Getting There

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I don’t really know where to start. Maybe with my calico fitting?

half dressed

bodice

We could also call this episode, “In Which We Discover a 23-inch Waist Is Only Possible for Ten Minutes, After Which Fainting Becomes Increasingly Probable.”

True, breathing was difficult, but for the first few minutes I thought I was just about managing to get enough oxygen. Then I told Pauline that my hands were tingling and was that normal, and she said no, that’s normal, do you need to sit down? And I said no I’m fine, so she carried on pinning and prodding until finally I said actually we need to take all this mess off and loosen the corset before I collapse, thanks very much.

Fortunately, everything still fit after letting the corset out to 24-and-a-half inches at the waist. Everything, that is, except the petticoat, which suddenly as it turns out needs the waistband taking off and the front pleats letting out. Le sigh.

So that was a few Fridays ago, and then the following Sunday it was off to London for fabric shopping. Goldhawk Road in Shepherd’s Bush, with its dozen fabric shops all up and down two blocks, is like a microcosm of LA’s garment district. It’s funny how one place can seem so like another despite their being 6,000 miles apart – I’d never been to Goldhawk Road before, but it felt familiar. It was nice.

We got back from London late on the Tuesday night, so Wednesday was a leisurely catch-up day which, for me, meant one thing: BUTTONS.

the finished product

More on that later.

Thursday that week was spent cutting out all the fabric, which was only a small nightmare when it came to the striped taffeta for my apron and bustle drape. I made the mistake of marking up my bodice fabric, because I had completely forgotten that we’re flat-lining all of it which meant I had marked up cotton. Oh well – I’m hoping once it’s all together you won’t notice the faint blue marks showing through. As we had staggered cutting out times and my slot had been Thursday, I had Friday off. I had taken home my combinations and breeches to finish off, so now those are done too! Huzzah!

And then Monday came (again, far more difficult after having two days in a row to sleep in), and it was time to make up the skirt. I thought it’d be an easy task since I didn’t have to make a new skirt – I just had to do the hem and put a placket on the calico skirt I wore for my fitting. Calico is fine, you see, because there’s a separate pleated panel going over it in the proper dress fabric – and there’s the rub.

Reasons Why Making a Pleated Over-Skirt Sucks
1. Having to handle ten meters of fabric at a time: five of the lining, five of the proper fabric
2. Having to flat-tack, by hand, five meters of fabric
3. Having to mark pleat lines down all five meters
4. Having to hem five meters
5. Having to pleat up five meters
6. Having to pin pleated panel accordingly and watch as all the pleats fall out

I’d say of all of those, #5 is the worst. I couldn’t press the pleats on the ironing board because the weight of the fabric just kept pulling the pleats flat. In the end, I moved the ironing board next to my side of the table, got an extension cord for the iron, and was on my hands and knees on the table top pressing my pleats. Sadly there are no photographs of the process, but here is the result:

Two days, right there.

Which the next day became this:

now we’re getting somewhere

Which the next day became this:

striped apron

And finally, this!

apron and bustle drape

I’m especially pleased with how symmetrical I managed to get the bustle-y bit at the back:

ahh, symmetry

Excuse me while I pat myself on the back.

Next week, the bodice. Bring it.

…And coming soon: My Own Mr. Darcy, Part 2!

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Unfinished Business

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Here is a list of the things that were meant to be finished by now, and are not:

1. shirt
2. breeches
3. jacket
4. waistcoat
5. ladies’ period combinations

In a word, everything.

In another word, nothing. Nothing is finished, and it has been five weeks.

But does this bother me? Not particularly. It’s not only me. No one has finished anything. Some of the ladies are much closer than I am – jackets completed except for buttons and buttonholes, breeches you can wear with waistbands on – but in general we are all behind together. And that makes me feel not-so-bad.

In fact, I think I’ve done pretty well on the jacket seeing as I gave up an entire day to work on it. There’s still a ways to go, but the collar is on and the sleeves are pinned into place, so it actually looks like something! Here, look:

*hallelujah*

Seriously, arriving at the stage of setting in sleeves felt like reaching the promised land. Never mind that I need to even out the pleats and sew them in properly; let’s forget about all that for now and lookit some pretty pictures!

back view

back view detail

And yes, those are functional pockets!

So that’s the jacket. We officially switched gears on Thursday and started work on our waistcoats (which I thought I had taken photos of but apparently not so hey ho, coming soon). As much as I was hankering to actually finish something, it was nice to set the jacket aside and focus entirely on something else. Especially something fairly straightforward and – dare I say it? – simple, like a waistcoat.

Ok, well, not simple exactly. Welt pockets require a level of finesse that amounts to three hours’ work – more if you’re pattern-matching. In the end, I got the pockets done and a few bits together (I’m nearly the furthest one along, for once! It’snotaraceit’snotaraceit’snotarace), but I didn’t get as far along as Pauline had hoped. Her goal for the end of Friday had been to have the waistcoats entirely finished up to buttons and buttonholes, which on Thursday afternoon seemed reasonable. Turns out, it wasn’t.

The revised plan is to FINISH waistcoats tomorrow (god help us), and make a start on the next project on Tuesday: corsets and bustle cages. As for the unfinished Regency menswear, we’ll just have to catch up as and when we can: late nights and early mornings, for days (possibly weeks) on end.

And I’m ok with that. Like I keep telling myself, things will take as long as they’re going to take, and so what if I have to stay late and come early? It’s only one summer, might as well get as much out of it as I can, and it’ll all be worth it in the end.