Victorian Christmas in Stoke Rochford

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 Last weekend of November and the first day of December last yer saw us, rather unexpectedly in Stoke Rochford  Hall, attending a Victorian themed Christmas market.  A bit unplanned event, but Black Knight Historical lured us there with one single word – ice rink…

 So the rooms in the hotel were booked  and we were  looking forward to doing some trading and meeting friends – but also, skating!and taking lots of photos of course:-)

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the hall

 The hotel was lavish – fantastic surroundings to work with. And work I did – since the skating issue triggered a sudden need for a skating gown – a rendition of the 1876 February frock from the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, and i jut had enough time to do as much as i could on the machine and finish the dress by hand on Saturday at the event, ready for the skating on Sunday.

 Alas, the ice rink proved to be a bit disappointing – a small affair with plastic ice. I brought my own skates, and they did slide a tiny bit, but the ones available to hire were hopeless – not able to glide at all! Maybe safer for children, but disappointing for others, still, we had a go – and Lizzie (  or, if you prefer her professional name, Miss Lillian Love) came along to join the fun n one of our Victorian inspired frocks. a few pictures below….

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pretending to be gliding… standing still in fact!

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almost!

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don’t worry, I am also pretending to to have fallen…

After fun on the ‘ice’ we had some fun strolling in the gardens:

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bustles!!!!

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  Then it was time to go back to the stall and do some work – Lucas in the meantime  took some nice photos of Eleanor, sporting her new silk velvet dolman jacket

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cozy!

The stall was busy, but I managed to find intervals to work on the new outfit…

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finishing touches….

Eleanor was also busy – shopping for Christmas prezzies!

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while Lucas manned the stall….

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  The evening saw us sneaking out to Grantham for a nice quiet dinner – and we found a lovely Italian restaurant with excellent food!

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the starters looking good, and tasting even better — was trying not to think about wearing a corset the next day….

Sunday started with fittings for Eleanor’s Christmas gown, then back to the stall  to work on the frock. by the midday the frock was done and Lucas went snapping….

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the wool and fur were nice and warm!

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 The dress diary, and indeed the instructions on how to make the dress,  step by step, are published in an article on Your Wardrobe Unlock’d – enjoy!

 Other people occasionally got in from of the camera too – here’s one of Ian, who apparently does not approve of  advertising one of my handmade Christmas wreaths on his hat…

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he is not amused…. 🙂 or is he?

 

All together, a  splendid little weekend with friends, spent in exciting environment – good times!

 

photography- Pitcheresque Imagery,

dresses –Prior Attire  

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Garage Fire and Post-Conflagration Photoshoot

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As some of you may already know, on December 28th we had a garage fire – a faulty socket started a rather unexpected conflagration. The fire was discovered by our neighbours and the fire brigade was called….

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whatever you do, do not open the door…. raging inferno inside….

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fire quenched…. all steaming nicely…

The firemen did a starling job, and an hour later the garage was soaked in water, steaming like hell, but secure – and so the boys left,  bearing quite a lot of our post Christmas posh choccies –  at least a token of gratitude.

The next morning we inspected the damage….  there was a lot of personal items there, bikes, re-enactment stuff, tools, tents, camping gear, furniture etc – but also almost all my stock – both finished items ( including the gowns from the Autumn Bride collection) and  wool, silk and linen awaiting their turn to be sewn up into lovely costumes. It also contained quite a lot of other people’s items,  things left  behind, or brought for re sizing, embellishment etc…

The inspection did not bring good news – just a few pictures here…

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that heap contains most of our re-enactment footwear – Regency riding boots, 18th century shoes, medieval ones, my cavalry boots ; all melted….

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that’s what remained of my bucket tops cavalry boots….

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unlikely survivors… fire-starters… how ironic!

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the culprit

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the clothes were ruined – the ones n plastic covers, or in the wardrobe were covered with melted plastic, charred, some burnt. some , mostly wool, were just dirty – but changed size a bit – being first hot, then wet, and then drying up in still hot garage overnight, the wool shrank…

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  Fortunately we were insured – unfortunately I didn’t realize  that in order to cover the 3rd party items i need to have an additional third party option – public liability was apparently no good, as the folks who lost their things would have to claim on their own insurances and prove that I was liable – negligent, or actually starting the fire. since it was plain I wasn’t – they would lose the case. So now it looks like the money the insurance is going to pay for the stock and business equipment  is going to be mostly spent on paying up other people. The insurers were a bit surprised that that ‘s what i need to do – they clearly though that was other people loss and nothing to do with me. It was just as clear to me, that i cannot afford to treat my clients so – and they are all being reimbursed ( about 4 grand…) as soon as the money arrives..   lesson to other costumers etc – do check your insurances for the 3rd party damage!  I have learnt my lesson….

 I will  just have enough to pay up for the new fabrics to help me rebuild the stock ( will take a few years…).  oh well. Not a good start of  the year, but nobody was hurt – and most of the possessions are just that – possessions….

 There was a silver lining though – we decided that the lovely charred wall in the garage and all the damaged items are only too good not to take advantage of, so we held 2 photo shoots in the garage, exploring the post apocalyptic, distressed ideas, letting the gowns shine one last time….

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a bit of Judith and Holofernes going on here….

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good acting, Lucas!

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a bit of lady Borgia….

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Pride and prejudice and the Zombies!

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 Many, many thanks to the models who come over and got dirty with us!

 photography – Pitcheresque Imagery

models: Miss Lilian Love, Helen Underwood, Jenny Bowers, Izabela Pitcher, Lucas Pitcher

2 Faces of Winter: Polaris

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This was the second part of the project 2 Faces of Winter, and whereas the first one, Desolation, was all about the bleakness of the season, this one, Polaris, was to be all about the sparkle of the freshly fallen snow,  quiet, fluffy and cold, reflected either in the weak sunshine, or, better still, in the cold moonlight on a starry night.  Link to my inspiration board here 

  I had a skirt , all in feathers, and a bridal coat from our Winter Bride collection lat year – but needed  a proper wintery corset and headdress to go with them.

 Once  the base was all ready ( white cotton sateen, internal boning, bound in silver), it was time to start on the decoration…

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experimenting with different textures

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snowflakes galore!

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layering the bling…

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done!

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flossing detail

 The headdress was the next step – and since the coat looks a bit Russian I decided to go for the traditional Russian headdress called kokoshnik tiara.

 First – the base, experimenting with the shape

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 when I was happy with the shape, i stabilized it, added attachment points and covered everything in white linen first, then silk. The base was trimmed with marabou feathers, and silvery white ferns were arranged on top. then just added bling, and the strings of pearls…

Image Everything was ready, but we had a slight problem… no snow in England. none forecast either for the next few weeks, and it was already the end of January… If we wanted snow we either had to think outside the box – or travel.

 Fortunately my parents live in Oslo – and snow is there aplenty. after a quick look at budget airlines and timing, we were booked on the flight to Norway. A short trip, 2 days, should be enough to do a shoot, catch up with my folks and maybe do some skiing!

 We arrived  on Saturday afternoon and had a brief wait for my parents who were out at the language school, studying Norwegian. we used it constructively – bought gloves, hat, and started making a sledge out of the snow.   in the afternoon we just managed to catch enough light to shoot one part of the Polaris  the results below…

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and the sledge! 🙂

for those of you wondering what footwear was used, wonder no longer….

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the answer is – reasonable footwear. 🙂

The next morning brought a change of weather – thaw:-(  it was raining a bit and all the snow was gone from the trees, but there was still enough to snatch some proper pictures in the daylight.

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Norwegian daylight is sort of more of a UK dusk…

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  And the job done, we could relax. Alas, due to the weather conditions, no skiing for us – but fortunately sledges were still game! We hired sledges  at the top of one of the mountains – the route winds down for about 2.5km  and ends at a train station. Very convenient, as the train carries you all the way up –  to the start of the sleigh route!  it was great fun despite the drizzle and dense fog:-)  a few pics below:-)

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 After a few hours  of sledging fun, wet and achy (  the route has a lot of moguls throwing your sledges into the air – and sometimes you land ok on the sledges, sometimes you don’t… impressive bruises were gained thus…) we got warm and soothed our pains with copious amounts of tea and cake in the local restaurant:-)

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the restaurant… very cool

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even cooler…

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the interior design did not disappoint…

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neither did the cake…

  Next morning it was time to get back home –  tired, bruised, but happy with the pictures! 🙂

Many thanks to my parents for putting us up for the weekend:-)

 Hope you enjoyed them too – all costume pictures by Pitcheresque Imagery, clothes by Prior Attire.

Robe a la Polonaise en Fourreau

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Well, we have done the Francaise and l’anglaise style, time for a little polonaise… The idea for this one sprouted as soon as I saw the fabric at the market – a lovely silk brocade in ivory, yellow and green, in a fitting 18th century pattern.  the fabric was bought and put aside for the project. The project itself was kick-started by an offer to participate in a bridal photo shoot organized by Lavinia from Events in a Box. The venue, Harrowen Hall,  was an 18th century mansion, so apart from the modern dresses, they wanted something ‘more period’ . A perfect occasion to showcase the 18th century collection – and the polonaise was scheduled.

 There was a complication ( there always is something, isn’t there?). The shoot was to be on the 18th April ( my birthday!)  and on the 13th I was having a surgery on my shoulder….   the other gowns were to be worn by models provided, but this one had to be modeled by me.  still possible, if I sewed most of it before the op, and finished the neckline after the op – I needed to make the bodice a bit bigger than usually, to accommodate the dressing – I gathered a size bigger would be ok, I would simply lace my stays loosely.

  The making of the frock was surprisingly easy – and pleasant.  The pleated back looks complicated, but it was rather straightforward pleats, and stitching them down was relaxing. I used the pattern from Janet Arnold and bodice pattern from the l’anglaise.

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pleats pinned down

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back lining piece determines the final shape of the top fabric

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back cut out

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securing the pleats with stitching

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half way through!

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pleats done!

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inside the bodice part

 Once the pleats were done, it was time to get the front of the  sleeves and the front part of the bodice sorted.

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sewing the parts together – seam pinked

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Next – the skirts were pieced and hemmed. Here showing the pocket slit

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pleating the skirt at the waist…

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pleated skirt attached to the bodice

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back of the dress

 Finishing the bodice was next. the silk parts were hemmed and mounted onto the linen lining.

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bodice front hemmed

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pinned onto the lining…

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and stitched together

sSeeves were next on the agenda

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pinning the sleeve

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finishing the lining inside the bodice

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the innards

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sleeve cuffs were decorated with self trim and linen lace

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hooks and eyes in place…

  And that was more or less it –  the skirt were polonaised using inside tapes, as indicated on the pattern – and most importantly, the dress, though as planned just  tad too big for me, worked perfectly with my shoulder dressing:-)  fortunately the big dressing ( pictured below) was removed the day before the shoot…. no way I would be able to fit anything over that! well, maybe a Robocop costume… 🙂

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the big dressing after the op…

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all put together 🙂

Petticoat was made as well – in ivory taffeta, with a flounce. For skirt supports I used a big bumroll/ false hips, and the gown is of course worn over the stays.

Alas, the models provided for the other dresses were about 2-3 sizes too small so it was a challenge to get the frocks looking good,but  the photographers  worked wonders and we did get a few great pictures – please excuse the modern bridal headgear –  showcasing work of another company too! 🙂

Photography, Shears and Mockford – and indeed that was our first shoot together – little did we know we would end up working regularly on a variety of projects!

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2 Faces of Winter: Desolation

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 Following the autumnal fun with Spirit of Autumn, i decided to have a series of seasonal projects – and the next one, naturally was to be Winter.But since I couldn’t make up my mind which part of winter I like more, I have ended up with 2 sub projects; the first one, Desolation,  was inspired by the bleakness of the season – the muted dark colouring, dirt, mud, rain, fog and ice; death and decay – a typical British winter for more of its duration 🙂

I wanted to include some organic bits, just as I did in the Autumn part – but it turned out to be rather tricky! in the end i settled on the lunaria pods ( honesty plant, silver dollar plant) and some twigs.  once that was decided upon, the design was made…

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soon after i started collating bits and pieces that would go together – chiffon, bling etc…

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The corset (pattern – Sew Curvy overbust) was made in white and black sheer, with pods of the honesty plant sandwiched between the layers. The pods symbolize the rebirth – that even in death there is a seed of life hidden within, awaiting awakening once the seasons turn.

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The channels are exterior,  fashioned of a lovely grey tape – I used the same tape to bind the corset.  Boning – usual mixture of flat and spiral steels; some of the steels can be seen between the layers of the sheer – adding a hint of a skeletal deathly character to the corset.

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 Additional decoration is provided by the bling – black, grey and transparent crystals emphasising the hip and bust; two big crystal brooches  provide anchors for strips of chiffons – grey and black, matching the skirts, hanging in the front. They also anchor the black chiffon cape.

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The skirt is on the big side and was a real fun to make – big cotton base then strips of torn chiffon are randomly attached to the base. Not the most comfortable attire to walk in, but looked impressive while stationary 🙂 . About 20 metres of different chiffon were used…

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the base of the skirt, in cotton

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attaching the strips of chiffon, with the usual helper….

The crown is made out of frosted twigs and pearl and bead strings – all fashioned in about an hour.

Finishing the outfit was a bit hurried – originally we were hoping for snow, and since no snow was forecast, I was taking the project easy. and then one Monday evening we had a fog – a proper, dense, milky fog. next morning we were both more or less free, so we decided to shoot the thing in the morning, using the fog as a background.

Alarm was set for 6 – if it was foggy we would get up, get ready ( make up, contact lenses, hair extension etc all take time!). and  go and shoot. But when i woke up at 6, no fog was about. I even got up and went outside – the ground was white with frost, but no fog. back to bed then.

And then, at 8 am, with the sun rise, the frost turned into milk white fog….

Make up etc was done in record time and we were off – I even managed to get the contact lenses in less then 5 min, a huge achievement!

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on the way to the shoot

It was still bitterly cold and wet – and muddy! we decided to use Harold Odell Park again – a lot of interesting places there!

and the results….

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 Very happy with the results –  it was worth doing it with the fog, worth getting cold and getting dirty boots too…

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 Hope you enjoyed  the pictures –  all images by Pitcheresque Imagery

The other face of winter, Polaris, is already done – and will sort out the post on that soon!

and in the meantime, the corset is up for grabs at a discounted price  in our shop!

Robe a l’anglaise in dusty pink silk

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  This was my first proper l’anglaise and a bit of experiment ( which project isn’t?).  It was originally intended as a show piece for the bridal branch of the business, Prior Engagement, and serve as an example of an 18th century frock for a historically minded bride….

 The styling was loosely based on one of the gowns from the Kyoto  Costume Institute , particularly this one. the petticoat and the robe were made form the same fabric and since i had quite a lot of dusty rose silk, the idea of making everything in it suited me to a T.

  The stays were first –  half boned, with coutil/canvas strength layer, boned with reeds, bound in silk.

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getting started….

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all pieces ready….

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all pieces whipped together, ready for binding

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tedious binding process…..

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done!

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was so excited i popped them straight over my top… love the silhouette! worn on a random shift below…Image

The petticoat was next in line… – an easy rectangular shape, and nice and easy pleating did the job

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front pleated

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insides – the extra fabric is folded down and pleated, i secured the edges with piking later.

Then only a waistband and it was ready!

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waistband pinned in

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just needs pressing….

Then it was time for the robe itself…. Mock up first. I used a pattern based on the Janet Arnold polonaise ( used for my very very first polonaise years ago!)

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My very first 18th century gown, all handstitched.

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experimenting with the mock up

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lining is made first and seams boned

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for boning I used think but strong reed

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then silk was mounted over the lining

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Piece by piece, handstitched.  Sleeves were next…Image

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lining the sleeve

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setting in the top part of the sleeve

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and the shoulder strap is covered with silk, hiding the sleeve attachment

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the neck and sleeves were decorated with Valencia lace and silk ribbon.

 Once the bodice part of the gown was done, it was time to start pleating the skirts….

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pleats pinned

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and sewn in:-)

 and it was ready!

It was first worn for the wedding photoshoot at Harrowden Hall – alas on a model that was 3 sizes too small 😦

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at the Bridal shoot photo by Mockford Photography

 Also, I wasn’t convinced about the petticoat in the same colour – looked a bit boring.  However, it looked much better with ivory taffeta petticoat ( part of another outfit….). a bright shawl, worn on beter support, with a wig and a hat, it looked much better! -Here worn at a Georgian picnic at Grassenholm Farm, photography by Pitcheresque Imagery

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and with another hat….

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  As you can see this bridal project turned out to be a re-enactment item in the end – and love it too much to sell on….  a couple of things i would change, and probably will as still have bits and pieces of that silk – the sleeves are just a tad too tight, so will need to amend that inconvenience!

 Altogether I must say that I love the simple style much better than the ornate grandeur of the robe a la francaise – simple lines, minimum decoration somehow work well for me:-)