Wednesday, April 1, 2015

New Project: 1770s Powerpuff Polonaise

I have terrible Costume A-D-D right now. I want to make ALL the 18th century things!

It's good to be inspired, though! I have a trip to Colonial Williamsburg coming up in early June, so of course I'm sewing like mad to make new things. I do feel a touch guilty - my old gowns are fine, so why make so many new things?  ... but I've given up trying to justify this hobby a long time ago.

So, to the new things! Last weekend, after finishing the 1940s blouse, I was feeling confident, so I sliced into some pink shot taffeta, determined to turn it into a polonaise.

The Robe a la Polonaise has thus far eluded me. I tried to make a Polonaise jacket once, but it failed, and since then I've sortof just ignored the Polonaise Elephant in the room.

The Polonaise confuses me, though. I get that the pieces are cut all-in-one with the skirt, like a man's frock coat, and I get the back construction and fitting, but the hangy-openy bits at the front confuse me. I want to make everything fit like a glove, but having to leave those pieces hanging free and with the weird little foldy-backy thing they makes me a little crazy, and I have a hard time believing it will all work out in the end.

Maybe it will.

Maybe it won't.

Either way, this thing is going, and it's going surprisingly well. I have the bodice together, but plan to revisit the center back seam and probably the side back seams as well.

The remaining bits will be an exercise in piecing. I didn't have nearly enough pink taff for the whole thing, but I want the petticoat to match the gown, so I found some matching pink cotton to use at the back where the poofy polonaise bits will cover the petticoat, and under the very deep pleated organza hem trim. The cotton will also underlay the organza sabot cuff trim on the sleeves, so I will use as little remaining taffeta in these applications as possible. I still have a waistcoat front to get out of the scraps, too. Eep!

I love the color, though, and I'm pleased with the construction so far. It will be so much fun to wear in June!

Monday, March 30, 2015

The One-Weekend 1940s Rayon Blouse

This past weekend I felt the need to stitch together something quick, easy, and very useful, using my favorite vintage fabric, rayon.

Luckily, my local Mill End fabric store has a good selection, and I picked up enough white rayon faille for two blouses.

I frankensteined Vogue 5724 and Simplicity 3079 together, after finding most of the pieces of the Vogue pattern missing. No worries - I just cut the sleeve on the Simplicity pattern short, and used the surviving collar piece from the Vogue. My version is missing the gathers from the neckline, and I didn't bother with the string tie thingy, but I think the over all effect is good. If I wanted to be extra '40s I'd put shoulder pads in....still debating that one, though.

It was a quick project and came out swell. I like the blouse very much, and it'll make a nice addition to my vintage wardrobe. :-)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

1780 Robe Retroussee - My Tribute to Avi

I have always been in love with this 1780s French gown from the Met, one for being a gorgeous gown, but because of the way the photograph was styled with the little dog mannequin:

The Met, 1780
To me, the little greyhound-like dog mannequin has always represented Avi, my dearest companion who passed away this time last year.  I had always intended to make this dress and take pictures with Avi, but never got around to it, though Avi participated in many costumed photo shoots over the years.

Avi and I posed together a lot in photo shoots for American Duchess. She would sit herself in the center of the backdrop and refuse to move, so we just went with it. :-)
When I was in LA last week, I found this embroidered silk taffeta and instantly thought of the picture from The Met, and this gown. The fabric was a bit of a splurge for me, but I knew I had to have it, and that even though I'll never be able to take the picture with Avi, it will remind me of her every time I wear the dress.  So I bought the fabric.

It's not a match, but it reminded me of the 1780 dress fabric, so I couldn't pass it up.
Luckily the Met has a lot of pictures of this gown, and I want to be true to the design. I'm hoping to have it done for a trip to Williamsburg in June - I better get stitching!

You can see more angles, and larger images at

Monday, March 23, 2015

1785 Williamsburg Chintz Pierrot - Progress at Last!

I've been so diligently digging into the UFO pile, finishing things left and right, so I decided to pick up this little chintz jacket I started ages ago.

Here's the photo from last year - you can see the sleeve is pulling the shoulder and back in a funny way.
I had run into a problem with the sleeves (as usual). The sleeve heads were too shallow, so I removed the one sleeve I had set, and pattern-matched some extensions onto the tops of both sleeves.

I re-fit the sleeves over my dress form's shoulders, using the 18th century method, which is usually a good indication that they'll fit me. They're a little fuller than I would like, but I value mobility, so I'll just live with the slight easing gathers that remain over the top of the shoulder.

I don't have too far left to go on this jacket. I need to finish up the right sleeve's shoulder strap, then hem and trim the back skirt with *ruffles!* The ruffles will take a little time, but they're the big "huzzah" of the jacket, so it'll be worth it.

Looking back, I don't know why I did this jacket zone-front. I can't remember if I intended to add trim there or what, but the busy pattern in the fabric didn't really work with this design. Same for the crazy pleated back - these details would have been much more striking on a solid color.

Learning experience. :-)