Lest you worry that I have been permanently distracted from the Maja gown, don’t! I have been spangle-ing like a madwoman, and am in fact starting to put the jacket together.
I did all the spangle embroidery I could do while the jacket was still in pieces. So that includes 3 facings (1 waistcoat, 2 jacket), one side of the waistcoat, and parts of the jacket fronts & back. I’ve been using Peri’s tambour frame (thank you Peri!!) and it’s been working fabulously. I love having a base to the frame and the ability to flip it around when I need to. Even tho I’ve been primarily doing this on my lap, not on a table, it’s great to be able to use your hands for the embroidery and not for having to hold the frame.
I’ve been hemming and hawing about whether to make the waistcoat separate or integral. Separate would be nice because this could end up being a hot (temperature wise) outfit, so the ability to take the jacket off would be nice… but then, I’m never going to do that, because then it won’t look fabulous! So I decided in favor of an integral waistcoat, saving myself one layer of fabric in back.
I had some debate about the jacket facings & lining. If you look at the original painting, you can see a black turnback/revers at the top of the jacket on her left (our right) side… but if you look at her right/our left, there’s some black that folds over about 1″. Obviously the revers flips OUT, so why is that black edge flipping IN? I did some more hemming and hawing, and looked back through the research I’ve done on the dress style, and everything I’ve seen has been symmetrical in terms of jacket revers. So I decided that maybe that was the edge of the facing folding around the front, or an artist screw up, or just something that doesn’t work in real life. I don’t know! But I’m happy with symmetrical revers. I did end up deciding to line the jacket fronts, given that you can’t see any stitching from the spangles on the inside of the jacket; I used more of the off-white silk taffeta, because I have seen some things lined with silk where it will show, and this will definitely show, and be much prettier than linen.
Now I’ve got the fronts sewn to the back, so it’s on to spangle embroidery on the seams. I had foolishly marked that pattern, only to have to futz with various things and then have the pattern no longer be placed correctly. Yay for water soluble ink! So I’ve wiped that off and am waiting for it to dry before redrawing those lines.
Okay, third mockup with an angled flap! I spent some time drawing out the spangle pattern for the waistcoat, although I still have to do the facing (which folds over). I ordered sequins like 2 years ago from MJ Trim in oyster white and matte black — and looking at them today, I realized — duh, these are supposed to look like metal! Matte black totally doesn’t work. Now I checked their site and it doesn’t look like they have the color I need in the size I originally ordered (8mm), so I may need to order more in 6mm. Luckily, they’re not too expensive!
I was peering at the copy of this painting in “Dress in Eighteenth-Century Europe,” and it’s actually a slightly clearer copy — and what I noticed there, which you can’t see in the scan I have on my site, is that there is a very faint line of the spangle decoration that angles up from the top of the bottoms & loops to that folded back corner. Aha! So it IS angled, and I think actually closes a bit further over than I currently have it — off to monkey with my current pattern.
And, thank god for protractors — even so, drawing the wave pattern for the spangles has been waaaay too fiddly!
Or, peering at high resolution scans and trying to figure out wth is going on there!
So I am nearly done binding my new stays, but while I wait for a bit more silk ribbon to show up in the mail, I decided to get started on my big project for the summer: the c. 1775 Maja fancy dress costume. I’m going to drape the waistcoat, then it will be on to spangle embroidery land! I figure I may switch off between draping further sections and what should be endless spangle-ing.
Here’s mockup #1 and 2. I obviously worked a lot from the original painting, but also used this jacket from the Museo del Traje as a reference for the back. I found a lot of paintings (like this Goya) that show even narrower back seams… but those all appear to be from the 1790s, so I thought this seemed more reasonable.
The hitch? WTH is going on with the front? It looks all fine and dandy, until you realize that there appears to be a center front opening closed with buttons and loops on the bottom half, but on the top half there’s a wide overlap that’s falling back! So, uh, how does it close? I poked around and none of the images I can find of extant garments from Spain in this era, or maja paintings, show anything similar. The closest thing I could find was this 1777 drawing of a maja, which has an asymmetrical front flap opening — but that’s on the jacket, not the waistcoat!
Peering and peering at the original painting, I’ve semi-decided that the waistcoat must close center front, but then have a flap that overlaps near the top. There is a button that’s sort of shadowed that COULD be in line with the other center front buttons, or maybe is further over and so could be the bottom edge of this flap? The only other alternative is that the center front buttons/loops are non-functional, and the bodice overlaps really far over — but that seems impractical, as it would be hard to fit that wide of an overlap. Right now, the overlapped top that I’ve draped is in a square shape, but it just occurred to me that it COULD be angled from the CF line up to the overlap (so more of a triangle shape).
What do you think? How would you drape this sucker?
The button in question — above that is the overlap, folded back, that I’m talking about.
First mockup – close, minus some warbling along the bustline.
Second mockup – bustline warbling fixed!
The back – this is the waistcoat, which will underlay the jacket, hence the round waistline.
Valencia, specifically. So, I am forcing myself to Stay On Target and am starting the Maja dress! What, you may be asking, is this? Oh, only a costume that I’ve been saying I’m going to make for about three years.
To recap: it’s a mid-1770s (c. 1773? 1775? I’ve seen conflicting dates, gotta look into that more) portrait of the Marquese de Llano wearing a masquerade costume of a Maja. Majas/Majos were working class people who lived in Madrid in the late 18th and 19th centuries. They spoke “pure” Castilian, wore elaborate outfits, and had a general swagger and bravado that captured the imagination of Spain. In time, their clothing became adopted as the national traditional dress of Spain.
So in doing all this research on the style, I found a ton of cool resources, and then stumbled across Las Fallas, which is a big annual festival held in Valencia. Why is this exciting? Because they wear E-LAB-ORATE “traditional Spanish dress”… which is based on late 18th century Maja costumes. Of course, it’s morphed over time, but it is totally gorgeous. To wit:
I mean seriously, where do I sign up??? The hair! The jewelry! The fabrics! The 18th c. silhouette! Aiee!!!
There is, of course, a whole industry in Valencia around these costumes… but a whole lot of searching later, and it looks like not much of it is online. Bah – I had gotten all excited about buying some shoes, like these (and I think Trystan needs these!).
Which means it’s time for the sewing room to get cleaned and used! I’ve been knitting a lot lately — it’s cold and I’m lazy, and knitting requires no getting up off the couch. I’ve finished one mitt, from a very modern pattern, that will be used for 18th century, but now that I have almost two weeks off, I need to get more ambitious.
My early 2010 docket looks like this:
A medieval and/or Pre-Raphaelite dress, for a Pre-Raphaelite event. I’m torn between doing something very historically accurate so that I can use it for SCA purposes, or going all Waterhouse-y because hey, no one’s going to kick me out of an SCA event for not being historically accurate! I have some silk damask drapery sheer fabric (it’s weird, you can’t tell that it’s sheer until you hold it up to the light) that I’m thinking I’ll use, lined with linen. I’m going to hire Sarah to drape the dress on me because it needs to be draped on the body, and my arms aren’t that long.
A man’s Elizabethan outfit — shirt, trunkhose & canions, doublet, and hat. Sit down for this one – my husband is going to get gussied up for a 16th century event! Oh, and HE chose the puffy pants option over Venetians! Color me shocked! I’ve ordered the Tudor Tailor pattern as hello, boy clothes are not my forte, but until it shows up I can’t do much except for the shirt.
Those are the two things I NEED to make before May, and is probably more than enough! So I won’t continue to ponder new 16th century and 18th century outfits for myself. I am debating whether I want to make a machine-made version of my new 18th century stays, as the handsewn-outfit-from-hell Maja project is going to get pushed back to summer/fall. I did start hand sewing a new 18th century shift, then realized halfway through that it was ridiculous to hand sew a new shift when I desperately need one NOW, and it will get a lot of heavy wear & machine washing. So I finished it on the machine! I’ll make the handsewn one once the Maja dress is actually made.