Monday, August 18, 2014

The Ikea Open Robe

Yes, the ORS 2014 Retreat approaches, which is all the excuse someone needs to add to one's regency wardrobe. The last retreat I attended was in 2012, while I was pregnant. I had absolutely no new garments during that time, I was too busy retching and sleeping to do any of that. I may not be making an entire wardrobe, it's impossible in a single month, but I am making a few new pieces to enhance my existing trousseau. I am also taking the opportunity to flush out old pieces and refresh things.

Lovely floral pattern, delicate and broadly tessellated.
This project started as a used duvet and pillow sham set from Ikea.  Specifically, the 'Alvine Blom' set, which has a late georgian style pattern that is really quite perfect for costuming. Their being 100% cotton doesn't hurt either. :)  I saw them for sale in the 'For Sale in Sandy' page on Facebook, a local garage sale site.  She wanted ten bucks. So getting a queen-sized duvet cover with two shams was perfect. I went for it. There was only minimal damage to it, a small tear in the seam, so no big deal.

So I began by draping the pattern for the bodice... or more precisely, the lining of the bodice. As usual, I had to test out how I wanted the seaming on the back. My plan was to do deep en-fourreau pleating inside the back piece, and also on the front panels of the open robe, so I would have to know where to pleat and then cut.

Pinning the fabric to the dress
form to start. 

Figuring out where my en-
fourreau back will lie. A few
sketched lines.
I'm fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants in many of the things I do, from my writing to my sewing and hat making. I've always been this way. I once received a back-handed compliment once from a lady who attended fashion-school. She said: "I wish I were more like you, Stephanie. You just throw yourself devil-may-care into projects, and just do them however you please, and I have to analyze and think about everything before I start the project."  As much as it was a snarky thing to say, it's true. When I see something I want to make, I just figure out a way to make it. I'm too flighty and distracted to do proper research. I'm too focused on the vision to care about obtaining the outcome.

Laying the fabric over the front, I now match the shoulder to the back piece which has been cut out and pinned
to my form.

I never learned formally how to drape. I just started draping. I didn't even know the word 'draping' applied to making patterns on dress forms. And I had no idea I was making slopers. In fact, I had no idea the word sloper existed when I started this stuff. The first time, I draped a gown (my infamous green one), I did it with plastic bags and tape.

Checking my drawing against the cut piece on the back to
make sure they line up.

Drawing the armscye 

Pinning, drawing and aligning, with an X to cut out the

Classic example of Stephanie style
winging-it. The breast on the dress form is
in the wrong place for Regency. I just
eyeballed where the front of the bodice would
end. It wasn't correct ultimately. But it is
lining, so no tragedy. 

I just do whatever I can to get to the goal. Oftentimes, I'm disappointed, especially with my drawing. I imagine up an image, and when I put the pencil, or paintbrush down, it's not what I envisioned most of the time. I'm too hurried, and too eager to get there to actually slow down and figure out how to make it just right.  So I'm like that with costuming. I see an example of something I really like, and I just throw myself into making it. I don't look up en-fourreau techniques, I just do it how I think it's done. I know next to nothing about hat making, I just make a hat in the way I think it needs to be done. In the end, I've learned something, the ups and downs, the hard way, by choice, apparently, and it either is a win or a lose, but next time, I am a little the wiser.

More lines and experimenting.

The front panel ended up being too short. Not a tragedy, since the front was draped and stitched into shape over
the lining anyway.

Once the lining was cut from fabric sans sharpie marks, I pinned the back in place, leaving the two side-fronts off, and then started pinning the fabric onto the back with the pleating as I wanted it.  Now unfortunately, the memory card I took the series of photos with for this process decided to go corrupt on me. I'm not sure why. It's kind of pissing me off, since it was the few times I actually bothered to take pictures. But it really wasn't easy. The pinning of the pleats where I wanted them, that's the easy part. Marrying the back to the sides, that's where the challenge is.  I took extensive photos of the process, the trimming of the back as everything was stitched down, the capping off of the pleats that extended out, and the draping and alignment of the sides and front. The setting of the armscyes, and the addition of a couple of pleats under the arms to allow for some looseness on the sides.  It really wasn't ALL that different from the ruched gown, really except the wider pleats into the back, which left pleats that needed to be extended out underneath the sides, capped off and trimmed. You can view that linked post for some drawings on how I did the work on that gown.

Mind you, I hand-stitched the whole thing, so it took a great deal of time, mostly done in the hours after Alex was in bed, and sometimes as late as three in the morning. But I got it done.  Here it is without the sleeves on it:

My first gown with a major train,
Besides the one I made from my
wedding dress.

more detail on the back
The pleats on the front panels.
I have this gown that was made for me by Miss Nora of a Baronet's Daughter Designs, a whim on her part, to make me a simple white round gown. I love this little gown. It's super versatile. I wore it at Topsails and Tea, on the Lady Washington, and the lovely ship left her indelible mark on me. Well. On my dress. My wide carriage made getting on and off the ship a bit troublesome, and it made me run my skirts along some freshly tarred lines.

A sweet little gown with nursing panels
and some sweet pin tucks.

The tar stain is mostly gone, surprisingly. Who knew that goo-gone
would be the trick. I scrubbed it with the goo gone, and then tossed
it into the wash.  The stain is on the back of he skirts.

A simple drawstring round gown. Perfectly good for use with an open
robe. Nobody needs to know about the Lady Washington's little act of mischief.
 Paired up with the round gown, I have a nice ensemble to wear for the retreat.

A lovely drape on the train.

A detail of the back, far from perfect, but still pretty.

Looks like my dress form is standing in a hole. LOL. I have her set a bit
lower than my actual height.
 That's the latest project. Onto another! I'd like a new gown or two if I can before the retreat. It's so fun to sew again. It's a bit slow-going doing it by hand all the time, but still, it's satisfying, less messy, and oddly, better-fitting for some reason.

UPDATE: A couple of pics of the gown being worn by chubby moi. This was in December at the Jane Austen Birthday Tea at Ainsworth House & Gardens in Oregon City.

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