And now we finally come to what inspired the creation of this whole costume: the coat. Or, as Kate has dubbed it, the frock.
For a previous project I sourced a copy of Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 3, and was quite taken with her illustration of a loose kirtle. It looked comfortable. And I hadn't ventured into the English style in years.
I had a bolt of fabric picked out in a blue and light grey color - it was a polyester brocade and I found it on clearance years before and saved it for a special project. The first fabric I ordered to go with it was the blue linen that would become the base dress. But I was having problems matching the silvery color, plus the tan background wasn't khaki, or sand, or really tan, but a lighter version of taupe. It was worse than trying to match a red tone.
It a fit of desperation I actually went through the tubs and stacks of fabric and found the stuff pictured above. It was linen! It was already embroidered!
Kate had a small issue with the actual fabric design, and she was right. As it was the embroidered design would lend an Italian flair to the dresses. After browsing English fabric styles of the day we agreed that putting a geometric pattern on top would tone down the Italian feel.
It took longer than one might think to mark everything with a yardstick.
We were limited on the fabric available, and it was already cut into two pieces. At the time of purchase I had gotten several yards, and Kate separately purchased what was left on the bolt.
Good thing I was drafting my own pattern, right? That sounds impressive, but I was using a shirt yoke pattern to start with, and from there it was an angled line to the floor. Sleeve openings were taken from the mirror of the sleeves I'd already made. The neckline would be turned out to help form the collar. The back and sides would have pleats.
I was used to working in miniature, so drafting wasn't that bad. I wasn't concerned with down-to-the-inch accuracy. Matching the pattern and direction of fabric was the hard part. But, in the end I had a little extra to use for Ryan and Xander's outfit!
You'll notice above the ribbon embroidery isn't in place yet. I got a little excited to see if my pattern would work. Kate and I agreed we were using Ina Garten as inspiration for the collar.
The lining of the coat was done all in a low quality Dupioni silk I found at a retailer online. I ordered the general off white color, which turned out very nice.
After I got the ribbon sewn on, but before I ironed the garment Kate saw it and said it looked like a quilted bedspread. She wasn't wrong. I'm glad the iron helped. Construction of a fully lined coat isn't too much different than a lined vest, and as a sewist who started in the '90s I was familiar with those!
Stay tuned for posts about the coif, hat, and finally everything all together!
The base dress has finally come together!
Skirts are always stupidly easy, once I get the pleating right. In this case the width of the skirt was determined by two things: the circumference of the largest hoop, and how much fabric I had left over after cutting out sleeves and bodice.
Pleats really are the way to go when reducing the circumference around the waistline. They're more secure than gathers, and don't add as much bulk, which is important when your fabric has thickness like the blue linen.
In this dress the skirt has a waistband that is stitched to the bodice, making the whole thing detachable for cleaning or refitting.
And here's the back and side view of the dress so you can see the flaps at the waist. They're really just decorative. Forgive my lack of ironing of this fabric - there is a lot of it! I may need to invest in a steamer in the future.
Ah, those fashionable, yet practical Renaissance Women. In most of the paintings of the period, women are wearing detachable sleeves. This helps keep dresses economical, fashionable, and comfortable. Sometimes the sleeves matched; sometimes they didn't. Some had thicker winter sleeves lined with fur.
With the Blue Bee dresses the name of the game was a straight line - so no extra puffs. I had enough solid blue linen, but NOT enough coat fabric, so that choice had been made for me already. I knew I wanted these sleeves to fit tighter at the armhole than sleeves I'd done in the past. Luckily, I had braved my way through learning this tutorial so making the pattern wasn't so difficult.
Since these were detachable, they needed to be lined, as much as I didn't want extra layers. I went with extra silk from the coat lining.
Finally, what about pattern? I wanted to distinguish the sleeves from the dress, especially if we wore the dresses without the coat. English patterns of the time seemed to repeat at regular intervals, and something geometric would be easiest... I admit I went with the low effort option. I overestimated the amount of 1/8" navy satin ribbon I would need so I had extra, and settled on a diamond pattern.
The new cording presser foot I got for my sewing machine also accepted the ribbon and made topstitching (with a zig-zag) a breeze! I was also able to use up some grey plastic pearl beads I bought on sample but wasn't able to use in another project. Sewing them on was not nearly as bad as the French knots I did for Ryan's ribbon sleeves!
I used enough of my white marking pencil that I actually had to resharpen it (gasp!). In the end Kate and I decided we needed to see the cuffs she had so skillfully embroidered, and so we turned up the cuffs and tacked them in place. I'm not sure if the upturned cuff is really period, but it looks quite nice with the overall style impression I wanted to make.
Twins each with half a brain in reality; the other half displayed here!