Prior Attire Victorian Ball, Bath 06/05/2017

And what an amazing weekend it was! The ball was a huge success, and we all had a lovely time indeed. This was our 3rd ball in Bath Assembly room, and the most attended by far – 130 people, with … Continue reading

The Buttercup Ball and the 1895 evening gown

  A long overdue post on a rather splendid ball we attended in London, in December. The Buttercup Ball was organized by Stuart Marsden ( the dance master for our  Victorian ball  last year – and this year’s edition too!) … Continue reading

Medieval Glamping at Sudeley Castle

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After last year’s success at Sudeley castle , the Black Knight Historical team were invited once more – and that meant we were hired to entertain the visitors. The theme changed however – whereas last year we were inside the castle, doing 17th century stuff ( lace making, apothecary/early science), this time it was all about Richard III.

Which meant Lucas was one of the Richard’s cronies, Ratcliffe, and I was his wife Agnes. Which meant – posh stuff, posh tent, poshness galore, even more so since Eleanor (as Cecille Neville, Duchess of York, mother to the king) was to reside in our tent too.

And all of which meant that I needed to update my wardrobe. I had one posh frock but needed another one, plus a new kirtle, posher than the woollen ones I already had.

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Because one posh frock is never enough…

And as it happened I just managed to grab some lovely silks at the last market. They were supposed to go towards stock items, but I just couldn’t resist… not only that, I simply couldn’t afford much mid-season ( we had spent a bit on updating the tent’s interior), so I simply had to make do with whatever I had in my silk stash.

So, for a late 15th century I decided on a kirtle in this style, from the Marie of Burgundy portrait – especially since the silk  I had, from Watts&CO, was almost exactly the same ..

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I did not have time for the trim, belt and a new henin, but since it wasn’t meant to be an exact copy, the rest of the details could wait their turn ( I wonder how long will that be..). The rest however worked well.

The style is almost a transition gown, when the flat fronted kirtle started improving in cut and began to fit nicely, slowly transitioning into the kirtles of the early Tudor style.

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Working on the back of the bodice, attaching lining

Mine is lined with  brown silk ( gold/orange for the sleeves), and the bodice section is strengthened with one layer of fine linen canvas – more than enough to keep one’s assets in place; Indeed I quickly discovered that it was giving me much more of a cleavage than I had reckoned for! At the event, for modesty’s sake, I covered the bosom with a placard or a linen neckerchief, but the frock will need to be adjusted so that  the neckline will go up a bit. Heaving bosoms are not exactly the way to go in high medieval fashion… (more on silhouettes across the ages here)

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The sleeves are funky. I laced up mine with lovely points made by Lucy the Tudor; the dress fastens at the back with a longer lace too.

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 The kirtle worked wonderfully – I wore it on its own ( that is with a chemise, hose, headgear, etc) when inside the tent. The tent represented my household so it was still proper to be on a slightly more relaxed footing, without the overgown. I was at home, weaving, while my important and recently-made-very-wealthy husband was discussing important business with the king. And the queen mother just happened to pay a visit…

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So a great compromise, posh enough to be seen indoors – and, for one day at least, it was a blessing since it was incredibly hot!  3 layers is not much, but  it just wasn’t too nice to be sweating!

I was mostly sitting in the shade, and demonstrating weaving – both on a rigid heddle and on tablets, and both styles proved to be very popular with the visitors. I enjoyed long and detailed chats about the history of weaving narrow wares, textiles etc, and  it was a pleasure to exchange views and information with a very polite and well informed public. A few  ladies  had actually had a go at the weaving themselves 🙂

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Threading the little loom with linen threads in preparation for tablet weaving

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Tablet weaving in action

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Eleanor talking to the visitors – wearing a Prior Attire gown in gold metallic silk too!

As far as the gown was concerned, I had a length of black damask and was hoping it would be just enough…

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After some serious calculations ( yes! maths happened!), measurements, and drafting, trying to plan how much of the fabric I could use, and still match the pattern, it transpired that it was just enough for a voluminous gown with a modest train. I didn’t mind the modest train, my other frock has a long one, so a variety is there – plus I planned to posh this frock up with some fur…

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The first lady in the black was my generic inspiration – again, the fabric seems almost exactly the same style!

The fur was purchased from GH leathers  – 2 plates of white rabbit ( oh, and one of black for Lucas – didn’t I mention he was getting a new robe too?)

The gown was cut and made, lined with red silk and then the purfells  were prepared – fur was cut to shape for the hem, collar and cuffs, and the borders were secured with tape.

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Then they were studiously attached to the garment, by hand – it takes some time, but the whole process of preparing and attaching the purfells was worth it – the fur lies flat and neat!

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I put on the gown next morning and we had a mini photo-shoot in the castle grounds before the public stormed in 🙂

I must admit that I like the comfortable, shorter gown without a huge train to lug behind, and the basic colours looked elegant – with just a hint of clashing reds and vibrant greens from the kirtle:-)

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Flashing the greens, matching the foliage around!

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The back view

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We found some nice windows for an atmospheric shot…

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…but the wind was playing up with my veil a lot – so had to swap sides!

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The grounds of Sudeley Castle are breathtaking, and the event went well the next day too – it was cooler, so I got to wear the dress most of the day, but it also rained rather a lot. However, Brits  are used to this weather so we still had lots of visitors, though instead of sun hats and sandals they came armed with wellies and umbrellas:-)

The king ( Jason Kingsley)  was around on both days, taking part at ceremonies, public dinners, shows and also entertaining the public while giving short demonstrations of exquisite horsemanship on ‘White Surrey’ (actually Warlord)

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A sneaky picture from the tent…

There were a lot of  things to see – soldiers, kitchens, craftsmen, camp followers, storytelling, a whole bunch of Richard’s many cronies, a fashion show  – in short enough to occupy a family for a day ( plus  for the visitors nice food, the castle, medieval market, ice cream, and beautiful gardens to roam around).

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In short, an exquisite event, probably the most enjoyable tented event of the year – and indeed staying in a posh medieval tent was very much like glamping…  all the things we have accumulated over the years, fur covers, woven mats, tables, tapestries, lanterns, etc – it was all worth every penny; not only to see the pleasant surprise on the  public’s faces – but for our own comfort!

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Despite the rain, the tent was dry, and the mats got  lightly wet at the edges only.  The bed with its layers of sheepskin and wool bedding, with coverings made in wool and fur was not only warm but comfy ( Lucas may have a different opinion, as I got the bed before I knew him – so it is a tad too short for him). Me, I enjoy sleeping under the canvas, especially in the rain – so I loved every minute!

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Tapestries made a real difference too, as well as all the paraphernalia – lots to talk about to the visitors. Some of the items were provided by Eleanor (the games table, religious items, a chair, etc. Still, there’s an ever growing list of what we need for the tent – more chests, more wall coverings, more chairs.. I now want a standing loom too… So, it looks as if we may need a trailer… or a van….

Oh, and did I mention that Lucas got a new robe? There it is, in  the same silk as my kirtle, so we were matching 🙂 I still have enough of it to make another short robe, I may  yet make a stock item after all…

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reading from Chaucer…:-)

And the usual  facts and credits…….

Green kirtle – fabric – 4m of green silk, £115 per metre from the website if I remember well, but I managed to grab a roll at the market at a £80 per metre:-)

4m of taffeta for lining, £25 per metre

silk laces, £25

overall cost of materials –  £450

The gown:

Black damask – 7m @ £60 per metre,

Red taffeta for lining  – £6m @ £25

Fur – £150

Overall cost of materials: –  £650

…and the article on  how to make Burgundian dress and a kirtle here...

With more medieval inspiration here

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Clothes – Prior Attire

Lovely bling (I got a hat gem specially for the event) – as always, by Gemmeus

Belt –  Bayley Heritage Castings

Shoes and pattens – NP Historical shoes

Photography – Pitcheresque Imagery

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And the good news is – it looks like the event  will be back next August, 20/21st!! 🙂  a new page has been created for the event, so keep your eyes peeled! 🙂

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Dressing Queen Victoria

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This one was a very exciting commission – a friend who often works as Queen Vic needed a new corset.. and a  new bodice and a train to go with the skirt she already had.

After a session of looking at different portraits and photographs of the Queen, with Eve pointing out which features she’d like to include in her bodice or train, we got some sketching done…

Fabric was next – and here we were lucky as got a length of beautiful silk brocade from Quartermasterie – all that i need to grab was silk taffeta for lining and pleats and some lace and buttons….

The corsets was made first –  and it is a rather jazzy affair,  so wont be shown here to preserve the dignity of the monarch, but i bet now a few people who’d meet Eve at work would be wondering what  lingerie secrets her clothes hide ;-0

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Bodice was a lovely blend of the 1880ties and earlier fashions – sporting a version of pagoda sleeves, apparently quite a favourite of the queen. we also added detachable under sleeves, for colder days .

The lace was simply lush, though applying it took some time, and the underside of the pagoda sleeves was also trimmed with lace, a  more modest version.

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The train was just fun.  The construction was simple – a slightly shaped rectangular fabric, plasted and with tapes and buttons to allow the wearer to bustle to up if needs be. But it was  recreatingthe pleated trim from one of the original photos that was interesting….

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The train has a baleyeuse ( the dust ruffle) made of black cotton lace  buttoned up  – they were  a truly delightful frilly affairs that made life so much easier –  you wash only the ruffle as your skirts are protected.

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The pick up day was also a shoot day as we offered Eve a mini session –  the results below! Hope you like the final result:-)

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train bustled up, no undersleeves

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Train flowing loosely, under sleeves attached

Eve’s  page is here – enjoy browsing!  Queen Victoria

Bath Victorian Ball 2015 – and what a ball it was!

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 Amazing memories from the evening – and not only evening, the whole weekend was  a whirl of activities, pretty frocks and splendid food, all in even more splendid company!

 We started on Saturday afternoon arriving in Bath a tad later than expected ( the traffic on the slip road was very bad and many of us were stuck there – in fact, so many that we were considering a picnic on the roadside….), but unpacked, changed and  walked over to the Crescent for  a few relaxing hours of picnicking…. The weather was perfect, food lovely, and  as a perk we got to witness the balloon take off…. and  of course we took photos….

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lovely original napkins were used..

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I wore my reversible Ripple Jacket and Ripple skirt:-) perfect for the picnic!

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 The next day saw us making last minute preparations, strolling around the town and slowly getting ready,,,

 The workshop started at 3 –  and we  practiced our quadrilles, lancers and waltzes for good 90 minutes – the practice was fun, but also cane in handy at the ball –  you not only know the basics of the dances, but you recognize the people, so you are able to relax in a more familiar environment.  our Dance master, Stuart Marsden,  kindly provided Carnet de Ball tickets – beautifully made, and very practical – at the end of the practice people were   making arrangements which dances they were to dance with who – really cuts on the chaos on finding a partner in the evening!

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 We will be using them next year as well, an excellent idea!.

 After the practice there was time to go and have a cuppa and a rest ( and for us organizers to get the photographers, musicians etc set up and ready), and then time to change into the evening’s finery….

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Steaming my frock. Alas, I didn’t manage to get a new gown sorted due to an avalanche of orders, so had to make do with my old on – more on its creation here

Then it was time! The doors opened at & and the  guests started to arrive, dazzling us with their lovely creations. Drinks, chatting and photos made for a relaxed atmosphere – and since almost all the ball participants had been at the practice, people relaxed and chatted with their old and new dance partners. Traditionally, we started with a polonaise… It was a bit crowded, once all the people filled the  Grand Ballroom, but  Stuart managed to direct the dance nicely ! 150524-iz-001 150524-iz-003   And from then on, it was all dancing….. Spanish waltz was great to  get everybody  relaxed as you change partners a lot and get to know people, and then it was the amazing Lancers,  Quadrilles and Waltzes galore…. My personal favourite was the Cotillion waltz – simple, yet amazingly romantic, danced the the sweet notes of the waltz from the Merry Widow. Dimmed lights, romantic music, swaying on the dance floor in flowing silky gown – breathtaking.   10403574_10205243045328810_8612198867552845143_n 10641181_964655256900145_6214035122686672646_n 10404446_964657950233209_4098195498982672898_n 11329879_964655373566800_1271788064380533355_n 11350509_964655706900100_8438738575796585017_n 11351265_10205243045928825_6327791906229480019_n   150524-iz-014   11329879_964655373566800_1271788064380533355_n The  buffet break arrived  just in time to rest our weary feet and  get some sustenance for more dancing. And food, provided by Searcy’s was glorious –  beautifully presented, abundant ( and there was lots left!) and yummy – I must admit loved the desserts particularly… Then more dancing followed –  with a few  spontaneous waltzing breaks when folks just kicked their shoes off and took to whirling Viennese waltz at a moment notice ( our own Sissy here was the main culprit – though quite a lot removed their shoes at that point, myself included…). The evening ended with a Flirtation finale – lots of fun! And all that fun was mostly due to the  utterly amazing musicians – Alexis Bennett and the Liberty Belles, and our talented Dance Master, Stuart Marsden ( yes, the same one who has worked with BBC on Poldark, and many other projects…). The event would not have been the success it was without theses guys – so a huge thank you! musicians 11168031_10155795156300643_4697889363761570401_n   And while all the dancing was taking place, our photographers, Mockford Photography, were busy taking photos…. 10828141_10152878200577592_7286730915004478194_o 150524-iz-018 150524-iz-017 150524-iz-015   And did I not mention that there were some spectacular frocks  and very dashing gentlemen around?

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Yes, we had Sissi too…

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And a Dark Sissi too…

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oh yes, and, rather surprisingly, a 4 month old baby. That slept ( like a baby) all the way through…

11145192_10152878091267592_8419642355183554815_n     150524-iz-006   11219086_10152878091177592_446625806833074319_n bath-15-0952   Needless to say, by the end of it I could hardly walk ( need better shoes for next year….). but somehow I made it to the hotel, and although exhausted, I was still buzzing with the excitement – the night  was so much better than I had hoped for! there was just enough time to have a mini after party for the staff ( amazing how many people you can squeeze into a single Travelodge bedroom) and then it was time for sleep. IMG_20150525_010756 IMG_20150525_010807 And about 4 hours later we were up again and getting ready for our breakfast at the Pump Rooms….. IMG_20150525_103357 Victorian Ball and Picnic-117 Victorian Ball and Picnic-122 Victorian Ball and Picnic-124 The yummy breakfast ( and live music too!) was followed bu a short wander around town and some photos…. Victorian Ball and Picnic-128 Victorian Ball and Picnic-130 Victorian Ball and Picnic-136   Then it was time to go home and  tend the very sore feet….   Altogether, I must say the event fr surpassed my expectations. Music was delightful, fool glorious, venue splendid and the people – well, let me just say that you were all such a friendly and polite bunch of folks!  Everybody was relaxed and yet on their best behaviour – and that makes such a difference! it was also a good call to go for historical rather than an eclectic affair like the previous one –  since most of the dances were called, the dance floor was always busy, only clearing  up a bit at the end, as the pure exhaustion took over (  it was quite an exercise , especially the few more energetic dances…).  So thank you all, staff and guests alike for making it such a wonderful occasion! Also, many thanks to all the people who sent their photos:-)   And, guess what – we are having another Ball next year! The venue and caterers have already been booked and the tickets are on sale ( early bird  prices valid till September), so put the date in your diary – 7th May. We have the same set of musicians and Stuart booked too – and next year  we have an optional  dress sub theme – Crinoline.  We are already working on different offers  for the ticket holders ( discounted rates from dressmakers and product suppliers, or, for those who make stuff themselves, special offers on corset, crinoline and Victorian patterns and kits from one of our providers too). You can follow the news  on the facebook pages:

The event per se – Victorian Ball 2016

Page : Prior Attire Victorian Ball 

 Tickets and more info here  – Victorian ball tickets

 and the previous ball  Spectacular!

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The most common mistakes in historical costuming/re-enactment – and how to avoid them!

 Over the years I have been asked about  a variety of problems within historical costuming – and how to avoid them. I have already written a few posts on different aspects such as the look, fabrics, etc – but here … Continue reading

Hampton Court filming for the BBC

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Back  in the autumn we were doing a few filming jobs – a couple of days for Horrible Histories ( not released yet, I think) and  a bit for the BBC – filming the procession in Hampton Court.

 

There were close to 100 people in the procession and the task of sorting out the costumes was managed, very aptly, by Ninya Perry  ( Tudor Tailor – rings a bell? 🙂 ) and her team.   She talks about sourcing the costumes in her feature for the BBC here. It was a mammoth job, but the results were stunning!

 

Apart from the volunteers there was also a cluster of re-enactors, usually wearing their own kit ) I was wearing my old Tudor frockage in cream silk brocade and silk kirtle,all handstitched ( more on than and how to make your own here) – and I must say it is with the relief that I realized that I actually still fitted into it! I had a role of the train bearer – so following Lady Mary like a shadow…..

 

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Lucas was one of the canopy bearers, and Darren from the Tudor Roses, whose outfits  i made as well,  had  a prominent role too, looking resplendent in his new clothes of red wool – and he  was kind enough to hire out  the previous outfit I made him, in black wool.

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The filming was – well , regular thing, comparing with other experience it was actually very well organized – yes, there was sitting around and waiting,  and yes, we were repeating the same scene a few times, but mostly the work progressed smoothly – and it was a pleasure to actually meet  David Starkey, whom I have always greatly admired.

In short – it was a good 8 hours work, but in good company, doing useful things – and we were fed well too 🙂

And the finished  programme can be seen d=for the next few weeks on Iplayer –

A Night at Hampton Court

and a few behind the scene photos below:-) enjoy the feature, lots of interesting things there!

 

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feeding time

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lots of gable hoods!

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Lady Mary and her lady in waiting gossiping…

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caught sneaking out…

 

Making an early Mantua 1690-1700

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I have been wanting to have a go at the early mantua for quite some time – but since the end of the 17th century is relatively underrepresented here in the UK, with no events at which to wear it, the project was just simmering on the edges of inspiration. Then, out of the blue, we were asked to provide accessories for a shoot inspired by the famous, (or rather infamous) “La Maupin” – this was a lingerie shoot for Kiss Me Deadly, in a lavish London location – and we were told that we could come and shoot some historical stuff there too. Well, that was enough to get me going…. ( and the post on the shoot itself is here)

Fabrics were bought, research conducted and ideas considered – and we were ready to go.

The items I needed to make were – a petticoat, mantua and fontage headdress

Inspiration board – http://www.pinterest.com/priorattire/1670-1700-dress-more-or-less-/

Petticoat 

Fabrics:

Grosgrain silk (gold on top, olive on the other side) – 5m; gold lace – 8m, bullion fringe – 5m, button. ( pic.1)

1. colour scheme for the petticoat

1. colour scheme for the petticoat

 

Pattern – my own, based on the instructions in the Nora Waugh book – a very simple affair, a rectangle of fabric, with the grain going horizontally.

Method.

Again, a very simple construction – Cut the rectangle of fabric (the original petticoat is 124”, mine is 130”), the front length will depend on your height and shoes. The back can be trained slightly (as it is in the original, or cut to an even length.  I adjusted the length on the waist, so that the bottom hem has the grain running horizontally all around.

Sew the ends together, leaving an opening at the top – about 3-4 inches. Finish the seam (hand stich, securing the edges and press)

2. deep hem of the petticoat

deep hem of the petticoat

 

Hem the skirt and apply any planned decoration as wished – in my case this was a band of the same fabric but with the olive side showing, framed by the metallic lace and, at the very hem, the bullion fringe.

3.sewing the decoration on

sewing the decoration on

 

Cut out the waistband to the desired length, and pleat the skirt to fit it – the original has 13 pleats on each side, and I aimed for the same number.

4.pleating the skirt

pleating the skirt

 

Attach the pleated skirt to the waistband. Finish the waistband, add a button and work a button hole – and the petticoat is ready.

5.finishing the waistband, enclosing the raw edges of the pleated skirt

.finishing the waistband, enclosing the raw edges of the pleated skirt

 

6.petticoat finished

7.detail of the hem

 Mantua.

 Fabric:

8m of silk taffeta,

20m of wide metallic lace,

10m of narrow metallic braid,

Hooks for the train,

Pins for the stomacher

Linen (0.5-1m) and reeds for the stomacher.

If you are lining your mantua, you will need the same amount of lining as the top fabric…. Some mantuas are lined, some unlined, if you have a fabric that has a different shade on the other side (like my petticoat), that would work very well too.

For sewing I used silk thread.

Pattern

Again, Norah Waugh’s pattern – I even used the same measurements on all the pieces.

8. getting the measurements from the book

getting the measurements from the book

 

Cut out all the pieces in silk.  Put the sleeves, revers and neck pieces aside for the time being and deal with the main parts of the gown first.

Back piece – sew the skirts together at the CB (unless you cut on fold) and mark the pleating lines. Fold the fabric in the recommended direction on every pleat and pin.  Experiment with the depths of pins until the back measurement of the gown matches your own – the easiest way to do so is to use your block, or to try to pin on a mannequin of your size.

9. checking the pleats at the bck on a dummy

checking the pleats at the bck on a dummy

10. full view of the back pleats

full view of the back pleats

 

Once you are satisfied with the pleats, secure them with hand stitching

11. securing the pleats

securing the pleats

11a. back piece pleated, inside view-just the seam needs finishing-)

back piece pleated, inside view-just the seam needs finishing-)

 

Repeat the same process on the front pieces – experiment with the pleats on a dummy, or on yourself if you have help. Make sure to wear the undergarments that you will be wearing – in my case it was fully boned stays.  Without the foundation provided by the stays, the pleating  will not only result in the wrong silhouette, but will also be much more difficult – remember that a modern bra will give bust a natural round shape, very different from the flat, straight lines created by rigid stays of the era.

13. and then adjusting the pleats on a dummy for a more shape - the last stage is to try the thing on your stays and give it the final tweak then

adjusting the pleats on a dummy for a more shape – the last stage is to try the thing on your stays and give it the final tweak then

Again, once you have tweaked your pleats, secure them with hand stitching.

Prepare your revers – sew in the dart, sew lining (I used the same fabric) and pin onto the front. Again, experiment with the exact positioning and the shape of the front edge, and once happy with it, stitch together.

14. front piece pleated and revers attached

front piece pleated and revers attached

 

 

That’s the most difficult and fiddly part done, really. Yes, there will be a lot of hemming and hand stitching later, but the crucial fitting is mostly over

Next step – connect the front parts with the back –at the shoulders and the sides.  Follow the directions in the book – part of the side seams are stitched wrong-sides together so that they won’t show too much when the train is hooked up in the back!  Stitch, secure, and press.

15. treatment of the inside seams in the mantua,here shown before pressing

treatment of the inside seams in the mantua,here shown before pressing

 

Prepare the sleeves – work the seam, secure the raw edges, add the cuff. Pleat the top, if applicable, and insert into the armscythe.

16. cuff ready

cuff ready

 

17. sleeve inserted,

sleeve inserted, before securing the seam

 

Hem the thing…. This will take quite some time as the train is very long, but if you plan to show it, do it by hand. If you plan to stitch decoration over, then a machine finish will be fine.

18.hemming the mantua

hemming the mantua

 

Neck pieces next. Tidy and secure the back neck edge, then attach the neck pieces, matching the centre back seam. Stitch carefully

19.working on the back neck pieces

working on the back neck pieces

 

20. neck pieces pinned

neck pieces pinned

 

21. stitching the pieces in place

stitching the pieces in place

 

22. back neck ready

back neck ready

 

. Your mantua is now ready to be decorated.

23. all ready, awaiting decoration

all ready, awaiting decoration

 

Decoration time. I used a fine metallic lace and applied it, well, everywhere really… On the cuffs and all around the gown. The inside of the skirts sports a narrow metallic braid, which finishes it nicely once the skirts are arranged.

24. lace on cuffs

lace on cuffs

25. lace on revers

lace on revers

26. braid on the underside of the skirts

braid on the underside of the skirts

 

. For arranging the train – attach hooks as indicated on the pattern. They simply hook up to the belt at the back

27. braid and lace showing once the train is arranged

braid and lace showing once the train is arranged

 

Stomacher next – I made mine out of 2 layers of linen buckram, fully boned in reed, then covered in the taffeta and lined it.

28.stomacher

stomacher

 

Your mantua is now ready!

To finish the look however, I need a headdress – the famous “fontage”. After some brief research I stumbled upon this little tutorial – and followed it more or less directly:
http://pyracy.com/index.php/topic/15155-how-to-make-a-late-17th-century-fontangefontage/

I tried it first in calico, as a mock-up

29. fontage mock up in calico

Once I was happy with the size and shape, I cut it in linen, hemmed the crescents, applied lace and pleated it. I then pressed and starched it and inserted the boning (reed), then stitched the pleats closed at the back.

30. linen crescent ready for hemming

linen crescent ready for hemming

31. lace applied to the crescents

lace applied to the crescents

32. pleating!

pleating!

33. pleated and with lace decoration

pleated and with lace decoration

34. stitching the pleats close once the boning is inserted

stitching the pleats close once the boning is inserted

 
Next, the bag was attached, (a simple circle gathered onto a band), and the long wide lace lappets finished the look

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On the day of the shoot, I wore the following items:

Silk stockings (American Duchess) and C17th shoes

Linen chemise with lace cuffs,

Fully boned stays

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trying the headgear without the hair… weird…

 

Silk petticoat (in red)

Decorated petticoat with the fringe

Mantua,

Fontage (worn over my own hair and curly hairpieces)

Jewellery by Gemmeus

 

I was surprised to notice that the stomacher needed only a very, very basic pinning at the top –  as once the train is hooked up to the belt (here a length of wide metallic braid) at the back, the tension keeps the belt taunt, and stomacher in place. The whole outfit looked far better that I had ever hoped – as, let’s face it, a fontage is a bit of a silly thing to wear on your head! But once everything was on, it all fell into place, and it all felt not only comfortable, but also correct and entirely in keeping in with the environs. Needless to say, I felt great – and didn’t want to take the thing off…..

We arrived on the location in a good time and managed to shoot our stuff way before we were overcome by glamorously bewigged girls in sexy lingerie, brandishing swords, fans and rapiers….  More information on the shoot can be found here: https://adamselindisdress.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/early-mantua-and-la-maupin-style-shoot/

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http://www.priorattire.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fabrics for historical costuming

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We all know that very often it is the fabric that makes The Dress. A wisely chosen set of materials will bring out the beauty of the design, will enhance the tailoring – or even hide some dressmaking mistakes.  A less than perfectly sewn dress will look amazing if the fabric is right – and a fantastically well stitched creation can be badly marred by a poor fabric choice.

Naturally what fabrics we chose differs – all depends on the purpose of the garment. If it is a one off frock cobbled together for a friend’s fancy dress party,  you may not want to spend a lot on expensive silks; however if you are planning  a creation that you are going to wear a lot, or if you strive for authenticity, the correct fabric choice is essential.

In this post I shall mostly concentrate on the historical accuracy and will try to provide a basic reference on which fabrics to use in which period. The list is aimed at providing a very general overview, so I won’t be getting into details like which weight for which garment in which century – would take ages and would make for a very, very long post indeed!  I have learnt a lot over the last 20 or so years in the field – but am not omniscient, so if you know of an article or a reference that would be helpful with researching which fabrics were used  when, please post in a  comment and I will add it onto the article –  it would be very much appreciated!

I will also get a list of providers of the fabrics I use most often.

So, there we go!

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Medieval.

Linen:  for undergarments, shirts, basic tunics, lining, gambesons, etc. Bleached linen for the unmentionables for the wealthy, unbleached, natural one for the less fortunate. Other colours ( reds, blues, browns, pinks etc were used for tunics, kirtles, linings etc. Different weights were used for different  garments.

Wool –  different weights and types were used – including   patterns – herringbone and diamond were apparently quite popular in the dark ages and Viking era for example; fulled wools tend to become popular from 9-10 century, whereas plain weaves were generally available throughout the period. napped and sheared wool start to appear in the 14th century too ( broadcloth, wool satins etc)

Silk –  plain weaves and some patterns are used from mid medieval period in the north of Europe,  earlier in the south – proximity to Byzantium and the silk route.  Available only for the wealthiest, really – and even then was used sparingly considering its great value. Plain weave, early taffetas ( 13-14th century), basic brocades and damasks were used. Silk velvet starts to appear in the end of 13th century, if I remember well, and by 15th has evolved into several styles ( cut, uncut patterns etc).

Raw silk was probably used more by the steppe tribes, and duponi was not used much either, apparently.

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14th century dress in wool, lined with linen

Cotton – although there are some references to cotton imported from India, they are very rare – fustian was used however (cotton/linen blend) and there were several fustian manufactures established on the continent.  In England cotton as a name is used in the 16th century and most likely refers to woolen cloth!

Great article on the use of cotton in the medieval, Elizabethan and Stuart era – here 

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silk/linen brocade, fleur de lys pattern

16-17th century

 Linen – different weights any types ( cambric, lawn, Holland, buckram etc) – for undergarments, linings, ruffs, coifs, interlining, aprons, doublets, waistcoats etc

Wool – lots of varieties by that time, including blends with linen and silk; looks for broadcloth, scarlet, kersey, worsted, stammel, russet, cotton etc ); also, as mocado ( velvet using wool pile instead of silk)

Silk – again, lots of silk types used, in a variety of weights, patterns, blends ( cloth of gold, cloth of silver, tinsel) and grades. Look for satins, damask, velvets,grosgrain, sarcenet, taffets) Different types and patterns were popular in different decades. A good link showing some types- here 

Don’t be tempted by duponis ( existed, but very rare as second rate fabrics – contrary to today, slubs were frowned upon apparently), noil, stretch or crushed velvets…. Not period….

(Duponi lovers, do not despair, modern powerwoven duponi has hardly any slubs at all may be used as an alternative to taffeta. just avoid the slubby stuff where it shows…)

Cotton – see medieval note

tudor bride

Tudor gown in cloth of silver

 18th century

Linen – underwear,  waistcoats, breeches, also dresses in the second half of the century ( especial pattern or printed) – polonaises, jackets etc

Wool – breeches, waistcoats, coats, capes, cloaks, riding habits, travelling outfits, uniforms etc

Cotton – at last! Getting more and more popular – and cheaper (cotton from the West Indies and America) and with the Industral Revolution on its way, the invention of the Spinning Jenny and more advanced mechanical looms  meant being ablt to make cotton cloth in Englad too (  1774 saw the lift of the heavy tas levied on  brit produced cotton – it was established in the beginning of the century to protect native textile industry, and its revoking opened the marked for locally made cotton cloth :-); I believe the first cotton velvet is mentioned in 1790 or thereabouts – there is an extant male waistcoat made in cotton velvet in the States.

Silk –  taffetas, brocades, damasks, velvets –plain or very specific patterns –famous Spitalfields silks ; used for dresses, petticoats, coats, breeches, waistcoats, frockcoats etc

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striped silk for a polonaise

19th century

Linen, as before

Cotton – including muslin, lawn, voile and plain cottons for dresses, pelisses, breeches, linings etc also undergarments including corsetry

Wool – coats, habits, suits, cloaks, dresses, uniforms,  – everything goes! A variety of types and weights are used, broadcloth, superfine, shallon, worsted etc

Silks – velvets ( still mostly silks, cotton velvets or plushes used as furnishing fabrics too), tafettas, grosgrain, damasks, brocades, twills, satins etc – a great range of fabrics of different weights, weave and patterns used

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more stripes , wool this time, made into a Victorian bodice

 A few generic notes

*avoid man-made, artificial fibres whenever you can. Polyester taffetas may be cheap – and not only do they looks so, but they are a nightmare to work with too.

*Sometimes (well, almost always!) quality will hit your pocket hard – but in the long run, it is worth it.  Don’t go for plastic embroidered duponis etc – save up  for a month or two and get plain silk taffeta; if you cannot afford a dress in silk velvet, use a cheaper silk, or blend – or wool – a very period thing to do, plus it is easier to clean.

*Hunt for bargains –  I have searches set up on ebay looking for  different silk fabrics and sending me reports every week – some of the listings are useless, but sometimes you can  stumble upon real treasures! Go to sales at silk mills, fabric stores etc.

*If possible,  do not skimp on fabric. True, sometimes you get  a fantastic end of roll silk –  and there is only so much of it – then piece the panels up and of course use it – but if you are at liberty to  get the proper amount of the fabric for the project, do so.

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Silk brocade, Victorian

Trims and embellishment.

More or less similar things apply – avoid artificial stuff!  Elastic plastic lace will spoil any Victorian outfit, rayon guipure  lace will clash with proper Elizabethan fabrics. Also mark that different type of lace or braids were used in different periods – putting a cluny lace onto a 12th century bliaud instead of tablet woven braid will not do you any favours.

Again, please mark all those notes are for historical attire – if you are making fantasy, bridal, steampunk, etc garments, you have  much more freedom with the fabrics and embellishment choice – I  love experimenting with the alternative bridal styles or Steampunk looks as my imagination can run wild and I can go for the trims and interesting fabrics that I cannot use for historical gear!

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steampunk wedding gown using poly taffeta and satin – looks ok, but was an absolute nightmare to work with!

 Suppliers, in no particular order

Historical textiles – great quality  broadcloth, superfine and other

Hainsworths – wool

Whaleys – cotton, linen, silk

Bernie the Bolt – wool, linen, cotton – frequents UK and Europen markets – no website:-(

 Herts Fabrics – wool, linen –

 Renaissance fabrics – wool, linen, silks – lovely stuff!

Sew curvy – corsetry fabrics ( coutil, broche, drill)

 James Hare – lovely silks,  great lace,- you will need a trader’s account

 Silk Baron – silk velvet ( 80/20%), taffetas, duponi

Quartermasterie – lovely silks, also stunning silk velvet on cotton backing  – no website though! frequents UK markets

Harrington Fabrics – lace, silks, lovely brocades  – trader’s account needed

Watts&Co – church fabrics, absolutely gorgeous but very pricey ( looking at   £100 – £250 per metre, many fabrics made to order only)

Sartor – – historical textiles –  – great fabrics, do check the fibre composition information, as many of the stunning historical patterns are made in blends – half silk, half viscose:-(! some are 100% silk though and are a great find.

MacCulloch and Wallis – cloth, lace, haberdashery

Duran textiles AB – lovely silks and cotton prints, suitable for 18th and 19th century

Tudor Tailor – lovely wools suitable for Tudor and later costuming, plus linen and calico

Wm.Booth Draper –  great fabrics especially for 18th and 19th century

Happy shopping!

 

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Hot summer 1914

Edwardian Outfits July 2014-20

 

After the  WWI event at Hereford one thing became apparent – I  cannot wear my original mourning outfit in these temperatures! it was only silk, but black, and having it drenched with sweat was just a crime. So for the next WWI event, in St. Neots, I decided to  whiz something simple and more appropriate – a light cotton summer dress.

I had only 1 day to do just that – recent house move meant I  had to finish some commissions early and catch up with others after the move – but I managed to save up 1 day to get the frock sorted. I had a lovely cotton with embroidered border in stock (  to make one of the stock item dresses…) and decided to use that. my inspiration came from a few fashion plates picturing a skirt and a bodice/jacket combination – you can see the board here.

The whole thing turned out to be a bit more complex than I had originally imagined. The top needed a sitted waist ( underbodice) with the looser , longer layer being mounted directly on it. I did not have time to make a late Edwardian corset in lighter fabric, and my black one showed through the layers – so I had to use my early Edwardian corset – shorter and without suspenders, but it turned out to work just fine. I also added some vintage lace to the borders of the jacket…

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fitted waist under the looser layer…

The only pair of shoes I had, were my new Gibsons from American Duchess – and so to match them I found a scrap of beige silk in the scrap box and made a belt  to compliment the shoes – whatever as left of the silk went on the hat…

And so, the layers were –  The stockings, drawers and the chemise with a corset on top….

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then the petticoat in light cotton and lace…

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Camisole  and the skirt next…

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And then the jacket. It can be worn in 2 ways – as a cross over…

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or open in front, revealing more of the decorative waist…

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back view…

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 The hat was an original item, restyled just a bit – added silk bow, velvet ribbon , some bling and ivory and brown feathers.

 On the day I forgot my gloves – and felt half naked wondering around town looking for a shop that would sell anything suitable… Fortunately, lovely ladies in Beales found s the last few pairs of net gloves somewhere in the stock room – and they were perfect!

  Here am leaving for a day’s work on the second day – this time with a parasol as sun was merciless!

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The event itself, ran by St. Neot’s museum  and Black Knight Historical, was great – we chatted to the public, recruited nurses, encouraged young lads to join up – and talking about the impact the great War had on the history and everyday life…

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– and in between all that we sat at a nearby vintage cafe, enjoying amazing scones, tea and lemonade… If you ever are in St. Neot’s this place is well worth a visit –  Betty Bumbless Vintage tea Rooms.

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 I also spent some time making sketches  – to be used by one of the local artists –  and it turned out to be a real magnet for the public, and inspired a few very interesting discussions about the war fashions….

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At the end of the day we indulged in a little photoshoot session in the cafe – their first floor turned out to be a time machine – styling was mostly WWII, but generic enough for us to have a go at a few pictures…

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  Lastly, we paid our respects at the local monument…

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  All through the weekend the temperatures were scorching – and the new dress worked well – it was light, breathed well and I felt much cooler than in the black silk – success. in fact, it proved so popular that I got some more of the fabric to make another one, this time for sale:-). Considering the fact that in the next 4 years we will be doing quite a lot of the WWI events, I suspect I will be making a few more summer dresses, day dresses and walking suits… a few of them are already done, available in our shop! ore to come over the next few months….

 Credits:

 Photography – as always, huge thanks to Pitcheresque Imagery

 Shoes – American Duchess,

 Clothes ( my dress, Blue silk dress, and Lucas’ breeches (  try as I might, I simply couldn’t get out of making theses…) – Prior Attire

 gloves – Beales