Sunday, May 20, 2018

1770s Fashionable Gown - In Progress, Part 1

As I mentioned briefly in my last post, I have jumped head first back into historical sewing. The fabric, pattern and bodice mock up had been sitting in the stash for over a year now. So when my friend planned a sewing weekend with some of our reenacting friends early this spring, I figured it was a good excuse to pull out the project and get back to work.

I'm using the 1770s Fashionable Gown pattern from Sign of the Golden Scissors. This pattern is fantastic and has needed only very slight alterations to make it fit. While some may raise an eyebrow at the price of this pattern, keep in mind you are getting A LOT for your money. All Smith and Larkin historical sewing patterns are essentially one of their two day sewing workshops in an envelope. It's not just the paper pattern for the gown and bum roll, but historically accurate sewing instructions, notes on fitting, fabric choices, stitches, etc. as well as historical information on the particular garment you are going to recreate. Included is a colorful documentation card that you can carry with you if you choose. The instruction booklet for the 1770s gown is 35 pages with color photographs to help you with each step When making an item of historical clothing, it's important to make a mock up. Especially if you have never used the pattern before. I've made a few 18th century gowns before so I'm pretty familiar with the steps involved. However, the fit of this particular gown is very different from my other gowns. First off, it's important to note that this style of gown is high fashion for the mid 1770s. The neckline and placement of the shoulder straps reflect that, as well as the looping of the gown skirts. This gown would not be appropriate for my normal middling class or British camp follower impressions. I'm not making this for any particular event, but rather more of a "just because I can" kind of project. And yes, it's going to be entirely hand sewn for the same reason.

Fabric choice is super important, I went with a lovely striped silk taffeta that is similar to what I've seen in period portraits and original gowns.

I used some miscellaneous fabric in my stash for the mock up. There are two sizes in each envelope so I cut the 34 bust as it seemed closest to my size when wearing my stays. The only adjustments I found were needed were to shorten the shoulder straps a bit and to lower the arm holes just a touch. After that I moved on to cutting out my lining and silk bodice.

During my friend's sewing weekend I completed my bum roll, assembled the linen lining, minus sleeves and shoulder straps, and cut out all the pieces for the silk bodice. I even finished sewing the pleats into the gown back pieces.

The side seams of both the linen lining and the silk are constructed with lapped seams. The sleeves use the same period technique but require an extra step to whip the lining into place. For those that have the new American Duchess kind to 18th century sewing the lapped seam in shown on pages, __.

Here is what the sleeves look like prior to stitching. I posted a live video on my Facebook page talking about this if you would like more details.

I spent one evening cutting out the panels for my gown skirts. Originally, I thought would skip the step of cutting my silk into period correct widths and save a little sewing time. The gown skirts are made up of two front panels, two sides, and one center back panel.

As it turned out, given the actual width of my silk and not wanting to waste any, it was actually easier to follow the instructions and cut multiple widths and then tapper the lower edge of each panel as needed. (Because bum roll!!) The instructions called for each panel to be 23 inches wide, as that matched the width of the original gown the pattern was based on. My silk was 50 inches wide so my panels are actually 25 inches wide. I will be able to incorporate the selvedge edge of the fabric into the gown fronts which will be nice. And of course I had kitty "help" because no sewing project would be complete without it!

With help from my husband, I tired the linen lining on to test the fit again. Then had him help me pin the silk on top, again to test the fit. Something just seemed wonky with the fit but was excited to see the gown taking shape. I suspected the fit issues had to do with the waist placement so I consulted the fitting section of the American Duchess 18th Century Dressmaking Guide. Turns out I was correct so I will need to bring the lower edge of the waist up just a bit before adding the skirts to get rid of the bodice wrinkles. Once I attach the skirts the weight of the silk will help smooth things out as well.

So, my next steps with this gown will be to pleat the skirts (SOOOOOOOO MUCH PLEATS!) Make my adjustments to the bodice and reattach the linen shoulder straps so the skirts can be attached. Then assemble the bodice lining and fashion fabric. Once that's done I can set the sleeves (again with help from the husband) and add the silk shoulder straps. The only thing left from there will be hemming and trimming! 

  • This pattern was created as a one for one copy of an original in a private collection. The bodice fronts were pieced on the original gown so a pattern piece is included for the "bodice front extension." Instructions for the gown trim are also based off the original.
  • This gown is designed to wear over period correct undergarments i.e. shift, 1770s/80s stays, bum roll and, if you wear one, an under petticoat. Pick you pattern size based on your measurements while wearing proper undergarments.
  • This style also requires a bum roll to help give the gown it's "fashionable" shape. The pattern and instructions for the bum roll are included.
  • The shoulders may feel very restricting at first. I found when I first tried the mock up on that I had to rotate the whole bodice further back then I thought. Then the neckline, which is lower and wider than my 1750s/60s gowns, sat where it needed to which should be just above the top of the stays. 
  • The arm holes are meant to be high and snug and the sleeves should fit closely as well. You will want to make sure your shift is a mid to late 18th century style with close fitting sleeves to eliminate bulk.
  • The lower back section of the bodice is not meant to sit flat against the back, it needs to have some "space" if you will, to fit over the bum roll.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Playing Catch Up - What's been happening

I'm finally sitting down to write real blog post. I have so much to share! I had not really realized how busy things have been until this week when I actually found myself with some much needed down time.

Most of January was spent finishing up some long neglected projects in the UFO pile, and I'm pleased to report I've made it through about half of the pile. The items that are left will need to be reevaluated so I can reside what's really worth finishing and what can be reused for other projects or just tossed. I'm at the point where I really want to clean and organize the sewing room and the UFO pile is a great place to start.

Here's a look at what I've finished!

Reproduction 1940s pinafores - Available here on Etsy

At the end of February I attended the Northeast Reenactors Fair and set up a booth for Emily's Vintage Visions along side Joani from A Timeless Collection. I had heard good things about the fair in the past but never had the change to go. This was a new experience for me as I've only done a handful of displays and vendor shows. Overall it was a successful weekend but I think I'll plan my set up a little differently next time. The Reenactors Fair was a great opportunity to meet and visit with people. One of the highlights was actually getting to do a live FB video at the end of Saturday with Joani, even if the video was sideways! Ooops!

Photo credit - A Timeless Collection

The first weekend of March was the GBVS's White Lightning Ball. Another fun event and one I look forward to each year. I was super excited (but also really nervous!) to debut the 1920s style head pieces I have been working on. They are made from vintage, and in some cases antique, trims and feathers in my stash. The two silver head pieces with the feather sold right away! I couldn't believe it!

Thanks to A Timeless Collection for this photo of hubby and I at the @Greater Boston Vintage Society's White Lightning Ball this past Saturday. He is wearing a 40s vintage sweater and pants fromOverAttired Vintage Fashion. My late 1920s/early 1930s dress is from @We, McGee Vintage

Over the last couple of weeks I picked up a sewing project I first started well over a year ago, a new 1770s gown!!! I can't begin to tell you how good it feels to dive head first back into historical sewing!! It's really my zen sewing, and yes, I'm doing all by hand. I'm using the Fashionable Gown pattern from Sign of the Golden Scissors. I've posted a few pictures on my Instagram account as well as on Facebook. There will be a proper blog post, or two, on the gown. So far I'v been good about taking construction pictures.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

WAVES - Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (Blog Series)

Hello all, 
Wow, is it really February already? I'm OK with that because it means spring is just around the corner, and I'm ready for some warmer weather. One of the things I mentioned in my last post, one of the things all be working on in 2018 is sharing more information about the WAVES during WWII.
This is the first of several planned posts. To start, I thought I would give a brief overview of the WAVES and some basic facts. Later on I will have some more in-depth posts that discuss uniforms, various jobs, personal experiences of WAVES as well as what it is like to be a WAVES reenactor. I will be teaming up with my friend Sara from the Canteen Cowboy on some of these. I hope you will follow along!  

Recruiting poster for the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) during world War II. Illustration by John Falter, 1943.
LCDR McAfee while director of the WAVES - Source
The WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) program was created in July 30, 1942 as the need for additional military personnel grew during World War II. The WAVES were an all-woman division of the U.S. Navy with its members holding the same rank and ratings as male personnel. WAVES also received equal pay and were subject to the same military discipline as male personnel. 

The Women's Reserve of the Coast Guard (SPARS) was created on Nov. 23, 1942 "to expedite the war effort by providing for releasing officers and men for duty at sea and their replacement by women in the shore establishment of the Coast Guard". The first 153 enlisted SPARs and 15 SPAR officers were former WAVES who agreed to be discharged from the Navy and join the Coast Guard.

WAVES and SPARS duties were restricted to the continental U.S. until late in 1944, when overseas service was finally authorized for the WAVES. Even then the WAVES were restricted to the U.S. territories of Alaska and Hawaii. While many WAVES filled traditionally female secretarial and clerical jobs, thousands more served pushed the gender barrier and took on duties in the aviation community, Judge Advocate General Corps, medical professions, communications, intelligence, science and technology.  Aviation Machinist's Mates, Aviation Metalsmiths, Control Tower Operators, Aerographer's Mates, Link Trainer Instructors, and Parachute Riggers are just a few of the duties performed by WAVES during the war.

At the end of World War II, there were over 8,000 female officers and as many as 80,000 enlisted WAVES, equaling roughly 2-1/2 percent of the Navy's total strength.

Fast Facts
  •  In August 1942, Mildred McAfee, was sworn in as a Naval Reserve Lt. Commander, becoming the first woman commissioned as an officer of the U.S. Navy. 
  • Within the first year, over 27,000 women joined the WAVES. 
  • The notable New York fashion house, Mainbocher, designed the WAVES uniforms. The design services were secured through the efforts of Mrs. James V. Forrestal, wife of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. 
  • By mid-1944, the WAVES began accepting African-American women. Harriet Ida Pickens and Frances Wills became the Navy's first, and only, African-American WAVES officers in December 1944. Approximately one in every 36 women who enlisted and trained for the WAVES was an African-American. 
  • As many as a third of all WAVES were assigned to naval aviation. These women fixed aircraft, packed parachutes, provided weather information, served as link trainer instructors, gunnery instructors, coordinated air traffic from control towers and a performed host of other aviation-related jobs. 
  • By 1945, enlisted women could choose from a total of 38 different ratings in the Navy. Almost every shore establishment had WAVES on active duty fulfilling necessary military work of every kind, from general office workers and supply accounts specialists to film projectionists and drivers to dental prosthetic technicians. At the Navy Department headquarters in Washington, D.C., over half of all service personnel were WAVES. Approximately 70 percent of the Bureau of Naval Personnel was composed of WAVES. Large numbers of WAVES were assigned to the Hospital Corps where they participated in Navy recovery, therapy and rehabilitation programs. 
  • By the end of World War II, the WAVES consisted of 8,000 female officers and close to 80,000 enlisted women.
  •  By September of 1946, the majority of WAVES were either discharged or released to inactive duty. 
  • Despite their involvement in World War II and post-war, the organization was disbanded in 1948 when the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act was passed.  This new law permitted women permanent status within the armed forces.  Despite this change, the acronym WAVES continued to be used for almost 30 more years.    

Thursday, January 25, 2018

2017 Sewing Year in Review

Each year I seem to start out with a grand list of projects, more than I know I'll actually complete. Though I guess there's nothing wrong with feeling ambitious. It's fun to plan new projects but feels even better to get them completed. However, 2017 was not my year for getting things done. I need to learn to be more realistic in my goals and except that it's perfectly OK to take time for myself.

The winter months can be hard for many of us, and I admit I was struggling at this same time last year to find the motivation to work on things. I was just starting to find my sewing groove when in March, I learned that my best friend from childhood last his battle with cancer. Then in August my brother passed away unexpectedly. It's still a struggle but I'm finding ways to move forward. Anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one will undoubtedly know how important that is to do. For me it means making more time for visits with family and friends, spending time working with the horses and yes, evening working on some sewing. (Thank you again to everyone who reached out with your thoughts, prayers and words of encouragement!)

So, given the crap year I had in 2017, I'm rather surprised by what I was able to accomplish. And to be fair, not all of 2017 was bad. There were many good things that happened.

Completed Sewing Projects for 2017
1940s blue linen pants and matching bolero for my friend Beth
Red linen 1930s pants
1940s white cotton blouse
1930s denim pj pants for day wear
1940s Gold corduroy jerkin
Early 1940s wool plaid skirt
1920s ivory velvet dress

Projects Started in 2017 But Not Completed (Yet!)
1940s green linen pants and matching bolero
1940s wool plaid dress
1940s pinafore with rickrack trim
Mock up for 1770s "fashionable gown" 
1920s green silk dress

So, what else did I do in 2017 you ask? I went to a bunch of events....

GBVS's White Lightning Ball
Reading Air Show
Forth of July American Timeline at Strawberry Banke Museum
WAVES Display at the Living History Association Timeline
GBVS's 1920s Lawn Party at the Crane Estate
260th Anniversary of Siege of Ft William Henry
Collings Foundation Battle annual Battle for the Airfield  
GBVS's Winter Formal

Other Projects and Cool Stuff from 2017
I actually posted a few videos for my YouTube channel! Go me!! And at the end of 2017 I had almost 1000 followers on Instagram which is pretty cool. I'm just over that number now. :)

At the Reading Air Show I got to meet Emileigh Rogers of the blog Flashback Summer in person. She camped with my group for the whole weekend and we had a blast!

I set up my very first WAVES display this summer at a small timeline event. Visitors seemed to really enjoy it so now I'm supper motivated to continue my research and document my growing collection of WAVES-related items.

With all the stress and heartache that 2017 brought, one of the things that has really helped is working with my sister and her horses. Pony therapy is the best!!! Animals really do understand. A few days after my brother passed, my sister, sister in law and I all went riding. It was exactly what we needed. Just to prove to ourselves that it was possible, even in the worst of times, to get back in the saddle. Physically as well as metaphorically speaking.

I made some really good progress this summer and I'm hoping to continue riding when the weather gets better. I rode a couple days each week and when the time a weather allowed sometimes I rode all three horses.

Looking Ahead to 2018
Other than the normal, eat better, be more organized and work from the fabric stash kind of plans for 2018, I hope to do a few more videos for my YouTube channel as well as some more live videos on Facebook and/or Instagram. I think this is a really fun feature and I know several bloggers and small businesses have had great success with it. If you have an idea for a video, let me know! I have plans for revamping my Etsy shop so right now listings are kind of slim. As I finish the reproduction items that have been languishing in the UFO pile, and get good photos of them, I will be listing a bunch of new stuff! If you are in the New England area look for me at the Northeast Reenactors Fair next month!!

Other exciting things in the works for 2018 include working with my friend Sara on a series of blog posts about the WAVES during WWII. We are both collectors of all things WAVES and we want to be able to share our research with others. I'm hoping to have the first post up sometime early next month.

I look forward to working more with A Timeless Collection this year too. If you are not already following them on Facebook or Instagram, you need to! We have a special group photo shoot planned for this weekend and I can't wait to share more about it.

So yeah, I guess that pretty much wraps up my last year. What are you plans and goals this year?
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