Sunday, January 29, 2012

Back view of the 1820s Archery gown - Jane Austen Festival Australia 2012

I am so excited, I sent an email to Manchester Art Gallery asking if there were any images of the back of the Archery gown and bingo! there are. See below for the images

Dear Lorna
You are in luck - this is a well photographed garment!

Please see attached back view and details of the archery dress. Sincerely

Dr Miles Lambert
Senior Manager: Gallery of Costume
Platt Hall, Rusholme, Manchester M14 5LL
(Manchester City Galleries)
tel - 0161 245 7245

Back view of Archery gown, full length.

Close-up of left back bodice.
Full back bodice back view
Close-up of van dyke sleeve

Now on to drafting the pattern!

Friday, January 27, 2012

1820s archery gown for Jane Austen Festival Australia 2012

A Royal British Bowmen event in 1822. Both men and women appear in
the picture in the uniform of the society.
The 2012 Jane Austen Festival Australia will be holding archery workshops.

A challenge for costumers is to create an archery outfit styled on the ones worn by the Royal British Bowman in the Regency period.

The picture to the left shows what was worn in 1822 during an archery competition by the Royal British Bowmen and women.

I am taking up the challenge and will make the women's archery gown. Now, I have searched the interwebs for images of these gowns and the only one that ever turns up is this one. If you could point me to others, I would be so pleased!

British Royal Bowman uniform 1820-25, Manchester City Art Gallery

The art gallery only provides an image of the gown from the front and they provide this discription of the gown.

Lincoln green plain weave mohair and worsted mixture, trimmed with salmon pink mohair / worsted mix and black velvet.

Bodice front in two bias-cut sections below wide v-neck with centre front seam, each section gathered to shoulder seam, with vertical bust dart from high waist seam; bodice back in two bias-cut sections below side v-neck, gathered to shoulder seam and upper centre back opening, fastening centre back with two hooks and metal eyes on bodice and two at waist, diagonal dart each side from back shoulder to left and right back waist; skirt in four sections, gathered to back waist, with centre back opening measuring 19.5 cm; vertical pocket slit, edged with band of self-fabric, in left back skirt; long sleeves, each in two sections, with small puffed upper sleeve gathered to shoulder; upper sleeve lined with white cotton, lower edge of lower sleeve lined brown plain weave silk.

Band of pink fabric and black velvet edging neckline, centre front bodice seam, centre back opening and in double horizontal bands on shoulders; deep band of pink triangles edged with black velvet along skirt hem; upper sleeves trimmed with puffs of pink fabric, gathered to armhole and extending into eight points, edged in black velvet; lower sleeves trimmed with four pink horizontal bands around gathers at lower edge.

Other women in the blogger sphere have made this gown, Anie of Costuming My Bliss has done a fabulous job of replicating the gown, here's another good pic from her photobucket account. Also Jennifer of Historically Dressed has made it, but she doesn't show a view of her completed gown.

I have also found a local Australian blogger who is making the gown for JAFA as well, Antoinette_25 I hope to contact her and share thoughts and notes. Two heads and all that!

What I don't have any views of are the back of the gown, for instance, does the gown use the earlier Regency gown back and is the skirt gathered into it? Or, is it more like the Romantic period gowns, a-line front and back? I intend to email the Manchester Art Gallery and see if I can get any answers, one can but try! [ed: and they replied, see post two for the back views of the Archery gown]

In the intrim I intend to make up this pattern from Tidens Toj as the shape of the skirt and sleeves are very similar. Once I've got a base pattern, I can then drape the bodice to the proper shape.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Jane Austen Festival Australia 2012

Jane Austen Festival Australia 2012 Are you going? I am, it is a fabulous way to live in the time of Austen.

  • Dance at the ball
  • Attend a cotillion
  • See the play
  • Attend fascinating workshops
  • Meet other costumers 
  • Meet Jane Austen buffs
  • Dress in the time of Austen
  • Meet others who love living history
From Friday the 13-15 April the Jane Austen Festival runs from 9am-late.
During the day participants can choose from a range of workshops and activities and enjoy the fun and excitement of the regency/napoleonic world.
In the evening participants are invited to theatrical and musical events as well as everybody's favourite, The Jane Austen Festival Ball.
Bookings are essential and can be made online.
Jane Austen Festival website

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Putting the a la polonaise together

As mentioned in my first 18th century a la polonaise post I am using Jennie's Portrait Gown pattern from Sense and Sensibility. Her patterns work well with my body and this one is no exception. This was my 12 days of Christmas project during my summer holidays 2011/12.

The young women in the Portrait Gown image on the left is far less busty than me, yet the same pattern fits my curvaceous body very well indeed and I like that in a pattern.

My fabric for this gown is a lovely blue and white toile pattern, very reminiscent of the 18th century, though not hand blocked of course.

Its a quilting cotton (muslin), bought on sale for the unbelievable price of $A2 per metre! I snapped up the whole roll which was 10 metres and lucky I did because I needed every last metre of it due to the need for fussy cutting as I wanted to ensure that the bodice front and back patterns matched and showed off the pretty cupids, lady on a swing, etc.

It was a hard task to match the fabric pattern as it wasn't printed as a mirror image, and as the picture to the right shows, lots of fabric was 'wasted'.

So what's 'fussy cutting' I hear you ask? Well its aligning your pattern and seam allowances to ensure the fabric design is positioned in the way you want it on your pattern piece. For instance I wanted the swinging girl right in the centre of my bodice, in the centre of my sleeve and the cherubs placed on the back panels. Here they are before being stitched up.

Front bodice
Back bodice
... and here they are stitched together ... I interlined the cotton with a white cotton sheet that I had in my stash. It's worked very well, giving better body to the very light fashion fabric.

See how the toile pattern is set central to the bodice
Back, not the best view, but you can see my intentions I think

Putting the bodice together was a delight, the sleeves went in without a hitch

Setting in sleeve
Attaching the lining
Sleeve at back when sewn in

Front of sleeve

Then I added the skirt onto the bodice and that went on smoothly as well. The pleating is a bit difficult around the back bodice 'v', it takes a bit of fiddling to get it right, well to my satisfaction at least!

Bodice 'v' attached to polonaise skirt, you can also see my boning channels
Same shot but from the right side, pleats are OK, could be better

The only issues I have had with this project is my own silly lack of attention mistakes and they were minimal. Its been a great summer holiday project between Christmas and 12th Night (5th January).

Over the last weeks I have made my petticoats, one in white and one in the fashion fabric and I used Kosha the Cat's online tutorial, though Jennie gives you an excellent how to in her pattern notes.

Metres of fabric for the fashion petticoat, lucky I bought 10 metres!
The project's not complete, I still have to add trims to the bodice neckline, boning to the bodice, lace to the sleeves, hooks and eyes for bodice closure, buttons and polonaise ribbon and make a smaller bum pad. My 'tuder-bethan' one is way too big and ruins the line of the gown. Oh and a new chemise, I have lost my beautiful silk/cotton one, most annoying!

As you can see in the piccies below, I tried the bodice pining method, but my curves just pop them right out, opps, perhaps too much Christmas cake, pudding, custard and chocolate me thinks over the 12 days of Christmas!

My hair is a very quick attempt at Georgian 'big hair' for the piccy, not really successful. Also, sorry for the blurred images, I'll put up better ones in my next post.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Titanic ball gown for The Unsinkables FaceBook project

1912 toilette de bal Mode de la Illustree no. 49, 1912
This is my Titanic ball gown for The Unsinkables FaceBook project to 'celebrate' the 100 anniversary of the sinking of the ship. It is from the French magazine Mode de la Illustree, no. 49, 1912. It is a design from December 1912, therefore later than the sinking of The Titanic which was April 15th, but I have it in my pattern stash, so its available.

The 'toilette de bal' as Mode Ilustree refers to it, is described thus:

The young woman who is called to the fashionable life will have a choice with this evening dress, between a ball gown and a business-like gown. As the former, its very becoming to a charming lady when furnished with a silk lace veil and skungs,(?) it can then be used later as a dress for dinner or meetings;
This gown can be made in brocade with a lace underskirt; the blouse, with a low decollete, is furnished with plain satin and old point lace.

The coat which accompanies these gowns is very practical because it will serve at the same time as a coat for visits and evening coat, make it out of patterned velvet with satin trimming and bubble(?) ganses(?)

 I don't speak French with any ease, let alone read archaic French, so I used BabbleFish as my translator and the old fashion language and sewing words threw it somewhat, but you get the gist I am sure!

I will blog the gown progress as I go, so far my 'apprentice'* has drafted out the pattern. These patterns are like Burda magazine patterns sheets, various garments overlaid on each other, with lots of lines cris crossing each and its an 'interesting' task to locate your pattern's lines, follow them and trace them off.

So over these summer holidays she has traced off the pattern, cut it out as a test toile and today she put the pieces together, with help from me, but nearly all her own initiative, remember there is no pattern instructions, she's done well!

Gown front

close-up of gown back

Gown back, love the train

Proud of her accomplishment and rightly so!
*I have a school student who works on particular projects with me during the holidays and throughout the school year. She is studying Textile Design in the HSC, I jokingly call her my 'apprentice'. Her course doesn't teach drafting (can you believe that, they work from commercial patterns!) and working with me she gets to learns about drafting, different fashion periods and I get the pleasure of her insights and learn as well. We have fun. Oh and I keep abreast of 'young people's music' LMAO!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

2011 project review

I really wish I had kept my dress journal because it would have really helped me with this post! I bought the journal, very pretty as you can see, but apart from putting in my current measurements at the beginning of the year, the rest of the pages are empty. My sewing life certainly wasn't empty nor the building up of My Tailor's Apprentice business, but memory is a fickle thing, so I shall try and reflect on the things I remember accomplishing in 2011.

Dressmaking and quilting classes commenced for the new year on Saturdays and Sundays in my studio and on throughout the year. I love teaching vintage and historic sewing techniques and we have great fun during our classes as well.

A very exciting month as the inaugural Roaring Twenties and all that Jazz festival was held in the Blue Mountains for the first time and I put on an Afternoon Tea Dance and 20s fashion display from my Miss Page collection. I was even written up in the Sydney Daily Telegraph prior to the event Hearts broken after war, which meant that my Afternoon Tea Dance was totally booked out and I was able to meet clients of Violet and members of her family of as well. 

I am running the event again this year on Sunday 26th February from 2 - 5 pm at the revamped Paragon Cafe Katoomba which is beautifully art deco, a 1920s period piece, a perfect venue for an Afternoon Tea Dance, with wonderful crooning singers, scrumptious food, dancing and dress-up, of course! Go and book now before all the tickets disappear.

Jazz Age Afternoon Tea Dance 2 - 5 pm at the historic Paragon Cafe in Katoomba.  Dress up for the Jazz Age and join us for an afternoon of 12920s rhythms, song, music, fashion, fun, frolic and a deliciously wicked afternoon tea.  Blue Mountains business woman Lorna McKenzie will again display the Miss Page collection of original vintage outfits from the 1920s to 70s made by Katoomba dress-maker Violet Florence Page. Last year's tea dance was a huge success and fully booked, so make sure you reserve your place early and don't miss out.
Bookings essential phone The Paragon Cafe 02 4782 2928 Cost $50 pp 65 Katoomba Street, Katoomba NSW 2780
My Monday after school sewing classes commenced and my students learnt how to sew by making a skirt and blouse from a pattern of their choosing. I loved these classes, the children loved them as well, much laughing ang lots of successful sewing.

Is the month for the Jane Austen Festival Australia and so I was frantically finalising gowns and mens wear for my partner, who likes to cross dress at historic reenactments. Sadly we only got to spend one evening at the festival as our dog minder LOST our dog and we had to head home to find him. Astro was found, but only after a frustratingly sad four days of letter boxing and searching the local neighbouhood. We are attending the Festival again this year, so we will get the chance to wear these outfits again.

Sam and J-L at the first night of JAFA 2011
My friend at Jasper Hat Designs made me the most beautiful bonnet to wear, she hand stitched the whole thing and as you can see it is a darling bonnet.

Then it was Ironfest in Lithgow and out gallant 95th 'Grasshopper' Regiment put on a great Napoleonic show for the public. Lithgow is freezing so I made myself a Redingcote and Jennie of Sense and Sensibility patterns liked it so much that she links to it from her Tips and Tricks section, which makes me feel quite chuffed :)

I had a wedding ceremony that required an 1880s bustle skirt so I ran one up to wear as the Marriage Celebrant.

Saw my decision to create my own pattern range, starting in the 1940s as this is my favorite clothing era in the 20th century. I selected Australian WWII styles that I loved and started drafting and creating toiles for the 21st century woman. I then found a fabulous flat pattern maker who is working with me to turn them into commercial dress making patterns, and we have formed a great bond. We are teaching each other much, me from the home sewing requirements and him from the fashion industry requirements, which are so totally different!

I knew nothing about commercial pattern making for the home sewer beyond having sewn for many years myself and pattern drafting for myself. Sandro has been brilliantly helpful, as has this fabulous book that I can't recommend highly enough, Kathleen Fasanella's The Entrepreneur's Guide To Sewn Product Manufacturing. Kathleen's bog, Fashion-Incubator, is well worth following if you want to understand the ins and outs of the rag trade. Also, Jennie from Sense and Sensibility patterns has been so helpful and kind in all the 'how-tos' of creating patterns in the 21st century.

Also, my 1940s photo model, Lillian Star, is both a friend and a fellow costume maker who has been incredibly encouraging as my doubts arose throughout the year. My collection will launch mid 2012, so watch this space!

Is Winter Magic, our winter solstice festival in the Blue Mountains. I organised the second Queer Beanie event with my other 'hat' Offbeat Ceremonies ~ Giving you the Alternative, as you can see in the following video we had wonderful entries and we will hold it again in 2012.

Winterfest Medieval Fair in Parramatta put on by the Society for Creative Anachronists to encourage membership and enjoy wearing garb when its cool. Mind you the day was pretty warm! We had a glorious day in our 12th century finery.

The Napoleonic group that I belong to participated in the inaugural Australian Sharpe's March to raise funds for orphan children in the 3rd world. We walked 70kms over three days in full Regency garb and raise nearly $A1000.

I also started to work on my costume for the Australian Costumers Guild ball in August. This is held in Adelaide, half the country away from me, so a big undertaking. I decided to create the Madame Vionnet gown from Janet Arnold's Pattern of Fashion.

The Australian Costumers Guild ball in Adelaide and here's the result of my attempt at the Madame Vionnet gown. I was pleased how it turned out, even more pleased that the pattern actually fitted me with very few adjustments. The gown was totally hand sewn and I enjoyed that challenge as well, I'm not one to not use a sewing machine for the unseen seams! I wore it in the Parade competition, I didn't win, but the competition was extremely good!

In October saw the first Blue Mountains Festival of Walking and I ran two history walks. I also showed participants how to create an 1880 to Edwardian look from their wardrobes. We walked the mountain paths that the Victorian/Edwardian ladies had, in the clothes they wore and had a picnic and a high tea and enjoyed ourselves very much. I made an outrageous bloomers outfit for walking and riding my bicycle as I am a modern woman.

Classes still progress, students successfully completing their projects, wonderful gowns from the Edwardian, Regency, Steampunk and Tudor periods. I also had a costume photoshoot with Deep Hill Media Fine Art at the old Lithgow blast furnace.

Our final costuming event for the year was the SCA's Yule Feast and I worked on an Italian renaissance outfit for J-L, my first attempt at men's Renaissance garb and it worked very well. I used How to Make a Farsetto blog post and it is brilliant, I highly recommend it. Sadly I have no decent pictures, I need to take some more and properly blog the process.

So a huge year really and that's only the bits I remember, I know I made a couple of 1920s outfits, worked hard on creating gowns and patterns for my Tailor's Apprentice range, heaps of dress-up parties and so many other things that have disappeared from my mind.

2012 is looking to be huge, we are traveling to England for the Jane Austen Festival in bath and The Asylum (steampunk) in September. I'm heading to Vietnam to source silks and an ethical dress making workshop. I will launch my website with online classes, patterns and much more. I hope you enjoy coming on the journey with me.

Astro the escape dog

Bendigo for the 200 Years of Wedding gowns

Halloween Regency vampires