Friday, November 14, 2014

1760s-1780s Paniers

So these paniers have been a long time in the making! I originally started them over a year ago. My plan was to hand sew the whole thing to make it as authentic as possible even though hand sewing is really not my thing, which probably explains why it got placed on the UFO pile, untouched for a year. However, this year for Halloween I decided to go as a French revolution guillotine victim and under my eighteenth century gown I needed some pocket hoops! So I fished the half finished paniers out of the UFO pile and started working on them.

The pattern that I used for these paniers was from The Dreamstresses' "Panier-Along" tutorial that is based on information given in Norah Waugh’s Corsets & Crinolines, and on the panier pattern at Tidens Tøj for the paniers pictured below:

Although I started to hand sew them when I started the project over a year ago, due to my hectic schedule and the fact that I left it until the last minute to finish them I gave up on the hand sewing and decided to machine sew the rest (which was mainly inside seams, etc.). Luckily most of the outside stitching I had done when I was hand sewing them so they look somewhat authentic and have some nice detailing like this,

The fabric is cotton linen and I couldn't find any cane cane so I had to use modern dressmakers boning (doubled up when possible to give more structure). 

The only way I deviated from the pattern and instructions provided by The Dreamstress was using white pre-made bias tape to finish the top of the paniers as it was much quicker than making it myself. 

And here it is, the finished paniers!

And under the gown:

The HSF '14 Challenge: #21 - Re-do
Fabric:  white linen, white cotton thread,
Pattern: Provided by The Dreamstress' "Panier Along"
Year: 1760s-1780s
Notions: Dressmakers boning, twill tape, bias tape
How historically accurate is it? Pattern is mostly accurate, maybe (80%).  Fabrics and notions are as historically accurate as you can get these days (80%). It's half hand sewn and half machine sewn. (50%). Overall I'd say 70% accurate
Hours to complete: 10
First worn: Halloween 2014
Total cost: Can't remember, but probably around AU$40

Monday, November 3, 2014

Historical Sewing meets SFX Makeup | Halloween 2014

This year I was lucky enough to wear not one, but TWO Halloween costumes! I'm from Australia and Halloween up until a few years ago was not a big thing at all. Whilst we don't do anything like trick o' treating, a lot of people do hold Halloween parties and I was invited to two events this year. As someone who sews historical clothing but never actually has anywhere to wear it, I jumped at the chance to spook up my sewing projects and go to both. I decided to go as a French Revolution guillotine victim and a late nineteenth century vampire. Here were the results...

French Revolution Guillotine Victim Halloween Costume

Otherwise known as the 'Marie Antoinette Guillotine' Costume I decided to put my not-very-historically-accurate 18th century floral gown that I made a few years ago to the test. 

Can you believe that this is actually the first time I've ever worn it anywhere? Crazy!

I completed the look with some very historically correct 1760-80s paniers underneath the dress.

No French Revolution guillotine victim costume would be complete without a guillotine wound, so I put my special effects makeup skills to the test. To do this I first washed and dried my neck and applied Mehron 3D gel.

TIP: This stuff is really good but as I found out later on in the evening not made for hot and humid weather. By the end of the party my neck wound was starting to fall off due to the humidity. I'll definitely use it again but only in cold weather. 

I applied it in layers and when it was nearly dry I ripped it to appear like an open wound. I then powdered it with a transparent setting powder. For my face I used a foundation shade that was a shade lighter than my skin colour currently is at the moment, I brought this down onto my neck and used a sponge to dab it onto the 3D gel wound in order to blend it better with my real skin.  

Next I used a dark wine-red coloured lipstick and filled in the wound. I also applied some of this to a sponge and dabbed it around the wound area. Afterwards I took a grey/brown coloured eyeshadow and used a sponge to dab this around as well to create a bruising type effect. Putting some of this eye shadow on a fluffy makeup brush and creating shadows underneath the would also helped it to look more 3D.

Then I took some fake blood and added this around the wound. Until I got something like this

The important thing to remember when doing this is to have a light hand and slowly build up colour and depth in different areas so it looks realistic. After, I watered down the blood a bit and added some more so it ran down my next. 

For the hair I curled it with hot sticks and teased it. I then took a hair doughnut like the one below and pinned it to the crown of my head. 

Then I began to pin the teased hair, section by section, into it. I took another doughnut, cut it in half and placed it at the top-front of my head. Then I pinned the sections of hair near my forehead over it and into the doughnut at the back. This was to give the front section a bit of body. Then I added A LOT of hairspray. 

Mrs Graham by Thomas Gainsborough, c. 1775. National Art Gallery, Washington
Portrait of a Lady with a Book, Next to a River Source, by Antoine Vestier, 1785

Although my hair wasn't nearly as voluminous as the hair in the portraits above (for which they would have used either lots of hair pieces or wigs), in the late 18th century the fashion was to have almost grey looking powdered hair, so I finished it off with a temporary white coloured hairspray. Don't use too much, you don't want your hair to look white just powdered!.  I left two small sections at the bottom of my head out of the updo and curled them and let them hand down. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of the back of my head except this blurry one, oops!

And here is the finished costume!

My friend Eloise in an authentic WWII nurse's costume that she bloodied up the apron for Halloween *gasp!* (Although she assures me it will come out with bleach) helping Marie Antoinette get (un)dressed.

Late Nineteenth Century Vampire

For the second Halloween party I went to I had a lot less time to get ready so I didn't bother doing any special effects makeup. 

For the hair I didn't have the time or skills to do an extravagant late nineteenth century hairstyle. After looking a few historical images I simply took my hair doughnut and pinned it to the back of my head. I then took the top sections of my hair and twirled them around the doughnut then pinned them inside. With the bottom section I plaited it and then lifted it up and pinned it into the doughnut, like this

Then it came time to put in the red contact lenses that I bought. This took forever. I haven't used contacts for a very long time. I hate even putting eye drops in my eyes so it was hard for me to get them in, mainly because they kept sticking to my fingers instead of my eyeball! Anyway I eventually got them it.

Then I had to put in the fangs. I bought a pair of small Scarecrow Vampire Fangs that you mould to your own teeth. I didn't have a lot of time to do it and next time I wear them I'll have to tidy up the adhesion putty a bit, but overall they were great. I could even talk and drink in them so that's a plus!

Apologies for the super creepy snapchat picture but it's the only close up I got of my face
All I had to do then was put on my 1880s Bustle Gown (with a quickly sewn up bum pad) and corset, and here's the finished costume!

Thanks to my housemate Rachel for being my victim, haha

And that's it! I hope you all had a spook-tastic Halloween! :)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

New 1950s Yellow Summer Cotton Dress

Last weekend I went to the annual Fifties Fair at the iconic Rose Seidler House in Sydney. For the event I decided to make a summer day dress that was light and functional (as I was rock and roll dancing at the fair). 

I've actually made this dress already and I wrote about it in this blog post. The pattern I used was B5603, which is a Butterick reprint of a vintage pattern in their archives from 1956. Like before, I made option number three. All up it only cost me about AU$50! 


The dress is made from a light cotton fabric and the lining is a pale yellow cotton/poly blend. It has an invisible zip down the side and I placed a separate tulle underskirt underneath to puff out the skirts. If you wanted to you could add as many as these petticoats as your desire (details on where I got the underskirt are in my previous post). 

Without petticoat
With petticoat

Unfortunately I was having so much fun at the fair, I don't really have any good photos of me wearing it. Although I know a few were taken of men by official photographers at the fair so I'll have to see if I can find those. 

Here are some more detailed pics of the dress:

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Inside the Australian Dress Register: Young Girl's Black Dress, c. 1860

Young Girl's Black Dress, c. 1855-65. Dorothy Nicol Historical Fashion Collection, Belmont Victoria

Although very little provenance information regarding this garment has survived it is, nevertheless, a very well preserved example of children's clothing in mid-nineteenth century Australia. What makes this garment even more interesting is that it is believed to have been made and worn in rural Victoria during the mid-nineteenth century.

This little girl's dress is made from black silk taffeta and is dated to around 1855--1865. Entirely hand sewn throughout, the form fitting bodice is unboned and trimmed with decorative glass buttons, black velvet ribbons and black silk-rouleaux with jet bugle beads. The sleeves and neckline are trimmed with white cotton machine-made lace, and blue silk-taffeta edging trims the backwaist peplum which covers the back skirt opening. The bottom of the skirt is decorated with a pleated frill attachment made from the same black silk taffeta.The dress is lined with cotton calico and cotton canvas, and the skirt lining stiffened to give the dress its crinoline silhouette.

The dress was donated to Dorothy Nicol's Historical Fashion Collection by Jenny Barr and her sister Barbara Denness on behalf of their aunt, Janet Dawe. The dress was found in Janet Dawe's family home in Belmont, Victoria. It was stored with a small woman's cape in a trunk. A black and white photograph of a little girl wearing the dress has survived. The portrait was located among Janet Dawe's possessions and was held in a lockable, leather bound album covering the mid-1880s to 1900.

Little girl wearing the dress

Its fine materials and complexity of sewing techniques indicate that the Dawe family must have enjoyed a relatively wealthy lifestyle in a fashionable rural society. Fashion during this period was very class conscious, and the rising middle class in wealthy colonies such as Victoria demonstrated their importance and prosperity through their ostentatious dress. From the mid-nineteenth century onwards well-to-do girls were dressed as miniature versions of their mothers, and as a result fabrics and embellishments that were just as fine and expensive were also used in their dresses. The girl who wore this short-sleeved dress would have been attired in the same style as her mother, except for the dress skirt which was shorter.

This dress also demonstrates the utilitarian nature of clothing in colonial Australia even when attributed to the prosperous middle class. As this dress is made of black silk taffeta it may have originally been made for funeral or mourning wear. The blue silk binding and lace trims may have been added at a later date after the mourning period had ended for another occasion. Studying the inside of the bodice also reveals large seam allowances of 3cms which may have been made for growth and adaptation of the dress as the child grew. Both of these features of the dress would have allowed for maximum use of the garment.

For more detailed information about the manufacture of this garment and to explore others like it please visit the Australian Dress Register by clicking on the logo below.

*The Australian Dress Register is a collaborative, online project about dress with Australian provenance pre-1975. This includes men's, women's and children's clothing ranging from the special occasion to the everyday. Museums and private collectors are encouraged to research their garments and share the stories and photographs while the information is still available and within living memory. The project is facilitated by the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia. All contents are copyright of the Powerhouse Museum and Contributors. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

To Write a Distick upon It: Busks and the Language of Courtship and Sexual Desire in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century England

I'm so excited! As some of you will know, I'm currently a doctorate student at the University of Sydney in Australia researching the social history of undergarments in early modern England and France from 1550-1750.

Although this has been a long time coming (academic reviewing, editing and publishing takes a long time!) my article on busks and sexuality in sixteenth-and-seventeenth century England has been published! Here's a quick abstract:

"In previous academic discussions of the busk (an often elaborately decorated long, flat piece of wood, metal or bone that was placed down the front the early modern bodies and stays) it has often been presented as de-stabilizing: an item of dress that threatened established ideas of gender and sexuality. This article argues that in the vast majority of instances, far from disrupting social norms the busk supported them, opening a discursive space that afforded women a degree of flexibility at the same time as it reinforced their subordination to male authority and erotic desire. By placing the busk within the context of the corset in which it fit, as well as the social exchange (courtship and marriage) in which it was most commonly recorded, this article argues that the busk was not disruptive but rather it reinforced culturally constructed and socially acceptable expressions of male and female desire through the acts of giving, receiving and wearing."
As it is published in the Journal of Gender & History, and much of it will be incorporated into my completed PhD thesis, I can't put the article on my blog. But I do have it on my academia page to view HERE.

This seventeenth-century French metal busk bearing a man's portrait that proclaims:
"He enjoys sweet sighs, this lover, Who would very much like to take my place", is just
one of many that I discuss in my article.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Costume Spotlight | The Devil's Whore: Seventeenth-century Masks and Gender Debates

For a few years now I have loved a mini-series called 'The Devil's Whore' that was released in 2008. As the seventeenth century is my favourite historical period, especially in England, and the main period of my own academic research, it's refreshing to not only see a production that deals with the period (this century is severely under represented), but one that does it well.

Essentially, the mini series details the life and times of the fictional Angelica Fanshawe throughout the period of the English Civil War (late 1630s- early 1650s). Through this fictional aristocratic character (Andrea Riseborough) we are brought into contact with Oliver Cromwell (Dominic West), Edward Sexby (John Simm) and Thomas Rainsborough (Michael Fassbender), to name just a few. Recently a new series was released which claims to be it's sequel, called 'New Worlds' (although not nearly as well written, researched or as entertaining as 'The Devil's Whore', and very loosely tied to it).

Although some of the characters are a tad under developed and some scenes lacking in background (I read that this was because it was originally commissioned as a 10 part series that was later cut down to four), this series is beautifully filmed and really brings to life the grittiness of war ravaged seventeenth-century England, thanks in part to the production design and costumes.

The costumes are beautiful and what I love most about this production are the bits of detail that have been added - most of which a viewer would not pick up on unless they knew the period in England quite well.

For example, in the first episode when Angelica is being prepared for her marriage to her cousin Harry Fanshawe, and a man is being whipped in the square outside Whitehall palace, we see a masked woman.

This character in the mini series seems to be a direct reference to a famous etching of 1643 called Winter by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677).

Wenceslaus Hollar, Winter, an etching, 1643. British Museum, London

 Masks were, believe it or not, worn frequently in the streets of England during the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Full faced masks were used primarily to shade the wearer's face from the sun's rays, as the wearers were usually aristocratic women whose pale skin reflected their position in life. Some of these masks have survived and were made from black velvet and silk/leather, such as this one found in the wall of a sixteenth-century building in England. Other masks, such as the one depicted above, and in the film, were used by women to disguise themselves. Samuel Pepys, in a diary entry from 18th February 1667, describes such a woman at a playhouse he attended: 
"And one of the ladies would, and did sit with her mask on, all the play, and, being exceeding witty as ever I heard woman, did talk most pleasantly with him; but was, I believe, a virtuous woman, and of quality. He would fain know who she was, but she would not tell; yet did give him many pleasant hints of her knowledge of him, by that means setting his brains at work to find, out who she was, and did give him leave to use all means to find out who she was, but pulling off her mask. He was mighty witty, and she also making sport with him very inoffensively, that a more pleasant 'rencontre' I never heard." 
In the film the girl who is depicted as wearing the mask grabs come pamphlet's of Freeborn John Lilburne, who opposed the powerful rule of Charles I in England. Possibly she was a well-to-do wife or daughter of a cavalier and didn't want to be recognised?

Scenes in the film that depict Angelica Fanshawe in men's clothing, whilst crucial to the story line, were probably also allusions by the screen writers to the gender pamphlet debates of the period.


The anxiety that had surrounded boys playing female parts by dressing as women in Elizabethan playhouses spilled over into the streets of seventeenth-century London in what could be termed a ‘gender crisis’ which was debated through popular media.  Pamphlets from the time reveal fears over its construction on the street by cross-dressing women and men.  In the last years of King James I’s reign (this it, the 1620s) women were accused of dressing and behaving like men and the King even took upon himself to call together his clergymen and to have them “inveigh vehemently against the insolencies of our women, and theyre wearing of brode brimmed hats… [and] pointed dublets…” Popular Jacobean plays such as The Roaring Girl (1607-10) written by Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker also reflected these debates.

Front piece to 'The Roaring Girl' by Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker, 1621

The screen writers of ‘The Devil’s Whore’ were probably more than aware of pamphlets like Hic Mulier (‘The Manlike Woman’), which stated that women had “cast off the ornaments of your sexes” such as “the modest attire of the comely Hood, Cowl, Coif, handsome Dress or Kerchief…  [and]concealing straight gown” and in exchange had taken on a “monstrousness” by wearing “Ruffianly broad-brimmed Hat and wanton Feather… lascivious civil embracement of a French doublet being all unbuttoned to entice…”, and weaved these debates into the story line that concerns Angelica and Joliffe.

Engraving from 'Hic Mulier', 1620, depicting women dressed as men receiving men's haircuts from a barber

Whilst the women's fashions in this film are beautiful, and for the most part, historically accurate, the men are the true peacocks of this mini-series. I love the men's fashions during this period, they were so much more earthy and forgive me, 'masculine', than those of the later eighteenth century.

Van Dyck, 1638 

Men's suit, 1630s, Victoria and Albert Museum

Abraham Bosse 'Valet de chambre' French 1630s

Charles I, 1631

I'd be interested to know how many of these costumes were made specifically for this production, as a lot are usually sourced from costume houses for series such as this.

Anyway, if this hasn't convinced you to watch 'The Devil's Whore' then I'll leave you with a scene from the mini-series!