Monday, June 16, 2014

The De Berry Project- The Fabric and shoes

As I mentioned last time I am working on a version of the outfit to the left for an event coming up soon in July. I wanted something with a hat to shade my face, and not too hot since we are going to be outside in the middle of a Virginian summer.

The fabric gods were not kind, when I went to my local fabric stores. There was really nothing in the right weight, color, pattern, fiber, or amount; especially the amount since I need about 8 yards for the undergown and 10 yards for the overdress. Part of the problem is that there are no waist seams, so each piece has to be cut from a long continuous length of material. Also, those sleeves are about four yards by themselves. I resigned myself to ordering online, which I hate doing because it's so hard to be sure of the color etc without seeing it in person, and by the time the fabric arrives often there just isn't time to send it back and get something else.

I went first to an oldie, but a goodie; Thai silks. I knew they would have the right fiber and quantity, but as for pattern and color...well, I was prepared to dye if necessary. My heart was set on a bluish-green undergown with a peacock blue overgown with a gold design, so I ordered the Teal Green raw silk noil, since it's lightweight, durable, washable, and the price was right.

I was nervous about the exact hue because I did want it to be slightly bluish as well, and when it arrived, sure enough it was more of a pine green than a teal, but I liked everything else about it and I still hadn't found the overgown fabric. I serged the ends, pre-washed it, and rolled it onto a tube and set about draping the mock-up for the undergown.

Meanwhile, hours of fruitless searching through the usual suspects made me realize that my desire for a sumptuous peacock blue (maybe velvety) gold-patterned fabric in 10 yards for less than the price of a small pony was not going to yield results. I had been avoiding the shiny, poly brocades; I even considered embossing my own velvet, but doing that for 10 yards would likely have proven too time-consuming. I revisited my distaste for the brocades. I know, I know, shame on me.

I found a brocade on e-bay, in quantities galore, with the kind of floral-yet-symmetrical pattern that screams medieval to me; the best part was that the price was very good even with shipping, and it came in royal blue, aqua, and bright green.

I had been toying with the idea of how to do a quick wash/dye of brocade to dull the tell-tale shine of the synthetic fibers, and I wasn't finding anything else as the days ticked by, so in the end I bought it. I didn't get the blue, as you may have noticed, but I went with the green because not only would it look better with the undergown fabric, but green (vert) is one of my heraldic colors. I await its arrival with much anticipation.

I always try to get my ordering out of the way first, that way I can attend to other things while I wait for it to come in, and if there's a problem with the order I have more time to address it. This has saved me more than once professionally when the wrong order was shipped, or the supplier couldn't get it in good time from the manufacturer etc. After the fabric I turned my attention to the shoes.

I already have silk and cotton hose in various colors, and I have both ribbon garters and cheater garters of elastic, but one thing that really ruins a costume for me is the shoes. So often you'll see a wonderful re-creation and the person could have stepped straight from a painting...and then they're wearing regular flats or worse. The tendency is to think that people won't see the shoes under the gown, and it's not at all the most-noticeable aspect, but, like the right hat or hairstyle, it can make or break the effect.

I have a great pair of russet-colored shoes from American Duchess, but they're only appropriate for the later medieval/early renaissance period, and this is supposed to be right at the start of the 1400s. I knew I needed something flat, with a pointed toe (the more long and pointed the better), and scored or punched. A strap across the instep would be entirely appropriate, or something more covering. I settled on this little black mary-jane type shoe with a pointed toe and punched design. Bonus: it was on sale at Zappos.

Now the undergown has been mocked up, and I am ready to transfer it to a paper pattern to "true" and cut. My time is limited, and I have to mess with a little corded bodice interlining, so it may be a mad dash as I do that and test-dye swatches of brocade, but more on that later.

Next time:- The undergown, and coordinating fabrics for the hat and linings.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Regency Society of Virginia weekend event

Looking for something to do this weekend in Virginia...

Second Sunday Sewing Circle
1pm - Bacon's Castle, Sunday June 8th
465 Bacon's Castle Trail, Surry, VA

Grab your latest Regency project and join us for our regularly scheduled sewing circle.  This month's sewing circle will be costumed, meaning that we will be sewing downstairs and participants will need to be in period garb and doing hand sewing (or other period appropriate needlework).  We welcome those interested in keeping our stitchers company, too!  Please RSVP to by Friday, June 6.

I, sadly, will not be there as I must attend to other business, but it sounds like fun!

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Duc de Berry Gown Project

I live!

I have not abandoned this blog, though it certainly must seem like it, I've just been horrendously busy. Nor have I forgotten about that Tudor Transitional project, but, like so much else, it has had to take a back seat to more pressing concerns. Now I find myself with an event in July, where it will be much too hot to go in full Tudor/Elizabethan style. What to make instead?

Last year I got a serious sunburn, whilst in my Italian renaissance-style outfit. The main hat. So I racked my brain thinking about what style of Medieval costume would grant me some shade. Veils are all well and good, but they don't shade the face enough and can be sort of hot and clingy themselves. I finally hit upon the solution; early 15th century French, as in the gown worn by the Duc de Berry's bride (see above).

Everyone's familiar with this picture from "Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry" and this gown is one of the prettiest it shows. It's also a good example of several styles being worn by different people at the same time. You have the sort of pelicon overdress with the tippets worn by the woman sitting in the back, the voluminous houppelande (very avant garde) worn by the woman in black and red, and the fitted gown with hanging sleeves on the Duchess.

Here's another example, from a little earlier, worn by Isabella of Valois who died in 1383. The neckline of the gown is a bit higher, but you can see the squared-off edge of the fur-lined hanging sleeves really well, and the jeweled collar over the rounded neck. No fur for this July outfit, but the same deep ermine hem could be achieved with a different fabric.
This lady, circa 1411, gives us a wealth of information. I love the deep headroll (hard to tell if there is a cap at the crown or not, but for my version there will be), and it shows off the side lacing which is how the fitted nature of the overgown is achieved. I suspect some back lacing as well to make it easier to get into because otherwise the sleeves being set in might make that difficult.

Finally, can we talk about this gorgeous closeup of some fabric from a painting by Van Eyck from 1432-36? Seriously, the luscious pile of the blue velvet with the almost-stamped look of the gold. Blue shows up a lot in portraiture, manuscripts, and paintings from this period, so I'm definitely leaning in this direction. We'll see what the fabric Gods have in store (pun intended) tomorrow.

Next time:- Fabric, folly bells, and shoes.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pompeian Bread

The level of detail still visible is pretty remarkable on this piece of bread which was preserved in that fateful eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.
Intrigued? Read more here.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Saturday, August 24, 2013

How Our Ancestors Slept

As someone who wakes up during the night feeling frustratingly refreshed...and then struggles to rise in the morning, I found this article to be a kind of vindication. Apparently the way we sleep has changed. For more information you can visit the link here.

Monday, August 5, 2013


The Court of Phillip the Good (I love the variety of styles within the same color-scheme)