It’s been a while since my last post. Sorry about that! After my last project I wanted a little break, then I came down with a cold and wasn’t feeling well enough to respond to comments, much less write an entire blog post. But i’m back! And today I have a massive progress report to share. If you’re unfamiliar with these posts, they include updates on what i’m currently working on, a look back at what i’ve finished recently, what I plan on starting soon, and any other costume related bits that have happened in the last few months.
Let’s start with what i’ve completed so far this year. Which, to be honest, isn’t much. I’ve only finished three costumes. I’m really pleased with all of them, I’d just hoped to have done more.
The first costume I completed was made in the first week of February. It’s a medieval cotehardie, and the female equivalent of this ensemble. It’s made from velvet and brocade, and is trimmed with hundreds of sequins and more than fifty buttons. The dress laces up the back and is paired with this crown.
I haven’t spoken much about this project since I didn’t take many photos when I was making it. But I did film the entire process, and i’ll definitely write a bit more about it as soon as I have those videos edited and uploaded (though that may be a while, I have 15+ hours of footage…)
The cotehardie was made in less than a week – I think it took five days? I realized the season of snow was coming to an end, and I knew I wanted to photograph this project in a wintery landscape. I definitely didn’t want to wait another year before making it, so I drafted the patterns, put it together, embellished it, embroidered more than thirty eyelets, and sewed on all the buttons in less than a week. I had it done just in time to photograph it the last big snowfall of the year!
Here is a close up of the hemline, adding these sequins was the most time consuming part.
I also “finished” this 18th century ensemble – though it isn’t really finished, since the dress isn’t wearable on its own. But I did make the jacket, hat, and refit/complete the bodice. So i’m counting it anyway!
I also made a plaid walking ensemble, which i’m pretty sure is my favorite thing i’ve ever made. I’m really happy with how this turned out and it was definitely worth the days spent matching the plaid!
And though I haven’t finished any other ensembles, I have completed a few individual pieces. I made this petticoat, a chemise, and a corset, which all match and are based off garments from the late nineteenth century.
Here you can see the corset in detail. It’s made from cotton eyelet fabric, denim, and steel bones. I trimmed the top with chantilly lace and ribbon. I’m really happy with how this looks, and it’s quite comfy to wear, but it doesn’t give me as much reduction as I’d hoped which is dissapointing
(I put the busk in upside down, shhh)
A few days ago I pieced together a matching combination set, which can function as bloomers and a chemise. This is to go underneath a cycling ensemble I plan on making soon, which is also based off designs from the 1890s.
This came together really quickly – I’d say four hours or so? I used more of the eyelet cotton, a lace applique I was gifted, and some embroidered mesh to make pretty cuffs. I draped the pattern and put it together without making a mockup, and by some miracle it fits!
This was such a fun little project. I’m planning to photograph ALL these pieces soon, then i’ll write about the process of making them. I just have to make a pair of bloomers first, which will complete the set!
The final thing I’ve finished is a partial shirtwaist. I’m don’t think i’m going to post about making this, since I didn’t take many photos and don’t plan on wearing it any time soon. It was made to go with an 1890’s gown, but I don’t like how the asymmetric collar and gold buttons look with that dress.
It has a very similar construction to this partial shirtwaist, but ties at the sides with bias tape instead of at back. The neckline opens down to the waist with snaps and has decorative gold buttons. It’s made from a lightweight striped cotton that I tea stained, lined with muslin, and trimmed with vintage lace.
I’m going to keep this around in case I have a use for it someday, but right now it feels like a waste of time/effort/materials!
I suppose completing two hats, two jackets, a dress, a skirt, two undershirts, a chemise, petticoat, combination set, and a corset isn’t too bad considering we are only three months into the year…but i’d really like to do double that in the coming months. Luckily I have some things in progress, so that may happen!
The first project I started on this year is an 1890s taffeta dress. Once my foundation garments were finished I went straight into drafting the bodice for this gown. The bodice actually came together really quickly – in a week or so I had it and the sleeves, completely finished.
Here it is before I added the sleeves. It’s made from polyester taffeta, faced with faux wool flannel, lined with a basic polyester lining, trimmed with vintage lace, and beaded around the neckline. I’m really happy with the fit of this, though the back panels pucker pretty badly when it’s worn since I wasn’t paying attention to grain lines.
I’m also happy with the beading on this, I think it turned out nicely!
The sleeves are made from the same materials and feature the same beading pattern. Gathering these and attaching them to the bodice was a huge pain since taffeta is so tightly woven and difficult to stitch through. I pricked myself way to many times and I had to take lots of breaks, but I did get it accomplished!
Unfortunately that’s about all I got accomplished on this project. I made major progress in January and then ignored it for more than a month. Even now, three months later, it still looks about the same.
This was mostly because my 18th century ensemble and cotehardie took priority, but it also has to do with a roadblock I hit when working on the skirt. The skirt was supposed to have large pleats in the side panels, but I couldn’t get them to work. I spent ages trying to fix them before deciding to remove the pleats and simplify the skirt.
After fixing the skirt I got the waistband put together and closures sewn in. Then I abandoned it, again.
I’m going to try to resume progress this week and get it finished. I have to add cuffs to the sleeves, replace the buttons on the bodice, attach the skirt to the bodice, and sew on the waistband. That shouldn’t take me more than a day, I just need to find the motivation to get it finished!
And hopefully when the dress is done i’ll have enough enthusiasm to make the matching hat and cloak that are meant to go with this dress. The cloak is already drafted and the hat has been cut out, so it could happen!
Another ensemble I had planned on finishing by now is an Edwardian evening gown. Unfortunately as soon as I began work on this I realized the design I had come up with wasn’t going to work. The illusion neckline and appliques down the sides looked very modern, not historical at all. I played around with some of the appliques and realized that putting them across the shoulder and down the front of the dress looks way better.
But this means that the asymmetrical hem detailing i’d planned won’t look very nice. I’m not sure how to rework that part and still like the end result, and since the bodice and skirt are cut as a single piece, I need to figure that out before working on this project at all. So i’ve decided to put this project on hold for now, and come back to it when I have a new idea that incorporates the design changes.
Hopefully that will happen soon since i’m dying to work on this – look at how pretty the lace is!
I really wanted to work on something detailed that involved sequins and beading, and since I couldn’t move forward with my Edwardian project I decided to start something new. And that something is an 1860s evening gown, inspired by this painting. It won’t be a recreation, but I’m basing the bodice quite heavily on the one shown there, and it will have the same color scheme.
Here is my sketch.
I’m using cotton sateen for this, and pairing it with an alencon lace (which can be seen here) and some chantilly lace that I recently purchased.
I got it from the seller PrettyLaceShop on etsy. This lace has a few issues (uneven “eyelashes” on edges, a couple tiny oil stains, and the occasional tear along the top edge) but the sheen and design is beautiful. And it’s cheaper than anything else I could find. I think it was $40 for seventeen yards, which is pretty amazing considering how wide this trim is (more than ten inches at points).
This costume is no where close to being done, but I have enjoyed working on it so far. The bodice has a lot of details and layers to it which i’ve loved creating. This is just the collar, photos of the entire bodice and a “Making of” post about this should be up next week!
The lower half of this project hasn’t been quite as enjoyable to make. I spent a few evenings fussy cutting out twelve yards of lace trim, then spent another few evenings stitching the lace onto a length fabric which will form a ruffle for the skirt. But that part was fun compared to making the understructure for the skirt.
I decided to use my farthingale as a base for the skirt (since that worked well for this dress) and planned on making a very full petticoat to go overtop, which will add enough volume and length to the farthingale to create an appropriate 1860s silhouette. I chose to do this because I didn’t have enough hooping wire on hand to make an elliptical hoop skirt (and spending $40 on lace for this project was more appealing than buying $40 of wire).
Even if I did make an eliptical hoop, I would still have to make a petticoat to soften the shape of it. Making a super full petticoat seemed like the better, cheaper option than making a new hoop skirt and a new petticoat.
Oh boy was I wrong. After cutting out dozens of strips for ruffles I managed to injure my wrist. And after three days of nonstop hemming my neck was hurt too. My wrist was fine a few days later, and my neck has improved by a lot, but it’s still hurts if I spend more than a few consecutive hours sewing. I lost almost a week of work time because it was so bad, which has added to my lack of progress over the past few months.
On the bright side, the petticoat has a nice shape and it’s super fluffy! I’m going to try and get it finished this week so I can draft the skirt for this project. It’s 95% done so hopefully I can manage the last bit without hurting myself again.
The final thing I have in progress is a renaissance inspired dress. I started on this before the Civi War Era gown, because I wanted something flowy and easy to make. It hasn’t quite worked out that way. The construction hasn’t been difficult, but I have a lot of conflicting ideas and can’t figure out which direction to take this project in.
I’ve temporarily set this dress aside since i’m not sure how to move forward, but i’m sure i’ll come back to it soon.
So far the bodice looks like this.
And I made a very fancy beaded collar, which looks like this.
I also managed to make some major progress on the matching headpiece and collar (which is for a cape, not the dress). Those pieces were wonderful when I got sick because it was the only thing I felt capable to work on and kept me distracted from my runny nose and sore throat!
I managed to draft the headpiece and collar, then spent an entire week beading them.
The color scheme for this project gave me a chance to use these weird resin “stones” I bought last year. I think these are gorgeous and i’m so thrilled to finally have a use for them!
My other reason for not getting much done these past few months is because February was kind of…weird. I don’t know if it was allergies, or lack of inspiration, or what, but I felt really burnt out. I had to force myself to work on stuff in the mornings, and by the time afternoon rolled around I was exhausted. None of my projects were going well and instead of pushing through the problems I ignored them, which lead to me getting very little done.
This is part of the reason why my 1890s taffeta dress didn’t progress much, and why my blog and youtube channel were so dead for a while. Luckily that went away in March and got back on schedule. But February was mostly spent in my sewing room procrastinating. And one of my favorite things to do when i’m procrastinating is organizing.
So I rearranged things to be more convenient – The velvet, suiting, and quilt batting that was previously stored on the top shelf of my closet got moved into the bins underneath my desk, where they are much easier to access.
Then I spent a whole day winding most of my lace collection onto Kraft tags I got from michaels…
And I switched all these boring bins out for colorful photo boxes I got from Michaels. It went from this:
Even though February wasn’t a productive month, I am happy with the storage changes that came out of it!
One exciting thing that happened in February involves a package I received from my Great Aunt. She was cleaning up her sewing room and came across an issue of “The Lady” magazine from 1896. She thought I might appreciate it, so she sent it my way. I’m so glad she did. It’s incredibly interesting to look through and see real advertisements and illustrations from that period.
I’m sure there are books that include the same fashion plates, but seeing them printed on paper that is more than a hundred years old is just incredible. Not to mention super inspiring, since the 1890s is a period i’ve been researching a lot recently.
I may make a blog post completely devoted to the pages of this, but for now i’m just going to share my favorite. I believe these show fancy dress costumes from the period, but they may also be illustrations of the characters featured in the short stories that are spread throughout the magazine.
Either way, they are awesome. Here you can see a medieval inspired gown, an 18th century inspired witch, and a lovely riding ensemble.
My favorite is probably this one, which is titled “Carnival in black and white”
Here you can see more details on the “Modernised Witch” who has skulls and snaked decorating the hem of her skirt and shoes. The lady on the lower left is simply titled “chrysanthemum” and has feathery looking bits decorating her skirt and sleeves, which I can only assume represent the flower!
The ads throughout the magazine seems to focus on corsets, skirt facings, and outwear (which makes sense, it’s from November). I’m sure i’ll be using some of these as references in the future!
I think that covers everything that has happened so far this year! When it comes to the next few months, i’m not entirely sure what my plans are – but I need to decide soon because my birthday is coming up, which means i’ll be taking a trip into the garment district within the next week.
Usually I go in with lots of costume plans and a carefully crafted list of materials i’m on the lookout for. And I could do that this time, I certainly have enough ideas for it. But I also want to go in with an open mind and the goal of expanding my stash of fabrics. Because I really miss the days when I had enough random fabric around to make whatever I liked without planning ahead. If I was stressed and a costume wasn’t going well I could start something new to distract me. Or if I came across something inspiring on pinterest I likely had enough materials around to make something similar.
I still have a lot of fabric, but I have specific plans for most of it. And the materials I don’t have projects in mind for are too small to turn into a full costume.
So going in without a list is really appealing to me…but i’m such a planner, and I have so many specific ideas that I want to work on. I’ll probably end up shopping for a couple specific projects, then spend whatever money is left on silks, sateens, taffetas, brocades, velvet, and any materials that could be used for a bunch of different projects and would suit a variety of eras.
Whatever I decide to do, i’m really excited about getting new materials and having the opportunity to start new projects. I know it will be a lot of fun. But i’m trying not to think about it too much since I have a massive list of things to accomplish this week, and the thought of new projects and fabric is only going to to distract me!
Thanks for reading! I should be back to my usual schedule now, and have a “The Making of” post up on Friday!