Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Great News!!!

I am officially a housewife!!!!!! More costumey posts will follow, I promise. Now, I must adjust to new schedule, yeah!!!!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Mrs. Cartwright’s Jacket: Part 1

I finally had a chance to take some pictures of the jacket I am working on for Mrs. Cartwright. Enjoy!


The inspiration… A Zone Front Jacket from the Kyoto Costume Institute.


The fabric, a navy silk velvet, and the trim, gold fringe. I will need to trim the trim a bit, it is too long.


Drafting the Pattern. I used her Riding Habit bodice and JP Ryan Robe l’Anglaise bodice as a guide.



The first mock up on the form. The dress form does not give it the right look, but it allows me to get an approximation of her measurements. It’s at the fittings that I do most of the adjustments. Also, the bodice will lay smooth on the wearer, without the folds caused by the dress form.


I put the mockup on the form with the seams on the outside. It looks really goofy, but it allows me to make adjustments. The peplum will be pleated and there is not a waist seam.

I will keep posting the progress. Have a lovely Thanksgiving!

Love Lauren

Friday, November 19, 2010


I am in love with the late 1790's

I need this cloak, or should I say I need to make this cloak.

I've been researching 18th century umbrellas and I found this beauty from my era.

I love her gown and shoes. The hat is just not quite me.

I want to get my living room looking like this someday.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ladies Riding and Walking Boots...

18th Century ladies riding boots, do they actually exist? I have been researching this topic for quite some time and so far I have found next to nothing on the subject. Most of the equestrian paintings either hide the shoes beneath the skirts of the rider, like the painting below.

Or they show the ladies in dainty slippers like this painting of Lady Worsley. 

Now, I have a hard time believing that they really wore such delicate slippers to ride horses and participate in other country sports. They may be beautiful, but they are completely impractical for wet and muddy conditions that one would surely find in the English countryside. Even in our outdoor events, I find my walking shoes impractical whenever mud and water is involved. I usually end up with muddy and soaked stockings, not exactly the most comfortable feeling. So, I can imagine an 18th century aristocrat would not appreciate wet stockings either.

Now, the riding habit below shows very heavy duty boots; they almost look like Hessians to me. However, were these accurate to the time period or were they added by the curator to complete the look of the riding habit for display purposes? 

Now if you look very closely at the plate below, you can see a boot peaking out from under the skirt. Her boot seems quit practical. It has a bit of a heal to it, it clearly extends above the ankle, however we're not sure how high it actually goes, and it is still quite fashionable. 

In fact there is a reproduction of a similar boot made by Sarah Juniper.

So, this leads me to ponder a few things. Firstly, these type of boots must have existed; so, how come it is  seemingly impossible to find an extant example of them. Secondly, are there so few remaining because they would have been worn and not have lasted the test of time, unlike the dainty slippers in every fashion museum? Thirdly, how come we have so little documentation on them? I am researching so I can find some practical boots for walking and possibly riding that are period correct. I would love to hear your thoughts and finds about this subject. Please share :-)

Love Lauren

Monday, November 15, 2010

Villian’s Ball

Sir Thomas and I attended a small gathering at the Ainsworth Estate on Saturday Eve.  We joined the de Valois’ and Mme de Bordeaux for libations at a local tavern before arriving at the estate. The evening was quiet and we spent the time laying whist and drinking fine wines and ports at the card tables. It was a relaxing evening full of diverting conversation and company.

Villians Ball 013

Sir Thomas

Villians Ball 016


Villians Ball 028

Colonel de Valois

Villians Ball 022

Mme de Valois and Me

Villians Ball 036


A Costume Rant, Focusing on the Late 18th Century and Women's Clothing...

It never ceases to amaze me how a few wrong fabric choices, ill- fitting undergarments, and poor tailoring can take what could be a beautiful garment and throw it into the Crimes Against Historical Clothing category, aka Farb. Now, I have a few monstrosities buried in the depths of my closet never again to see the light of day. Every costumer does, it's all part of the learning experiences, the building blocks for learning how to create beautiful clothing. So hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes with a few tricks I have picked up along the way... Enjoy!

First and foremost, research, research, research. I cannot stress it enough. We are very blessed to have volumes of books written about historical clothing and how to recreate it accurately. Not to mention the scores of sites and blogs devoted to historical clothing and sewing techniques. We have the information right at our finger tips; use it and learn as much as you can from it. Also, ask questions, lots of questions. This is one thing that I still do with many of my projects. I seek out costumers who are more skilled and experienced and pick their brains. You will find that most people are more than happy to share what they have learned and know with you. 
18th Century Cartoon Showing the Female Shape with Stays 

Secondly, no matter what era of clothing you wish to recreate, you must remember that the female body was viewed very differently from the way we view it today. They believed the female body needed extra support. As a result women wore stays, or corsets depending on what time period you focus on. Not only were they the building blocks of the female wardrobe, their shape also defined the shape for the garments worn on top of them. Now, my era, which tends to be around 1795, was a time of great transition. Political upheaval changed the rules for fashion and for the first time, the smooth conical shape of previous eras was replaced by the high waisted, freer styles of the Regency and Empire eras. Now, unless you were one of the Merveilleuses running around the Champs de'lysses wetting down your thin white muslin gown, you would have still worn some sort of stays (yes, they did this). Thankfully, however, the transitional period allows for a choice as to which stays you prefer. You have your traditional long stays of the 1780's, which were still fashionable until the late, late 1790's, the ever popular, and my personal favorite, transitional stays, the later styled long stays of the 1800's, and, for those of you who are willowy, the bodiced petticoat. Now, for those of us, like me, who have a bit of fluff, the bodiced petticoat just does not provide enough support for the erm... girls. Anyway, any of these choices will work to create the desired silhouette for the late 18th century, early 19th century time period. However, as with any type of clothing, your choice of desired shape should flatter your figure and play up your assets. Also, you must chose your undergarments based on the outer garment you wish to make. For example, you would never wear transitional stays under a Robe l'Anglais, the shape will not work without long stays. Just as you would not wear 1780's style long stays under an 1810 dress. Each style must have the proper foundations to have a correct shape and look.

Thirdly, and just as important as the undergarments, is the choice of pattern. There are a very few good commercial patterns available for 18th century clothing, but they do exist. Stay away from the Simplicity, Butterick, and McCall patterns, if you can (although Butterick does have a nice 18th century undergarments pattern). If you do use them, please alter them to make them more accurate. Most of the commercial patterns have zipper closures, narrower skirts, overly puffed sleeves, or inaccurate neck lines. There is nothing worse than seeing a beautiful piece of silk made up into an inaccurate shape. One of the best ways to ensure your pattern is accurate is to use patterns taken from extant garments and scale them up. Janet Arnold, Cut of Women's Clothes, and Costume Close Up all contain diagrams taken directly from original pieces. You can also use them as a guide to alter a pattern that works for your size and make it more accurate.

Original Dress from 1795
Then there is fabric choice, fabric choice, fabric choice. There are some truly beautifully shaped garments out there that could have been spectacular if it were not for the obviously synthetic polyester rayon satin that was used. Synthetic fabrics, though some existed in the late Victorian Era, were not used heavily until the 20th century. So, it stands to reason that unless the synthetic fabric mimics the hand, drape, and feel better than a natural fiber will, it should not be used. Linen, cotton, wool, and silk should be the only fabrics that are used, especially if you are doing 18th century and Regency clothing. Now, I personally, will not use synthetic fabrics for my clothing. They do not breath as well as natural fibers, they have static, they tend to have that "I'm a polyester" shine in photographs, and they were not available in the 18th century. The second part of the fabric choice is the pattern of the fabric. Make sure your patterned fabrics, particularly cottons and brocades, were actually patterns that could have been available for clothing in your time period. I can't tell you the number of times I have seen a 100% cotton or linen gown in a pattern that was from a later period or even modern. Again, research is your friend, it will save a lot of tears in the end.

Mantua Maker's Shop
Probably my most important step in the sewing process, make a muslin first. 18th century clothing was created differently than modern clothing. The patterns were literally draped onto the person and made to fit their body. Commercial patterns, though helpful for general shapes, always need adjusting to get a correct fit. Also, you want to make sure everything looks good before cutting into your beautiful fashion fabric.This is especially important when you are dealing with an extant scaled up pattern. It is the only way to ensure a proper fit and look.

Then, it's all about the finishing touches. Hand stitching the visible seams, or the entire garment, using correct closures and using correct trims. Then, when you finally get to wear your creation, accessorizing it appropriately can make or break the ensemble. Cover any visible tattoos, particularly for the ladies. Nothing can ruin a historical look more than modern tattoos hanging out everywhere. Unless your character lived below deck in a ship and has only black ink period tattoos; in which case your character would have never been allowed into polite society. Take out the facial piercings, lip rings were not worn by ladies in the 18th century or even latter time periods. Modern eye wear is a pet peeve of mine, personally. I prefer period eye wear or no eye wear. After all glasses, though available in the 18th century, were still considered a bit of a fashion faux pas for ladies so many people just went without them. Then there are the hair pieces. If they are synthetic, try to get a synthetic piece that blends with your own hair and does not have that overtly synthetic sheen. If you are styling your own hair, then try to keep it as close to the fashion of the time period you are portraying. Again, research, research, research. 

Finally, the way you act, stand, speak, and carry yourself makes a huge difference in your overall appearance. Digging out your cell phone and talking about work at a historical event puts a damper on the willing suspension of disbelief. However, acting as one would have in the time period you are portraying not only creates a new dimension of realism, it's much more fun. What is the point of reenacting if you bring the modern world along, in my humble opinion.

Now, if all of this seems like too much work and you just want to create costumes then be my guest. But please, let's not categorize them in the Historically Accurate category. Call them what they are, costumes, not historical clothing.  

So, there is my rant for today! I hope you all have a lovely rest of your week. I will be starting on a new jacket for Mrs. Cartwright soon. I promise to document the progress :-)

God Bless!

Love Lauren


Sunday, November 07, 2010

Halloween Piccs…. A Little Late

We went antiquing at the Expo for Halloween and we decided to don our Dieslepunk gear. Here are a few pics. Enjoy!





It was fun wearing military gear, but I think I’m ready to return to my civilian gharb Smile Have a great week, everyone!

Love Lauren