Monday, November 18, 2013

An update!

Wow, last update was in March! And here it is mid-November! Pretty much nothing noteworthy has happened during that period, until very, very recently. I am currently putting the finishing touches on my first draft of my thesis! I was spurred into action by my sweetie who said he'd treat me to Disneyland if I finished my thesis before February. Well, ok then! Apparently I am very bribeable, because that was two days ago, and here I am, wrapping up the first draft. Nothing like a good reason to get motivated, eh?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

And suddenly... Progress!

Well, my little breakdown a few weeks ago has passed, and the good news is that there is now some progress in the way of finishing my degree. I received notification last week that I have been approved to take the comprehensive 2 exam, which is the part where my thesis committee comes up with questions pertaining to my proposal, and I do my level best to answer them. Once the committee has been satisfied that we're all on the same page, I get to enroll in the thesis writing course and write write write until I go cross-eyed.

But that's not all that this new development has given me... I now am motivated to work on my chemise gown Mark I based on the visual analysis I did of the Platt Hall chemise gown and the diagram in The Cut of Women's Clothes by Norah Waugh.

Some thoughts about the process, so far:

  • I used the sheerest, lightest weight cotton voile I could find. After swatching a zillion fabrics, I settled on this stuff for the body and sleeves of the gown. The neck flounce is going to be made from the bleached harem cloth from Dharma Trading, Co. The difference between the neck flounce and the body and sleeves of the gown is based on the Platt Hall chemise.

  • Waugh's diagram lacks seam lines, which has always frustrated me. Based on the measurements I took of the Platt Hall chemise, each panel is ~31" wide from seam to seam, and the whole outfit is comprised of 4 panels, for a total finished circumference of ~124". 

  • My fabric, however, is 59" wide, so I settled for a width of 29.5" for each panel, not including seam allowance (~1/4"), which gives Mark I a total circumference of 116". Given that this is essentially a trial run for my pattern and construction techniques, I'm not too worried about the 8" difference between then original and my version. However, for the final version, I am going to cut the panels from the length of the fabric, rather than the width (selvedge to selvedge), to get more width into the gown. 
  • The first thing I did was to measure my neckline to waist, and then divide it a little less than half for the first row of gathers. The top row of gathers should technically hit about where a bra band would hit on your body, and I under-estimated a little bit and ended up with the top row of gathers slightly above that point. The second row of gathers should sit at the natural waist, though the Platt Hall chemise shows a dip in the CF waistline, which could either be intentional or the result of hanging on a mannequin for all these years.
  • DUDE, THIS FABRIC IS SHEER. Seriously, it hadn't really hit home to me until I finally got the body of the gown assembled and on my dress form that this style of gown really is not like anything else seen during the lead-up into the 1780s. Sure, we can look at the portraits and the fashion plates and say, oh, yeah, it's not quite the same sort of gown people typically wore during this period, but when you're actually working with the fabric and putting it together, it just smacks you in the face how skimpy the chemise à la reine really is. I can wad it up into a little ball about 5" around. And this was something meant to be worn out and about? Yeah, no wonder it caused a sensation.

  • Once the gathering channels were stitched down (by hand, because I'm hardc0re like that), I inserted the cords and tightened them while on the dress form. This is where the loss of 8" in the dress was first apparent. There should be more fullness from the waist down, and the additional width from the waist up would make the bodice portion of the dress less transparent when gathered. Still, it's not too bad.

  • One of the things that is not apparent until you examine the Platt Hall chemise up close and personal is that the neckline is actually piped. I hadn't consulted my notes prior to going for it and piping both the front and back portion of the neckline, and it turns out that there's a possibility that the front neckline is actually still tied closed at the CF. I stitched it down, however. The irritating thing is that my notes and photos are a little unclear on the treatment of the front neckline, so I'll have to go back and visit the dress again, I guess! ;)
  • The back neckline, however, is definitely piped all the way across, with the gathers totally stitched down.

  • You will notice, no doubt, that I haven't actually cut the armscyes at this point. I wanted to get the neckline stabilized and the shoulder straps put in before I started cutting away extra fabric around the armholes.

  • And this is where I stopped progress. The shoulder seams are stitched down in front and need to be attached in the back after I put it on my own body to make sure they're properly positioned. 

Next stage will be figuring out how to insert the sleeves. Gotta let it sit and stew in the gray matter for a while, though, before I take that leap...

Saturday, February 23, 2013


I have been feeling super guilty for neglecting to update this blog for so long, so I'm gonna be honest with y'all here and tell you straight up what the deal is with my thesis. I want to preface this by saying that I've been pretty tight lipped for a number of reasons regarding my thesis, but I think it's time now to just be up front.

First of all, yes, I am still working on my thesis, and it is still dealing with the history of the chemise a la reine. Yes, I still do intend to publish my research. So that's all great. However...

Things have been really complicated for me with regards to my thesis committee. I'm not pleased with the administration right now, because after four years, I should have been long graduated from this program, and yet... Here I am. Rest assured I have been working with the administration on an exit strategy, but one road block after another has come up in a seemingly endless supply. The most recent is my thesis chair is apparently abdicating from the position, leaving me without someone to take administrative responsibility for my thesis. This is complicated by the fact that there are currently no full time faculty members in my department who specialize in the 18th century. When I began this journey into 18th century art history, there was a single professor in the department, who absolutely refused to work with me and then quit to go back to school for another degree. The department encouraged me, nonetheless, to pursue the 18th century and assured me that something would work out. Another 18th c.-focused professor was hired a year later, but no position was available for her on a continuing basis, so she too left (or really, was left by the department). Again, I was reassured that things would work out and I should just keep focusing on my research.

Now, two years after I announced my intention to write my thesis on the topic of the chemise a la reine, I am without a committee... AGAIN. I am pretty certain I am the orphan grad student in the program who no one wants to take responsibility for.  Well, except for Dr. J and Dr. R who have both thrown themselves into getting me the hell out of this program with a degree, but who for one reason or another, cannot be my thesis chair. So, without the thesis chair position filled, I am, well, fucked. It's making me wish I had stuck with 16th c. English portraiture like I originally thought I was going to write my thesis on when I started grad school, lo those many years ago. Or writing it on 21st century corporate art. Because no one at San Jose State loves the eighteenth century as much as I do, and I'm in way too far with my research now to start over, and fuck it. I want to write this thesis and to hell with everything.

Sorry for all the f-bombs. I'm fed up with my program (everything I've written above is only the tip of the iceberg and only told in the most general terms... There's just so much more insanity to the story beyond this, that I can't even), and it has made me so apathetic about my research that I can barely bring myself to work on this thing I'm calling my thesis but who the hell knows if that's what it actually is. In fact, I'm posting on this blog right now rather than open up the research folder and work on it, because there's a part of me that has been kicked back so many times that I don't know what I'm doing any more.

Apathy, I haz it. Also, anger and frustration. In spades. So, if that's why I smile through gritted teeth and tell you that I don't want to talk about it when you ask how grad school is going, you know now. And at any rate, if you did somehow get me to talk about it, it just be a string of incoherent profanity spewing forth, so it's not like there's much to tell. The research itself, however, is something I love deeply and want to share with everyone. I need to focus on that. So, I beg your patience while I figure out how to reclaim my passion.