FOUNDATIONS REVEALED COMPETITION ENTRY
The Gentlewoman with the Thistledown Hair
Outline the story …
I was introduced to Susanna Clarke's "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" by my great aunt, who shares my taste in television and literature. I fell in love with the book, the companion novel, and the discovered the 2015 BBC show. I was immediately drawn to Marc Strong as The Gentleman. I'd seen him as a villain before, being a massive fan of BBC's 'The Musketeers' and having loved his suitably slimy portrayal of Rochefort, but there was something about The Gentleman that set this role apart in my mind. Part of it was most certainly the costume. As a theatre major and costume enthusiast, I've always adored costumes in period pieces, and The Gentleman's first appearance has stuck with me.
The inspiration for this gown is described in the novel, but is - unfortunately - only ever seen once in the show. Despite this, it is my favorite outfit worn by The Gentleman in the whole seven episodes. Something about the ancient, raw look to the jacket endeared it to me immediately. The visual texture created by the (what I assume was) velvet leaves that adorned the jacket and waistcoat contrasting with the (I think) wool of the jacket and cotton of the waistcoat. This costume has resided rent free in my mind, and what better way to challenge myself that to create a very silky lady's gown version of it for my own?
Outline the construction…
This project was a lot of firsts for me. The pattern I had initially set my eye on was completely unavailable, and would've take too long to order. This led me to the only logical conclusion - draft my own. However, I have never drafted a pattern before in my life, and this - combined with my fabric choices for the gown - led to some major issues in construction. To start, I want to say right off the bat that most of the stitching for both garments was done by machine, for both time (I work part time three days a week and attend college full time) and for my own sanity (I am impatient with terrible eyesight).
For the undergarments I chose to do a bodiced petticoat, which was relatively easy to complete. Made with a basic white cotton, I hand sewed in the ribbon detailing, the button holes, and the buttons themselves. The pattern proved to be relatively accurate, but unfortunately resulted in a small gap between the skirt and the actual bodice. The gown's challenges came mainly with the fabric. I've never worked with silk before, and working with two different kinds - the light green crepe back silk and the darker silk satin - was very difficult. Fraying and slipping were the biggest issues I faced, but I'm overwhelmingly proud of the garment I created, and plan on remaking the dress when I'm a bit higher in skill.