When it came time to make samples for the Scroop + Virgil’s Fine Goods Amalia Jacket pattern I was in a bit of a quandary. I made View A in my size, knowing Elisabeth would fit, and look absolutely stunning, in it.
I really wanted my friend Jenni to model View B. Jenni is a fabulous model – and I’ve tempted her into the dark and full of handsewing world of historical costuming, so she actually has a reason to have a personal Amalia Jacket.
But asking your model to make her own garment is more than a wee bit cheeky! And Jenni has a rather full life of her own. She’s also been quite busy for the past year and then some illustrating a massive book, ‘Heart of Flame: Katherine Mansfield’s Flowers and Trees’, and then launching her first exhibition.
So I offered her an Amalia & petticoat in return for her modelling it. She gets a pretty 18th century ensemble, I got a gorgeous model, and got to give back to Jenni for some of the times she’s been such a wonderful friend.
We had a rummage through my stash, and she fell for a blue-green silk taffeta which I had just enough of to get a View B Amalia, as well as the project I already had it earmarked for: the sleeveless spencer from An Agreeable Tyrant. To go with it we picked a silk-cotton satin I had left over from a project from years ago for the petticoat and cutaway front.
At the same time, I was planning a project for the costume construction students at Toi Whakaari. I felt bad that they missed out on so many live costume history lectures and hands-on samples during New Zealand’s lockdown. To make up for it, I offered them a historical sewing afternoon – a totally optional extra project to learn historical stitches and techniques.
And then I had a brilliant thought. Wouldn’t making something be more fun than just sewing trial seams? Doing our own attempt at a ‘dress in a day’ thing? I ran it by my manager and got clearance to have the students make the Amalia with me. It was on my own time, totally optional for them, and gave them the opportunity to learn additional skills (and they all got an Amalia pattern as a thank you).
So a group of interested students got together with me (and lots of macarons and chocolate) on a Friday afternoon, and made a jacket.
We didn’t get it all done in our afternoon sessions, partly because I wasn’t strategic enough in how I figured out the order of sewing, and partly because there’s a big bit of applying-panels that can only be done by one person.
But they got most of the petticoat seams sewn, the sleeves assembled, the linen lining assembled, the cuttaway front assembled, and the first bodice panels applied.
I finished up the jacket myself, and I’m proud to say that my stitches are not the prettiest ones to have gone into it. There are some seriously impressive hand-sewers among our current crop of students!
Jenni loves her outfit, I love how she looks in it, and I love that it represents costuming community giving and collaboration at its best. Everyone who participated in the project did something because they wanted to, and got something of equal value to themselves out of it.
THAT is an outfit replete with aloha.
With so much bad stuff happening in the world, it’s great to be reminded of the way people still work in mutually beneficial and enjoyable ways!
everything about this is beautiful. 🙂
I imagine that the conversation as the students learned and sewed was delightful, as is the result!
The blue-green fabric is lovely. Back in the day would this have been an over-dye color made up of yellow followed up by blue?
Am sure Jenni will treasure her community jacket.
Natalie in KY
gutenberg-e.orgWe had a great afternoon sewing with the students – topics, practical, informative, and silly.
I’m 90% sure it would have been an overdye process to achieve this colour, so definitely making it a pricey fabric. These blue-green shade shows up in extant examples and fashion plates. I know that similar shades were called saxon blue and saxon green on wool, but it’s not clear if the same name was applied to silk. Saxon blue/green actually described a specific dyeing process first invented in Saxony, but eventually figured out by the French. It is an overdye, but part of the process turns it from a standard vat dye to an acid dye. I’m not enough of a dye expert/chemist to know if you could use that process for silk.
There’s a good overview of it here: http://www.gutenberg-e.org/lowengard/C_Chap34.html (which alas, still doesn’t answer the silk question!)