Sunday, September 7, 2014

1670s Gown

I realized I never quite got around to posting about the 1670s gown I made earlier this year. It's mostly based on the satin bodice in Seventeenth Century Women's Dress Patterns. The instructions and patterns offer so much detail there wasn't much else to research in terms of construction. This was for a film shoot at Bacon's Castle, and it didn't seem like the lady of the house would need something quite so elaborately trimmed. I also needed something slightly later in date than the extant in the book, the event occurring in 1674. I settled on the look of these gowns, the bodice being untrimmed with split sleeves, a style seemingly common in many 1670 portraits. I didn't want to be too far ahead with the fashion.

Margaretha Van Raephorst by Johannes Mijtens, 1668

Portrait of a Lady by Adriaen Backer, 1676
1670 Dudleia Cullum, née North, Lady Cullum by Sir Peter Lely
Lady Cullum by Sir Peter Lely, 1670

Lady Mary Gough, attributed to Mary Beale, ca 1670, Tamworth Castle
Lady Mary Gough by Mary Beale, 1670

I already had just enough red silk taffeta for the project, swaying me to not purchase yards of expensive silk satin. I did decide to do the entire project by hand (despite the time crunch) because the boning channels were running stitched rather than back-stitched. So much faster. I know I made some minor alterations, particularly to the seams because of lack of trims, but most of the steps were closely followed.

I made the chemise for it as well, though to be honest neither it nor the gown are fully finished in the pictures. I still have to bind the lower tabs and fell the chemise seams. It's still wearable! I have something I'm wearing it for in November again, so perhaps by then. I'll also need new hairpieces as the ones I used then were barely passable and I'm now almost a red-head.

Friday, July 18, 2014

1820s Trades Fair

Last Saturday I was part of a group of tradespeople showing our skills and wares in Brentsville, VA at their historic court house. It was a lovely day and we got to tour the court house, newly restored, as well as the in-progress jail next door. If you live in the area and missed us, don't worry, the plan is to make this an annual event (though perhaps a little earlier in the year). The site dates to the 1820s, so we all had a small shift in our normal apparel.

Samantha brought a large assortment of Millinery wares, including the worlds largest hat.

I had my shoemaking set up, attempting to keep the sharp bits out of the hands of guests.

Joseph kept us very well fed; roast chicken with bacon, pork chops with onions and apples, and cucumber salad just to name a few items on the menu.

Michael set up on the tailors board, and Jay (hiding behind the tree) talked about the work of artificers and leather breeches makers.

I constructed a mid-1820s style gown from B&T lavender muslin based on an original at Snowshill (also in Costume in Detail). The fabric pleats so easily! Honestly, I didn't even iron the pleats around the hem. Also, I swear the hem isn't too long when I'm not standing in grass. I do NOT need to sew another pleat. Really, I don't.

The back fastens with hooks and eyes, the bodice and sleeves are lined in white cotton. The kerchief wrapped around the cap seems to be a common thing in images of tradeswomen.

A glimpse of my new shoes- so comfortable I wore them all weekend until it started raining!

And a glimpse of another pair of 1820s shoes, though this pair has a different owner.

Trimming down the insole for a future pair of boots.

The three ladies of the day: Sarah, Samantha, and I.

And our dapper tailor, Michael. Check out the fancy Morocco leather slippers Samantha made for him! I got to play teacher for that process.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Closet Sale

These are all quick descriptions of what I'm selling, linking back to their Etsy page. Except for the shoes at the bottom, which I can't sell on Etsy. If you're interested in any of those three pairs send me an email at goldenhindshoes at
I have more I'll list over the next week if this sale is successful!

Sold! Pearl Green 1770s wool riding habit. All hand-sewn. Coat is lined with silk taffeta and white linen, trimmed in silk velvet, and fastened with silver thread deaths head buttons. Waistcoat is silk taffeta with covered buttons. Petticoat hem is faced with wool tape. $425

Sold! 1770s Camblet gown and petticoat. Closed front, English pleated back with polonaise ties. Self trimmed around neck and sleeves. Beautiful copper toned fabric, a mix of silk, wool, and linen. All hand-sewn. $240

Sold! 1770s Olive linen gown and petticoat. Closed front, Quartered back. Heavy-weight twill linen, surprisingly warm and very durable. All hand-sewn. $185

Sold! 1810s cotton print day gown. Made from a beautiful figured and striped lightweight cotton, this classic Regency style gown is perfect for warm days. $175.

Sold! 1913 style evening gown. Pink silk charmeuse base with gold worked silk net, silk chiffon, and silk velvet. $245

Early 19th century cotton print jacket. Constructed from Duran Textiles printed cotton, all hand-sewn.  A channel around the neck and under the bust allow for adjustment to fit. $120.

Flowered and spotted sheer cotton swiss fabric, 8 yards available at 52" wide. Appropriate for mid-19th century gowns. $10 per yard.

Sold! Black and white floral cotton print, 7.75 yards and 14 yards available at 55" wide. Glazed finish, mid-weight. Perfect for a mid-19th century half-mourning gown. $7.50 per yard.

Sold! Grey and Cream striped silk taffeta, 2.5 yards at 54" wide. This is the same fabric my cut-away gown was made from. The grey is a very dark charcoal with a slight greenish hue, very beautiful. It's just slightly slubby, but no where near enough to be a shantung. $35 ($14 per yard).

Sold! Pumpkin and cream striped silk taffeta, 2.25 yards & 2 yards available at 54" wide. While not a period appropriate fabric it's perfect for home decor. Some of the stripes have a satin finish that gives this silk a very rich appearance and great weight. $10 per yard.

Sold! Burgundy and gold damask polyester? fabric, 7 yards available at 56" wide. It isn't silk, but it doesn't have a bad shine and it's a beautiful design and color, as well as being reversible. $6 a yard.

Sold! Robert Land black and cream 1860s boots, size 7 1/2. Worn once, almost no wear. $110

Sold! Burnley & Trowbridge early 19th century shoes in tan, size 7. Very light wear. $75

Modern shoes with 1790s trimmings, size 7 1/2. $45

Monday, June 23, 2014

Fitting Regency Gowns Part II

Part two of Fitting Regency Gowns. Thankfully YWU and FR have been saved, so I give this second part gladly!

Gathered neckline pulling
How much gathering occurs in a neckline and where it is placed can be affected not only by the overall size of the neckline, but the shape as well.  

This particular shape of neckline on Gwendolyn does best when the gathers are concentrated toward the front and do not continue up the shoulders (24).  

If the gathers are spread out, up the shoulders, the armscye becomes very full and wavy(25).  

The reason this doesn’t work is that this bodice shape has a squared neckline, as shown on the right (26).  The bodice on left is made to gather up the shoulders, sloping outward, allowing the gathering to be diagonal toward the underbust rather than horiztonal toward the shoulder.  You’ll see the finished garment of this pattern in the next section.

Wrong waistline angle or Gaping underbust
If the underbust does not have a drawstring in it, it can be difficult to make it snug enough to not gap, particularly in the back.  There is also an issue of the waistline drooping in back, rather than angling up slightly as is appropriate.  

The easiest way that I have found to find the perfect waistline size and angle is to pin a tape around the waist and attach the bodice to it (27).  It’s especially helpful with gathers under the bust to know how much to gather in to.

Sleeve issues:

Shallow Top
If the sleeve head is too short, it can create numerous problems.  It is very likely to pull at the shoulder strap, causing it to gap, wrinkle, or even pull off the shoulder.  

You’ll also see wrinkles angling from under the arm towards the top center (28).  

That means that the underarm is too high compared to the top of the sleeve, most often because the top is too short rather than the bottom being to high (29).  If you dip out the bottom, particularly on a longer or fitted sleeve, this could bring the narrower circumference up higher, making the sleeve too tight.

Narrow Top
If the sleeve head is too narrow it will prevent the arm from raising, pull greatly on the bodice shoulders, and possibly even create horizontal pull marks across the arm (30).  

A wider curve, possibly even a flat section along the top, can fix this problem (31).

Restricted movement
Even if the sleeve head does not seem too narrow or too short, there may still be problems with lifting the arm or reaching out in front (32).  It’s very common with fitted sleeves or the narrow backs of the time period.  You could bring your armscye further out on the shoulder or further up under the arm.  However, you don’t have to sacrifice a narrow back or have a seam cutting in under your arm.  

The sleeves can be adjusted to fit, just expect that there will be wrinkles in the back (33).  

This allows the arm to raise up without pulling on the bodice (34).  

Making the back corner more square allows for this (35).

You can also make the sleeve fuller to allow for more movement, or because of style preference.  I generally increase the width of mine from a fitted sleeve one-and-a-half times.  The very simple way of doing this is to take a fitted sleeve pattern which fits you and the gown, then cut it into strips.  

Filling in the lines between the spaced strips will give you a fuller sleeve (36).  Err on the higher side when connecting lines, possibly adding a small allowance to the top and/or bottom of the sleeve to have it “poof” out more.

Skirt issues:

Pulling across front
When flat-fitted fronts are brought all the way around to the back for gathers to begin, there are often wrinkles across the front where the gown is trying to fit over the hips.  There are a few solutions to this issue.  First is to use panels with angled seams.  There are a number of examples of this style in Patterns of Fashion 1 and The Cut of Women’s Clothes.  Another option is to place fullness at the very side, either in the form of a pleat or gathers.  Even though you don’t often see this in portraits, it can be well hidden under the arm.

In this last section I’m going to show four of my gowns from the Regency period and talk about what does, or does not, fit well.

The first is of the style of the 1790s (37).  This is the gown to which the gathered front pattern belongs to above.  The neckline gathers up well, not pulling or placing too much fullness on the shoulders.  Depending on how I move the gathers the neckline can be more round or square.  The main issue comes with the sleeves.  

They are not quite wide enough to fit into such a small back (38).  If my shoulders were set further back, it would be fine.  It would be best (if made again) to move the armscye forward in front and back or to add extra to the sleeve in back.  It’s difficult to fit to a narrow back with fitted sleeves.  The fullness in the front of the skirt means I don’t have to worry about pulling over the hips, although when I tried to place the pleats in back between the seams the fabric wanted to pull the skirt into a tight roll rather than fanning out into a train.

The next gown is based on an 1805 extant (39).  

In this case, the sleeves fit well and allow for great movement, no tightness across the back (40).  Comparing to the original they could have been slightly fuller.  There was a slight gaping under the bust, so I finished the seam with a drawstring.  It only slightly pulls in, so no visible gathers.  The skirt is made up of four pieces; a front with angled sides, two side pieces with only one angled side, and a straight back.  My main issue with the gown is that the front bodice panel should have been wider.  It pulls snug across the bust and the original seems to be looser to allow the center front to drape down slightly.  I place a gathering cord center front to pull it down, but it does not want to easily.

Third is an 1812 style (41).  

I have no major issues with this one, but having a drawstring across the front neck and the back, gathered sleeves, wide back, and a snug waistband make for an easy fit (42).  This skirt was also made with angled pieces (as you can see from the stripes), but there is also gathering around all but the very front of the bodice.

The last is based on a fashion plate from 1816 (43).  I am still in the process of building this one and working out the kinks.  The sleeves will be drawn up (as the left one is), but this shows you the overall length and size of a fuller sleeve.  My main issues come with the bodice front and undergarments.  I originally draped this bodice to go over a corset, however, the straps of the gown were set too far out and showed the corset straps and shift neckline.  I might have to adjust the darts later once I find the right style to hide underneath.  The other issue is that the stripes need to run vertically, but this can be a problem with crossed necks.  I had to adjust the waistline of the bodice down to keep the neck from gaping, but this puts annoying pulls horizontally.  

The skirt does fit well, owing to a 2” pleat on either side, just under the arms.  I am thinking about making this pleat deeper to fix the slight pull seen in the back view (44).  However, it has yet to be hemmed and I want to see what happens when the hem is free from the floor.

When constructing a garment, search through as many sources as possible.  Look at period artists, particularly Sir Thomas Lawrence, Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun,  Vladimir Borovikovsky, Gilbert Stuart, Jacques-Louis David, and Henry Raeburn.  Fashion plates can be useful, but they lack detail; particularly of wrinkles, darts, and seams.  And, as always, look to other costumers garments for their triumphs and tribulations.