A couple of months ago I introduced to you, Gay Event, The Wonderful Fashion Doll, from the beloved book by Laura Bannon (1952). When I began Gay's wardrobe, I started by making her under garments. These consisted of a blue silk corset, a half slip with edge and insertion laces, and tiny blue silk bows. I also made her a pair of white stockings, and a pair of black dressing slippers. Since these undergarments would be worn under all three of her future costumes, having them made first would allow me to design the costume patterns to fit nicely over them. The first of her three would be The Walking Costume.
I chose the Walking Costume because it felt like a Spring outfit to me, and it was yellow, a favorite color of mine right now. While awaiting the right yellow silk to be found and arrive here, I made Flora something yellow, and began the accessories, of which there are many, for the Walking Costume.
The first item I "made" was the recovering of a parasol for her. Then I made her bonnet, the handkerchief, fingerless gloves, the posies, her shoes, and finally her reticule. During this time, I was still studying the illustration(s) and deciding how I was going to approach this highly complicated little affair.
The dress was described in the book as one of yellow silk with a white lace bertha collar. However, I was puzzled with creating a pattern that would allow me to create a dress that would be easy for her to wear, and easy for me to dress her in - not to mention resemble the illustration closely.
If you wished the bertha to be attached, the dress would have to open down the front. With the apron in front and closing in the back, any number of designs could have been created for what went beneath it. The more I studied the illustrations (the black and white one in front of the book and the color plate), I decided the best approach for me would be to give her a detachable bertha or capelet. Due to my recent experience with laces on Alice Illustrated's Sue Shanahan apron, I felt best to tackle this first - the silk had still not arrived anyway.
The detachable bertha was made in a pattern that included the length of lace panels beneath it. This "collar" was designed to split down the center closing with tiny purple silk bows. I have very little experience with bertha collars, but all the ones I've seen are full in the front and open at the back. This is also why I refer to it as a capelet. The pattern was laid out in two halves on a 6" wide piece of lace at angles, then sewn up the back center. It is lined with a light batiste. A lace ruffle was sewn to this to float at the bottom edge of collar, and a two-piece butterfly lace "sleeve" was sewn at the centers where they would sit over the puffs of the sleeves. Another piece of gathered lace was sewn at the neck for the collar ruffle. Eight tiny purple silk bows were made, then six sewn down the front, and one each tops the butterfly sleeves. The bertha closes with hidden hooks and tiny, flat thread loops.
When the silk finally arrived, the patterns for the bodice had already been created ahead of time. One of the things I was researching and contemplating these past few weeks, was how to make the flowers. I could embroider them, I could try to find appliques, or I could paint them. After purchasing and trying out several paint pens, which were all a waste of money, I found a fabric paint that I'll swear by until I die. Its Tulip brand, Soft Matte Fabric Paint. It comes in a little bottle. I could not believe how fine this paint is to work with. It is highly opaque, but the best part is that is doesn't bleed on your fabric, like most wet paints will. And, you can iron it! Of course I used a piece of batiste over the silk to iron it, but there was no tackiness, and the paint dried in 30 minutes.
Making a grid for flower placement was something I'd a little practice with when I made the fabric for Alice Illustrated's Mabel Lucie Attwell dress. These white flowers would be on a 3/4" grid. Instead of free styling each flower, I thought to try and find a stamp with a similar "daisy" style. It took me a couple of days with trial and error until I got the perfect method down and I'd like to share this. Believe me, this is a big deal, since the entire dress depended on a yellow silk with white flowers.
I fixed the daisy stamp to the end of a wooden rod. I used one of those sponge brushes as my pad and tapped this into the Tulip paint spread out on a plastic dish. The sponge pad evens the amount of paint that you'll get on the bottom of the stamp. Then flower by flower I stamped an outline of the daisy. When dry, I went back and hand painted in the petals finishing the centers with a mix of Tulip purple and light blue. I cut out the pattern pieces first, marked them with the grid, then followed this process. It took me two days just to paint the flowers. 184 flowers in all. 910 petals. Was I nuts?! No. The result was everything I hoped it to be.
The gown was sewn with wide puffy sleeves and the sleeve lengths are lined, as is the bodice and skirt. Two rows of delicate lace were gathered (50" of lace) to make the lace trimmings on the gown.
Earlier, I had made her shoes. While described in the book as bronze slippers, the illustration showed them as a golden tan. These little slippers criss-cross and lace around her ankles with suede ties.
I was working on the reticule a couple of weeks ago. While I've made little purses in the past, this one had a unique way of opening, and it also "hooked" onto her apron. It also had an interesting center on the inside that gathered to a little button in the middle.
The reticule was supposed to hold a tiny bottle of perfume and a handkerchief, but I was having enough difficulty with the shape and complexity of the piece to grieve over it not holding anything. Just adding the pretty gathering and button on the inside took care of the purse ever holding something, besides its value as an adornment. Still, it opens and hooks to her apron.
"I used two metal rings from a string of them that I guess were designed to make "charm" bracelets. Covered cardboard rounds of silk were glued to the rings, and a ruffled length of the yellow silk was fitted around the back cover. I had a tiny pink rose pendant for a doll, and turned it into the center piece of the reticule. And how does it close? With two of those tiny magnets you can purchase now for jewelry.
Even though the apron was the last thing I made for this costume, because we're discussing the reticule, this is a good time to share how it was "looped" to the waistband of the apron. I'm laughing as I write this because this caused me some real consternation two nights ago. If you look at the original illustration, such a "looping" would simply be impossible as drawn. I won't go into this, but you might have fun thinking about how you would have a approached this. I tried several ideas, and settled for a little button on the inside of waistband, and a tiny thread loop at the top of the belt loop of the reticule. This belt loop can now also be used as a handle so Gay can carry it separately.
Three other accessories were made while awaiting that yellow silk to arrive from Bangkok. There was her bouquet of posies, a handkerchief and her fingerless gloves.
The posies are those little vintage "velvet" flowers and I repainted the center stamens yellow. I took millinery leaves and cut them down into tiny leaves and added stems to them. So, yes, I made the leaves by hand. Scale is everything. I tied some thread around the posy bouquet and it places well in Gay's hand to hold.
The handkerchief is a square of batiste with sweet lace hand sewn to the turned-under edges, and mitre folded at the corners. A tiny thread loop was sewn into the center so Gay could hold it on a finger.
The fingerless gloves are made from fine black netting. I had to buy half a yard of this netting to make them, but I think I'll find other uses for it in the future. I gathered 1/4" black cotton lace and hand stitched this to the top edge of the gloves. A couple of stitches at the bottom edge made a nice thumb section. I wish I could find stretch netting this fine, but she is just a doll. Right? The detail is there and accounted for.
Her parasol was a recovered Doll Masters parasol. I won't advise you to try this, but I enamel spray painted the frame, and it took several sprays to cover all the nooks and crannies. When you do this, it can gum up certain areas and even prevent the umbrella from sliding down over the stem. However, I got enough good coverage to make the stem and ribs black. It does open and close. I made a pattern from the original covering and made a new one in the purple silk that was also used for the reticule. Gay's parasol is a simplified version of the illustration. Would it help if I told you I tried it with ruffles? It was overbearing. Chunky. This is much nicer simplified.
Gay Event's bonnet began as a PNB hat mold. It was modified with more rows around the front, and shortened on the side edges. This was not an easy hat to do. Many of Nellie's molds use the method of winding the straw round and round. This was made by clipping it in sections with each band. At least I know how to do these now. The directions were useless to me.
The flowers were hand made from other flowers in my vintage stash. The purple center flower was painted using those marvelous alcohol markers (thanks, Jean!). The Bonnet's pleated edge ruffle is of silk chiffon, as is the band/ties. I purchased this silk chiffon for her ball gown. Horrid stuff to work with. There is a Youtube on working with it, including how to lay a pattern on it. I will address this again when its time to make the ball gown. Beautiful feel, but nasty to work with.
The ties may be long, but they are easy for me to work with and could also be worn wrapped around her neck once for warmth. A different look.
Finally we come to the apron, which was the last piece I made. After the success with the Tulip brand paint, I was tempted to paint the Jacobean embroidery design of the apron. However, knowing that the apron would have been lovingly and painstakingly embroidered in 1830, I felt it best to be "authentic".
I know this is a long blog post, but this outfit has so many features and details. Please bear with me a little longer.
The apron is made from white silk taffeta and lined in my Swiss Batiste. I chose silk because the dress desired something a bit loftier than cotton. I also felt this would be best since there seems to be a sheen on it in the illustration. It proved the right choice as it was stable enough to embroider on. I used silver-grey silk embroidery thread, and outlined the design using only one thread of the six that come with the strand. While contemplating the apron design, I decided to look up embroidery patterns on Pinterest. This is where I found the Jacobean embroidery designs. I was so excited to see Laura's design was true to the Jacobean ones. I'd never heard of them before. They were done with crewel work, but the patterns, the birds, the flowers and swirls are all true to Jacobean embroidery designs. Imagine!
I don't fancy myself an "embroiderer", but after finishing this apron, I think I can add, at least outlining, to my accomplishments. I refer to this as the "wedding apron". The silver on white silk is so elegant. Who would have thought that a stylized illustration of a Fashion Doll done in the 1950s, brought to life, could be so elegant and charming? A lot of work went into Gay Event's Walking Costume, and I'm taking a little break now. My breaks don't last long, but my doll rooms are in dire need of tidying up. It is still Spring!
Each Spring, especially come May, and after I've been burrowed away in my winter projects, I look up at my doll shelves and realize that most of my girls are still in Autumn or Winter finery. For that matter, some are still in Christmas garments! Slowly, out of guilt, I begin redressing some them for the warmer weather of sunshine days. By the time I've redressed the ones in most need, it is nearing Autumn again and we're back to thinking of the holidays.
One thing about making a trousseau for a limited number of dolls, is that your focus is primarily on them and their endless needs for new garments. Not that I don't pay attention to the other ladies and child dolls I have, but some seem quite content to simply be little models in what they have on. Louise is not one of them. Still in her winter skating costume of heavy velveteen, I felt best to make sure she was "summer ready" before I dove into Gay Event's Walking Outfit.
Earlier this year I'd purchased a couple of used Boneka trunks, one being the largest they made. I'd seen my friend, Olivia's, and knew Louise would benefit from such a trunk as her wardrobe will continue to expand, and each outfit full skirted and usually multi-layered. I got lucky. Someone had listed this trunk with some random items in it, not knowing it was one of those coveted, finely made Boneka trunks. Boneka stopped making these years and years ago.
I don't believe in putting my dolls' costumes in plastic bags in a drawer. Each special doll requires a fine trunk to store her wardrobe in. Especially Louise, as she's a child "French Fashion" doll. More correctly, an American child from the 1860's, but most people are accustomed to the term French Fashion, and I'll admit, it does sound more elegant.
Louise was in dire need of a fluffy Spring or Summer gown, and I'd purchased this gossamer pink windowpane fabric a couple of months back. I also have this same fabric in white, and a vintage ecru micro windowpane in my stash (which was very expensive). I enjoy having a variety of beautiful fabrics on hand for emergencies like this.
I began searching through my Godey books, and even did a little research on Pinterest for child dresses from the 1860's, and came up with nothing I wished to tackle, or seemed appropriate for Louise. What I really had in mind was something simple. Something for her to feel free to play in out of doors. I finally took to Sylvia MacNeil's Chiffonette book for my inspiration. I do find it interesting that Chiffonette was a child, yet Sylvia clearly made many true adult garments for her. Although the child's dresses were quite similar to the adults, the details in the hats and trims, the styles of jackets and accessories are often solidly adult fashion. So I designed Louise's gown from the simplest example I could find.
Louise's Summer Picnic gown is made from the sheer pink windowpane, and lined with a soft pink batiste, in bodice and skirt. The sheer sleeves are full puffs with small bands, and atop them are hand-made bows of the same fabric. A full ruffle was gathered, pinned and sewn over the full skirt above the hemline. I made her a straw hat adorned with pink millinery flowers and velvet leaves to round out the look.
This was one of those gowns that was a design in progress all the way through to the last stitch. I really had no idea where I was going with this. Having studied garments from this era, I knew, to be correct, that it would have to boast some kind of embellishment. More than just bows atop the shoulders. I brought out my bags of laces. (Laces can go in bags. Just not garments. wink-wink) I had a small stash of antique laces that I'd saved for something special, and holding them up here and there to the dress, I chose a tiny "turtle" lace that would contribute, but not overwhelm. I did not want an overt look to the adornment, just something to dress it up a bit.
I hand stitched the turtle lace around the neckline and sleeve bands. I felt the dress was still in need of something, and decided to make a sash. This sash was intended to be both one she could wear tied at the waist and draping in front, or as a big bow for the back. This sash has the rounded (but, not tear drop), ends indicative of the styles, and to these I hand stitched more of the delicate turtle lace around the edges. I had some antique lace that was attached to a Victorian collar, and clipped out the main decoration and sewed this to the center of the ends as applique.
Finally, I chose a banded lace that just happened to have little squares in it the size of the windowpanes, and hand sewed this to the bodice. Having done that, I realized that a sash around the waist would hide this pretty feature, and made the sash into a permanent bow that hooks onto the dress in the back.
Louise needed a freshening up on her hair do. I'd purchased this curling iron that you wrap your hair around (no clip) and gave her locks some soft curls. I would love to find a curling iron with a smaller rod, but haven't discovered one yet. The idea of small curlers and, or plastic straws, does not appeal to me. I don't fancy myself a hair dresser. I'm sure I'll cave at some point, but my experiences in curling mohair for mini dolls, is about the extent of what I'd like to do. I gave her a big pink silk bow for her new hair do.
Next to task, was designing a new garment for her doll, Petite Chiffonette. Louise seldom goes out to play without her doll.
Earlier, I'd purchased a nice stash of small scale fabrics and trims from Little Trimmings, Small Scale Haberdashery, in the U.K. My friend, Grigory Kornienko, who makes Petite Chiffonette's shoes, told me about it. I almost used the micro windowpane for Petite Chiffonette's gown, but this charming rose and stripe fabric was so delicate and pretty, I couldn't resist.
The style of her dress is similar to "Mother's", but I added a band of lace around the hemline and a large lace collar to the neckline. A simple piece of silk ribbon ties around her waist ending in a bow. I'd made her hat earlier on for a Spring outfit set. I did my best to make one similar to that of the large Chiffonette. Sylvia dresses her doll in a variety of costumes using this hat, so I felt it was a must for the wardrode.
Petite Chiffonette also wears a lace snood beneath the hat. Her little mohair curls were being compromised by the many trying-ons of hats in the making. I love this tiny doll. It appears that she'll be out growing her trunk shortly, too. Some day I'll post a blog on just her wardrobe, as I don't think, other than her first, winter outfit, I've shown others I've made for her.
I'd also made her a miniature parasol to carry. I'm not going to say that miniatures are what I love best right now, as my dexterity and eyes are not what they used to be. But knowing how, and having the patience for them is wonderful. Helpful. And, I do still make them as accessories for my dolls. Accessories are miniatures in themselves.
Among Louise's things, is this antique picnic basket. I believe I picked it up from Ruby Lane quite awhile ago. I love baskets. Someday I'd like to learn basket weaving and make my own, but I still have needle felting to tackle. Oh right. Yes, there's the needle felting thing. I can't help it. Designing garments is still a fun challenge to me, and I'll get to the needle felting someday. My motto is to do what you enjoy and love best always.
On that note, Happy Mother's Day! to all mothers out there. Every day is Mother's Day, whether we remember those that have passed or those we can still call, write to, or best of all, hug.
Miss E. Mouse
Louise Godey's Summer Picnic With Petite Chiffonette.