A Little Chat on the Historical Designing Process

“Aimee, how did you make that?”

“Did you just follow instructions?”

“Wish I could figure out how to design a gown like that!”

Well, I’ve been listening and have decided to share the process I go through when I design a historical gown.  From original inspiration to my next steps, you will learn about what books and patterns I go to first for help along the way!

Let’s get going!

Have another topic you would like me to chat about?  Dying to know some of my construction or designing secrets?

Leave a comment below! 🙂

PS: The book I was referring to is Fashion: The Collection from the Kyoto Fashion Institute. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On My Inspiration Board: Coral Gowns

 

Happy Thanksgiving week everyone!!  

I can’t believe we are already at Thanksgiving!  While I feel that the summer went by at a normal pace, this fall has simply flew!!

I have been very busy sewing these past days, not only getting ready for Black Friday and Cyber Monday on my shop (click HERE to see all the deals), but also with some fun projects just for the heck of it!  One such project, was this 1810’s day gown in such a fun shade of coral-ly pink.

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Creating an 1850’s Bloomer Gown

 

A few weeks ago, The New York State Museum reached out to me to acquire a Bloomer Gown I had created to display in their upcoming exhibit Votes for Women: Celebrating New York’s Suffrage Centennial which runs from November 4, 2017- May 13, 2018 in Albany, New York.

I was thrilled and honored to be apart of such a wonderful exhibit and celebration that I thought I would share a some details of not only the gown I made, but also the women who made the outfit popular.

To start with the Bloomer gown, as we know it, was not first worn by Amelia Bloomer but actually by Elizabeth Smith Miller of Geneva, New York.  Elizabeth Miller, who advocated for dress reform using the Turkish style of pants, quickly caught the attention and support of Bloomer.  With her newspaper, The Lily, which focused on women’s issues, Amelia popularized the look to the point where her name became associated with the gown.

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On My Inspiration Board: Embroidered Gowns

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Whenever I watch a Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte film, I always notice how many scenes have women sitting and embroidering.  While embroidering has never been a skill I have any great comfort with, I so admire the patience that goes into creating such unique pieces.  In addition to beauty, excellent embroidery (in the 18th and 19th century) was also a sign of your success at being a woman.  From samplers, to large designs, to small decals on ribbons, creating lovely scenes through thread was a talent to be embraced and cultivated.

And when one looks back at gowns from the past two hundred years, the value placed upon such embroidered additions has not wavered.  Even today, when I see an embroidered design, even on garments in modern department stores, I find it more beautiful and attractive…and often worth the extra penny it will cost to take it home.  I am sure the same can be said of women a hundred years ago, as they painstakingly took the time to decorate their gowns with signs of accomplishment.

So what better way to honor these women, than to celebrate gowns with all types of embroidery and design.  I had such a fun time looking and finding gowns, capes, and other accessories that it was very difficult to narrow the final selection down.  I also noticed that certain time periods feature more embroidery than others.  Notice the lack of 1850’s-1870’s gowns if you hop over to my Pinterest board.  While there are so many to choose from in the early 1800’s and again at the end of the century and well into the 1950’s, the middle decades feature more fabric patterns than embroidered additions.  Regardless, the design and appeal of these gowns can not be denied!

I hope you enjoy!

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To see more, feel free to visit my Pinterest Board.

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The Gowns that have Inspired My Sewing…

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I have been sewing since I was a little girl and dabbled in the usual assortment of projects that new sewers try.  A few handbags, a dress or two, and perhaps a little quilting.  But there comes a time in every sewer’s journey when they begin to discover their particular niche.  While they still may sew a variety of things, they often find one particular style, or area, or system that is their most favorite.  And that is the beautiful thing about sewing.  Sewing is one of those rare hobbies that can be truly for enjoyment while still offering a wonderful service.  It will always be a needed talent and one that should be carefully and lovingly cultivated.

I went on my own little journey of sewing during my summer vacations of college.  This was of course in the days before Pinterest and my access to historical fashion was limited, but I was able to Google a lot of the various images.  Through this process, I began finding gowns that spoke to me and continue to inspire me today (over a decade later.)  They are the pieces that really pushed me into historical sewing without having any idea or knowledge on how to do any of it.  But like many things in life, sewing is a puzzle with various pieces that must be figured out so they, together, can create one overall picture.  So that is how my summer days were spent…figuring out how these gowns were created, how they went together, and how the heck I could do it on my own.  Of course all of this happened in between my summer jobs! 🙂

So as I now enter into my 15th year of historical/vintage sewing, I thought I would share with you the pieces that inspired it all…maybe they have inspired you as well!

This late 18th century gown is a true example of how a perfect fit can create a stunning creation.91ce968d0c5ffb4ba3efeb3639cd6a08

This Regency era gown was the first time where I looked at a picture and tried to recreate the best I could….it turned out alright! 🙂

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This 1850’s raspberry gown has been one of my favorites for years….I adore the vibrant color!

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This 1870’s bustle gown is part technical amazingness and part mint-green amazingness…both parts are equally important!

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This one you had to pull my chin off from the floor when I first saw it.  It’s all about the cut….simply, sleek, and exquisitely tailored!

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I am still in the process of trying to recreate a pattern for this 1930’s silk blouse…and when I do, I’ll be sure to let you know!

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Someday, I will have acquired enough skill to create this 1940’s dress..not today…but someday!

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What has been your inspiration for sewing?  Have you been able to recreate that inspiration?
I would love to hear about it in the comments! 🙂
Happy Monday!!!

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Cover Photo: The Ball Gown by Jules Trayer, 1860


An 1850’s Guide to Dressmaking: The Skirt

“General facts and rules to be remembered:

Some few things are true about the making of all skirts, through every change of fashion, and whether the dress be of the courser stuff or the richest satin.

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  1. In cutting off the breadths, be careful to have them all of precisely equal length; also see that regard is paid to the figure running up or down, when the breadths are being basted, previous to running them.  This is a matter that is frequently overlooked, even by experienced dressmakers.  
  2. The breadths should be basted or pinned securely while running them, because a puckered skirt will spoil the appearance of the most elegant dress.
  3.  Commence running each breadth at the bottom, first measuring off a length of silk sufficient to prevent the necessity of making any breaks of any sort in the seam.  Not one backstitch can be permitted , as it will show distinctly on the right side, especial if the material be stiff silk.  

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The fastenings of the dress should be sewed with great care, so that they may last as long as the dress itself.

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 Whalebones should be smoothly pared on the edges and ends, to prevent them from slipping out after wearing holes in the waist-lining.”

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Source: The Lady’s Guide to Perfect Gentility… by Emily Thornwell, 1856

Looking to create your own 1850’s skirt?  Here are a few great patterns to get you started:

Past Patterns has a wonderful pattern for a skirt and bodice.

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This pattern for a petticoat can be made of a variety of materials for under or outer wear…and the price is great!

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Happy sewing!
~Aimee

 


How to Fold A Gown – The 1840’s Way

In our age of t-shirts and jeans, folding clothes is a fairly straight forward process that can be done while watching T.V. or some other form of media.  Yet, the art (because it is an art) of properly folding and packing away gowns of multiple yards of fabric is a skill that we reenactors can benefit from today!  With a few practice runs, any gown, of any decade, can be folded neatly and securely to ensure safe travel from reenactment to reenactment or simply to stay clean and safe on a shelf.  I have created a visual representation of the French method described by Sarah Josepha Buell Hale in her book titled:

“The workwoman’s guide: containing instructions to the inexperienced in cutting out and completing those articles of wearing apparel, &c. which are ususally made at home : also, explanations on upholstery, straw-platting, bonnet-making, knitting, &c.”

Yes, this is the title….No guessing at what the book will be about with a title like this!

First, the text taken from the section of her book titled “Care of the Lady’s Wardrobe

March folding a gown

And now a step by step visual:

1.  Lay the gown out flat, front side down.

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Sheer and Pleated…

This is such a stunning gown!  Probably created in the late 1850’s, I love the V-shaped pleating and the full airiness of the skirt.  Include a shawl and it is perfect!  I wish it was easier to find fabric that was patterned like this skirt though.  Hmmmm……

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