For my birthday this year, I decided to attend “Tall Ships” in Philadelphia, PA. I have long followed other costumers on LiveJournal (did you know that still exists??), and someone posted that she was attending this event in costume the weekend after my birthday. I immediately requested to join, to which she agreed. I have been wanting to get to know some of the other non-SCA East Coast costumers I follow on LJ, as they have an annual Francaise Dinner that I hope to someday attend, and I’d like to know someone there already. This was the perfect opportunity.
But first, I had to do some work on my chemise a la reine before I could wear it to the event. A week prior, I dug out all the bits and bobs, looked at my previous pictures of this dress for improvements, and made a list of the things that needed to happen, as well as the nice to haves.
Tighten chemise a la reine neckline
Redo chemise binding so it’s not visible beneath dress
Wash and restyle wig
Finish about 12 inches of binding on stays
Make a bumpad
Make a petticoat
The stays were first, since they had the least work to be done. I have drastically improved my sewing skills and learned many tricks in the two years since I started and nearly completed these stays. It hurts to see how awful the binding looks, the bones are loose in the channels, the tabs are poorly shaped… But it works! It’s effective and feels great. I donned the layers all together and the stays are totally visible above the back neckline. So I won’t be wearing them, but someday, they will work for my Robe a la Francaise.
Then I had to re-cover my shoes. The rubber cement I had genius-ly decided to use when I initially covered them failed miserably. The fabric peeled itself off half way through the day when I wore this outfit, so I used Aleene’s tacky glue this time. Still not the recommended fabric glue, but it was what was handy. I still have enough fabric to re-cover these shoes several more times, if needed.
I spray-starched my sash and hung it up to dry, then moved on to the bumpad. Though a “rump” was optional, I really wanted one because I am lacking in that area and the pictures of my dress showed this fault clearly. I based my bumpad on Kendra Van Cleve’s article about 18th century skirt supports, #7. I was unable to find a better picture of the rump because the Manchester Galleries’ website is undergoing revision. So I made something vaguely crescent shaped, but only reaching as far as my side, unlike a 16th century bumroll, which gives bulk all the way around the waist (what I used in my previous wear of the chemise a la reine). The cool part about this item is I got to use my new flex ruler, one of those lead-filled ones that hold the shape, to pattern my waist exactly. I cut two layers of muslin, stitched it, filled it, then sewed a 1″ grosgrain ribbon to the inside of the waist. One problem I had with my 16th century bumroll was lack of comfort, and some of the alternate constructions I later read about suggested this solution.
I then spent several evenings pleating and repleating a petticoat. My waist measurements dictated that each half of the petticoat (2 yards per side) should be pleated down to a 13″ twill tape. IMPOSSIBLE. After at least 6 hours of guessing, then measuring, and still not getting it to work, I decided to use math! But I couldn’t find a tutorial I remembered reading once upon a time about figuring the correct pleat and return and all the math. So I had to create it from scratch, using a spreadsheet. I’m not great at math, but I am great at spreadsheets… I figured I could manage this. Well, after about an hour of googling for the tutorial, then two hours of Excel and repeated tests, I think I may have gotten the math right, finally. At least, the final test seemed like it would work. One of the major problems I encountered was measuring the pleats accurately, since the fabric had a slight stretch, meaning if I spread it *too* smooth, it changed the measurements! But in the end, I had necessities I had to get finished, so I never got back to the underskirt. However, I *must* finish it in the coming days so I can put it away, ready for next time.
Then I finally tackled the wig. Oh how I was dreading this part. The wig, in its previous hedgehog-ish incarnation, had gotten destroyed between airline travel and moving. I made the decision to reuse the wig, rather than throwing the rat’s nest away (next time, I’ll buy a cheaper wig and dispose of it when it is beyond repair). I washed it in shampoo, then conditioned it to try to give the artificial fibers some “slip” from the tangles. That part didn’t actually help. I ended up using children’s detangler and a wide toothed “wet” comb. Lots and lots of detangler. Between breakage, and later trimming a couple inches off the ends, I had enough hair to make a beret sized hair rat for my mother’s natural poof. Fortunately, the wig had plenty of hair, and all the breakage probably made styling easier than the first time. Or maybe that was the trimming it received. Either way, it was too long and too thick initially.
After the detangling, I re-read Lauren of American Duchess’ tutorial and loosely followed the directions. However, I decided to start at the back this time. I realized I needed to plan ahead so I had enough hair for a few lovelocks. So I pinned all the hair upwards and curled sections at the back. I set my curling iron to low, but it still felt like it might be too hot, so I turned it off, then occasionally tested it. When I was no longer fearful of melting the wig, I curled heavily pomaded lock. No melting. Eventually, I found I didn’t need the iron to sit quite so long, and I could hold it for a 60 second count. Also, the locks seemed to curl better pomaded AND powdered. I then hair sprayed them to death, gently tucked them into a shower cap (pinned closed against the head form) and let down the rest of the hair down. I went all the way around the head and sectioned out a ring of hair. I then teased the center of the wig, then loosely smoothed the outer ring of hair over the rat’s nest, starting from the back, then the sides, then the front. I judiciously trimmed some length as I figured out what length was needed in which area. This solved the too-long problem that I, and Lauren, had with our long wigs. Everything was heavily pomaded and hair sprayed as I styled, holding it in place, but also allowing the baby powder to stick. Then a few more coats of hair spray were added. Prior to the final powder / hair spray steps, I freed the lovelocks, but for transport, I used flat hair styling clips to pin the curls up, then I put a shower cap over everything.
I also curled, powdered, sprayed and cut a lovelock from somewhere in the center to use for my mom’s hairstyle. It was transported the same as the ones on my wig, then bobby pinned into her natural hair, though it didn’t quite match. The loss from the wig was never noticeable!
The wig styling was accomplished the night before the event. I did not get to bind the chemise neckline, but it was under the gown anyway. I *did* attempt to gather the front edges of the gown neckline, but it did not make a significant enough difference in the near indecent way it revealed my cleavage. No point in trying again, as I will have to completely deconstruct and remake this dress if I am to wear it again due to problems with the initial construction, primarily the awful hems, from learning how to use a rolled hem presser foot on polyester voile.
Just before hitting the sack, I had to figure out what I was going to wear in place of the stays. My options were bra or breast binding. I believe I went with a strapless bra last time, and was displeased by the appearance of my large breasts. I tried on a product I had used once before as breast binding, Futuro Abdomen Support, size medium. I purchased it after researching my options prior to a 1920’s picnic where I wanted to minimize my DD as close to flat chested as possible. I bound the edges of the support with felt to prevent chafing, and wore it comfortably all day (under close supervision). It’s a stretchy elastic, but not the same material as an Ace bandage, which can cut off circulation because they are designed to tighten with movement. It’s actually similar to “breast binder” a post-op compression garment, in that it’s a stretch fabric with velcro at the end. Because the support is designed to be a certain measurement, it’s nearly impossible to tighten it past the max stretch of the elastic. If you managed to completely stretch the elastic out, you’d be past the velcro area for securing it. Anyway, I didn’t end up wearing that item, despite past success with it. I have a fresh belly piercing (also in celebration of my birthday) and it rubbed it uncomfortably.
So, another alternate method: I have a shapewear girdle (example) that I wear under dressy modern dresses. Inspiration struck and I slid it up so that the waist was around my chest. Success! It flattened without being too tight, and it was long enough to fully cover my piercing without rubbing. I wore it all day comfortably, though if it had been a *little* tighter, it would have had less slipping problems, but I will probably buy one especially for this purpose, instead of using one stretched out from proper use.
Finally, the fun part: pictures. We didn’t take many, and the group shots were taken after a couple people had left. I *hope* I remembered the names correctly.
Lunch was at City Tavern, which apparently has a cool history and delicious food.
We peeked in the Independence Seaport Museum, but weren’t particularly interested. We mostly needed cool air and bathrooms.
Mom and I didn’t even make it onto a ship, as we got there after the others had their tour on the famous L’Hermione, but I wasn’t bothered. I came for the costumes and the friends!
And for the 61 foot inflatable rubber ducky, who looked like this the entire time:
Sadness. After many efforts to fix her throughout the festival, she ended up with a 60 foot tear, and many bad puns in the news headlines. But I did get to see her baby, the 10 foot “Rocky the Baby Duck.”
So, I guess all was not lost.