March 11, 2023

A Beribboned Cap & Tasseled Slippers

Following on the heels (sorry, couldn't resist the shoe pun!) of my last blog post on the Making on an 1820s Morning Dress, I wanted to spotlight the two accessories that really made the ensemble complete: the beribboned cap and slippers with bow clips and hand-dyed tassels!  

More is more with ruffles, ribbons, and bows! 

Beribboned cap

If you've been following me for a while, you know I'm all about those big, ruffly, and beribboned caps of the Regency through Romantic eras!  I don't think I'll ever tire of making or wearing them...they're just so ridiculous and period.  Anyways, this post is to show what a little wired ribbon can do to instantly transform a cap! 

While mine was not intended to be a replica - this portrait of Mrs. Miller captures the look I was going for oh so well: down to the double ruffles and pink ribbons!

Portrait of Mrs. Miller of Newton, New Jersey, by John S. Blunt
Image source: Pinterest 

And here's my version of an 1820s beribboned cap, featuring double ruffles and wired ribbon loops: 

An 1820s beribboned cap decorated with wired ribbon loops.
Interior cotton twill tape "utility" ties,
and decorative ties of the same ombré ribbon with wires removed.

I really let the ribbon guide me as I decorated the cap.  First, I made a large double-loop bow with tails, which was tacked at the top center.  I used a long continuous length of ribbon for the side bows, and tacked them along the entire band of the cap.  After removing the wire, I also added ribbon streamers, which can be tied under the chin, or left loose like in the portrait above. 

In this side view, you can really see the double layer of ruffles -
the entire cap is handstitched with narrow rolled hems and whipped rolled gathers. 

Tasseled Slippers

If you're also not able or wanting to spend a small fortune on period footwear (and don't mind a modern cheat or two), try making shoe clips!  I transformed a pair of cheap red flats that had a similar, narrow rounded toe with a squared foot opening to Regency era examples, with clip-on bows and handmade tassels.  Perhaps they read more costume, but they make me happy! 

I used this very pretty embroidered pair of women's shoes from RISD museum for scale:  I wanted to line the edges of my slippers, and mimic the side seams with pink petersham ribbon to help with the illusion, but I didn't have anything similar on hand at the time.  And, this was just for pictures anyways. 

Women's shoes, c.1810.
RISD museum, (object number: 37.335)

To make my shoe clips, I used the same ombré ribbon with the wire removed for the bows.  Then, after observing other extant examples with all kinds of fringe and tassels - I set to making my own tassels from leftover cotton yarns that I've dyed in shades of red and pink.  Once I was happy with the bows, I added metal shoe clips to the back: 

Here's what the removable shoe clips look like on their own:
Ombré ribbon bows with hand-dyed tassels with metal backings.
By making them removable, I can mix-and-match with other shoes.

Here's what the shoe clips look like when installed: and from the comfort of my own parlor, they're passable for Regency slippers to me!

And that's a wrap for this Regency wrapper (terrible pun, I know) and the series - I can't wait to actually wear the morning dress for an event!  I still have a long ways to go on my 1820s wardrobe before August, as I still need to make a day dress, outerwear, bonnet, and maybe a linen shift and new set of long stays if there's time. 

Lounging around like it's the 1820s!

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March 6, 2023

Making an 1820s Morning Dress

I made a morning - not to be confused with "mourning" - dress or wrapper, which is a garment intended to be worn in the privacy of ones home, or before getting more properly dressed into an afternoon or "walking" dress.  With now two "Getting Dressed in the 1820s" presentations coming up - in both August and October 2023 - I wanted something to throw on for modesty and comfort, before dressing in front of a live audience.  This blog post details the inspiration behind, construction of, and then styling of an early-1820s morning dress: 

Historical Inspiration

Before diving into a new project, I like to pull together a Pinterest board of inspiration images - these include extant examples from online museum collections, fashion plates, historical portraiture, and any period pattern diagrams.  Ever since I saw this polka-dotted printed dress, c.1810-1815, in the DAR's "An Agreeable Tyrant" exhibit, I've been wanting something similar.  And I'm not the only one in love with it - as some of my Instagram followers let me know - there's actually a Fig Leaf Pattern for this exact dress, available for purchase through Burnley & Trowbridge

While my morning dress is not a replica, I did take inspiration from the cross-over or surplice bodice, and the ruffles along the neckline, sleeves, and skirt hem.  Of course, I also used a small, red polka-dotted print!  I ended up purchasing a bolt of 100% cotton quilting fabric from JoAnn's online with a coupon, which worked for my purposes. 

Polka-dot printed dress, c.1810 - 1815.
From a private collection, displayed as part of the DAR's "An Agreeable Tyrant" exhibit.

Two other examples of morning wrappers specifically influenced my design, including this one from the MET museum:  I liked the small, guessing 1" - 1.5" ruffled trim along the edges, and the skirt opening falls at the side, just about where mine does too.  

Morning Dress, c.1810 - 1820.
MET museum, (accession number: 1978.88.1)

As well as this example of a "wrap over gown" from the Victoria & Albert Museum, which has a similar crossover bodice to mine:

Peignoir, made c.1812-1814.
V&A Museum, (accession number: T.798-1913)

Construction Details 

The pattern for this project was, well, an experiment and mash-up of several other patterns.  For the lining and back pieces, I used my self-drafted bodiced petticoat pattern, and just raised the neckline by 1.5" all around.  I flatlined the back lining and fashion fabric pieces, and then attached them to the front lining, only, at the shoulders and side seams.  The lining flaps close with two metal hooks and thread eyes, first, and then the crossover. 

Front lining provides structure and interior support, and is seamed with the back at the shoulders and sides.  The wearer fastens the lining first, with two metal hooks and thread eyes, before the crossover portion.

The fashion fabric and lining are treated as one at the back.
After stitching, all of the seams were pinked and pressed flat.

For the front crossover portion, I used an altered version of the bodice front from the Elegant Ladies' Closet by Sense & Sensibility patterns.  I had used this before for a shortgown, and had to reshape the neckline, armscye (to fit with my lining pattern), and waist.  Once I had the pieces cut out, I matched them at the shoulders and sides of the bodice, and basted generous pleats along the waistline.  Here's what the crossover portion looked like before trimming and finishing: 

Added a crossover front with a shaped neckline and the fullness pleated at the waist.

Next, I added a waistband, which I realized later I had not accounted for when I was measuring for the skirt (so I had to redo the skirt hem at least once).  Speaking of the skirt, it was just rectangles, balanced (so that the back was slightly longer than the front), pleated, and seamed at the waist.  I did whipstitch a cotton muslin facing over the waistband to enclose all of the raw edges and to keep the interior tidy. 

Then, I turned my attention to making the trim.  This was easy - just long strips seamed together and knife pleated.  I did this at the machine, just eyeballing the spacing, and made sure to change directions at the center back, so the pleating would be directional.  I had to make enough trim for the entire neckline, front edge, hem, and sleeves.  

Pleating trim for the neckline, front edge, skirt hem, and sleeves.  

Once I attached the trim to the raw edges, I made cotton muslin facings to cover all of the raw edges.  The facings all had to be handstitched, as these stitches would be visible from the outside.  It didn't take too long overall, and I'm happy I enclosed all of the raw edges, in case the front edge flips open and to protect the hem from wear. 

Here's some more in-progress shots of attaching the skirt, pleated trim, and an interior shot before I added the interior waistband and facings: 

Pleated trim on the front.
To enclose all of the raw edges, I added facings from plain cotton muslin, 
which had to be handstitched in place as the stitches would show on the outside. 

Pleated trim on the back.
I used directional knife-pleating for both the skirt and the trim,
switching directions with box pleats at the center back.

A detail shot of the interior, before I added the waistband facing
to enclose the raw edges and neatly finish the interior. 

Apparently, I stopped taking pictures from this point to completion.  But, I did make straight sleeves (another pattern pulled from my stash) with pleating at the wrist; and added interior twill tape ties and more metal hooks and thread eyes to the crossover portion to securely fasten the morning gown.  

Completed Project Pictures

To style my newly-completed morning dress, I trimmed a cap and tasseled slippers (to be featured in their own, separate post) with a vibrant, pink to red ombré ribbon.  I wore the morning dress over clocked stockings, a shift, long corded stays (though wrappers can also be worn without support garments), and my 1820s corded petticoat.  In addition to the cap and slippers, I accessorized with a coral necklace, chemisette, large coral drop earrings, and face-framing curls.  

Per usual, I took a lot of pictures from all the different angles:

1820s morning dress with the petticoat's flounced hem peeking out.

I also took some seated pictures, as this was actually only a few days after a minor foot procedure, and I was having trouble walking on my foot...

The completed 1820s morning ensemble!

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March 1, 2023

Making an 1880s Plaid Ensemble: Skirt & Draperies

This is the year we're finally making the plaid 1880s bustle dress!  In 2022, I finished the underpinnings for the project - including a lobster tail bustle, underpetticoat, and flounced petticoat - and today I'm sharing the completed skirt and draperies of what will be a three-piece, c.1883-86 plaid ensemble.  

As my lovely patrons already know, I have a deadline of an upcoming "Getting Dressed in the 1880s" presentation in April for the Niagara County Federation of Historical Agencies!  My session is bright and early at 9am to kick off the annual convention, which means I'll be waking up at 5am on a Saturday to travel there...I'll need to work diligently through March to pattern and produce both a bodice and hat for the ensemble, so you can expect at least two more, future blog posts on the ensemble.  

But for now, let's take a look at the making of the skirt and draperies - inspiration for the design, details of the construction, and completed project pictures.  

Historical Inspiration

Years ago, I bought 10 yards of the this navy blue, rust, and white woven cotton.  I knew I wanted to make a bustle dress era with it, but I can't say that I had a specific design in mind then, or really even now as I'm making it.  I just sort of let the fabric guide me into what it wants to be.  

There are certainly plenty of extant examples of plaid dresses from the 1880s, made in silks, cottons, and wools.  I liked the contrast of the pleated self-trim from this wine on white plaid, printed cotton day dress:

3-piece, printed cotton day dress, c. 1880s:
including a cuirass bodice, over, and under skirts.
Augusta Actions, Lot: 1038

I was also drawn to the bold, bias-cut trim on this long-time favorite portrait of a young Black woman in a plaid ensemble:  she's so pretty and poised, looking directly towards us.  I wish I knew who she was, and more of her story. 

Portrait of a young woman, c.1880s.
Source: Fabric and Color Journal 

Finally, here's a plaid walking dress from an 1887 French fashion plate:  I intended to have both the skirt and draperies match in the plaid, and am considering a solid, navy blue wool bodice with contrasting plaid panel at the center front.  My other design flips the fabrics, with the plaid as the main fabric, and contrasting panel in navy blue velvet with a matching collar and cuffs.  I could always make both...🤔  But for now, a single bodice will do, as we're on a deadline!

Walking dress, French fashion plate, c.1887.

Construction Details

As with most new projects (and since the 1880s are an unfamiliar era for me), I began with a mock-up for the skirt.  I started with Truly Victorian's 1885 Four-Gore Underskirt pattern (TV261), and added a casing and drawstring to help keep the skirts over the bustle in the back.  I used a cotton bedsheet for the mock-up: 

Mock-up for 1880s skirt, based on TV261 pattern.

Mock-up for 1880s skirt: test for casing with twill tape ties to hold the skirt in place over a bustle.
Interior view on the left, exterior or outside view on the right with directional pleats.

Pleased with the look, I cut the skirt panels from the plaid fashion fabric, and assembled the skirt.  I finished the hem with a cotton muslin facing (instead of lining the skirt), and pleated the skirt onto a band with a metal closure.  I thought the skirt looked a little limp, so I made a small cotton pad after the dimensions in Costume in Detail by Nancy Bradfield, page 253: 

On the left, skirt before adding a small bustle pad. 
On the right, a much-improved silhouette with a little padding!

Small cotton pad measures 7" long, and ties under the pleats at the back with cotton tapes. 

With the base done, it was time to trim the skirt!  I played around with different designs, thinking first of deep rows of ruffles or pleats, and then settled on box-pleated bias bands.  After cutting, seaming, and pressing all the bias strips together, I eyeballed and pinned wide box pleats, making enough for the skirt hem, and for trimming the draperies too:

To make the trim, I cut and stitched bands of bias together.
I turned and pressed the top and bottom edges inwards by a half-inch each.
Then, I eyeballed and pinned wide box pleats along the strips.

Pinning a row of pleated trim all around the skirt, I top-stitched them around the hem at the top and bottom edges to secure the individual box pleats and mount the trim.

Pinning the box-pleated trim in place.

Here's what the newly-trimmed skirt looked like when finished:

Finished skirt with a box-pleated, bias band of trim: front and side views.

Additional side and side-back views of the finished skirt.

With the skirt finished, I moved onto the draperies.  For these, I traced the pieces from Truly Victorian's 1886 Asymmetrical Drapery Add-on pattern (TV382).  According to the pattern directions, this add-on is made one with the skirt; but mine is meant to be a separate piece and pleated onto its own waistband.  This way, I can mix-and-match the pieces, if I do end up making a navy-blue wool or solid silk underskirt.

Drapery in progress...a look at the finished front.
The front and back draperies were trimmed and pleated separately, 
before being joined at the sides and attached to a waistband.

I lined both the front and back draperies with cotton lawn to give them more body.  I applied the same box-pleated bias trim to the long sides, playing with the direction of the plaids. 

Inside view of the front drapery, showing cotton lawn lining.
Both the front and back draperies were finished with 1" hems,
and trimmed with the matching box-pleated bias bands.

After both the front and back draperies were trimmed and pleated, I attached them together at the left side.  I mounted them on a waistband - this time made of the fashion fabric with lining - matching the pleats to the front, sides, and back of the skirt.  The waistband overlaps at the right, and fastens with a metal skirt hook and bar.  With that, both the skirt and draperies were complete! 

Completed Project Pictures 

Finished skirt and draperies for my c.1883-86 plaid ensemble: 

Font view of c.1883-86 plaid skirt & draperies.

My favorite side view - just look at all of those pleats!

Back view of the c.1883-86 plaid skirt & draperies.

Detail shot of the burnous pleats, which are large folds of fabric left free from the waistband
and hang down in a cascading loop.

Wish me luck as I tackle a bodice and tall hat next!

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