Sunday, November 23, 2014

KFI Redingote 1810-15

Happy Sunday.
When I take stock of future projects, I like to review what I have done in the past~ considering what I've learned and what I might want to improve on, as well as what is really going to challenge me beyond the desire for a new gown.  Because, I do have plenty of gowns to wear.  But not a lot of practical garments, like hats or coats.  I do seem to collect many pairs of gloves and far more jewelry than I need.  Always on a quest, I suppose. 
With that said, I'd like to share the garment that both challenged me the most, as well as providing the satisfaction of a job well-done.

Kyoto Fashion Institute: Redingote 1810-15
     I purchased the Kyoto Fashion Institute book a number of years ago.  However, this garment is only available to view on their website. The bold colour & stripes drew my attention, as well as the clean, tailoured look of the construction.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to discover additional views of the redingote, either of the back or the interiour construction. Shortly after seeing this photo online, I found a historical based fabric similiar in colour, but let it languish in my stash.  4 years ago, I did not feel equal to the task of doing this redingote justice.  Last fall, I finally worked up the courage to begin the project. 
     Per the KFI website, the only description of the redingote is as a "coat dress":
"The slim silhouette of this coat dress, free of any excessive decorations, was accentuated by a striped pattern, which was popular at the time. The belt marks a high waistline, and the front-opening skirt has a fly closure. Stripes became popular a little before the French Revolution as Chinoiserie, Chinese influence. Later, exotic stripe patterns of Egyptian and Turkish styles were introduced mainly as a consequence of Napoleon's expedition to Egypt. Such stripe patterns came into frequent use for clothes and interior decorations."  The material is described as "Yellow ocher and cardinal red strip printed plain-weave cotton with matching belt."

                                              Here is my version of the KFI Redingote.

      With out additional pictorial resources, I based my construction of the back by perusing the design various extant redingotes, as well as fashion plates from 1810-15.  I had previously made one spencer, completely reshaping a commercial pattern (Period Impressions 1809).  For this new project, I only used the redesigned back piece, while the rest of the garment was drafted & draped by me.  Thank you to modern technology, as I was also able to use the close up feature to see more of the cuff details and skirt's fly closure.  I spent hours lining up the fabric's stripes to create the "chevron" pattern in the photograph.  I also used a shaped skirt (triangles with a curved edge) to create the more bell-shape popular around 1812-15.  I did take some artistic license, with the lining colour and in adapting the skirt's fly closure. As a side note, I am not entirely fond of this type closure, and once  photographs are become available revealing the true construction, I may change how it currently operates--it is closed permanently at the hem, with the "fly" only open to the hip area (not illustrated in the picture).  I have not seen other redingotes with this closure, so I made it up a bit, working with the idea of the buttoned or "french fly" closure of breeches (and modern Levi 501 jeans).
     The garment is lined in a golden bronze cotton, one of my "artistic licenses" employed its creation.  I also used a bit of this to pipe the back of the redingote, to add interest and break up the stripes.  Another license, as piping does put it closer to the 1815 end of the time spectrum.  I liked the effect, and decided to keep this deviation of the back/bodice construction, from what my theory was of the original garment's look.     

  The lower portion of the sleeve is attached like a gauntlet cuff, and shaped a bit rather than cut straight.  I positioned the stripes a tad off center, to mimic the original.  And a good view of the chevrons of the skirt.

    the cuffs close with metal hooks and thread eyes.  Here is a peek of the lining too.

I took my time with this project, overall spending approximately 60-70 days between drafting the patterns & fittings--I didn't count the actual hours, as it was over weekends and evenings mostly.  There is both hand sewn & machine sewn portions of the garment.  I always hand sew the fiddly bits.  I wore it to the Oregon Regency Society's Jane Austen Tea in December 2013. 

   So what's underneath, you ask? I am wearing a muslin double ruffled chemisette and sleeveless petticoat in cotton sateen.  My "unmentionables" include a set of short stays & chemise. And it's all about the accessories: boots from Robert Land, wool muff from JAS Townsend,which I recovered in changeable silk to match the redingote.  I made both the reticule and the puffed crown hat (sometimes called a Lunardi hat), while the vintage Russian Lacquer brooch was a fantastic Ebay find.

   I'd like to thank those that has expressed interested about this project when I first shared it on Facebook. I apologize it took so long to put up this post.  During the initial stages of a project, I spend a lot of time percolating before putting my plan into action.  But once it is finished, I often move on to the next shiny new project, to dream & create. Quite so, if I am working on multiple garments at one time.  Please contact me, if you have further questions regarding fashion plates or extant resources, that I may have filtered through my brain to come up with this particular end result.

    And a final thought for the day: I don't believe there is an absolute right or wrong way when one is creating beauty--whether in poetry, painting, or apparel.  Put your heart & your truth into it, that is Art. Others may disagree, but there is plenty of room to share & grow together.  Start your journey, and see where it takes you.  


Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Certain Slant of Light

The afternoons fade & soften into twilight a bit earlier each day, and the chill and damp remind us the world is dying in minute increments.  I wrap my arms around myself, and entertain visions of ghoulies and ghosties, long-leggedy beasties, and things that go bump in the night.  Ah! The time of Samhain is nigh.   Emily Dickenson was able to capture such a moment:

There's a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference –
Where the Meanings, are –

None may teach it – Any –
'Tis the seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –

When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
On the look of Death

Nothing thrills me more than stories of spirits of the past, those mysteries waiting to be unraveled.  When reading a favourite ghost story, I am able to conjure the phantoms, forming them to my own whims.  I usually prefer this, but there are some cinematic variations of certain novels that continue to spark my interest, year after year.  

Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier.

 "I dreamt last night I went to Manderley again..."

The opening lines of the novel are unforgettable, imparting an undertone of regret, loss--I have dreamt of my family home, and these were comfortable, nostalgic dreams.  Or are they?   The estate itself sets the stage, and du Maurier's description became my personal  standard of perfect English-Manor-by-the-Sea.

 "There was Manderley, our Manderley, secretive and silent as it had always been, the grey stone shining in the moonlight of my dream, the mullioned windows reflecting the green lawns and the terrace. Time could not wreck the perfect symmetry of those walls, nor the site itself, a jewel in the hollow of a hand. The terrace sloped to the lawns, and the lawns stretched to the sea, and turning I could see the sheet of silver placid under the moon, like a lake undisturbed by wind or storm. No waves would come to ruffle this dream water, and no bulk of cloud, wind-driven from the west, obscure the clarity of this pale sky"

Our narrator is not Rebecca.  And as the plot unfolds, the characters impart only their recollections of Rebecca.  Secrets, whispers, lies.  The phantasmal spectre of Rebecca looms over the house, and its inhabitants.  She clings, and insinuates herself into their own fears and longings. Because the characters allow her dominion over their relationships and emotions, the cancerous personification of Rebecca  exhibits malignant power beyond the grave.  

Is she really a ghost, or just a projection of the characters own suffering & guilt?  We never meet Rebecca, we are left to surmise she is beautiful, jaded, cruel, & manipulative.  But did she suffer from pangs of regret?  Did she dream of Manderley, from her watery grave, and long to return?

"It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me." 

Rebecca was mistress of a grand estate, the old family pile of the de Winter family.  Her writing table, monogrammed paper, pens, and ornaments remained just so and at her express design.  Her closets of elegant gowns, bought for her by Maximillian and curated by Mrs. Danvers, rustled in anticipation for her return.  Her bedclothes turned down, yet never mussed. Her nightgown, monogrammed & pressed.  All of this, waiting like the pause in a musical score.  Rebecca moves through the hall of Manderley as a lingering note on the piano.  The living hold their breath, least we disturb the shimmer of her echo.

As the narrator recounts "She was in the house still as Mrs. Danvers had said, she was in that room in the west wing, she was in the library, in the morning-room, in the gallery above the hall. Even in the little flower-room, where her mackintosh still hung. And in the garden and in the woods, and down in the stone cottage on the beach. Her footsteps sounded in the corridors, her scent lingered on the stairs. The servants obeyed her orders still, the food we ate was the food she liked. Her favourite flowers filled the rooms....Rebecca was still Mrs. de Winter.  I had no business here at all. "

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Dear Fox & Thimble Readers,

Join me for a small ramble through Autumn.  I have for some time wondered what this blog should focus on, having grand aspirations that never fully came to fruition.  So, instead of trying too hard to make it all have sense,  I will just share what makes me happy on any given day.  Mostly, that will include Art, books, and Tea.  Perhaps a bit of sewing.  And above all else, my love of Foxes (and other critters).  Here's to Autumn, and to all of you from

A Fox

and her Thimble