Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Once Upon a Time...

I love dress-up. I especially love historical dress-up, but any time of dress-up is fun for me. Therefore, Halloween is an excellent holiday. This Halloween, I decided to go as Rapunzel, from Disney's Tangled. She is one of my favorite princesses, and I love her dress. Purple is one of my favorite colors, and there are a lot of elements of colonial clothing in her outfit. So, I was off!

I sewed a ton of Halloween costumes for my friends in the two weeks leading up to the holiday, and I only left a few days to sew my own costume. Luckily, it came together very quickly. I used Butterick pattern B5662 as the bodice of the dress, and I used the sleeves from one of my favorite Simplicity patterns, 4055, to make my Rapunzel sleeves. The skirt, petticoat, and long sleeves were drafted myself.

For fabric, I have a ton of darker purple silk taffeta in my stash, so I used that for the petticoat, and I was able to find the lighter purples I would need on sale at Jo-Ann Fabrics, along with a lining cotton and sheer pink for the long sleeves. I needed boning, lace, string for laces, and grommets for my notions, and ended up having enough coupons and finding enough good deals that this turned out to be a fairly inexpensive project. I also purchased two blonde wigs online, but I haven't done much with those yet.

My fabric, lace, patterns, ribbon, grommets, and wigs.

To begin, I cut out the bodice and sleeves from the lining fabric, and made my mock-up. After a few slight adjustments (it was wayyy too big), I added the boning, and cut out the fabric.

The sleeve linings and the lining/mock-up of the bodice, ready to be cut out.

The boning added to the lining...

...and the fabric attached, with the lace sandwiched at the bottom!

As I sewed the lining to the fabric, I inserted the lace trim along the bottom edge. I was really pleased with how it turned out.

Then, it was time to add the sleeves and the grommets. For the sleeves, I sewed ribbon onto the fabric to achieve the striped look.

Pinning the ribbon to get the spacing and lengths right...

...and the final result! I'm especially pleased with how this portion of the dress turned out.

For the long sleeves, I cut out rectangles a little bigger than the circumference of my arm, and fitted them accordingly. I then added lace around the bottom edges to finish them off.

Carefully sewing the lace onto the sheer long sleeves.

For the grommets, I marked the holes, and then pinned the lining to the fabric to ensure that my holes would be in the right places in all layers. Using my wonderful pink tool kit that my parents got me, I punched the holes, and hammered in the grommets.

Fabric and lining pinned, all ready for holes!

My pink tool kit, such a useful and fun gift!

The completed grommets. The boys in the apartment upstairs later asked if we had been building furniture because of the hammering noises (don't worry, it wasn't too late at night!)

Finally, I sewed the skirt (a few trapezoids sewn together) to the bodice, and sewed the petticoat (two trapezoids with ties and a placket so I could wear a pocket). I attached the sleeves, and I was ready to go!

The last thing I needed to complete my outfit was Pascal, but I had already made him this summer. When I was working in the costume shop for the Arkansas Shakespeare Theater, we were allowed to play with the scraps in our free time. So, I amassed some scraps from a fun green lining fabric that had been used for a dress in Merry Wives of Windsor, and during some downtime I drafted a pattern and whipped up my little Pascal!

A few of my drafted pattern pieces - I ended up making the feet bigger so they would look better once they were turned.

The body, head, tail, and frill all stuffed, just waiting for the limbs to be sewn on. Some day I'll probably add a tongue and eyes too...

With my costume completed, I was able to wear it for Halloween, which meant getting half-price Chipotle for coming in costume and making a little girl's night, and then going to Colonial Williamsburg's "Haunting on DoG Street". However, I wasn't able to get any pictures of my dress on Halloween, so a few days ago I asked my good friend Kirsten to help me with photos so that I could finally publish this post. When I originally sewed this dress, my hair came down to a little below the bodice, but in January I cut off 17 inches to donate to Locks of Love, and so I am now Rapunzel from the end of the movie!

I am so happy with the finished product! Walking across the street to take pictures I got a few curious looks, and some of the people driving by smiled and waved excitedly - college kids like Disney just as much as kindergarteners!

As always, if you have any questions, suggestions, or just want to say hi, please feel free to leave a comment! :)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A Zone Front Gown for My 21st Birthday!

Turning 21 is a big deal. If you're normal, you're excited to drink. If you're me, you're excited to drink... historically accurate beverages. So, for my twenty-first birthday my parents got me a bottle of Thomas Jefferson wine, and I sewed another brand-new dress.

However, I have the best parents in the world, so in addition to the wine, they also gave me the best present I could have dreamed of getting - a surprise party in an 18th Century house! If you know me, you are fully aware that I like planning, and schedules, and everything that is the opposite of surprises. However, thanks to months of planning on behalf of my parents, and a truly awesome amount of secret activities from my roommates, I thoroughly enjoyed my 21st birthday.

After a full day of history in Colonial Williamsburg, including an audience with George Wythe, dancing at the Raleigh Tavern, and getting to see James Madison, my parents took me back to their hotel to decide where to go to dinner. As we walked in, my dad realized that he had 'lost his key' and said we had to go back to look for it - he thought that it fell out of his pocket in the Tucker House. So, we got back in the van, and after numerous protests on my behalf that the house was already closed for the evening, we walked through the front door, which was miraculously still unlocked. At that point, all of my friends jumped out from where they had been hiding to yell, "Surprise!" I was shocked, and even more so when I discovered that my parents had arranged for a catered dinner in the house as well. It was such an incredible night, and I am so grateful to have so many people in my life who love me so much.

But, you're probably wondering about the dress. Over the summer, I became taken with the 1780's, and especially with zone-front gowns (also sometimes referred to as robes a la turque). So, I decided that for my birthday, I would make one on my own! However, there aren't really any patterns for zone-front gowns. Most of the gowns achieved their cut-away style through the use of a fuller stomacher and sloping sides, although some just used angled trims. I figured that it couldn't be too hard to adapt another pattern to meet these requirements, so I started sketching.

My planning page for my birthday projects.
My planning page for the dress and the trim.

For Christmas, my parents got me the J.P. Ryan 'Robe à l'Anglaise' pattern, which I had been super excited to try for a while. I transferred the pattern to brown paper so that I could play with it a bit, and then started to sew. A few years ago my mom and I had bought some silk taffeta for $2 a yard during a Jo-Ann Fabrics sale, and so I used that for my gown. I went with a light green lining, and used the dark green for the outside. The stomacher and petticoat were also made of the light green, and I was very excited to have another pretty petticoat.

My two fabrics, as well as the pattern, original pieces, and the borrowed sleeves.

Tigger is always a big help to me while I sew, he ensures that my pattern and instructions don't fly away!

I had pretty much everything else that I needed for the gown, with the exception of a false rump. So, I did some research, and started attempting to replicate an extant bum roll. The proportions were fine, but I quickly discovered that my instincts regarding how much to stuff it were way off. I ended up only using about a third of the stuffing I thought I needed, but I am fairly happy with the end result.

This is the false rump, made out of the same material as my white petticoat - not completely accurate, but sturdy and unseen.

A mirror shot of me modeling the rump at college.
So, after getting things in order with the false rump, I felt like I was able to start effectively working on the gown. I was really excited to put the pleats in the back. I wasn't able to drape it on myself, but I used my dressform (which might have been nicer, since I could pin into it). This went very well for me, and I am excited to sew a linen or cotton gown with pleats now too!

In process pleating - the pattern recommended doing it on an ironing board, and it was very helpful.

Finished pinning the pleats...

Pinned on the right side and ready to be sewn in place.

After fitting the back, I traced where I wanted the sides of the gown to slope away revealing the stomacher, and then cut out the front pieces.

The lining ready to be altered.

Marking where to cut and where the stomacher will attach.

The cut lining, as well as sleeves and shoulder pieces.

When it came to the sleeves, I modified the sleeves from my riding habit to fit the dress - my riding habit sleeves are officially my new favorite sleeves to sew. After that, it was just a matter of stitching it all together, and adding the pleated skirt.

My favorite things - pleats! This is from the petticoat I whipped up.
I then recruited the help of my mom, and later my roommates to assist me in fitting the stomacher and figuring out where to secure it to the rest of the bodice. I sewed one side to the gown, and the other side attached with hooks and eyes. I also added a hook at the center middle, and then closed up the bottoms of the bodice. Finally, I whipped up a petticoat, and my wonderful friend Fiona helped me pin up the hem.

I sewed some of the dress while I was wearing it - I feel like this is a new level of being a seamstress.

Finally, I whipped up a shift out of some excellent linen that I bought, as well as a quick market bonnet out of some fantastic silk - but I'll post about those later.

A view from the back, emphasizing the false rump.

It was an incredible birthday, and I am so blessed to have been able to spend such a special day in my favorite place in the world, surrounded by so many people who love me.

The traditional "Twirling Behind the Wythe House" photo.

In the arch behind the Wythe House.

This one is from the photo shoot we did in the Tucker House! My friend Kirsten takes excellent photos..

The Weavers, our wonderful family friends, helped me get new shoes for my birthday!

Look how pretty they are! They are American Duchess Dunmores, with buckles from Colonial Williamsburg. They fit perfectly, and they are so comfy, even after 12 hours of wearing them! No blisters or pain here!

I love the prints in the Tucker House, and Kirsten did a great job setting up this shot.

This photo was fun - we were taking pictures in the chair, but it seemed like it still needed something, so I grabbed the adorable sheep that's always in the refreshment room, and it made for a great picture.

Another fun shot, I liked playing around with the decorations in the house.

Finally, this is how I do most of my planning. Tigger supervises me very closely as I mark up patterns and instructions.
Final thoughts: The J.P. Ryan pattern is wonderful! I absolutely love it!
                         I will be adding pinked trim to this dress sometime very soon - the trim is cut out, it just needs to be gathered and attached.