Saturday, 28 June 2014

Revolutionary photos

Today was finally the time for me to try on the complete revolutionary outfit. The Sala Silverminge, 80 km away, celebrated their annual festive days. The last two years it's been a clearly marked 18th century event, but this year it was mostly focused on children. Still everyone in historical costume was welcome, so me and Sara decided to go there and get a chance to dress up. To be honest except for the people working or perfoming we were the only ones in costume, but it was still fun. The weather was grey, and when we set out it rained a lot in Falun. Thankfully though it didn't rain in Sala, and the weather was really nice when you were wearing all the layers of historical costume, and wigs.

I took the chance to get some photos of myself in the revolutionary outfit.

I had a red table cloth for our picknick and I took my chance to look a bit more revolutionary.

On the last I'm ready to address the people, unfortunately no people were present.

The local folkdance group had a workshop in historical dance, so we attended and it was really fun.It turned out to be quite hard to do with the hat on, so I took it off. I also started to get a bit of an headache from it. We helped out and took part in the public showng of the dances as well, and it was a lot easier with just a cap.

A lot more comfortable without the hat and with glasses on. Heavy hat and no glasses is a good recipe for headaches.

It was a great day, the dancing really lifted it up to something extra. I got a lot of comments about the hat, but it's definitely a piece you arrive in and then take off. It's a tad too small, I thought that wouldn't matter since it's on top of the wig, but I could feel the crown pressing on my skull.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

It's heavy, it's hot, it's a redingote

So the finishing stages of my revolutionary costume weren't that fun. I had everything so well planned, and then I ended up with a bad cold, and almost cut off a fingertip so the last days of working on the redingote I felt like crap, and it hurt to do much at all with my fingers. Still I had decided to have it finished by the 15th of June, and as you saw in my latest post I managed that.

For the redingote I had bougt 2 meters of red wool from The wool was cheap, but it was also very heavy and stiff. I had started to cut out all the pieces in the lining fabrics, the same blue and unbleached linen that I used for the waistcoat. When placing them on the fabric I realized that I had cut it quite close with just two meters, and I was glad that I had chosen a shortsleeved style. In the end I had to narrow down the gusset quite a lot to be able to fit everything on to the fabric.
I used modern construction techniques, constructing the lining and the outer layer separately before attaching them at the neck and I sewed everything on the machine. I slipstitched the lining to the outer fabric at the edges by hand, and where there were raw wool edges I kept them raw, since they don't unravel and a hem would be quite clumsy.

For the collar I wanted double collars, one long cape-like collar and one shorter. I started with just placing some scrap fabric on the finished coat where I wanted the collar to be, and then I simply cut until I was happy with the shape.
The finished pattern looked quite like a half circle with a cut off corner. I pieced together the collar from different scraps of fabric that were left.
The upper collar was simply the widest rectangle of fabric that I had left. I pinned it to the inside of the neck and just folded it in place.I cut it more rounded when it was in place.

The last things to add were the trim and the buttons. The trim is a polyester sweeper fringe, but it was the only one I could find in diferent colours that were quite close to the style of the original. For the buttons I wondered for a long time on what to use. On the original you can see what looks like big blue oval button. I first tried to find metallic buttons, thinking that the blue colour could be pewter or gunmetal. I only found very expensive 18th century reproductions, and since I already cheated in materials and construction I didn't want to spend too much on the buttons. In the end I decided to make my own fabric covered buttons.

As a base I used flat plastic shank button. I cut out a roundel of fabric. I then sewed a gathering stitch with buttonhole thread around the edges and pulled it. That encased the button and I tied the thread. With the wool fabric the roundel was a bit too big, so the backside was just as thick as the shank. These are only decorative buttons though, and in fact that was good since I could attach them in the fabric, rather than just through the shank. When I sewed the buttons on I used the gathering thread.

Plastic button, pattern for the fabric, back and front of the button.
This is the finished redingote, together with all the other pieces of the costume.

 Now I'm going to change the dressform to my sister's measurements and start working on her wedding gown so I'm not sure when I will make the next update on this blog, since the wedding gown will be secret until the wedding day in August.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

HSF14 Challenge 11: Politics of Fashion

I was really happy when I saw this coming up as a challenge, since I had planned to finish my1787 revolutionary costume in June.

I had hoped to get a nice photo shoot done today, but the last few days I've been down with a really bad cold. The kind where you just want to curl up in the sofa and do nothing else, so the photo shoot has been postponed. Instead I'll bring you some pictures of the outfit on my dressform. The dressform isn't wearing my proper underpinnings since I can't adjust it to my measurements when I'm wearing stays and bumroll anyway, so trust me when I say that the fitting is better on me than on the dressform.

First something about my inspiration though. My revolutionary gown is based on this fashion plate from 1788, the tag in the blog says 1787 because I was mistaken when I made it and I don't want to to break the links with the tag so I haven't edited.

I started the project because I fell in love with it. I was also quite inspired by having read, seen and listened to Les Miserables and wanted to do something, but since I don't like the 1830s fashion I preferred going back to the original French revolutio. I had read up a bit on the women of the French revolution nand to me it looked exactly like something that I would expect Theroigne de Mericourt to wear. Theroigne de Mericourt was very active in the early days of the French Revolution, she agitated for full civil rights for women, and was known for dressing in a red riding coat.

The fashion plate conveys a lot of political statements in itself as well. It is an outfit that is a proof of the democratization of fashion in the late 18th century. It is a stark contrast to the stiff and heavy court gowns that were worn by the aristocracy in the earlier decades. It should also be noted that during the Reign of Terror it was not wise to go dressed in silks and brocade unless you wanted to be accused of being a counter revolutionary, and thus risking to loose your head at the guillotine.

 The basis for the whole outfit is the chemise dress, which in itself is probably one of the most revolutionary fashion statements in history. The revolutionary years would also see an increase in militarization of the fashion, including the women's fashion. Here the red redingote with gold trims, as well as the waistcoat, is a clear nod to military uniforms and male fashion. The hat has been trimmed with feathers, which was also used by women to show their support of the militant revolution, even though the hat itself is a big fashionable late 1780's hat.

Finally there is the colour scheme. When the traditional of colours of Paris, blue and red, where combined with white to create the classic French tricolore, it became an instant political statement to dress in that colour scheme. Blue, white, red elements and cockades showed that you were a true revolutionary, believing in democracy and progress. If you wore purple it was a sign that you preferred l'ancien regime though. I've chosen to increase the tricolor theme from the fashion plate by making the waistcoat and lining of the redingote blue as well.

My gown à la revolution consists of four parts and here are links to more detailed posts about them..
1. The gaulle that I made for the HSF14 Challenge 9: Black and white
2. Blue linen waistcoat with white lining
3. Red wool redingote with linen lining (going to make a write-up on that one soon)
4. The megahat

I''ve also added a fichu, but I think I need to make one in some other shape to get the right pigeon shaped silhouette..  Everything except the gaulle  and the cap has been made within the time frame of the challenge.

The outfit also has some proper blood stains, very fitting for a revolutionary gown. Two days ago I almost cut the tip of my finger off and when I was dressing the dressform the wound burst and bleed all over the dress. I'm really glad that the gaulle is all made with cotton and linen, and I've prewashed everything and finished the seams properly so I should be able to put it in all in the washing machine before wearing it.

Anyway, here are the pictures.

Just the facts

The Challenge: Politics of fashion
Fabric: The main pieces are from cotton, linen and wool. The hat is buckram, cotton velvet and silk taffeta.
Pattern: The hat is from Lynn McMaster's Universal Round brimmed hat, the gaulle, redingote and waistcoat are selfdrafted.
Year: 1788-89
Notions: regular sewing thread, satin ribbon, buttons, hook and eye tape..
How historically accurate is it? Accuracy differs a lot between the elements. The waistcoat is handmade with authentic materials, the redingote is made from wool and cotton, but I've used a sewing machine and poly trim. The hat is probably not accurate at all. In total I would give 90% for the look, but around 50% for construction.
Hours to complete: The whole outfit has taken me the whole spring, but the hat, the waistcoat and the redingote took around a week each.
First worn: For the photo above, but I'm hoping to make a proper photo shoot with it soon.
Total cost: The total cost for the whole ensemble is going up towards $250, if you also include the shoes and the stays that I made for it.

What I've learned with this project.
This project is one of the most fun I've done. I've loved learning new things, like making the hat, and I've also for the first time made garments all by hand. At the start of the year I wrote that I hoped to maybe one day make a handsewn garment, and with this costume I've already accomplished that since the waistcoat is all made by hand. I've also learned more about drafting and draping to make my own patterns. I think before I'm going to start a big historical project again I am going to take some time and make a basic bodice block for the 18th century, I've already used the bodice block from the gaulle a lot but it's a bit late in style.

Monday, 9 June 2014


or my usual way of getting a pattern that I want. This is the method that I usually use when trying to create something. I call it frankenpatterning, since it's more about selecting pieces of pattern that I like and then trying to combine them into a new one. It takes quite a lot of scrap fabric to work this way, but in time when I get more patterns that look the way I want I won't need to start from scratch every time.

The redingote for the revolutionary gown has been one of the main challenges from the start. I have never made something like it before. At first I had hoped to be able to use the waistcoat pattern for the redingote as well, and only lengthen it. Since I wasn't happy with the fit of the waistcoat, and especially that it wasn't full enough over the hips, I felt that I needed to start over. After having gone through Patterns of Fashion, Costume Close-up and quite a few blogs with recreated redingotes I figures that I had two choices to get the flare, either a lot of pleats or making a waistseam and attach a skirt portion to the bodice. I decided to try with the pleated version, since that's looks more military to me, but keeping the waistseam and skirt option available if I couldn't get the pleats to work.

My first step was to choose a back and front piece that I actually knew fit.
 The back piece is from the waistcoat, and it in turned started out as the lining back piece from RH822, it's been lengthened and adjusted. The front piece is my gaulle, that I knew fit well. From this it was ovbious that I first needed to lengthen the front.
Here I've put the gaulle bodice front on a piece of muslin. I made sure to trace the front seam and the side seam, and lengthen them. The front seam was also lengthened up towards the neck, since the redingote isn't going to have a deep neckline.

After this it was time to see how I was going to add enough fabric for pleating. I first looked at the shape of the coat in Costume Close-up and tried to add scraps of fabric until it had a similar shape. When I then pinned it to the dressform I wasn't totally happy about how they fell. I then took a look on the jackets on page 26-27 of Patterns of Fashion. especially jacket C. I much preferred those softer pleats, so I changed the shape of the added scraps to look like those pattern pieces. Just like that jacket I also added a gusset in a slit in the front, to make sure that I got enough flare. For the back piece I added triangular fabric to the side, but just a square piece to the center back, like in Costume Close-up.

Here is the finished muslin of the redingote. It's too short on one side, since I cut off a bit too much fabric when trying to decide on the length, but I'm going to work with the longer pattern pieces. It is a bit small, or rather the opening in the front is just like in the fashion plate, but I would not be able to close it, so I am going to make it a bit bigger there, simply by adding some more seam allowance.

Here are the finished pattern pieces, front (with a slit), gusset and back.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Finished waistcoat

After being away for a couple of days, a trip where I was once again just missing out on watching an exhibit with 18th and 19th century folk fashion in Norway but at least I got the program for the exhibit, it was time to finish the waistcoat.

I used four different kinds of  fabric for it. For the front piece I used a blue linen/viscose mix. For the backpiece and for the lining in front I used unbleached linen/viscose. I found a scrap piece of finer, and whiter, linen to make facings for the front and for the back lining I used a coarser unbleached linen. It is a bit of mix, and the different linings is because I simply didn't have enough of one fabric to make the lining, but it's historically accurate to mix and and use uglier fabrics where they can't be seen.

When starting I decided to make the whole garment by hand. Since it was only a total of five seams, and they were quite short, I felt that it would be a good way of getting more used to handsewing. I did use regular sewing thread and for the closure in the front I decided to use hook and eye tape, since I had that at home anyway.

I started with adding the hook and eye tape to the lining.
I then sewed the facing onto the lining. I followed the construction method as described in Costume Close-Up, where you sew the fabrics together by stacking the two outer fabrics and lining and joining them, and then using the remaining lining to cover the raw edges. I used backstitches for all the seams, and slipstitched the lining over the seams. On all the edges I turned the raw edges towards each other and slipstitched them in place.

Front outside

Front lining
side, outside

Side lining

Back, outside

Back, lining
Overall I am quite happy with it. The main issue is the fit in the front. I am not happy with the waist, or rather lack of waist definition there. Also the facing should have gone all the way around the neck, as it is now I don't think the unbleached lining will be visible since I will have both a coat and a fichu over it, but I am annoyed with it. I actually have less creases compared to what can be seen on the original fashion plates, and the back fits really well.

Just the facts:
Fabric: 1 m blue linen/viscose, 1 m unbleached linen viscose, 0,5 m bleached fine linen, 1 m unbleached linen
Pattern: Selfdrafted, after inspiration from the waistcoat on page 86 of Costume Close-up 
Year: 1788
Notions: regular sewing thread, hook and eye tape
How historically accurate is it? It's totally handsewn with almost accurate fabrics. The things that drags the accuracy down are the hook and eye tape and the small amounts of viscose in the fabrics. 85%
Hours to complete: Figuring out the pattern took a lot longer then I had expected. In all I worked a full week on this waistcoat.
First worn: For the photo above
Total cost:ca $30

What I learnt with this project
I managed to handsew the complete garment, which is a first for me. With the handsewing came the new techniques of attaching outer fabric and lining to each other piece by piece, rather than constructing two separate garments and then attaching them to each other. I can definitely see how you have more control with handsewing, but my stitches are a long way from being neat and uniform all over.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Revolutionary waistcoat

I felt quite confident about doing the waistcoat for the revolutionary gown, I mean how hard could it be to make something that wasn't very figurehugging and didn't involve sleeves? Well so far it has turned out quite a lot harder than I thought it would be.

For the pattern I decided to use the man's waistcoat from page 86 as an inspiration. I'm not good when it comes to enlarging patterns though, so I decided to make a mix of draping and enlarging. I simply freehanded the general shape of the garment onto a piece of fabric, pinned it into the dressform and started to adjust until it looked right.

I quite soon realized that whatI got out from this wouldn't be usable as a pattern piece, so I cut out the general shape that I had and drew it onto another piece of fabric. I  then pinned that to the dressform and started to make minor adjustments.

Above you can see that the right side is starting to take shape.
Then it was time to test it on myself, while wearing my stays, my dressform is not working well for clothes that are worn over stays, I simply can't adjust it enough.
 One big issue at this stage was the large diagonal crease, from the sideseam down towards the waist. It looked fine when I tugged on the pieces, so something had to be too big somewhere. In the end I got rid of most of the crease by lifting the whole waistcoat upwards, and removing around 5 cm of fabric from the shoulder seam. I also realized that I have huge fitting issues around my neck/shoulders. I could make it work for the waistcoast, but it will be a really big challenge for the outer coat. A problem here is that I'm working off a men's pattern, so I can't really use my bodice block for my gowns. Before I go on making 18th century jackets I will need to solve this problem.
Another problem was a lot of stretching and creasing over the hips. Once again I think it's the difference between the male and female shape, and since I'm not use to draping I couldn't get that to work. In the end I took a look at the jacket on page 41 of Costume Close-Up and I had to make a slit in the front, to allow it to flare over my hips. Not ideal, but it will work.

One lesson I had learnt from the gaulle was to make sure that the armscyes fit better. When I tried it on I could see the fabric folding and creasing around the armscye, I traced around that crease and simply cut away all the other fabric. That will hopefully be enough for me to be able to move my arms. After all I don't want this to be a too constructive garment.
Here are the two finished pattern pieces. The strange flap on top in the front is what is going to allow the very big, and angular, lapels on the waistcoat.

Now it's only on to cutting out everything in the real fabrics and sewing it all.

And I am in a hurry now, since I need to finish quickly to start with the wedding gown, and the outfit that I want to do for myself for the wedding.