Old Friends: One Found and One Resurrected

Fichu and fabric for Early 1870s-style Bustle Dress

Fichu and fabric for Early 1870s-style Bustle Dress

I don’t know if this happens to you, but many times I find things happen for me in a series or chains of events. Today was an excellent example, which is why I’m up writing at this insane hour. But news is news and there’s no time like the present to share so I can get it off my mind and go to sleep without a buzzing brain.

Here’s the story, which is a bit long and so I beg your indulgence.

I don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook. In a lot of ways I find it irritating and too invasive for my preferences. However, it is the best way to keep in touch with a number of historical costuming groups and a few dear FB buddies. So I have an account and a rarely active page for the sake of maintaining contact with everyone else. But I don’t check or even sign in regularly.

As I was posting my HSM #9 Challenge on the HSM Facebook page, my activity page caught my eye. I’d been invited to a gathering at the Seattle Art Museum on October 11th for a special exhibition of Impressionist paintings: the classic images painted by the historic masters. The website describes it best:

The Seattle Art Museum is proud to present Intimate Impressionism from the National Gallery of Art (in Washington, DC). The collection is comprised of extraordinary paintings, considered to be the jewels of one of the finest collections of French Impressionism in the world.

This exhibition features 68 intimately scaled paintings by Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masters, including Edouard Manet, Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, Eugène Boudin, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, Paul Gauguin, and Vincent van Gogh, among others. These works, which are prominently presented in the East Building of the National Gallery, have long been treasured by the museum’s visitors and prized by art historians.

A small group is attending dressed in fashions of the era, which formally ran from the 1870’s to the 1880’s but in reality started in the 1860’s and ran into the 1890’s. I marked my attendance as “maybe” and immediately changed it to “going.” Who did I think I was fooling? Pass up the opportunity to attend an exhibition of the Masters of Impressionism while dressed in period garb? No. Way.

My internal happy dance lasted a few hours until I realized two very important things: 1) the exhibit is only one month away, and 2) I have nothing to wear. Knowing how well I can dither over things like this I allowed myself one day – today (well, yesterday, actually) – to figure it out. Either I was going in period dress or jeans and a pullover. And I wasn’t going to take 3 weeks whining over historic fashion plates only to end up in jeans by default.

Plan A: Because this expedition involves the usual antics (car ride to the ferry, the ferry ride, car ride to the museum, strolling through the exhibit whilst looking as cool as the paintings themselves, probably going for a late lunch afterwards, car ride again, back on the ferry and the car ride home) I really wanted to go with a Natural Form gown. The only things standing in my way were no appropriate undergarments, a lack of patterns for that era and a fairly complete ignorance in how to make them if I’d had them. That’s too much stress for a thirty-day deadline, so no dice.

Plan B: I have bustles, petticoats and the lot for both the early and late periods plus lots of patterns for both. I have enough fabric to make a couple of different dresses. Excellent.

Plan C: I dislike driving in a bustle. Given that fact, the smaller the bustle the better. Therefore, Early Bustle Era wins. In addition, I’ve learned that if I’m going to be walking through crowds the safest thing for everyone is to go without a train. So, Early Bustle with no train. I can do that.

Better yet, a long time ago (March of 2014, to be exact) I started an Early Bustle Era dress, got hung up on some silly detail or something and put it away. Somewhere in the sewing room there was a nearly completed underskirt, a partially completed overskirt and the fabric for a waist. Since I was so far along, thirty days is more than enough to finish it up. And I would finally be able to wear the fichu  and hat I made and have yet to wear. The blue dress and ruffled fichu would be perfect for the Impressionism exhibition. Here’s an abbreviated pictorial flashback. Note that the brighter, deeper blue is the actual color of the dress fabric.

Now I only had to find the fabric and bits…and I did! Not only that, but when moving a box to get to the drawer where I was pretty sure I’d stored the dress-in-progress, I found my Rowenta iron!

Since taking the photos, I’d hemmed the underskirt. I’d also cut, sewn and prepped the bottom ruffle for gathering. All it needs is hemming and it’s good to go. I do need to let out the waistband on the skirt, since I’m a bit wider than I was over a year ago, and decide which waist to make. But that’s all easy-peasy stuff. Obviously, it all happened the way is was meant to and I am tickled pink.

And now it’s definitely time for bed.


4 thoughts on “Old Friends: One Found and One Resurrected

  1. That overskirt is gorgeous but since I’m reading backwards, have you started planning another? I saw a photo of another pattern in a more recent post. Or maybe I should go back and check.

    • It is confusing – sorry. Back in early 2014 I started making this dress for the PT Victorian Heritage Festival but could not finish in time. Then I got frustrated with it and stashed it away until I calmed down. (I was really frustrated.) The overskirt I’d started was part of the problem. It looked different from the illustration, so what I was getting wasn’t what I was expecting and I wasn’t really happy with it. There’s nothing actually wrong with it, just a mind/eye mismatch thing. I also had trouble with the front portion collapsing instead of draping nicely, but I think I’ve devised a solution for that and I’ll talk about it in an upcoming post.

      The other part of the problem is that if feels like it’s just hanging there. Maybe too tailored, if you know what I mean. When I thing of Impressionists I think of light and movement with an airy feel. That’s why I like the other overskirt pattern so much. The ruffles give it a lot of oomph.

      But it looks like I don’t have nearly enough fabric for a second overskirt, so I’ll have to finish the one I started and just get creative with it. At least it’s the 1870’s, so I it’s nearly impossible do “too much” with it. 🙂

      • I’m finding out often my finished overskirt doesn’t look like the drawing. But that’s ok. As long as it’s pleasing to the eye, that’s all that matters.

      • I’m getting so much better that I used to be, but it can still be hard for me to get past what my brain is expecting and see what I actually have and how nice it is. Too judgmental, at least I can be. Thank goodness age is softening me up. In more ways than one. 😉

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