Well, I finally finished my Jane Austen project. I was creating an outfit for Catherine Morland, of Northanger Abbey, for a call-for-entries in Belle Armoire magazine. There were seeking entries of garments, jewelry, hats, and the like, that the Austen characters might have worn. Since I have fond memories of my grandmother introducing me to Northanger Abbey, I had to choose Catherine. I decided to make a walking outfit for her first walk in the woods with the Tilneys. I am keeping my fingers crossed that my outfit makes it into the magazine, but I'll probably have to wait a while to find out. Nonetheless, I am very pleased with the results. I began with a regency dress pattern and tweaked it a little to make the modifications I desired. After doing research on period garments and on the costumes made for many of the film adaptations, I decided to make a white drawstring dress with a robe to wear over the dress, along with a hat and a reticule. In the novel, Catherine's uncle suggests that she wear white because "Miss Tilney always wears white." To dress up the plain white gown, I dug around in the some of the laces that Grammy (my other grandmother) had given me, and I found the perfect white scalloped lace, and there was just enough by a few inches. (Must have been meant to be.) Then I rummaged around in my ribbons and found a similar white lace ribbon that Mom had passed on to me. (We had probably used it for some crafty project or for wrapping presents.) I knew I was going to need embroidery floss to create the reticule, so I decided I would look for some more white ribbon, too, when I was at Michael's. I found two really pretty ribbons, so I added those to the design. One was a plain organza-look ribbon, and the other was a satin ribbon with a white-on-white leaf and flower design. I put the scalloped lace on the bottom of the dress, sewed the organza ribbon above that, and then attached the craft lace to the top and bottom edges of the satin ribbon before sewing it onto the gown, thus creating three rows of ribbons. Sadly, I forgot to take a detail picture of the ribbons, but they are somewhat visible in the front view photo. (Don't mind my squinty eyes - they can't even stand an overcast day.)
After I had finished the dress, I began the embroidery for the reticule. Since I had done very little embroidery, I made a few samples first for practice. The design itself comes from a period ballgown embroidered with metallic thread, but I chose other colors. I think it turned out pretty well, for a beginner.
Meanwhile, I had purchased a hat for the project, so I made a matching white cover for the hat to turn it into a period-appropriate "Lunardi" hat. I decorated the hat with black organza ribbon to allude to the mysterious black veil from Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho, one of Catherine's favorite gothic novels. She talks about the novel with both her friend Isabella and with the Tilneys, and she does specifically mention the black veil.
For the robe, I took some of my organic silk-hemp fabric that I knew would soften up and drape well, and I dyed the fabric with natural dyes to imitate a gray color that was popular at the time. To create the color, I used logwood (a tree) dye and some of the pieces we had pruned off of our cherry trees. For the pattern, I used several different pattern elements along with the pattern for a period garment (a robe ca. 1795-1803). This same pattern was used to make garments for the Sense and Sensibility film with Emma Thompson. I had to make a few adjustments to get the fit that I wanted (a little curvier than the original), so I played around with the lining which I then used as a pattern for the "good" fabric. The original garment has layers of pleats, and I knew I didn't want to leave those out, but I was a little concerned about sewing through all of those layers (on each side of center, there are three pleats piled on top of one another). Luckily, my machine did quite well. Phew! Once I had the whole thing together and put it on, it was so beautiful I almost cried. I think those layers of pleats in the back are just gorgeous. I had never really undertaken something like this before, and since I have no professional training, I wasn't ever sure how it would turn out. I must admit, though, that I am rather proud of the ensemble.
I was sad to have to put the whole ensemble in the mail. While I did insure it, I would much prefer that it eventually comes back to me safely. Now I just need a Regency party to attend. That shouldn't be any problem here in Iowa!