Monday, July 29, 2019

An 18th century day at Suomenlinna, 2017

When it comes to historical events and travelling, the past three years have been busier for me than any of my previous years in the hobby before. It has been absolutely wonderful but it also meant that when I've been at home, I have been frantically preparing for a trip on my time off, which lead to the complete neglect of this blog. With the limited free time and energy available, I've chosen sewing over updating the blog. Also, in the past three years I've found, like so many of you, that Instagram has been a more convenient place for me to share my work and photos of events. However, I never wanted to give up on this blog either because I feel like having a more permanent place for my photos and I still want to write posts about my costumes every once in a while.

This post is about an event back in July 2017. I didn't plan to go to it because I found out about it just a couple of weeks before it took place. However, it was too fun an event to pass up, so I made a bit of an impromptu trip to Helsinki for a weekend.

The neat thing about this day was that we got to travel to Suomenlinna islands in proper 18th century style on an 18th century reproduction cannon sloop Diana

It may have been July but the weather made it seem more like September.

The whole passenger group captured upon arrival to Suomenlinna. 

Once we got to Suomenlinna, we set up a picnic and played some pall-mall, as per usual. 

We also visited the commandant's house aka the Ehrensvärd museum, named after the founder of Suomenlinna sea fortress, Augustin Ehrensvärd, whose official residence the house was. The house was built in the 1750s and the interiors of the museum are furnished in 18th century style.

I had quickly sewn two new garments for the trip the week before; a red petticoat and a 1780s apron with ruffles.

However, Ehrensvärd actually didn't live in the house as he lived in a cottage (that no longer exists on the islands).

Augustin Ehrensvärd (1710-1772), c. 1770, presumably after J. H. Scheffel.

Ehrensvärd was the first to have a tiled oven in Helsinki. Sadly the first oven from mid 1750s was destroyed in a bombing during the Crimean war in 1855 so the ones that are in the museum today are not original to the building.

Augustin Ehrensvärd was not only a military officer and architect but also an artist. There are several of Ehrensvärd's ink drawings on display at the museum.

We also got to see a minuet dance performance and enjoy some harp music while we were in the museum.  

This was the first time Mia invited her sister to join us to an event. Aren't they adorable? :)

Portrait of Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt (1757-1814).

Afterwards we had lunch at the Café Piper. The weather had suddenly turned all summery so we played cards in the garden before heading home.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Pinstripe robe à l'Anglaise retroussée

This dress is one that I started making back in 2015 but that I didn't finish until Christmas ball in November 2016.  I also wore it to the Christmas ball the following year again, when the first set of these pictures were taken.

Previously I've made patterns in mainly two ways; either drafting my own patterns according to my measurements and trying to get the seam lines right by looking at extant gowns, or by enlarging scale patterns from books, altering them according to my measurements until they fit. I haven't really had as good results with either of these techniques as I'd like to have so it was about time I tried out something else. So I borrowed Creating Historical Clothes: Pattern Cutting from Tudor to Victorian Times from Mia because this book includes step by step instructions for creating patterns for several periods. First you start by taking your own measurements and, comparing them to measurement charts, draft a basic bodice pattern. I chose to turn my basic bodice pattern into a 1770s style bodice from the book, except so that it doesn't extend below the waist (see photo), and used it as a base for the pattern for my first robe en chemiseSince the pattern was made to my measurements, it required very little alterations to make it fit, except that I had to take it in quite considerably in at the back. Later on, I completed the pattern into a 1770s bodice according to the instructions in the book.

Bodice pattern before extending it below waist and alterations.

But I wan't happy with the pattern as it was because I thought it didn't look quite right. (I wish I had took a picture at this point so you could compare it with my final pattern.) However, the pattern reminded me of the 1770-85 gown pattern on page 39 of Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 1 so I decided to try to alter my pattern to make it correspond with it. To me it seems the pattern in Creating Historical Clothes might be vaguely based on it, too. I won't go into detail describing all of the things I did because a. it's not that interesting and b. I can't actually even remember all of them anymore. But I ended up altering it quite a lot. In the end, I was slightly frustrated because I had spent so much time on the pattern and yet I wasn't completely happy about how the bodice looked. But eventually I thought it made no sense to keep fiddling with the pattern and decided it was good enough.

The bodice after a great deal of adjustments.

I also experimented with a bodice construction method that I hadn't tried earlier (though I wish I had!): "the weird running whip stitch thingy" that is now known as the English stitch, thanks to the ladies of American Duchess. I must say using this technique made matching the stripes easy. Not to mention how neat and tidy it makes the inside of your bodice, too (as can be seen below).

Here's a close-up of the finished seam, before removing the basting stitches:

The finished bodice seen from the outside:

And the inside:

At this point I drafted the pattern for the sleeves with the instructions in Creating Historical Clothes and had some fit issues with them as well. The finished sleeves (after alterations) look alright but I can barely lift my arms in them so I might add a little triangle to the underarm to allow for more mobility.

After that, it was time to decide on the trim. I wanted to trim the gown in some way, even though the most of extant robes à l'Anglaise aren't trimmed at all or only have a little bit of trim. But I didn't want to use the same trim style as the one in Patterns of Fashion, as it's the style that most people use and I thought it would be fun to do something a little different. So I spent some time researching options (which are collected on my Pinterest) but, as you can tell, I ended up using the same old trim style as everybody else, as I concluded that I liked it the best after all. *facepalm*

When it came to the sleeve trim, I really liked the wide trim seen on this beautiful costume from the Duchess. But I wanted to find validation for the trim style in historical sources. Alas, I was in no luck - which honestly didn't surprise me - so I gave up the idea. It's a trim style that appears to have mainly been used on robes à la Polonaise.

As usual, Mia did my hair for the evening and I did hers. We arranged a little public toilette before the event officially begun.

Mia working on my hairdo after I had finished hers.

When it comes to late 1770s, there's no such thing as too much hair decoration, right? ;)

And there's even a short video clip from the ball (unfortunately the quality is bad because this was taken on Mia's phone :/).

I also wore this dress to a small informal ball in January earlier this year and Mia kindly snapped these detail pictures of my gown and hairdo after the ball.

So here's a dirty little secret: I didn't intend to put trim down the center front (it's not something you see on historical examples and it even hides my careful stripe matching) but the hook and eye closure of the bodice stretched the lining a bit so there's a narrow but ugly gap at the front. Hence this was the last time I used hooks and eyes as a closure on my 18th century gowns. While hooks and eyes make a dress easy and quick to put on, I prefer to be able to adjust the bodice with a center front pieces that are lapped and pinned.

Despite of the difficulties I had making this dress, I do like the gown anyhow. :)

Links related to this project: 

Has anyone of you tried to draft a pattern with the instructions in Creating Historical Clothes? I'd love to hear your thoughts about it if you have! Personally, I'm not going to use it again (unless someone can point out a good pattern from it). Mia has also tried to make a pair of stays with this book and didn't have good results either. In conclusion: If you're thinking about buying this book, I wouldn't recommend getting it.