When I take on a commission, I don't do it lightly. Its not often that I'll even accept one nowadays. My reasons are personal, but primarily have to do with how I spend my time. If something appeals to me, or I find the subject of interest, after careful consideration and the belief that I can provide what is asked, I'll accept.
Following this, my days and thoughts concentrate only upon the task, and untold hours of research are put into the costume, if I've not done something similar before. Hours are also put into selecting top quality, specialty fabrics, and expense is put out. While designing the patterns and tailoring them for a perfect fit for the doll, I continue to research each piece for historical accuracy.
Taking on something like an Edwardian Safari collection may not initially seem like an issue, but there are literally no photographs of women on Safari during this era. There are countless images of men with their "prizes" in safari settings and near encampments. It is only a guess why women didn't go on Safari, or at best were not included in photographs. I only found one where the woman clearly was holding camp and not actually beating the brush, and hiking with her rifle, camera equipment, etc. in appropriate wear.
What would a woman wear for such an adventure in the Edwardian era? Practical, but utterly feminine. Covered, but light weight enough for the climate. And, when it came to what she wore on her feet, feminine, but sturdy boots so that she could enjoy what a man could without twisting her ankles or falling behind the game in little heels.
With these factors in mind I chose linens in white and moss green. For the veil to shield her face or wrap the sun hat on her head, I chose Illusion netting, or fine bridal netting. Illusion is also used for ballet tutus, something I was introduced to about 17 years ago by Janna Joseph when she made little Degas dancer outfits for two doll house dolls for me.
I was asked to make a high necked blouse, jacket, belt, skirt, jodhpurs, a hat with veil and tall black boots. I began with the blouse choosing to dress the doll from the bottom up. All these pieces would fit over Wendy Lawton's Haute Couture's undergarments consisting of an ankle length chemise, bloomers beneath, and a laced up corset. Haute Couture has the same 14" lady doll body as Gay Event. However, none of Gay Event's patterns even came close to "Edwardian Safari", so I began afresh.
The blouse is made from a woven Italian shirting cotton. It is gathered above the bust and features the high neck, full long sleeves with wristbands, and closed in the back with thread loops and tiny buttons.
The skirt has six gores and is pleated at the waist in four places. These pleats are seamed down for tailoring, and six tiny buttons embellish the pleats, as Edwardian skirts seemed to require such fancy.
The jacket is long and modest with two large patch pockets to hold maps, a compass, or any needs she may have out on the Serengeti. Three belt loops hold a stitched, leather belt in cognac leather to complement the buttons, with a shiny brass buckle. Three holes allow for adjustment on the belt.
The jodhpurs, my personal favorite, are made similarly to the skirt with four stitched down tiny pleats. It was interesting creating this pattern for the proper fullness of the legs. Wide bands end the jodhpurs just below the knee and tuck in nicely to the tall black boots. All these factors play heavily into the design. The foot of the doll must easily go through the ends of the pants, yet be small enough to fit snuggly when the boots are worn. Four gold buckles strap the boots securely to the doll's legs, and can be cinched tighter should she wear them under her skirt. Crazy as it seems, it took me three days alone to make the boots.
The hat, Swiss paglina straw, and the veil of Illusion as I earlier mentioned. While designing and dressing the doll, I felt the costume needed a bit a dash, so I made a small silk neck tie and an amber, or topaz, necklace to give décor to the blouse.
Haute Couture was photographed with Tonner's Ralphie's rifle for effect, but was not included in the collection. I was informed by the customer that he was an accomplished miniaturist and would find joy in making her accessories.
Countless hours of design and hand stitching went into this collection, as well as dressing and photographing the doll. When all was said and done, I was stiffed on the commission. The details do not need to be discussed, but upset and disheartened by this, its taken me quite some time to recover from feeling violated. I normally journal on my creations promptly following completion, but its taken me this long to feel good enough to write on this ensemble. At the end of the day, its a fabulous creation and should be shared.
Below are some photos from the Edwardian period that I used for design inspiration. The boots were designed from studying what men wore on Safari.
Currently I'm back with French Fashion, or Civil War era costuming from the 1860's. I've a new doll I'm sewing for, and losing myself amongst silks and rufflings is wonderful therapy. I will add that if anyone has a 14" lady Lawton doll and is interested in this ensemble, you can write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Its a new month! November is a wonderful time of year for continuing to enjoy the autumnal changes and looking forward to the holidays. Blessings to all of you who faithfully follow my journey on the creative process.