The Fat Reenactress

The Fat Reenactress

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Leather stays....the Lower class option

post #12                                       Tues. March 31, 2015

Well, since I didn't get my Historic Sew Fortnightly project done (heck, I didn't even touch it today) I figured I'd share with you an alternative to the fully boned stays for 18th century.  For lower class impressions ...and I mean LOWER class, working class, dirt poor.... leather stays are a good alternative.

A view of my stays at the end of a loooong school day presentation. (2 days down!)
Here's a view of my leather stays. I want to state that you probably wouldn't be showing your leather (or proper) stays in public. Even in lower/working classes, a work garment would be worn over your support garment, whether it's a jacket, bedgown, or a plain work gown. Hopefully you can see in the picture that the leather stays are scored in a pattern very similar to the channels of boning in stitched stays. This allows the leather to bend and form to your body. This particular set has no shoulder straps, and lace in the back as well as in the front. You might be able to see the busk I have tucked behind the lacings up front. This piece of wood goes a long way in keeping the stays well formed. One problem with being fluffy is where my weight is...which is a large belly pooch. If I didn't have the busk to push down on my fluff, the leather would tend to flair up, making almost a ski slope effect. My boned stays do the same, so you will never see me wearing a support garment without the busk included. It's such a simple item....a flat piece of wood...but it really does help in the overall shaping. Not only does it prevent the ski slope effect at the bottom of the stay, but it also takes some of the strain off the garment itself. I found this out when I pulled the long busk out of my regency corset after a VERY long day....and the fabric immediately began to buckle under the...ummm...pressure of my fluff trying to escape it's confines....picture the very large Stay puff Marshmellow Man at the end of Ghostbusters. Yeah, kinda like that.

There are references in Peter Kalm's Travels in North America, where he was riding his horse along the countryside, outside of Philadelphia, and saw women working in the fields in just their loosely laced stays. Remember....they are doing HEAVY manual labor in the fields, thus the removal of the top layer and the loose lacings. But also remember....they are not in a "social" setting where they are expecting to see others. They are working, away from most eyes. I believe that Peter Kalm  remarks on this because it IS a peculiar sight to him.

Here are some photos of me wearing my leather stays underneath my working class outfits.
faded working gown with skirts cut shorter
packed and ready to follow the army'
selling used goods and stockings as a street monger

You can see in each of the above, that the leather stays do support, and do give you the lines that are similar to the fully boned stays. They are comfortable for the most part, but can get somewhat hot....or that may be the perimenopausal me talking....

The cost of leather stays are just a bit cheaper than regular cloth stays, but not by too much, unless you know someone who does leather work. I got mine years ago from Weeping Heart Trade company, and absolutely love them. I am pleased that they lace up the front and back in that when I do gain weight, I can distribute the weight gain evenly between the lacings so one gap isn't so big. I do have a problem with front lacings in that I'm anal about getting them to lace straight, to be smooth under my clothing. Since I am more of an eggplant shape, my bust is smaller than my my back lacings will always look like an upside down V.

One last perk of having leather can use them for Steampunk! :)

I can't tell you how many people asked me if they were wood! The coloration definitely gave them a wood effect.
the flamingo whisperer
So, here's an alternative for those of you wanting to portray lower working class, poor. In fact, rather than going without, you would see leather stays in use.

Hope this helps and gives you a cheaper alternative, especially if you are on an adventure to lose weight, and don't want to invest all the time and effort into stitched fabric stays. Just remember, these would NOT be worn with upper class gowns!!! (Greg Hudson from Weeping Heart told me that....looked at me and then said "pffft....look who I'm telling!"   I'll take that as a compliment.)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge #1 and #2

post #11                                          Monday, March  30, 2015

Alrighty!!! Since I seem to be on a blogging spurt, I might as well catch up...and record...some of my sewing for the 2015 year. Might as well do it here as well as in my little notebook, where I just write what I made and for who, so I can go back at the end of the year and see if I was actually productive, or just felt like it. Some years I look at that list and think "slacker! Why did it FEEL like I sewed alot?" those are usually the years I tried making something new....and took extra time doing it, as well as learning a few new curse words as well. My mother would be so proud. It would bring a tear to her eye if she only knew that I too sit at the sewing machine and cry....and then yell out "THIS SUCKS!!!". Oh yes, my mother taught me well. I STILL remember the first 18th c. "ballgown" my mother  made me....out of a REALLY slippery green polyester. I also learned from her, to wait until the last sewmeintothedamndressasmyfriendswaitatthedoor last minute. As I left, I hear her mutter "I NEVER want to see that fabric again"....only to have her make my younger sister an 18th c. "ballgown" two years later.....this time with an honest to goodness pattern (she made mine from drafting pieces onto brown paper bags from the Distaff Sketchbook...only to find that a pattern piece was missing from the bodice. Ah....good times, good times)  Unfortunately....when she and my sister brought the fabric they picked home, we found it to be the EXACT SAME FABRIC as the green horror dress, but in peach. Yeah. I stayed out of the house while she sewed on that one.

But anyway...I'm waxing nostalgic.

My mother, at my wedding, about 2 months before she passed away.
What I've decided to do is to loosely follow the Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge. I'm not really doing it for the chance of my posts being seen, but rather, to get me motivated into sewing, and getting rid of some of the fabric that is building up in my house. So far, I have been able to use stashed fabric for Jan, Feb. and for March. The challenges just happen to work well with what I have, and what I'm thinking of sewing at the moment. Let's hope the momentum keeps going!
I don't have the little icon on my page stating that I'm taking part in the sewing challenge...again, STILL trying to figure out not only the computer, but how to add to my blog, etc. Just remember...I'm 47 years old...the last paper I wrote in college....I typed it on a typewriter!! I went back for a few classes a few years back, and had to contact the friggin' instructor to let them know that I had my paper DONE...I just didn't know how to print it out!!! She sympathized....and said she heard her computer laughing at her whenever she walked by it.

So! anyway! For January:

The Challenge:Foundations

Fabric: 100% white cotton fabric, poly/cotton eyelet trim

Pattern:  None. based loosely on my 18th c. petticoats

Year: 1830's underpetticoat

Notions: poly/cotton eyelet trim, thread, cotton tape

How historically accurate is it? about 30% ?   Completely machine sewn.

Hours to complete: about 2 hours tops....pleating of the trim took the most time

First worn:not yet. Hopefully in May

Total cost:    maybe $10 for the eyelet trim....white cotton was in my stash, cotton cord in my stash (I have about 400 yards of it!!!)
close up of the pleated trim

1830's under petticoat . about 4 yards of fabric pleated onto a waistband
 For February:

What the item is:Blue Linen petticoat

The Challenge: #2  blue

Fabric: 100% linen fabric, 100% cotton twill tape

Pattern:  none. based on original 18th c. petticoats

Year:  last half of the 18th century

Notions: thread, cotton twill tape

How historically accurate is it? 90% ish.....machine done interior seams, rest hand finished

Hours to complete: about five hours....handwork on hem is tedious.

First worn: not yet. don't know when

Total cost: about $3 for the tape. Fabric was a gift from a friend and has  been in my stash, FOREVA.

blue linen petticoat. OOOOH....AHHHHH.

I know, not the most entertaining blog entry....but something I needed to do to keep motivated. I'm hoping to get my March project done make it under the wire for the "deadline"...but again, I'm just loosely using this as a motivation to keep me sewing, so if it's not done by the end of March, I'll still post it here and in the facebook album that the Historical Sew Fortnightly has. It just won't be "highlighted". I'm cool with that. Hope this gets you all motivated!!!!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A cap kit review....

Post #  10                                         Sunday, March 29th, 2015

favorite sewing shirt right now.
If you're like are forever on the look out for THE cap. The most awesome cap in the world, that will highlight your best features, bring ooohs and aaaaahhhhs whenever you wear it, stay on your head....and cover up your "hair sins"....i.e. bed head, short hair....or just plain greasy second event day hair. (add to that the hot flashes from being perimenopausal....and you have a whole other ick factor that the perfect cap can assist in hiding). In other are on the same quest as search of the PERFECT big ass cap.

This is not it.   

It's not a bad's just not THE big ass cap. What it a cap that is awesome in itself. A cap that will stay on your head, thanks to the drawstring in back....and maybe a couple of strategically placed pins.  A cap that will cover ick hair....and a cap that will give you a very "period correct " look.

Full confession. I HATE sewing. GASP!!! right????? I do...I hate the whole process....I ESPECIALLY hate cutting out. Terry has learned, if he wants something made by me....he has to cut it out. He does very well. He lays out the pattern pieces, calls me in to check to make sure the grain is correct (it always is...he's anal that way) and then give him the okay to cut out. Makes the process a LITTLE easier to take. What I DO love is the end result. I love seeing the finished product.
This is why, the new Larkin and Smith patterns/kits offered through At the Sign of the Golden Scissors (yes...I still need to learn how to link) are all sorts of awesomeness!!!!! Not only are the pattern pieces already cut out....but you are given a kit that has everything you will need to put it together, less the sewing needle. You even get beeswax!!! You will get a kit that has a booklet, with step by step instructions on how to put it together.
with the instructions

comes with the wax and the thread needed

Separate pattern pieces being hemmed
Hallie told me it takes her about six hours to put one together. It is all hand stitched...there really isn't any point at which you can machine stitch....but you really don't want to do machine work on this. It sits right next to your while your lover is staring deep into your eyes....he can see all the hand work you put into your cap. (yeah....right. You'll be lucky if they notice your hair is on fire, right?)  BUT....other women will notice.   And knowing you did it all by hand will put that extra lift into your step. You will feel more confident, more comes with a really pretty colored silk ribbon....that makes any woman feel pretty, right?

close up of the whip gathers. Not bad for my first time

pinning the pleated ruffle

pleated ruffle attached to the band with a butt stitch (heeeheee...she  said "butt")

I took about 2 or 3 evenings to finish this. I took my time,  and sewed while watching TV. It's a really great hand project. It's great in that it's almost an instant gratification project. Something pretty that you can see forming in a relatively short period of time.  Hallie includes the different weight threads needed to work on these caps. I ordered this one in the organdy and was VERY happy with the weight and the look it gives. Terry looked at it when we took pictures and even he noticed that the weight/type of fabric makes a huge difference in the appearance. This really does have a middling to upper class appeal to it. The kit I ordered was the "Spring" cap. I was so hapy with the results, I ordered the Wheatley cap kit in the fine linen. I'll post that when I'm finished.Here are some photos of it on my head.
glasses sort of detract from the  cap

top view....showing my "bumpit" of hair

, with a quick fake bun added to fill out the back
side view

I highly recommend getting a kit from Larkin and Smith....I hear that they are also producing a shift kit and a covered hat kit as well. I'll definitely have to look into these items as well. I hope this inspires you to try something new! Can't go wrong with a kit! Half the work is already done!!  Good luck, and let me know how your experiences are with the cap kits!!

One cool part about the caps? I have short hair. I used two hair pieces to fill out the cap. It will definitely be cooler than wearing a wig
showing how short my hair is

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Breastknots...or....the world of boobieblossoms.

post #9                                                      Saturday, March  28th, 2015

As you may have noticed in my heading picture, I'm wearing a bow and flowers at the center of my gown. This is known as a breastknot. I have seen reference to these....but I can't recall where at the moment.    If you google "breastknot"'re in for some shocking...and informative....images and descriptions.   NOT the ones I am talking about!!
Simply put, in the 18th and 19th century, breastknots were worn to add color and decoration to an outfit. They could be made of fresh flowers as well as from paper or silk flowers. You may also find breastknots made of  ribbon and tied into a simple bow. Once you start scanning images and paintings from the 18th and early 19th centuries, you'll be surprised to find quite a few examples, and quite a few variations.
It's a very simple item that can enhance an a different focal point, and dressing up a simple gown or outfit. By changing the colors of the breastknot, if using a neutral colored base gown, you can get an entirely different look.
Below are a few images I found and have on my pinterest page:

Sarah Cook 1775
Mrs. Mary Orange Rothery 1773
Rose Bertin
As you can see...the breastknots can be worn as a center front item, or even as a corsage.  You see a variation in placement also in the early 19th century, with the higher bust line. Not only can you place it center front cleavage or to the side as a corsage, but also, at the high waist to delineate the waistline.
1809 fashion plate

 Below are some samples of breastknots that have been made in different workshops that I have given.

Friday, March 27, 2015

the ultimate Fabu 18th century hat

Post # 8                                          Friday March 27,  2015

It  occurred to me after my post yesterday, that I showed pictures of my new 18th century hat/bonnet, but did not give any information on it. So, before anyone thinks I made this awesome piece of eye candy, I want to make it clear, I DO NOT MAKE HATS/BONNETS. Well....unless a gun is held to my head (which came close a couple of times at the Lydia Fast bonnet workshops I've attended, in making a regency bonnet....I'll post that one can look for the tear stains on the fabric).

This piece of awesomeness was made for me by the VERY talented A Fashionable Frolick....and some day, I will learn how to link things to my blog. They have an etsy shop and a facebook page. I would HIGHLY recommend them! We can't be talented in all things, but we CAN be talented enough to know what looks right for our face/shape, and be able to save up and pay someone else for their endless talent!!!

I was scanning Etsy one day, and found the Fashionable Frolick site. They had black bonnets for sale, with a listing that they could also make white. I had been SUPER envious of the awesome hats/bonnets that both Alicia Schult of LBCC Historical wore during our trip....and even more envious of Amber Mendenhall's (of Lady of the Wilderness Blog) black pouff of fabulousness.  (I REALLY need to learn how to link you all to these awesome people) I contacted and messaged with of the awesome owners. All I did was send an inspiration photo....and said white with pink....her choice on decoration and fabulousness. She sent me I think 3 photos of different pink taffetas she had...and I picked one. She told me how much up front (extra  $$ for some extra foufiness...but TOTALLY worth it) and how long it would take. About a month before Christmas...and voila!!! I even kept it in the box without looking at it until Christmas, since it was a gift from my hubby.(and I already saw the two following photos)  I have NOT been disappointed. I would HIGHLY recommend anything that A Fashionable Frolick makes.

Top two photos are courtesy of A Fashionable Frolick. The two following are from Reenactorfest in Chicago, IL. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Finally finished!!!

Post #7                                                                             Thursday, March 26, 2015

WAYYYYYYY back in June, I started a caraco jacket to wear in Colonial Williamsburg for our day of 18th century, after the ladies and I took a gown workshop with Burnley and Trowbridge.  As the new year started, I finally decided to finish some of those UFO's in my sewing of them being the caraco. All that needed done was to finish off the front closure....I had just folded it back and pinned it shut...and to add the trim.

Ahhh....trim. Finishes off the look, and really makes the outfit. BUT GAD DANG!!!! IT TAKES FOREVER!!!!!
                                                     Here's the jacket before any trim.

I ended up doing a gathered strip of self fabric....which meant....for each strip of fabric, I would stitch the edging a total of 6 times....2 sides hemmed, 2 sides gathered, then 2 sides stitched down onto the garment. UGH. HATE doing trim....but I have to admit. It DOES make all the difference.

Not only did I add the self fabric trim to the neckline, I brought it down the front, and around the sleeve cuffs. The cuffs have a larger piece of ruffled fabric. Something I was experimenting with. I also finished a red silk taffetta petticoat to go with the jacket. And I thought I hated gathering ruffles for the jacket!!! the ruffle on the bottom of the petticoat was a BEAST. I am MUCH better matched to pleating instead of gathering, but sometimes, gathers are what is needed.

I'm hoping this blog post will break my silence, and I look forward to posting quite a few more in the near future.
Not only am I "kind of" following along with the Sew Forenightly, but I've also convinced myself that 2015 is the year of finishing unfinished projects, and doing for others. So, each month, I have promised myself that I will make one thing for myself and one thing for someone else, whether it's a friend, or for my husband, or something I have promised to do but have taken forever and a day to finish.
So far so good! These two projects were for my month of January. Febuary and March will be posted in the next couple of days! a nutshell....go the extra mile and add trim. It may take something that seems uniform and "seen before" to a new level.