Sunday, 27 December 2015

Countdown to New Year No3: Two 1940s frocks

As well as Victorian fashion and re-enactment, I also love 1940s events and styles. These are just two of the dresses I have made for World War II events. A lot of my everyday wardrobe is based on 1940s and 1950s patterns and styles but these dresses were made specifically for costumed events - the day dress for attending a vintage car rally (dress just right and you can usually hitch a ride in a very nice car!) and the black and red ensemble for a "Down in the Shelters" dance evening. Having said that, I have worn both of them since for other things too - I like wearing them so much!

I can't find the patterns that I used right now, but both were original 1940s patterns, featuring typical narrow skirts and interesting details on the bodices and sleeves. I love working with originals from this era - they always fit me so well and make up easily. Modern patterns seem to have so many things that don't quite match up or fit but 1940s patterns are so easy to work with.

Making a friend...
Car shopping!!
Both of these dresses were made using printed cottons found in local fabric stores. I knew I wanted to make a 1940s dress with the brown as soon as I saw it and as for the red tulips, I just couldn't leave that in the store. The brown has a nice crisp cotton finish but the black and red has a soft, silky texture that made it just perfect for an evening dress.

The pattern I chose also included a jacket which I made in black velvet - unfortunately in these pictures it is obscuring the beautiful sweetheart neckline of the dress. Still, I love these pictures...

And that leaves just one more post to go in my countdown to the New Year. I will finally have shared all of my past costumes and be ready to begin the New Year as I mean to go on with lots of new and exciting projects.

Countdown to New Year No2: An 1860s picnic outfit

This outfit was planned for a Victorian picnic on the Isle of Wight. As mentioned in my previous post, I had chosen to make a Garibaldi blouse to wear with a crinoline skirt. I felt that this 1860s fashion was perfect for the relaxed atmosphere of a picnic as well as being light and comfortable for wearing outdoors in hot weather. I used Truly Victorian's TV441 1861 Garibaldi Blouse Pattern to draft the blouse and then added my own touch by hand embroidering the front yoke panels.

To do this I took another piece of the same cotton, wider than the pattern piece and created rows of tiny vertical pin tucks. Between these I removed some of the vertical threads to create drawn-thread embroidery. I then cut out the pattern piece from these prepared pieces of fabric and basted them to the plain cotton piece for support and made up the blouse as per the instructions.

 I finished the neck, yoke edge and cuffs with cotton tape that was box pleated with the edges of each pleat caught together in the centre to create a three-dimensional effect. This was based on some trimming ideas that I came across in an 1860s magazine. It took time and perseverance to complete but was well worth the effort in the end.

I wore the blouse with a very large pleated crinoline skirt. I miscalculated when I was cutting the skirt and accidentally made it up with four panels ( cut from the full width of my cotton-rich curtaining fabric) when I only really needed three. The result is a luxuriously full skirt that really captures the size and scale of an 1860s skirt even when worn over a smaller, round crinoline. It is heavy to wear but I enjoy the look that it creates. I finished the waist with a sash sewn from pleated cheap pashmina scarves.

And doesn't it look beautiful set against the sea...If only this photograph was a painting!
Perhaps something like this by Eugène Louis Boudin

The Beach at Trouville, the Empress Eugénie

by Eugène Louis Boudin

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Countdown to New Year No1: an 1860s Garibaldi blouse

Last summer I decided to make a Garibaldi blouse or Canezou with drawn thread embroidery. Before spending hours on the embroidery, I made up a test version of the blouse using plain cotton curtain lining. As it turned out, this made a nice and lighter alternative to the fringed bodice of my walking costume and teams very nicely with the skirt. These are some of the pictures that we took of the ensemble at St Mildred's Church, Whippingham on the Isle of Wight, Queen Victoria's chapel when she stayed at Osbourne House.

Oh dear, can it really be Boxing day already?!

I have been absent from this blog for some time now for a number of reasons. During November I put all of my projects on hold in order to complete a special dress for my Masters graduation and no sooner had I completed the dress and worn it for my special day than my sewing machine was requisitioned by Christmas Elves who have been occupying the workshop ever since! I have not, therefore, been idle but was unfortunately a little short of time for sharing.

I did, however, make a resolution to post all of my completed costumes before the end of the year, which leaves me only a few days to keep my promise to myself and to share all of my remaining photographs.

I thought I would start with the graduation dress. I didn't post these immediately because I was saving the dress as a surprise for my Mum. She knew I was making a dress but I didn't tell her anything about it.

I purchased the pattern from the Vintage Pattern Shop on ebay. It is a beautiful late 1950s wedding dress pattern, but made up in the shorter length it makes a stunning evening or occasion dress.

I was especially drawn to the way the back is cut and the beautiful double pleats. My dress had to be in a dark colour so I chose navy blue. I was very lucky to find a really lovely quilting cotton in my local fabric store with an overall pattern in a slightly lighter blue. It is excellent quality and has a lovely drape.

The dress took quite a while to complete as I decided to make a test version up first in some fabric that I had in my stash. Just as well I did though as there were a few alterations I had to make. The pattern was a size too small so I had to let out the bust and hips. Also, when I tried on the dress for the first time the bust didn't fit right no matter what bra I tried it with. That was until I thought to try it with my Victorian corset. Turns out the shape was absolutely perfect (and when you think about it the 1850s and 1950s silhouettes are quite similar and corsets were still fashionable in the 1950s). Wearing it with corset also meant that I was able to take in the waist to create a very Dior-esque New Look silhouette!

All in all, I was very pleased with the way the dress turned out. I wore it with two 1950s style net petticoats to hold out the skirts and it was a real joy to wear - comfortable because it fitted so well and undeniably glamorous. The perfect dress for a perfect day.

Monday, 7 December 2015

New Shop

News Flash: La Belle Modiste has now opened a new shop on Etsy. Click here to see the items I currently have for sale....