Saturday, July 12, 2014

Decision to "Move my Blog"

In recent sewing news, I am working on many  projects simultaneously! Don't we all? ;) I have recently completed a cute red and chocolate apron for a bridal shower gift...post with photos forthcoming! I have also completed a peach 1950's silk tafetta dress that my facebook friends are loving! A young college student told me to definitely wear that on the town now! Post with photos forthcoming! Currently I'm sewing a different style 1950's pink and white silk gingham dress, which will require a new 1950's petticoat. Also I have a pair of cute modern shorts all cut out from the rest of the solid lusciously soft black fabric I used for the bow in my 1940's dress. Last night I started handsewing an 18th century cap. 
Also I'm joining a quilt guild! Two quilts are waiting to be sewn, One for my son to take to college and another for my niece, who's been waiting for her own Aunt Laurie quilt while I've been busy homeschooling.
Homeschooling has kept me enormously busy and currently college details and paperwork are snatching spare moments of my time. I have graduated my youngest a few weeks ago.
However I plan to keep sewing historical clothing, as well as more contemporary styles for daily fashionable wear with a special touch. I'm not too keen on what I find in the stores so I'm designing my own look that my daughter and I love, which basically translates into soft colors, floral, tucks, and flounces.
So where does that leave this blog?  I am mentally stretched to try to maintain two blogs.  I haven't quite found a blogging voice here, yet I definitely have one at my original blog, Teacups in the Garden. Furthermore, everything I post here is also posted at Teacups in the Garden.  My original Teacups in the Garden blog was at another platform where I researched html code and created quite a fun looking space.  Then my platform moved it...then they deleted it! Can you imagine? Thankfully they gave me a heads up so in a week I managed to move it to blogger, however all the old links are dead.  This summer I started at the very first blog post and have been refreshing links.  It's a slow process and I am nearly done with 2009 and everything previous to that.  =)
I've decided to quit blogging here and to eventually delete this blog.  Not to fear though, for everything I have here is already posted at Teacups in the Garden.  It's all been cross posted and so it's quite redundant.  However I won't delete this one until I finish updating Teacups in the Garden with refreshed links. Also I am going to create tabs at the top for my costuming and quilting. Since I am joining the quilt guild, I am making an entire new set of friends. Instead of creating yet another blog quilting will have it's tab and so will my historical sewing. 
Also as a further tease, it is at my Teacups in the Garden blog that I have all my millinerary pictures from Colonial Williamsburg, as well as visits and excitements about my sewing classes at the CW Costume Design Center. 
Meanwhile I will bump this message to the top each month, depending on how long it takes me to snaz things up at Teacups in the Garden, and I will post my sewing related links here. In fact I'll be sharing about my 18th century cap by Tuesday, because that is for the latest Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge. Stay tuned!
I'm also thinking about starting a new weekly series where I feature a  favorite blog. There are so many that I love that my wheels are turning.  See, my wheels turn at Teacups in the Garden, but I feel that the wheels are a bit rusty here! lol
I thought I'd make the announcement now, so that my followers can have time to discover my news and make a decision on how to follow me.  I have to say that another push for me to do this is one of my very best historical clothing sewing friends whom we all know and love no longer follows me here. Instead she follows me at Teacups in the Garden. In fact A Fashionable Frolick (my very best historical clothing friends) kindly awarded me a blog award a year ago, not for this blog but for Teacups in the Garden.  Thank you so much! ;)
     

Monday, January 6, 2014

Mrs. Rockefeller's Gown from Colonial Williamsburg

While we were visiting Colonial Williamsburg for Christmas, we got to tour Basset Hall, which was the seasonal home of the Rockefellers who financed the original restoration of the historic area.  One of my favorite parts of this lovely home during Christmas, is not only the opportunity to see vintage Christmas decorations, but also seeing Mrs. Rockefeller's lovely gown.


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This gown is only displayed during the Christmas season.  As I recall, this is a late 1930's gown. Unfortunately I forget the name of the designer.  She wore this gown for a 1941 painting, which can be seen here.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Edwardian Era Research

Recently I've stumbled upon a blog devoted entirely to the Edwardian Era.  From politics to books and movies, to fashion, food and culture, and even WWI, The Edwardian Promenade has a little bit of everything. This blog has captured my attention the last few evenings. Since I've been studying American and world history of the early 20th century, reading literature of the era, and sewing a 1912 blouse, I've been making notes of fascinating articles to return to.  Particularly because I've been sharing my research and attempts at sewing the 1912 La Mode Illustree Blouse, I thought I'd share a few articles from The Edwardian Promenade that relate to the project.  I'm not able to directly link to articles, but in the right sidebar has an archive by month.

There is an October 20, 2011 article on couture sewing in Paris.  I enjoyed reading this description of the fashion houses of Paris, in light of my research into couture sewing as related to the 1912 blouse.

There is a September 17, 2011 article on the London dressmaker.  Even though my 1912 pattern is of French origin, I simply had to point to this interesting article on London fashions.  There is a bit of connection.   

We will soon have our history presentation of the Edwardian Era, so I was making note of any ideas I could glean from the blog.  I've noted information for my persona in regards to curtsies. I'm also looking at music ideas to set the mood, as well as dinner ideas. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The History of Couture Sewing

A couple of years ago I bought this book because it looked like it could be useful someday, since I knew absolutely nothing about couture sewing.  I finally opened the book last weekend for a  major sewing project I have just blogged about. In the middle of writing that post, I realized how instrumental courture sewing is to the discussion, so I decided to do this post before publishing that post, which is already too loaded with pictures and sewing details to add in yet another topic.

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Haute couture. Sewing at a high level. Finest high fashion sewing. (p7) The term was first used in 1863 by one of Charles Federick Worth's customers.  Today Worth is known as the "father of haute couture." Having his own design house in 19th century Pairs, Worth's gowns were worn by the French Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III. Most often ladies follow the fashion of the queen, or empress, so Worth's fame was secured. One of his many design inovations was to do away with hoops for skirt supports.  Fashion history is traced to the present, notably detailing the work of Poiret, Dior, Givenchy, and Pierre Cardin.

After the detailing the history, we receive a fascinating glimpse into the world of designing a couture collection! The next peek the book allows the reader is to imagine shopping for a couture design!  One of my favorite movies starring Angela Lansbury is "Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris." This London commoner from 1953 sees two stunning Dior gowns in the house where she serves. She starts to save every penny (or pence?) possible for a trip to Paris to buy her own Dior gown, which she thinks she will buy off the rack.  Instead we are treated to a peak inside a Dior atelier du flour, or dressmaking workroom.

Now for the reason for writing this post tonight, before publishing my latest sewing project.  there is great detail about hand sewing. The atelier in fact, has few sewing machines.  Primarily the long seams and structural seams are machine sewn, leaving the intricacy of the rest of the stitches to be done by hand. This is in fact my preferred method of sewing.  The book recognizes, though, that most home sewers, unlike me, sew by machine.  Their arguments for hand sewing range from inconspicuous work to precision detail, all of which I can confirm in my novice experience. Oh I love a kindred spirit! However, the author has devoted chapter 2 to hand sewing technique, which still holds much useful information for even me, who loves to hand sew. There are tips and charts galore which leads into further chapters of detailed information on how to work on any part of any garment.

Numerous times last weekend I referenced various pages from an index search of unfamiliar terms that came to my historical sewing project, which will be the next post! The book has illustrations, tips, directions on which type of needle to use for each hand stitch, and detailed directions.  I found information on lapped seams, plackets, and I forget what else. Also if I had been more familiar with the book, I could have applied many other useful tips.

This book not only showed me how to do various techniques, it helped me to settle the mother of all historical sewing questions: "do I hand sew or machine sew?" The answer surprised me and I took full advantage of it.  I've already hinted at a bit of it here.  Any ideas to what I sewed? Stay tuned...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Great British Sewing Bee

Thread Needle Street.  Haberdasher Street. Silk Street. Petticoat Lane. A large light filled sewing room with rustic architectural elements. Vintage music.  Scope for the imagination such as this set the stage for 6 sewers in 4 rounds of competition in The Great British Sewing Bee

I found a sordid news clipping, a few actually, that fussed as to the boringness of the show and how it would never last.  After the show's completion its success led to the grand announcement that there would be a season 2 and applications are now being taken for the next round of competitive seamstresses.

Part of the charm of this competition is that it was friendly and full of esprit de corps, instead of the typical American underhanded attacks between competitors induced to raise ratings. Delightfully The Great Bitish Sewing Bee was about sewing, not about egos. Each competitor cheered each other on, while determinedly doing his/her best which allowed us to focus on their range of ideas! 

The range of creativity and interpretation was fun to watch unfold while each round of competition held 3 sewing challenges. Round 1 of each show entailed receiving a pattern.  Could the sewer follow directions?  Would his/her choice of fabric be suitable for the particular garment and structure of the pattern?  Each week the pattern assignment became more difficult.  Round 2 entailed receiving a completed basic item to alter or embellish. Round 3 allowed the most time, an entire day or more, to sew a garment for a model.  Before that week's competition the competitors were told to choose a pattern and fabric of their choice within the week's theme (a dress, a blouse, an evening gown, etc). They were allowed to practice sewing with that pattern at home before the competition. But at the competition, they had to fit that pattern to an assigned model. 

From these challenges I was inspired to attempt more challenging projects of my own.  One of the Round 1 challenges was a pattern for men's trousers. They included a zipper fly front, which no one in the group had ever sewn before, yet they all completed it. Some were better than others, but not bad for a first try under the pressure of lights, camera, action and a time limit.  A couple of week's later I was sewing an American Civil War costume for my son. By that time in history fly front trousers with buttonholes were the norm. I avoided this 4 years ago, claiming it was impossible, altering the pattern for a solid front and elastic waistband. After all, who would ever know, since he'd be wearing a coat over it. This time I was encouraged by The Great British Sewing Bee, that perhaps I could do it after all. At least I didn't have to do a zipper. Buttons are easier. The fly front was remarkably easy to sew! 

Another great part of the show was that midway through they did a history of sewing segment, which was fascinating. Be sure to tune in to see for yourself!

One of the judges, Patrick Grant, was full of specifically precise information.  Later I was surprised to find out he had no formal training in sewing. His training is in engineering!  Yet in 2005 he purchased Seville Row. Part of the establishment dates back to 1821!  Also they sew everything by hand, having sewn for such famed personages as Winston Churchill!  The other night we watched Around the World in 80 Days and Seville Row was mentioned, so that was neat! As many times as I had seen that movie, I understood a new aspect of it. 

I identified most with 2 of the sewers. Mark primarily sews 18th century clothing!  For this competition he had to sew 2 zippers into garments, something he's had extremely little experience in since zippers were not evented until much later. Oh how could I relate to his comments that 18th century breeches (I've sewn 6 pairs I think) are an entirely different type of garment than men's trousers with a fly front and zipper (which I've never sewn-eek!).

I also enjoyed Lauren's choice of floral fabrics.  I used to sew all of my own clothing when I taught school.  On Friday's spirit day I didn't even wear the school t-shirt, since I'm not a fan of t-shirts. Instead I decorated a yellow t-shirt, the school color, with fabrics from my remnant stash.  The school secretary recognized all those floral fabrics as different dresses I had worn. The funny thing was, some of the fabrics were from dresses I no longer wore by the time I became a teacher.  Yet she could identify them as sort of my trademark.

On one of the challenges in Round 2 was a basic completed skirt, to which the sewers were asked to embellish with pockets. I loved the pockets on Lauren's, which I'd like to try sometime. The link will take you to her blog and her pocket directions. By the way, Lauren doesn't always sew clothes and then mainly sews quick blouses!

One of the challenges for Round 3 was to bring a pattern and fabric to fit a model for any blouse the sewer would like to make. Tilly brought her infamous pattern of her own design, which is featured  and available through her blog. By the way, Tilly only started sewing less than 3 years ago!

The sewers all came with a wide range of experience and it was fun watching how wonderfully all of them did. I doubt I could half as well, even though I've been sewing since grade school. I've read many sewing blogs that highly experienced seamstresses have enjoyed the show. I've read numerous comments from people who stumbled upon the show and were inspired to either pick up sewing, resume sewing or try more challenging sewing. Hopefully a series will come to America, not that I would qualify for it. But it would be fun to see many American seamstresses, whose blogs I read, be part of the show! I was able to view The Great British Sewing Bee on youtube. A google search will easily bring them up! Enjoy!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Pret-A-Papier Paper Gown Exhibit in Washington DC

Today we visited the Hillwood Estate Museum and Gardens to see the current exhibit of Pret-A-Papier...an exhibit of stunning 18th, 19th and 20th century gowns and accessories made of paper! Although I took nearly 200 pictures to aid my own study of historic costuming and art appreciation, I am not permitted to showcase any of them here. Instead I provide the previous link, which has a slide show of many of the gowns. This evening I "shared" all the pictures of the gowns that I could from their facebook wall to my facebook wall so that my friends could see what I got to see. I'm getting lots of "likes" and most of them aren't even costumers...yet! So be sure to check Hillwood's facebook page too. Since the exhibit was set to close on December 30, I strategically planned an opportunity to visit. My first plan was in October to see the brilliant autumn colors in the garden, acres of which there are to tour, but then my daughter, who was busy with 16 hours of college classes, could not come. Now that she is on winter break, we seized our moment and to my surprise the exhibit has been extended to January 20. That means I'm not too late to tell you that you would love to see this equisite exhibit!

As we entered the Visitor Center, many paper kimonos were seen hanging from the ceiling. A great perspective of looking up at the kimonos is near the tall Christmas tree which is decorated with smaller paper kimonos. There is a picture of this on their facebook wall.

Then we went to the Adirondack Building which currently houses nothing but these lovely paper gowns. As we entered the huge double doors, we were greeted by a stunning display of the pièce de résistance, heralding the fashion trender of Paris herself, Empress Josephine Bonaparte's coronation gown. Inspired, I photographed the gown and long train from every angle, as I did all the others to come. We had audio sets and headphones for the private tours and the artist highly recommended we do just that, view the gowns from each angle. Stunning. Amazing. Breathtaking.

And I might add that in the audio, the narrator described that Josephine's "regal bearing and sympathetic personality won her the enduring love and admiration of her subjects." That agrees with what I read in the Cronin book, Napoleon Bonaparte. I didn't used to like Josephine until I read this book, based on primary sources. Now I like Josephine quite a bit!

Then there was the "big hip gown" as my daughter called it from the early 18th century. Most would recognize it as the early 18th century British court gown...with the 5 feet hips!

One that I recognized immediately was based on the 1791 "Self-portrait with a Harp." The paper lace was realistically sheer.

My daughter's favorite was one that reminded her of the Lady Dunmore gown from Colonial Williamsburg. We went to a special program a few years ago where the Costume Design Center directors talked about how they had the original fabric replicated to dress Mamie Gummer to portray Lady Dunmore. The paper gown we saw had some of the same colors and designs in it.

Then there was the frilly green Madame de Pompadour gown with pink bows and roses galore, made famous from the Francois Boucher painting. (sigh) Set next to this was an antique table from the museum collection, replicating the one in the Boucher painting. The little extra scene styling gave me the feeling that I was in her bourdoir, with a paper workbag (18th century version of a purse) hanging from the table. Paper roses were scattered nearby on the floor.

Next to that was another favorite, the Marie Antoinette pink gown of rustling poofy silk, made of paper. Next to this was an antique dog bed with canopy, from the estate's collection. This was an especially easy gown to take many angle shots and even the opportunity to photograph of the sea of gowns in various pastels, in that corner of the room.

These were my favorites from the entire collection, all in one spot. Yet next to these were three Fortuny gowns, all inspired by ancient Greek gowns. Of the three, the light aquas was my favorite and one I'd like to attempt to replicate. It has a lovely sheer aqua overlay (made out of paper) over the infamous Fortuny crinckled fabric (a Fortuny designer secret that was never revealed and has never been discovered) for the base gown, this time replicated in paper. I already own a similar base fabric, synthetically crinkled but easy since I don't know the trade secret.

Most of these gowns were on special platforms that allowed for underlighting to shine under and through the gown, creating a lifelike effect. I had fun capturing this on the camera.

Then we went to the mansion, which is the most elaborate mansion I have ever entered. More than a home for Marjorie Post, who inherited the famed cereal company, it became a museum of her growing collections from travel and work abroad. First she fell in love with all things French...which later developed into a fascination with Russian history...all because of living in these countries while her husband did diplomatic type work. The blend of the two within the walls of this beautiful home makes for a warm and intimate museum experience. I do not feel as though I am in the typical modern museum, but I feel like I'm visiting someone's house, which I am. Each room of the house showcases her multitudinous collections, which we first saw last May when we went to visit the Napoleon exhibit. The basic French and Russian items remain on display throughout the year, but with some changing out seasonally. For example the dining room and breakfast nook change out their place settings and tablescape according to the seasonal theme. In May the theme was military influence in honor of Napoleon to the Christmas tablescape we saw today. Also in Marjorie Post's dressing room are a couple of her personal gowns from the early 19th century on display. Last summer I got to see some lovely 1920's styles, and I'm not a fan of the 1920's but these were lovely. This time one was a beautiful 1907 gown and the other was a paper gown from the same collection.

Throughout the mansion's usual displays was the sprinkle of paper gowns. In the mansion's mid19th century media/entertainment room (think lavender velvet seats with balcony and iron railing with scrollwork) were 2 paper gowns. One was especially commissioned for the permament Hillwood Mansion collection. This was a lovely 1830's blue gown with white lace and prodigious leg o'mutton sleeves that is showcased in front of the museum's huge painting in the same room. "Tossed" onto a nearby chair was an intricately woven paper blanket with lush paper fringe.

On the opposite wall was a painting of a Russian wedding from which the artist replicated the bridesmaid's garment full of rich texture.

In the French room, was a pair of paper fashions from the late 18th century in the southern French style, inspired by the tapestry behind the display. A lady's jacket and petticoat and the gentleman's frock coat/waistcoat/breeches were in bright yellows, reds, oranges and greens of the region. My son, who often wears 18th century garments to Colonial Williamsburg, was glad to see a 3D paper garment for a man.

In the dining room was a Scottish take on an English-back gown, in reds, warmly harmonizing with the reds of the English hunting themed room.

Upstairs, in the casual library, was a vibrant 1780's jacket and petticoat with matching shoes nearby on the floor and hat on a nearby chair, all made from paper.

In the guest bathroom dressing area, was a man's banyan (18th century dressing robe) with a bit more Japanese influence than historicallhy accurate, because the artist purposed to be extremely creative on this one. She explains why in the audio tour. Showcased next to that was a bust of Peter the Great, because this was her homage of the Russian ruler.

In Marjorie Post's dressing room bay window was showcased a cream on cream 18th century jacket and petticoat combination.

In her bedroom was a lovely white on white gauzy layered confection of an equisite gown from the 1860's, such as Napoleon III's wife would have worn, more specifically a Worth gown. It was fun in that we began and ended our tour of paper gowns on Napoleonic notes, with gowns represntative of Empresses of France. I think it also goes with my latest blog theme, of Napoleon's positive influence on the world, for which homage continues to be paid today. There is no getting away from Napoleon. He's everywhere.

Even though we had visited the mansion last May, I had inadvertently missed the permament collection of Faberge eggs and the stunning jeweled crown of Russian Empress Alexandra. This time I focused on them. Two of my favorites were in the center room showcase which was designed by Faberge. There was a stunning azure blue and diamond encrusted egg that Czar Nicholas gave to his mother, the first one he commissioned and gifted. Hence a tradition began of gifting his mother and wife Faberge eggs. Rescued from the rubble of the Bolshevik Revolution, the surprise that used to be inside the stunning blue egg is now gone. Underneath that in the display case was a pink egg that represented Catherine the Great. Next to that was a pink music box that was made by Faberge. As I listened to the explanation on the audio tour, I got to hear the music box music for background, as I learned of the artistic techniques Faberge used for this lovely piece. This museum is a great place not only for admirers of history and art, but also for students of art history and of art technique.

When we returned to the Visitor Center, I noticed the hands-on section, where we could touch the type of paper the artist used to create her gowns. There was a flat screen television playing a video of her painting her papers to become gowns. There was a display that explained step-by-step how she used her choice of paper to create the colors and luminosity and various effects. Somehow she can even make the paper transparent to use as gauze, or to use as lace. Very realistic. Then there was a dress form that had the painted papers in the beginning stages of being artfully arranged to become a gown. Throughout the exhibit we learned bits and pieces of how she painted, used metallic threads in the paint (like the original court gowns themselves), crunched, pleated, folded, etc, of the papers to design historic gowns. Even though she is the typical artist who prefers to employ her own creative interpretations, I was quite amazed at how spot-on many of the gowns were in their various designs. In short the artist uses a technique called trompe 'oeil, which means to "fool the eye." Indeed these gowns and accessories did fool the eye, especially when viewed from afar. Up close it was obvious that the gowns were made of paper, but sometimes you had to look twice due to excellent effect.

Then I simply had to pop into the museum store. I found some little Faberge eggs! I was oohing and ahhing over the pink ones with pearls, that open to a satiny interior. My husband said he'd buy one for me as a future gift!

In the clearance section (50% off) I found 3 items that I purchased. After our Napoleonic studies, how could I resist Napoleon? I now have a Napoleon and Josephine paper doll book, complete with fashion history for $3! I'll be studying this to ensure it's accuracy!

I found magnetic bookmarks of 2 famous paintings of Napoleon for $1.50. Hmmm, I did need to find a few more stocking stuffers for my son. He who would not listen to anything Napoleonic four years ago might now accept a Napoleonic bookmark, now that we've studied Napoleon with research based on primary sources. Although I preferred the famous painting of Napoleon gallantly riding a rearing horse, my daughter said my son would like the simpler one of Napoleon riding his white horse in the snow.

Then I found a magnet that says, "Imagination rules the world.-Napoleon" For $1.50 I bought it for my son's stocking, but he has nothing magnetic to stick it upon. He might decide to keep it on my refrigerator. I wouldn't mind that. IF I decide to give it to him. I'm liking that quote more and more...

Thursday, April 12, 2012

1-2-3-4...18th Century Stays

I do believe that stays are the bane of my existence. I'd quit making them if it weren't for the fact that they provide the quintessential 18th century shape upon which all ladies' clothing were sewn. Whereas 19th century corsets give an hour-glass shape, were tightly laced (think Scarlett O'Hara) and were infamous for dangerously reconfiguring the body, the 18th century stays are a friendlier alternative. Stays provide a conical effect, are moderately laced, should feel comfortable and do not harm the body one bit. I had to laugh one day I was in costume at Colonial Williamsburg. It was the end of a long summer day. I was hot. We were at Market Square for the afternoon muster and Lafayette had just galloped away when the Fife and Drum Corps struck up a beat. I went to sit on a bench and a guest, who was a medic by profession, asked me if I was okay. He asked if my corset was causing breathing difficulties. Um, no, I was quite comfortable on that aspect. However the misconception is prevalent among most.

In order for 18th century stays to be proper in look and comfortable, they must be sewn correctly. I met Angela in person at Burnley and Trowbridge and told her I wanted to make some stays for myself. She took one look at me and recommended the JP Ryan strapless stays pattern and caning. I got 100% cotton canvas fabric from the local fabric store. Being my first pair, I didn't want to put too much money in the fabric. Oh how I'm glad I made that decision.

In one day I sewed the panels and millions of 1/4" channels on the sewing machine and inserted the caning and cut the tabs. (Although sewing machines are not a period accurate method, who's going to see these?) The shape and fit was great! I draped two gowns with those stays on my dress form. The fit of the gowns was perfect on me. I was elated!

Then I wore the stays and gowns in the historic area. The caning warped horribly and when I took them off they looked like 19th century corsets. I recaned them, wore them again...same problem. I recaned them, wore them again..same problem. And over and over. (major sadness and frustration)

In the midst of all that grief last summer I made Stays #2 with a lovely green print 100% cotton canvas I found at the local fabric store. I made these according to specifications suggested by an expert in the stay making trade...but I did something wrong with both. One way I needed to alter them was by lengthening them significantly but I learned that's not as easy as it first seems. If you continue the seam line and lengthen, the end point changes. So those stays were wonky.

I puzzled over it then made Stays #3 out of the last of the lovely green canvas. This time I made better choices about which two points to use to lengthen the seam (none of this makes sense does it?) but now they were impossible to comfortably sit while wearing them because they were digging in to me, they were so long.

Another issue was that the tabs had been cut too high in Stays #1, so I limited my tab cutting for Stays #2 and #3 by the tiny amount indicated on the pattern. As a result I have about a 9" gap in back. That is wrong. I had gained a few pounds since last summer, so I set the stays aside and determined to lose weight.

What to do? I have puzzled over all this mentally for months. All three stays have sat on my sewing table achingly yearning for help, though I had no idea what the best solution would be. Yesterday my hand was forced. I needed to start sewing 17th century gowns for an upcoming school history presentation. I thought I'd use the 18th century stays for the undergarment, because the shape is basically the same...inverted cone. I put on each of my stays, with my muslin of the gown and nothing was working. Something had to be done about the stays.

I sat down to analyze the pattern pieces against Stays #2 and #3. In the end, I tossed #2 in the trash, while I shed tears over the beautifully handsewn eyelets which made lacing so easy. That took several evenings and I haven't had the heart to hand sew eyelets in Stays #3. However Stays #3 had the proper lines, but were too long. I shortened them while meticulously comparing measurements to the pattern. I recaned them. I relaced them. (hmpf) Still that 9" gap in back. I analyzed photos of stays on-line and decided to cut the tabs a wee bit more but not as much as Stays #1.

Without any further ado...here are my green canvas stays. Although the fiber is 100% natural fiber, the print is not 18th century. Since these were obviously practice (and practice and practice and practice) I decided who cares? Who will ever see them apart from a blog post?


Since these are not yet comfortable to wear (unless I lose weight) I've decided that these will go on my dress form for my draping (making sure that the measurements of the stays on me match the measurements of the stays on my dress form). They can always stay there instead of constantly taking them off for me to wear when I was double checking fit of the drape of my gown. (The draping routine for me for gowns #1 and #2 was to put the stays on the dress form, do some draping, pin all the fabric carefully together then remove, take the stays off the dress form and put them on me, carefully put the pinned fabric on me to double check that the fit was good, each time making sure that the measurements with the stays on me matched the measurements of the stays on the dress form). Then take all that off me and put the stays on my dress form again (which is no easy task...it's a fight every time) over and over and over. My ultimate goal has always been to have one pair of stays for me and one for the dress form. These are now Stays #4. (I'm sorry, I don't know why this image rotated.)
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So what about a pair of stays for me to wear? Last night I was ready to quit then Rebecca suggested that I add extra caning to Stays #1. Perhaps the single caning wasn't strong enough to hold shape. So today I put double caning in the channels. All those channels became a bit of a blur at times, so I might have put in triple in a few points. At the end, they felt heavier...more like the stays at the Colonial Williamsburg milliner shop. Although the tabs are cut too high, and there still needs to be professional alterations for them to work best for me (I'm waiting and waiting for a stays workshop), perhaps they will now hold their shape better. Tomorrow I will try them on with my gowns to see if my extra wee weight gain requires wee gown alteration. =(
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Only time will tell if this attempt is successful. This summer I want to get a head start on my costume for our early 19th century history presentation. Although I have a Regency gown (from a modern pattern worn in modern fashion) from the last presentation, I'd like to make another gown (possibly with embroidery), a chemise, a Spencer jacket, proper hat, and...are your ready...an early 19th century corset which is COMPLETELY different than stays. (sigh) The corset could be my ultimate downfall. I don't even know whom I want to be yet for that presentation but I was hoping for a complete ensemble, what with all the Regency events that abound in America. If given an opportunity I'd like to have a proper ensemble ready.