Lanvin Reproduction

Okay, this was THE MAJOR PROJECT of spring! Heritage Square holds a fashion show and tea every spring. In previous years I worked the event, but this year I asked if Lu and I could walk in the show. Then I lost my damn mind and spent way way way too much time trying to figure out something that met the theme that also worked for our ages and was a known mother/daughter duo. I also needed to find something that was achievable.

I ended up finding 5 or so options and then asked the organizer which she preferred. And she was very unhelpful by telling me to choose. Darn it! In the end I selected Jeanne Lanvin and her daughter Marguerite.

Here is the fashion plate I selected.

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From the Museum of Fine Arts Boston

And here are our finished ensembles!

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I’m pretty darn proud of how nice our dresses look. Not exactly like the original design, but certainly close enough for real life.

I drafted both dresses from a basic bodice. Lu’s was based off the bodice block in the Building Block Dress. I used the pattern I fit for Christmas and then added cut on sleeves. It is a little tight to get her arms in, but it works! Then I added a densely gathered skirt. Mine is based off my sloper with a very slightly dropped waist. I’m sure on a slim woman there would be no bust darts and the waist would be lower, but I altered those things to better suit my figure. I love trying to be historically accurate and making clothes fit is an accurate direction to go. People have always preferred clothes that look nice!

I also drafted Lu a simple slip to wear underneath. I used cotton lawn for the top and organdy for the skirt. Jokes on me though, organdy is…sheer! I had to go back and line the slip with more lawn. On the plus side the slip organdy was a freebie my boss brought me years ago. She was so pleased to hear I’d used it. I had enough to do both our slips, but mine is not fully lined I think. My memory is kind of foggy on the details at this point. I made my entire ensemble in less than a week and did not have the time to sweat the small stuff!

Both dresses are made with organdy I ordered all the way from India. I’ve never ordered fabric from so far away, but I found the recommendation on Historical Sewing and figured Jennifer wouldn’t recommend a crummy business. Pure Silks‘ website was a tad clunky, but they had organdy of various stiffness and in colors, glorious COLORS! The prices were also really good even with international shipping.

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Our ensembles were topped off with hats I purchased off Amazon. I had such anxiety over hats. Finding the right shape, color, and size is so darn tough, but I haven’t learned to make my own yet. So two plain straw hats were ordered and then I trimmed them to match our ensembles.

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I’m most proud of the appliqué on the front of the dresses. I had planned to do it by hand, but that would have been so time intensive. A friend suggested appliqué and she was so right. Much more realistic in a time crunch. I used left over baptism dress fabric for Lu’s and some silk organza from Renaissance Fabrics on mine. Then I embroidered the stems by hand.

My mom (and two of my aunties) were able to attend the fashion show and captured this sweet video. Lu had such a blast that she is already thinking about next year. And I’m so happy to see my girls love the museum as much as I do. Next year maybe Chi Chi can join us?

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Dartmouth and Fantail Revisited

It rained! There was actual water falling from the sky! I didn’t think it would happen this year and started sewing up some spring clothes, but then dang. Mother Nature is showing me who is boss. Ha! I’d planned to share my thoughts on the Colette Myrna today, but I like to wear my makes before I review them and the weather suddenly stopped cooperating. Hopefully I’ll get be able to test it out soon!

Instead today I’m revisiting a couple patterns I’ve made before, Cashmerette’s Dartmouth Top and Scroop’s Fantail Skirt.

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I’ll start with the Fantail Skirt. It is easily my favorite skirt pattern. Both of the skirts I’ve made are in constant rotation! This new version is made in black wool twill purchased from Renaissance Fabrics last fall. It looks like it is no longer in stock, but sometimes they are able to restock popular fabrics. This is a size 42 waist blended to a 44 hip and it went together so smoothly. Since my serger is now set up all the time, I went ahead and serged the seams before sewing the skirt together. It makes it so much easier to wash without all the seams unraveling as often happens with this type of weave. There is only one thing I dislike, the interfacing I used. I went with some left over Pellon I found in my interfacing drawer and I much prefer using silk organza instead. Oh well! I’ll try to remember for next time.

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And the Dartmouth Top? It is not my favorite. I feel like I gave it a fair shot. I’ve made 1 short sleeve, 2 long sleeve, and 1 dress. They are all just fine and totally wearable tops, but they just aren’t what I pull out when I want to feel good.

Back when I first reviewed the pattern, Jenny recommended using a lighter fabric and so this fall I went in search of some good choices. I settled on some solid green rayon blend jersey and this sort of brick colored modal blend jersey from Harts Fabrics. Both fabrics were easy to sew up, but neither shirt looks like I’d hoped. It looks okay in the photos, but they seem pretty big in person.

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Could be because I’ve lost a few pounds since I first made this pattern. I made a size 14G/16/18, but it looks like I’ve lost just enough weight to need a smaller size. When I made my (awesome favorite) wrap dresses I used a size 12G/14 for the top and that fits a lot better. But aside from the sizing changes I think I will still skip Dartmouth as a top. I really prefer to wear my tops tucked in and having 4 layers of hemmed jersey on my hips is not helpful. Oh well! The pattern is well worth keeping to make more mock wrap front dresses.

Mourning Dress

One of my biggest projects of 2017 was tackling a mourning outfit. Every year Heritage Square holds an event that explores Victorian mourning customs including a mock funeral procession. I really needed something I could wear to the event each year, however I’m never actually in the mock funeral. I prefer a station in one of the other areas of the museum, especially since I bring my older daughter along. So as I was researching mourning wear I had a generous time frame to pull from (1870-1920). I also wasn’t restricted to the deep mourning of the recently deceased. It was freeing and yet felt pretty overwhelming.

Since I knew I’d be tackling this project for the fall I kept a look out for fabrics and hoped that eventually the right thing would come along and help narrow down my choices. Luckily I was able to get some black cotton lace yardage in a destash for a reasonable price. Shortly afterwards I found lavender cotton sateen (no longer available) at Renaissance Fabrics and the two paired together so nicely. A half mourning dress would be perfect for our annual event!

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I spent a whole lot of time looking at pictures of extant gowns to see if anything had used black lace and lavender. I found…not many options. Information about mourning clothes seems to be a little harder to find in the Edwardian-1920s period. I probably could (and should) have done more research, but I needed to get sewing. So I found a pattern that was very similar to the gowns I liked from 1910-1912 and ran with my vision.

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I think I did pretty well. The wrap front bodice with guimpe underneath is completely period appropriate. So was the lace overlay on the skirt and a belt (with bonus heirloom buckle from my MIL!). Not an exact match to my examples, but the basic elements are the same. The one detail that might have been nice to include is the contrast trim at the neckline, but I got a little fatigued during the process. The cotton sateen also turned out a little thicker than I remembered and so I started cutting elements to decrease the bulk.

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For such a time consuming project I don’t really remember many of the details. October was kind of a whirlwind between making this dress and planning my younger daughter’s 3rd birthday party.

I decided not to line the dress because the sateen was pretty bulky. The front neck edge has a bias binding hand sewn on. The pattern (Butterick 6093) called for a side zipper and I swapped that for hook and eye. I thought about having the lace overlap in the front, but now I can’t remember why I decided against it. Maybe not enough lace fabric? Lazy? Too tired? Maybe all of the above. Butterick patterns fit me decently well so the fitting process was not too bad. I compared the shoulders to my recently completed Jennifer Lauren Laneway dress and otherwise blended sizes. I’m getting better and faster at mock ups so the process moves a little more quickly. I need to trust my gut instinct more frequently.

The guimpe was made with Wearing History’s Edwardian Era pattern. I bought it because it was one of the only patterns I could find for a guimpe and I didn’t have the brain power to figure it out for myself. I could have drafted my own and it probably would have fit better, but I was balancing too many things in my life.

Because nothing could go smoothly, the original fabric I ordered for the guimpe ended up sold out. The seller more than made up for the inconvenience, but I had hoped for something slightly more transparent. This is black wool gauze. One thing I totally didn’t see coming was how badly the gauze would combine with the underside of the sateen. The fabrics LOVE each other. So now every time I wear this ensemble I have to have my husband yank my under sleeves for me. Whoops! Thankfully once they’ve been pulled down everything fits nicely and stays put.

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And then after wearing my new dress to the museum, it got a second life as my Halloween costume. For my daughter birthday I dressed as a witch and my adorable mom dressed as a gnome. Getting to wear the dress two days in a row was fun, and adding a witch hat was super simple. I purchased one from a halloween store and covered it with lace scraps from the dress. Whew! Thank goodness I didn’t need to make a mourning dress and a costume for the same weekend!

How’s everyone settling into 2018? I’m really trying to keep a positive attitude and in a couple weeks I’m going to follow along with the Orange Theory Fitness Transformation Challenge. I’m not officially signing up because I cannot physically make it to 3 classes a week, but will aim to work out 3 days a week and to OTF 1-2 a week. I’ve been attending classes for 6 month now and have made a ton of progress on my fitness. Plus the 8 week challenge sounds fun to way to kick a few bad habits.

 

Christmas 2017

All year I was looking forward to making the girls their Christmas dresses. Lu will be turning 6 this coming spring and she’s getting more and more into big girl clothes. She still loves dresses, but not with the same intensity as her younger years. I felt like time was running out to make pinafore dresses and this Christmas was the perfect opportunity! It was a dream project for me. They were so so so darling.

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Oh my stars! Such cuteness from my silly girls. Thankfully they both just loved their Christmas dresses. Whew!

The under dresses and pinafores were both drafted from the same pattern in Liesl Gisbon’s Building Block Dress book. The book comes with a pattern for a basic dress and the chapters are instructions on how to use that basic pattern to produce tons of different styles. It goes all the was from 6 month size to a child size 12 and I can tell I’m going to get a lot of use out of the book.

For this first try I used the basic dress which has a bodice, collar, long or short sleeves, and an a-line skirt. Charlie’s is a size 18-24 months with 2T length and Lu’s is a 3T lengthened to 5 in the bodice and 6 in the skirt. Both fit pretty well right away, but could have used a smidge more sleeve length. However I also added an elastic casing to the sleeves, so perhaps the length would have been fine with a plain hem.

I tried looking for more Christmas-y fabric online, but I never did find something that seemed right. So I went stash diving and found a remnant of the blue floral and a 4 yard cut of the green floral. It would have been nice to use the same fabric for both, but the scale of the green floral was too big for Charlie’s tiny bodice piece and I didn’t have enough of the blue for both. Oh well, similar is close enough for me! Lu wasn’t super thrilled with a dark green dress, but I sold her on the little pink and red flowers in the print.

I originally bought both prints to make myself dresses. It is from the Floratopia collection from Elizabeth Olwen for Cloud 9. I did make a dress from the blue floral, but I hated the dress and got rid of it. Now with the girl’s dresses complete I think I have enough to make myself a skirt from the green floral.

The pinafores are using the same pattern, but I split the bodice into 3 pieces and added width to the middle piece to achieve the gathered look I love many Victorian and Edwardian girls dresses. I have one saved that seems to have disappeared from the original site, but trust me that the seaming is pretty spot on. The drafting and sewing process was really tedious, but the finished pinafores were totally worth it.

The fabric was the same plain white lawn from Renaissance Fabrics that I used for my Lamplight outfit and it was just the perfect weight to float over the corduroy dresses. Sadly it looks like the fabric is sold out, but they usually get in more of it. Each pinafore is trimmed with candy cane embroidered cotton lace. I’d wanted to gather it to add fullness to the hem, but I’d only bought 4 yards last summer when I went shopping at Costume College and it wasn’t enough to gather and trim two skirts. So I used the little bit I had left over to add a shoulder flounce to each pinafore. I think it worked out just right!

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And while I still have a couple things to share from 2017, my crafting was mostly cleaned up by the end of the year. The beauty of staying home for the holidays with no house guests is we’ve had ample time to sort and clean our house. A few more areas to manage, but still it feels good to start 2018 better organized. Frankly I’m happy to see 2017 gone from our lives. We had some really good times and my husband had more steady work than he’d had in a while, but on the other side we had a lot of anxiety over a potential medical issue for our older daughter. It turned out in the end, but that was a 6 month process of appointments and missing work and stress. Both girls moved up to new schools and that has been really good, but my work has become more and more stressful with each passing year. I still enjoy it, but gosh I miss the glory days when I didn’t have to say “no” so frequently. Most of all the holidays have brought a much needed break to refresh. Happy New Year.

Lamplight 2017

Well, the holidays are upon us! When we started planning Lamplight way back in June the event seemed a long way off. A whole 6 months away! Then suddenly it was Thanksgiving and dress rehearsal was a week away. It always seems to fly by in a flurry of committee meetings, rehearsals, and a whole lot of sewing.

This year I re-joined the planning committee after taking a few years off while Charlie was a wee thing. Now the girls are a little older and if I need to bring them to a meeting they can (mostly, sort of, kind of) behave. Two fellow volunteers write a new script every year and I cannot believe how well they can pull it off and find a way to showcase our very amateur acting skills.

This year we did a production of Cinderella. It was an interactive play with the guests playing a game in the first scene, making dance cards in the second scene, and dancing in the third scene. My fall has been pretty busy so I opted for a smaller role with fewer lines and an easier costume. It was a good call since I sewed my entire costume the week before the dress rehearsal.

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Pretty much as soon as we decided on Cinderella I started campaigning to be a step sister. There weren’t a ton of middle aged women roles this year, so step sister was my ticket to few lines and an opportunity to act like a fool. My fellow volunteer and friend opted to also play a step sister and it was really fun.

Right away we decided to wear our underclothes for the scene instead of making fell bustle ensemble. Thank goodness we made this call! I ordered a new corset from Redthreaded and already owned a camisole and flannel petticoat. All that I needed was a robe, corset cover, and petticoat.

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As luck would have it, the head costumer made me a robe back when I was pregnant with my older daughter. She based it on this original house dress that belongs to another volunteer. The original was on display for the holidays and while mine has no waist (due to its maternity design), you can see the resemblance!

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So all I had to make was a petticoat and corset cover. For the petticoat I was determined to use this silk taffeta from Renaissance Fabrics. It spoke to me. It probably looked more like my ball gown skirt for the scene, but I don’t care. I loved every second of swish through the evening. I bought 6 yards and used Butterick 3418. I used this skirt a couple times before and it is nice and basic and has a good sweep. I was even able to line up the plaid pretty well for such slippery fabric. And was just barely able to add on the pleated ruffle with the yardage I purchased! What a fabric hog of a skirt!

The corset cover is made with cotton lawn I also purchased from Renaissance Fabrics. It is one of my favorite fabrics ever. I buy it by 4 or 6 yards at a time and use it to line dresses. I used Butterick 3765 as a base, but that is more of an Edwardian pattern. To make it like this original corset cover in the Met’s collection I split the pieces at the waist line and added insertion lace to the top. Then I added darts to the bottom to make the waist more fitting. Worked like a charm! Not exact since I procrastinated, but still similar enough that it’s fine and the red ribbon at the neckline helped the look coordinate a bit.

To finish the ensemble I made a pair of fabric slippers while my friend was over visiting. Thank goodness for friends who don’t might chatting while you keep on sewing!!! I never did take a picture, but I might keep wearing them as house slippers because my feet are suddenly SO COLD.

So, that’s Lamplight 2017! And frankly, while 2017 was a pretty good year overall I’ve named it the year of minor emergencies. Much of it has kept me crafting for my sanity and I’m hoping in the next couple of weeks to share some more of my creations!

 

My Very Victorian Christmas 2015

Heritage Square is a museum where I try to volunteer at least once a month. It’s a museum that has several Victorian homes and usually I lead tours. However once I year I get to pretend I have a tiny bit of acting talent and spend one weekend performing in the Lamplight program.

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This year I was Virginia, a woman in my early twenties (ha!) who had just been engaged to Martin, a man who literally swept me off my feet. We perform a scene every 20 minutes from 4pm to nearly 9pm. It is exhausting. It is fun. It is a good excuse to make a new pretty outfit.

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Welcome to my home!

This year I was in the Hale house. It is the most restored home and quite lush inside! It’s also incredibly creepy and I think haunted. But at least no ghost sightings during our weekend! Just a few odd footsteps.

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And I made my whole outfit (except the corset)! Whew! It was a lot of sewing for a few weeks, but a little bit each night makes it easy to accomplish. I ended up making a corset cover, blouse, and skirt. Plus refashioned two petticoats. Thankfully I made a light colored chemise this summer so it was one less items to churn out in November.

The blouse came from an out of print pattern (Butterick 3417). The largest size I had was too small, but I did adjustments to the front, back, and sleeves to size it up a few sizes. I over compensated a bit, but no worries! It fits the style of the time. The fabric came from a new favorite shop, Renaissance Fabrics. I purchased the last of some dimity and fully lined the blouse with cotton lawn since this was for a winter night time event and the weather is often quite chilly. Then I finished off the blouse with lace from a fellow volunteer (thank you Kristine!) and some buttons a fellow knitted sent to me (thank you Liz!).

Really I owe Kristine a huge thank you for helping me with fabric selection. I am a novice when it comes to historical accuracy and she held my hand through the hold process.

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The skirt fabric also came from Renaissance Fabrics. It is their well priced cotton velveteen and was a dream to work with. Washed beautifully, a fabulous garment weight, and heavy enough that it didn’t need a full lining. I used Truly Victorian’s 1898 Flared Skirt pattern which was borrowed from another fellow volunteer. It eats up fabric (6 frickin’ yards), but was also simple to follow. The error I made was forgetting I’d be corseted when I cut the waistband. My waist corsets down 4 or 5 inches so the waist was much too big. Eventually I’ll re-do it.

The skirt trim was a light bulb idea. I wanted to trim the skirt with something I could sew right into the seam instead of having to hand sew to the velveteen. I ended up using Robert Kaufman’s Mammoth Flannel but on the bias. Then added the same lace as the blouse. So simple. The I added snap on black silk bows as the finishing touch. I just love this skirt so much. It was a joy to wear.

The weekend went by in a flash and just like that the whole program was over. But now I have a few new pieces I’ll get some wear out on my usual weekend tours.

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Happy Lamplight!