This week is Polly / Oliver week (also Tax week, T-Shirt week, get-that-darn-car-sorted week, and plan-next-semester’s-schedule-week), and I’m working on it like mad.
As a bit of a Hudson-Bay start after my little meltdown/epiphany over the weekend, (or really, a Hudson-Bay Start after a 5 year delay in getting this enterprise off the ground), I took stock of what I had, re-looked for inspiration, and have finally sorted out what I’m actually going to do, and what is actually going to work.
I started with late 18th century female dress borrowed from male hunting attire and military uniforms, some real, some rather satirical:
This print shows an outfit almost identical to the one on the cover of Monstrous Regiment, but for women:
I’ve already shown you this image:
And, of course, the MA portrait in hunting attire:
Finally, the ubiquitous Reynold’s portrait of Lady Worsley:
From these, I really love the white single-breasted waistcoat on Lady Worsley and the “Officer in the Light Infantry”, and their black feathered hats. I’m also borrowing the gold binding/ edge trim on the jacket of Dighton’s October print, and the gold trim on Marie Antoinette’s jacket. Plus I’m taking elements from the overall shape of Lady Worsley’s and October’s jackets.
So that’s my 18th century inspiration, but how to re-interpret it to the 1880s?
I’d started out with this 1880s Worth walking dress from the Metropolitan Museum of Art as my main inspiration garment, and the jacket I cut out in 2008 is based heavily on it.
However, the more I look at it, the less right it seems.
The lace front? For a military outfit, even a dress one? Ridiculous.
And the long overskirt train? Beautifully reminiscent of late 18th century redingotes, yes, but stupid as a military outfit. Even if I really stretch dress uniform to the fullest, the redingote train effect wouldn’t work for Polly unless I had enough of the red jacket fabric (which I don’t!), or found I beautiful red and white stripe (which, in 5 years of looking, I haven’t).
So, back to the inspiration drawing board, and a scroll through my 1880s favourites folder unearthed this:
Walking length skirt? Check. Different coloured skirt and jacket? Check. Place to pull in a tiny bit of jacket fabric on the skirt (because that’s all I have)? Check. 3/4 length sleeves? Check. Opportunity for crazy gold buttons? Check. Overall crisp, military, but very feminine look? Check! And check out the pocket hidden under her hand!
Skirt (and a bit of the jacket) inspiration sorted!
Heck, I may even use something from that daft hat!
(I still totally intend to make this outfit exactly as it is – just waiting for the right fabric).
Now, for the rest of the jacket, I found this image:
The false waistcoat effect is perfect. Unfortunately the image came with no information whatsoever. I don’t think it is an original item. Perhaps a movie costume? Anyone recognise it? A google image search has turned up nothing.
Never fear though, I have lots of proper historical inspiration for the false white waistcoat, like this beauty:
To pattern up the waistcoat, I put my old jacket pieces back together, draped a front to go under the curved jacket front piece, and sewed it to the back of the jacket to fit it:
Excuse the terrible photos – I was more interested in sewing than getting pretty pictures! And fear not, the real thing will NOT be bright yellow, and I’ve fixed the teeny fit issues.
In other progress, I’ve decided to go with ivory cotton sateen as my skirt fabric. I draped it and the linen over a chair for a couple of days and considered them both, and decided that the linen was just too, too white, and entirely the wrong look. Also, Fiss massively prefers the cotton, and one should always defer to one’s sewing cat in matters of fabric choice:
So, lots sorted, but I had one last niggling worry. How to include all that gold in an 188os jacket without it looking like a costume?
Then I found this image, and I had a little epiphany:
Why can’t my outfit be a costume? If I just think of it as an 1880s stage or fancy dress costume, then I can have all the gold I want, it will be true to the book, and historically plausible!
Happy dance! Off to sew!