My favorite garment to make has to be the round gown. Both of my last two finished dresses have been round gowns and I have plans for several more. The construction is fascinating and much easier than I expected when I was making my first one. All of these dresses have been based on round gown construction techniques:
There are a ton of blog posts floating around about how to construct a round gown, but my favorite has always been Katherine's since it was the one I found first. But if you're interested in what exactly a round gown is, I really like this gown and description from The Philadelphia Museum of Art:
This gown is a rare surviving example of the type worn by servants and the lower classes, or by middle class women for informal wear. The plain design and the use of cotton fabric are well suited to an informal dress, but also reflect the growing preference for simplicity during the 1770s and 1780s. At this time, dresses with closed skirts became popular; called "round gowns," they were put on over the head. The center front closure of the bodice was also newly fashionable; in this example, however, the triangular shape of a stomacher is maintained through unusual robings attached only at the shoulders. Both these and the fronts would have been pinned in place.
Essentially, a round gown is a dress that was made all in one, pulled over the head and then the join between skirt and bodice is concealed under a front fastening bodice. It's simple, flattering, and you see variations on the round gown all the way up through historical fashion. I plan to make many many more in the future.
Warning: This post may cause extreme levels of fabric lust!
I have always loved silk satin and desperately wanted enough to make a truly fabulous dress, but $30 a yard minimum has been a bit steep for my budget. But an incredible sale in the fabric district has changed all that and I am now the proud owner of 10 yards of gorgeous red/brown satin.
I have no immediate plans for it, but I don't care. It's my favorite.
I've always considered myself a visual, hands-on type of person - I work best when I can see something and then teach myself how to create it. I love learning, and while traditional education worked for me (I work in a public school, for heaven's sake!), it's not as natural a way to learn for me. When it comes to costuming, written descriptions of gowns, sewing techniques, or construction notes just don't do much for me. I rely on the things I can see.
To that end, though many extant garments exist, I prefer to draw my inspiration from fashion plates and my very favorite source is the University of Washington Fashion Plate Collection. They have fashion plates ranging from 1806 to 1913, carefully scanned and catalogued online. It's a fabulous collection - the result of 30 years of preservation and research done by a former faculty member - and my first stop whenever I need inspiration.
Some of the plates I've saved to Pinterest
Pinterest is great, but Pinterest will never replace an excellent direct source archive and this one has been inspiring me since I first started branching out into 19th century costuming.
Fun fact about me: I really really love fictional princesses, especially the Disney ones. Back in my younger (and hotter) teenage days, I was Jasmine for Halloween. Since getting into costuming and, even more recently, getting into Comic Cons, it has become very obvious that I need to do some Disney princess costuming, or my inner 10 year old will never be satisfied.
I've always had a special place in my heart for Snow White, but Belle is the one I identify with most. And every fiber of my being has been crying out, since I was 11 years old, for a yellow ballgown of my own. After believing for years that I couldn't wear yellow, I have finally found one that looks halfway decent with my coloring so I AM GETTING THE BELLE DRESS OF MY DREAMS!
So anyway, why is this such a big project? Well, I'm not content to do a straight copy of the original dress. Instead, I'm planning to do an 1860's historically accurate ballgown version of Belle's yellow gown. Which means it's high time I replace my 10 year old corset and hoop...
Acquire a new corset. The current plan is to throw money at the problem and order a custom one from Redthreaded. I might end up making one, because I have all the supplies, but I REALLY don't want to.
Make a dress! I have a couple of inspirational pins, but these are the main ones:
I'm thinking that I will take the basic idea of Belle's yellow gown (off the shoulder, round skirt, swags at the bottom) and mix it in with actual historical trimmings and subtle rose themes. It looks gorgeous in my head.
There you have it! Not only will this dress be big, but I have big plans! I'm hoping to have it done by November so I can wear it to a ball in Gettysburg, but like all my plans, we'll just have to wait and see.
Have you ever noticed that costumers have a very specific vocabulary when they get together? Last weekend, at Costume College, I noticed that when we all get together we tend to have conversations that are baffling to the layman. Based on my observations, here is a short glossary of what costumers say and what they mean.
CoCo | kō kō |
1. alternate term for Costume College:
- This year I am going to CoCo.
2. best place to see far flung friends:
- Did you see who all is going to CoCo?
Home | hohm |
1. abbreviation of Home Fabrics:
- I'm stopping at Home as soon as I get to the fabric district.
2. a place of legend, where one can currently obtain silk at ridiculously low prices:
- I got this incredible silk satin for only $10 a yard at Home!
sleevil | slee-vuhl |
1. alternate word for sleeve
- Ugh. I still have to mock up my sleevils.
2. literally the worst part of making anything
- I loved everything about this dress until I was defeated by sleevils!
hot mess | hät mes |
1. a large poufy hairstyle common in the late 18th century
- My hot mess wig needs a little bit of TLC.
2. a real pain in the butt to brush out
- I started to regret using my own hair for a hot mess after the third brush got stuck in it.
finished | fi-nisht |
1. the state of being complete
- I'm finished with all my sewing for the event.
2. in reality, being held together by a hope and a prayer
- Oh yeah, that's finished with hot glue, scotch tape, and safety pins, but I look fabulous!
I don't do a ton of embroidery, but occasionally I get the urge. These urges resulted in the Peacock Francaise. More often than not though, I end up making embroidered things for my friends. The one I'm most proud of is a pocket that I made as part of a collaboration with Jenny-Rose. In 2013, a group of us went to Williamsburg to celebrate Aubry's birthday and so Jenny-Rose and I decided to make her a set of pockets as a gift. I did the one on the left and she did the one on the right.
It's nothing super fancy and I definitely don't have the highest skill level, but I am proud of myself for finishing it and sending it off to be finished in time to give to Aubry for her birthday. And that's really the part that matters.