Loose threads

Various sewing projects. Mostly historical (or historically inspired) stuff. Varying levels of ambition!

Challenge 2016:3 Protection

Kategori: Allmänt, Historic Sew Monthly 16

I had something else entirely in mind for the Protection challenge. Then, I was talked into participating in the larp Fairweather Manor in Poland with about three weeks notice and thought I wouldn't do that challenge at all. But then again, what is protection, really? I was thinking in something to keep me warm, or perhaps a new apron (both needed), but then again, clothes can be a very different kind of protection after all.
Fairweather Manor is heavily inspired by Downton Abbey, set in April 1914 (so before the war) and since I apparently momentarily didn't turn on the safety systems in my brain, I ended up with the housekeeper part. Which is a great part already on paper, but also very, very scary. Therefore: first part of the "protection": protection for me. I needed to have a reasonably good outfit, that made me feel I looked the part and not like I was heading for a theme-party. Second part of the protection: Protection for my character. Her clothes would be her image to the outside world, the mental armour.
The problems
I have never done 20th century. I love the look, but I've never tried it. I knew exactly nothing about the actual construction, at least in practics.
The solution
Thankfully, my family keeps stuff. My great-great grandmother's stuff is, to some extent, still around. She married in 1894, and stuff from that time onwards is still in storage at my grandmother's. There, I found underskirts and a coat (lovely, but I ended up not using it, since Poland said it was summer and the coat was more of a winter coat). There were also corset covers, shifts and even a corset. The latter was sadly too early in shape and too big for me, as well as too worn to use, but a friend actually had a corset roughly my size - at least enough to create the firmness of shape needed. So; I had the underpinnings, and very pretty they were, too (though not really over-the-top, it seems early 20th century stuff can't be anything but a soft and nice and pretty look).
I mean, look at it! And this was the least pretty one, since the prettier one was slightly too small and I hadn't time to fix it.
The inspiration
There was, however, nothing soft and nice and pretty about my character, so I needed an outer layer to match. The inspiration was of course obvious (and really, who doesn't like Mrs Hughes??!).
From season 1. Stripes, overlap in front, no excess fabric, conservative skirt length, a lovely chateaine. Sleeves apparently curved rather than straight - a feature I'm used to from 16h century dress. Visible front seams leading me to guess a five-gore skirt.
However: Yes, Downton abbey is wonderful. The costumes are wonderful. But even though it was a larp I was making the dress for, the HA ambitions couldn't be all ignored. So. Were there any references whatsoever that supported at least the basic ideas? Well. Sort of. This on Past Patterns supported the overlap front, though the skirt is of a different construction and the bodice has a more generous fit. Since I was short of time, I decided to try to combine the two to some extent and say "good enough!" From the Historical Sew Fortnightly group I got an unanimous "get a corset!!!!", and I was very happy about it now.
This dress from 1916 (Norway) should not be too off as a reference either.
Overlap in front, belt. It has a collar, though, and other sleeves and is a lot more fancy and...
The fabric
I know I don't do the most blingy things. I know I have issues (I'm working on them!) with leaving the "less is more" idea behind when I do 16th century. But for this, even I had to restrain myself.
"Colour?" NO. Really. "Neckline?" NO. Don't be silly. "What about a patterned fabric, to set the character apart from the ladies' maids?" Alright then. But make it understated.
And so I found a greyish black 'wool' (the seller says '100% pure new wool', I say I don't believe it after seeing it catch fire in the burn-test I did, but for this project it was more than ok).
The construction
Puritans, avert your eyes... For the bodice, I used the pattern I just had constructed for the Tudor tailor woman's doublet, but altered the sleeves and the front, shortened it and added the skirt. Perhaps foolishly, I added a waistband in between the bodice and the skirt. In hindsight, that added some bulk around the waist where I'd rather not wanted to have it, but I didn't really have time for second thoughts. For the skirt, I simply decided I wanted a five-gore thing with the closure in one of the front seams, cut the pieces and pinned until I was happy. Then I added a buttoned belt, and two buttons on the other side to (somewhat) keep the belt from sliding down when I hung keys and such from it and I was done. All of it (more or less) machinesewn. Hooks and eyes for front closure and snap buttons for the front skirt and upper bodice closures. Done!
To achieve the high-necked look I wore a blouse underneath. Added benefit: I could change blouses. Not a bad thing when you spend 15 hours a day walking up and down hallways in a rather warm Polish castle, I can tell you that.
The result
The front. The extra width in the bodice is mostly gathered in the sides, to keep the front smooth. I didn't quite get rid of the pull in the fabric, it's a fitting issue I didn't have time to solve.
The front closure and the belt. Hooks and yes under the belt, snap buttons aboive and below. Fit issues rather apparent, sadly, and the buttons are plastic ones.
The back. Imagine how annoyed I was when I far too late realised that I had put the boxpleat in the back reeeeeaaaaaallly off to one side. No idea how I managed to do that. No time to fix it. Arrrrgh.
And finally, a rare ingame pictures. Yes, there were name-tags ;) Photo (c) John-Paul Bichard If you have Facebook, there are also a lot of amazing photos on his Facebook page.
Mrs Cooper wasn't one for smiles. At all. 
 Look how very serious we are. This was the ingame portraits: "Now, stand very still..."
The facts:
Mrs Cooper's work dress

The Challenge: 3, Protection

Material: Wool

Pattern: Mostly my own

Year: 1910's

Notions: Polyester thread, snap buttons, hooks and eyes, plastic buttons

How historically accurate is it? I really don't know enough to tell, so I'd say perhaps 50%.

Hours to complete: About 16

First worn: April 14, 2016

Total cost: About 30 euros. The fabric cost me more, but I have enough for at least one dress more in my stash now, so counting only the fabric used for this dress.


Challenge 2016:2 - Tucks and pleating

Kategori: Allmänt

Continuing the backlog of blog-posts for 2016 so far, here's nr 2. Proper smocking is one of the things on my to-do list and this was perhaps not the day I got round to it, but it's a step on the way.
A mini project, too: the ever-adjustment of the shift goes on. My first camisia/15th century Italian shift was originally done in about 2007. I finally got round to fix the neckline before the masked ball in November, and this time I decided to smock the sleeves, that are wide rather than long and therefore hard to put on properly under tight sleeves. For the larp in January I added smocking threads, three per cuff. The folds are at about 0.5 cm apart and the threads about 1 cm apart, creating a narrow but functional cuff. After the larp I experimented with honeycomb smocking. Not entirely pleased with the outcome, I think the folds should perhaps have been closer together and/or deeper. Now I left the smocking-threads in in order to keep the shape of the cuff, and it's still a bit too wide. Next time I'll make an open cuff and make it broader. Still, since the smocking thread is white I think it looks ok, and it serves its purpose: to make the sleeve go more nicely under tight-ish sleeves.
The finished result:
Not too bad, even if it's sloppy work.

The Challenge: 2, Tucks and pleating

Material: Existing shift/camisia

Pattern: None

Year: 1500s

Notions: Cotton thread

How historically accurate is it? Uhm, say 80% or so. Looks ok from a distance, but as smocking go it's not very impressive, I have no good reference for a narrow smocking and the thread should of course not be cotton.

Hours to complete: About 6, it takes surprisingly long time.

First worn: In its present state, not yet I think.

Total cost: Nothing, thread was from an old relative's stash. If I would have made the entire garment new, about 30 euros.

Challenge 2016:1 - Procrastination

Kategori: Allmänt

A perfect start for the new year: the dress I put off already in November, and almost didn't finish in time for either the challenge of the event. (And on top of that, a bonus feature; it took me three+ months to sit down to write the blog post).
This started of as the Silver Screen project in November 2015. Life got in between.
I then of course could have a done re-do of it as that was the challenge of December 2015, but a) the event had come and gone and b) I was in the middle of the process of preparing for a move. So by January 2016 this was long overdue and another event was approaching. Sewing a dress and packing a flat at the same time, what could possibly go wrong?
For the original Silver Screen challenge I went for the Borgias. It fit nicely with my already existing love for Italian late 15th-first half of 16th century stuff. As most people in my circles have discovered, I'm a horrible snobby person who tend to get increasingly annoyed at all the bad costume in period dramas. My own version is that I'm not that snobby, I just tend to freak out over uncovered  hair and corsets-without-shifts (of silver firs in "Viking Scandinavia", but that's an entirely different story). The Borgias have a tendency to go fabric shopping where the 80's bought their curtains, but apart from that they are far from the worst show out there. Actually. I might be saved by my limited knowledge, but I can mostly watch it without whincing.
The dress I chose to remake for the original challenge was this one:
The curtain stripes are there, but still - it's pretty, isn't it?
Looking for the possible references, I found two. They are both a decade or more of from the events in the show, but 10-20 years is not so bad a miss period-wise in a TV show.
The underbust thing seems to be a Venetian thing from the first decades of the 1500's:
Venetian lovers, by Titian - 1520's or so. Note the underbust bodice and the poofy sleeves.
To get a reference for the slightly "higher and shorter" puff of the sleeves, as well as the "open under the arm" look of Lucretia's red dress I had to go look for a slightly later period. So, second reference:
Portrait of a Lady, by Bernardino Licinio (1489-1565). Cross-referencing with the portraits by Paris Bordone I found when researching for the open-front dress I did in 2014, I'd say this is about 1530-50. Underbust look is long gone, and the poof has crept towards the shoulders. If you combine these two, however, you get fairly close to the dress Lucretia wears above.
Materials: I found cotton velvet cheap enough to try things out on, and got started. Cotton velvet is far more forgiving (and easier to shape) than the polyester variety. Next time I'll perhaps go for viscose/rayon, hoping it will combine the less-than-airtight feeling of cotton and the slightly more silky light reflection of polyester. As usual I kept trying for the perfect way to achieve support without a corset, so bodice front is two layers of very sturdy linen, plus lining (linen) plus outer fabric. No boning whatsoever, not even zip ties along the lacing - if you look closely at the Licinio painting, you can see the fabric pulling towards what I think is side-lacing.
Design choices: The velvet frayed terribly, and not only frayed but left small red loops of pile everywhere. Therefore I chose reluctantly to not slash the sleeves as above. A maybe-next-time-thing. I also left out the butterflies. Butterflies. I kid you not, look again. There are small fabric butterflies or bows all over the bodice and skirt front. I'm sorry, but I couldn't make myself do them.
Construction: More machine-sewing than usual. I was short of time and well... lazy. Velvet is no fun in a machine, though I ended up doing more or less everything except the long seams in the skirt by hand. I'm sure I took pictures as I went, but I can't find them now. Not a lot of new things compared to earlier projects, though. The sleeves are attached at the shoulder and then the poofed part is added on top. This keeps the poof from stretching/the sleeve to slide down over the hand. Spiral lacing in the side-seams. The skirt is cartridgepleated in the back and side front, with a box- and a few knife pleats in the actual front. I did pad the pleats first, but that did not work out well at all - the pleats became far to big and the silhouette of the skirt became far too square. The skirt itself should likely have been shaped panels, but rectangular skirts save a lot of time when hemming.
I ended up sewing the hem on site the hours before the event, but I was done on time and the dress worked apart from the neckline being too low in the back = left shoulder of dress sliding down. That's what I get for being assymetrical.
The finished dress was never on photo with me in it, since it was dark and no-one had a camera, but I Took some photos on the mannequin. This makes the bodice part less flat, obviously, since the mannequin doesn't squish the way I do, but still.
Front. I'm reasonably pleased.
 Back. Still ok, but the a-bit-too-low neckline hints toward the 17th century in a way I didn't intend.
Close-up of the bodice. Note the visible shift under the arm.
The facts:

The Challenge: 1, Procrastination

Material: Outer fabric: cotton velvet. Lining: linen (in bodice only). Interlining: thick linen/canvas

Pattern: Taken from earlier dresses and reshaped, so mostly adapted from Patterns of fashion. Sleeves drafted from scratch.

Year: First half of the 16th century. Say 1530-ish or possibly 1540s.

Notions: Polyester thread, lacing cord and aiglets borrowed from another dress.

How historically accurate is it? Sort of...? References are legit, my execution and the materials, less so. It'll pass from a distance, so I'll say 75%.

Hours to complete: Far to many, I'd say 30 minimum.

First worn: 30th of January, 2016 (so I know I was done in time :) )

Total cost: About 40 euros. The fabric was really cheap.