Thursday, December 25, 2014

End-Of-Year Update Part I

Happy Yule to everyone!
As the holidays ramp up toward the new year, here's an update on what I've been up to since I last posted here. Hold on tight, it's a long one. First up; the dress(es) conundrum...

Ballgown bodice pre-seam clipping, hence the bunching on the dart seams.

For Dickens Fair this year, I decided to take time away from participating as a cast member and focus on sewing. Even so, other performances and costuming ended up taking much of my time away from my goal of creating a fabulous pastel frou-frou 1830s ensemble. My friend Laura and I were planning on attending the final weekend together in these outfits. Unfortunately time ran out for me, but that really wasn't the final reason why I didn't use the pale blue silk taffeta for such a project. More on that in a bit.
On Saturday in the middle of the afternoon before Laura arrived to meet me (after spending the morning rushing to finish her outfit), my fiance Anders became violently ill.
He played Bill Sykes with the Oliver Twist cast this year, and was feeling right as rain Saturday morning. That is, until he ate some tainted food from one of the vendors for lunch. He was so sick I feared that I'd need to take him to an ER. When the worst of it passed after about 3-4 hours, I got him in the car and we just went home. I spent that Sunday looking out for any recurring symptoms that might surface, but he was almost normal by Sunday night. He'd had just four french fries on Saturday that made him feel "funny" about 30 minutes after eating them, then he blacked out, came to and was violently ill multiple times. Later we heard more than a few other people had come down with the same symptoms that same day, and it's strongly suspected that it was botulism(!) from poor food handling and tainted ingredients.
So while I enjoyed a few hours at Dickens on Saturday, Laura and I never had the chance to wreak Frou-frou havoc together. Oh well, there's always next year.

Aside from all that unfortunate distress, my final decision not to break my back trying to finish the pastel 1830s day dress in time, turned out to be a good one.
It was also due to two other main factors:
1.) I had initially purchased the silk with the intent of FINALLY making myself an 1850s or 1860s ballgown, and while I could have made the 1830s day dress convertible into the 1850s ballgown, I would have had to do some major futzing that would likely compromise the design I wanted for my ballgown.
2.) After weighing the risks, I didn't want to wear this pale and wondrous silk fabric at Dickens, where patrons are walking around with drinks, the ground is dirty and hemlines suffer, small children and adults alike with grimy hands that like to shove in crowded areas and patrons are often walking around with food. I didn't want to subject my future mid Victorian dream ballgown to any of that.
Last year I had a pale colored dress and a patron spilled food on the skirt. I had to have it dry cleaned and even though they couldn't get all of the stain out, it was expensive. Luckily the stripe pattern in the fabric helps hide the faint stain, but I don't want to go through that again.

 If we do attempt the pastel 1830s madness thing again next year, I'll make it out of something more easily washed. I had initially thought about getting a synthetic taffeta for this (I know *gasp*) but cost-wise, I'd already spent my costuming funds on the silk.
Next year I'll make the 1830s dress in a good quality silk blend, or a lined sheer blue cotton. This isn't that I'm a fabric snob, but synthetics get really warm at Dickens Fair and it can be downright sweltering indoors when the crowds are their thickest.
Natural, breathable fabrics are the way to go. As long as I can hand wash or put it through the delicate cycle in cold water and drip dry, I'm comfortable with wearing an all-over solid pale color at Dickens Fair.

So in the end, I took this dress and made a few changes.
I removed the sleeves from the bodice, and replaced them with my own altered version of the gigot sleeves from the Truly Victorian 1830s dress pattern. I made them out of a slightly contrasting fabric to the dress. It used to be a grey pink shot taffeta skirt I'd made 2 years earlier, and wore once.
Then I took some of the trim from the old sleeves, and used that to trim the gathered areas and the shoulder seams of the new sleeves.

The skirt received an update as well. With more of the left over trim from the sleeves, I applied it in a straight line down the center front. I also attached a bunch of lush bows made from the grey/pink skirt fabric for an 1836 skirt decoration style I'd seen in a fashion plate.

I want to do something like this dress again, but in richer colors. This plum/dove grey/pinkish color scheme is lovely in daylight, but indoors or in the dusky lighting of Dickens Fair, it gets washed out easily. I at least had its pretty luster to save it. If I do a pale blue, I'll go for something that looks like a bright sky blue in outdoor light.
This bodice was also worn over a different corset this time, and while it was more comfortable than its predecessor, there is some wrinkling I'll need to fix on the bodice with a re-fitting and more boning.
As for the hat, stay tuned. That and the ballgown will get their own blog entries.

 Photo by Mary Anne Butler

 Photo by Laurie Tavan

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