Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Governess Dress

I mentioned in my last entry that I am working on a new dress. For my birthday, I received from my parents a length of gray wool. Well, actually, I told them I wanted a length of wool fabric, figured out the budget, and they gave me the money for it. I found it online and it is a lovely dark gray with a large black windowpane check pattern.

We call it the governess dress. In my living history group, I portray a governess for my friend's young daughter. The role is more complicated than that, but you get the idea. Wool is a very "serviceable" fabric, it wears well, and dark colors hide stains. There is a stereotype of the governess in a black wool dress; it wasn't always black, but wool was an eminently sensible choice for women in professions full of spit-up and spills.

I have been told often that I need to take more pictures of the construction process of my dresses. I suppose the steps it takes to make a dress are interesting to those who haven't done them. However, this is my fourth dress (fourth and a half, if you count the two bodices for one dress) and perhaps I've lost a bit of the wonderment that comes from seeing a garment come together. Seams all go together the same way; piping is made and attached; hooks and eyes are sewn in.

The worst part of any project, for me, is the skirt. Skirts all go together the same way. The seams are long, and there's so much fabric involved, it's easy to get swamped. Even the waist treatment, the only option for originality (box pleats vs. knife pleats vs. gauging), is tedious. But a bodice - ah, a bodice is a work of art! Fitting the darts and side seams take finesse. Setting a sleeve smoothly takes a sure eye and clean stitches. On this dress, I raced through the skirt just so I could get to the bodice.

To toss things up a bit, I cut the sleeves on the bias. I am also doing a postillion back - meaning a little flounce at the back waist. I predict I'll be done by next Sunday - it doesn't need to be worn until the 19th, but it'd be nice to have it done a little early.

And I promise I'll post pictures once it's done.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The silk bodice completed, and fabric aquisitions

Ack! I'm so sorry I haven't updated this in forever! Well, really, it's my blog and I can do what I like with it, thank you very much, but I figure that maybe some people read this sometimes and I hate to leave it hanging - especially when its purpose was to better document my living history clothing aquirements and projects.

When last we spoke, I was in the middle of making a silk bodice. In the time since I wrote that post and now, I have gotten a new job, and moved halfway across the state, which puts a major cramp in sewing. The plus side is that my new room (I work in a dormitory of a boarding school, so I only have a room to call my own) has four closets. One of them was immediately claimed as the Sewing Closet and has all my things lovingly contained. But moving and starting a new job really just has a way of putting a damper on everything.

But I did get the silk bodice done! There was a hairy part that involved the piping - I think some of the bias strips were not really cut on the bias, leading to this awful wrinkly/puckering thing that required way more time spent on the piping than ought to be. The final result was just amazing - the bodice pattern fits me so well, the friend who helped me drape it is truly a genius!

I suppose pictures are in order....

This is me at Fort Snelling's Civil War Weekend - the day the bodice debuted. Obviously, not a great shot of the bodice, but a lovely shot of me! You can also see the trim on the sleeves really well.

Boy, I really am not photogenic. This is me and a friend - she happened to show up and of course we had to get a picture together! The bonnet ties are hiding the bodice, but you get the idea.Once again proving that I am not photogenic, here is my dagguerotype from the event. I really do look like Miss Grimm. Use this photo to scare small children and animals. It was overexposed as well - still looks pretty cool!

The terrible part is that at some point during the event, I got some mysterious oily stain on the skirt. Thankfully, it is only on one panel, and hardly visible at all (and seems to be fading with time) and I also happen to have an extra couple yards of silk, so if worse comes to worse, I can do a new panel, or even just sew a patch over the stain. I like to think it contributes to my "poor governess" look. That is definitely the last time I wear the silk to a fort or such hard-wearing conditions, however.

This winter, I made some amazing fabric purchases. I found some lovely sheer cotton on sale at Joanns for extremely cheap, so I have a couple pieces of that. I didn't need any new fabric...but then the Mill End Textiles outlet in our neighborhood decided to liquidate. And I just couldn't say no to these....

Aren't they adorable?! The first one I got for $1.89. They told me there were 6 yards on the bolt and charged me accordingly...and then I went home and measured it. There were actually 7 and a half! Being that I'm tall, I need at least 7 yards for a dress (six and a half if I'm piecing) so that will be plenty.

The second fabric was a bit more costly at $2.99 a yard, but I am going to make it into a wrapper, I think. The grey and pink will come first, however.

But first of all - my parents bought me some lovely wool fabric for my birthday present! It is a dark grey with a large black windowpane check pattern. I will post about that soon. But now, it is very, very late...