Monday, May 1, 2017

Early 19th Century Riding Habit: Pattern & Prep

As everyone knows, fabric must be properly 'aged' in one's stash before a project can commence, so the fact that the wool for this habit has been reaching peak condition in my collection for several years should come as a surprise to no one.  It's a lovely navy twill weave with a touch of teal in it, which I got from 96 District Fabrics.  I truly love the color, but that touch of teal made it quite the adventure to find coordinating silk!

The strip in the middle is my wool;
I ended up choosing the silk on the right for facings and skirt support.
Like most fashions, riding habits came in various styles, with varying levels of fuss and embellishment.  I knew I wanted something relatively simple, and found myself preferring those that seemed to follow menswear shapes and trends--lapels, stand and fall collar, folded cuffs.  I also knew I wanted my skirt plain rather than heavily embellished, since the ultimate goal is to ride in this getup.  You do see some highly decorated skirts, but for something I plan to get dirty and covered in mud and horse hair, that seemed like overkill.  I don't have a lady's maid to air and brush my clothes!

Many habit skirts in this period are depicted as being quite long in order to fully conceal the rider's feet when she's on horseback.  You can see that in some of the fashion plates and paintings in my last post, and there are a few published examples in the Kyoto Costume Institute's book Fashion and in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion I.  I used Arnold's diagram as the basis for my skirt, but the little bodice that supports the skirt would have been for someone about half my size, so that's where I started to branch out.

At the time of this writing, I had just used Laughing Moon #129 as the basis  for the bodice of my winter-weight pelisse (yet to be documented on this blog), so I had a pretty good idea of how I could modify it to suit my needs.  I used the version without a peplum as the base for my skirt support bodice, and the version with a peplum as the starting point for my jacket.

Modifying the pattern for the skirt bodice involved taping the pattern pieces together with blue tape, tracing them as one piece, and then modifying that tracing largely with guesswork and a lot of staring at Arnold's diagram.

Modifications for the jacket were only marginally more scientific.  I basically wanted lines similar to those of a man's tailcoat.  I had previously used Laughing Moon #122 to make a coat for Rich (also yet to be documented's a theme) that I feel turned out very nicely, and had basically the lines I wanted.  Overlaying the front pieces of both patterns, I traced a new front and threw together a mockup.

With fabrics and pattern sorted, it was time to get going!
Previous Post: Inspiration & Resources

Monday, April 24, 2017

Early 19th Century Riding Habit: Inspiration & Resources

I don't know what it is about blogging lately, but sitting down to put my thoughts about anything into words has seemed terribly overwhelming.  It's not a lack of things I'd like to share--I'm spoiled for choice!  In a way, I think that almost makes it harder.  Where do I start?  What do I say?  How can I possibly catch up?!

Well, as they say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Or alternatively, how do you eat an elephant?  One bit at a time (preferably don't do that, though.  Elephants are friends, not food.)

So, for my first step, or bite, whichever you prefer, I'm going to rely on pictures being worth a thousand words and just share a bit of where I started with the 1810s riding habit I'm working on (and nearing completion!)

The following images are courtesy of the Bibliotheque des Arts Decoratifs, via Ginger's fantastic Flickr albums.


Costume Parisien, 1802-1803

Ackermann's Repository, 1810

Costume Parisien, 1816

Costume Parisien, 1817

Ackermann's Repository, 1818
There are many other fashion plates out there, from both English and French sources, but these are the main ones that influenced my choices for this particular project.

I'm also very grateful for the published works of fellow bloggers, and spent no small bit of time reading and re-reading their respective riding habit project pages:

Something I discovered while "researching," if you can call trawling Pinterest and Google Images for information "research," is that if our ancestral artist had Photoshop, they would have used it to egregious effect.  I'm pretty certain that some of these ladies were painted while sitting in someone's sitting room, and then a wild, wide-eyed, snorting beast was "pasted" in behind them for effect.  Like, seriously, you can't sit on a horse that way.  And if your horse looks like the ones in the painting (as if someone has just goosed him unexpectedly?), you probably won't be looking as bland and passive as the equestrienne in the portrait.  Or maybe I'm the only one that bellows "oh SHIT!" right before hitting the ground when my horse gets goosed, spooked, or otherwise takes offense at his surroundings.

Oh, and you'll notice the fashion plates above don't include horses.  Fashion plate horses were almost certainly a different species, given to terrible derp and only remotely related to the horse as we know it.

That being said, not all horse portraits made me belly laugh, so here are a couple of particularly lovely ones that very much captured the overall look I hope to someday achieve with both my attire and my horse(wo)manship.

Up next:  Probably materials?  Maybe something about mockups.  Who knows; it's a miracle I'm even writing this post to begin with.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Best Face Forward

I rarely wear makeup, both in my daily life and in my reenacting life.  I like sleep a lot, and putting cosmetics on takes time that I would rather spend inspecting the insides of my eyelids.  For events, I usually slather on some sunscreen and call it good, because skin protection is super important, y'all.

I had a blast doing my own wedding makeup!

However, we all have our vanities, and when I go somewhere and I know there will be lots of photos, I do like to indulge a bit.  I  use modern cosmetics in such a way that I'll photograph well but not look overly  made-up.  I rocked maroon eyeshadow for my wedding, but at a historic ball I go a little simpler!  It does make a difference though, as you can see below.

Of course modern special occasion makeup is very different from historical makeup, down to the tools and products used.  From here on down, I want to make clear that I would not use these techniques if I were going to be attending a museum-sponsored event, reenactment, educational function, or anything where I would be presenting to the public.  This is by no means historically accurate, and I would only present myself like this at a social event, not intended for educational purposes.

Right: no makeup at all.  Left: Standard "ball" makeup.

Foundation:  Maybelline Dream Smooth Mousse in Natural Beige
Cheek:  Ben Nye Powder Rouge in Victorian Rose
Highlight: Ben Nye Creme Highlight in Ultralight
Eyeliner:  Ben Nye Pressed Eye Color in Black Brown
Mascara:  Maybelline Full 'n' Soft Waterproof in Very Black
Powder:  Ben Nye Neutral Set Translucent Face Powder in Fair
Lip:  Smashbox Be Legendary Matte Lipstick in Plum Scene, Burt's Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Red Dahlia

These are just what I happened to have on hand, but you could realistically do this with any brand that you prefer.  The biggest thing is to use colors that suit you, and to use matte finishes.  Sparkly cosmetics can be fun, but they don't photograph as smoothly and are more obviously modern and trendy than a matte finish.

So, once you have your arsenal ready to go, how do you apply it to put your best face forward?  Well, here is what I do!  Feel free to watch below, or visit my channel on Youtube.  And let me know how this works for you!

P.S. "This is why we can't make nice things" started out as a joke, but considering this video was filmed and narrated, almost a year ago, I feel like it's a fairly appropriate name.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Early 19th Century Riding Stays

What the item is: A pair of early 19th century riding stays
The Challenge, and how this item fulfills it: Firsts and Lasts. A well-fitted garment needs well-fitted underpinnings, of course!
Fabric/Materials: Cotton drill, Southern Belle cotton
Pattern: Custom-made from Redthreaded on Etsy, done specifically to my measurements.
Year: 1810 or thereabouts
Notions: Spiral steel boning, synthetic whalebone, bone casing, metal grommets, pre-made bias binding, pre-cut and tipped corset lacing.
How historically accurate is it? The pattern is based loosely on an original from the defunct collections of The Museum of Costume and Textiles in Nottingham, UK. Other than that, it's abysmal. I machine sewed every single stitch, bought pre-packaged binding, put in metal two-piece's terrible. I'm going to say 10%. HOWEVER. I now know that the pattern fits great, and this iteration gives me a garment that I can wear while sitting on a sidesaddle to see what, if any, changes are needed before I invest hours into a hand-sewn, corded replica. So for what it is, it's perfect.
Hours to complete: Not very many. The hardest part was the binding and that took me just one evening. Stitch in the ditch...not even once.
First worn: Just now for photos, but those were unbearably terrible so you get dress form pictures instead, even though it doesn't fit Cuffy nearly as well as it fits me.
Total cost: $40 for the pattern, maybe $30 for fabric and materials used? I ordered lots of extra corsetmaking supplies at the same time but hardly used any at all for this. Definitely less than $100 all told, though!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Sewing Successes!

Hello again, friends!  I am back, and with lots to show for my absence!  While I have not been blogging, I have been very busy sewing.  This past weekend quite a few of my creations had their debut, and I couldn't be more pleased with how they all turned out.

First up is probably my favorite new thing...and it wasn't even mine!  I made a chemisette for Julie, and I absolutely love how it turned out.  The body is based on Julie's own pattern, so that the neckline would fit her figure perfectly.  I added a small neckband and organdy ruffle, finished with a narrow rolled hem (with which I am inordinately pleased!) and rolled whipped gathers.  She made her own dress, and accessorized with a coral set from Kristen at The Victorian Needle.

Above, you can see the one layer body, neckband, and tiny hem.  I'm not quite at Samantha, Couture Courtesan level hem skills, but I'm still very happy with how small I was able to get it!

Next up, and at long last, I have a new dress!  This one took me a while.  I started it last year, over the summer...and then Rich and I went and bought a house, and all my sewing stuff got packed into boxes, only to be unearthed once I had a sewing space of my own.  

This dress is pretty darn simple, which means I'm probably pretty lame for taking so long to finish it.  The fabric is a semi-sheer delicate stripe, sewn mostly by hand (I was still in my "hide machine sewing on skirt seams" phase last year when I started this one), which was fiddly.  Sheer fabrics like to shimmy around and wiggle pins free all over the place!  

The construction and patterning is based on a c. 1810-1818 roller printed gown in the Susan Greene Collection at Genesee Country Village & Museum.  The 19th US page with photos and diagram is here, and was vital for this project!  It closes in back with a drawstring at the waist and neck, and although I'm ambivalent about how it gaps in back, it seems to have been a not-uncommon way to fasten gowns in the period.

Last but certainly not least, I finally finished the biggest, most ambitious headwear project I've ever undertaken. I started it almost four years ago in a bonnet workshop given by the inimitable Lydia Fast, and I cannot recommend her bonnets or her teaching highly enough!  I chose her "Pip" style, with its adorable turned up brim and relatively short crown.  The base is wired buckram, with navy blue and gold silk covering.  I'm extremely happy with my final result and I certainly would never have attempted something so ambitious if not for Lydia's teaching, so if you ever have a chance to attend one of her workshops, definitely do it!

Part of the reason it took me so very long to finish is because once the bonnet itself was mostly done, I was at a complete loss how to trim it.  So, there it sat, in its box, for nearly four years, until I finally got motivated and spent a few hours poking around looking for inspiration in fashion plates.  My internet friends helped a lot, too, helping me sift through ideas and make decisions.  In the end, I used two colors of Craft Cabaret on Etsy and, thanks to my internet friends' suggestions, a big giant bow of leftover gold silk, pinked with a vintage pinking tool I found at a thrift shop.  I originally was planning to just use flowers, but I honestly think the giant bow is my favorite part now!

To finish off a relatively simple ensemble (well, a simple dress--that bonnet speaks for itself, I think!), I wore beautiful tiered lapis earrings from Dames a la Mode, and some snuggly knitted mitts by In the Long Run Designs to ward off the morning chill.  Next time I wear the dress and bonnet, I hope to have a matching lapis necklace and a chemisette of my very own.  Stay tuned!

Monday, August 15, 2016

What I made For Old Fort Erie: Food and a Shortgown!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man woman in possession of a good fortune dutch oven must be in want of a wife charge of food at any given reenactment.

Blah blah historically inaccurate, I know I know.  But let's get a few things straight:

I really like food.
I also really like playing with fire.
I enjoy the undying admiration and devotion of men who are well fed.

So, while it's not an amazing camp follower portrayal, putting a woman in charge of food does mean that sh*t gets done, even when all the men have to go blow up black powder for the pleasure of the paying guests.  Also, I'd rather play with fire than do fake laundry for paying guests who are really just there to see soldiers blowing up black powder, so there's that.

So, in summary, this was my duty station of sorts at Old Fort Erie.  Thanks to unusually dry weather, there was a fire ban at the site, so no fire pits or split logs allowed.  Braziers, however, were permitted, as long as we used charcoal or other "non sparking" fuel.  Lesson learned: "non sparking" doesn't mean "clean burning."  We had plenty of ash.  The hardwood lump charcoal that Rich procured at our friendly neighborhood Tractor Supply worked extremely well, however, and we made lots of toast and heated stew very successfully.

My faithful red and white checked dress seemed a trifle delicate for the rigors of camp life, though, and cooking in white (or even partial white) seemed awfully ambitious for someone as accident prone as I am.  So, when it came to pass that I was volun-told to take care of food for the weekend, it became clear that I needed to invest in some new wardrobe staples.

Inspired by Katherine's Shortgown Tutorial, I liberated a length of cotton print from my stash and set about following her instructions basically to the letter.

Mine doesn't have the cute little buttons in back because I got lazy.

A couple things about the sleeves:  For one, I wish I could say that the bias cut was a purely design decision, but it was in reality the only way my sleeve pattern would fit on my fabric without piecing.  And, I'm lazy, so the least amount of sewing I could get away with was ideal!  For another, I used another of Katherine's tutorials for setting the sleeves.  Namely, the sleeve cap and the armscye did not match up AT ALL.  The sleeve was originally drafted to be a puffed sleeve, but I wanted a tighter fit through the arm.  So I seamed the sleeve smaller and just fit it into the armscye however it needed to go, without matching the cut edges to the armscye at all.  There are untrimmed bits of extra fabric inside.  I didn't clip any of my seam allowances.  Fight me.

But no, really--I was super happy with how the shortgown turned out and I feel like all the making do with what I had on hand suited the project very well!  Also I'm calling the half-assed sleeve patterning a success because I had great range of motion in this, which was excellent for all the camp work I did.  Next I just need to put a couple more tucks in that petticoat.  It wasn't terrible, but it was a hair too long for all the bending required to cook on the ground.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Year 2

So, today is my second wedding anniversary (kind of.)  Our whole marriage process was a bit crazier than the norm thanks to immigration laws, so we actually have a few special dates that symbolize our marriage.  June 13 was the church ceremony with friends and family, though, so today is the first of our anniversary dates.  In 2014, it was a Friday the 13th, but we got a kick out of it because we got engaged on April 1--April Fool's Day!  So why not continue with our accidental little theme of picking offbeat days for our milestones?

Holme Pierrepont Hall

Anyway, I think I posted photo? when we actually got married, because we were also busy moving Rich overseas, filing for immigration status, and adjusting to being married.  Normally I would feel a bit silly sharing our wedding photos two years later...but, and I say this with a humble, grateful heart, our wedding day was gorgeous.  I planned it from 4,000 miles away and the first time I ever saw the venue was when I walked in an hour before saying my vows, in my wedding dress...and my jaw just hit the floor.  I mean, the pictures on the internet were pretty, which is how I picked it, but I was not at all prepared for how amazing it was.  It was like walking into a fairy tale!  There was so much stress leading up to it, and for the whole day to go off without a hitch and to be so gorgeous was just such a gift.

 I might have a heart attack if I had to do it again, but looking back on the photos reminds me of how wonderful it was.  My friends and family traveled thousands of miles to be there with us, and Rich's friends and family surrounded us so lovingly.  I am truly grateful for everyone who made that day so special, and for how amazing it was...and for how far we've come in two years.  Here's to the ones we still have to look forward to!

Our wedding party:
Elizabeth, Julie, Holly, Katie & Rich, Andy, Dan
Such wonderful people!
That was the most amazing, velvety grass I have ever walked upon!

Grandpa made it 4k miles to be there!
And then we went and had Indian food!
The food was beautiful and amazing, too!

The end!  Or rather, that was just the beginning.  I love you, Rich, and I hope we have many more adventures in our years to come.  And also naps.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Memorial Weekend 2016: Meigs and Greenfield

Alternate title:  My Weekend, As Told By My Dog.

We had a great time!  1812 at Fort Meigs on Saturday and Sunday, then Monday at Greenfield Village for their Civil War Remembrance event.  We saw lots of old friends and made new ones, and got a little sunburned.  We ate well and stayed hydrated, and even got to bring our pup along for the first two days.  Here are some photos!

Thanks to everyone who said hi, stopped to chat, and welcomed us at both of these great events!  I hope we don't have to wait a whole year to see you all again! :)