28 April 2009

Another foray into the 18th century?

What with my new copy of Fashion in Detail, working on the strapless stays, and a trip to the Fort Frederick Market Fair this weekend, I seem to have the 18th century on the brain. The dress that has really caught my fancy is this one in the V&A's collection. It is English, estimated at mid 1770s, in a pumpkin color that I'd probably look awful in. If you don't have the book for reference, the front is flat with a round neck and open skirts. What I really like about is the way it is at once both quite plain and finely detailed. I also love the back pleats that run continuously down from the top of the bodice (where they are stitched down) all the way down through the skirts without any sign of piecing or a waist seam.

I'm not sure that I want to start this gown, but I'm starting to plan out how I would approach it if I decide to. I need to look through Bradfield's Costume in Detail, as there are likely a few similar gowns in there, and it's as good an excuse as any to pick up the relevant volume of Arnold's Patterns of Fashion. Kass from Reconstructing History has a photo diary of making a closed gown with similar details, and of course there's also her pattern for an open robe anglais. J. P. Ryan also has a Robe a l'Anglaise pattern, which based solely on the line drawings on the covers might be closer to the style I'm looking for. On the down side, though, her patterns are single-size-per-envelope, which would mean a significant amount of redrafting. If anyone happens to know of other resources which document this particular gown more completely (it's certainly in good enough shape to be patterned from), I'd be more than happy to hear about it.

As for the progress on the strapless stays, they perplex me at every turn. My center front insert is trimmed down to 2 1/8", and boned with more reed, and I'm really quite happy with the fit. But if I lace to comfortably snug, the back edges touch, suggesting that maybe I didn't need to enlarge them after all? And yet I can assure you they were really too tight before. In theory, they're now ready for lining and binding, but I may rip out and re-sew the new section one more time, because the seamlines aren't as straight as I'd like.

17 April 2009

Facing the music

So, after months and months of a mixture of avoidance and denial, the truth is obvious: the strapless stays are not likely to stretch out to my size, and neither will I shrink to theirs. Rather than abandoning them, I'm still going to try to make them work. So tonight, I pulled the reed out of a few channels on either side of the center front, and picked open that seam. I managed to find all the materials that I had started with, and I drafted out an additional piece to insert. I cut it about 6 inches wide, plus seam allowances, although I think I'll only need 4 inches or less of extra room. I've left the rest of the boning in, so I should be able to get a good idea of the final fit. Except for the fact that I'm out of white thread (?!), which means that this is on hold again at least until I can get to the store.

Adding a large adjustment like this in just one spot, rather than distributing it throughout all the pieces, will change the shape of the stays a bit, although hopefully not too much. The dips for the arms will move around towards the back, and although they were too far forward in the current incarnation, I might need to trim down the side front points for comfort. The center front point will also be notably longer if I keep the current slope of the edge, although, again, I can trim it down as needed.

16 April 2009

Books: Fashion in Detail

Oh, my poor neglected blog. Today's (brief) note is about availability of some very nice books. New high-quality softcover editions of the V&A's Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Fashion in Detail, and Nineteenth-Century Fashion in Detail have been released this spring (earlier editions were becoming hard to find). Both are full of close-up, full-color photographs of extant garments, with brief descriptions and line drawings of the complete items. They are absolutely beautiful, very affordable, and highly recommended if they correspond to your periods of interest. They're particularly useful for finishing and embellishment ideas; slightly less useful for complete garment reconstruction, since there aren't full-length photos.