June 17, 2020

Inside & Out: Regency Bodiced Petticoat

"'Yes, and her petticoat; I hope you saw her petticoat, 
six inches deep in mud, I am absolutely certain'" 
- Pride & Prejudice, Chapter VIII

Last week on Facebook, I posted a few teaser shots of my most recently completed project - a bodiced petticoat appropriate for the Regency Era - and, as promised, today's blog post will detail its construction. 

A Regency Era Bodiced Petticoat

Having wrestled with my fair share of strapped petticoats in the past (and the struggles of sloped shoulders for straps to fall off all day long), I decided that it was time for an upgrade to a bodiced petticoat.  Not only does it solve the fiddly strap problem, but the additional bodice helps smooth the front, disguising the line from stays or the support garment, and doubles as a lining under sheer dresses.  The style makes for a simple, yet essential undergarment for the columnar silhouette of the Regency Period, and here's how I made mine!

Construction Details

As with any project intended for historical wear, I first looked to period examples for inspiration.  I felt particularly drawn to this early-19th century petticoat from the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) collection, which is described as a "white high-waisted underdress, [with] drawstrings at neck and waist, narrow shoulder straps, [and] back tie closure" -

Woman's Underdress, Early 19th-Century
Source: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Accession Number 49.876)

From looking at this extant example along with several others, I decided to drape a short, front-opening bodice.  Once I had a basic pattern, I made a quick mock-up in scrap muslin to check the fit, pinned any adjustments (mostly in the bust area because of the dress form I have to work on), and then transferred the corrections to paper.  

After draping, I test the pattern in scrap muslin to check the fit.
If there's anything I've learned - don't skip the mock-up!

Once I was satisfied with my pattern, I cut the bodice pieces out twice - once in a crisp muslin for the outer layer, and again in a lightweight, cotton batiste for the inner layer: 

After correcting the pattern, I cut the bodice pieces twice -
both in cotton muslin (outer layer) and in a lightweight batiste (inner layer)

The outer bodice and inner lining were assembled separately.  To reduce bulk, I clipped and graded the seams, using pinking shears to prevent future fraying of the finer batiste.  Then, the two layers were stitched together along the front edges and neckline, clipped, turned right-sides-out, and pressed in place, rolling the seam towards the inside.   

The lining and outer bodice were assembled separately,
then joined together along the front edges and neckline.

Clipping and grading the seams reduced bulk,
and pinking prevents fraying of the finer batiste fabric

To finish the armscyes, I pressed the seam allowances to the inside, again making sure to roll the lining edge under slightly (so the seam won't show on the outside), and securely whip stitched them closed.  I also pressed along the bottom edge of the lining, which will eventually cover the join of the skirt. 

Pressing, clipping and rolling the seam allowances

Whip stitching both the layers to finish the armsyces 

Next, I tackled the skirt:  I measured and ripped two panels of the muslin, stitched the side seams, and flat-felled them to finish.  I added three 1/2" tucks to add body to the skirt (which helps prevent the fabric from tangling around the wearer's legs) and a wide hem.  To create an opening at the center front, I cut and narrow hemmed a 14" slit, reinforcing the bottom with a strong, button hole stitch:

The skirt before attaching, please excuse the wrinkles!

With the bodice and skirt now assembled, it was time to join them together!  I opted for a flat front, 1/2" deep directional knife pleats at the sides, and 3/4" deep pleats in the back, meeting at the center with an inverse box pleat.  (I like that this sounds incredibly technical, when in reality, it was based on the "divide and conquer" method and the math just worked out this time!)  I tend to pin and hand baste pleats before machine stitching to prevent any slipping:

Flat in the front, 1/2" pleats at the sides, and 3/4" pleats in the back.

I hand-baste pleats before machine stitching to prevent any slipping - works like a charm!
(As my costume tech professor always says: "a baste is never a waste!")

Finally, the finishing steps were pressing the seam allowances up and whip stitching the lining to enclose the raw edges.  I did this while listening to "costuber" Sarah Woodyard's video - Sewn Stories: Hand Sewing Health with Samantha Bullat

Finishing stitches while listening to
Sarah Woodyard's - Sewn Stories: Hand Sewing Health with Samantha Bullat
Love these two costumers! ❤

Eventually I might add hooks and thread eyes to the front, but for the following completed project pictures, I just pinned the bodiced petticoat shut!

Completed Project Pictures

And here's the completed bodiced petticoat: worn over a shift, 1830s corset (because all three sets of Regency stays are currently back in New York), clocked stockings, and pashmina scarf wrapped as a turban.  Jet necklace is by Kristen of the Victorian Needle, link to her etsy shop, here.  Photos are taken using a new tripod and self-timer feature on my phone.

Front view

Side view

Other side view

Silly side view

Back view

And some images of the bodiced petticoat just by itself:

Front view, flat.

Front view, open to show a completely finished interior.

Back view, flat.
I love crisp, direction pleats that meet in the center!

Now onto the fun part - dreaming of all the Regency dresses, bonnets, and frilly accessories to wear over top!  Oh where to begin...do you have a favorite Regency Era gown or fashion plate?  Feel free to share in the comments below - thanks for reading! 

May 26, 2020

Greenfield Village's 2019 Civil War Remembrance Weekend

We were all looking forward to the 2020 Civil War Remembrance Weekend, which should have been this past weekend at The Henry Ford.  Under the present circumstances, the beloved, annual event had to be canceled, of course; however, the online outpouring of photographs and memories from weekends past by friends all over the reenacting community has helped keep spirits high (and only builds anticipation for the return in 2021!).

Weiser Railroad Train Station -
an operating steam-powered rail line
offering a scenic, 3-mile "ride" through the village!

For years I had only dreamed of visiting Greenfield Village, and a million times thanks to Kristen, my good friend, educator, and proprietress at the Victorian Needle, this top item on my life-bucket-list became reality last summer.  And still, hands down, this was probably the best trip of my life.  If I were to try and write about every detail that made the weekend so memorable, we would be here until the next year...so for the sake of fitting everything into one blog post, please enjoy my brief recap of the highlights from the 2019 Civil War Remembrance Weekend at Greenfield Village!  

Setting Up Shop 

The Victorian Needle -
Home for the weekend

Last summer, rather than staying in Kent, I went back home to Upstate New York, which meant a really long drive over to Michigan for set-up on Friday.  I think it took me at least 8 hours, and if you've ever driven through Ohio in one shot...next time I might try going through Canada.  

Anyways, I'd travel far greater distances to have the opportunity to spend time with Kristen (and to be her shop assistant) again!  Kristen planned and took care of just about everything - and me being a total newbie, out-of-state reenactor (working for a living history museum is an entirely different beast!), without her hosting and incredible generosity, none of the weekend would have been possible.  So thank you, thank you, thank you, Kristen!    

Kristen, my host for the weekend and proprietress at the Victorian Needle,
joined by dear friends, Kim and Jim of the Dressmaker's Shop

Many hands make light work, or so they say.  Kristen brought two tents - one for the shop, the other A-frame for our cots and personal belongs - canvas and hand-painted(!) floorcloths, tables, chairs, shelves, and all kinds of ways to display her painstakingly researched and faithfully reproduced, Civil War Era jewelry and ladies' accessories.  From exquisitely beaded bracelets, to earrings and necklace sets, cast brooches, combs, and delicate butterfly and dragonfly "tremblers" or fluttering accessories - Kristen makes it all!  (Shop at select events, or find her on Etsy at Victorian Needle)

Much to everyone's delight, the shop also carried some of Kim's (the Dressmaker's Shop) handsewn, straw bonnet forms, as well as all of the finishings and flowers.  They also brought their popular bonnet veil kits and several antique parasols (including the one I drooled over all weekend until I finally splurged at an event this year - but that's a whole other story that deserves it's own blog post).  All in all, it made for a one-stop-shop for the most fashionable of ladies (and gents, even if only to pay haha).  

Here's a little tour of the set-up:    

The outside shelf featuring hairnets and a straw bonnet form,
earring and necklace sets (which rotated all weekend),
as well as a few lengths of dress fabrics on the bottom

A view of the table to the right - featuring Kristen's prized family heirloom -
there is a story now about that mirror, the side of tent collapsing,
and an assistant going running...and that's all I'll say.

Hair combs, bracelets, earrings, net frills, and paper flowers for bonnets or the ball!

Notice the binder full of research to the left -
Kristen meticulously documents and pulls period sources for all of the pieces that she offers  

I'm obsessed with matching bracelet sets!
Also her loom-woven, beaded bracelets are amazing 😍

View of the table on the left -
more jewelry, bonnet forms and veil kits

Anything coral is my favorite!
(And I finally pierced my ears this January after only oh 20-something years...)

Beaded flower ornaments and Greek Key motif bracelets to the far right.
We also strung dozens of beaded butterflies and dragonflies on the poles throughout the shop.

As shop assistant, I had so much fun arranging and rearranging the tables, chatting with friends, both familiar and new, and so many lovely visitors - and most of all, assisting customers!  Be it with decisions or offering suggestions, "talking into" or showing off similar jewelry sets - seriously, I love to sell people things (it's shopping vicariously through their purchases)!

Thanks to Kristen's well-established presence at the event - I so pleased by how many returning visitors look for her shop every year - and the fact that she either knows every reenactor or they know her - we were busy all weekend.  (I swear Kristen must know every reenactor in the state of Michigan and beyond!)  And for someone who loves to chit-chat and meet new people, I couldn't have asked for a better time.  New introductions are made very convenient when: 1 - they come to you, 2 - your host already knows them, and 3 - all the shiny, pretty things 😉

And just in case you were wondering what the inside of an A-frame looks like:

Home for the weekend.

Meeting Our Neighbors

Well, "meeting" is a little misleading, as we already knew our neighbors!  To the left was Bob and Nancy of Sullivan Press

And to the right was...actually, funny story, a surprise at first!  There was to be a new "seamstress" and sutler shop with antiques, rumored to be from New York, my home state.  Immediately, I had a hunch, which was confirmed when my friends and co-workers at GCV, Allison and Stephen of Clara Jane, Seamstress and Supplies showed up!  I think they were just as surprised to see me, as I them, having no idea we'd all meet up in Michigan; but, through circumstances, it ended up making the trip (and the extended trip adventures, which I'll write more about later) all the more memorable and enjoyable: 

Allison and Stephen of Clara Jane, Seamstress and Supplies

Not to mention, Allison saved my hair all weekend with her magical hair-styling abilities, and I'll have to ask Stephen if he remembers the rainbow sprinkles story...We were all planning for a round two this year, but alas.  

The only "neighbor" we might not miss until next time is the Sir John Bennett's clock, which though impressive, was very loud at night:

Sir John Bennett Sweet Shop (left) & Carousel (right)
(Note to self: do NOT ride side saddle in hoops again, you will be yelled at)

Making New Friends

Oh my gosh, I met so, SO many new people - either for the first time ever, or at least for the first time in person (thanks to the internet, i.e. Facebook and Instagram).  There were also a good number of familiar friends, including Cheyney, Amanda, Katie, Jillian, Jennifer, the list goes on an on...It's really the people that make an event, and it seems like Greenfield Village is the place to be! 

One of the first people I ran into was Amanda at one of the "What We Wore" programs, presented by Felicia.  Kristen lent me matching bracelets for the fashion show (and I also had one of her butterflies pinned in my bonnet), because why not do a little advertising for the shop? ;)  

Amanda & Me

It was so nice to see Katie, Julie (who I think I met at GCV), and Gwendolyn for the first time!  All of them are fellow bloggers (from back when blogging was more popular) and Instagram costumers, which is how we all knew each other.  The internet has been incredibly kind to me for making historical costume connections, but there truly is nothing more special than meeting the real person from the online pictures.

Gwendolyn (painting) and Katie (modeling)

If a picture is worth a hundred words, a portrait must be a million?  I was so surprised and honored when Gwendolyn asked me to sit for a painting! 

Sharing this oil painting by Gwendolyn Grey @gwendolyngrey

The last new friend I'll mention was my date for the ball and wonderful guide to Greenfield Village!  His family are long-time reenactors, and it was pleasure to get to know them over the weekend.  Drew really went out of his way to make my first time at the event special, and I so appreciated getting to see the museum and village with someone who grew up there.  (Seriously, he knows all of the hidden treasures of the place!)  

Anyways, we ended up sitting for tintypes, which is a fascinating photography process, and makes for a neat (and very period appropriate) keepsake.  

 Robert Beech, wet-plate photographer, at Beech Photography

The image in "real" life, through a digital camera...

Drew, my guide to Greenfield Village, and me.

Isn't it interesting how a tintype or wet-plate image appears in reverse?  Also, look at the change in color values!

Photograph by Robert Beech, GFV 2019

Dancing at the Ball

Attend just about any Civil War reenactment, and there's usually an evening dance.  Those are not to be confused with the ball hosted at Lovett Hall...The chandeliers were enormous.

Posing in the beautiful ballroom!

Allison & me taking a last twirl across the floor

Obligatory evening hair photo - thanks Allison! 

Exploring The Henry Ford  

Where do I even start?  The sheer size and number of buildings in Greenfield Village alone was overwhelming, not to mention the special Remembrance Weekend events (like the Memorial Day Commemoration and the pavilion "museum" full of original, antique garments from private collections), as well as the exhibits over in the Henry Ford Museum.  This is not a one or two day affair - so if you ever visit, make sure to plan a few days!  

Here are a few favorites from around Greenfield Village: 

The Cohen Millinery Shop

This interpreter was very sweet -
Allison, Stephen and I had a wonderful chat with her on our post-event visit

Antique ribbons - loving the bold pink and black plaid
& cream stripe with green polka dot borders!

Noah Webster's private study
(and Robert Frost's House stands next door?!)

Print Shop - and the press was from New York!

If I had to choose only two, favorite collections items from the Museum of American Innovation:

The Lincoln Rocker - the chair that President Lincoln sat in at Ford's Theatre
when he was assassinated on April 14, 1865

The Rosa Parks Bus - sitting in the spot where history was made

The Adventures Continue or Taking on Detroit

As I hinted at above, the adventures continued into the week!  Originally, I had made arrangements just to spend the night and then drive back to New York on Tuesday.  But, thanks to a threatening rainstorm, Allison and Stephen ended up staying with me, which lead to an invitation to join them in Detroit.  Of course I jumped at the chance to do some more exploring with long-time friends, and extended my stay for two more nights.  

I've never stayed in a pink hotel before!
This was in Dearborn, MI and very comfortable (5/5 would choose again)

And, I'm so happy that I did - we ended going back to the Henry Ford for a day, explored the city (including the downtown library, John K. King Used & Rare Books, and a very unique, neighborhood art exhibit), and just had a lot of fun catching up.  (I hadn't seen them since the end of the last summer as I had returned to college in August.)  Taking on Detroit - by foot, Stephen's motorcycle, and the "people mover" - was a thrill!  Thank you so much, Allison and Stephen, for letting me explore the city with you!   

Taking on Detroit: by foot, Stephen's motorcycle, and the "people mover" -
so happy to be back in a big city again!

Hi, Canada!

I'll end with this final memory from our extra day at Greenfield Village: I had always heard that there was a working Jacquard loom in the Weaving Shop, and wow, the shop did not disappoint!  I could have spend an entire day just there, listening to the crafts-person and interpreter, who was incredibly generous with his time and knowledge.  Allison and Stephen were too obliging, while this textile student asked a million questions ;) 

The weaver and interpreter in the shop demonstrating a flying shuttle.
He was so generous with his time and knowledge, answering every question!

A working(!) hand-operated Jacquard loom!!

Explaining the loom mechanics in detail.
(At school we have digital Jacuard looms, so no need to punch cards haha!)

The shop had a variety of looms, including a dobby!
(Again, I've only ever woven with digital dobby, so this was neat!)

There were several, more familiar, counterbalance looms -
and this one was threaded to weave overshot!

And that's a wrap on the 2019 event recap - if you've made it all this way, high five!  Thanks for reading, and until next time, hopefully, at the 2021 Civil War Remembrance Weekend!  

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