Wednesday, June 11, 2014

HSF 10 & 11: Art and Politics of Fashion (The inspirations)

I decided somewhat late that I was not going to participate in the Art challenge. I'd been somewhat iffy on it to start with, since my experiences with historical sewing don't tend to rest with artwork or inspirational images. But earlier this year I did find some art that would be perfect! It would go with the pink dress I finished in January.


I would need to make an apron, neckerchief, shift cuff ruffles, and a wonderfully large hat. But I lacked numerous resources this spring, not to mention my usual habit of procrastinating for far too long. And then I caught my first plague of the year (a sinus cold) and decided that I wouldn't stress myself over a challenge. Not to mention, I live on the Prairies, and while I would be able to photograph my work against a lovely field in harvest, I would have to wait until September or October to truly emulate the painting. While that was not truly a dealbreaker, I took this challenge off the table. Perhaps I will revisit it this summer.

Two weeks ago, as I was relaxing after my usual Saturday morning activities but before I felt ready to tackle the things I needed for Sunday morning, I decided that maybe I would consider working on my challenge for #11. I've had this challenge planned since forever! I'm really excited to start on it. After reading so many blogs and seeing so many lovely variations, I wanted to make my own chemise a la reine.


I hardly need to introduce this gown. There are dozens of recreations, several references images, even a few patterns, and it's been featured in a couple movies too. Sarah of Mode Historique has been posting extensively about this iconic gown since early April, and has a few delightful recreations of her own. Some of my favourite dresses have been made by Katherine of The Fashionable Past/Koska-the-Cat, Asa of Fashion Through History, and Jen of Festive Attyre.

When I was doing the initial research a few months ago, I was a little discouraged. I had the perfect fabric picked out - 4-5m of handkerchief weight linen in a pretty green that I picked up for dirt cheap at a New Year's Sale (previously seen: HSF'13: 25 One Metre). But pretty much every true "chemise a la reine" - that is, the airy dress that is essentially a giant tube and gathered around the neck (waist optional, as it can be held in and controlled with a sash) - has been of white or off-white material. While there are fashion plate examples of coloured gowns, nearly all of them have a fitted back.

I'm still really new to this era, and a lot of the construction is a mystery. How does one construct a fitted-back, gathered-front gown? Jen's black chemise gown was a great inspiration to me - fitted back, with a sense-making front closure, and added bonus, she's collected a great number of fashion plate images on Pinterest. (Side note: I am so thankful and appreciative of the hard work so many of these wonderful women have put forth before me. I've been a long-time admirer of their beautiful work, and I can only hope that someday I can give back to the community in the same way.)

Though I see in the Pinterest plates now, there are a couple examples of loose coloured gowns, I am still aiming to construct a fitted-back gown. Mostly because I have been preparing for this for several months and I am eager to work on it in the way I've planned :)

My biggest obstacle so far has been trying to decide how to pattern the front. It seems pointless to put gathers all the way under the arm, so how does one control that? I'm taking inspiration from an adorable pierrot jacket that I unfortunately can't find the reference for, which is smooth under the arms, and only the front section is gathered.

Also an inspiration is this REDONKULOUSLY cute dress at the Glasgow Museums - Collections Navigator. This type of gown was the precursor of the transitional "round" and later Regency gowns, so this kind of construction makes sense. It seems very similar to this 1786 fashion plate. I don't have enough fabric to make a separate petticote, though, so I will be making a closed-skirted, front-gathered, fitted-back "round gown".

As of this posting, however, it's only a few days until the challenge deadline, and I probably won't make it in time. You see, I just went to my grandmother's memorial, and brought a cold back with me. I feel pretty rotten, but it's only started to settle in today, so we will see how the rest of the week goes. But it's also coming up on dance-recital time, which I need a costume for, visiting my other grandparents (hopefully) whom I haven't seen since last October, and planting a forest in memory of my friend Shell, all before Sunday. One of those weeks where things are just conspiring, you know how it goes. I will get it done sometime :)

Edit 6/12/14: Wouldn't you know it, that I would find my inspiration item the day after I posted that I couldn't find it?

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