Saturday, November 10, 2012

Englishback Gown Draping with the Colonial Williamsburg Mantua Maker

Last spring I received an e-mail from Rebecca (and Ashley) of A Fashionable Frolick inviting me to sign up for the recently opened gown draping workshop offered by Burnley and Trowbridge at the beginning of November. She and Ashley would be going and they wanted me to join them! I immediately signed up and we were all accepted into the class! We don't get to see each other often enough so this would be fun to sew together and visit for an entire weekend!

Rebecca knew which fabric I would bring to the workshop. She's been prodding me for months to drape the terrifying bluish-greenish silk with cream pinstripes. Before cutting into the luscious silk I practiced making two other gowns for myself, a chintz and a yellow cotton stripe. Yet I continued to be terrified. This lovely fabric would be perfect for the class. Where else would I get expert advice and help of such great magnitude as that of the Colonial Williamsburg mantua maker?

On the same day I also signed up for the B&T stay patterning workshop with the CW tailor at the end of September. My goal was to use the five weeks in between classes to complete the handsewing of prodigious millions of channels and completely bone them so that I could wear the stays for my gown draping workshop. Although I was quite busy with many other tasks at home, I did indeed have wearable stays for the workshop. This was extremely important to me because I knew that 18th century gowns were draped upon stays. Therefore I didn't want my gorgeous silk gown to be draped upon my first attempt stays. I wanted the draping to be done on my proper and enviable 18th century stays that the tailor helped me to fit! What could be more wonderfully perfect? Here are my stays as I wore them.
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They need only a few minor adjustments and binding, etc. Then finis! But they were complete enough to wear for the draping. Here you can see some of the molding to my body, after only two days of wear.

When I unveiled my silk at the workshop it was fun hearing Angela Burnley remark when she saw my silk gown fabric, "That's B&T fabric from two years ago!" Everyone told me it was a great color for me. Indeed it is one of the few colors that works well for me and I'm excited about how it will all come together! Even when I visited with the CW tailor after class, he asked which fabric I used and he immediately knew the fabric and said it would be perfect for me! Pictures do not yet do it justice...but wait!

Although I've sewn a few of these gowns for myself and my daughter over the last few years, with a few draping tips here and there and pattern pieces to make up the difference, it's not the same as taking the class. I recommend that everyone takes this class! For one thing sleeves are addressed! Doesn't everyone abhor fitting sleeves? I learned how to drape sleeves and many troubleshooting tips on fitting them, so I now feel empowered!

During the class we'd be shown how to drape a certain section of the gown, then we got to try our skills on each other with a piece of muslin, so we wouldn't have to worry about destroying any expensive fabric. Then the mantua maker came to double check our attempts, give direction or gently show us how to tweak this or that. That was the method the entire weekend and it was great. When we watch something we learn a little; when we do something we learn a lot!

Rebecca sent me some pictures that Ashley took of me and they are quite fun! Thank you!
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Sharing a secret with Rebecca!

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This one is so funny! I had been chastised for being too animated so I was working on standing quite still and keeping balanced with all the pulling and tugging. A friend commented that I looked like Sleeping Beauty with her fairy godmothers! That was a great analogy. The two classmates working on me were diametically opposed in method. One would yell, "Arms up!" while the other would yell, "Arms down!" Then they'd change sides and redo what the other had done! Yes, I could well imagine being Sleepy Beauty with her gown changing from pink to blue to pink to blue...

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Always the mantua maker arrived with great calm to restore order and fine tune any adjustments with great serenity and finesse.

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Yes, I trust the mantua maker!

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Ta da!

I came home and put it on my dress form to work out the wrinkles and enjoy. Rebecca helped me drape the sleeves and waistline. Thank you!
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Burnley and Trowbridge has posted more formal pictures from the class on facebook. Also they are trying to get 3000 likes before the end of the year! If you haven't "liked" them yet on facebook, do so even if you aren't a costumer! As long as you appreciate clothing of the period you'll see great stuff come through! Also you'll get updates about workshops and photos of projects that will simply tantalize you to sign up for a class as well!

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