Musings of a Lady

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Le Modiste: 1885 Bustle

5 years ago, my God daughter was a 'debutante' and all her aunties came to the event.  The trick was that the event was part of a ball event that PEERS (Period Events and Entertainments Recreations Society) puts on every 1st Saturday of the month.  The theme of this ball was one of Queen Victoria's granddaughters (my God daughter) was to make her debut into society.  So, it was a high Victorian affair.

All of us made 1885 ball gowns.  Mine was a pink and black affair using a Chinese brocade.  That being said, this Christmas I needed a bustle gown to wear to the annual Christmas Tea at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco given by the Greater Bay Area Costume Guild.  I actually had enough fabric left over to make the day time bodice for this event.  I used the Truly Victorian French Vest bodice which I adore.  A friend of mine blocked a black straw hat for me and the ensemble came together quite well.  So, without further ado, here is the upcycle of my ball gown into a day ensemble.

Starting from the beginning - chemise, stockings, corset.

My bustle petticoat has crinoline ruched with embroidered cotton covers layering the back,
plus a bustle pad buttoned in at the waist.  No hoop wire to deal with.

At the Palace.  All dressed.  I love my new hat!

The event was lovely and we had a good time.  The Palace was built in 1875, was nearly destroyed by the 1906 earthquake but survives to day as a landmark hotel in San Francisco.  Worth a trip to see the Maxfield Parish original in their bar and the beautiful room they use for dining that was once the carriage round about for guest arriving prior to the earthquake.  

Here are some images of the other patrons who attended:
My sweet friend Irene who is a lead draper for the SF Opera.

Other patrons...The bronze pink dress in the center was fabulous - wish I had gotten
a front view of this gown, it was gorgeous.

My dearest friends Rita, Sheila and Walter.

Our Table.

Irene and Catherine.  Catherine was our hostess for the event as Lady Astor.  She also used
Truly Victorian as her base pattern.

Just in case I don't get a chance to post before New Years day,  Happy New Year and may 2014 bring the joy, love, hope and prosperity you need to move forward in your life's journey and enjoy it.  Cheers!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Christmas everyone!


Happy Holidays to all my readers who have patiently waited during long lag times between postings, who have shared my posts with friends and have honored me with supportive comments all year long.

I am still working on my Regency wardrobe but put it aside to make a day time bodice for an 1885 ensemble I made a while back.  I am attending the Christmas Tea at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco on Dec 28th.  In addition, I am also gearing up for a February workshop where I will be draping and sewing by hand an 18th century riding habit.  Therefore, Regency will have to go to the back burner but not neglected.  

I hope to continue to have your faithful readership in 2014 and beyond.  Please have a safe and joyful holiday, however you celebrate this season of love, hope and joy.  Cheers.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Le Modiste: Chemise and Chemisettes - 1800-1816

My finished chemise.  This particular piece is completely hand sewn - no machine work at all. So, once again, a triumph for 'vegan' sewing.    I used a light weight, moderately loose weave linen.  I also embroidered my initials at the center front of the neckline.

Next on my list is to make another chemise but not by hand. Or at least not totally.  That will give me 3 chemises to use on the trip and for events coming up next year.  

I am also working on a boned bodice petticoat.  This one is based off the La Bagatelle pattern.  I just got the mock up fitted and will begin the process of putting that together.  Yes, I do have a pair of half stays, as well.  I like having the options of both types of boned underpinnings. It will look similar to this:

My next research adventure is into chemisettes.   What is a chemisette?  Similar to the modern 'dickey' it fills in the neckline of a dress providing modesty as well as variation options in your ensemble.  I have been looking at chemisettes or fillers on a diverse group of portraits and extant pieces.  But before I dive into those inspiring pieces, I have one that I have been using for most of my early Victorian wear that has come in handy for my Regency day gowns.

I made this a while ago and it has been a nice serviceable piece but I will need at least a couple more to fill out my wardrobe.

Before I do that, I wanted to do a bit of research and see what variations might work well with my style and be as 'period' as possible.  So far, I have come across the following images that intrigued me:
Lieder painting c 1810
I like this as it looks pretty but not to 'girly' which may be more because of the 'militaire' look of the pelisse.
Portrait of a Woman - Henry Inman, 1825.
Even though this is from 1825, a bit past my time frame, I do like the look of this.  It feels at ease and comfortable, yet very proper and tasteful.
Elizabeth Salisbury
My personal taste and comforts run toward collars and ruffs that do not 'choke' or encase the neck. I had surgery around the base of my neck and it is no longer happy with close, fitting high collars. I believe that the above 3 styles would work for me. Essentially, they have a 'V' neck opening with the ruffled collars - both feminine and structured.  Of course starching the ruffles will be necessary in order to look wilted. Any recommendations for that would be helpful.  At this point I have fabric spray starch which will have to be used after each washing.

Additional inspiring images, found mostly on Pinterest:
Portrait of a young lady seated by her work table -- Robert Home
I really like this one.  It is embroidered and has long sleeves which provides another fashion option.  However, this begs a question, is this a chemisette or is it an underdress? Looking at it closely, I think that it is possibly a sleeved chemisette.  Why?  Educated guess being that it has a closure that is surplice at the front (folded over the bosom and pinned?).  However, it could be an underdress of a sheer and lightweight material.  Any thoughts?
Adèle Laplatte, Portrait of a young woman wearing taupe dress, 1809
Again, my personal approach to historical dress is simplicity.  Let the fabric and details do the talking, that it is, 'I' who wears the clothes and not the other way round.  This is my personal taste of course.  In anycase, this portrait is just simplistic prettiness to me.  The collar of the white under gown or chemisette allows the pelisse's details to stand out.

Now, what shall I make?  I think I want to make one with a collar like in the Robert Home portrait - so I will refer to this one as Chemisette Casual. Additionally, I want one similar to the portrait of Elizabeth Salisbury - which I will refer to as Chemisette Frilled.  Now to do some reconnoitering for super fine linen - hanky linen?  What would you suggest?  Also, lace. Much of the lace we have available now is machine lace that has poly in it.  Cotton laces tend to be a bit heavy.  Any suggestions from my dear readers would also be welcome on this point.  Oh, and, should I use organdy for the ruffles in the collar of the Chemisette Frilled?  Again, all suggestions are welcome.  If you have any links to possible purveyors of said materials, I am open to that information as well.  

Okay, ladies and gentlemen, I am off to do some sewing.  Stay tuned for the next post.

Happy All Saints Day!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Le Modiste: Chemise a la 1800-1816

Corset, Epoque Empire, musee Galliera, Paris
Chemise:  An under garment worn by women.  The etymology of the word is interesting in that this word was used before 1050, possibly from late Latin for shirt: camisa, a linen under garment, shirt and replacing Middle English -  kemes and Old English cemes.  I love the history of words, don't you?    Then you have the word 'shift' which is also used for the same undergarment during the 18th century and into the early 1800's. (Shift may have been used even earlier...still checking on that.)   According to  Costume Close-up: clothing Construction and Pattern 1750-1790 (, a shift is...

" ...made of white linen or cotton was the bottom layer of a woman's multilayered ensemble, acting as a washable liner to protect the outer clothing from perspiration and body soil...Equally important, the shift protected the wearer's skin from abrasion by the boned stays, hoops, woolen petticoats...many women slept in the same shifts they wore during the day, whereas those with larger wardrobes had separate nightshifts."  pg. 57

I will need a couple of chemises or shifts for my Regency wardrobe.  One of my friends, newly returned from this years Jane Austin Festival, in Bath, England said the weather was wet this time and indeed, her 'petticoats were 6inches deep in mud!'  Ergo having more than one chemise will be worth the sewing to have just in case the festival in 2014 is also wet.  

The construction of ladies chemises or shifts didn't change much over time.  I consulted my Tudor Tailor book ( the book mentioned above and several blogs where ladies are making period chemises and the construction has altered very little.  Taking a rectangle of fabric and cutting geometric shapes for the body, sleeve, under arm gussets and additional godets for increasing the body width if necessary.  
I have this pattern as a model.  
I haven't used this pattern as my mode operandi has been to just cut my chemises out of a rectangle of linen.  In fact I have used something like this which can be found on:
This image above is from Kanniks Korner who makes really nice patterns.  The structure above is what I basically do for all my chemises/shifts for 18th - Regency fashions.

I have one that I made ages ago but I am currently working on a chemise which I am sewing by hand.  I am using a blouse weight soft weave linen, linen thread and basic hand seaming techniques. 

Using a back stitch to seam.

I do want to make a petticoat to act as a corset cover and will do some research for that.  With that said, here are some items I found on Pinterest and other sources that are helping me figure out what will work to cover the corset so it doesn't show through: 
Petticoat - early 19th century

From  I found on Pinterest a simple sleeveless bodice petticoat that might work for what I need as well: 
1810-12 Petticoat (FYI - I went looking for this at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and couldn't get any info).

The chemise, being a work-horse garment, will take a lot of beating with washing, etc.  However, I like a personal touch to my undies, so I plan to do some decorative stitching or lace insertions or scalloped hems, if I can find the period or contemporary examples to support the effort.  Other than what can be seen above, did ladies embellish their undies?  Though I ask the question, I will probably to take liberties and do some white on white embellishments.   This is why I caution my readers that I am not a professional historian, nor am I confined by re-enactment rules or policies, so I can be a little more free with my interpretations.  Yet, I will say that I like to be as accurate as I can.  So, if any of you, dear readers, have sources for embellishments on under garments like chemises/shifts and petticoats other than what is shown above, please do share with me.  

October To-do list:
Finish hand sewn chemise.
Cut and start over petticoat.
Research Chemisettes.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Le Modiste: Creating A Regency Wardrobe for 2014 Jane Austen Festival

Hello everyone!  I hope that this post finds you all well and happy.  I mentioned in earlier posts that I am preparing to go to Bath, England in 2014 for the Jane Austen Festival.  Excitement is not the word for how I am feeling about that.  I have not been out of my own country since 1984! So shameful!  Yet as the economy has been crazy it just hasn't been in the cards for me. I am overjoyed that this will be remedied in a year!

What I will need is a wardrobe that I can use at this event and to the events here in California that are beginning to explode on the scene!  In a previous post I went to a movie opening or preview of 'AustenLand'.  I made a gown and spencer for that.   Luckily, I had a chemise and a chemisette plus a short corset ready to go.  Do you remember my adventure into making a short corset?   It looks like I have already started on the wardrobe, right?  However, before I go any further I want to plan out a wardrobe that will make sense for any event, meet my esthetic style and not exceed my income!

The three questions that came up are:  What will I need?  What is my Regency style?  What should I create? I began looking for articles about what is essential to a woman's wardrobe during the period of 1810-1818 or the Regency period in general. At, there was a nice list.  In another article, that unfortunately I can't find now, a similar list was provided but included a special essential accessory to every woman, a Mr. Darcy for an evening event, A Captain Wentworth for a stroll and one other.  I laughed myself silly.
Friedrich Carl Gröger, Emilie und Johann Philipp Petersen, 1806.
What I have believe I need to have for this trip, (which includes two balls, evening events (cards, soirees and dinners), picnics, promenades and visiting), will be:
1 ball gown (possibly one underdress with two different overgowns (?))
1 evening dress (double duty as a dinner dress or soiree/salon dress)
2 day dresses
1 spencer
1 Pelisse or Redingote
3 chemises (1 that is sleeveless for evening)
3 Chemisettes
Bodiced petticoat or a shoulder strap one.
1 night gown
1 dressing gown

1 shawl
1 Tippet and/or Capelet
1 soft crown bonnet (I am limited in travel packing space).
1 turban material - evening
1 reticule for every day
Stockings ( several pairs)
1 walking day shoes/boots
1 heeled slippers for evening
Jewelry of course (includes a tiara of some sort and hair ornaments)
Gloves 1 pair for evening - long white; 1 short pair for day (neutral color)
Fan - very essential when one is all a glow!

Phew!  I think that is a good start, can any one of you think of something else essential that I have left off?  Do I have items already in my costume closet?  Yes, I do they are:
3 Regency day dresses (one I have to seriously alter the bodice as I am a 'few' inches bigger at the top...sigh)
1 spencer
A bonnet
A Pelisse that I can fit in again, hurrah!
A chemise and corset plus one chemisette.
A reticule
A fan

The trick will be if I can stick to the one of this and one of that?  I don't know?    ;)

My esthetics or personal style is very tidy, simple but elegant.  I like my fabrics to do the talking and have details that put pizazz in the look.  Though I am not a frill and lace kind of woman, little bits here and there are okay.  So what floats my boat?  Let's see:
1815 Spencer
 — at
I like spencers with a tailored look.  I really like this one!  However, I do like the military-style ones as well.

Dress (ladies). Floral motif. Dark blue with scattered flowers printed in white and light blue. Linen / flax printed. Around 1825 - 1830. Dimensions: height 133 cm. National Swiss Museumwebcollection.lan...

This dress is just simple and yet pretty without all the frills and fussiness.  Though it is dated later than my 'time frame' I like it and think I can adapt it to what I need.

Day dress, ca 1820-25 UK (made of French silk)
This Pelisse or 'day dress' is very nice.  I like the detail.  Now, with that said, perhaps I should shift my 'time frame' to 1818-1825?  I seem to like these....

Portrait of Countess Sophia Stroganoff, Mosnier, 1808
The Countess looks fabulously elegant.  I would love to look like this when dressed to the nines! Again, this is just outside my 'time frame' but....she looks so cool!

1800-1810 (?) From Imatex - A Spanish textile site.

The embroidery on this dress...well, its absolutely beautiful!  Let's see, I have a year...could I? Will have to think about this one - time, energy and there is a lot I have to put together.

I like the print and the solid colored spencer.  The bonnet is nice as well.

A nice evening gown.
 The next two portraits are just examples of the look I want to have; that certain air, and carriage required of a Regency Lady.  I think I can manage it.
Lieder painting c 1810

Portrait of a Woman - Henry Inman, 1825.
I really like the blue color and the detail around the neck in the Henry Inman portrait.  I think I should shift my focus up a little in terms of time frame.  Mmmmmmm....thinking, thinking...pondering.  

Next steps?  I am working on the chemises and under things right now which is a good place to start.  I am doing the research on period construction and will do these by hand.  I have one machine stitched chemise but the next two will be by hand and given little details that I can embroider. I hope you all will check back in for the next post which will chronicle my work on the chemises and my initial designs and swatching for my garments to come.

If you have any suggestions or links to other sites with information or designs or whatever, please share!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Le Modiste: Regency Gown and Spencer

In 2014, I am planning to attend the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, England.  I have a year to make a wardrobe to wear to this week long event.  I do have a couple of Regency style garments in my historical clothing collection but of course 'new gowns' are a must!  Therefore,  I begin with this post and the first of several ensembles that will travel to Bath with me.

The spur to get me into a trot on this particular outfit was to attend a screening of a new movie called, 'Austenland'.  First, let me say, that this movie turned out to be a spoof of the book of the same name by Shannon Hale.  Ms. Hale's book in turn is an Austen-like modern spoof of the manners and romance of Regency time period.  Secondly, the movie is so loosely based on the book that the movie has a voice of its own.  With that said, I went into the film with an open mind, and I laughed all the way through it.  I recommend both the book and the movie.  They are two totally different things but each is fun!

Now, on to the gown I made.  I used the La Mode Bagatelle pattern as my base.

The dress fabric was a damask dark blue cotton I bought ages ago for something else.  The spencer was made from a slubed silk that was 36 inches wide that I inherited from my maternal grandmother.  I used the remaining bits of fabric from a Directoire gown I made in 2009 to line the spencer as well as a dark blue silk taffeta.  Although, the gown and spencer turned out okay, there is more that I want to do to finish them.  My one complaint about sewing for an event at the last minute is that you only have enough time to make the garments but not really craft them with finished details.  Therefore, the gown is completely unadorned.  Its okay that it is very simple but I originally envisioned some detailing that didn't happen.  I want to add a bit around the neckline of the dress so I can use it as a dinner gown with out a chemisette.  The Spencer has a closure that is temporary and the buttons need to be redone.  But, for the screening event, the gown and spencer worked out and I am pleased.
Gown with Chemisette that I already had in stock.

Close-up of gown and chemisette

Spencer added.  My mannequin is a bit bigger than I, so not closed.

Close-up of the collar and chemisette.

The reticule is a gift from  talented friend, Catherine.  It matched perfectly!

The pattern from La Mode Bagatelle is one that I have used before.  It has a boned petticoat which works very well if you don't wish to wear a corset.  Ladies of a thinner body line and smaller bust can really make this boned petticoat work for them in stead of a corset. Those of us who need a bit more shaping can use this petticoat - I have seen it used with excellent results but gowns will cling in areas that may bulge where you don't want them to, so a corset may be the better option if you have that concern.  The pattern offers, two styles of dresses, and spencer.  It includes some variations for sleeves, collars and necklines, as well as a pattern for a reticule, muff and cap.  With that said, I think you have to purchase the pattern from companies that sell period patterns like: and

Here is a picture of us at the screening of the movie:

The movie link if you are at all interested is:
The book link is:

Again, FYI:  The movie is a total Hollywood spoof so if you are an Austen purest and not into modern spoofing I would just read the book. The book is fun and has its romantic comedic side that is more like an Austen read.  However, the movie is a 'bring on the tears' from laughing so hard at the absurdity of what they did in the film and how much fun they had making it.

Next up:  (and not necessarily in this order)
Redingote of green wool
18th century vegan chemise (handsewn)
1880's bodice Jacket

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Le Modiste: Corsets. Corsets. Part 3

A couple of years ago, I made a pretty little lightly boned corset out of an embroidered silk.   I really loved this little corset.  Well after two wearings, the boning came shooting out, ripping through the silk. I was very unhappy!

Up until this year, I didn't need to replace the corset.  However, events that focus on Victorian styles have happened and are coming up this year and the next, so, I decided to make a new corset.  Luckily, I could use the same pattern and fabric from my stash as well as use the bones and busk from the old corset.  Upcycling at its best!   The only thing I changed is that I used a double layer of the coutil backing of the silk.  The fashion fabric is a pretty Chinese woven silk damask.  I had a choice of silvery white with black flowers and the reverse side with white flowers, I chose the black ground with silvery white flowers.  To add a bit of interest, I embroidered the edges of the gussets.  Why?  No idea other than I love to embroider and it was a way to practice that art and give a bit of detail to my corset.  

The corset assembled and ready for embroidering

Details fo the embroidery around the gussets.

The corset on my mannequin.  (Sorry a little out of focus) I hate the metal front busks, but I was trying not to buy anything new.

The corset pattern I used was the Past Pattern #708

This particular corset was easy to make and fit and does the work I need to shape my figure to the styles from about 1850 to 1890's.  For newbie corset makers I think this one is a good one to start with.  If you are not a corset maker and don't want to be bothered, the best is have it made for you by an expert. This can be a bit expensive but is worth the investment as it will last for a long time!  One company I recommend is:  Dark Gardens.  I have a corset made by this company.  It is beautiful and well made.  I had some corrective surgery in 2009 and the corset no longer fits me in the bust and I do have the option to have it altered by the same company, but just haven't done it.  Silly me. 

Well, this ends the corset series.  I have three new corsets as a baseline for my Regency, 18th century and Victorian projects coming up.  What are they?  Well, let's see.  Ah, this is my ambitious project line up:

1. Regency day dress (finish a UFO) and a new Redingote, hat and accessories - deadline October 1.
2. 1880's day jacket bodice (I have a pretty black and pink 1880's ball gown and need a day jacket-bodice for the annual Christmas Tea at the Palace Hotel in December.
3.  Optional:  A George Barbier style 18th century gown for the Ball Carnival in Feb 2014.
4.  Optional:  Tudor Tailor kirtle, jacket and accessories - possibly for a Renaissance Faire in Sebastepol and Folsom, California. in September 2013
5.  Start a Regency wardrobe for the Jane Austen Festival in 2014, Beginning with the top priority item on the list.

Phew!  I have my work cut out for me and lots to post about.  Stay tuned, dear friends.