January 30, 2016

1820s Mad for Plaid: Photo Shoot

The way a crow Shook down on me
The dust of snow From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart A change of mood
And saved some part Of a day I had rued.
~ "Dust of Snow" by Robert Frost

Happy Friday, dear readers!  As of late, I've been rather uninspired to blog, focusing my writing rather on the plethora of papers for my college classes.  (In fact, in my script analysis class, which has quickly become my favorite, we just wrote about "Moony's Kid Don't Cry," which is one of Tennessee Williams' early, but brilliant, one acts.  I highly recommend it to those looking for a quick and deep read - fans of The Glass Menagerie will especially like it!)  Anyways, onto the 1820s Mad for Plaid Photo Shoot (paired with some Robert Frost poetry, of course) that I've been promising for the last few posts!

I was almost not going to post this photo shoot, feeling a little displeased with the results - not to mention the lack of snow - and the departure from historical accuracy.  However, I couldn't bring myself to delete the post.  SO, please keep in mind that this outfit is not meant to be a purely historical creation, but rather a fun, historically inspired costume piece!  Knowing what I know now (a whole year after the project was initially planned), some of the materials are wrong; though, for the most part, the construction techniques are on the right track.  Regardless of its inaccuracies, I still like wearing and twirling around in it, and it's become one of my most fun - and certainly most time consuming - outfits that I've made yet! 

Silliness!  I believe at this point that I was spinning around the hallway
& giving the little sister, my photographer, a hard time...

Also, a special note on the plaid trim: it's actually recycled, err upcycled, from what I consider the first garment I ever made - a 100% machine stitched "Civil War" skirt with a zipper and all...I've come a long way since.  You can read more about the outfit's bonnet here, the creation of the accessories here, and the initial planning & inspiration (way back in January of 2015) here.  

Completed Project Shots

*Photographs all courtesy of and thanks to the great talent of my younger sister and budding photographer, Maria M.*

Nearly the day before leaving for Pittsburgh, Maria, my favorite sister & photographer, indulged her older sister with one last photo shoot 'till the summer.  It was absolutely frigid at our location, once again the East Garden of the George Eastman Museum, despite the rather green surrounds for it being early January in Upstate New York.  Since neither Maria nor I tolerate the cold well, our shoot lasted all of maybe 15 minutes before we moved to find an indoor location.  

From the inside-out, the outfit includes the 1820s inspired dress and belt worn over a shift, mid-century corset, white silk stockings, strapped petticoat and ruffly chemisette.  The costume is further accessorized with a matching bonnet, furry muff, reticule, pashmina shawl, vintage gloves and pointed-toe slippers. 

Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow. 


My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

~ "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost 

Along with a few more hallway shots, just because...

My best attempt at the "Dreamstress" pose :)

2016 Historical Sew Monthly January Challenge: Procrastination

While, unfortunately, with college and all, I won't be officially participating in the 2016 Historical Sew Monthly, hosted by Dreamstress, this project (specifically the dress and bonnet) coincided so nicely with the first challenge of the year that I couldn't resist one more entry!  Left an abandoned u.f.o. (or "un-finished object") for an entire year, completing the 1820s Mad for Plaid project at the beginning of January was oh so satisfying!
The Challenge:  #1: Procrastination - finish a garment you have been putting off finishing (a UFO or PHD) or make something you have been avoiding starting. 

Material:  For the dress - 5 yards of black cotton broadcloth, navy blue cotton (for the bodice lining and hem facing), dark red cotton (for contrast piping and bias tape) & plaid cotton for the trim.  

Pattern:  A combination of experimentation & an 1890s balloon sleeve diagram

Year:  Late 1820s

Notions:  Again for the dress - thick wool yarn for the piping, hooks and eyes, twill tape for the interior waistband & matching threads 

How historically accurate is it?  All right, this is where you should not look too critically...this outfit was made for fun, rather than historical accuracy.  While I would say it's overall look of the costume would definitely be recognized in its time period, its materials and and perhaps some of the construction methods are unorthodox.  Points could be awarded, however, for being mostly hand stitched with only a few machined interior seams.  So...how about 50%?

Historical inspiration:

Tulle summer gown, c. late 1820s to early 1830s.
(Kerry Taylor Auctions)
Carriage Dress, December 1824.
(LACMA Fashion Plate)

Hours to complete:  Lost count! 

First worn:  For the photo shoot 

Total cost:  Unfortunately, I did not keep track...but my best estimate for the outfit would be $45-50 total. 


January 20, 2016

An Update in Three Parts

After a full day's work - chopping 2x4s with the carpentry shop's miter saw, searching for the perfect fabrics in the stash room, and writing an entire argumentative paper - I think it is time for a quick update!  Let's go...

Part I:  A past project!  Three weeks ago, I completed a patchwork pocket to go with my good friend Rhonda's new 1830s short gown ensemble.  Since it was her Christmas gift, I couldn't reveal it on the blog until now:

Made from reproduction fabrics, fully lined and backed with a sturdy linen.  The dressmaker, I heard, approved :)  

Part Two:  A present project!  I'm making a Berlin work pocketbook!  In the down time between classes, homework and the costume shop apprenticeship, I've been relaxing with a row or two of stitches...

The progress thus far...

A couple of weeks before the move, I had picked up a copy of Elsa S. William's Bargello: Florentine Canvas Work for less than a dollar at a thrift store.  Though the book itself was in poor shape, I spent hours pouring over the gorgeous designs within before choosing "Domes and Spires" (page 31) for my pocketbook.  Apparently, the pattern may have been inspired by the dome of the Florentine Baptistery.  

"Magic Lantern" - one of my favorite patterns from the book, and was originally
my choice.  However, I quickly found out that it is not beginner friendly!
Also note that the pictures are the only patterns and directions...

I drove my poor friend Mary insane with my insistence on finding the perfect shades of DMC floss at JoAnns.  However, she worked her magic, and I definitely owe her one!  Several hours (yes, hours) later, we walked out with this rainbow of primary colors that could have been available during the late-18th and early-19th centuries:

DMC floss & 14 count Aida cloth. 

Pink family.

Gold family.

Blue family.

And, hopefully, by the end of the semester, I will end up with a finished pocketbook, like this extant example:  

William Cushings Pocketbook, c.1779.
Museum of Fine Arts
(Image source)

(Make sure to check out my Needlepoint Pinterest Board!)  

Part III:  A future project!  (Or several...called updates to the blog.)  I'm falling behind on blog posts!  For instance, there's a sewing box that has been completed (and photographed) for over two months:

19th century sewing box preview.

Not to mention the 1820s Mad for Plaid photo shoot previously promised:  All of the photographs have been uploaded, and are now awaiting some sorting as well as the written work.

And, best of all, I've been honored with a Liebster Award nomination by the super talented Hannah of Fabric & Fiction fame!  If you don't already follow her blog, make sure to stop by and prepare to be amazed by her Regency wardrobe.  (That striped silk pelisse that she just completed - and blogged about here - simply splendid!)  

Stay tuned for these posts and more to come...thanks for reading!

January 14, 2016

Greetings from Pittsburgh!

 "O brave new world that has such people in it. Let's start at once."
~ Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

Oh how time has past!  Virgil stated the truth, that "time flies never to be recalled."  I would say that accurately describes the past four years of high school and my subsequent gap year-and-a-half.  It's the end of an era, and the start of a new one.  From high school to college, from adolescent to adult, from baby steps to big leaps forward.  It's time to make my way in the world, and to start, I am embarking on a new, college journey in Pittsburgh, PA!

That's right, I've moved to Pittsburgh!  Packed up the car, drove to Pittsburgh and moved into a cozy, little, 20th floor dorm at Point Park University.  Here, I will have the great pleasure & privilege of studying at and pursing my interest of all things costume related in the university’s prestigious Conservatory of Performing Arts (COPA).  Already within the first week, as a Technical Design & Management major in the Theater Production B.F.A program, my passions have been supported with my costume shop apprenticeship and first technical assignment to wardrobe in The Bluest Eye.  I couldn't be happier!  
So what does this mean for the future of The Young Sewphisticate?  The question has been asked several times whether or not I will continue to write in college...While originally this blog was created with the intention of keeping track of my internship, it has morphed into so much more - a visual portfolio, account of my sewing successes and shortcomings, a space for virtual interaction - and I firmly intend to keep writing as long as there is interest.  

Though the blog may become quieter with a theater and college class intense schedule, there is always plenty to write about!  I definitely want to document my costume shop apprenticeship, and update with what I am experiencing at the Pittsburgh Playhouse.  Personal sewing projects will also still be making appearances whenever possible.  

I am just so ready to learn and to try new things, and I hope that all of you readers will continue to follow and let me know how I'm doing!   Ready to stitch together new memories? 

(Image Source)

Thank you, one and all, for your continued support!

January 6, 2016

And the First Project of 2016 is...an 1820s Bonnet!

The title says it all!  For the first project of this new year (and the last project before college), I revisited the Mad for Plaid UFO (or UnFinished Object) that I began last January and made a matching late 1820s bonnet.  (Note: this bonnet is not meant to be a purely historical creation, rather a fun, historically inspired costume piece!)

Photograph courtesy of Maria M.

As always, I turned to the historical examples for inspiration: and I was taken with the wide brims & ribbons piled sky high!

Marquise de Blaizel by Sir Thomas Lawrence, late 1820s.
(Image via: Old Rags)

Bonnet ca. 1830, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
(Image via: OMG that Dress!)

So, I cut a basic, craft store, straw hat that I had lying around to the shape I wanted.  Then, wired the edges with millinery wire and small blanket stitches.  Immediately afterwards, I questioned where actual millinery wire had been all my life, because it worked like a dream compared all of the different types of sketchy wires pulled from the garage...

Next came prettying up the insides so that the straw wouldn't catch my hair, and binding the edges to cover the wire and raw edges.

To the outside!  A heavy corduroy covers the crown with a band of plaid (left over from the dress trim) tacked around.  Grosgrain ribbon was used for ties.  

The rest of that nice (vintage?) grosgrain, which was also used in creating the muff, became ribbon loops.  Hand pleated loops of the plaid cotton and gathered loops of ivory, wired ribbon were also added as trim.  A large, swooping plume completed the look:

Close up shot of the trim.

Finally, after three, long days of work, using mostly a combination of hand and machine sewing, as well as a little bit of hot glue, this was the result:

And a few more pictures of the bonnet on me, courtesy of the best, little sister & loyal photographer:

Maria catching me mid-laugh :)

Revealing the girl behind the camera a.k.a. photo-bombing the sister's selfie!

As you can tell, we try to make photo shoots fun...and, yes, there are always a lot of silly pictures taken, (which Maria makes sure to save for future blackmail, sisters...)  Anyways, stay tuned for the upcoming 1820s Mad for Plaid photo shoot, which will probably be the last for some time as I will be leaving for college!  'Till next summer, Maria, and 'till next time, dear readers!

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