The Genesee Regency Gown: Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art . . .

When I was planning my gown for the Regency Society of Tennessee’s  tea I found a photo from the Greene Collection at the Genesee Country Village & Museum.  I fell in love and had to make it happen!

The museum website describes the gown as a  ” … dress, from the same time period (1815-1820) is also entirely hand stitched icy green plain weave silk. It has a very high waist and very long tubular sleeves which would have been worn slightly ruched on the arm. The skirt is in 3 panels and slightly gathered in front and pleated in the back.

It has a Vandyked neckline of little triangular tabs in the sleeve, forming a gorgeous cap effect which is accented with little white ribbon bows.

The stitching on this dress as well as the fact that it is made of silk indicates that this would have been considered a “good” dress and would have been worn for special occasions.”

The gown was made from a beautiful mint cotton swiss that I purchased from The Lace Cottage  where I take my heirloom sewing lessons and the little bows on the puffs are made of silk.  The triangles that line the neckline are individually folded vandyke points and were the most challenging part of the costume.

Based on extant gowns that I have been able to study I decided that the sleeves were most likely detachable sleeves.

I would also like to say thank you to Travellers Rest Plantation & Museum for graciously allowing me to take photos on their historic site.

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A La Hérisson

Before I post pictures I would like to post a quick Here ye be warned:  Unless you have short hair, use a wig.  It took me two hours, 9 washes, an entire bottle of shampoo, and a small pair of scissors to loose what eventually wound up as five inches off the ends of my hair.  The hair comes at a price.

This is the look we were aiming for:

And this is how it turned out:

If you wonder how this hair came to be then read on. . . Continue reading

Let me go ahead and say this: Without Abby from Stay-ing Alive these things would not have happened. They would still be a pile of fabric wishing and hoping they would one day become something more.  Abby used the 18th century tailor techniques that were taught to her when she took a wonderful stays workshop

These are the original pair we re-created from 1740-1760.

For the entire story . . .  Continue reading

1775-1785 French cotton jacket

Happy fourth of July Colonial Williamsburg style!!! (So it’s a week after the fact that I’m finally updating but better late than never!)

I admit I am going to be terrible because I’m not going to go into much detail on this jacket either. That is simply because it was so straightforward I didn’t bother taking many photos.

How did that happen? Well keep on reading to find out . . .  Continue reading

Colonial Williamsburg: Dimity Petticoat

I’m sorry I’ve neglected this dress diary for so long! I finished my internship for The Tudor Tailor, finished my second year at university, flew back home for two weeks and then started my summer internship at The Margaret Hunter Millinery Shop in Colonial Williamsburg (CW for short).

I was assigned a uniform on my first day made by one of the interns last year until I could make my own. Here is my blue fitted back gown courtesy of The Margaret Hunter Millinery Shop:

Once I had myself organized I started to work on a new petticoat because unfortunately I kept tripping over my blue one. It’s ridiculously long and at 5’7 it’s not very good to keep tripping into random AI’s (CW slang for the actor-intepreters) arms.

Continue reading

“When the light begins to fade and shadows fall across the sea, one bright star in the evening sky, your love’s light leads me on my way.”

I’ve been dreading trying to put into words the emotions I felt watching the MS Balmoral set off. I think it would be best to start off explaining the costume I created for this historic event and then to share my experience with you towards the end.

In a completely odd way my costumes were planned starting with Sunday and working my way back to the  Train outfit I wore on Friday.

So to start. Unlike my other projects were I worked with a few images in mind, my inspiration image came from the fashion magazine De Gracieuse:

I knew this costume was the one for me when I realized I owned the parasol already. The first thing I did was go to Goldhawk Road and spend too much money!

How utterly perfect did that turn out?

I wanted to try to conquer the skirt first so using the same Thornton’s pattern (notice a trend?) I set about creating the skirt. Unlike the other skirts where  I added an overlap I drafted this skirt pattern as it was originally meant to be:

A fun tip when making a lining: press the darts in opposite directions to reduce the bulk!

Voila! One finished skirt (minus the buttons).

Moving on to the half coat!

I cut the top part on the stand and then transferred it to my body to finish fitting it. This is my toile using leftover fabric and I was very pleased with the way the sleeve turned out.

Once I was happy with the fit I cut out and stitched the real one together. I initially pinned in the sleeve because I don’t have a good track record in putting sleeves in but it actually worked out fine!

Here is my terrible toile! Once I was satisfied with the fit I drafted the same skirt pattern and altered it so that the waist would close at the side.

A quick slip stitch and the half jacket is complete!

I completely forgot to take photos of how I made the trim. I ended up using leftover scraps from my brown linen train dress and created binding which resulted in all my slip stitching ended up being covered! I was rather amused since I thought I did such a lovely job on the hem. C’est la vie!

I made a quick belt and added one of my Victorian (shh!) buckles.

The reason I wanted to have such a wide cuff was because I planned to deviate from the fashion plate by adding a trim to break up the color. Using my leather thimble (the hide was a little too thick to use my normal thimble) I attached the fur to the wide trim and then attached it to my sleeve.

I’m pleased with how I did this but looking back I’m rather annoyed because Lizzy was terribly late on finishing her costume and we ended up running late and missing most of the boarding.

I lost my original velvet trim and had to make do with this trim. If you are Stateside you would recognize this trim from Joann’s, the only difference is that I pulled the leather out of the center.

All packed and ready for Southampton!

I ended up being very lucky by running across a pair of shoes on Ebay that looked like they would match, when I opened the box I realized the Gods of Fashion had intervened in my Ebay search by sending me a pair of shoes that were made for this dress. They were also Clarks which only added to their complete awesome-ness.

(Sorry for the bed spread! I forgot to take pictures and stole the photos from the ebay page!)

And now I feel the need to apologize because I am about to post A LOT of photos from Sunday!

I have to mention the amazing gentlemen at The White Star Memories who really made this event absolutely spectacular. Bravo gentlemen!  I honestly felt like I was stepping back into 1912 and preparing for an adventure at sea!

When I walked down to the docks to wave farewell to the smiling masses onboard the MS Balmoral, I saw the ghosts of those who set sail for a better life smiling back at me. For this moment 1912 and 2012 were intertwined as one, the past and the present overlapping through the pages of history.

Ok I will admit that at first I was slightly miffed that we couldn’t actually go down to the docks but I do understand that in this day and age safety precautions have to be the priority. Luckily the lovely Captain of the SS Shieldhall  invited us onboard and saved the day!

When the Balmoral first started up the band was playing modern music which ruined the mood.  I stood on the stern of the SS Shieldhall and were talking about how we couldn’t cry when songs like “Save the last dance for me” and “Sway” were playing. “On Moonlight Bay” was the popular song of 1912 and I was looking forward to hearing that!

So we stood there thick as thieves promising not cry . .  which was a complete and utter lie since we  sobbed like little girls.

When the Balmoral started off and the shout went up we both began to wave, our handkerchiefs flying  in the wind. I was so happy to see the smiling crowds and suddenly I realized that 100 years ago the crowd stood here full of joy and happiness never knowing that for many this would be the last sight of their loved one. I’m not sure which one of us started crying first but when we looked at each other we dissolved into tears.

I was starting to calm down when the sun came out and we both started sobbing all over again. The sky had been dark and grey with black clouds rolling in all day. When the Balmoral turned the clouds parted and the sun highlighted the ship. We both firmly believe in our hearts that this was a blessing from the ones lost aboard the Titanic.

I stood there on the stern of the ship celebrating for the Balmoral and mourning for the Titanic. Somehow in the middle of my tears I let the Titanic go. The ghosts are laid to rest and she will forever live on in my memories. We stood there until she disappeared and then turned to leave.

I fully recommend The White Star Tavern if you are thinking of visiting Southampton! Not only were the staff friendly and amazingly knowledgable about the Titanic, they were kind and so wonderful to work with. The food was delicious and I’m still dreaming of the wonderful bed!

And so to end the Titanic Project I present the original fashion plate:

Followed by my own recreation.I still see flaws but I hope I was able to do justice with my humble attempt at re-creating the beautiful work of art from De Gracieuse:

“Red sky at night, sailors delight; red sky in the morning, sailors take warning”

And so I set off ready set off for an evening full of decadence and glamour only found in the year 1912.

The fabric literally spoke to me and commanded me to turn it into something extraordinary and so without a doubt Saturday was my favorite night!  When I bought the fabric I had a few images already in my mind. Unfortunately I had one day to pull this costume together. I will be going back and fixing quite a few of the mistakes I made but for now I will share everything with you.

The first was a sketch from Worth c. 1912:

I knew that I wanted to have the fullness at the hips but I wanted the narrow cut of the hobble skirt that was starting to become very popular.

My favorite hobble skirt gown is from a “Woman’s silk and tulle dress with hobble skirt, trimmed in fur, flowers, and rhinestones. Made by Cummings, St. Louis, Missouri, ca. 1910-1912”

And the final idea is without a doubt my favorite Lucile gown:

Later I also found an image from an old Alexander McQueen collection that I also added to my moodboard.

The bodice was altered from the 1914 Norah Waugh Harem pattern that I used for my silver dress. The first step was rather easy, cut the top and lining, add the bust darts, stitch. Using the same Thornton pattern from my previous costumes I made the skirt and turned the hem

Looking back there are so many things that I wish I had done differently. I think if you take into account how quickly it was made then it’s very beautiful but after researching this period this gown will eventually be remade.

After that I created a skirt to go over the top of the dress:

To complete the costume I gathered the train up slightly in order to accomplish the shape I was hoping for!

I went down to dinner and I was sad to discover that unfortunately no matter how hungry you are, the corset will win in the end!

Yum Yum eat ’em up!

I was lucky enough to stay at  The White Star Tavern in Southampton where many of the passengers and stewards that sailed on the Titanic stayed. I can’t put into words how wonderful our stay with TWST was! The staff are fantastic and so lovely! The rooms are extraordinary and the food is delicious!

After dinner I snuck upstairs to take a photo with the Titanic room! The lovely couple staying in this room would be the same I would wave off the next day!

I will admit that I am extremely happy with how my hair turned out! Thank you to my mom who sat on skype and walked me through how to style my hair!

The headband was literally stitched together about 40 minutes before we left for diner!

I really loved this entire dress. The fabric draped beautifully and quietly slipped behind me. When I walked in the dining room I truly felt like I had crossed the barriers of time and stepped back into the 1912s.

And of course the best part of getting dressed, is getting undressed!!!

One last costume from the Titanic Project left to post!