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
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.
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.
My new American Duchess patterns just recently arrived in the mail, and I am thrilled to finally be able to start my project officially.
The day that I got the patterns, I started working on the chemise. I did adjust some of the pattern to make it a bit more historically accurate. Instead of using the main body pieces that were given in the pattern, I decided to just make a rectangle for the body with 2 triangular side gores, a method that was used for over a hundred years for chemises.
Not including the main body for the chemise, the majority of the pattern pieces look very well done and pretty close to historically accurate. I understand the parts that are not, since the patterns were made for beginner sewers and for making costumes, not replicating the past.
Another great thing about these patterns are how easy they are to follow, and it has been incredibly simple to adjust the pattern in any way that I need to for it to fit better and to look more like the examples I have seen from the 1740s. I can tell that a ton of research has been put into these patterns, and I am impressed by how well Lauren from American Duchess managed to balance simplicity and accuracy to the period. I would absolutely recommend these patterns, especially for anyone that is just beginning to create historical costumes.
One thing that I would like to note, which seemed to be an issue for many people when I looked at the comments and feedback on the patterns, was the sizing. Sizes in sewing patterns versus sizing in ready made clothing are very different, and the only way to make sure that you are cutting out the correct size is by measuring constantly. I have noticed that I am much larger sizes in sewing patterns than I am in ready made clothing. I just wanted to touch on that since a few people complained that the sizes on the American Duchess patterns were too small. I would recommend you to be cautious when cutting out any sewing pattern and to measure yourself and the pattern before cutting your fabric.
Overall, it has been a pleasure working with this pattern, and I cannot wait to keep working on this project!
The start to anything is always a bit daunting, isn't it?
After a lot of thought, I have decided to start with a plan, and some research. The late 18th century has always interested me, so I have been researching it for years. However, it wasn't until a few years ago that costuming and historical clothing started to appeal to me.
An average woman in the late 1700s would wear many layers, starting with a chemise. A chemise is the main undergarment for any clothing from the 1500s until the early 1800s, and were a basic shift that went underneath the stays (corset). Mainly made from linen because of how white it could be bleached and how easily it breathed, chemises could also be made out of cotton. Cotton is not something that would be seen in clothing from Prussia, France, and England from the mid 18th century because it was illegal (more about that in later posts...).
Over the chemise, a woman would wear stays, a stiff garment with boning in it to shape the body as well as support it. Stays often get a bit of a bad rap now because of the false information that is commonly believed. The amount of layers and weight of each made it so that it was more painful to not wear the stays than to wear them.
After the stays come the petticoats. You can wear however many you want underneath an 18th century dress, but the more that were worn, the nicer shape one would get. On an everyday basis, a woman would wear at least two. Petticoats were just a simple linen or cotton skirt that was tied around the waist. They can be corded or quilted as well to add more fluff to the whole outfit.
Next comes the main dress or skirt and jacket. The skirt would be made in the same way as a petticoat, just in the fabric chosen for the ensemble. A dress or jacket would normally be worn with a stomacher, a triangularly shaped piece of decorated fabric that was pinned to the front. All of the clothing worn during this time was made so that it could be worn for a very long time, meaning that it could change with your body. Stomachers allowed one to change the size of the bodice with a small amount of fabric. Skirts were tied around the waist so that they could change size easily.
The outfit doesn't stop at these pieces- you need all of the accessories! This includes stockings, shoes, a carefully styled wig, a hat, gloves, fichu (a piece of fabric/lace to go around the neck), jewelry, etc. When it comes to the 18th century, the more the better.
After all of that information, here are my plans for this project-
I will need to make:
One (1) chemise
One (1) pair of half-boned stays
Two (2) petticoats
One (1) overskirt to go with a bodice
One (1) bodice with stomacher
I have decided to use the American Duchess patterns from simplicity. I am thrilled to be working with these patterns, being a long time follower of the American Duchess blog.
I can't wait to get started!