Sunday, October 28, 2012

Taking a Break

I've decided to take a short break from blogging. I have realized recently that I need to make some changes in my life, and in order to do that, I need to give my mundane, real life some of my time.

Since Archer was born, I've been dealing with a health issue that has only recently been identified, and treatment of which has only just started. My condition caused not only general feelings of illness on most days, it threw me into depression, promoted considerable weight gain, and even caused excessive amounts of my hair to fall out every day. At first I chalked it up to having 4 kids, but eventually I realized that my track record of generally being in good health was actually being threatened. I am, thankfully, now on the upswing, recovering gradually as my treatment begins to take effect. Before this point, however, my life had started to veer a bit off track.

So I'm taking some time to evaluate my health, my goals and my relationship with my children, which unfortunately pushes my medieval life onto the back burner. It is, after all, only a [fulfilling, awesome, distracting] hobby.

When I return, I will most likely have a completely rearranged project list, but as we go into the next year, you can be assured that The Compleatly Dressed Anachronist has not dropped off my radar, and I look forward to sharing my next projects with you!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Project Complete: Grandes Chroniques Gown

Early 15th Century Gown inspired by a dress style found in the Grandes Chroniques de France.

What it is:
Read my "Part I" post for more background on this gown.  From what I can tell, the streamer-sleeve style is a transitional style that occurred at the dawn of the 15th century among upper class women (nobles, in general) in which the tippets worn in the 14th century were integrated with the gown's sleeves (rather than a separate piece), but were still a contrasting color, namely white. I don't believe that this style survived long enough to pass down to the lower ranks, since by the time we see bourgeoisie women wearing gowns with steamers of any type (in the early 1410's), they are already integrated flaps and are much shorter.  I decided to make this gown, which is not suitable to my bourgeois persona, for two reasons. First, because I like it (and what better reason is there than that.) Second, because I had the materials to do it, and had already known that the gown I made with the gold wool would be an occasional piece for those special times when I wanted another layer without worrying about strict adherence to my persona.

How I made it:
I used my fitted dress pattern (which was created for my charcoal gray dress), but cut the front panels as a single piece to achieve a flat front with no center seam. My layout can be seen in the "Part I" post. The wool is a very springy twill weave, which is probably the most elastic natural fabric I've ever used, so I let it hang for a few days after assembling to allow it to ease into its stretch. I didn't end of having to adjust the hemline on the bias-to-bias side seams, but the neckline did stretch considerably. Ultimately, I used a cotton twill tape on the inside of the neckline to prevent too much more stretch. I usually hang my gowns to store them, but this one might need to be folded instead.

There are three gores in the skirt: 2 half-gores in the center back and 1 full gore in the front. The front gore is inserted into a slit in the panel.  I think I'll be avoiding that in the future. The first insertion was too low and really wonky. The second was also still a bit too low, and I would have let it go except that the hand sewing I did at the top of the gore had just enough of a bow in the line that it pulled the point into something like an ogee-style arch. The third, and final, was accomplished with the machine (more successfully than my hand-sewn attempt!), and is passable. There are still some issues with it, but I'm not going to allow myself to get frustrated over it! In the end, I found this tutorial from Morrghan O'Siodhachain the most helpful.

There is no lacing on the dress. It's a pull-over gown (though tight), and the natural stretch of the wool, which is a lot like the stretch you get in a knit, makes it easy to slip on . The little bit of extra wiggle room, though, did manifest as a larger amount of wrinkles in the back than I would have liked. It should be smoother back there, more like the front. That could also, however, just be because I have a pretty good amount of junk in the trunk that likes to push things out of the way. Before I wear it to the event this weekend, I'll see if there's any adjustments in the back seam I can make.

The streamers are also a twill wool, but the weave is tighter, so there is not nearly as much stretch. It is the same softness as the gold, but slightly lighter in weight. Both wools are felted enough that fraying isn't much of an issue, so the seams aren't finished, and the edges of the streamers are raw. I would like to do an embroidered edging on the streamers, though, to keep them nice and clean for the long term. I would use an off-white yarn that matched, so that it isn't a noticeable addition.

After attaching my muslin sleeves, I marked two things- the length (pretty much just determined by eying what looked right) and the placement of the seam so that the streamer would fall to the outside of the arm, rather than the back. This subtle shift looks like a 15th century thing- even integrated flap sleeves hang toward the outside of the arm, even if slightly toward the back. To achieve this, I moved the seam about 2" forward from the bottom (armpit) and got a sleeve that looked like this:

The bottom line is exaggerated here, it should be much more subtle.
The original seam was on the back of the arm.

The streamer attached to the base of the sleeve and formed an actual tube for about 2" before splitting and forming the streamer. The length of the streamer (the whole white part) is about 36". It does not gradually narrow (the period sources suggest that it had a uniform length through most of the length), but it is also not the harsh "T" shape of a typical tippet.

I machine sewed most of the gown using yellow silk thread. The finishing on the top of the streamers was done by hand as well all the stitching around the neckline.

What I think of it:
I am happy with the gown, and I think it's really comfortable, but I'm not convinced that the flat front gown style is the best for my body type. I continue to be displeased with the shape my bust takes, even when it's well supported all around, and a flat front seems to highlight this a bit more. Unfortunately I'm not sure that I can get away from flat fronts in my chosen time and place of early 15th century Flanders. This is something I will just have to continue to tackle. There's a solution out there.

Please excuse my uncovered head.
I just really liked how the breeze grabbed the streamers!
I also like the fullness of the skirt, though it's still not as full as I'd hoped. I like the very slight train I left in the back- it suits the pedigree of the gown. Next time, I think I will try to combine both an angled skirt panel and a gore to see how full I can get the skirt. Either that, or I will revisit a waisted kirtle and play with math like Sylvie does so well.

This dress is great for October weather, and will definitely get worn in the fall and spring, but I don't know how much actual play it will get in the long run. Since it's fancier in style than what I usually aim for, it's already marked as a special occasion gown. It does, however, give me a really good excuse to wear my Tres Riches hat. And that's good enough for me.

Click here for more photos in the Flickr set!

I've got some smaller projects stacking up that I must attend to now, but my dress making extravaganza is certainly not over. There's still a lot of fabric in my stash!