Studying Theatrical Costume and other adventures in London - sewing, fabrics and events.

Month: December 2009

Book: “Patterns of Fashion 1″ – Janet Arnold

Patterns of Fashion: v.1: Vol 1 - Janet Arnold

Patterns of Fashion: v.1: Vol 1 - Janet Arnold

My best friend thoughtfully sent me “Patterns of Fashion 1″ by Janet Arnold for Christmas. I was very pleased when it arrived as it covers ‘Englishwomen’s dresses and their construction’ from 1660 to 1860, which of course includes the polonaise circa 1770-1785 – in fact it has two between pages 36-40.

The author, Janet Arnold is a well respected fashion historian who has written and illustrated a number of books on period costume. She has been able to study many items which are normally too rare or fragile to be handled often, including burial gowns such as Medici burial clothes from the 16th century.

My friend lives fairly near Snowshill Manor where some of the dresses studied in the book used to be housed as part of the Wade Collection.  2000 costume pieces, plus 22000 other objects ‘invested with the spirit of the craftsman and the age in which it was created’ were collected by Charles Wade from 1900 to 1951, when Wade donated the collection and the manor to the National Trust.

The Wade Costume collection can now be seen at Berrington Hall, Herefordshire where it is on loan.

Class 13: Corset construction – eyelets, fitting, side seams and strap explanation

During the week, I had finished all the topstitching and satin stitched around the tassets. As my tassets were quite small, I found going round the corners quite difficult and hard to make look even. I ended up redoing this several times on one of the smaller tassets.

Satin stitching around the tassets

Satin stitching around the tassets. You can see I had a lot of trouble to get it even.

I needed to add the eyelets in class today, so the corset could be fitted before I sew up the side seams and start the bias binding. I found using the punch for the eyelets very difficult and in the end I just used an awl to make big enough holes to push the eyelets through. In the afternoon Claire went over finishing the seams, adding the neck straps and bias binding.

Using an awl to make holes for eyelets

Using an awl to make holes for eyelets

Fitting went quite well for me, and although the stays would have to be quite tightly laced, I did not need to make any alternations. I did forget to snip between the tassets before I put the corset on, so this caused a little confusion about the fit until Eileen realised. Luckly, everyone is very profficent with scissors, so we didn’t have to unlace the whole thing to cut them.

In the later half of the afternoon Claire gave a handout about Unit 8: Developing sewing skills for costumes, which will cover the outerwear for the polonaise.  We had a look at our dress designs we given an explanation how to work out the amount of material to buy for our outerwear petticoats and dresses (will post about this soon).

Hand outs:

Project brief: Unit 8: Developing sewing skills for costumes – Polonaise outerwear 1770-1785.


  • Finish the side seams
  • Bias bind the bottom of the corset.
  • Finish the stomacher and hand stitch in place
  • Prepare logbook for units 7 and 9

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