Tag Archives: vintage millinery

Divine Lady Ottoline: Interview with Ottoline Divine’s P. Gaye Tapp

See this Art Fashion Creation link for Toile La La’s interview with Patricia Gaye Tapp.

Patricia Gaye Tapp, Ottoline Divine creator / author, P. Gaye Tapp Interior Design and Decoration, Parthenia Papier.

Patricia Gaye Tapp, Ottoline Divine creator / author, P. Gaye Tapp Interior Design and Decoration, Parthenia Papier.

Providing insight into how her very creative mind works – Tapp, also creator/author of the blog Little Augury –  discusses inspiration for Little Augury, Parthenia Papier, her P. Gaye Tapp Interior Design and Decoration, and shares her fascination for English aristocrat Lady Ottoline Violet Anne Cavendish Bentinck Morrell – muse and namesake of Tapp’s blog Ottoline Divine.

Ottoline Morrell Photographed by George Charles Beresford, National Portrait Gallery - London.

Ottoline Morrell Photographed by George Charles Beresford, National Portrait Gallery – London.

Around her neck, Ottoline wore the pearls of Marie Antoinette. 

Traveler, observer, thinker, photographer, decorator – friend, muse, and patron to a host of other creative minds (including those of philosophers, poets, sculptors, artists, and authors) – Ottoline Morrell left a trail of evidence of her existence recorded through the eyes of her friends.

Now resuscitated through Tapp’s Ottoline Divine, Ottoline’s life – and influence – are free to unfold again, a century beyond her time.

To tell the story of Ottoline – “Ott, our rare bird” – Tapp uses the extensive and well-preserved historic documentation, photographs, and letters of Ottoline Morrell’s life.  Many of Ott’s friendships, according to Tapp – “resulted in published fiction”, but through Ottoline Divinethe reader gets a sense of Ottoline’s real essence.  Ottoline Divine reads like a journal or diary – as Tapp has meticulously selected every element  (even the sanguine font color) to represent the preferences of Ottoline Morrell and her era.

The interview link at the beginning of this post will transport you to that time. 

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Clever Vintage Blouse Construction…and a Grand Bell Hat: VPLL.

If fashions of the past make your heart thump a little faster, don’t miss out on Vintage Pattern Lending Library’s great design collections. Earlier in the year I’d learned of VPLL’s Titanic project, which involves recreating 1912 fashions from La Mode Illustree – a major turn-of-the-century sartorial arbiter. As a project volunteer, I test-sewed a hat, two women’s blouses, and a child’s apron.

Test-sewing the hat was an unusual experience for me – as I’d never created a hat with a wire armature. However, the Ladies’ Spring Hat depicted a frame… so I produced a small-scale practice model. As life goes, other responsibilities began to demand my time – but I still like to check VPLL’s Titanic progress… and was ecstatic to discover a new hat pattern there tonight!

Check this link to see the beautiful hat project – this time it’s a Bell Hat (much like the ones Marc Jacobs presented in his Fall 2012 Louis Vuitton collection!) You’ll see this hat is also based on a wire armature – but, using a stiffer fabric, one might avoid the necessity for the framework structure.

Louis Vuitton Fall 2012 by Marc Jacobs. Runway collections image at Vogue.com.

Now, the other thing that may excite you (especially if you sew) – is this 1912 La Mode Illustree blouse design, which is fabulously engineered so that the side-body and sleeve are in one piece. You just have to see it to understand, so don’t miss the link directly above.

Small-scale toile created to test La Mode Illustree 1912 Blouse 0219. Toile La La toile and photo.

VPLL has recently announced they have a sufficiency of volunteers, but don’t fret… you can still investigate the website to see the great work of VPLL’s testers, view vintage fashion illustrations, and look for great sewing patterns!

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Madame Agnes 1937 Zipper Hat.

Madame Agnes Millinery zipper hat. Illustration from Woman’s Home Companion October 1937 “Taken from the French” article. Scan by Toile La La.

Appearing in Woman’s Home Companion of October 1937, this hat is described by  Marjorie Howard in an article “Taken from the French”:  “…intended primarily for October weekends when you travel in a car and must curtail your luggage… a long curved strip of felt with metal slide fastenings artfully disposed along the edges. You begin at the top, slip one end of the fastening into the other and wind spirally till your hat emerges, crown, brim, and all. And it really works for I have tried it. To pack you unzip and roll the strip into a ball.” Howard continues to say she’s not sure a home-milliner could “succeed” in creating her own zipper hat as “it is pretty tricky to cut. Agnes told me that it took her three weeks of experimentation to work it out properly. The curve has to be as accurate as in an engineer’s working model.” Fascinating!

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Edwardian Hat Photographs 1913-1915.

I was delighted to find these beautifully-photographed vintage images of women’s hats at Retronaut.

There you’ll see over twenty hats of very impressive millinery artistry – from the sophisticated to the avant garde.

If you enjoy learning about history via imagery, Retronaut is the spot for you – living up to its credo:  “The Past is a Foreign Country. This is Your Passport.”

 

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La Mode Illustree 1912 Spring Hat – Small Scale Mock-Up.

This Spring Hat pattern is my first from Vintage Pattern Lending Library’s ” VPLL1912 Titanic Sewing Project”. 

Slightly put off by the full name “Spring Hat for Mature Women”, I became interested in the hat after viewing its interior armature at a post by Lion de Fleur, another VPLL1912 participant – who wrote an informative tutorial with photos of the millinery process.  Having only created dressmaker-style (sewn) hats, I was eager to try making a hat with one of these wire skeletons.

Heeding Lion de Fleur’s warning, I knew the instructions were minimal and would not produce results exactly like the accompanying illustration.  I decided to enjoy freedom in the construction process.  The horizontal ruching/pleating didn’t appeal to me at all… as I am already noticing some life-induced pleating in my own face.  Vertical lines and upward-moving details seemed like a good idea.  The bird’s wings in the illustration were very beautiful.  I would eventually like to produce a hat having that effect.  These things in mind, I began building the hat armature – very glad to have seen Lion de Fleur’s innovations.

The blue painter’s masking tape always comes in handy when joining paper patterns for toiles and it was useful here for securing the wire intersections of the hat frame.  Lion de Fleur mentioned using 19 gauge millinery wire for the armature, but without immediate access to that – I used 26 gauge floral wire.  Little jewelry pliers/cutters worked fine with the floral wire, but might not be appropriate for millinery wire.

The floral wire was very flimsy – even for this small mockup – so I doubled it.  The photos above show the inner structure of the hat.  In viewing the next photo, you’ll see I’ve color-coded the inner (pink) and outer (black) structures of the hat.  The inner frame sits on the head and serves as support for the outer (styled) structure.  In the photo above this paragraph, please note the upper two rings actually touch the head, whereas the lower ring is more of a shade or brim (and because I wanted even more brim, I added the crescent-shaped bit at the lower front).

I liked the idea of a forward-tipping hat front portion, so I modified my mock-up.  Building a hat in this way is much like architecture with its joists, beams, girders, and struts.  My goal was to achieve a desirable form with minimal effort.  Still, I had to make changes.  At one point, I realized the center back of the outer structure was too short.  I wanted the back of the hat to sit higher than the front – yielding a more aerodynamic look.  It wasn’t easy to make the change though, because my wire-wrappings were so secure.  It was easier to snip the wire and create a  tall splint  – using a matchstick.

After building the hat frame, it was time to experiment with a fabric covering.  Even though they had been translated from the original French, the La Mode Illustree instructions were very vague – mentioning two bias-cut draped triangles, but offering no diagram for their construction or arrangement (other than the main illustration you saw at the top of this post).

For the hat toile, I used spunbonded polyester tracing material (or Swedish tracing paper) – making it easy to create a pattern, as I could see the armature through this semi-transparent material.  Without spending too much time on this hat practice – I cut a rough-draft crown, side band, and brim.  A wearable hat would also need a lining.  Though the mini-version is ugly, I was very happy with this experience and learned enough to construct a larger wire-frame hat in the future.  During the process, I had ideas about materials (perhaps using changeable or shot silk… even transparent organdy – like the bonnets of Bright Star) and about ways to create a more flattering outer structure – even wondering how a higher front might look.

I’m glad I worked in small scale, didn’t purchase supplies without experimenting first, and didn’t have a deadline.

Notice my good luck employee bathing her face in the background.  A bumblebee stung her on the nose during her early morning outing (which she has with me – attached to a leash on the other end).

Above, you’ll see the pattern pieces – the completed hat armature, and notice that Hattie’s head has an approximate 10-inch circumference.  So now, if you scroll up to the third photo down (showing the armature in side-view), you will know that the second ring – sitting above Hattie’s ears – is approximately 10-inches.  That will give you some idea of the scale I used.  To give you an overview of this Vintage Pattern Lending Library “Spring Hat” pattern, I have included the following checklists:

Vintage Pattern Lending Library Checklist:

1. Pattern Name:  Spring Hat for Mature Women – La Mode Illustree

2. My Skill Level:  Experienced/Intermediate

3. Pattern Rating:  So-So… Why?  Directions were inadequate, though inspiring. 

4. What Skill Level would someone need to sew this pattern?  Essentially, the hat could be constructed by someone who has proficient 3-Dimensional Thinking.   The fabric and adornment could be executed via hand-stitching, pins, or – even hot glue.

5. Were Instructions Easy to Follow? No.  I learned more from reading Lion de Fleur’s “My Take on Mature Ladies Spring Hat” post.  However, the La Mode Illustre color and fabric suggestions were interesting:  velvet, crinol or straw braid, taffeta, lace, dotted tulle, ostrich or osprey feathers, sage green, brown, dark purple, navy, black.

6. Fit/Sizing:  The head entry circumference listed is 20.5-inches or 52-centimeters, but I would be using my own head measurement.  Since the directions are very minimal, a milliner/modiste would need to improvise quite a bit.

7.  Necessary Alterations:  As posted above, I did make both fit and design adjustments to the pattern/directions… mostly referring to them as inspiration.

Pattern Review Checklist:

1. Pattern Description:  Spring Hat descriptions and armature diagram.

2. Pattern Sizing:  Measurements are intended to fit a head circumference of 20.5-inches or 52-centimeters.  I only constructed a small scale practice – so I’m unsure of pattern accuracy.

3.  Did finished product look like the pattern illustration?  No.  I produced an altered version of the pattern (and several participants have agreed the pattern’s illustration and diagram do not correspond).

4.  Were the Instructions easy to follow?  The most useful part of the instructions were these words: “First, a form must be created”… . The armature diagram was fairly useful too.

5.  Pattern Feature Likes/Dislikes:  I liked the concept of creating a hat using a wire skeleton.  I disliked the vague instructions and lack of fabric-cutting/assembly diagrams.

6.  Fabric Used:  Fabric Tracing Material over Floral Wire.

7.  Pattern Design Changes:  Higher Center Back, Added Brim.

8.  Would I recommend this Pattern?  Yes.  I would recommend this pattern to patient people interested in reconstructing vintage millinery.

Conclusion:   Though I’ve seen this technique in vintage millinery books, I’d never attempted using a wire armature in a hat – but was encouraged after seeing Lion de Fleur’s post at the VPLL1912 website (in the “hats” drop-down under the “Ladies” toolbar heading).  It was fun to exercise my 3-Dimensional train-of-thought and I did enjoy the sculptural aspect of this project.

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