Your Weekend Wow!

I can’t imagine wearing these, but they are simply wonderful – in every sense of the word.

Woman’s bobbin lace glove. Milan, Italy, about 1650–1700. Linen bobbin lace. Double ruffle along top and half one side of glove. Remains of faded stiff pink ribbon bows (trimming). Dimensions: 39 x 20 cm (15 3/8 x 7 7/8 in.). Museum of Fine Arts,  Boston.



And another fine example of linen bobbin lace gloves, also Italian.

Bobbin lace gloves, Italian (Milan), 18th C.

Bobbin lace gloves, Italian (Milan), 18th C. (Source unknown.)

Your Weekend Wow!

I almost passed over this simple-looking piece until I realized what it was. What it is, as you probably recognize, is a stomacher. This one is from the Met Museum. It’s British and made of cotton ca. 1700. Accession number: 1974.194.1.

But what I at first thought was a lovely, faint fabric design turns out to be very fine quilting done in a mirror-image design. To give you an idea of how small these stitches are, the entire piece is only 16 inches (40.6 cm) tall.

I wish the Met had photographed it with side lighting so the stitch definition would stand out better. It must have been both subtle and eye-catching.

Here is another example of a quilted stomacher, this one from a later time – 1730-1750. It also is from England, made of linen, linen thread, silk thread, hand-sewn and hand embroidered. Museum number: T.209-1929


The V&A Collections

The V&A website offers an excellent description of stomachers:

A stomacher is a decorative panel of fabric, usually triangular in shape, worn to fill the space between the front edges of a woman’s open gown. The stomacher formed part of the ensemble of fashionable women’s dress from the 1680s to the 1780s. This example incorporates whitework embroidery, quilting and cording. In the latter technique, parallel lines of stitching have been filled with short lengths of linen cord, inserted from the back of the fabric. The bold design includes flowers, leaves, pomegranates and shells. As quilting and cording were popular techniques for petticoats and informal jackets, this stomacher may well have been part of a matching ensemble.

I can’t imagine how stunning a matching ensemble of a quilted and corded petticoat, stomacher and jacket would have looked.

The quilting on the earlier stomacher really appeals to me. I’m working with fine linen at the moment and now I’m tempted to try quilting a small bit just to see how it behaves. Maybe a small quilted pocketbook or coin purse? I do have a few scraps lying around…

Your Weekend Wow

In the early 19th century the custom and standard was for married women to cover their hair with a light cap. Caps were worn in the house and covered with a bonnet when going out-of-doors. Fashion, location and economic status dictated shape, materials and construction so, thankfully, quite a range of surviving examples exist. But I rarely see one photographed to show clear, close-up detail. Thanks to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, one such image is available.

And for those of us who have wondered just how fine cotton mull was, this provides the answer. The net inserts look coarse in comparison.

Woman’s cap, American, about 1815. Embroidered mull cap with puffed crown and ruffled edge; circular floral pattern embroidered at top of crown with lace insertions in blossoms and eyelets; seven diamond-shaped puffed net inserts around crown; band of eyelets with leaf motifs within overall pattern of V-shaped motifs; lace ruffle at edge. Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts, United States; Place of Manufacture: (fabric) probably India. Accession number: 49.956.


Your Weekend Wow!

My personal 18th century “wowza-palooza” continues with this delightful bergère, also from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Absolutely incredible. ‘Nuff said.

Woman’s feather hat (bergère). English or French, 1750-1775. Round disk-like hat with crown only slightly elevated, foundation of linen completely covered with polychrome feathers; lined with pale pink taffeta, one pale pink silk ribbon. Silk ribbon, linen, feathers, and silk faille lining. Dimensions: 35 x 35 x 2 cm (13 3/4 x 13 3/4 x 13/16 in.). Accession number: 43.1832.



bergere underneath

My Two Big Bodacious Costuming Goals…it’s not the destination, it’s the journey

SideWireDressformOne of the major reasons I haven’t been sewing garments, besides that elusive muse, is because I’m changing sizes. Losing weight (on purpose) is wonderful and requires a concerted effort. However, it becomes nigh on impossible to make a waist or a set of stays or anything with much of a fit when I don’t know what size I’ll end up. I know where I’d like to end up, but liking is one thing and getting there is another. (At my age my metabolism is nearly in a coma, so a little intake goes a very long way.)

But that itch to sew and create is back at long last, so what to do?

An 18th Century Gregorian Reflecting Table Telescope

18th Century Gregorian Reflecting Table Telescope

Rather than follow the HSM, I’ve decided to think in terms of dreamy costumed events I’d like to attend and set my sights accordingly. And if I’m going to chart a new course, why not lift my eyes and shoot for something grand and just a bit insane? Why not, indeed.

So, resolutely jumping in way over my head, I’ve chosen two very big Biggies – one I’ve known about for a while and one that I’ve just discovered: the annual Jane Austen Festival in Bath, England, and the 18th century evening (Les Fêtes Galantes) at the Palace of Versailles, France.

Neither of these is going to happen any time soon. 2018 sounds like a good target, although there is a slim chance (no pun intended) I could be ready for Bath by next fall. We shall see. Heaven knows I’ve done crazier things.

Here’s my current catalog of acquired and/or finished items for each event.

  • Bath: period boots, stockings, chemise, stays, petticoat, fichu. Multiple outfits required. Have patterns for gowns, caps, bonnets, turbans, overdress, redingote, spencer, cape, mitts and reticules. Lots of fabric, too.
  • Versailles: not a thing – zip, zilch, nada, rien. Single outfit required. Have pattern for chemise. Have fabric for pocket hoops.

And so, as you can see, I’ve a lot of sewing ahead of me. Fortunately, the garments on the “to do” list have quite a lot of diversity – I don’t think I’ll get bored. And I hope the enticing goal events will help keep me going when I get frustrated and/or stuck – which is likely, considering this is all new territory for me.

Since I’m currently shrinking (and, hopefully, not re-expanding) I think my best bet for now is to stick with things that don’t require a close fit or a specific size.

For the festival in Bath that means working on the cap, bonnet and reticule(s). The cap I’ve been fiddling with has become a veritable thorn in my side. The cotton organdy is way too stiff and heavy…it’s more like a bonnet than a cap. So I’m going to start over and use a fine linen this time. The former cap may actually become a white summer bonnet with some trim added to spice it up a bit.

Remember this? I do. Grrrr...

Remember this? I do. Grrrr…

For the “do” at Versailles it means starting with the chemise, since that’s the only pattern I have at the time. If I’m going to do 18th century French fashion at Versailles I want to do it right: inside-out and bottom-up. In that spirit I’ve just ordered some 3-ounce handkerchief linen (WLG119) from Wm. Booth, Draper – enough for a chemise and that pesky late Georgian cap.

Who knew my muse would come back with this? I’m really hoping I don’t have to make another set of Regency stays, although worse things could happen and likely will – I’ll need to make myself a set of 18th century stays, after all.

After that will come a set of pocket hoops. I’m planning on using the pattern from J.P. Ryan and already have fabric for them.

JP Ryan #14 - 18th Century Pocket Hoops Pattern

JP Ryan pattern #14

But first, the chemise. And so the games begin.

Your Weekend Wow!

Thanks to recent posts by A Damsel in This Dress and The Quintessential Clothes Pen on their recent historically costumed experience at Versailles (more on that later) I’ve been having a bit of an 18th century moment. One that’s lasting beyond a mere moment, as a matter of fact. So when I saw this yesterday I knew it had a place right here. Sadly, there are no photos of the interior. But it’s truly a work of art nonetheless and it’s equally amazing that it survived in such magnificent condition.

Pocketbook, French, 1725-1775. Rectangular envelope style pocketbook. Polychrome opaque and translucent glass beads strung with linen thread, held together by interlocking looping stitches (sablé). Design on white ground: lovebirds with heart and floral swag above (front); peacock and floral swag above (back), both have rocaille border with cornucopias; floral and rocaille motif (flap). Gilt-galloon binding. Blue silk taffeta lining and side panels. Cardboard foundation. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston ( Click on the link for mind-boggling close up detail.



The Embroidered Reticule Gets Its Start

It seems like the weather has been conspiring against me. Once I decided on the fabric color and the design for the embroidered reticule, I went shopping for floss and chose some complimentary colors. Easy enough, sure. The only thing left to do was transfer the Ackermann’s design to the fabric. And that took until today.

I tried a pressure transfer paper, but everything came out thick and blurry. I could draw the design free-hand, but I want an exact replica so no go there. I don’t have a light box any more (it’s been gone for years) and the local quilt shops don’t have one I could use. Nor do I know anyone who has one. And it’s been grey, overcast and rainy for days – not enough light to trace it. Grrrr.

But, at long last, today the sun came out for a few hours and I did the old tape-it-on-the-window-and-trace-it-while-you-can-still-see-it method, which worked without a hitch. Now it’s in my favorite embroidery frame (a souvenir from my class at the Royal School of Needlework in England) and ready to start getting gorgeous.


A Spark, an Embroidered Reticule and It’s Back into the Fray

(photographer unknown)

So. The spark has presented itself and I am gingerly taking up its energy, hoping to nourish it into a flame.

I think I mentioned I have a very dear friend who has a Very Big Event coming up soon. I want to make something for her but hadn’t been able to decide what. She likes “old-fashioned” things, things that are feminine without being too “frou-frou” and things that are utilitarian. She also likes to “dress up” on occasion. However, I don’t have enough time to create a large piece. It has to be of reasonable size and effort for me to meet this deadline. So I spent some time trolling through Pinterest and my favorite historical fashion blogs when, rather suddenly, it all came together, all at once.

Don’t you just love it when that happens?

On my friend Nessa’s blog, Sewing Empire, I found some inspiring Regency embroidery designs from Ackermann’s Repository and further sleuthing lead me to one published in 1821.

Regency handkerchief embroidery patterns

It’s feminine without being too much and I’m sure the recipient would be thrilled, but only if I take the “Love” out of it (literally, not figuratively). Perhaps replace it with her initial(s)? Although it was originally a design meant for handkerchief embroidery, I immediately thought of a reticule – a little something for special occasions, a decorative and utilitarian yet also manageable project for the amount of time I have.

Next step – choose the fabric. It is often tricky finding appropriate colors, but I found three high-quality cottons that fit the bill: a steely grey-blue, a deep maroon, and a rich mustard. Now it’s just a matter of choosing.


I’m leaning toward the mustard because it’s a classic Regency color that “goes” with almost nothing else yet manages to “work” with just about everything. (Accessories weren’t all matchy-matchy back then: your reticule didn’t necessarily match your shoes, which didn’t match your gloves, which didn’t match your bonnet.) As a color it’s a bit risky, but I think I’m safe.

She does love a surprise…

Your Weekend Wow!

This weekend I’m in the mood for bonnets – lovely springtime bonnets sprinkled with flowers.


Straw Bonnet, 1835-49. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Straw Bonnet, 1835-49.


Wedding Bonnet, 1845. The Victoria & Albert Museum.

Wedding Bonnet 1845 The Victoria & Albert Museum


Poke Bonnet, 1850’s. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Poke Bonnet, 1865. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Poke Bonnet 1865 The Metropolitan Museum of Art


A beautiful, delicate sheer lace bonnet from 1840.

A beautiful, delicate sheer lace bonnet from 1840.


Bonnet, ca. 1840, France. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

bonnet mfa

Your Weekend Wow!

Here’s the question: Do we no longer use beautiful parasols because we no longer promenade? Or do we no longer promenade because we no longer use beautiful parasols? (Place cursor over each image for more information.)