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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Foray into Colonial Times

On the Fourth of July, my husband and I walked in a parade in West Jordan, Utah with Old Glory Vintage Dancers. We could wear costumes from any historical period that the group reenacts, but we wanted to be colonial, in honor of our nation's founding, so I made our first American colonial outfits.

For my costume, I was trying hard to avoid needing to buy new fabric because we had/have a lot of events coming up for which I need new costumes, and we don't have a lot of money, so I needed to make fabrics I already owned work as much as possible. The yellow brocade skirt I made to go under my Elizabethan gown was actually an appropriate shape to work for certain styles of colonial women's clothing, so I decided to start with that. Since this is a round skirt and not an oblong one, I would wear a bumroll under it rather than panniers. Then I found some dark blue linen in my stash that would look good with it. That I used for a jacket/bodice similar to this style. I also wanted to make a fichu (shawl) similar to the one in that picture, but I had little time, and the costume was for use outdoors on a very hot day. I may still make a fichu later.

To make the jacket, I did not want to spend the money on a pattern and didn't manage to borrow one from a friend in time, so I actually modified a pattern I had previously drafted for a cotehardie. The seams are probably not really right for this later time period, but the overall shape looks good, and I decided to accept that as good enough for my first one. I changed the neckline and shortened the sleeves, took in the seams to fit closer to my waist since the pieces would stop there instead of flowing into a skirt, and made a rectangle with two rounded corners, which I gathered onto the top to make the peplum/skirt portion.

My headwear actually took the most time. I was going to buy one from Jas. Townsend and Son. It's very nice, and I recommend it, but as I said, I was trying to cut costs anywhere possible. I happened to have four perfectly normal straw hats that I had acquired very cheaply at a thrift store sometime last winter to cut up and turn into various types of historical hats and bonnets. I started with one of these and picked out the stitching, leaving myself with a much shallower crown portion and coils of straw braid.

I then sewed the coils back onto the crown making a wider brim, but it was still not wide enough, so I took apart the brim of one of my other hats and added those coils of straw braid as well. My hat was wide enough, but I felt the crown wasn't quite as shallow as I wanted so I took apart the top of it to reshape it. I took out the flattest part of the top, removed part of the sides, and sewed the top back on to the now-shorter crown of my hat.

The brim of the hat was a little ripply, so I dampened it and weighted it down to flatten it. The only step remaining was to add ribbons to tie it onto my head. I also made a string of bows and sewed them around the top of the hat.

During the colonial period, women wore various styles of cloth caps under this style of hat. I made one out of soft white fabric in my stash and eyelet lace. I did not use a pattern, nor did I truly draft one. I just free-handed the approximate shapes and adjusted it until it fit about right. It may not be perfect, but I think it looks nice.

I apologize that these are crappy cell-phone pictures. I will probably replace them with  better photos at some point.

As you can see, the ribbons tie behind the head--this was typical for the time period. It also turns out that this type of hat is very difficult to keep on even with ribbons, so I was glad to have the cap underneath it because it gave me something to pin the hat to with my hatpin.

For Jon, I made a new "puffy" shirt using a modified version of Butterick pattern 3072. I also used this pattern to make him a colonial waistcoat, although instead of making mock pockets according to pattern instructions, I put in actual pockets between the outer fabric and the lining. I was in the process of making him proper fall-front breeches, but due to my actual paying job and some family emergencies, I couldn't finish them in time. So instead of wearing breeches, long stockings, and buckle shoes, he wore a pair of fitted costume pants he already had with tall boots to fake the look of the period. I intend to finish the breeches as soon as I can.

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