Sunday, 15 March 2015

Historical Disney - Snow White

For those who never read my blog before, my greatest hobby is researching and making historical clothing, and I’m also a sucker for Disney. The idea of designing (or sewing) historically accurate clothing for the Disney characters is something that has intrigued me for years and years. It's been done several times by very talented people, but I thought I’d give it a try too. I began with Snow White. I’m not sure why… maybe because I knew immediately how I wanted her to look.
 
I placed Snow White in (what is now) Germany, in the 1520-40’s, as it’s originally a German fairytale, it’s a place and period I like, fashion wise, and the slashed sleeves of the Disney version could hint at it. The laced bodice of this fashion also ties back with the story as it was written down by the Grimm brothers, where one of the Queens’ murder attempts was to lace Snow White’s bodice too tightly. I decided to only keep the colours of Disney’s Snow White, and for the rest do whatever I wanted to, or had to do, to make it more historically accurate. The colours is one of the most iconic things of the Disney characters, so hopefully that will make her somewhat recognisable, even after the brutal historical makeover. Both the clothing and the composition of the picture have been inspired by the art of Lucas Cranach the elder.

The picture can also be seen at DeviantArt.

Now a disclaimer: I’m not an artist, though I like to draw. I have no more training than I got in school, and what my dad taught me when I was a little girl. I only have the most basic artistic materials to work with: I’ve been using an ordinary pencil and some coloured ones. Thus, this is no artistic masterpiece and probably contains all manner of newbie mistakes. Also, I’m not an architectural historian, so that castle may be very wrong indeed. If so, constructive critique (preferably involving links to pictures) is welcome. I like to learn. The trees and mountains might also be wrong, so if you’re a botanist or geologist, don’t look too closely. All I know is fashion history and sewing, so focus on the clothes, please :) I chose to have the background in mutes, almost sepia, colours, to put focus on Snow White.

In my research I first had a hard time finding evidence of blue dresses in the chosen time and location. Red hues seem to have been the fashion, at least if you look at most of what Cranach painted. But there is this one (at the further end of the fountain, under the tree) that looks very much like the dress I ended up drawing: 

The Fountain of Youth, Cranach the Elder, 1546

And just now, as I was working on this blog post, I found this little gem - I know nothing about it, so please share if you do:


I'm now very pleased with the colours I chose for the dress, as you can imagine.
 
The headdress is more often than not shown in a golden/orangey colour, not red, but I wanted red, hinting at Snow Whites bow in the film. I suppose I could have used a hat for that - I might have done it differently if I did it again, but, well, done is done. Also, Cranach preferred reddish blond women in his paintings, but that would obviously not do for Snow White.

The lacing in front of these dresses could be in the form of either a spiral (looking like a zigzag when open) or a ladder - I like the former, so that's what I used. 

Three princesses of Saxony, Sibylla, Emilia and Sidonia, daughters of 
Duke Heinrich of Frommen - Lucas Cranach the Elder, ca. 1535.

I based the sleeves off of this painting:

 Judith Victorious - Lucas Cranach the Elder ca. 1530

These kinds of dresses were often worn with several heavy gold chains, but as I wanted a more elegant look, I decided to only keep the choker. A similar arrangement is seen in this painting:

 
Judith with the Head of Holofernes, Cranach the Elder, 1526-30

Many of the Cranach paintings picture allegories, religious, or mythical subjects, so a small heads up for the influence that might have had on the clothes. On the other hand, the princesses and noblewomen he painted wore the same kinds of outfits.

I ended up drawing this picture twice, as I wasn’t happy with the coloured background of the first one. Though it was very annoying at the time I’m pleased now, as it looks better this way, and Snow White’s clothes came out much nicer. All in all I’m pleased – more Disney Princesses will be drawn, when I have the time and inspiration.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

A Toddler's 14th Century Cotte

Today I finished my first medieval project (I think) in two years! Two summers ago I did a lot of sewing, as we intended to attend events with our group. Those plans fell through due to illness and other things, and in the wake of the disappointment I lost all taste for making medieval clothes. Last year I didn’t make anything, as we, due to little H being born at the beginning of the season, didn’t plan to attend any events. This summer though, we hope to attend at least one weekend event – fingers crossed!


Two years ago I made a toddler’s cotte for B. As always with the children’s historical clothes I made it a bit too large, which I’m very happy about now as he never really got to use it then. Yesterday I took it out and found that, after letting down the wide double hem, it would still fit him, though now being a tad on the short side. The sleeves had only been folded back before, but now I hemmed them too.

The cotte is made from the left over fabric of Tobias’s cotehardie (from which I have also made myself a pair of hose – the whole family wears clothes from the same fabrics…), a nice, lightly fulled wool. It’s in a style called “Nockert type 5”. This style is slightly too early for us really, but as it’s used in a small child’s garment – that often looks very simple in this period – I think it’s acceptable. Besides, it was the only way I could use the fabric I had in an efficient way.


I’ve sewed it with waxed linen thread, mixing running stitches and back stitches. All seams are felled. The single folded hems are stitched with double rows of running stitches that show as small dots on the right side. 


The neck and shoulders are lined with linen (pieced in a couple of places), to prevent itching – my boy has sensitive skin. 


The cotte closes in front with self fabric buttons and buttonholes.


B likes it – when he tried it on yesterday he kept it on for more than an hour, and he was happy to have pictures taken of it today. He wore it over a linen shirt (that I also let down the hems on), modern clothes – it’s still winter after all, and I don’t have enough warm medieval children’s clothes to keep the chill out - and the hood I made him when he was a baby.

  
I’m so happy to have found my way back to sewing medieval things again. There will be more to come, I’m sure!

References:
Crowfoot, E. Pritchard, F. & Stainland, K. (2001). Textiles and Clothing c.1150-c.1450. Bury St Edmunds: Museum of London.

Nockert, M. (1985). Bockstenmannen Och Hans Dräkt. Halmstad och Varberg: Stiftelsen Hallands länsmuseer.

Monday, 16 February 2015

19th Century Swedish Commoner’s Kerchief

As one of the co-moderators of the Historical Sew (Monthly) Fortnightly Facebook group I feel it a duty to actually take part in a challenge now and then. The HS(M)F is very inspiring, and have for the past two years spurred me to sew historical things even when I didn’t really feel like it, or felt short on time – very rewarding when finished. Busy as I am though, the items I do for the challenges are more often than not quite simple. This is one of those things. But a simple thing can still be well made and well researched.

I am always on the lookout for fabrics and other things that will fit projects I’m working on or am planning. As I have had a very narrow income for most of my life, I’ve got in the habit of waiting for a thing to show up at a price I can justify, rather than getting what I want when I want it, or accepting poor alternatives. This is especially true of periods I don’t commit fully to at the moment. It’s not an ideal way to go about costuming, as it can take years - decades even - to stumble on the right things, but what can you do if you’re a poor perfectionist...

Fabrics for women’s clothing during the 19th century (lower to middle class) is one of those things I’m always looking for, and smallish checked tablecloths can be very good to pick up, as they are often of the right size (ca. 70-100 cm depending on the year) and often have woven in borders that were typical of  head- and neckerchiefs. 

This is how you see them worn all over the country, 
but there were also other, more regional styles.

Simple checked kerchiefs were worn by all ordinary women, as the wearing of hats and bonnets were often looked upon as dressing above one’s station. The group pressure in the countryside was severe enough in many places that this informal rule was usually adhered to right through the century and into the next. In towns and cities it was less rigid, but many couldn’t afford other headwear than kerchiefs anyway. There were other kinds of kerchiefs as well, but I won’t go into that in this post.

 

How these checked kerchiefs looked changed over the 19th century. In the early years they were made from linen, with blue, yellow and/or red checks on a white base. As the century wore on they were often made from linen/cotton and then cotton. Darker shades, often with red and light blue checks on a dark blue base, appeared. The season also affected the colours: lighter colours were worn in the summer and darker colours in the winter. Sometimes you see two kinds of borders on the same kerchief, so when folded into a triangle, depending on what half you showed off, it would be proper for different occasions, one often being simpler and the other brighter, or more elaborate.


These kerchiefs were often woven at home, sometimes in greater quantities, to be sold on by the weaver, or, more often, by peddlers. In some parts of the country it became tradition for brides-to-be to weave kerchiefs for their friends.


This one I got for a small price at a charity shop a few years ago. The colours and border look enough like period kerchiefs to make me quite glad I found it. I cut of the tied fringes, and hemmed the square by hand with blue linen thread, just like in some originals. 


Tada! a finished challenge. In the pictures I’m wearing it with the Insanely Pieced Dress

This style is seen in the county Skåne (Scania), alongside the other.

The Challenge: #2 Blue
Fabric: Cotton
Pattern: none
Year: About mid to late 19th century
Notions: Linen thread
How historically accurate is it? Pretty much.
Hours to complete: About two.
First worn: For the pictures
Total cost: Between 10-30 SEK ($1,19-3,57; £0,77-2,32; €1,04-3,13), for the fabric I think, and a little more for the thread, though that came from stash.

References:
Eldvik, B. Möte med Mode - folkliga kläder 1750-1900 i Nordiska Museet. Stockholm: Nordiska Museets Förlag.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Mending a Petticoat

I often wear some sort of petticoat under my skirts and dresses. I like the feeling of layers; it makes the skirts fall in a nicer way, and prevents my legs from getting tangled in them. One of the ones most frequently worn was made from an old curtain with a pinked flounce, which I picked up at a charity shop several years ago. 

Once it looked this pretty.

The pinked hem has literally been worn to shreds, and I’ve been meaning to do something about that for a while, but as it’s hardly ever seen, mending it would be so boring compared with making new things, and so it just never got done. 

And then life happened. Disgraceful.

But then I joined the Facebook group Garderobsutmaningen (the Wardrobe Challenge), where you are supposed to update your wardrobe by every means possible, except by buying newly produced clothes, as a means to do both your appearance, your bank account and the environment a service. Re-purposing fabric, dyeing, embroidering, altering, swapping, mending and so on is encouraged. As I’ve seen all the other things people have mended I felt more ashamed than usual about my own unsightly petticoat hem, and decided that enough was enough. So today I cut of the worn piece, and made a simple turned hem instead. I chose to do it this way, as it protects the pinked flounce still there from being torn.

Ready to be worn again, without shame.

So that’s one meaningful thing done today. Be prepared to hear more about this challenge - my wardrobe do need a bit of work. Fun as it is with period and fantasy clothing (I haven't come across anything that can beat it yet), it's also nice to look good when going about ones day to day business...

Monday, 9 February 2015

Plaid Dress with Matching Skirt

The dress I wore for my Winter in the Shire photo shoot is one I wear on a regular basis. It’s not made to be a costume, but something practical that I can do housework in, play and cuddle with the children in, is easily washed, and still feel feminine. Those who have followed me for a while know that I make a lot of my skirts and dresses myself (though not all of them make it onto the blog – ordinary photo shoots are just not much fun…) because the mainstream fashion of today is very dull. I want my skirts and dresses rather full and long, but not so much that I need to hold them out of the way to prevent fatal accidents when carrying a child up the stairs. I also want them to send the thoughts to past times, or fairy tales, without them being copies of any particular style.  
 
Sorry about the poor photo quality - this is the work of the 
 self timer on my camera, sitting on the bed, in which the baby was sleeping. 
A proper photo shoot is not always possible.

I really like to re-purpose fabrics, for both economical and environmental reasons. Old curtains and tablecloths have a lot of fabric in them, and are often very cheap – just saying ;) This dress is made from old curtains – Maria von Trapp would approve, I think.

This is how I usually wear the dress at the moment, with a tricot top. As it is winter I often wear a cardigan over it as well, but I couldn’t do that in the pictures as it would hide the dress… I believe a thin blouse will work well with it as the weather grows warmer. The contrast between the sturdy dress fabric and delicate blouse could be charming.

As mentioned, the matching skirt was made quite a long time before the dress, so it’s faded a bit, but I don’t mind it that much actually… To prevent the dress and skirt separating in front I have sewn thread loops to the skirt, and corresponding hooks to the dress bodice. It works very well.


As I’ve said before, I need to make better support to be worn under the dress (it will make it sit, oh, so much nicer!), but everything that needs to be fitted takes a lot of time to make right now, as I need to find some quiet time when I won’t be interrupted. I’m sure many a mum can relate.

I’ll probably put a panel behind the hook and eye closure in the front, but other than that I’m pretty well pleased with it, and might make more dresses in this style, as I really like it.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

One Bodice, Two Looks

A while ago I took out an old UFO, and decided to finish it. It is a hand stitched wool bodice lined with linen, fully interlined, and boned in front. It also laces in front over a half boned stomacher. (Meanwhile, that was a good invention – so easy to adjust to size!) The bodice is of good quality, but not quite historical. For other costuming adventures it would be perfectly fine though. As I don’t see myself having much use of it, I mean to sell it. Still, it is nice to have good pictures of the things you’ve made, and I hope that good pictures will make the bodice more desirable for potential buyers. To show that this simple bodice can work for a variety of characters, I've had two little photo shoots this week.

The Washerwoman
In Sweden there is a popular LARP series called Krigshjärta (War Heart). It has several different cultures, with very different religions/ideologies, social life, politics, and, of course, dress. Though I’ve never attended a LARP in my life (though I have lots of friends who do so frequently), I have always been a bit intrigued by one of the peoples, the Jorgaler. This people are a highly religious group, who see it as a severe faux pas to outshine what their god has created, and thus dress in a very simple way, keeping trim and decorations to a minimum, almost glorying in what is lowly as it where. Bodices and skirts/dresses are worn by the women, as are some form of kerchief on their heads. Tobias and I considered going to one of the Krigshjärta LARPs and play a couple of Jorgaler when we were newly-weds, but what with pregnancies, babies and life in general, that never happened. I was still interested in composing such an outfit though, to see if I could make plain look pretty.


So I had the bodice. The rest I was pretty sure I could dig out from my historical clothing and fantasy costume wardrobes, and my fabric stash. It worked rather well I think. I used the same old hobbit shift, an 18th century linen petticoat, a raw silk skirt for the apron, and a piece of fabric for the kerchief. Medieval wool hose and leather shoes completed the outfit.


As props I used an old laundry basket that usually holds toys, an even older washing bat, an inherited copper tub, and several historical linen shirts, shifts, braies and aprons. I lugged it all out in the garden and took pictures using the trusty self timer, a dear friend when documenting my costuming adventures. 


I like how the bodice looks very plain and… almost boring really, when laced with a neutral cord. It doesn’t attract any notice at all worn like this. Actually, I love this outfit! It would have looked better with a wool skirt though, and a larger kerchief.

The Hobbit Larder
I keep exploring different ways to dress hobbit women. I have liked both the styles I’ve tried so far (the bodice/skirt and the dress), but as I have a skirt trimmed with the same fabric this bodice is madefrom, I just had to combine them for a hobbit to wear. My hair actually did get curly this time round – rolling it up on rags for more than 24 hours did the trick. I don’t think I like this hobbit look as much as the others I’ve tried, but it still looks nice. I think it’s the hair – I didn’t manage to get it quite hobbity, even though it was properly curly. It actually looks too frivolous, if that is possible for one of the merry little people. More experimenting is needed! (EDIT: I think I figured it out: the rest of the outfit has a vague 17th century feel to it, but the hair is more 1790's. A bun in the back and curls framing the sides of the face would have been the very thing here, I think.)


I wore an 18th century-ish shift, two petticoats that are hardly seen, the wool skirt, and some fabric from the stash in my hair.


For these pictures I transformed a corner of my sewing room to a larder – a very suitable setting for a hobbit. Good thing we have lots of appropriate bowls, jars, jugs, cups and baskets to use as props… 
 

Using a cord that matched the skirt made a really nice look for this outfit; it became a decoration in itself. It also makes the bodice quite versatile - get cords in the same colours as your skirts, and you have a bodice that will match pretty much anything :)

Conclusions: colours make a lot of difference; it transformed this simple bodice from being dreary to being delightful.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Winter in the Shire

I finished a new dress recently. I mean to wear it for everyday (yes, it does work, when combined with other tops and cardigans), but it also works nicely for a Hobbit – which was sort of the point. As costumed photos are the most fun I decided to do a Hobbit photo shoot. I asked a friend and her kids over for lunch, cake baking, and some picture taking. 

 The petticoats have been worn quite a bit on their own since 
made last spring and summer, and have faded a little in the laundry.


The day before my intended photo shoot the boys and I took a walk in the neighbourhood to find a good spot for it, and in the end a corner of the playground proved to be the best. A few apple trees grow there and the bushes are dense enough to hide any modern things. I doubt that Samwise Gamgee, or any other hobbit with pride in his garden, would let them grow wild in this way though. Taking the pictures in the playground was very convenient, as it made it possible for the children to play while we took pictures.
There was a little bit of frozen snow on the ground in the shadowy places, which was nice, as it made it really look like winter, and not just like autumn. But oh! was it cold for my feet! They were numb by the time I put on woollen stockings and boots. To think that many people through history (and still today) had to go barefoot in the winter is very sobering.
  

So, the dress. It’s made from the same fabric (an old cotton curtain from a charity shop) as my old hobbit petticoat, also worn in the pictures. When I overdyed the paisley fabric for my 1840’s maternity dress, I tossed in the hobbit petticoat and remaining fabric as well, as I prefer more muted colours. I wanted a vaguely 18th century feel to this dress, but without the need to wear stays under it. The front panels are cut on the bias, for visual interest; in the rest of the bodice I tried to align the plaid nicely. The bodice closes with hooks and eyes in front. I pleated the skirt to make the vertical stripes in the bodice continue down the skirt. The corners of the skirt are softly curved, and all edges but centre front are bound with bias tape. The whole dress is hand stitched, because… well, I like hand sewing. Mind, I will really try to become friends with my sewing machine this year, when my non historical sewing is concerned. It does go much faster.


The tricky thing with making tight fitting clothes after having a baby though is that you loose weight for months and months– even if a bodice fits really tight when first made, it’s soon too large. Breastfeeding also plays tricks with your figure, not only in a longer perspective, but on a daily basis. A bit frustrating, that. As the dress no longer supply enough support, I’ll need supporting underwear instead. I’m working on that, as my whole wardrobe would benefit from it. I contemplated boning the bodice, but as I want this to be comfortable when going about my housework, playing and cuddling with my babies (without having to resort to a historical pattern of movement) I didn’t really like that idea. Ah well, in the pictures I try to look like a simple hobbit woman popping out to the root cellar on a usual workday – maybe she’s just wearing the Shire female version of a grubby, saggy pair of overalls or old sweats?   


The dress was worn over the shift I made for my first hobbit costume, and the same two skirts. I filled in the neckline with a piece of brown cotton for a kerchief: the dark colour seems suitable at this time of year, and for doing chores. It doesn’t really show in the pictures, but it’s pinned with a reproduction brass pin. I also wore my knitted wool mitts.      

And the hair… I put my hair up in pin curls the day before, and wore a thin scarf tied round my head the whole day, to the great amusement of little B. He’s got a good sense of humour that boy :) I slept on the curls, and didn’t take them out until an hour before the photo shoot, but do you think my hair got curly? No, of course not. What little resemblance to curls there were had soon disappeared, even though I sprayed each curl to an inch of its life as I took it out. So, though this is the kind of volume I wish my hair would normally have, it isn’t exactly hobbity. Meeh. I could have used the hobbit bonnet to hide the hair malfunction, but straw don’t seem quite the thing for winter... A bonnet wouldn’t be required for just fetching apples from storage, so I decided to forgo headwear in spite of the hair. Well, at least it wasn’t straighter than straight, as it usually is – that’s something.

                                                           

And as a bonus, here’s a picture of a squirrel that was foraging for food in and by the trees at the playground. 


He didn’t give any notice to us at all - but then I didn’t reach for a stone.