Is it really June already?
I would ask the rhetorical ‘where has the year gone?’ question but I think everyone living in 2020 knows where the last two or three months have disappeared to. Time has gone a bit wibbly-wobbly because of Covid-19 and the resulting Working From Home, Lockdowns, and other No-Longer-Normal situations.
I usually write a post outlining my goals for the coming year in January and a wrap-up in December. What was I hoping to accomplish vs. what I actually did. But, I’ve never taken a pause in the middle of the year to evaluate how my projects are progressing, if I am on track, and if I have dropped or picked up new projects. Until now. Checking in halfway through the year gives me a moment to actually figure everything out and to give me an update To Do list.
I had a few events scheduled for the first half of the year but, alas, they were all cancelled due to Covid-19. One event that I was able to make it to was a talk on the history of stays and corsets held at Te Manawa, my local museum. This was given by none other than the most well known Historical Costuming Blogger in New Zealand – Leimomi Oakes aka The Dreamstress.
I’d never met Leimomi before and I think that my social awkwardness definitely kicked in. But she was super lovely and recognised that I am the founder of the Historical Costuming NZ group on Facebook. And having an opportunity to see some extant corsets up close was amazing, especially to discover how lightweight they were and to see the intricate detailing on some.
Events To Come
Really now the only event left in the 2020 calendar is the Oamaru Victorian Heritage Celebrations and I am truly hoping that it will be going ahead. I am choosing to be thoroughly optimistic and to forge ahead with my projects in preparation of an always wonderful week.
The first projects I completed this year were the petticoats, horsehair bustle, and underskirt for my Blueberry Dress. This dress is my Big Project for the year and I (very wisely) decided to make a start on it as soon as possible. I am venturing into the Natural Form Era for 2020 and, of course, that means making some new, silhouette appropriate undergarments.
The first petticoat was made using the Truly Victorian Petticoats (TV170) pattern, using View 2. Because I wanted a bit more volume behind the knees of my dress I added an extra flounce panel to help with this.
The second petticoat was made up using the Truly Victorian 1878 Fantail Skirt (TV225) pattern. I did this for two reasons – one, it would support the exact shape of the skirt and two, it gave me a chance to get to know the pattern.
Despite the years between the two Bustle Eras being known as Natural Form, dress supports or the addition of padding was still used. I wanted to add a little bit of oomph to my posterior to help with the silhouette I was creating. But I didn’t want to make a bustle pad. I looked around the interwebs and riffled through the pages of my books for inspiration.
I came across some examples of horsehair canvas bustle pads (from the Met, and LACMA) and my interest was piqued. I found some extant examples and, better yet, found that I wasn’t the only one intrigued by such a support garment. The Modern Mantua Maker had made one up as part of her Natural Form Undergarments.
‘Okay,’ I thought, ‘if she can figure it out then that gives me hope.’
I pretty much made it up as I went along, starting with the base of cotton fabric, cut from pattern pieces from Laughing Moon’s Hoops and Bustles (112). I flatlined the back panel with horsehair canvas before I cut strips of the canvas and bound them with bias tape. Those were box pleated and sewn onto the back panel. The side panels were French Seamed to the back and the waist tape was added.
Considering that I had no idea if it would work or not I am really happy that it did! Horsehair canvas is really interesting to work with so I may experiment with it further at a later date.
With the support garments made I began on the Underskirt. With the familiarity of the pattern thanks to my wearable mockup aka the petticoat, the skirt came together quite quickly and easily. Which is good, because the trims took an absolute age!
I don’t know what possessed me to include three different types of pleats on the skirt but I did – knife pleats, box pleats, and pulled box pleats (which I’m pretty sure is fast becoming my signature trim). Looking back now, I am incredibly grateful to my past self for starting this project when I did. The upcoming overskirt and bodices will also be using trims but I won’t need to make up as much as I did.
With this dress project I needed a hat to top it all off. I decided to try to convert a girls’ size boater hat into a little Natural Form Era bonnet-like hat. Choosing to use a girls’ size instead of an adults means that it can’t sit as low down on my head which is what I was wanting. I altered the shape of the brim a bit and then added All. The. Trims. There are feathers, flowers, bows, and some of my go-to pulled box pleated trim too.
I have also made up some more pulled box pleated trim, and a few bows in preparation of the next stage of this ensemble’s construction.
1890s Woollen Walking Suit
One of the other projects that I had on my list for this year was a wool walking suit. I’ve never sewn with wool before so it was interesting to find out what it is like. The skirt was the first part of the project I completed and it sat around for some time while I procrastinated the Eton Jacket.
I procrastinated the Eton Jacket by making myself a matching cape. This ended up being lined with a navy silk taffeta to provide an unexpected pop of colour should it blow about in the wind. I also, somewhat successfully included a pocket. In retrospect, I should have made it wider but I can quite easily stash a fan in their if I choose (maybe even a bar of chocolate?).
The Eton Jacket was delayed as the fabric I ordered to line it got delayed due to Covid-19 and, as yet, has not arrived in New Zealand. Or it has arrived but got buried under a whole heap of other items delivered into the country that ended up in limbo during Lockdown. I waited as long as I could before choosing to purchase some lawn cotton to line it with instead.
As the ‘shell’ of the jacket had been assembled prior to this, when I received my Plan B fabric, I could get the project moving again quite quickly. I definitely felt a sense of achievement once that jacket was finished as it meant that my whole ensemble was complete.
I have just finished trimming my hat with ribbon, feathers, and flowers. The original plan was for something simple and practical looking. Yeah, that didn’t happen…
From the front the hat looks very monochromatic but there’s a surprise pop of navy at the side!
Projects to Come
My main focus for the rest of the year is to complete my Blueberry Dress. This means making an overskirt, a day bodice, and a ball bodice. I’m excited to say that just this very afternoon my fabric has arrived and it is absolutely gorgeous! I can’t wait to drape it over my mannequin and admire how well it goes with my underskirt.
I had originally planned to make an 1890s green ball gown this year too but, with it being halfway through the year, with the delays in getting anything delivered to New Zealand, and with the exchange rate being less in my favour – I have decided to delay this project. To make up for this, I will be making a ball bodice for my Blueberry Dress. The second bodice was intended to be a dinner bodice, but this change to my plans works out better overall.
I may make up a waistcoat for my Woollen Walking Suit later on if I have the time, but if that doesn’t happen this year I’m okay with that.
I think that I might actually be on track? It’s hard to say. I feel like I am in a good place at the moment though. I am really hoping to have my projects finished by September this year so that I can focus on other Life Events and Activities. This may or may not happen, but now that I have had my Mid Year Check-In (Check Up?) it has helped me to see where I need to focus my attention.
I’m being quietly confident that I’ll be able to succeed but – as we all very well know – anything could happen to throw us off course. I really do hope that the second half of 2020 starts to get better for everyone soon and we will be able to finish this year in a much better place than we are in right now.