Thursday, June 27, 2013

Historical Sew Fortnightly: Pretty Pretty Princesses

Some costumers may be all about historical accuracy and representing the garments of the common folk, but I am not those costumers. I would probably fall into the theatrical costuming category at best, merely giving the impression of a historical garment, and only from twenty feet away. This justaucorps, or 17th century frock coat (most people are probably familiar with the look from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise), doesn't even make it that far -- it's all about the froth and fancy, but that's fine with me. It's made to fulfill a specific fantasy, which is to have a fantastic coat with a full skirt to flounce about in. And I think that marks the most words that begin with "F" in two sentences ever to appear on this blog.

Since this challenge was about making something fit for royalty, I went with these two paintings for inspiration:

This portrait of Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbuettel, wife of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles the VI, dates to the early 1700s. She ruled as General Governor of Catalonia in her husband's absence, and was later politically influential when she formed a party against the Spanish Council in Vienna. 

Antoine Pesne's portrait of the Crown Prince Frederick II of Prussia, later Frederick the Great, also from the early 1700s.  Frederick was known for religious tolerance and was a patron of the arts (and even wrote flute music). 

My takeaways were: collarless, black outer fabric, brass buttons, gold trim, red lining, flaring skirts below the waist, and a vaguely military look. Even though both my paintings were from the early 1700s, I wanted to go with an earlier version of the justaucorps. I knew I could start with Simplicity 4923, an appallingly costume-y looking pattern released after PotC first came out, for a base pattern, but I wanted to at least attempt to bring some historical accuracy to my garment. I found the following paintings and etchings/engravings of justaucorps from around the turn of the century to be particularly helpful:

Unlike the later versions in the 1700s, these justaucorps were relatively bulky and unfitted. They have low pockets, and the dude on the right has two lines of decoration on the large cuffs.
Beauvilliers' 1690s justaucorps had low pockets and a rounded edge at the neck. 

Charles Vane, an actual pirate from around the turn of the century, wearing a coat with scalloped, low pockets.

An extant coat from the Met, circa 1735 and more contemporary with the paintings, also showing the side pleats, and low, scalloped pocket. 
A coat from the 1720s, showing some interesting piecing on those voluminous side pleats, and how the grain affected the way the center back pleat hung. This also gives a pretty good idea of how the back pieces were cut slightly on the bias. 
This coat from the early 1700s hasn't aged well, but I love the elaborate metallic trim on velvet.  
This painting of Louis XIV and his heirs shows that velvet was definitely an option when it came to royal justaucorps material. 
This engraving of Louis XIV from 1699 shows a coat with a swirly, vaguely floral pattern (as well as obnoxiously large cuffs and buttons bigger than his eyeballs). 
This coat, while dating much later, shows clear side slits and the lining inside of the cuff. 

This diagram was extremely helpful in figuring out where to alter Simplicity 4923 for greater historical accuracy. Namely, make back narrower and the side pleats HUGE. Elaine very kindly helped me translate the French. 
This German pattern shop also had lots of helpful diagrams for overall shapes of things. I had to laugh, though, at the possibility of purchasing a pattern for a "frack," because it just made me think of BSG.  

(more research/pinspiration here and here)

So after all that research, what did I come up with?

Ta da! I present to you the coat of a pirate queen. 
Side and back views. I don't know if you can really tell here, but the shoulder seams angle to the back, like in this coat
Close-up of the gold lace trim that I used in lieu of hand-embroidery, plus my eagle buttons. 

Absolutely enormous cuff and decorative pocket flap (no functional pockets on this coat!).

The lace trim continues down the back slit. You can also see the huge amount of fabric pleated into the sides. 
Fuschia lining, because I'm fabulous like that. The dimples are from the buttons; I would've liked to have sewn them on before doing the lining, but I didn't decide until the very end what kind of button placement to use. 

Extant coats also show raw edges and lots of messy tacking stitches on the pleats, so I feel okay about mine. 


My apologies that I don't have pictures of the coat on me, but I'm holding off on a "real" photoshoot until I put together the rest of the outfit. I've got the tricorne (although I may replace the feathers with ones that match the lining better), but I still need to make a pirate shirt for the next HSF challenge. I don't know that I'll ever make the waistcoat and breeches, though. 

Cecily models both the tricorne and the justaucorps. The feathers on the tricorne are very red, while the lining of the coat is very fuschia. Are they far enough away from each other to be worth changing the feathers?


Summary: (very long, because I have A LOT of things to say about the making of this coat!)

Pattern: Simplicity 4923, with modifications based on historical justaucorps patterns. I made the skirts much fuller, narrowed the back significantly, and lowered the pockets. 

Year: Although the Golden Age of Piracy was from the 1650s to 1730s, most of the extant garments I was able to find for reference date to the early/mid 1700s. So I'm going to say mine is approximately early 1700s, based on both the fullness of the skirts and the slight cutaway look of the front opening. The look of the cuff is pretty 1740s, and the lace trim is meant to mimic the look of the elaborate embroidery of the time. 

Fabric: Total fail here on historical accuracy, but it was pretty epic upcycling/stashbusting -- the velvet is half of an absolutely enormous circular polyester tablecloth that I picked up at the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse last summer. I would never have thought to purchase new velvet yardage, especially not the six yards that the pattern calls for, but that's the beauty of reusing old textiles! The velvet is very heavy and has a swirly floral pattern in it, similar to the engraving of Louis XIV. The lining, unfortunately, I had to purchase new...4 yards of absolutely gorgeous fuschia cotton sateen (with a slight stretch) from Michael Levine Loft, in two cuts, so it was a challenge getting all my pattern pieces on it! I considered using it to make a cocktail dress instead, it was that beautiful, but decided that 1) head-to-knee fuschia is not a look I'm comfortable with, and 2) if I used a sheet for the lining it would be much more difficult to slip my arms into the sleeves. This sateen is so slippery, it's perfect for sliding around in.

Notions: 5 yards of gold lace trim from Fabric Outlet (originally purchased for Elaine's wedding dress, then rejected for being the wrong shade of gold), silk thread and beeswax for hand-sewing, and 42 brass buttons from Fabrix. The serendipitous thing about the buttons was that I hadn't counted how many I would need when I started the project, I just chose my favorite buttons from my stash and started sewing them on. I had and needed exactly 42 buttons. None left over. No places on the coat that I wish had more buttons. Is 42 not the answer to life, the universe, and everything?!

Techniques: Sewing on the bias, working with velvet (except that this was actually a fail: I cut one half of the coat back with the nap going the wrong way! I wanted to smack myself but decided I didn't care enough to recut it. Honestly, there's so much going on with this coat, it's not too obvious...right? Please tell me I'm right!), and learning the historic stitch le point a rabbatre sous la main. Even though it's not normally used for hemming, I decided it was the best way to secure the lining to the velvet at the hem the very full skirts. 

I love how the stitches on the outside just disappear into the pile of the velvet. 


Hours: I've been working on this since before our Italy trip, so I'd say a good sixty hours. Yikes! Cutting (and modifying my pattern pieces) was a challenge. The fitting was actually pretty easy, hand-sewing was time consuming (ZOMG those buttons! hand sewing all the points on the lace trim!), but the main source of frustration and reason for loving/hating my seam ripper was getting the velvet and sateen to cooperate. Between the pile of the velvet and the extreme slipperiness of the sateen, I could not for the life of me get the edges to stay lined up, even with numerous pins and a walking foot. I know, I probably could've saved myself so much time and mental cursing if I'd just taken the time to hand baste all the pieces together...but you know how you think you'll save yourself time by not doing something, and then your time-saving laziness ends up costing you more time? Yeah. That. I kept myself sane through all of this by listening to Klaus Badelt's epic PotC soundtrack. Nothing like swashbuckling music to make you feel like the forty-second button is a triumph!

Will you make it again? My first reaction is a resounding NO, but a tiny part of my brain says I want to make another one from a more utilitarian fabric so that I can be more like Captain Jack Sparrow. Shut up, brain. You don't know what's good for you.

How historically accurate is it? According to Leimomi, the ultimate question here is, would someone from the time period be confused if they saw you walking down the street in it? And unfortunately, the answer here is yes, very. While I may have the general silhouette right, my materials have transformed it into something beyond recognition. As ever, I do my research so that I know exactly what I'm ignoring ;)

Total cost: $10 for the velvet, $5 for the lining, $20 for the lace, and $5 for the buttons, which brings the total cost to $40 for a fancy pirate coat. Not bad at all!

Final thoughts: So far, I've been in love with all my HSF pieces, and this is no exception. It makes me feel like a pretty pretty pirate princess. Mr. Cation was pretty impressed with all the detail, but was also concerned about my threatening to wear this out as a regular coat (it's incredibly warm and heavy). Even if a coat like this isn't exactly practical, I feel like it epitomizes the kind of garment that I wanted to make when I signed up for the HSF challenge: fantastic (in the sense of awesome and fantasy-based), with history as a starting point but not as a constraint, and just generally happifying. It's definitely the most involved project I've done besides Elaine's wedding dress, and maybe starting another 50+ hour project on the tails of another one wasn't the smartest thing I've ever done, but I really learned and loved it so much!

While I was taking pictures of the coat, this was going on on the floor:

Walnut twists around and exposes his belly when he wants attention (and scritching).
Nyerhe! How cute does a guy have to look around here to get some pats?
Okay, you're just taking pictures of me, not actually petting my belly. 
Noooo, stoppit Mom! Don't take anymore pictures of me, okay?
This guy. 


59 comments:

  1. Me encanta!.Haces unas cosas preciosas. Te sigo desde hace bastante tiempo pero nunca te escribo comentarios porque se me da muy mal el inglés y no me fío del traductor de google.
    Quiero que sepas que te admiro mucho y que adoro todos tus trabajos.
    Besos!

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    1. Thanks for your kind words! I used Google translate to figure out your comment :)

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  2. Beautiful job! I am always in awe of your resourcefulness, as well as your skill with a needle. Have fun wearing this.

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    1. Aww, thanks! I don't know that it's resourcefulness so much as it is a refusal to spend money...

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  3. Just when I was wondering how this post could be more amazing, there was Walnut! I love that cat! Your coat is astounding, what neat projects you do.

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    1. Walnut will be pleased to know that he's more amazing than a pirate coat! He's pretty lovable, isn't he?

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  4. I love this coat! Can't wait to see what it looks like with the rest of your outfit. And I thought I recognized that trim... :)

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    1. See, your wedding dress was an excuse to buy myself all sorts of things!

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  5. This is so beautiful!! I really think you should wear it out as a regular coat. You could juxtapose it with modern garments like black cigarette pants, some modern shoes and a white button-down, and just look so amazing. Or you could go the other direction, full-on pirate, and also look so amazing. Either way, amazing!

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    1. Come winter, I think I just might! Now, though, it's way too ridiculously warm, even at night. I do have some black cigarette pants that would work...

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  6. Gorgeous coat, and yes you should wear it out in normal life; it's just too cool not to! I think I need to make one too, might finally use the navy silk velvet that's in the stash, or possibly the chocolate cotton velvet.

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    1. Oooh, I love the idea of either of those fabrics! Do it!!

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  7. It's so pretty! I am totally in love with this coat and can't wait to see your entire outfit!

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    1. Thank you! It'll be a while, though, since I'm doing lots of hand-sewing on the shirt too!

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  8. I would love to take a tour inside your brain! Marvelous coat!

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    1. Hahaha...the inside of my brain is similar to this: http://pinterest.com/pin/122652789822100573/

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  9. Wow that looks great! It's certainly dramatic without looking cheap and costume-y (:

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    1. Looking costume-y, I'm okay with, but I would hate to look cheap! Thankfully, I think this coat looks luxe enough, despite the relatively inexpensive cost!

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  10. Gorgeous! And don't worry about the nap - that's perhaps the most historically correct thing about it! I was stunned to discover that historical garments are frequently cut with the nap going every which way; even with velvet. I guess when they were cutting up an old gown to make something new, they had to work with the yardage they had.

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    1. Thanks for the reassurances re: the nap! That totally makes sense, especially since fabric wasn't as easy to come by back then.

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  11. Beautiful! I love the trim you used, it is just perfect. I love those sleeves--and all of the buttons!

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    1. I had to keep reminding myself that the trim and buttons would be worth it through all the hours of hand-sewing!

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  12. Incredible. Now part of my brain is trying to convince me to drop everything and make a coat like this. I do really need a coat. I'm not sure if I'd have the guts to rock it regularly but after putting in all those hours I certainly hope you at least try it! I wish I could be one of those people who have the confidence to just wear what they want and know they look good. It's long been my theory that all it really takes is confidence. Again: beautiful coat! The fuchsia lining just makes it, too. Love it =D

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    1. I think I've been slowly working my way up to that level of confidence...maybe by the time winter/coat-weather comes around, I'll be there!

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  13. Wow, amazing! I don't even have the patience for a regular coat, let alone a 60 hour pirate coat! Although maybe the most unbelievable thing is that at some point you bought 42 matching buttons with no specific project in mind :)

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    1. You know, when I started this project, I really didn't think it would take that long! If I'd known, I might not have had the courage to start :)

      Thank you for joining me in the appreciation of the miracle of the buttons...I seriously could not believe it when I reached into the paper bag and pulled out the last button!

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  14. Great coat, but how come we didn't get to see it on YOU? That's what I'm talking about!

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    1. Heh...give me some time to finish the rest of the outfit, and then there'll be a full-blown photoshoot!

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  15. This is epic. Gorgeous. I am utterly, totally in awe.

    I met a fellow at a conference once who had one of these (I think not so much pleating, though) made out of a lovely, mellow leather. It was subtle (well, for a frock coat) but then you were like, hey, THAT LEATHER JACKET'S A FROCK COAT!

    Can't wait to see your pirate queen. :)

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    1. Oooh, I love the idea of a subtle leather frock coat! And I have you to thank for the persistent idea of a full-skirted coat !

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  16. I LOVE it! I love that you used such a bright and girly color lining! I say don't replace the feather - just add a second fuschia one. More is better with a hat like that!

    I have the same pattern and used it to make my uncle a pirate costume one Halloween - pants, shirt, and coat. It's got great lines even if the envelope photos are cheesy. I remember the pants needing the most tweaking. I just used a whole bunch of gold buttons that where the same size (bought a couple of the cheap variety bags) with the idea that he "stole" a bunch of buttons from other people and wore them as a trophy, hehe. It made for a little interest up close and you couldn't really tell from a distance anyway. Someday I will make one to wear with my little tricorn hat.

    I, personally, like sewing buttons through all the layers for more stability, especially when there are that many and the weight adds up. You coat looks great inside and out! And yeah, who cares about the nap being off! That embossed print on the fabric covers it well. Can't wait to see it modeled! =)

    ~ Brooke

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    1. Hmmm, I'll have to see if I can find a fuschia ostrich plume! I agree that more is more when it comes to feathering hats ;) And I'll take any justification for the buttons going through to the lining!

      Love the idea of stolen buttons...I very nearly had to do the same thing, if it weren't for a very fortuitous scoop from the bin of buttons at that store!

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  17. You did a brilliant job. It looks incredible!

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  18. Wow! That's awesome! I wanted to make one myself for the last twenty years. Maybe I'll just live through you... sigh...

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    1. You can still do it! Honestly, if I wasn't hand-sewing everything and being stubborn about basting velvet, the time would have been cut by at least half...

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  19. Looking good. I am amazed at what you can do. As for myself, I am content with making fitted sheets out of duvet covers...

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    1. That is so kind of you, CC! I think the seed of this coat was planted way back when at UCSD when all those SCA people would hang out by the Stonehenge.

      Personally, I would never think to make my own sheets from other sheets, so that's a different kind of impressive in my mind!

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  20. That is one fabulous coat! I hope you have many opportunities to wear it.
    Walnut is looking fabulous too. How does he do it? :)

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    1. Walnut is like Derek Zoolander...he's just really, really, really good-looking.

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  21. oh my goodness, that coat is amazing! totally blown away... can't wait to see the properly modeled ensemble!

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    1. Thanks! It's coming...slowly but surely...it's coming :)

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  22. Amazing! I love the pattern in the velvet. Can't wait to see the whole shebang.

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    1. I actually wasn't a huge fan of the pattern until I realized there were tiny hearts in it! It goes nicely with the heart lace trim.

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  23. It's so gorgeous! Great jaerb!

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  24. you ARE fabulous like that. freaking AP sewist.

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    1. Hah! It's thanks to bold sewasauruses like you, though, that I even went for such a bright lining!

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  25. Holy smoke!! Your coat is amazing!! I shall look forward to seeing the modelled photos. I would seriously be wearing it to go and get some milk - it's just that fabulous!

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    1. Just for you, I'll wear this to get milk some day!

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  26. That is super gorgeous! At the beginning of my sewing classes here in France my teacher taught me probably 5 different hand stitches, among them, le point a rabattre. ;)

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    1. Oooh, so it's still being used now? Good to know!

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  27. This is amazing! You did such a good job of it all, congratulations! I would definitely wear that as an everyday winter coat, hahaha....hmmmmm, ideas ;).

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    1. Thank you! And all of you telling me I should just wear it out is convincing me I really should!

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  28. Amazeballs. That coat is more than a bit special! I'm impressed :)

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  29. What a beautiful coat! You did a fantastic job! I've always wanted to do something like this myself. :) You definitely need to wear it out when the weather gets cooler. It's too pretty to hang in a closet!

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  30. damn, that looks fabulous! i'm always amazed with effort you put into your projects - both sewing and research (i'm too lazy for research, every single time).. this is really an amazing coat, and i do think you should totally wear it in 'real' life (i know i would)

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  31. I love that your kitty's name is Walnut! :) He's so darn cute!

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  32. You blow my mind. A pirate coat. A velvet pirate coat. With HOT PINK lining and gold trim. There is so much awesome in this that there aren't enough scales of awesome to deal with it.

    Definitely definitely wear it out as a real coat. All the time. This deserves to be admired by many and frequently.

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