July 28, 2014

The Sophia Project

Tonight, I introduce to you: The Sophia Project

Shattered Silk & Lace
Otherwise known as the major project of my costume internship.  One day a week I will be in costuming with my fabulous mentor & the head costumer of the village working on my dress, fondly named Sophia.  In fact, I was introduced to the 1870s wrapper midyear when I interviewed and learned that it was a donation to the museum that was too fragile to be included in the Susan Greene Collection - thus it became my project.  I will be taking the wrapper apart, patterning it and reproducing it for the historical interpreters in the 1870s buildings.

What is a wrapper?  In this context, a wrapper (also known as a tea gown) is a semi-fitted or loose dressing gown that women would often wear in the morning or evening over their undergarments (which will be great for the 1870s interpreters  in the village that are unable to wear corsets).  While wrappers often followed the details of fashionable dresses, they tended to be made from more durable fabrics - printed cotton for summer and wool for winter.  For more information on wrappers, make sure to check out The Dreamstress' wonderful article on tea gowns.  Also, the FIDM Museum blog has post on a beautiful 1863 wrapper complete with plenty of information on the function and wear of wrappers.

July 3, 2014: The first day of working with the wrapper.  I sketched Sophia from every angle, inside and out, and took measurements on just about everything!  The following are just a few examples of my sketching studies:

Front & Side Sketches

Back & Sleeve Sketches

Details of the Front

Details of the Back

July 10, 2014:  I spent the morning again studying Sophia.  I then took around 100 pictures (using an iphone, no flash) of just about everything, inside and out!

Sophia from the outside:

Front and center: notice the lace collar, teal silk & bow trims.

The wrapper opens center front with a small overlap, it closes with hooks & thread loops.

Center back: notice the carefully folded silk trim & watteau pleat.

One of my favorite features of Sophia is her watteau pleat - a style consisting of one or two box pleats, which is commonly found on the back of 18th century sack-back gowns and late 19th century tea gowns.  

Showing off Sophia's watteau pleat & the curved seams underneath.

Close up of sleeve & bow.

Sophia on the inside: 

Notice the remains of a printed cotton lining (which was most likely removed for another project) along each of the seams and where the silk trim is stitched on the outside.  The sleeves are lined with a shattered, copper-colored, polished cotton.

Discoloration on the outside and polished cotton lining along the inside indicate that the teal silk trim had once been sewn along the entire skirt.  Also notice the remains of an 11" polished cotton pocket!

Showing off Sophia's tattered hem facing(s) of polished cotton & printed quilting-weight cotton
(I can see why the owner had cut out the lining - what beautiful, striped fabric!)

July 18, 2014 – In the morning I had the chance to examine Sophia's fabric contents with a microscope used by the curators.  Sophia is most likely a wool and cotton blend of some sort (perhaps blended with silk?)  We also had fun looking at her lace collar, silk trim, the work table and even my hair!  I spent the rest of the day dismantling Sophia stitch by stitch - and, yes, somehow I managed to take off that silk trim in one piece.

Fabric fibers under a microscope.
(image via: http://o.quizlet.com/i/gmlHN2TsUSY_MZhE3wsTjw.jpg)

July 24, 2014 –  Took most of the day, but I finally finished dismantling Sophia!  What a time-consuming process that was - though I know that, for sure, whoever made the wrapper intended it to last because every seam seemed to be triple stitched (featured a combination of machine and hand stitching).  Again, like the other past few days, I wrapped up my time in the shop helping with other projects (mostly hand-sewing hems).  Well, 'till next time!

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