Friday, November 25, 2011

...And Another Beautiful Item to Add to My Christmas List!

      After wowing us with her Georgianas, historically accurate 18th century shoes, and later a leather version, the Devonshires, American Duchess has done it again and produced gorgeous and historically accurate shoes: this time, the "Pemberley", a historically accurate regency shoe with all the appropriate details. The Presale is going on now for these beauties. I definitely need to add this one to my Christmas List...

And a little bit about the shoes:

The "Pemberley" Regency shoes are closely based on extant footwear from the 1790s through 1810.  The smooth, dyable, hand-sewn leather upper is designed to be lovely enough formal occasions, and durable enough for walking in the countryside.  Particular attention was paid to the point of the toe, as well as the other hallmarks of Regency historical footwear, with the main goals being both historical accuracy and all-day comfort.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

18th Birthday Party: Steampunk

      My 18th birthday was this past Tuesday, on November 8. I had off from school because it was Election Day. I try to theme my parties mainly because that gives me an excuse to dress up, and I've been really interested in the Steampunk subculture lately, so I decided to do a Steampunk-themed party. I also chose Steampunk as my theme becuase I felt that in terms of wardrobe, it was very flexible, and easy for my guests to find SOMETHING in their closets to wear to my party.

      I myself made a really quick and dirty costume, all out of garments that I already had that I modified the night before the party. The brown underskirt is an 18th century petticoat that I wore underneath my Chemise a la Reine. The red velvet bustle overskirt was just a really long skirt that was too big on the hips for me. I took it in and ran gathering stitches over the side seams. I didn't expect it to come out this nice but it had a really nice shape. The velvet draped beautifully. The brown shirt I'm wearing is from Wetseal I think; the top part of it is super cute, but I'm wearing the vest for a reason. The shirt has all these weird gathers and horizontal ruching which doesn't make it particularly flattering. I already had a pattern for a vest that I wanted to make, but because of time constraints I decided to do something else. I have a neighbor who gives me a lot of her daughter's old clothes, and even though not everything is my style, and the clothes are usually too big, I can find a gem hidden in the pile. Take this vest, for example. It's a Forever21 size large. Normally, even the small at F21 is too big on me, so you can imagine how enormous this vest was. The morning of the party, I turned it inside out, folded the side panels inwards, and sewed them down to eliminate about 6 inches of extra fabric on the sides. I also did this to the halter neck. Ideally, I should of used my seam ripper to properly take the vest apart, but I didn't have time. Eventually I will properly take it in though.

      With this ensemble I'm wearing some very nice patterned tights--not a lace pattern, but a very loose pointelle pattern. The boots are Marc Jacobs, with a stacked heel, zippers, lacing, and buckles that I got as a Christmas gift last year (original price was $120, but with the clever use of coupons and sales my parents got them for only $60!).

Sorry for the sideways picture!

      In these pictures you can see the decor for the party. I placed 3 iron bistro tables side by side, and surrounded them with a bench and an assortment of chairs. I put out the matching cushions and pillows for the chairs because they were in tones of red, brown, and yellow, which I thought complemented the theme very well. I covered the table in a white damask tablecloth. I made a banner out of some black paper I got off a roll from the art supply closet at school and a skein of teal yarn I salvaged. I hung the banner across my backyard to define the space. I found an old lantern in the shed and plunked that on my table, as well as a basket to hold all the napkins and utensil. I took an old vase and quickly made a flower arrangement out of all the faux flowers I could find in my house, and tied a remnant of white ribbon around the vase.

      I sent out the invitations in old Air Mail envelopes. On the invitations, I required that my guests do their best to wear Steampunk attire, and I specified that birthday presents wouldn't be necessary to bring but would be greatly appreciated. I wasn't expecting my guests to participate so enthusiastically, and I was really floored when I saw them all dressed up.

Aprill and I looking like derps. And she's wearing a Timeturner!

Deborah and I, with my eyes closed of course.

Sarah with an enormous foam bullet gun! And a face of evil!

Bri and I, and how the flower arrangement suspiciously got there?

John and I. I look terribly awkward in all these pictures.

Bri replaced the shoulder straps on her jumper with handbag straps! How cool!

Here you can see the vintage lantern.

I have to stop making these weird faces. I think this was my face right before I started crying.

The group!

Pretending we're like normal high-schoolers: drinks in hand, tushes out.
      Unfortunately, one of my freinds couldn't make it, which was a shame because I know he would have had fun.

      My parents took me to Stop-n-Shop the day before to pick out a cake. I didn't get any good pictures of the cake, but it fit into the theme perfectly. It was some German chocolate Bavarian creme shredded coconut covered confection, and it tasted really good. It was decorated beautifully, all in browns and blacks and coppers, with the shredded coconut slathered onto the sides with some chocolate shavings.

Lots of candles!

We moved into my basement because it became cold outside.

Here you can see the decoration on the top of the cake.

A good picture of the cake, in all its chocolatey glory.
The menu also included some red velvet cupcakes (also bought from Stop-n-Shop), popcorn, chips, lemonade, apple-cranberry juice, water, and pizza with beef, peppers, and mushrooms. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Chemise a la Reine

      I know I should've posted about this days ago, but homework and SATs and my 18th birthday got in the way. I didn't take any photos of the construction because I was rushing to finish the entire dress in two weeks (and don't forget I was making it while also juggling homework and practice for the Senior Play). I didn't use a pattern, but merely went with the vague directions I saw at other blogs, which basically were to sew a giant tube of fabric, and attach shoulder straps and sleeves with drawstring casings everywhere. So here I thought, oh this will be easy-peasy! I got the tube of fabric down and then it took me nearly a week to fiddle with the shoulder straps: since I don't own a dress form, I had to keep trying the dress on myself which considerably slowed me down.

      I made the tube part of this dress out of 4 yards of this wonderful fabric, which cost only $2 a yard. I got six yards of the fabric, and used the extra for making the sleeves. Which STILL had me with leftover fabric, so I can always attack this dress with ruffles or something. I actually made a neck ruffle for this dress but I wasn't crazy with how it turned out so I removed it.


The dress has two sleeve puffs, with a cuff made of double-fold bias tape on the last puff. The drawstring on the neckline is only in the front, as I tried to make the gathers in the back a little more fitted.  There is also a drawstring at the waist, and on the one sleeve puff. The dress has pocket slits in the side so that I can access my pockets. I hemmed it with a slight train in the back, although I wasn't accustomed to maneuvering crowded hallways without anyone putting their dirty paws on my train.

I also did my hair for this, not using a STRAND of hair that wasn't mine. I began by taking a shower the previous day, and braiding my hair into small braids all over except for an area in the back which was to become the curls. Halloween morning, I let out all the braids, then brushed them out. I took a piece of black netting, rolled it up, and pinned it above my hairline, then draped my hair over it. I continued to tease and drape and pin like a mad woman. Then I placed the ribbon in my hair (I made that too!), pinned it, and teased/ draped/ pinned the hair leftover from the sides over it. The trickiest part was making the curls, since I had to curl my hair with the curling iron and then carefully slide out the curl, trying to keep it intact while I pinned the living daylights out of it. I made two curls on each side, and this must've taken me the better part of an hour. Lastly, I stuck 3 black plumes in my 'do (these were from those wonky New Year's Eve tiaras) and two rosy artificial flowers. In these pictures I only have one flower, because the other fell off as I was walking to school.

My tousled hair after walking over a mile to and from school.

My black bra strap is showing...I worried that if I didn't wear a bra with this dress, I'd look like a shapeless marshmallow.

     Possibly the most frustrating thing is that the bolts of fabric at Wal-Mart are properly labeled, but the labels are covered by enormous orange price stickers! I mean really, you can't put the price sticker maybe a little to the side, so I can actually read this important information? No?

     I bought a yard of this GORGEOUS stiff pink satin for $2 to make the sash and the headband. I wasn't sure if the headband was period correct, but I did see similar matching headbands in some paintings.

Antoine Vestier, Portrait of a Lady with a Book, Next to a River Source, ca 1785

Vigée le Brun, Portrait of Izabela Lubomirska (Elzbieta Czartoryska) The Blue Marquise, 1782

     To make the sash, I cut from selvage to selvage twice, then sewed both lengths together, then folded and sewed again to make a tube, then sewed the edges inside to make it all clean and pretty. Maybe my masterpiece on Paint will clear it up for you:

Yeah...totally understandable right?
      I realized that I also needed another petticoat as multiple petticoats were the norm in the 18th century and because my dress needed more "poof". I bought a little more than a yard of this mystery fabric for about $2. I think in total I only spent $16 on fabric, then about $6 on trims. Talk about affordable! I made the second petticoat in the same manner I made my first, except by now I was all out of twill tape so I used some beige yarn I had leftover from another project as ties.

      I was a victim of the snowstorm that attacked the Northeast a few days before Halloween. Subsequently, our Town Halloween Parade was canceled (I wanted to compete in the costume contest!) and, most unfortunately, on Halloween, as I was walking to school in my costume, I slipped on a patch of black ice and fell onto my left elbow. My right hand was really scratched up, and it's only started scabbing now. I gathered all my books and papers, and crawled to the cars that were parked on the curb. For some reason, that whole area was covered in ice, even the cars. I held onto the icicled car door handles and kind of rag doll dragged myself for about half a block. I didn't even notice I was bleeding from my right hand until I saw red stains all over the pocket slits of my dress and all over my school papers. And what was worse, when I got to school, I had just missed the school's costume contest by a few minutes! And what was even worse than that but really not as bad, I realized I couldn't bend my left elbow. I guess when I landed on the ice, and when my books landed on my elbow, something inside moved. When I got to school I couldn't bend my arm up to fix my hair, nor could I straighten out my arm. Eventually I went to the school nurse for some ice and aspirin, but it took a whole week for my left arm to regain its bendability. Every time I tried to straighten out my arm, it felt like there was a rubber band inside that was super tense and couldn't stretch any more. But now its fine. I'm right-handed anyway.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

DIY Inspiration!

     Isn't this bracelet so cute? I definitely need to try to do this--I even already have the pearls and leather cord! Might pop out a bunch of these and make them Christmas presents.....


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

18th Century Undergarments: Chemise, Petticoat, and Pockets

       For my Chemise a la Reine, I of course need the proper undergarments. I began with making a chemise, or shift. I used these websites as my sources:

However, I felt that at some points the instructions for putting together the chemise were too difficult to follow, so after I had all my pieces cut out, I kind of guesstimated the construction. In the end, the chemise actually looks very nice, and it's remarkably comfortable and flattering. For the sake of time and money, I machine sewed most of it. Also, instead of making it out of linen, I made it out of cotton because I had several yards of white cotton in my stash. Oh well!

Isn't that a cute little fan? A friend bought it for me, I think from Uzbekistan.

I bought the socks in Portugal, for about 6 euros. They're from the Spanish brand Stradivarius.
Detail of the sleeve gusset.

Detail of the back.

      Naturally, I also made a few petticoats to go underneath my Chemise a la Reine. I realize now that instead of pleating outward, I pleated inward! But I don't think it makes much of a difference. I also realize that I could have spared a little more fabric towards the construction of this petticoat. I made my first petticoat out of an old rust colored sheet. The petticoat has pocket slits in the side, and I figure that if I ever need an outfit for any sort of Steampunk soiree, I could just sew some pleats or ruffles to the bottom. It comes to just above my ankle, at a really perfect height.

I used these websites when making my petticoat:

I also made pockets! I know, I know, they're very simple--I chose not to embroider them for the sake of time--but they are great and really useful and clean and pretty and, above all, practical! These are also white cotton, bound with some olive green double found bias tape I had leftover from a previous project.  I love the contrast of the white and the olive green, and overall I'm happy that I have a repository for all my modern-day crap so I won't have to lug around a purse.

 In your opinion, what is the most practical historical garment you've ever made or seen?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Chemise a la Reine

      By now I'm sure you've assumed that I have begun working on my Halloween costume. And what costume did I decide to make?

      Why a Chemise a la Reine of course!

Image via Google
I've chosen this because of time/ money/ talent constraints, but I'm really excited to wear something so frothy and feminine! I'm aiming more for a chemise like the one above, with two arm puffs, either a powdery blue or baby pink taffeta sash and sleeve bows, and maybe a row or two of ruffles along the neckline.

      I am also planning on making a hat to go with this, perhaps if I modify a straw hat and drown it in trimmings? We'll see!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Halloween, Part 3

      Now that I've showed you last year's costume, it's time to think, what's this year's costume going to be? Hopefully, since Halloween lands on a Monday this year, the school board will let us wear our costumes to school as we have done in the past.

      I've already brainstormed a few ideas, which I'll share:

Option 1a: Marie Antoinette     

Pattern: Simplicity 4092, View A
Image via PatternReview

An option I've been lusting over for a while, and now that I have a sewing machine I think that I can actaully do this. However, I would never make a half-assed historical costume, i.e. one that zippered shut, or worn without the proper undergarments. So, I'd also use this Simplicity pattern for the stays and chemise: Simplicity 3635;

Image via PatternReview
But there I was thinking, why would I put so much time, effort, and money on a gown that zippered closed, when I didn't even know how to replace zippers with lacing? And then I figured, this project would just occupy WAY too much time and money, two things that seem to escape me easily. I did a few mental calculations, and realized that this project would require obscene amounts of money that I just did not have.  For me to be properly satisfied with this costume, I'd have to make a chemise, stays, pocket hoops, at least a petticoat, and the gown itself. Last year, when I dressed my hair up as Marie Antoinette, NO ONE KNEW WHO I WAS except my painting teacher. Le sigh.

Plus, when I began reading some pattern reviews, I learned that these patterns weren't easy, and required a lot of modifications and fitting. As an incoming high school senior I can't devote too much time to a sewing project since I'm in the process of applying for colleges.

Option 1b: Marie Antoinette in the dress that sparked the Revolution, or a Chemise a la Reine.

Image via Google
From what I have researched, these dresses are very simple, fun, and easy to construct; they're basically a gathered rectangle with sleeves. And according to The Dreamstress, a Chemise a la Reine wasn't necessarily always worn with stays. You can read more in her post:

If I were to make a Chemise a la Reine, I'd only make two gathers on the sleeves though -- I feel like three gathers are a bit overwhelming. And perhaps a hat to match the ensemble?

Image via Google
The more I think about it, the more I feel that a Chemise a la Reine would be a good starting point for an 18th century costume. Yet, I know that if I wear this to school, very few people will recognize me. But whatever, that just gives me an excuse to explain the French Revolution to them....

Option 2: Rowena Ravenclaw

This will be a very un-historically accurate costume. Mostly for the fact that basically my idea is for a Renaissance style ensemble, however since Hogwarts was founded "over a thousand years ago," Rowena and Helena are most likely from the 10th and 11th century--the Middle Ages.

This costume will be more of a mesh of patterns and ideas. Of COURSE, you all know who Rowena Ravenclaw is, right? RIGHT? Anyway, I was thinking of making this out of a dark blue damask, or similar printed dark blue fabric, with a slightly grey- or silver-toned underdress. Perhaps I should explain further? I will.

I already have this pattern at home, and I feel that I can modify it for this costume.

Image via PatternReview
Image via PatternReview

For the underdress, a sort of chemise, if you will, I would make blouse B, but elongate it A LOT, up to my ankles. For the overdress, I'd make the vest, and then make a long skirt, about as long as the underdress; I'd pleat it, then tack it to the inside of the vest, which sounds rather tricky and finicky but in my mind it seems like it would totally work. Which means it probably wouldn't.

And of course, somehow I'd make a diadem or tiara of sorts out of wire and whatnots around the house. But this costume definitely requires a lot more...trickery, and messing around. Although I don't doubt my abilities whatsoever. I also feel that no one would recognize me; they'd probably just say, "Are you a medieval queen?" and I'd have to control myself from strangling them. But then again,I doubt people would recognize Marie Antoinette either.

Option 3: Alice in Wonderland

Or, I could just do this the easy way and wear a costume I already made: my Tim Burton inspired Alice in Wonderland costume.

Dear readers, what do you think?