Thursday, July 30, 2020

Wedding Dresses

Recently I've been thinking about weddings and wedding dresses. My niece became engaged in February with the hope that they would be married this year. Chelsea has been a bride's maid for probably twenty friends or more, so I'm thinking she visualized a large wedding with a good size wedding party.

But I was not totally surprised when she announced this past weekend that they are having a super small wedding rather than waiting for the virus to go away. I am sad that I cannot be there, really sad. But this gave me an excuse to pull out my maternal grandmother's wedding dress and send it to Chelsea, in case she can incorporate it in some way.

After I had been married a number of years, my mother mentioned to me that she had her mother's wedding dress. I was very surprised because I had made my own wedding dress. I wondered if I would have used it in any way, had I known she had it.


My mother married toward the end of World War II and so had a very small wedding. I don't think she ever thought about keeping something from her wedding. She wore a pink wool suit. I expect, given the war times, she probably needed to wear it, and she wore it out.


I never knew my maternal grandmother. She was pregnant with my mother during the great influenza outbreak and died from flu-related pneumonia a few days after Mother was born, December 31, 1918.

My maternal grandmother (light hair) with her older sister.

As we experience another world-wide pandemic, I continue to wonder about my grandmother. I've never really sorted out the design of her dress. There are no wedding pictures, and my own mother had no knowledge of her parents' wedding.

Grandmother with my uncle Ed, who was a few years older than my mother.

It is made of either cotton or silk organza, edged in lace. It is all very sheer, so I imagine she wore a full slip, and even white stockings underneath it all. I believe it is what is called tea length.

I think the waistline is slightly raised. The bodice has a V neck and snaps up the front. It has a blouson effect at the waistline. The back of the bodice is solid and extremely sheer with a double layer across the shoulder blades. The back neckline also has a little pleated lacy flounce attached. The set-in sleeves appear to be 3/4 length with a lace edging on the organza. 

The skirt was gathered onto Petersham that is about 1.25 inch wide. The Petersham is turned down. The skirt has an opening at the back that is about 6 inches long. Like the front, it closes with snaps.

There are two layers to the skirt. The upper skirt is wider and has a lace border that is most intense near its hem. The under skirt is about 6-8 inches longer than the upper skirt. The lining is more narrow and has pin tucks near the hem. The hem is finished with a row of lace like that on the sleeve hems.

Then there is a sheer sleeveless bolero or vest that I assume slips over the bodice with the back neckline flounce pulled to the right side. It has V neckline that is deeper than the bodice and closes in the front with a large covered button and snap.

The skirt was only half attached to the bodice so, in order to get a better understanding of it, I basted the rest together. 

It looks like the Petersham, and the skirt, and the bodice are only basted together. The entire garment appears to be stitched by hand, so it's hard to be sure if it was basting or permanent.

This brings me to the mysterious part. You may have noticed that the bodice opens in the front and the skirt opens in the back. So, unless she was sewn into it, I cannot figure how she put it on.

Probably about 1916 with my grandfather and uncle Ed.

She married June 21, 1915 in Ellis County, Texas (USA), probably in or near Maypearl. I have a few pictures of her, as you can see. After writing most of this post, I uncovered an additional picture of my grandmother. As I look closely, I'm quite certain that she is wearing the dress we thought to be her wedding dress. She is pictured again with my uncle, so some years after her wedding. 

All these decades, we have thought this was her wedding dress. Now I'm pretty sure we were wrong. I'm still glad we kept it. It is a sweet example of sewing from more than 100 years ago.

From the front with the bolero/vest over the bodice
Maybe she wearing her wedding dress here. It does look like a wedding portrait. 

Friday, July 10, 2020

White LInen again

Quincy pants, Cottage shirt
Each summer, as the days heat up, I begin to think I need to make white pants. This time, I also decided I needed a white tunic. Do I need white pants? No. Do I need a white tunic? Definitely not. But I guess my sewing fun is not tightly coupled with need. I've established that by now!

Quincy pants, Venice shirt
The fabric for each is a rayon-linen blend from the Sewing Workshop. It's a lovely fabric, especially for summer. With the rayon, I don't think it wrinkles quite so much, and it has nice drape. It was very cooperative and fun to sew.

Quincy pants with the splice top
For pants, I chose the Quincy pattern, also from the Sewing Workshop. The Quincy has an interesting jacket, and I tried it once but the fabric was wrong. I've made the pants a number of times. Even so, I keep tweaking the fit. This pattern is no longer in print from TSW.

My first run at the pants produced a pair that was way too big. I felt like I was wearing long bloomers. This was a relatively easy fix. I had created a separate waistband though, so I had to remove the elastic, remove part of the waistband, and then I simply took it up about 3/8" on each side seam. The fit seems right for now.

Quincy pants with another Splice top
Because these are for warm weather, I cropped them some. And I added elastic to the hems for a little something different. I'm pretty happy with them.

For the tunic, I decided on the Hugo shirt from TSW. I prepared the pattern tissue some time back but never got around to making it up. In my mind, I began to imagine a floaty ensemble with a long white tunic over narrow pants. I imagined walking through the sand, the wind in my hair, beautiful sea in the background. So elegant. In my mind.

So I added 6 inches to the Hugo and proceeded to make it.

The front has a single visible button that fastens with a bias loop, and 3 additional buttons in a hidden placket. The shirt is pleated about 2" just below the finished placket. Otherwise, this is a super simple pattern. 

The sewing of the placket did not go well for me. I don't know if I was just having a bad day or  what was up. Now that I've completed it, I am not sure why it was so challenging for me. Ordinarily I'm fairly patient and just follow instructions carefully and with great faith that all will be fine in the end.

But on this particular day, I started reading ahead and became frustrated when it did not make sense to me. Linda Lee (thanks so much!) and I exchanged several email messages with accompanying pictures from my project. Because I was afraid I was going to ruin it, I finally just abandoned it and cut out a sample.

And I had the same problem!

But Linda stayed with me, and finally the sample came together and looked great. It still took me another hour to duplicate that on my actual blouse so I'm not sure how much I really learned from my sample. My brain was simply not working that day!

It was a frustrating experience that I totally brought on myself. What finally worked was to simply complete each instruction, one sentence at a time, and not get ahead of myself. Everything fit together perfectly.


The lower raw edge of the placket gets enclosed in the rectangular stitching on the right side.
Then I tried it on, first with the white pants, beach scene in mind. Hmmm...

Next I tried it with cropped Helix pants. Ew. Not so much.

I even tried it on with a necklace. 

No. Definitely not.

Then I happened to glance at the pattern and realized that it is described as tunic without adding any length. By adding 6" it became almost a dress. 

Now admittedly this looks worse than in reality because I had the fan on high and that caused everything to billow out. Oh, my.

My next fix was to remove the hem and create a 6" hem. And I quite like that. The original hem is just 3/4". I really like the added weight of a deep hem. This is similar to the Cottage Shirt which is actually a much easier make with no mysterious hidden placket.

I made one additional change to the pattern. The lower hem on the center front of the top has a lump where the center front hem is finished. So you cannot press the pleat in place. To fix this, I opened the hem and the center front seam. Next I finished the hem on each front piece. Lastly, I finished the center front seam and serged it. I was able to thread the serger threads into the seam to neaten it all up. Now I'm happy with it.

I'm pretty sure I could make this again without any trouble. But maybe I won't tempt the sewing goddesses just now.

But I won't be wearing the two pieces together.

Maybe PJs?