Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas Greetings, a treasure from the closet and some modern bits.....

I wanted to wish all my friends and followers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Before I take a break over the holidays I wanted to share some photos with you.

The first is a lovely silk/linen dress from the early 1900s in my collection. Sadly the silk is quite damaged but it is nice to study the details. It is mostly machine made. The bodice is shaped by pin tucks.

Embroidered panel with metal threads and tiny paste stones.

Covered button detail.

Side back fastening with metal hooks and handmade loops.

Loop detail.

Hem detail. Machine made with the fullness pleated at intervals. Interior seams left raw.

Finally I do sometimes like to use some of my antique treasures in my clothing. The first example are a pair of cut steel decorations which I used to decorate the back of a modern top. I did this by extending and finishing the opening in the centre back. I then mounted each piece on black tulle for support and hand stitched them to either side of the opening.

I joined these two military cuffs decorated with goldwork embroidery to make a belt.

Thank you for all the positive comments and suggestions throughout the year. See you in 2014!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Book Giveaway Winner!

Thank you to all those who entered the competition and for your lovely positive comments. All the names were put into my best Regency bonnet. My mother had the honour of drawing the winning name.

"Drum roll".......The winner is Michael Deibert! Congratulations! I have emailed you. I hope you enjoy the book. 

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Creating Historical Clothes Book Giveaway

Greetings to my followers! I have a copy of 'Creating Historical Clothes' by Elizabeth Friendship to give away. Here's the press release,

"Create stunning costumes for women in a range of historical styles, from the mid-16th century to the
end of the 19th century. Spanning 400 years of fashion history Creating Historical Clothes covers
everything you need to know to create stunning costumes for women.
Taking you from the bodices of the mid-16th century through to the bustles of the Victorian era,
Elizabeth Friendship’s instructions and diagrams will ensure you get each period detail spot on. You’ll
learn to draft and cut patterns to build your own historical costume wardrobe of perfectly fitted and
historically accurate gowns and garments. Friendship’s unique method of pattern drafting ensures that
they can be adapted to fit wearers of all shapes and sizes.
Lavishly illustrated throughout with historical paintings and illustrations Creating Historical Clothes is

ideal for costume students, professional historical dressmakers and amateur costume enthusiasts alike."

I was very impressed by this book. The patterns and instructions were easy to follow and the book was well illustrated throughout.

So if you would like to win a copy please add your name in the comments below. I do have to sadly moderate the comments first due to spam messaging so your name may not appear straight away. The competition closes on December 10th at 09.00 UK time. The winner will be chosen by random and I will announce the name on my blog on the 11th December.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

I'm Back! A quick round up!

Showing a round gown c.1798 similar to one that Jane Austen describes in her letters (not original, but recreated by myself)
Photo courtesy of John van der Stap 
Attending the 'The Netherfield Ball' in Bath June 2013......or recreating Miss Bingley ;-)

Greetings to my followers. Time is passing so quickly this year and as always I have been very busy! 

I have also been creating a lot of clothing for my customers and travelling which has prevented me from updating my blog for a while.

A few weeks ago I was delighted to do my first ever talk on the subject of 'What Jane Wore' for a special event by PandP Tours. I talked about what Jane Austen actually wore through descriptions in her letters and other primary evidence. I also showed original items from my collection. 

The size of an original shawl....Photo courtesy of John van der Stap

Friday, 3 May 2013

Coming Soon.........A new Regency Ballgown..........

I am busy with many projects and continue to stitch the spotted muslin dress. Here is a sneak peek of the fabric for my new Regency ballgown.........watch this space!

Friday, 26 April 2013

Cutting the Regency Dress.

So, I have spent enough time staring at the fabric and decided to take the plunge and cut the Regency Dress! 

 I divided the majority of the fabric into three sections which would make the skirt. I then measured what was left to see if it was feasible to cut part of the bodice and sleeves. I used patterns which I had developed from Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion and other original garments. The entire sleeve pattern would not fit on the fabric so I reduced the pattern as much as possible to fit the fabric. I decided this would be a good place to do some insertion detail to expand the pattern piece out again. I cut some strips from the striped muslin which I am using for decoration.

The rest of the spare fabric was used to cut the bodice front. You can see above that there was little to work with and I had to place a seam under the arm. The shape looks strange but I will add some pleated detailing using the striped muslin to fill in the centre front neckline.

I shaped the top of centre front panel as above by cutting away  rectangular pieces to create an 'A' shape. This gives a smooth shaping to the front which you see in dresses from this period. I have found that if the centre front panel is too wide without gathering then it tends to wrinkle over the stomach area.

The pieces that were cut off the top will be added to the bottom half of the centre front section to add some extra fullness to the skirt section. 

The cut of the side sections of the skirt left enough spare fabric to make the centre back of the bodice and the shoulder sections (thank goodness!). Usually, I would not have such an angle on the side pieces but I needed to use the full width of the muslin available!

Thank you for your comments. I do really appreciate them! I will post soon with the next stages of construction.

My inspiration for the bodice decoration has come from the example above from the 'Fashioning Fashion' exhibition. However my dress will be a fixed shape with a back fastening rather than a 'bib' front style.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Mission Impossible..........An 1813 Regency Dress

I recently bought a length of vintage spotted muslin and I thought it would make a great Regency Dress. However there are only 3.25 meters and the muslin is 72 centimetres wide……….mission impossible???? As the saying goes ‘necessity is the mother of invention’?
Close up of the vintage muslin.
1813 is not my favourite year for Regency fashion but the styles give me an opportunity to do a bit of decoration that will hide the lack of fabric.

 Luckily there is no issue with ‘top and tailing’ the fabric when I cut as there is no ‘nap’. I also did some background research on skirt widths of the period. Nancy Bradfield’s ‘Costume in Detail 1730-1930’ presents some very useful measurements. One dress example from c.1815 measures only 62 inches circumference! However, I was concerned that if the circumference was too small I would be walking in a dainty way.........
Detail Ackermann's Repository of Fashion 1813

I found some fabric remnants which complement the muslin and I might use one to add on to the hem because in 1813 you see a lot of detailing and decoration. 

Larger spotted muslin and a striped muslin.

 The fashionable dress length was quite short which also works in my favour.

 For the bodice and sleeves I will really need to be careful as I will only have scraps. I will probably use lace to do insertion decoration. This means I will only need small sections of spotted muslin. I have always admired the design of 'Josephine' from Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion which uses different sections of lace and white work embroidery as part of the bodice. 

I will keep you posted on my progress and hopefully this project will not self-destruct  in 5 seconds...........

Detail of 'Josephine' from Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion.

Vintage piece of lace on tulle to use for insertion detail.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Comparing Empire/Regency Fashion Plates and Thoughts on Proportion.

Greetings to my followers. 2013 has been extremely busy so far! I wanted to write a quick post about fashion plates and working out proportion. I received a set of fashion plates from a friend on my birthday and noticed one had been carefully coloured. I remembered I had seen the plate before on the Internet and wanted to compare it to the one in my collection.

Many people rely on fashion plates as a source for costume research. However they may not be completely reliable when researching garment colours. Below are some identical fashion plates with different colouring. It is difficult to tell whether the different colouring was carried out at the time or later. I am sure though that many ladies would have coloured their plates to decide on possible choices for their wardrobe. Or even to show their mantua maker/seamstress their ideas for a garment.

The same fashion plate in my collection.
Here are another two examples which I found by searching for 'Costume Parisien' on a Google search.

Costume plates are an invaluable resource for research especially in earlier periods where garments are less likely to survive.They usually illustrate the ideal image of fashion but in some cases what not to wear and should be treated with caution. They are only part of the puzzle when trying to build a picture of what was actually worn in the late Georgian, Empire and Regency period. It is important to cross reference the costume plate with other examples and if possible read the description as this will provide lots of information.


 When using a fashion plate as inspiration for a project I find it useful to work out the relative proportion of details. Below is a simple rough example where I have drawn a line down the side of the plate which will correspond to my height. I then divide the line into equal sections in red  to create a scale. The blue horizontal lines correspond to details which I will measure out using the scale I have created. It gives me a helpful guide as to how the outfit might work and possible measurements for parts of the garment.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Some thoughts on Studying and Producing Historical Clothing and Costume

Display at the Museum of Costume, Bath UK

Nobody can deny the pleasure which you can gain from studying original examples of historical clothing and accessories. Clothes are tactile and three dimensional and they appeal to the senses on many levels through colour, design and form. When they are displayed well you can almost get a sense of the person who might have worn the garment. But they can also touch our emotions.  When I see a beautifully crafted garment I feel happy and admire the quality and craftsmanship. Sometimes though, I feel sad as the person who originally wore the garment is long dead and their time has passed. In modern life we would never have the opportunity to wear such opulent garments day to day and some of the skills and techniques employed by tailors and seamstresses are lost in time. I also regret that some of the quality of materials, trims and buttons are no longer available. The skills to produce such items have disappeared or there is simply no market to produce these on a commercial scale.

However, things are changing in a positive way.  More and more people are recreating historical clothing and appreciating the importance of studying original garments. I was amazed by the variety of wonderful projects taking place in the Historical Sew Fortnightly hosted by Leimomi of ‘The Dreamstress’. This rise in production of historical clothing is fuelling a growing market in suppliers who are willing to produce historically accurate accessories, fabrics and notions at an affordable price. I remember when I was studying over ten years ago, it was almost impossible to get a spoon busk for a corset. Now it is not an issue.  Even the problem of affordable historical shoes to complete the look is being by addressed by suppliers such as Lauren at ‘The American Duchess’ with her successful line of footwear.

I hope that academics and museum professionals appreciate and recognise the depth of research that is being undertaken and the specialist knowledge that is gained by many from a non- academic background who are working towards creating a historical garment in an accurate way.  I continue to be astonished and inspired by the results of some of my fellow bloggers in their quest to reproduce a historically accurate garment.  Perhaps the way garments are displayed in museums should be addressed in order to be more dynamic and help those who are wishing to study a garment in order to recreate it? I appreciate that a museum has to appeal to a general audience as well as specialist visitors but surely a better display will inspire all visitors and make the collection more appealing? Placing mirrors behind garments and having display cases which you can walk around would all help. Also displaying the garment with correct accessories would help visitors to appreciate the entire look of a particular period. Seeing just a collection of accessories taken out of context from their original function can be confusing.

Dress detail Metropolitan Museum database

Whilst original historical garments inspire reverence and respect we should never lose sight of the fact that these are real clothes and were worn by real people. People have experienced life, death, joy and sadness and a whole spectrum of other emotions and life experiences whilst wearing these clothes.  To some these historical clothes may appear as relics of the past but to me and many others they offer the opportunity to experience a kind of time travel through recreating them accurately. It is not only about the process of discovery when recreating a garment but also how it makes you feel when you wear it.  Once you start wearing your historical creation it is incredible how you are instantly aware of the difference in your movement, posture and general bearing. In turn this helps to inform you about other aspects of history such as why 18th century furniture has a particular design so that it can accommodate a lady wearing hoops or a pannier. Also the practical problems of wearing dresses with trains and why they appear often in satire because they were being stepped on at crowded balls and parties.
Researching on the internet has also revolutionised the way in which we study historical clothing. Many museums have databases of their collections online. This is a wonderful opportunity to see garments in collections worldwide and those that are not currently out on display. I recently found the Malmaison costume app very useful when I was recreating the court dresses for the event last year. It was free and I was able to zoom in on many  details.

 However I would recommend always cross referencing and checking sources from sites such as Pinterest as I have recently seen many images that have inaccurate descriptions and in particular movie costumes that have been described as actual historical garments. However these sites can help you to do more thorough research by being able to compare a range of garments from a particular historical period rather than looking at one garment in isolation.
I would be interested to hear from readers of this post about their experiences and discoveries whilst researching historical clothing and how they think resources for research and museum displays could be improved.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Starting 2013 With a Challenge

A Happy New Year to all my followers. I hope this year to be able to write more posts. Last year was exceptionally busy and at the end of November I moved to a new business premises. Anyone who has lots of fabrics, mannequins and machinery can appreciate how difficult it is to pack up all these items. Not to mention all the costume and reference books!
Over Christmas and New Year I decided to take up a sewing challenge created by Leimomi Oakes at http://thedreamstress.com/the-historical-sew-fortnightly/ 
This initiative is a series of two week challenges under different themes. I decided to take part in the create something from  .…13 challenge. So naturally I went for 1813. I decided to make an evening Spencer from a remnant of duchess satin left over from my pearl dress.

 I have often been intrigued when I have come across portraits or fashion plates in which the bodice is a different colour from the rest of the dress. Was this a separate bodice or Spencer worn over an existing dress? Or was it part of the dress?

My research seemed to indicate it was a separate garment. I found by chance an old photo from ‘The Gallery of English Costume, Women’s Costume 1800-1835 showing a velvet evening bodice dated 1817-18. Also, one of the new additions to the Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion collection was a satin evening bodice dated to 1815.

Sleeve detail. Evening spencer. Collection of Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion.

However the challenge was 1813 so I needed to look back to see if these garments were worn a few years earlier. Luckily I found some ‘La Belle Assemblee’ and ‘Ackermanns’ prints which indicated that these types of bodices and Spencers were worn before and during 1813.

The construction was quite simple. Firstly I made a calico toile over an existing dress to fit the Spencer. The lines followed the typical construction of a Spencer in the period. There are two small darts under the bust for fit. I would recommend anyone who is going to make something similar to make a fitting over the dress you plan to wear underneath. In this way you can adjust the neckline and hem to match with the dress so they work together.
I drew the decoration on the fitted toile version and traced the lines onto the satin with thread marking. I decided to decorate the front and back in a military style as this was popular in the period and I liked the style shown on the 1817 example. I sewed the bodice darts first as the decoration was going to be sewn over them. I also wanted an idea of the finished form so the braid would not stretch once on. The braid, lace and buttons used are all vintage finds from my hoard of trims.

The front fastens with a series of hooks and eyes with buttons sewn over the top to mimic a button fastening. I decided not to go with button fastening as I thought hooks would be more robust and the Spencer is quite a snug fit. The sleeves imitate a military style epaulette and are caught at the top with a loop and button.  I added a belt to the hem of the Spencer and lined it with linen tape. This helps to stop the Spencer from riding up as the linen does not slip against the fabric of the dress underneath.

I really enjoyed sewing this Spencer in my spare time and I am sure it will have many outings this year. It is a simple way to change the look of an existing dress. I used less than 50cms of silk to make the Spencer so it is an ideal way to use up a small piece of special fabric. I look forward to taking part in future challenges when time allows. The next one is finishing off an existing project due at the end of January.