18th Century Redingote, Worn Photos

As promised, today I have the photos of my 18th century redingote ensemble to share! If you missed them, the blog posts about constructing this dress can be found here, and here.

For the fourth year in a row I went to the local pumpkin patch to photograph my newest piece. I really love this as a backdrop, there is something magical about it in the morning! The lighting is so pretty, and the contrast between the field, mud, pumpkins, and corn makes me smile.

My dresses always get a little dirty there, but it’s nothing a bit of water can’t fix, and I think the pictures make it worth it!

This ensemble consists of a redingote, skirt, hat, and fichu, which I detailed the process of making in the posts linked above. It’s worn over a chemise, stays, a bum pad, and a cotton/netting petticoat, which I also made. The only pieces I didn’t make are the socks (charlotte russe), the wig (color.salon, ebay), the shoes (fraser, American Duchess*), and buckles (cavendish, American Duchess*)

If you want to see the layers in a little more detail, I have a video showing the process of getting into this – and a few clips of me wearing it! It can be watched here.

Now onto the photos!

And that’s it! Thanks for reading!

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Making 18th Century Accessories + Shoe Review

This post will cover making the accessories to go with the redingote featured in this post!  I’ll be talking about a ridiculous hat, a fichu, and a petticoat/skirt. I’m also including a review for the shoes I purchased to match, which are the Fraser style by American Duchess.

I’m going to start with the skirt, since it’s probably the “biggest” part of the costume, after the redingote.

My original plan for this was two rectangles, one for the body of the skirt, and one for a ruffle around the hem. But I just finished making a skirt like that out of a different fabric. And I made two others the year before. And another the year before that. They are easy to do, but kind of boring. I knew I wanted to put a twist on this, and eventually decided on making the ruffle with a zig-zag hem.

I thought this was appropriate – it kind of reminds me of the texture of leaves, or if we are really stretching to meet the Halloween theme, the teeth of a carved pumpkin. I’m glad that I did this since it’s way more interesting than my other skirts…but it was alway way more labor intensive.

I decided to back the main suiting with a thicker one. This will give it more structure and help the points hold their shape. I probably would have used taffeta, or a lighter material if I had one around, but this worked in a pinch.

I traced all the points onto the lining – this along took an hour. This was an eight yard strip of material.

Sewing them took another hour. Then I trimmed around each edge, and clipped the points and corners. I also used a seam ripper to remove the stitch at the very top of each concave point. This makes it turn out smoothly, but does reduce long term durability.

And it was gathered down to be four yards long, the same width as the top portion of the skirt. Here you can see the drawer unit I kept rolling around to support the fabric as I sewed – this was super heavy!

I sewed it to the top portion of the skirt with a three quarter inch seam allowance. It still looked a little drab, so I decided to make a ruffle out of leftover brown taffeta. This helped tie the garments together, and added more interest since it’s a different texture.

I cut strips out of the fabric on its bias with pinking sheers. Then I sewed the strips together, and gathered them down the middle. I sewed it onto the skirt in large scallops.

I did all of this by machine since I was rushing. If I wear this again I want to cover the stitching with trim or beads. It doesn’t look great and isn’t super even since the skirt was so hard to get through my machine. But from a distance I really like it!

Then I lifted the waistline of the skirt until it sat at the length I liked. I trimmed the excess, and gathered the top edge.

I made the waistband out of matching fabric, sewed in a hook, and sewed up the side seam. I really like how this turned out, but the waistline is a little large – it kept slipping down and is visible in some of the pictures. So the hook has to move before re-wearing.

Next up: The fichu. This is basically a shawl that could be worn under dresses as an alternative to an undershirt. They would fill out the neckline, make dresses more modest, and serve as a stylistic choice. I made mine in an hour or two, out of a scrap of thin cotton and two four yard lengths of mesh lace.

I started by cutting out a triangle – as large as I could from the material I was working with. Then I turned the edges inward by a quarter inch, twice in order to finish them. I did this by hand, but machine sewed everything else, which was sort of silly!

I used two four yard lengths of lace from etsy. One has little bows on it, the other is a leafy design. I liked the leafy one more, so I put it closer to the top. Then I covered the gathered edge with a narrow mesh lace.

I like how this looks, but I wish the lace was more dense. I may add onto it before reusing it. I see myself getting quite a bit of use out of it with other costumes, since this was a staple in most 18th century ladies wardrobes!

Now for the hat! I might be biased, but I think this is the best part of the costume. Looking at it makes me smile. Wearing it makes me smile. It’s great.

I made this based on images in Women’s Hats, Headdresses and Hairstyles*, along with references from various paintings. I constructed it from a self drafted pattern, out of felt weight interfacing with wire sewn into the edges. Then I covered the pieces with interfacing, lined them with scraps, and stitched them together with upholstery thread. It took me two evenings to finish.

The brim is lined with orange silk (leftover from the pumpkin dress!) and more brown taffeta ruffles.


I trimmed the exterior with a strip of the striped silk (I cut the edges with pinking sheers), and a band of the orange silk. These were loosely sewn in place since the top of the hat narrows and they kept trying to slip upward.

For decorations I made a rosette from more strips of silk. These were gathered down as tightly as I could, then I sewed up the side seam. I was going to add a smaller ruffle to the center, but I decided beading it would be more fun. So I stitched a base of suiting material onto the back to support the embellishments.

The embellishments consisted of a bunch of faux pearls, and a spider brooch. The back of this had bent and was really thick, which made it difficult to wear. So it got a new home here! I think it looks quite comfortable.

In my mind this added to the totally not obvious witch element. I also liked how the orange stones would catch the light.

That was glued on, along with a white feather and two pieces of fake fern. I was originally going to use orange feathers, but I like how the white one ties in with the pearls and lace on the dress.

The ferns – though completely inaccurate, tie the colors together really well. They fade from a deeper orange (like the striped silk) to a lighter orange, like the shantung scraps. It’s one of my favorite hats i’ve ever made – I think the contrast and trims are perfect!

And that is it for the pieces I made! So if you want you can stop there. But I did want to mention, and give a little review of the shoes I bought to go with this.

These were my main purchase last month. The price hurt a bit, but I’ve enjoyed my other historical themed footwear so much that I wanted something similar for 18th century projects. I invest so much time into pieces that accurately(ish) represent the period from the hem upward, it seems like a shame to skimp out on the shoes! Plus they will go with a lot of future projects too, not just this one.

(also I don’t think the price of these is unreasonable at all, it’s just much more than my other shoes)

They are the “Fraser” 18th Century Leather Shoes (Black)(1700-1760)* by American Duchess, listed here*. I purchased them in a size 10, along with the cavendish gold  buckles.

Overall, I like these. The shape is lovely, and surprisingly flattering to the foot. I adore  the side profile – the heel is so cute! And the shell of the shoe is very soft and flexible, which makes them more comfortable than the vast majority of my shoes.

I also like the sheen of the leather used, and that natural materials were used for the lining, too. The construction of them seems nice, and they were symmetrical and free of flaws.  They also came with replacement heel caps.

I compared them to other shoes I own that are a similar heel height, and they were the same length if not a little longer. I’m a solid size 10, and these fit me well lengthwise.

On the downside, the fit is hard to determine until after the buckles are installed, and they obviously aren’t returnable after the buckles are in. I found the shoes a little big width wise and assumed the buckles would tighten them. I placed the buckles as far back on the latchet as I could (up until it tapered to a point where it would not fit through the buckle smoothly) and they are still a little large on me. I probably would have returned them for a 9.5 if I had known.

The buckles are also way harder to install than I thought. There is a diagram on the website, but I feel like a video or picture tutorial would have been more helpful. I ended up using photos of the shoes with the buckles installed as more of a guide than the actual tutorial.

Neither of those are really flaws of the shoes, just things I noticed.

My only real disappointment is how much the lining frays. The edges are topstitched to the interior of the leather, not folded inward. So there isn’t anything preventing it from fraying. And since the shoes are black the raw edges of ivory lining are quite obvious. I’m going to trim the frayed edges and finish them with glue, which isn’t a hard thing to do at all, but it would be nice if it wasn’t an issue.

Now for the wear test!

I wore these for around 2 hours during the photo taking process. They really are one of the most comfortable pairs of shoes I’ve ever worn, and the leather didn’t mark at all – even when walking through some rough terrain. The soles got super dinged up, especially around the edges, but I was expecting that.

I was walking through gravel, and on unpaved paths, so it’s understandable. But it was a very very short walk. I’m not sure how these would fair at reenactment events where you are more active on similar terrain, or even on a daily basis with textured asphalt.

(I’ll scrub the dirt off before putting them away!)

I did notice that one shoe creased quite a lot at the toe. I’m not bothered by this, but it’s kind of odd that it only happened to one of the shoes. It looks like I buckled this one a little tighter (though I could still get it on and off without unbuckling it…so I don’t think it was *too* tight) which might have been the cause.

Those are my thoughts! Visually I love them, and I’m very glad to have them. I don’t think they would be the best shoes for everyday use (I wasn’t expecting them to be), but I will really enjoy wearing them with other 18th century pieces. I think they are a nice finishing touch to the costume!

Most of the negative things I mentioned aren’t even negatives. They are things that happen when you wear shoes. They go on the ground. They wrinkle. I made peace with it before buying them. But I was curious how the more authentic materials would wear compared to plastic and rubber, which is why I mentioned it.

Now I’m eyeing up the red kensington and edwardian pumps…but those are a few paychecks away, at the very least!

That is it for this one! I should be back with more photos tomorrow, and maybe a video if I can get it done in time.

Thanks for reading!

Making an 18th Century Redingote

Todays post is about a real doozy of a dress that I made over the last two weeks. It consists of a redingote, petticoat, hat, and fichu. I even bought some fancy period appropriate shoes to go with it!

I’m going to split this into two blog posts – one about the redingote, and another about the accessories. Both posts should be published back to back, with photos of this ensemble following on Monday.

This project was driven by the idea of making an 18th century witch costume. This has been in my head  ever since discovering this magazine page, which is the 1890s take on a 1700s inspired witch fancy dress costume.

I felt very strongly throughout making this that is was a witch costume. I think the hat made me think of pilgrims, which reminds me of the salem witch trials. The timeline for those things doesn’t even line up, but it was so clear in my head while constructing it.

However looking at it now, this costume doesn’t actually have anything that makes it “witchy”. So i’m not sure why I felt that way about it. But that was definitely in my mind while working on it (especially the hat)! And this motivated some of the choices later on so I thought it was worth mentioning.

As far as design, I’ve always wanted to make a tall 18th century hat, and been interested in redingotes since discovering them during my riding habit research a couple years back.

Then during a visit to Fabric Mart in PA I discovered an orange/brown striped silk taffeta which seemed perfect for an autumn themed 18th century ensemble. I combined that with a suiting fabric I had around, and some other scraps, and this piece was born!

My inspiration was originally this piece, but that was more of an inspiration to make a redingote, not something that shaped the design. For the collar and cuff details I used this as a major reference. And I used more elaborate examples, like this, to justify the long impractical train.

To be honest, I didn’t do a lot of research on redingotes prior to making this. I was too impatient to delve deeply into it before getting started!

From my understanding, “Redingote” was a term used to describe riding and hunting costumes for both men and woman (interchangeable with the riding habit). But *most* plates and pieces described as redingotes have a skirt extending from the waist to the ground, and are ofter paired with contrasting petticoats.

Women’s riding habits were usually two matching garments, with a shorter flared jacket and skirt with side closures.

It also seems that the term redingote was later used to describe open front day dresses that lacked the practicality that most riding habits have, but still have some of the military style detailing. Mine definitely falls into the latter, impractical category.

This project began with a bodice mockup. It’s three pieces, with the collar incorporated in each piece (as opposed to being sewn on later). I also used very appropriately themed mock up materials!

The mock up fit pretty well, I was thrilled with how the collar looked. There were only minor alterations to be made at the centerfront and straps.

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For the first time in a long while, I made this bodice without a heavy duty base layer. I was worried the seams would get too thick if I did, and lighter dresses are always more comfortable to wear. So I cut the “base” from quilting cotton.

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The lining is a suiting fabric I bought online for $3 a yard. It’s a low quality suiting, but I like the texture it has. And it’s a weird greyish light brown that matches the brown stripes in the taffeta really well.

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And the exterior is the striped taffeta! Carefully cut out so the back seam would line up.

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The cotton and suiting were layered, then assembled together. The cotton adds a bit of stiffness to the flimsy suiting.

The seam allowances were turned inward and stitched down to create boning channels.

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The bones are all plastic, purchased from onlinefabricstore.net.

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The construction process was repeated with the silk taffeta. This material was on clearance for $8/yard, which is hard to beat for silk! Five yards of it went into this dress.

I managed to get the back seam matched up without basting – I was very pleased!

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I sewed the lining to the silk with the right sides facing each other – I stitched around the collar and waistline, only leaving the arm holes and front edges open. Then I turned it the right way out and used embroidery floss to stitch around the edges. This added a bit of texture, which I liked.

Unfortunately as a whole, I didn’t like it. It looked dull.

The suiting didn’t have enough contrast with the silk, and the collar didn’t look as big and dramatic as I wanted. I didn’t have enough material to recut things, so I decided to sew piping around the collar. This made it appear slightly larger, and more interesting with the addition of a new fabric.

This piping is made from brown poly taffeta over cotton cord. I had the taffeta leftover from the brown doublet I made several years ago. The piping was made by machine, but sewn on by hand.

All the raw edges were turned inward and tacked down with whip stitches. Unfortunately these are on the outside of the bodice, which I don’t like, but they are hidden by the collar.

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The sleeves were a lot of trial and error. I based them on a Norah Waugh pattern, but they ended up totally different. I cut the sleeve cap way down and played around with the width. I wanted them to be tight, but allow more mobility than the original pattern did. I also wanted to get them on and off without having to add closures at the wrist.

Boy were these a terror. The mock up looked good, but the finished sleeves were an inch too big! I took them in three times before the looked okay. Then I made the cuff, and sewing those on made the sleeve too tight. So I had to remove the cuff, remove the lining of the sleeve, let the sleeve out, then resew on the cuffs.

They still aren’t perfect – they are a little wrinkly and baggy around the upper arm. Maybe i’ll redo them someday.

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The cuffs were made from the same suiting, but I backed them with interfacing. The edges were turned inward by hand, then piping was sewn on.

The piping for these was made very carefully, there are gaps without cord so the pieces can overlap without additional bulk. And the cord ends before the seam allowance starts, so there isn’t bulk there either.

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The sleeves were finished with a lace ruffle. I used a lace with a feathered trim, which adds a really nice texture.

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The lace was gathered by machine, then whip stitched into the cuffs by hand.

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Here it is on the dress form. At this point the only thing left were closures, and the skirt. The closures consist of 6 hooks and bars that secure the bodice one inch to the left of the center front.

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The buttons were placed on either side of the closures, spaced evenly from the center front. I planned on looping lacing made from taffeta around these, to create an effect similar to the one seen in my main reference. But the lacing wouldn’t stay on, the shank of the buttons wasn’t long enough.

I don’t mind it without the lacing, but I still want to add it at some point since it was part of my original plan.

I don’t have many pictures of the skirt, because it was made in three hours the day before photographing this costume. It’s two 63″ x 58″ rectangles sewn together, with the bottom edges rounded out. I turned the edges inward by a half inch twice, then whip stitched them down by hand.

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The top edge was pleated with 1/4″ pleats, then sewn to the bodice.

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I left the top edge of this raw, and didn’t whip stitch the seam allowance down since i’m not completely sure if I like the skirt positioning. I think it sits too far back at the bodice, so I might redo the pleats before finishing it properly.

And that is it! Overall I like this garment. My only complaint is that it’s a little big. My seam allowances must have gotten screwed up somewhere, the silk is almost baggy on top of the lining (though this could also be related to the lack of a thick base layer). The sleeves are still a bit big too.

But it was really comfy! And I think the fabrics and proportions work really nicely in the finished piece.

Thanks for reading – keep an eye out for the following posts!

Making a Rapunzel Inspired 1820’s Dress, Part Two

It took me longer than it should have, but here is part two of making my Rapunzel inspired 1820’s dress!

If you missed part one, it can be read here. And I’ll be picking up right where I left off!

At this point, it was time for sleeves. I usually dread this part of projects because sleeves suck. But short puffy sleeves aren’t too difficult – and I had a pattern for short puffy sleeves laying around, which made the process even easier!

The pattern was originally drafted for an 1820’s dress that has a similar armscye and silhouette, luckily the proportions worked out really well for this piece too.

Here are the sleeves cut out – I would have preferred the floral design to span the entirety of the sleeves, and go vertically like the print on the bodice. But I didn’t have enough fabric for that. So I focused the print on the front portions of the sleeves.

Like the bodice, these were cut from the glittery floral overlay and satin, then sewn together before construction.

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I gathered the sleeves by machine. The top was gathered down to 17″, and the bottoms to 12.5″. Then I attached them to a cuff, which is made from scraps of the netting and satin, trimmed down to form a 1″ strip.

I thought the sleeves were missing something, so I added a lace ruffle. resize-0475

The sleeves were sewn on to the bodice with 3/4″ seam allowances. This seam also helped secure the bands at the neckline.

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At this point it was really coming together!

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I bound the raw edges with some eyelet lace – I picked up a 300 yard spool of this lace, so you’ll probably see me use it as seam binding in a lot of future projects!

(also the extra is listed here – if you’re interested in it/supporting the blog!)

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With the sleeves sorted, it was time for the skirt! I intentionally left this for last so I could use all the remaining material and get as full of a skirt as possible.

I started by straightening the short edges of my remaining satin, then I trimmed 9″ off the long edge. The end result was a 53″ x 125″ rectangle.

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I hemmed the satin layer with horsehair, which stiffens the hem and causes the skirt to have a bit more volume. I also gathered the waistline down to 25″ to match the width of the bodice.

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The overlay is also a rectangle, and was cut to be a half inch longer than the satin layer.

 I took some of the length off the top of the netting, and some off the bottom since I wanted the hem to follow the straight floral boarder rather than starting at a random part of the design.

I had originally intended to fussy cut around the scalloped edge of the netting and let that be the hem. But on my past couple projects that hasn’t worked out well – the skirt seems to short if you cut it so the edge of the scallops graze the ground (since the arches between the scallops are higher), and too long if you make it longer.

This netting was also just stiff enough to pickup lint and threads when it dragged across the ground, so an actual hem seemed like the best idea.

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I ended up doing a 1/4″ rolled hem, which was stitched down by hand with whip stitches.

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Then I sewed the back seams for these layers individually, leaving a 10″ opening at the top to serve as the closure point.

The satin layer was sewn with a french seam, since it frays, and the netting was sewn with a regular half inch seam.

I gathered the top edge of the netting as well, then sewed the layers together at the top edge. Here it is on my dress form over the appropriate petticoat.

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Before sewing the skirt onto the bodice I added closures. The bodice closes with hooks and bars, and the skirt closes with several snaps.

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I also basted the layers together 1.5″ away from the top edge. This is to prevent the layers from flaring up and getting caught in the waist seam as I sew it. This happens to me all the time and this does a really good job of preventing it.

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Here are the pieces sewn together – I ended up leaving the seam allowance raw, since it wasn’t fraying much and I didn’t want to add bulk to the waistline. But I do have an abundance of purple seam binding, so I can always do that later…

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The final step was sewing on the waistband, which is a scrap of netting that I fussy cut out. This was actually one of the first pieces I cut for this project, since I wanted to make sure I had enough material to do it and I was worried I would forget if I left it until later.

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These two photos were taken in my sewing room, which is painted blue, so the colors are a little cooler toned than the dress is in real life.

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And these photos are taken in my bedroom, which is ivory and red, so it makes the dress look a lot warmer toned than it is. But at least you can see it full length without a distracting background of figurines and fabric (which is what my entire sewing room is).

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I also tried this dress with a few brooches, since that was how I intended it to be worn. But I like the banding detail so much, I think this takes away from the overall design.

This is the one I was originally going to use. I think the metal is too brassy.

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And a different one, which was actually my great grandmothers. A better tone, but maybe not the right shape? What do you think?

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And no photos of the back, since there is a 4″ gap at the waistline which doesn’t look very nice. I’ll try to get some when I take worn photos!

I think that is it for this dress! Overall it was a very fun project. It took me three days of work, and $65 worth of materials. I think it turned out beautifully – I love how it looks historical but has a fantasy element based on the fabric alone.

If I see more fabric like this in the garment district I’ll definitely snatch it up – I had so much fun working with it, and making this piece. One of the few cases where I wouldn’t mind making another one to sell.

Thanks for reading! I think my next post will be about an 18th century piece…or that progress report I promised…or a haul & store review post from a trip I recently took to PA.

Making 18th Century Jumps – And how they look worn!

Today’s post focuses on a project that I did a terrible job of documenting (to be honest, that’s been most of my projects recently). It was also completed more than three months ago, and in progress long before that. So even if I did have a lot of photos of making it, the details are a little fuzzy in my eyes.

The reason this was so poorly documented photo wise is because I filmed the whole process. And up until last month I only had one camera, which didn’t let me take photos without disrupting the filming process.

This is bad news for those of you who like written descriptions, but if you are more of a visual learner the videos showing all the steps can be found on my youtube channel (here for the jumps, and here for the skirt) or down below depending on your email settings.

Now what is this project? It’s my second adventure into casual 18th century costumes. If you read my posts about making this dress than you may be familiar with my fascination towards what was considered casual hundreds of years ago.

Even though that dress was considered “Undress” it still required getting into stays and I felt awfully formal when wearing it. I wanted to stick to the same undress theme but make something that looked and felt different.

Unsurprisingly I found inspiration in Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century*, specifically this ensemble that consists of silk jumps and a matching skirt.

(this definitely contributed to the shaping too)

While researching that I came across a blog post (which I’m so mad that I can’t find again – I think it may have been on the American Duchess blog) that talked about French fashion being considerable more casual in the 1700’s than most of Europe. With an emphasis on practically in dress (so, not skirts so long you would trip over them).

I had also been seeing ads everywhere for the live action Beauty in the Beast movie, which got me thinking about what a historically accurate version of the famous blue dress would look like.

With enthusiasm coming from those discoveries (and dozens of fashion plates) I got to work!

I started by draping the jumps. For those unfamiliar with these garments, they were a support garment most often worn by working class woman. They are conical shaped down to the waist, but usually flared out beyond that point so they could be worn over skirts.Their structure comes from layers of fabric quilted together rather than boning. This makes them a lot more comfortable than stays, while still providing some shaping of the torso.

Here is the front of my draped jumps – this was tricky since I’m draping over a dress form made from hard foam. When the garment is actually worn my body (especially my bust) will compress to be a different shape.

If you don’t have a dress form, or find this hard do bypass, I think you could get away with altering a 18th century riding coat pattern. The shape and structure of this is similar, it just sits higher on the shoulder and has a smaller skirt.

The side…

And the back. I draped this over the appropriate petticoats to make sure there was enough volume in the tabs.

I traced the pattern onto paper, then made the necessary alterations so it had more of a conical shape, and added seam allowances. After a quick mock up I moved onto the final garment!

I cut all the pieces out from the top layer of fabric (a home decor material from Jo-anns), a cotton for lining, and quilt batting.

The first step was marking lines for the quilting onto the lining. These are diagonal across the pieces and a half inch apart. All the lines line up at the seams to create a subtle chevron effect (which was probably more trouble than it was worth).

The quilt batting in sandwiched between the lining and the home decor material. I trimmed the quilt batting so it didn’t extend into the side seams, then got to sewing!

The first two panels done – I used a pale blue thread and longer than average stitch length. These panels were my test, so after it worked I repeated the process with the front and back pieces.

The rest of the lining cut out and marked. You may notice that the only seam allowance is in the side seams. The rest of the edges will be bound with binding, like stays.

All sandwiched together!

Quilted and stitched together!

Now here is my major regret – I hand stitched the seam allowance down, and hand sewed boning channels into the interior of this to add more support. I don’t regret adding these channels, but hand sewing them was a terrible idea. It was so slow and not nearly as sturdy or clean as I would like.

If I made this again I would make another lining layer from lightweight cotton, add the boning, then sew it to the interior of the quilted bodice before attaching the binding. It would be a lot faster, shouldn’t add too much bulk, and would look so much better!

Now for the binding. I’ve mentioned my hatred for binding concave curves many times, and that still runs strong. It was made a lot worse on this project because of fabric choice.

I choose to use this polyester suiting I bought many years ago (if you’ve been around since my Napoleon costume, this is the scraps from that!), since it was the best match for the floral design. This frayed so much, and seemed to pucker rather than stretch, even though it was cut on the bias. 

I machine stitched one side, then turned it inward and whip stitched the other side to the lining. It isn’t very even since parts frayed away to nothing before I could sew them, but from a distance it looks okay(ish)!

To make the curves look a little bit better I blanket stitched around them with embroidery floss.

Then I sewed eyelets into the front. I assumed since this fabric was quilted it would be thick enough to hold the eyelets. I was wrong – they haven’t torn out, but they are really warped after a single wear. Definitely should have added canvas to the front few inches to avoid this.

I also bound the arm openings.


And that is it! Overall I think they are pretty, just a couple of things I would do differently next time. And there will probably be a next time, since I really like the shape and functionality of this garment and am itching to make another! Maybe out of maroon and gold jacquard? With a shantung skirt.

Speaking of the skirt, I literally have no photos of it or the construction process. It has three panels (two in the back, one in the front) and a pleated waistband with side closures. The hem is straight, with the length adjusted at the waist. But the hem didn’t end up being that level, since the weight of the additional fabric in the back flattened my petticoat and made it appear several inches longer than the front.

Speaking of petticoats: I used an ample bum pad with the cotton/tulle petticoat overtop. The tulle was pinned up quickly before photographing this, which is the reason for any skirt lumps. This skirt fabric was a lot thinner (but also weirdly heavier) than I had expected and would have suited a quilted petticoat much better.

The shoes are, as per usual the Funtasma Victorian-03* (I’m looking into getting a more 18th Century appropriate pair soon, I swear!). I used my real hair with a few feathers and fake flowers stuck in it.

I made the chemise from some fabric I had around. And the apron is from what I had leftover. It’s two rectangles of fabric with curved tips, and a lace overlay. I gathered the top and used lace to bind the edge and form the ties.

Overall I like this ensemble. Especially the fit of the jumps. I think from a distance it’s really lovely, but I want to remake it with different materials and a slightly different construction strategy!

Here are the photos of it worn:

(Fun fact these were taken next to a busy street on the weekend before July 4th. Everyone was staring. The fence was also infested with caterpillars, which I didn’t realize before putting my hand on it. I really don’t like caterpillars and was not happy)

That’s it for this one! Thank you for reading!

Making a Rapunzel Inspired 1820’s Dress, Part One

Surprise! I’m back!

I realize it’s been a very long time since I’ve posted anything. It wasn’t my intention to be away for so long, and I don’t have a reason for the lack of updates. It just wasn’t something I was enthusiastic about doing and my last few projects weren’t documented particularly well. But I have been sewing, and I plan on doing a Progress Report soon to update you on all my WIPs and recently finished things.

But in the mean time I want to post about something I started approximately 12 hours ago. I’ve been working on a relatively elaborate 18th century piece for the last little while, but injured my wrist last week which makes lacing the stays and doing fittings very difficult.

So I decided to make something new this week. I wanted this to be something I could make quickly, not have to buy anything for, and could be worn over foundation garments I can currently get into. I also didn’t want to waste an expensive cut of silk or brocade since my “quick” projects aren’t always very well made.

In the end  I was loosely inspired by this painting and used this piece as my main reference for the dress design. I also took some inspiration from my favorite disney princess film Tangled – at least in terms of color scheme and period. For those unfamiliar with the film, Rapunzel wears light purple gowns   for both of her outfits, and her family crest is a golden sun.

A while back I bought satin and a *stunning* glitter embossed mesh because it reminded me so much of her design. And this seemed like the perfect time to use it! The film is also supposed to take place in the first third of the 19th century, so with the 1820’s references I guess you could say this is my more historically accurate take on her ensemble.

(but obviously glitter mesh isn’t quite historically accurate)

This material was from Hamed Fabrics in NYC, and was $8/yd. The glitter application and print actually reminds me a lot of the fabric used for the live action Belle dress (but prettier, in my opinion).

I’d also like to incorporate this brooch which I bought for a dollar at an antique market.

As per usual, my first step was draping the pattern. I did this out of cotton on my pinable form.  

Nothing very special about the design, though the neckline was kind of tricky. Very low and almost off the shoulder, but not quite! I drafted the back normally (rather than the exaggerated seaming seen in 1810 and the 1830s) with a separate shoulder strap.

Then I transferred everything to paper and cut out a mock up. This fit surprisingly well! The straps and bust were a little loose, but that’s an easy fix. I also ended up adding a half inch to the neckline since I thought it would be a little low after seam allowances if I left it as it was!

I dove right into cutting out the bodice. Everything was cut from once from satin (the top fabric) and again from cotton (the lining).

I also cut out mesh to use as an overlay for the back panels and straps. The mesh overlay for the front panels was draped overtop of the pieces after they were sewn together.

And here you can see that draping in action. I cut out a square I thought would be big enough for half of it, then pinned it until I was happy with it. I trimmed the edges, then removed it from the form and used it as a guide for cutting a matching piece for the other side.

Here is the overlay after being trimmed. I sewed these pieces together at the centerfront with a half inch seam allowance, then trimmed the allowance down so it would be less noticeable.

I pinned the overlay in place once again. I pinned it to the neckline and side seams first, then fiddled with the ruching at the center until I was happy with it.

Eventually I decided there wasn’t enough fabric in the ruching…so I gathered it more than originally planned. Which is why there is a big gap of fabric at the bottom of the bodice. I will cover that with a glittery waistband later.

Iremoved this from the dress form, then sewed around the overlay to secure it in place before removing any pins.

Now I could sew the bodice together. It didn’t look like much at this point!

I assembled the lining out of cotton, and sewed the seam allowance down to create boning channels.

I pinned the bodice to the lining, with the right sides facing each other. Then sewed around the neckline to secure them together. Then the bodice was turned the right way out, and I tacked around the neckline. Now it looked much better!

After a fitting I realize it was a bit too small. Luckily there was extra fabric in the center back edge, so I let it out by a half inch on either sides. Now the lining doesn’t match up with the back edge, but it’s better than the bodice not fitting!

At this point I was going to add boning to all the seams…but I forgot to sew two of boning channels. And I tacked over the center boning channels when sewing the overlay in place. So boning was only added to the side seams and the back edge. Oops.

The two dots of thread are where I tacked the overly to the under bust area. these dots, and some stitching down the center front are the only things that keep the pleating/gathering positioned.

My plan was to cover the gathering point of the overlay with the brooch, but I came across several examples of banding at the center of 1830’s bodices. Some of these also included banding on the straps, which I thought was a clever way to widen the neckline and cover seams.

 I cut some 1.5″ wide strips of mesh, folded them in half, and sewed the raw edges together with a quarter inch seam. However I quickly discovered the mesh was too delicate to turn the right way out. So instead I tacked the strips so the seam allowance was at the back of the bands and not visible.

Here they are in position. The middle one was secured by hand, and the ones on the straps will be held on by the same stitching that secures the sleeves.

And that was it for day one of making this project! I’m going to use a sleeve pattern from another project, and the skirt will be a gathered rectangle. So if all goes according to plan I can wrap this up tomorrow.

Thanks for reading!

 

Making a Historical Swimsuit, 1910

Since it is now officially summer (and disgustingly hot and humid), I’ve decided to spend this week focusing on some more weather appropriate projects.

And I’m starting with most summery of all projects: A swimsuit!

Or more specifically, an edwardian swimming costume based on examples from the early 1900s.

My original inspiration for this project was this picture.  I saw it just before leaving for a trip to Jo-anns and instantly decided to add 5 yards of black cotton to my shopping list. It wasn’t until I got home and did more research that I realized that is not an Edwardian swimming costume – It’s a pair of swimming bloomers with a corset cover from an earlier period.

So I did a bit more research after that, and finally decided to base my ensemble on this garment. I also discovered some glorious sailor inspired suits, but I didn’t have suitable (heh, suitable) fabric for them.

In my research I also learned that swimsuits during the early 1900s were made out of wool. But I knew finding lightweight wool would be a challenge, and it would probably be a tightly woven suiting that didn’t have much texture to it.

In the end I bought a lightweight cotton, which might be a quilting cotton, but it has a strong sheen to it, almost like cotton sateen. I’m happy with this choice since it’s more interesting (and way cheaper) than matte black wool, but it wrinkles like crazy which isn’t ideal.

I also bought buttons, and stole a 1/2 yard of paisley quilting cotton from my moms stash, which will be used for binding.

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Step one was draping. This has a flat back and collar, with a gathered front.

My fist mockup went surprisingly well! I had to lift the waistline slightly, but the amount of volume and gathering was perfect.

I started assembly by cutting out the collar pieces. They were sewn together at the centerback, then backed with interfacing. The piece on the left is the lining.

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I sewed those together with the wrong sides facing each other.

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Then bias binding was pinned and sewn on!

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I folded the binding inward and stitched it down with whip stitches, so both sides of the fabric are nicely finished.

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The front few inches of the bodice panels were backed with interfacing. Then these edges were turned inward in preparation for adding the closures.

I also gathered the top and bottom edges by hand.

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I sewed the front pieces to the back pieces with french seams. Then I finished the arm openings with facings.

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I sewed the collar on by hand. The raw edges from the bodice were turned inward and whip stitched down.

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I didn’t love the sleeves on the extant garment I based this on, so I decided to make mine with more volume. I fiddled with the pattern for a while before settling on this. The top edge is straight, and the bottom is curved.

The pins were used to mark the right side of the fabric – the sheen of this fabric is definitely more prominent on one side, but not very visible in certain lightings, so I had to be careful!

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The bottom edge was trimmed with bias tape – once again sewn on by hand. And the top edge was gathered slightly.

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I sewed the side seams as a french seam, then stitched the sleeves to the bodice by hand.

I also sewed on all the buttons (which are decorative), and closures into the center front. The collar closes with hooks, and the bodice closes with snaps.

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The “skirt” was draped out of some random cottons. I was very concerned about the shape of this – I wanted it to have some volume, but not flare out too much. I also didn’t have a ton of fabric, so I couldn’t make the panels too wide.

The skirt pieces were sewn together with french seams.

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Then all the edges were trimmed with bias tape – once again stitched on by hand!

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The skirt was gathered near the front, and at the back.

Then I sewed the skirt to the bodice with the wrong sides facing each other, leaving the raw edges facing out. The waistband will cover these later.

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After a fitting I realized the skirt looked longer on one side than the other…despite them being the same length (trust me, I measured). So I sewed a dart into the top of one of the panels, making it a half inch shorter.

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Now it was time for the waistband! This is made from a bias cut strip of printed fabric that has the edges turned inward, and an interfaced strip of black fabric with its edges turned inward.

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I basted the strips together, then sewed them to the bodice by hand with tiny whip stitches.

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The final step was sewing on two hooks – one at the front, and another where the waistband ends.edited (25 of 32)

(It’s already wrinkly)

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Now for the bloomers – because that bodice would be indecent without them! For these I used the bloomer pattern originally drafted for my cycling costume, I just made the pattern shorter.

However I also should have made the pattern narrower, these had way more volume than they needed.

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I didn’t take very many photos of this process, but the pants were sewn together with french seams. To keep the front smooth, I moved the closures to the sides of the bloomers. To do this I left the tops of the side seams open, and sewed buttons and loops onto either side of the waistband.

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The top edges were pleated to avoid excess volume under the bodice.

There are channels for the drawstring cuffs sewn five inches away from the hem of the bloomers. These were made out of strips of black fabric.

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Then the bottom edges were finished with bias binding, and a ribbon was threaded through the channel. I left a 1″ gap in the side seam where the channel is, which allows the ribbon to peek out.

As a side note, to get the cuffs to stay where I wanted them, I had to tie the ribbon before putting the bloomers on. There was no way to tighten them enough to stay up while they were on my legs.

The top edge is finished with bias binding, and has the loops/button closure method that I mentioned earlier. Unfortunately these ended up being WAY to big for me, so I had to pin the sides when we photographed it. Definitely something to fix in the future.

Also, these bloomers ended up being ridiculously long. I made them 3″ shorter than my cycling bloomers, but cut another 5-7″ off before binding the waistline. They were so baggy it was ridiculous.

And that’s it!

All and all this was a fun, easy project. I’m happy with how the bodice fits, and how it all looks together. It isn’t the best thing I’ve made construction wise, but for $30 of fabric and 4 days of work I’m pleased with it.

I’ve already photographed this project, and here is a partially edited preview of it all together!

This photoshoot wasn’t very successful since it ended up being really sunny, and the beach I wanted to go to required permits we didn’t have. Hopefully I can edit out some of the harsher shadows and get the full set posted soon.

Thanks for reading!

 

Striped Cotton Dress, Early 20th Century, Photos

A few weeks ago I got three projects photographed, including my Striped Edwardian Gown, which is the one I’ll be sharing photos of today!

I have two blog posts about making this dress and hat. They can be read here, and here.

This dress was such a fun project to work on, and I’m really happy with the end result. It fits nicely, I have a lot of mobility in it, and I think it looks quite authentic.

To add to the authenticity I decided to use my real hair for this shoot – and I’m so glad I did! It looks a lot softer and (for obvious reasons) more realistic than my wigs. My styling skills have ways to go, but I’m going to practice and use my hair more often with future projects.

As far as foundations go, I wore this costume over my white and pink chemise, my pink and white corset, a bust pad, and white chevron socks…And I’m just realizing I never blogged about any of those pieces. But you may have seen them in spotlight videos on my youtube channel.

Since the shoes show, I bought a pair of these* in white – which aren’t as comfortable as the black ones, but compliment the dress nicely. And these earrings* which are from the Downton Abbey collection.

I was so comfortable wearing this costume. I’m not sure that shows, but it was the best I’ve felt in a costume in a long time!

Now onto the pictures!

That’s it for this set, but I will have more to share soon! I haven’t been thrilled with what I’ve accomplished so far this year, and seeing photos of completed works makes me feel a bit better about things. So I have plans to take more soon.

 

An Orange Brocade Dress – Making a 17th Century Costume, Part Two

Welcome to part two of making my Orange Brocade dress, if you missed part one it can be read here. That post ended with a fitting, and binding the arm openings of the bodice. This post will cover everything else – from the sleeves, to the skirt, chemise, and hat! It was originally going to be divided into three posts, but since I’ve been off my blogging game recently I thought you deserved them all at once.

Here is what I ended up with…

And here is how I did it!

Since my fitting was successful, it was time to move onto the sleeves. Like the bodice, I copied the pattern from Norah Waugh’s “The Cut of Women’s Clothes: 1600-1930“*. The pattern is kind of ridiculous, with a bunch of marks that aren’t labeled (seen here). Some markings are for the paned portions, others for knife pleats, gathering, or cartridge pleats. It’s also a lot smaller than I would have expected, being less than 30″ wide.

But this totally worked in my favor since I had barely any material left. After a mock up and a few alterations I cut the sleeves out, and lightly gathered them.

The gathering is only where the paned portions will be. Then there are knife pleats at the lowest portion of the sleeve, which will sit under the arm.

Then I made the paned portion of the sleeves. These are strips of the same brocade, with the ‘wrong’ side facing outward so they appear darker. I turned the edges of these strips inward twice by hand, to prevent fraying. Then embroidered ribbon lace was stitched on by hand to both edges.

There are only 3 panes for each sleeve, which matches Waugh’s pattern. I planned on adding more, but lack of material got in my way once more.

These were sewn onto the sleeves, and completely cover the gathering.

Now it was time for cartridge pleats. You’ll see these on most sleeves from this period and they are glorious. But they usually require a lot of fabric, a thick fabric, or a combination of the two. Otherwise they can look pretty bad. And since my sleeves did not have a lot of material, and are made from a very thin brocade, I had to fake this.

So I cut out facings for the top and bottom edge of the sleeves, made from cotton. Then I marked a line half an inch away from the bottom edge of the facing to indicate seam allowances. And finally, I marked vertical lines every half inch all the way across the facing, except for where the paned detailing is.

Then I cut up pieces of cord (I used 1/4 cord made for upholstery piping that felt almost papery) and sewed a piece onto every. Single. Line.

I hemmed the bottom edge of the facings, then sewed them onto the sleeves with the right sides facing each other. I turned the facing inward and stitched a quarter inch away from the edge to secure it in place.

Then I got out my heavy duty thread and sewed through the facing and top layer of fabric, between each piece of cording. This created the appearance of full cartridge pleats, while only using 1/2″ of fabric and no stiffening!

There are two rows of stitching to secure these, approximately half an inch apart.

I sewed the back edge up with a french seam.

Then made cuffs out of strips of brocade that is backed with ribbon.

The cuffs were sewn on by hand, then covered with embroidered ribbon and the trim I used on the neckline of the bodice. For some reason the cuffs gaped outward at the hem, so I had to hand stitch tiny darts into them. I’m not thrilled with that, but it isn’t obvious unless you get really close up.

The sleeves were pinned in place.

And sewn on with lots of tiny whip stitches.

And that’s about it for the bodice! After another fitting I added a modesty panel, and it was finished.

I’m pretty ecstatic with how this turned out. The fit and the way the materials work together is even better than I had hoped. The skirt didn’t go quite as well, but it all evens out.

The skirt for this project was an adventure. Not because the patterning was difficult – it’s basically rectangles with a sloped top. It’s the waistline that had me stumped. But we’ll get to that later.

Step one was cutting out four 42″ wide panels for the skirt, then sewing them together. This was easier said than done, since I wasn’t sure what petticoats I would be wearing with this, or how much volume the cartridge pleats would provide. So I had to guess the length. But I couldn’t cut the panels too long, since then I wouldn’t have enough fabric for the sleeves. It was stressful!

Once I managed that I sewed the pieces together, with seams at the center front, center back, and sides. The skirt opens from the front, so 10″ of the center front seam was left open.

I also sewed the front seam with a 5″ seam allowance, and with the wrong sides facing each other. Then ironed it open. This causes the darker “wrong” side of the fabric to be visible, and added more contrast after sewing on the trim.

For some reason I don’t have photos of any of those steps, but hopefully you’re still with me!

Next up was the pleating. Much like with the sleeves, I created a “facing” for the top edge of the skirt, which had guidelines marked.

The skirt actually had enough fabric in it to do real cartridge pleats (unlike the sleeves, where I needed to fake it). But the brocade I’m using is very thin, so I would have had to back the fabric with something thicker. And I was worried that would make the pleats stick out too much, creating more of an Elizabethan effect.

So I used cord to pad the pleats. These were cut into one and a half inch lengths.

Then sewn onto the cotton facing, and pinned to the top edge of the skirt.

I turned the facing inward to hide the raw edge, and it was ready for pleating!

After doing half the skirt, it became very clear to me that the cords were wayy too close together. The skirt would have had a waist of 60″ if I kept going!

So I started over and used a seam ripper to remove every other piece of cord.

When I resewed it the pleats were a lot deeper, and the waistline was much smaller.

Now it was time to add the waistband…that seems easy, right?

For most skirts from most periods, it would be.  But 17th century waistbands are a mystery to me because they don’t seem to exist. 

It’s a known fact that most bodices from this period had tabs to prevent the heavily boned bodices from digging into the wearers waist. Which means to cover the tabs, the skirt needs to go over the bodice. Except the waistband for the skirt isn’t visible in any. Of. These. Paintings.

Also – the point at the front of these bodices are visible in every. Single. Painting. Which means the skirt is worn over the tabs, and under the front of the bodice.

You may be thinking that an easy solution is sewing the skirt to the bodice, and having it close down the back. But that interrupts the cartridge pleats and destroys the shape of the skirt.

In this extant garment a small waistband is shown, and after many hours of frustrated searching without finding a better alternative, I decided to go with it. So my waistband is made from strips of brocade that were reinforced with interfacing and folded like double fold bias tape. The skirt was sewn to it by hand, with upholstery thread.

I actually used upholstery thread to do the pleating too, since it’s less likely to break under strain.

Here it is!

And from the interior.

I left the front of the waistband un sewn, since unlike the majority of the skirt, the front ten inches are not gathered. Instead they are left flat, and help create the smooth front, large rump effect that was popular in the mid 1600s (and continued to grow in popularity in the 1700s!).

Here you can see it in it’s current state on my dress form.

I realized that the waistline needed to be lower at the front so it could tuck under the bodice, so I cut several inches off.

Then I tried the skirt on and marked the hem. The skirt is hemmed symmetrically, but not evenly, since it was longer in some places than others, and I couldn’t predict the correct length when cutting the panels since I wasn’t sure how much volume the cartridge pleats would provide.

(The more volume a skirt has, the farther it will flare out, and the longer it needs to be)

And now it was time for sewing on the trim. I used seven yards of embroidered mesh lace that I bought on etsy. This was hand sewn on with two rows of stitching – one on either edge.

As you can see, down the center front (where the interior fabric was turned outward) the trim stands out more.

And on the hem it’s a bit more subdued.

Annoyingly, I was 4″ short of trim. Which left this gap at the back. I didn’t want to buy more trim, since it was only sold in 7 yard lengths, and took several weeks to arrive (at this point I planned on finishing this costume much earlier). My fix for this was sewing the narrower trim down the center back, which covers where the wider trim ends. There is still a gap, but it looks more intentional.

Then I sewed the remaining bit of the waistband onto the skirt, treating it like double fold bias tape.

The final few things to do where redoing things I had already marked as being finished. These things weren’t difficult, but they definitely weren’t fun. So I put them off for two months and only revisited this project earlier in the week.

(oops)

Thing one was tacking down fusible interfacing I had ironed to the center of the skirt to keep it smooth. It had started to pull away from the fabric and refused to stick.

It went from this:

To this! Much better.

I also had a problem with the waistband gaping where the cartridge pleats started. This was fixed with a little knife pleat that I tacked down by hand.

As far as closures go, the waistband attaches to the bodice with a hook and bar on either side. The bar is placed just above where the tabs end.

The slit closes with snaps. Half the snaps are actually sewn to a modesty panel, so the front of the skirt doesn’t overlap.

And that’s IT! After many weeks of work, and a lot of procrastination, this dress is finished! And I love it so much.

The only fault I have with it (aside from the gab in the trim) is that it could have used an extra half inch in the waist, since it’s hard to get the back to close completely when lacing it myself. But it does lace all the way closed if I put the effort in (which I didn’t for these photos…)

This dress will be worn with two accessories. The first is the chemise, which shows slightly at the neckline and underneath the sleeves.

For this I used two yards of sequin mesh – which looks beautiful, but those sequins are like little knives once you have the pressure of the bodice overtop…so I regret that.

 I also didn’t have enough fabric to make this the way I wanted. Or any trim that matched it. I regret that too.

I used the dress pattern as a base for the arm openings and neckline, I just made the bodice much bigger and longer so I could get it over my head.

I also used the sleeve pattern as a base – I just cut it to be more narrow.

After gathering the sleeves I sewed them to a gathered strip of lace, which had more of the sequin mesh sewn onto the hem. I’d originally planned on doing all of this out of sequin mesh, before I realized I didn’t have enough fabric.

The body of the chemise was originally made from two pieces of fabric, but it was comically small. I ended up using what little fabric I had left to form a gusset at the front – this looks really funny, but made it wearable, which was nice!

The top edge is trimmed with the scalloped edge of the fabric.  I hand stitched the seam allowance down to form a channel.

Then I threaded two strands of ribbon through the channel to create a drawstring effect – allowing me to lower or raise the neckline so it matches the neckline of the dress.

I sewed the sleeves on, and it was done! It came together in a few hours and looks quite nice underneath the dress.

The final accessory is a hat. As I said in my first post about this project, the inspiration is this painting. I bought a yard of blue stretch velvet for the hat, along with some bright orange feathers.

I made the base out of felt weight interfacing, with wire sewn into the edges. The brim was lined with brocade, then covered in velvet. The top portion was covered with velvet, then lined with cotton and sewn together.

I bound the brim with gold brocade, and covered the stitching with orange and gold sequins.

I sewed the pieces together and covered the join point with some braided gold cord.

I trimmed it with a gold bow and the feathers. I originally wanted to add flowers, but it ended up looking messy.

With the hat done, this project as a whole is done!

Though there are things I would change if I could, I’m really pleased with this project. I love the dress and the trims and the hat – and even the chemise, with it’s mismatched lace. I’m already brainstorming another (slightly less elaborate) 17th century project. But I may hold off for a couple months.

Thanks for reading – I hope you enjoyed! And hopefully I will be able to photograph this soon.

 

Making an 1860’s Beetlewing Dress, Part One

If you clicked on this post thinking that title is an exaggeration, then you have severely underestimated me and the things I will buy on etsy.

I discovered beetlewing embroidery several years ago, when I was still really active on tumblr and this picture came across my dashboard. I thought it was stunning, and the fact that all the detail work was made from bugs fascinated me. But at the time I wasn’t doing a lot of hand work, and it never crossed my mind that I could make anything similar.

Over the past few months I’ve come across pictures of more extant garments that feature this technique. And after my tiny embroidery project earlier in the year (a stomacher), and an elaborate 1860’s dress under my belt,  I felt like I could actually take this on.

Beetlewing embroidery goes back hundreds of years, and from what I can tell, originated in China, Thailand, and India. I’m not sure how it came to be popular in Europe in the mid 1800’s, but it was, and the results are stunning. This pinterest board has lots of lovely examples.

My first “step” was buying the wings. I ordered 2,000 from this seller, which I’m really hoping will be enough.

The wings feel (and look) a bit like press on nails, but are a bit thicker and more brittle. Though they are wings, they aren’t like dragonfly wings – these are a firm shell.

A few other bloggers have made dresses featuring them, and they mentioned steaming the wings to make them flexible enough to poke holes in, where others used drills. I found this prospect kind of terrifying because I had a lot of wings, but luckily mine haven’t required either method. A sharp (large) needle goes through them and creates a big enough hole to get a smaller needle and a few strands of embroidery floss through.

The more time consuming part has been cutting off the point where the wings connected to the body of the beetle. It’s also sort of gross even though it’s all dried out.

As for fabric, I’ll be using 12 yards of lightweight cotton which I got from Hamed Fabrics.

The design isn’t fully figured out yet, but I know it will consist of a skirt, an evening bodice, and a day bodice. Which is very common for designs in the mid 19th century.

My inspiration for the bodice shapes, and the sleeves, is this ensemble – the skirt design is still kind of a mystery, but I’ll figure it out once the upper half is done. The embroidery pattern is made up, but influenced a lot but every other example I could find online.

The first step was draping – draping loose fitting bodices is always a pain, but I did the best I could.

I tried to change it up a little bit, so instead of the shoulder seam sitting at the top of the shoulder, it’s further back and gathered to add volume to the bust.

Here is one of the front pieces, with the shoulder gathered.

The back pieces, stitched together with french seams.

And here they are sewn together.

The side seams were done up as well, then the collar and hem were bound with bias tape made from green silk shantung. The front edges were also turned inward to finish them off nicely.

Now for the fun part – the beetles! I designed the embroidery pattern on paper, and fiddled around with the wings until I liked the shapes they made.

The paper was then placed underneath the fabric. I traced the stem design onto the right side of the fabric with a wash away pen.

And then the embroidery began! I didn’t do a great job documenting this, since I wasn’t sure it would work. I’ll make sure to take more photos of the skirt during these steps.

The stems were sewn with a split stitch. I outlined each one with two parallel lines of stitching, with a small gap between them, which is where I sewed gold seed beads. Then the wings were sewn on, and the “gaps” between the wings, as well as the base of them, were covered with green seed beads to make them look more like foliage.

I did as much of this as I could with a hoop.

  Then I sewed sequins around the design – a mixture of flat gold ones, faceted gold ones, and some that match the wings almost perfectly. 

Here is one section done!

However when it was all done, it felt a little sparse. So I added bugs. The bodies were made from embroidery floss and gold beads, with the beetle wings making up the wings. Then I embroidered on antennas and used faux black pearls as eyes.

I may make a video showing this process at some point!

After the embellishing was done I sewed in hook/bar closures, and gathered the waistline. However after a fitting I realized the waist was too small, so the gathering was ripped out and re-done.

Now time for the sleeves! It looks like a relatively normal sleeve pattern, but the twist is a rectangle gathered every 4″ to create puffs, which is sewn between these two pieces.

The top piece is the front (ignore the writing saying otherwise) – it’s narrower, so the puffs are more visible from the front and side of the sleeves when they are worn.

Here are the puffed portions after being gathered.

I sewed them onto a smaller piece of material so they held their shape.

Then that was sewn to the other pieces.

They looked okay, but were obviously missing bugs.

(I will never say that about anything else if my life)

I placed the bugs in the center of the gathering points, surrounded by sequins.

The side seam was done up, but I left the bottom few inches open to allow me to get the sleeves on and off. Then I turned the seam allowance inward with whip stitches to hide the raw edges.

The cuffs are made from interfaced cotton, with green silk piping trimming the edges. They are lined with more cotton, and close with two hooks/bars. Weirdly, these gave me a lot of trouble. I cut them the wrong length the first time, and had to re-do them. Then I gathered the sleeves to be too small and didn’t realize until after the cuffs were sewn on and the lining was in…cue me having to re-do it, again.

Here you can see the difference between the front and backs of the sleeves.

They were sewn on by machine, and that’s it!

And here are some worn photos – I don’t love the fit, I feel like it should be a little looser to provide more mobility of the arms. But I also really like how it looks.

(note, the ribbon is a placeholder to imitate the waistband of the skirt, it isn’t part of the bodice)

I think the proportion of the embroidery at the front is really nice, and I love the sleeves, the bugs with the gathering is really charming to me.

One things I’ll have to do before labeling this costume complete is make a corset cover. My corset is bright red, which doesn’t pair well with sheer white fabrics.

And that’s it! I’m not sure when the next post about this project will be done, since the skirt isn’t even started and the evening bodice is missing sleeves. But hopefully it will all come together nicely in the near future!

Thanks for reading!