Sunday, February 28, 2016

Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #11 - Silver Screen

November – Silver Screen: Be inspired by period fashions as shown onscreen (film or TV), and recreate your favourite historical costume as a historically accurate period piece.
November?  But it's February!  Saving my projects as surprises has put my posting behind and wanting wonderful photos has made my lateness even worse!  I had glamorous plans for a photo shoot for this project but something even more glamorous has happened and I will share that with you in just a bit.
First, the gown!
Erin is a member of the facebook group for Historical Sew Fortnightly.  One day she posted about some patterns she was developing and I responded that I would love to try out her new patterns and....well, here we are!
In September 2015, Erin sent me this wonderful e-pattern with instructions and fabulous vintage sketch.
Her instructions were titled "Polaire Edition 001 Dress, Circa 1933".  Out of curiosity I Googled "Polaire" and was taken down the most fabulous internet rabbit hole where I learned about Émile Marie Bouchaud.  But first, back to Erin's pattern and the gown.
Erin's pattern from 1933 is a perfect representation of the era.  A fashion trend characteristic of the 1930s to the end of World War II was attention to the arm in both sleeve styles and shoulder pads.  These Sears Catalog pages from 1933 and 1934 show the "styles worn at Hollywood First Nights"...
and "the newest "party times" are subtly "curve" revealing", with the proper foundation to "insure your figure lines".

Erin's pattern is all about the sleeves and the smooth line with strategic seam placement to insure a beautiful fit.
I printed out the e-pattern and taped it together.

Sewed a mock-up with a very wild fabric....
...with an even wilder sleeve lining.

I wanted to see how the pattern behaved with a contrasting sleeve lining of red satin and a gown of black lightweight duchesse satin.  These sleeves were the most difficult part of a very easy pattern.  I love the red peeking out of these fabulous sleeves!
The two-part inner and looped outer sleeve.

The inner sleeve is sewn to a portion of the bodice and both inner and outer sleeve are sewn to the remaining portion of the bodice.  Then the loops are tacked to the bodice.

The finished black satin gown with a touch of red satin drama!

When I started this project I had some wonderful shoes already in the closet, and a beautiful bag that was given to me by a wonderful friend!
So here I am ready for a Hollywood First Night!
If you have time you might enjoy learning a bit about Émilie Marie Bouchard.  Émilie was a French singer and actress born May 14, 1874.  She took the stage name "Polaire", or Pole Star.  Her childhood and entry into stage is an incredible story.  She entered silent film in 1909 and stayed in film until 1935.  She made her first visit to the United States in 1910 where she was quite the oddity with her not-quite-yet fashion of bobbed hair, her tiny waist from practicing tight-lacing when it had been in vogue, her nose piercing, and her pet pig Mimi.  Émilie died October 19, 1939 at the age of 65.
I would love to tell you everything I learned about this woman who was very much ahead of her time, but this post gives a perfect representation, some of which I have highlighted below.

  • She pioneered fashion trends: in fact she wore very short skirts and also cropped her hair in her early days as a café singer in the 1890s, fashions that did not become common in the rest of society until the 1920s.
  • She knew how to take advantage of her uncommon charm, even nurturing her ‘exoticism’: she wore unusually heavy eye makeup, deliberately evocative of the Arab world.
  • Canon of beauty? At a time when tight-lacing among women was in vogue, she was famous for her tiny, corsetted waist, which was reported to have a circumference no greater than 16 inches (410 mm). This accentuated her large bust, which was said to measure 38 inches (970 mm).
  • She did not fear courting controversy, playing with ‘the bizarre’ at her will: For her 1910 supposed “debut” in New York she provocatively allowed herself to be billed in the advance publicity as “the ugliest woman in the world” and departing on a transatlantic liner she was apparently accompanied by a ‘black slave’. Returning to America in 1913, she brought a diamond-collared pet pig, Mimi, and wore a nose-ring.
  • Glamour, luxury, success: talk of her figure and her lavish overdressing in fur coats and dazzling jewels preceded her appearances wherever she went.

  • This was recorded in 1923.

    This was recorded in 1930 and has a nice photo compilation:

    Would Émilie Marie aka Polaire, have worn this very type of dress at age 63?  I should think so and with her full head of almost unruly hair and Mimi at her side I think she would have been as independent and daring as always!

    Do you remember the glamorous forthcoming happening I mentioned?  It will be this coming April when I attend Party Like A Vanderbilt - Season 2 at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.  I've organized a Movie Stars and Moguls Rooftop Reception on the rooftop of Biltmore House and we will have a glam evening of 1920s and 1930s personalities attending.  Who do you think I will be?

    Historical Sew Fortnightly

    What It Is:  Evening Gown
    The Challenge:  #11 Silver Screen
    Inspiration:  Émilie Marie Bouchaud aka Polaire
    Fabric:  Lightweight Duchesse Satin
    Pattern:  Polaire Edition 001 by Erin Frumet
    Year:  1933
    Notions:  Thread
    How historically accurate is it?  Vintage pattern and techniques, very accurate.
    Hours to complete?  15 hours
    First Worn:  Movie Stars and Moguls, Biltmore Estate, April 2016
    Total Cost:  $42.00

    Love always,

    Wednesday, February 3, 2016

    Your Special Invitation! May Day Courtyard Feast and Masquerade Ball

    You Are Cordially Invited
    to a
    May Day Courtyard Feast
    Masquerade Ball!
    Sunday, May 1, 2016
    7:00 PM - 11:30PM
    Deerpark Lodge on Biltmore Estate
    Asheville, North Carolina
    Please join us for an incredible evening of Frivolity and Fantasy,
    Masquerading and Music,
    Dining and Dancing.
    Whichever your heart desires!
    Our magical evening begins in the Deerpark Lodge Courtyard where we will dine under the stars (weather permitting) or in the glass enclosure of the Lodge with a menu especially prepared for us:
    The Meal:  May Day Courtyard Feast Menu
    Beef Short Ribs, Pumpernikel Gnocchi, Peas, Brown Butter,
    Arugula, Warm Carrot Vinaigrette
    Strawberry and Parmigiano - Leaf Lettuce, Strawberries,
    Shaved Parmigiano, Marcona Almonds, White Balsamic Vinaigrette
    Combination Entrée
    Seared Salmon, Grilled Beef Tenderloin, Roasted Pearl Onions, Porcini Truffle Butter
    Chef's Seasonal Selection
    Served with Chef's vegetable and starch
    Biltmore Blend coffee, iced tea, and bread service
    Cash Bar Available during Feast and Ball
    The Music:  Spare Parts and Sharon Guli
    Following our dining experience, we will gather on the beautiful wood floor of the Lodge and enjoy the delightful music of Spare Parts, brought in especially for us from the northeast.  Spare Parts provided the dance music when the San Diego Vintage Dance Society hosted their Vintage Dance Week in Asheville last spring and we are extremely pleased they will be joining us for our Masquerade Ball!  You can sample the beauty of Spare Parts on their website here:
    As fitting for a Masquerade Ball which will feature costumes from many eras, our Instructor and Prompter of Vintage Dance, Sharon Guli from Bellvue, Colorado, will lead you through dances from many eras - from Colonial to Charleston, Regency to Ragtime.  This is a special opportunity for those who love to dance to experience a variety of 18th, 19th, and early 20th century dances.  Sharon has a special gift with her patient yet lively instruction and makes learning the dances easy and incredibly enjoyable.  Our dance evening will include dances from the time of Jane Austen, Queen Victoria, and America's Ragtime era, with a few surprises in store!
    Beginners and advanced dancers are all welcome and will find the dance floor transformed, through Sharon's special gift, into a beautiful, magical, and time traveling experience.  No partner or previous experience is necessary, as all of the set dances will be adeptly taught and prompted.  Whether you are an experienced dancer or cannot count the number of left feet you possess, you will be swept up in the transformation!
    The Details
    Tickets may be purchased for either the May Day Courtyard Feast or the Masquerade Ball or both.
    May Day Courtyard Feast 7:00PM to 8:30PM - $108 per person includes taxes and gratuity
    Masquerade Ball 8:30PM to 11:00PM (doors closing 11:30PM) -  $85 per person
    Tickets are available for you at Brown Paper Tickets here:
    Tickets for the Courtyard Feast will only be available until April 1st and are non-refundable but transferrable.
    Tickets for the Masquerade Ball will be available until April 15th and are also transferrable.
    Tickets are limited but a wait list will be kept in the event a ticket is available for resale.
    When purchasing a ticket you will provide your email address.  Prior to the evening you will be provided the secret code which will allow you access into Biltmore Estate and to Deerpark Lodge.
    Historically-inspired, pre-1940 Fancy Dress/Masquerade attire encouraged but not required.
    Cameras welcome and there will be a photographer available to capture your evening.


    The May Day Courtyard Feast and Masquerade Ball are the crown jewel of an entire costume weekend full of fabulous events.  If you are interested in attending the entire weekend, details may be found here:

    Looking forward to seeing you, whomever you choose to be for the evening, at the May Day Courtyard Feast and Masquerade Ball!

    Your Humble Servant and Coordinator For The Evening,


    Tuesday, February 2, 2016

    Historical Sew Fortnightly 2016 Challenge #1 - Procrastination

    Challenge #1 - January - Procrastination - finish a garment you've been putting off or make something you've been avoiding starting.

    It seems perfect that I should write this post even before I've finished my photos for the last two Challenges of 2015.  And it's also perfect that this should be posted and shared several days beyond the deadline.  But then it is all about procrastinating and I've been procrastinating on this project since July 2015.  I'm not sure why.  It's a simple project and means so much to the impression of the gown and now that it's finished I'm almost embarrassed that it took me so long.  And I love it!!!

    It started with my Gala gown for Costume College 2015.  My inspiration was a court gown and I wanted to honor my paternal grandmother's heritage with a Royal Order presentation.


    My Gala gown Costume College 2015
    During my research I couldn't help but notice the waist to hip ratio on the inspiration photo and eventually I came to this American Duchess blog post from January 13, 2013 where she compares standard pattern measurements from 1905 and 2013.

    In summary, she found in a book called Authentic Victorian Dressmaking Techniques from 1905 that the measurements for a lady in her underpinnings would have a high bust to waist measurement difference of 10", and a waist to hip measurement difference of 17-23.5".  Compare that to the same Butterick measurements in 2013 with a high bust to waist difference of 6" and a waist to hip difference of 10".

    I know what magic a corset can do to create the hourglass figure but in my case the magic is lost.  I've had my corset for almost 8 years and it is comfortable and really helps my back when I'm on my feet all day at a costume event.  My measurements without a corset are 38-28-38.  When I wear my corset my measurements are 38-29-38 as the bulk of the corset adds to my waistline.  I love bustle gowns and the bustle creates a beautiful hourglass silhouette, but that is not going to help for this gown.

    So how will I achieve those beautiful hips and flared skirt?

    A little more research leads me to this blog and my question is answered!  Scroll to Three-Piece Hip Pad 1880s.

    Hip pads!  Who knew!?! 

    The Met - 1900
    As luck would have it, a dear friend has created a pattern for a hip and bum pad which will work perfectly!  I have all good intentions of creating it before Costume College but I procrastinate beyond the deadline and the hip pad/bum pad never gets started.

    In April I have another event and this gown will be perfect for a dinner all dressed up in the tartan sash and clan badge of my husband.  It is time to pack on those hips and bum and create the perfect silhouette!

    My dear friend's instructions and photos.  Not too much detail as she may want to make this available to all of us deserving costumers!
    Pattern tracing cloth to make my pattern.

    A scrap of quilted satin from a previous project, satin blanket binding, and grosgrain ribbon for a waist tie.

    Horsehair would probably have been more period correct, but this will do nicely.
    The pattern is recreated on my tracing cloth.

    The pieces cut from my scrap satin and a coordinating piece of scrap silk.

    Ready for sewing and reversible should I need a different silhouette.
    Pattern transferred to the foam.

    An initial cut with a single-edge razor blade.

    A finish cut with scissors to protect my tabletop.

    The foam pieces are ready for assembly.
    I tried several techniques to hold the fabric and foam together.  In the end I just caught the fabric into the foam on both sides with pins and then compressed with my fingers as I sewed.
    There is some foam escaping in my initial sewing and I trimmed that off.

    The satin blanket binding to trim the edge.

    Two additional rows of stitching to taper the edge.

    The finished bum piece.
    Binding hand stitched on the reverse side.
    All steps repeated for the hip section.

    Sewing this V into the center of the hip section helps the hip portions fall down onto the hips nicely.

    Some more satin blanket binding to create a waist casing and the grosgrain ribbon threaded through.

    The reverse side.  The pad could be worn this way if desired to create a different silhouette.


    Almost too pretty to hide!
     The transformation is beautiful!  The hip/bum pad adds 6" giving me a waist to hip ratio of 15" difference using 1" foam.  Imagine what 1-1/2" foam could do.  And most importantly, look at what it does to the waistline and the flow of the skirt.

    Left - without hip/bum pad.                        Right - with hip/bum pad.

    Left - without hip/bum pad.                      Right - with hip/bum pad.

    As all fashion seems to go in cycles, here is another hip pad from a later era - yes, the 1950s!

    The Met - 1950

    Historical Sew Fortnightly

    What It Is:  Hip and Bum Pad
    The Challenge:  Procrastination
    Fabric:  Quilted satin, silk, foam
    Pattern:  Made by a friend
    Year:  1905
    Notions:  Satin blanket binding, grosgrain ribbon
    How historically accurate is it?  Research shows that these were used but would have been stuffed with something available at the time.
    Hours to complete?  4 hours
    First Worn:  April 2016 Biltmore Estate Costume Weekend
    Total Cost:  If all items purchased, probably under $15.00