Making a Rapunzel Inspired 1820’s Dress, Part Two

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


At this point it was really coming together!


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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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

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


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


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

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

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

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


Making a Rapunzel Inspired 1820’s Dress, Part One

Surprise! I’m back!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!


Making an 1860’s Beetlewing Dress, Part One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The back pieces, stitched together with french seams.

And here they are sewn together.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is one section done!

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the puffed portions after being gathered.

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

Then that was sewn to the other pieces.

They looked okay, but were obviously missing bugs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

1830’s Plaid Pleated Dress, Photos

Today I have another set of photos to share. Much like the last photos I posted, these have an autumn theme and were taken in a pumpkin patch. I thought it would be make the perfect lighthearted backdrop for a wacky dress like this one, and it did not disappoint!

This was my first time having the whole ensemble on and I was pretty pleased with it – everything fit and was really comfortable. I was a bit concerned the petticoat would show, or that the bonnet would slip around, but neither of those were an issue.

I paired this with my regency stays that I made ages ago, and my “Victorian“* boots. Neither are particularly accurate to this period but helped achieve the silhouette I wanted. I talk more about the petticoats and the construction of this costume in these posts:

Post 1: The Bodice

Post 2: The Sleeves, Skirt, and Bonnet

Before getting into the photos I wanted to mention my last post, where I reviewed a bunch of costume reference books. If you’re interested in any of them this is the time to buy! Amazon has $10 off book purchases, and Barnes & Noble has 15% off your order, which makes the price of those pretty inspiration books a bit easier to manage!

Now onto the photos!










And some muddy boots after a long morning! Luckily none got on the dress.


And that’s it! Thanks for reading!

Plaid, Pleats, and Piping – Making an 1830’s Dress, Part Two

This post is about making the sleeves, skirt, and bonnet for an 1830’s ensemble. I posted about making the bodice for this project a few months ago but didn’t finish the ensemble until last week!

I looked at a lot of sleeve examples from the 1830’s but finally decided on something a little silly that would let the plaid really shine – shirring.

I sketched a few designs but ended up making the the sleeves with four portions – two shirred upper portions separated by piping, a loose puffed portion, and the cuff.

The first step was cutting out four sixty inch wide strips. Then I used the lines in the plaid as a guide for gathering the strips down.


This was very time consuming to do. Each sleeve had seven rows of gathering – that’s 420″ of fabric that had to be gathered down, and that’s just for one sleeve!


Then I sewed piping onto the bottom edge of each piece.


The second shirred panel was sewn on, just below the piping.


Then I trimmed the top of the sleeves so they would fit the armscye.


The third portion of the sleeves we large rectangles. I turned the bottom few inches of the side edge inward to hide the raw edges, then gathered the top and bottom edges. The top edge was gathered to the width of the shirred panels, and the bottom edge to the width of the cuffs.


They were sewn on to the shirred panels.


Then the top portion of the sleeves were lined with cotton to hide the raw edges.


The cuffs are interfaced rectangles of cotton with the edges ironed inward. Then I sewed piping onto each edge.


I used whip stitches for this, so the stitching wouldn’t be visible.


The cuffs were sewn onto the sleeves by hand, with more whip stitches.


Then lined with cotton. The fabric is lightweight enough that even when gathered down this densely it doesn’t add much bulk to the seam.


I did up the side seam, then covered the raw edges with plaid bias tape.


The final step was sewing two hooks and bars into each cuff.


I sewed the sleeves on by hand, with slip stitches, and then the bodice was complete! I’m pretty happy with this. At first I thought the plaid was too busy, and the shirring looked odd with the pleating, but I got over that and now I think it’s wonderful.




I didn’t take very many photos of making the skirt since I made it in two hours the night before we photographed this project. But it’s pretty easy to explain since the skirt is just a large rectangle!

I turned the hem inward by a half inch, then inward again by two and a quarter inches. I used a cross/catch stitch for this, and I have a tutorial on the process that can be watched here!


The top edge was pleated with knife pleats. I originally had the waistline being straight, but after a fitting I realized it was too long in the front. I cut the waistline on an angle so it was two inches shorter in the front than in the back, which leveled the hem.

Then I sewed on the waistband – this was done by machine to save time.


The back edges were turned inward twice to form a finished edge. Then I sewed hooks and bars in. The back seam was done up with a french seam.


And that was it for the skirt! I hemmed it to sit nicely over a single cotton and tulle petticoat, along with a weird bum pad I made for an 1880’s dress. This caused it to flare out a bit in the back which wasn’t uncommon in the 1830’s.


The final piece for this project is a bonnet. I used this as my main reference image and pinned paper onto a wig head until It had the shape I wanted.


I transferred that onto a new sheet of paper and cleaned up the edges. Then I cut the pattern out from heavyweight interfacing.


I sewed wire into the edges of each piece, then covered them with velvet.


The cap portions of the bonnet were lined with scraps of silk taffeta, then sewn together by hand.


I lined the brim with bright orange silk shantung, which matches the piping on the dress.


It was sewn in with whip stitches, then sewn onto the cap!


I’m pretty happy with how the shape turned out, and I love these materials together.


Since the dress is so wacky I decided to keep the bonnet somewhat simple. It’s decorated with strips of orange silk that form a criss cross pattern with a bow in the back and ends that fall at either side. These can be used as ties, but the bonnet stays in place thanks to a comb pinned into the back of the brim.


I should have photos of the finished ensemble up soon – we took some in a pumpkin patch, which made a nice backdrop for this fun dress. I just have to finish editing them!

Thanks for reading!

1890’s Day Dress, the “Pumpkin” Gown, Photos

Today I have some photos of my completed Orange Taffeta Dress to share! We photographed it in it’s natural habitat – a pumpkin patch!

These aren’t my favorite costume photos (I probably prefer last years) but I’m just happy we got some that were usable. The day we photographed this it was insanely windy to the point where the dress wouldn’t lay out properly. And since it was so difficult to control the dress I wasn’t comfortable walking in the dusty or potentially muddy areas, which left us with limited background options.

Luckily we managed to get a few I really like – though I would like to get more photos of it in calmer weather in the future, it has a lovely silhouette when it isn’t being battered by wind!

Construction notes about this dress and hat can be found here, here, and here. It was worn over a steel boned 1880’s style corset which was made from a pattern from “Corsets & Crinolines” by Norah Waugh. The skirt is supported by two petticoats that were taken up by three inches the night before this shoot so they would sit properly underneath the skirt. I also wore it with these boots* – you can’t see them in the photos, but they made me feel more authentic which has to count for something.

Now onto the photos!



This one is my favorite. I love how the light catches the feather, and the waistline makes me feel better about how uncomfortable the stupid corset was!



The abundance of “looking off into the distance” shots has to do with it being really sunny and that being the only way I could fully open my eyes.




And that’s it! Thanks for reading – a new “Making of” post should be up tomorrow!

Making an 1890’s Day Dress, the “Pumpkin” Gown, Part Three

It has taken me longer than expected to write this, but I finally have the last “Making of” post about my orange 1890’s dress to share!

Part one can be seen here and shows the making of the bodice. Part two is posted here and focuses on the sleeves. This post will be about the skirt and some of the finishing details. I didn’t take a lot of photos of these steps but hopefully I took enough for it to make sense!

Since I was unhappy with my previous 1890’s skirt attempt I decided to use a pattern for this one. I once again referenced 59 Authentic Turn-of-the-Century Fashion Patterns *, using the pattern from one of the ladies street costumes. Of course I altered it to match my measurements, but the shaping of the pieces is the same.

Here is the finished pattern. The side and back pieces were both cut out twice and the front panel (the narrowest one) was cut on a folded edge of the material.


After cutting it out from the material I assembled the pieces with french seams and roughly pinned them onto my dress form.
I was originally a bit disappointed by the slim silhouette since SO much fabric went into this skirt, but I liked the shape enough to stick with it.

I turned the top few inches of the back edge inward twice, so the raw edge was hidden. Then I sewed the edge down. I left this portion of the skirt open and sewed the rest of the back seam normally.


Then I gathered the back of the skirt by hand.


The silhouette looked a bit fuller after this, which I was happy with. However I was not happy with the length of this skirt, it’s a whole inch shorter than I had envisioned. There was no room to do the pretty hem I wanted.


To make things even more annoying, the back was too long and had to be cut down.


I had to scrap my ideas for a one inch rolled hem and chose to face the hem with some suiting instead. I sewed this on with a quarter inch seam allowance to keep the hem as long as I could.

I don’t think this was a bad idea, but I should have used a lighter (or stiffer) fabric. This one didn’t iron smoothly and the hem ended up looking puckered even though I was very careful when sewing it. It bothers me to the point that I plan on redoing it soon, which is pretty drastic for me!


After hemming the skirt I sewed loops and buttons onto the top portion of the back seam to keep the opening I left closed. I’m not sure where my pictures of that went, but the process was identical to adding buttons and loops to the sleeves.

Then  I sewed the bodice onto the skirt with the wrong sides facing each other, so the raw edges are on the outside.


 I covered the raw edges with a waistband that has a pleat running horizontally across it to add interest. It was originally supposed to be gathered but that didn’t look very nice so I pleated it instead!


The final touch was adding a matching modesty panel to the back to hide the foundation garments that were peeking out from the loops the last time I tried it on.

This is just a rectangle with the edges whip stitched inward, then it was whip stitched to the lining.


And that was it! Here is the back all done up. Not historically accurate, but I love the buttons and how far down they extend.


Here is the front.


A close up of the brooch~


And pictures of it on the dress form – keep in mind that it doesn’t really fit my dress form, the silhouette is a lot more dramatic when I wear it over a corset.

There is also a bit of petticoat peeking out since the hem was shorter than I had planned. Even though I was annoyed by this, it was kind of a blessing in disguise since it forced me to shorten my petticoats which were all way too long.

Overall I really like this dress. I’m so happy with the fit, and how light it is. The fabric is beautiful and was wonderful to work with – even though the color isn’t my favorite, I like how striking it is. And the button details make me so happy.

The only thing I don’t like is the hem, but I’m confident that can be fixed.




With the dress discussion done, it’s time to talk about the hat! I’m not the biggest fan of hats from the 1890’s since I feel like they are out of proportion with the full sleeves. I looked through a lot of references and couldn’t find anything inspiring (except for the ones with birds on them…but one bird hat is enough for me, or at least for this year).

At least until I came across this fashion plate – I’m not sure where this is from or if it was even drawn in the 1890’s, but I love how different it is. It’s like a twentieth century bicorne.

I made the base from interfacing.


I bound the seams by hand, then sewed wire into the edges.


I made a cap from interfacing too. The cap was covered with brown silk and lined with cotton, then sewn to the brim.


The brim is covered with brown silk as well, and lined with some leftover orange material.


For decoration I used a peach ostrich feather across the top.


And the side is decorated with fake roses, leaves, and some small brown feathers.


It can be worn in a variety of ways – with the feather facing the front, or either side. I ended up wearing it like this and pinning a comb into the cap to keep it in place.

And speaking of hats, I wanted to take a minute to mention the video I made about all my hats. It shows them in detail, along with how they look worn and a bit about the construction process/period they come from. If you like hats, you might enjoy it! It can be watched here.


And I think that’s it for this post! The dress is done, the hat is done, and so are all the things that go underneath them. I’ve already photographed this project (in its natural habitat, a pumpkin patch) and as soon as I get done editing  I will post them too!

Thanks for reading!


Making an 1890’s Day Dress, the “Pumpkin” Gown, Part Two

Today I have the second post about making my 1890’s dress to share. Part one can be read here and covers how I made the bodice. This post will be all about my nemesis: sleeves.

When I made my first 1890’s dress I drafted the sleeve pattern myself and came up with something usable, but it wasn’t accurate at all. I have a habit of making sleeve patterns symmetrical, which is bad since they don’t cup the arm as well.

So this time around I decided to copy a pattern from  59 Authentic Turn-of-the-Century Fashion Patterns*, specifically the sleeve pattern associated with this dress.


The pattern consists of a large “puff” portion which is attached overtop a fitted sleeve. It’s a really strange design, but I thought it would be fun to try. Unfortunately the first mock up didn’t go well. The fitted portions didn’t really fit and the puff portion was tiny, the sleeves had barely any volume. I’m also not completely sure how you are supposed to attach the puff portion to the fitted sleeve.

Soo I made some alterations. I made the puff portion a good six inches wider and longer. I cut the fitted sleeves off at the elbow and added seam allowance so they could be sewn together after attaching the puff. And I made them a bit smaller.


I cut the lining for the sleeves out of muslin, then used the muslin as a guide for cutting out the taffeta. To avoid the lining bunching underneath the taffeta I cut the taffeta pieces to be slightly larger than the lining.


I sewed these pieces together with half inch seam allowances but left the bottom few inches of one seam open since that’s where the closures will be.


The edges of the portion left open were basted down and the bottom edge was hemmed by hand.


I also ran basting stitches across the top edge to keep the lining in place.


Then I sewed loops and buttons onto the sleeves. The the lining was whip stitched to the interior of the taffeta, so it covers the raw edges of the loops. The buttons are all sewn on with upholstery thread since I was kind of concerned about the strain they would go through when trying to button these up!


I cut the puffed portions of the sleeves out, then gathered down the top and bottom edge. when they were gathered most of the way down I sewed them to the muslin lining, which is the top portion of the fitted sleeves.


In between the muslin and taffeta I stuffed gathered strips of organza to help the sleeves hold their shape.


Now the sleeves were a bit too poofy. They looked good when they were carefully arranged, but they didn’t stay looking that way for long. I ended up ripping out the gathering stitches at the shoulder, then cutting off more than three inches from the top of the sleeve.


Then I sewed the top and bottom portions together. This seam was covered with bias tape. And now I had things that actually looked like sleeves!


They are so poofy.


I gathered the tops down to be even smaller.


And then I sewed them onto the bodice by machine. Unfortunately after doing that I realized I couldn’t bind the arm opening without making the opening too small, so i’ve left the edges raw, which really isn’t ideal. But the sleeves were cut on the fabrics bias so they don’t fray that much. Hopefully it will be okay for the limited amount of wear this will get.

On the bright side, they fit! They have a habit of puckering around the wrist (I may have made them slightly too small) but I think they look pretty good!


Please ignore the color this dress has in this lighting, it looks far less noxious in every other setting.


I need to add a modesty panel, but i’m so happy with the back of this costume. All those cute buttons!


To finish off the bodice I sewed together three bias cut strips, then turned the edges inward by hand.


I sewed it onto the collar, leaving the ends long so they can be tied in a bow. The back of the collar closes with three hooks and eyes before the bow is tied. The final detail was that brooch I mentioned in my last post!


The final post about this project should be up in a week or two! And it will go over making the skirt and the hat.

Thanks for reading!

Plaid, Pleats, and Piping – Making an 1830’s Dress, Part One

This weeks post is about another new project, but this time i’m venturing into an era I haven’t sewn from in a while – the 1830’s! I went through a phase a couple years ago where I made three dresses inspired by this period, and I had so much fun making them. But for some reason I never revisited the period until now.

For Christmas I got Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century*, and looking at the silly 1830’s dresses featured in it reminded me how much I love the period. The dresses make me so happy, with the bold prints, large skirts, ridiculous sleeves, and delicate accessories. I still can’t get on board with the crazy headpieces, but I love everything else.

So when I was in Pennsylvania and came across a bright cotton plaid I knew it was time to make a boldly printed ridiculous 1830’s dress. This is the material was four dollars a yard, and I bought seven yards.


I’m going to pair it with the orange taffeta leftover from my 1890’s Dress, and some berry colored velvet I got in NYC a while back.

When it comes to design I was a little bit conflicted. I originally wanted to make something based on this kooky dress, but the neckline and sleeves are quite similar to a dress I made in the past so that seemed kind of boring. And most of the other dresses I found were better suited for a less busy fabric.

I ended up mixing the dress linked above with the bodice design of this dress – I really like the piping, basque waist, the neckline, and the more elaborate sleeves. All those things make it more time consuming to make, but you know how much I love time consuming projects…

Here is my weird sketch which I didn’t really end up following (oops)

I draped the pattern on my dress form, then transferred it to paper. The bodice is made up of 8 pieces, with an additional 4 pieces for the collar.

In the past when doing pleated collars I’ve pleated a rectangle of fabric, then cut it down to the shape I want. This time around I cut it down to the right size before pleating – which was kind of scary, since I was sure it would turn out the wrong shape. But it totally worked and made the process a lot easier, so i’m definitely doing it this way from now on!

I marked the pleat pattern onto the collar with chalk.

Then used my iron to crease the tops of the pleats.


Then actually pleated them and pinned everything in place! This is the front.


And this is the back.


The front panels were carefully pinned, then sewn together. It was unintentional, but the horizontal pattern ended up being almost symmetrical on these panels. They didn’t match up the first time I sewed it, but they were so close that I ripped the seam out and redid it so they match!


The shoulder of the collar pieces were done up with piping sewn into the seam. The bottom edge was hemmed by eye, and the top edge was turned inward by a half inch. Then I hand stitched some piping around the neckline.


To keep the pleats in place I loosely tacked them down from the underside. This was trickier to do than I was expecting. Since the fabric is so thin I couldn’t feel how many layers I was stitching through, and I ended up sewing through the front of the fabric a few times. Those stitches are pretty obvious since I used dark purple thread, which doesn’t match 80% of the colors in the bodice.

Luckily the crazy print also works to my benefit  – your eye skips over the visible stitches and assumes it’s part of the chaos that is this fabric!


With the collar done the bodice assembly began! I made this more difficult by adding piping to every seam (something I’ve never done before). And I chose to use yarn as piping cord, which was way too thin and looked flat after being ironed. Not my best decision, but I kind of made it work!

These are the front panels…


More front panels.


And the back panels!


The arm openings were finished with facings.


And then the collar was sewn on! This was done by hand to avoid any visible topstitching.

After a quick fitting to check the length I hemmed the bottom edge and trimmed it with more piping.


And now it was time for lining! This was assembled completely by machine and is made from muslin.


It took me ages to get it pinned in properly – somehow the lining was too short, so it kept causing the front layer of fabric to bunch up. But I managed eventually, and sewed it in place by hand.


I finished one of the back edges with bias tape (leftover from my 1890’s dress), then finished the other edge with a strip of bias tape that was turned inward and sewn down so it isn’t visible from the outside.


The back closure consists of hooks and loops, which were sewn to the strips of taffeta.


Unfortunately the print on the back of the bodice doesn’t line up perfectly, but it’s close-ish!


Here is the front.


And a close up of the pretty pleats! So far i’m happy with how this looks, though i’m second guessing my decision to go for a more complicated design. I think it might be a bit too busy – but the 1830’s were famous for being crazy, so maybe it works?


That’s it for today! The next post will be about sleeves. I’m not sure if it will be about my 1890’s dress or this one, but it will definitely involve sleeves haha!

Thanks for reading!


Making an 1890’s Day Dress, the “Pumpkin” Gown, Part One

Today I’ll be talking about making another 1890’s day dress from taffeta. But this time around my posts will be a lot more positive since i’ve already finished this dress and i’m really happy with the end result. The finished dress actually fits, and isn’t too long, which might be a first for me!

Before talking about construction I wanted to explain the design of this, because if you’ve seen the movie Crimson Peak it may look familiar!

If you read this blog post you’ll know my foray into 1890’s fashion was originally inspired by what Edith wore in the film, specifically this gorgeous coat. Back in January I bought fabric for a coat based on that design, and material for a dress to wear underneath it. Even though I really liked the dress Edith wore with the jacket in the film, I chose to create an original design instead.

And it failed horribly.

The design wasn’t the reason why that project failed, but I didn’t want to be reminded of it when attempting another project from this period. So I settled on a simpler design, which features the most common skirt and bodice design from the 1890’s, and the signature puff sleeves. You can see similar designs in Victorian Fashions and Costumes from Harper’s Bazar* which I had open while sketching this ensemble.

Since my last dress was very heavy I chose to leave this one free of embellishments and trim, with the only decoration being buttons down the front and a brooch. This was the only thing I intended on copying from the dress in Crimson Peak. But when I compared my sketch to the costume from the film, I realized they were pretty much identical!

This was made even more apparent because the fabric I purchased for this project is quite similar to what was used for Edith’s dress. But I like the design, and I like the dress from the film, so i’m okay with them being really similar, even if that wasn’t my original intention.

As I said, I used Victorian Fashions and Costumes from Harper’s Bazar* as a reference, along with a bunch of things i’ve pinned and the gown from the film.

I purchased seven yards of an orange silk for this dress, and plan on wearing it with this beautiful moth brooch I got for two dollars on ebay. I’ve been wanting to include it in a costume for ages, and I feel like this is my chance – even though brooches this bold aren’t really historically accurate, ecspecially on a day ensemble.


And a more developed sketch.


 I started off by draping the pattern. It’s a pretty simple design, but it took a bit of fiddling to get the amount of volume I wanted while keeping the shoulder and sides perfectly smooth.


Here you can see it transferred to paper with the seam allowances added. This picture was taken after I made my first mock up and some pattern changes. Those changes included making the waistband longer, taking the collar in by an inch, adding a dart to the front, and raising the waistline.


Just to be safe, since the fit of my first 1890’s day dress was so bad, I decided to cut out and assemble the lining of the bodice first. This would serve as a second mock up of sorts, and allow me to make minor changes before cutting into the silk. I’m SO glad I did this, because some weird issues popped up.


The collar was too big (I think I took it in by a full inch), the gathers at the front were gaping, and there was a lot of wrinkling and bunching in collarbone/shoulder area. The wrinkling was weird, since every other part of the bodice seemed to fit fine.

I couldn’t find a solution online, or in Patternmaking for Fashion Design* (which everyone says has all the answers) but luckily I found a handy diagram in one of the 1920’s textbooks from the Woman’s Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences which my Great Aunt gave me.


I was skeptical about their solution, since the shoulder seam fit quite tightly, and if anything there was more excess fabric near the collar than the shoulder, but it totally worked! The shoulder seam just needed to be on more of an angle. I guess I’ve never run into this problem before since I don’t make high collar bodices very often.

In addition to that, I also took the collar in and sewed a strip of material across the front to control the gathers. In the future I would make a separate lining pattern that isn’t gathered, which would avoid this problem.


Here you can see the strip I sewed to the front. After this was done I tried the bodice on again, and it fit well enough that I felt comfortable with moving forward. So I sewed a few boning channels into the lining, then filled them with plastic bones.


It’s the wrong fabric and color, but it looks the way I wanted!


Now I cut the bodice out from silk. Here is the front panel before I gathered it down.


And here it is after being gathered!


And sewn onto the back panels – can we just take a moment to appreciate how the seams on this fabric are practically invisible? I was so worried about making a full dress from silk, since the last silk I used was a VERY finicky dupioni that puckered horribly any time a needle passed through it.  But this fabric doesn’t have that issue, It sews beautifully and seams disappear after ironing.

Plus it has a gorgeous two tone look to it, and the weight is perfect – light enough that it is easy to manipulate, but heavy enough that I didn’t have to interface or flat line it. I want to own this fabric in every color and use it for everything, it’s wonderful.


I sewed up the shoulder seams and added the waistband. Notice how the front and back panels have the same sheen to them? That’s because I paid attention to grainlines this time around…


And a quick test on the dress form to make sure the gathered looked okay.


Now it was time to add the closures. I chose to make the dress close down the back, and decided to go for something that would be decorative and functional: buttons and loops. I don’t think this is historically accurate, but i’ve wanted to make a dress with this type of closure for years and this seemed like a perfect opportunity.

To make the loops I cut out one inch wide strips of silk on the fabrics bias. Then I sewed them into tubes with a quarter inch seam allowance.

When it came to turning the tubes the right way out, things got tricky. I tried to turn the first one by hand, with the help of pliers. Which worked, but damaged the fabric and took ages – like three hours to finish one thirty inch long tube. It was ridiculous. For the other two I used the safety pin method of pinning it to one end, then threading it through the tube and pulling it out the other side. This worked way better and took less than ten minutes, so I should have done that in the first place!


I ended up cutting the tubes into two inch lengths, then ironing them into the shape seen below. These were pinned onto ribbon, then sewn to the ribbon by machine.


The ribbon was then pinned onto the back of the bodice.


And sewn on by hand. Not my prettiest hand work, but I went over each loop several times to make sure they are really secure.


With the loops on, I went ahead and sewed in the lining.


Now it was starting to look like something!


But it was still missing all the buttons, which meant I had to make some. I bought a tool for covering 5/8″ buttons, along with fifty loop back sets. These were purchased on etsy for a grand total of nine bucks.


A few hours later I had an adequate number of buttons. Though I had to make more later for the sleeves and skirt.


Buttons were sewn onto the back, which unfortunately I didn’t take a picture of, and the front, which looks like this!


The gathered front of the bodice has a tendency to flop over and hide my beautiful buttons, so I’ll have to do something to fix that. But aside from that I really like it! I love how clean it looks, with the focus being on the color and buttons. It’s interesting working on something that is so bold (a lot bolder than my usual projects) yet really simple by comparison.

Speaking of that bold color, i’ve nicknamed this the pumpkin dress because of it! The color probably reminds me of cheetos more than pumpkins, but I think “pumpkin” is a slightly more glamorous name for it.


And that’s it for this post! Thanks for reading!