Tuesday 31 July 2018

HSM 18 Inspiration: #8 Extant Originals

The Historical Sew Monthly challenge for August 2018 is Extant Originals: Copy an extant historical garment as closely as possible.

First and foremost, we would like to encourage you to simply give it a go - have fun with it, make that garment you love, find a garment you love, get yourself something you will love wearing. This post - fair warning, it is quite long - tries to compile further guidelines and advice if you want to up your game and do your best.
Sometimes, the idea of doing that may seem just like a very unrealistic dream: for example, I love this c. 1790 silk jacket from Severočeské muzeum in Liberec to bits, but I have not yet come across a good modern version of those late rococo silk brocades with scattered flower bouquets.

With this inspiration post, I would like to guide you towards finding a realistic and perfectly doable version of that dream. You may have to start small, but small steps can eventually lead to a full historical outfit.

Right up front, I’d better clarify what exactly we mean by “extant historical garment” and “as close as possible”.
We certainly don’t insist you actually find a historical garment to physically hold and study and copy exactly. What we want you to do is what many of you already do – find a picture, preferably more pictures, of a garment in a museum collection or on a trusted auction site, and make a garment for yourself (or a family member / friend) that looks as close as possible to it.
(If you’re lucky enough to have physical access to your chosen item, or have an heirloom / personal collection item from the HSM time range you can recreate, that’s a plus but by no means a requirement.)
“As close as possible” is definitely, at least to a certain extent, up to you and your circumstances, just like the historical accuracy of your HSM entries is to a certain extent up to you. If you have not yet, read Leimomi’s post on the various ways of approaching historical accuracy – that alone may help clear some things up.

1790s silk taffetta jacket, Abiti Antichi.
I love this one equally as much, and solid-coloured silks are easier to find. (Although I actually have other plans for this challenge, the comparison serves as a good example.)

What we would like to see with this challenge in particular, however, is a greater attention to the pattern shapes, techniques and details that make a historical garment historical – try to really recreate the construction, the seamlines and trimmings, and get inspired by garments genuinely worn in the period rather than prints and paintings (although those may also offer you insights the extants alone cannot).

Sunday 1 July 2018

A historical costumer's progress

It's not going to be an overview for beginners's education / advanced amusement type of post.

It's just a fun little thing I noticed which marks my own progress.

Back in 2011 (whoa), I wrote about watching the Czech TV series F.L. Věk. I wrote also - how could I not - about the costumes.

What I did not mention in the post was that I had looked at the picture I shared there, of the character Márinka in a printed dress, and that I had gone: "Points for trying but that's a roller print and this is too early for that." (Early 1790s, I believe.)

The aforementioned progress is like this:

In 2018, I look at the picture and go: "That's modrotisk!"

Traditional indigo resist print. It's not roller print; it's block print. Even those that look like roller prints.

I still think this particular pattern is probably anachronistic for early 1790s, but now I actually know the technique isn't. :D

Bonus: I can get very similar fabric (or is it really the same?) if I were inclined to recreate the costume and put that kind of money into it (which I'm not, but I do badly want to make a historical modrotisk dress one day). I think the one in the costume got more indigo bath dips than the one the Danzingers are selling now, so I'd probably go with the version from Strážnice... also, how come they have the same printing block?!

... unless, of course, Márinka's dress was a cheaper modern knockoff of the fabric style. Entirely plausible with a TV costume.

(Further bonus: I can show you part of how it's done. If I get my act together and finally finish the post on the workshop in Strážnice I started last August.)

Sunday 11 February 2018

HSM Favourites for #1: Mend, Reshape, Refashion

When the Historical Sew Monthly started as a Fortnightly, and for several years after, Leimomi would choose her favourite entries for the challenges, picking not just personal favourites but also things that in her opinion best represented the spirit of the HSM and the particular challenge.

Then the group got even bigger, life got even busier and that practice fell by the wayside in favour of more pressing things to do. But for this year, we decided to bring the favourites posts back, because they’re a nice way to wrap up the challenges and motivate the participants. This time around, each moderator would choose one item, write a little blurb about why they like it, and the person doing the inspiration post for a given challenge will post all the favourites on their blog.

So obviously it falls on me to post about our favourites for Nr. 1, Mend, Reshape, Refashion.
Just like before, for our favourites we will always try to select items that really represent the spirit of the challenge: in this case, to remake a costume to be wearable again (just like our ancestors did), or to look at historical clothing and things around you with an open mind to see what could be used for a project; generally, to research, stretch yourself, learn more, sew better, and get something made.

 (Header image from the original post so that you would not get a premature peek at our choices, hehe.)

There will always be amazing things that we won’t show you (because there are only so many of us and so many of you!). So we recommend you always check out the comments under the inspiration blog posts, the photos in the Facebook albums and the hashtags on Instagram to see the rest of the fabulous things that were (ever!) made. (Yep, you do have to be a member of the Facebook group to see it, yep, if you ask to be a member we’re going to ask you some questions, and yep, it might take us a few days to let you in, but if you are really interested in the HSM, as a participant or active cheerleader, we’d LOVE to have you!)
And now without further ado, the favourites! Just like Leimomi used to do it, entries with photos link to FB, entries without a photo link to the blog post of the maker.

Okay, so nominally this is Kura’s pick, but really it was a common favourite! We all liked the historical accuracy / impressive amount of research into an earlier, less documented period. Kura has been too busy to devote much time to moderating recently, so she agreed to at least have this presented under her name. :D

When you wear historical clothing regularly, and actually do physical activities in it, repairs are a fact of life, whether patching a knee or elbow, splitting a seam, repairing a hem, or just re-attaching popped buttons. And quite often, it is a task we procrastinate over *looks guiltily at my own pile of garments needing repairs*simply because it’s work; it is generally not creative, but is tedious.
Only a few people chose to actually do repairs--either because it felt like something too simple to enter, or because they had other plans--and this one stands out to me because of the fabrics involved.
Dana decided to...with her self-confessed limited handsewing skills...t o patch a rather large tear in a silk chemise. Not a task I envy her doing. As near as I can tell, she cleaned up the edges, resewed them together, then applied a narrow patch over the top in order to spread the strain over a larger area.

Sarah remade a knitted mid-19th century hood her daughter would not like to wear into hood for herself. I like this project because it not only reuses material, but utilizes hours spend on knitting too. Besides, it is not just minor alternation, but the original hood is completely redyed and reshaped.

Leimomi: Dana’s 1860s hood (Hoods and headwear in general were a rather popular entry both for the participants and the moderators, it seems! - certainly not anything I foresaw when writing the inspiration post...)

I love Dana’s 1860s hood made from a cut-apart sweater. Historical costuming is challenging because we often ask ourselves to have more skills than the vast majority of clothes-creators would have had in the past: drafting, draping, sewing, knitting, hatmaking, hat-trimming, lacemaking - even shoemaking. And we ask ourselves to have these skills across multiple eras. As someone else who doesn’t knit, I really enjoy the way costumers use ingenuity create knit garments without actually knitting. Dana used a photo of a Civil War laundress as inspiration, and created a garment that will look and act just like a knitted hood - without knitting. So clever!

Because it's pretty, simple as that. I love the fall of the pleats and how Alyssa managed to make the plaid work for her despite not having enough fabric for a planned plaid-matching. And I also like  that it’s one of the entries that fit into one of the further possible interpretations of the challenge I originally suggested: that of changing a garment to a different figure.

So hopefully you can see you don't necessarily have to do a big project to wow us. :-)

Next time, over to someone else... see you in August! (Well, hopefully there will be other HSM-related things to post in the meantime. ;-) )

Sunday 7 January 2018

HSM 18 Inspiration: #1 Mend, Reshape, Refashion

Welcome to the Historical Sew Monthly 2018! If you are new to this year-long event, you can read all about it on The Dreamstress’s website here. I've volunteered to write the inspiration post for the first challenge of the year, which is:

Mend, Reshape, Refashion: Mend or re-shape one of your previously made historical clothing items, or refashion a new one out of something not originally intended as sewing fabric.

Louis- Léopold Boilly: Passer Payez, c. 1803. Wikimedia Commons. Notice the patch on the man in the very left.

Now, if you’ve been making and wearing historical costumes for a while, chances are you do have something that needs mending, or updating to match your current skill set and knowledge, or re-shaping to fit your current figure (or somene else's) better.

Like I did for the November challenge of 2017 (which I haven’t yet blogged about, typical for 2017). I had never been satisfied (and finished) with the inside bodice flaps of my sleeveless 1800s dress, and one of them finally tore, and possibly also my bust has increased a little since I made the dress. So I finally replaced the unnecessarily fussy drafted shape of the original flaps with simpler, more historically accurate (and slightly wider) rectangles.

On the right, fussy flap shape drafted with modern drafting sensibilities (notice the neckline curve); on the left, the new rectangle

Mending is something that undoubtedly happened with clothes all throughout history because for most of history fabric was quite valuable; although conservation bias often leaves us with the special, lightly worn clothes rather than those that were worn within an inch of their clothing life.

While searching for things to showcase here, I came across Bránn's and Pat Poppy of Costume Historian's posts - they have already done some of the research into repaired extant clothes in the earlier periods I don’t habitually look into. So thanks to them, I came across extant clothes like the Bernuthsfeld tunic and these heavily patched sailor's clothes:

Shirt and breeches, linen and cotton, 1600-1700. Museum of London, 53.101/1a,b.

These are indeed clothes worn to within an inch of their life, probably by people of lower classes who had no other choice. But mending is not just like that...

Wedding dress of Maria Theresia Countess Czernin, née Orsini-Rosenberg, 1817, from the collections of the chateau Jindřichův Hradec (photos mine from an exhibition in chateau Dačice).

There is a patch here underneath the raised waistline. (I was so excited the photo came out blurry...) To tell the truth, I do not really know whether the patch was added during the countess’s life or during the ages since; what I like about it is the fact it proves that yes, these fine fabrics do tear and did tear. If they tore for Mrs Allen in Northanger Abbey and for Countess Czernin, it’s par for the course with them; go ahead and try mending them as neatly as too make Mrs Allen proud.

Reshaping clothes is another option. And because this often happened with clothes that were of better quality (so that one would get more wear out of the expensive and still nice fabric), you can, I think, find many more surviving examples of unpicked seams and other alterations than there are of patches, if you only peer more closely at museum garments and their online photos.

You can just adapt a garment to a changing figure, or perhaps you can make something for a smaller figure than the original garment was intended for...

Instructions for cutting a boy's undervest out of old lady's drawers in the Handarbeit-Wäsche-Wohnung magazine, 1933, Otto Beyer Verlag, Leipzig-Berlin

Or, what you could also do is reshape a garment to match new fashions (or new costuming interests). There is, for example, a number of 1790s-1800s dresses re-made from earlier ones; the huge amount of fabric in rococo dresses allowed the update to the more streamlined high-waisted fashions fairly easily. One of my favourite examples is this 1790s dress in the Met, in a fabric very unusual for the era; if you zoom in, you can even see the seam running above the hem where fabric was added to accommodate for the longer skirt of the raised waist – the join is nearly lost in the busy pattern but in the side view, you can clearly see there are non-matching vertical seams towards the front...

(Preferrably, though, don't do this to garments that are already antiques.)

Piecing was common historically, both for re-made dresses and just to get more out of the narrower fabric goods available in the past. So it can also be used with aplomb to get more out of something not originally meant to be sewing fabric: in HSF 2013 (back when it started and was still the Historical Sew Fortnightly), Sarah awed everyone with a pieced 1840s dress squeezed out of a tablecloth.

And there are many other fabric items one could do something with! Curtains and bed linen are popular with costumers (not just characters on film), because home furnishings these days often revive patterns that passed out of fashion for clothes decades and centuries ago. Perhaps somewhat less creative, but a perfectly good choice for this challenge.

Part of my fabric stash, with 18th-century-patterned IKEA duvet covers in the forefront - the same ones Magpie Tidings made a lovely reproduction of a 1780s dress out of in 2015. My plans for it are currently for a 1790s one.
The flowered golden stripes in the background are another clearly historically-inspired print - but unsuitable for this challenge because it's fabric meterage. Neither would the green sari work: it's also basically just meterage. (Leimomi says that a used sari is acceptable, but a new one isn't.)

In the lower left corner, a peek of embroidered panels & chain of an old frame bag I took apart to clean and remake, back when I did not have the good sense to realise how old the original probably was and take pictures. It's a project stalled for many many years by a lack of matching materials and bag-sewing confidence; maybe I could finally finish it now...

Even thrifted clothes can be used: I like them as a cheap source of smaller quantities of really nice materials I could not afford otherwise (like silk); which can then be used for example to make pretty accessories.

Pocketbook, silk, embroidered with silk and metallic yarns, Italy, 1675–1725. Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Accession Number: 44.617

Positions on fur differ; personally, I think re-using them when they are already out there is more respectful to the animal than just throwing them away. And faux fur is always an option, of course.

Or you could even sew stockings out of thrifted knit garments.

Pair of Woman's Stockings, silk knit with metallic-thread embroidery, Europe, 1700-1725. LACMA, ID: M.2007.211.134a-b
Silk knit garments will probably be hard to find, so one may have to compromise on accuracy there. I have seen a couple of early 18th century stockings with such horizontal stripes at the top, which, if you're lucky in your thrift shop finds, could allow you to piece them out of several garments.

Or you can alter existing accessories, like reshaping hats into historical headwear, and trimming them.

Journal Des Dames et des Modes / Costume Parisien, 1828, Rijksmuseum

But if you are at the beginning of your historical costuming journey, making undergarments is a very good place to start your wardrobe, and the plain cotton fabric of something like bedsheets can work quite well for that purpose! (Especially since cca late 18th century – before that time, cotton was a more expensive option than it is nowadays, and linen would be used originally.)

Petticoat, cotton, American or European, third quarter 19th century. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession Number: 2010.487.7

On the other hand, if you're feeling confident and adventurous, you could take the idea of the challenge even further and do as the maker of this bag did: they stringed cloves like beads. (Isn’t it wonderful that it survived to this day? There's also a cloves necklace from the first half of the 19th century...)

While for the sake of expediency we speak of fabric in the challenge description, you can use other techniques and unusual materials (as long as they form a substantial part of your challenge item). Seeds could also be used for jewellery: simple rosaries are traditionally made of bladdernut seeds in Europe, and Adam Mickewicz’s heroine Zosia in Pan Tadeusz (depicting events in Lithuania in 1811-1812) has a set of earrings made of cherry pits that she got from a childhood admirer. For those of you in the southern hemisphere, this might be a chance to enjoy the summer in brand new ways! :-)

And those of us in the grey grip of winter could perhaps unravel a few thrifted items and knit ourselves something warm and colourful.