Making a 1780s Robe a la Polonaise + The Pumpkin Hat

Hello everyone! So, it’s been a while. And when I say a while, I mean a year. Technically it’s only been 364 days, but I think I can justifiably round that up to a year.

I don’t have a good excuse for my absence. But I will say that up until recently it’s taken all of my energy just to keep up with my Patreon commitments and a somewhat regular video schedule on youtube. And pretty much everything else – including this blog, has fallen to the wayside. I elaborate a bit on the reasons behind that here.

But for the first time in a long while I’m feeling optimistic about the future and more like my old self. And my old self blogged regularly. So here I am!

Today I’m writing about my fourth annual pumpkin patch project. If you’ve been following me for a while, you might be familiar with this tradition. It consists of me making an autumnal or halloween inspired historical costume, and photographing it at a local pumpkin patch.

These projects are some of my favorites, since they allow me to take inspiration from the cooler weather and falling leaves…and add a spooky twist, by embracing some halloween influences!

This year I found myself inspired by a material that was very seasonally appropriate…but far from historically accurate. This fabric is by Wilmington and part of their “Gone Batty” collection. I ended up buying three fabrics from the collection, but this one is what really sparked my interest.

Though the print is wild with skulls, bats, pumpkins and beetles, the actual scale and striped pattern of the print reminded me of fabrics that were popular in the mid 1700s. I’ve made a lot of 18th century gowns before, but one style I’ve never attempted is a Robe a la Polonaise. So I decided to combine that fabric with that idea, and this is the end result!

halloween-60

Though I went in with a solid idea of what I wanted to make, I still searched the internet for references so I could accurately piece the back of the bodice. I ended up finding this robe a la polonaise from The Metropolitan Museum of Art which was very similar to what I had envisioned, and served as a major influence on this design.

I also took some inspiration from the hat they modeled that extant garment with. I thought the stiff brim and slouchy cap kind of resembled a pumpkin. And that a pumpkin themed lunardi would be a fun twist on a popular 18th century style of hat. So with all that in mind, I got to sketching my final design!

halloween-61

And with a sketch to go off of, I could get right to draping! I didn’t photograph the draped bodice, but it was draped overtop of a pair of stays and a pannier to ensure the shape of the pieces would suit my figure when worn with the proper foundation garments.

My first mockup was an inch too small, but otherwise very nicely fitted at the back and shoulders. I liked the shape of the neckline a lot too.

halloween

So I made a few minor alterations, then moved ahead with the finalized pattern, which looked like this!

halloween-52

The arrows on the pattern signify the grain line they should be cut on. Since I was working with a striped fabric I just had to take advantage of the print and cut the bodice on the bias, so it would form a zig zag design when sewn together.

I messed up more than I would care to admit during this process, and probably wasted a yard of fabric. Which led to some mild panic later on when I didn’t have enough fabric left to cut out the skirt and sleeves. That was unfortunate, but doesn’t this look fabulous?!

halloween-2

I used a pencil to mark the seam allowance on each piece, then carefully pinned and sewed them together.

halloween-3

All the edges were turned inward by a half inch – except for the center front edge. I waited to finish that until a later fitting.

Then I turned my focus to the bodice lining, which was made from the same pattern. However instead of sewing all the lining pieces together, I decided to turn the seam allowance of each piece inward, then sew a boning channel into each edge.

I matched the edges of each piece of lining up with seam allowances of the outer layer of fabric. Then the edges were whip stitched in place, and boning was added.

I lined the back and side back panels first, then did a fitting before lining the fronts of the bodice.

I’ve had a few projects recently that shrunk when I added the lining – okay, they didn’t shrink, but the lining reduced the ease of the garment, which altered the fit dramatically. So just to be safe, I did a fitting after the partial lining was added.

halloween-5

Thankfully, it still fit. So I cut the lining for the fronts of the bodice, and stitched a boning channel into each panel.

halloween-4

This was pinned, then whip stitched in place. I did yet another fitting before finishing the center front edge and adding closures.

halloween-41

The fronts of the bodice overlap by a quarter inch, and close with hooks and bars.

halloween-40

Here is how it looked from the outside.

halloween-42

And on my dress form! I’m so pleased with the print placement at the front. And how the strap was cut so it seamlessly blends in with the top stripe of the bodice – that was very intentional, and I think it looks very good!

halloween-37

halloween-38

You can probably tell that the bodice is worn over a coordinating skirt in the photos above. So let’s switch focus for a moment and go through the process of making that.

I didn’t take many photos of making the upper half of this skirt. But it’s basically four rectangles with sloped sides that were stitched together. Two panels make up the front, and two make up the back. I left the center back seam completely open to make it easier to add the trim later on.

The top edge was gathered down to my waist measurement, then bound with bias binding. The binding extends past the back edge of the skirt to form ties.

halloween-18

Hopefully I made up for my lack of documenting the upper half by taking a good dozen photos of making the trim for the hem. Because the trim was kind of complicated. I knew I wanted it to be pleated, and I wanted it to have a zig zag pattern (also known as a dagged edge) around the hem.

I started by cutting out eight 42″ wide strips that were a half inch longer than I wanted my trim to be. All these strips were sewn together to form one, very long strip. I repeated this process with a coordinating fabric that will be used for lining.

Then I made a template out of cardboard. I lined the straight top edge of the template up with the top edge of the strip of fabric. Then I traced around the bottom edge of the template to transfer the design to the wrong side of the fabric. This was repeated a bunch of times until the entire strip of fabric had the zig zag design drawn onto the hem.

halloween-6I also marked a line 2″ away from the top edge, then ironed the fabric inward so it touched that line. This created an even 1″ hem across the top edge.

halloween-7

I pinned the lining and outer layer of fabric together, across the bottom edge, with the right sides facing each other. Then I stitched across the markings from the template, making sure to pivot at each point and corner.

halloween-9

Then I cut away all the excess fabric. This included clipping into the corners, and trimming the fabric very close to each point.

halloween-10

Then the strip was turned right side out, and I used a turning tool to get each point looking sharp.

Here is how it looked from the outside after being ironed.

halloween-11

And from the inside!

halloween-12

I laid the trim flat, with the right side facing down.  I smoothed the lining out, then I turned the top edge of the lining inward, until it sat 1/3″ below the edge of the outer layer of fabric.

halloween-13

I sewed the lining in place with whip stitches.

halloween-14

And now you might be thinking the trim is done and ready to be sewn onto the skirt. Oh how I wish that was the case. But no, it still needs to be pleated.

halloween-15

The pleats are 3″ wide box pleats (the width of the pointed portion) and 3/4″ deep. I used the stripes on the fabric as a guide for the pleats, so it was actually pretty speedy to do!

halloween-17

To secure the pleats in place, I stitched a line by machine 1.5″ away from the top edge. Then the pleats were thoroughly ironed before removing the pins.

The pleated trim could now be sewn to the skirt – which I also opted to do by machine. But I covered that stitching with coordinating binding, cut from horizontal strips of the striped fabric. And that was all sewn on by hand.

halloween-19

With the trim on, I began sorting out the back. I actually turned the back edge inward by an inch and whip stitched it down prior to gathering the top edge. So the back edge was “finished” – it was just left completely open.

halloween-21

I turned one of the sides inward by an inch, then lapped it over the other side. I did my best to get the points and trim to line up.

halloween-22

I sewed across this edge by hand using whip stitches. And I left the top 10 or so inches open, allowing me to easily get the skirt on and off.

I also did my best to make the inside look pretty by turning the raw edges inward…I’m not sure how successful this was, but I tried!

halloween-23

Now the underskirt was done! And it was time to get back to work on the polonaise. However instead of going back to the bodice, I began work on the skirt.

I measured my fabric before cutting the skirt out and realized I didn’t have quite enough for the skirt, trim, and sleeves. At least not if I wanted to make them according to my original plan. But I knew the trim would add some length to the skirt, allowing the skirt panels to be shorter, and leaving me with more material leftover for the sleeves.

So with that in mind, I decided to make the trim first, and figure out the skirt panel length later on. The trim was made using the exact same method show above – just with narrower strips, and a different fabric.

Here is my handy template.

halloween-26

And the marked strip pinned to the lining.

halloween-24

Here it is after being sewn.

halloween-25

Then it was trimmed…

halloween-27

Here it is after being turned right side out.

halloween-28

And after ironing.

halloween-29

To finish it off, I folded the top edges inward and pinned them together. Then stitched them together by hand.

halloween-30

Like with the longer trim, the strip was pleated using the stripes as a guide. Then I sewed 1.5″ away from the edge by machine and gave it a thorough ironing.

halloween-33

But I couldn’t sew it on, because I didn’t have anything to sew it on to.

I ended up cutting 12″ off my remaining fabric and setting it aside for the sleeves. Then I divided the remaining length of fabric into three equal pieces, and hoped like hell that my skirt would be long enough.

The three equal lengths of material were stitched together, selvedge to selvedge.

Now, because this is a robe a la polonaise, the skirt will be bustled in the back. Which sometimes reveals the under side of the fabric. This isn’t a big deal with woven prints, since the print is usually identical on both sides of the fabric. But with stamped prints (aka quilting cotton – which is what I’m using) that are printed onto the fabric, one side tends to have much lower saturation and can look pretty ugly.

So I decided to line the hem with 15″ wide strips of polyester tissue taffeta. This is also what I was using to line the trim.

The taffeta was sewn on with a quarter inch seam allowance – leaving as much length to my skirt as possible. Then it was turned inward and pinned down.

halloween-31

I folded the top edge of the taffeta inward by about an inch. Then whip stitched the folded edge in place by hand.

Annoyingly, my tissue taffeta was one inch narrower than the quilting cotton. Which meant three strips sewn across the bottom edge came up two inches short. Requiring me to cut another strip. Luckily I had lots left!

halloween-32

Now the trim was sewn on by machine. And once again, I planned on covering the machine stitching with binding. The binding is made from horizontal strips of the orange and black striped fabric.

The strips were sewn together, then the edges were ironed inward.

halloween-34

The strip is cut on the straight grain, so easing it around corners takes some care…and a lot of pins!

halloween-35

And here it is after being hand stitched in place!

halloween-36

I measured across the bottom edge of my bodice, then gathered the top edge of the skirt to that length.

halloween-39

The skirt was whip stitched to the bodice.

halloween-43

halloween-44

Now for the sleeves! I kind of cheated and used a sleeve pattern from a robe a la francaise that I made earlier in the year. Even though I’d used the pattern before, I still made a mockup and altered the fit and shape to be better suited to this design.

And then I used that pattern as the basis for a lantern sleeve pattern, which is about four inches longer than the original pattern. This will be used to make a set of under sleeves from a lightweight silk chiffon.

halloween-51

It turns out that 12″ piece of fabric I set aside earlier was way too short for the sleeves I ended up drafting. Luckily I had some scraps leftover from cutting the bodice that I could put to use. I ended up adding a horizontal band to the bottom of the sleeves, which gave me the length I needed and creates a really cool windowpane effect within the pattern.

halloween-45

The sleeves were sewn with 1/2″ seam allowances and fully lined.

Then the bottom half was stitched to the underside of the bodice armscye. The top half of the sleeve was set the 18th century way, by being pinned between the strap lining and outer layer of fabric. This allows you to adjust the volume of the sleeve head and get a customized fit.

halloween-46

Here is what it looked like from the inside after the sleeves were sewn on.

halloween-48

halloween-47

Now it was time to add the under sleeves. These were originally supposed to be part of a decorative chemise worn beneath the dress. But I didn’t have enough fabric to make a chemise, so I decided to make undersleeves that could be removed, and a matching fichu to trim the neckline.

I showed the pattern for these above. The bottom edge was gathered to 12″, then linen ribbon was stitched to the underside. I sewed the side seam as a french seam, and sewed cotton binding overtop of the linen ribbon, sandwiching the raw edge of the chiffon in between and out of sight!

halloween-49

I folded the top edge inward, then whip stitched it to the lining around the armscye of the bodice. These aren’t removable in a modern sense – as in they don’t snap or velcro into place. But historically trims were often basted to dresses and removed as fashion evolved or pieces needed to be laundered. So in that sense these are very much able to be removed if I want to style the dress differently in the future.

halloween-50

The last step was sewing the ties in place. These are what change the shape, and style of the dress and turn it into a robe a la polonaise.

There are ties placed about 30″ from the front of the skirt, and 15″ away from the hem. And those tie-to-ties sewn to the waist of the bodice, at the base of each side seam.

halloween-53

Here is what the finished interior of the bodice looks like – I’m soo proud of the construction on this one, and all the finishing work done by hand. Even though it’s a quirky fabric I think the quality of work (and the silhouette, obviously) help give it that historic flare.

halloween-54

I also love the lining. Lining fabrics are so cheap in the garment district, I really should stock up and line the skirts of more of my projects. That way if the hem flares up at any point, the interior still looks very tidy.

halloween-55

And that finishes off this dress! As I said, I’m really proud of the quality of work on this one. And I think it’s quite nice visually too. It also fits better than any previous pumpkin project (especially last years, oof).

Unfortunately as soon as I put on the entire ensemble, the trim on the underskirt started sagging. It didn’t do this AT ALL while it was on my dress form, prior to photographing it. So I’m not sure if it was the wind, or the movement from wearing it…but it looks like this now, which is a bit of a bummer.

halloween-56

Though it kind of looks intentional? So this is probably the only time I’ll point it out.

halloween-57

halloween-58

The back is by far my favorite part. It has so much volume and texture, I love it.

halloween-59

Though my favorite part of this project isn’t even the dress. It’s the hat. It’s such a great hat. It was also completed an hour before photographing this ensemble, so I think the adrenaline of trying to get it done on time has endeared me to it further.

As I said, this was inspired by a hat paired with an extant garment. Specifically a style of hat called Lunardi. Here are some examples of Lunardi (or simply, balloon hats).

halloween-20

My hat started, as most hats do, as a pattern.

The brim is 4″ deep, and almost a full circle with a 26″ inner circumference. The top of the hat is an 8″ circle, and the wall is a 3.5″ x 26″ rectangle. The puffed portion is a 30″ circle gathered down to have a 26″ outer circumference.

You with me?

halloween-23

The 30″ circle was cut from orange tissue taffeta (which featured as lining for the dress and underskirt)  and flat lined with muslin to add body and opacity.

halloween-10

The other pieces were all cut out of felt weight interfacing – this is the stuff they sell for handbags, so it’s pretty sturdy.

The top of the hat is really just a support structure for puffed portion I’ll add later on. So I didn’t reinforce these pieces with wire, I just covered them with tissue taffeta.

halloween

The side covered with taffeta is actually going to be the inside of the hat. The outside will be covered later on.

With that in mind, the pieces were whip stitches together. This is the outside of the hat.

halloween-6

And the inside.

halloween-7

The brim however, supports the whole hat. And needs to be reinforced in order for it to keep its shape. So I used a zig zag stitch on my machine to secure three bands of wire into the hat. I made sure the ends of the wire overlapped by a few inches so there wouldn’t be weak points.

halloween-2

I basted black cotton sateen to the outside of the brim (the “outside” of the brim is the smooth side of the interfacing – the inside is the side with the wire stitched to it).

Then I sewed together three 4.5″  x 42″ strips of orange and black striped cotton. I gathered one edge down to 28ish inches – big enough to wrap around the inner circumference of the brim, with an inch or two to spare. This will be the lining.

The gathered edge was basted to the inner edge of the brim (this raw edge was covered by cotton sateen that was folded inward and whip stitched to the lining later on). The other edge of the lining was wrapped over the outer edge of the brim, extending by a 1/2″ onto the other side of the brim.

halloween-5

To cover the raw edge of the lining now visible from the exterior of the hat, I used more of the striped binding. As I said earlier, this is cut on the fabrics straight grain – it isn’t flexible like bias binding. So it had to be carefully pinned around each curve.

halloween-3

And here it is all sewn in place!

halloween-4

Now I whip stitched the brim to the cap of the hat. I always start stitching them together at the center back – that way if they don’t line up quite right, I can fudge it a bit and it won’t be visible from the front!

halloween-8

Here is what the top looks like. At this point, you may doubt the possibility of it looking like a pumpkin. I was right there with you. *But the main rule of hat making is that if you add enough crap, it will definitely look okay in the end. So I moved ahead.

*This may not be an official rule of hat making

halloween-9

I gathered down the outer edge of the circle I cut out earlier. Then I tried placing it on top of my hat…and it was a little too big and floppy. So I ended up adding another row of gathers half inch away from the first row. But I only did this on one half of the circle, since I wanted it to sit asymmetrically on the hat.

halloween-11

It was still looking pretty floppy and not pumpkin-y at this point. So I decided to pad it out a little using scrunched up pieces of tulle that I tacked to the outside of the hat.

halloween-12

And now I was getting somewhere! I basted the bottom edge of the circle to the hat.

halloween-13

Then I covered the gathered edges with a band of striped cotton. The band is at its full width of 2.5″ at the front, but tapers to be 1″ wide on one side. This is to enhance the asymmetrical shape of the top.

The band was tied at one side, and basted to the hat to secure it in place.

The center of the top of the hat was tacked down to create a tufted effect that makes it resemble a pumpkin!

halloween-14

As far as trims go, I used some cut up ostrich feathers which were placed horizontally against the base of the brim to add texture. I also used some black glittery branches I bought for a $1 at Michaels. Both the feather and the branches were sewn on by hand.

halloween-15

The stem of the pumpkin is made from the base of the branches. I had to glue two together to get the convincing amount of girth for a pumpkin stem, then I glued it over the tufted portion of the hat. There is some thread wound around the stem and securing it on as well, since I didn’t fully trust the glue.

The final touch were some velvet millinery leaves to cover the glue around the stem.

I also tacked one side of the puffed layer to the brim. This covers the knot securing the band around the hat, and makes the pumpkin look slightly tilted.

halloween-18

And that is it! The pumpkin hat was done! And it’s pretty glorious if I do say so myself.

halloween-16

halloween-17

Maybe my favorite hat I’ve ever made. Which is saying a lot, because I’ve made some great hats.

halloween-19

And with the hat finished, and the dress finished, and the underskirt finished, it’s time to finish this post!

Thanks SO much for reading! I will be back with photos of the finished ensemble tomorrow – along with another special post, about another ~spooky~ project.

Also THANK YOU to anyone who has stayed subscribed to my blog despite it’s lack of activity over the past couple years. I really appreciate it, and I’m looking forward to reviving it in the coming months!

 

Making an 18th Century Floral Round Gown

Today I’m writing about another casual late 18th century dress. And I’m happy to say, this piece turned out much, much better than the poorly thought out purple linen dress that I talked about yesterday.

For this dress I managed to resolve all the fit issues with my pattern. I drafted a new, much more appropriate sleeve pattern. And my skirt was constructed properly. It took a little longer to make than the previous dress, but the end result is so much better.  I’ve included comparison photos at the end so you can see what a difference a bit more time invested makes!

This dress was intended to be a remake of the purple linen dress, but once I started looking for more references I decided to make a round gown instead of a skirt and bodice.

Round gowns were very popular in the second half of the 18th century. You can see a rather glamorous example here, and a more casual style here. But my main form of inspiration was this piece – I really liked the boxier neckline, and appreciated the interior photos.

The fabric for this is a Moda quilting cotton, in a floral print. I was attracted to it based on the colors – I love how purple, pink, green, and yellow have all been entwined so effortlessly. It’s a little busy…but busy prints weren’t uncommon in the 18th century.

I also bought two and  half yards of a wool that matches perfectly. So eventually this costume will get a coordinating coat.

red (1 of 52)

Just as a note, this is how the fabric looks in person. The worn photos of this dress do not do it justice since they were taken in really poor artificial lighting. It shines in the sunlight and I can’t wait to get outdoor photos of it – but the snow we have needs to melt first!

red (2 of 52)

I used my pattern from the linen dress as a base, but I raised the neckline significantly and made a few other changes. The first mock up was not great. But I made a some adjustments, and a second mockup, which was much more successful.

The only part I couldn’t get right is the back point. I’m convinced it’s impossible to properly fit this part on your own body. It’s tricky to fit it on a dress form, when you can see everything clearly. When it comes to it fitting YOU it’s a matter of luck, unless you have a helper. This lead to a lot of frustration but I eventually got something passable.

red (4 of 52)

Once I was happy with my mock up I cut out the lining.

I had been intending to follow some techniques from The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking*, since the Italian gown is somewhat similar to this piece and I’m so interested in trying the hand sewn methods…but I got too impatient. And I really liked the construction method for the linen dress. So I did this by machine instead.

But I will hand sew an 18th century dress someday soon!

Here is the front panel. I cut it from linen, then folded the front edges inward by one and three quarters of an inch. I sewed a quarter inch away from the folded edge and inserted a piece of plastic boning. Then I sewed eyelets right next to that.

This is the closure method used on this dress. I thought I would give it a try since I would rather sew eyelets than hooks and bars!

red (14 of 52)

I cut and sewed the rest of the lining together. I also sewed the seam allowance down to create boning channels, then added eight pieces of quarter inch plastic boning to the back and sides.

Then it was tried it on. I was focusing so much on the waist and bust that I didn’t realize the straps were too wide (or that it was gaping on the inner edge of the shoulder). But the waist and bust did fit pretty nicely!

red (15 of 52)

Or at least it did from the front. Once again, the waist at the back was too big. This made my waist look larger from the side than my bust.

How do you fit this on yourself? Someone please tell me! I tried doing it on my dress form but my back slope is different.

red (16 of 52)

I settled on adding a few darts to the back. This improved it a lot, but it still wasn’t perfect.

I also lowered the neckline slightly. I regret doing this – the half inch made all the difference, and the finished neckline is very low. I don’t dislike it, it’s just very different than what I had planned.

red (17 of 52)

I evened up the darts and sewed them by machine. I also altered my base pattern so the reduction from the darts is incorporated in the seams. This way there won’t be darts on the top layer of fabric.

red (18 of 52)

I didn’t take a lot of photos of this process, but the next step was cutting out the back panels. I got into crazy perfectionist mode with the center back pieces, and tried to get the  flowers to match up. This is impossible since the pieces are curved, but I did my best!

red (19 of 52)

The rest was constructed normally. The only difference between it and the lining (aside from boning and eyelets) is that I only folded the front edge inward by an inch and a half. This way it extends slightly beyond the lining.

The layers were pinned together with the right sides facing each other.

red (20 of 52)

Then I sewed around the edges with a half inch seam allowance. The only edges I left open were the tops of the straps, and the front edges.

red (21 of 52)

Then I sewed around all the edges by hand. Once again I left my stitches pretty large since I wanted them to be visible. This time I also sewed down the center back.

red (22 of 52)

I also did the shoulder seam up by hand. But after a fitting I finally caught the gaping on the inner edge. So this seam was ripped out, and re sewn wider so there was less volume on the inner edge. red (23 of 52)

Instead of sewing against the center front edges (which would prevent me from lacing it closed) , I sewed alongside the outer edge of the eyelets. red (24 of 52)

Now for sleeves! My firs pattern had a lot of guesswork in it, and was SO far off. I don’t know if you can see all the pins in this, but they were plentiful.

red (25 of 52)

My second sleeve pattern was much better in terms of shape. It was just a little large, so I removed a quarter inch from the seams and it was perfect!

red (29 of 52)

It this point I also noticed how wide the strap was. So I undid all the stitching and removed almost half an inch of material. I turned the remaining material inward by a half inch, then topstitched around the edge to secure it.

red (27 of 52)

red (28 of 52)

The sleeves were made from a layer of cotton and lining, sewn together by machine at the hem. When they were turned the right way out I bound the top edge with lace binding and topstitched across the hem by hand.

red (30 of 52)

The sleeves were sewn on by hand, using whip stitches. Then I tacked the seam allowance to the lining for a cleaner finish.

After a final fitting I noticed the back gaped a little, so I sewed two darts parallel to the back seam. These look pretty ugly from the inside but are barely noticeable from the exterior.

red (41 of 52)

Now for the skirt! I adjusted my dress form to my height, then measured from the waist to the floor at the center back while the appropriate foundations were in place. Then I added two inches, allowing for a hem and seam allowance.

I cut four pieces of material that were this length (around 52″, I believe) and sewed them together selvedge to selvedge. I left the top 18″ of one seam open, on the side front panel.

red (31 of 52)

Then I sewed in a modesty panel into this seam. I folded the edge on the other side inward, and topstitched everything in place. This will serve as the closure – note how I put it at the front this time, not the back?

Also I left 18″ open, as opposed to the usual 10-12″ because I knew I would be cutting several inches off the top.

red (32 of 52)

Now I hemmed the skirt. I folded the bottom edge inward by a half inch, then inward again by an inch and a half. This was sewn with a cross stitch.

red (33 of 52)

Since the top edge was straight, it was very easy for me to mark the pleats across the back three panels. I marked and pinned all the pleats on one half, then pinned it to my dress form.

red (34 of 52)

While it was on the form I adjusted the skirt until the hem was positioned how I wanted it. I used pins running horizontally to mark where I wanted the top trimmed down to. I ended up making a pattern for this, to used as a guide later on, but I didn’t get a photo of it.

red (35 of 52)

This test also made me realize the pleats needed to be deeper – the waistline was several inches too big.

Here it is pleated down properly. Note how the top edge is level? That is what you want!

red (37 of 52)

I used my pattern and chalk to mark the waistline onto the fabric. I sewed across this line, and stitched another line three quarters of an inch below that.

red (38 of 52)

Here it is after being trimmed down.

red (39 of 52)

I cut almost five inches off the front panel, then gathered it down to ten inches.

red (40 of 52)

I trimmed the allowance down to a half inch, then backed the top edge with ribbon.

red (42 of 52)

The skirt was pinned to the bodice. The pleated portion will be sewn to the bodice, the gathered portion is left free.

I secured the pleated parts in place with whip stitches.

red (43 of 52)

I notched the curved edges and pinned the seam allowance to the interior of the skirt. This was also whip stitched down.

For the seam allowance at the front, I whip stitched it to the lining. This isn’t historically correct, but I didn’t want the excess volume it would provide at the sides if I whip stitched it to the skirt.

This edge was left raw, as was common in the 18th century.

red (46 of 52)

The gathered portion was left raw as well.

I sewed a hook onto the end of the ribbon, and a loop into the interior of the bodice to serve as a closure. Here you can see it done up, the bodice simply laces overtop.

red (44 of 52)

This is the back – once again, this is the color of the material. It’s represented far more accurately here than in the worn photos, which is such a shame. But I will photograph it properly soon!

red (48 of 52)

Can we all appreciate how even the pleats are on the interior? Especially compared to the linen skirt…

red (49 of 52)

Speaking of comparing this to the linen dress, how about some side by side comparisons?

I think the most dramatic is the profile. Even though I’m still not 100% happy with the fit of the back at the waist, it is SO much better! Look at the sharp curve down the back. And how it sits flat across the bust. A drastic improvement!

z

Here the difference in sleeves is clearer – the shoulder has a much nicer slope, and the sleeves are a lot tighter. Even though the sleeves are tighter, I actually have a lot more mobility because the armscye was smaller.

dsc

And from the front – no pooling of fabric around the neckline, or rippling across the bodice. The sleeves have way fewer wrinkles as well, and a much slimmer more flattering silhouette!

purple (21 of 36)

And here is a mirror shot, that also shows the improved fit – especially in the sleeves and bust!

red (45 of 52)

And here are some full body shots.

red (3 of 6)

thuimb

red (2 of 6)

Overall I think this is a HUGE improvement. I’m a lot happier with the fit of this, it’s more comfortable than the previous dress, and easier to get into!

Fittings are such an important part of historical costumes. Not necessarily a fun part, since you have to get your foundations on and off a bunch of times, but it makes a big difference in the end result. I think the comparison shots in this post are proof of that.

To finish this off I wanted to share some pictures of the shoes I got to go with this. During the American Duchess sale over Thanksgiving I picked up a pair of the Kensington shoes in the color Oxblood*.

red (12 of 52)

I bought the Fraser’s in black* back in October (review here), but wanted shoes in that would be more appropriate for the second half of the 18th century. I knew I would be buying these at some point during 2018, and I decided it was better to get them while they came with free buckles.

I like the red because it will go with black based, or white based projects. I also have a red robe a la turque these will compliment, and of course they go with this piece nicely as well. The red is darker than I had expected, but I like that. It makes them more versatile. red (13 of 52)

At first I thought these ran large, and considered returning them. But I think it’s just the leather lining that threw me off, since they are stiffer than the linen lined Fraser’s they don’t “hug” the foot as much at first. After adding buckles they fit me perfectly.

I really like the leather lining compared to linen – no frayed edges! But I did find this made the buckles more difficult to put in.

red (9 of 52)

I bought the clear charlotte buckles which are so, so pretty. I love them. But I wish the short spikes were longer. These pop out every time I unbuckle the shoe, even after notching the holes so they would sit deeper in them.

red (10 of 52)

It’s not a huge deal since I can actually slip the shoes on and off without undoing them (they are a little wide on me, and this doesn’t seem to stretch the tops). But it was a pain when trying to get them on the first time. Hopefully the holes will stretch and this will cease to be an issue.

Overall, I’m really happy with these! They are so pretty and the fit of them is really nice now that the buckles are in. As always they are very comfortable and I look forward to wearing them. But I need to get some leather protectant for them first!

red (52 of 52)

I did want to mention: If you are a large footed gal and trying to decide between these and the Fraser’s (and aren’t too concerned about the periods they represent) I think the Fraser’s are a bit more flattering on the foot. The pointed tongue and higher heel definitely make the foot look more steamlined and smaller. Not that these are unflattering I just prefer the shape of the Fraser.

red (50 of 52)

And that covers everything! Now to make a matching coat so I can get some proper pictures of this!

Thanks for reading!

A Purple Linen 18th Century Dress

Today I’m writing about a project I finished almost six months ago. This was made in the summer, a few days after I discovered and binged the entire first season of Poldark.

loved that show. From the story to the way it was shot to the costumes. It was my first time seeing lower class garments from the late 1700’s represented on film and I quickly decided I had to make something inspired by it.

I went into this project being really excited. I’d been working a lot on my beetlewing dress and thought this could be a fun fast project. And it was! But that mindset lead to me rushing the earlier, very important steps which I don’t find as enjoyable. Mainly the pattern drafting and fitting process.

From a distance I don’t think this project looks awful – or even bad. But there are a ton of problems with the fit that wouldn’t have been problems at all if I had been a bit more meticulous in the earlier stages.

a-4526resize

The reason I’m talking about this project now is because it recently motivated me to make another “simple” late 18th century project, just without the plethora of fit issues. And I succeeded! The dress turned out so much better than this one. But honestly, I learned a lot more from this failed attempt than my new pretty dress. And I thought you might too, so let’s go through how I made it, and what I should have done differently.

(Note, there is also a video showing the construction in more detail. It can be watched here)

My 18th century bodice pattern is constantly evolving. Three years ago it started as an incorrectly scaled up version of one from Janet Arnolds Patterns of Fashion 1*. But it has been altered to an unrecognizable state, with me “fixing” things every time.

purple (2 of 36)

The last time I used this pattern was for a striped taffeta evening gown. That ended up a bit too small, and cut too high at the waist. So I fixed those things and also changed the shape of the points at the front and back to better represent the later period.

I’m pretty sure I made a mock up of this, and it fit “well enough” so I moved on right away.

purple (1 of 36)

The construction was super simple, I cut the lining from ivory linen and assembled it by machine.

purple (4 of 36)

I turned all the seams inward, then pinned them down. Once sewn these will create boning channels which add support to the back and sides of the garment.

purple (5 of 36)

Here they are after being sewn. I filled these with 1/4″ plastic boning which was purchased from onlinefabricstore.net

purple (6 of 36)

Then I assembled the top layer, this time from a brilliant purple linen. The fabric is probably my favorite part of this costume, it’s such a great color! I think it’s around $20/yd from Jo-anns but with coupons it becomes a lot more reasonable.

purple (3 of 36)

The only difference between the lining and the top layer is that the top layer doesn’t have boning channels.

purple (7 of 36)

With the wrong sides facing each other and a half inch seam allowance I sewed around the edges. The only edges I left open were the tops of the straps. The entire bodice (including boning) was turned the right way out through these two inch openings.

I’m absolutely shocked this worked. It took me a good twenty minutes, but eventually I got it done! Then I used a pencil to make sure all the corners were sharp and pinned around the edges.

purple (8 of 36)

I sewed around the edges by hand, using matching embroidery floss. I left my stitches pretty large since I wanted them to be visible. I’m really happy with how this looks, it shows up in a lot of the photos and adds a bit of texture and a home-made feel. Exactly what I was going for!

I also stitched a half inch away from the front edge to create a boning channel. I had to remove some stitching around the neckline to get the bone in, which was re sewn by hand when topstitching around the neckline.

purple (12 of 36)

purple (11 of 36)

The closures for this piece are hooks and bars. I usually use loops and hooks, but decided to give bars a try. I liked how these looked, but they did not want to stay done up. I’ve had this problem before with skirts that are slightly too large – they seem to undo themselves! I need to start alternating hooks and bars on each side.

purple (13 of 36)

The last step were the sleeves. I believe these were cut from an altered Janet Arnold pattern, too. They really don’t suit this style of dress but I didn’t take them time to draft something more appropriate.

They are lined with linen as well, and I topstitched by hand across the hem.

purple (9 of 36)

I gathered the tops to fit the armscye, then whip stitched them on. I didn’t even finish the tops of the sleeves!

purple (15 of 36)

And that is pretty much it for the bodice.

purple (32 of 36)

However you may notice some ugly darts on the back panel. This is because they were WAY too wide, and gaped away from my body pretty spectacularly.

purple (33 of 36)

The skirt was a rectangle, with a sloped top edge. I cut it out with measurements I took at the beginning which is not what I would recommend doing at all.

I think it’s much better to cut all the panels as rectangles of the same length, then sew and pleat them accordingly. After the top edge is pleated down, adjust it on your dress form and trim excess off from the top.

When you trim it before pleating, there isn’t a straight edge to use as a guide when marking the pleats. Because of this I could not for the life of me get the pleats even. I ended up doing a lot of them by eye while it was on the dress form, leaving the interior looking like this…

purple (36 of 36)

The top edge was bound with straight binding sewn on by hand. I used a skirt hook as a closure. The closure is at the centerback, which I also wouldn’t recommend. The back of the skirt is where the most volume should be, adding a closure there prevents it.

purple (34 of 36)

I topstitched the seam allowance on the center back seam down by hand to mirror the handwork on the bodice.

purple (35 of 36)

The hem is the best part of this. It is a rolled two inch hem, which was sewn by hand with running stitches.

purple (18 of 36)

And that is it! How about we take a moment to appreciate these photos before I tear it to shreds.

edit (4 of 5)resizea-4526resizea-4529resizea-4533resizeedit (2 of 2)resize

Okay. So what is actually wrong with this?

The skirt has a few problems I already mentioned. I should have trimmed the top after pleating, not before. This lead to uneven pleats, and the hem being really odd. The skirt is several inches off the ground at the front, and slopes dramatically at the back to the point where it drags.

I placed the closure at the back, which I’m not a fan of. And my attempt at pleated by eye means the overall top edge measurement was wrong. This causes the skirt to slip off the waist and leaves the top edge visible below the bodice.

purple (29 of 36)

For the bodice, the techniques used were fine. I actually used the exact same process for my new and improved 18th century dress. The issues all come down to decisions made in the first hour of starting on this.

AKA: Not testing my pattern properly.

I made a mock up, but a mock up isn’t everything. The real fabrics will behave very differently and constant fittings are crucial to a good finished product. I don’t think I tried this on over stays until the entire thing was finished, which is a huge no-no.

There are also things I should have picked up on from the first mock up which I missed. Mainly that the armscye were way too wide and deep. This hinders mobility when paired with a fitted sleeve, so I used a wider sleeve pattern, which didn’t suit this period and wasn’t very flattering. I didn’t test this sleeve pattern either, so it ripples a lot and has too much volume in the shoulder.

purple (27 of 36)

Another flaw is how wide the straps were. They extend to the very edge of my shoulder. That paired with the volume in the sleeves makes my shoulders look broader than they are. I believe I made them wider to support the neckline, but if the rest of the bodice fit properly that wouldn’t be necessary.

Speaking of poor fit, this bodice was way too big for me. Especially in the bust. I can pull it almost two inches away from my chest.

IMG_1837

This causes gaping, and folds of fabric near the armpit. You can also spot the sleeves wrinkling heavily in this position.

purple (28 of 36) The final problem is the back panels not being fitted at the waist…at all.

I actually found this part very difficult to fit on my reattempt too, unless you have someone with experience there to help you it’s tricky. But I’m not sure how I got it this wrong.

This effectively ruins the side profile of this dress.

purple (30 of 36)

It’s probably three and a half inches too big at points. Ridiculous! And this is after adding the darts. Those darts also had an unfortunate side effect – it caused the point to stick out like a little tail unless pinned down.

And another cameo from the slipping waistband.

purple (31 of 36)

I think that covers all the issues. A lot of these could be fixed with darts (lots and lots of darts) but that wouldn’t look very good. Fit issues this dramatic really need to be resolved before cutting out the bodice. Or at least before sewing the lining and top layer together.

purple (21 of 36)

purple (24 of 36)

It would take more time to fix than it would to remake, so I don’t plan on revisiting this piece. But I’m not too upset, I wasted some fabric and a few days of time, but I learned so much. And I’m happy to take everything I learned and put it into a dress that doesn’t have any of those problems.

In fact, I already have, and I love it a lot!

DSC_8074resize

Construction notes on that should be up tomorrow, so keep an eye out!

Thanks for reading!

.

.

Font credit goes to Qwerks

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!

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.

final-0907

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.

final-0954

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.

final-0951

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

final-0953

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.

final-0956

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

final-0957

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!

final-0960

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.

final-0964

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.

final-0979

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.

final-0971

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

final-0978

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

final-0980

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.

final-0984

final-0985

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.

final-1021

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

final-1024

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 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!