Stomacher fit for a…Puritan?

For Halloween this year my sister and I went as witches.

Real, authentic, 17th century, running-from-Puritan witches.

Enter: 1693. You know, the period that (for me at least) is notoriously hard to find accurate information on.

So, enter: flying-by-the-seat-of-my-educated-guess.

One thing I knew for sure: of the most important pieces of my outfit this year was going to be my stomacher. Last year I ran short on time and didn’t have time to trim the dress I wore for our pirate-themed year. As such,the center front was a few inches short on either side and it was a real struggle to sew myself into my dress the night of and get it to close. I had to lace my stays really tight but it closed (although it looked terribly messy).

So this year, my resolution was to follow the wisdom of our ancestors and create an outfit that could be worn easily no matter how loosely I wanted to lace my stays.

Brief blurb about stomachers, to give a bit of background:

Stomachers were most popular from the 16th to the 18th century. Usually triangular in shape, they covered the front opening of a lady’s bodice and were worn by women of  levels of society. Easier to make and more cost-effective than a whole new ensemble, they were a good way to bring variety to a woman’s wardrobe and they also accommodated her changing shape over the course of her life. See some examples.

I searched long and hard to find original source material that I could base my design on and one of the closest (and one of the only) pieces of artwork I came across was Mrs. Elizabeth Freake and Baby Mary by Anonymous.

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Painted sometime around the 1670’s, it showed fashions a bit early for what I was aiming for but it was a good starting point. Analyzing her outfit, the key details are her short, rolled sleeves and the ladder lacing across what I had to assume was her green stomacher.

I looked up a few secondary art sources and drew inspiration from them, but relied most heavily on the details of Mrs. Freake’s outfit.

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To make the stomacher, I started by drafting the bodice pattern and then the stomacher pattern on top of it. I apparently forgot to take a picture of that part.

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But here you can see the shape. I sandwiched a single zip tie between two layers of cotton duck  and zipped around the edges on my machine.

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I had the idea to make it reversible, so I cut out a layer of fabric that would match my skirt and bodice and a layer that would match my purple petticoat. I stitched the brown layer down in the car on the way to my grandma’s house and added four tabs made from some tan twill tape that I randomly found around the house. Then I stitched the purple layer on on the way back from her house.

With and without creepy makeup

I laced my stays fairly loosely that night. My bodice was made to lace closed at the bottom, but it was very comfortable – and looked good – open all the way down.

I pinned it to my stays with straightpins and it didn’t budge an inch all night. I had toyed with the idea of adding a waist tape, but I’m glad I didn’t. Here it is at the end of the (very long, very wet) night.

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I wore the purple side for Halloween – it felt much more witchy – but I definitely want to do something fun with the “Puritan” side. Hopefully a photo-shoot (or something) once I’ve had the chance to make some accessories to go with the outfit. I didn’t have time to make any for Halloween night, but I found this time period to be really interesting and definitely want to revisit it once I’ve had the chance to do more solid research. Until then, here’s to Mrs. Freake! Thanks for the inspiration!

Details:

Fabric: White cotton duck, purple linen, brown linen blend
Pattern: Self-drafted
Year: c. 1680s
How historically accurate is it? I haven’t a clue. I was really just guessing on this one.
Hours to complete: About 3 or 4, altogether
First worn: Halloween 2016
Total cost: All leftover fabric from other projects, so cost was very minimal

Gatsby Halloween

In the spirit of Throwback Thursday combined with the first day of fall, I have some fun photos to share from my earlier days of sewing.

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But first, a brief background:

In 2012 I was a student at the University of Washington, living at college in a dorm with my wonderful sister. When Halloween rolled around that year we found ourselves without any plans so we gathered some friends together to go to dinner. Three of us decided to make our outfits 1920’s-themed.

In the time-honored college tradition of procrastination, what better thing to do than give yourself four days to make three dresses from scratch?

This was at the start of my sewing career, when my sewing machine was less than a year old, so there was almost no technique to what I was doing. I made my 1920’s pinterest board and used it for inspiration, not caring much about historical accuracy.

I started with my sister’s dress when I was home for the weekend, drafting the base on her and sewing a bunch of squares that I moved around until we agreed on a final design we could agree on (#3).

Next I made a dress for myself (my mom helped sew it) and finished it up by hand when I went back to my dorm.

And then I did the same for our friend, Molly!

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All three dresses were really simple but effective. They were done in plenty of time for Halloween and we had a great time going out! We went out for dinner at the Cabbage Patch Restaurant which is rumored to be haunted although we didn’t experience anything while we were there.

After our food we explored the town a bit, visiting other supposedly haunted locations, taking pictures, and admiring all the cute trick-or-treaters that were running around.

Looking back at these pictures brings back a lot of really fun memories. The dinner was delicious and it was great going out for an event in costume! That’s something that I’ve been wanting to bring back in to my sewing lately. I make really fun things but I don’t usually do anything with them. I’m realizing now that they don’t do me much good (or much fun) just hanging in my closet once they’re finished.

Now to find some things to do around Seattle…

Lida Rose Corset (HSM #6)

This project held a lot of firsts for me. It was my first time using a printed PDF pattern, sizing up a pattern, and inserting a busk. I’m very proud of how it all turned out, considering the fact that (strictly speaking) this is the first corset I’ve ever made and that I was always terrified of making one. Turns out it’s a lot easier than I had expected!

The pattern I used is a free one, Hip Curve Corset, by Ralph Pink. It came only in a UK size 10 so I spent an afternoon measuring and resizing it to fit me. I incorporated into this corset some of the adjustments I made when sewing my stays last year.

Please keep your fingers crossed that I did everything right; I haven’t actually tried on the finished product yet!

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I’m in love with this corset. I adore the hue of the purple and the feel of the silk and the detail of the lace at the top. Corsets from the Edwardian period have always held a particular fascination for me (well, lingerie in general) so it’s thrilling to have one for myself.

Inspiration

The inside is a little crazy, I will admit. I ran out of purple tape to use for the bones and started using peach instead (it’s less saturated in real life) and some of the seam allowances are poking out inside so I definitely could be neater next time.

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How does this item have to do with travel, you may ask? Well, I made this corset specifically to take on a trip with me in the fall. To make it easy to pack, carry, and put on I kept it fairly lightly boned, left the garter attachments off the bottom, and used two layers.

As for the story behind the name of the corset, I spent a good chunk of my time sewing with The Music Man (2003) on in the background. I may or may not have watched it (literally) five times…

So, naturally, I had the songs stuck in my head for days and one of my favorites is Lida Rose so there you go!

The Challenge: Travel (HSM #6)
Fabric: White cotton duck, purple silk
Pattern: Hip Curve Corset by Ralph Pink
Year: c. 1905
Notions: White thread, busk, silver grommets, white lace, zip ties
How historically accurate is it? Don’t even ask lol
Hours to complete: I can’t even guess. I worked on it for about 5 solid days throughout the month.
First worn: Not yet!
Total cost: Zip ties were the only thing I actually bought for the project ($6). Everything else was from my stash (if I remember correctly: 1 yard cotton duck ($6), 1 yard purple silk ($3), busk ($3.25), and the other pieces didn’t have a significant cost).

Yellow Waistcoat (HSM #7)

I’m already thinking about Halloween.

Correction: I’m already sewing for Halloween.

And, considering the number of garments on my list to get done in just four short months, I should probably be farther than I am. *Gulp*

At least I can check the first thing off my list: a 1690’s waistcoat for my brother. He will be portraying a villager in New England, of an as-of-yet undetermined status. Wealthy? Poor? Judge? Clergyman? We’ll pinpoint it later.

Doing research for this project was really hard. I found hardly any sources on 1690’s New England American fashion and even fewer pieces of artwork from the period to study. What I did find showed hardly any details of the clothing, too. Mostly just basic cut and color for formal-wear.

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Self-Portrait by Thomas Smith; American c. 1680

A couple of the best sources I found were “17th Century Links” at Isis’ Wardrobe and the “Getting Dressed for Men’s Guide” 1680s-1720s from Reconstructing History. Piecing some things together, I decided to base the waistcoat on Simplicity 4923 and go from there.

I used the same adjustments I made to the pattern for him last year in addition to extending it down a few inches to reach mid-thigh and making the front straight instead of curved. Here’s my reasoning behind it:

“…waistcoat at first extending below hip, thigh-length and collarless, c. 1670, and to the knee or below, 1670-1720…with or without sleeves…” – Western World Costume: An Outline History by Carolyn G. Bradley p. 198

sourcesourcesourcesource – sourcesource

I tried to tone down the illustrations and make the waistcoat suitable for a Puritan setting.

For the buttons, I found “Buttons” by The 1642 Tailor particularly informative and I followed the “How to Make Wool Buttons” tutorial by the Goodwyfe to make them.

 They were really fun to make; I’ve never done ones quite like it before. As for the pocket flaps, I kept them relatively simple (at least compared to last year’s) and I made them functional this time! There are actually pockets under them.

I sewed the whole thing by hand and did it all in less than 24 hours. I began about 7pm Saturday night and we were outside taking pictures of the final product by 5pm Sunday.

We took the photos just as the sun was starting to go down, so there’s a bit of color variation in the fabric depending on what area of the yard we were standing in. The second and last photos are most true to color; it’s a rich, buttery yellow in real life.

I’d pay more attention to the buttonholes next time, although I’m not too displeased with how they came out. They just could be better. The stitches aren’t close enough together and the floss I used to do them matched the color of the fabric in the house. As soon as we took it outside, the buttonholes stood out, white, against the waistcoat. Sigh.

At the same time as I was sewing the waistcoat, I took a few minutes to update his Renaissance shirt and bring it into the 17th century (and beyond) by adding buttons.

As for the inside, it’s not as pretty as the outside. I didn’t line it because the fabric is so thick and warm…plus I didn’t have any linen lying around. So…unlined it will remain! I pinked the edges to prevent unraveling and save myself some time. I’m not sure that’s it a period finishing technique but I know that pinking has been around for a few centuries before  the waistcoat, so it’s not too outside the realm of possibilities. At least that’s what I like to tell myself. Anyone know the real answer?

The Challenge: Monochrome (HSM #7)
Fabric: Yellow wool
Pattern: Simplicity 4923 as a base
Year: 1690’s
Notions: Cream thread, pale yellow embroidery floss. Fabric buttons.
How historically accurate is it? Eh…there was a lot of conjecture on this piece. I’d estimate around 60-70%.
Hours to complete: One day.
First worn: Sunday for pictures!
Total cost: Everything from my stash. I didn’t pay more than $5 for the whole length of fabric from Goodwill and I used about 2/3 of it total.

1950’s Roast Dinner (HFF #5)

Getting back on track, the fifth prompt for the Historical Food Fortnightly was “Roasts“.

They’re a staple of the historic table, in many different shapes and forms and types. It’s also a cooking technique. Try a historic recipe for a roast, or a recipe that involves roasting, and tell us how it turned out.

For this one I laid out quite the spread…1950’s style!

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The dinner recipes came from “Betty Crocker’s Good and Easy Cook Book” published in 1954. It’s a very sweet, little book full of colorful photos and highly stylized illustrations.

I made the “Roast Pork Dinner” from page 102 with a few modifications. First: mashed potatoes instead of brown. And, second: we skipped dessert. There was plenty of food to go around that night!

One of the most fun things about prepping the dinner was making the vegetable tray. Or, “vegetable relishes” as the cook book called it.

I perused the list on page 92 and picked from it based on what was already in the fridge. That ended up necessitating a few substitutions.

I was able to make “Cucumber Petals” (actually zucchini), “Lake Louie Poppies,” “Broccoli Buds,” and (unstuffed) “Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes.”

Mashed potatoes I made without a recipe and the cream gravy came together rather quickly despite the fact that I had hardly any pan drippings to use.

The food got excellent reviews and was plenty to feed five people; we had leftovers for lunch the next day.

One of the most interesting things about serving this dinner is that it included applesauce on the side. I have many memories of meals at my grandparents’ house featuring applesauce which, as a kid, I always thought was weird. Growing up, applesauce was usually a lunch (or snack) food. Seems to me it could be a generational trend. How do you, or your family, interpret applesauce? Lunch or diner food? Has it changed over time for you?

The Challenge: Roasts
The Recipe: Roast Pork Dinner from “Betty Crocker’s Good and Easy Cook Book”
The Date/Year and Region: 1954, American
How Did You Make It: Roast the meat; mash the potatoes; prepare the vegetable tray; make the gravy; serve it with applesauce and voila!
Time to Complete: 2+ hours
Total Cost: Roast was about $6, veggies about $6 altogether
How Successful Was It?: Very delicious!!
How Accurate Is It?: Pretty high on the accuracy scale. Even equipment was very similar to what was around in the 1950’s.

(Recipes transcribed under the cut)

Continue reading “1950’s Roast Dinner (HFF #5)”

Pirate Vest at the Witch’s Castle

Last August I got to enjoy a few weeks of free time before starting my new job. To make the most of the summer, I rounded up my siblings and we had a lot of fun exploring and going out to places we’d never been.

One of the things we did was go down to Oregon for a day and poke around Portland. We tried to hit up Voodoo Doughnuts but the line wrapped two blocks down the street so we moved on to our main activity of the trip:

Hiking to the Witch’s Castle

The “castle” is located in Forest Park and is actually a rest area built in the first half of the 20th century although there are plenty of stories about the area’s sordid history and its supposed hauntings.

It was a gorgeous, easy hike. Only about 20 minutes from where we parked and with lots of scenic areas to enjoy. Much of the structure was covered with graffiti, some less appreciated than others, but there was a pretty sweet witch.

There were two miracles that happened that day:

  1. That this sweet girl made the whole day, there AND back, without needing to go to the bathroom. I don’t know how (or why) she did but we were sure glad she didn’t have an accident in the car!
  2. That my brother agreed to do a photoshoot.

I don’t know what made him agree to it, but I brought along his pirate vest and accessories and he agreed to put them on and pose!

He’s so handsome! Last August he didn’t have any pants to go with his outfit but he sure does now!

I’ll have to find a way to convince him to dress up again so we can get the full effect…