Monday, September 24, 2012

Sari Open Robe

I've lately been busily working away at a slew of commissions . There seems to be high demand for regency period clothes for next month's Jane Austen Society of America's Anual General Meeting  in New York.
 I've been commissioned to make no less than 3 ballgowns for this event. Last week I made a lovely open robe for Julia the proprietor of Bingley's Teas to be worn at the grand ball.
For Her open robe Julia sent me a gorgeous midnight blue sari with a woven in gold border and with little gold dots strewn across. Despite being some sort of synthetic material it it looks just like silk with the crisp hand and remarkable shimmer of a quality silk taffeta, the gold border gives a brilliant contrast to the deep rich blue. 

5 yards of pretty pretty sari fabric!

With woven gold dots

And an ornate gold border.

I've made made quite a number of open robes, so 'm getting to be an old hand at it and the thing went together without a hitch. I used a pattern I re drafted a while back from Sense and Sensibility's Elegant Ladies Closet Pattern, with the front altered entirely from the original pattern,but the back portion left the same. I like using this pattern as a base for it's versatility, it my not be the most historically correct opttern out there, but  it can be improved much with just a few little alterations. In any case I have pretty mcuh perfected 2 open robe pattern from this original pattern one for he 1790's and and one for a later early 1800's look. In this case I chose to go with the later look since the dress to be worn under the open robe is of the later higher waisted style and not a 1790's round gown.

Re drafted pattern pieces all cut out.

As I already mentioned the pattern went together without any issues. I've discovered it helps to first cut the lining and then use the ling pieces as pattern pieces to cut out the fashion fabric. That way they will turn out exactly the same size and the lining and fashion fabric layers will fit together perfectly. Because nothing is as vexing as a lining that doesn't match up with the size of the garment. I lined the bodice , but not the sleeves, with  dark blue poly cotton broadcloth.

The fashion fabric and the lining

The robe had no need of any sort of  additional trim, as I simply used the gold border for decoration. I ran it vertically down the front of  the robe, and used it at the hem of the skirt and sleeves, as well as for the front flaps that close the gown. I love using sari fabric for open robes as it not only looks stunning but also saves me a lot of work because with the border at the skirt and sleeves i don't need to do any hemming.

Bodice without skirt showing the use of the gold border as trim and for the front flaps

The skirt is attached to the bodice with the bulk of the fabric tightly gathered in the rear to create a dramatic full sweeping skirt in back, as well as giving a slimmer silhouette when seen from the front, and also displays the gold border to it's best advantage. Since this dress is meant to be worn to a ball it does not have a full train but just the tiniest bit of elegant sweep.

Finished dress back view.

Front view

Side view

Side view close up

This dress was made in 2 days, it was just one of those projects that wants to be made and went together like a dream. I sent it of to it's owner on Friday. I sure hope she likes it as much as I do and hope to see some pictures of her wearing it soon!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Regency Short Stays

I love short stays! I have a set myself and I always recommend them to my customers.
I prefer them over long stays because they give you so much more freedom of movement. They feel almost like a sports bra when worn, but no sports bra would ever give you such impressive cleavage! You have got to love the lift and separate these give, I call this look the boobshelf, because it literally looks like you have your boobs on a shelf.

Look at that Ooompf!
Short stays where not as common as long stays, but they where more prevalent  in the earlier days of the empire period when skirts where still fuller and no tummy control was needed. They went somewhat out of fashion once the shiloutte started to get more slender and the flat fronted dresses of the 1810's started to become popular

1790's short stays from the V&A

Wrap stays from KCI

but they did not go away entirely until the waist returned to it's natural place in the 1820's

After 1804 stays started to get longer again.

I just finished making a pair of stays for a client.

Here's a look into how these things go together

I use Sense and Sensibilities short stays pattern,
 I find it fits well for a variety of shapes and sizes,  it goes together easily and it creates a nice shape. It may not be 100% historically accurate, but it's close enough and who sees your underwear anyway.

I apologize that I do not have pictures from the cutting and sewing together stage of this project but really it's pretty straight forward.
So let's start with the already sewn up pieces of these stays ready to be assembled.

The 3 layers of the corset laid out flat

My stays always have  layers, heavy canvas sandwiched between 2 layers of softer and more attractive cotton. They can be made with only 2 layers but I prefer to interline with the canvas instead of having it exposed on one side or go without the canvas altogether. In this case I decided to line the inside of the stays with a purple cotton calico. The outer layer that is seen when the stays are worn is plain white so it won't show underneath gowns, but I decided it would be a fun splash of color to have the calico on the inside.

The 3 layers all pinned together

When joining the layers remeber to leave the bottom part open so the boning can be inserted.
After I sandwich the layers I draw out the boning pattern with washable fabric marker, I always bone my stays, it keeps them from scrunching up and retains the shape, it also gives extra lift to the girls.

Boning pattern

Then I sew the channels, i also do a couple of rows of horizontal stitching righ underneath the gussets, this gives extra stiffness to the fabric and adds more support, also it looks nice.

boning channels and under bust quilting

I bone my stays with cable ties. yes you read that correctly CABLE TIES!

Cable ties my ghetto boning material of choice

I have found after some experimentation that cable ties make great corset bones. They are cheap and readily available and mold themselves to your body shape, much like whalebone would have. I find they behave very much like spiral spring steel bones just at a fraction of the cost and no deed for getting out the heavy wire cutters. Also they don't rust in the wash!  And they certainly are very supereior to the terrible plastic boning sold at fabric stores! Just rember to round off the ends after cutting them to size otherwise the sharp tips will work their way through the fabric and pick you in the underarm.

Round off the ends with some utility scissors.

Inserting the bones

After inserting the cable ties into the boning channels I bind the entire stays with bias tape. I could make my own but I just use the store bought stuff, cause as my blog title already proclaims I'm a lazy costumer.

Plain old double fold bias tape, I use this stuff a lot!

Bound stays still lacking embellishment and eyelets.

I like to add a touch of lace to the finished stays, this is not neccesary but i think it looks cute and it hides a multitude of flaws. Not that my work has flaws or anything, me no my sewing is perfect....
I added 2 types of cotton bobbin lace.

Last come the lacing eyelets. I usually make hand bound eyelets and do spiral lacing. But in this case I oped for metal grommets and the more common cross lacing style because the customer is not a reeneactor and does not insist on the more historically accurate style of lacing up the stays.

I used a mallet to insert the grommets because i could not find a hammer...

Most non reenactors are not familiar with spiral lacing and hand bound eyelets tend to be smaller and require the use of a bodkin to lace the stays up, so metal grommets it is for these stays. I think the end result is rather admirable.

I's pretty.

Yet Simple

And cute!

And I just love the calico and dainty lace trim!

 I certainly like the pizazz the calico gives this otherwise utilitarian undergarment, There's nothing like a little touch of frivolity, and why be commonplace if you can be different!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Shameless Self Promotion!

 SO This is the big announcement I promised! Sorry I'm not pregnant or starring in a movie or something like that. But I'm pretty excited none the less.
I'm not usually the type of person to toot their own horn. I try to be humble and let my work speak for it self without resorting to over exerted self advertising and bragging. But you see I spent the past month working hard on re vamping my store website. Yes I know in my last post I claimed that I did nothing of interest in the past month except go to New Boston, which is true since really endless hours staring at a computer screen and taking hundreds of product pictures in not very interesting and then I wanted to keep it all under wraps until I was finished.
So here it is The big reveal of my entirely re designed and updated store website. 
Go have a look, and maybe buy some awesome stuff!
And take advantage of my my celebratory free shipping offer for the next 2 weeks!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

New Boston 2012

My apologies for the long blogging hiatus. I spent most of August at my parents place  in Atlanta,doing absolutley nothing and being entirely uninspired to blog. Then after coming home I had 5 days to prepare for the Fair at New Boston, so I had no time for blogging.
In those 5 days I manged to complete a  work dress for myself,

My new dress and bonnet

I really like the shape of my German straw hat, i thought it was unusual until I saw the same hat for sale at New Boston.

 make a wrap front gown for my friend Erin.

Everyone loved Erin's new Crossover dress!
 decorated my new German straw bonnet and make a large fichu from a ruffle that came from an Edwardian net tambour bedspread.
All my new pretties worn with my huge net fichu

What can I say, I work best under pressure!
After my 5 day sewing frenzy I packed up my camping gear and headed out towards Springfield Ohio to attend the Fair at New Boston. only to get stuck in traffic for over an hour trying to get out of Pittsburgh in rush hour traffic. I arrived after dark to join my friends who had gotten there hours before me and found the camp already set up , and a little canvas wedge tent waiting for me.

Our camp set up
Mike and Erin

The neighbors camp had horses.

 I'm really not a big fan of camping and I hate bugs but I will put up with it for the sake of reenactment. Not that a single woman camping with a military unit is very historically accurate unless one is a  hussy or a nurse or something of that sort. If I'm a hussy I'm an expensive one cause I must be kept in style and I always have to have a new dress for every event!

The Fourth Sub Legions flag.

 Anyway I digress, I camped with my friends from Woodville Plantation, the gents amongst them portray Wayne's 4th sub legion, the men who where sent by the federal goverment in 1794 to defend Woodville plantation during the whiskey rebellion. My friend Erin and I just kind of tag along to dress up pretty and go shopping. Because shopping is really all that New Boston is about ( for me at least)!

ALL those Tents are shops! Sooooo much shopping!

  It's a reenacors shopping paradise dozens of suttlers come from all over the country as well as Canada selling everything a reenctor might want from fabric to hand made soap and all in between. Also lot's of yummy food!

Pretty cottons at Regency Revisited.

Fragrant dried flowers.
Yummy Cake. And people with really bad fashion sense!

 The fair officially opened Saturday morning, it was a hot and humid day and  in my boundless vanity I decided that I just had to wear my new dress which is made from a heavy reproduction print, and has 3/4 sleeves, I could have worn my cooler short sleeved green dress, but no, I was determined to give the new one an outing first, since last year there was a huge storm Saturday night and we left Sunday morning before the fair even opened, so I wanted to make sure my new dress got worn in case something like that would happen again! Of course it was miserably hot in the dress but I think I looked pretty nice so all is good. 
Saturday passed in a haze of heat and short rain showers that did not break the heat but dampend our clothes.

Mrs. Athey's hem was 3 inched deep in mud!

 But it's not all bad I still got to shop and visit with friends and watch the battle of federal troops versus the Natives. Our boys (the federal army, which the fourth was part of) lost on Saturday. weirdly enough to a bunch of Indians and the British navy! Not sure what the British navy was doing in land locked Ohio, I mean there isn't even a river big enough for a boat around Springfield.... I oh well. I think they had some sort of spy game going on.

British spies are on the loose

On the hunt for spies!

 After the public left there was the annual feast.The fair folk got to have a lovely dinner and have the site to ourselves. But alas instead of the traditional dance and free beer at the tavern it started storming and Erin her husband Mike and myself decided to de camp to the hotel room our fellow camp mate had offerd us after he had to leave early because of a family emergency. I can't even put in words how god that shower at the hotel felt, and the bed was the softest I ever slept on, it was awesome!
The next morning we headed to the free hotel breakfast already in period clothes. we where the only reenactors staying at this hotel and we got some pretty strange stares, it didn't help that Erin was wearing a turban and people probably thought she was a terrorist or something equally ridiculous, We had fun pretending that we where in fact members of some crazy polygamist sect and both married to Mike. I started calling him master and walked 3 steps behind him as is befitting my lowly status as second wife. weirding out the normal people sure is a fun way to start the day!
 After breakfast we headed back to camp all aglow after a good nights sleep without getting wet.  A muddy, muggy fair is so much easier to bear on a good nights sleep in a dry bed, And with all that mud I was glad to have brought my boots even if they do pinch somewhat fierce when worn for a prolonged time.
Before the dayly opening ceremonies I headed over to the british camp for a chat with Maggie a friend and fellow blogger over at
We talked  for a while, and she mentioned to me how she did not feel up to going to the opening ceremonies. Good thing her friends talked her into going, because her great love Albert Roberts more commonly known to reenactors as the Doctor popped the question at the opening ceremonies in front of the entire assembled fair and in character, what a surprise! She accepted of course. I  wish them all the best and a happy life together.I wonder if they will have a fabulous regency wedding, the kind i could only dream of since i could never get my own man into breeches and top hats!
Most of Sunday past much like the previous day the weather was a bit cooler and rather cast over.

Melissa, my photograper for the day. She also writes a lovely blog   

Around noon my friend Melissa  arrived wearing regular clothes because she did not want to soil her white regency dress in the mud. And a good thing it was since this meant I could press her into service taking pictures of the fair for me. As a participant I am not allowed to have anything modern on me while in costume, which means that taking pictures is pretty much impossible especially since I have a hunking big camera. But luckily Melissa agreed to take some pictures for me with my camera, I bribed her with some home baked pumpkin bread ! So thank you Melissa you made this blog post possible, cause what's a blog post without picture,s and she took some really lovely ones at that!

One of my favorite photos of the day, I love the sedan chair now i just need some servants to carry me around.

After some more shopping and general meandering about we headed over to watch Sunday's battle, this time our side won.

The fourth captured a cannon.

The reenactor on his horse was really cool.

ME running from the battle, yes I want nothing to do with that war stuff!

Of course it's all scripted we get to win one day and loose  the other. After their victory the fourth sub legion headed to the flag pole to bring down the British flag that had been raised below the American one. Though I was unaware of this and missed the whole commotion. This was unscripted I'm not even sure the British noticed.....good thing it's just pretend war! Shortly after the battle Melissa left and I started packing stuff up before heading  to the closing ceremony.
During the ceremony they announced that the French lace maker M. LeFarceur de Villeverte won't be coming back to the fair next year, which really is too bad because I just love him, he is so arrogant and snooty and so very very french.
The French lace maker.

The fair won't be the same without him! But he does have a kick ass tent perhaps I can buy it from him after he retires!

I covet his tent!

It was a good thing I had packed most of my things before the closing ceremonies because it started pouring shortly after, cutting short my good byes.
I must say I had a good time despite the weather and my sore feet, but the best part of spending 2 days in the 18th century is coming back to the 21st!
And so I leave you with some of Melissa's pretty pictures. and a promise to blog again very soon with a big announcement!

lovely set up

On my way to more shopping.


Dominique chickens, we have the same breed at Woodville, some reenactor just brought them and let them roam free.


Photo op with the boys from Wooodville and my dear friend Julie, she was having a rotten day.

I just love this set up, I really want something similar for my store.

Even the lace makers sign is awesome.

More of the fair.

Melissa snuck a picture of my hair do. Looks like i need to dye my hair to match my weave better.

The neighbors

Looking wistful.

The punishment for carrying a camera while in costume.

I hang my head in shame

Battle shots