Thursday, August 27, 2009

The November Ball Dress Saga

I now have two and a half months to complete my ballgown for the November Ball in Amherst, NY. It has taken me months to finally commit to a design. I'm still not really committed, but I have started cutting fabric, so there's little to do now but keep moving forward. I have decided to use shades of purple. Though, the purple and gold brocade that I originally bought for this ensemble was taken back this weekend. It was just too much for me. Instead, I decided to go with a "whim" purple striped silk that I bought some months ago with no purpose in mind. :)

I've posted pictures of the dresses that have "inspired" me below. You'll probably see elements of each of these somewhere in my final dress. I'm not choosing one in particular to recreate, because I haven't found one that I just totally LOVED. So now, the creation is coming straight from my head onto the fabric. I'm a little worried . . . but I know it will be a fun process!

Some "bunchings" of fabric just to see how I like the colors and textures next to each other.
Another "bunching" I love these colors together - not sure how they'll all layer up.

One of my many, many sketches trying to get my ideas together
The Inspirations . . .

Ageless Patterns - Update

I was just re-reading some of my old posts and laughing at the one where I had just received my Ageless Patterns. I cut them all out in one night and now ask me how many I've made up? None. Yep. Typical.

And I'm actually wondering why I bought all those baby patterns - Micky is going to be completely too big for any of them within the blink of an eye.

When am I gonna learn?!

When am I gonna learn NOT to cut my strips of fabric for flounces before I wash them? I know! I know! Common sense. I don't know why this has been a habit of mine, and my fabric always ends up in jumbled up twisted snakes when it is done washing and drying. To make matters worse, the wrinkles are pretty much set in becuse the fibers have been so violently twisted! ARGH!

Well, make a note to yourself if you are reading this and preparing flounces. I am going to make a mental note (again) to myself!

My jumbled mess of muslin strips for my flounced petticoat.

I hate ironing and this is NOT going to be fun!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Impossible decisions!

I am spending more time trying decide than I am sewing! I am so frustrated. Everytime I think I am certain about a design I start hesitating and I don't want to cut fabric and really get into it if I'm not 100%! The worst part is when you are trying something new so you are not clear how the patterns are going to come together, adjustments, etc. Any advice at this point would be welcome - in the mean time, I will continue to work on the undergarments.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Updating Website

I am in the process of updating my Rebecca's Reproductions website ( so that it can connect nicely with my new blog. As a result, you may see some postings of pieces I made some time ago. The quality of the pictures, unfortunately is often very low because the pictures were sent via email (back when you had to reduce them to send them), or were poor quality scans of flat photos. Once I have all of this updated, I will go back to posting new projects.

Thanks for bearing with me during this process. :)

Titanic - Boarding Suit

The reproduction was made of a fine cotton shirting fabric with white background and woven royal purple pin stripe. The facings and belt were made of heavy purple satin. The pattern was self-created.
NOTE: The quality of these pictures is unfortunately very low - they were sent via email and very small.
Boarding Suit as a Wedding Ensemble
Kate Winslet in the Movie

Customer in my creation

Interview with a Vampire

This custom order included all but a topcoat. The request was to reproduce the outfit worn by Louis as he fled the burning docks. The time period was late 1830s early 1840s. Brown wool pants, white cotton high collared shirt with attached breast ruffle. Brown cravat, reversible waistcoat. The trousers were a straight leg, fall front.
Brad Pitt as Louis Customer in complete outfit
Front Waistcoat

Detail of fabric and buttons

Cravat and Shirt Ruffle

The waist coat was actually made to be reversible. One fabric was the striped effect like the movie, the other was of a darker more solid looking fabric. The same buttons were used on both sides.

Back View

Gone with the Wind

This dress was a custom order back in 2000. It was made in Lilac shades rather than the original green. I have to admit that nine years later I am extremely disappointed in the quality of these pictures. I beleive they were sent to me as attachments in an email back when you had to make pictures very small to do it.

Scarlet at the 12 Oaks Bar-b-Que

The reproduction
A bit more sleeve ruffle detail

Friday, August 21, 2009

Oh My Ankles!

I had to post this because I was shocked to see that merely by being on a bit of a lower angle, my husband inadvertantly had captured that view talked about so often by men during the 1860s! Just bending over slightly to take care of the children repeatedly tipped up my skirt and gave a lovely view of my boots, my ankles, my stockings and the inside of my underpetticoat. OH MY!

While I was careful to measure out the length of my skirt to prevent this, it still does need to be a bit off the ground so that I do not continually step on it (espcially with children). However, having said that, and having seen these pictures, I think I will try to add an inch or two to the hem of this skirt! Ha ha! I laugh at the thought that even then this was a problem and a bit of a joke. You cover yourself with so many, many layers, and then a little tip exposes your ankles and legs!

Well, enjoy the free view!

For more interesting reading on the subject rom period sources visit this site

period cartoons depicting the "horror" of women accidentally exposing themselves

A lovely view of my red/black boots and my petticoat peaking in on the baby.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sully Plantation - Micky

Micky Anderson Varga - 6 months old

I love this picture of Micky peaking around my shoulder. It is a great picture to show the detail of the lace on his bonnet (and actually a good detail of the vintage lace on my Spanish Jacket). At this point we'd already taken Micky's dress off, so he is just wearing his underbodice and bodiced petticoat. Heatstroke is another risk I'd never take in the name of authenticity (I would not very likely have brought a 6 month old out in public in the 1860s either for fear of exposure).

Mommy and Baby
All of Micky's underclothes were made of fine cotton lawn. The drawers, bonnet and underbodice were made of pre-pintucked lawn. They are very easy to wash and take starch wonderfully! Starch and heavy ironing not only gave body to children's clothing, but also helped keep stains from penetrating the fabric.

Back view of bodiced petticoat

Tiny Pantalets

Good view of Micky's lace trimmed pantalets as well as his back opening bodiced petticoat. He is also wearing a lawn undershirt. All peices were made with Elizabeth Stewart Clark patterns.

Victorian Pram

This pram was made in Chicago IL and still has the factory plate on the front. Queen Victoria made the use of wicker prams extrememly popular in upperclass familys during the 19th century. It is probably more likely that this pram is from the 1870s or 1880s (when they had really hit their popularity) than actually the 1860s. This was originally upholstered with a heavy brocade fabric and stuffed with straw! It was so disgusting by the time I got it, I just ripped it all out. I did not have time to reupholster before I needed to use it, so I cleaned the wicker/wood and placed a linen covered feather pillow in it for Micky to lie on.

Sully Plantation - Emily's Dress

Emily has graciously permitted me to dress her up for this event. (I had to bribe her with an entire pack of gum!)
Her dress and drawers were made using the Elizabeth Stewart Clark pattern. I chose the open sleeves because I knew it would be a hot event and because I know Emily hates anything tight on her. The fabric was a 100% cotton homespun with ivory background and green, blue and burgundy woven plaid. Her apron is a pale green cotton calico with small "dot" print in ivory. It is a large chemise type apron gathered about the neck. It makes great coverage and could be used for a boy or a girl - but in the end I think it was a little wasteful to use so much fabric for this. The upside surely is that there are virtually no cuts in the fabric and it could be cut down in future for baby dresses.
About an hour into the event, the heat had totally overwhelmed Emily. She had already eaten two ice creams and stood under the water spritzer three times. We removed the apron and eventually the dress down to her chimie by the time we were on our way home. Good girl Emily!
Emily with wooden toy and bean bag
Good view of Emily's long, lace-edged drawers

Renton and Emily eating icecream (couldn't resist this picture)

Back view of dress (button closure)

Emily "Holding Down the Fort"

Disclaimer: (Emily's Hair) While many young girl's wore their hair chin length in the Victorian era, longer hair was also quite common and in the 1860s girls NEVER wore bangs. Hair was parted in the middle and often pulled back with a pretty ribbon, hairnet or other method. Often the middle part was the only way to tell little girls apart from their skirt wearing little brothers (whose hair was parted on the side). HOWEVER, it is like pulling teeth to put these clothes on my firely little Emily, who also detests anything being put in her hair let alone it being parted in the middle and pulled back. I did start with a pretty little black velvet ribbon, but I'm not sure it lasted beyond the parking lot. REALITY CHECK - not a battle I'm going to fight with a three year old in public, even in the name of authenticity.

Sully Plantation - Renton's Tunic

The tunic is made of varying shades of blue fine cotton cambric. I turned the fabric to the bias so the plaid would run on the diagonal (common for boys). It is lined in a simple blue cotton (scraps left from other projects). The short pants are made of dark royal blue cotton velvetten and are unlines. They feature two bands on the side of each leg of self fabric to match the tunic. The bands are pointed on each end and decorated with a button to match the tunic. I had velvet left over from the pants and made an extra bolero jacket for Renton, too. (Not pictured) Renton is wearing a separate white cotton shirt under the jacket. The jacket could also be worn without the shirt, with just an undershirt on which the short pants would be buttoned.
If you look closely, you can see the shadow of Renton's sleeveless, batteau cut undershirt. His underdrawers would have been buttoned to this, but because of the extreme heat we opted to go without. The undershirt still served to keep Renton's outer shirt free from the sweat. When we were getting ready to go home, I removed his outer shirt and buttoned his pants to the undershirt so he could be as cool as possible.
The pants were made following the Elizabeth Stewart Clark pattern. They are nice and roomy and made up very easily. I wanted short pants, so I chose the shortest option (did not add any additional "leggings" before cutting).
Full length view of plaid tunic and velvet short pants
Close-up of Shirt

Short pants buttoned to shirt

Disclaimer #1 (Renton's Hair) - While there is much exigent documentation to show very short hair on boys during the Victorian era, most wore their hair longer (often curly) and always parted on the side. In fact, the side part on very young boys still in skirts was often the only thing that distinguished them from their female counterparts of the same age.

Disclaimer #2 (Renton's Boots) - The zip laces on Renton's boots are not accurate for this period. HOWEVER, when you are outfitting (on a budget) quickly growing children with footwear that they will not wear anywhere or anytime else, you get what you can. :)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hooks and Eyes on kid's Clothing

I decided to put hooks and eyes on Renton's tunic. It has confirmed my hatred for this type of closure. Takes me just as long to sew these on as it would have to sew button holes. But I wanted to try something different. I am also afraid that the way Renton yanks off his clothes, they may not last very long. We'll see . . .

I used the larger hooks and eyes and tried the "continuous" stiching that I've seen on many originals. Again, I am a little concerned that the extra thread is going to end up getting caught and pulled and the fastenings are just going to come off. I'll update this later if that happens (and will stick to button holes in the future).

Hooks with continuous stiching.

Front side of eyes

Back side of "eyes" with continuous stiching

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Progress on Renton's Tunic

Hooray! I fitted the tunic to Renton today (who kept pleading with me "Don't stick me with a pin Mommy! Don't stick me! Don't stick me!" I don't know why). I wasn't really thrilled with it at first. I tried pinning up the skirt to make it shorter, but then it felt too short. I tried pinning in the sides or the back to take up some of the fullness, but that didn't look quite right either.

Finally, since this tunic has short sleeves, I thought, let's try it on with his white shirt - Voila! It looked sooooo adorable! I am not posting any pictures yet because we have an event this weekend and Peter will take some good pics there (hopefully). But I am pleased.

The blue velvet trousers came out perfectly. I made them below the knee style, and I have about 4" of turn up in the hem so I can let it out as he grows. Also there is plenty of room in the waist (as suggested by Elizabeth Stewart Clark in her pattern).
Laying on the floor . . .

FINAL COMMENTS: The tunic body probably could have been shorter (the way I attached the waist band, I couldn't take it apart and re-do it), the body could have been narrower (but Renton is a very thin boy) and I think I would make the pagoda style sleeves if I were doing it again. But this is a really easy pattern and fun to try different styles with.

Detail of inside (flat-lining) of tunic.

"NEGATIVE" ON PATTERN: Not sure why, but part of the directions are talking about girl's dresses and skirts. I think this is a little misleading, especially if a novice sewer were taking a stab at it. No suggestions are made for the length of the tunic skirt and the length on the attachment for the trousers has no suggestions either, just added inches. A ball-park figure for both would have been nice.