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1760s Brunswick

1760s Brunswick, 18th century, 18th century court dress, projects

1760s Brunswick (and brief court gown update)

Whew!  I am just coming to the end of my super crunch time at work, and I’ve barely had time to open emails, let alone keep up with anything else.  If I owe you an email/update about the court projects, don’t worry, I’ll be getting to that asap… plus posting a round-up of what’s going on out there in blog-land re: court gowns.  To tide you over, check out these great posts on French court dress from the Dreamstress, and Swedish court dress from Isis’ Wardrobe.

As another tide-you-over, I thought I should get around to finally posting pics of my REALLY finished 1760s Brunswick.  I’d needed to trim the skirt, and wear it to document said trimming!  Well, I got to the trimming a year or two back, and then finally had a chance to wear it when my 18th century group Lumieres went to a museum in San Francisco called the Legion of Honor, which is a copy of the French version in Paris.  They were having an exhibition on “Royal Treasures from the Louvre:  Louis XIV to Marie-Antoinette,” which was very appropriate!  The best part of the day was when we were having drinks and food in the museum cafe, the curator came out to see our costumes.  We all introduced ourselves as our characters, many of which are based on real French 18th century people, and the curator knew who all of us were!  (To me, the Duchesse de Polignac, he said “You naughty girl” – ha!).

So here are some pictures of the finished Brunswick in the courtyard of our local 18th century reproduction building:

1760s Brunswick, 1778-9ish riding habit, 18th century, 18th century wigs, exhibitions, projects, travel

Back From the 18th Century

Phew!  With the first of what will probably be a few posts:

The Costume Accessories Symposium was faaabulous.  So many interesting research presentations, so many lovely people to meet.  Plus, chances to dress up and run around Colonial Williamsburg!

First, my outfits!  Everything came together relatively well.  I finished most of the habit shirt ruffles and cravat on the plane, although I didn’t have sleeve ruffles until day 2.

I had been planning to do cream bows on the Brunswick, but at the last minute came across some vintage blue ribbon in my stash, and had the genius idea to use that instead.  I was seriously not wanting to wear the Brunswick — I was worried I was going to look like a combination of Aunt Pittypat and a butterchurner.  Luckily, when I put it all together I actually quite liked it, and then when I put the hat on, I loved it.  Yay!

Friday night was an in-costume dinner at the King’s Arms, followed by a chamber music performance, organized by Barbee.  It was really lovely, as almost everyone was in costume, the food was good, and the music was gorgeous.  Both venues were only lit by candles — be still my beating heart!  And afterwards we had dessert at a local home.  I got to meet Abby (shout out:  I had no idea that wasn’t a wig!  We kept calling you “the girl with the fabulous wig,” guess we gotta revise that!) and talk rumps, and Gwendolyn and talk about her work at the Costume Design Center.  I wore my “this old thing” peach francaise.

Saturday was riding habit day.  I loved this outfit too, despite the ginormous wrinkle that developed at my bust point (WTF?).  I felt all sporting (in the 18th c. sense) and tailored, and it was fun to wear it with others in their habits(es) as well.  I wore the habit again for dinner on Monday night.

For some reason this picture makes me happy - I feel like an 18th c. woman on the Grand Tour, looking at antiquities!

I wore the same hat & wig with all of my outfits.  I really wanted to make one of the black hats with tons of feathers that I see in so many riding habit portraits; I was particularly lusting after Lady Worsley‘s hat.  Thanks to all of your good advice, I ended up getting the wool felt hat blank from JAS Townsend in the largest size they had, which as you can see isn’t large enough to really settle down on my wig as far as the hats in portraits, but it worked.  I did the most craptastic job shaping the brim — I couldn’t find anything in my house that was the right shape, so I used a series of bowls and just moved them around as I steamed the crap out of the hat.  Then I covered it in black feathers, some of which blew weird ways in the wind, but I finally figured out how to attach them so that by riding habit day, the hat was looking like what I wanted.

For the wig, I took apart one I had styled before.  I really wanted that particular style that you see around 1779-81 (example), which is somewhere between a pouf and a hedgehog.  I made a lower form than I normally do for a pouf, and ginormous curls.

In the next post, I’ll talk about the symposium and the exhibition!  In the meantime, you can see all of my photos on Flickr.

1760s Brunswick, 18th century, projects

Brunswick – Almost Done! (for now)

So I am sewing madly for Williamsburg, and one of the outfits I want to bring with is my 1760s Brunswick.  Because I’m assuming it will be cold, so I want outfits that cover me up!

I’ve been working on trimming the Brunswick in fits and starts.  I’ve actually been amazed at how quickly it’s gone, but then I’ll leave it for a month, so I’ve been bad about updates.

As I mentioned in this post, I found two paintings featuring Brunswicks that I’m drawing on for the trimming pattern.  I started doing the jacket as in the first painting, but it was getting too froofy, and I had only trimmed the waistcoat and sleeves!  I left it and thought about it a lot, and finally decided to take some of the trim off of the sleeve.  Unlike most other 18th c. dress styles, Brunswicks often have at least one row of vertical trim on the sleeves; many have more.  My inspiration pic had at least three, but it was just throwing it over the edge into massive pouf-y land — and I’m not a massively poufy girl!  So I took off two of the rows on the sleeve, and then finally finished the trimming on the jacket.

I have serious plans for trimming the skirt, and have even started making a raft of ruches to do that… but given looming deadlines, I had a (slow) genius moment the other day when I realized — wait, I don’t HAVE to trim the skirt to make this outfit wearable!  Sure, it will be better with skirt trim, but it’s not REQUIRED.  I long ago cut out the skirt, sewed together panels, and hemmed it; I was waiting on pleating/attaching the waist until I had done the trimming.  But now that I’ve realized that I don’t HAVE to have that done for Williamsburg, I’m going to go ahead and finish the skirt and wear it untrimmed (for now).

Here’s the Brunswick jacket, as it was when I had lots of sleeve trim, and here is the finished jacket (minus some basting threads that need to be pulled out):

1760s Brunswick, 1780s stays, 18th century, projects, travel

Colonial Williamsburg Accessories Conference

So, I normally don’t make New Year’s resolutions — I mean, ever.  But last night I couldn’t sleep, and one of the many resolutions I out-of-nowhere settled on was to try to post at least five times a week on this here blog.  Because it’s languishing, and that’s silly!  And I have lots of stuff to post about, so I just need to get my butt in gear.  I might do a bit more “general costume history” in addition to what I’m up to…

First thing to post about:  I’m going to the Colonial Williamsburg Costume Accessories symposium in March!  I am super excited, because as you know I have been all about the 18th century for the last few years… not just in my costuming, but also in my research.  So I’m excited about getting to hear new research and hopefully meet some interesting people!  I’ll be going a few days early so as to have time to run around in costume and have fun.  The last (and only) time I went to CW, we had literally one day, so there’s so much left to see and do.  Also, it’ll be fab because lots of costumers I know are going, so it should be a real party!  If you’ll be around, let me know and we’ll hook up!

Of course, this adds new wrinkles to my costuming to-d0 list… the short version is that I want to finish the Brunswick and make a 1770s riding habit.  Of course, I NEED to finish my stays before I can start on the habit, and given that it’s hand sewing, there’s only so much I can do to make things go faster.  I’ve spent a good deal of my winter break sewing, and will continue to do so, but I think I’m letting go of the need to hand sew the habit — I think it’s going to have to involve some machine sewinBut g to get it done in time.  But more on that in another post!

1760s Brunswick, 18th century, projects

Trimming the Brunswick

So the Brunswick project languished as I simply could not find a trimming idea I liked.  When I made the dress, I had decided I liked the longer 1760s waistcoat style, so that meant I needed to find a curvilinear trimming pattern to suit that era… but all the ideas that came to mind, and portraits that I liked, were more simple/straight 1770s styles (oh the woes of an attempted-historical-purist).  So, languish it did!

Until I recently rechecked one of those sources that I never look at anymore, because there are so many newer and spanglier resources out there — Visual History of Costume — which, whoa, had tons of portraits of Brunswicks in it!  Okay, maybe 3-4, but that’s tons!  And I found two from the 1760s that I really liked (sadly, can’t find color images online), which gave me good ideas for trimming the waistcoat and the skirt.  So I’ve cut out a bunch of self-fabric strips, and now I have a whole lot of whipped gathering to do.

Important side note: it’s embarrassing to admit, but until very recently, I didn’t know about whipped gathers *hangs head in shame*.  I could never figure out why my hand gathering looked like crap compared to extant 18th c. garments — the gathering never looked as controlled or tight, no matter my stitch length.  Oh, well, maybe that’s because they didn’t just do a running stitch… Sigh!  Oh well, at least now I know, and I am liking my gathering SO much better!

1760s Brunswick, 18th century, projects

Sewing at a Leisurely Pace

Although my mind is currently (as always) BUZZING with project ideas, and I’d much rather be sewing than doing anything else… I am forcing myself to stay on track with the idea of leisurely sewing.  I have no looming deadlines, other than things I WANT to make, so I am determined to sew for fun and not to get stressed out.  I’ll wear the new red & white polonaise to the Costume College gala, and I have options to wear for all the various events coming up.  So things will get done when they get done.

To that end, I’ve been noodling on the Brunswick.  Mostly, it’s been doing the real sewing where I previousy basted.  I did finally pleat the skirt, and last night I cut out and started sewing the lower sleeves.  But it’s all very noodly around here!  I need to decide on cuffs vs. elbow ruffles, and trimming patterns, but before I commit to that I can finish the lower sleeves, make the hood, do buttons & buttonholes, and make the petticoat.  I do need to bribe someone to set my second sleeve, and to help me mark the jacket hem, as I’m not convinced it’s even (and I think the back dips down too much – it’s these hips o’ doom!).

1760s Brunswick, 18th century, projects, workshops

Brunswick workshop report

Last weekend I attended the 18th century Brunswick workshop organized by Burnley & Trowbridge, taught by Janea Whitacre, mantua maker extraordinaire from Colonial Williamsburg.

And it was FABULOUS!

Janea is hugely knowledgeable about 18th century gownmaking, and getting a chance to work with such a master was wonderful.  I’ve taken another workshop from her — the sacque workshop, where I made my first (the peach francaise).  It was fun to revisit this style in a new variation, and to be able to confirm and update my often self-taught knowledge about 18th century gownmaking.  Plus, she’s just really nice, and lets you ask her 10,000 questions!

Angela & Jim (owners of B&T) were there too, and they were super helpful and nice, bringing a bunch of their wares and allowing us to shop periodically throughout the weekend.  I’m really happy with them, as they have amazing customer service — I bought a pair of shoes from them that were too small, so I sent them back and they had the next size up made for me.  Well, those didn’t fit either, so Angela traced my foot at the workshop and they’re going to try for a third time to fit me!  If that’s not customer service, I don’t know what is.  (Let’s not even go INTO how helpful she was when I was buying fabric for my stays).

We had lots of options on styling the jacket — high or low neck, long or short waistcoat skirtings, depending on the era and style you liked.  I went for 1760s, with a high neck and long waistcoat skirts.

I worked with Cynthia on our jackets, so all credit for the fabulous drape goes to her.  We both had some fitting crises, esp. on Cynthia’s gown, as we hadn’t realized we needed to drape on the bias so her waistcoat front went wonky.  Luckily, I found a solution — we let the fabric go where it wanted to go, and pieced in a bit of the lining.

It was tons of fun to hang out with lots of friends and sew for 3 days, plus there is something magical about handsewing.  You have lots of time to chat in a way you don’t when the machines are out, plus it makes me waaay less stressed about getting things done on time (because it’s just not going to happen!).

So here’s where I’m at so far — everything is basted, and I’ve been working on doing the real sewing over the past few nights.  I need to hem the center back a few inches up (hello, I have hips of doom!), and I’m trying to figure out a trimming pattern that will be different from everyone else’s.  And, of course, make a hood, lower sleeves, and a petticoat!  I plan to do self-trim from the caramel taffeta, and then cream bows at the neck and elbows.

The best part is I was worried this would be a little bit of a frumpy style, but I’m really liking where it’s going.

(Oh and yes, we sewed in tiaras, because that’s how we roll…)