Since starting at a new university in September, I have been very busy and slightly neglecting my sewing. However, it has still been in my thoughts, and I haven't abandoned it completely!
The last 10 days of September were a whirlwind of excitement since I had my small collections from the Future Oceans fashion show in a pop up boutique. It was so fun to see my garments being displayed in a storefront, and the area that we were given to show our clothes was absolutely stunning. I am still so grateful that I was able to be a part of that, even just to see what it looks like to have my eco couture for sale in a mall (it was a pinch me moment).
I also did sell a few pieces through the 10 days, so the past few weeks I have been altering my patterns to fit the customers measurements, printing custom fabrics, and sewing the dresses.
Luckily, my university has a maker space with an industrial sewing machine, so that part was easier than I thought that it would be.
Since making the orders for my Future Oceans dresses, I have been hit with inspiration. This is also thanks to my classes, since I am writing a research paper about the Chemise a la Reine (which I'm sure I will make a version some day, since I've been fascinated with them for ages). Doing the research on clothing in the late 18th century has been giving me so many ideas. I thought that I would talk about some of those tentative ideas here.
Up first: a Robe a la Francais, also known as a Sacque Back Gown.
I have been in love with these gowns since middle school, when I saw a photo of one on pinterest. These gowns have such a unique construction method, and if they done properly they are absolutely stunning (at least in my opinion).
It would be so much fun to chose the decoration for this type of dress as well, which makes my decision to make one even easier. I am planning on draping it myself using the instructions from the American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking.
Another gown that I have been desperate to make for a few years now is something inspired by Crimson Peak. I loved Lucille Sharpe's costumes throughout the movie (the red and navy dresses in the above photos) since I love the natural form era (late 1800s). I am also a sucker for beautiful yet morbid things, so these costumes are right up my alley. I don't want to copy any of the dresses from the movie, but I would like to make something inspired by them.
Other than that, I have other ideas swirling around in my head but I'm not sure how much time I will have for sewing, and since both of these ideas are pretty big (I would need to also make specialized undergarments to go under them, so that will add quite a bit of work) I think that they will take a pretty long time.
Thanks for reading!
I have added a few new dresses to my Etsy account! You can check it out here
The first is my muslin Regency dress that I made last year for the Pride and Prejudice ball. This dress has a pleated front panel and puffed sleeves, with a red ribbon at the waist. You can read my post about making this dress here
The second dress that I posted is my Green Marie Antoinette dress that I made last year and took photos of in Banff Springs Hotel. This dress has a boned bodice and skirt with cartridge pleats. It also comes with a modesty panel for the back, and laces up the back with ribbon.
This dress does not come with the panniers (the undergarments that create the wide hip shape). You can see my post about this dress here
Update: The Marie Antoinette inspired green dress has been sold! Stay tuned for more gowns to go into my Etsy account!
I have been thinking about opening an Etsy account for some of my costumes and embroidery for a long time now, and it is now open! I am starting smaller, with a few of the costumes that I made just for photos and a few embroideries that I have made. Check it out here
All of these pieces are currently up on my Etsy account! Stay tuned, and I will be adding more as well. Each piece is custom done, and completely one of a kind.
Well, not quite at the Stampede... but at a Stampede breakfast:)
I finished this corset cover a month or so ago, and it has been sitting on my dress form since. The side seams are sewn by machine, and the rest is completely done by hand. The lace is vintage and given to me by a family friend, as well as the buttons.
Calgary Stampede is always a fun time of year around here, so we thought it would be fun to get pictures of this at the pancake breakfast! Unfortunately they normally have hay bales, but they didn't have them this year. But I think the pictures turned out well anyway!
I have loved the look of corset covers for years, I love the shape and detail of them. While mine is relatively plain compared to some historical examples, I am so glad that I was able to use the beautiful lace that I was given.
Corset covers were usually made of thin fabric to fit under a bodice, and weren't fitted for much of the 19th century. They were lavishly decorated with lace, ribbons, pin tucks, and embroidery. They were normally light colours as well, to make sure that they didn't show through under sheer bodices. They were made to help smooth the lines from boning in corsets, or were used in the summer like undershirts to go underneath sheer muslin dresses.
When it comes to the books in my collection, I have been extremely lucky. I have been given so many books by family friends and other people who have already gone through a costuming or fashion program.
Out of all of my books (I have quite a few...), these are some of my favourites. There are so many more that I would like to eventually collect (Norah Waugh and Janet Arnold being some of the authors that I have seen are necessary in a costuming library), but I am so pleased with what I have so far.
The books that I use for inspiration and help fall into a few categories. First are the books that are specifically for sewing. Of those, my favourites have to be the American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking, Corsets, as well as The Art of Needle Craft. The Art of Needle Craft was published in the 1930s, and a beautiful little textbook! It shows different stitch types, and has helped me with my embroidery products. The American Duchess book has been so popular among historical costumers, and it has so much invaluable information! I wish it would have been out when I made my first costume, since it was an 18th century era dress. Corsets is a book about historical corsets, and how they were made. I haven't so far used any of the patterns, but I am definitely planning to use them, and I love looking through the book for inspiration.
The second category would be the books about history. I have tons and tons of history books, since that is something that I am fascinated by and love to learn about. I narrowed down my favourites to the ones that are more about clothing through the eras. One of my first books about this, and still one of my favourites is The Survey of Historic Costume. This books is massive, and has at least a few pages for pretty much every era. It also shows modern designs that are inspired by history. Another favourite of mine, which is much newer, is my Charles James book. I have many, many favourite designers (Coco Chanel, Dior, Zac Posen, Alexander McQueen, and so many more), but right at the top of the list is Charles James. He had very sculptural designs, and the best thing about the book is that it gives a glimpse into what goes underneath the dress. I also have a great little book about the Regency era. Unfortunately it only has a few pages about the clothing, but the book does talk a little about everything. The next few books could belong in a few categories, but I decided to put it into this one because they do have great bits of information in them. I love the books by Megan Hess, especially Coco Chanel. Along with the information, it has beautiful pictures throughout.
Another category is all of the inspiration books that are just pretty coffee table books. Some of these do have costume photos in (I have tons of movie books because I love movies so much), and others have nothing to do with clothing. Out of all of them pictured, I have a few that I look through a little more often than others. One favourite is the Grand Budapest Hotel coffee table book.It has costume sketches from Milena Canonero, one of my favourite costume designers. I also love Amber Butchart's book on how movie costumes have influenced the fashion world. It includes Marie Antoinette, In the Mood for Love, Moonrise Kingdom, and many other favourite movies of mine. I also am often inspired by interior design books, such as Sibella Court books (Nomad is my personal favourite to look through). Her books are fantastic to look through since her designs are inspired by different countries. I have always been fascinated with places like India and Mexico City, and I love seeing little objects from these places. The last movie book that I look through constantly is the one for Crimson Peak.
The last category is magazines. I love sewing magazines (the ones that come with free patterns are the best), but I also read Porter and Vogue obsessively.
Where you do you get your inspiration?
This year was a really huge one for me, especially when it comes to my sewing. I started this blog just a little over a year ago with my Special Project in school, and it has grown very quickly with all of the projects that I have been working on. I also started a makeup and skincare part of the blog (and an instagram here) after I started working at a beauty counter to share about some of the things I have learned through training sessions. When it comes to my sewing, I have grown quite a bit in the past year! I started the year with finishing my Special Project, which took me a semester to make. Not long after that, I started working with MakeFashion. I started out just helping, and ended up making a dress with the help of an engineer! It was hectic and crazy and I loved every minute of it. I also got to go to Mexico with my family this year, celebrated a one year anniversary with my boyfriend, graduated from high school, got accepted into Olds College Fashion Program, got a job, made a dress for a televison pilot, and finished 16 projects (some of which I haven't blogged about yet). I would say that was a pretty successful year! Here is my year in photos:
And a quick sneak peak of a project that I haven't posted about yet:
Heres to another great and productive year! I can't wait to see whats in store for me
I finally got around to using my beautiful Simplicity pattern by American Duchess. The pattern was based off of the red dress in season two of Outlander. I didn't want mine to look too similar to the Outlander dress other than the shape, so I chose a mint green silk with patterns on it. I also used lace in the slit in the top of the bodice to make it feel a little more historical.
I ended up having quite a few days off of work in a row, and we (my mom and I) decided to make a trip up to Banff to get photos. We live pretty close, so it was easy to drive down for the night. I got two photo shoots done- one for the Green Dress, and one for my In the Mood for Love inspired dress (I will have the photos for that one up next week, as well as a video).
When we decided to go to Banff, I still hadn't even started the dress yet. It ended up taking me 3 days from cutting out the fabric to finishing it- pretty fast compared to some of my projects! During those 3 days I also had to finish the other dress that we were going to take photos of, so it was pretty hectic at the beginning of the week!
I cut the pattern out in a size 6, and that worked pretty well, although it is a bit big in the bust (as you can see with the lacing). That could have been fixed easily if I had made a mockup, but I didn't... But I think it turned out well anyway! The skirt is cartridge pleated through the back, and pleated in the front. I wore it over my shift, bum pad, panniers (what makes the shape so dramatic at the hips), and a petticoat. I will do a post on the panniers in a few weeks or so. The panniers were also from the American Duchess pattern, and they came together very easily and quickly! I am very pleased with how they turned out.
These photos were taken at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, which was opened in 1888. The hotel is beautiful, and even though it isn't the same era as the dress, I thought it was a beautiful backdrop.
I recently made my way to Bhatia Cloth House with some projects in mind, and I am so excited with what I came out with!
Let me know how you like this type of video!
A few weeks ago I picked up a few things for new projects. I have had a gift card from my boyfriend and his family to Fabricland for months now, so I finally got to use it!
The first thing that I grabbed, which I was originally planning for, was a wool blend for a 1940's pattern that I have been wanting to make since the beginning of the year.
I am thrilled with the fabric that we found, so I will be making both the dress and the matching blazer with it some time in the near future. I also picked up all of the things that I will need to finish the dress: a zipper, belt buckle, and some buttons.
The next thing that I picked up I am very excited about! American Duchess just released their new pattern, inspired by the Red Dress from Outlander. I was impressed by their last patterns, so I didn't hesitate to grab this one.
It comes with patterns for a separate top and skirt, along with a pannier pattern, which I will be putting to good use! Another thing that I am thrilled to have picked up was a dress form! I have wanted a dress form for ages, so I ended up choosing that for my grad gift.
The last thing that I got was actually a gift. This is one of the most amazing gifts that I have gotten, and I love how it looks in my little sewing room.
A family friend was getting rid of a few things, and she gave me this beautiful sewing machine! Since it came with all of its extra parts, I am hoping to be able to get it working so that I can sew with it.
I have been working on a few things to get ready for grad lately, but once grad is over, I will start working on some new projects that I have been planning. Also, we went to the Jane Austen ball last weekend, so stay tuned to see some photos from it!
After a ton of work, and many learning curves, I have finally finished the whole project, including a chemise, a pair of stays, a bumpad, two petticoats, a gown, and a stomacher. Although there are things that I could adjust, or would do differently if I did it again, I am still proud of how it came out.
The patterns that I used for this, the American Duchess patterns, were very good, but there were a few things that I wasn't thrilled with. I ended up drafting my own chemise pattern, since theirs was not very historically accurate. The patterns were easy to follow and understand, which was very important for such a large project. The instructions were simple and to the point, and I was never thrown for a loop about what to do. I loved the bodice pattern, and it looks very historically accurate to me according to dresses from the 1740s. If I made this pattern again, I would probably adjust the sleeves a bit. They were slightly more loose than I would have liked, and the darts were up quite high. The dart at the bottom of the sleeve is to fit the sleeve to your elbow, however they don't go down to my elbow, as you can see in some of the pictures. I also adjusted the stays quite a bit, but I was expecting to do that, since stays can be very tricky to get the fit right, and I was using cording and not boning, so I was not surprised when there were a few slight fit issues. Other than these unimportant little complaints, I loved the patterns and I would definitely use them again, just with a few 'improvements'.
This ensemble took me about four months, starting in late September, and finishing just a few days ago. I used Ikea fabric for the undergarments and gown (a muslin and a thick cotton), and a cotton sateen sheet for the over petticoat and stomacher. The lace on the stomacher is a gorgeous vintage lace that was given to me as a gift. The stomacher was finished off with a ribbon 'flower' that I made, and some hand crocheted lace at the top that I have had for a long time.
I had an incredible time creating this, and I feel like my sewing skills have improved from before the project to now.
Now for the fun part.
I’m going to focus on two specific parts of 18th century fashion; the 1740s, since that is the time that my gown is based off of, and the late 1700s. I find the late 1700s and the early 1800s fascinating fashion-wise, since so much changes in such a short amount of time. A large amount of that change is thanks to Marie Antoinette.
By the 1740s, fashion had changed quite a bit from the beginning of the century, but the basics were the same. Court dress did not change in most countries for a long time.
An everyday outfit for a woman would include a chemise and stays, bum pad or small panniers (boned ‘baskets’ that were tied around the waist to create the popular shape), multiple petticoats, and then the top gown or skirt and top worn. A state of ‘undress’ in the 18th century is not what undress is now. Undress was just a more casual outfit that was worn during the day. It was an everyday look, versus an outfit for a formal occasion. It normally included a short jacket with a skirt. Outfits were often finished with stockings and shoes (Louis heels were very popular at the time), an apron, and a hat and gloves to leave the house. Fashion in the 1740s was more about adding width to the hips. This look was achieved with panniers of various sizes. For court dress, or full dress, panniers were much larger than any other event. Court dress in the 1740s consisted of a mantua, which was a stiff bodice. A mantua changed with the times later and became a more loose bodice. Sack-back gowns started in this era. A sack-back gown is a bodice with pleats in the back, making it very loose and flowy. This started as a undress fashion, but as the fashion changed through the century and became more casual, the sack-back became part of full dress fashion. Another more casual look that was created around this time was the sacque. This had the loose pleats of the sack-back with a unfitted front, and was a welcome change from the stiff court gowns that used to be in fashion. Sleeves were quite wide during the 40s, 50s, and 60s.
Fabrics that were used more often were velvets, silks, damasks, and other heavy textiles for formal garments, and linens and cottons for informal and undergarments.
As the times changed and more wars were fought, the style became more relaxed. Lighter fabrics were used, such as Indian cotton and silks, and the colours that were popular were pastels. The gowns were less formal during the late 18th century. Sleeves more more fitted, and bum pads were used more than panniers, shifting the weight more to the back than to the side. Decorations became more light and frothy versus the heavy beading and embroidery that was popular in the first half of the century. Another change that came near the end of the century was different textiles from other countries (such as silk from China and cotton from India and the colonies), as well as changes in how the fabric was made.
Marie Antoinette had a huge hand in changing the styles from very formal to more relaxed. Since the European countries often looked to France for style advice, any changes in French gowns moved throughout Europe.
Marie Antoinette was said to have hated the stiff styles of the court at the time. The most well known change in fashion that came directly from Marie Antoinette is the Chemise a la Reine. It was a big deal when she started wearing this at the time since it mirrored undergarments, since it was normally made out of a light linen or muslin, and it was quite unstructured compared to earlier styles. The Chemise a la Reine is related to the styles of the early 19th century (think Jane Austen), and it is said that her clothes were the inspiration to the new, simple style that came in after the French Revolution. This is actually very ironic because the whole reason that the fashion changed so drastically, so quickly, is because everyone was trying to follow the extreme ideas that the French Revolution was based on. The ideas were fully against the luxurious and wasteful way that the monarchy was living, however the clean style was created by the woman who was hated for her lavish spending.
The style of the late 1700s was quite a bit different from the early 1700s, and much of that adjustment was because of the Queen of France. Hemlines raised to about the ankles, and the gowns were more classic and uncluttered. The Round Gown became popular, as well as the Robe a l’Anglaise, which was worn either the English way (with the skirt down), or retrousse (with the over skirt drawn up to create a more fluffy look). The colours that were used were lighter, closer to our vision of Rococo today, with the pastels and elaborate hair styles. Although Marie Antoinette made the gowns themselves simpler, she also created the crazy 18th century hair, which huge hats, ships, and birdcages, as well as anything else you feel like putting in your hair.
Before I show you the finished project, I must talk about what was going on in the world at the time. The 18th century is a fascinating era to look at.
I love researching history, and seeing how fashion is influenced by current events. For example, during World War One, the skirts became shorter and slimmer since there was less fabric. The same thing happened in World War Two, and we can see the celebration of the end of the second world war in the 1950’s, when the New Look became popular, with the wider, longer skirts.
The same things happened during the 18th century.
First, let's talk about some of the major events of this time.
The French court became a huge power in the 17th century, and it thrived under the rule of Louis XIV, The Sun King. He made France the dominant country on fashion and the arts. This power continued on into the 18th century with Louis XV, who came into power in 1715 after the death of the Sun King. With the new king, Baroque left fashion and Rococo became the style. It's delicate, feminine style is still popular to this day. The Classical style took over in the last half of the century because of international trade. Asian influences are easily seen in dress and design in the late 1700s, when the best silk made it's way from China to Europe and the new world. The boom in textile trade and the creation of new technologies in the latter part of the 18th century was the start to the Industrial Revolution.
Back to the beginning of the new century- although Louis XV continued on with France's art and fashion industries, he was not successful in actually leading the country. He was passionate about hunting and women, and he didn't even try to govern France. He racked up debts by continually engaging in wars, and his efforts in lessening the people's depression were never successful. When he died in 1774, he was one of France's most hated kings.
Louis XV’s grandson, Louis XVI became the next king, along with one of France's most infamous royals- Marie Antoinette. The pair were not fit for ruling a country: he was apathetic in unfit for his role, and she was frivolous and immature. They were also very young. King Louis XVI was only 20 years old when he got the throne. He was also handed a very difficult job, since the last king left debts and a country full of people who were learning to hate the monarchy.
In the late 1700s, France agreed to help America revolt against Britain. This was a way for France snub Britain, but it ended up being far more costly than they thought. This pushed France down the rabbit hole and their debts grew. The American revolution also put ideas into the French soldiers heads about rebelling against the throne. The soldiers came back with these dangerous ideas in their heads and that, along with the increasingly high prices of necessities such as bread, were the beginning of the brutal and bloody French Revolution. The people of France succeeded in dethroning their King and Queen, as well as beheading them. France's turmoils did not end with the century, but instead continued on until the rise of Napoleon in 1804.
France wasn’t the only country with issues during the 18th century. In fact, the UK might have actually been worse off at this point in time. Britain had many issues with power, starting with Bonnie Prince Charlie. If you read or have been watching Outlander, you would be pretty well informed of the issues that went on in Scotland during this time. During the 1740s, Scotland tried to get the ‘true king’, Charles Edward Stuart, on to the British throne. He was part of the second Jacobite rebellion. Both of the rebellions failed, and Scotland went through a horrible time of drought and brutalities. The English soldiers stormed through the country stealing and raping, and thousands of men who were suspected of being a part of the Jacobite rebellion were either imprisoned, sent to the Americas, or hanged.
Many Scotts went to the Americas, and were a part of the American Revolution 40 years later. After losing the Americas after the revolution, Britain was in a pretty bad way. They suffered through debt and droughts, and taxes went sky high until the end of the century, when a war with France brought up the price of tin, copper, and many other things.
This turbulent time made people become more creative when it came to what they wore, so we have some very interesting clothes that came out of this. I will talk about how all of this affected fashion in the next post.
After a long slog, I have finally completed the the base of the project. This was the toughest part of the project, since it included many difficult pieces. The hardest part of the whole costume so far has been the stays. I am already pretty far in the process of creating the actual gown, and it has been much easier and quicker to put together than the parts that I have finished, mainly because I don't have to do any boning or boning channels. The cording on the stays was very difficult, since I have never done that much cording on something before, but I am pretty pleased with the final result.
I didn't finish the chemise until after the stays, since I wanted to use them as a way to measure where to cut the neckline of the chemise. I wanted to make sure that the chemise was low enough that it wouldn't be visible from underneath the dress, but I also didn't want it to be too low and wide that it would slip off my shoulders. The neckline is a bit wider than I would have liked, but it works perfectly with the stays.
As I have mentioned before, I did not make the stays exactly as they would have been made in the 18th century. I made some adjustments to make it a bit easier for myself, since I have never made anything like this before. First of all, I used cording instead of boning. This made the garment less stiff, so it is much easier for me to get used to it. Wearing fully boned stays take a long time to get accustomed to, and I wanted to not only make it a bit easier for me to sew, but also easier for me to actually wear.
The petticoat is 8 pieces, overall. The front and back are just pleated on to the waistband. The top petticoat will be made the same way, just in a blue cotton. The skirt is made so that there are two slits in the side so that if I make pockets for myself, I can reach them. The gown and top petticoat will also have these slits, to make sure that I could easily reach anything in my pockets. I will not be making pockets for this project, but I may later on, and I would like to keep that option open.
Next post I will show the details of the mock-up, and the finished bodice.
I have finished the under garments of my project, and am well on my way to being finished the bodice of the dress. Before I show you the final products that will be worn underneath the gown, here's the petticoat in progress.
And here is a sneak peak of all the undergarments on. This was taken before the skirt was hemmed. I am also wearing the mock-up of the bodice in this photo.
A friend of my sisters recently gave me the book 'Survey of Historic Costume', and I am so thrilled to get to look through it! It has been a huge help in the research for my project since there is a large Rococo section in the book.
The book has a chapter that covers from 1700-1790. It explains not only the clothing worn in the era, but also other details about what was going on at that time and how people lived their everyday life. It goes into the clothing of the age in great detail, starting with what the cloth looked like and how it was made, then goes into the styles of clothing from working-class to gentility. The book also talks about how styles changed throughout the century and why.
I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the history of clothing.
And now for the promised Progress Report: I have been slowly but surely working on the stays of the costume. This is the most difficult part of the costume, so I cannot wait until I am finished and can finally move on the the dress and over petticoat. I will post photos of all the undergarments working together once I am finished this stage.