Friday, April 24, 2015

Black Plaid Cotton Dress, early-mid 1860s

Partial follow-up from the 1865 dress research post and redux: Mom's dress.

I decided to opt for a relatively plain and conservative approach to this dress, various reasons of persona, fit, and the wearer's comfort.

Classic elements of the period:
  • Bishop sleeves
  • Pleated bodice with jewel neckline
  • Manipulating the plaid fabric for self-trim (waistband and cuffs)
  • Piped neck and armsythe
  • Skirts balanced at the waist; faced hem 
 Stylish elements for 1865:
  • Small "stand up" white collar and narrow white cuffs (to be added)
  • Waistband at the elevated 'fashionable waist'
  • Skirts set fuller at the back than at the front; worn over petticoats set fuller to the back than the front (with a small tournure, or "dress improver" to help simulate the elongated cage of '65)
The skirt is knife-pleated (admittedly unusual for a cotton in the early '60s) to emphasize the plaid and to mimic the fashion for pleats in gored skirts, which are apparently ubiquitous by '65.  Gauging is falling out of favor, but pleating a non-gored cotton skirt is still sort of iffy, as far as I can tell.  The good news is that I can easily re-set the skirt with gauging for future re-use.

The front closure uses hooks and eyes.  One side pocket, taken from the design for a '66-'67 dress in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion II.  Bodice and sleeve custom-draped.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Fanchon Drafting, Part 1

Continuing from the research post, which got too long.

Bonnets from "Der Bazar", May 1865
So, spring 1865 fanchons, to recap:
  • Have three corners, like a "half handkerchief"
  • Have cheek tabs
  • Sit close to the face at the sides and peak up at the top (but less than the spoon bonnets did)
  • Have a little trim and some lace under the brim (but less than before)
  • Have soft crowns (description, January, Peterson's)
  • OR appear to be cut in one piece (images showing brim-crown combo; February-April, Peterson's)
  • OR have no crown (May-summer, Peterson's)
  • Have little to no curtain (may have a short ruffle or some trim along the back edge)
  • Some bonnet ties continue either across the middle of the brim, or along the now-curtain-free back edge 
  • Are "easily made at home".  The editor of Peterson's thinks this means the fashion establishment will keep pushing the "empire" bonnet, but didn't think a pattern useful to include.
Some poking around eventually produced a diagram of a '68 fanchon (courtesy of Cornell University's Library) in Harper's Bazaar for May 9, 1868:
Harper's Bazaar, page 436, 5/9/1868
(Just to annoy me, Google books finally turned up the same page; neither, however seems to contain the elusive "Fashion Supplement XIII", which promises a pattern)

1868 Bonnet wire diagram, Harper's
1868 Fanchon frame diagram, Harper's
Der Bazar has some schematics a little closer to the target date (again, without the supplement which promises a cutting diagram):

Der Bazar, January 1865
Der Bazar, April 1865
The '68 images are crown-free, but it's still there in the '65 images, however abbreviated.

For the actual drafting, I started by cutting a triangular piece (like a handkerchief folded in half) out of newsprint, and fiddling with the length and depth until it sat properly.  I then drew in the cheek tabs, and tweaked those until a satisfactory arrangement was attained.  This suits for the crown-less "May" fanchons.  For the earlier winter-spring styles, I added a small semi-circular half-crown as in the January image from Der Bazar.  Small darts on the lower edge help to shape this piece.

c. 1865 Fanchon pattern with cheek tabs (self-draped)
The actual bonnet forms are cut of buckram, with millinery wire around the edges to help shape them (cotton crinoline bias tape covers the wires).
Fanchon form (no crown)
Fanchon form, partial crown
In comparison to the Der Bazar image, the partial crown should be deeper and a little less abrupt at the transition, but I haven't been about to make that shape work in paper.  Hopefully, the silk and trim will cover these minor sins. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

1865 Dress Research, Part II: Skirts and Skirt Support

More thoughts and sources since the first iteration.

Pictures provided by K. Krewer at the Sewing Academy got me thinking along the lines of layering the skirt (the striped silk in my first research post also had the "en tablier" front, but with a back bow instead of the puffs in Mrs. Krewer's example).  It's a cool effect, and one I'd like to try if I can make the fabric (metaphorically) stretch.

"The petticoat is ornamented with the same lace as the train, sometimes in flounces, sometimes in puffings or bouffons of tulle, sometimes en tablier, that is, down either side."
-Description of Court Dress from The Habits of Good Society, 1865

(In this context, the "petticoat" is meant to be seen... because Court Dress.)

The same term 'en tablier' is used in 1864 (in the February issue of Harper's New Monthly Magazine) to describe a morning costume with a contrasting front panel.
From Frank Leslie's Ladies' Magazine and Gazette of Fashion, August 1865 
"Dress of black silk, trimmed en tablier with a wide band of violet silk."

The French, however, seem to actually mean 'apron-shaped' instead of  'open/contrast panel' when they use it:
La Moniteur de la Mode, December 1864
"La jupe de taffetas blanc forme bien la traîne, elle est ornée d une haute dentelle s'arrondissant derrière en habit-traine et en tablier plus court devant."

For the less high-fashion minded, here's what Peterson's had to say about dresses in February 1865:
Summary: High waists, waistbands, gored skirts, and narrow sleeves.

As for what's going on under those skirts (forgive the expression):
Peterson's, February 1865
Peterson's, May 1865
Der Bazar, March 1865
Footprint of the above hoop (Der Bazar, March 1865)
Gored petticoats to support gored skirts, and the crinoline shape itself is morphing along similar lines (fuller in back than front; less "bell" and more "conical"/"pyramidal" in shape, with an egg-shaped footprint instead of a round one).  As I'm not about to make two new crinolines for one event, I'm working on some gored and/or full-backed petticoats (with a small 'tournure'/'dress improver') for use with with my existing cages, to simulate the full-back look.  My 1865 persona is apparently an economically-minded woman who already has a perfectly serviceable cage, and is being cautious about this new 'fad' in skirt shape, while trying not to look too out-dated.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

HFF #23: Sweet Sips or Potent Potables

The Challenge: Make a beverage.

The Receipt: Plain Lemonade (receipt #223) from Jerry Thomas's How to Mix Drinks

Cut in very thin slices 3 lemons, put them in a basin, add half a pound of sugar, either white or brown; bruise all together, add a gallon of water, and stir well. It is then ready. 

Date/Region: 1862, American

How did you make it: Half scale. Sliced three small lemons* into a mixing bowl, per the instructions, added 1 cup of granulated sugar and beat with a wooden spoon.  Stirred in 1/2 gallon of water.

*Not sure of the average size of lemons in the 1860s, so I'm just guessing that these are the appropriate size for a half-batch.

Time: Under 10 minutes

Cost: $1.50 for lemons; sugar on hand.

How successful was it: A light, not-to-sweet lemonade.  Quick and straight forward; would make again.

How accurate was it: Only potential issue is the average size of lemons in the 1860s.

Step 1
Step 2
Step 3

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Mid-Nineteenth Century Gored Corset

Updating my gored 1850s/1860s number.  It started life as the Simplicity 2890 corset (pattern by Kay Gnagely).  After two alterations, I got the bust gussets to the almost-proper widths for me.  Following Liz Clark's advice (and scissor-work) at the Nisqually workshops in October, there are now four additional hip gussets in the side and side back; the back gusset has also been re-sized, and the entire upper front extended by 2". I also added some additional boning, to help support the extra swaths of fabric.  Additional fitting advice from the SA ladies, and some final gore re-shaping/ change of bone placement from Dana, and voila:

I've decided that I still hate sewing in gores, but that they can be effective.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Oregon City Textile Con

Marge Harding's Historic Textile, Fashion, and Living History Conference was a blast!  I'm definitely going back next time, ideally with more batteries for the camera, and a larger budget for fabric--Oregon City being conveniently near to a certain Pendelton Woolen outlet.

I got to take classes from Eileen Trestain (who let us handle and drool-over-but-not-on awesome historic quilts) and Carolann Schmidt (who's invisible mending methods have already come in handy).  There were talks from Carolann, Liz Clark, and Marge Harding, and a plethora of original garments to study.  Rotating displays on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday featured over three dozen unique articles each, from the late eighteenth to early twentieth centuries.  The small, yet dangerous, dealer's room included very reasonably priced reproduction fabric, period-appropriate cashmere shawls, magazines and fashion plates, patterns, reference books, and even original garments.

On Saturday afternoon, were we allowed to handle some fifty dresses and wrappers, dated 1815 to 1915, taking closer looks at construction methods, repairs, alterations, material, trim, and style elements.  That evening, dinner included a fashion show of attendee's reproduction apparel, in which the 1870s contingent really blew the rest of us out of the water.

Although I didn't make it to the nearby McLoughlin House (closed on Sundays), the Stevens-Crawford House Museum put on a special display of gowns to coincide with the conference.

Now to put my notes in order, and hopefully label the 1445 photographs I took...

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Corded Stays, 1860s

Using the suggestions in The Dressmaker's Guide, I adapted the Simplicity 9000-series shaped-seam corset into corded stays for Mom.  For a wide variety of reasons (most pertinently, that her first/only-planned event is a 4 mile walk) I think she'll find them more comfortable--or at least less unfamiliar--than the steel-boned corsets I favor.

In an ideal world, after the initial measurements, I'd baste some plastic boning onto a single-layer toile, adjust the fit and then build the real corset sandwich style, putting the seam allowances between the layers.  Since I'm on a time budget, fitting over a distance, and likely to be recycling/remaking this garment in the future, I instead kept the two layers of each piece together and have the seam allowances visible on the inside.  This allowed me to do some of the cording before fitting (adjustments will be made at the seam lines, so cord channels down the center of each piece will be safe).  I also worked the button-closures and set the lacing-grommets in advance, as those portions are straight lines and fastening points, ie, unlikely locations for seam tweaking.
Corded pieces, showing eyelets and button holes
My grommet setting tools, however, had ideas of their own, and went into open rebellion while working on the back pieces.

With the pieces basted together, Mom tried on the ultra-lightly-corded stays; I pinned out excess fabric at the seams, until the garment fit smoothly and snugly.  After re-stitching the seams along their new lines, I added additional cording channels along each.  Finally, the raw upper and lower edges are finished with self-fabric bias binding, and the seam allowances are hand whip-stitched against fraying.
Finished Stays
Vital Stats: Front fastens with 9 bone buttons (hand-worked button holes); back adjusts with 26 hand-sewn thread eyelets; stiffened with two 1/4" spring steel bones at center back and approximately 92 vertical rows of cording running down the center of each piece, at the center front and back openings, and along the seams.