Sunday, 22 November 2015

A saucy afternoon at the seaside, sometime in the 1890s...

I don't know why I was thinking about New Year's resolutions the other day but it inspired me to make an Old Year's resolution concerning this blog. I have so many costume plans, designs and fabrics all waiting to be realised that I want to get started in January and try to complete at least one full outfit for myself every three months. And in order to keep my blog updated with these new costume adventures, I have decided to try and post all of my backlog of past costumes before the end of the year.

Now to anyone who has read my blog before this will probably sound familiar! This is not the first time that I have aimed to have all of my old photographs and costumes uploaded. However, I am going to give it a good try this time.

Today I have chosen a costume that I created for an event on the Isle of Wight two summers ago. It is not exactly appropriate for the current weather, but for those of you who are not enjoying the shortening days and descending temperatures this will be a reminder of sunnier days.

After a Victorian Picnic in the country park, with Her Majesty Queen Victoria in attendance, a bathing belles competition was organised on the beach. For this event, I designed this bathing costume using Folkwear's pattern 253.

Pattern by Folkwear

Although navy blue was a very common choice for bathing suits at this period I looked at as many fashion plates as I could find and white suits were also fashionable. This made this a very economical project, which was just as well as I had just made a number of other more complex and costly outfits. I used a fairly heavy plain white cotton, with a red cotton for the collar, red rick rack trim and tiny red buttons.

I designed the pattern for the shoes myself to complete the outfit. I used the leftovers of the red cotton, with leather encased inside the sole to make them more comfortable to walk in. I got the shape just by experimenting with pieces of newspaper round my feet, and although they were a little bit clumsy to wear in real life, they do complete the look in the pictures. I hope next time to be able to improve on my pattern. They are laced with some red cord that I found serendipitously in my Mum's haberdashery stash.

As you can see, my photo editing skills are fairly basic - many thanks to Paint for the disguising of the modern people who wondered into the frame!
To impress the judges, I was also very badly behaved (for a Victorian lady) and demonstrated the full workings of my costume by removing my wrap-around skirt to reveal the swimming bloomers (made in one piece with the blouse like combinations). Here is a shot taken later that shows the suit without the skirt.

And of course, dressed like this I couldn't resist having some fun! This included posing for some saucy postcard snaps. I was just messing around and my Dad was taking the pictures. Little did I realise, until I looked away from the camera, that so were a lot of other men all lined up behind him on the beach!!

And then there's this one...

Did I actually take a swim? Well, let's just say that I'm not sure that the red cotton is colourfast and although it was sunny it was a very windy day and I didn't fancy testing the water temperature or being swept away to sea!!

Sunday, 8 November 2015

My first adventure into the 1880s

With all the leaves changing colours I thought I would share this outfit which has very autumnal tones even if I did wear it during the summer!

This was my very first 1880s bustle dress, made for a Victorian event on the Isle of Wight's steam railway last year. Although the railway did exist in the 1860s, I decided that clambering on and off of trains all weekend in a crinoline was not going to be practical. Moreover, I was eager to try out a new decade of Victorian fashion and the bustle silhouette.

The outfit was made using all Truly Victorian patterns : the TV101 Petticoat with wire bustle, TV170 Victorian Petticoats, TV261 1885 Four-gore Underskirt, TV364 Autumn Overskirt and TV463 1884 French Vest Bodice.

TV 101 - Image from Vena Cava Design
TV 170 - Image from Vena Cava Design

TV 261 - Image from Vena Cava Design
TV364 - Image from Vena Cava Design
TV 463 - Image from Vena Cava Design
I used two very reasonably priced curtaining fabrics that I found at a local fabric store - a rust-coloured faux silk and a thick rich brown cotton cloth, with white cotton undergarments trimmed with broderie anglais. The buttons are tiny antique glass buttons from a Czech factory with amber coloured centres each featuring a cameo, held in brass-coloured metal frames.

I very much enjoyed wearing this dress and it was the perfect choice for steam travel. Easy to wear and to ride on the trains.

I accessorised with vintage rust-coloured gloves, a small antique wooden case, my Vena Cava lace parasol (although I can't wait to have a go at covering my own parasol) and a small bonnet made using the same materials as the outfit and Lynn McMasters late Victorian pattern.

And I had lots of fun posing for photographs on and off of the trains, including some beautiful shots taken by a photographer friend who created some really lovely images for me.

Photographs courtesy of David White Photography, Ventnor, IoW
Photograph courtesy of David White Photography, Ventnor, IoW
I even considered running away to pursue a career on the stage with Mr Alexander's Travelling Show! He very kindly let me make use of his beautiful stage for a photo shoot and I made the most of the opportunity to try out some theatrical poses!

With Mr Alexander, and auditioning....(for what I'm not quite sure!)

Later, when the heat finally got to me and the public had gone home, I did something very un-Victorian and decided to remove my dress and relax in my underwear. This may have been very unlady-like and inauthentic but it did mean that I got some nice pictures of my underpinnings!

All in all this is probably my favourite of all of my outfits so far and I am keen to do more 1880s in the future. I already have all sorts of things in my stash lined up for bustle projects- fabrics and trimmings and buttons.... I can't wait!