Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sacque-spiration - Robes a la Francaise to Admire

Hi! We are currently stitching along on our most complex book project, the 1760s sacque. While we can't show you the whole big crazy thing quite yet, we'd like to share with you our references.

Mrs. Cadoux c. 1770, The Tate, N03728

Portrait of a Lady, Francis Cotes, 1768 The Tate (Art UK)
Those of you following on Instagram and Facebook may already know that our sacque is ivory and pink, like the two paintings above. We've somewhat blended these two together to create a massively-trimmed confection, and will include tutorials for pinking, gathering, and puffing in the book.

A few more references, for good measure:

Gown, c. 1760, British, The Met, 11.60.232ab
Mary, Lady Cunliffe by Francis Cotes, Walker Art Gallery, 1768. WAG 1514
Princess Louisa and Princess Caroline by Francis Cotes, 1767. Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 404334
Miss Susanna Gale by Joshua Reynolds, c. 1763-64. National Gallery of Victoria, 158-4
We are nearly done with the sacque, then it's all the fun millinery to go with it. Quite the undertaking, but worth the fuss!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Simplicity Pattern Catalog, August 1940

Simplicity August 1940
Simplicity Pattern Catalog, August 1940
About a month ago I acquired my first vintage counter book - you know, the big pattern catalogs we go and flip through at the fabric stores. I began my obsession after visiting Simplicity back in October and flipping through a couple of their original books. This first catalog, which is not the one I'm sharing with you today, was such a work of art that since then I've been on a bit of a bender, snapping up pre-1950s books whenever I can find (and afford) them.

So far I have two late-30s and two 1940s. The '40s books are both Simplicity, one from 1940 on the dot, and one from 1946. The difference between the two is astounding. I'll show you pages from the '46 later, but today I'll share a few of my favorites from the '40.

Simplicity August 1940
The dress on the left with the crazy plaid work is calling my name! So is the dress on the right!

Simplicity August 1940

I'm fascinated by the juxtaposition between the 1940 and the 1946 book. On the personal side, there's literally nothing I don't adore in the 1940 book and there's almost nothing I DO adore or even like a little in the 1946 book!

Simplicity August 1940
The 1940s catalog is choc full of interesting gathers and shaping like this.

Simplicity August 1940
This plaid-trimmed blazer needs to go in my closet right now.
Also of note, the patterns in the 1940 book are pretty complex, despite the "Simple to Make" stamp being tagged on patterns that we today would by no means consider simple projects! Apparently 1946 didn't think so either because their "Simple to Make" patterns are more in-line with ours today - two seams, no armscyes, etc. The 1946 patterns are *so* simple they're boring, but by contrast, the 1940 patterns are so complex they're intimidating. I'm intrigued as to why this major shift occurred....(down the rabbit hole we go!)

Simplicity August 1940
Here's and example of what 1940 calls "Simple to Make." Does this look simple to you?

Simplicity August 1940

Another interesting note about the 1940 book is that it contains older patterns, like our books do today. There are quite a few obviously 1930s patterns still available in 1940. In the 1946 book, though, everything looks new for that year. This is probably more me not being attuned to the subtleties of the mid '40s year-to-year, but there's also a marked change in the style of the illustrations. Fascinating. Bring on the social context.

Simplicity August 1940 Pattern Catalog
A very 1930s pattern still available in the 1940 catalog - a good example of how fashion flows.

Simplicity August 1940
A cute late 1930s look still available in the 1940 catalog. 
Of course, the most frustrating thing about flipping through these tomes of focused dress history is that I can't pull open the pattern cabinet at Joanns and help myself to any of these. It's that same feeling of despair that comes with "shopping" old catalogs. There's the joy of online pursuit, though - hunting pattern numbers on eBay, Etsy, and Facebook groups - as well as the challenge of drafting your own version. There's no shortage of inspiration, at least!

Simplicity August 1940
There's a small section on undies - mostly slips and negligees, but a few brassieres and tap pants.

Simplicity August 1940
This is one of my favorite spreads in the book - there's only one like it, and I'm not sure what it signified - mix and match, perhaps? Individual separates patterns (instead of suits)? Quite fun.
Next time, I'll show you snaps from the 1946 Simplicity catalog and we can compare and contrast. For now, back to sewing!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The "State of the Book" Address - Updates and Progress

Well it's been a couple months now since we announced the writing of our 18th century sewing book, which now has an official title: "The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking: How to Hand Sew Georgian Gowns and Wear Them With Style."

In the past two months we have been sewing *like mad.* We weren't given very much time to write this thing, to be honest - about four months once the table of contents was approved. The scope is....big, to say the least. We're doing four different gowns in four chapters, and also accompanying those gowns are accurate accessories to make up a complete outfit.

So far we've made two of our four ensembles - the 1740s English Gown and the 1790s Round Gown. It's been quite the adventure, cracking the construction of original garments and photographing every step and stitch along the way as we construct the dresses using all original methods. "Just doing it" is one thing, but having to photograph and explain it in a way that makes sense has been challenging.

Yes, we're teasing you....
As we turn the page on 2017, we're right back at it on the most complex and time-intensive of the chapters: the 1760s Sacque. Luckily, though, there's now three of us on the project - Maggie from Undressing the Historical Lady is arriving this week to double our stitch-speed.

So while we can't show you official-ness from the book yet, we wanted to give you an update and let you know how excited we are, despite the short time frame. In the words of Simon Sinek, "working hard for something we don't care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion."

Saturday, December 31, 2016

My Last Project of 2016

1930s-inspired hooded wool bomber jacket.
It feels like I haven't sewn much this year. I certainly have lapsed on the blogging, which I greatly apologize for! Everything we've been stitching up since October has been for next year's 18th century sewing book and we can't share it, so it goes without saying that it's been very difficult to do anything other than that.

Luckily I had a couple days between Christmas and New Years "off," and I decided to make something for myself - a 1930s-inspired jacket. I love jackets and coats, and needed something cozy but with a short waist. I was inspired by the pullover in the bottom right of this 1930s Sears catalog page:

The inspiration jacket isn't really a jacket after all - it's a pullover with ribbed cuffs and band and a small collar. Adorbs!
I had some lovely plaid wool in the stash and a 1970s pattern that would serve as the base:

The pattern - Simplicity 5891 - and the fabric, a plaid melton.
The pattern, Simplicity 5891, was close-ish. I needed to adjust the waist measurement, which was easy to do with just two seams. I also wanted to convert the band and cuffs to ribbing, and add a hood.

My doodles and notes with adjustments and alterations.
The jacket shell went together easily. I took the time to do bound buttonholes, which came out a bit small. I'm not sure bound buttonholes were the best choice for this project, since the wool was so thick. If they'd been larger it would have been easier to work through them, but despite my mistakes at least I know they'll last a long time. I don't trust my stitched buttonholing technique!

Bound button holes - there's a lot more steps that come after this, so don't be deceived. They look nice, though.
The ribbing was both tricky and easy. The cuffs were a right royal pain but the band was surprisingly straightforward. The difficulties come from access on a modern machine, but I'm wont to think it's my technique that's in need of revision. Surely there's an easier way to do ribbed cuffs! For the band, I assembled it with the wool tab first, then applied it to the bodice. I added that little tab because I needed something sturdy to button to - you see this done in bomber jackets quite often.

The shell of the jacket assembled, waiting for the lining.
Lastly, the lining. I put the lining in by hand but only because I've never learned the proper way to do it by machine! I did some parts out of order - for instance, I should have stitched the lining of the sleeve at the cuff right-sides-together, then pulled it through and finished the armscye, instead of turning the lining and felling it to the cuff (what a pain!) - and it took me many hours to wrestle the lining in, but I won in the end.

Felling the lining in by hand. It took a long time, and my lining - a poly crepe - wasn't nice to sew.
I put a welt pocket in lining, since there was no room on the exterior for functional pockets (too short). This is the first time I'd ever done a pocket like this and I'm pleased with the result, though I see how to improve next time. I'm glad I took the time to add it, too, because it's the perfect place to stash my keys and phone on dog park days.

The "lips" of my interior pocket. These are made just like bound buttonholes, then the pocket back is applied. I used the instructions in the Vogue sewing book. This is my favorite part of the jacket, to be honest. 
All in all I'm very pleased with my last project of 2016, and happy that I carved out a little time to make something for myself that I will wear often. Wearing and loving something you made it one of the best feelings.

Cozy and cute - I've been living in this jacket since I finished it.
Happy New Year to you all! I look forward to your projects in 2017!