Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Regency Shoe Hack!

Ladies do you long for  some pretty pointed toe early regency shoes that look period and are made from real leather with real leather soles? I know I do! 

Like these beauties from the Worthington art museum ca. 1800

 I'm happy to say I found the perfect regency shoe hack for those of us who want to stay more on the period correct side of things without shelling out the big bucks!
For those of us who do regency costuming or reenactment there are 2 options when buying shoes. Option 1 is to spend the big bucks and get some beautiful reproduction shoes from Robert Land or American Duchess, these shoes will be awesome and last you a long time and I know for a fact that American duchess shoes are super comfy as well but as mentioned they are spendy... option number 2 is to go to old navy or target and buy some $20 pointy toe ballet flats that are pretty but have rubber soles and are made from foot funk inducing imitation leather.

Old navy shoes, cute and cheap but wont last long and not very authentic...

 Well ladies if neither of those options appeals to you, I just found a cheap, attractive, almost period correct, easily customizable alternative! 
Meet the Mia Sweetness Limited Edition shoes!!!

Pretty pointy toed Mia Sweetness shoes

You can get them at Amazon or my preferred retailer 6pm.com
They come in white, nude, Kelly green and a kind of orangey red.
Now let me list the virtues of this shoe!

See the little wooden wedge heel?

They are 100% leather inside and out! The leather is nice and super soft almost like kidskin,which was a popular material for period shoes. They have real leather soles as well! it's got the lovely pointed toe that was so very popular in the late 18th century and the first decade of the 19th century, they almost look like they are straight lasted, they also have this cute little small wooden wedge heel that seems to be common in many extant shoes and most exiting they costs less than $50!!! The price on 6pm tends to fluctuate but it goes between $30 and $50 with free shipping!!! You can't beat that price for real leather shoes!

These leather soles almost look like straight lasts, almost but not quite...

I can never resist a good deal so I already bought 3 pairs of these shoes! 2 pairs of white and one 
Pair of nude. I m going to keep one pair plain white because one can't go wrong with dainty white kid leather slippers worn with a white regency gown, but what I really love are all those wonderful period examples of colorful regency and empire shoes. 

I just love the striking pink and black print on these shoes from the Manchester galleries! and look at that little wooden wedge heel!

These late 18th century shoes are probably my favorite pair out there, I need to try and reproduce these!

While not as pointed in the toe area i just adore these yellow polka dot shes from the first decade if the 19th century!

I decided to paint my extra pairs, I figured I should go ahead and paint the nude ones since I dint care for the color anyway, I had a bottle of Fiebings leather dye already in my craft stash.

The shoes in their original condition.

So I prepped the shoes for dying first by removing the little decorative ribbon then by deglazing them with rubbing alcohol and taping off the soles, the I applied the dye with the dabbler included...
Well the dye didn't work so well. For some reason I could not get the dye even and the shoes never matched one was always darker than the other despite upwards of a dozen coats of dye. 

after a couple of coats of dye, notice how the right shoe is darker in color and kind of blotchy>>

I finally gave up on the dye and decided to paint the shoes instead. I bought Angelus leather paints at Dharma Trading

I got the mustard and light yellow colors and mixed them to the shade I had in mind. The paint worked like magic, was super easy and only took 2 coats of color and one clear coat of sealer. 

They looked so much better after painting them!!!

I'm now entirely sold on the Angelus leather paints! They are so easy to use and when applied don't look like paint at all! Love love love the end result!  To add a bit of spiff to the shoes I added a little cockade to the toe made from some mustard colored velvet ribbon, small silk tassels and some vintage brass buttons, and voila totally cute regency shoes for under $50! 

The final product of my labors

Perhaps I should add a shoe label on the inside to make them look more period when they are not currently on my feet?

I couldn't be happier! Sure they are not 100% period correct, the vamp is a bit low, they lack a side seam on both sides they arent quite as pointed as many extant shoes and they aren't straight lasted ( but neither are the American duchess ones, so I feel better about that) but for the price the are pretty amazing!
 I think next time I will experiment with adding either a silk or petersham binding around the edges and perhaps some bits of binding on the sides to mimic the side seam seen in extant slippers.
But for now I'm quite happy with these and I have seen originals that did not have binding around the outer edge so I'm not too far off. 

These shoes from the Manchester galleries have no edge binding and are a lovely yellow! Mine look rather a lot like these don't you think?

So if you have been looking for some cheap non farby regency shoes, give the Mia Sweetness shoes a try! I promise you won't be disappointed!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Historical Sew Forthnightly #7 1804 Bucket Poke

Way back in November of 2012 I participated in Lydia Fast's annual regency bonnet workshop. I wrote about it here.
I made my blue bonnet, that I call the blueberry muffin top at this workshop.

My muffin top bonnet

But because I couldn't decide which hat to make at the workshop I also bough an extra bonnet kit from Lydia for a 1804 bucket poke bonnet. I meant to make it a long long time ago but life happened and I never got around to it... Until now, the Historical Sew Fortnightly tops and toes challenge finally gave me extra incentive to finally make this bonnet!
So here it goes...

Challenge: HSF 14 #7 Tops and Toes

Fabric: Light green Dupioni silk outer,pink gingham silk taffeta brim lining.

Pink gingham silk on the inside of the brim

Pattern: Lydia Fast 1804 poke bonnet

From Lydia Fast's bonnet catalog

Notions: Gutermann's silk thread, buckram, millinery wire, mulling, crinoline tape, ribbon, paper lilies.
How historically accurate is it?
I think this hat is fairly accurate. The pattern is based on an original Costume Parisien print from 1804, all the materials used inside and out except for the striped ribbon which is some sort of synthetic are natural materials that would have been available in 1804. It's mostly hand sewn, only some of the buckram construction was done by machine. I would say it's 90% period correct.

The costume parisien print that inspired the bonnet. I really like the coat as well!

Hours to complete: 9.5

First worn: For pictures only so far, not sure when it will have it's big debut
Total cost: About $85. The most expensive thing was buying the pattern from Lydia Fast. She's a well known and wildly popular milliner in regency reenactment circles and sells her hats for around $250 a piece, you can however buy a pattern kit from her that includes your chosen style along with the buckram, wire, mulling and crinoline tape required to make the hat form. While it's rather expensive, at least you get to keep the pattern and get to make as many as you like. And as Lydia Fast is kind of the Gucci of the regency reenactment scene you are totally paying for the name...

And now some pictures of my newest bonnet creation.

Don't mind the still bare bushes and my neighbors houses in the background....

I was lucky and had just the right flowers in the stash to compliment this bonnet!

My friend Taylor of  Dames a la mode sells them. Best millinery flowers around!

I think I like the new bonnet! Perhaps I'll add a puff top next time !

Turns out my back seam is slightly off center, oh well....

Monday, April 14, 2014

My 1790s Round Gown

Every March Woodville Plantation has an event called at home with the Neville's. For one afternoon costumed interpreters welcome the public to join the Neville family ,the original owners of the house. I've been one of the costumed interpreters for this event for several years now and it's always fun to spend the afternoon in the late 18th century. We play cards, drink Madeira and then have a wonderful 18th century dinner, all while curious visitors look on.  The house was built in the late 1770s but the time we portray at this particular event are the 1790s, so I always try to dress 1790s style.
I have several 1790s garments in my costume closet but I had worn all of them several times and was in the mood for something new. So I decided to whip up a new round gown on Friday night for the Sunday event.
I had just the right kind of fabric on hand as well! 

Plum colored hand block printed Indian cotton. Buy some here!

I've had it for a while actually, it's one of the Indian block prints I got in bulk last summer for sale in my shop. I've always liked it but somehow no one else seems to favour it because I only ever sold one dress length of it. Perhaps it's because it's not light and airy like many people think regency fabrics should be. It's a dark plum ground printed with a green and maroon floral pattern. But in fact this sort of colour scheme was pretty common in the late 18th and early 19th century, it's not all dainty white gowns they wore! Anyway I had 3 dress lengths of the stuff and decided to make one into a gown for myself so people could see how the fabric looks in action. Well that and I actually like the fabric...
I used the same pattern I drafted a while back for Erin's round gown, and the thing went together without a hitch, only took me a couple of hours on Friday night and Saturday.

My pretty new gown

I wore it with my new 18th century stays underneath instead of my regency short stays, I like the shape it gave me..

and I love the full skirts of the 1790's
The result is quite pleasing. It's simple yet elegant,I paired it with a velvet ribbon sash and a antique cut steel buckle. And I wore my newly painted shoes.
(these shoes are getting their own post btw). 

My pretty new regency shoes!
I had a lovely time at the event even though the visitors where few and far in between because of the weather. But it kind of makes it more fun for us reenactors because without the public looking on it's kind of like going back in time for a little while.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Robe Francaise

Last month I went to the third annual Francaise dinner, held at the lovely 18th century General Warren Inn just outside of Philadelphia. The Francaise dinner is called  so  because everyone is supposed to wear a robe francaise, an elaborate style of gown popular from the early to the third quarter of the 18th century. As the name suggests the style developed In France and is characterized by the long black pleats that fall from the back of the shoulders To the hem.

Lady Innes, wearing a robe francaise by Thomas Gainsborough 1757
Since I usually only do  regency events my costume wardrobe shows a distinct lack of 18th century garments, if one ignores the 1790s style open robes and round gowns that I have. In any case I needed I robe francaise if I wanted to go to this event. And since all my friends kept telling me that I simply had to go and that it was the most fun thing ever, I was persuaded to take the plunge and make a robe francaise. Easier said than done! Tuns out these gowns are terribly tricky to make. I couldn't have had a more harrowing introduction to 18th century dressmaking. First off I had a difficult time finding just the right fabric, of course I could make something from a nice solid silk or something...

solid silk robe francaise from the met

...but no, I wanted a patterned silk, or rather a patterned fake silk since I can't afford real patterned silk. I had something in mind with perhaps a floral pattern in blue and pink with maybe a stripe, something like this...

This is what I had in mind...

But I couldn't really find anything like it. But then I got lucky and found this lovely ice blue and  gold damask fabric at Jo Ann's . 

My francaise fabric

And it was on clearance!!! I got it for $6 a yard!  It was originally $24 and they had exactly the amount of fabric I needed for the project. Total score!
Now the authenticity freak in me was kind of disturbed but the fact that it's rayon and that the pattern overall is more of a baroque style than a rococo style. But I comforted myself with the fact that at least the fabric doesn't look like shiny poly silk and that people would have not thrown away an expensive silk fabric even if it was out of fashion, I know of several perfectly nice gowns from the mid 18th century that where made out of early 18th century fabrics, that while perhaps not the height of fashion where still beautiful and quite valuable.

Here's a nice example of a mid 18th century gown made from a damask fabric/

And another example. this one is even dated as being from the 1770's and the color is rather similar to my fabric.

Then there was the question of which pattern to use. I could have draped a pattern like it would have been done in period. But I was in a hurry and wasn't  up to the challenge of draping, so I decided use a commercial pattern. There are several robe francaise patterns out there, I hear the JP Ryan one is very good, but it's expensive and I had already dropped a bunch of money on the fabric and since the gown was for a costume party and didn't have to be 100 % historically accurate I decided to get the cheaper and more easily available simplicity pattern. 

Simplicity 3637, not a bad pattern considering its from one of the big 3 companies...

I can't vouch for the historical accuracy of this gown but looking at pictures of some early and mid 18the century robe francaises I figured it was at least close in the overall look. I also have several friends who have made this pattern up into very attractive gowns so I gave it a go.
I must say it wasn't an easy pattern, it could be worse but it's certainly more for seasoned sewers. The hardest part in my opinion was getting the skirt pleats to be just right, I wanted mine to fan out evenly over my hoops. I think my fitting problems where exasperated but the fact that I chose not to make the grand pannier that this dress was meant to be worn with and instead made small pocket hoops.... So I had to do some adjustments to the skirt pattern to make the pleats fall nicely over my hoops...

Evil skirt side pleats took forever to get right!

 Of course I ran into plenty of other problems, like making the bodice to tight and having to add fabric at the side seams , 

Piecing is period!
and then not having enough fabric to cut the shirt back in once piece, I had to do some piece work there... And then when I went to hem it I cut the hem all crooked at the front and had to do more piecing ,

I messed up cutting the skirt hem, see how its to high on the right side?

 which I then covered in trim to camouflage my mess up.

i fixed it by adding 2 triangular pieces on the front and covering the whole sorry affair with gathered trim.

By the end of the project I was ready to jump off a tall building but I preserved and I'm pretty happy with the final result, for a first try it's not bad. There are a million things I would do different now, but I'm not sure if I'm brave enough to make another francaise for a long long time!
In any case all the work and insanity was entirely worth it because the farancaise dinner lived up to it's hype and was a wonderful event. Everyone looked amazing! 

Kat in her new francaise, she's made 3 of them already! Brave woman!

Lovely ladies

Carrie had a pretty awesome wig!

I just love this picture!

Look at those gowns, just amazing!

when you spend  weeks of your life making one of these gowns you have no  no qualms about wearing your napkin as a bib!

The look of perfection!

plaid and stripes gotta love it!

Kat and I where earring twinsies!

The was some seriously BIG hair going on, with a ships and all! 

Jenny Rose won the epic hair award!

But Erin and Katie had some pretty epic hair too, I mean peacocks and ships, now that's wack!

I opened for a more conservative 1760s hairdo as my dress is an earlier style and I was also a vendor at the event and had to do so e setting up so no time for very big hair.  

The whole getup!
My hair want very epic just a small poof studded with rhinestone pins, some flowers and an ostrich feather.

But despite medium sized hair I felt like a pretty pretty princess and enjoyed myself immensely.

Panier bump!

The obligatory shoe shot!

My gown in all its glory

Not sure why this turned out so fuzzy...

And the back pleats.

Party hard!

 Most of us actually spent the night at the inn, which is decorated in the 18th century style so it was a [erfect backdrop for hotel room after parties, we had plenty of champagne with gummy bears, and I brought  cherry bounce which I made after Martha Washington's recipe. It was a great hit! Some of us stayed up to the wee hours having a good time. I really hope I will be able to go to this event again! Last but not least I want to give a big shout tout to Judy and Kat who organized the whole thing! You guys did an amazing job, and I feel so lucky to have such awesome friends to play pretty pretty princess with!!!!! I can't wait till the next time I get to go out to Philly for Kat's Victorian lawn party in June!