Tuesday, September 29, 2009

History Festival, Here I Come!

We are two days away from our big event, the Providential History Festival. I have been working for months studying the American Revolution and sewing with yards and yards of material; around 16 yards, to be exact. My costume is finished except for those few last minute touches. I'd like to list for you what all I will be wearing this coming Saturday, my introduction to historical reenacting(and I'll post a picture as soon as I'm able):

  • A chemise, a simple garment like a big shirt that(in this case, because I made the opening too big) gathers at the neck.
  • Two white cotton petticoats that tie at the sides.
  • My stays: three layers of thick material, half-boned using heavy duty zip ties. One thing I wish I had done differently was making these stays with straps. Strapless would have been better, because the straps tend to inch towards my neckline and show. My stays lace up the back, which I don't mind because I am getting pretty good at lacing and unlacing myself.
  • Next comes my colored petticoat, fuller than the others. I was confused about whether or not all my petticoats ought to go under the stays or not, but since my stays might show otherwise I put it on top.
  • Then my gown, made with the J.P. Ryan English Nightgown pattern using four yards of material. It's a floral pattern which I'm afraid isn't very accurate for the time period, but it was on sale and I gave in. I also splurged and bought an authentic Williamsburg striped print for my next project, even though I said I would never sew with stripes again. I am having some trouble getting the front flap over the hooks and eyes to lie flat, so I might have to pin it. The hook and eye tape was 75% off, and it still cost around 6$. Apparently the Hancock's here isn't going to carry it anymore, so I don't know what to use on my next project. Probably have to order it over the Internet.
Everything is made with 100% cotton. I would have loved to use linen, but it's the off season and way too expensive. I didn't do any of the sewing by hand, but I am hoping to learn how to sew by hand in the future. I didn't have time to make ruffles or a cap before the event, but I plan on having them done by the next one. My family has really teased me about my passion to be as authentic as possible, especially since there's no chance to do real 18th Century historical reenacting here in the midwest(obviously, since we don't live anywhere near the first thirteen states). I do hope to someday travel to the east coast and visit all the historical museums and parks on my ever growing list, and maybe then I'll get to wear my dress in a correct setting.

As far as a hairstyles, how about one of these?

I'm just kidding- I'm going to put it up in a bun is all. We leave in two days- I'm excited and really hoping it will be fun and not as stressful as it could be with all the little details and responsibilities I have to remember. Whew! History Festival, here I come!


Natty said...

I am really looking forward to seeing your dress and your display! See ya soon :)

Colleen said...

I have a few suggestions for you. Make your ties for your petticoats long enough to tie the strings from the back half in front of your waist, and the strings from the front have in the back. Tie them on so that each knot is in a slightly different spot, for comfort.

I wear all of my petticoats over my stays, but it's a personal preference.

I had to put a drawstring in my shift (chemise is a 19th C term) neckline, too. But it's more comfortable without, if you make another.

It doesn't matter what color your petticoats are. The uppermost one may, or may not, match or contrast with your gown. (matchy matchy is dressier)

You don't need hooks at all, you can use straight pins to pin your gown front closed, both work gowns and fancy silk, and everything in between. You can pin horizontally or vertically (I prefer horizontal, but it's a personal choice)...insert the pin in, out in, out, in (ending with the point in between the layers). You can hide regular black hooks in between the layers, instead of tape.

For garters, just use ribbon or wool tape, warp twice around, under your knee, two complete turns, then tie like a shoe. Your two turns can be slightly looser than you would have to have it if it were only one turn round the leg.

The gussets in the shift are much easier to insert by hand...to make the neckline correct, don't cut it out, just a small T slit (just enough to get your head through) then mark the neckline a bit small while it's on you, make the shift, then try it on, and adjust and hem.

You can adjust the straps on your stays...cut them at the base near the front or back, and pull/shift them, then stitch them back on! Or even remove them completely.

Have fun!!!

Carol Kocian said...

Regarding the straps on the stays — if they are creeping into view, you can hide them with a neck handkerchief. I would suggest investing in linen for it and for your cap, since they are both nearer your face and more "in view" than everything else. They are worth hemming by hand, too. Your shift will not show, so not such a big deal about it being cotton. Just don't gather up the neckline too high. The drawstring should just snug it up a little bit. If you think it's too revealing, again the neck handkerchief will help there.
If in doubt about prints, use a solid color fabric.
Pinning the front is fine, in fact many gowns closed with pins. Not to mention adjustable if you lace differently, gain or lose weight, etc.
There are real 18thC events in the midwest! Most of the 13 colonies continued westward and were later divided into more states.

The Marchioness said...

Thanks, ladies! I did forget to mention shoes. I'm not going for authentic shoes yet- I'm going to have to compromise in that area! I did have to re-trim my stay straps, and they are better now. Strapless just looks easier. Thanks so much for the advice!