Saturday, May 24, 2014

Alice Liddell In the Botanical Garden

Alice Liddell In the Botanical Garden
 "Today there would be no lessons; instead, they (Alice and her sisters), were allowed to go with Mr. Dodgson to the Botanic Garden, not far from Christ Church."  In our story The Other Alice, this is where she is introduced to Gingko Biloba, the oldest kind of living tree in the world, "Many millions of years old!".  It was a magical day for Alice, a white stone day.  And, Alice was dressed for the occasion.

The Illustration
As all is supposed, or fictionalized, in the book, she would have seen many strange plants, met funny animals at the zoo, and learned a great deal from her scholarly tutor and friend.  The Botanic Garden, or Botanical Garden, would have been tenderly cared for by professional gardeners and scientists, neat and trim, each living object a wonder to behold. 

Botanic Gardens have been around since 1544.  This type of garden is one dedicated to the collection, cultivation and display of a wide range of plants labelled with their botanical names.  They are often run by universities or other scientific research organizations for preservation and research, but also for the pleasure and education of visitors; little children like Alice was!

Ready to take a stroll.
For this special day Alice wore an elegant dress, topping her bobbed head with a pretty straw sun hat.  When I set out to create this as the second piece in Alice Liddell's wardrobe, I was a bit ahead of the game since the pattern for That's Where I Live, was the basic same pieces save for an overskirt and lots of pleated and ribbon embellishments.  I took my time, and thoughtfully, methodically, reasoned out what was to be done for each part of this beautiful dress.  Around the time I was ready for the handwork, I truthfully felt I'd sewn together a blue and white striped wedding cake.

For the fabric, I chose two Italian shirting cottons.  One was a white, semi-sheer, almost gauzy fabric with blue thread lines running through it.  The other was a luxury shirting cotton with teeny tiny woven chevron stripes running the length.  Unable to find what the artist of the illustration intended, I chose textured fabrics to compromise. 

In my struggle to find the best ribbon trims for this dress, of which it needed several in different sizes, I chose a 2mm silk for the tiniest double bands, a 1/8" silk for the mid-band on the overskirt, and a lovely double-faced silk for the hat.  I had on hand the tiniest "crochet" lace for the collar (which was just as much a pain to insert as was the lace on the other collar!), and the pleated ruffles were all hand made.  Yes, they were.

I had on hand a blue voile which I cut many long lengths of, folding over once, and then adding a fold over edge to encase the trim.  Each time the trim was added to the edge of the bolero jacket, the double-bell sleeves, and the 32" width of the skirt, I pleat-folded and pinned each pleat in place before machine top-stitching it on.  Just for fun, I counted how many pleats this outfit took.  No less than 350.  But, it was a meditation, a quiet, pleasant pastime to build the embellishments of the costume.

Alice did not like snails.
 And, as with That's Where I Live, false sleeves, or my lantern sleeves, were made to fit under the double-bells.  The cuff on these were done in the blue stripe fabric. 

I noticed a sash, which I will playfully call a dish towel sash, because it looks like a fancy dish towel or guest bath hand towel to me.  I wasn't quite sure how to handle this piece, so I made one long length with identical ends, and draped it over a thin belt that is held in place by waist-side thread loops, then buttons in the back.  It, too, has the pleated trim, and silk ribbon trim.

Lovingly tying her hat's ribbon on Gingko Biloba
Different from the first dress, this one had two skirts, or an over-skirt, which I sewed to the under-skirt and then to the bodice.  I studied this over-skirt for many hours deciding how to approach it.  In order to give it the smooth finish it deserves, I cut strips of the striped cloth and sewed these to a full white skirt.  After the striped strips were sewn on, then the ribbons and pleat trim was sewn on.  It was all quite a bit of cloth to gather at the waist and get pinned and sewn onto the bodice. A jeans needle works well for these thicknesses.  I created the over-skirt as a "separate" piece by stitching up the back seam on it, and then stitching the back seam on the bottom skirt.

Hat Detail
The buttons down the front, of which there are five, are white shell, and sewn on with light blue thread.  The buttons in the back of the dress and the one that closes the belt, are light blue shell with white thread.  I chose not to show photos of these so as not to overwhelm this journal post.  But, they are very pretty.

When all the hand-stitching was done, it was time to make her pretty straw hat, which I did today.  I do enjoy making hats and decorating them.  This one has blue vintage forget-me-nots with pink stamens that I hand-painted over the yellow.

Close up of fabric and trims.
Alice will most likely wear this frock for the next couple of months, and its perfect for the hot summer days ahead.  The blues are so soothing and cool to look at.  She must feel very dressed up indeed.  I may make her a petticoat and pantalets, but I do so with a heavy sigh, as I just don't enjoy making undergarments.  You never see them!  But, they are a part of her wardrobe, and so each piece will be made.  I have the skeleton of an antique parasol I wish to cover for her which would be a fine accessory for this outfit. 

My table is once again neat and clean, and ready for the next project whatever I decide to do.  I have some silk dupioni coming in the mail, and have threatened to make two Jumeau style dresses for the 9" Lawton dolls.  I don't know why I've been a stubborn mule about making such pieces, but they fall into the category of why I don't sew French Fashion.  Its been done, done and done again.  But, I do want the challenge (and new dresses for my little ones), so they will get made.  Why not?

Earlier this year, my friend Betsy pointed out to me that Robert Tonner had made an Alice Liddell many years ago.  What?!  So she directed me to the archival catalogs on his website, and there she was, two little Alice Liddell's made in 1999.  How I would love to own both for the novelty of them.  I do remember the catalog, but I would have skipped over these dolls (back in 1999), as they did not come with a trunk and a few other dresses.  We keep learning and growing...

Miss E. Mouse (If the text wrapping looks strange, sorry!  I tried to fix it and couldn't)

A Side View
The Back

God Bless Robert Tonner!

San Francisco's Botanical Garden - The Moon Garden

Mr. Dodgson's Little Companion and Friend

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Day at the Beach

Josephine - Day at the Beach
I began collecting the vinyl fashion dolls of Franklin Mint with their beautiful wardrobes and wardrobe trunks many years ago.  One of my favorites has always been Josephine, the Gibson Girl.  To me she was the image of life in the glory days after the Gold Rush, setting, San Francisco.  Maybe its because I'm a Northern California girl, or maybe I've just had my nose in so many books about this era.  There is no doubt that the history of San Francisco is an exciting one, but during the 1890's?  You bet.

Advertisement for 22" Doll
Sad to say that Franklin Mint is no longer producing these collectible vinyl dolls as they used to, and for new collectors, its the secondary market only.  My biggest beef with collections like Josephine's was that they made a limited number, and style, of outfits for her.  They were all ball or evening gowns, save for a nightgown and robe.

Gorgeous, and popular as the vinyl dolls were, they seemed to bank their profits on the 22" porcelain, cloth body Gibson Girls.  One of them was called Day at the Beach.  Long before I began sewing, I'd always dreamt of having this very outfit for my Gibson Girl.  Nautical, fresh and summery.  And, what would stop me now?  Except the well defined, and occasional dents in my confidence?  Nothing.  So I set my sights on stripes, and began.

15 1/2" Vinyl Portrait Doll
Interestingly enough, the minute I went to purchase a copy of an original advertisement to work from, the very doll, the rare and hard to find 22" doll showed up on Ebay.  So I bought her.  What could be better to have than the original costume to work from?  Sorry to say, the doll is not as beautiful as the ad portrays, but having this large costume to study and work from was enormously helpful.  For once I was not just designing from an illustration, but an actual piece of costuming.

Charles Dana Gibson  (September 14, 1867 – December 23, 1944) was an American graphic artist, best known for his creation of the Gibson Girl, an iconic representation of the beautiful and independent American woman at the turn of the 20th century.  While he worked as a magazine illustrator for 30 years, the development of the Gibson Girl from 1890, and her nationwide fame, made Gibson respected and wealthy.  Even the Gibson, a gin martini, his favorite drink, was named after him.

Charles Dana Gibson's Girls at the Beach
The Gibson Girl was idealized as a statuesque, narrow-waisted feminine figure, portrayed as being at ease and stylish.  She was fragile, yet voluptuous and had an exaggerated S-curve torso shape achieved by wearing a swan-bill corset.  She was a member of upper class society, always perfectly dressed in the latest fashionable attire appropriate for the place and time of day. The Gibson Girl was also one of the new, more athletic shaped women, who could be found cycling through Central Park, often exercised and was emancipated to the extent that she could enter the workplace.

Half Slip With Ruffled Kick Pleat
In addition to the Gibson Girl's refined beauty, in spirit, she was calm, independent, confident, and sought personal fulfillment. She could be depicted attending college and vying for a good mate, but she would never have participated in the suffrage movement.  There are wonderful images and stories of these women in antique magazines such as The Ladies' Home Journal.  One of my favorites!

So with the several ball and party gowns that Franklin Mint created for this 15 1/2" vinyl portrait doll, she definitely needed a Day at the Beach to round out a proper wardrobe.  (And, I do believe a cycling costume and travel suit would be appropriate as well.)

Side View and Large Bow
Finding a navy and white pin stripe cotton in April, is not an easy task.  Nor at any time.  When June comes along, there are lots of nautical and 4th of July prints, but something as simple and refined as a dark pin stripe, seems a life time quest.  So I began with an 1/8" stripe in an Italian men's shirting cotton for the skirt.  A complimentary navy cotton for the nautical bib collar, which is detached and hooks behind the neck, and my pima batiste for the blouse were my fabric choices.  I used baby flexi-braid for the trim so as to keep the trim in scale for this doll.  Double-sided silk ribbon was used for her tie, and straw hat band.

S-Curve - Swan Bill Corset (gasp!)
In creating the bib collar, I actually photocopied the original by laying it flat on the glass plate of the copy machine, and shrunk it down 80% leaving room for seams.  It did take a couple of tries as the first bib collar was too small, but it was not a difficult piece to make.  It did take time though.  Time and patience since the braid had to be sewn on, and a nautical anchor had to be hand embroidered on the front.  The original decorative anchor for the 22" doll's collar was an applique sewn on.  I'm sure the embroidery would be considered more authentic. 

There was also a unique design of the skirt that I had to work with.  There is a rise or scoop at the front, tapering down to the back and this is more clearly defined by the two rows of red braid outlining this "wave".  The skirt has eight pleats on either side of the front panel.  The pleats in this case were overlapped giving the skirt its fullness.  I'd not overlapped pleats prior to this, so it was something I had to reason and figure out.

I also had to make the slip that went beneath it.  I don't enjoy making underwear, as it can never be seen, but in the case of Day at the Beach, it seemed necessary.  It took me two days to make one good slip, as I had to figure out how to make the four-ruffled kick pleat in front.  Each ruffle on the slip was made as a complete ruffle with overcasted edges, then top-stitching so I could cut pieces to fit the triangle of the kick pleat.  By finishing the ruffles prior to attaching them, I could assure the gathers were consistent and didn't have to fuss with long threads and pulling them as I pinned them to the fabric edge or face.  And, again, it was wonderful to have the original as an example to work from.  In fact, this entire outfit was made as close to the way Franklin Mint created theirs, as could be.

The 22" Franklin Mint Doll
The large bow in the back is created from a long shaped piece that is part waistband, part ties.  Its all one piece.  It is narrow at the waist, then widely shaped, then tapered at the ends.  An 1/8" machine sewed hem was made on the edges of this "waistband tie". 

While the original 22" doll wears her hair in a long braid going down her back, I didn't have the heart to undo the perfect "Gibson" bouffant my 15 1/2" Josephine wears.  Judging from the pen and ink drawing of girls at the beach (above), I feel safe that her hairstyle would have been appropriate at the beach.  I made a little straw boater for her to wear, and now all she needs is a picnic basket and a few tickets to enjoy on the boardwalk.  Especially one for the gypsy fortune telling booth!

I am so pleased with the outcome of Day at the Beach.  I was doubtful I could pull it off, but I did.  Its notable since this is the first lady doll outfit I've made.  This might be considered French Fashion in the doll world, or it might be seen as early Edwardian.  For me, its just fun.  Whether spending a day on the boardwalk, going to a carnival, or even attending the circus, its fun, elegant and so very Josephine, Gibson Girl.

What shall I do next?  A cycling outfit for her, or another delicate dress for our Alice Liddell?

Miss E. Mouse

Gibson Girl Fashions

Elegant Gowns

Daily Threads

Tea For Two

Fragile and Voluptuous

Strolling In the Park

The Man Responsible - Charles Dana Gibson

Josephine - Day at the Beach

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Other Alice - Alice Liddell - That's Where I Live

Alice Liddle - That's Where I Live
"On July 4, 1862, Charles Dodgson took his neighbor Alice Liddell on a picnic and told her a story that later became a book called Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (which he published under the name Lewis Carroll).  Mr. Dogdson taught mathematics at Christ Church at Oxford University in England.  He was a shy man, but he always felt comfortable with children, whom he got to know by photographing them.  Alice was the child friend he liked best of all."  This is an excerpt from the book The Other Alice, The Story of Alice Liddell and Alice in Wonderland.

Alice's First Gown
Several years ago, my dearest friend Betsy Fixler (who loves to send me books!), sent to me a copy of The Other Alice when she discovered that I collected "Alice" books with beautiful illustrations.  I was skeptical of liking this book as it was so very different from what I'd been collecting.  Yet, once I opened the book and began to read, I was captivated by the story, the history, and naturally, the fabulous illustrations. 

This was during a time when I was still making Etrennes, and tiny peg wooden paper dolls.  And, so I made one of Alice Liddell, and if my memory serves me correctly, Betsy is the one that owns this tiny treasure (about 2" tall over all - see photo below).

That's Where I Live
I guess during this time, I began thinking that one day I'd like to have an Alice Liddell doll of my very own.  A real doll I could dress and play with.  It was only recently that I learned Robert Tonner had made a 10" porcelain one very early on.  So maybe my Alice Liddell is the second!  At least she is the only one I know of.

The Book
Last fall, the autumn of 2013, I purchased a Wendy Lawton Marcella doll who was missing her Raggedy Andy, and therefore quite affordable.  This was the face I decided would become my Alice Liddell.  She would need brown eyes and a brunette bobbed wig.  She would also need gorgeous silks, textured cottons, and velvets  with all the trimmings to create a wardrobe for her from this book.  And, indeed I did purchase the first set of these fabrics from Britex last fall, a birthday shopping trip from my husband.  And, I also took the pains of learning how to change the eyes in the Wendy Lawton dolls, and gave my Alice a pair of pretty brown glass eyes.  She was ready to go, but I wasn't.

What I was lacking was confidence and the motivation to begin such an undertaking.  After all, these were "French Fashion" style garments, and I had a mind block from making them.  There's no arguing with myself when I'm in a "no can do" attitude.  So I continued to sew for Daisy, and once the Easter outfit was done, I guess I felt ready to jump in.  I had no excuses, nothing planned, just a summer ahead of me ripe for a long and patient project. 

From Marcella to Alice Liddell
As with reading a book, it is best to start at the beginning, and so I decided to try the garment we'll call That's Where I Live.  It took me several days to draft out all the pattern pieces for this one, yet I knew that they would be used many times for the other garments, so I sewed my mock ups, made the changes, did this again, then began to create Alice Liddell's first outfit. 

It is made from an Italian shirting, textured cotton.  From what I've learned, summer dresses in the 1860's were typically white, and of light cottons, especially for children.  Children during this time were dressed very much like adults, and were often very uncomfortable.  Their clothing was suitable for standing in and posing, and not for much play.  So I have decided to give my little Alice a break, and make sure her dresses are as fun to play in, as well as look elegant in. 

My Marcella and Her Raggedies
Staples of this wardrobe included many layers of undergarments, little jackets and something called a false sleeve.  Perhaps the false sleeve could be worn with other dresses and jackets, like this bolero style one.  Pinafores and hats, parasols and gloves, belts, garters, little drawstring very much for a nanny to look after!  And, my Alice will have them, too.

Was this a difficult outfit to make?  Not really.  Surprisingly so.  Yet, the collar, those darned collars!, was something that took me two full days to make.  This 16" wood body and porcelain doll is a thinner, longer bodied doll than the ones I've been working with.  The problem with the collar when all was said and done, was that it was too long around the neckline, so redrawing the pattern just one more time did the trick.  I've done ruffles, very complex and complicated sleeves with the Lettie Lane outfits I've made in the past, so no.  This was not too difficult.  And, I enjoyed every minute making it...except for the ruffle around the bolero edges.  The little jacket looked like a porcupine by the time I had all the pins in place. 
Paper Lantern Sleeves

I thought the false sleeves would be a challenge, but I made them as one would a gathered skirt with a waistband on the top and one on the bottom.  I think Dodgson would have called them paper lantern sleeves.  And, that is what I will call them.  And, I've done plenty of attaching double-sided silk ribbon to edges and in rows.  Alice's garments will require lots of embellishments, the gold silk autumn dress being the most fussy.  But, I have time.  We've only just begun!

I have to admit, finally, that I'm having fun sewing, and am grateful I took the pains to teach myself the most difficult things first.  (I did that with painting, too!)  There's so much more to learn, but I now feel like I sort-of, kind-of, know what I'm doing.

The Other Alice is one of the sweetest books I've ever read, and am rereading it now.  I'll be living "Alice and Dodgson" for the remainder of the year, and I can't think of a better place to be.  With each new outfit (and yes, I'll make her shoes as well - she is wearing the pair she came in), I'll share more on the story of Alice and her friend.  However, if you love Victorian times, this historical time in England, and are enchanted with the story Dodgson wrote for his little friend, I would recommend picking up a copy. 

Miss E. Mouse

The Real Alice

Wendy Lawton sculpts a beautiful face.

That's Where I Live Close Up
Part of Her Elegant Wardrobe - False Sleeve, too!

Beneath It All

One of Dodgson's Photos

The Tiny Peg Wooden I Made

Just the Beginning.  And She Lives Here.