Tuesday, May 3, 2016

I Finally Sewed a Realistic Outfit

I desperately want to experience 18th century life. However, I'm more into the balls and silk gowns than the washing and cooking. So, as a result of that, I have a lot of upperclass clothing, but nothing I can get dirty. This is problematic, because I am in William and Mary's reenacting club, the College Company, and my impression is that of a camp follower - definitely not a lady from the gentry class!

When I made the blue striped gown over the summer, I intended that to be my reenactment dress. And it has been for most of the year, but I still felt a little overdressed at some events, and I was still hesitant to get it dirty - it was a replica, after all!

So, I knew that I needed to make something even more casual - a shortgown.

Over spring break, my mom and I spent a Mother-Daughter Day together shopping, and we revisited Verna's Fabrics, the same store that I bought the material for my Dolley Madison dress from. I was initially shopping for some cotton with sewing themed prints so that I could make modern clothes that express my love for being a seamstress, but I was also keeping an eye out for anything I could use for a historical project. I found two great cotton prints (I've already used one of them, I'll post about them when I've finished both projects), as well as a nice white cotton with a small purple design that I'll be turning into another Regency gown. At the far end of the store, after our cart was pretty full, I saw a barrel with rolls of fabric sticking out of it. The fabric was soft and in a lot of pretty colors, and the sign above read 'Homespun'. I was ecstatic. This was just what I needed! So, I grabbed a roll of the prettiest purple fabric, and bought enough to make a shortgown.

The gorgeous fabric with some pins and markings, ready to be cut.

I am very fortunate to have such great friends, because when I got back to school, my wonderful friend Fiona, from Ruffles, Not Rifles offered to help me pattern and drape it! We spent a fun Sunday afternoon cutting it out and getting the back pleats right, and then I started sewing! We looked at Costume Close Up for references, but shortgowns are easy to pattern because they're just rectangles and straight lines. It went very quickly, which was good - it meant I still had time to sew a petticoat and an apron before the National Event at Mount Vernon!

Starting to cut it out...
...Fiona cutting it so I can take pictures...
(These pictures were taken the last week of April - our apartment is just really proud of our Christmas decorations)
...and the basic shape of a shortgown! The bit on the side that sticks out from the curve allows for a pleat.

I tried it on immediately after cutting to make sure that it would fit
and then Fiona draped the pleats on me so that it was a little more fitted!
These are the pleats from the back, pinned in place.

The basic shortgown, all pinned and ready to be sewn!

I still had some leftover white linen from my shift laying around, so I turned that into an apron. Then, using some 'larkspur blue' linen that I got from a sale on fabrics-store.com, I whipped up a petticoat. I was especially in need of a new petticoat to wear with my shortgown, since my other petticoats are all made out of questionable materials... To make my petticoat even more special, I used twill tape from the Fort Frederick Market Fair that I attended a few weeks ago! The color is an almost perfect match!

The outfit came together in about four days, and I got to wear it for the reenactment this past weekend! Unfortunately, it was a little cold, so all of the finished pictures I have also feature my cape, but I'll post more of just the new outfit soon.

This is me and my friend Morgan - the shortgown had just lost a pin, so it's gaping a little, but I fixed it soon after. My new apron, as well as my mitts from my lovely roommate, and my new market bonnet are also featured here!
I re-pinned my shortgown, just in time to meet General Lafayette! He was wonderful!
This is one of my favorite pictures from the event on Saturday. Claire and I hadn't realized that we matched, or that this picture was even being taken!

I'll put together a post soon about the events of April and May, because there sure have been a lot of them! I'll add in pictures that better show off my new clothes then. As always, if you have any questions please feel free to contact me. Happy sewing!

They're All the Rage... A Market Bonnet!

Just as there are trends in modern fashions, there are fashion trends in the reenactment community. In the past few years, market bonnets (also sometimes called 'working caps/bonnets/hats') have come back into style! Colonial Williamsburg has one in their collection, which I based mine off of, and they have begun adding these bonnets to the wardrobes of some of their employees. Well, that was enough convincing for me - I just had to have one!

This is the market bonnet in the CW Collections - Check it out!

I bought some black silk, and made up a pattern. I bought a yard of silk, as recommended, but I cut very carefully and only ended up using half a yard - so I can make another hat and sell it! (If anyone is interested in a market bonnet, please comment or send me an email.)

The pattern pieces all laid out

This was a pretty easy project, the hardest part was getting the brim to fit exactly right in the silk, but even that was not terribly difficult. Overall, this only took about four hours from start to finish. The most challenging part of the whole process was getting a good picture of the finished product!

Some silliness before I gathered the pouf

The first finished picture

It's entirely handsewn, and the brim is a posterboard-type material that according to my research seemed to be pretty close to a traditional brim. I would have liked to use a completely authentic material, but this bonnet was a last-minute project for my birthday outfit while I waited for my linen for my new shift to ship, so I didn't have time to order anything.

This is now one of my favorite accessories, and it's a great talking point at events! Even though there's tons of documentation on market bonnets in the late 18th Century, not many people are familiar with them, so I've been getting lots of questions.

This picture was taken as I was adjusting my birthday dress, but it shows off the hat quite well!

One of my favorite pictures from my birthday, taken by my friend Kirsten in the Tucker House in Colonial Williamsburg, showing off my gown and market bonnet.

I would highly recommend sewing a market bonnet if you reenact a late 18th Century female. This project was super easy, very satisfying, and inexpensive - even though it's made out of silk, it's a very small amount. They were worn by a wide variety of women, including the working class, and are a great accessory to almost any outfit! If you're interested in more of the history of this hat, try searching for things like "colonial silk bonnet", or just start looking at paintings/drawings of women at work in the 1770s. You can also feel free to comment with any of your questions, and I'll be happy to answer them.

Happy sewing!