Monday, February 27, 2012

Wrapping up Pink for February

Here are a few more images of pink clothing and accessories to wrap the Color of the Month.
Stays 1660-1670, V&A
Manchester City Galleries 1947.921
Eliza Ann Farrar by Asahel Lynde Powers (American painter, 1813-1843) 
An evening gown designed by Elsa Schiaparelli, an Italian fashion designer. (I'm planning a series of posts on 20th century fashion designers in the near future.)
Here's a  hat by designer Philip Treacy. The museum's description of this hat reads ... "Hat made of shocking pink goose feathers." Shocking indeed! I'm including a less shocking hat from the 1920s.
1920s hat, MFA

This evening coat looks like some that could have been worn by one of the characters on Downton Abby.
Here are a few pink accessories I found on Etsy. Hope you enjoy!
Hat Box
Adorable cat pin
Lots of buttons!
1960s dress

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Getting to know you

So it's been about 2 months now since I created my blog. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to blogging but I'm really enjoying myself. It's fun to be able to share my sewing projects or some costume-related interests with like-minded people. As I mentioned in my what I'm "sew grateful" post, I started my blog after being inspired by some great blogs created by some very talented individuals. The online community really is an awesome resource!
One of the features I like about Blogger is that it keeps track of the number of people who view my blog, traffic sources, etc. I'm a little bit discouraged, however, by the lack of feedback from readers. I realize that there are so (sew?) many blogs out there and that my own is still very new. It will take time for people to discover it. Also not everyone likes to leave comments, and that's ok. On the blogs I follow I try to leave comments to let the person know I've enjoyed their post, found it helpful or inspiring, etc. Unfortunately, I've had technical difficulties posting comments on a few peoples blogs. Not sure why, maybe it has something to do with that blog's format? I'm not able to comment on a lot of blogs that have embedded comments at the bottom of the page but I can post on blogs that have a separate comments page that pops up. Any thoughts?

A few questions for those of you who have been blogging for a while...

-How did you feel when you first started your blog and what made you decide to create your blog?
-How long did it take to build up a sizable following? (I see a lot of people hosting giveaways when they reach a certain number of followers. I'm thinking I might do the same thing someday.)
 -What do you enjoy most about blogging? 
-I see that some of you have sponsors listed on your blogs. Do you need to have a sewing/clothing related business to get a sponsor?

I have a few ideas for future blog posts in mind but would be open to suggestions as well. I would love to hear from those of you reading my blog! Please feel free to leave a comment or to send me an email at 
And thank you! :)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Pink 1920s Robe de Style

When most people think of 1920s fashion they probably think of the iconic short, often beaded or fringed, flapper dress. While this was indeed a popular style of the roaring 20s, it was not the only one. The robe de style was quite popular too and is often attributed to Parisian designer Jeanne Lanvin (1867-1946).

       "... Called a robe de style, the upper portion of the dress is slim and close-fitting, while the skirt is full and rather long. The fullness in the skirt is a result of built-in panniers at each hip. These built-in wire structures, shaped like small baskets, extend the line of the dress horizontally, emphasizing the hips. This look hearkens back to the 18th century, when panniers were worn on a regular basis by European and American women. This historic reference was noted by American fashion writers who often referred to the robe de style as a “quaint” or “period style” dress." -From FIDM Museum & Galleries blog.

In keeping with the color pink for the month of February, I would like to share two photos of a very pink and fluffy robe de style in my personal collection. There are mini side hoops sewn into the gown just below the waist to give it that boxy shape. I believe the hoops are metal but it's hard to tell as the hoops have a fabric covering. I acquired this gown from a local auction house several years ago. It came in a box lot with a bunch of other stuff. I hate to admit it but I almost didn't keep the dress. At the time I had just started collecting antique and vintage clothing and I had no idea what this piece was. Some of you may know that I've never really been fond of the color pink and this gown was just so, well, PINK! I'm glad that I did keep it though, I can really appreciate it now. Just because a piece is in poor shape doesn't mean it's no longer beautiful or useful. Some of the best examples of antique and vintage clothing out there are what most collectors would call "study pieces" - i.e. not wearable and not suitable for display.

Over all condition - Poor
1920s robe de style from my personal collection.
The silk, which is paper thin and very crisp, is split near the shoulders, underarms and side opening. There is under arm discoloration, most likely from sweat. The net flounces are torn in several places and slightly soiled. There is no lining to this dress so it was most likely worn over slip; white or maybe pink to match.

I had to be very careful putting it on the dress form. The dress is my size but sadly not wearable. :( One of these days I'll get around to drafting a pattern.

Close up of the bow
It's not pink but here's another example of a robe de style. Katherine of The Fashionable Past made a stunning reproduction of this gown. You can read about her creation here.

I always thought this example looked a little bit like my own, only less fluffy. ;)

It's not a robe de style but this pink evening dress at the MET is too pretty not to share. Using the zoom feature you can see that the entire gown is covered in tiny beads. Even the roses are all bead work. Simply amazing!
Evening Dress, MET 2009.300.1358

Friday, February 10, 2012

Using period prints and paintings for inspiration

If you want to recreate a historic garment nothing beats having an original to study. There are a number of books, museums, historical societies, and online galleries that allow us to view these beautiful creations. (I've posted a few in my resources and inspiration page) If you're lucky you may even know someone who has a private collection they are willing to share. Or maybe you own a few antique or vintage pieces of your own. Great! However, in some cases these options may not be available or meet your specific needs. So what do you do? Take a look at period prints and paintings of course!

Prints and painting are great source of information as well as inspiration for your historic costuming needs. But do keep in mind that just because an artist painted something does not mean it was accurate or commonly worn in a particular period of time. One such example is Mrs. Thomas Gage (Margaret Kemble) by John Singleton Copley. Mrs. Gage wears a Turkish-style costume, an exotic sort of dress that would not have been worn for every day common dress in the American colonies.

Two online sources that I have found to be very helpful in researching 18th century clothing are the Fitzwilliam Museum and this Catalogue of 18th-Century British Mezzotint Satires As with most prints and painting, satirical prints must be taken with a grain of salt.

Below are two examples of historic costumes I’ve made using an 18th century print and painting as inspiration. At some point I’ll post a separate blog for each of these projects.

Blue and white linen cross-barred gown.
My gown was based on the print "Native Meltons" by British printmaker Richard Houston. In this particular project I purchased the fabric long before I discovered Houston's print. When I found the fabric I knew it needed to become a gown but was afraid of cutting the fabric until I had a better idea of how an 18th century gown should be constructed. So it went into “the stash.” I'm glad I waited because I had just enough for the gown and matching stomacher.
Fitzwilliam Museum
Photo taken at Colonial Williamsburg last spring. I'm wearing a silk bonnet but often wear this gown with a black straw hat similar to the one in the print above.
Ivory silk polonaise with blue and white bows
“The Music Party” by Louis Rolland Trinquesse, 1774 is one of my favorite 18th century paintings. There are lots of great little details that are not really visible unless you can see the painting up close. If you have a chance, take a look at the book French Genre Painting in the Eighteenth Century by Philip Conisbee. The painting is featured on the cover. When I received a copy as a birthday present I realized I needed to rethink my trim. On close inspection of the painting you can see a very delicate fringe, and a short, transparent ruffle around the outside of the gown's skirt, the bottom of the sleeves, and around the neckline. The front of the gown is not visible but I decided to go with a stomacher front. The painting is dated 1774 and closed front gowns don't really start to show up until the later 1770s. Because I was pressed for time the stomacher I made looks crappy (to me anyway). I'll eventually make a compere, or false front stomacher as they seem to be pretty common on gowns of this time period. Plus it's a lot easier to pull on a gown and button the stomacher than it is to pin the stomacher to your stays and then the gown over top. Good thing this gown is still a work in progress! The ivory silk and the blue and white stripe silk used for this gown came from Renaissance Fabrics.
“The Music Party” by Louis Rolland Trinquesse, 1774
Photo taken at Colonial Williamsburg last spring. The gown still needs the trim added to the stomacher, petticoat and skirt fronts. Also needs the blue and white bows.

Another resource that I think is under utilized in the costuming world are historical newspaper databases. While it's helpful to have both an image AND a description when recreating something, I think it takes away some of the challenge too. After all, doing the research, even if it means extensive research in some cases, is part of the fun in reproducing a period garment. Isn't it? I think so anyway. :) 

The New-York Gazette August 29,1748

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What I'm "sew grateful" for

I thought I would take this opportunity to write about a few things I’m grateful for. Debi from My Happy Sewing Place is hosting a 'Sew Grateful Week'. She has invited people to blog about the sewing related things they are grateful for. In addition to many great posts on her site there are some awesome giveaways. Check it out! 

As a person who is new to the blogging world, I would have to say that I'm "sew grateful" for the online community. I’m grateful for having access to an amazing selection of online sewing and costume-related resources. I started this blog after being inspired by a number of really great blogs created by some very talented individuals. The online community is a wonderful way to share ideas, fabric, patterns, inspiration and much more! 

Here are just a few of the blogs I find inspiring…
American Duchess – This is one of the first blogs I started following. Lauren is a very talented seamstress and has shared a number of her sewing projects on her blog. Lots of great pictures and how tos! 

Sign of the Golden Scissors – I have had the opportunity to take a few workshops with Hallie and I always learn something new. She is a wonderful teacher and a lot of fun to work with. I thank her for her support and encouragement in my sewing adventures.

Chronically Vintage, Tuppence Ha'penny, In the Hey Day, Va-Voom Vintage,  Vixen Vintage, - These lovely ladies find every opportunity to get dresses up! Lots of great inspirational pictures for those of us who want to wear more vintage.

AllThe Pretty Dresses and OMGthat Dress – Something new and pretty everyday! What’s not to like?

The Fashionable Past – I first learned of Katherine through her website. Her attention to detail is outstanding. I don’t know how she finds the time to complete all her projects.

Here are a few more things I’m grateful for…

Online museums with zoom features

Sites like Etsy and Ruby Lane.

Fabric sales! Who doesn’t like those?

Having like-minded friends who are always up for a shopping adventure. Especially when the adventure includes fabric stores, second hand clothing shops or antique stores!

I’m especially grateful for having such a wonderful boyfriend who not only tolerates my sewing and vintage collecting habits, he encourages them too! I know he secretly enjoys fabric shopping, (so long as it’s for him) and dressing up too. He and I have attended reenactments and living history events together for the last several years.
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