I have been pretty much living and breathing this project for quite a few days now. I have done up a complete list of every single piece of relevant clothing information for the 1830s project in the books that I have so far, organized by garment. That will go up in my next post - because I'm trying to separate out the research posts, so that they're easily findable, and so that I can update them as I go along. Looking at all those images, and reading all those tidbits about construction, I feel that I've really trained my eye for the period, far more than I had before.
One advatange of doing SO MUCH at once was all the connections made between various pieces of information. It led to all kinds of excitement when, for instance, I fell in love with the c1838-40 pale pink silk gown on the bottom of pages 76-77 of Lucy Johnston's Nineteenth Century Fashion in Detail, from the V&A. I love that book (and the earlier one of the same variety), but it doesn't usually have full pictures, so it can be frustrating at times. In this case of this gown, it only had the bodice, and not the entirety of the cuffs. So I looked up the item number on the V&A website, and there was a full picture of the gown - though it was covered by an odd outer garment, and the picture itself looked a little tired! A couple hours later, I found that same picture in the V&A's somewhat pathetic 1984 publication Four Hundred Years of Fashion, edited by Natalie Rothstein. And the overgarment, it turned out, was dated somewhat later. So that explains why the picture looked old!
These things are perhaps unreasonably exciting to me. I am being widely laughed at for my great enthusiasms, but some of them are catching! To wit, I have made an order from Fabric.com, and along with my various items, also have along for the ride three swatches selected by my dear friend Lyndie, who is a gilded age enthusiast recruited for a transitional-bustle-era sewing project with me. Just, you know, on the side. Because I bought the patterns years ago and I want them! Every time I watch Daniel Deronda, The Way We Live Now, or The Buccaneers, a my desperation to sew clothing from this period increases. And since I could use the same chemise, drawers, and corset as for earlier 1860s things, it doesn't seem an unreasonable directions to go.
Anyway. I took advantage of the sale (ending tonight at midnight, presumably Eastern time) on reproduction quilting fabrics to order from the c1840 Pennock album a fabulously busy floral striped cotton in brick red and tan, with bits of blue and green in the florals. I ordered two yards of this, for the purpose of reproducing this gloriously busy quilted petticoat in the Old Sturbridge Village collection. I am very excited about this particular item, because it will be useful for both my 1830s project and for wearing with later crinoline era clothes. And because it promises to be somewhat ugly in that marvelous way. I wonder how skirt-supportive this garment will/could be. Would I still need a corded petticoat over it? Would it be helpful/reasonable/accurate to add a couple of rows of cording to the hem? And then of course I still need to get my paws on tapes for the waist, brown or tan polished cotton (unless I go for a plain cotton) for the lining and waistband, and some sort of batting to put between the layers, as well as thread. It makes me very sad that I likely won't be able to get all these things this week, because I would dearly love to start on this project for spring break, which starts this coming weekend, and which I will be spending holed up on campus, sewing. And knocking off a paper that's due afterward, bah.
I plan to use leftover bits of the striped floral, along with this Pennock floral on dotted tan ground, to make a patchwork pocket, such as I've seen a couple examples of. I bought half a yard of that, because it was the smallest quantity I could order.
I also purchased a swatch of white cotton broadcloth, to investigate it for potential undergarment-construction purposes, since I am going to need a great deal of sturdy but lightweight white cotton. I'm hoping I'll run across something appropriate, plentiful, inexpensive, and consistently available locally, of course, but a place that doesn't charge shipping for orders of $35 is the next best thing. I really don't think I can justify/afford more than $3/yard, so this is my upper limit - hopefully I can find something for less or catch JoAnn's with a coupon!
Then there's the yard I ordered - because at $5.49/yard it wasn't that much more for a yard than for a $1.75 swatch - of a brick red and periwinkle blue striped silk. I am suspicious of this fabric, because that is a VERY good price for a wide width of what looks like a smoothly woven silk. But if it's nice, I will assuredly be attacking it. I love stripes, and I love garish mid 19th century color combinations. The combination looks very 1860s to me, and my instinct is to think that it's probably not appropriate for my 1830s project, which is most unfortunate, but I may just have to find a way to afford it for, say, a transitional bustle dress, because it's simply too delicious to resist - if it's really silk, if the weave is smooth, if the body is right, etc. If all else fails, I will have a wide yard of pretty fabric, and can always turn it into a just-for-fun corset or some such.
Last but not least, I also got 12 yards of repro (ish) striped cotton in red, mustard, and antique. It's from a collection that is "inspired" by a quilt. Some of the other fabrics in the collection are quite odd, but I think that this stripe looks decent, and really, it's hard to go wrong with stripes. The only real point of concern is that the white is "antique" rather than a pure white, but hopefully it's not too bad. I didn't feel like I could pass up paying less than $4/yard for fabric in my favorite color (red) that I really liked, for a decent new Civil War everyday dress. A good sturdy cotton done up nicely (bias ruffles, anyone?) but reasonable for a c1860 cotton (not sheer) print. I have a beautiful wool plaid waiting to be made up (waiting in California!), and a partially completed, elaborate silk ballgown project in the works, but I'd rather get back into things with something simpler. Plus it will come in handy for certain plans I have for next school year...
Regarding that dress, I got SO much yardage because I want to be able to have lots of bias options, and it was inexpensive enough that I figured I'd play it safe and get plenty. I already have various lovely vintage/antique buttons that would work, white polished cotton for the lining (um, I think - I should check - I might only have black polished cotton; the white white all be sateen, but it's lightweight, so I miiiiiight use it anyway), hooks and eyes, white batiste for collars and cuffs, and even a sheer white cotton with woven stripes that I can snag a bit from for a corded bonnet to wear with the dress. Yes, I know - I really like stripes!
The rest of the order is just a few little samples of the silk/rayon (mostly silk) brocade that Fabric.com carries, one that I have my eye on for pseudo-historical purposes and several that Lyndie was fond of. We'll see if they're likely to be of any use.
In other news - I keep looking at images of extant gowns (like the pale pink one mentioned above) made of very fine, thin silks, and thinking about my 70 yards of black habotai (china silk). I've seen comments on The Sewing Academy about the possibility of using starched habotai as a substitute for silk tissue in, for instance, bonnets, and I can't help wondering if it might be workable, if it were starched and lined and given a nice heavy hem, and made up in the right style. I don't know - I'll keep thinking about it, and hope I find something perfect in the meantime. Because black for the romantic era isn't really what I had in mind! Though - maybe for a transitional bustle sort of thing - they had lots of floofy thin fabrics; I mightn't even need to starch it. Thinkthinkthink.
In other other news, I improvised a rather grand little costume on Friday for a glam rock costume party, and had a great time. It was quite strange, though, wearing as clothing the ivory lace vintage-style corselet that I normally wear as an actual undergarment! I added lots of ruffles of synthetic black organza for a skirt, mostly in the back for a somewhat bustley look, and it worked quite well. I did my hair in about two minutes, with a sort-of roll in the front, and the back twisted up in two sections and wrapped around each other on top, decorated with a magnetized hematite string of black and silver beads. Makeup was basically classic vintage style, with a little extra for glammy oddness: usual base, plenty of power, eyebrows, blush done somewhat doll-like in circles, orange-pink-red lipstick, a dusting of black eyeshadow with a blush brush, serious black eyeliner, and massive false eyelashes. I accessorized with black net lace-up half-finger mitts, black diamond-patterned tights, peep-toe four inch heels of interesting design, black drop earrings, and a choker and bracelet set that my great-grandmother bought in Mexico in the 1940s, which are silver and heavy and look somewhat like chainmail. Unfortunately, not much in the way of pictures was taken, but if I can get my hands on any, I will post them. I also helped by friends Lyndie and Aaron with hair, makeup, and costuming concerns, so we were VERY fashionably late, but very well-received. It added to the drama of our interest that Lyndie's fair was full of sparkly things, Aaron was wearing a dress, and I was wearing a 40s-style rabbit fur jacket (which I bought at a thrift store; I did not contribute to the death of any bunnies...though I did eat rabbit stew once). Fun was had! And I do love a good improvised costume.
Now I must pull the corselet out again, because I have an Oscar party to go to, and I do believe that I would disappoint if I failed to be fancy for the occasion. I will wear my 1950s style red satin formal, which I based on a Vintage Vogue reissue pattern. It's strapless and heavily boned, with shaped black chiffon draping across the bosom, running into a long scarf that can be worn hanging, or around the shoulders. I am realizing that I have very little in the way of pictures of this dress, so I'll have to make a point of getting some tonight! But first, I must get ready. The real question is - should I fuss with doing my hair, or call it a Marilyn Monroe costume and wear my blonde wig? Realistically, I will probably get very tired of wearing the wig, very quickly. But...I'm already late.
I'll post the list of 1830s references soon, and hopefully add more books to the annotated bibliography in a couple days. So much to do!