A Week of Williamsburg

A Week of Williamsburg

{Jenny-Rose Photos} - my photos plus my favorites from others
Aubry | photos | (flicker
Katherine | photos | (flickr)
Sara | photos | (flickr)
Nicole | photos | (photobucket)


Let me esplain. No it is too much, let me sum up...

I won't say the week didn't have it's challenges (which for me included a nasty migraine day, monthly cramps, an extra trip to Fredericksburg to exchange vehicles, the series of unfortunate decisions, money stress and the disappointment of sewing goal failures) but the low times are already fading away in the bright haze of the awesome times. One thing I can say about this group of ladies is that for our low-lows we balance them with very high-highs.

{photos courtesy of Sara & Niccole}

Highs include beautiful gifts given and received, a wonderful dinner at the Blue Talon, a raucous card party (complete with tispy late night dancing and lawn marathons), the All-Hands sewing marathon to finish my Française Noir (the Committee-Made-Dress!), the carriage ride and the following stroll around town with Nicole (the weather was glorious and we all looked so GOOD!), being granted access to the behind the scenes workshop at the Milliners, the conspiracy of the Rumtoptf label, our evening of great sparkle & merriment at the Tavern and a lovely drive home the back way.

I also learned some important things:

1. Katherine cheats at cards. Don't let that innocent demeanor fool you! Guard your chips and cards at all times!

2. Staying in one of the Historic Houses is pricey but worth it. It was so nice to walk out one's door and already be in the Historic Area. It was equally wonderful to be able to pop in and out throughout the day to relax or grab a bite to eat or just get off ones feet and away from the crowds. It was also great to be able to walk just about everywhere we wanted to go. Having our own sitting room was also pretty awesome. We are so spoiled now!

3. The larger the group of costumed friends around you the more you get stopped by tourists for photos. We learned to split up, go a back way or to simply not be in a hurry to get anywhere.

{photos courtesy of Aubry, Jennylafleur, Sara}

The pictures tell only part of the story of course, the parts that make me so glad we went on this crazy adventure were really the quiet ones, the moments we enjoyed quiet companionship, our lunches of PB&J sandwiches in our little house, the turns doing dishes (paper plates are for peasants!), lively conversations, little sewing sessions, the teasing and the free borrowing of feathers, bling, caps and everything else. The company of good friends that knew when to let me do my own thing and when I needed company or to be pulled out of myself by force.

{photo courtesy of Sara}

It sucks when your friends are so far-flung but it makes it even more special when you are all together! It was a crazy week, it was a wonderful week. It’s certainly a week I will never forget and one I will cherish for a very long time.


2nd Annual Fabulousity Club Française Dinner

Starting with the most important thing – the photos! I didn’t take many, partly due to not being in the mood at first and then lack of maneuverability in my frock. Damn train! Also as we are wont to do in costuming there was much standing in circles - something I never noticed until my frustrated photographer at the Epic Titanic Dinner pointed it out to me. The practise is good for conversation sucky for photo taking!. So end my feeble excuses, on to the photos:

{Jenny-Rose Photos} - my photos of the event & my favorites from others

Gloria | photos | (flicker)
Judy | photos | (LJ - locked post)
Kat | photos | (flickr)
Stephanie | photos | (flickr)
Isabella | photos | (flickr)


The Card Trick

The Scarlet Pimpernel

The American Duchess Shoe Shot

The Tale of the Impossible & the Party:

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petite pannier aka the demon pannier

The demon pannier are finished!! These have been the bane of my existence for over 2 weeks now, oy I’m so glad they are done!

I don’t really like pannier. That is to say I love them on other people and in movies but I don’t love wearing that side hoop silhouette. It just doesn’t make me feel amazing the way layers of petticoats, a 18th century bum roll or a Victorian bustle do. However, with the exception of a few late century American sacques just brought to my attention, all my research says some form of side hoop was ALWAYS worn with the robe a la Française. Annoying but true.

So after inspiring myself with a watch through of Slipper &the Rose and Dangerous Liaisons I decided to suck it up and just go with it. My previous experiments with pocket hoops were frustrating thanks to my waist to hip ratio (Kendra had the same issue, which made me feel SO much better about it!) so rather than mess with making it work I decided to make a full hoop version. 'Cause I lost my mind and thought that would be easier and faster. Riiigghhtt!


I used Simplicity 3635 (now sadly out of print) for the pannier of my Queen of the Night as the pattern is practically the same as the ones in Corsets & Crinolines. As nicely as they worked for a dramatic costume they are a little big for restaurants and crowded rooms so I decided to make a smaller pair for my Française Noir. When Megan visited a few years ago I tried on her adorable ruffled pannier and really liked the scale on me. So I measured them and tucked the notes away in case I ever needed them. I be smart!

Only problem with the Simplicity pattern is that it is a one size fits all affair. I had been hoping that it would be an easy cutting it down to the smallest size but no luck. So I debated whether I should size down the Simplicity pattern or re-size one of the scaled patterns in Period Costume for Stage & Screen or Corsets and Crinolines, - there are very few differences between the three patterns. Eventually I decided to use the Simplicity pattern with the books as reference. Looking back I think it would have all been about the same amount of work. Sizing pannier is a pain no matter what you do!


Then the endless math began as I tried to figure out then reconcile the ratios of the Simplicity pattern vs Megan’s measurements. Finally I had some reasonable numbers and started work sizing the pattern down.


The real problem with pannier is that they are like stays – you don’t know if they work until they are practically finished. So after hours of patterning, cutting, sewing (felled seams - we hates them Precious!) and stuffing in reluctant boning, I finally was able to try them on.


They were a hideous tragedy. *sigh* I suppose I was overly optimistic that I could change the pattern so much and have it right on the first go but really it was a mess that I knew will take me days to re-do and fix. To say I was discouraged is an understatement.


After a few days of pouting and feeling sorry for myself I ripped about 60% of my work out and tweaked it. The big changes were to rework the top yolk and redo the dramatic curve of the boning channels at the side seam and change the top piece of boning from one continuous piece to two separate pieces.</p>


The continuous piece was something Hunnisett did in her book and I found several examples of the method so it wasn’t a crazy idea, but it didn’t work for my boning – too stiff perhaps? It was too bad as the separate pieces required a lot more work. I learned on my QotN pannier than simply running a row of stitching at the bottom of the boning. There is too much strain there and mine ripped out. So this time I reinforced it with a piece of bias tape, which had to be finished by hand. Secure but time consuming - blah!


Good thing I'm very accomplished with a seam ripper!


The finished result if far from perfect (that top yoke is still really funky) but it’s wearable and functional – yay!


I spent another day (that I don’t have *sigh*) creating a deep pleated frill at the bottom, This was a suggestion from Jean Hunnisett, she recommended it to weight down the hoop and make it less likely to swing about wildly. It was so much work (starching, pleating, pining and sewing) but I do love pleating striped fabric and it came out looking spectacular. It also does all the practical things Hunnisett mentioned too which is awesome.


Up next was trying it on with some petticoats on top. I tried my standard ruffled under petticoat hoping I could use that (no go!) then my fullest 18th century petticoat – the Diva petticoat. That gave me a good idea of how many panels of fabric I needed for the Petite Pannier under petticoat and the Noir so that was good. I’m a bit concerned that it’s too small at the very top, maybe I went too conservative with it. But I’m going to wear it to the dinner and see how I feel. I can always adjust it before the next time I wear it if I need to.

costume bother

Française Noir - 1, the seamstress - 0

And so it begins - a crazy couple of months filled with an overly ambitious list of dream garments. If you hear hysterical screams or despairing whimpering from the wilds of Virginia between now and April you will know why...


First up the Française Noir. I posted about this a few months ago but haven't done more than dream about it since. I did find a few more images of black gowns from the period, including a spectacularly fashionable one quite close to the vague notions of what I wanted in my head. Yay!


My new hero Aubry stayed on after the Regency Card Party to help me drape the front and back of the Française.


It was my first sewing day in my new sewing room and we had such fun, despite a very late start. Draping to Mozart while drinking pink champagne and eating chocolates is totally the way to go!


Aubry left me with a beautifully fitted pile of silk taffeta and pins, which on the dressform looked rather un-impressive and intimidating. It took a week to work up the courage to work on it again (yep I'll admit it I'm scared of this dress!).

So I found an interesting podcast about the book "Queen of Fashion" to listen to and got to work.


The first thing I worked on was sewing down the robings on the front. The pins were wanting to come out most there so I figured that was a good place to start. Interestingly Aubry didn't do a full pleat all the way to the edge so I came up with a way of creasing the taffeta with my fingers so I could see where to sew. Silk taffeta is great for this sort of thing!

There was also a little tuck taken under the robing, from about the bust to the waist. This adds just a bit of fullness to the front skirt, allowing the front to fall nicely. Clever!


As I went along I found using a pressing ham underneath helped me smooth and crease the robbing since it was fitted to me and I'm not flat!

Once I got the fronts all sewn down I decided to take the lining apart. I found working with the everything attached very awkward (this would have been less of a problem if I'd been about to work in a more methodical way but we had to get as much fitting done as possible in on day). I also fully intend to alter/re-fit this as I lose weight and to do that more easily I wanted the lining and fashion fabric lined up perfectly at the seams rather than over lapping. Saving myself some work down the road!

Also I had a mistake to fix and I thought it would be much easier to deal with flat. The mistake - this ladies and gentlemen is why you do not cut fabric late at night and/or in a rush or bad things can happen. Aubry made the cut but really it was my fault. I was entirely to blame for the late start, along with the slow sewing and drafting of the lining. When I originally saw the cut (after Aubry realized what she had done) I thought, no problem! It's under the arm and having done the exact same thing before my plan was to patch it and keep the secret to myself.

However seeing it in all it's bare and undisguised glory last night, I don't see how I can do that. The cut is much deeper and more ragged than I realized, and the top part of the lining is also uncovered. A patch is totally going to show right there. Merh.

That realization made me come to a complete stop. I stared at it for a couple of hours and have slept on it. I think the only thing I can do that I'm going to be happy with is redo the whole panel. I can use it as my guide for the fitting and robing, then use the fabric for my sleeves and/or trim. It's a bit discouraging as I spent several hours sewing down the bodice front, robing and tuck with pretty stitches - I really wish I had looked more closely at the mistake before I did all that. But I've come to the conclusion that I would rather redo the small stitches than have some ugly patch or silly looking faux seam on my bodice. Sigh.

Since I'm going to redo half the bodice anyway I'm wondering if I should just cut the bodice front separate from the front skirts (rather than the all one piece with a waist dart I was going with). Both seem to be completely valid ways of constructing this type of dress. Any opinions?

moi costume

so far in 2013...

What a crazy year 2013 has turned out to be! It's been chock full of all sorts of good things, but not much costuming/sewing. I didn't even attempt to make anything new for my Card Party, thank goodness for a Costume Closet already full of pretty Regency things! That is going to change though as I have several events coming up that the Costume Closet isn't going to help me with. But before I get into those projects I'll catch you up with what I have been working on since Christmas...

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of cards & punch

{photo courtesy of Nicole}

Saturday's Card Party was all I wanted it to be - yay!

The food ended up being more work than I originally intended (this is what happens when you do things like roast a hunk of meat for your roast beef sandwiches, hand squeeze 12 cups of citrus juice for your punch and make over 100 filled pastries!) but it was worth it.

We tried some new period recipes and while they weren't all keepers it was a fun way to add adventure and period atmosphere to the evening!

I was so pleased so many people braved the snow flurries, filling the house with 21 guests! That is officially the max for my house I think. Luckily we are a friendly bunch and we were wearing small frocks.

Cards were played, food was enjoyed and there was never a pause in the conversation and laughter.

We even had Kat, who was convalescing at home, Skype in for a couple of hours - that was so fun!

{photo courtesy of Aubry}

I also learned several important things. 1) I really do have the best parents in the world. They are so generous and game to cook and prep for days with me! 2) Rumtopt is quite possibly the most fabulous drink ever. (We cracked open the crock we have been throwing fruit, sugar and rum in for months - so good!). 3) Cocktails made of punch + rumtopt + champagne is even more fabulous but it bites back. Yeah I did not take Brian's warnings to heart about the power of punch. You know that scene in Vanity Fair where Jos Sedley orders the punch at Vauxhall and laments it the next day? Well it's easy to do - beware the punch! 4) Leftover shepard’s pie is good for a punch hangover.

5) I love playing dress-up in candlelight. Seriously nothing beats it.

{Jenny-Rose Photos} - my photos of the event & my favorites from others

Gloria | photos | (flicker)

Gwendolyn | photos | (blog)

Kristen | photos | (LJ - locked post)

Maggie | photos | (flicker)

Kat | photos | (LJ - locked post)

Isabella | photos | (flickr)


I only took one stealth video but it captures the moment pretty well...

And the party from Kat's point of view on Skype...

{photo courtesy of Aubry}


Merry Christmas!

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world through Him might be saved."
John 3:16-17

A very Merry Christmas to you all!


the fluffy capelet

I have been such a slacker with the Happy-A-Long this year - bad Jenny! I have all sorts of lame excuses but to sum up I've been crazy busy and rather lazy. I've so been enjoying all the "happys" on my Friend's list though - they make me smile every day!

One of the things I have been crazy busy with is sewing. I had a serious conference with my "to-do" list and after the initial panic, comparing it's length and the time available to me before March, I have been knuckling down and getting to work on it. First up was my wool capelet but thanks to my decision to trim it in fur I'm at a standstill with it until my fur arrives. So I moved on to my second capelet - the silk one!


A few weeks ago I discovered that once again my Stash had anticipated my wants and desires - I had all the elements to make this capelet that I have been drooling over for months sitting in the house. I love it when that happens!


Originally I draped a pattern (in miniature, using my Franklin Mint Titanic doll to save fabric) so I could make an exact reproduction but eventually decided I liked the pattern I'd developed for my wool capelet better. Doing straight reproductions isn't really my thing anyway.


Cutting it out proved to be a challenge thanks to my fabric restrictions. I had 3.5yds and I used every millimeter of it trying to fit in the cape body, a self-lining layer of the body, the huge hood, a matching muff and a bit of bias tape to finish the neckline. It took a couple of hours, a seam in the center back (like the original) and lots of fiddling but I managed it in the end - whew! I so added an interlining of cotton flannel for warmth, which I'm still a bit iffy on. It definitely made the cape more practical but also stiffer. But then again the fabric itself, a silk blend I picked up in LA a few years ago, is a bit on the stiff side so maybe the flannel doesn't matter that much. Oh well, it's done now!


The capelet was about half machine sewing, half hand sewing. Basically anything that showed I did by hand. I was just in the mood!

The feather boas (my big splurge during the going-out-of-business sale) were all sewn by hand of course. They were a huge pain in the butt to deal with but the results are SO worth it. Even if my room is covered in marabou feather fluff (I thought silk velvet fuzz was bad!).


I still have the muff to make but I adore the finished results and I can't wait to wear it!







the capelet of fits & starts

Capelet, Mantelette, Small Cape. I'm not sure what the correct term actually is but whatever the proper title of this garment one thing is clear - it is kicking my butt.

I started this project a month ago and have been working on it in fits and starts ever since. Heavy emphases on the "fits". Really this should be a simple project. You know, a nice easy garment to ease my way back into costuming after what has turned out to be a long hiatus from personal costuming. A quick project to cross off my costuming list and get the ball rolling on my very ambitious costuming schedule for the coming year. But no, of course it's turned out to be anything but!

I started out by following the example of girliegirl32786 & bauhausfrau by scaling up the lace mantelette in Costume Close-Up.

I scaled it up to the original size, cut out a mock up and tried it on.

HORRIBLE! Clearly the sizing was off but more than that, the proportions were totally wrong. Plus it really wasn’t what I had in mind when I pictured my perfect capelet. It's not fair how it could look so cute on my friends and yet so awful on me! Merh.

Unfortunately for my sanity this project is one that I am not willing to be anything less than perfect. Why? The fabric. I was generously given a length of the most amazing cashmere/wool by a non-sewing friend. It's a wonderfully warm but lightweight fabric that is unbelievably soft to the touch. The color shifts from a slate-gray-green to a bottle green depending on the light. It's a fabric far above my normal budget and one I will probably never be able to replace. So I wasn’t going to waste it on anything I wasn’t 100% happy with.

So the question became do I alter/fudge the CCU pattern to both fit me and the stubborn vision in my head or should I start with another pattern and work from there. It was going to be about the same amount of work, so it came down to what did I feel like.

I pondered that for a few weeks and as I pondered I researched. My main question was did the capelet in my vision even exist in the 18th century? Largely thanks to Pinterest (and the links/museums/collections it lead me to) I found many more capes/mantelettes that I had ever seen before. I found a very interesting variety of construction and styles. It seems capes are like everything else in the 18th century - made by a variety of seamstresses, in a variety of ways, for a variety of bodys. There aren't really any rules, only the restrictions of the technology of the day, the skill of the seamstress and the mindful cost of fabrics. In the end I found all the elements from my vision, although not all in the same garment. Still it gave me the confidence to break away from the only extant pattern I had in CCU and create the capelet I really wanted.

One of the main elements I wanted was a full back. I thought proportionally it would look better on the curvy me but also I wanted the more luxurious feel of extra fabric. No skimpy capelets for me! Costume Close Up, in addition to the lace mantelette and woman's wool cape also has a 1780s men's cape. The men's cape was fuller, cut in a generous half circle. After finding some women's capes that seemed to be cut the same way in my research, I used that as my starting point.

But rather than going to the bother of scaling CCU up I cheated. I trolled through my Mom's pattern stash (pattern hoarders in the family do come in handy sometimes) and pulled out every pattern that had a cape. Then I looked at the pattern shapes and found one that matched the men's cape in CCU. I'm so lazy!

I basically laid that out on some muslin and, with the help of a couple of measurements, I lengthened it overall and drew in the elongated front. A quick try on and it was pretty much perfect.

I tweaked the shape of the elongated front a bit, futzed with the pleating of the neck, trimmed the angle of the front (so the edges met nicely) and worked on the shape of the hem (my shoulders hiked up the hem in an odd looking way so to even it out I had to trim the back, cutting off the perfect circle in the back) but one toile later I was done. With my heart skipping a beat or two, I cut my amazing fabric. That was too easy!

My next challenge has been the hood. I have found a few 18th century capelets without hoods but the vast majority seem to have them so even though I will probably never use it (hoods destroy carefully styled coiffures in my experience), I need a hood.

I've always loved radiating pleats on the hood on my red cape so I started with that. In making my red cape I used the hood as-is from CCU, making no changes whatsoever. The one thing I was never happy with was the awkward way it hung in the back. So I started tweaking and toiling, trying to get a hood that looked good up and down.

So far it's been nothing but frustrating as I can't seem to get it right no matter how many tweaks I make. I've lost track of how many toiles I've done, having given up on documenting every change. So now I'm trying to decide how anal retentive I'm going to be with this. Should I keep tweaking or is it time to say "good enough". Or should I just forget the whole thing and make it without a hood. I'm pondering.

Also in the pondering pile are the questions of lining (I've pretty much decided on a black silk taffeta lining, although my budget may dictate China silk instead) and trimming (black silk ribbon or vintage fur - again more of a budget question than anything).

thinking... thinking...