Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wise Advice: Proper Foundation Undergarments

            When the itch to start making historical costumes took hold I had no idea where to begin. I was down the rabbit hole in terms of following costume bloggers, lurking in Facebook groups for 18th century and reading every book I could order off of Amazon, but not quite sure how to make the final leap.
            Many established costumers seemed to have a strong understanding of patterning and sewing- usually learned from a mom or peers in the reenactment community. I, meanwhile, came from a family that excelled at shopping not sewing. Nor did I have a local group who shared my interests and from whom I could learn what it took to put a basic kit together.
Vintage counts as costume, right?
            So I did what any good millennial would do and turned to the Internet. I cannot recall with 100% certainty which group I posted to (probably ‘18th Century Sewing’ on Facebook) but I know I asked something along the lines of “what is the easiest 18th century dress to make?” In hindsight my wording alone makes me cringe, but at the time I didn’t even realize a Mantua, stomacher and petticoat weren’t one big dress. A group member kindly suggested perhaps I should start with Regency era as these gowns are considered a much simpler undertaking. However, and this she couldn’t emphasize strongly enough, no historically accurate costume would ever look correct without the right undergarments. I pooh-poohed this comment not realizing just how true it was.
Breathtaking! (CC attendee)
           A few months after I posted online I signed up for the super bowl of costuming: Costume College (or CC as it is affectionately referred too). I had a vast collection of vintage clothes, which I figured would give me an air of legitimacy even though I didn’t have any handmade costumes to show off.
CC is it’s own blog post; hell it’s probably a good half a dozen blog posts, so I won’t get into a full description right now. But essentially the workmanship and beauty of the pieces people craft are astonishing.
I'd wear this fabulous renaissance bee everyday
 (CC attendee)
There was an ice cream social the first night and that was where I saw it: an impeccably crafted Victorian gown (not shown here). No expense had been spared with fabric and detail. But for all the time and love that the creator had put into it, the gown fit her body like a sack.
I narrowed my eyes and thought hard about what was so off-putting. And then I realized it- this woman wasn’t wearing the proper undergarments for the outfit. No bustle, not corset, probably not even a shift- and the end result was a horribly fitting garment. 
At that moment I fully understood the importance of foundation garments. I realized my dream kit wasn’t just one simple dress but a full arsenal of garments. How to begin then? There was no getting around it, from the bottom up.
             Next time on AAA- making a shift. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Exhibition Review of 'Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion'

Exhibitions from the Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art can be a mixed bag. They are often built around contemporary fashion with a “vintage piece” thrown in here and there for good measure. So when I heard The Institute’s fall 2016 show featured 18th century clothing I had to check it out.

Have you ever stumbled across something that makes you shriek a few octaves too high- like a little kid on Christmas morning? 
Well that was me wandering through this small, but beautiful exhibition that features significant acquisitions from the past 10 years. It was refreshing to see genuine rococo mixed with newer outfits that share the same influence.

Bottom line- if you’re in New York City this fall check it OUT. And bring a drool rag, your camera, and try not to scare security with loud sighs of delight. I could go on, but if you’re anything like me you just want to cut to the pictures: 

My boyfriend agreed he would look badass in this. Menswear, French, 1792

Lady's ensemble inspired by a gentleman's 18th century waistcoat. Raf Simons, Dior, Autumn/ Winter 2014
Ivory silk robe a l'anglaise worn as a wedding gown in 1747 and then altered in 1770 
That stomacher OMG

Robe a fran├žaise, French, I'm guessing late 1770's?

That detail!
I don't even normally like this "cape" effect but here, wow 
French, 1780's redingote / polonaise

Collar detail

Back detail- check out those buttons for the polonaise
The End ;)
1770's pannier (this was actually made out of metal, not cane)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016



           Please make yourself at home. Sorry about the mess but I’ve just moved in, and I don’t really know what I’m doing, but I’d love it if you could join me anyway!

            Although I have been obsessed with Rococo / Georgian / 18th century my whole life, it wasn’t until I saw Sophia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette” that I went from causal observer to full on obsessive. Granted it was 2010 (the movie had come out 4 years earlier so I was a bit late to the game) but once the 18th century bug bit, it bit hard.
Can you even stand it?

The end result was discovering the incredible world of costumers both HA (historically accurate) and not. In future posts I’ll delve more deeply into the differences and blogs / podcasts / social media peeps you NEED TO FOLLOW because wow, just WOW, they are the rock stars of 18thcentury costuming.

            “OK, that’s cool” you say, “but wasn’t Marie Antoinette French? What does this have to do with America?” To which I say: great question! I was born and raised in New York to a family who has been in the USA about 150+ years and has always been very patriotic. My familiar roots lay up and down New England and I’ve always been proud of American history from the Pilgrims to the founding fathers, civil war (it was a matter of family pride that my mom won her local contest for reciting word for word the Gettysburg Address), world wars, and of course today.

Nope. I. Can't. Even.

         “Yea, so?” You might continue.

Well both the French and the Americans, when pushed are loyal, determined, and freakin fashionable as all hell. So I guess that makes me an all American Francophile- which is what I based the name of this blog on.

Currently I live in Brooklyn, New York, where it’s cool to dress like 1972 and 1880 got married and had a baby, but shockingly not so many 18th century lovers. Many of the usual outlets open to other costumers (reenactments, historical building and events) aren’t available to me locally. Yes we do have the 1920’s party on Governor’s Island but that’s more like Halloween in July to 90% of the participants. So what is an All American Antoinette to do?

After sitting around twiddling my thumbs I’ve decided the clothing will come first and then where I wear them will just happen. Starbucks in stays anyone?

Here I’ll post updates on my first 18th century dress progress (I’m starting from the underwear up), reviews on historical products, costuming classes and events, and of course a generous helping of Marie Antoinette.

Glad you stopped by, hope to see you soon!