The Vermeer Project: Finished!

Thanks to a marathon sewing week, the Vermeer outfit is finished. I would say it probably took me about 40 hours to make the jacket and skirt, not including the corset, which always takes me about five or so hours. This includes several second attempts to get things just right. To review, this is the inspiration:


 And here is the nearly finished jacket, front:

Vermeer jacket, 17th Century clothing.

And back:

Vermeer jacket, 17th Century clothing.

It’ll be a while until I can post photos of actually wearing the dress and match it with the paintings the jacket appears in. Honestly, I’m exhausted; partially due to quite a bit of late night sewing and partially due to an overnight museum stay with the Pumpkin where there were some very loud dinosaurs that kept us up rather late.

There were a few things that were especially challenging without a dress form. Even though I measured, somehow, the black stripes on the sleeves didn’t line up initially and since the sleeves were already sewn in, fixing this required partially resetting the sleeve.

The sleeves were very time consuming with pleats on both the shoulder edge and the cuff edge which had to be done by hand. I am very pleased that the white lining peeps out from the inside just like the painting but getting the cuffs just right wasn’t easy.

I ended up using the wrong side of satin ribbon for all the black lines and appliqued those by hand. If you’ve ever wondered why women only had one dress in their closet years ago, it’s because of things like hand-sewn detailing. Seriously. If I had to sew this entire garment by hand, it would have taken months to finish.

Also, once I got the jacket on, which is a very tight fit, I realized that the skirt pleating was too thick, creating an unsightly bulge around the waist. This I solved with a wider, lower-set waistband with neater, smoother pleating, and a slight reduction in total fabric. My version is likely slightly longer in the waist but it’s not enough to scrap the jacket and rework it.

It took a few late nights, which has totally wrecked my schedule, but I was able to wear the outfit out and about yesterday. During the test run, I discovered:

  1. The sleeves will fall off the shoulders slightly but not actually fall down
  2. The skirt fabric makes a bumroll unnecessary
  3. I have no idea if the skirt has a train in reality but I like them so there’s one on my version. I hope the Met has clean floors.
  4. I can’t eat any dessert for the next two months
  5. The hood has a habit of falling into my face and although the Pumpkin has the perfect Vermeer face, I don’t and will have to wear a little makeup

Like photography, the painting is a still moment and the model doesn’t move. The garment is positioned and stays put. The minute you actually wear a garment in reality, there is a level of imperfection due to the movement that can’t be avoided (such as hood over face). The perfection of the moment and the imperfection of reality is the sort of paradox you only get from actually wearing something in both situations, still and moving.

I’ve always enjoyed being able to put myself right into the history. There’s nothing like actually feeling what a person would have felt like at that time, at least for the moment. At the end of the day, I take the garment off and I’m back to modern times and nonrestrictive clothing; the best of both worlds.

So now, and not a moment too soon with school starting tomorrow, it’s just about being patient until I can wear it in New York.


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