It has been quite a while since I last posted on this blog. In part, it was due to real life tragedy and setbacks. My dear friend and sister-in-law passed away from ovarian cancer June 17th, 2016. It rocked my world and not in good, happy ways. While I cannot say that I have, or ever will, totally recover from that blow, I can say that it changed how I looked at life and what I wanted from it. To start with, I took up piano playing for the first time in my life, and I'm over 50! I use the Upperhands Piano lessons, and yes, it really does work. It has been a blast and I do not regret the time spent practicing this new passion. At least one person looked amazed when I announced I had purchased a nice, used piano and was learning how to play. I just smiled and chased my dream. I have a picture of my sister-in-law on that piano, and she smiles at me every day as I practice. I've also taken up real life costuming again, but more on that in a moment.
The virtual Curious Seamstress has been coasting along with only the occasional change, addition, or update from me. Recently, I have added appliers to some of my older clothing sets by request. This is all in Second Life, of course! Mostly the 1920s era outfits have been requested, with a smattering of Victorian and 1930s. If you ever purchase an outfit from my store on Marketplace and it doesn't have the needed appliers, please do contact me via notecard or IM in Second Life. However, those that have been updated have a note in the details section that an applier is included. I also have some newer items coming out, slowly, over time, as other pursuits permit. Most recently a lovely 1950s dress, Mitzy.
Now for real world costuming! I've recently undertaken recreating an 1870s day dress. Of course the first thing to do is make the undergarments. I must note that I have been sewing in the real world since I was five years old, thanks to my parents. My father taught me embroidery, my mother taught me about seams and sewing machines. As I matured over the years, I stretched those skills to include making costumes for my child as I thought the store bought ones were cheaply made. And so they are. After that it was Ren Faire costumes, and then after that, well, I stopped sewing in real life for a while and went into the virtual world with Curious Seamstress for nearly a decade. Now I'm stepping back into the real world to do things like recover antique parasols, but only for myself thank you. I've also made my first simple corset, drawers, chemise, and bustle petticoat. Any good seamstress knows how to either make her own patterns or procure the best. For me that has been Truly Victorian, a pattern maker and seller who has wonderful patterns with detailed instructions. The patterns are based on existing garments and fashion plates of the period. If you ever venture into the world of reproduction dressmaking, I highly recommend her offerings as the best of jumping off points. Another excellent pattern maker is Past Patterns. I have recently completed a corset from that pattern maker. One of the best things about her is that she also gives detailed instructions and bases patterns on existing items she has studied.
My lovely new costume, once completed, will be used at the local historical society, which is my other new passion. My husband of three decades brought home a Godey's Lady's Book from 1862. It was a complete year, about 700 pages, bound in leather and stamped in gold with the name and initials of a local prominent family member. It cost him $20 at an estate sale, but earned him brownie points for life. In it, I found all kinds of treasures, and it led me to the historical society, which I promptly joined. Now why, with an 1862 Godey's, would I be making an 1870s bustle gown? Well my first fully bound set of Godey's is from 1872, and I acquired it nearly two years ago and it cost me a bit more than $20. So the patterns and thoughts I have for a first costume in many years have been all about the first bustle era gowns. I rather enjoy the softer bustle look as the hoop skirt gradually faded away into more of a natural bustle.
Today, as I write this, I sit in my homemade 1870s corset and practice sitting and breathing properly. There are a lot of myths about corsets and corset wearing. Most of them are bunk. No one ever removed a set of ribs to wear one, most waists weren't 18 inches (the average appears to have been 26-28), and the back of your corset should NOT meet! There should be at least two inches of 'spring' there. Sometimes up to six inches. And you can put one on by yourself. Much as you put on your modern bra, there are ways to cope and it's not nearly as bad as one would imagine. Corsets are comfortable and very supportive of the lower back, though one does have to learn to sit a little differently and move a bit differently when it comes to getting things. You never lace a corset tight and walk off. You put it on as loosely as it can be had, then gradually tighten it about 15 minutes later. Your blood and guts need to adjust! It is not painful and should not be painful if your corset fits properly. If it is painful, you are too tightly laced or your corset isn't properly made for your figure. Ladies of the era actually continued to tighten their corsets over the day, until by evening it was as small as they were comfortable going. Taking it off, do not unhook and pop it off, you'll faint from blood coursing to your head. Loosen your laces, breath, and continue to do that for a few minutes until you're back to your natural size, then pop that corset off. It takes time using and wearing a corset, something our great great grandmothers had and we seldom take.
You eat about half of what you normally would and chew well, and avoid carbonated drinks. A corset isn't meant to be a torture device. Our Victorian grandmothers weren't fools and they weren't Kardashian wannabes. A corset was made to support the ta-tas and the many skirts and petticoats even an average woman wore. A few women practiced extreme corset tightening, but there are also touched up pictures showing women with much smaller waists than they really had. And we thought we had invented the photo touch up!
Corsets for some are considered a horrible torture device, or some kind of sex kitten offering from Fredrick's of Hollywood. But in truth, they were comfortable, attractive garments that grew out of centuries of women looking for good back and breast support. By the way, split drawers are a must with a true corset, or the bathroom will become a very messy challenge. No thongs or modern panties with a true corset. Remember, you're not bending at the waist much. And those are your corset lessons for this post.
I wish you all a lovely spring Saturday. I hope that wherever you are, whatever you're doing, you're enjoying life to the fullest.