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Plans for 2019

Going with last year’s precedent, my post about my plans for 2019 is late once again; my bad! Also like last year, I’m going to divide this by era, though I think my plans for this year will be somewhat less structured than last year’s. Without further ado…

Medieval:

I’d really like to make a medieval Hogwarts cosplay for Costume College this year. This would be somewhat very much outside of my usual costuming wheelhouse, so I’ll have a lot of research to do, but I think I’ll do a 14th century gown in gold and red with an appliqued/embroidered Gryffindor lion.

Finding resources for medieval dress construction is quite difficult, so I don’t know how accurate I’ll try to be with my dress. There are plenty of secondary and tertiary sources available online, which I may reference, but I think my main source will be the book Textiles and Clothing 1150-1450 by Elisabeth Crowfoot, Frances Pritchard, and Kay Staniland, published by the Museum of London.

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via

The above painting, supposedly of Italian origin from c. 1380, is a good example of the silhouette I’m going for, though that may change. Regardless, I think it should be a fun project.

17th Century

Another new era for me! I’ve recently been quite inspired by Samantha of Couture Courtesan‘s early Jacobean ensembles, and I’d like to try making such an ensemble for myself. I have little interest in making an early 17th century court gown (though I am in awe of those who do!), but I’d love to try making a more everyday ensemble. I believe that this will entail making a smock, a kirtle, a partlet, a cap, and perhaps a petticoat and a jacket. I need to do far more research, but my main sources for the above mentioned garments will be The Tudor Tailor by Ninya Mikhaila and Jane Malcolm-Davies and Norah Waugh’s The Cut of Women’s Clothes.

18th Century

Most of my sewing plans this year are for the last third of the 18th century (are you surprised?), though those plans that are for ensembles post-1795 will be described under “Regency.” I don’t want to enumerate my plans so specifically as last year, because that seems like a sure way for them to not be achieved, but I do have a few definitive projects. Firstly, I’d like to make a c. 1773 cap out of a fine cambric linen based on the plate below, from the British Museum.

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The content of this plate is ridiculous, but I love her cap.

My other concrete plan (probably more concrete than the cap plan) is to recreate the ensemble seen in the 1782 portrait A Girl Gathering Filberts by William Redmore Bigg. I absolutely love the color combinations, especially her green bonnet and yellow gown. I think that I will even try to make a lilac silk quilted petticoat, which should eat up no small amount of time, which is why I’ll likely try to make this ensemble after Costume College.

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via

Beyond those two projects, I’d like to remodel my pink silk gown in the latest style c. 1783 and make some fancy early 1790s menswear for Costume College. I think that the menswear will include an embroidered waistcoat, which will be a fun challenge.

I’d also like to focus this year on expanding my collection of millinery and improving my fine hand sewing. Hopefully, this will include making several more caps and perhaps some fine aprons and other “floof.” It may also include making a new hat to go with my redingote. Out of necessity, this will also likely include making another linen shift or two, projects on which I’d like to practice narrowing my felled seams.

While completing the above new projects, I’d also like to work on some of my “UFOs” (unfinished objects) from last year, including a green English gown, a pair of stays, and a checked linen shirt. Lastly, I’d also like to devote some time to remodeling my redingote to fit me better.

Regency

I think that I will be attending the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, Kentucky again this year, but I’m pretty happy with my regency wardrobe and I intend to re-wear much of what I wore last year. However, I would like to make a colorful bodiced petticoat to wear under my white round gown, to achieve a look similar to this one, but with a blue petticoat:

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From Pinterest – I can’t find the source, but “an 7” in the upper lefthand corner indicates that this plate is from 1798 or 1799

In addition to a bodiced petticoat, I might try to make some new accessories, such as a new cap and reticule, but I don’t intend to devote too much time to more regency clothes.

20th Century

One of the other new eras I’d like to try this year is the 1910s – particularly 1915-1917. I purchased the Wearing History Elsie Blouse pattern at Costume College last year, along with a tracing of an original skirt pattern from 1916, which I’ll probably use as a base for my ensemble. I also happen to have an original 1910s corset, which I intend to use as a base to pattern my own corset.

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I quite like the ensemble of the woman on the center right. This 1916 illustration is from Lauren of Wearing History‘s blog.

I also found an advertisement for women’s overalls from 1918, and I really want to make a pair – they’re so funny!

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From the Vintage Dancer blog

To be honest, I kind of want to make some early 20th century garments to wear on an everyday basis. I think that they’re modern enough to wear in public without generating too many odd looks, but they’re still unique and flattering.

I’ll also probably make some 1930s and 1940s blouses, dresses, skirts, and pants, but I usually don’t document those here because they tend to be boring to look at while constructing, but I’ll probably share them on Instagram.

In addition to sewing, I intend to continue blogging about some of the books I read that pertain to the subject of this blog. I don’t know how frequently I’ll be able to do this, but I aim to write at least 8 book-related blog posts this year.

Thank you for reading!

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A Look Back on 2018

Happy belated New Year! 2019 is upon us. I have many plans for the new year, but I’d first like to take some time to look back on what I sewed in 2018. Looking back, it never seems like much, but when I actually considered it, I realized that I made a lot of costumes this year. I made quite a few everyday articles of clothing as well, though those won’t get featured here. I may have a post up about that soon, but we shall see.

I’m going to organize my creations not in the order they were made but in the order they were worn. Without further ado…

One of my largest projects this year was my redingote based on an extant example at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It took a while to sew, but the effect was well worth it. I learned a lot about 18th century dressmaking and more specifically the construction of menswear-inspired ladies’ garments, and I look forward to using those skills in future projects (and to possibly remodel this redingote).

My next project after the redingote was preparing for the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville Kentucky. I made so many garments for the festival in a surprisingly short amount of time. Between mid-April and mid-July, I made:

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The next major event after the Jane Austen Festival was Costume College. Nothing I wore at Costume College was new per se, but I did wear my remodeled Robespierre ensemble with a new shirt and a new coat. I debuted my floral Italian gown and gauze cap, but they had been completed a long time previous and didn’t feel particularly new. In addition to the ensembles mentioned above, Costume College offered a place to re-wear my redingote and my regency ensembles.

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My next major costuming adventure was my trip to Williamsburg, where I wore my floral Italian gown and debuted my blue round gown and linen cap.

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My final complete costume of the year was my Halloween costume as a member of the Parisian mob. The apron, brown petticoat, and jacket were all new when I wore this.

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The time between Halloween and the end of the year always seems especially busy for me, and particularly so this year, so I didn’t complete many historical projects, but I did start a few, including a 18th century shirt for my father, a set of stays based on the ones in Costume Close-up, and an English gown (about which I will likely blog soon).

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English gown in progress

All in all, I’m pretty happy with what I accomplished this year. In the coming year, I will likely renovate some of these garments (such as my redingote and my 1790s stays), but it’s nice to look back and see how much I sewed, even if my completed projects weren’t perfect. Each mistake is a lesson learned, I suppose. I may not have completed everything I wished to in my post about my plans for 2018, but that doesn’t bother me too much.

Thank you for reading, and keep an eye out for my next post about my plans for 2019!

18th Century

Red Wool Jacket, Circa 1790

For my Halloween costume (yes this post is going up very late), I decided to dress for the French Revolution. Rather than pulling a Marie Antoinette and dressing in silk and extravagance (too expensive and time-consuming), I decided wear what I believed a Parisian working woman, perhaps a member of Pauline Léon’s Société des républicaines-révolutionnaires, would have worn. Instead of dressing as a member of the peerage, I dressed as a member of the mob, if you will. It should be noted that Parisian women played a huge role in the French Revolution, but that is a tale for another time.

I’ve always been enamored of this red jacket from the Kyoto Costume Institute. It was made in 1790s France, so it seemed like a perfect base for my own ensemble. However, no pictures of the back of the garment are available online, as far as I am aware. Fortuitously, this Instagram account posted a picture of a surprisingly similar extant jacket that featured pictures of the back of the garment. Based on the pictures he posted, I judged that the extant jacket in his collections was similar enough, time-period-wise, to the jacket at the Kyoto Costume Institute that I could probably use it as a source of inspiration.

Once I had my inspiration, I patterned and cut my jacket. The pattern is a modified version of my basic 18th century block, and the fabric is scraps of linen and red wool. I did a very 18th century thing and repurposed an old red skirt that I’d made for the jacket, though luckily I had saved the remaining fabric from making the skirt, so I had enough to piece the entire garment.

I constructed the back of the jacket first, using an English stitch for the center back seam.

Then, I constructed the sleeve linings. I decided to try to use up some of those scraps of linen that I think everyone who sews historical garments has: the bits of “cabbage” that result from cutting out oddly shaped linings. I then stitched along the outer edge of the sleeve lining.

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I messed up on cutting the lining for this sleeve, so it got a fun cuff lining.

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Next, I pieced the sleeves from the fashion fabric, and stitched the outer edge. The wool sleeve was then layered on top of the linen sleeve, both of them inside out and with the inner parts of the sleeve facing each other, and the inner seam of the sleeve was sewn through both pieces of fabric. I’m sorry if that’s confusing; I believe its called the tailor’s method for sewing sleeves if you’d like to look into it further. It’s my go-to.

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Once the sleeves were constructed, I hemmed them and turned back to the body of the jacket.

The lining of the front of the jacket was whip stitched to the back of the jacket.

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Then, I sewed the fashion fabric of the front of the jacket to the back of the jacket with whip stitches.

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The front edges of the jacket were then finished with the edge stitch described in The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking. The tabs in the front of the jacket were created by slashing the fabric where the tabs were to be.

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Next, I finished the tabs with more edge stitches. The tips of the slits were reinforced with buttonhole stitches.

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Buttonhole stitches

I attached the shoulder strap lining to the back of the jacket and then set in the bottom portion of the sleeves with spaced backstitches.

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Next, I set in the top of the sleeves, each of which has two small pleats at the shoulder to make them fit in the armscye. Then, I covered all the raw edges with the wool shoulder strap (up until this point, it was unattached to the back of the jacket), finished the neckline with edge stitches, and bound the top of the back of the jacket with a scrap of wool.

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Then, I sewed eyelets down the center front for spiral lacing.

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I didn’t have time to add the ruffles in time for Halloween, so I wore it at this stage. I paired it with my 1790s cotton cap, a tricolor cockade, a new brown wool petticoat, and a new pinner apron.

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After wearing the jacket for Halloween, I put it away for a few months before adding a wool ruffle at the neckline and cotton ruffles at the cuffs. I may remove the wool ruffle; I need to see how it looks with the rest of the ensemble, but I have a feeling it may be too much.

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Hopefully, I’ll get some better pictures of the ensemble with the completed jacket soon, at which point I’ll probably write a blog post detailing my choices in styling the outfit.

Thank you for reading!

Reading My Way Through the 18th Century

Liberty by Lucy Moore

I’ve recently completed another book for my blog series about reading my way through the 18th century. Liberty by Lucy Moore, an exploration of the French Revolution through the lives of women spanning the social spectrum, is different from the other books that I’ve read thus far in that it follows the actions of women, not men, and how these actions shaped the revolution. Liberty follows the lives of six women: Germaine de Staël, Pauline Léon, Théroigne de Méricourt, Thérésia de Fontenay, Manon Roland, and Juliette Récamier.

Germaine de Staël was the wealthy daughter of Jacques Necker, Louis XVI’s sometimes-Minister of Finance. Married to a Swedish diplomat, Germaine de Staël’s salon was the center of social life for liberal nobles and some young bourgeoisie men. Her salon apparently attracted such notables as Thomas Jefferson and the proto-feminist and intellectual marquis de Condorcet. Germaine herself was highly intelligent, and her salon (and the conversations she led there) helped shape the politics of the early revolution. Of all the women in this book, Germaine de Staël’s story seemed to most truly span the Revolution: she was an important player throughout.

On the complete opposite end of the social spectrum was Pauline Léon, a chocolate-maker and sans-culotte. Léon formed a political club for female revolutionaries that was dissolved by the Committee of Public Safety in the fall of 1793. During its short existence, Léon’s Société des Républicaines-Révolutionnaires argued for women’s rights to bear arms in defense of the nation and lobbied for the passage of a law that women, like men, be required to wear a tricolor ribbon to indicate that women, too, had political voices. Though Pauline Léon faded from the historical record by 1794, I’m glad that the author included her story. Reading about commoners such as Léon gave some context for the Revolution that can be hard to find in most biographies. I’d love to do some more research into women like Léon when I have the time.

Théroigne de Méricourt, drawn by Jean Fouquet, 1792
(via)

Théroigne de Méricourt was a rather tragic figure, but it was her biography to which I looked forward the most when I picked up this book. She is a prominent secondary character in one of my favorite books (Hilary Mantel’s A Place of Greater Safety), so I was excited to learn more about her. Théroigne de Méricourt attended many political clubs, including the Jacobins, and like Pauline Léon, she founded a club as well. Théroigne, a former courtesan, apparently associated the revolution’s “rejection of the paternal authority of the monarchy” with her own “personal rejection of any type of masculine domination and exploitation” (Moore 115). Her idealism is made all the more poignant by her tragic end: after being attacked by a group of female revolutionaries, she suffered a mental breakdown and was moved from asylum to asylum (little more than prisons at the time) until her death.

Thérésia de Fontenay, a fantastically wealthy heiress, exemplified the extravagance of the Directory: the wife of one of the Thermidorians, Jean-Lambert Tallien, Theresia was known for throwing parties and, along with her dear friend the future Empress Josephine, was one of the most fashionable women in Paris. What I found most interesting about Theresia was her role in the Thermidorian Reaction. Her imprisonment and impending execution were mentioned in Ruth Scurr’s Fatal Purity as reasons for Tallien’s denunciation of Robespierre and his allies, but I appreciated Moore’s description of the context of Thérésia’s imprisonment and her own agency during the Thermidorian Reaction.

Manon Roland in the Conciergerie Prison, her final prison stay before her execution (via)

Marie-Jeanne “Manon” Roland was the wife of a minor bureaucrat before the revolution. Upon moving to Paris with her husband, she began hosting gatherings of liberal politicians, journalists, and lawyers who would eventually be categorized as “Girondins.” Manon saw herself as “inspiration and support for the men who would destroy the crumbling edifice of the ancién regime and create a new, free France” (Moore 86). However, her association with the Girondins was her undoing, and Manon was arrested in 1793. In prison, Manon wrote her memoirs, which are available for free on the internet (search “Manon Roland memoirs”). She was executed in 1793. Personally, I found the chapters about Manon to be the most interesting – her life story almost seems like something out of a novel, rather than history, and her conflicted views of herself (she wanted to participate in politics because she believed that she would be a good policymaker, but did not believe that women should be politicians) made her very compelling as a character.

To be honest, I don’t know why Lucy Moore included the story of Juliette Récamier, a young teenager when the revolution began. She seems like an interesting and intelligent woman, but she didn’t do much in the context of the revolution, especially when compared to the other women examined in the book, which leads me to my next comment on this book. I think that there are women who could have been included in this book but weren’t. For example, I was expecting a chapter on Charlotte Corday, though I understand why she only received a few paragraphs; there is very little information about her in the historical record. However, Moore frequently referenced Olympe de Gouges and Lucy de la Tour du Pin, but their stories were glossed over. Then again, these women weren’t the focus of the book; I just found their biographical snippets somewhat distracting because they were just that: snippets, not fleshed-out biographies.

That complaint aside, I think that Liberty is an incredible book. One of my favorite aspects was a glossary of secondary figures, which was very helpful for the historical figures who popped up throughout the book. I also appreciate how Moore explained the events of the revolution in the context of the lives of the women described in the book. If you are new to learning about the French Revolution, I think that this book gives a great overview of the politics of the time in addition to biographing the six main women. Moore also explained the Thermidorian Reaction and the Directory more clearly than other books I’ve read, which was a plus.

All things considered, I’d recommend Lucy Moore’s Liberty to anyone interested in history. I’d especially recommend it to historical costumers interested in the fashion of the 1790s, because Moore explains the political and social context in a way that I think would be helpful for those looking to recreate the fashions of the ’90s.

Thank you for reading, and keep and eye out for my next post!

18th Century

Colonial Williamsburg, 2018 (With Dress Pictures!)

In September, I had the opportunity to visit Colonial Williamsburg. My cousin was getting married in Virginia, so my mother and I decided to go a few days early and spend two days in Colonial Williamsburg. If you don’t know what CW is, it’s the most magical place on earth an 18th century living history town in Williamsburg Virginia. There are museums, trade shops, and interpreters, all of whom are extremely knowledgeable. If you get a chance to visit, I’d highly recommend it.

This post is going to be mostly pictures, but I figured I’d explain a little bit about what I wore both days first. The first day we were there, I went for a lower-class 1770s ensemble with my blue linen round gown with a new linen cap, a Burnley and Trowbridge neckerchief, and an old apron. I unfortunately hadn’t had time to finish making a linen pinner apron, so my embroidered cotton apron may have been a bit out of place, but oh well. The second day we were there, I decided to dress based on the outfits seen in illustrations  of fashionable mantua-makers/milliners and wore my floral Italian gown with my massive gauze cap.

Without further ado, where are some of the many pictures I took!

Day 1:

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The beautiful gardens in CW

I didn’t take many pictures on the first day, mainly because we arrived in the afternoon and the lighting wasn’t great. Additionally, we were there during Hurricane Florence (which ended up missing CW completely), so there weren’t very many people, and some of the historical trade shops were closed that day.

We did manage to find a historical tavern for a late lunch (I think it was the Chownings Tavern), and I highly recommend the vegetable pasty. However, if you are vegetarian like me, know that there are limited options in Colonial Williamsburg and you may want to bring some of your own food.

Day 2:

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My cap melted a bit in the rain, but oh well.

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On the second day, we visited the Margaret Hunter Millinery Shop. I spent probably an hour listening to the women in the shop discuss their trade.

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A fashionable gown and quilted petticoat made by the mantua-makers in the shop 
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A confection of a hat made by the mantua-makers/milliners in the shop

We also had the privilege to visit the tailor’s shop.

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The tailor’s shop had an enviable stash of fabric.
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Examining a jacket being made by the tailor’s apprentice
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Tailors in the 18th century also made ladies’ riding habits, such as the red one seen hanging here, which they were kind enough to let me examine. The workmanship was beautiful.

We also visited the apothecary’s shop.

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In addition to the shops mentioned above, we visited many other historic sites. One of my favorite buildings was the coffeehouse, where we were served 18th century-style hot chocolate (a true delight) and learned about these “dens of sedition.” The shoemaker’s shop was also very fascinating: I’d love to one day learn how to make shoes, so it was a treat to see the process up close.

The art museum, too, was a great stop: I was particularly intrigued by the exhibition of printed cottons, which not only displayed a multitude of clothing that I’ve only seen in books or online, but also explained the process of printing fabric in the 18th century. If you are able to visit CW, the art museum is a must-see.

While we were there, we also visited some of the many stores. I bought two yards of printed cotton, which you may see here at some point in the form of a 1770s jacket.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip, and I’m very grateful I had the opportunity to visit Colonial Williamsburg.

Thank you for reading!

18th Century

An 18th Century Men’s Shirt

I’m unsure why I haven’t yet posted about this shirt, but I haven’t been very good at blogging this fall. Hopefully I’ll have more time to write in December!

For the first time I wore my Robespierre costume, I wore a shirt that was decidedly sub-par: it fit awkwardly because the sleeves were too short and the neck opening was too big. Now, you may think that I would have first fixed my shirt when I remade my Robespierre ensemble, but you would be wrong. Instead, I decided to make the bear of the project, the frock coat, first. So the day I intended to wear my ensemble (Friday of Costume College), I was still stitching buttonholes in my cuffs, and the shirt wasn’t actually hemmed until after Costume College. C’est la vie. Luckily, my second shirt fits quite well, and it’s very comfortable. Additionally, it’s entirely handsewn, which makes my Robespierre ensemble now entirely handsewn, which makes my heart happy.

I didn’t take many construction pictures, but the shirt is sewn with linen thread. All of the seams are backstitched and then felled with whip stitches. The patterning and construction are based on the shirts described in Costume Close-up and Everyday Dress of Rural America, 1783-1800, and particularly on the shirt featured in Fitting and Proper, the date and appearance of which corresponds most closely to the shirt seen in Robespierre’s portrait. The neck and cuffs of the shirt fasten with antique Dorset buttons (I believe that they’re from the turn of the century), but I think that the thread buttons that Hannah of Fabric & Fiction describes would be more accurate.

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Maximilien Robespierre, 1790 (anonymous), held at the Musee Carnavalet, via

As you can see, Robespierre’s shirt seems to have a neck ruffle that is almost pleated, so I did my best to emulate this by neatly gathering my neck ruffle with whipped gathers.

Here are some pictures of my completed shirt:

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The collar may look high, but it folds down when the shirt is worn.

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I reinforced the neck slit with a triangle of fabric embroidered with my initials and the Roman numeral I. At the time, shirts (and shifts) were numbered so that they would be easy to differentiate because they would often look quite similar and most people had several.

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The triangle of fabric here is the neck gusset – there is one on each side, to allow for the curve of the shoulders.

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The underarm gusset

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The cuff features decorative top stitching along the top and bottom.

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Most 18th century shirts were long enough that a side slit was necessary for mobility.

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The side slit is reinforced with a gusset.

After having made this shirt, I have a few tips that I think might be helpful if you would like to make your own 18th century shirt:

  1. Make sure that the length of your collar corresponds to your neck measurements, with room for a slight overlap. If it’s too big, it will pull at the shoulders of your shirt uncomfortably.
  2. Give the shirt enough extra fabric to gather it to your collar. As you can see, my shirt is hardly gathered at the neck and it should be more so.
  3. Make your sleeves a little bit longer than you think you need. Sleeves that are too long are more comfortable than sleeves that are too short.
  4. If your shirt seems stiff after having sewn it, try washing it (by hand). The linen should soften up.

Thank you for reading! If you have any tips for making 18th century shirts and shifts, please share them in the comments.

18th Century

Hand Sewn Stays From Costume Close-Up: Why?

One of the first things I learned when I decided that I wanted to try historical costuming was that the right underpinnings are necessary to create the right silhouette. For most of the 18th century, these underpinnings consist of a shift, some sort of skirt support, petticoats, and stays. Because of this, stays are one of the first things one has to make/buy when one starts costuming. Stays also happen to be one of the hardest garments to fit because they have to reshape the body in the correct way without being uncomfortable. Thus far, I have made two pairs of stays: the first are wayyyyy too short in the waist, and the second are better, but the fit isn’t yet perfect. Additionally, both of them are machine sewn. In short, because I currently lack a pair of stays which I truly like, I am therefore going to make a new pair.

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My first stays, which were too short

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My second stays (they weren’t entirely completed in this picture)

If you haven’t read Linda Baumgarten’s Costume Close-Up, she includes a pattern for stays from circa 1740-1760 (accession number 1966-188 in the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation collections). I cannot find a picture of these stays online, but they are strapless and back lacing with a total of 10 panels. I find them to be quite aesthetically pleasing; they have back stitched panels, are bound in leather, and have a lovely shape.

Because I like the stays in Costume Close-up, and because I like the era (I will be able to wear them under stomacher front gowns and with lower class ensembles from a bit later), they are my main inspiration. For my pattern, I made an amalgamation of the pattern in Costume Close-Up and my pink stays (see above). I mocked them up in cardboard to ensure fit, after which I cut out my fabric. I’ll share more on these stays and the process of making them soon, hopefully.

But why am I hand sewing stays? My main reason is that I want my stays to be as accurate to the 18th century as possible. I’ve seen a few illustrations of women wearing stays without a dress over top (these may be satirical illustrations that do not actually reflect common sartorial practice, but they are interesting nonetheless), and I think it could be a fun look to recreate. However, I do not want to recreate these looks unless I have hand sewn stays because of the stays’ visibility. It’s also satisfying for me to be able to say that I’ve hand sewn everything I’m wearing. My other reason for hand sewing stays is that the back stitching is very relaxing and can be done while doing most other things (such as listening to podcasts). Because of this, I’m hoping to complete one panel per week and finish them up over Christmas break. That would be record stay time for me; my previous two sets have each taken me at least 4 months!

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The Cottage Beauty, from the British Museum

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The Camp Laundry, from the British Museum (Side note: I love their caps and I may recreate the ensemble of the woman on the left at some point. Also, look at the petticoat the woman on the right is wearing! Changeable silk!)

Thank you for reading this brief update, and keep an eye out for my next post! I should be blogging a bit more regularly soon.