Saturday, October 31, 2009

Patting the Dirt on Fashion's Grave


OK, OK, jeans have their place, and I'm not 100% against wearing them. Denim is a lovely fabric with hundreds of possibilities. You can cut fire wood in it and not get splinters in your legs. You can shovel animal dung and not worry about getting icky stuff on your good clothes. Your kids can wear them to school and spill whatever they want on them... slide into home base in them (though jeans aren't really the best sports wear in the world), put holes in them, outgrow them and pass them down to lil' bro or sis.... well, you get the idea.
Jeans are one of my favorite things to wear when I'm going hiking through the woods or helping a friend move, or doing just about any kind of heavy or semi-heavy labor.

The styles & cuts have minor variations, but in reality jeans are jeans.

With the notable exceptions of bell-bottoms.. sorry no bad picture unless I scan one of my aunts, 80's stonewash jeans or those horrid "whale tail" low rise things... and who could forget the dreaded "I see London, I see France, I see Jimmy's underpants"?

Denim is truly one of the most practical fabrics we have today.


This is not the type of fabric that says "take me seriously, I mean what I say."
It says "I'm having a great time!" "Get out of my way, this I-beam is heavy." "It's Friday at my mid-level relaxed office job and I'm looking forward to a beer after 5:00." "I'm wearing these pants to church because you are making me go, I really don't want to be here."

I'm not sorry to say that unless you are actually applying for a job at Apple or on a road crew, you really shouldn't be wearing jeans to any job interview, meeting or formal function. No matter how creative you want prospective bosses to think you are.

Flame me if you want, but denim belongs on kids and hard-working folks, not in the board room or political forums.

Monday, October 26, 2009

1830's day dress

I've been wanting an 1830's day dress for quite some time. I finally made one for myself!
Still have to make the corded petticoat & hat...

I bounced between this pattern:
I think this is from, but not sure.

and the one out of Cut of Women's clothes.

Guess which one won?
Yup, Norah Waugh is indeed the goddess of historic fashion.

One of the main reasons COWC won is that I didn't have any sheer cotton, linen or silk that would work with any fabrics that I had enough of to make those wonderful double sleeves in the pattern above. I also HATE the shape of the pelerine. Not flattering to anyone. Had I chosen to make this dress, I would have changed the pelerine to a more square-on-the-bust thing, rather than this monstrosity. You can see a close reproduction here which is a wonderful site for fun pictures of 1830's dresses, but not my cuppa'.

So I made the 1834 Day Dress from COWC on whatever page that happens to be.

When I got the initial pattern done, I was shocked that the bust was something like 46" and the waist was 31". I later discovered that you really do want 3-4" of ease in the bust and you want the waist to be pretty fitted, with only about 1" of ease... so that accounts for some of it. On the other hand, WOW! Talk about corseting! I don't mind cinching in my waist, I've got enough squish that I can go 4" or better... but 15" is a bit extreme even for that time. 10 years later and it wouldn't have surprised me in the least.

I had no trouble adjusting the pattern to myself. I guessed at 1" higher than my natural waistline in back, and it worked out very well.

As always, the pattern went together like a dream. The only thing I would change is how far the bib front of the skirt is slit down. Ms. Waugh's pattern is slit almost 20" on both sides, and tends to flare out and show the petticoat when I walk, very annoying. I will whip stitch this closed to about 9", and that should take care of the problem.
I would also love to have the dress close in back, but that makes it awkward at events. "Hello Mr. Neighbor! I know we just met, but could you please help me hook my dress?" Yeah, that's the way to make friends & influence people.
Putting this dress on is a bit tricky, as you have to step into it, while it rests on a chair or bed. Tie the front-skirt around the back and then shrug into the top. It gets funny if the top drops onto the floor. The only solution is to yell "Mom! Help!" or chase your 'tail' like a fool... in a corset.

For the test-garment cum actual dress, I used a lightweight cotton print with mums? on it. It's mostly orange & black, and I did check to see if that print was used. Though not super-common I've found a few examples of similar fabric. (The best would have been stripes with flowers, and that will be the next fabric-hunt I go on). I paired it with black cotton, as I had just enough of the floral to make the top (test garment), and wanted to see how the bottom went on. I ended up piecing the skirt between the black & floral to get enough fabric, and got my stripes that way. Not perfectly historic, but for a first-go, not bad.

All the piecing is flat-felled, all the inner seams are flat-felled, except the 'darts.' The vertical seams on the skirt are French seams.
*I do not recommend heavier fabrics for very full sleeves, as you have to gather a lot of material into 15-18" of space.
**I gathered anything that had to be gathered by hand with hand-quilting thread. I've found that with BIG things it works much better than fighting with the machine thread, and really cuts down on the "Oh $#^!" moments.

The sleeves are "giggot leg-o'-mutton" because they are very full at the top, cut very full almost to the wrist, but are pulled 'tight' on the forearm by ties, (the ties go from just above the elbow to the shoulder and create a great big puff). Really quite striking once they are in place. No supports necessary! I suggest lightly tacking the lower tie and then re-adjusting after you've fitted it.

The front closes with hooks & eyes and then a 2" belt that is sewn in back & side back, and loose in front. I have to find an actual buckle (that I like), I'm using a broach for the time being.

Here are some lovely 1830's dresses that I've ripped off various museum & internet sites, I'll quote sources when I've got them, and if I don't, and/or they are yours and you'd like me to remove them, just ask.

1830 Day Dress, printed cotton. U of Texas site (This is an excellent site for historic garments... though the fabric in this one makes me wonder if it's a reproduction or an original?)

1828, cotton day dress, V&A museum I really, really, really love this dress. And the hat. I will be making a hat to go with my 'final' dress, but probably won't get one finished before Halloween.

1830 French Fashion plate. I'm not finding the original site right now, but will edit if I ever run across it again. As I recall, the yellow is a walking dress and the white is a day dress... darned I can tell the difference. As far as I'm concerned, they are both 'walking'.

Here are some sites that I looked at for "how to's" on this project.
this one is excellent, and fun, and turned out great!
and as always, be careful that the images you are working from are historically accurate... unlike the first painting listed in this entry.