Garrison Ballgown 2015

 

Yes, it’s that time of year again! Or it was, a couple of weeks ago.

This year’s ensemble was nothing like last year’s mammoth undertaking. With a tentative PhD thesis defense date set, there was no way I could devote that much time this year.

However, I may actually love this year’s ensemble as much as last year’s, and I certainly enjoyed wearing it a lot more! lol (this year’s was much more user-friendly!)

To make things easier for myself I used sewing patterns I already had, and just did a bit of frankenpatterning. I combined two 1950s patterns for the dress and used one other for the bolero.

I took the dress bodice from this pattern:

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Tree Gown in Action + Another James-Inspired Dress

It only took about 6 months, but here’s my reproduction Tree Gown in action!

IMAGE-HEAVY POST WARNING.

Photos were taken by my long sufferingly-devoted friend Stephan at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto – Thanks Steph! ;o)

Not the most inspiring backdrop for these two, but the lighting caught the details of the draping well.

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MMM’14 (My) Week One Round-Up (yeah, it’s really late)

My post may (heh, May, geddit? yeah, that was bad) be late, but my first week of the challenge went well.  I wore not one, not two, but 3 pieces of made-from-an-Indie-pattern clothing this week!

On Tuesday I wore this ensemble:

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Jimminy Crispies! There’s a Charles James Gown in my living room!!

It’s finished! It’s finished!  Okay – so, technically it was finished almost 3 weeks ago.  Since I had another Garrison Ball gown to finish afterwards (for a friend), I’m pretty behind on blogging about this.  Oh well.

Before I get to the final reveal I’m going to take you through the bodice finishing, I’m really happy with how cleanly it turned out.

Oh, and if this is your first time seeing this project, you can go here for a list of the in-progress posts – if you’re interested.

I had one image of the bodice interior to go by, and tried to get it as close as I could (though I do wish I’d had pink silk satin, how pretty would that have been!)

Evening dress, Tree, 1957 (detail view of bodice interior). Silk taffeta by Charles James. Known as the 'Tree' gown, numerous versions of this dress were created in various colors between 1955-1958. Continue reading

Tree Progress: Bodice and Upper Skirt Covering – aka: Very Scary Part!

Draping is not something I have a lot of experience with.  So choosing a style to reproduce where one of the main features is a lot of draped tucks to create a very sculptural look was not a decision that was good for my stress levels.  This part was far more intimidating than any of the hard-core foundation work that came before.  I think a lot of my trepidation came from when I was working on my wedding dress.  I spent at least 3 months trying to make a one-shoulder draped and ruched bodice work and just couldn’t.  Ultimately I scrapped it and went for a much simpler design – ironically, it was taken from another Charles James gown!  Aha…ha….ha.

I was scared to start this, so I put it off as long as possible.  As part of procrastinating against the inevitable I decided to do a really nice finish to the upper edge of the bodice that would never been seen once it was finished.  Unfortunately, I only remembered to take pictures after the dress was back on Maddy and ready for muslining the bodice covering.  Putting the dress on Maddy and taking it off her again had got to the point of being pretty labour-intensive, so exterior photo of this only. Sorry!  There was only a 1/4″ seam allowance for the bodic upper edge; what I decided to do was sew a length of narrow double fold bias tape around it, turn it to the inside and hand-stitch it to the bodice foundation interior.  This did have the practical advantage of adding more substance to that edge so it would hold-up better when it came time to fold all the pleated fabric of the bodice covering over it.  At least it seems logical to me that it would.

NB: the shoulder straps are not sewn to the bodice front here, just pinned.  And no, you’re not seeing that wrong, they are not showing identical fabrics…..

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Tree Progress: SKIRT FLOUNCES!!!! (or – where one’s vanity can lead)

You guys, I think this was probably the most fun part of the whole project!  Huge, multi-layered tulle and silk flounces?  YES PLEASE.

I did not have any pattern pieces or measurements for the flounces so I had to wing it.  All I knew was that there was supposed to be a lot of fabric in these, so with “a lot” I went!  My math went something like this: guestimating that the circumference of the petticoat flare was in and around 2m (just over 2 yards) I figured 4x fullness should be pretty good.  So, each flounce layer is 8m (about 9 yds) in circumference.  Whee!

I knew there were supposed to be six layers of tulle flounces from the exhibition catalogue Tim Long gave me, and I also knew I wanted to try and re-create the effect from a couple of original examples:

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“Tree”: Materials!

Hi from Canada again!

I’m back home and now able to blog about how the Tree gown is progressing!  I’m still going to finish the V&A virtual tour, but thought I should get going with Tree since there’s been a lot going on with it!  I actually started this post a couple of months ago, but wasn’t able to get all the elements together until today.  So, let’s dive right in, shall we?

An interesting combination of fabrics and materials were used by Charles James for his “Tree” gown.  While I will mention what all of them are as they are incorporated into my version, I thought it might be useful to have a post that lays them all out in one spot as a sort of reference.  This also gives me a perfect opportunity to show off the amazing coloured silk I got for the fashion fabric, hee!

To make things even clearer, I decided to draw a little diagram of each layer of the gown to make it even easier to visualize what goes where and how.  I’ll be going from the innermost layer out.

#1 Bodice foundation

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V&A Costume Gallery Virtual Tour Part One

Hello again!  I know it’s been a long while since I posted, but life just got too frantic.  Since the new year started I’ve been sewing like mad on Tree.  I’ve been photo-documenting the process and will have lots of posts on it, but for time being the emphasis needs to be on the sewing!  Cause I’ve still got that other Garrison Ball dress to do while also working on a dress exhibit I’m curating and working on my dissertation.  Another part of the time crunch is that I’m not home right now, I’m posting to you from London, England!  I came over for a few weeks to speak at the University of Brighton as part of a seminar series then tie up some loose ends of research.  Since I can’t work on my sewing while away, I can blog a bit again!  I meant to finish a Tree post or two, but discovered after I arrived here that I didn’t have the right usb cord to hook my camera (where most of the photos still are) up to my laptop, d’oh.

Instead, I’ve decided to give you a couple of virtual tours of dress/costume exhibits in London.  Yesterday I went to the V&A and snapped photos of the ‘permanent’ costume display there from the 1700s to the 1950s.  I’m going to post this tour in several parts so as to keep the posts manageable sizes.  On Friday I’ll be popping by the Museum of London and will try to get pics of the dress on display there, especially the “Pleasure Garden” exhibit of 18th – early 19th century dress, it’s a really delightful display!

Unfortunately, the quality of the photos I got yesterday is far below what I would prefer.  The lighting is necessarily quite low and I only had my phone with me, so these are far from amazing shots, but at least you get to see what’s there and what’s said about it if you’re not likely to be visiting any time soon.  On the other hand, the poor photo quality may not be the worst thing, since I wouldn’t want to try and replace the experience of going in person.  And if it ever happens that the V&A is not happy with my posting a virtual tour, I will remove it.

So, without further ado, let’s begin our tour with Georgian and Regency era fashions:

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Regency Ball Ensemble Post #4: The Ballgown!

I saved posting about the actual gown for the Regency Ball so that I could make it my entry for the last Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge of the year, #26: Celebrate!

One of the ‘rules’ of the HSF is that items should not be finished more than about 6 weeks before the challenge due date (I think).  This one just made it in being finished a little over 5 weeks beforehand.  Even if it hadn’t quite fit in I probably would have cheated and entered it anyway because it was too perfect not too, being made explicitly for a celebration.  And not just any celebration, but the commemoration of bicentennial of one of the most influential books on current costume afficiandos: Pride & Prejudice.

I would have preferred more and better photos for this post, but for now the ones we were able to get in the low lighting of the ‘ballroom’ will have to do.

Here are the HSF details:

The Challenge: #26: Celebrate!

The Item: Regency Ballgown (& ensemble) for a ball in honour of the bicentennial of P&P’s first publishing

Fabric: pale blue dupioni (but a very smooth one), silk organza from an Indian shawl, ,

Pattern: I started with Sense and Sensibility’s Elegant Lady’s Closet bodice pattern for the wrap gown and ball sleeves as a base but modified them a great deal and took off from there on my own.

Year: c. 1813

Notions: ivory and gold trim bought in Istanbul, little buttons for the back closure and for the neckline pull-backs at the shoulders, narrow gold trim/thread I braided to trim the front edges of the overlay and the loops at the shoulders, pale blue braid trim (possibly vintage) for around the neckline and sleeve bands.

How historically accurate is it? It’s mostly machine sewn (I didn’t have time to hand-sew it up) with hand-sewn details so big points off for that.  And it’s a mish-mash of dates spanning c. 1800 to almost 1820.  The trim is made of synthetic fibres too.  However, besides that I have to say that I think many a young lady during the Regency period would have been happy to wear this dress so I’ll give myself 70%.

Hours to complete: Quite a lot over 3 weeks

First worn: November 30th to the local Regency Ball

Total cost: All came from stash so no money spent directly on this.  I would estimate a total of about $50-$60 thinking back on when I did buy this stuff and the amounts of it I used on the dress.

It was a very windy evening and we were having hair issues to begin with (the rag curls I tried to do didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped) so my hair is not nearly what I wish it to have been, but oh well.

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Regency Ball Ensemble Post #3: The Turban!

After the dress, this piece was my favourite one to make for the ensemble.  Hats and headwear are just so much fun to do!

I’m also entering this one for the Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #25: One Metre

Here are the specs:

The Challenge: #25: One Metre – use only 1 metre of fabric or less, and preferably not tons of trimming

Fabric: less than 1 metre of pale blue silk dupioni (or shantung – it’s very smooth)

Pattern: None, but I used information from The Oregon Regency Society

Year: c. 1813

Notions: approx. 1m of trim, 1 feather, 1 tassel, 1 button, 1 piece of found-object jewellery, fabric scraps

How historically accurate is it? the foundation of the hat is machine sewn, but the rest is draped and hand-sewn; this conforms not badly with styles and materials from the time, so I’m giving it 70%

Hours to complete: approx. 5hrs (give or take)

First worn: November 30th to the local Regency Ball

Total cost: All made from scraps and stash items, so $0

Being historical-hair-impaired I am grateful that turbans were such a big thing for Regency formalwear, and so many of them are such fun!  Since I was already playing rather fast and loose with the date of my Ballgown, I wasn’t particular about the specific date for my turban, choosing inspiration according to what took my fancy instead.

Here are some examples I felt particularly drawn to

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from La Belle Assemblee, April 1818

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