I might be bending the rules of Historical Sew Fortnightly up to breaking point now, but since life got a bit too busy to keep up the last half-year, I’m now trying to fit in as many challenges as possible in my projects (pretty much like the re-do challenge…) and I will start off with the project I started for Innovation. (Remember that? That was due in February…)
My innovation inspiration came from The Dreamstress’ presentation of the challenge with the portrait of Marie Antoinette in the chemise à la reine. The innovation should then have been cotton, or more likely the larger and cheaper availability of cotton in Europe (with the cotton gin etc.) making fashions like the chemise à la reine possible. Of course the history of cotton is also linked to the history of slavery, and cotton still isn’t exactly the friendliest material in the world… Cotton isn’t the innovation I chose however. My ”innovation” is more about an experiment in the making of the dress.
Looking at portraits of the dress, I had an idea of trying a different way of making the dress. A way that would not include having to buy a pattern, or even much drafting skills at all. The portrait I was looking at the most, except the famous one of Marie Antoinette, was this one of Louise Augusta, taken from Wikimedia Commons (click on the picture to go there). My main reasons for looking at this portrait were the sleeves and the sleeve ribbons. As well as the ribbons being a different colour than blue…
The idea I had for the construction is perhaps best visible in this photograph. Basically the back and front are as wide as I could get from the fabric, and then the sleeves are fastened rectangles on each side, leaving the top opening to be closed with drawstring. The seams fastening the sleeves to the back and front pieces are classically in this pattern approx 30 cm long. As I realized too late, if you want ruffles looking something like those on the portraits, the sleeve seam should be longer than that…
I have made a shirt in this pattern before, and since I’ve done that, I know for a fact that you do want a square sleeve gusset in this! (If you think that you don’t, the garment will disagree and make a square-gusset-shaped hole under your arms anyway…)
My idea was to make the drawstring create the ruffles by making a large hem, then make a drawstring channel in the hem, cut up the piece over the channel and making a rolled hem on both loose ends over the drawstring. It’s difficult to explain, but hopefully this picture shows it better…
I made this by handsewing, and there was a very simple (though in retrospect slightly strange) reason why: I didn’t have enough thread to sew any seams on machine (stash-busting mode gone too far, perhaps?). That means it took a very long time to make, but I did finish it almost entirely about a month after deadline for the Innovation challenge. Almost, but not quite. I still needed ribbons to tie the sleeves. And then I realized that I own a yellow scarf, and if I buy yellow ribbons, I can, by my slightly rulebending logic, make this item fit the Yellow challenge as well.
So – it worked, but something I missed was to make sure the sleeve seams were long enough to have enough fabric to make the ruffles! You can see that the ruffles are on the short side and not as large as the ruffles and lace on all of the portraits. I realized my mistake when making the drawstring hem and thought: ”There’s absolutely no way I’ll re-do this, it will have to work anyway!” But by looking closely at the sleeves in the portraits, I do not believe that this was the way they were made at all. The sleeves on most pictures are narrow in the shoulder part of the sleeve, making this construction extremely unlikely. But it was fun to try new things, and it’s always fun to try and make something work without a pattern!
Flirting with the facts
The Challenge: Yellow and Innovation, winking to Art as the inspiration comes from portraits…
Fabric: White sheer cotton
Notions: Yellow ribbon, yellow shawl, plaited white yarn for the drawstring, white thread.
How historically accurate is it? Honestly: not one bit. Except perhaps for the fabric…
Hours to complete: No idea. Feels like thousands.
First worn: On trials around the house.
Total cost: Mostly stash so don’t remember. Paid 33 SEK for the ribbon.