What I did on my summer (not) vacation, 2011


I don't know if you've noticed or not, but I've been...um..how do you say...absent (har har!). I wrote a blog about my absence, but now I am pleased to inform you loverly loverly people that

I'm baaaaacccckkkk!

Muah ha ha ha ha! Things are, eventually, going to slow down for me....hopefully(...?)

Anyways, my first post is going to be about what I've been doing on my summer (not) vacation. When I came to Colonial Williamsburg, I was originally hired to work in a historic area job, as a way to get my foot in the door. Then, a fantastic opportunity came my way. I was hired (temporarily) to be a specialty tailor for the Colonial Williamsburg/Preservation Virginia collaboration for Historic Jamestown. They are putting on special programs every month or week or so (something like that), where they have actor interpreters come and portray a character from Jamestown's history. The Costume Design Center of Colonial Williamsburg recieved special funding to create historically accurate costumes for the actors to wear.

My job was to pattern and make some of these costumes. Lots of hand-sewing and a lot of learning about 17th century menswear..

it wasn't exactly my strong point before hand. In fact, I had no friggin' idea what the world I was doing.

No. Idea.

Anyways, I've learned tons and tons about making doublets and trunk hose and fittings, and all sorts of insane things like peascod bellies, and ruffs, and lace making, and finger braiding, etc etc so on and so forth! The main project (6 weeks) was to make a full ensemble for the actor playing Sir Thomas Dale.

I spent a great deal of time picking the CW Historic Tailors' brains for information on how to measure and pattern for doublets and trunk hose. I was given fantastic Swiss books for me to oogle over. (oh those Swiss books....I miss them).

At the Costume Design Center, the women in accessories spent 6 weeks making silver lace for trim and a 100% hand sewn ruff (19 yards rolled hem and cartridge pleated, french knots, decorative back stitching...it took her a month to make it. No kidding.) This project was awesome. 

There was one major meltdown on my part, where the chest of the doublet didn't quite fit, but luckily it was an easy fix (and I may or may not have threatened the actor with a riding crop if his chest didn't fit...but that's a different story for a different day... :) )

The greatest news? We finished on time. ON TIME. Almost EARLY.

Does that ever happen?!

Anyways, I am extremely pleased with the final product, and I feel so fortunate to have been given this opportunity to learn so much about historical tailoring, 17th century dress, and menswear especially. If you are in the area, and you can attend one of these events, I heartily recommend it!

Alright enough gabbering...here are the goods:

Here is an innards shot

Close up shot of the buttons/fabric/and trim. The buttons were hand done with silk twist and silver thread

Slightly blurry shot of the finger braided button loops, and more trim.

Yes. This ruff was sewn by hand. Completely.

The finished product!

Here is the back view.

Designs, materials, labor are all Costume Design Center, and the shoes were from Sarah Juniper. The doublet was 95% hand sewn with only a few machine seams (arms, and the long seams of the trunk hose, etc). Everything else = my or someone else's hands.

My fingers are still recovering.

Well...it feels good to be back, and I'm looking forward to doing more blogging as I now have plenty to write about!

<3 <3

**Special Thank you to Brenda Rosseau (my boss) for letting me post these pictures online. They are all property of The Costume Design Center of Colonial Williamsburg**


  1. That's awesome - in the older sense of the word! What a wonderful piece to have in your portfolio. I shall look out for Thomas Dale, esq.
    What's next? :)

  2. Dear Abbey,

    Welcome back! We've been missing you but I figure it was because you were enveloped in fabric and bestuck with a needle in your mitt.

    Very best,

  3. WOW!!!! What an amazing job! That is gorgeous!

  4. Abby--so glad to see you're back! Sounds like quite the summer--I'm a menswear dunce, so I'm thrilled to see your work! And I want to bury my hands in that ruff. Beautiful!


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