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My chemise a la Reine/Oberkampf was not finished in time for my group’s visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC to see the Vigee le Brun exhibit. So I fell back on my current wardrobe of Regency wear and chose a nice long-sleeved walking gown that suited the chilly, drizzly day. Looking back, I’m actually glad I didn’t end up wearing a fancy new gown in that kind of weather. There will be other opportunities.

Hey, sometimes projects go a little off the rails. The gown was progressing very nicely up until the day I was able to try on my nearly finished stays (just one edge left to bind) and the nearly finished gown. It was all assembled, just sleeve and skirt hems and the waist drawstring left to do. I put on all the undergarments, including bum pad, and pulled the gown on over top. Drew up the neck and underbust cords, looked in the mirror, and then…. well, that’s when I heard that wah-wah sad-horn sound in my head.


For the fitting, I had not threaded the waist drawstring, so you see the seam of the casing, but it’s not gathered up. Kind of looks like a maternity gown. Anyway, you can see here clearly that the waistline dips from the side to the front, and it should be straight. I had to remove about 2 inches of length from the bodice side panel and angle its front seam about 2 inches more towards center front.


Turns out the side bodice panel was too long where it joined the front bodice panel so it bunched over the hip, and it needed to extend toward the center front by another 2 inches, so it pulled the front panel back. I wondered about this in the muslin stage on my dress form, but since I couldn’t put the unfinished stays on my form and squish it down for the muslin test, I couldn’t be sure.


Where my finger is–that’s where the waist channel should be: about 3 inches above where it currently sits at center front.


The bodice drawstrings were also set too low, with the waist channel a good 2 inches, maybe even 3 lower than it should ideally be for my stayed waistline. And since the stays flatten my bust instead of lifting and cupping, the under-bust channel was also 2 inches too low.


The underbust channel sits between my waist and underbust in the 18th century stays, so it has to be shifted up by about 2 inches.


These aren’t insurmountable problems, but I only had 1 day left to make it all happen, and I just didn’t feel like making myself crazy and tired before a very long day getting to, traipsing around, and getting back from the city (I live 2 hours away).

I have to remake the bodice side panel. I’ve already reshaped that pattern piece and remarked the front panel’s new channel locations. There’s just enough of the embroidered gauze to make the new side panels, too, so that’s lucky. But for now, the gown and pattern are put away to make time for more urgent (read: real life!) garments that I want to have. The last bit of binding on the stays will get done very soon.

On a brighter note, I LOVE the 1780s/90s stays. The top edge could come up 1/2 inch, and I’ll change that on the pattern, but really, these are quite serviceable. I love the shape they create. The plastic whalebone is wonderfully light, but firm.


The left tab binding is still in progress here, and the strap eyelets haven’t been stitched yet. It’s not perfect, but I love the fit.


The wool twill tape bindings were a little rumply when I first stitched them on, but I steamed the heck out of them and they shrank to shape really nicely. Wool twill tape bindings FTW! Want some for yourself? I bought two widths in natural color from Mood Designer Fabrics (yes, that Mood). They weren’t crazy expensive, either. Unfortunately the wool variety aren’t listed on Mood’s website, but in my experience, if you know they have a product not on the site, just call the NY shop (or L.A. if you’re out there) and do a phone order.


The front neckline could stand to come up about 1/2 inch. My bust is set very high on my chest, and I always have to raise low necklines. I just didn’t raise this one enough.


On a side note, the Elisabeth Louise Vigee le Brun exhibition was stunning! I had seen many of her paintings before on Pinterest and museum websites, but seeing them up close–there’s just no comparison. Plus, the Met had many paintings that I didn’t know were hers and many I had never seen before. The exhibit also conveyed information about le Brun’s life, which was fascinating. It was truly a wonderful experience. And then we spent time touring the rest of the museum and taking amusing photos. Like this one:


The statue of Perseus and the head of the Medusa. He is quite well formed!


The other patrons that day were very curious and enthusiastic about this group of 12 Regency-clad women gazing at all the portraits. And most of the museum staff were also pleased to see us all dressed up. Yes, we might have been a bit of a nuisance when we begged another patron to take our group photo. And yes, on our way to a tea house later that day we might have weirded-out off-duty weatherman Al Roker (yes, that Al Roker #shamelessnamedrop), but “for what do we live but to make sport for our neighbors… ?”

AlRoker Vignette

That’s Today Show weatherman Al Roker right there. I blurred other faces to protect the teachers.