1840’s Dotted Dress, Photos

I think this is my first costume photo set of the year. How wild is that?!

These were taken a location we visit often – conveniently right next to a busy street where people can stare, and unruly patches of poison ivy. But there is fence and sometimes cute horses, so sacrifices must be made.

These photos are of my 1840’s dotted dress, which I made over the course of a week and have spent the last month blogging about. You can read about the construction in more detail here, here, and here!

This project was based on examples from the 1840s, and made from eight yards of quilting cotton using a self drafted pattern.

Unfortunately my giant organza petticoat wasn’t done at the time I photographed this – so the skirt is lacking some of the fullness I had hoped for. But I don’t think that takes away from the pictures too much. Or at least I hope not!

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My least favorite part of this dress is the back – I feel like the fit problems I mentioned in my making of posts are a lot more obvious here. Taking it in at the back seam would help a lot, but the waistline should be raised slightly too.

Thanks to the way I stitched the skirt on, that would be an easy fix. I don’t like returning to “finished” dresses, but maybe when the weather cools down I’ll be  motivated to do that – and re photograph it with my fuller petticoat!

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Despite my annoyance with making the bonnet, I do love the profile it has!

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And I like this photo almost enough to ignore all the rippling at the back (okay, not quite, but close)!

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And that is it!

Thank you for reading, and for all the comments on my posts about making this. I’m looking forward to sharing some other photo sets (and progress posts) very soon!

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1840’s Dotted Dress – Part Three

Today I have the final post about making my orange 1840’s dress to share! I planned on this going up sooner…but we all know how my blog plans go (the don’t).

However I can promise that this post will be followed by one with photos of the finished garment when worn!

The last post ended with a finished bodice – (if you missed that post, it can be read here) but there was more work to be done! Like making the skirt, and a matching headpiece.

Because you need a matching headpiece.

The skirt was really easy – it’s just three 42″ wide panels seamed together, hemmed, and gathered down to match the waist measurement of the bodice.

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After stitching the pieces together I folded the bottom edge inward by a half inch.

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Then I folded the bottom edge inward by three inches, and stitched it down by hand to avoid visible topstitching.

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Since the skirt was three panels, and evenly gathered, a seam didn’t fall at the center back. So I had to slash one of the panels and finish the opening with bias binding. This will line up with the back opening of the bodice and allow me to easily get the dress on and off.

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The top edge was gathered down.

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I turned the bottom edge of the bodice inward by a half inch. Then topstitched the skirt to the right side of the bodice. The raw edges were all hidden by a band stitched to the outside of the bodice. This was visible on the extant garment I referenced, which is why I chose to do it this way.

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I ended up sewing the skirt on kind of unevenly – but it was intentional! this way it rests a little higher at the front.

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That finished off the dress! Overall, I’m happy with this. However the fit could use some work (I would say it is a full inch too big) and it really needs a modesty panel. Since I used hooks and loops, my foundations were slightly visible at the back.

But as I said in my last post, I’m going to resolve that by swapping the loops out with bars, and having the back edge overlap by an inch (this will fix the fit, too!).

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I think my favorite part of this dress are the gathers – I love the effect of hand stitched, dense gathers, and they are plentiful on this dress!

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I’m also happy that I’ve finally (somewhat) successfully executed the tiny piping which was so popular during this period. It makes me feel more confident about some 1810-1820s pieces I’ve wanted to make for a while!

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And here is the hem after being ironed!

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As far as headwear, I decided this dress needed a bonnet. I based mine on a few references…but I won’t share them, because it looks nothing like them!

I decided to use a cheap straw hat as a base (this one, to be exact), which meant the design had to conform to the existing shapes of the hat.

I used the cap for the back of the bonnet.

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And cut down the brim to form the front.

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I stitched wire into the edges of the pieces to make them posable. This was a nightmare, the straw kept cracking and it killed my fingers. I don’t think I will ever attempt hand sewing with this straw ever again.

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I lined it with a peachy colored silk dupioni. This wasn’t fun either, but there was less tension pulling on the silk so it was slightly more forgiving on my fingers.

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I used a rectangle of silk to make lining for the cap, too.

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Here the cap is attached to the brim – I mostly used glue for this, since my hand stitching kept tearing out.

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I added ties and flowers, and the bonnet was done! Visually this is fine, and it suits the costume well. But I despised making this. It sucked having to alter my vision to the shape of the straw, and the straw was so difficult to work with. I had to glue a lot of elements and the end result is less durable than I would have liked.

But it is cute. So there is that!

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Here is everything worn together! And as I said, a full post of photos will be up soon.

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Thanks for reading!

1840’s Dotted Dress – Part Two

Today I have the second post about my 1840’s dress to share! This piece is made from a dotted cotton and based on an extant garment.

If you missed part one, it can be read here. We left off with a partially assembled bodice, and some fit problems in the shoulder.

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My solution for the problem was a patch that is about 2″ wide. All of its edges are piped, and its curvature matches the armscye so it doesn’t stick out *too* badly. This gave me enough room to easily get my arms into the bodice – with a bit of space to spare for the sleeves!

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With the pieces fully connected, I stitched piping into the armscye. Unlike the other methods used for this bodice, this time I sewed the piping to the bodice with the right sides facing each other. Then I turned the seam allowance of the piping inward and whip stitched it to the lining.

The raw edges were covered later on with bias binding.

I also stitched piping around the neckline, using the same method.

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Then I put the bodice on my dress form – with the the wrong side facing out. And I pinned the yoke lining into the bodice. This is the BEST way to line fitted garments that have some shape to them.

After removing it from the form I slip stitched the lining into position.

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Now onto sleeves! Sleeves are usually my nemesis, but the design for these doesn’t require a lot of fitting, so it was relatively painless.

Here you can see my mockup (top piece) and the two part pattern I ended up with. The top piece attaches to the bodice, and has ruffles stitched to the bottom edge. The second piece supports the second tier of ruffles.

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Speaking of ruffles – these were made from 42″ x 4.5″ strips of the cotton. I hemmed them by hand with slip stitches.

I had to hem four of these strips in total (two for each sleeve). But it was fun! I hadn’t had a simple hand sewing project in a long time, I really enjoyed zoning out in front of the tv while doing this.

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The ruffles were also gathered down by hand.

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Here is the top portion of the sleeve attached to the first ruffle. Piping was inserted into top piece of the sleeve before stitching the ruffles on…because that is the 1840’s for ya!

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Ruffle two sewn on to the second piece of the sleeve.

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The side seams for each piece were done independently, so they layers can move freely.

After stitching the side seams I whip stitched the pieces together from the inside.

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And that is the process of making pretty, ruffly sleeves. These were actually my favorite part of the project – I never thought I’d see the day when I say that about SLEEVES! But I guess if there are enough ruffles I’ll enjoy making anything.

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These were stitched on to the bodice by hand, and the seam allowance was whip stitched down.

The (almost) finished bodice looked like this!

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At some point along the way I turned the back edge inward, and stitched in hooks/eyes.

But I’m going to redo this at some point, since I realized after photographing this project that the bodice is too big.  I’m going to switch the hooks out with bars, and have the back edge overlap by 3/4″.

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And that is going to be the end of another post! I’m trying to keep these short so I can space them out somewhat. Next time I’ll talk a bit about the skirt and the matching bonnet!

Thanks for reading – and for the response to my first post about this dress. I appreciate the patience regarding my lack of updates!

1840’s Dotted Dress – Part One

Surprise, I’m not dead! And I have an explanation (kind of).

I have been sewing, and I have been writing, but I’ve been documenting the process over on Patreon and my YouTube channel.

This year I’ve tried to make my social media presence (if you can call it that) a little more profitable to justify the amount of time I devote to it. And unfortunately for my blog, that has meant focusing on platforms that allow monetization. So I’ve been making a lot of simpler garments which allow me to keep a more regular video schedule.

This has meant my time for elaborate historical things is limited. And there isn’t a whole lot to write about/document when making more modern items or simpler pieces.

But I’m trying to find more balance – (It’s hard when you work from home and every hour can be a work hour) and find the time to focus on projects I’m really excited about. Projects that have enough substance to them that I can actually blog about them.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever be as regular about posting as I was in 2015-2016, but do want to try to write when I can.

That’s not an excuse or anything! It’s an explanation, totally different.

Now onto the true topic of todays post – a new dress!

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Last month I had a spare week or two that I could devote to projects of my own choosing. And I decided that two weeks was enough time to make a summery  dress.

I was kind of creatively exhausted and didn’t want to make anything *too* complicated, so I decided to make a pair of mid 1800s dresses based on extant examples.

This specific design was  based on two dresses from the Met. And when researching it further I found several other examples (take a scroll through this) which are almost identical. I always find it interesting when fashion trends are so obvious in historical pieces.

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More photos here and here.

I think I was drawn to this style since It’s kind of the opposite of projects I’ve made before, while still being really similar. I’m used to the ruched/pleated/gathered portions of a bodice being around the neckline, with a fitted bodice to the waist. Where this has a fitted yoke, and gathering around the bust. I thought it was just different enough to be a fun challenge for me, without actually being challenging (creatively burnt out, remember?)

And I was right! I like this dress, and I loved working on it.

The main material for this dress is a dotted cotton with a reddish orange base. It’s a nice quality quilting cotton which I purchased in Lancaster for $4.99/yd. I had eight yards of it, and I ended up using a matching apparel fabric purchased on the same trip to trim the bonnet.

I like this fabric, but the colors remind me of condiments. A ketchup base with dollops of mustard, relish, and a sprinkle of pepper. It’s like elegant hot dog fabric. Mmm…

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Now let’s talk construction! I started by (not so professionally) draping the pattern. This was harder than I expected. The extant example I was imitating had a very high, modest neckline…but also nearly fell of the mannequins shoulder! Which is pretty contradictory.

This is what I ended up with.

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I transferred that to paper, then made it into a mockup. I was being obnoxiously lazy and actually fitted this over a 1950’s girdle instead of my 1830’s stays.

BUT IN MY DEFENSE, they have a really similar effect of lightly shaping the body to the waist, and separating/lifting the chest. 10/10 would recommend if you are too lazy to lace up regency stays.

Now you might be able to tell that I made some slight alterations. The gathered portion was really droopy, and needed to be lifted by over an inch. It fit well over the shoulder, but the neckline was really low and arched. I raised and flattened it by quite a lot.

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However, in general I was pretty pleased with this. I’ve had some bad experiences with gathering and bodice patterns. Unless there is a lot of tension on the gathering, it poofs out and can look really silly. So this gave me confidence moving forward!

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After making the pattern alterations,  I could get to work! And step one was making piping. All the piping. Something I don’t love about the mid 1800s is the quantity of tiny pointless piping that borders EVERY edge of the garment. What purpose does adding piping around the armscye have? None. And usually, matching piping was used, so you could barely see it!

But it is a staple for this period, and something I’m determined to improve at. So I used some cording from home depot, tiny bias cut strips of fabric, and my piping foot to create a dozen yards of it.

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In the past I’ve done this with silk and had horrible, very puckered results. But it went really well this time – and after a quick iron my piping was ready to be used!

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The first place it is featured is in the seams of the back panel.

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I stitched the piping onto the rounded edge of the side panel by machine.

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Then I stitched a half inch away from the edge of the back panel, and used that line of stitching as a guide for ironing the edge inward.

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The folded edge was pinned to the edge of the piping.

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Then I stitched the pieces together by hand, using a backstitch.

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Onto the front panel! I cut this out, then marked lines 2″ and 3″ away from the bottom edge. The bodice was gathered down by hand at these points, with the bottom row of gathering being 6″ wide, second row 6.5″ wide, and the final row 7″ wide.

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I did this all by hand so the gathers would be all cute and precise. The top edge was also gathered down by hand.

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The bottom edge of the bodice will be covered with a 3″ wide band, and I didn’t want the bulk of gathers to be visible underneath it. So the gathered panel was sewn to a 3″ wide strip before being sewn to the other bodice pieces.

This was sewn by machine to the side panels – this might be the only seam on this thing that doesn’t involve piping.

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But it DID involve boning! I was worried the gathered portion would ride up and poof out, so I stitched the seam allowance together to form a boning channel. Then I added a plastic bone on either side. This worked really well in keeping it positioned – I’m so glad I chose to do this.

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Then I cut lining from a very lightweight cotton. Every part of the bodice is lined except for the gathered portion. Traditionally this probably would have had a pieced lining to offer more support, but I didn’t think that was necessary to achieve the shape I wanted.

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I stitched piping onto the top edge of the main bodice piece by machine, then hand stitched the yoke on top of that.

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The same process was repeated for the shoulder seam.

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Except I goofed up and made the shoulder allowance too small, so I couldn’t actually get my arm through the armscye. Gotta love off the shoulder pieces which have ONE inch of difference between “Too small to get on/move in” and “Too big, falls off”.

Luckily this piece didn’t have a lot of decoration on the collar/yoke, so I managed to figure out a fix for it. After a several hour long break, of course.

Since this is when I took a break in the project, it seems like a natural breaking point in this post!

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So I think this is where I’m going to end this post and todays musings. But the dress is done, and all the progress photos are edited. So I should have more updates soon.

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Thanks for reading!

 

Making & Wearing a 1950’s Swing Coat

Usually I start the year off with a wrap up showing the previous years projects and my thoughts on them. But I’m not particularly happy with how 2017 went, and I’d rather move forward with new things than write about my previous work.

So today’s post is going to focus on my first project of 2018: A 1950’s ensemble. This project was inspired by the glorious mid century costumes used in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “The Crown”.

(both of which are wonderful shows if you are looking for something new to watch!)

Mrs. Maisel featured a lot of very vibrant pieces, with outfit changes between almost every scene. I was especially fond of her oversized coats, and it seemed like an appropriate season to sew one for myself!

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I didn’t have anything in my stash that would work, and most wools I found online were outside of my price range. But I ended up lucking out and finding a 5 yard cut of bright green textured wool from Fabric Warehouse that was $50. Score!

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I did a lot of pinterest browsing prior to draping this, but nothing really sparked my interest. I wanted this to be styled after swing coats, with tons of volume. But I also wanted to have it be functional, with a collar and buttons as opposed to an open front. To make it harder,  most of the wintery “swing coats” I found were lacking the dramatic silhouette I wanted.

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I had a few ideas sketched out but created most of the design elements while draping. Which was also a challenge – I’m not entirely comfortable draping loose garments, since there isn’t as much of a guide to go off of when it comes to fit. It was also difficult to imagine the design made out of the thick wool when I was draping it from flannel.

I ended up with this, which surprisingly turned into a passable mockup. So I transferred it to paper and decided to go for it! I figured worse case scenario the panels would be wide enough I could make changes as I went.

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I focused on the back panel first, since it has the most volume.

It’s made from four pieces – two that meet at the center back, with one gored panel on either side. The pieces were sewn together with one inch seam allowances, then topstitched down. I didn’t worry too much about raw edges since this wool doesn’t fray.

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Then the back panels were pleated. I topstitched the top 12 inches of the pleats down to create a slimmer shape around the torso.

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Another view – the stitching isn’t perfect but this was very difficult to manipulate through the sewing machine, so cut me some slack!

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Then I cut out the sleeves…which were also upper portion of the back panel. The sleeves are raglan style, so these pieces were connected.

I stitched three quarters of an inch away from the bottom edge to create a guide for turning the edge inward.

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And here it is pinned on. I topstitched this in place by machine.

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The front panels are much narrower, and shaped with darts above the bust. I topstitched the upper portion / sleeves onto these pieces as well.

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Even though the edges of the wool don’t fray, the interior of the upper portion was looking pretty messy, so I lined it with a colorful cotton sateen. green coat (16 of 45)

Now it was time for the buttonholes. I chose to do welted buttonholes since I like how professional they look. I was a little worried the material would be too thick to pull them off, but it totally worked!

This was actually my first time using this technique on a garment so I didn’t take many pictures of the process, but there are a lot of tutorials out there if you’re curious.

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I turned the front edges inward and lined them with more cotton sateen. The lining around the buttonholes got a bit messy – I should have marked the cutout placement on the fabric instead of doing it by eye.

But no one will see that since I only photographed the other side!

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The front lining was secured with a cross stitch, and I hand stitched across the center front edge with a running stitch.

Then I sewed on buttons, which are very simple, but MASSIVE. I originally wanted to use vintage buttons on this, but they were all too expensive. So I purchased these from here instead.

I think this was a good call – not only were they cheaper, the more elaborate vintage buttons might have been a bit too much for this design.

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Now the shoulder seams and side seams were done up…only for me to find out the jacket was too big. I cut a good two inches of width out of the underarm, then redid the seams. This looked way better.

At this point I was trying to figure out the cuffs. I originally wanted them to flare out and reveal the lining. But the edges were really bulky and I thought the visible splash of pink made the coat less versatile. So I cut four inches off the sleeves and sewed on rectangular cuffs made from a scrap of green wool instead.

This looked so much better, I’m thrilled I made the change.

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Now for the collar! This was made from a layer of wool and a layer of cotton sateen for lining.

I made a mockup for this at the beginning of  the project, but decided to do another test before cutting it from wool. This was another good call! After a few minor changes to the pattern the proportions of the collar were way better.

I sewed it onto the neckline by hand, then flipped it out and pinned the edges while it was on my dress form. I’m not sure how I came to the idea (because it looked fine before I did this) but I decided to pleat the front of the collar. This added more shape and a really unique detail – so I decided to go with it!

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The collar was tacked in place, and that’s it for the jacket!

I did also make a hat to go with this – I didn’t document the process very well, but I’ll do a pillbox hat tutorial in the future. It was basically a rectangle and oval cut from heavy weight interfacing, with wire in the edges and cotton sateen lining.

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I padded the top and edges heavily, then pinned an oval of coating on the top. Then I pulled a loop of coating over the sides,  and whip stitched around it. The bottom edge of the coating was whip stitched to the lining, and a comb was pinned into it prior to wearing. Easy peasy!

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I did also make a dress to go with this. But at this point I was focusing on filming the process (that video can be seen HERE) so I neglected to photograph most of the steps.

The dress was supposed to be a simple number made from a bright pink cotton suiting which was shown in the material picture at the top of this post. But after washing that fabric it felt like cheap, stiff, thick, bedsheets – not really what I wanted. I also wanted to wear black and white shoes with this ensemble and knew that wouldn’t match.

After another pinterest browsing spree I decided to make a fitted bodice with a sheer pleated overlay and full skirt.

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Here is the mock up – this was intended to be the base layer. The pleated layer would be made from rectangles that were draped, gathered, and trimmed overtop.

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Mockup number one looked okay.

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But when I did some tests with my fabric, I realized the sheer fabric I wanted use crinkled up when it became wet. It’s a cool effect, but not for the structured pleats I wanted. It also ruined the dresses washability…so I decided to use the cotton on its own.

This meant I had to pleat down rectangles then kind of cut them to the shape of the pattern pieces…but not entirely, since then the pleats wouldn’t be straight. It was all less than ideal but looked okay in the end.

The pleats are half inch wide knife pleats which I topstitched down a quarter inch away from the edge.

There is also a facing that flips outward to create a decorative collar detail, which is what you see here.

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My original button plan had to be scrapped since they were ivory and clashed with the white cotton. But this meant I could use these bright vintage ones I bought in PA earlier in the year! I got these for $1 a card which I was pretty happy about.

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Buttons on, buttonholes done. I realize now the buttonholes were too close to the edge because I did my math wrong. So I need to be more careful about that next time..but it still looks okay!

At this point I did a fitting and removed a huge wedge from the side seam. I also shaped the bodice with a dart/pleat instead of the originally planned gathering. Though this was a thin cotton, it looked to bulky when I attempted that.

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The seams were done up with french seams. I also drafted a quick sleeve pattern and got that sewn on. I wasn’t kidding about the lack of progress pictures, this is the next one I took!

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One of my favorite bits about this is a little placket (?) / tab (?) thing that I added. This extends out from the neckline and hooks on to the second button. It looks cute on its own, and even cuter with a bow threaded through it!

This bow was made from a floral fabric I got at jo-anns. The bow was made from triangles, instead of rectangles, which gave it an interesting shape.

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The skirt was made from my remaining fabric – I tore it into two 30″ x 72″ pieces, then sewed them together with a french seam. The front was folded inward several times until the material was thick enough to sew button holes into.

(the bottom 12″ or so of the front skirt panels were topstitched shut as opposed to seamed)

I did a massive 4″ hem on this skirt, then gathered down the top by machine. The pieces were sewn together at the waist, and I bound the edge with bias tape.

And that was pretty much it! A few more buttons were added and its done. Not quite what I originally envisioned, but I like the end result.

It’s slightly long waisted and the buttons are too far over, but for $16 of material and less than two days work I think it is okay!

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And with the coat (which is the real stunner, in my opinion)

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Now for the finished “look”! Modern pieces are so much more fun when it comes to makeup and accessories.

I tried curling my hair outward to get that Mrs. Maisel flip, but it was sort of a fail – I think my hair is too long. Regardless, I like how it looked, and it held up to the crazy winds we had when photographing this piece.

My lip color is Dusty Rose from Besame, and everything else is pretty much identical to what I show in this video (I go through my hair styling process in that, too).

The earrings were my moms and perfectly match the buttons on the dress!

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The belt was vintage from the etsy seller TwinFoxVintage. And the shoes are from Royal Vintage*.

I want to talk about these shoes for a second, because visually they are probably my favorite pair I own. Black and white spectator pumps* are such a classic, and these are beautifully made. They really cup the foot and have sturdy padding in the soles.

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I know sometimes with cheap shoes (of which I own plenty) your foot pops out regardless of size since they aren’t shaped properly. That definitely isn’t a problem here.

I didn’t have any issues with grip when wearing them and the heel height is perfect. They are really flattering on the foot too, and creasing/wear on the leather has been minimal so far. I would definitely order more from the brand in the future with this in mind. (They’ve been teasing spring releases on instagram and I’m already excited).

BUT

They don’t fit me. The site advertises them as running large, so despite being a solid 10 I bought a 9.5. The right shoe actually fits me well, but the left shoe is…evil. It felt okay when I wore it around the house, just a little tight, but I was confident the leather would stretch. I also thought a size up might be too big for my right foot.

I WAS SO NAIVE.

After wearing them…Well, I’d share a picture but it’s not safe for work. It gave me blisters that bled through my sock after 20 minutes of wear. And I was in a situation where I had to wear them for hours. By the end of the day it was pretty horrifying. I refused to wear hard shelled shoes for the following two weeks.

I don’t think this is the shoes fault, just the sizing instructions. If I bought a 10 I would have been fine, but by the time I realized it wasn’t fine, the shoes had marks on their soles and couldn’t be returned.

I’ve been trying to stretch them with crumpled paper and it’s helped a lot, but I think the wearing in process is going to be long and hard for me. It sucks because if these did fit, I think they would probably be my most comfortable pair of heels based on what I mentioned above.

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So next time I’ll order my normal size (or maybe a size up). And do an indoor wear test for a lot longer to ensure they fit before wrecking my ability to return them!

As for foundations, the petticoat is from modcloth (it’s their longer one, but I really don’t like it and wouldn’t recommend it). The stockings have proper seams in them and were purchased from sockdreams, but are by the brand leg avenue. I ordered the plus sized option since I’m tall and they fit great!

This was also worn with a longline bra from the 50’s which I got on ebay.

Now for pictures!

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And that’s it! First project of the new year done. Now onto something new!

Thanks for reading!

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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Here it is after being trimmed down.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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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!

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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.

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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!

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

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And here are some full body shots.

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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*.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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And that is pretty much it for the bodice.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

Thanks for reading!

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Font credit goes to Qwerks

1918 Ensemble, Dressing for Downton

Today I’m dipping my toes into 1918, and the wonderful fashions it has to offer.

I actually researched this period quite heavily earlier in the year when I was pursuing a design job for something set in the early 20’s. The job didn’t work out, and it left me a little bitter towards the era. But this weekend my mom and I booked tickets to the Downton Abbey Exhibition and I thought it would be fun to wear an understated period costume to the event.

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The late nineteens are a perfect period for casual historical dress since the silhouette (though more modest than what is fashionable now) wasn’t dramatic like the early 1910’s, or the later 1920’s. Though corsets would have still been worn during this period, waistlines were starting to widen and you can get away without one. Perfect since I would have to wear this for four hours of public transit!

(it was also 2 days after Thanksgiving so a corset would not have been welcome regardless of the wear time…)

I based this ensemble mostly off of two ads: This one for the blouse, and this one for the skirt. I also made a coat to wear over it, which was based on ones from a winter Sears catalogue.

I had all the materials for this on hand, and made it over a 4 day period (some of those were half days with Thanksgiving and all). I’m really pleased with the end result and this may motivate me to make more vintage themed clothing to wear on a regular basis!

I started with the first piece: the camisole.

I draped this on my dress form. Getting the right amount of flounce at the hem to create the proper silhouette was probably the most difficult part.

This is it transferred to paper.

The body of the camisole is made from silk charmeuse. This particular cut was *very* off color, so one side is more yellow than the other, but it’s only really noticeable at the back.

I sewed a strip of wide cotton lace into the center (backed with more charmeuse) to serve as the statement of this blouse.

I’m not sure when this lace is from, but it came from a collection that included pieces from 1910. Based on the design and weight I would not be surprised if this lace was also from that period. I outlined it with some zig-zag edging to add a bit more texture.

The collar of the camisole is also charmeuse, but I backed it with fusible interfacing. Then I stitched a half inch away from each edge, and used that as a guide when turning the edges inward.

It was pinned to the top edge of the camisole, with the right side facing the wrong side. Once turned the right way out all the raw edges will be hidden!

Then I topstitched the bottom edge down.

The bottom edge was gathered slightly at the front and sewn to an interfaced waistband.

The final addition were straps, made from bias cut strips sewn into tubes.

The back closes with three glass buttons. This is the first time I’ve done functional button holes in…3 years? Maybe longer?

I finally bought a home sewing machine, which though slower than my industrial, has some stitches and features that I’ve missed! The automatic buttonhole is one of those things.

It is a SINGER 4423 Heavy Duty *, if you were wondering. I go more in depth about it (and all my sewing machines) in this video.

I used the camisole as a base for draping my next pattern: the blouse. I believe these pieces would have been combined in the 20’s, with a closure hidden on one side. But I thought making them separate would make the pieces more versatile. And the camisole also provides enough coverage that I didn’t need to wear a slip over my bra.

Here is the pattern I ended up with. It’s shaped by pleats below the shoulder with a drawstring waistband.

I cut all the pieces out from a thin, crisp, silk shirting. This fabric was a dream to work with – I’ve never had something make french seams easier!

I didn’t take a lot of progress pictures for this, since it came together in a single evening. But here you can see the main pieces assembled. All the edges were finished by machine with rolled 1/4″ hems. Seams were flat felled, or finished with lace binding. And the bottom edge was turned inward to create a channel for ribbon.

I tried to draft the sleeve pattern for this the historical way, but I got confused and made it up instead. This worked surprisingly well! Fit the armscye perfectly on my first try. I just had to adjust the length and width a little.

The cuffs were gathered by machine.

Then sewn onto the cuffs. The raw edges were bound with lace binding. I wanted to add button closures but didn’t get the buttons (or know what size they would be) until the day before wearing this piece, so I used hooks instead.

The sleeves were sewn on by machine, then the raw edge was bound.

I also made the collar. This was assembled from a layer of the checked silk, which was backed with interfacing, and a layer of silk charmeuse, which was supposed to be lining. I sewed the layers together with the wrong sides facing each other, then topstitched around the edge.

It looked great! Until my iron smeared burned goop all over the corners of the checked side. I couldn’t get it off, and I didn’t have a lot of fabric left…so I made the charmeuse side face out instead. I actually really like the contrast of this, so it was a happy accident. But it means the topstitching looks a little sloppy since it was originally done on the other side.

I sewed the collar on by machine, then tacked it down a half inch away from the edge to keep it in place. The final touch were silk covered 3/4″ buttons. Three on either side of the bodice, and two on each cuff.

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I also added a snap just above the top button to secure it to the camisole.

And the back! I didn’t expect to love this as much as I do, but I’m really happy with it. It’s delicate yet structured and so different from anything I’ve done before.

I usually shy away from thin or slippery fabrics, unless I’m using them as an overlay. But making a tailored piece out of them was surprisingly easy and fun – I think this will motivate me to branch out more with my fabric choices.

Unfortunately the skirt didn’t go as well. At all. My first attempt was made from a beautiful wool, but the finished skirt looked awful. It had a wide, rounded waistband that made me look so heavy.

There was also way too much fabric, and it drooped at the seams. It was supposed to have pockets, which I tried making out of a contrasting wool, but then there was way too much contrast. So I remade them from matching fabric and it looked even worse! The whole thing was an unsalvageable mess.

Attempt number two was made in three hours from a purple chevron fabric I got from the plaiditudes collection at Jo-anns. I draped the skirt design on my dress form, then used the muslin as a pattern, adding seam allowances by eye. It was SO messy, but the end result turned out a million times better than my first attempt.

This skirt has way less volume, and has pleats in the back instead of gathers. The waistband is still wide, but it’s straight which is a lot more flattering. And there is decorative seaming down the front instead of pockets.

It’s not my best work, but it fit, and it looked pretty good!

I think the same can be said about the jacket. This piece was actually drafted, partially assembled, and completely cut out over a year ago – I even made a video about it. I planned on this being my winter coat for 2016, but after buying a glorious winter coat from J-Crew I lost interest.

The jacket also had some issues I wasn’t happy with. I ran low on material so I couldn’t make the skirt as wide or long as I wanted (it actually has plenty of volume, so I’m sort of glad for that now). I also had to ignore the grain line on some pieces, and didn’t have enough left for a matching hat which I was originally really excited about.

Plus the topstitching on this jacket was plagued with problems. It kept skipping stitches, which meant I had to sew over them again, leaving backstitch marks. This was made worse by my plan to use contrasting stitching during construction.

Even though this was only a year ago, I’ve learned a lot about my machine since then and working with heavier fabrics in general. Unfortunately that helps me moving forward, not with the issues this jacket already had. To fix the topstitching I would have had to completely disassemble the bodice and remove it all by hand. And that still wouldn’t resolve the grain line or length issues.

But I already had a lot done. So I decided to take a half day and get it finished, fully knowing that it was impossible to make it perfect given its other issues.

Finishing it included:

Figuring out which pieces went together

Figuring out wtf I was thinking with the pocket design (the required topstitching would have sewn them shut..)

Sewing the entire bottom half together

Hemming it

Sewing the cuffs on

Attaching / lining sleeves

Attaching bottom half

Lining the waistband

Sewing in closures

Tacking the collar

Sewing on buttons

…in less than a day.

Surprisingly, it turned out okay! I’m not going to share close ups since the finishing isn’t great at all. The interior skirt seams were left raw, and the topstitching  got a little messy at points. But it’s finished, and I love the shape and design of it. Hopefully I can reuse the pattern for a similar jacket, made to my current standards.

It’s a little wrinkly from yesterday.

And that is it! Four pieces in four days. All together I think they looked lovely. And it was surprisingly comfy and weather appropriate!

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I accessorized the ensemble with a pair of Katie & Kelly shoes (these were like $12 on clearance at DSW last year) and the Authentically Academic bag from Modcloth. I had gloves from the 40’s with me too, along with a 50’s themed pair of Quay sunglasses…so it was a little all over the place, but very retro.

For my hair I slept with a mixture of 3/4″ and 1″ curlers in, all wound inward towards my face. In the morning I brushed them out, then tucked the ends under and pinned them to the base of my scalp.

Sort of how you would do a faux bob, but the volume from the curls makes it look more like a fancy up do. I teased my bangs a bit and pinned them to the side. Then sprayed my hands with hairspray and used them to smooth and flatten the top before setting it with a heavy misting. It’s probably more of a 40’s style than 1918, but I felt it looked passable.

Any loose bits are probably from me trying to adjust bobby pins after putting the blouse on and getting the buttons caught in it. That happened several times.

That is it for today! Thanks for reading!

My next post will be about the exhibit itself!

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!