onsdag 17 juni 2015

1860's dress

Finished my 1861 dress (first post here) just in time for the lovely "Stora krinolindagen" (which means Day of great crinolines, or Great day of crinolines). And by just in time, I mean just in time. I finished the last decoration on my hat at 9.50 a.m., panicked over my hairdo at 10.15 as I could not fit the spoon bonnet on it, used some amount of violence to adjust the hair and manage to make it work with the bonnet at 10.18, put on all the underwear and the dress (using no more than 5 safety pins), and run for the bus at 10.30. But I had not been sewing that intensely last weeks, so I had just myself to blame. Friday afternoon I was like "well, it's so little left to do, I can easily do it tomorrow morning, of course I want to go swimming when it's so nice weather!".

But, everything went  together, I lost just one button on the way to the bus, and I arrived on time. Just to be stopped by the local newspaper as soon I arrived at Gamla Linköping. They was there to make a story about our gathering, and wanted to interview me a little bit. The day was very nice. We got a dance demonstration and got to try some historical dances, we had pick-nick, strolled around and looking in the shops, ate ice cream, and of course, took lots of pictures and was photographed by lots of tourists.

I was very happy with my dress. I was not as hot as I had feared, and the spoon bonnet did a good job of keeping the sun from my eyes.  I also felt very pretty in my dress! To stop ranting however, here are some photos.

Photo by Åsa Peterson (Fashion through history)

Photo by Åsa Peterson (Fashion through history)
The dress is made with separate bodice and skirt. The bodice has a fake bolero - it looks like a bolero, but is actually just trim added to a standard bodice, with the raw end of the box pleat trim hidden by a strip of fabric, and the seam on that fabric strip hidden by rows of braid. Also the sleeves has more than one layer of trim:  there is the box pleated strip of fabric, and the ends of that is hidden by a white band. The original dress had the same braid also on sleeves and lower edge of bodice, but I skipped that, to have more time to be outside enjoying beautiful spring/summer weather... I might add that later (at some time with bad weather perhaps...).

The bodice...

A close up of the bolero decoration
The inside of the bodice - you can see the stitch line of the bolero decoration
Inside of sleeve, with band hiding raw edges of trim

The bonnet is a straw spoon bonnet I bought and decorated. There was quite a lot to put on it... I was quite sceptical as I assembled it, but then it turned out very well, I think.  A friend of my (thanks Ida!) helped me making some of the silk flower and showed me how to do them myself.

Making and arranging the trim
When assembling the bonnet, I made a mistake in the order of attaching things - I put on the white lining first and then the outside decoration. That way I ended up with dark stitches in the white lining, instead of the lining hiding the stitches. Fortunately it turned out to be not visible when I wore it. 

The visible black stitches of wrong order of assembly

And the final result (slightly wet in the rain).

 This dress fitted nicely in the June challenge of Historical Sew Monthly, so here is the facts:

 The Challenge: Out of your comfort zone

What the item is (and why it was out of your comfort zone):
An 1861 dress. I found the comfort zone question interesting, so it got a blog post on its own here. The (not really) short answer is: not because it is a new time period as I thought, but because it has button holes, an "over decorated" bonnet that clashes with my modern taste, and because I tried to be more confident in my sewing and not try it on all the time after the toile was finished. 

Printed rayon, cotton for lining, silk taffeta scraps for hat decorations, linen for the under sleeves.

I used Truly Victorian 1859 Pagoda Bodice as a base, and then adapted it quite a lot to look like the 1861 afternoon dress in Janet Arnold's Pattern of Fashion.


Notions: Thread, fabric covered buttons for bodice, buttons for under sleeves, braid for decoration. A straw spoon bonnet, and polyester band and plastic (I know, I know...) green leaves for decoration of it.

How historically accurate is it? 

Well, not at all in materials, exept for the dtraw hat and the part of bonnet decoration that are silk. The dress is rayon (not invented yet). The lining is blue and brown striped cotton. Cotton of course existed but probably would not have been used as lining like this, at least not coloured. Both of them would more appropriate been silk, but that way way out of budget. The printed pattern is decent I think but nowhere near perfect.
Cut I would say is very close, as I followed the drawing of an extant garment.
Construction is half way: I read instructions of how the original garment was made in Patterns of Fashion, but did not fully follow them, for example I used zigzack instead of hand finishing seams.

Hours to complete:
About 40 for dress, 6 h for bonnet
First worn:
Last saturday for an 1850's-1860's event here in Linköping
Total cost:
perhaps 650 kr, about 70 Euro (For straw bonnet, dress fabric, grey braid and blue band, everything else from stash.)

And to finish - a less elegant photo - a happy but somewhat exhausted selfie in the elevator after a great day!

Exploring my comfort zones in sewing

The Historical Sew Monthly theme of June was "Out of your comfort zone", and I was doing the 1861 dress as that challenge. I found the question "why is it out of your comfort zone" interesting, so I decided to give it a blog post of its own instead of hijacking the post about the dress.

The "Not so scary in itself" 1861 dress

So - why is this project out of my comfort zone then?

When I started, I assumed that it would be out of my comfort zone for the most obvious reason: it was a new time period for me. I had not done mid 19th century, so it was a totally new silhouette. As I started, I realized that I have made enough different eras that that in itself is not enough to be a challenge. Also, the construction of bodice is not that different from 1880's - it's still a snugly fitting bodice with roughly the same seam placements and method of construiction, just  the sleeves are set a bit lower. I even could reuse my Tudor farthinggale with some small modifications to the shape. The part of adapting a pattern and deciphering the descriptions in Janet Arnold's Patterns of fashion is only fun. However, there were still things that was definitely out of my comfort zone.

The first was - buttonholes! Even after making one bodice and one blouse with button holes, I still imagine that I will make a mistake when cutting them open, and rip up the fabric and have to redo the whole bodice. I am used to sew fast and having to undo my seams and change stuff a lot, so anything where you actually cut a hole in the fabric is scary - it's so permanent! To make it less scary here, I  made the button-holes as soon I was satisfied with the fit, before all the trimming, just in case I would have to redo the whole front piece.  I did not have to do that, but they was not pretty - luckily for me they are not so visible on the right side.

A Scary Thing

I also challenged myself to be a bit more confident when sewing, and not trying on the bodice all the time, as I usually do.  Getting into the corset and trying the bodice all the time takes a lot of time, so this was a way to try to be more efficient. As I had made a well fitting toile, it worked.

The third thing outside my comfort zone had nothing to do with skills. Instead, it was about the look. I usually prefer the more severe looks, like a 1880's walking dress or a Tudor dress. No lace, no ribbbon bows and silk flowers, no pastel colors. So when I started this project, I thought bonnets was quite a silly thing, and the ones covered in heaps of flowers and ribbons was even worse. That meant that at first, I was tempted to make an hat instead, but then I changed  my mind. Firstly, hats was uncommon in the fashion plates from Sweden in 1861 that I looked at. Secondly, I thought it would be a nice part of the "out of comfort zone" to try to not follow my modern taste but make a typical "over decorated" bonnet. My husband and my sewing friends can attest to me making lots of sceptical comments as I assembled all the decoration. In the end however, it turned out very well, and now I am decidedly fond of my pink-silk-flowers bonnet...

I wanted to stop here...
...but made myself make lots more of trim...

...and it turned out quite well!

This challenge was interesting as a way to explore the bounds of my comfort zone in sewing. It seems that as long as there is a chance to unmake and redo, then I am fine. Pattern changes and construction and not so detailed instructions seems also to be fine to me. My comfort zone is instead in look, which I challenged here, and in fabric choices, which I did not challenge. I tend to stick to matte fabrics with a small amount of give, like wool and cotton. The silk taffeta I used for the 1770's gown was really scary to, as it had no amount of stretch, the thin fabric made it sensitive to wrinkles, and the shine will make any wrinkle more visible. I prefer a medium thick wool, that will forgive most small mistakes in fitting. I will have to challenge that some other time!

A Scary Thing - shiny, wrinkly silk taffeta.