Historical Sew Monthly: January 2019

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Ok, so I think by now we all understand how bad I am at keeping up with blogging. To be honest though, if I blogged as much as I wanted I probably wouldn’t get half as much sewing done as I’d like to. Vicious circle. Anyways, for the second year in a row I am casually participating in the Historical Sew Monthly challenge hosted by the lovely Dreamstress. If you’ve never heard of the HSM challenge definitely check it out, I love seeing all the cool projects people turn out to fit the challenge themes! This year I managed to inadvertently knock out the first two challenges with little effort as they fit right in with my  sewing plans. #score!

The first challenge of the year was “Dressed to the Nines” and costumers were encouraged to create something fancy to be “dressed to the nines” or create something from a year ending in 9 (like 1849), or incorporate the number 9 into the design elements, like 9 buttons. This was perfect as I need to whip together a dress for an event in February that was set in 1850.

I decided to start planning my project by perusing Pinterest for some inspiration. I was still really new to this period and learning exactly what shapes and details were appropriate was daunting, fortunately they had photography! During a random search I came across this dress and then this fashion plate and finally this dag.

Hmm, look at all that blue changeable silk! Funny thing is I have an entire bolt of that very same fabric sitting in my sewing room – sometimes things are meant to be!

So with the fabric decided upon I began looking at elements I liked in these dresses, namely the tightly gathered bodice front and the tight sleeves, and chose the Truly Victorian pattern 454 German Day Dress to work with. I had heard many great things about the Truly Victorian patterns and figured I couldn’t go wrong with them especially when working in unfamiliar territory. I really enjoyed working with the TV pattern, but not going to lie the sizing chart was crazy. I might just be really unproportional but I had to fudge some numbers to get to a size that made sense. I really had my doubts about the fit when sewing up the mock-up but amazingly the crazy maths and head scratching worked! I had to make zero adjustments! Seriously when does that ever happen, especially on an unfamiliar pattern in a new time period? Truly Victorian patterns I AM SOLD!!

After whizzing through the mock-up I whipped together the bodice in no time – seriously flat lining is my new favorite thing, WHY AREN’T WE USING THIS MORE OFTEN???

With one week before the event all I had to do was gauge the skirts and attach them – cue terror and dread.

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Holy Crap I can gauge skirts!

Pleating skirts is second nature for me, when it comes to knife pleats that is, but throwing in a new technique like gauging (or cartridge pleating) and you have me shaking in my boots. I don’t do well with change. I think I spent more time researching how to gauge skirts than I did actually gauging them. Not even joking.

The week of the event and after 2 cups of coffee, 4 pep talks, and like 7 internet tutorials I finally bit the bullet and gauged the darn skirts. It took me approximately the entire season of BBC’s The Living and The Dead (I don’t suggest watching this before spending an evening in a dark and haunted Victorian home) to finish the skirts and attach them to the bodice, essentially making the thing.

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Ta-Da! Ignore my shrinking dress form, that girls got problems

The day of the event we met up early to do a mini photo shoot, because that’s what you do when you make a new thing you’re proud of right?

The event was focused on recreating some of the activities that would occur around a house during a winter evening in 1850. The 1850s girl gang decided to reenact a parlor scene by taking tea, reading and discussing current events. We took advantage of the gorgeous candlelight to snap a few haunting images. Overall the event and the gown were a huge success.

HSM challenge #1 = Accomplished!

The Challenge: “Dressed to the Nines” an 1849 day dress

Material: Blue and black changeable silk, black silk, and green cotton twill lining

Pattern: Truly Victorian #454 German Day Dress

Year: 1849

Notions: Metal hooks and eyes, beeswax, cotton cord, blue linen thread, and blue silk thread.

How historically accurate is it? The pattern is based off of an original tailors guide written c. 1843 and the fabric and styling matches extant gowns and those seen in fashion plates and daguerreotypes, however the gown is mostly machine sewn (its an antique machine if that helps recoup points), so I will call it 90% accurate.

Hours to complete: I’m terrible at tracking hours but from mock-up to finished product there is probably 24 hours of labor involved.

First worn: Saturday February 9th, for the Winter Evening event at Cobblestone Farm in Ann Arbor, MI.

Total cost: Less than $25, fabric and almost all notions came from stash. Pattern and cording were the only purchases.

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