Thursday, July 2, 2020

...And a 1910s outfit

A technical note: I'm re-publishing this, which was originally published June 5, because something went wonky with the blog post, and it appeared on the main page but not when you tried to view it as an individual page.


The finished product--a 1910s outfit.

I've been working along behind the scenes for some months now, buying [too much] material and [too many] patterns, looking at old fashion plates and the projects posted by other costumers online, and generally making plans. This was all groundwork for a series of projects I have planned, and it's been a long time in coming to fruition. But at last, my efforts are starting to bear actual fruit, and I'm very proud.

The first fully-realized outfit to come out of this whirlwind of planning is my 1910s ensemble: a blouse, chemisette/guimpe, skirt, jacket, and hat. I knew I wanted a 1910s look (better than the one I'd previously put together), and I'd been skimming the Internet for inspiration. I wanted to find a period image (so that the final product ended up looking credible) but to use modern-day patterns to achieve the look (because I needed a pattern to start off of). Finally, I came across the following image:

Inspiration.

To my delight, I realized I had the perfect fabric. I had bought some slate-gray, white-polka dot, wool-blend fabric for another project. When I got the fabric, I realized that, while I loved it, it was much too heavy for the intended purpose. I had gotten some white-and-navy-blue-striped fabric at the same time; it was lighter-weight, but, until this point, I hadn't been quite sure what to do with it, either. But when I found this image, it all came together perfectly. The two fabrics I'd bought would work beautifully together to create the outfit in the image.

What was more, I knew which patterns I would use. So I had a plan.

THE BLOUSE and CHEMISETTE

Fabric: white cotton lawn (about 1.25 yards), black lace of unknown fiber content (I think it's a natural fiber, though), white lace of unknown fiber content (but almost certainly not natural fiber).

Let me preface this by saying something I've said before. I'm 4'11" and have a rather odd, boxy shape and very short arms and legs, so I have to heavily alter every pattern I start with. I was measuring up one of the patterns and got so frustrated at the difference between the pattern measurements and my own measurements that I literally scrawled in my notebook, "WHO DID THEY MAKE THIS PATTERN FOR, GIANTS?"

The first piece I tackled was the blouse. This pattern is made of four pieces: the center front panel, the center back panel, and one panel each for the left and for the right sides. There's no seam at the shoulder; the side panels start at the front waist, goes up over the shoulder, and continue down to the back waist. It closes up the side. These side panels are held together by the front and back panels (which are kind of like an 18th century stomacher, but, you know, both front AND back).

Mocking up the blouse on my new dress form.

I think all this made it harder to fit the pattern to me, because boy did I struggle with this one. I think I went through four mock-ups, using up a lot of muslin in the process. My main problems were wrinkles under the arms and across the back, and weirdly-fitting sleeves. The angles on the original pattern did not work at all on me, but I had a lot of difficult finding the right angles. Eventually, I got to something that I was satisfied with. Perhaps someone with more skill could've done a better job, and maybe I could've stuck with it and made it perfect--but probably not, and I frankly decided I'd fiddled with the damn thing long enough.

Once I was done with mocking it up, the rest was actually pretty simple. I cut out the pieces from my white lawn and sewed them together (simple, straight-ish seams all around). I decorated the front and back panels with black lace and added some black buttons to ground the black lace. I decorated the cuff with white lace and black buttons.

Of course, the blouse really wouldn't have been worn alone but with a chemisette (or guimpe). This fills in the neckline up to the chin--a very typically Edwardian look. The 1918 dinner dress I recently made included a pattern for a chemisette to fit into the triangular neckline. I used the pattern but made the bottom square instead of triangular. For the "fabric", I used the same 2.5"-wide lace that I'd used on the cuffs of the blouse. I pieced it together at the edges so that the front and back are each four panels of lace wide. I used literally every last bit of the lace to finish the collar part of the chemisette; that bit of lace ran in the opposite direction (horizontal) to the lace on the rest of the chemisette (vertical). I added some hooks and eyes for closure, but I made a hash of that am going to redo it. I'll either reconfigure the hooks and eyes or do buttons with thread loops instead.

That's the blouse done.

All the lace that was left after making the chemisette.

It looks a little silly tucked into jeans, but this
is the blouse with the chemisette.




THE SKIRT

Fabric: slate-gray white-polka dot wool blend (about 1.75 yards); 1 yard of belting.

This pattern is designed to go along with the blouse pattern above. Probably if you're the same size bottom and top, the front panels match up so it's one long line from the neck to the hem. But am I the same size on the bottom and top? Of course not. I bet that's the same for a lot of women.

In any case, the skirt was actually surprisingly easy (less fiddly than fitting the blouse). Skirts do tend to be easier because the only thing I really have to alter is the length. That was the case here. It was a little trickier because of the kick pleats at the bottom of the skirt. See, I determined from day one that I needed to take off 8 inches from the skirt. Yep, eight whole inches. Did I mention that I'm really bloody short? I'm really bloody short. However, if I just took the 8 inches off the bottom, the kick pleat would be basically gone. On the other hand, if I took it from the top, then I'd have a disproportionately long kick pleat. So I took out four inches from above and four inches from below the kick pleat.

This was a PDF pattern I printed myself and taped together. So what I did was fold the pattern up by 2 inches (which actually eliminated a total of 4 inches) at a point above and at a point below the kick pleat. Then I untaped some of the pages and scooted them over (inwards) so that the vertical lines of the skirt matched up again (when I took out those 4 inches, it interrupted the line of the skirt, of course). This had the result of narrowing the width of the skirt all the way down, but that was desirable, too. Again, I'm a small person. The less fabric, the better. And if I had kept the same width and just drawn a new line connecting the old line with the new line, I would've ended up with a skirt that flared out too much, and it would no longer have been "narrow" but a-line. I hope all of that, or any of it, makes sense.

I did a mock-up just to make sure everything was kosher, and it was, so I moved on to the fashion fabric. Doing the kick pleat required some careful attention to the directions. It involves basting the seam (I did it by hand to make it easy to take out later) part of the way down and pressing the seam allowance towards the front, then topstitching it down and removing the basting stitches. That's how you get the "panel" look. In any case, I didn't run into any difficulties there.

Where I ran into difficulties was the internal waistband. I was wildly optimistic in thinking that the muslin waistband I'd used in my mock-up would work. After all, I had fit it very nicely to my waist and I was happy with it. 

Oh, wait. Let me back up a bit. This skirt, like many skirt of the time, has an internal waistband. It sits just above the natural waist and has little darts in it to hold it close to the body. It is attached along its top edge to the top to the skirt and thereby supports the skirt while the skirt skims nicely down the body. To make this work, the waistband has to be well-fitted, but it also has to be sturdy enough to support the skirt. The fabric I chose for the skirt, a wool blend, was quite heavy, and the muslin was really pathetically unable to support it. I searched out "belting", which is what the pattern calls for (should've listened to the pattern to begin with, huh?) and found it (online) at Mood.

While I waited for the belting to arrive in the mail, I moved on to the jacket, but I'll get to that in a minute. Once I got the belting in the mail the other day, I set right to fitting it and then sewing it into the skirt (carefully by hand so that the stitching isn't visible from the outside). I sewed in the hook-and-bar closures, and voila, I had a skirt!

I mean, for the most part I had a skirt. The hem still needed to be leveled (the back was longer than the front) and, you know, hemmed. So I did that the other day to complete the look.

Levelling the skirt hem. Put it on the coffee table to get some height.

THE JACKET

Fabricwhite-and-navy-blue striped wool blend (about 1.5 yards); same slate gray white-polka dot fabric as skirt for facings (about .5 yards).
PatternWearing History 1916 jacket (the pattern is for a jacket and skirt, but I only wanted/needed the jacket so only bought that part of the pattern).

This was another one that gave me fitting problems. The pattern gives sizes based on bust, by which I was not the smallest size. And yet when I measured the pattern pieces, it became evident that anything but the smallest size would swamp me. So I started with the smallest size and started reworking it from there, taking width out of the shoulder seam and bringing up the armscye and taking length off the bottom of the jacket. This is easy to say but was difficult to do--keep in mind, I'm entirely untrained and have no bloody idea what I've doing. I'm winging it based on hopes, prayers, and Internet tutorials (I'd be lost without help from the Internet).

I got the torso to a place I was happy with and moved on to the sleeves, which gave me no end of trouble. They were ludicrously too big--like I wrote in my journal, I don't know who this pattern was made for, but they must have really, really long arms! In any case, I spent hours fiddling with the damn sleeves, trying to get rid of the slight wrinkles at the back. But again, I felt that I wasn't going to get any further by fiddling with it more, and I was reasonably happy with the fit. So I moved on to the fashion fabric.

One of the things I loved about this pattern was the option for a sailor collar, which is exactly what was in the image I found (really, the patterns and fabric worked out perfectly to create this project). In the image, you also see the lapel and collar are faced with contrasting dark fabric, the same fabric as the skirt. So naturally, I used the striped fabric for the jacket and faced it with the slate-gray fabric I used for the skirt. I had to fiddle with the way the collar met the lapel, because it was off for some reason, but that wasn't too hard--I didn't mess with the pattern, I just eyeballed it and pinned it in place and then sewed it. In any case, with that achieved, I set in the sleeves, again struggling to get out the wrinkles.

To finish the jacket, I added buttonholes and black buttons and made a belt (with black buttons, naturally). The black buttons match the buttons on the blouse, though you can't see the blouse when the jacket it on.

And with that, I had a jacket and a complete outfit!


ALL TOGETHER NOW

As soon as I had the waistband in my skirt, I put on the whole ensemble, even though the skirt wasn't hemmed. I actually took it all off, then decided to put it back on, do my hair, and take some photos. I'll let you in on a secret. I'm actually wearing bright pink socks here, but you can't see them.

All in all, I'm really pleased with the look I achieved here. It is actually quite close to the original, which I'm proud of. I put in a lot of work and thought, and it paid off nicely, I think.


LOOKING FORWARD

I will post some time in the future about the hat. You see the hat in my pictures, but that is the *unimproved* hat.

I also have a lot of the gray fabric left over. I might use it to make a 1910s toque hat, and I am heavily considering using it for an 1860s paletot (coat), even though I don't think polka dots would be correct for the period. I also have enough of the navy-striped fabric to make a whole dress out of; that will be well down the road, I think.


Friday, June 5, 2020

...And a 1910s Ensemble

The finished product--a 1910s outfit.

I've been working along behind the scenes for some months now, buying [too much] material and [too many] patterns, looking at old fashion plates and the projects posted by other costumers online, and generally making plans. This was all groundwork for a series of projects I have planned, and it's been a long time in coming to fruition. But at last, my efforts are starting to bear actual fruit, and I'm very proud.

The first fully-realized outfit to come out of this whirlwind of planning is my 1910s ensemble: a blouse, chemisette/guimpe, skirt, jacket, and hat. I knew I wanted a 1910s look (better than the one I'd previously put together), and I'd been skimming the Internet for inspiration. I wanted to find a period image (so that the final product ended up looking credible) but to use modern-day patterns to achieve the look (because I needed a pattern to start off of). Finally, I came across the following image:

Inspiration.

To my delight, I realized I had the perfect fabric. I had bought some slate-gray, white-polka dot, wool-blend fabric for another project. When I got the fabric, I realized that, while I loved it, it was much too heavy for the intended purpose. I had gotten some white-and-navy-blue-striped fabric at the same time; it was lighter-weight, but, until this point, I hadn't been quite sure what to do with it, either. But when I found this image, it all came together perfectly. The two fabrics I'd bought would work beautifully together to create the outfit in the image.

What was more, I knew which patterns I would use. So I had a plan.

THE BLOUSE and CHEMISETTE

Fabric: white cotton lawn (about 1.25 yards), black lace of unknown fiber content (I think it's a natural fiber, though), white lace of unknown fiber content (but almost certainly not natural fiber).

Let me preface this by saying something I've said before. I'm 4'11" and have a rather odd, boxy shape and very short arms and legs, so I have to heavily alter every pattern I start with. I was measuring up one of the patterns and got so frustrated at the difference between the pattern measurements and my own measurements that I literally scrawled in my notebook, "WHO DID THEY MAKE THIS PATTERN FOR, GIANTS?"

The first piece I tackled was the blouse. This pattern is made of four pieces: the center front panel, the center back panel, and one panel each for the left and for the right sides. There's no seam at the shoulder; the side panels start at the front waist, goes up over the shoulder, and continue down to the back waist. It closes up the side. These side panels are held together by the front and back panels (which are kind of like an 18th century stomacher, but, you know, both front AND back).

Mocking up the blouse on my new dress form.

I think all this made it harder to fit the pattern to me, because boy did I struggle with this one. I think I went through four mock-ups, using up a lot of muslin in the process. My main problems were wrinkles under the arms and across the back, and weirdly-fitting sleeves. The angles on the original pattern did not work at all on me, but I had a lot of difficult finding the right angles. Eventually, I got to something that I was satisfied with. Perhaps someone with more skill could've done a better job, and maybe I could've stuck with it and made it perfect--but probably not, and I frankly decided I'd fiddled with the damn thing long enough.

Once I was done with mocking it up, the rest was actually pretty simple. I cut out the pieces from my white lawn and sewed them together (simple, straight-ish seams all around). I decorated the front and back panels with black lace and added some black buttons to ground the black lace. I decorated the cuff with white lace and black buttons.

Of course, the blouse really wouldn't have been worn alone but with a chemisette (or guimpe). This fills in the neckline up to the chin--a very typically Edwardian look. The 1918 dinner dress I recently made included a pattern for a chemisette to fit into the triangular neckline. I used the pattern but made the bottom square instead of triangular. For the "fabric", I used the same 2.5"-wide lace that I'd used on the cuffs of the blouse. I pieced it together at the edges so that the front and back are each four panels of lace wide. I used literally every last bit of the lace to finish the collar part of the chemisette; that bit of lace ran in the opposite direction (horizontal) to the lace on the rest of the chemisette (vertical). I added some hooks and eyes for closure, but I made a hash of that am going to redo it. I'll either reconfigure the hooks and eyes or do buttons with thread loops instead.

That's the blouse done.

All the lace that was left after making the chemisette.

It looks a little silly tucked into jeans, but this
is the blouse with the chemisette.




THE SKIRT

Fabric: slate-gray white-polka dot wool blend (about 1.75 yards); 1 yard of belting.

This pattern is designed to go along with the blouse pattern above. Probably if you're the same size bottom and top, the front panels match up so it's one long line from the neck to the hem. But am I the same size on the bottom and top? Of course not. I bet that's the same for a lot of women.

In any case, the skirt was actually surprisingly easy (less fiddly than fitting the blouse). Skirts do tend to be easier because the only thing I really have to alter is the length. That was the case here. It was a little trickier because of the kick pleats at the bottom of the skirt. See, I determined from day one that I needed to take off 8 inches from the skirt. Yep, eight whole inches. Did I mention that I'm really bloody short? I'm really bloody short. However, if I just took the 8 inches off the bottom, the kick pleat would be basically gone. On the other hand, if I took it from the top, then I'd have a disproportionately long kick pleat. So I took out four inches from above and four inches from below the kick pleat.

This was a PDF pattern I printed myself and taped together. So what I did was fold the pattern up by 2 inches (which actually eliminated a total of 4 inches) at a point above and at a point below the kick pleat. Then I untaped some of the pages and scooted them over (inwards) so that the vertical lines of the skirt matched up again (when I took out those 4 inches, it interrupted the line of the skirt, of course). This had the result of narrowing the width of the skirt all the way down, but that was desirable, too. Again, I'm a small person. The less fabric, the better. And if I had kept the same width and just drawn a new line connecting the old line with the new line, I would've ended up with a skirt that flared out too much, and it would no longer have been "narrow" but a-line. I hope all of that, or any of it, makes sense.

I did a mock-up just to make sure everything was kosher, and it was, so I moved on to the fashion fabric. Doing the kick pleat required some careful attention to the directions. It involves basting the seam (I did it by hand to make it easy to take out later) part of the way down and pressing the seam allowance towards the front, then topstitching it down and removing the basting stitches. That's how you get the "panel" look. In any case, I didn't run into any difficulties there.

Where I ran into difficulties was the internal waistband. I was wildly optimistic in thinking that the muslin waistband I'd used in my mock-up would work. After all, I had fit it very nicely to my waist and I was happy with it. 

Oh, wait. Let me back up a bit. This skirt, like many skirt of the time, has an internal waistband. It sits just above the natural waist and has little darts in it to hold it close to the body. It is attached along its top edge to the top to the skirt and thereby supports the skirt while the skirt skims nicely down the body. To make this work, the waistband has to be well-fitted, but it also has to be sturdy enough to support the skirt. The fabric I chose for the skirt, a wool blend, was quite heavy, and the muslin was really pathetically unable to support it. I searched out "belting", which is what the pattern calls for (should've listened to the pattern to begin with, huh?) and found it (online) at Mood.

While I waited for the belting to arrive in the mail, I moved on to the jacket, but I'll get to that in a minute. Once I got the belting in the mail the other day, I set right to fitting it and then sewing it into the skirt (carefully by hand so that the stitching isn't visible from the outside). I sewed in the hook-and-bar closures, and voila, I had a skirt!

I mean, for the most part I had a skirt. The hem still needed to be leveled (the back was longer than the front) and, you know, hemmed. So I did that the other day to complete the look.

Levelling the skirt hem. Put it on the coffee table to get some height.

THE JACKET

Fabric: white-and-navy-blue striped wool blend (about 1.5 yards); same slate gray white-polka dot fabric as skirt for facings (about .5 yards).
Pattern: Wearing History 1916 jacket (the pattern is for a jacket and skirt, but I only wanted/needed the jacket so only bought that part of the pattern).

This was another one that gave me fitting problems. The pattern gives sizes based on bust, by which I was not the smallest size. And yet when I measured the pattern pieces, it became evident that anything but the smallest size would swamp me. So I started with the smallest size and started reworking it from there, taking width out of the shoulder seam and bringing up the armscye and taking length off the bottom of the jacket. This is easy to say but was difficult to do--keep in mind, I'm entirely untrained and have no bloody idea what I've doing. I'm winging it based on hopes, prayers, and Internet tutorials (I'd be lost without help from the Internet).

I got the torso to a place I was happy with and moved on to the sleeves, which gave me no end of trouble. They were ludicrously too big--like I wrote in my journal, I don't know who this pattern was made for, but they must have really, really long arms! In any case, I spent hours fiddling with the damn sleeves, trying to get rid of the slight wrinkles at the back. But again, I felt that I wasn't going to get any further by fiddling with it more, and I was reasonably happy with the fit. So I moved on to the fashion fabric.

One of the things I loved about this pattern was the option for a sailor collar, which is exactly what was in the image I found (really, the patterns and fabric worked out perfectly to create this project). In the image, you also see the lapel and collar are faced with contrasting dark fabric, the same fabric as the skirt. So naturally, I used the striped fabric for the jacket and faced it with the slate-gray fabric I used for the skirt. I had to fiddle with the way the collar met the lapel, because it was off for some reason, but that wasn't too hard--I didn't mess with the pattern, I just eyeballed it and pinned it in place and then sewed it. In any case, with that achieved, I set in the sleeves, again struggling to get out the wrinkles.

To finish the jacket, I added buttonholes and black buttons and made a belt (with black buttons, naturally). The black buttons match the buttons on the blouse, though you can't see the blouse when the jacket it on.

And with that, I had a jacket and a complete outfit!


ALL TOGETHER NOW

As soon as I had the waistband in my skirt, I put on the whole ensemble, even though the skirt wasn't hemmed. I actually took it all off, then decided to put it back on, do my hair, and take some photos. I'll let you in on a secret. I'm actually wearing bright pink socks here, but you can't see them.

All in all, I'm really pleased with the look I achieved here. It is actually quite close to the original, which I'm proud of. I put in a lot of work and thought, and it paid off nicely, I think.


LOOKING FORWARD

I will post some time in the future about the hat. You see the hat in my pictures, but that is the *unimproved* hat.

I also have a lot of the gray fabric left over. I might use it to make a 1910s toque hat, and I am heavily considering using it for an 1860s paletot (coat), even though I don't think polka dots would be correct for the period. I also have enough of the navy-striped fabric to make a whole dress out of; that will be well down the road, I think.


Sunday, May 24, 2020

...And Michael Llewelyn Davies

It's been a weird few days--okay, let's be real, it's been a weird few months, with COVID and all. But the point is, I meant to blog about this several days ago and...didn't. In my defense, I did get a lot of sewing done and watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 during that time. Which...isn't much of a defense now that I think about it.

I shouldn't be so flippant. The occasion for this blog post is a sad one.

The pictures below are of Michael Llewelyn Davies. He was the fourth of the five brothers who helped inspire Peter Pan. He wasn't even born in 1897 when his eldest brother George met writer J.M. Barrie in Kensington Gardens and the two became friends. Michael was born in 1900, and he was only four years old when Peter Pan premiered. George was the original model for Peter Pan, and Peter gave him his name, but Michael had no small part in inspiring the writing of the play. George was still very much a favorite of Barrie's, but Michael became a favorite among the brothers, too, maybe the favorite.

Here is a picture of Michael, dressed up as Peter Pan in a costume given to him by J.M. Barrie:


And here's Michael a bit older, kitted out to go fishing--which was a favorite activity for the Llewelyn Davies brothers, and which J.M. Barrie encouraged. By the time this photo was taken, both the boys' parents had passed away from cancer. Barrie was acting as guardian, alongside their longtime nurse Mary Hodgson.

Michael was a sensitive child, and the loss of his parents affected him pretty deeply. He had terrible nightmares and had trouble adjusting to Eton at first. But he was extremely bright and talented, both in art and poetry (for the record, his grandfather was an artist and novelist, and his first cousin was novelist Daphne du Maurier, so J.M. Barrie's wasn't the only literary influence in his life). He was athletic, too, making the first elevens at cricket at Eton.


This last picture is Michael in 1919, at Oxford. There was some back-and-forth between Michael and Barrie over Michael's future. Michael had thoughts of studying at the Sorbonne and being an artist in Paris, but Barrie preferred he go to Oxford. Michael actually left Oxford briefly but went back.

It was while he was studying at Oxford that he and a friend, Rupert Buxton, went down from Oxford on May 19, 1921, to Sandford Lasher along the Thames. A lasher is the pool beneath a dam, and this was a place where students sometimes went to swim. Unfortunately, on that day, something happened, and Michael and Rupert were drowned. They were both far too young to die, and it was a devastating blow for Barrie (especially since they had lost George during the war).

Exactly what happened that day isn't clear. I have my own theories, and I could go on and on about this topic, and maybe I will do so later. Many people suspect it was a double suicide, or at least a suicide on the part of Michael--that is, the two young men committed suicide together (the theory is usually that they were homosexual and were distressed by what that might mean in that time and place), or Michael committed suicide (for whatever the reason) and Rupert tried but failed to save him. The official inquest returned a finding of accidental death, however. I tend to believe it was accidental. It was well-known that Michael couldn't swim and was terrified of the water. He might have gotten into some difficulty while swimming, and when Rupert tried to help, Michael, in his desperation, took them both down (this is not unusual in drowning situations). But of course, we'll never know what went on in the heads of either young man.

But it was 99 years ago this past week that Michael Llewelyn Davies passed away. So I wanted to mark the anniversary. Well, roughly.




Monday, May 11, 2020

. . . And Audio of the Real Lost Boys

. . . or at least one of them.

I'll back up and explain. The "real lost boys"--the brothers who inspired the creation of Peter Pan--were the George, Jack, Peter, Michael, and Nicholas Llewelyn Davies.

(If you've seen Finding Neverland, that's--sort of--them, except it's a Disney-fied version of half the story; if you want a more accurate idea of the real story, read my blog entry here; you can also read about my research trip to Yale in New Haven, Connecticut here.)

I have written a novel about the Davies family, which I plan to start shopping around to agents in the near future (that ought to be a joy). In the meantime, I remain slightly obsessed with the true story of these five brothers, and the other day I logged onto jmbarrie.co.uk. This is an amazing site. It's administered by Andrew Birkin, the longtime expert on J.M Barrie and the Davies family and the custodian of a large amount of primary material. He wrote the best available book on the topic, J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys--buy it here; I highly recommend it. He also wrote and directed Lost Boys, a wonderful (and wonderfully accurate) BBC miniseries on the story from the '70s (it is available used on DVD). The point is, I owe a massive debt to his work.

Among the material Birkin collected is a series of audio interviews conducted in the '70s with those involved in the story who were still alive. He interviewed Nico, the youngest and last surviving of the five brothers, and Jack's widow, Gerrie. He spoke to the sister of George's fiancee and to Robert Boothby, a friend of Michael's at Eton and Oxford. He also spoke to Daphne du Maurier, who happens to have been the brothers' first cousin. The audio files also include recording of speeches by Barrie (not great quality).

(There is also a trove of photographs and letters and other written materials and ephemera that are well worth diving into.)

Some of the info and stories to be found in these audio files are absolutely fabulous. I suppose it helps to know the characters behind the stories, but I was just filled with glee as I listened to a few of these clips that I hadn't listened to before. A few struck me in particular:

1. In this file, Nico talks about being the only one of his brothers with any musical talent at all. I love the story of him and Michael being bought a gramophone by Barrie and given 10 quid to buy music. Nico buys some jazz, and Michael, at about 19 years old, buy Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade. I love "Scheherazade", though Nico apparently thought it was tripe!

https://jmbarrie.co.uk/audio/nicos-love-of-music-and-playing-the-piano-unlike-his-brothers-his-story-of-going-off-with-michael-to-buy-their-first-gramophone-records

2. This one struck was intriguing because I've though a lot about what led Peter, later in his life, to commit suicide. It will never be entirely clear, of course, exactly what led him to do it, but in my mind the trauma of war lingered on, even decades later. It wasn't the only cause (he was in bad health, as was his wife, and they had financial troubles), but I think a major factor. Here, his sister-in-law, Gerrie (Jack's wife) talks about his mental state following the Great War:

https://jmbarrie.co.uk/audio/gerrie-on-peter-being-mentally-wounded-beyond-repair-by-the-horrors-of-the-great-war

3. In this one, George's fiancee's sister, Norma, says he had a lot to be conceited about, though he wasn't at all conceited. Interestingly, she says that Barrie said he thought George would've been a very sad man had he lived. Norma disagrees, but I don't entirely disagree. I think he had a lot of weight on his shoulders after the death of his parents, and he probably would've borne it well enough but been been rather sad underneath. It must be said that Barrie was an incredibly astute man, so maybe he was right. We'll never know, I'm afraid.

https://jmbarrie.co.uk/audio/norma-talks-about-george-josephine-and-michael

4. And a little more from Norma about dear George and how he courted Josephine, the fiancee he left behind when he went off to war:

https://jmbarrie.co.uk/audio/norma-remembers-george

5. I rather think Norma was smitten with the Llewelyn Davies brothers--the older ones at least, who were closer to her own age. Here she says they had an easy charm that they didn't need to turn on and off; it was simply there:

https://jmbarrie.co.uk/audio/norma-douglas-henry-was-the-sister-of-josephine-dauphine-mitchell-innes-georges-fiancee-in-1914-i-met-her-rather-late-in-the-day-while-we-were-shooting-the-lost-boys-but-managed-to-include-her-recollections-of-george-in-jmb-tlb-here-she

6. This one I liked very much because Nico talks about how much he enjoyed working alongside Peter in the publishing industry, which just makes me very happy. The sense that Nico made Peter happier, and that Nico enjoyed Peter's company warms the cockles of my cold, dead heart. Also, like Nico I have a love-hate relationship with the publishing industry, so I can totally relate, even if I'm on the author's side of the equation rather than the publisher side.

https://jmbarrie.co.uk/audio/nico-and-peters-disillusionment-about-the-publishing-trade

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

. . . And a Great War Dinner Dress

So I considered nicknaming this dress the plague dress, partly because I made it using a pattern from 1918, when influenza was killing tens of millions of people across the world, and partly because I started  it just as COVID-19 was breaking out in China and finished it while quarantined at home. And also, this thing PLAGUED me. (See what I did there?)

But then I realized that it might be too soon to flippantly refer to this dress as my "plague dress", even if it's jokingly and affectionately.

Let me tell you, there were points when I did not feel affectionate towards this thing. At all.

Let's start at the end, though, because I want to reassure you all that there's a happy ending (hooray!):

Yes, that is a painting of my cat behind me.

Let's jump back to the beginning. I was researching various patterns for the 1910s and came across this one. It looks cute and pretty and young here in the illustration. I was a little wary because, frankly, the pattern is expensive and this is just an illustration, but I liked that there were various options, for long or short sleeves, for a chemisette with collar, for an over-bodice, and for an over-skirt. I figured that, one way or another, I would get my money's worth out of this. The size was a little big, but I was aware that I would have to alter the pattern anyway, so that didn't deter me.



Once I got the pattern, I immediately went to work on the pattern pieces for the bodice. As you can see above, the bodice consists of two pieces in the front and two in the back that cross over to make a v-neck and are gathered to a waistband. I figured this would be pretty easy--when you gather to a waistband, you can cut your waistband to just the right length and gather your fabric to the waistband accordingly--there's room for error, basically.

From experience, I knew I would have to alter the length of the shoulder seam (that is, the seam from the neck to the tip of the shoulder). On the pattern, it was 5"; I needed it to be 4". I also knew I needed to take some height out of the shoulder seam (shortening the distance from waist to shoulder). So I did those things using some tracing paper and moving around my pieces until I had the measurements I wanted.

Cool.

Right?

WRONG. It was not going to be that easy. Why would it be that easy? I made a mock-up using my altered pattern, and it was very wonky. It pulled and bunched at the crossover point rather than laying nicely over my torso.


I went back to the drawing board, almost literally, and started working with my altered pattern. I added some width to the side seams, then changed the angle of the side seam a bit. I fiddled with this and that and the other thing and even totally redid the pattern for the back and recut it. And that was worse. I went back to what I'd had and kept playing with it, and eventually I got to something that I thought was good.

The next step was the skirt, which was...remarkably painless. I mean, it was too long because I'm 4'11". Before I started, I took 4.5" off the length of the pattern pieces for the skirt. You can see below that I turned the hem up again quite a bit--another 7", in fact (you can see the shadow of the hem in the picture). Yeah. That's right. I took up the hem about a foot. (Who the bloody hell was this dress made for, a giant? Or maybe it was really meant to hit closer to the ankle--but I wanted it to hit just above the ankle, like in the illustration.)


I should also note that the skirt pattern was about 2" too narrow at the waist. Since the skirt is not gathered, the measurement along the top had to match precisely with the waistband (which, in this case, is slightly above the natural waist). So I added a bit to the very top of the front and back panels.

With all that done, I moved on to the fashion fabric, a pretty sky-blue cotton voile. I cut out all my bodice pieces from the blue voile and from white cotton lawn as lining. I flat-lined them and turned over the edges that form the v-neck line. Here, I'm hand-sewing the gathering stitches along the bottom of one of the bodice panels--with Penny the cat helping me.


And here is what I ended up with. It looks pretty good on the hanger, doesn't it? The gathers are pretty even, which is something I have trouble with.


And below we have the bodice with the sleeves. If you look closely, you can see the hook and eye at the center front, where the panels cross, to make it easier to get on and off. You'll also see the tab there on the right side of the photo (actually on the left side when worn). The closure is up the left side of the dress, and I was having some difficulty with it because it was fiddly. The waist is higher than the natural waist, so it's awkward to get in there and close it up. I started off using hooks and eyes, but it was gapping open, so I switched to a snap tape that I had, which worked much better. But I also added this tab to make it close more easily and more neatly.

Great in theory. But it meant patching on a length of waistband, which was awkward. And having the hook-and-eye at the center-front cross-over point was awkward too. And there was still bunching and pulling at the crossing point, which was awkward. Awkward, awkward, awkward.

Oh, I should note that I also had huge problems with these sleeves. To me, they're a very weird shape, with a sort of bell at the wrist and a slit along the back of the sleeve up to the elbow, and I had played with the pattern to take off a few inches in length, but I ended up making them too short. I kept fiddling with the sleeves and got super frustrated with them, but there they were. Again: awkward.



I also had massive issues with the skirt. The mock-up went so well that I thought to myself, Why don't I cut out the blue fashion fabric and stitch it at the side seams, unpick the mock-up skirt from the mock-up bodice, slip the mock-up skirt inside the fashion-fabric skirt, stitch them together at the top and bottom, and have a nicely lined skirt?

Can you guess what happened? Yeah, it didn't work.

One of two things happened: either I wasn't careful when cutting out the muslin mock-up skirt, or the very light blue voile warped as I pinned and cut it. In either case, the two layers did not match. I got so far as adding in a messy, crappy placket for closures before I realized that what I was doing wasn't working. I had to take everything apart, back to the four flat pieces of fabric. I carefully matched the pieces up and realized just how off they were in comparison to one another. And somehow, something was off, and the back panels seemed to be missing the seam allowance. I had to carefully piece in more fabric, which, thankfully, ended up being invisible because the stitching actually sat right at the seam line. It's hard to explain, but anyway, it was a pain.

The pieces of the skirt were uneven at the bottom, too, but I measured it out to make sure it was even all around and then, instead of cutting any of the excess off, I just folded it up into the generously wide hemline. The result was actually really successful.



It looks pretty good here, but the fit was still off, and I didn't like the sleeves. The way I'm standing pretty purposefully obscures the problems. I wasn't satisfied, but I moved on and decided that the overbodice would make things better. (Spoiler alert: it didn't).

This is the fabric I bought for this project. It's a little hard to tell here, but it's a pale yellow crinkle chiffon. It's extremely light and slippery, and warps very, very easily. I could literally make it ripple just by breathing on it. It was kind of a nightmare to work with, but it's actually pretty, so I stitched and stitched because it all had to be hand-sewn, and I had to stitch every damn edge, turn it out (I did two layers), and then topstitch it because there was no other way to keep it it place. It took me about a week to do all that.


And these were the pieces all done:


And this was the result:


Ugh. Yeah. I look uncomfortable because I did not like it. I was disappointed and I was close to just kind of shutting it in a closet and writing it off as a failure. But I really didn't want to do that, and all of a sudden the realization came to me. The sleeves were really awkward; the armscye started too low. That is, the side seam needed to be longer and reach a little higher into my armpit. And maybe if I just added something to that seam, it would fix the issues. So I went to work, creating a crescent to add under the armpit. I stitched it into one side of the bodice, lengthening the side seam. And it was like effing magic. It made everything fit a hundred times better. The bodice lay much more nicely. There was no more pulling at the center front. The sleeves looked better (though I still didn't like them). The gathering looked better. Even on the hanger, it just hung better. Here, I switched to the puff sleeve option because I didn't want to redraft the long sleeve (the puff sleeve could just be gathered to fit the new, smaller armscye; I'd have had to do all kinds of crazy things to the longer sleeve).



I was thrilled. I fixed it! I figured out the issue I'd been having all along. But you could see that fillet of fabric under the armpit. It looked bad, and I didn't like that. I luckily had plenty of the fabric left, so I just started over with the bodice.

This is what my remade pattern pieces looked like after all my alterations. Look at all those taped-on pieces!


It actually didn't take too long to remake the bodice. I was also able to make a neater waistband and match up the bodice side closure more neatly with the skirt closure.

I was SO happy with the result. It looked really sweet and tidy. There was still some pulling at the cross-over point, as you can see here:



But by pinching more of the fabric at the center front down into the waistband, it reduced the pulling, as you can see here:


I was finally happy with my dress. Now it just needed some embellishment. I ignored the over-bodice I'd spent so much time making. Instead, I went back to one of my original ideas: a waistband of a brocaded silk ribbon (that I got for like $5 on a Facebook group!). The yellow contrasts nicely with the blue, and I love the colorful little flowers. As I was trying it on with the ribbon waistband, I got a flash of inspiration and really roughly pinned the rest of the ribbon around the bottom of the skirt, and it looked GREAT. So I went ahead and stitched that on--I used every last bit of that three yards or so of ribbon.

The last step was the chemisette and collar. I had some black lace fabric that I decided to use for this. I think the dress looks lovely without it, but it has a more historical vibe with the chemisette and collar. It was a pretty quick project, though the lace was difficult to stitch (all those damn holes).

And at last, we had a completed dress. To show it off, I put on my American Duchess period-correct shoes and put on a wig.



Oh look, it's me holding my cat in front of the picture I painted of my cat, while wearing a historical costume. Height of cool.


So, ultimately, I ended up being very pleased with how this dress turned out. It was touch-and-go there for a while, but I persisted. I learned a lot of things here. I learned not to overlook issues at the mock-up stage and not to just shrug and declare it good enough. I also learned that I need to pay attention to that under-arm seam, something I hadn't been thinking about previously, and which might be part of the fitting issues I've had in the past.

But mostly, this was a reminder to persist.

Friday, February 21, 2020

. . . And a Great War Corset, Week 2

So, it looks as though this project will span only two full weeks, which is nice. I should note that a lot of thought and planning took place before the actual work began.

If you want a full intro of the project, including the supplies I used and the cost, see my post about week 1. But just to summarize, I decided to make a mid-1910s corset, a "Great War" corset. The pattern is the Rilla corset from Scroop. It was a fabulous pattern to work with, so if you want to make yourself such a corset, this is the pattern to choose.

Now, in my last blog post I talked about some fitting issues. What I decided in the end was to add 3/8" to each edge of each panel at the bottom, to give more room for my hips. I did not create new pattern pieces because I figured it would be something of a waste of time. Instead of retracing and redrawing all the lines I'd used with the original pattern pieces, then adding the extra 3/8" and redrawing, then tracing that onto my fabric twice . . . well, instead of all that I just used the same pattern pieces, traced them directly onto the fabric, added the 3/8" right there, free-handed the new lines, and cut out those pieces. By "those pieces", I mean the pieces for the right side of the corset. I then flipped those pieces over and traced them onto the fabric so I had the panels for the left side of the corset. This way I was more sure to have very symmetrical panels, and I wasn't tracing and retracing and tracing and retracing.

I should also note that, per my fitting of the mock-up, I removed 2" from the bottom of every piece because the mock-up was too long. This meant that instead of having to fit the pieces onto my fabric like jigsaw pieces, I was able to line them up right next to one another and even had a bit of fabric left over. That would come in handy later...

You might think this took, oh, maybe two or three hours. NOPE. This was approximately a day-and-a-half worth of work. First, there was quite a bit of tracing, measuring, and free-handing of lines. After all, I had to completely redraw eight lines, then trace them for the opposite side of the corset and refine them so they were pretty and smooth. I also carefully drew lines 1.5 cm in from the edge to guide me in sewing the seams. (I don't ever use centimeters, but the pattern said the seam allowance was 1.5 cm and that using the measurement in inches would be less precise.) So that meant even more careful lines. There were also matching-points so all the panels met up properly at the seams, marks for the boning, and marks for the waist stay. Multiply this by 10 panels, and you might see why it took me a while. I'm admittedly a bit slow.

Anyway, here is the first side of the corset, cut out of the fabric:



As mentioned, I used these as pattern pieces for the left side. And also as mentioned, I added lines for where the seam should be. There I hit a problem. I started cutting, and instead of cutting along the cutting line, I cut along the seam line. There was much cursing. I couldn't scoot the piece left and redraw/recut, because it was at the edge of the fabric. I couldn't scoot it right because there was the next pattern piece (and the next one and the next one, all lines up in a row). Thankfully, because I took 2" off the bottom of every piece and was able to rearrange my placement of the pattern pieces on the fabric, I had some space left over, so I was able to redraw the shape there. I was supremely annoyed to have to go through that whole process of tracing and refining and adding all the necessary marks again, but I did.

In the end, this is all that was left of my fabric, so not much room for error:


With everything now prepared, it was pretty much all downhill from there. Before sewing all the panels together, I had to prepare the front and back panels with the closures. In the front, that meant the busk. In the back, that meant eyelets for the lacing.

First came the busk. In the picture below, you see the loop side inserted and the knob side sitting beside it. To insert the loop side, I carefully placed the busk (according to the pattern) and marked where the loops should poke out. As I sewed on the facing (which you can't see here, of course, because it's turned under and is on the other side of the fabric), I sewed a seam from the top of the panel down to where the first loop pokes out, sunk the needle, spun the fabric around, and sewed back up to the top in order to make a really strong seam. I did the same thing for the space between the first and second, second and third, and third and fourth loops (from there down I just sewed a straight seam). I now had gaps in the seam to poke my loops through, which I proceeded to do. I then hand-sewed the busk in place along its edges. I probably could've done it by machine if I had a zipper foot, but I don't have a zipper foot and, anyway, this is much more precise.$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$




The other side, that is the wearer's left, I added the knob side. This time, I could sew in the facing with one straight seam. I then slipped the knob side between the facing and the front panel, lined everything up, and marked where the knobs needed to poke through the fabric to meet up with the loops. I then poked little holes int he fabric and pushed the knobs through. Again, I hand-sewed the piece in place so it wouldn't move up and down or side-to-side.

The result:


And then, diSASter. I spilled water all over my directions. Okay, so that's not much of a disaster. It was fine, but still. Oops.


The back panels came next. Alas, I didn't really get pictures of the process, but there isn't a whole lot to tell. I marked out where all the holes should go (many thanks to the handy-dandy diagram included in the pattern), poked holes as small as possible through the fabric for the eyelets to pass through, and put in the eyelets. This involved the eyelets themselves, an eyelet-setting tool, and a hammer. The hardest part was pushing the eyelets through the tiny holes, trying to keep as much of the fabric's integrity as I could. It made the tips of my fingers sore for a day or so.

With the eyelets in, I sewed together all the panels, which was maybe the least time-consuming part of the project. Then I put in the lacing. You'll notice the bow partway down. That's actually at the waist (this is an under-bust corset), and that's how you tighten it. You loosen the lacing, fasten the busk in front, give the laces a pull to tighten appropriately, and tie off the laces.



Again, I didn't get many good pictures, but there were still a number of steps left. I trimmed down the seam allowances and sewed in the boning channels. (I bought pre-made boning tape--not cheap, but saved me oodles of time. It's simple enough to make--it's just flattened tubes of fabric--but it's time-consuming.) I hand-sewed the center of each boning channel very precisely in place about 1/16" away from each seam towards the back of the corset. I did it by hand so I could make sure they all sat just right. It took about a day's worth of hand-sewing to do that, because every single stitch had to be carefully placed from both sides. Luckily, with that done so carefully, I was able to machine sew the two sides of each channel without much trouble, and that was a fairly quick process.

I took a bit of a break to visit Mount Vernon on Monday (Presidents Day), then came back to trim down all my "bones" (plastic zip ties), place them, sew them in at top and bottom, secure the waist stay (twill tape running around the waist beneath the boning channels), and then sew binding to the top and bottom (using purple thread, because purple). And it was . . . done!





Overall, I love it, and I'm really proud of the work I did here.

A few things to note. First, I had been a bit concerned about the weight of the fabric I chose. It seemed like the whole thing might end up being too flimsy. But with the boning channels in and the binding around the top and bottom, it felt much more secure, and I'm really pleased with the fabric choice. 

Second, the pattern calls for lace around the bust, but I didn't add that. I like it just fine as it is. 

Third, you'll notice the lacing isn't entirely even in the back. I think this is partially imperfect tightening technique--I think the space is there to pull tight where I need to pull tight. In spite of my best efforts, the fit might also not be perfect, but, hey, it's not bad for my first corset, methinks. You can see here that I pulled the lacing loops at the waist around to the front to tie it off. Trying to tie it at the back was difficult and awkward, and I just couldn't make the knot stay put. This method works just fine. Also worth noting: tightening the corset thusly took 1" off my waist. 

Fourth, I successfully solved that gap at the center front from the mock-up, so I'm pretty pleased about that. 

Fifth, this pattern also calls for garters, which attach the bottom of the corset to the stockings with a clip. However, I haven't added those yet. It should be a fairly easy thing to add sometime soon.

Lastly . . . yes, I know one stocking isn't pulled up as high as the other. What can I say? I'm a hot mess.