But then one day, I found some black and white striped cotton at Wal Mart (after the lead from my costuming friend, Jenni), and decided that now was the time to embark on this project. Soon after I was able to purchase a large box of basket-weaving reeds--including some half-round and flat reeds that were the perfect width for boning 18th century stays. At this point, I firmly felt that my next big project for myself should be 18th century--after all, I already had the gown fabric!! Plus, as luck would have it, several of my online costuming friends were also at varying stages of completion or planning in their 18th century gown project. So I decided to jump on the bandwagon and join in the fun! Because the fabric was a striking black and white combination, immediately the film Sleepy Hollow sprang to mind. Though I've never seen this movie, I had seen plenty of posters with the black and white gown Christina Ricci wears. The plan for my gown is rather different, but still, the jumping-off point and overall 'feel' for mine has distinct beginnings in this film gown. I pinpointed the decade I wanted this gown to be drawn from, and loved the latter half of the 1780s. I have done some research into portraits and illustrations from the mid-to-late 1780s, and have several points of inspiration from there as well.
The design I've come up with uses the 1" wide striped cotton; which may seem a little too wide, but I've got two things going for me with using the wider stripes. Firstly, according to my pictorial and written research, stripes of all widths and colors were popular at that period of time. Secondly, the wider stripes will be in proportion to my size, especially since they are high contrast colors.The cotton will be used for the bodice, sleeves and skirt. The petticoat will be a black cotton sateen (I haven't decided yet whether to leave it plain or do some manner of flounce or decoration along the hem). The bodice and skirt will be trimmed with a 1" wide black ribbon (forming a false 'zone' along the bottom of the former), as well as have a wider ribbon about the waist, forming a sash. The neckline will be filled with a filmy fichu and the cuffs will have a ruffle of the same material. To add a little color, I've decided to add a small cluster of delicate paper flowers at the neckline. They're a rosy pink, and are perfect for this gown (in fact, I bought them at an 18th century fair years ago!). My 'final' design (I'm a woman--I get to change my mind if I want!!):
The end-resulting gown will be worn for a costume party, but I still hope to achieve historical accuracy, as well as a hint of 'fun'. I'm hoping to play up the gothic (in the old sense of the word) aspect of the black and white combination, and will powder my skin to whiten it, do my hair in a 1780s style and powder it, use some dramatic eye makeup (probably black/greys) and wear blood red lipstick. In other words, it's going to look very theatrical, but impressive by candlelight. I would also like to eventually make a straw hat, similar to one show above. But this will most likely be completed after the party.
But, there is a catch! (Isn't there always??) This project is going to be any ongoing effort over the next year. I have three other 'must do' projects between now and next fall, so this one is definately a 'do when I have time' type endevor. But I hope that by this time next year if I'm not done, I'll at least be almost there!
So here's the list of garments I need to make in order to have this gown jump off the page and become reality (in order of wearing):
The pattern I chose to use for my stays is the 1776 pattern from Norah Waugh's Corset and Crinolines. The material I've chosen is a brownish red linen/cotton with a faint jaquard pattern that I bought several years ago. It's not the prettiest goods (and rather different from my original desire for bright red stays!), but I have it, it's sturdy and will look at least presentable once the off-white stitching and binding is added. I'm also going to interline the stays with one layer of cotton canvas (also in my stash ;). The boning material is a new one that I'm very unfamiliar with, but hope to get good results from. I bought a large box containing varying sizes and cuts of basket-weaving reeds. In the box was a complete roll of 1/4" half-round reed, which I'll be using for the majority of the boning. For the center front, I have some very sturdy 1/2" wide flat reed that I'm thinking of doubling up for the 'busk'. If that doesn't work, I'll use my old busk standby: a wooden yardstick cut to size.
I spent the week thinking about my boning dilemma and what to do about it. I e-mailed Mara Riley about my problem to ask if she had any advice. She said that as I had used the cable ties so sucessfully in my Elizabethan corset, I should use those in my 18th c. stays. But, I didn't need to fully bone them. So, I've still have to get some extra cable ties, and plot a new boning plan. Because I'm only partially boning them, I'll probably add an extra layer of the cotton canvas to interline the stays with (so the stays will be like this: outlayer of linen/two interlining layers of canvas/lining layer of linen). I'm probably going to put this project aside for a week and really work on the Buttercup dress (that one has a fast-approaching deadline! Yikes!!). Hopefully by next weekend I'll have a new boning plan cooked up and the extra cables ties and be ready to assemble and bone this thing!!
I spent the majority of my morning and early afternoon measureing and cutting strips of half-round reed to bone the 18th century stays with. It took me around 4 hours (give or take 1/2 hour) to bone and assemble the stays, which is pretty good time, I think, considering they're fully boned.) I tried them on and here is how they looked...
(I'm wearing my mid 19th century chemise--haven't made the 18th century shift yet!)
The only things that need adjustment is that the front needs to be trimmed down about 1" as does the area under the arm (just a little too snug there). Otherwise, I love how the stays shape me--very period--and I stand up straight (I have bad posture in modern life)! The reeds seem to stand up very nicely, and are actually lighter weight than my partially boned Elizabethan corset. So, at this point, I have a lot of hand work. I think for the binding, I am going to see if I have enough white linen left over from lining my Italian gown and maybe use some watered down brown dye to give it a more natural or off-white color. These could be done much sooner than I aniticipated! So, what is left to do:
- trim down the front and underarm
All Content Copyright © 2003-2004 Miss C.
Modified October 28, 2004
° Dull red linen
° Green cotton canvas
° Plastic cable ties
° Cream thread
° Cream or natural twill tape
° La Couturiére Parisienne
° Mara Riley's Costume Page
° Robe a l'Anglaise Diary
Books to Read
Costume Close-Up by Linda Baumgarten
Costume in Detail by Nancy Bradfield
Corsets and Crinolines by Norah Waugh
Patterns of Fashion by Janet Arnold