changed the over all shape of the sleeve.  There was way too much fabric in the front part of the sleeve at the shoulder so I pinned one sleeve to the dress form and drew new gathering lines for the front then transferred those lines to the other sleeve.  Then I stitched the sleeves into the gown and cut away the excess fabric.

Here is the finished sleeve:


Hemmed the gown and it was DONE!

Here is the final fitting over my chemisette.

In retrospect, if I ever do a similar sleeve again, I will cut a sleeve the finished shape out of a sheer foundation fabric like organdy or netting and stitch the outer sleeve to it.  That will help get the proper finished shape.  I was so concerned with keeping the sheerness of the fabric that this didn't occur to me at the time.

Here is the finished gown as worn at Riversdale House Museum.





1814 Regency Bonnet

Since I was planning a new summer muslin gown, I decided that I needed a summery bonnet to go along with it.

I found this fashion plate:

I like the fact that 5 of these are on a straw base.  Straw hats have always been a sign of summer and I wanted a straw bonnet base.  I settled on the one at the center right as it looked easy to duplicate, being basically ruffles on the straw base.

It couldn't find a straw base this shape so I decided to make one out of thrift store straw hats.  This is where you have to analyze both the shape of the bonnet you want and the shape of the hats you have available.  This hat has a tall crown--taller than most modern hats have.  I've been fortunate enough to find some hats with rolled brims, that when unrolled, can extend the crown upon reblocking.

I decided on this one:


When the brim is turned down it looked like this:

I figured I could block some of the fullness out and get a good size crown out of this shape.
First I soaked it in the sink.
Then I figured out how tall I wanted the crown and cut the remaining part of the hat off, leaving about an extra half to three quarters of an inch.

I have a 3 pound coffee can that works great for blocking this shape.  I put the hat on the can and wrapped it tightly with some old bias tape and strips of old sheets--basically anything that the air can permeate.


Once dry, I checked the shape, sprayed some heavy spray starch inside and out and let it dry.


Next I needed a brim.  I found another hat that had a brim I could shape to my liking.


I turned the brim down to check the shape.

I knew that I'd need to shrink out some of the fullness of the brim to get the right shape so I tried this hat on and pinched it in the back to get the amount of fullness I wanted.


I measured this to be 6 inches of brim I needed to remove.  I cut the brim off of the crown, saving the crown for future use as the foundation for a turban.

The fashion plate shows the bonnet brim as being narrower in the back.  First I ripped out the stitching on the edge row of straw which was a double thickness. Then I cut three inches off of each side and reduced the thickness.

I overlapped the  two pieces in the back and machine stitched that seam.  I restitched the edging and cut off a piece which I stitched over the back seam.

Then I put the brim down over the crown, overlapping about a half inch stabbing a few pins to keep it in place.

Since the hat was going to be decorated, I went ahead and machine stitched the two pieces together.

Once again, I sprayed it heavily with starch and steam it.  The top of the crown wasn't completely flat so I sprayed that, turned the bonnet upside down and weighted it down over night to dry.

Here is my finished form.

I analyzed the fashion print and it looks like there is a large ruffle, stitched in the center with one or two more ruffles at the top.  I chose to do two large ruffles stitched in the center just because it seemed quicker.

I determined that the largest one should be 5.5 - 6 inches wide--wide enough to cover a little of the brim and to end about a half inch from the top.  I cut one width of 57" silk taffeta 6.5" wide and another 5.5" wide then I pinked the edges.  I seamed the short ends together on each piece and ran a gathering stitch down the center after marking the piece in 4ths.  I also place pins in the bonnet crown at the quarter points so as to evenly distribute the gathers.

I pulled the gathers on the larger piece and put it on the bonnet tightening the gathers all the way. Once the gathers were evenly distributed, I stabbed some pins in to keep it in place.  

Then I did the same to the narrower piece.

I used doubled silk thread and a large spaced back stitch to secure the ruffles to the bonned, stitching right over the gathering stitches.

I decided to use a lighter yellow ribbon in my stash as trim since the original fashion plate is monochromatic.  I only had 1.5 inch and 2 inch wide yellow ribbon so I folded some 1.5 inch in half and pressed it then placed it over the stitching, securing it in the back.

I was stuck with what to do next.  I experimented with flowers and I didn't like the look of having them stick up in the front like the fashion plate.  I still needed something to cover the stitches in the back.  I ended up using the remainder of the 1.5" ribbon as ties which I sewed to the bonnet right at the seam between the brim and crown.  I ended up making a rosette out of the 2 inch wide ribbon using the shell stitch with 6 petals.   


I can stick some plume under the rosette if I want to fancy it up, but I like it like this for day wear.

Here is what it looks like in action:

Repurposing thrift store hats is fun.  It's amazing how many styles you can duplicate!