Robe à l’Anglaise Photoshoot

Two years ago I made a robe à l’anglaise out of the Waverly Indienne curtain fabric. I documented the project here, but I didn’t have a proper kerchief, cap, hat, or shoes at the time and wasn’t satisfied with the photos I was able to get of the gown. Since then I’ve acquired the rest of the accessories so I recently set up a meeting with a photographer to get better photos. We went to the local National Park where battles of the Revolutionary War were fought, and I love how everything came out!

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The amazing photographer is The Nerdy Monkey.

I’m hoping that in the future I can get nice photos like these of more of my gowns. They spend so much time just hanging in my closet, I’d love to be able to show them off more.

Thanks for looking!

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18th Century Pocket

While I was at Rufflecon wearing my polonaise I realized that I really needed a pocket to keep my phone and things in while I walked around the con. I had been teaching myself a little bit of embroidery since the Jamestown conference last year anyway, and I thought a pocket would be a good first project to work on. I looked up examples of extant pockets online and rather than copy anything exactly, I sketched out my own free-hand design.

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I stitched it on a scrap of linen left over from lining my bliaut. The embroidered face is backed with a second piece of linen so that I don’t catch the back of the embroidery as I put things in and out. The back of the pocket is muslin because I had run out of linen scraps that were big enough.

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The binding and ties are more linen scraps. I actually still have to finish sewing the ties, but since the pocket itself is done and it’s been a while since I posted, I thought I should upload it now. I’ve also finished my Tudor waistcoat that I started over the summer, but I can’t get the damn thing to photograph well, so I’m probably going to wait to post about that one until I finish my kirtle so I can post about them together.

The Yellow Polonaise

Several years ago, a friend of mine was cleaning out her fabric stash and gifted me a yellow upholstery fabric woven with a green and pink flower and stripe motif. I always intended to make a robe a la polonaise out of it, but between other projects and the fact that yellow isn’t always flattering on my skin tone, the fabric sat untouched for a long time.

Over the summer I learned that the founder of American Duchess would be coming to Rufflecon, an alternative fashion convention that I had already purchased my ticket for. American Duchess’ Bastille Day sale was still on, so I finally bought the Kensingtons that I had been wanting for years, and subsequently decided that if I were going to wear my Kensingtons to Rufflecon to meet the founder of American Duchess, I needed a new, fancier gown to wear them with.

I was inspired by this extant gown that I found posted on the Fripperies and Fobs Tumblr:

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The J.P. Ryan pattern would again be my base, and in August I began cutting out the pieces. I briefly looked at trying to acquire some green quilted fabric for the petticoat, but quickly decided to do a plain green petticoat with a flounced hem instead, like a polonaise in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 1. That polonaise also had a self-fabric trim around the neckline and sleeve edges, so I decided to add those to mine as well. I also realized that I would need to finally make a bum pad and under petticoat because I never had for my earlier gowns, and the polonaise would really require one to get the proper effect.

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I cheated and bought kelly green polyester taffeta for the petticoat, and spent hours pinking the edges of the flounce and then box pleating it onto the hem.

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I was so busy in August and September that suddenly it was September 30 and I was running out of time. I still had to attach the skirt to the bodice, add the trim and closures, finish the lining, add the buttons for the polonaise, and add ties to the petticoat, and all of that had to be done by hand.

I finished the closures on the morning of the day I left for Rufflecon. I was originally going to add lace to the sleeve cuffs, but I ran out of time and motivation. I had just enough time to try the gown on with the closures for the first time (perfect fit, thank god!) before putting it away in my suitcase and hitting the road.

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With the skirt down.

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With the skirt worn à la polonaise.

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The slight gapping at the top of the bodice and the slightly messy spots where the edge of the skirt meets the bodice are the only things I’m not happy with on this gown.

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Trim at the neckline.

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Trim on the sleeve.

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Actually, I lied. The messy point at the back of the bodice bothers me a bit, too.

I haven’t gotten the best worn photos of it yet; I was having too much fun at Rufflecon to get anyone to take very good photos, but here’s one in the mirror in my hotel room:

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And here’s me with Lauren, of American Duchess, after her and Abby’s panel on draping:

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(This hairstyle gives me a fivehead.)

I’m extremely pleased that I was able to finish this in time for Rufflecon, and I’m very happy with the way it came out. I was quite sick of looking at it by the end, though. I think once I put it away for a while and have occasion to bring it out for something else fancy that I’m not stressing to get ready for I’ll realize how much I like it. For the moment I’m just happy to be done with it and go back to sewing my wool items.

Speaking of which, there’s now only two weekends left to finish my Halloween costume, which still needs a chemise, sleeves, fitting adjustments, and closures…

The Six-week 18th Century Set

About six weeks ago a costumer friend of mine announced that she was having a May Day party in a historic inn built in the 18th century. Since I don’t get enough opportunities to dress up, and since I had been planning on making an 18th century gown eventually, I decided I would finally make my gown–and stays and chemise–for the party. *cue stressed out sewing montage*

Armed with the Waverly Felicite curtain panels, the J.P. Ryan robe à l’anglaise pattern, and the Butterick stays pattern that I had bought on sale years ago, I got to work.

The stays took the longest. Even doing the boning channels on my sewing machine, it took me six hours to put boning channels, cut the reeds, and thread them through one half of the stays. And then I still had to do all of that on the second half. I stabbed my hands and arms with the pins in the stays so many times that I showed up to Easter Dinner looking like I’d had a fight with a porcupine. The reed boning came from corsetmaking.com. I bought the round reed, but I bought the smallest size, and each channel took so many reeds to make it stiff enough, I wish I had bought the bigger size reed, or just gone with the flat reed.

Once the boning was finished it was time for the binding. While I was pinning the binding on the stays to be sewn on by hand I promptly shoved a straight pin halfway up the bed of my thumbnail. The pin must have been clean though, because the injury didn’t turn scary like I feared. It just hurt when I had to use my thumb to pinch the binding to the stays for the rest of the week.

When I finished the binding (with minimal further injury), I put all the eyelets in by hand using an awl. I found this tutorial helpful, but I didn’t end up using the buttonhole stitch to finish the eyelets. They were taking long enough with one pass of stitching. I did cheat a bit–I had read and understood that using an awl for eyelets works best on natural fiber fabrics, because the threads will stretch instead of breaking, making the hole neater and stronger than if the threads break like synthetic fibers will. But the fabric for my stays came out of the remnants bin at JoAnn’s and was of questionable fiber content. Turns out there was quite a bit of synthetic fiber in it, so my eyelets did not stretch very neatly, but I was able to clean them up while stitching enough so that they came out pretty serviceable.

EyeletsI used spiral lacing to close both the front and back of the corset using this tutorial (I had to fiddle a bit with the front because of the placement of the boning channels). Unfortunately my commercial dress form is just incompatible with 18th century structural garments, so the stays don’t fit it nicely for a good photo, but here’s a couple to give you an idea what the finished stays look like:

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staysbackThe chemise was easy to throw together from this tutorial. I used a really nice, soft cotton-poly blend. I intended to use 100% cotton or a linen, but the cotton-poly had such a nice feel to it, and the price was right. No one sees the chemise anyway…

After all that was done, I only had about a week and a half before the event! Luckily the JP Ryan pattern is very easy to execute. I made a quick mock-up which fit nicely with a few adjustments to the shoulder strap length, and then cut the pieces out of my curtain fabric. The instructions made it very easy to put together the bodice and then gather the skirts to the correct width. I even got all the pleats right on the first try with just one minor adjustment!

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004v2The sleeves caused a bit of a problem because the sleeve cap seems to be so much larger than the armscye, and the directions simply say to “make three small pleats” in the sleeve cap without being 100% clear where they’re supposed to go, and even with the pleats the sleeve cap seemed to big. The result was that my sleeves came out a bit messy, but I covered it up with my fichu and promised myself to fix them later, for future events. My costumer friend explained that I had put the pleats too far toward the back, instead of placing them more at the top of my shoulder. She also told me she tends to pull the bodice fabric across the bias when sewing in the sleeves, so that it stretches the bodice fabric and gives her more room for the sleeve caps. I’m nervous about ripping the bodice fabric, but I might have to try it carefully next time.

It also seems like I didn’t shorten the shoulder straps enough, because I get a bit of gappage at the shoulders of my bodice, exacerbated by the messy sleeves pulling the fabric back toward my shoulders. The fichu hid it for the night, but I can adjust that later when I go back to fix the sleeves. (I made the fichu in about an hour from the first cotton fabric I could find–at Walmart–so that’s also going to need a replacement for the next wear)

The front closure was also a bit of a puzzle because I had it in my head that the front pieces should overlap, but the directions were following the assumption that the front pieces would abut perfectly, but not overlap. Once I understood that, the front came out pretty good. I feel like it could be a bit tighter, but it looks perfectly fitted in the front, so I’m happy with the look it makes.

I finished the whole thing a full day before the event. I had been working on it and thinking about it non-stop for six weeks, so suddenly being finished with it left me a little lost. I just felt like I should be working on something. But I do have a couple projects that need to be started and progressed on in the next month or so, so I’m sure I’ll be stressed out about the next project soon enough.

Anyway, finished pictures! The one thing I didn’t get around to making was a cap, but it was a May Day party, so I threw on a flower crown and called it a night.

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At the historic inn.

At the historic inn.

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Further evidence that I am crazy

A costumer friend of mine just announced an 18th century-themed event for May Day on May 2nd. So I, in my infinite wisdom, have decided to throw all other projects to the wayside and will be attempting to make a robe à l’anglaise in about a month and a half. Totally doable, right? Did I mention that I need stays and a chemise, too? Luckily I already have a passable pattern for the stays, and I already have one panel of the Waverly Indienne print curtains, though I’m going to need to get a second panel. I just ordered the robe à l’anglaise pattern from J.P. Ryan, and I’ll have to order reed bones for the stays. I was already planning a fabric shopping trip on Sunday, so I can pick up fabric for the petticoat, stays, and lining then. Wish me luck!

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