Georgian Ball in Bath, March 2015

Georgian Ball - Bath March 2015-56

 

It all started innocently enough – I was approached to create a set of Georgian attire for a ball by  new customers, a lovely couple.

We discussed the designs, fabrics , fitting schedule etc, and it was all going smoothly – and then I just had to ask: what ball is it anyway?

And hearing it is the one in Bath, organized by the Bath Minuet Company, we just had to go along and buy tickets….. after all we did enjoy the Regency Ball there a lot! And Eleanor, our friend jumped at the opportunity and joined in – and commissioned a frock too. So suddenly I ended up with having  2 big commissions plus trying to get some time to make Lucas; kit – and maybe there would be just enough time to get mine sorted too – I had my pink robe anglaise, just in case I wouldn’t, but since I got some lovely brocade last November, I did hope to be able to knock something out for myself too.

Eleanor’s set was done first, as she was available for fittings early… After much deliberation on which fabrics o use, Eleanor decided on a crispy mat silk in slate – we had quite a lot of and it went very well with pink roses and gold braid, and the design was loosely based on the robe francaise worn by Mme de Pompadour.

the foundations were first – stays, and pocket hoops in silk!

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then the petticoat, and draping on the francaise –  there was loads of fabric going into it!

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playing with the trim…

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the gown and basic trim ready, now just the roses and the stomacher

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sleeve before pinking – I pined it at the last moment, as although the fabrics didn’t fray much, we wanted the edges sharp for the event:-)

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decoration on the petticoat – frills, flounces and roses

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and a very important moment – once the roses were out of the box, Merlin jumped in It was the very first time in the last 3 years when he actually willingly went into a box… weird moggy

 

 

The original commission that started the whole Georgian frenzy was interesting too – a suit of black satin for the gentleman, with an embroidered waistcoat, and a robe anglaise, with the cut away front ( zone front) for the lady. Plus set of undergarments for both.

I especially enjoyed working on the embroidery – with silver metallic tread and silk..

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that frame was an amazing investment. well worth it if you are working on larger pieces

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waistcoat ready

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the back

 

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and a frilly shirt

The lady’s kit consisted of a chemise, a pair of stays in silk brocade, skirt supports, skirt in silk satin, with a fringe, and a robe anglaise in striped  silk…

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the stays ready

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detail of the back

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working on the anglaise – after a rial run with the trim we decided against it. the fabric did not lend itself well to piking and the thing frayed like hell, leaving bits of thread everywhere, especially on the white satin…

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the back

with just  2 days to spare I  was pressed for time to work on Lucas kit – and our initial plan of using gold and red pinstripe silk ( breeches, waistcoat and jacket) were discarded in favour for some lovely silk taffetta I was hoarding for myself – but  it meant the colour could go with an original waistcoat Lucas already had, so less work… plus, how could I refuse my husband….

As much as I would like to spend days embroidering his jacket, making fancy buttons etc, we were pressed for time so drastic measures had to be taken – Lucas decided on a  posh modern trim instead. Looks correct and although makes the kit more of a theatre costume than re-enactment piece, for the ball it worked just fine..

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And then with just  8 hours to spare, I had a go at my robe francaise.  I had just enough fabrics to get a francaise and petticoat in it, though not enough for any decoration  and I even had to piece  one sleeve and the flounces. I do love the fabric, and I was very lucky to get it at a reduced price – I payed £40 a metre instead of the usual £75 or so). The ladies at the Sudbury Silk Mill where I got it from said it was because of a fault running through the length, but since I could barely see it, i did not mind at all.

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work in progress

 

And it turned out I had just enough some matching taffeta from my stash to work a trim – paired with a chenille braid:-)

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With just a few bits left to be stitched  later on ( buttons) we were ready – and fortunately our wigs, ordered quite late from the States ( from Historical Hairdresser) arrived with a few days to spare!

The day of the ball was full of mishaps…. first  I woke up with laringitis – voice gone completely….. Then,  1 hour into the drive we realised that Lucas’ lovely waistcoat is still at home….. so had to turn back… Then Bath was clogged up with roadworks and traffic jams. Luckily we were just in time to check into the hotel, get dressed and rush to the dance practice…

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Eleanor at the dance practice, minding our hats… and boots…

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after the practice, waiting for transport… surprisingly enough my redingote worked quite well as an extra layer over the anglaise

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Hotel elevators…. barely big enough for 2…

 

We had a few hours before the ball, so we finished last minute jobs, had a meal and started getting ready. 90 minutes before our carriage was supposed to arrive – and yes, carriage – we booked proper horsey transportation from Courtyard Carriages–   the company called us saying they cannot do it, giving a rather feeble excuse. considering that we booked them  with over a month before, that as a bit of a blow – so folks, if you are ever tempted to book a carriage in bath, Do NOT use them!

Still, we though, we will take a cab.  WE will need a bigger one, to accommodate all the frockage, and so a suitable vehicle was booked, using a dedicated hotel line to a cab company.

But alas – when we got into the lobby, there was not a car to be found…. finally, after 8 calls from us, the hotel etc, and lots of excused on the  side of the cab company, they sent us a car – 50 minutes after the agreed time! needless to say, we were not in the least amused – we basically missed most of the first half of the danceo not remember the name of the company, but if you are in the Travelodge Waterside, do not use the cabs line  there – the hotel staff was very helpful, and it was not their fault, it was purely that the company were managed by an incompetent prat.

 

Still, an hour late, we made it…..

We had a lovely time dancing, chatting, taking photos, doing more dancing and admiring the dance demonstration from the Minuet company – and so the evening went ahead smoothly ( though on my part rather quietly – still no voice – some may argue it was a blessing, especially considering the mishaps – a lot of very bad language would have otherwise occurred…)

Lucas grabbed some photos too – enjoy!

first, the results of all that stitching….

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Kelly and Glen in their finery

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then Eleanor…

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Georgian Ball - Bath March 2015-21 Lucas…

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and me:-)

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And a few group shots too…

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here discussing programme for our Victorian ball with our dance master – Stuart Marsden

 

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and a few of the dance demo

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and some outtakes….

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my usual face…

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all together, it was a success and we will gladly come back again:-)

The next day saw us at the Assembly Rooms, meeting with Stuart and the  caterers and discussing our Victorian ball in May –  so looking forward to  it too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

1785 Riding Habit

 

 

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I have always admired the simple elegance of 18th and 19th century riding habits. They were practical, sturdy garments but with undeniable air of sophistication and grandeur.  Especially the 18th century ones- How can a girl resist one of these?

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sir Joshua Reynolds, Lady Worsley, 1776

 

or these…

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riding coat, Victoria and Albert muesum, around 1760

More habit pictures across the ages on the Pinterest board

So when I stared learning how to ride side-saddle, I thought that would be a perfect opportunity to make one. My heart was set on the later 18th century one, found in Victoria and Albert museum.

 

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It was made in glazed red wool, lined with glazed linen and faced with wool.

Since I intend to use my habit for hunting, red wasn’t the best option – too similar to the pink coats of the hunt service folks!  Dark green was the second best choice.

 The materials I used were:

Thick wool for the jacket – 2 m- I chose to make the jacket thicker than the skirt mostly because of the temperatures one faces during winter hunting

2 metres of left over wool for toile

4 metres of regular wool for the skirt and waistcoat

6 metres of silk taffeta

0.5 metre of linen for the waistcoat

16 buttons for the waistcoat

35 buttons for the jacket

Gold metallic braid for the decoration ( I used up about 6 metres)

Gold metallic thread and some embroidery silks

Silk and linen threads for stitching.

 

The whole outfit was hand stitched – but obviously if you prefer modern techniques,  machine can be used to save up on time!

 

The skirt:

That was the easiest part. . I made mine out of a big rectangle of fabric, lined with silk and cartridge pleated to a narrow waistband.  You can fins detailed instructions in my article on the 17th cent banqueting gown – I used the very same techniques – though I made the hem folded deeper and lining is shorter.   (http://yourwardrobeunlockd.com/historicalperiods/medievalrenaissance/417-a-banqueting-gown

 

 The waistcoat.

I could not actually see much of the waistcoat worn with the original habit, but I found images of a very similar one and used them as my inspiration. Apart from the collar, both waistcoats seem to be double breasted and the cut wouldn’t be that different.

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riding habit waistcoat around 1790 victoria and albert museum

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riding habit waistcoat back

It was relatively easy to work out the pattern from the pictures I cut toile first, experimented with it and amended it till I was satisfied with the fit.  I wanted mine to fit me with or without stays, which was a bit tricky. I decided to line the front layer with wool as well – as it can get quite cold on longer rides!  The back is made of two layers as well, though this time of linen .

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I started work on the back first –  stitched the top and lining layer together at centre back ( leaving about 4 inches undone – that’s when the two parts will be joined later) and bottom hem, turned over and pressed. Repeat on the other half of the back. Once ready, stitch them together at the top and worked the eyelets in linen thread.  Lace them together – it is easier to work with the bits being laced instead of flapping around.

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 Next, add the two fronts on each side – only the top layer first, on both sides. Try it on and make sure the front is flat and the lapels are even.

Add the collar – I interlined mine with buckram to make sure it looks and is as still as the original seems to be, and lined it with wool. Once the collar is in place, you can line the front with another wool layer. Finish off the inside seams and the hem, put it on and mark the position of the buttons and buttonholes.

Buttons are a story into itself.

I couldn’t find any decent metal buttons that would be correct for the period, so decided to cover and embroider my buttons for both the waistcoat and the jacket. In the hindsight, I should probably have allowed for a more time – they do take quite some time!

I used the same cloth I made the waistcoat and skirts from. I divided it into small squares, each big enough to cover the button plus some extra, and stretched it on a tapestry frame

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button making, cloth stretched on a tapestry frame

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button making, cloth stretched on a tapestry frame and divided into squares

I worked in stages

  1.  Make a loop using a thick gold thread – make several in one go. My loop was long enough to go around the button twice.
  2.  Couch the loop down with silk thread – took me ages!
  3.  Embroider the stems with green silk thread
  4. Embroider the  flower in yellow silk thread

I worked on several buttons at the same time – I would make around 6  or 7 and then start the process all again.

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looping the gold thread to form the outline of the button

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loops, couching and embroidery

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cloth taken off the frame

When the embroidery is finished, detach the fabric from the frame and cut the fabric along the lines. You now have lots of squares with embroidered bit on it. Put your button (I used flat wooden ones) on the left side of the square, covering the embroidered bit.   Trim the rest of the fabric so that there is enough left to cover the button. Now you have a circle of fabric – use it on other square pieces so that you do not need to measure things up every time. To cover the button, sew a running stitch near the edge, place the button inside and pull on the thread.  Stitch the edges together. More detailed instructions can be found here:

http://www.craftpudding.com/2007/06/covered-button-tutorial.html

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Work the buttonholes and sew the buttons, and the waistcoat is ready.

 

The jacket.

I had to be bit creative with the pattern. I did not have access to a detailed pattern for a habit from that period, so decided to adapt the slightly earlier one from Janet Arnold. I simply changed the front by adding lapels and adapting the shape of the skirt.

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I must add that originally, working strictly from the picture, I couldn’t see any waist seam – so I cut my jacket without one. However, 400 Years of Fashion, presenting the V&A collection states that there is a waist seam…  which means I will have to remodel the jacket.  Oh well…. If you want to make skirts separate, just follow the pattern from Janet Arnold!

The method.

As always, cut out the toile first. – I this instance it was even more important than usual, as I wasn’t using a pattern I was familiar with or a commercial pattern – I had to check if the fabric hung and fitted correctly.  That was why I decided to use a thicker fabric for the toile – calico toile would no doubt make it easy to see the fit, however it could not mimic the behaviour of heavy and stiff wool. To achieve that,  I used bits of older, low quality  wool I had. And it worked! I basted the pieces together – I included the sleeves since I wanted them to fit closely but somehow allow me quite a lot of freedom of movement – and checked the fit. It needed some adjustments, so I undid the relevant seams, corrected the cut and basted the seams again. I had to repeat the procedure twice before I was satisfied, and then I simply undid the basting and used it as a template for cutting out the top layer and the lining.

I started with top layer, stitching first the back and then the sides and the shoulder seams.  I left the skirts un-pleated – I will do the pleating once the lining is in place.

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hand sewn side seam detail

Lapels- you have a choice how you want your lapels and buttons done: you can either have real buttonholes on them and sew the buttons to the jacket, so that they do button back – or have a fake buttonhole/button arrangement and secure the lapels with hooks and eyes. Mine are the former.

I market the buttonholes and the line for the braid decoration. I cut the line – just enough to allow for the button – and worked around it to prevent fraying. Then I added the gold braid decoration. Having finished with the lapels, you can now sew on the buttons.

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The next step was to make and add the sleeves I stitched the two part sleeve together, right sides together, leaving the cuff part unstitched at that point. I turned the sleeve out, with right sides up, and then finished the cuff – so that when it is turned back, the good side of the seam shows.  Proceed to add the buttonholes/button decoration – again, you can have either false ones or the functional option and I opted for the functional way – real buttonholes and buttons on the main sleeve.  Repeat on the other sleeve and when finished, set it into the armhole.

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The pockets were next.  Start with the pocket itself – mines are from silk. Cut out and stitch the two layers together. (pic.26) Mark the position of the pocket on the skirts, and cut the opening matching the opening of the pocket. Turn the pocket out, so that the left side is out, and set it into the slit, carefully securing the silk to the wool

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Pocket flaps – cut them out, making sure they are a bit longer than the actual pocket slit, line them, it you want to, and add the buttonhole/ decoration.   Pin it in place and stitch them to the skirts with a strong linen thread.

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sewing the pocket in…

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pocket flaps

 

Lining – stitch all the lining together – back first, then front and sleeves and set into the jacket. Pin carefully and let it hang together for a while. Adjust the pining at the hem if necessary and sew it in – at the front, neck hem, the cuffs (or rather before the turn back cuffs start).

Collar was next – again, I made a mock up collar first and experimented with it until i was satisfied with the way it looked together with the lapels. I stitched it to the jacket, lined with another layer of wool and worked the buttonholes so that it buttons down to the jacket.

All that remains now is pleating the vents – I did it precisely as shown in Janet Arnold, and secured them with the buttons and then added buttons at the top, purely for decoration.

Your habit is now ready – all you need it the undergarments, boots, gloves and a tricorn – and a –hunting you can go!

Here pictured at End Audley Hall – it was rather frosty on the day, with minus temperatures, and yet the wool kept me warm and snug.

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This article was originally published in  Your Wardrobe Unlock’d over a two years ago –   and looking back at it from the time perspective I think i need to make another one, updated…. maybe the earlier version? still have enough of the green wool to make a 1760 jacket…. 🙂

 

 

Bibliography:

Janet Arnold, Patterns of Fashion, Macmillan,  New York, 1984

400 Years of Fashion, V&A Publishing, London,  2010

Craftpudding,  http://www.craftpudding.com/2007/06/covered-button-tutorial.html [accessed 28/01/11]

V&A museum online:  http://collections.vam.ac.uk/  [accessed 28/01/11]