Saturday, September 22, 2012

1884 Gown: Vest and Interchangeable Plastron - Part 2


Part two is focused on the plastron.  I have to admit that while working on this, I was having horrible flash-backs to the late 1980's (not 1880's), of those awful 'dickies' or mock-turtleneck shirts that I was forced to wear as a child.  Even as a kid I didn't like them, and I still don't, apparently, because I am wrinkling my nose at the thought of them as I type.  Because of this, I have to admit I'm finding it very hard to like this plastron.  They just look so much alike, those 'dickies' and plastrons, darn it!  Why?!


Here it is in all of its un-tucked glory.  It certainly doesn't look like much, does it...pathetic little thing.  My plastron, per original inspiration image, isn't nearly as lacy or frilly as the ones I saw in "Fashions of the Guilded Age."  I made a base lining first out of cotton, using the princess seams on my vest as a guide, and I ended up putting in a couple of darts on this lining.  Then I draped and pinned the silk into pleats over the lining, basting all edges once I had the look I wanted.  I tacked down the inner most fold of each pleat along the waistline, so that it wouldn't balloon out and poof up too much. Then, I hemmed the sides and bottom, and attached the collar.  It was as easy as that.


Ok...so......I've been extremely busy lately, and recovering from several illnesses that hit me all at once, and I just couldn't bring myself to put buttons and button holes ALL the way up BOTH sides of the plastron.  So, please forgive me for going the lazy (wo)man's route instead.  I put a button on each bottom corner, attaching the plastron to the vest in only these two places, in order to provide some sort of stability. Then I sewed on bias tape at each side, to pull in the smallest part of the waist, and tied them together in the back.  I figured this should hold the plastron in place, but, if it doesn't, then I will suck it up and do buttons.


The collar is simple, clasped on with a large hook and eye at the back.  Blah...there's that mock-turtleneck thought again...or a bib...*gag*!  Sorry...  I'm sure it will look lovely with the jacket over it, but seriously folks...yuck!


Anyway, once it's tucked in, and the Swiss waist is put on, I guess it isn't too terrible, right?!


It might be a while before I post again, at least about this project.  I want to ask Natalie to help me fit my jacket, and I plan on making a mock-up first. 


I'm loving the gorgeous Autumn weather we are having right now.  All of the windows in our house are open, and a light breeze is playing with the curtains.  I'm off now to enjoy what's left of this beautiful day, and to plant a few Fall perennials in the garden.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

1884 Gown: Vest and Interchangeable Plastron - Part 1

I am making this a two part post.  In this post, you will be seeing the vest, and in the next, the Plastron.


Here is a close-up view of my original fashion plate inspiration.  There is really not much to be seen of the shirtwaist or vest or whatever it is under the jacket.  It's really a huge guess.  But I did a little research, and I found out that most of these sort of decorative 'shirts' were really interchangeable plastrons, like this beautiful one from the Met Museum.  (This example is dated 1887, three years after my gown.) They were worn over, or attached to, simple vests that are not seen because they are worn under the jacket.


Natalie let me borrow her copies of "Fashions of the Gilded Age: Volumes 1 & 2." Edited and with Additional Material by Frances Grimble.  (Books may be found  HERE for purchase.)  In Volume 1, there are some examples of these vests with interchangeable plastrons, from the year 1879...five years before my gown.  So, I know I'm doing the right thing.  The real question is, how were they made.


Well, in "Fashions of the Gilded Age" a scaled pattern and description is available, and basically the vest is more-or-less a high-necked, sleeveless, button-down blouse...short in the back, and long in the front.  See my horrible sketch above, that is lacking all seam lines.


 The plastron is then made separately, with a collar, and is attached to the vest, down the sides, with buttons.  Buttons, buttons, everywhere for this project.  It's a good thing I can use a machine to make the button holes.  But still...I had to hand sew on 21 of them just for my vest alone.  That's not including the ones needed to attached the plastron.  The vest/plastron in "Fashions of the Gilded Age," because it is an earlier version than mine, is extremely frilly, with layers of tulle, lace and bows.  Mine will be a bit more simple than that.  I'm using the same purple silk I used for my corset, and I will be pleating the silk onto a base fabric made of cotton, sort of like my sketch above.


Here's my vest.  Very plain and unadorned, made from cotton.  I used the Truly Victorian French Vest Bodice pattern as a guide to get the seams and size correct.  What I love about this pattern is that it is made so that you can use one size of pattern for the back pieces and another size for the front to get a more accurate fit.  I still had to take in the darts to fit it to me, but other than that, it was perfect. 


I altered it, by cutting off the tail/peplum in the back, and gently curved that down to meet the longer front area.


 This is the best I could do, and I hope my interpretation is correct.  


It won't be seen anyway, since it will be covered by the plastron in the front, tucked into the skirt, and covered by the jacket everywhere else.  But, I still like to know that it is done correctly.  Oh, and the buttons... They are a mismatched bunch of small plastic buttons, probably made within the past 50 years, but they are what I had on hand, and again...since no one will see them...oh well.

Hopefully, by the end of next weekend, I will have the plastron finished.

Friday, September 7, 2012

1884 Gown: Draped Over-skirt and Swiss Belt

I know I said the blouse (or what I now know is called a shirtwaist) was next up, but I decided to finish the skirt first, so that I could have more time to do a little more research.  I've learned that there is something called a Plastron, that was very common during the time, and I might be leaning toward making one instead of a shirtwaist.  More on this later.


And here, at last, is the finished skirt.  The draped over-skirt pattern from Truly Victorian was easy to read, and to put together.  The only problem, was that I wanted the pleats to be higher up on the hip than the pattern called for.  The pattern also didn't have the narrow v-shape in the front that my original inspiration image did.  Actually, I found that as I was altering the skirt, the higher up I made the pleats on the side, the less of a v-shape I got out of my fabric.  Ultimately, I should have used a longer piece of fabric to achieve the deep v-shape  But I was concerned about not having enough fabric left over for my jacket, so, in the end, I sacrificed the long v-point.  I'm content with how the front of it looks though.


I drafted the Swiss Waist, using a brown cotton velvet, and a cotton duck for the lining, to give it strength.  


The original inspiration image didn't have any view of the back of the skirt, and the description was minimal.  So, I was totally guessing at how to 'puff up' the back.  I found THIS image (which is dated as 1888, but I'm skeptical...it looks earlier to me) and it became my new inspiration for my over-skirt.  The above pic is what the back of the skirt looks like straight out of the pattern.


But, playing around with it a bit, I was able to do this to it.  I'm not sure which I like better.  Do you have a preference?

Monday, September 3, 2012

1884 Gown: Pleated Under-Skirt REVISED

After looking for more 1880's inspiration, it seems that going with a yoked underskirt would, after all, have been the best route.  There were several extant gowns I found where the yoke was showing under the over-skirt.  Visible yokes weren't an issue apparently.  See THIS BEAUTY for example (isn't she gorgeous!)  Also, some pleats were sewn down, similar to what I'm doing with my skirt, all the way around the skirt, stitches being very visible. This being my first trip into the 1880's, I still have a lot to learn.  That's what makes it so exciting though, doesn't it!?


Anyway, after ironing 3 TIMES, going extremely heavy on the starch, and tacking down the pleats at hip level (as suggested by Natalie), this is what the skirt now looks like. (Sorry for the low quality pictures, my basement is kind of dark, and I didn't want to haul it upstairs.  Every time you move it, the skirt wrinkles. Blah!)


Better, but still not perfect.  One reader thoughtfully suggested I use more fabric.  After all, kilts use a TON of fabric, and hold their pleats just fine.  I like this suggestion, and would have thought it a solution, if I didn't already know how much fabric I've used... 5 yards of 56" fabric folks... and EXTREMELY deep (as in folded back in on itself) box pleats.  Which, leads me to believe that it's the fabric I'm using.  Never use synthetic fabrics, even if they are blended with naturals (like silk.) 

 Lesson learned.

I Think I'm In Love!

I think I'm in love...
...with this gown!


I was researching gowns from the second bustle era, to help me with my current project, and I stumbled upon this gown from The Met Museum site, dated 1885-1888.


Isn't it gorgeous!  I literally gasped when I saw it...the color, the texture, the (dare I say it) pleated skirt, with smocking, the removable pin-tucked neckline, interchangeable belt...and the asymmetrical draped over-skirt is to die for! I think I will file it away for a future dream project.  It might be my piece-de-resistance!

p.s. - the pictures aren't click-able links. please use the Met Museum link posted above to access the original photo source.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

1884 Gown: Pleated Underskirt

In case you need to catch up on my 1884 project, here are the links to all other stages:


Remember the inspiration image?  Well, in the description that accompanied it, the underskirt is said to have been pleated.  It didn't say what kind of pleats. 


They look like box pleats to me, but they could also be deep knife pleats as well, I suppose.  I tried both, and the box pleat won out for the fabric I'm using.  I draped my own underskirt, no pattern used.  I originally thought I would make a kind of yoke, and attach the silk pleats to the bottom of that, but then I realized that the over-skirt will be draped really high up on the hip, and the yoke would show.  So, pleats from waist to hem was the only way to go.

  Pleats.....I loath them.  They might look like something an innocent little school girl would wear.  But I'm convinced they are the Devil's handiwork.  They are pure evil!  They don't look all that bad at the top, close to the waist, but the further down you go, the worse they look.


Or perhaps the fabric I am using (silk/polyester blend) is to blame for my pleat woes?! It wrinkles where it shouldn't, and yet barely holds the shape of the pleat.  It's alive, and it's laughing at me.  I spent almost an hour ironing these pleats into place, and yet they still look sloppy.  
It's also a strange thing to have pleats draped over a curved (bustled) figure.  Pleats are meant to lay flat and look perfect.  Obviously that doesn't happen over a curved surface, they open up.  I think the magazine sketch that is my inspiration, is a bit deceiving.  Surely the pleats in their skirt didn't really look that precise...did they... I'm trying to console myself, if you haven't noticed.  I DO like the look of the skirt, just NOT the messy appearance.  Any suggestions?

Next up: The silk blouse (a.k.a. vest) and a brown velvet Swiss waist.