V7: Williamsburg Mix n’ Match, and Finding Fabric

Before I run off in a different direction, I will post one more time about my Colonial Williamsburg plans.  Since the trip is planned for October, I have quite a long time to work on these pieces, but also several other costumes scheduled in the meantime, which I will be blogging about soon. 🙂

But first…

I’ve settled on a plan…y’know, one of those tentative things that usually gets blown to bits when actually starting on it…

Here it is:

(c) 2012 American Duchess Co.

This will give me six options to wear throughout the week we are there.

Anyway, desaturate aqua blue-ish and bright-ass yellow are my key colors, with the striped fabric picking up both the blue and the yellow.

I did a little nosing around for fabrics today.  You can see all my finds on my 1770-80 Pinterest board, but these are the ones I am seriously considering (click “Read More):

$15/yard dupioni from decorativesilk.com.  This seems to be the closest color match to the museum  garments I’ve been looking at
$22/yard dupioni from myfashioncenterfabrics.com . This comes in tons of colors, but it’s a little expensive for me
$20/yard from renaissancefabrics.net . If I’m going to splurge, it’ll be on this, but it’s quite expensive, and I need enough for a polonaise and petticoat.

I didn’t find many blues I cared for, and if I’m going to shell out for that gorgeous stripe, I think I could save and have some fun getting crafty with dyeing:

$10/yard for 10+ yards, silk dupioni from Dharma Trading Company.  I could buy tons of this and dye the saffron AND the blue to match the colors in whatever stripe I do find.  Leftovers can be used for future projects.

I admit I love the idea of dyeing, and the price for Dharma’s 100% silk dupioni is quite excellent.  They also have a silk twill that looks lovely – has anybody used this?  I may need to get a swatch.

As most long-time readers of this blog know, I don’t usually spend so much on fabric.  I’m a “get the look” kind of girl, but I really want these pieces for Williamsburg to be spot-on.  There is nothing quite like silk (even if the higher-end faux silks make a pretty good stab at it).



  • Anonymous

    January 7, 2012 at 5:49 PM

    Dharma has fantastic fabrics, though I can't say that I've ever bought their silk twill. Everything I have ever purchased from them has been great, as is their customer service. And, obviously, their fabrics are perfectly suited to dyeing. I think it is quite possible you'll be happier with dyed yellow and blue silk to match your stripe than trying to find other fabrics that will match. The only thing I would be concerned about, when dyeing that much yardage that will be used in large expanses of clothing, is that the color is really even and not splotchy. I would be so upset to have yards of non-even color! Also, the dyeing plan cuts down on your costs (always a plus)! I look forward to seeing what you decide.


  • Anonymous

    January 7, 2012 at 6:55 PM

    Love your wardrobe plans!

    One thought on dupioni–silk of that slubbiness is not common in 18th garments, and as a practical matter, it shreds really easily, so pinked trim will probably need some anti-fray agent applied (clear fabric glue, fraycheck, etc). Taffeta or slightly slubby shantung is usually a better bet.

    I have purchased some of the Dharma twill–it's beautiful, but really light weight. Lighter than taffeta. If you underline it with something (say flat line it to something with more body), it could work.

  • ColeV

    January 7, 2012 at 7:16 PM

    I'd really, really recommend the stripe! That's the same fabric in a slightly different color that I used for my caraco. So much prettier in person!

    Be wary of dupioni's though. They are very inaccurate, the slubs would have made it too cheap of fabric to be used and aren't proper weight. You should be able to find taffetas for under $20 and you'll feel much better about them (the drape is so much nicer). I usually buy from Decorative International Silk. They have tons of colors not online (including a Mango taffeta!). I have their swatches if you need opinions. Pure Silks has amazing options for under $20 as well.

  • American Duchess

    January 7, 2012 at 7:20 PM

    Thank you, ladies. Quin, I think I agree about the dyeing, and was thinking about how to avoid splotchiness, but get the same color on cut yardage. Possibly a big tub and a lot of agitation and movement. We shall see. The blue would be far easier, it's far less yardage to dunk.

    Chelleann, thank you, I hadn't seen that site, and I love the colors! I've added a couple to my list of possibles. I squeak at $15/yard, but that seems to be what it runs…

    Long Run, I know you are right about the dupioni, but it seems to be the only 100% silk, in the most colors, for the best price. The silk taffetas I have found are far more expensive, even though I'd prefer to have taffeta. Normally I'd go with faux silks or taffetas, but I want to try to be more authentic this time. I've seen dupioni run the gamut in slubbiness, from fairly smooth to super rough, so my quest is for one of the smoother ones. I'll keep my eye open for shantung too…

  • American Duchess

    January 7, 2012 at 8:12 PM

    Nicole – PureSilks is AWESOME! I hadn't seen it before, and wow, great selection! The prices are about the same, and I was impressed with their stripes and plaids, but they didn't have any blue/yellow stripe, oddly enough. Every other combo under the sun except that.

    I'm far more inclined for taffeta that dupioni. I need to order a swatch from Dharma to see what the hand is like for their dupioni, and I will have to back it with something if I do end up going with that.

    Also going to look locally for any stripes. Yay home decor section. I suppose that will really determine what my color scheme will be.

  • Rowenna

    January 7, 2012 at 11:28 PM

    Agreed about dupioni–though many reenactors say "no dupioni, ever" I've found so many that are so minimally slubby that I'm quite open to them! It really depends–some are a hot mess and some are practically slub-less. If you can find taffeta in a suitable price, it's of course choice #1…but sometimes choice #1 isn't going to happen. If it were me…I'd probably find a stripe I loved, then plan to dye to match for the other fabrics. Because with my luck I'd find a favorite stripe and then no fabrics that matched it 🙂

    Off-topic, but I notice that you're leaning toward silk for all your garments. Have you considered going with cottons, linens, or wool instead? It might mean a price break (though not always so much for authentic fabrics, esp wool) and would certainly be acceptable to the period, depending on your planned "station in life" for the event. If you're going for a lady of means a coarse linen may not be appropriate, but a proper cotton might still be a wortwhile option? I *heart* silk but try to keep an open mind about those lesser fabrics 🙂 And many of the other women going will be (I assume) affiliated with military units and perhcance therefore not ladies of means. fabrics-store.com has awesome linen and dharma (I think I recall) has some appropriate cottons.

    Have fun shopping!

  • Anonymous

    January 7, 2012 at 11:46 PM

    Oh goodness, these fabric colors are perfect. I was afraid of the stripes seeming too "heavy" (?), but the one you're opting for looks great! From a color standpoint, for some reason I'm shying away from any greens in this. The $22 dupioni is expensive, but if you could find a similar yellow at a better price?
    I am really excited to see this project progress, if you couldn't tell.

  • American Duchess

    January 8, 2012 at 12:34 AM

    Rowenna, after looking at pricing and totals, and crying a bit, I definitely agree with you. I want to take a look at cotton sateen, as well as some linen/cotton blends, and sortof downgrade a bit. I just can't afford the silks unless the are faux silk, which I am open to.

    My mom and I aren't participating in the re-enactment. We're visiting CW just for fun, shopping, etc., and it happens to be on the same weekend as Prelude to Victory, so I am not afraid of not blending in. Lol, I'm never afraid of that!

    I'm getting all in a kerfluffle about this now, but we're not leaving 'til October. Pleeeenty of time to shop and decide on things, and I do expect my plans to change. What I end up making will probably be far different from these plans, but who knows 🙂

  • Rowenna

    January 8, 2012 at 1:01 AM

    Lauren–I see! Well, you shan't blend in, unfortunately–you're going to stand out beautifully 🙂 I've had good luck wearing silk and fine cotton together–with a touch of luck, you might even find a suitable print. I rather enjoy mixing textiles in the same outfit (even if nothing beats silk :). You can always make a knock-out gorgeous gown in silk–and supplement with less pricey pieces. Enjoy the process! And–in case I haven't mentioned it yet–have fun at CW!

  • Sharon

    January 8, 2012 at 6:14 AM

    Please allow me to compliment your color choices (love the stripe!), and to put in the thought that your wardrobe would be more historically accurate with gowns instead of the jackets. Or at most, two gowns and one jacket. Throughout the primary sources, throughout the 18th c., Anglo-American women wore gowns, gowns, gowns. Jackets of all kinds were a distant second. We continue to see far too many jackets in the reenacting community and not enough gowns.
    Also, a striped petticoat was usually not worn except with its matching gown or jacket. You might want to rethink some of your mix/match?

  • American Duchess

    January 8, 2012 at 6:39 AM

    Gah, I don't even know now! I want to appear authentic; I want to be able to mix and match; I want visual texture (florals, stripes, solids), but it seems I'm limited to solids! The whole point is to travel as lightly as possible, hence the jackets, and be able to dress for 4 to 5 days.

    Perhaps trying to have a new ensemble for every day is too much? Even if I did two gowns, they would both have to be solid colors to be able to switch the petticoats on them, or I could go one way (pattered gown + solid petticoat) but not the other…that only makes 3 combos…:-


    • Sharon

      January 14, 2012 at 3:22 AM

      Have you considered that a *quilted* petticoat adds visual interest and texture, and can be mixed/matched to a variety of gowns and jackets even though patterned-fabric petticoats weren't. How about two gowns, a jacket, one solid petticoat and one made of quilted shot-silk? Pre-quilted silk can be purchased if you don't have time to quilt your own, and don't mind the machine-quilting being visible to close scrutiny.

    • American Duchess

      January 14, 2012 at 3:52 AM

      Sharon, I adore quilted petticoats, but it might be a bit bulky for travel via air, do you think? I have a new plan I haven't published on the blog yet, but it's on Facebook:

      one printed cotton jacket in yellow
      one printed cotton jacket in blue
      one yellow silk petticoat
      one blue silk petticoat
      one yellow silk polonaise (same material as the petticoat)

      I found lots of evidence for printed jackets worn with solid petticoats of varying materials, and I want to try printing my own cottons with stamps, to get totally authentic textiles.

      If one of those two silk petticoats ends up quilted, well, more's the better, hehe. 🙂

  • Gwenyver

    January 8, 2012 at 1:52 PM

    I love your dress plan. Mix and matching is a great way to make more outfits – I should try it sometimes instead of making everything new all the time.

    And I love your definition of "plan" – right on.

  • Anonymous

    January 8, 2012 at 1:55 PM

    my name is Caro and I´m reading your Blog since a few months quite regularly! First of all, thanx for sharing your thoughts, ideas, ways of doing + learning with us! It helps me too, in looking from diffenent angles on our/my hobby. 😀
    Did you see on the PureSilks site this striped taffetta: http://www.puresilks.us/index.php?route=product/product&keyword=stripe&category_id=0&product_id=820
    It´s not blue + yellow, but grey + yellow. If you just switch the pale blue to grey, you can continue your colour scheme (which is georgous, I love yellow too!). And grey is a very elegant colour and not often used.
    I wish you loads of fun searching + finding + sewing! *gg*
    Caro 🙂

  • Rebecca

    January 11, 2012 at 11:29 PM

    I love your color choices, also the fabrics on pinterest. I have made a gown/open robe thing out of a black version of one of the prints you pinned. (You've actually seen the gown, I was wearing it when I met you at the ball in TN) The print is very pretty, I'd love to find the white version, do you remember where it's from?

  • Rebecca

    January 15, 2012 at 12:31 AM

    That sounds like an adventure! I'm looking forward to seeing how you do it, and I'd love to know where you get your supplies, I might like to try that sometime! And thanks for replying about the fabric, I'll have a look.

  • MelissasMelange

    January 27, 2012 at 4:17 AM

    If you are still interested in dyeing your own silks another place that has decent prices and a good selection of white silk yardage is Thai Silks:

    I am a silk painter and have purchased from them before successfully. If you do dye and you have your own washing machine, probably the best way to dye yardage is in the washing machine on your hot water setting with acid dyes. Your creations are beautiful. I stumbled across your blog when looking for examples of period fans as I am interested in perhaps painting a few for the balls I will be going to in the next couple of months.

    Best wishes for your project.

    • Lauren R

      January 27, 2012 at 5:08 AM

      Melissa, your comment is very helpful. I have never dyed silk before and I'm a bit nervous. I didn't know which method would be better – on the stove/in a pot, or in the washing machine, but from your recommendation, I will go with the machine. 🙂

      Thank you for following my blog. I am so glad it is useful to you 🙂

  • MelissasMelange

    January 28, 2012 at 4:08 AM

    You are very welcome. I managed to get my hands on some 100% silk velvet and tried dyeing in a pot on the stove, but even in the largest pot I could find I didn't have enough space to really stir the fabric well. There is also a silk painters group on Facebook and on Yahoo groups that is really useful that has a whole group of silk painters/dyers who could give you better advice than I, as they have oodles more experience than I.

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