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Regency dresses

HSM ’15 Challenge #1: Foundations

I usually try to write Historical Sew Fortnightly/Monthly inspiration posts wells in advance of the challenge, but I’m running quite late this year, so am writing this post only a few days before the challenge is over.

Challenge #1 for the Historical Sew Monthly 2015 was Foundations.  I deliberately left the challenge quite vague: “make something that is the foundation of an outfit (however you interpret that)”

So what is a foundation?  According to

[foun-dey-shuh n]

the basis or groundwork of anything:

Lots of scope there!

Interestingly, being able to write this post most of the way through the challenge, with a whole folder full of entries on FB, it turns out that most people have chosen a much more specific meaning:

foundation garment

an undergarment, as a girdle or corset, worn by women to support or give shape to the contours of the body.

Only you’ve extended that meaning to include any undergarment.  Fascinating.  One HSM-er mentioned that she thought foundations were anything that created structure – rather like the Shape and Support challenge from last year

Of course, undergarments are often also the foundation of a historical garment in the sense cited above: the basis of the outfit.  Get your undergarments right, and it’s much easier to get the outside right.  Get your undergarments wrong, and it’s almost impossible to get your outers right.

You could extend that concept, and the idea of foundations, even further.  I like to say that correct fabric choice is the foundation of successful sewing.  Get it wrong, and you just can’t get the garment right.

There are many other ways you could interpret foundations.  By making an item that was the basis for a whole wardrobe, depending on what you paired it with.  Or by making shoes, which are a nice twist on the idea of building foundations.  Or socks – there is an old saying about being able to do anything as long as you have a good pair of socks.  Or a skirt from an era when you had a different evening and day bodice – the skirt becomes the foundation piece for a whole wardrobe.  All these ways to think about foundations!  All interesting and valid

Tomorrow, I’m going to show you how I interpreted it – which is yet another way.

For now, here is a hint:

Regency dresses

Rate the Dress: an end-of-the-crinoline era wrap gown

Last week we didn’t have a Rate the Dress, because of the blog makeover.  I’ll be getting to the Rate-the-Dress scores from the week before in a couple of hours, but for now I am dealing with the effects of a 28 degree day in Wellington (I am basically cold-blooded.  I can handle 14-25 degrees, and on either side of that my body freaks out) and have to limit my computer time or trigger a migraine.

I keep going back or forth on whether I think this is a very elaborate wrapper/dressing gown, or a perfectly proper outdoors coat-dress.

The bows on the shoulder suggest a most elegant inside wrapper – basically an early tea gown, which first began to appear in the 1870s.

At the same time, it is also very reminiscent of the trimmings and silhouettes of the type of unshaped outdoor dresses that were popular in the 1860s, such as the ones seen in Monet’s Women in the Garden.  The back view makes me lean in that direction.

I suspect on days when my brain wasn’t cooked to a crisp I would know exactly what this was, and the precise name, but today you shall have to endure me being quite stupid, and will have to make your own suppositions, whilst you also consider the sartorial merits of this garment.

While the loose fit of the bodice suggests the gown could have been worn by a woman who was expecting, or simply a larger women, very unshaped dresses appear regularly enough in 1860s fashion plates to indicate that it was a general style.

So what do you think this is?  Tea gown?  Wrapper?  Very elaborate coat dress?

And what do you think of it aesthetically?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

The placation dress

The Playcation dress

I’ve been working on the Truly Victorian 1900s S bend corset all this week , and by Saturday it became obvious that it was not.going.well.  Along the lines of – “I’ve let out ever seam 1/4″ of an inch, and the thing is still 2″ too small for me!” not going well ( a couple of other bloggers have mentioned their corsets were far too small in passing, so I suspect an overall issue with the pattern’s smaller sizes and the fact that our body type is going to have a much higher immovable bone to moveable squish ratio, especially with the ribcage, that isn’t accounted for in the patterns sizing and shaping).  So I threw the corset in the corner in disgust and had a sad.

Then lifted my chin, threw back my shoulders, and fished out a piece of striped black and ivory viscose knit I’d found in the Fabric Warehouse $5 bin during their 40% off sale, and whipped up a simple two piece summer dress on my overlocker.

No pattern, no fussing, just a super simple T-shape.

From fabric to hemming, the frock took less than an hour to sew, and happiness was restored.  There is nothing quite as mollifying to the aggrieved sewist as a super quick and super successful make.

The finishing is less than stellar, and I suspect I’m going to have to re-do the neck at some point, as the viscose really isn’t strong enough to be a successful binding, but the whole thing was just the balm I needed.  And my standards weren’t so low that my stripes don’t match perfectly at sleeves and sides, so my corset encounter hasn’t left me completely bruised and un-me!

Dress done, Mr D and I went for a lovely late-afternoon ramble on Mt Victoria, and saw little baby quail no bigger than a spool of Sylko thread, and an amazingly engineered arrangement of scaffolding and lifts for tree-pruning, and a bright green lift machine to go with the scaffolding, and the last of the pohutakawa blossoms, and sat in a lush meadow, and life was wonderful.

I did fashionista posing with the tree-pruning platform tractor thingee:

The placation dress

And “Yay! It’s Wellington” posing in front of the view:

The placation dress

And just happy hanging-out-in-the-meadow not-actually-posing-but-by-golly-that-doesn’t-matter-because-these-are-magazine-worthy not-posing:

The placation dress

(and check out the beautiful sleeve V’s.  Yes!)

The placation dress

The placation dress
Oh, and this photo?

The placation dress

Totally unposed.  Just happened.  Just happiness.  I am now fully placated.  All sewing grumbles are forgiven.  Once more into the breech with the corset!