Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #9 - Historicism

This months challenge was historicism, which both excited me and dismayed me. Recreate a historic garment that is itself inspired by fashions from a previous era of history. My mind, of course, immediately flew to regency era fashion, which was heavily inspired by Grecian clothing. Then the 1910's saw a reinterpretation of both regency and grecian style clothing. It's kinda fun to look through the past 500 years and see the truth in the saying that everything comes full circle. It does! There are several silhouettes of fashion that you see repeat themselves time and again but that subject is far too large to even begin talking about right now.

Anyway, I needed to fit my already planned sewing projects into this category somehow. Since my sewing this month has mostly been fantasy costume I had to really think about  my new 1860's dress and figure out if the style could plausibly be inspired by any other historic era. So I began looking. 

The most defining feature of 1860's womens clothing is almost certainly the hoop skirt. This type of support structure was not something new, however. Other eras of historic fashion saw various interpretations of what sprang up as the late 15th century farthingale. I am not at all very studied in the fashions of the Elizabethan period but a basic article can be found here: History of the Spanish Farthingale. The 1860's was just another take on the basic concept of a petticoat with some kind of stiffening sewed into it to distend the skirts of the dress. 

The 1860's not only saw the popularity of the hoop but also of large, wide sleeves. Looking at the fashions of the time of the original farthingale you also see large sleeves that almost look as if though they could be copied exactly from images of the 1860's! I was amazed at how closely some sleeve styles were replicated. Not only were there puff sleeves in both historical eras, but also the more slenderly cut coat sleeves, as well as open sleeves, slashed sleeves and a hybird sort of sleeve that is partially more fitted and partially large. 

It's possible to draw many more parallels between 1860's fashion and various other eras - hairstyles, accessories, etc - but the main silhouette of a tight waist and bodice, large skirts and large sleeves seem to be quite similar between the 1860's and late 15th/early 16th century. 
Despite wanting to appear ladylike and elegant, this is my usual look as an event progresses - the basic day dress has the skirts pinned up, the sleeves rolled up and an apron added so that physical labor is much easier to accomplish.
What the Item Is: 1860's Day Dress
The Challenge: Historicism
Fabric/Materials: Cotton for main fabric, cotton for lining and pocket
Pattern: My own
Year: Early to Mid 1860's
Notions: Hooks and eyes
Hours to Complete: About 12
First Worn: This past weekend at a small reenactment

Total Cost: Under $25, since the fabric was a bargain find and the lining, facing and pocket came from leftover scraps from other projects.

Friday, September 23, 2016

New Civil War Dress

Hobbit Day passed, sadly, without much fanfare. We had a nice hobbit dinner, composed mostly of bacon-and-mushroom tart and pie but we didn't dress up for it (we will have opportunity to wear our hobbit clothes at the Faire later this fall). My own hobbit clothes are still, well, non progressive.

Instead, this week I dove right into working on a new 1860's dress for our last reenactment of the season. The pink striped one could have worked for another event. But. New dress. Yeah. I just had to make a new one. It was time.

I had 4 days in which to make it so I broke up the project into what I considered manageable portions. And well, I didn't get done nearly as much as I wanted to each day. Tonight, as I write this, my dress still needs hook and eyes and a white collar but in essence the dress is done! I will be able to wear it tomorrow if I stay up a little bit later than usual after the kids go to bed.

Earlier this year I bought 6 yards of this fabric at an antique shop. I didn't know til I got it home that it was 60" wide, so the length was plenty for an 1860's style dress. I didn't plan to use it right away but I got a sudden desire for a plaid dress and this fabric was there on my shelf so I used it and am so happy that I did. It's a heavier weight so will be nice for fall.

The bad thing is that the plaid is not an even plaid. There's a definite up and down so I had to be careful to make sure the plaid was going the same direction for all the pieces. I messed up while working on the sleeves so one lower sleeve is cut going the opposite direction of the other. And yes, it is really annoying but I don't have time to fix it before tomorrow. Thankfully the plaid aligned just fine with all the other pieces.

To fit with my new corset I had to take in my basic bodice pattern by 3" at the waistline. 3"! I didn't realize the new corset reduced so much. But I won't complain! I also had to shorten it to make the waistline fall at the lower ribs. Those were the only alterations needed and once the bodice was fitted the construction went along pretty well.

Until I got to the skirt. I had my heart set on a cartridge pleated skirt. The fabric is springy and thick and would show off cartridge pleats so well! So I carefully measured and balanced the skirt at the waist and ran my lines of cartridge pleats and whipped them one by one to the bodice edge. And. . .it was off. The skirt was NOT balanced. I had to pick out every little stitch and re balance the thing and by that time I no longer felt like another 2 hours of cartridge pleating. So I did regular knife pleats (so boring) but did manage to do a little section of cartridge pleats at the back waist. It's my favorite part of the dress.

The sleeves are bishop sleeves with a double puff at the top. The puffs are cut on the bias and sewn to a fitted short sleeve lining. I really liked the short sleeves. I wished I could keep them short! But, at 30 and with 6 little ones my days of short sleeve day dresses are long past! So the lower sleeves were sewn on, much to my sighing resignation.

The skirt is finished with a 1 foot wide facing. I got to sew it on while listening to several episodes of Dora the Explorer courtesy of Anne. I have discovered that I do not like Dora the Explorer. Anne does not understand this. "Mommy, but it's so EXCITING!"

I can't wait to wear this and am so happy to have a new dress to wear! I can't believe its already been a year since I made my last one.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

I Hate Trouser Buttons

I've made a whole lot of trousers over the years and the placement of the trouser buttons on the waistband always irritates me to no end. Good lord. On an adult sized pair of trousers this issue isn't so bad since you have a longer waistband to work with but I was truly frustrated with the little hobbit trousers I have been working on for Benjamin, which I decided to make with pockets and a fly front like Bilbo's trousers in The Hobbit.

When you make normal trousers there are certain landmarks where you want your seams to fall. The side seams obviously should fall at the sides, and not a third of the way back onto the buttocks or creeping up towards the front hips. The center back seam should align with the center of the back, right? And the front seam should go down the center front. 

BUT WHAT THIS MEANS, and WHAT DRIVES ME CRAZY, is that the button on the waistband is NOT centered on the body. 

For trousers that do not require any more buttons on the waistband this is okay. It's not a big deal. But for any historical or historically-inspired trouser that requires waistband buttons to accommodate suspenders/braces this becomes an irritating thing. Ideally the suspender buttons should be symmetrical on the waistband. But then this means that one suspender button is closer to the center button than the other side. Or you could measure out the same distance from the center button to position the suspender buttons but this means that the suspender buttons are different distances from the side seams. Oh my gosh. This drives me nut. 

I could not get Benjamin's suspender buttons to look well no matter how I positioned them. So I just sewed the darn things to the inside of the waistband. Bilbo's suspenders in An Unexpected Journey button to the inside of the waistband so that is okay. But historically, visible buttons on the waistband to which the suspenders are attached is definitely a thing. 

So what did they do historically?
From CW Quartermaster
It seems like they didn't worry about it. Looking at originals the distances between suspender buttons and center front buttons are kinda all over the place, and are not necessarily symmetrical from side to side at all. It still bugs me.
From Augusta Auctions
Now, on drop front style trousers, like many of the male hobbits wore in the original Lord of the Rings, the center buttons and suspender buttons are definitely easier to make symmetrical. On a fly front, however, like Bilbo wore in The Hobbit, the off-center center front button is very much unavoidable.

Moral of story: drop front trousers are better.

But the good thing is, that yes, Benjamin's outfit is done! Here is the finished little costume:

The shirt is made based on the styles in the LoTR. It opens all the way down the front, has gathered sleeves and a rounded collar. It's not really historical at all. It's quite modern in how it is cut, especially with the shirt opening all the way down the front. I wish now that I had made the shirt more 1860's style with a short placket but oh well. This just means that Benjamin cannot really use this shirt for any historic era. It is strictly hobbit attire.

I made his trousers like Bilbo's in The Hobbit mainly because I wanted to avoid the work that goes into a fall front trouser. Eh, a fly front isn't much less work. And then I could have avoided the whole button issue. But I like these. 

(Also, I promise that these look a lot better in real life than they do in the pictures. The photos make them looked washed out and wrinkly. Their true color is almost mossy green and the fabric is a soft mid weight herringbone weave with a faint red stripe.)

They are made to mid-19th century pattern shapes except shortened, of course, to just below the knee. While the style is historical he can't really use them for any other time period just because, well, he's 2. And historically he'd still be in dresses for at least another year or so. So, the trousers are strictly hobbit attire as well.

In movie stills from LoTR the little boys can often be seen wearing dark colored trousers and matching or dark colored suspenders.

I used the same fabric to make what is called in living history circles "poor boy" suspenders; two finished strips of fabric with buttonholes at each end, that button to waistband buttons. Like historical braces, these are not sewn together at the back but can move independently of one another. 

I made the backside a bit roomy just because little boys often need extra room in the seat to prevent tearing out the center seam. The back adjusts with a ribbon and eyelets. 

Benjamin does look adorable in this outfit but for some reason he hates it and screams if he thinks he has to wear it. Hopefully his hatred is short lived. We will see. 


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Rose's Hobbit Pinafore

One of the great things about fantasy costuming is that you can utilize historic techniques to get the look you are going for but you aren't bound by adherence to historical accuracy. This is what I love about hobbit clothing. It's been many years now since I have fallen in love with the whimsical, rustic styles worn in Lord of the Rings but its a style I never get burnt out on, like I do sometimes with clothing from actual historical eras. It's fun to add quirky accents and to try to think like a hobbit would have: something fun, pretty, practical and simple is the only goal.

For Rose's pinafore I ended up with a quasi-victorian style that is not far removed from the mid 19th century. It's inspired by the high waisted sleeveless dresses worn by the young hobbit girls in the film but the fullness starts at the chest instead of the waist. To me, at least, it seems to be a style more suited to young babies and toddlers and, most important, it is extremely practical!

The boys had similar styled pinafores for Civil War reenacting and they fit them for a very long time. Since the pinafore is unfitted except for the neckline the shape accommodates a range of sizes. And since Rose's chemise is unfitted, too, this whole outfit is absolutely perfect for a kid who tends to grow at completely unpredictable times.

I love using up small pieces from the stash for these outfits. I used the last of a semi sheer blue cotton this time. For the yoke lining and the hem facing I used part of a green and white woven gingham curtain I got at a second hand store last year. I wasn't going to trim it at all since Rose is a drooly baby and her garments need to be frequently washed. I found some pretty, rather roughly embroidered trim at a local antique mall, though that had a design of tulips. Rustically floral! Perfect for a hobbit!

I put a little flounce at each shoulder and that seemed to be just enough. The center front got a tiny length of braided trim that I salvaged from the edge of an old broken lamp shade.

And here are the two finished hobbit dresses!

I was seized with a desire to make Benjamin a hobbit outfit, too. I've never made boy hobbit clothing. So far I have made his shirt and he will get some short trousers and suspenders to go with it. Hopefully I'll have a post about that within the next week or so.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Blue Hobbit Chemise

I finished up Anne's hobbit outfit earlier this week. Over the weekend we went out and bought lots of fake flowers, wire, floral tape and ribbon to make some new flower crowns, since, of course, a girl can never have too many of those. They are useful little accessories. I picked out some pretty daisies as a good match for her dress but she likes the pink hydrangeas. So we got both, as well as a few others.

Rose's outfit is now underway and today I sat down to sew a little on her chemise and to my surprise I got it all done. It only took about two hours, start to finish. So yes, raglan sleeved chemises sew up a lot more quickly than square cut ones. Less seams to finish. Less pieces.

This chemise isn't made from any particular pattern but there are many tutorials and free patterns online for very similar little dresses. This one at The Stitching Scientist is a great one.

I used up the very last of many yards of a sheer floral fabric I bought many years ago. Probably almost ten years ago, now that I think about it! It's lightness was perfectly suited to a chemise and blue is one of those colors that really suits Rose.

I used 1/4" elastic in the neck and sleeves. It is a little roomy now but will fit her for a while, even for modern wear. It will look cute with a pair of leggings when she is taller.

Here she posed outside with a stick she found. This kid adores sticks and one of her first words was "stick", pronounced rather ungenteely as "shit" with a hard "k" sound at the end. "Mum mum! Shit-k!"

It was certainly a beautiful stick. She brought it in to show her brother Malachi, who applauded her stick finding skills.

Next up is the overdress, which I think I'm going to make more like a pinafore. Then mine. I WILL get it done before the end of the month. I will.


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Hobbit Sewing

Whee, it's September! This has long been one of my favorite months and I am so excited for fall and all the wonderful things it brings - cool misty mornings, crisp days, the colorful riot of foliage in the hills and Halloween (although the local shops have been hawking Halloween wares on their storefront sidewalks since July so, it lessens the enthusiasm somewhat).

Renn Faire season is soooon and as I really wanted to make new hobbit costumes for at least some of us, we are going as hobbits to the faire. At least the girls and I!

I started Anne's costume first since I haven't made anything for her for a while. I wanted to try a different style than the dresses I made for her when she was a baby. Watching the LoTR again it appears most hobbit girls wear very simple outfits, mainly a sleeveless dress/jumper with a blouse underneath. The waistlines are rather high, reminiscent of regency-era styles. So for Anne we decided to make a long chemise to serve as a sort of combined blouse/petticoat and a jumper.

The first thing to make was Anne's under-dress, or chemise. I made it just like my own hobbit chemise from several years ago. It is all square construction with a squared neck. The neck and sleeves are gathered with elastic so its easy for her to get on and off by herself. We pinned a little bow at the neckline to simulate the look of a drawstring, but its just attached with a safety pin so we can take it off as needed or replace it for a different look.

Her over dress, or jumper, will be made of a green and pink striped fabric. We plan to make a little apron to finish it off. We've been trying to decide on a jumper style. Anne keeps changing her mind as to what she wants.

Rose will have a very similar outfit (blue themed, I think. ..) but I think I will try a raglan sleeved chemise for her instead of a square cut one. From what I have read about the costumes made for the LoTR movies some of the shirts/chemises worn by the hobbit women were indeed cut with raglan sleeves. Her jumper will be similar to Anne's but since she is still quite little I will make it a yoked style with the fullness starting just above the chest.

Hopefully I'll have enough time to make mine after the girls outfits are done. These are the fabrics I want to use: