25 November 2015

A Little Gown for A Little Girl

Prepping for 1765 occupied much of my time this past summer. My little one needed a new 1760s gown for my big work event. I needed something that met the 1765 clothing standards but would require a minimal outlay of expenses.

The construction is the same as her leading strings and purple striped gowns as I used the Golden Scissors girls gown pattern.

I used a woven cotton fabric that cost about $6. If it was silk, it would be perfect for a 1770s project. It's cotton, so it's a stretch for 1765 both in terms of the fabric type and its style. However the scale of the flowers is a nice size for a child's gown, it's machine washable, it was super cheap--and my daughter wouldn't agree to wearing a white gown.

As you can see looking at the inside, it's loosely woven making it a little frustrating to work with but doable.
While trying to use items from my stash, I up-cycled this green cotton tape. I originally received it on a Pottery Barn package and used it to bind the top of the skirt.

The colors match, in a modern sense, and the width of the tape (about two inches) helped keep the loose threads together.

This detail is not visible on the finished gown...

...so I didn't mind making that concession.

I sewed inside seams on the machine and didn't worry about exactly matching up 
the stripes on the sleeve. (I knew she'd only wear this once.)

 The back laces closed and the skirts tie closed with white cotton tape. There are two boning channels alongside the eyelets which are boned with reed.

The lining fabric is a linen scrap.

One main goal behind this project was improving her kit. I handsewed her a shift, which she really needed. (She didn't have one last year.)

 It's short-sleeved so it doubles with 19th century gowns. (I'll eventually make her an 18th century one.)

 I made her a neck handkerchief too...
 ...which is also handsewn.
The day of the event she told me, "Oh Mom, I can't wear that. It won't look very good." I needed to focus my energy on running everything and didn't try to convince her.

To meet the clothing standards, I made a bib front apron.

I tacked it on so we didn't have to fuss with pins and, of course, it ties around the waist.

This photo shows how the bib gaps as I made it a tad too long.

 For shoes she wore these polyester satin ballet flats from David's Bridal. I started to remove the ruffles, but my little fashionista protested that I was ruining them. Our pair has two rows of ruffles instead of three. Again it's not a perfect shoe for living history, but it was inexpensive, has a simple design and a rubber sole with a tread. The shoes are currently on clearance at David's Bridal.com.

One other detail: I added a feather to her hat as the clothing standards advised.

She looked super sweet the day of the event...
...and was featured in two newspapers! 

Demonstrating her courtesies.

15 November 2015

Sukey Copley's Blue Gown

My "blogcation" is over...it's time to share research, photos and construction notes on the projects that have kept me uber busy this year and I'm starting with Sukey Copley's blue gown.

This fall I portrayed John Singleton Copley's wife, Susanna Clarke Copley, who went by the name Sukey, for a first person living history program at Old South Meeting House. This event called for making a new gown and I had to use the Copley blue silk from Sign of the Golden Scissors.

Inspired by this painting of Sukey with her family...
Detail from The Copley Family, 1776/1777
National Portrait Gallery 1961.7.1

... and the host of Copley's other ladies in blue, some of which are on my Sukey's World Pinterest board, I made a basic open front English gown. It took a bit longer than normal--about a month (one week of which was spent in the land of well dressed mice). Silk can fray easily and this silk is more of an investment than my other projects, so I wanted to take my time and get it right.

The fabric has a beautiful drape. It's much heavier than the plaid silk gown I made last year, but it's not so heavy that it's difficult to sew like an upholstery silk. It's also very forgiving when it comes to pin marks.

In terms of construction, it's similar to my other open front gowns which use an early version of the Larkin & Smith gown pattern. The robings are 1770s style, made separate and then sewn to the bodice from beneath so the stitching isn't visible from the front.

A peek at the inside. The stomacher is sewn in on one side to make it easier to dress quickly.

As you can see on the right, the prick stitches are smaller and more carefully sewn. I was afraid I'd run out of time which is why the stitches on the left are not as finely spaced.

This silk  is so nice! 

I continue to struggle with tucking enough fabric into the first two pleats at the center back. I cut the CB panel to be about 28 inches wide so there would be enough fabric to tuck, but I can't seem to get enough so the en forreau pleats are even.

Sukey wouldn't be seen in such lovely silk without flounces!

I used an 18th century-style lace that I found in at an antiques store earlier this year.

 An inside view of the inner flouce. The linen is gathered and sewn to the sleeve.

A view of the outer flounce. To save on fabric, it's pieced at the center. This flounce pattern was kindly shared from Mrs. B.

I sewed the sleeves and attached the flounces before I set the sleeves. One lesson learned: set the sleeves first, then attach the flounces otherwise they might end up backwards.
I added navy wool tape from Burnley & Trowbridge along the hem of the skirt panels to give it extra weight so it would drape well.
 A view of the in-progress gown from the back.

 Making a paper stomacher pattern.
Stomacher patterning.

Between persona research and program prep, I knew I wouldn't have time to make scads of trim but I thought Sukey's gown needed something extra. I paired the stomacher with this pink Georgian-style paste pin from Dames a la Mode.

 A pre-event selfie debuting the gown...and I was a little excited for the mic!
 Mrs. Winthrop, left, reviews Mrs. Copley's latest letter from her husband who is in Italy.
Mrs. Winthrop and Mrs. Copley.
When presenting a first person monologue, I almost always props to generate audience interaction and a cheat sheet to make sure I include all of the interpretative themes.

I also wore this gown for Liberty & Union at Old Colony Historical Society. 

 Gossiping with Mrs. C.
 Photo courtesy Mrs. M.

This project has another special aspect--the gown reminds me of Felicity Merriman's blue gown. I was fortunate to attend Felicity's debut in Colonial Williamsburg in the summer of 1991, which is when I first fell in love with colonial American history. I suspect that the American Girl creators based Felicity's fancy dress after Copley's ladies in blue.