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At the Top: About Me

I've always been in love with clothing, from the cute smocked dresses my grandmother made me, to the goth garb I lusted after as a teen. My mother worked too much and never taught us how to sew, but she would make us the most beautiful and awesome Halloween costumes when we were kids.

I had a desire to make my own Renaissance Faire and belly dancing wear, so at 24, I finally figured out how to sew a real seam and use a machine. Since then, my interest has shifted to making historically accurate clothing that I wear for reenactments and living history. My interest ranges from 16th century to early 20th, with a concentration on second-half 18th century and a passing interest in medieval. I also have a deep interest in Bavarian clothing since the 18th century, since part of my heritage lies there. My husband recently convinced me to take a serger given by his grandmother, and even figured out how to thread it for me! Aside from trying to make historical garments, I'm beginning to try my hand at modern clothes.

I live with my husband, Jim, and our two cats, Noodle and Earl, in a mother in law suite in a split level in  Ithaca, NY. He goes to Cornell for his PhD in Operations Research, and I work as an Assistant Business Manager for a radio station.

CADD and Life Stuff

May 2012
Not a whole lot going on--I haven't posted because I had nothing interesting to say. I'm finding my job exceedingly boring; I always have lots of work to do, but it's all rather tedious. I'm doing my best to blame it on belated Spring Fever, and I just want to go, do things, and not be at my desk all day.

Good news--I've been approved to foster baby cats! I'm anxiously awaiting e-mails--they send out a message on a list serve and it's first call gets the babies. I've had one, but they were bottle babies, and we were going to NJ that night. Otherwise, I would've snapped them up quick!!

Major CADD going on. I was aaaalllll about the Regency for a very long time, even bought some pretty voiles on sale for ball gowns. In the time I was waiting for them to come in, I got distracted by late 1910s/early 1920s fashions. I'm not quite sure how that happened. I'm going to blame all the talk of the Downton Abbey costume exhibit at Winterthur that I'm going to in August. I think it's because I can now see some of the 1917-1922 blouses for modern wear. I came across an old blog post on Wearing History with some 1919 shirtwaists that are so pretty! I'm not a fan of big, derpy collars and absolutely loathe high necks, even jewel necklines are sometimes intolerable.

And the colors! I *love* them:

The top image is Summer/Fall 1917 and the lower Winter 1916/17. Sure helps explain what color they mean; orchid is certainly not what orchid is today, and turquoise looks faded. Plus, weird colors like "chardon," "beauty," "nutria" and "Russian" are explained. Chartreuse, citron, and some of the other pastels are the height of fashion right now. It makes me wish more photos were in color.

HOWEVER--I *do* need regency things made before June 20 and new 18th century outer garments (gown or jacket) before July 12. I have events to go to. I also need to fix my highburys again--they got the weird dark spots again, I think because I never scotchguarded them. Also, I took the plunge and purchased the new Georgianas while they have the special (opted for the fancy buckles) and some yellow dye and metallic leather paints.
Regency yay

I get sick of seeing everything from the period being "Frenchified." It's pretty and all, but just not the right look for me and what I want to achieve, usually. However, I stumbled across this blog entry on Mrs. Bell's designs in La Belle Ansemblee, a British publication that ran from 1806 to 1868. The blog entry makes fun of them, but I like all of them (except that pink frilly thing, Blagh). I mean, c'mon, SEAWEED DRESS!

1809 Bathing dress1809 walking dress

I even dig the "unflattering" walking dress--the cape like thing makes it slightly more versatile, and the trim makes it interesting without bring frippy. It's just been drawn in a rather unflattering way. Even the tartan dress isn't terrible--in fact, the coat is quite pretty!

If I am really serious about 1810s, I should really start making things. Since it's cold and dreary 9 months out of the year, a warm walking ensemble is Not A Bad Idea, TM.

May 2012
Vintage Dancer is having a Wearing History Giveaway!

Follow the links and instructions above to enter. I dig the 1899 Jacket, but I kinda like the Day to Night dress, too. I dunno, they have a lot of patterns.

Stays Fretting

After last night's attempt to try on the stays--the eyelets are too small to get the corset lace through--thoughts on buying stays have amplified. Should I buy? What should I buy? Who should I buy from?

There are a handful of reputable sutlers out there. I've already addressed April C. Thomas and Hallie Larkin, but I've revisted Silly Sisters. I've since lost my prejudice against strapless stays, though I really wanted front-lacing stomacher-type stays. I learned that the back-lacing ones were popular because it gave a smooth, fashionable front, and read a tutorial on how to lace oneself into them. Most events I go to have at least one person who knows how to lace them, too. However, I know I don't fit into the "Standard Sizing" that they have--a complete redraft will cost more. Which is fine, but these are not the kind of stays I wanted; if I'm going to spend $250-$400 on stays, I want them to be what I want.

There is also The Staymaker, in England, but I have an inkling he may be too rich for my blood, even without customs. And LittleBits on Etsy makes leather ones, but I didn't want to portray someone that poor.

Is anyone familiar with a staymaker or clothier that would be able to make stays out of the natural materials, to my size and specifications (stomacher front, strapped, covered in wool or linen, bound in leather)? I don't mind if the boning channels are machine stitched and can negotiate on eyelets or binding.

The HSF Inadvertent Pink

May 2012
A wee bit of backstory: I wanted to make a pair of red leather slippers for 1810s to wear for English Country Dancing. I was going to do them for the Fairy Tale Challenge (a la The Red Shoes), but an opportunity to get a pair of Highburys from American Duchess came up when she put up a pair in my size marked down to $60. I grappled with which color dye to get, to make mine that desirable Coquelicot color that was popular in the era. I can't seem to upload the color sample photo, but I chose color 2020, a very bright red. I didn't find out until a few days after I had ordered that 2020 would dye lighter on the Duchess dyeable shoes, so for a poppy-red, I should have gotten 2001 (which appears as a deep red).

So, after the stupid superbowl, I set to work, followed the instructions, and dyed. It took less than a half hour! I was a bit concerned that I may have over-saturated a bit, but they looked fine and I went to bed. They were a lovely poppy-red. I got up the next morning, they had dried with ugly bluish streaks all over them! I had put too much dye! I contacted American Duchess, and Lauren e-mailed me back and said all I had to do was wipe them down vigorously with a damp cloth until the blue went away. It would make them lighter, but even out the color.
I did not save the image like this, I don't know why it does this. The shoe on top is freshly wiped down, and the shoe on the bottom is before wiping down, to give you an idea of how they looked. It's still hard to tell, because the light in the laundry room isn't very good and they have a shine.

So, A NOTE TO THOSE DYEING AMERICAN DUCHESS SHOES: A dab will truly do you! Only one brush/daub over with the dye should color them sufficiently. I think I wiped enough dye out to dye another pair of shoes, if not two! Other than that, it is extremely easy to do! Just make sure you wear gloves and have paper spread out and a wet cloth or paper towel on hand.

They dried to this color this morning: 20140204_074309

More of an English Rose than a Coquelicot Red, but I think I will keep them this way. It's a bit prettier and suits me better than poppy red does. The color matches the cotton damask I am covering my 1776 stays with, and there will definitely be enough leftover to make a sleeveless spencer. The color is period enough.

Here's to inadvertent pinking!

Elation then Frustration

May 2012
I'm jumping back into Historical Sew Fornightly. Challenge 1 is Make Do and Mend. Since I have nothing that needs mending and a thousand things that need finishing that's what I am working on.

I spent Friday and Saturday working on a cap and bedgown I cut out in 2009 and 2010 respectively. I did really well with the cap--it's a Kannik's Korner--I had never whip gathered before and it's much easier than I anticipated, as long as you have a good linen thread. Even attaching wasn't so bad, but on Sunday I ran into issues stemming from the band seam, the first seam you sew. I had made it too wide, so there's a gap in both the caul and appears there will be a gap in the ruffles too.

When this became apparent on Sunday, I pinned and repinned, then just took a part and set aside. The bedgown--blahg. I think I've complained about it before. I *LOVE* the linen it's made of--a natural linen with various brown stripes and a narrow blue stripe through it. But, I used a shitty pattern. Never again! The pattern recommended I cut a size larger if I planned to wear without stays. At that time, in 2010, that meant I should cut it to a 38" bust. I'm swimming in it! Something like 60 inches of fabric hangs around my waist.

The pattern didn't call for back pleats, so I started experimenting. I like the look of many pleats. Turned out to be loads of fail. The stripes are not centered and I can't seem to get them to align straight. I picked it all apart and will try to do one giant box pleat in the back, as seen in period examples. It's just too goddamn roomy as is.

EDIT: Also, I am wearing my Hartfields for the first time--I didn't take into account that while my left foot is longer, my right foot is larger around the top of the foot and ankle (which is why I remember having so many issues with boots as a teenager). It's feeling a bit too snug and I guess I will have to hit it up with a little leather stretcher next time I wear them. Other than that, they are adorable with my outfit--haven't gotten any compliments, but that's to be expected with dated footwear.

Talking About Intentions

Female Florists
I recently read a short article about how talking about plans actually makes you less likely to do them. Something about the psychology of it: admitting or saying that you are planning to do something makes you feel like you've actually done it, taking the proverbial wind out of the sails.

I think I can attest to that.

So, I am going to attempt to not say what I am going to do, but rather talk about what I have done. Maybe then shit will get done.

Last night, I was watching episode after episode of Poirot. I folded laundry, then just sat there. I thought "well, this is an awful lot of time to waste sitting here." I went into my nook and grabbed a ufo blue linen petticoat. I finished hemming the hem, the pocket slits, and the waistband. Then I picked up my 18th century cap and roll hemmed a ruffle.

I've been having quite a bit of fabric lust with various embroidered and block printed fabrics from India, colorful wools, and damask silks. Trying to hold off until some of the stash is used.

Oh, PS--

I bought a pair of irregular Hartleys during the advent sale on the day the leather painting kit came with any pair of ivory leather shoes. They only were in 8 or 9 when I finally decided to buy them and I was afraid they would be tight, so I purchased the leather stretcher, too. I wear between a 9 and a 10. According to her measurement chart, the 10 is my size, but I tried on a pair of size 10 Kensingtons at Monmouth and they were ridiculously large on my swollen feet. The Hartleys finally arrived Saturday and I only had time to try it on my left foot (the bigger of the two), and they fit fine! They are lovely and I can't wait to wear them with my modern clothes as well as historical. I couldn't decide on a leather dye color, so I'll leave them ivory for the time being. I also got a pair of blue stockings and shoe clips.

FInal Edit: I realized I'm a dummy--it should be "Hartfield" boots, not Hartley.
May 2012
Other 18thc peeps--if you have not yet, check out the 18th Century Material Culture Resource Center.

I've been looking over some quick and not-so-quick things to improve on before next event and season. It's all up in the air still, but Jim has decided if he gets a good enough job offer, he will finish his degree in June. If not, then it's still a year and half let. Most of the places he's looking at or interviewing with are in the NE Corridor--Northern NJ, Philadelphia, NYC, Connecticut, Massachusetts, etc. So, I could be back in the area in less than 2 years. The thought makes me a bit sad, because I had hoped to go somewhere different than the completely familiar after Ithaca. West Coast, Seattle, some place else. But, if this happens sooner rather than later, I could be able to go to events regularly within a year.

Cloak. justawench has already done some research on cloak ties. My green cloak already haves double ties, the they aren't long enough to tie around the back as illustrated. It would be a quick thing to replace the ties and try out tying them around back.

Stockings, specifically garters. I tied mine around the base of my knee, but it seems most images, whether prints or paintings, show them tied above the knee. Granted, the very first image, dated 1659, impressions in the woman's leg imply her garters were tied below the knee. Has anyone tried this? I would guess tying them above, they would need to be wider than mine are (3/8" cotton fancy weave tape).

Handkerchief: inventories and practicality tells me I can probably not have too many of these. I packed 3 of my 4 hankies and on Sunday, I layered my bird's eye over my black silk one for warmth. I ended up tying my large white linen one around my head because of the cold, and at some point piled my bonnet on top of that. It wasn't very pretty, but ugly and unbecoming is period. I'm thinking of investing in some other printed or birds eye ones.

Shift: I learned some interesting things over the weekend. Friday night, I discovered I had removed the cuff ties from my shift in June to replace them proper buttonholes. The best laid plans...

Rather than have my shift sleeves flopping around all weekend, I put on my "spare," a sleeveless medieval shift that ended between knee and mid-thigh. Big mistake. The lack of sleeves and the shorter length made a big difference in my comfort level, I was freezing all weekend. I need some extra shifts!

I have a pair of shift sleeves I made some time ago, but I don't have enough of the same linen to make a full shift. I'm thinking of trying out the unbleached body method.

Also, I broke down this weekend and bought a pair of knitted mitts for $30 from Rancocas Merchant. Sue is a friend and it's been a while since I've supported her. My other friend used to make the mitts for her (they were basically tubes), but now she has a more reliable source since my friend has health issues and can't keep up with demand. These ones are fitted and are a claret color. I realized that if I equate $30=2.5 to 3 hours of work at my job, and compared it to making my own. I started Mara's during my estrogen low period, it took me 2 or 3 hours to knit an inch, which ended up being frogged anyway. I'm at a different place financially than when I started in 2007/08, and I've decided it's not the end of the world to buy some things. Plus, these mitts are so lovely, I brought them with me to work for when my hands get cold.

I might even purchase a full set of stays. I'm willing to pay the money to have someone else make them right; it's been 5 years and I haven't made a set, I need to put my money where my mouth is. But, sadly, it appears the places I would buy them from aren't selling them right now. :P

Movies instead of Mockups

May 2012
I was looking forward to a productive day. Around 7 am, I took Jim to his office so he could go on a day trip to the 1000 Islands with his colleagues. My plan was to run all the weekend errands, doing some chores, and getting some exercise in before setting to work on muslins. By the time I was finished everything, I sat down to lunch and realized I couldn't open my mouth all the way and I felt tired and warm. So much for that! But I got a lot of movies in, some of them quite inspiring.

Last week I watched a bunch, but Clueless is what stuck in my head. The blazer and kilt that Dionne and Cher wear reminded me of the Chanel suit.
It was silly, and really, I should have seen it back in 1995, but I enjoyed it. It was cute--and definitely "Emma" for the 1990s. Other movies I watched were "Heathers" (JD is the devil), "Pretty In Pink" (Stupidest John Hughes movie ever, and WTF--she ruined two perfectly good prom dresses to make a feedsack!), and "A Fish Called Wanda" which is a favorite from my teenage years.
pretty in pink beforepretty in pink after
Before and After. Blaugh. I couldn't find an image of the one her dad gave her, but it was made of the lacy material around her neck. And the movie was stupid! She should have just ended up with Annie Potts.

Anyway, today, I watched "The First Wives Club." I always wanted to see it, and I'm glad I did. It gets a little shrill in some areas, and Bette Midler's character is my favorite (there's a scene with her and Sarah Jessica Parker--who plays the woman her husband left her for, that cracked me up because I kept thinking of Hocus Pocus). Dame Maggie Smith has a part as a small but instrumental character, who wears not one but TWO Chanel suits. She's such a classy babe. I hope to be that classy when I'm that old.
Inspriation! The first one is much more gold in the houndstooth and the second is much more colorful, with purple, fuschia, teal with gold trimming.

Next up, "Mermaids." I saw it as a teenager on TNT, so it must have been heavily edited--so much more happened than I remembered! It was one of the few teenager movies that I actually still feel sympathy for the teenager character. I remembered the dresses pretty well, but I had forgotten how much shoes were featured--the wingtips her father wore (and later Lou), her mother's heels and rhinestone mules, Kate's red shoes, and her own ancient boots. I also couldn't help but notice how her own dress changes--from the prim and virginal peter-pan collar dresses (to show she's the opposite of her mother), then when she wears the pink dress to channel her mother, and finally, her own style at the end of the movies, sans rubber boots.
The famous Pink Dress, though, I liked the piped detailing and buttons on this blue one better. And this last picture I think best captures the personalities of Mrs. (Rachel) Flax, Charlotte, and Kate at the beginning of the film. Damn, Cher looks like a pencil....

Finally, I shoot out of this Modern period, and watch "Cold Comfort Farm." Not what I expected, but certainly a pleasant surprise! Everyone else looked so dreary, though gradually, everyone seems to perk up under Flora's care. I liked how she contrasted by being modern (for 1932), clean, fitted, and usually the only one not wearing a dull or dingy color. Elphine was the only one in the family who didn't look dirty, and even she looked like a nutcase until Flora took her shopping.
imagescold_comfort_lead-2ccf ball2
Look at that sweater! I really loved the simple lace or finely knitted sweater and skirt look.

Anyway. I think I am done for now. I wanted to tie this more into what I am making, but it's run too gamut now.