Sunday, April 20, 2014

Le Modiste: Polonaise gown for evening

My goodness, where have I been?  It is amazing how 'life' happens and you realize that many tasks that give joy are set aside for the practical, routine tasks that...well, let's face it,  we'd rather not do but seem to feel we work, housekeeping, etc.  Ahhhh, the mundane business end of the stick that pokes you constantly when all you just want to do is play!  Sigh.

Anyway, I am back and posting about an impromptu gown I made for an event.  Yes, I thought that was a thing of the past.  Ha...ha...ha!  Ya, know, I just didn't want to wear the same thing I have worn for the last few evening events set in the 18th century.  No, no, no!  

I fished around in the pool of my fabric stash and found this striped silver and rust silk.  It is a shantung silk.  Yes, I know that it is not period to the time but I had it, it is pretty and well, the event I was going to was for fun and not for 'teaching history' - not a re-enactment in the true sense of the words.

The gown I based my design on is this one from the Victorian and Albert Museum collection:

Robe à la polonaise, English, 1775-1780. Robe and Polonaise of lustring striped in pale green, cream and two shades of purple, with boning and lined with linen.

I had just enough fabric to make the bodice, sleeves and the attached skirt.  Because of time, I machine stitched the basic construction ( used an overlocker for finishing)  but did the lining, finishing and the trimmings all by hand.  
In construction with the sleeve trimmings in place.  I scallop-hemmed the edges and gathered at the same time to get the rushing I wanted and a nice interesting edge.  See two pictures below to see how I did it.

A close-up.  Ignore the overlocked edge underneath.  Like I said, time was not on my side...I was doing a whip-up, bang it out gown.  

These are the neck trimmings that I used.  The stitches to make it happen is at the top.

The underskirt was not what I had planned to use but I ran out of time, so I used an embroidered sheer skirt from another ensemble.

I did not want to wear a wig.  I went surfing on the net and found on Pinterest a pin that lead to a nice tutorial for hair.

Locks of Elegance, is a nice blog!  As a visual learner seeing the step-by-step was great and easy for me to follow. The lady's hair in the tutorial is longer and thicker than my own but I was able to manage it, with lots of hair spray to keep my frizzy-fly-away hair in control.  Here are some pictures of the results:

I need a better needs to be attached better.  The  neck trimmings is visible as well.

The event was the annual Imperial Russian dinner at Babouska in Walnut Creek.  The restauranteurs were, as usual, gracious and the food was fabulous our evening was wonderful!

Now, I do need to get back to my Regency Wardrobe.  Bath, England is coming up!  September is the deadline but I really don't want to spend my entire summer sewing at the last minute!  So, next up, I am piloting a bib front gown for Laughing Moon Patterns, another day dress to be completed. The UFO's I had are done.  Following the bib front gown, are two evening gowns as I have nothing in that department.

Stay tuned!  And, thank you for your patience.  I will hopefully be able to post more often now.  The job is winding down...5 more weeks.  Then its freedom from the commuting, lesson planning and all. 


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Evening Out! Bal di Carnival

The Greater Bay Area Costume Guild had a fantastic affair a few weeks back.  The Bal di Carnival was at the Saint Claire Hotel in San Jose, California.  The 1920's Spanish-Moorish stye of the building lent itself to the atmosphere.  It was set for 18th century but everyone was encouraged to take that and run with it.  Here is the event:

The event was a lot of fun!   Salute!

Le Modiste: Draping an 18th century Riding Habit.

Hello!  Where has the time gone?  Here it is the beginning of March!  When you need the clock to slow down and exercise a meandering pace, it goes into a sprint!  Well, many things have kept me away from my posting and once again, I beg you pardon and hope to restart my regular postings.

Well, without further ado.  I attended a workshop with nine other ladies to drape and hand stitch an 18th century riding habit.  I chose this portrait to interpret:

The Countess of Effingham with Gun and Shooting Dogs by George Haugh 1787

The session began with practicing hand sewing techniques.  One particular stitch we did that I had not done before was a stitch that seams together decorative facing with the fashion fabric with a visible, functional but decorative top stitch.

This was followed by making the sleeve pattern for the jacket.  Our instructor brought a basic sleeve sloper with a slightly bent shape - we cut it out in muslin much bigger than the pattern and then with partners we adjusted it to our arms with habit shirts on.  The pattern was laid it out and a personal pattern was made. The sleeve is a two piece design of the period, but at this point we didn't cut away the underarm curve of the under sleeve as that would be done when the sleeve is fitted to the jacket.

Next up was the waistcoats - which were draped and would be later used to create the jacket pattern as well.
Draping the waist coat pattern.

Draped pattern to be developed.

Later based on the waistcoat, we developed the pattern of the jacket.

This particular period of riding habit, between 1770 and 1790's, didn't have a waist seam, so the jackets were tricky to drape to prevent wrinkles forming about the waist.  Unfortunately, none of my pictures came out of me being fitted in the jacket. I am really bummed about that.   However, pictures of my friend, Mia, came out to demonstrate the sleeve fitting:

I wasn't really happy with the way my jacket is fitting.  It may have been I was tired and it was an intense but wonderful two and half days of sewing with the gals.  However, the sleeves are in - well, they pinned in and need sewing up.  And yes, I haven't touched it since the beginning of February.  Sigh.  I do plan to take this up again, a little later on in the spring as I am determined to finish it. But, I have to concentrate on other projects at the moment.  So, I will keep you posted on the progress.

My current to do list:

Regency chemise - at least one more
Re-work a Regency dress I have that is too small in the bodice and I have enough fabric to redo it.
In search of appropriate fabrics for my Regency wardrobe for the Bath trip in September.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

News! News! News! 18th Century Hairstyling

I am really excited about this announcement and just had to share!  Kendra Van Cleave of Demode ( is branching out and preparing a book of her techniques on how to style your hair or wigs for 18th century fashions.

What is really exciting for me is that Kendra is getting the opportunity to make her project come to fruition and she has graciously asked me to be one of her models!  As the advert says, the book is open for pre-orders.  If you want to know more about the book there are 3 places you can find out what is going on:  This is her blog site.  Having that link is valuable in and of itself!

Another place to go is:  This is the book's website where you can place your order.

If you would like to keep up with the progress of the book, you can join the 18th Century Hair & Wig Styling at:

I hope you will take a peep and consider purchasing this resource to add to your collection.  Cheers!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

2014 is here!  I hope that this new year's day has found you healthy, happy and ready to begin the next chapter in your creative journey.  I am ready!  With the holiday celebrations behind me I am turning my eyes and mind to the year to come.  I have the Bath, England trip to think about and get garments ready by September.  There are a couple of minor events here California that I am planning to go to but at this point I don't think I have to make anything new for that is a concept! I have a wardrobe to draw from!  Hurrah!  

As usual, I was sewing up to the last minute to get the day bodice for the 1885 bustle dress ready for the Christmas Tea at the Palace Hotel.  (See previous post).  Sigh, one day I will be able to not be sewing up to the last minute for an event!  Anyway, in fits and starts I have been working on the embroidery for my chemisette started, oh, way back in November?  Here are some updates:

Add caption

I am using a fern stitch, satin stitch and French knots.  The design is a simple trellis of leaf and 4 petal flower sprigs along the center front opening, up and around the neck.  The linen for the chemisette is not a bright white, so I had to go with an ivory embroidery floss.  I like the slight difference in the whites.

Next up on my sewing is to finish a Regency boned bodice petticoat, and continue the embroidery on the chemisette.  However, I am set to make an 18th century riding habit by hand.  Yes, by hand.  I am working with friends to learn how to drape the jacket and vest.  I am excited about this and hope to share later on in February.  In the meantime, I will continue to work on the Regency wardrobe.

Again, to all my lovelies, please have a wonderful start to this new year.  Best wishes on your projects - come by often, say hello and I will be peeping in on you, too!  Cheers.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Le Modiste: 1885 Bustle

5 years ago, my God daughter was a 'debutante' and all her aunties came to the event.  The trick was that the event was part of a ball event that PEERS (Period Events and Entertainments Recreations Society) puts on every 1st Saturday of the month.  The theme of this ball was one of Queen Victoria's granddaughters (my God daughter) was to make her debut into society.  So, it was a high Victorian affair.

All of us made 1885 ball gowns.  Mine was a pink and black affair using a Chinese brocade.  That being said, this Christmas I needed a bustle gown to wear to the annual Christmas Tea at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco given by the Greater Bay Area Costume Guild.  I actually had enough fabric left over to make the day time bodice for this event.  I used the Truly Victorian French Vest bodice which I adore.  A friend of mine blocked a black straw hat for me and the ensemble came together quite well.  So, without further ado, here is the upcycle of my ball gown into a day ensemble.

Starting from the beginning - chemise, stockings, corset.

My bustle petticoat has crinoline ruched with embroidered cotton covers layering the back,
plus a bustle pad buttoned in at the waist.  No hoop wire to deal with.

At the Palace.  All dressed.  I love my new hat!

The event was lovely and we had a good time.  The Palace was built in 1875, was nearly destroyed by the 1906 earthquake but survives to day as a landmark hotel in San Francisco.  Worth a trip to see the Maxfield Parish original in their bar and the beautiful room they use for dining that was once the carriage round about for guest arriving prior to the earthquake.  

Here are some images of the other patrons who attended:
My sweet friend Irene who is a lead draper for the SF Opera.

Other patrons...The bronze pink dress in the center was fabulous - wish I had gotten
a front view of this gown, it was gorgeous.

My dearest friends Rita, Sheila and Walter.

Our Table.

Irene and Catherine.  Catherine was our hostess for the event as Lady Astor.  She also used
Truly Victorian as her base pattern.

Just in case I don't get a chance to post before New Years day,  Happy New Year and may 2014 bring the joy, love, hope and prosperity you need to move forward in your life's journey and enjoy it.  Cheers!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Christmas everyone!


Happy Holidays to all my readers who have patiently waited during long lag times between postings, who have shared my posts with friends and have honored me with supportive comments all year long.

I am still working on my Regency wardrobe but put it aside to make a day time bodice for an 1885 ensemble I made a while back.  I am attending the Christmas Tea at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco on Dec 28th.  In addition, I am also gearing up for a February workshop where I will be draping and sewing by hand an 18th century riding habit.  Therefore, Regency will have to go to the back burner but not neglected.  

I hope to continue to have your faithful readership in 2014 and beyond.  Please have a safe and joyful holiday, however you celebrate this season of love, hope and joy.  Cheers.