I'm playing a bit of catch up as far as the blogging goes. I leave for Costume College in two weeks and my summer thus far has been absolutely packed with sewing and other costumer prep for it. I've thus far been able to find a current project that applies to each of the recent Historical Sew Fortnightly challenges, so at least I'm caught up there. Challenge 12 was Shape and Support and, while I hadn't finished the court gown for the Bodice challenge, I was able to buckle down and get it done for this one. I was originally intending to wear this over stays, despite most references to court gowns stating that this wasn't the case. To be honest, I just wasn't sure that I could get the support that my plus size figure needed without them. However, once I started putting the layers of the bodice together, the whole thing started feeling way too bulky. (My stays are fully boned, and with cane. So they are a tad thick.) I already had already made an interlining layer which had a handful of bones set into it, so I went back and added about ten more and then left the front three inches of the lining and fashion layer separate so that I could tightly lace the inside closed, then pin the outer layer into place. Adding in four inch wide facings to the linen lining and silk outer was necessary to hide the raw edges, as well as the unsightly (and somewhat doodled on) cotton canvas interlining as well as the last of the pepto pink cotton sheeting that I'd been using to flat line the silk. Come to think of it, that's four layers of fabric. No wonder it felt so bulky over stays.
I chose to attach the overskirt to the bodice along the back half of the waist line instead of finishing the waist band of the skirt and wearing it over tabs. I liked the added security of knowing that the top and bottom wouldn't separate while sitting or dancing. The front half of the waistline of the overskirt was faced and finished and still needs a hook to anchor it at the side. The open front will then pin closed under the front edges of the bodice. This also gives the added bonus that I can adjust where the fur trim on the open front comes out from under the bodice so that I can keep the look of a solid strip of trim down the entire body. The bodice still needs a bit of fur trimmings to make it look like the inspiration painting, and then I'm going to attach my engageants to the dress sleeves instead of the chemise, but it is otherwise done. I'm pretty stoked about it, as the bodice was the part of the project that I was dreading the most. (Not knowing how to do something usually results in a frankly astounding amount of procrastination on my part.)
One of my goals for this project was that any stitching which could be seen on the finished garment had to be done by hand. This made the bodice a cumbersome project, but I really am pleased with how it turned out. I managed the edges by turning under the linen lining and whip stitching it to the interlining. The edges of the red silk were then turned under and stitched into place. With hand sewing, I find that I have a lot more control over how the edges of my fabric meet. It's much easier to make minor adjustments between stitches, as opposed to just pinning everything in place and hoping for the best under the speed and indiscrimination of the machine. Also, hand stitching makes all those pretty little stitch marks that I love so much.
Info for the HSF:
What the item is: bodice to an 18th century court gown
The Challenge: Shape and Support
Fabric: red silk jacquard flat-lined to cotton sheeting (the pink stuff left over from the pet panniers!), lined with coffee-stained linen and sandwiched in the middle is a boned layer of cotton canvas interlining.
Pattern: I used JP Ryan's Robe Anglaise as a starting point, adjusting the lower edge to end at the waist in the back.
Notions: reed boning, boning channels, silk buttonhole thread for the lacing eyelets and cotton thread for the top stitching.
How historically accurate is it? I had to do a lot of guessing when it came to construction techniques of a court gown, but the overall 18th century-ness of it is pretty good. All hand sewn, excepting the construction seams and boning channels, which are now sealed up insde the layers.
Hours to complete: hmm... maybe 20 or so.
First worn: for the Gala at Costume College in T minus 16 days...
Total cost: probably around $50 for this part.