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!