Sunday, July 29, 2018

Victorian Christmas in July

A year ago (as it turns out to the day) I suggested to some friends that we go to the Carrington Hotel in Katoomba in July dressed in Victorian for high tea.  

I chose the The Carrington, which originally opened in 1883  because it retains that old world charm.  Every year they decorate a tree and put all the trimmings out in July and year round they do a well-priced and tasty high tea.  You can visit the dining room or ballroom for the high tea (depending where they are serving) the reception area, two lounges, library, billiards and office, all decorated in period charm.

I set the wheels in motion with a tentative early july date in September for the Historical Picnic Society, and whilst the numbers on the day were low (just the three of us) a good time was had by all. Personally I think we made several patrons day as they oohed and ahhed at us walking through to take photos at various hotel locations.  One group who all drove vintage triumphs even asked for our photos.

So this being about sewing you can see how the idea linked into my plans for a full Victorian outfit last year.  Let’s just say I was a bit behind on this one.  Not that I haven’t been sewing just that instead of working on this plan I have made multiple kids outfits (post to come) a costume for stage and a new dress.  On top of all this it is really really hard to sew with a two year old who loves to help.  Last night I was pinned in the leg three times as he “helped” me with some hand sewing.

Anyway in true Hef fashion despite a year lead time I created my entire outfit in under a week.  Planning and tracing took about 3 days and then I made the entire thing in one night (bustle not included).  There are further plans to complete this work to a much much higher standard as per the original plan but this is the shell in which I start.

I have continued to add and improve on this which will require another post once done

The outfit

This took about a day from start to finish including all the ruffles being done by hand.  Yes I know I bought a ruffle foot but damned be to the gods if I can work out how to use it.  This included tracing, cutting and all finishes. I think there is a couple of changes I would like to make to it but all in all it works and is a solid piece.

The wires are a size Medium.  I am not.  I was once and who knows maybe I will be again one day but it is not this day.  However because of the wire size and the plan to wear a corset I made the medium anyway.  For this reason the case isn’t quite as wide as my hips, or at least I assume it isn’t as wide as it should be which gives a smaller silhouette than it should.  Given that I am not THAT worried about historical accuracy I don’t think this is a big problem.

Things that I am missing include the bottom ruffle (not enough fabric left, due to indiscriminate cutting) what I may do is just do a less ruffled bottom ruffle to finish it.  I am also thinking I may add some lace to the bottom of each ruffle just to add some interest.

Unfortunately, my bustle had a wardrobe malfunction internally on the day.  The ties that control the bottom wire decided they would rather not exist than deal with the strain of my butt and the stitching on one side came undone.  Consequently the bustle doesn’t sit quite right in the photos but we make do.  The issue has been repaired and seems to be holding much more strongly now.  I assume this strain to be based on that size issue previously discussed.

The fabric is a quilting cotton that I picked up in spotlight a year ago specifically for the skin up Victorian project so technically it was stash fabric.  I picked it because it is of neutral shading but has this pretty white print on it that is barely noticeable.  I thought it was both pretty and likely to hide under any colour skirt I should choose.

I tossed and turned over this or the wash overskirt with the fabric choices.  I would have preferred the more Austere 1887 outfit but concern over yardage lead me back to the polonaise.  Sadly once all was said and done I probably could have done the wash but oh well that will just need to be a project for another day.  I had two different fabric choices, one was a light blue stripe with white underskirt and the second (which I went with) was the brocade and green satin.  

The biggest benefit of the polonaise is that having made it twice before (once as per the previous post and then again as a stage costume) I knew that I could throw it together quite quickly, and as previously mentioned anything worth doing is worth doing last minute.

The Brocade I got for a steal about 3 months ago. 50% off the already marked down price at spotlight brought it down to $5/m.  The Green Duchess has been in the stash for years, since 2012 to be exact.  I remember it was like $2/m at Cabramatta and I wasn’t going to get any for me then a friend I was with bought me 4m as a present for helping her make a costume.  For cheap fabric its actually pretty nice to touch and has a lot of body.  I was concerned that they didn’t go together but after a quick facebook survey I ended up reassured.  In the end I went with this over the light blue and white because I felt that the stripes could work well as a regency where this was less versatile, and who can turn up a red/green combo for Christmas in July.

As noted the polonaise was made in a single night and the underskirt the following morning before we left.  As such I can’t say that on this wearing the finishes were, well finished.  All my internals were open and lining unsealed, there was no boning in the polonaise, the ties in the bustle bit were tacked in bias binding.  I added the snap front closure in the morning.  Luckily you can’t really see any of the rush in the wear but let’s say the slightly too small corset was knee in back tight just to allow the snaps to stay snapped.

After being totally jealous of the finishes on Marion’s Beautiful taffeta extravaganza I have decided not to let sleeping dogs lie and begun the process of finishing the internals and closing off seams, upgrading and more thoughtfully placing the bustle ties and considering closure options.  Do I go buttons or hooks and eyes…. So hard to decide.  Anyway I will repost with the updated, finished and fully tizzed up version once complete.

The underskirt is very simple, three front gores and two back pieces gathered onto a waist band.  I do think maybe this skirt has a little too much fullness for the outfit and I MAY decide to take out some of the a line in the front gores at least, however these shots only have the bustle underneath and perhaps with a finished petticoat the skirt will hold itself better.  

Made in a matter of hours from trace to wear, there is a few things I want to change on this.  Firstly the waistband is too big.  I mean it is the right size for me without a corset but can’t be tightened to the corseted waist measurement.  I am thinking of removing the ties and adding a button/buttons to allow for both sizes to be utilised.

Secondly it is very plain, I have plans to add a pleated ruffle around the bottom just to dress it up more to the Victorian over-dressed standards.  I have enough fabric left for it.  I also may pink the internal seams.  Full sealing isn’t necessary as it won’t be a high wash item.

Missing items
TV105 – all in one underwear.  This is about 80% done now so its on the to do pile
TV170 – Petticoat, that has been hanging around about a decade now unfinished.  Movement has happened and it will be finished in the next few weeks for the finalised.  Fun Fact  I lost the waistband so now will need to buy just a smidge of yellow poplin to be able to finalise.

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