Monday, 20 October 2014

HSF Challenge 19: Inspiration

So it's been a while, but I've now completed a project that goes within the HSF again.

First a bit of background to this. In my regular work I am responsible for the educational programs, and school holiday programs, at a local museum, that also happens to be an underground mine. For the autumn school holiday it was time to come up with something new, and I decided to make a sort of Time Travel, back into the early 19th century. More information about the activities can be found here (in Swedish) Now me being me, I suggested that instead of just using the clothes we have in the basement, and goes into the "general old fashioned, but no particular time period"-kind of costume, I would make an early 19th century costume for me and the other person doing the program.

I wanted to make a woman's outfit, rather than pretending to be a crossdresser or impersonating a man. I found it easier to come up with a reason why a woman would be in the mine, even if she wasn't working there. Since this isn't a personal costume for me there were some things I needed to take into consideration. First of all it needed to be easily adjustable for all kinds of sizes. For the first usage me and the other person are quite similar in size, but who knows what the future holds. Since the program is taking place underground it also needs to be machine washable, it's going to get really dirty quite quick.

Now for the HSF challenge: Inspiration. I would like to use the whole of HSF as an inspiration, until I followed that I had hardly thought about doing everyday kind of clothing, costuming for me was all about fancy and droolworthy dresses. Through the HSF I have seen so many wonderful examples of clothes worn by the lower and middle classes that I've started to enjoy them more and more. If there is one specific inspiration for this it will be Sarah W, of amostpeculiarmademoiselle. Her research and recreating of the clothes of ordinary people has been a lot of help and inspiration for me, she has also helped when I have asked questions about this in the Swedish fb-group "Skapa historiska kläder och gör något kul" I can also point to her early 19th century shortgown as a direct inspiration for what I wanted to do.

Now a shortgown would have been easy, but I would still have needed to make a petticoat, in the end I decided that I wanted to make a roundgown, and to make it adjustable for several sizes I would make it big enough to pull on over the head and use a drawstring at the waist. To have a pattern to start from I pulled out my pattern for the revolutionary gaulle, which at least is late 18th century. I then made each piece wider, and shortened the waist.

Here is the new pieces, with the original laid on top. To be honest in hindsight I enlarged them too much. If I'm going to do this kind of dress again I would not enlarge the side piece, only the front and back pieces, and I would shorten the waist even more. I've always felt that the gaulle is quite high, so I thought just using the original sewing line as a cutting line, without the seam allowance, would be enough.

The bodice was made up in two layers, and I used 18th century construction methods, eventhough I sewed the main seams on the machine. All the visible stitches on the lining are handsewn though. I then cut two panels of fabric, sewed them together and gathered them to make a skirt. I added a drawstring around the waist. Now the waist being lower than a proper regency waist, and with a skirt that was a lot wider than it should have been, after all 19th century fabric was not 150 cm wide, the whole dress started to gravitate towards a later date than the early 19th century. This was accentuated when I looked at the length of the gown. On me it was OK, but I have very short legs, on anyone taller it would have been too short, so I had to add a bit of length to it, and now for me it just reaches the floor.

Then there were the sleeves. With the enlarging of the pattern, the armscye had also turned out very big. I took out my sleeve pattern I drafted for the shrug I wore to my sister's wedding, and just added to it. The result made the sleeves very full, and quite puffy as well.

Here is the final gown, and I would say that to me it looks more 1830s than 1810s, but this woman I'm going to portray might either have been very fashion forward, or a bit backwards, wishing back to the waists and skirts of the 18th century.  As it is I think it's a bit similar to this extant Swedish gown, dated to 1830-1840.

I wore the dress today for the dressrehearsal for the holiday program.

I had managed to scrape together an apron as well from the last pieces of linen I used for the lining. The apron doesn't go into the HSF challenge it's quite a nasty thing, all machinesewn and I just zigzaged over the edges. If I ever take the time I will take the apron home and hem it properly. The neckerchief was also just something I found at work. I'm hoping to get the time to do a cap to wear, I know that I have made two 18th century caps for work previously but I just couldn't find any of them. For the dress rehearsal it was alright to go without the cap though.

The Challenge: 19 Inspiration
Fabric: 4 m of cotton/linen blend and 1 m of linen
Pattern: My own, drafted from instructions in Creathing Historical Clothes
Year: 1830s
Notions: regular sewing thread, cotton tape

How historically accurate is it? The fabric is correct, even if cotton was more likely to be used for finer clothing, the major seams were done by machine but all visible seams are finished by hand. I'd say 80%

Hours to complete: 16 hours
First worn: Monday 20th of October, for a dress rehearsal

Total cost: $75

What I learnt with this projcet
More fabric isn't always the better, sometimes it just gets bulky, also add a bit more to the skirt length than you think. Also you need less circumference than you think to be able to pull it over your head.

Future plans
I enjoyed making this dress but it's not an era I really enjoy or have occasion to wear though. I do feel a bit sad that I won't keep the dress in my own wardrobe, so maybe I will make a consolation dress for myself. In that case I would like to do it a more proper regency dress, so higher waist and not quite as much fabric in the skirt.

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