Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Making of... Tennis Dress #1

This is my Documentation that My friend and I entered at Costume Con this past weekend. We won Best in Show for this Documentation so I thought you all might like to see at least my half of it. Our entry was titled "Tennis Anyone?" and was two 1885 bustle tennis gowns. We also won Best in Show Historical Recreation, Best in Show in Master division, Best in Show in  Workmanship.

There's lots of information about early lawn tennis that I won't include here but needless to say, that this type of gown is pretty specialized. Not in a way that would matter greatly to our modern eye, but to Victorians these tiny deviations from the norm were very "sporty" as my husband would call it. The gowns were cotton and "light" (snerk... how can 9 yards be considered "light") shorter than typical, some had attached bustles, the corsets were specialized for heat, either being a skeleton, ventilated, or a more simplified version of a corset such as a "Good Sense corset waist".

My plan is to upload my documentation by piece... Combinations, boots, corset, hat, underskirt, overskirt, and bodice. But to keep my audience a little bit interested, here is my finished gown.

I’d never made a set of combinations before, nor had I ever drafted up a pattern from one of Frances Grimbles books. I used the combination pattern on pg 30 of Bustle Fashions 1885-1887. This book is filled with patterns that use The National Garment Cutter System, to enlarge the patterns.

I used Jen Thompson's video tutorial as instructions to draft up the pattern. Her tutorial is here: http://festiveattyre.blogspot.com/2012/01/pattern-drafting-with-apportioning.html

I used 4 yards of cotton batiste in white to make up the combinations and the same small shell buttons that I used on the under placket of the corset, up it’s center front as a closure. To trim the combinations I used the same cotton lace as I did on the corsets top edge. At the pant cuff I used a handmade vintage crochet lace that I had in my stash.

This is a cap I found here:

this is a dramatic little story... evidently the woman in this picture, Adeline Fargo, might have been murdered by her Husband.

I'm assuming this photo was taken sometime in the 1890's, no date is explicitly given. Although this type of cap was popular for quite a long time. It's a man's working cap. Spencer's Mercantile sells a cap very similar.

I also found a similar cap worn in a more contemporary time in When the Girls Came out to Play. Although the hat is striped and has a bit less over lay on the brim. The basic premiss of the hat is the same. A six gored tip attached to a narrow band, by way of "crown". The tip is soft and loose it hangs over or is tacked down to the partial brim.

I patterned this pattern myself. I made it up in herringbone wool tweed. The tip and crown are flatlined in polished cotton. The brim is stiffened with 2 layers of single ply cotton buckram. The hat band is one inch wide wool twill tape. The cap is lined in cotton calico. The intersection of gores at the tips center is accented by a self covered button form.

Because this costume has so many buttons,(buttons in the corset, buttons in the combinations, buttons on the dresses bodice) I decided to run with the theme and wear a pair of button boots. I tried and failed quite a few times to buy a pair of turn of the century high button boots from eBay. It became obvious to me that this just wasn’t going to happen. So I began to look at modern reenactment boots. The only style I found was from Fugawee. These shoes are “faux”... the buttons don’t actually work. The other styles I found were discontinued. I became very disheartened again. I couldn’t find a style of historically accurate reenactment button boots.  I than decided to look for a modern interpretation of button boots and found , to my surprise, a brand called F-Troupe.

F-Troupe is a small shoe company based out of London England. You can find them here: www.f-troupe.com At the time I was able to buy on sale a pair of button boots in leather and painted canvas. Although the buttons were faux pearl and the soles man made material the look was almost exactly like an extant pair I found on eBay. I just needed to find some appropriate buttons and dye the F-Troupe boots ivory.

I used Esquire Instant Leather Coloring dye to paint the boots. I cut off the original buttons and replaced them with a set of vintage mother of peal buttons. I think that with the changes I have made the F-Troupe boots look very similar to my inspiration button boots.

These are the Fugawee reenactment shoe

F-troupes with working buttons

boots I found on ebay that I wanted to make my f-troupes look more like

vintage shell shoe button from ebay... That picture will link you to the ebay listing.

My finished painted and rebuttoned F-troupes.

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