14 November 2014

What Cheer Wear: Ann Frankland Lewis's Gown

A mantua maker must be fashion forward, right? 

Back when Ktity Calash and I were prepping for the 1812 Salem Maritime Festival this summer, I made a new gown based off of the fashionable 1807 print by Ann Frankland Lewis (below). While my gown was wearable for the event, it was not fully trimmed. What Cheer Day last month was the perfect opportunity to finish the trim and declare it done. 

Here are construction and interpretation notes...

The gown is made from four yards of  Burnley and Trowbridge's cinnamon light weight worsted wool. I started the project by using discounted brown linen from Joanne's, which would have been fine but the two pieces of remnant fabric didn't match--even though they were from the same bolt. The Burnley and Trowbridge wool was a last minute splurge, which ended up being perfect for my two events: 1) our August day in Salem was unseasonably cool (several friends wore spencers) and 2) you can't go wrong wearing brown wool in October.

Since I was juggling milliner preparations during my busy time at work, I opted for slight variations on the homemade pattern I used for my Quaker gown earlier this year, such as.

  • I didn't prick stitch along the bodice drawstring, I just whip stitched it in place.
  • Instead of making a pretty lapped seam along the sleeves, I sewed them the easy way. Because of the gown's rather bold red trim, this more decorative stitching seemed unnecessary.
  • I sewed the bodice lining and drawstring casing with one stitch. You can see below that I tried to make these tight so it all holds up!

An inside view of the top of the bodice: The drawstring casing and the bodice lining are assembled with one stitch.
Three rows of stitches are visible (from top to bottom):
1) the drawstring at the bottom of the bodice and the lining are also assembled with one stitch (an explanation is below); 
2) the skirt panels are attached to the bodice with tiny, tight whip stitches; 
3) the red thread shows where the trim was top stitched in place.

For the drawstring casing along the bodice waist, I tried a different approach from my Quaker gown. Last time I double sewed this: once to make the casing and once to whip the lining to the casing. Knowing that the ruffle on my lappet cap has a rolled whipped hemy gather thing created in one stitch, I tried something similar here--I used one stitch (at approximately 20 SPI) to secure the casing and attach the lining. It's not the prettiest sewing technique, but I think it works.

The skirt panels are just squares, they're not cut triangle-like as my other gowns are. This means there was a bit more pleating and gathering to do at the waist. No one wants extra bulk in front, so I pleated the fabric so it's all in the center back, another different approach from the Quaker gown.
On the Quaker gown, I didn't like the result of my double pleats (which I'm defining as taking fabric and pleating it twice in the same place). Plus I had more skirt fabric than bodice fabric to attach it to, which forced me to "cheat" and make little pleats at the sides. 

This time I made tiny, tight pleats but I collected the fabric in back into longish pleats. For each following pleat I made, the fabric collected in back was equally as long. The result: I used all the excess fabric with eight pleats on each side and the bulk of fabric is concentrated in the back...so it's has a little extra somethin'. 
Any extra fabric from the deep pleats I pulled back in to add to the poof, which you can see in the photo below with the pin going across. 

I then über-basted the pleats in place as I didn't want to risk standing up and accidentally pulling out any pleats. 

Though I haven't seen the inside of enough extant gowns from this era to know if this is a period-correct approach, I have to wonder if Regency gowns often had excess fabric like this and, if so, if this is why we see many fashion plates showing ladies "picking wedgies." (If you don't know of the images I'm referring to, seach "regency wedgie" on Pinterest.)

I think the pleats have a very appeasing appearance.
 You can kind of get a sense for the bulk of fabric at the center back here...well, sort of. If you look close.
While it would have been easier to use several yards of silk ribbon for the trim, I opted for self trim due to budget constraints. The sash on my Museum of London gown from 2011 was just a piece of red Persian silk that I had folded many times. I cut this into 1.5 inch wide strips for the gown's trim, the cheery bonnet and a reticule. When applying the trim, I folded the strips so they measure about 1 inch wide. In retrospect, when looking at the print in closer detail, a half inch wide ribbon would better reflect Ann's print. But I'm not redoing it!
 To mimic the lacing effect on Ann's gown, I used little eyes (haberdashery eyes, obviously) to loop the ribbon through.

Between the drawstring at the bodice top, the drawstring at the waist and the lacing ribbon, I didn't have to worry about pinning it closed.

Now getting to the nitty gritty: my gown for an 1800 event, where I portrayed Providence mantua maker Nancy Smith, was based off an 1807 image. I was arguably a bit too forward leaning in the fashion department. However when you consider...
...this 1801 fashion print, (which I found via Kitty Calash on Pinterest) it shows a similar color palette, trim approach and a comparable gown shape. So I think it works. What do you think?


For a few photos of the gown in action, and lots of gorgeous pictures from What Cheer Day, check out Kitty's recent What Cheer Day Galleries.
Cartoon filter!

08 November 2014

What Cheer Wear: A Cheery Bonnet

For last year's What Cheer Day I whipped up a simple 1799 bonnet. This year I was smitten with this 1807 print of Ann Franklin Lewis that I found on Pinterest (Thank you Jenny Lafleur!!) which I used as inspiration for a quick retrim.

 I made self trim with red silk scraps to match the trim on my gown. (More on the gown soon, I hope.)

 I sewed little feather pads with red wool and feathers. (An extra set is listed on my Etsy shop.)

 I cheated and pinned everything in place...

 ...and declared it done.

 Image courtesy Kitty Calash's What Cheer Day Review

Last year on What Cheer Day my bonnet wouldn't stay in place and I spent mmuch of the day balancing it on my head. This year I remembered a hat pin and didn't want to take off my cheery bonnet. : )

Below is a photo of my freshly painted, newly redecorated (with a nod to Cath Kidston) and now super organized sewing space which I thought you all would appreciate.

20 October 2014

What Cheer Day: October 25th 2014

The Rhode Island Historical Society's annual What Cheer Day, a living history event that shows life at the John Brown House in 1800, takes place this Saturday. As the visiting mantua maker, I've crafted the following letter to help get into character...

October 20th 1800

Miss Brown and Missus Mason,

It Tis with great pleasur that I writ you today from my shop in Cheapside. I've just returnd from a summer sojourn in Salem, where I was visitin my sista the milliner and her spritely child. You will be most interested to learn that I tourd Boston where I acquird prints showin the latest in fall and winter fashions from Paris and I have a new selectin of fine muslins.

As you are both connoisseurs of the fina points in lafe, I would like to call on you this commin Saturdy so you are the first in all of Rhoade Island to view the new French fashions of which I am certan you'll be wearin come this winter seasin. Of coorse, I'm eager to learn of all that has pass'd in Providence since our
last meetin.--I confess I am curious to know if your mothar ever hirad a new house maid? 'Twas quite the scandal caused by the previous new maid's behaviour when she was seen in town wearin Miss Brown's silk gown and new spencer. Alas I fault not Missus Brown for waitin to seek a replacement. OhAlas enough with Gossip!

Miss Brown, you will be pleased to learn that I have found readymade slippers that closely match the description you had requested in late spring. I believe I have your size. Saturd'y hence I shall bring them so you could try wearin them.

Missus Mason we have so very much to discuss I eagerly await meetin your newborn babe! There is a small tokin for you in my possess-ion on b'half of my sista for you to wear in your married state. And I have prepar'd a small gift for you and the child.

I remain as always
Your Humble Mantua Maker,

Nancy Smith 

05 October 2014

A "Sofia the First" 18th Century Gown

On vacation last month, my little one debuted a new gown. I'm particularly proud of this because:
  1. She found the fabric at the fabric store.
  2. I corrected some of the fitting issues from her leading strings gown
It's a striped cotton in purple, which she chose to reflect the young Disney princess Sofia the First. Since it's a fine stripe, I made it 1780s style so it ties closed in the back. Photos of its debut are below with a few explanations; construction notes are coming soon.

 Admiring her new "colonial" shoes on Duke of Gloucester Street.

 Following the "history band."

 Exploring the Governor's Palace garden.

 She had to have a sash. Thanks to the coral sash on her leading strings gown, and the sash on a flower girl dress she recently wore, we're really into sashes. This one is just a shinny purple ribbon that I had in my stash.

 Check out that nicely sewn sleeve!

 I love how I caught her singing in this photo! It reminds me of...
 ...the 18th century painting Young Girl Singing into a Mirror.

 She loved the garden's mazes.

 Pretending to model...
 ...and pretending to be a statue.

 Notice how the bodice ties closed. (Yes, she needs a shift.)

Standing at the spot where her dad popped the question over ten years ago. 

 Making a "history friend" with one of Williamburg's interpreters.

 Showing off her shoes.

This gown fits her perfectly so there's not much room for growing. I doubt we can use it next year, but having a few colonial dresses to wear in the historic area helped positively shape her experience in Colonial Williamsburg.

Wearing the "history dress" made her an engaged and enthusiastic visitor, much more so than visiting in modern clothes. Nurturing cultural interests and fostering positive museum experiences are well worth the effort for some extra fabric shopping and sewing.