Historic Costume, I think I can

Although I worked at sewing and patternmaking as a college student,  it would be a stretch to consider myself a pro just yet. The majority of my schooling was directed towards the industrial facet of fashion. Learning business and merchandising. They wanted us to get paying jobs after all. With mass produced, cheap clothing being the standard for the majority of Americans, becoming a custom tailor was a bad idea.

I went into retail management after college in order to pay back my student loans and purchase a home but continued to research traditional textiles and collect the tools.

My spinning wheel collection, Kromki Sonata and Symphony, Jensen Tina II, and Ashford Traveller (not pictured)

My spinning wheel collection, Kromki Sonata and Symphony, Jensen Tina II, and Ashford Traveller (not pictured)

While practicing double weave technique I was inspired to weave in the word "Freedom" as I was determined to free myself from debt at that time.

While practicing double weave technique I was inspired to weave in the word “Freedom” as I was determined to free myself from debt at that time.

My sewing tools were packed away as I got more into spinning and knitting. With this new reenacting outlet I was compelled to try sewing again.

Suddenly I had a deadline to work toward. I was invited to an 18th century reenactor Christmas party the first week in December. I had one week to create a handmade costume. Although my friend would lend me her clothes again, I was determined to make my own clothes for the event. To me it would be a symbol of my commitment to portraying my ancestors as a reenactor.

I purchased Beth Gilgun’s Tidings from the 18th Century for patterns and read the chapters on how to make working woman’s clothing on Monday. I dug out wool fabric that I had purchased at back in college during a department fundraiser and some unbleached muslin. I would make a petticoat (skirt) from the gray twill wool, another petticoat from the muslin, an apron from tea dyed muslin, and a bed jacket from the 1989 cranberry wool I had.

I drafted a simple bed jacket pattern

I drafted a simple bed jacket pattern

On Tuesday I drafted the pattern for the bed jacket and cut out the pieces. The entire outfit would be a series a rectangles to cut out.  I also trimmed the lengths of fabric for the petticoats and pressed the seam allowances for the drawstring casings and hems.

Wednesday I started sewing soon realizing the time investment it took to hand stitch clothing. Even though my stitching was rather crude compared to the craftsmanship of the past, I was still going to need a miracle to finish in time for Saturday.

Although my stitches were crude at best it was still a time consuming process

Although my stitches were crude at best it was still a time consuming process

My costume:

  • Stockings-mass produced cotton knee socks (until I can finish up a handspun pair)
  • Chemise (gown)-Sleeved shift worn as an under garment. My friend helped me make one out of natural colored muslin I had
  • Stays (corset)- none. This one will require a little more studying to create.
  • Bed Jacket-Simple jacket that I would wear over my chemise.
  • Petticoats-I was hoping to have two completed. One of muslin and one of wool.
  • Apron- fabric tied around the waste to protect my petticoat.
  • Fichu- Shawl to cover the chest. I will use an old one for now. Working on a new wool one in a natural grey color.
  • Hair covering-the (hair) do-rag, still a staple item for the working woman ( I am wearing one as I type this post). I decided to wear my hair pinned up for the special occasion.

I kept at it in between a dinner party, surprise house guests, landlord/tenant court, and a brunch fundraiser. By the time the clock ran out I had my chemise, the bed jacket, the wool petticoat and apron complete.

My first 18th century costume. Wool petticoat and bed jacket  with muslin apron and chemise.

My first 18th century costume. Wool petticoat and bed jacket with muslin apron and chemise.

Back of my first 18th century outfit

Back of my first 18th century outfit

Off I went to one of the best Christmas party I have ever attended. Everyone was all dressed up in period clothing. The location was a charming log cabin with a high vaulted ceiling and loft decorated with period furnishings. A tall freshly cut Christmas tree  set across from a wood burning stove. We ate our made-from-scratch meal by candlelight from pewter dishes.

Aside from the great company. I thoroughly enjoyed the handmade gift exchange. I brought inkle weavings that I made from handspun to share. I received an awesome gift. A handmade box with a sliding cover filled will period sewing treasures.

Inkle band woven from handspun

Inkle band woven from handspun

Inside the box was a piece of leather,  wool felt, snips, shawl pins, mini lantern, a pewter spoon, and a cow horn spoon.

I received a hand crafted box filled with 18th century treasures from the gift exchange

I received a hand crafted box filled with 18th century treasures from the gift exchange

Just when I thought it could not get any better. It did. A new friend I met is planning to relocate and was looking to pass on some of her stash. She gave me a like-new pair of stays!!  and sewing patterns.

stays

My like-new stays received at the Christmas party shown over my chemise

 I plan to make another, hopefully nicer outfit from the new patterns I received at the Christmas party.

I plan to make another, hopefully nicer outfit from the new patterns  received at the Christmas party.

I have just about finished spinning natural colored rambouillet yarn for a new fichu.

I have just about finished spinning natural colored rambouillet yarn for a new fichu.

My new goal is to create an even nicer outfit. I will do a jacket from one of the patterns. I hope to have two new fichus completed also. One from my handspun flax and another from natural grey wool.

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