Friday, 16 May 2014

Sewing plans and summer plans and health

The echo temple at Haga
I try to keep my personal life out of my blogging, but sometimes, of course, it intrudes anyway. Like right now and as this is something important to every woman, so I will let it intrude for once. Some time ago a small tumor was found in one of my breasts and even if the doctors thought it very unlikely that it was malign, they wanted to remove it and booked me in for surgery pretty much immediately. The surgery went well and the final test result says that I am clear of any danger, but ladies, I can’t urge you enough- go and have your breasts checked out regularly! I’m very glad that I do!

So I am well again, the only lingering effect is that I’m still sore, which only affects my life when it comes to my sewing plans, because I can’t wear stays. And as I have been unwell for a large part of the late winter/early spring (I had a few weeks with my ever returning bronchitis), my sewing plans needs to be re-made. I had decided from the onset that they are flexible as I plan to help me sewing and I knew my plans was over ambitious, but I wanted to try it anyway. Now, however, it’s time to let go and re-think.

First, I have to put any sewing projects on hold that I need to wear stays for. That means the 17th century purple bodice, Gustaf III’s national gown, or rather the robe part as well as finishing the embroidered polonaise. I can still work on the petticoats for the purple bodice and the national gown.

Second, I will give up trying to make all the challenges on HSF14. I like the concept and I love the Facebook-group, but one of the things that makes me not sew are just deadlines and right now I get more stressed by the deadlines every second week than inspired. I have also realized that there is a danger that I throw out my planned projects to make something that fits with a challenge. Which means things I really want to finish gets bumped back. I also have a priority list and I want to keep to it. So for now I will be happy if something I finish fits a challenge and let the rest go. Next year I will hopefully have less planned projects so I can be more flexible.

So what has worked for me? To fix four projects at the time and only allow me to work on those. This has worked really well. I devote most of my sewing time on the item that is on top of my list, but can switch to one of the others when I need a break. This also means that I always have something for hand sewing when I watch a movie. When I finish the top project, the next one gets bumped up and I can add the next one on my list. For example, right now I’m working on finishing a 40’s silk noil skirt, but I’m also working on the petticoat for the national gown, the skirt for the 1910’s suit and adding a new project, a Robe Volante. Which you may have suspected after yesterday’s post.

I have wanted to make a Robe Volante since forever and though it was certainly not part of my plans, I also didn’t have plans for breast surgery. I have no idea when I will be able to wear my stays again and there are usually a lot of summer activities. I do have my blue casaque, but I always feel frumpy in it. Granted, being rather big, I will probably look like an elephant in a Volante, as I do in the casaque, but I am not going to make it frumpy. I’m going to make it in silk taffeta that is shot with pale gold/dark blue, which makes it a shimmering green, and I’m going to give it gold details and wear it with my panier. I may be an elephant, but I will be a shimmering, glittering elephant, not a frumpy one.

When the silk noil skirt is done I will put the Volante on top and add the double-sided raincoat that I have been stalling. 

On June 6 I hope for wonderful weather, because there will be a picnic in the garden of Haga Castle. It will be a historical picnic, but it will be multi-eras, which I think will be a lot of fun! And hopefully my Volante will be done, but if it isn’t, I will go as a frump.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The Robe Volante in art and reality

Robe Volante, c. 1720.
Yellow and red changeable striped silk taffeta with racket
sleeves ("manches en raquette"); large pleats at front and back.

In Sweden there is an idiom that says “A loved child has many names”. If that is true, then the Robe Volante was very dear, as it also were called Robe Battante, Adrienne, contouche, innocente, flying dress and, in a shorter version, casaque. It became popular in the 1720’s and remained fashionable for some 20 years. Like the mantua it had deep pleats in the front and the back, but on the mantua those pleats were held close to the body, first with a sash and then the pleats were sewn down. In the Volante these pleats were hanging freely, giving the gown a loose bell-shape, something that was underlined as it was worn with something else that became fashionable in the 1720’s, the hoop skirt, or panier. It was originally bell shaped, but got wider and flatter, in the 1730’s, to reach its widest points in the 1740’s.


The Volante very quickly morphed into the Robe Française where the front of the gown became fitted. The Volante and Française co-existed and it is sometimes difficult to say it an extant gown is an unusually fitted Volante or an unusually loose Française. There were also variations within the Volante's. The first ones had loosely pleated backs, the stacked double box pleats was something that developed in the 1730’s.

Robe Volante in pale blue silk, 1730's, Metropolitan Museum

This Volante is open to the waist and very similar to this one. Others were closed all the way. The neckline always seem to be V-shaped. Despite being so loose, stays were generally worn underneath, though probably not laced very hard. It may sound odd to wear stays, but not if one comsider that this is what a woman wore for breast support in the 18th century and she might not (I wouldn't because that would actually be more uncomfortable than wearing stays) want to let it all hang freely.

The backpleats looks to be quite loose here and the sleeves looks pleated, another old-fashioned look that some extant mantuas also have.

Detail from L'Enseigne de Gersaint by Antoine Watteau, 1720
Robe Volante, 1720-1735, Musée Galliera de la Mode de la Ville de Paris
The pictures were found here.
This gown also have decorative buttons down the front, though I'm unsure if they are also functional. They can be seen on paintings from the period as well.

Like this one, in velvet.

Élisabeth-Charlotte d'Orléans,Duchess of Lorraine and her son François-Étienne by Alexis Simon Belle,1722

Here is a version with decorative frogs and a somewhat peculiar frill around teh neck. The stays do seem to be very loose.

Declaration of Love by Troy,1725

A Robe Volante worn completely open.
L'amour et le badinage by Jean-Baptiste Pater, painted before 1736
And getting in and out of it.

Dame à sa toilette recevant un cavalier by Jean-François de Troy

After the Ball by Jean-Francois De Troy, 1735
This version looks like it is closed by hooks and eyes.

The Alarm by Jean Francois de Trow, 1723
With more distinct pleating in the back.

Robe Volante, 1735-1740, Metropolitan Museum

A painting were both versions a worn, both the Volante and the Francaise.


Declaration of Love by Jean Francois de Troy, 1731
Robe Volante c. 1730
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
There was, as I have already mentioned, a shorter version, the casaque.


Lady Sealing A Letter by Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin, c. 1732
It's possible that they were just shortened volantes which had been worn, but there are two beautiful embroidered casaques which clearly have been made shorter by purpose.

Embroidered ölinen casaque (Italian), 1725-1740, Metropolitan Museum

Silk casaque with embroidery in white silk, 1730-1740's, Kulturen, Lund

The petticoat is quilted, but sadly re-made so it's impossible to say what it looked like originally.
The loose fit of the Volante must have made it ideal to use as a coat as you could have worn several layers underneath. The lady enjoying a day on the ice, must have done so to stand the cold.

Detail from Winter by Jean-Baptiste Pater,1725
It must also have been very comfortable for travels. There have been some debate over these paintings online, but I think they are meant to be showing travelling clothes. Masques were not only worn for masqueardes, but for travels as well, to protect the face from sun and dust.

Countess de Rieux, by Maurice Quentin de La Tour, 1742
Posthumous portrait of Louise-Élisabeth de France, Duchess of Parma by Jean-Marc Nattier, c. 1760
A very similar portrait, I guess one of them is a copy of the other.

Unknown woman found at Just A Wench Livejournal

Two gowns balancing the fine line between Volante and Francaise

C. 1735, The Museum at FIT

C. 1735, Les Arts Décoratifs

An assortment of paintings showing of different versions of the Volante.

Mrs. Elizabeth Symonds by Allan Ramsey, 1740

Nicholas Lancret

The Four Times od Day- Midday by Nicholas Lancret
People In the Park, the workshop of Nicholas Lancret

A Lady and Gentleman Taking Coffee with Children in a Garden by Nicholas Lancret, 1742
Follow the link underneath for a high res version.

St. James' Park and the Mall, 1745

Monday, 12 May 2014

Why I blog

I got the Liebster award recently from no less than two different bloggers and though I rarely do awards, Isabella specifically asked me how I got into blogging and Fashion Through History asked me the same thing, so I figured I would do a light version and answer the questions.

The only picture of my very first pair of stays. It was made after
the Diderot pattern and I made it in green linen with the
 boning channels sewn in blue linen thread. By hand.
Unfortunately they fitted me extremely badly and I
couldn't find any other boning than Rigilene
Whats the reason you decided to start your costuming blog?

I'd like everyone to explain why they started blogging and what they have found useful about blogging. Also, any downsides they've found to blogging, any funny stories regarding their blog, and what they might do differently if they were starting a blog now.

I have been blogging about my costumes for nine years this month, but to find the reason to why I started w need to get back four more years, back to 2001. Then I did, for the last time, what I had been doing for then years, designing and making the costumes for amateur plays and operas. It was a lot of fun, but it was also a lot of hard work and basically no money at all and I never get to wear any pretty clothes. I wanted to make costumes for myself, but though I had a good grip on fashion history, I know less about historical sewing techniques. I had Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion books and that was it, so I turned to the Net for help. There were, of course, not a fraction of information then, as there is today, but there were probably a bit more than I remember, because I can only pull three rabbits out of my hat. That was La Couturière Parisienne, Koshka the Cat, now Katherine's Dress Site and the now gone, Festive Attyre, though Jen has re-posted some on her blog with the same name. I learned a lot from these sites as back then I didn’t belong to any group and didn’t know anyone else who made historical clothes. Of course, I did a lot of mistakes anyway, but without online advice, my mistakes would have been far worse.

My first 18th century outfit, jacket and petticoat in a blue linen/cotton
blend. The jacket pattern comes from Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion
1, but my fitting skills was not very developed. The waist is too long,
you can see  the vertical wrinkle at the waistline and though you can't
see it, the neckline was too wide and gaping and the sleeves were
very clumsily inserted. It's too small for me now, but as I still love the
colour and have some fabric left, I plan to pick apart the jacket and
re-make it into one that fits me better.
Since then I have learned a lot and a lot of it has been from the friends I eventually found in Gustafs Skål, but along with that I have always researched through the web. I first joined LiveJournal in 2004 with a private journal and found that there were a lot of costumers there and my knowledge expanded even further and I started to feel that I wanted to give something back. I had been helped by so many and I wanted to return the favor. I have always tried to share my research and I have always tried to do my research as good as possible.

Since then things have changed considerably. There are now a plethora of wonderful resources online. Museums put out their collections, bloggers write excellent articles, there are sites that put old books online, people can share their work though blogs, Facebook, Deviantart and so on. For me, sharing my costuming online has been a very positive experience. I have learned so much and got to know so many fantastic people.

So why do I blog? Well, for sharing what I do, of course, and I know that there are a few who has been helped of something I have been written. Because I am a compulsive writer who can’t help writing, at the moment I maintain three blogs and write other things as well. And for the warm, fuzzy feeling I get when someone compliments my work, it is always nice to be recognized.

Fashion Through History also asked me a few other questions, so I will answer them as well:

When and how did you get into sewing?

My fitting skills have improved.
I have been sewing since I was about 11 but for a long time it was just a way to means, I loved designing clothes and I loved to have them, so I had to sew them. I didn’t actually start enjoying sewing until I was 30 and really started to make historical costumes.

What was your very first garment (historical or other)? And what did you learned from it?

First ever was when I was 11 and I made a circle skirt in a patchwork patterned fabric. I don’t remember what I learned from making it.

Do you have a dream project? And what it is? (Picture?)

I want to make a 17th century embroidered jacket and petticoat. Preferably not in monochromes…

Traditionally called Dorothy Cary, later Viscountess Rochford
by William Larkin, 1614-1618
Which of your costumes are your favorite and why? (Picture?)

Difficult, but I think it is this 1790’s outfit below. It was such a joy to make and I felt very pretty in it. It’s too small for me now and I mourn that!

What will be your next big project?

I’m working on Gustaf III’s national gown right now, but my next planned big projects are a mid-17th century outfit for my husband and then a mantua c. 1700.

What part of costuming do you enjoy the most (the planning, patternmaking, sewing, details etc.)?

Hard to say, but planning, making the final touches and being finished are probably the best parts.

And what part would you rather not do?

Cutting out pattern pieces and do zippers and buttonholes.

Do you have a costuming role model or muse (historical, fellow blogger or other)?
1790-s outfit, velvet jacket with a silk taffeta petticoat.

Not really. The costuming collective online and my friends all give me inspiration, but I don’t have a particular person. Historically speaking it is all those unsung artist who anonymously have created such beautiful clothes, embroideries and lace that are artwork in themselves.

What is your best advice for anyone wanting to get into historical costuming?

Do your research. The more you learn about your chosen period, the easier it gets to find what you really want to do. Do your research even if you don’t aim to make something historically correct, because it is never wrong to know how you deviate and why, instead of just winging it out of laziness.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

An article about 17th century hair

Lady Margaret Tufton by David des Granges, 1638-1650
Some time ago, in February, I approached Your Wardrobe Unlock’d and asked if they might be interested in two articles about 17th century hair and makeup. To my delighted surprise they were and the first article went live today. I feel quite exited, I can tell you! The subject is the woman’s hairstyle that was popular for the whole mid-part of the 17th century where the hair was put in a chignon in the back and the side hair was hanging down around the ears. In my article I go through the key variations of it and also how to set and style a wig. The next article that will be up next month, is about makeup during the same period.

You can read, if you subscribe to Your Wardrobe Unlock’d, here.

I have also become an affiliate to Your Wardrobe Unlock’d and Foundations Revealed, which you can see on one of the side bars. This means that if you clock on one of the banners and then sign up, I will get a fee. My blogging have never been about earning money and I honestly don’t except that I will get any for this, I do it to help these sites survive as I really feel that they are excellent resources and that it would be a shame if they disappeared
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