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1778-9ish riding habit

1775 maja, 1778-9ish riding habit, 18th century, projects

Maja Bodice Progress (bind bind bind, spangle spangle spangle)

The Maja project is trucking along!  I spangled seams!  I sewed the neckline and CF edge!  And then I bound the bottom of the CF and the whooooole bottom edge… which, phew, was a lot of binding!  I did the 18th-c.-preserve-fabric thing and cut all the binding strips on the straight, which was fine as I just mitered the corners… except for a bit too much fraying.  Uck!  This was one of the longer bindings I’ve ever done, as there are 5 million tabs.  I realized that my jacket turnback facing didn’t QUITE go down long enough — not sure what I was thinking!  So I need to piece in a little 1-2″ square.  Whatever, random!

I’ve now patterned the sleeves, cut them out, marked them, and am busy spangle-ing away.  Mela said something really helpful about my recent riding habit project — she thought that the weird bust wrinkle was caused by the sleeve pattern.  Well, I think she’s right!  I had a weird angle going on on the sleeve cap in front, without really enough fabric in there.  So I fixed the pattern for this project (oh, right, point is I started w/ my riding habit jacket sleeve pattern) and at some point I’ll make new sleeves for the habit, which hopefully will fix the problem!

Again, I’m glad I scanned that high res version of the Maja painting, because it made me realize that there is not ONE but TWO rows of spangles on each sleeve seam.  And it helped me figure out that they’re not mirrored, but more interlocking if that makes sense.  The spangles on the cuff were weird, and I had to redraw the line about 50 times.

Two things I’ve been wondering about:

First, there’s a little, almost heart-shaped, black line on the sleeve above the toggles/buttons.  It doesn’t make sense in terms of the spangle pattern — why would there be a little blip of spangles there?  So I was wondering if maybe the toggles/buttons are functional — I doubt the sleeve would OPEN there, but maybe the toggles/buttons are used to tighten the sleeve at the cuff, and so that black squiggle is a small wrinkle?

Second, I read in one of my sources (gotta go back and refind the citation) that the sleeves on Maja costumes were generally tied on.  I thought that was weird for 18th c., but whatever, it’s a weird style!  Well, I was remembering what an 18th c. costume expert was telling me about another costume expert who uses art historical methods exclusively, and how she therefore sometimes gets things “wrong” in terms of what is seen on extant garments.  And I started to wonder if maybe the thing I read about the tied-on sleeves was actually someone misinterpreting the pleated/ruched ribbon seen on the armhole and sleeve cap of most Maja/similar styled costumes?  Because in the painting, there’s no space between the armhole and the sleeve cap, the way there would be if it were tied on, nor can I see any ties except some loose ribbon at the end of the trim.  And, all the paintings I’ve seen generally have one of two armhole/sleeve cap trims, shown below on some extant Spanish garments, and these don’t appear to be tied on either.

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.

1778-9ish riding habit, 18th century, projects

On Target for Williamsburg!

I am totally on target for getting everything done in reasonable time for Williamsburg, which, yay! I have finished most of the big stuff, and am now down to fiddly bits. I think I’m even going to have a day or half-day to pack, which is SUPER exciting.

I have been motoring on the riding habit, and I have to say I’m kind of rediscovering the joy of sewing machines — in that I am SUPER excited about this outfit, and if I hadn’t decided to machine sew it, it never would have happened in time. So, sewing machines ARE good when you need them!

I finished putting the jacket together, attaching the collar and the skirts. I did screw up slightly in the jacket skirt pleats, in that I decided to round down the bottom of the back hemline, and just added from the pleats to the CB — but didn’t change the pleat hemline… so the pleats don’t line up with the jacket hemline. I started trying to futz with them to make them line up with the hemline, but it totally threw off the width of the pleats, and meant that the skirts no longer matched up width-wise with the jacket. So I decided it was okay less than perfect, and just went ahead as patterned.

The sleeves were SLEEVIL. EVIL EVIL EVIL. I looked at the riding habit pattern in Janet Arnold and thought, “Okay, wrist-length two-piece sleeve, that’s doable.” I looked through my pattern stash to find something to start with, and realized that I had made a similar style pattern for my chemise gown. So I started futzing with it, and futzing with it, and futzing with it, and FOUR HOURS LATER (okay, I might be exaggerating) I had a pattern that I was close to happy with. Then, I looked at the riding habit pattern in Norah Waugh, where it finally dawned on me that the sleeve top and bottom pattern are supposed to be exactly the same. DUH. Somehow I hadn’t read that in the Arnold layout. So I took my sleeve top pattern, which looked closer to the period cuts, traced off two, and fit those making sure to make even changes b/t top and bottom. Took me less than an hour. Le sigh!

The skirt was relatively quick, except I was lazy and didn’t measure my stash ON my body for my waist measurement — so the skirt is a good 3″ too small in the waistband. It fits, due to 18th c. waist finishing techniques, but if I can find the time, I will unpick it and repleat it a bit wider — otherwise you can see some of my red quilted petticoat showing through!

Warning: these are TERRIBLE pictures, I know, but you can see where I was at a few days ago. Winston really wanted to participate in the picture taking, hence my blurry arm:

1778-9ish riding habit, 18th century, projects

A Productive Weekend

After three days of pretty much straight sew sew sew, I’ve got the habit jacket draped, patterned, cut out, and half-way assembled.

It was difficult to decide exactly how the back of the jacket should look, as I can’t find any extant examples of this cutaway style.  I initially decided the back should be cut straight across, as most habits I’ve seen do this… but then when I looked at the pictures, it just looked strange!  So I added a gentle curve towards the CB.

Here’s the mockup, along with the start of the jacket — fronts & backs together, collar started and just draped on to see how its working.  I wasn’t sure if I should stiffen the collar and lapels at all, but I decided to go for it as the stiffening could only help, so there’s a layer of linen/cotton fustian in there.

Figuring out the side pleats was CRAZY HARD.  Thank god for the detailed diagrams in the men’s coat pattern in Costume Close-Up.  Even so, it took multiple attempts, talking out loud, and a call to Francis to get it figured out.  It’s SUPER cool, but super crazy.

My iPhone seems to have decided that my wool is blue, but it really is green!

1778-9ish riding habit, 18th century, projects

Riding Habit!

I’ve mentioned it a million times, but I really truly AM making a riding habit for Colonial Williamsburg.  It’s going to be March, which could very well mean cold; plus, I’d really like to have a very-appropriate-to-Williamsburg outfit; plus, riding habitses are fabulous!

I’ve been mulling about it for a while now, and despite looking at tons of different inspiration images, I kept coming back to this habit from 1779-81:

Zoffany, detail from "The Sharp Family," 1779-81

I LOVE the waistcoat, with the gold braid and buttons, and I think that’s what sold me.  Of course, I need to do it in my colors, so I hunted down some forest green wool from Mood Fabrics (which, shockingly, has decent prices on some fabrics, including wool!).  Olive is modeling the fabric for you; the bit in the bottom left of the pic is the best capture of the color (it’s not blue, as it looks in the pic):

I’ve been doing tons of research, although there’s limited information out there about habits.  And, of course, I’ve been madly working on my 1780s stays, as I want to wear them under this.  So since I FINALLY got the stays wearable, I was finally able to start on the habit… with only a few weeks left to go before my trip!  So, sadly, all my plans for a totally authentic hand sewn habit went out the window, and I am machine sewing everything I possibly can that won’t show (and, even, bag lining so that I can machine and not have it sew).  I’m laughing as I’m working, because I am using really authentic materials… but modern/theatrical techniques!

Unfortunately, there are only a few options out there for pattern resources for habits:  Janet Arnold and Norah Waugh both include patterns, but both are 1750s, which is stylistically somewhat different from late 1770s.  So while I’ve used both as references for draping, I’ve had to make some educated guesses; most especially, knowing that habits followed men’s fashions, I used the 1760-90s coat in Costume Close-Up for ideas on how to handle the cutaway front and back pleats.

Here’s the waistcoat in progress, with trim, and with buttons; I did handsew the bust dart, and will be hand sewing the buttonholes:

You can see that I changed the waistcoat back; when I first made it, I did a triangular cut-out with the quick & dirty, but still period, linen tape ties (instead of spiral lacing) — but, of course, the bias totally stretched.  Then I remembered that when Janea Whitacre showed us this option (in the Brunswick workshop), she did the square cutout — right, on the straight of grain!  So I redid that.

1778-9ish riding habit, 18th century, projects

Hat Advice!

So, I am starting to stress about all the sewing I need to get done before Williamsburg, which is in, uh, a few weeks?  I don’t know, I don’t want to look at a calendar.  I think I can get it done in time… but there are lots of things to do!  Gotta make my 1780s stays wearable, finish my Brunswick, and bang out a riding habit — it can be done!

I’m starting to stress about a hat for the riding habit (and possibly the Brunswick?  dunno).  I want to do a black hat with tons of feathers like you see in the fashion plates, but it’s hard to see exactly what is going on there under all the feathers… and I don’t have a lot of time!

So, this brings me to my question — is it doable to get a black wool hat on Etsy/Ebay and reblock it (steam/wet it and dry it over a form)?  From what I can tell, it looks like the hats are big enough to go over the (low) wigs, which means a waaay bigger headsize than anything I’m going to find.  And I just don’t have time to really make a hat from scratch, so I’m thinking get something with a decent size brim, reblock the crown, mess with the brim, and stick a lot of feathers on it.  Does this make sense?  Am I on the right track?