Saturday, February 14, 2015

Bib-front shawl dress & Jane Austen Ball!

My mum and I dressed up for the Jane Austen Ball!

When I was living in Glasgow, my friend and flat-mate Rachel put up some lovely curtains in our living-room. From the first moment I saw them I thought to myself that they would make a lovely Regency-era dress. I eventually told her that I was secretly coveting them, and she very graciously gave them to me.

In the early 1800s there was a popular dress made out of shawls. I did not have many paisley shawls, but I thought these curtains would be a lovely approximation.

I also realised that many of these dresses seemed to have a v-neck bodice. I had recently completed a cross-over gown that had a sort-of wrap-around opening. I didn't want the same effect for this dress, so I thought I'd attempt a bib front/ drop front gown.

A shawl dress from the 1810s

A look at a bib-front dress. It conceals a front- opening dress

A fashion-plate of a shawl dress, 1812

I'm not positive if this is a bib-front dress, but it has that look about it. 

A portrait of a woman in a lovely shawl dress.

Another lovely example.

Another extant gown from 1800-1810

The Glasgow Uni Library had the famous "Patterns of Fashion" books by Janet Arnold, and I checked them out, as she had the pattern for a bib-front dress in one of them. I didn't have much practice at scaling up patterns, but I thought I'd give it a try. 

It was very difficult, and I ended up combining my attempted scale-up with my cross-over gown pattern from Sense & Sensibility, which, though not the most historically accurate, are good patterns for beginners. 

Bib-front dress from one of the "Patterns of Fashion" books by Janet Arnold.
The back of my dress

A close-up of the pleats in the back - all done by hand. 

Though I began the dress in Glasgow, it has taken me a very long time to complete it. When I was invited to a Jane Austen Valentine's ball, I thought it would be the perfect incentive for me to finish this dress! At the very end I did resort to a bit of machine sewing, though most of it was done by hand.

The more I reflect on my dress, the more I realise my own dress-making limitations. It did not turn out as I was envisioning it, and it does not fit at all properly! I think I must save up for a good dress-form, or try to make one with some expert or at least informed help. It was very difficult to try to fit it to myself, and to pause in my sewing and put on my stays and try to pin things. So I feel as though the dress is not a true success, but perhaps I can work on it and fit it better to my own figure and to the fashion of the period.

The difficulties of my dress notwithstanding, my mother and I had a wonderful time at the Jane Austen Ball! My mother wore a lovely early 1800s dress that my sister Heather had made several years before. And I also won a prize for the best costume, so I suppose the dress can't have been too bad!

With my mum. I'm so glad she was able to come to the ball with me! My niece Lexi fixed her hair -and she did a perfect job!

After winning my prize. Notice my green shoes? The colour may not have entirely suited my dress, but I bought them especially to go with any late 18th century, early 19th century dresses I might make myself. 

Extant shoes from the 1790-1810 period.

My shoes, which I think are a pretty good modern interpretation.

With my prize. 
Another highlight of the evening was one that we danced the same dance as the famous Netherfield Ball dance which is in the 1995 film version of "Pride & Prejudice". I've always loved that tune, and it is a lovely dance as well. I was even asked by a fellow to dance it, so that was quite thrilling!

Waiting for the dance.
I'm very grateful to my mum for getting these action shots!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

First of the Month Baking: Hot Water Gingerbread

I have a charming cookbook: The New 1930 Subscription Edition Modern Priscilla Cook Book. Modern Priscilla was a magazine for women that ran from 1887 to 1930. I have a few copies myself and it was a delightful magazine.

I love the cover of this cook book!

I have owned this cookbook for about fifteen years and have never used it. So I thought I would make something from it once a month, around the first of the month, and see how these recipes turn out!

I do not have any method to my madness - I'm not starting at the beginning and going through the entire book. I'm just going to cook or bake something that takes my fancy. And today that was Hot Water Gingerbread. It looked like a simple recipe, so I thought I would give it a try.

The recipe was simple, and mixed together perfectly.

I like how it says to bake in moderate oven, and still gives a temperature! Earlier cook books often will just do the former. 

How it looked all mixed up!

The centre caved in a little, but I sampled a piece and it still tasted lovely! 

I was very happy with this recipe. I followed the instructions as exactly as I could, with one exception. We didn't have any shortening in the house, so I used cooking oil. It turned out very nicely. I'm just wondering if I should put a lemon glaze on it or just leave it plain. I would recommend the recipe - especially if you're a fan of gingerbread.