Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Sleeveless Silk Spencer

I have started on my Jane Fest sewing. First thing on the list was a sleeveless spencer to dress up my little white dress and give it a whole new look.

Sleeveless spencer from the met.

I was inspired by Natalie over at A Frolic Through Time .
She has been doing research and working on a lovely embroidered sleeveless spencer.

I found a sleeveless spencer to be the ideal garment for the Kentucky heat in July. It hardly adds any weight or bulk to my white dress and was quick and cheap to make! Perfect !
 Mine is quite a bit simpler than Natalie's, no amazing hand embroidery, just some rushing and a spiffy cut steel buckle to dress up an otherwise plain garment.
"bodies" in a 1799 London fashion print
Since Natalie had already done extensive research on these little vest like pieces of clothing I just had to decide what style  I liked and go and make one. There where endless possibilities, as it seems sleeveless spencers or " bodies" as they where called back then,  appear throughout the entire period from the late 18th century up to the 18 teens.

What seems to be a sleeveless spencer worn on the left, in this 1817 print

 I finally decided on a crossover styile somewhat like this pretty 1790's one ...

Detail of a print from Luxus und der Moden, April 1796
 ...just without the short sleeves.
To be thrifty I  used up the magenta sari silk that I had leftover from my Edwardian evening gown. It was just enough for the spencer and the color is nice and bright.

Magenta/purple sari silk

As a pattern base I used the crossover bodice top from the sense and sensebility elegant ladies closet pattern.

Pattern cover the crossover bodice I used as a base is on the left

 I had to cut it down quite a bit since these patterns are designed to be modest, and well I'm German I'm not modest.... but other than cutting down the neckline and adding a belt I did not have to change the pattern much. I cut a mock up from a old sheet to check the fit.

Bad picture good mock up.

 The mock up fit just fine so I went ahead and cut the silk for the upper and some of the semi sheer batiste  I also used for the christening gown I made a while back for the a lining. Both fabrics are very light and semi sheer making a very thin and breathable garmnet, a must when one spends the entire day outside as a vendor in 95 degree heat!

 Once I had the basic piece put together I contemplated what to do to spiff it up a bit, I considered making braid from some of the silk but decided on making some self fabric rushing after a friend pointed me to this period print of a crossover spencer with rushed trim.

Cook from Dresden Germany, early 19th Century

The trim was easy enough to make, just long narrow strips of silk sewn into a tube and then tightly gathered . I tacked it on to the neckline by hand and voila it really dresses up the garment!

Rushing detail

Then I added a simple belt, stiffened with a strip of coarse cotton duct. And as a highlight a vintage French cut steel buckle that I bough at Dress U!

Vintage cut steel buckle

 The buckle is purely decorative and the jacket simply pins in place, though I might add some hooks and eyes later if I feel like it. This was a fast, cheap and easy project and I really like the way it turned out. Can't wait to show it off at Jane Fest!

The sleeveless spencer in all it's glory!
I don't like this hat on me but it's hiding a bad hair day...
The fabric pulls a bit in the back which is due to the fact that it's a very flimsy material. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

1912 Evening Gown Dress Diary

As I have already mentioned I made a 1912 evening gown for the titanic dinner at Dress U.
At first I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to make,well other than it being an Edwardian evening gown that is. All I knew was that I wanted to use stuff from the stash to save money. I went digging in my stash and came up with this lovely sari in a green changeable silk with pink and blue embroidery.

Embroidery detail of sari fabric.

I thought this would make a great top layer for an Edwardian gown, and decided I wanted to pair it with a magenta silk under dress. So I broke my rule of using stuff from the stash because of course I did not have magenta colored silk in the stash or anything that matched the green silk at all for that matter.... So I went on the search for magenta silk, after finding only yucky poly crap fabrics at the local JoAnn's I turned to the internet. Turns out magenta silk is not so easy to come by even on the web, but I finally found a lovely magenta silk sari at my favorite ebay sari seller!

The not magenta colored sari.

 You can't beat 5 yards of silk for $20 bucks so I bought it.
But woe, when it arrived it was much more purple in color that the magenta I had envisioned! Now I was torn between using the purple fabric which looked nice enough with the green but was not the magenta I wanted or find something else. After thinking abut it for some time and going back and forth on it ,my cheap nature won out and I decided to use the purple silk. Which I think was a good call  because I got many compliments on the color combo!
At this point I had come up with a general idea of what I wanted the dress to look like. I wanted a kimono style top, and a train and some sort of drapeing going on in front and beading one must have beading on an Edwardian evening gown, oh and there had to be a sash!

1912 illustration showing a kimono style dress with sash.

So I dove into my pattern drawer for my very very old titanic dress pattern. I was given this pattern for my 18th birthday back when I had a massive Titanic obsession. I never actually used it and it had just been rotting in  my pattern collection for the past 14 years. As a funny aside I found a love note written by myself  to some guy I had a crush on when I was 18, tucked in the envelope for safe keeping, it's cringe worthy what dramatic crap I wrote as a teen!

The Titanic dress pattern

Anyway I digress, the pattern was as a whole pretty useless, looking much more like a regency dress than an Edwardian, it did however have a usable kimono dress top so i cut  out this one pattern piece and ignored the rest.

The only useable pattern piece from said pattern.

 I made up a cotton mock up of the top. Which looked and fit pretty well .

And the result in mock up form.

 So I took the plunge and cut into the beautiful sari material made up the dress top and then attached a 3 inch wide  cotton waist band to the bottom .

finished top with waist band attached.

 Once I had finished putting together the top I went on to draping the skirts on Molly  my dress form . I was quite pleased with my preliminary draping result.

First attempt at draping the skirts.

This is how far I got before going to Europe for 3 weeks. When I got home I had 10 days to crank out this dress with lots and lots of beading and all sort of fun fiddly work! The first thing I did before constructing the skirt was to do most of the beading work. I decided on a simple beading design and just applied some beads to the embroidery already on the sari, as well as a single row of beads to the neckline and the hem of the train. I used lovely peacock blue iridescent glass beads that complemented the bluish shimmer of the green silk perfectly.

Beading detail.

 Before attaching the skirts  I made some self fabric covered buttons to close the back up. I had never made fabric covered buttons but it turned out to be super easy. I just got a kit at Jo Ann's and they turned out lovey!

Covered button kit, with some of the buttons I made.

Next I tackled the underskirt. It's a very simple skirt using the decorative edge of the sari for the hem. I just cut 2 panels and gathered them to the cotton waistband.

It's starting to look like a dress!

 On top of the underskirt I added 2 lengths of the beaded green sari fabric to form the overskirts. The more ornately embroidered part went in the back to form the train and the plainer part went in front where I draped it in a diagonal sweep across the the skirt front revealing the underskirt.

With draped front panel and train in back.

 Now the dress was all but put together except for the sash covering the cotton waist band. I had been wracking my mind about what to do with the sash, first I figured I could just use some more of the purple sari fabric but it looked kind of boring with just the 2 colors. I wanted something different, I briefly considered another shade of purple, but then decided  on a nice peacock blue to match the beading. A search of the local fabric store turned up nothing in the shade I was looking for, and of course everything as usual was super shiny poly prom fabric crap. I figured I would have to buy more silk online until I remembered a long white silk chiffon scarf that I had laying around. I had the brilliant idea  to dye it and use it as my sash. Dying it sounded easy enough, but of course I could not find peacock blue dye so I bought some teal dye and Bahama blue dye which was sort of a bright aqua color, and mixed them. Because I'm a huge procrastinator I did the dying the night before Dress U! I spend half the evening trying to get the shade just right and when that did not happen I settled for more of a teal blue than a peacock blue, but whatever it looks nice. I tacked it onto the waist band and did some pleating to make it look like it just naturally fell in soft elegant folds and voila I had a sash.

And finally finished with hand dyed sash and all!

This Dress was finished  at 3 am the morning off Dress U!  But hey at least I did not sit around at Dress U still sewing on it, so I did pretty well for my standards.
I ended up being quite happy with it.

The end result!

 I think the colors worked well and I got plenty of compliments. Too bad it 's probably going to be one of those one time costumes, since I usually don't do Edwardian period costuming and won't have any reason for wearing it again. But hey it was fun while it lasted, and it was great doing a new time period. Since I mostly do Regency I'm a bit intimidated by other periods , but this was a surprisingly easy project and wonderful learning experience that yielded a great result! And I feel it made me grow as a costumer. But now on to more Regency! The Louisville Jane Austen Festival aka Jane Fest is fast approaching and I will be busy busy busy making pretty things for that!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Europe and Dress U

This past month has passed in a busy blur of constant activity, lot's of travel and all of those little calamities life likes to throw in to keep things interesting!
First my trip to Germany and Prague was a whirlwind of activity with it's own little disasters. To mention a few of them, on the second day in Germany my daughter Charlotte fell and needed stitches on her chin, then my dad got pneumonia while visiting my mothers relatives in Bavaria and worst of all for this blog my camera was stolen in Prague! So no pictures!
It's a tragedy really, since Prague is an amazing city, and this Bohemian Belle is totally in love with Bohemia! It is full beautiful architecture, and lot's of history on every corner....

Prague old town square at dawn, photo courtesy of google!

Art Nouveau town hall

 .....amazing food,
( so many different kinds of sausage!!!!)

Everything tastes better with dumplings and kraut!

and yummy beer that's cheaper than water, what's not to love!

Budvar The original Budweiser!

 So since there is a distinct lack of pictures there will be no separate blog post on my Euro trip.
All I have to show are some pictures of  some of my new treasures that I got on German ebay and had shipped to my sisters house, so I could pick them up when I came to visit!
I got these 3 lovely vintage combs.

Ebay steal!

And I got a dozen of these adorable hand painted Spanish wood fans , intended for sale at dress u and Jane fest. (though I did keep 2 for myself)

Pretty pretty fans!

Which brings me to Dress U!
When I got back from Europe I had 10 days to get ready for Dress U. So please excuse the lack of blogging during that time as I had a million things to do, including making an entire Edwardian gown . I worked like crazy for 10 days to get  it all got done, and it did, even if it got done at 5 am the morning of Dress U.

My Edwardian gown 12 hours before Dress U

So I drove down to Philly on one and a half hours of sleep, realizing  an hour down the road I had forgotten the suitcase with my regular clothes,  of course i had packed the one with the costumes! But I decided to just go to wal mart and buy some underwear later since I was already running late. Got there in the nick of time to set up my shop in the vendor room ,and then waited and waited and waited... for customers.

Please Buy something!

 Business was slow at Dress U, I think it was a combination of having too many vendors for the numbers of attendees and the fact that the merchant room was somewhat hidden in a basement area away from  many of the events going on at Dress U. I overheard someone say they didn't even know there where vendors!!!!  I guess the thing was not thought out very well, I sure hope this improves next year, otherwise it won't really be worth it for me to vend there again, and I much rather would have been out there enjoying the classes and mingling with people than being stuck in a windowless room from 10 to 7. Oh well you live you learn.
I did however enjoy dressing up 3 days in a row and getting to try out a whole new period for me (Edwardian).

My Edwardian evening gown, I was very happy with it!

 I had lots of fun at the evening events and met many wonderful costumers who's costumes where just so stunning and beautiful!  And I was so flattered that people who's blogs I have been following for years and who I really admire complimented my costumes!
So Yay for Dress U even if I just barely broke even as a vendor. It was worth the trip and I hope the event grows and improves with the years. Because considering it was planned and organized by just one person and this was her first time doing anything like this it was pretty impressive.
So now on to Jane fest sewing I have 6 weeks to make something like 10 dresses and a whole host of other pretty things!
I leave you with some Dress U pictures, enjoy!

My fist day outfit.

With my girls at the Titanic dinner

Titanic victim complete with icicles in her hair!

Lovely Edwardian ladies....

more lovely ladies..

and epic hats

I'm the King of the world!

Run the ship is sinking!

More epic hats

Amazing costumes....

.....and more....

.....and more!

The evil Queen

Tiaras and Champagne, with gummy bears!

Gotta love regency

Regency rocks!

The newly pimped out miss piggy dress!

Another evil queen

Shoe shot! A must!

Stunning french robe

back view

Fortuny dress

Huge skirts!

Sari wrap, I sold her this sari!

And massive bustles