Making an 18th Century “Undress” Costume – The Jacket

It’s been a few weeks since I last posted. I was busy enjoying a break from social media obligations, but I’m back now and happy to be writing again! I have a ton of projects to talk about – both ones in progress, and ones I completed last year and never wrote about.

But I’m going to start the year off by talking about the first project I’ve completed in 2017: An 18th Century “Undress” Ensemble. It sounds a bit scandalous, but in this case “Undress” is used to refer to informal garments from the 1700’s, rather than anything that goes underneath them.

I decided to start on this after flipping through reference books in search of inspiration. The patterns for “undress” appropriate jackets in Janet Arnold’s  Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s Dresses* caught my eye – and a quick search through my stash showed that I had almost everything I needed to make one…plus a matching skirt and some knitwear accessories inspired by Outlander.

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I’m really happy with material selection for this – I used 6 yards of a checked brown and black fabric from the Plaiditudes collection (my favorite), 2 yards of loosely woven polyester, and a yard of purple sweater knit. I don’t think any of these are historically accurate, but I love the textures they have.

I did have to buy two buttons, two yards of interfacing, a yard of muslin, and two packages of embroidery floss (which came to a grand total of $8) but everything else was from my stash.

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To get started I scanned, then resized the jacket pattern from Janet Arnold’s book and copied it to paper. When doing this I changed the scale from 1″ to 1 1/4″ – which meant my pattern ended up being considerably larger than the original one. This was intentional, since I knew it would be easier to size it down than size it up while trying to preserve the pleats in the skirt.

The end result was way too long waisted for me, but the width was almost perfect. I raised the waistline by an inch, changed the back curve, and added a dart to the bust, but otherwise it was good!

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Here is the mock up I made. This jacket is meant to be worn with a stomacher, but a pattern for that wasn’t included. So I pinned a piece of cotton to the front of my stays, then drew the shape I thought the stomacher should have onto the cotton.

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The stomacher was actually the first part of this costume I began work on, and one of the things that attracted me to this project. I was going through hand sewing withdrawal and wanted something I could work on in front of the TV – hand embroidery seemed perfect for that!

I browsed through a lot of stomacher patterns but most were more eleborate than I wanted (and could manage with my meager embroidery skills). So I freehanded my own design that was simpler.

I drew the design right onto my pattern, then scanned it and made a few changes in photoshop. The design was mirrored, then printed out and taped together.

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wanted to traced the design onto my fabric, which would have made embroidering it way easier. But the weave of the fabric I chose was too loose – pencils didn’t mark it, and ink would spread down the fibers and be visible in the end.

So I used the method I usually use for sequins: Trace the design onto interfacing, then ironing the interfacing onto the back of fabric. I used basting stitches to bring the design to the front, then got to work!

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I didn’t take any progress shots with my “blogging” camera, but I did post a couple on instagram. I used a split stitch to outline everything, then filled sections in using a satin stitch. I tried to pick colors for this design that had the same level of depth as the purple and brown fabrics I’m using for the rest of the costume.

Here it is finished, right out of the hoop.

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And after being ironed! I’ve attempted a few embroidery projects before but this is the first one I’ve finished. Considering that, I’m really happy with it. It isn’t as symmetrical as I would like, but the inconsistencies aren’t too major either.

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I cut the embroidered piece to the right size, then sewed it to canvas and cotton with the right sides facing each other. After turning it the right way out the edges were neatly finished. Plastic boning was inserted between the cotton and canvas to help it sit nicely, then I tacked the layers together by hand.

I added a ruffle to the top edge for a bit of interest, and tabs of ribbon so I can pin it to my stays. And that was it!

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The rest of the jacket pieces (except for the sleeves…more on those later) were cut from the brown checked fabric. The bodice of the jacket was assembled by machine with half inch seam allowances.

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The “skirt” of the jacket was hemmed by hand. Looking back I wish I had bag lined with instead – doing those points was fiddly, and this fabric frayed so much that I had to do a double hem. The end result is really bulky and the pleats didn’t set as much as I would have liked.

But in the past I’ve bag lined the bottom of jackets and the lining was visible and looks awful. I guess the answer would be facing the hem with fashion fabric, then sewing lining in…but I didn’t have enough fabric to do that. Sometimes it feels like you can’t win!

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I ironed the pleats in place and marked the pocket placement with basting stitches.

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The waist seam was sewn – this should have been easy, but getting the point at the center back symmetrical was a huge chore and still isn’t perfect. After redoing it four times I gave up.

With the skirt on, I turned the front edge and neckline inward and sewed it down by hand.

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Then the lining was sewn in. The lining is made using the same pattern and made from lightweight cotton. It has two bones at the side seams and center back, along with a bone from the dart at the front down to the waistline. These help support the points at the front and back of the jacket as well as the eyelets.

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Here it is after all those steps.

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Next up – the eyelets. Annoyingly I couldn’t find brown thread that matched, so I used black instead. These were sewn by hand.

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And on to pocket flaps! I traced the pattern onto cotton, then pinned the cotton to my fashion fabric and sewed around the line I traced.

I cut a generous slash in the back so I could turn them the right way out, then topstitched around the edges by hand.

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Messy on the inside, but the front is what matters, right?

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I sewed them on over the basting stitches with tiny whip stitches.

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I really splashed on the buttons for these. They were a whole 60c.

(I bought and sewed these on after finishing the rest of the jacket so you won’t see them in the next few photos)

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Now it was time for sleeves. I was not excited about these. My instant success with the fit of the jacket did not extend to these – I found the original pattern for them way too wide in the cap of the sleeve, too curved at the elbow, not curved enough at the armscye. They didn’t sit nicely or fit at all.

After a ton of alterations I got something I was happier with. And I freehanded a cuff pattern to go with it.

Originally I was going to make the cuff a different style, but I didn’t have enough fabric for my first choice. And by that point I was too lazy to size the pattern up again just to trace the cuff out so I made something up.

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Everything was cut out. Then I marked the pintucks onto the top of the sleeves.

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These were pretty fiddly to do…

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But offer a smoother alternative to pleats or gathers, which I like.

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Then the side seams were done up.

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And I repeated the process with a silky lining. Not accurate, but makes getting a costume on way easier.

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I sewed these together at the cuff, then turned them the right way out and basted along the top edge.

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The cuffs were backed with interfacing, then sewn together. I used stitching to make guidelines a half inch away from each edge, then turned these edges inward by hand.

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I lined the cuffs with a heavyweight twill to help support them.

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Then I made a ruffle from the same fabric I used for the stomacher. Originally the tops of these were supposed to be visible over the cuffs…but that looked bad.

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After some trial and error I decided they looked best pinned to the interior of the sleeves. I neglected to finish the top edge before sewing these in place. The end result is hilariously messy. I’m kind of ashamed.

BUT I was an hour away from finishing this costume and really impatient, so I pressed on. I do plan on fixing this later, but it would have been a lot faster to finish them in the moment. I don’t know how my brain gets so excited to spent 15 hours embroidering something but can’t take an extra 10 minutes to neatly finish a raw edge.

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Luckily it looks nice from the outside.

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I sewed the sleeves onto the bodice, and that was it!

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Aside from a few details in the finishing (the point at the back, the hem, the interior of the cuffs…) I’m really happy with this. The fit is pretty great, I can get into it on my own, I love the fabrics, and it’s a bit different from what I usually do.

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Here is a crappy picture of it worn.

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In case the dirty mirror makes that photo too horrifying to look at – here is a photo of it worn with the skirt!

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And that’s it for today! Part two should be up soon, but I have a fabric haul to share first.

Thanks for reading, and I hope your year is off to a good start!

 

 

Making an 18th Century Robe a la Turque (or something similar), Part One

Last month I finally felt brave enough to revisit a period I always seem to fail at: The 1700’s. The eighteenth century seems to be the favorite of historical costumers, but my attempts never seem to turn out well. In 2014 I devoted October to 18th century projects which ended with two finished dresses that both sucked. Last year I made a more elaborate ensemble, which I like…but the skirts hem is uneven, and I can barely lift my arms when it’s worn.

Earlier this year I had some success with a 1790’s dress, which gave me enough confidence to attempt 18th Century October again. The plan was to complete a Robe a la Turque, and a striped Robe a L’anglaise. I didn’t end up finishing these in October since the month was busier than planned, but I did complete both projects in November! And today I’m going to talk about one of them.

I came up with this design and purchased the fabrics for this back in April. It’s supposed to be a Robe a la Turque, but 18th century garment classification is hard and I haven’t researched it that thoroughly so I’m not sure if this qualifies as one or not. I think it is just a zone front gown, but I’m going to style it like a turque and it has features that were common on them.

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The fabrics I got are very warm in color – orange shantung, iridescent organza, and pink taffeta. I based the color scheme and design on this painting.

All the fabrics are polyester and not particularly accurate to this period

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The first step in making this was creating a pattern, which I draped on my dress form, then transferred to paper. I turned the pattern into a mock up which actually fit pretty well!

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I originally cut out and assembled the bodice with a straight waistline. Only after doing this did I realize the back should be pointed. So I did a bit of adjusting, then recut the bodice. This is actually still wrong, the back panels should have continued down to form the skirt, but I didn’t know that until recently.

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I cut out the lining from lightweight cotton.

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Then from shantung. Everything was assembled with half inch seam allowances, then sewn together with the right sides facing each other. I stitched around each edge by hand.

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The very front edges were turned inward by a half inch as well.

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And trimmed with piping. I used gold spandex for this piping which was really dumb. I forgot that I have gold brocade that would look better and be more accurate.

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I wanted to add interest to the front of the bodice, so I sewed on some glittery organza ribbon.

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Then I outlined the ribbon in sequins. And this is where I abandoned the project and chose to focus on my Civil War Era dress instead (this was months ago) since it seemed weird having two very detailed projects in progress at once.

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I resumed work on this at the end of September, where the first thing I did was cut out the overskirt. This was cut from the same shantung as the bodice.

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I turned the edges inward by machine.

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Then made a TON of piping and sewed that onto the edges.

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The reason I did all of that by machine is because the edges will be covered with puffed trim. I made the puffed trim from strips of organza that had the edges ironed inward. I left the wrong side facing up since I like the texture it has.

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The trim was created by gathering and sewing down the organza every inch. I’m going to make a tutorial on the process in the future, but “The Art of Manipulating Fabric” covers the process nicely (I reviewed that book here).

To make it a bit more interesting I sewed three sequins above each puff. This process went surprisingly quickly, I had it done in a few days (while also working on other things) and zoomed through it while watching TV.

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The top edge was gathered down and that finished the overskirt!

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As much as I like the detail work on this, I really regret not taking more time to shape it. I cut the train in a bit of a rush and didn’t realize how ridiculously long it was until after finishing all the detail work. And at this point it was too late to cut it. I’m really hoping it will look less silly when it’s worn.

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I worked on this project a bit backwards, and I’m blogging about it in the same order as I constructed it. Which means now it’s time to talk about the petticoat/underskirt which can be seen above.

This is a relatively simple garment, made from rectangles that are gathered and sewn together. But it took me a month of on and off work to finish between the other things I had going on. By the time I finally finished it I was so sick of looking at it that I stuffed it in my closet.

I made the lower portion first, which will eventually form a ruffle. This was made from strips of striped organza sewn together, which was then sewn to taffeta to give it the opacity needed.

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Both edges were hemmed, then I gathered the ruffle down to half its length. I did this by machine at first but didn’t love how it looked, so I did it again by hand.

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The upper portion of the skirt is also made from rectangles. The front panel was cut entirely from taffeta and organza, but I didn’t have enough left for the back panels. So I cut them partially from cotton, which is hidden by the overskirt when the costume is worn.

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After sewing the side seams for the upper panels I topstitched the ruffle onto the bottom edge.  Now it was time for even more puffed trim. I made, and sewed the trim all the way across the point where the ruffle was gathered.

Then I roughly pinned the skirt to my dress form, which made me realize the front was too long.

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I ended up cutting the waistline on a slope, and raised the front by three inches.

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I left the front ten inches of the waistline smooth, which makes the front of the skirt flat, and gathered the rest down until the top edge measured twenty eight inches.

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I turned the top few inches of the back edge inward twice, by hand, to prevent it from fraying. I left this portion open so I could get the skirt on and sewed the rest of back edge into a french seam.

The waistband is another rectangle. The top edge of the skirt is tucked between its layers to hide any raw edges, and it closes with three hooks and bars.

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Was it worth a month of work? Probably not. But I do like how it turned out, the fabrics for this project make everything look so pretty!

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And that’s it for this post! The bodice beginnings, a skirt, and an overskirt, how exciting. The next post will show the completed bodice, the process of making sleeves, and making a matching headpiece.

Thanks for reading!

1790’s Round Robe, Photos

It’s been a long time since i’ve had a post devoted to finished photos of a costume! But this weekend I got two costumes photographed, and last month I got two other projects photographed. So I should have lots of photos to share soon – I just have to get them edited first!

These photos are of my 1790’s Round Robe based on one of Norah Waugh’s patterns. The pattern gave me quite a bit of trouble and I ended up being unhappy with the shape of the bodice. But I kept going and now that it’s finished I quite like the ensemble.

It’s made from several yards of striped pale yellow cotton, with a front panel made from a sheer curtain. The bodice (and back of the skirt) is lined with muslin. The skirt closes at the front front with a drawstring and the bodice closes with hooks and snaps.

I paired the dress with some fake pearls and a straw hat that I altered, lined, and trimmed to make it more period appropriate.

I have to posts about making this dress, which can be read here, and here if you’re interested.

Now onto the photos!

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And that’s it!

Making a Yellow Striped 1790’s Round Robe, Part Two

This is the second (and final) post about making my 1790s Round Robe, based on a pattern from Norah Waugh’s The Cut of Women’s Clothes: 1600-1930*. I posted about my struggles with making the bodice here, and today i’m writing about making the sleeves, skirt, and matching hat. Luckily those parts gave me way less trouble than the bodice!

The sleeves were kind of confusing. As mentioned in my previous post the pattern for these was weird. The lining pattern was a completely different shape and size, with much smaller cuffs than the sleeve pattern. Yet there was no gathering marked on the sleeve pattern that indicated they could be sewn together.

So I decided to ditch the lining pattern.  I cut the sleeve pattern from the striped yellow fabric and sewed them together with half inch seams. I “finished” the interior edges with fray check since I forgot to add enough room to do french seams (oops). Then I finished the cuffs off with bias tape.

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The top edges were also finished with bias tape, though I was a bit sloppier and attached this by machine since it won’t show.

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I pinned the sleeves to the underarm of the bodice first.

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Then I gathered the tops until the fit nicely in the sleeve cap.

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The sleeves were sewn on with slip stitches, and later reinforced with running stitches that were sewn a quarter inch away from the edge.

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Now it was time for the skirt! It was kind of unclear on the pattern whether the total width of the skirt was eighty inches, or if the back panels were eighty inches and the front panel/visible petticoat was an unmentioned width. I like full skirts so I chose to go with the latter…plus an extra twelve inches to make it more proportional to my height.

(and because I like full skirts)

I cut two forty six inch wide panels, then sewed them together with a single french seam. I cut the hem on an angle so it’s a few inches longer at the back than at the front. And I also rounded off the corners.

The hem was turned inward by a half inch with basting stitches.

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Then inward once again to hide the raw edges. This time I sewed it in place with whip stitches.

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The back is pleated with double box pleats. I really like double box pleats, they nicely distribute fabric and aren’t as bulky as gathers or as finicky as normal pleats. Here was the “pleat sheet” that I followed.

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Here it is pleated down.

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And laid out flat.

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I sewed across the top, then pinned it to the waistline of the bodice. I left all the pins in the pleats until after the skirt was sewn on.

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It was sewn on with whip stitches and now I had something that looks like this!

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I’m pretty sure a dress like this would have been worn over a petticoat that was visible from the front of the gown. But I didn’t have a petticoat that was pretty enough (or high waisted enough) for that to work. So I chose to add a front panel.

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The front panel is made from a rectangle of a sheer curtain from ikea (which is roughly fifty inches wide) and a rectangle of muslin (forty-ish inches wide) that are sewn together with french seams. The back portion will be gathered and sewn in place but the centermost thirty inches of the curtain fabric gather down with a draw string.

On the top edge I marked the center point. Then I put two pins fifteen inches away from the center point in either direction.

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Ribbon is sewn over the 15″ marks, then tucked into a channel (which was actually the hem of the curtains). The ribbons poke out at the center point and can be pulled and tied to gather the material down.

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After doing this I hemmed the skirt – I ended up hemming this again because it was an inch two long.

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The portions of the top edge that don’t have a drawstring were gathered down by machine.

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Then it was sewn into the waist of the skirt. As you can see the muslin panel is at the back of the skirt – it adds width to the hem of the front panel which makes it hang nicely, but isn’t visible when the dress is worn.

I’d planned on posting photos of the process of getting into this dress since it looks a big confusing, but it’s actually really easy! The dress can be stepped into, then arms go into the sleeves and the drawstring on the skirt is pulled until it’s tight it sits above the waistline. The “lining” of the bodice hooks together overtop of the skirt and keeps in place. Then the snaps/hooks on the bodice are done up and that’s it!

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The headpiece for this costume was really easy. I’m not a huge fan of the popular turban headdresses from the 1790s (though I plan on making one for a different project) so I decided to make a hat instead. My usual methods of interfacing and wire seemed to heavy for such a summery dress, so I bought a cheap straw hat from Michaels.

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I made a TON of alterations to it (I filmed a tutorial of the process, which can be watched here if you’re interested) like lowering the sides, narrowing the brim, and reshaping the crown to make it more appropriate for an 18th century costume.

I also lined the hat with a scrap of the ikea curtains and trimmed it with a ribbon and bow made from leftovers of the yellow fabric. The final touch was a feather and some flowers. It isn’t perfectly accurate, but for less than ten bucks of materials and an hour of time i’m pretty pleased with it!

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Here is the finished ensemble. Though I don’t love how this dress looks from the front (my frustrations with the volume placement mentioned in the post about making the bodice still stand) I like the silhouette from the side a lot. And the color scheme makes me happy – I don’t usually make light or summery dresses, so it’s a nice change.

It’s paired with a cheap blonde wig and a long strand of pearls from Kohl’s. Last minute I decided to stick a petticoat underneath it the dress – just a small quilted petticoat that has an eighty inch circumference and pleated waist, which added a lot to the shape of the dress.

And that’s it! More photos of it finished will follow this post later today.

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Thanks for reading!

Making a “Simple” Yellow Striped 1790’s Round Robe

I’m not sure how interesting this post will be – I took a lot of photos of the process, and have a lot to say about making this, but the garment itself is kind of boring. But it’s my most recent project, and i’m in the mood to write about it, so here we go!

Last week I decided to start on something new. I had just finished a few projects and wanted to make something simple before starting on the complicated projects I have planned (like the 18th century gown mentioned in this post, and an 1880s bustle dress).

During a clearance sale I picked up eight yards of striped yellow fabric (reduced down to less than two dollars a yard!) which seemed perfect for this season and a simple project. I browsed a few blogs for inspiration and eventually came across a scanned pattern from Norah Waugh’s The Cut of Women’s Clothes: 1600-1930* which depicts a “Round Robe” from the 1790s.

I don’t own the book this pattern comes from, but i’ve heard nothing but good things about it and frequently reference another pattern book by Norah Waugh, which is called Corsets and Crinolines*. So I had high hopes that this pattern would be easy enough to follow, and within a few days I would have a lovely summer dress.

Spoiler alert, that didn’t happen!

I resized the pattern in photoshop, then traced it onto newsprint. The pattern and reference photo i’m using can be seen here, on this blog. I added seam allowances to the pieces and made the bodice panels slightly wider. I also lengthened all the bodice panels by an inch and a quarter so it wouldn’t be as high waisted.

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This is when I encountered pattern problem number one. The sleeve lining pattern was significantly shorter than the sleeve pattern, and a completely different shape. This is sometimes done with puffed sleeves to help hold their shape, but these are straight sleeves that wouldn’t require that. And since the lining was so much shorter, I couldn’t see how the sleeves would be sewn together…which makes me wonder why you would have a different pattern for lining at all.

Not to mention that the sleeves were weirdly long compared to the sketch shown on the pattern. I took more than an inch off of each pattern just to make them look right. I also made the cuffs wider and let them out at the shoulder.

At this point I probably should have realized the pattern might have some issues and made a mock up…but I didn’t do that.

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I cut out the back panel, sewed the darts, and marked all the pleats with stitching.

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The pleats were ironed, the pinned in place and sewn down by hand.

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The pleated panel is supposed to sit overtop a layer of lining, which looks like this…

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But the lining was too big to match up with the pleated panel, so I took it in by a half inch.

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Then a bunch of things happened. I sewed on the straps, and stitched the pleated panel onto the back. I tried to finish the arm holes with lace tape, then turn them inward, but that was a disaster. The fabric had too much tension on it and puckered horribly. I ended up cutting the lace off and attempting to use bias tape as a facing.

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That didn’t look great either, but it was better, so I moved forward and used more bias tape to turn the top edge inward. Then I did a fitting and it was bad. I mean considering I didn’t make a mock up it was okay, but it was pretty uncomfortable at the shoulder, and the arm openings were too tight so they dug into my skin.

Plus the thing looked messy as hell. I wasn’t very excited to wear this or proud of how it was coming along.

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So I started over! Step one was making some pattern alterations. I cut down the arm opening and decided to sew the straps on with smaller seams (giving me an extra inch of room). I also let the sides out slightly and cut my seam allowances down to a half inch instead of three quarters of an inch. This makes changing the fit more difficult, but it should make the fabric less prone to puckering around curved edges.

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This time I constructed things a bit differently. The straps were sewn onto the lining layer right away.

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And I cut a layer of lining for the…uh, lining layer. Which totally makes sense.

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These were sewn together with the right sides facing each other. Then I clipped the curved edges and turned it the right way out. I sewed around each edge with running stitches to prevent the lining from showing (the stitching around the neckline was done by machine, the rest by hand).

The end result was so much better. It looks clean and none of the edges were fraying or puckering like they were on my first attempt!

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I remade the pleated panels using the same method as the first time.

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But I finished the edges of this separately from the edges of the lining. The top and side edges were ironed inward by a half inch, and the curved edges were finished with facings.

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I sewed across the edges by hand and gave the piece a good iron.

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I sewed the front edge of this panel onto the guideline marked on Norah Waugh’s pattern – this was done with slip stitches. But I left the curved and back edges pinned, they won’t be sewn on until after the strap is secured (which I did much earlier on my first attempt but regretted since it made the bodice much harder to work on).

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The bottom edge was finished with bias tape to prevent fraying. Here you can see the front.

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And the back. My pleated panels were a different size from the lining on this attempt as well, so I had to add darts to the lining once again, which you can see on the interior.

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The lining was almost done at this point so I moved onto the overlay for the front panels. These were hemmed by hand with the help of lace tape, and are pleated at the shoulder.

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Once I pinned them in place for a test fitting I ran into a little problem…they were way too short. Since I’d made the strap longer without altering these (they were cut out before I decided to start over) I knew they might be off by a little bit, but one side was off by an inch and the other was off by almost two inches!

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Attempt number two! I made these longer at the hem and let them out at the shoulder. I also decided to make them a bit wider since i’d let out the bodice pattern slightly. Then hemmed them, folded the side edges inward, and pleated the shoulder. This time they were the right length once pinned in place.

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I sewed hooks and bars into the lining before attaching the front panels. The bodice was a bit large in the bust so I sewed the bars in on an angle – the end result doesn’t look very nice, but it works just fine.

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I gathered the bottom edge of the front panels slightly (as shown on the pattern) then pinned them to the lining for a fitting. I’d planned on gathering the panels along the entire length of the hem, but after my fitting I realized that wouldn’t be possible since it caused the top edge to ripple horribly.

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Since I couldn’t gather them down the way I wanted, I had to cut off TONS of fabric from both panels (you can see the pencil marks in this photo).

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I gathered the panels a little bit more, then cut the bottom edges and finished them with bias tape. When I look at the pattern now I think the front panels should have been sewn to the skirt before being sewn to the lining (and then they gather down together with a drawstring…or something?) but it isn’t entirely clear, so maybe I did it right.

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Here is the interior of these panels.

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The panels are pinned so they look like this…

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I sewed the bottom portion down with slip stitches which are pretty much invisible.

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And the top portion is sewn down with large whip stitches.

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Now the bodice looked like this!

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The left side of the bodice secures to the lining with two snaps.

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And the other side hooks in place.

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Now I finally did up the shoulder seam – this was done with the wrong sides facing each other, then I covered the raw edge with the back panel. Sewing down the back panel was the final step. This method for construction went so much better than my first attempt, i’m really glad I started over.

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However I don’t love the end result. I’m happy with the construction, but I think it’s weird that all the bulk is at the side of the bodice. I think it makes me look wider. I much prefer the way it looks on Waugh’s sketch, with gathering all the way across the front…but I don’t see how that’s achieved without disrupting the neckline. I’m actually pretty disappointed by the lack of  gathering at the front – that’s what really attracted me to this pattern in the first place!

I guess this could have been avoided by making a fully functional mock up, but since i’ve had so much luck with corset patterns from this author in the past I assumed the dress patterns would be similarly successful.

I’m proud I managed to overcome pattern related issues, but i’m not sure it was worth the effort. Hopefully i’ll like it when it’s done – I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the sleeves and skirt will be easier.

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Two notes: I ended up stitching down the pleats at the shoulder because they shifted out of place in the photo above. I also decided after a few fittings to wear this without stays, since it’s pretty comfy without one and fits fine. But I WILL be wearing it a chemise, I just have to make one that’s appropriate for this period!

And that’s it! My boring yet overly complicated, supposedly simple dress. Thanks for reading!

18th Century Riding Ensemble – Photos

I’m excited to post these – it’s been a while since I’ve had photos of a finished costume to share!

I’m really pleased with these pictures. There were a few issues with the hat and wig, but overall I’m thrilled with how it came together, especially since this was my first time having the entire costume on.

These photos were taken during a pretty intense blizzard (I posted a short video on Instagram that shows how hard it was snowing) and though I love the contrast of the jacket against the snow, I think it hid a lot of this costumes details. I still really like these pictures, i’m just not sure all my hard work shows in them. Because of that I plan on getting more photos of this ensemble in the future – including some that show the dress that goes underneath this project!

Speaking of that, I realize that I still haven’t blogged about the dress worn with this project. The dress is technically finished, but i’m not completely happy with it, so I think i’ll hold off on writing about it until it’s been fixed up. However I have blogged about making the jacket and hat which are the real stars of this ensemble!

Here are the photos!

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Thanks for reading! Another update on my Plaid Walking Ensemble should be up tomorrow!

Making a Tricorne Hat / 18th Century Riding Ensemble

This post will make more sense if you’ve seen my post about making an 18th Century Riding Jacket, since this hat was made to go with that piece.

This hat was an adventure. It had a lot of ups and downs, but I think the most difficult part was figuring out how big it should be. The ensemble this project is based off of is worn with a very small decorative hat, which I like. But I didn’t think it would flatter my wider frame/face and the proportions of the rest of the costume.

Making a full sized one didn’t hold a lot of appeal either, that seemed too practical to go with the heavily beaded jacket. So I split the difference and made a medium sized one. I don’t love everything about this hat but I am happy with the sizing of it, so i’m glad I took so much time to think about that before getting started.

This is the pattern I came up with for the cap of the hat. I started by drawing out the top then fiddled around with strips of paper until I got a shape I was happy with.

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I cut out both pieces from buckram and marked the seam allowance onto the piece that makes up the “taper” (sides) of the hat.

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I clipped the seam allowance at the top edge of the taper, then pinned it to the crown of the hat.

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And sewed it down with a ton of upholstery thread.

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Then I covered it with two layers of quilt batting to round out the shape.

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Now it was time to cover the cap with wool. This step made me think back to some wet moulding tutorials I saw a while back, which gave me the brilliant idea to wet the wool and mould it over the cap. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about seams or gathers at the base of the hat.

If I had taken a few minutes to actually google those tutorials, or to think about this idea for more than thirty seconds I might have realized how stupid this plan was. Because the wool i’m using isn’t felt, so it doesn’t stretch, even when it’s wet. But you know what does stretch when it gets wet? Buckram.

The wool quickly dampened the buckram and the tension on the pins securing the wool to the buckram caused the buckram to bunch up at the sides and even disintegrate at points. I tried to salvage it by pinning it to a wig head, but the wig head was too small. It was a complete mess.

I ended up with this lumpy, uneven thing. But I didn’t want to redo it because I had limited quantities of wool and buckram. So I moved forward and hoped it wouldn’t be obvious in the end.

The best part of this whole thing is that a week later I came across a pre formed buckram hat base which was the exact size and shape I was going for. If I had remembered it’s existence a week earlier I would have saved myself some frustration and have a significantly less lumpy hat!

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I set the cap aside for a bit and drafted the brim. This part was pretty tricky, I made three or four attempts before coming up with this which still isn’t perfect but worked well enough.

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I cut it out from felt weight interfacing, then sewed wire into the edges so I would be able to shape the brim.

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I covered the top side with wool then basted it down a quarter inch away from the outside edge. The outside edge will be finished with bias tape later on so it doesn’t matter, but I folded the inner edge so it’s on the underside of the brim.

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Then I sewed it down.

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And I sewed the cap to the brim. This was a pain since the buckram had warped to a point where it really did not want to fit in the opening.

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The end result was pretty bad but at this point I had invested so much time into it that I felt I had to finish it.

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So I moved forward! I pinned wool to the underside of the brim and sewed it down with a mixture of whip stitches and basting stitches.

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Then I sewed up the back seam and sewed bias tape around the outside edge of the brim. This bias tape was made from a mottled gold brocade which matched the beading on the jacket nicely.

By some miracle the hat looked pretty decent once it was folded into the tricorne shape. I think the front is a little bit long, and the sides could be shaped a little bit differently, but this was a way better result than I was expecting.

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To jazz it up a bit I sewed sequins onto the bottom half of the bias tape, then I sewed on a thin gold ribbon a quarter inch below that.

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I had four inches of lace left after finishing the jacket, which was just enough to add this decoration to the right side of the hat. I trimmed the lace with sequins and beaded it using the exact same method ghat was used on the jacket. Then I added a beaded tassel and a button.

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I still wasn’t super happy with how the sides of the cap looked. So I used my usual method to fix this sort of thing which involves adding stuff until I like the way it looks. On the left side I added two home made chiffon flowers that have fake pearl centers and two bleached peacock feathers.

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The other side has three ostrich plumes – two in a peachy color, and one that’s white. The base of the feathers are hidden by another chiffon flower, which has a gold floral cameo center.

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And another photo of the lace detail on the side because that’s my favorite part!

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I also covered the seam at the back of the hat with gold braid and added sequins to the top side of the centerfront.

And that’s it! The hat is finished.

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The underside isn’t too pretty since my attempts at lining it ended badly. Eventually I decided that it didn’t matter since the wool doesn’t fray.

The saftey pin is there so I can hang the hat on my wall – it doesn’t have any structural purpose, I just forgot to take it out!

The plastic comb was a late but very necessary addition to the hat. When we were taking photos of the finished ensemble the hat was a bit of a fail, it had no way of staying on my head and I didn’t have enough range of motion in my arms to pin it to my wig after I got the dress on.

The hat refused to stay where I wanted it and fell off so many times that the brim got really bent out of shape. Which was easy to fix, but not something I noticed when we were taking the photos. So the hat isn’t sitting properly/shaped properly on my head in most of the photos which is dissapointing.

But thanks to the comb that will not a problem when I wear it again!

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Here is a photo of how it’s supposed to look when its worn. Obviously the hair and styling isn’t right, but you can get an idea of the shape! I think it turned out really nicely in the end, which i’m pretty amazed to be saying since the construction process didn’t go very smoothly.

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And here it is worn with the finished ensemble! I don’t think the snow did a lot of good for the hat – the feathers kind of deflated, and the decorations are hidden by snow. But it adds a lot to the outfit and i’m excited to get more photos of it in the future!

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And the last thing I wanted to mention is that I bought an accessory to wear with this costume – it won’t be visible when the whole thing is worn, but the color was so perfect that I couldn’t resist. These are clocked stockings from the American Duchess store. They are so pretty, and red, and pair with this so nicely!

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And that’s it! The full photoset of this project should be up next week!

Making an 18th Century Riding Habit / Riding Jacket

I’ve been in a pretty serious relationship with this garment for the past three months so i’m really excited to FINALLY be sharing the process and finished piece with you guys.

This is going to be a really long post so i’ll start with an image of the finished product, hopefully that will give you the motivation needed to make it to the end!

Isn’t it beautiful?

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Let’s go back to the beginning. At the start of 2015 I came across this painting of Sophie Marie Grafin Voss by Antoine Pesne and I fell in love. I’ve always been a fan of the structure and details on 18th century riding habits, but i’ve never seen an image of one that really inspired me until I came across this.

Although the beading and details are beautiful, they are also ridiculously impractical, as are the short sleeves and deep neckline. But that’s what I like about it. It’s very different from most of the riding habits* you see and it perfectly combines the traditional frills and details you’d find in an 18th century women’s wardrobe with the very structured menswear inspired design that riding habits are famous for.

So I decided to make it something similar to it.

 *This isn’t really a riding habit. I’ve titled this post that way because it’s the most common term for riding jackets which is what this garment actually is. Riding habits were a combination of matching garments worn for riding. This is just a riding jacket paired with a more traditional 18th century dress.

In December I finally began work on the piece.

The first step was drafting the pattern. This was surprisingly easy since I used the pattern I made for the bodice that goes underneath this jacket as a guide. I changed up the seaming a little bit, lowered the neckline, added larger seam allowances, lengthened each piece by a lot, and made the pieces wider to the bottom so the skirt of the jacket would have a lot of volume.

I also changed the pattern to have a front closure instead of back laces, since those obviously wouldn’t be appropriate for a jacket!

This is the altered front panel.

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Side panel.

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And back.

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I did not make a mock up for this jacket. Mostly because I didn’t have any fabric around that was thick enough to create an accurate mock up (muslin does not lay the same way as heavy wool). But also because I was feeling pretty confident about the pattern since the bodice I based it off of fit really nicely. And since the jacket was patterned with 3/4″ seams I could let it out pretty significantly if it was too small, and I could always add gores to make the skirt of the jacket bigger.

So I laid all the pieces out onto my wool melton fabric and cut them out. I packed the pieces as tightly as I could on the material since I was a little bit worried that I might have to recut some of them and wanted as much material as possible to be left over.

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Front panels…

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Side panels…
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And the back panels.

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I sewed together the back panels first, backstitching and cutting the thread just below the waistline so the bottom eighteen inches of the seam was left open. The seam was pressed and the unsewed edges were folded inward by three quarters of an inch. Then I sewed the edge down so there was a finished slit at the back of the jacket.

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Then the side back seams were done up. I was really pleased with the draping at the back, even though it looks a bit wonky on my dress form.

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I pinned the shoulder and side seams up and did a quick fitting of the jacket overtop of the panniers and stays. It fit well enough but there was a lot of bunching at the waist since I hadn’t accounted for the angle of the panniers. This was easy to fix, I just added a horizontal dart to the waistline.

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After another fitting I felt comfortable moving forward. The jacket seemed really large at the side seams but I didn’t want to take it in right away since I knew the embellishments on the front of the jacket would stiffen it significantly and change the ease and fit of the front panels.

I drew the trim pattern onto the front panels with chalk. Unfortunately I couldn’t get them spaced perfectly, or as far apart as they were in the reference photo.

After another fitting I realized the lace needed to extend farther down. If i’d noticed that initially I could have spaced them farther apart and made them look a lot better. But I didn’t. And by the time I noticed the problem my only option was to add a sixth strip of trim to each side.

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Speaking of the trim! The one i’m using is from the seller LaceTime on etsy. It was four bucks for two yards and I used four yards in total. Traditionally braided trims and cords would be used on riding jackets but since this one is so fancy I decided to go with lace instead.

I should also mention that I chose to make the detailing of this jacket gold instead of silver (which is the color it probably was) because I thought it looked more striking against the red.

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Here the lace is sewn on to one side, and pinned to the other. Since the spacing was off on my jacket this lace ended up being too wide. So I folded the edges inward to keep it inside the lines I marked.

I may have accidentally sewn some of this lace on upside down and not noticed until the jacket was almost finished. Oops.

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Since the edges of the lace were folded over they looked really bulky. The lace also wasn’t super even since it was difficult to precisely fold the edges over. The end result looked pretty sloppy, and I wasn’t happy with it at all.

So I decided to add an extra step to the embellishment process. I densely stitched sequins around each edge of the lace and overtop of any gaps in the lace where the base was visible. I did this with red thread so it would blend in with the material and better integrate the lace with the  fabric.

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This took forever. So many sequins went into this. Each piece of lace took around two hours to embellish, that’s more than twelve hours of sequining just on the front panels! But it looked beautiful and added a lot of depth to the lace.

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Then the beading began. For this I used two different sizes of gold seed beads and beige colored thread. I followed the pattern of the lace, stitching between the covered cord that makes up the design.

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This is when the lace really started to transform. Above you can see the difference between the side that has beads sewn on and the side without. These really changed the color of the lace, and added a lot more depth and texture to the piece.

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Once I was done beading the lace I tried the jacket on. Here it looks really bulky since I had tons of excess fabric pinned into the side seams but you can get a rough idea of how it was looking.

I also did a test for pocket cover placement, which is what that funny thing on the right side is supposed to be!

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This fitting made me realize that I had to take the waist in by more than two inches and fold the front edge over by two inches instead of the planned one inch. Guess my worries about the jacket being too big were for nothing!

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With the body of the jacket coming along well I drafted a sleeve pattern.

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Then those were cut out and I used chalk to mark the trim placement on them.

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The lace was pinned, then sewn on.

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And sequined, then beaded with the same technique use on the front of the jacket.

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Here you can see the beading part way done.  Really shows how much the beading transforms this lace!

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With the lace completely beaded I moved onto the tassels. On the left you can see the four different types of beads I used for each tassel.  All these beads are slightly different in color and finish which makes the tassels look a bit more interesting.

On the right you can se the two different types of beads that were used on the lace.

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Each tassel is made up of eight strands, which are a little over an inch long.

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Finished tassels on sleeves.

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And finished tassels on the jacket.

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To hide the tops of the tassels I added buttons. I realize embroidered buttons are a lot more historically accurate, but I didn’t have enough coverable buttons left and I wanted to finish this project. I’ll probably end up replacing these in the future with something more accurate.

Then again glass seed beads aren’t very 18th century appropriate either but I used plenty of them, so perhaps it doesn’t matter too much!

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Finished sleeves!

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Here are all the buttons sewn onto the jacket.

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Now it was time to make the pocket covers. Which are, like everything on this project, just decorative. I used all but three inches of the gold lace on the jacket so I had to raid my stash for something that would work for the pocket covers. Luckily I came across a different gold lace, which was just the right shape. I used that as a guide for patterning the pocket covers, then cut the covers out from interfaced wool.

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Then the lace trim was pinned and sewed on.

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And the sequining process resumed. These took even longer to do than the trim on the jacket but it sure looks pretty!

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I didn’t like the visible organza in the lace so I covered that with gold seed beads. Then I stitched clear montees into the circular loops of the lace.

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I sewed the pocket covers onto the front panels and finished them off with a button.

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Here is one of the finished front panels!

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So pretty!

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And all the beaded panels together. I think I spent more than eighty hours hand stitching beads and sequins onto this project. I was sick of it at times but for the most part I really enjoyed the process. I find beading really calming, and I would love to do more of it on future projects.

It also ended up being pretty convenient since I could do it in front of the TV. I worked on this through the first four seasons of Downton Abbey and a bunch of Top Gear episodes.

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I did one last fitting before sewing everything together. I ended up taking it in at the waist a bit more, raising the sleeves at the shoulder, and taking it in at the shoulder. Then I sewed the side seams and attached the sleeves.

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During this fitting I realized the jacket was wayy too long at the back, so I removed more than four inches of fabric from the hem. Then I turned the hem inward by an inch and sewed it in place.

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The cuffs also got hemmed.

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And so did the neckline. Shortly after taking this picture I lined the sleeves and secured the lining to the interior of the cuffs.

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Now it looked like a proper coat!

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I turned the front edge inward by two inches until I reached the waist, the rest of the front panel was only turned inward by an inch.

Then I sewed in the hooks and eyes. THERE WERE SO MANY. I used all the size two hooks and eyes I had, which was 19 in total. They aren’t spaced evenly, so they don’t look too pretty, but they line up perfectly so i’m happy.

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At this point the coat was wearable, but it still wasn’t finished. I roughly pinned the lining in.

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After making sure the lining wasn’t restricting the drape of the jacket I pinned it in properly.

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And sewed it in place. This lining fabric isn’t historically accurate at all but it makes the jacket much easier to get on and off, and that’s what matters to me!

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And the jacket is finished! I chose not to further embellish the neckline or hem, since I didn’t feel the jacket needed it, and i’m happy with that decision. I really love the way it turned out. I had so much fun beading this, and the fact that the fit turned out so well delights me to no end. I definitely think this is my most successful 18th century inspired garment that i’ve made so far, and it’s certainty my favorite from a visual aspect.

I’m really proud of it. And that’s a nice feeling!

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Of course there are a couple things I would change. Mostly the spacing of the lace. It would have looked so much better and been way more flattering if I had spaced them properly and only used five pieces on each side. Then I could have used the full width of the lace and the wider lace would have made my torso look longer and more narrow.

But other than that I think it’s pretty great! Not exactly like my reference photo, but pretty great all the same.

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Divots in the wool once again gahh. Luckily they aren’t all that noticeable when it’s worn.

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Here is a teaser photo from the photoshoot I had with this project. This was my first time wearing the ensemble, and I was rushing because of the snow so I don’t think it shows the jacket in its best light. The bodice was slipping at the shoulders, which caused the jacket to sit lower on the shoulder than it should, and the sleeves ended up bunching. I think i’ve fixed the bodice to rest higher on the shoulders so it should wear much better next time!

I’m also going to (eventually) add buttons to the centerfront of the jacket. That was always part of the plan but I forgot to set aside buttons for it and used them on a different project by mistake!

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So that’s it. It’s always weird finishing a project i’ve invested so much time in (ninety hours!) but i’m looking forward to starting new things. And this beauty has a proud resting place on a hook in my sewing room so I can look at it whenever I like!

I’ll be posting about the dress and the hat soon. Thanks for reading!

Making Half-Boned Stays, 1776

So I guess this counts as another Stay Study post! But I’ve decided to drop that title since I failed miserably at keeping up with that series. It was supposed to be a study of stay patterns from the book “Corsets and Crinolines” by Norah Waugh, with the final project being a fully boned set of 18th century stays. But that didn’t happen and I haven’t even mentioned the series for a whole year. Oops!

But this post is about making a set of stays from the book “Corsets and Crinolines”!

I’m making these stays for an 18th century ensemble that I’ve had in the works for the last few weeks. I already posted about making a shift for this project, and this is the next layer! I decided to base my pattern off of the one shown below.

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I copied that pattern onto paper and made a few alterations. I added a half inch to the back, and a quarter inch to the front. I also took it in a little at the bust and removed the horizontal bones. I realize those add extra support to the bust but I didn’t think they were necessary for my body shape. After making a mock up I chose to lower the neckline as well.

The alterations were really minor, other than being slightly to small this pattern is pretty much perfect for me.

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I traced the pattern onto twill canvas (a cheaper alternative to coutil) and added half inch seam allowance around the outline. I used the twill pieces as a guide to cut out the front layer of fabric, which in this case was lightweight muslin. I added seam allowances to the muslin too, so the muslin layer ended up being a bit larger than the twill layer.

Then I marked all the boning channels with a colored pencil and pinned the layers together.

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And it was time to stitch all the boning channels! I used a beige colored thread because I was running out of ivory.

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When the boning channels were sewn I went ahead and added the boning. I used a mixture of flat steel bones and plastic boning, with the steel bones placed at the center front, center back, and sides. Only one of the diagonal boning channels has steel in it.

I tipped the metal bones the way I usually do, with athletic tape dipped in nailpolish!

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Then the seams were “bound” which means the seam allowance was turned inward and sewn down with a whip stitch. This is why I cut the muslin layer to have larger seams. The muslin can wrap over the twill seam allowance to create a finished edge with less bulk…which sounds very confusing but makes sense during the process!

The finished edges were stitched together with heavy duty upholstery thread.

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Here you can see what the bound seams look like on the inside. At this point I trimmed all the edges and covered them with bias tape binding.  I managed to get really smooth curve on the top edge, but I wasn’t so lucky on the lower edge.

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The lower edge has tabs. Tabs are horrible things which I hadn’t encountered before. I knew they wouldn’t be fun to finish, but they ended up being way worse than I had expected.

I waited until all the other edges were finished before cutting them out to prevent any fraying.

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I pinned and sewed bias tape to the front edge, then turned it under and sewed it to the underside. I gathered all the sharp curves because I figured I could get smooth edges that way. I was wrong!

My biggest problem was not looking at how other people do binding. I realize now that most people use really small binding (a quarter of an inch wide) and mine was twice that width. When the binding is very thin you don’t have to gather it over curves, so looks much smoother.

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But I persevered! They don’t look very pretty, but they are functional! At least I’ll know how to do a better job next time.

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In the photos above you can see the eyelet holes are marked, which should be a clear hint about the next step! The back edges were turned over and sewn down. Then the eyelets were punched out with grommet pliers, made larger with an awl, and stitched.

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And it was time for the final step: lining! The lining was cut using the same pattern. All the edges got turned over and pinned down at once. Usually I try to attach my lining in sections to avoid having a million pins in a garment at once, but this time it was unavoidable.

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But I managed to stitch it down without pricking myself to much. Okay, that is a lie. I pricked myself a lot. But I didn’t get any blood on the stays!

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So that’s it! They are done! I’m pretty happy with these because they actually fit. My last two attempts at making stays ended up in the trash – one was uneven and too long in the waist, the other was too big and never got finished. So this being functional is a huge improvement haha.

And even though they aren’t the prettiest thing in the world, all the things I don’t like about them can be resolved if I make another set. So I feel like I learned a lot!

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Here they are worn – I took these kind of quickly and didn’t end up with a front on shot, which is dumb. But there will be more photos taken of these at some point, i’m sure.

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There are about four inches open in the back when laced to the point where they are supportive. Which is perfect! It also means I could lace it a little tighter if I was aiming for any waist reduction, or if the stays stretch over time. In this picture they are laced the modern way instead of the historically correct spiral lacing. I find it a lot harder to get an even gap with spiral lacing which is why I did it this way.

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I think that’s everything! Thanks for reading!

Making an 18th Century Shift

I’m starting on a new historical project, which means it’s time for another set of foundation garments! I’m going to be making an ensemble inspired by this painting, which means I need proper 18th century underthings. That will consist of a shift, stays, bum roll, and a quilted petticoat. 

The most boring garment for this project is the one i’m talking about today: The shift. I used the pattern posted here which was really helpful!

I was originally going to use cotton gauze for this because it’s fantastic stuff. Super cheap, very lightweight, comfortable to wear, and easy to work with. Unfortunately it’s also very delicate, the tudor shift I made from cotton gauze has already required repairs at the seams.

So I decided to use a few yards of medium weight linen that I’ve had for ages. It’s a little heavy for a shift but it worked out okay!

As I said above, I followed the pattern and measurements listed on this site but I added an inch in some places because I’m assembling it with french seams. I also made the sleeves a little wider because my arms are wider haha. The rectangles are for the side gores (will be cut in half on the diagonal), the larger squares are for the sleeves, and the smaller squares are underarm gores (will also be cut in half).

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Then you need a very large rectangle to make up the body of the shift. I ended up cutting mine down by four inches because it was so wide, and even after doing that it’s still huge! I know they are supposed to be loose but this is a little too loose.

Sorry for the dog – the blanket was in a nice little pile but apparently she wanted it to be a big pile.

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She was upset that I didn’t have a bed set out for her. It was in the washing machine so she had to sit on a blanket like some wild animal. She glared at me for two hours before going to sleep.

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Anyway! The gores got attached to each sleeve with french seams.

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And the larger gores were attached to the sides of the shift, also with french seams. I’m going to stop mentioning that part, because every seam is a french seam on this piece!

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The sleeves got attached.

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And the side seams were done up! I made a small slit at the neck so I could try it on and make sure it fit alright, which it did. The body was pretty huge on me but the sleeves fit nicely.

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For the hem I rolled the raw edge over by a half inch and basted it down.

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Then turned the edge up by two inches and whip stitched it in place.

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For shaping the neckline, I cut a small slit that allowed me to get into the garment, then I laced my stays overtop. Once everything was arranged nicely I used a pen to (roughly) draw out where the neckline should be on one half of the shift.

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I took that off and marked the neckline with a colored pencil. I cut half of it out, then used the cut pieces a guide for the other half.

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I folded the raw edge inward by a quarter inch, then folded that edge in by a third of an inch. I whip stitched the edge in place to create a channel for ribbon. I also left a small opening at the centerfront where I can thread ribbon through.

Beneath the opening I stitched two eyelets, where the ribbon can be poked through and tied into a pretty bow!

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This is what it looked like with the ribbon in place! I used a bobby pin to thread it through the channel. I use bobby pins to threat my corsets too, they are very handy!

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The final thing to do was hem the sleeves. I had already turned them under by a half inch but they had a raw edge on the interior and were too long. So I turned them under by an inch and a half and sewed that.

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And it was done!

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I had hoped to have some worn photos but it’s been a very overcast day, which means my sewing room doesn’t get much light and the photos don’t turn out very well. I’ll include worn photos in my blog post about making the stays which should be up next week!

In the mean time, here is how it looks on my dress form.

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I’m pretty happy with it! Not the most exciting project but it only took a day to make and it went really smoothly. I’d use the pattern again to make one with a different neckline…Though I would probably make it sixty centimeters wide, not eighty. And maybe use lighter fabric.

Thanks for reading!