Saturday, 26 March 2011

Elizabeth Armistead 1750 - 1842

“You are all to me. You can always make me happy in circumstances apparently unpleasant and miserable… Indeed my dearest angel, the whole happiness of my life depends on you.” Charles James Fox wrote to Elizabeth Armistead.
            Born Elizabeth Bridget Cane, it’s unknown if Elizabeth ever married or if she adopted the name Armistead from an early protector as was the frequent custom of the day. Her lovers already having included Dukes, Earls and the Prince of Wales himself, and at the age of 33 she had secured a substantial independent income through two handsome annuities, it isn’t known why or how Elizabeth embarked on her career as a courtesan. And there are many different accounts of how this may have come about. Some believe that she was found by Mrs Goudby, the celebrated Lady Abbess that run an expensive and magnificently elegant “Nunnery” in Marlborough Street which only catered to the very wealthy men of London. Or even by her neighbour Mrs Windsor’s house, where the Prince of Wales and Fox were known to be patrons.
In letters written to Elizabeth Fox states “I could change my name and live with you in the remotest part of Europe in poverty and obscurity. I could bear that very well, but to be parted I cannot bear.” She had stillness, a luminosity that was the perfect contrast to Fox’s hectic energy. With fresh good looks and wonderful rich dark hair; beautiful, but not described as stunningly so, Elizabeth possessed all the important attributes, such as an elegant figure and great ability in the arts of seduction. She was more importantly a good and sympathetic listener. Always bringing out the best of those around her, the secret to her success was her ability to make a man believe himself the centre of the universe. She had intelligence, and was clear headed in her attitude towards money. Through her annuities she was a householder in her own right, owning two houses in London and one in St Anne’s Hill. It was in 1783 that she fell in love with Charles James Fox. Even in his earliest letters Fox always treats Elizabeth as an intellectual equal, and with absolute confidence and trust. It was an unusual relationship for the highly popular courtesan. She was a woman of means, while he had lost all his money at the gaming tables. But this was a love connection and not a business one.
At a point when Elizabeth found herself in dept. she took the unlikely decision to stay with Fox, although he could not provide for her, and sold her houses in London – giving up her public life to live in St Anne’s Hill. They settled into a quiet life together. Visited by their powerful friends, they always welcomed visitors, especially children as they had none of their own. They lived in domestic happiness with Fox considering himself a married man with Elizabeth his wife, even though they were still unmarried after many years. Their friends considered them the same, although as a mistress Elizabeth was excluded from much of fox’s social life. After a friend, the banker Coutts, started to make advances to Fox regarding marrying his daughter, the usually serene Elizabeth could no longer keep her feelings to herself, and Fox realised that she had long been the wife of his heart, and it was time to make her his legal wife. But Elizabeth had douts, and tried more than once to talk Fox out of the marriage for his own sake. She knew that as a former courtesan she would never be accepted into society as his wife. But Fox loved her wholeheartedly and insisted. They even kept the marriage a secret on Elizabeth’s insistence for several years. When finally announced the women of society had the chance to decide for themselves.
Most found it impossible not to like her. And most were shocked that they had kept it secret for so long. Returning to public life Fox became ill and finally died in Sept 1806 with his ‘beloved Liz’ beside him. She lived for a further 36 years at St Anne’s Hill where they had always been so happy. Dyeing peacefully just three days short of her 92nd birthday, she was never without family and friends visiting her during her later years. Her last wish was that she be buried in Westminster with her dear husband, which sadly was not to happen. The sons and grandsons of her former patrons were among the principal mourners at her funeral.
Source - Courtesans – Katie Hickman

Elizabeth Armistead has clothing that is all hand sewn, and is as correct to the period as I could make it. I’ve made her as she would have been between the years 1793-97, when she would have been in her early 40’s, when I think she was just about to give up her public life and settle into peaceful domestic life with Fox at St Anne’s Hill. She would have always been at the height of fashion; along with the other great courtesans leading the way with the newest styles. Even though you can’t see it, she wears a long sleeveless shift that reaches to her ankles, and no bloomers! They weren’t worn at this period, and didn’t start coming in until the gowns became very transparent and light. I have given her a little pair of lacy knickers as I can’t stand the thought of people looking up her skirts and seeing she has none on. And for some reason, everyone looks up a doll’s skirts, I’ve no idea why. She wears a set of short stays, and a high waisted petticoat that’s held under her bust by straps that go over her shoulders that has a pale pink ribbon trim. Elizabeth’s gown is made of a very fine cotton voile fabric, made in two layers to give her an under and overdress.

The sleeves are ¾ length with a puffy top, and her sash is again of pale pink satin ribbon tied just under her bust and left trailing down the back of her skirts. The under-dress has a lace trimmed hem, and the overdress has a very deep lace decorated hem made by cutting and individually applying lace pieces to give the look of white-work embroidery. The skirts of this period would have been fuller than in the later Jane Austen period, with most of the bulk at the back of the dress, and a slightly higher back than the front. Elizabeth’s Pelisse (coat) is made of a dusky pink silky dupion fabric and made in the same shape as her gown using the Spencer design as a guide. And her Poke bonnet has been handmade to fit, with satin ribbon and lace flower trim.
It is important to me to create a correct costume that provides the right shape and support as well as the right feel. And Elizabeth’s clothing, although it appears simple, is full of details to make it as authentic as possible.

She has rich brown hair, with lavender eyes. And she carries a small silk and lawn reticule trimmed with lace and beading. She’s a lovely doll to hold, with a nice weight and size.

Her pellise and bonnet are both removable. And the train of her gown hooks up in the back, as it would have been to stop it dragging on the ground outside and getting dirty.

Hand sculpted from paperclay, with jointed arms at the shoulder and elbow, and legs at the hip and knee.
Elizabeth Armistead would make a perfect gift for all those like me that like unusual but sweet odd little dolls.

This doll stands at 49cm tall, weighs approx. 280g.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Elizabeth Armistead's Pelisse

As always I've been really busy working hard at sewing clothes for my latest doll. And just finished is one of my least favorite jobs - a removable coat! Why I seem to decide to do these thing I really don't know. But it actually came out quite well. I just always think it's nice if the outside wear comes off so that the doll can be displayed with or without it.

Known as a Pelisse in Elizabeths time, these coats were constructed with a tight fitted bodice and skirts that matched the shape of thier dresses. I had quite a job matching the curve of the high back and gathering two layers of pleated fabric into the small bodice, but lots of stab wounds and careful snipping seemed to make it possible.
A few years later the tight short bodice was worn without the skirts, and was known as a Spencer. I couldn't find too much information of the different versions in Elizabeth's time.You can often see these and versions of the Pelisse in period films looking really cute with leather gloves and lace and ribbon trimmed bonnets.

I've made Elizabeth's Pelisse from a dusky pink silky Dupion fabric, and lined it with the same. As you can see I've still got it pinned shut at the moment, and the collor pinned back in place, until I add a proper closure and press the collor in place. I was worried that the puffy sleeves of Elizabeth's gown wouldn't fit inside the sleeves, but the shape of them is wider at the top that tapers to the wrist. One of the sleeves did come out a little tight, but does fit over her hand, thank goodness.

It was interesting to find out that jacket and coat sleeves were worn quite long back then. Coming down to sit over the back of the hand, sometimes almost to the knuckles. I remember well my mother telling me off for pulling my sleeves down over my hands. And I still do it to this day in winter. I wish I'd know that now so I would have had an excuse :)

I've not quite decided how I'm going to trim the Pelisse yet. And am currently in the process of sewing a lot of ivory lace pieces to Elizabeth's ivory gown. This fashionable Courtesan is on her way to a very select ball, and of course has to be dressed in her best. Even though these Robe de Chemise gowns were made to be quite simple, as early as this was (around 1790-95) they would have still worn expensive trimming of their ball gowns.

The lace I'm using is quite delicate to create a look of white-work embroidery, and I've tied a pale pink satin sash around her high waistline, with long floating ribbons hanging in back.
I can't quite decide yet if I'll be making Elizabeth a bonnet or reticule for her to carry. I really want to see how she looks when her gown and pelisse are finished first before I decide.

I should have her finished in the next few weeks. The trimming is very detailed, and it's taking me quite a bit longer than I'd planned. But it's worth it.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Elizabeth Armistead - Work in Progress

I've been working hard at my next doll, the courtesan Elizabeth Armistead.
Although I wouldn't want to live the lives they did, these women, the last Grand Courtesans, have impressed me. Yes, they sold their favours for money. And Yes, many of them were almost forced into their circumstances by poverty or pressure. But they were powerful, capable, independent women at a time when that just didn't exist.
The story of Elizabeth Armistead and Charles James Fox is one of the all time greatest romances. After being the companion to Dukes, Lords and even the Prince of Wales, Elizabeth fell in love with her patron, and he fell in love with her. She stayed with him no matter what, supporting him with her own money when he had none. Selling her considerable property and houses to remain with him. They were happy together, and finally married and lived in peace together for many years. To protect Fox from the ridicule of Society Elizabeth even insisted that their marriage remain a secret for many years, until friends found them out. She was lucky to gain a certain amount to acceptance from many of the people she thought would spurn her. Everyone that met Elizabeth couldn't help being charmed by her gentle, calm, kind nature.

I decided to make Elizabeth as she was around 1790's, when she would have been between 38-42yrs old. When she was happy , at the height of her fame, and in love.
This was very early in the Regency period. Just at the point when fashion dramatically changed from the over the top, highly decorated, wide hipped and tiny waisted, powdered wig styles of a young Marie Antoinette, to the simple, high-waisted, pale, Robe de Chemise gowns we all associate with Jane Austen and the lovely girls from Pride & Prejudice (My favorite book ever!).

These gossamer, floaty dresses didn't start of quite as barely there as you'd think. And at first anyway, they had some layers underneath. It's a no bloomers era again, so again I'm making a doll with no knickers on! These started coming in when the dresses got really thin and even more transparent. But as I can't stand the thought of someone looking up her skirt and seeing her bare bum she does have a little pair of lacy ones on. And trust me, everyone looks up a dolls skirts, no idea why, it's just a fact.

I started off with a plain shift that has the slightly longer straight fitted sleeve, and that reaches to her ankles, but is shorter than the hem of her dress so that it won't be seen. Next are the short stays, which you can see just over the top of her high petticoat. As these won't be seen I've not made them exactly as they should be, but have used a piece of elastic to suggest one that can be felt through her clothes. As you can see, adding this layer has helped to keep the low neckline of her shift down and in place so it won't be seen peeking over the equally low neckline of her dress. Her petticoat provides the support for her dress and sits just below her bust, supported with straps over her shoulders.

The skirts at this time were still quite full, with a gathered front, and with most of the bulk of gathers in the back. It's a big difference from the styles of a few years previously, and completely hides the waist. These gowns were made to show the high bust that was forced into a very high position by the stays, and also the neck and shoulders. It also has a train in the back that I'll add some sort of fixing too so that it can be pinned up in the back as they were for dancing and walking outdoors.

I've made Elizabeth's gown from 100% ivory cotton voile, which was used at the time. It's been a pain to work with, and frays really easily as well as being really delicate. I thought at first that maybe this may have been a more comfortable style than others I've looked into. But with her bust up under her chin, and fabric so delicate that the slightest catch could ruin it I'm starting to wonder. I suppose at least it's not a full corset and tons of layers to carry about.

Her gown is made in two layers, with a lined bodice and two layers of skirts to give it a really floaty look. It has three quarter sleeves with a large puffed top. I'm going to be changing these puffs a little as I'm not happy with them. And will be adding an extra seam or two of gathering to make them more of a half Marie sleeve - A puffed shoulder followed by other smaller puffs.This is going to be an evening dress, and I haven't added any of the trimming yet, so Elizabeth still looks quite plain. The hems of her skirts and train will be decorated with a fine lace once I've finished. And you can see that her underskirt is a little longer than the top layer so that the lengths will remain equal when this is added. Although her slightly older age would suggest that she shouldn't really be wearing such a light colour, Elizabeth was still unmarried, and was a very, very fashionable woman. One of the first to adopt all the latest styles, and setting fashions of her own. And as it is an evening gown I decided not to worry about it too much as I have found pictorial evidence of older women wearing white and cream gowns. If your wondering why she's sitting on my stairs it was the easiest way I could think of to show her size :)

Once her dress is trimmed with lace and a pale pink satin sash I'm going to try and make a pellise (coat) from a dusky pink dupion silk which will follow the shape of her gown, being high waisted, with full skirts. I'm hoping I can make this removable, so that she'll be able to be displayed with or without it. And I may even attempt a shawl, bonnet and bag, although I've not decided on her accessories yet.

I wish I'd had daylight to take some proper photos to show you, but it's very dark and damp round the edges in my part of Wales at the moment, so I've had to take these in artificial light.
I'm really happy with how she's coming out at the moment. And she'll be one of the prettiest, girliest dolls I've made. With soft features and a lot of detail in her dress once it's finished.

I hope you'll like her.
I'll take more photos soon.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Mary Shelley 30th Aug 1797 – 1st Feb 1851

Mary Shelley, born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin on 3oth Aug 1797, was a short story writer, dramatist, essayist, biographer and travel writer. Best known for her Gothic novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus. After her mother’s death when she was just 11 days old, she and her sister were raised by their father until he remarried when Mary was 4yrs old. He married a woman described as quick tempered and quarrelsome – but the marriage was a success. Godwin provided his daughter with a rich, but informal education, encouraging her to embrace his liberal political theories. He took his children on educational outings, gave them full access to his library, encouraged Mary in her writing, and ensured they had access to the many intellectuals that visited him. Admitting he was not following their mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, philosophy as she had outlined in her works such as A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Mary’s education was unusual and advanced for a girl at the time, and at 15yrs her father described her as “Singularly bold, somewhat imperious, and active of mind. Her desire of knowledge is great and her perseverance in everything she undertakes almost invincible”.
            Mary’s father became acquainted with Percy Shelley in 1814, and after they fell out over money, Percy began secretly meeting Mary at her mother’s grave in St Pancras Churchyard, where they fell in love. She was just 17 and he 22yrs old. Her father disapproved and tried to break up the relationship and save the “spotless fame” of his daughter. Against his wishes, in 1814 Mary began a more serious relationship with Percy Bysshe Shelley. And together with her stepsister Claire Clairmont the pair left for France in July, and travelled through Europe; Leaving Percy’s pregnant wife behind. They read works by Mary’s mother and others, kept a joint journal and continued their own writing. Upon their return Mary was pregnant with Percy’s child.
            She was ostracised, the couple were in constant dept., and Mary’s father refused to have anything to do with them. Pregnant and ill, Mary had to cope with all this, as well as Percy’s joy at the birth of his son by wife Harriet; as well as his constant outings with her stepsister Claire. On 22nd Feb 1815 she gave birth to a premature baby girl, who did not survive long, being found by Mary in her crib. The loss of her child left Mary in acute depression, haunted by visions of the baby. By the summer she had conceived again, and recovered some of her former health. And in 1816 she gave birth to a second child, William, whom they nicknamed Willmouse. This was the year they famously spent a summer with Lord Byron, John William Polodori and Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairmont, who was pregnant by Byron, as well as others near Geneva. Where she first conceived the idea for her novel Frankenstein, and where she first began to call herself ‘Mrs Shelley’. The philosophy and intellectual conversations of the group in Geneva, as well as the German ghost stories they told to entertain, suggesting the supernatural tale to her imagination.
            The couple actually married soon after their return from this trip, after the suicide of Harriet, who was discovered drowned in the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park. When Percy was advised to remarry to strengthen his custody case, which Harriet’s family were obstructing. They married on 30th Dec 1816 at St Mildred’s Church. And Mary was already pregnant with their third child. Clara was born on 2nd Sept 1817, that same year that Frankenstein was published anonymously. Her first readers assumed that Percy was the author.
            A very young Clara died in Sept 1818, in Venice. And William in June of the same year, in Rome. These losses left Mary in a deep depression that isolated her from her husband. The birth of Percy Florence, her only surviving child, finally lifted her spirits. Though she always nursed the memory of her lost children and suffered always from further bouts of depression.
            In 1822 an again pregnant Mary moved, along with Percy, Claire and a group of friends, to the isolated Villa Magni, from where they didn’t intend on returning. Again, she lost the child. Suffering so badly, and losing so much blood, she nearly died. Depressed and debilitated, she had to look on as Percy spent more and more time with another woman. In this same year her husband, Percy, drowned when his sailing boat sank during a sudden storm while sailing back from Livorno to Lerici leaving her alone with her young son, and in poor. Some say under suspicious circumstances.  He was cremated on the beach by Byron, and Hunt at Viareggio.
Mary returned to England to devote herself to the upbringing of her son and her writing career. Her other works show she remained a political radical throughout her life. Often arguing through her writing that cooperation and sympathy, particularly as practised by women, was the way to reform civil society.
            The last decade of her life was dogged by illness; suffering from severe headaches and bouts of paralysis which prevented her reading and writing, and probably caused by the brain tumour that was to kill her at the age of 53 on 1st Feb 1851. She was buried at St Peter’s Church, Bournemouth, near her son and daughter-in-law’s home. On the first anniversary of her death they opened her desk to find inside it locks of hair from each of her dead children, a notebook she had shared with Percy, and a copy of his poems, one page of which was folded around a silk parcel. The parcel contained some of her husband’s ashes and the remains of his heart, which she had saved from his cremation.
Portrait by Richard Rothwell – 1840
Source – Wikipedia 2011 and other various works.

Mary Shelley - Fancy Petticoat and Blouse

One last little update before I upload the photos of a completed Mary Shelley.
I just wanted to show you the last layers beneath her clothes before I gave her her final dress.

She has on her final petticoat of fine dark red cotton, and a cream silk blouse with a ruffled front.

I've since added an embroidered ribbon trim to the petticoat to give it a little more detail. Again, it's cartridge pleated to her waist, and has a flounce added to the bottom. I did try adding another petticoat, as she may have worn more, but the bulking pleating was raising the waist too high and starting to spoil the final doll, so I removed it.

Her silk blouse is fitted to be almost but not quite off the shoulder, and is gathered in front to form ruffles and fit it around her bosom. Both body and cuffs are a delicate Habotai silk, and the sleeves are cotton. Although it should have been all silk, I didn't want the silk to wear through at the elbow as she's moved around and spoil the movement. So decided to use the more robust cotton instead.

Mary's all finished now, with just the photo editing to do before I can show her off.
I really hope you like her.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Cording Technique

I've been asked by the lovely Karly Perez of Cheekie Bottoms Art Dolls - - to explain
the cording technique I used for Mary Shelley's petticoat, so have tried my best below. I'm afraid my diagram might not be too clear as I couldn't find a good one online and have made this up myself. I hope it makes sense. The lines shown are fabric, and the black circles the cords.

I found two different ways of cording suitable for the petticoat in my favourite sewing book, Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolff, as shown in the diagram.
You can use this technique to create any raised design, not just straight lines. But through trial I found that the straight bands held their shape better for the petticoats I was making. And I followed a pattern I'd seen on an antique corded petticoat of bands or cording with spaces in between, the bands getting narrower as they went up the skirt.

Enclosed Cording - Top Diagram
This version uses one piece of fabric and encloses the cord completely inside, with a flat back to the finished piece. It also shortens the fabric, so extra needs to the included if you need a certain length in one piece, or it can be made as a panel and added to another piece of fabric. I made Mary's petticoat in one, but will make it as a panel next time as I think this will be easier to handle. I added a backing to hide the stitching and front cover over the top of everything anyway, so it would have made no difference.
- Draw a line on fabric where you want the first cord to be, and fold the chosen cord into the fabric so that you can pin along this line. Like turning up a hem, but with cord inside.
- Sew along the line.
- Using the first cord as guide, fold the second cord into the fabric in the same way, very close to the first, leaving a gap just wide enough to let the cords stand up when you straighten the fabric out. I found the width of the cord itself to be the best gap to do this. Sorry it's not a very mathematical explanation.
- Carry on adding cords until you’re done. And if you want to leave a gap, just draw another line further up the fabric and start again.

Sandwich Cording - Second Diagram
This version uses two pieces of fabric to enclose the cord. You would be able to get just as stiff a result with this method using a sewing machine as you'd be able to butt the cords up tighter together, but as I hand sew I found it difficult to handle. It also produces a less raised effect than the first version, with the same profile on both sides of the fabric. I also found this way harder to get even in profile by hand sewing.
- Sew a straight line through both pieces of fabric where you want the cords to start.
- Insert cord between the two layers of fabric as tight to the sewn line as you can.
- Sew a second line on the other side of the cord, fitted as closely to the cord as you can (for stiffness).
- Insert second cord, and sew another line of the open side as before.
- Repeat for however many lines you want. And again, if you want to leave a gap, sew another start line and start again.

Any cord can be used depending on the width you'd like your cords to be and the stiffness you want, from garden twine to wool for softer raised designs. I also found the top diagram version stiffer that the lower one, so used that for Mary. But have included both in case you might find one easier than the other. I hand sew everything, so found it tough going on the fingers, but if you use a machine it should be quite easy as it's all straight lines.

If I've not been clear I'm more than happy to answer any questions.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Mary Shelley - A Lot of Underwear!

Quite a long post as I have photos of Mary Shelley at each stage of dressing to share.
I really was quite shocked when I realised just how much fabric it was going to take to to create the skirts and petticoats for Mary - 1 whole meter for the base of each with extra for flounces and layers!
She's only 46ins tall!

I wanted to make Mary at around the 1840 period, when she was about 42 years old. The Pre-Victorian women of this time created the huge, bell shaped skirts through sheer weight of fabric before the invention of the hooped cage crinoline. Using different fabric, starch and a number of techniques. I've no idea how they actually did anything in them, but Mary's skirts are proving that there was more space for movement underneath them than I'd thought. Sitting is another matter, and I don't think these skirts could have been the least bit comfortable.

After I've added the basic bloomers and shift (Mary is of the crotchless era!), I use a piece of wide elastic to imitate a corset. I know that it doesn't look like the fantastic structured corsets of the time, but when all her clothes are added it gives the right feel.
I had a bit of trouble getting the right shape to the top of the shift as the neck is so wide. I'm trying to dress her as she appears in a well known portrait by Richard Rothwell of the period. And her black dress sits very wide on her shoulders, almost off-the-shoulder, so her shift had to match.

The first bit of colour, and the first of her skirts, is a red cotton basic petticoat with no trim or decoration as it's just to help keep the next layers clean and stop the rough material rubbing against her legs. It's cartridge pleated to a wide waistband, and is just as long as her legs.

If your wondering about the odd wrap around her hair it's to keep the feathers from getting in the way while I dress her. I've tried putting their hair on last, but it just doesn't work for me. I like to see them as they should be to get a better idea of how to dress them. And it helps when choosing colours too.

The next layer is a corded petticoat made of rough starched calico.
I've no idea how any woman managed to make a full sized one as this one was enough to drive me nuts!
There are 21 cords sewn into Mary's corded petticoat, with a cover over the front, and backing added to provide further stiffness. (You can see the cords here before they were enclosed.) I've read accounts of full sized ones having over 100 cords. I really didn't think this technique would work as well as it does without a lot of starch. But  it does, and I only had to add a little in the end. It even stands up on it's own.

It adds a lot of bulk to the shape of the skirts, and does a good job in place of the later hooped crinolines. I think these may have been a bit more comfortable than the metal or cane hoops as the cords still have a lot of flex in them, and collapse when sitting down.
Even now Mary is starting to feel heavy. And this is only the second layer of up to six. She's not quite bell shaped yet, but the width is there at the bottom, and the next flounced layer should add the width at the top. I'm really hoping that she looks as I want when she's done as I still have sore fingers from all the stab wounds from sewing this layer.
I think I might loose it if I have to take it off again.

 Another layer, and tons more rough calico to create a huge puffy flounced petticoat.
As the layers are added it's surprising how much length needs to be added to each. I think the skirts started out at 33cm long, but this layer is closer to 38cm. I had to add an extra ruffle to make up a mistake in the length. Like the corded one, it's cartridge pleated to the waistband of the original under-petticoat to help keep down the bulk at the waist. Need to aim at a tiny waist and huge skirt that sticks out horizontally from the waist and falls into a bell shape.

Even though this is only one of the layers in Mary Shelley's skirts, I was so happy when I saw her in this I was giggling to myself. She's really started to get that Scarlet O'Hara look about her now. And sits perfectly unaided due to the bulk of fabric that spills out around her.
I've already started work on the next and last petticoat. I've decided to leave it at four as she really doesn't need any more. Although I can understand that more would have been worn at the time, I'm in danger of her looking like a loo roll cover if I carry on as she'll be totally stiff in her clothes. I also need to keep her waist as low as possible to keep the finished dress as authentic as I can, and the cartridge pleating needed to get the amount of fabric to fit around her waist is quite wide. After that is a silk shirt with bell shaped sleeves, and then her black dress. I can't wait to see her finished.

Very Under-dressed Dolls

After showing you my 6 new dolls all in bit's on the table I thought it only fair to them to show you now they all have some hair and are sitting up ready to be dressed. They all have a little pair of lacy knickers on to start with, no matter what underwear goes on later, as I just can't seem to leave them sit around with nothing at all on until I'm ready to start some proper clothes for them.
From left to right is Katherine Walters, Elizabeth Armistead, Lizzie Siddal, Mary Shelley, Rose La Touche, and Christina Rossetti.
Mary already has on her shift and bloomers, and is ready for her corset and under-petticoat. The others will have to stay a little cold until she's fully dressed.
As you probably realise, I make to dolls to fit the style of clothes that they will wear, even though I like to dress them in the correct layers; from the underwear outwards. I know that most of it won't be seen as I sew them into their clothes. But I like to make these portrait dolls as correctly as possible. And it really helps the finished feel of them to be able to tell that there are more layers underneath the clothes that you can see.