Making an 18th Century Floral Round Gown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Here it is after being trimmed down.

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

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

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

I secured the pleated parts in place with whip stitches.

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

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

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

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The gathered portion was left raw as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And here are some full body shots.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

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A Purple Linen 18th Century Dress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And that is pretty much it for the bodice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Okay. So what is actually wrong with this?

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

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

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

AKA: Not testing my pattern properly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This effectively ruins the side profile of this dress.

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

And another cameo from the slipping waistband.

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

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Font credit goes to Qwerks

Making 18th Century Accessories + Shoe Review

This post will cover making the accessories to go with the redingote featured in this post!  I’ll be talking about a ridiculous hat, a fichu, and a petticoat/skirt. I’m also including a review for the shoes I purchased to match, which are the Fraser style by American Duchess.

I’m going to start with the skirt, since it’s probably the “biggest” part of the costume, after the redingote.

My original plan for this was two rectangles, one for the body of the skirt, and one for a ruffle around the hem. But I just finished making a skirt like that out of a different fabric. And I made two others the year before. And another the year before that. They are easy to do, but kind of boring. I knew I wanted to put a twist on this, and eventually decided on making the ruffle with a zig-zag hem.

I thought this was appropriate – it kind of reminds me of the texture of leaves, or if we are really stretching to meet the Halloween theme, the teeth of a carved pumpkin. I’m glad that I did this since it’s way more interesting than my other skirts…but it was alway way more labor intensive.

I decided to back the main suiting with a thicker one. This will give it more structure and help the points hold their shape. I probably would have used taffeta, or a lighter material if I had one around, but this worked in a pinch.

I traced all the points onto the lining – this along took an hour. This was an eight yard strip of material.

Sewing them took another hour. Then I trimmed around each edge, and clipped the points and corners. I also used a seam ripper to remove the stitch at the very top of each concave point. This makes it turn out smoothly, but does reduce long term durability.

And it was gathered down to be four yards long, the same width as the top portion of the skirt. Here you can see the drawer unit I kept rolling around to support the fabric as I sewed – this was super heavy!

I sewed it to the top portion of the skirt with a three quarter inch seam allowance. It still looked a little drab, so I decided to make a ruffle out of leftover brown taffeta. This helped tie the garments together, and added more interest since it’s a different texture.

I cut strips out of the fabric on its bias with pinking sheers. Then I sewed the strips together, and gathered them down the middle. I sewed it onto the skirt in large scallops.

I did all of this by machine since I was rushing. If I wear this again I want to cover the stitching with trim or beads. It doesn’t look great and isn’t super even since the skirt was so hard to get through my machine. But from a distance I really like it!

Then I lifted the waistline of the skirt until it sat at the length I liked. I trimmed the excess, and gathered the top edge.

I made the waistband out of matching fabric, sewed in a hook, and sewed up the side seam. I really like how this turned out, but the waistline is a little large – it kept slipping down and is visible in some of the pictures. So the hook has to move before re-wearing.

Next up: The fichu. This is basically a shawl that could be worn under dresses as an alternative to an undershirt. They would fill out the neckline, make dresses more modest, and serve as a stylistic choice. I made mine in an hour or two, out of a scrap of thin cotton and two four yard lengths of mesh lace.

I started by cutting out a triangle – as large as I could from the material I was working with. Then I turned the edges inward by a quarter inch, twice in order to finish them. I did this by hand, but machine sewed everything else, which was sort of silly!

I used two four yard lengths of lace from etsy. One has little bows on it, the other is a leafy design. I liked the leafy one more, so I put it closer to the top. Then I covered the gathered edge with a narrow mesh lace.

I like how this looks, but I wish the lace was more dense. I may add onto it before reusing it. I see myself getting quite a bit of use out of it with other costumes, since this was a staple in most 18th century ladies wardrobes!

Now for the hat! I might be biased, but I think this is the best part of the costume. Looking at it makes me smile. Wearing it makes me smile. It’s great.

I made this based on images in Women’s Hats, Headdresses and Hairstyles*, along with references from various paintings. I constructed it from a self drafted pattern, out of felt weight interfacing with wire sewn into the edges. Then I covered the pieces with interfacing, lined them with scraps, and stitched them together with upholstery thread. It took me two evenings to finish.

The brim is lined with orange silk (leftover from the pumpkin dress!) and more brown taffeta ruffles.


I trimmed the exterior with a strip of the striped silk (I cut the edges with pinking sheers), and a band of the orange silk. These were loosely sewn in place since the top of the hat narrows and they kept trying to slip upward.

For decorations I made a rosette from more strips of silk. These were gathered down as tightly as I could, then I sewed up the side seam. I was going to add a smaller ruffle to the center, but I decided beading it would be more fun. So I stitched a base of suiting material onto the back to support the embellishments.

The embellishments consisted of a bunch of faux pearls, and a spider brooch. The back of this had bent and was really thick, which made it difficult to wear. So it got a new home here! I think it looks quite comfortable.

In my mind this added to the totally not obvious witch element. I also liked how the orange stones would catch the light.

That was glued on, along with a white feather and two pieces of fake fern. I was originally going to use orange feathers, but I like how the white one ties in with the pearls and lace on the dress.

The ferns – though completely inaccurate, tie the colors together really well. They fade from a deeper orange (like the striped silk) to a lighter orange, like the shantung scraps. It’s one of my favorite hats i’ve ever made – I think the contrast and trims are perfect!

And that is it for the pieces I made! So if you want you can stop there. But I did want to mention, and give a little review of the shoes I bought to go with this.

These were my main purchase last month. The price hurt a bit, but I’ve enjoyed my other historical themed footwear so much that I wanted something similar for 18th century projects. I invest so much time into pieces that accurately(ish) represent the period from the hem upward, it seems like a shame to skimp out on the shoes! Plus they will go with a lot of future projects too, not just this one.

(also I don’t think the price of these is unreasonable at all, it’s just much more than my other shoes)

They are the “Fraser” 18th Century Leather Shoes (Black)(1700-1760)* by American Duchess, listed here*. I purchased them in a size 10, along with the cavendish gold  buckles.

Overall, I like these. The shape is lovely, and surprisingly flattering to the foot. I adore  the side profile – the heel is so cute! And the shell of the shoe is very soft and flexible, which makes them more comfortable than the vast majority of my shoes.

I also like the sheen of the leather used, and that natural materials were used for the lining, too. The construction of them seems nice, and they were symmetrical and free of flaws.  They also came with replacement heel caps.

I compared them to other shoes I own that are a similar heel height, and they were the same length if not a little longer. I’m a solid size 10, and these fit me well lengthwise.

On the downside, the fit is hard to determine until after the buckles are installed, and they obviously aren’t returnable after the buckles are in. I found the shoes a little big width wise and assumed the buckles would tighten them. I placed the buckles as far back on the latchet as I could (up until it tapered to a point where it would not fit through the buckle smoothly) and they are still a little large on me. I probably would have returned them for a 9.5 if I had known.

The buckles are also way harder to install than I thought. There is a diagram on the website, but I feel like a video or picture tutorial would have been more helpful. I ended up using photos of the shoes with the buckles installed as more of a guide than the actual tutorial.

Neither of those are really flaws of the shoes, just things I noticed.

My only real disappointment is how much the lining frays. The edges are topstitched to the interior of the leather, not folded inward. So there isn’t anything preventing it from fraying. And since the shoes are black the raw edges of ivory lining are quite obvious. I’m going to trim the frayed edges and finish them with glue, which isn’t a hard thing to do at all, but it would be nice if it wasn’t an issue.

Now for the wear test!

I wore these for around 2 hours during the photo taking process. They really are one of the most comfortable pairs of shoes I’ve ever worn, and the leather didn’t mark at all – even when walking through some rough terrain. The soles got super dinged up, especially around the edges, but I was expecting that.

I was walking through gravel, and on unpaved paths, so it’s understandable. But it was a very very short walk. I’m not sure how these would fair at reenactment events where you are more active on similar terrain, or even on a daily basis with textured asphalt.

(I’ll scrub the dirt off before putting them away!)

I did notice that one shoe creased quite a lot at the toe. I’m not bothered by this, but it’s kind of odd that it only happened to one of the shoes. It looks like I buckled this one a little tighter (though I could still get it on and off without unbuckling it…so I don’t think it was *too* tight) which might have been the cause.

Those are my thoughts! Visually I love them, and I’m very glad to have them. I don’t think they would be the best shoes for everyday use (I wasn’t expecting them to be), but I will really enjoy wearing them with other 18th century pieces. I think they are a nice finishing touch to the costume!

Most of the negative things I mentioned aren’t even negatives. They are things that happen when you wear shoes. They go on the ground. They wrinkle. I made peace with it before buying them. But I was curious how the more authentic materials would wear compared to plastic and rubber, which is why I mentioned it.

Now I’m eyeing up the red kensington and edwardian pumps…but those are a few paychecks away, at the very least!

That is it for this one! I should be back with more photos tomorrow, and maybe a video if I can get it done in time.

Thanks for reading!

Making an 18th Century Redingote

Todays post is about a real doozy of a dress that I made over the last two weeks. It consists of a redingote, petticoat, hat, and fichu. I even bought some fancy period appropriate shoes to go with it!

I’m going to split this into two blog posts – one about the redingote, and another about the accessories. Both posts should be published back to back, with photos of this ensemble following on Monday.

This project was driven by the idea of making an 18th century witch costume. This has been in my head  ever since discovering this magazine page, which is the 1890s take on a 1700s inspired witch fancy dress costume.

I felt very strongly throughout making this that is was a witch costume. I think the hat made me think of pilgrims, which reminds me of the salem witch trials. The timeline for those things doesn’t even line up, but it was so clear in my head while constructing it.

However looking at it now, this costume doesn’t actually have anything that makes it “witchy”. So i’m not sure why I felt that way about it. But that was definitely in my mind while working on it (especially the hat)! And this motivated some of the choices later on so I thought it was worth mentioning.

As far as design, I’ve always wanted to make a tall 18th century hat, and been interested in redingotes since discovering them during my riding habit research a couple years back.

Then during a visit to Fabric Mart in PA I discovered an orange/brown striped silk taffeta which seemed perfect for an autumn themed 18th century ensemble. I combined that with a suiting fabric I had around, and some other scraps, and this piece was born!

My inspiration was originally this piece, but that was more of an inspiration to make a redingote, not something that shaped the design. For the collar and cuff details I used this as a major reference. And I used more elaborate examples, like this, to justify the long impractical train.

To be honest, I didn’t do a lot of research on redingotes prior to making this. I was too impatient to delve deeply into it before getting started!

From my understanding, “Redingote” was a term used to describe riding and hunting costumes for both men and woman (interchangeable with the riding habit). But *most* plates and pieces described as redingotes have a skirt extending from the waist to the ground, and are ofter paired with contrasting petticoats.

Women’s riding habits were usually two matching garments, with a shorter flared jacket and skirt with side closures.

It also seems that the term redingote was later used to describe open front day dresses that lacked the practicality that most riding habits have, but still have some of the military style detailing. Mine definitely falls into the latter, impractical category.

This project began with a bodice mockup. It’s three pieces, with the collar incorporated in each piece (as opposed to being sewn on later). I also used very appropriately themed mock up materials!

The mock up fit pretty well, I was thrilled with how the collar looked. There were only minor alterations to be made at the centerfront and straps.

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For the first time in a long while, I made this bodice without a heavy duty base layer. I was worried the seams would get too thick if I did, and lighter dresses are always more comfortable to wear. So I cut the “base” from quilting cotton.

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The lining is a suiting fabric I bought online for $3 a yard. It’s a low quality suiting, but I like the texture it has. And it’s a weird greyish light brown that matches the brown stripes in the taffeta really well.

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

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The cotton and suiting were layered, then assembled together. The cotton adds a bit of stiffness to the flimsy suiting.

The seam allowances were turned inward and stitched down to create boning channels.

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

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The construction process was repeated with the silk taffeta. This material was on clearance for $8/yard, which is hard to beat for silk! Five yards of it went into this dress.

I managed to get the back seam matched up without basting – I was very pleased!

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I sewed the lining to the silk with the right sides facing each other – I stitched around the collar and waistline, only leaving the arm holes and front edges open. Then I turned it the right way out and used embroidery floss to stitch around the edges. This added a bit of texture, which I liked.

Unfortunately as a whole, I didn’t like it. It looked dull.

The suiting didn’t have enough contrast with the silk, and the collar didn’t look as big and dramatic as I wanted. I didn’t have enough material to recut things, so I decided to sew piping around the collar. This made it appear slightly larger, and more interesting with the addition of a new fabric.

This piping is made from brown poly taffeta over cotton cord. I had the taffeta leftover from the brown doublet I made several years ago. The piping was made by machine, but sewn on by hand.

All the raw edges were turned inward and tacked down with whip stitches. Unfortunately these are on the outside of the bodice, which I don’t like, but they are hidden by the collar.

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The sleeves were a lot of trial and error. I based them on a Norah Waugh pattern, but they ended up totally different. I cut the sleeve cap way down and played around with the width. I wanted them to be tight, but allow more mobility than the original pattern did. I also wanted to get them on and off without having to add closures at the wrist.

Boy were these a terror. The mock up looked good, but the finished sleeves were an inch too big! I took them in three times before the looked okay. Then I made the cuff, and sewing those on made the sleeve too tight. So I had to remove the cuff, remove the lining of the sleeve, let the sleeve out, then resew on the cuffs.

They still aren’t perfect – they are a little wrinkly and baggy around the upper arm. Maybe i’ll redo them someday.

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The cuffs were made from the same suiting, but I backed them with interfacing. The edges were turned inward by hand, then piping was sewn on.

The piping for these was made very carefully, there are gaps without cord so the pieces can overlap without additional bulk. And the cord ends before the seam allowance starts, so there isn’t bulk there either.

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

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

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Here it is on the dress form. At this point the only thing left were closures, and the skirt. The closures consist of 6 hooks and bars that secure the bodice one inch to the left of the center front.

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The buttons were placed on either side of the closures, spaced evenly from the center front. I planned on looping lacing made from taffeta around these, to create an effect similar to the one seen in my main reference. But the lacing wouldn’t stay on, the shank of the buttons wasn’t long enough.

I don’t mind it without the lacing, but I still want to add it at some point since it was part of my original plan.

I don’t have many pictures of the skirt, because it was made in three hours the day before photographing this costume. It’s two 63″ x 58″ rectangles sewn together, with the bottom edges rounded out. I turned the edges inward by a half inch twice, then whip stitched them down by hand.

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

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I left the top edge of this raw, and didn’t whip stitch the seam allowance down since i’m not completely sure if I like the skirt positioning. I think it sits too far back at the bodice, so I might redo the pleats before finishing it properly.

And that is it! Overall I like this garment. My only complaint is that it’s a little big. My seam allowances must have gotten screwed up somewhere, the silk is almost baggy on top of the lining (though this could also be related to the lack of a thick base layer). The sleeves are still a bit big too.

But it was really comfy! And I think the fabrics and proportions work really nicely in the finished piece.

Thanks for reading – keep an eye out for the following posts!

Making 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.

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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.

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At this point it was really coming together!

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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

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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 18th Century Jumps – And how they look worn!

Today’s post focuses on a project that I did a terrible job of documenting (to be honest, that’s been most of my projects recently). It was also completed more than three months ago, and in progress long before that. So even if I did have a lot of photos of making it, the details are a little fuzzy in my eyes.

The reason this was so poorly documented photo wise is because I filmed the whole process. And up until last month I only had one camera, which didn’t let me take photos without disrupting the filming process.

This is bad news for those of you who like written descriptions, but if you are more of a visual learner the videos showing all the steps can be found on my youtube channel (here for the jumps, and here for the skirt) or down below depending on your email settings.

Now what is this project? It’s my second adventure into casual 18th century costumes. If you read my posts about making this dress than you may be familiar with my fascination towards what was considered casual hundreds of years ago.

Even though that dress was considered “Undress” it still required getting into stays and I felt awfully formal when wearing it. I wanted to stick to the same undress theme but make something that looked and felt different.

Unsurprisingly I found inspiration in Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century*, specifically this ensemble that consists of silk jumps and a matching skirt.

(this definitely contributed to the shaping too)

While researching that I came across a blog post (which I’m so mad that I can’t find again – I think it may have been on the American Duchess blog) that talked about French fashion being considerable more casual in the 1700’s than most of Europe. With an emphasis on practically in dress (so, not skirts so long you would trip over them).

I had also been seeing ads everywhere for the live action Beauty in the Beast movie, which got me thinking about what a historically accurate version of the famous blue dress would look like.

With enthusiasm coming from those discoveries (and dozens of fashion plates) I got to work!

I started by draping the jumps. For those unfamiliar with these garments, they were a support garment most often worn by working class woman. They are conical shaped down to the waist, but usually flared out beyond that point so they could be worn over skirts.Their structure comes from layers of fabric quilted together rather than boning. This makes them a lot more comfortable than stays, while still providing some shaping of the torso.

Here is the front of my draped jumps – this was tricky since I’m draping over a dress form made from hard foam. When the garment is actually worn my body (especially my bust) will compress to be a different shape.

If you don’t have a dress form, or find this hard do bypass, I think you could get away with altering a 18th century riding coat pattern. The shape and structure of this is similar, it just sits higher on the shoulder and has a smaller skirt.

The side…

And the back. I draped this over the appropriate petticoats to make sure there was enough volume in the tabs.

I traced the pattern onto paper, then made the necessary alterations so it had more of a conical shape, and added seam allowances. After a quick mock up I moved onto the final garment!

I cut all the pieces out from the top layer of fabric (a home decor material from Jo-anns), a cotton for lining, and quilt batting.

The first step was marking lines for the quilting onto the lining. These are diagonal across the pieces and a half inch apart. All the lines line up at the seams to create a subtle chevron effect (which was probably more trouble than it was worth).

The quilt batting in sandwiched between the lining and the home decor material. I trimmed the quilt batting so it didn’t extend into the side seams, then got to sewing!

The first two panels done – I used a pale blue thread and longer than average stitch length. These panels were my test, so after it worked I repeated the process with the front and back pieces.

The rest of the lining cut out and marked. You may notice that the only seam allowance is in the side seams. The rest of the edges will be bound with binding, like stays.

All sandwiched together!

Quilted and stitched together!

Now here is my major regret – I hand stitched the seam allowance down, and hand sewed boning channels into the interior of this to add more support. I don’t regret adding these channels, but hand sewing them was a terrible idea. It was so slow and not nearly as sturdy or clean as I would like.

If I made this again I would make another lining layer from lightweight cotton, add the boning, then sew it to the interior of the quilted bodice before attaching the binding. It would be a lot faster, shouldn’t add too much bulk, and would look so much better!

Now for the binding. I’ve mentioned my hatred for binding concave curves many times, and that still runs strong. It was made a lot worse on this project because of fabric choice.

I choose to use this polyester suiting I bought many years ago (if you’ve been around since my Napoleon costume, this is the scraps from that!), since it was the best match for the floral design. This frayed so much, and seemed to pucker rather than stretch, even though it was cut on the bias. 

I machine stitched one side, then turned it inward and whip stitched the other side to the lining. It isn’t very even since parts frayed away to nothing before I could sew them, but from a distance it looks okay(ish)!

To make the curves look a little bit better I blanket stitched around them with embroidery floss.

Then I sewed eyelets into the front. I assumed since this fabric was quilted it would be thick enough to hold the eyelets. I was wrong – they haven’t torn out, but they are really warped after a single wear. Definitely should have added canvas to the front few inches to avoid this.

I also bound the arm openings.


And that is it! Overall I think they are pretty, just a couple of things I would do differently next time. And there will probably be a next time, since I really like the shape and functionality of this garment and am itching to make another! Maybe out of maroon and gold jacquard? With a shantung skirt.

Speaking of the skirt, I literally have no photos of it or the construction process. It has three panels (two in the back, one in the front) and a pleated waistband with side closures. The hem is straight, with the length adjusted at the waist. But the hem didn’t end up being that level, since the weight of the additional fabric in the back flattened my petticoat and made it appear several inches longer than the front.

Speaking of petticoats: I used an ample bum pad with the cotton/tulle petticoat overtop. The tulle was pinned up quickly before photographing this, which is the reason for any skirt lumps. This skirt fabric was a lot thinner (but also weirdly heavier) than I had expected and would have suited a quilted petticoat much better.

The shoes are, as per usual the Funtasma Victorian-03* (I’m looking into getting a more 18th Century appropriate pair soon, I swear!). I used my real hair with a few feathers and fake flowers stuck in it.

I made the chemise from some fabric I had around. And the apron is from what I had leftover. It’s two rectangles of fabric with curved tips, and a lace overlay. I gathered the top and used lace to bind the edge and form the ties.

Overall I like this ensemble. Especially the fit of the jumps. I think from a distance it’s really lovely, but I want to remake it with different materials and a slightly different construction strategy!

Here are the photos of it worn:

(Fun fact these were taken next to a busy street on the weekend before July 4th. Everyone was staring. The fence was also infested with caterpillars, which I didn’t realize before putting my hand on it. I really don’t like caterpillars and was not happy)

That’s it for this one! Thank you for reading!

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!

Making a Striped Cotton Dress, Early 20th Century, Continued

Last week I shared the process of making the bodice and sleeves for my striped edwardian dress. Today I’m writing about making the skirt, the hat, and the adding the finishing touches.

Let’s start with the skirt. This took me a while to “draft” because it’s so narrow – I’m used to making skirts that fit over petticoats or hoops, and without those as a base I felt a bit lost!

So I began by cutting a rectangle of material, then cutting it in half. Which left me with two 22″ x 45″ish pieces. I pinned one of the pieces onto the front of the dress form and played around with the amount of volume I wanted it to have.

Then I removed the panel from the dress form, trimmed the top edge, and gathered it properly. This was repeated on the other panel as well.

I cut out another rectangle, and while the fabric was folded in half I cut across it diagonally. This left me with three gored panels. I made sure all the diagonal cut edges were sewn to straight edges (to prevent warping), with the wider ends at the hem so it would have the most volume.

I didn’t photograph this process because my floor was really dirty, but you’ll see the skirt laid flat in a minute and hopefully it will make sense then!

Here is the top edge.

I pleated this edge so it would line up with the pleat at the back of the bodice.

Then gathered it down, so the whole thing was the same width as the bodice waistline.

Speaking of the bodice, here it is which the fit updates mentioned in the last post. The pleats were tacked down, and the waistband was sewn on by hand with running stitches.

I also decided to add ruffles to the hem of the sleeves, since they were an awkward length. The ruffles are 25″ x 4″ strips that were folded in half to create a finished edge, then I gathered the tops by hand and whip stitched them on.

I matched the seams in the skirt with the seams in the bodice, then sewed it onto the waistband.

The front edges were folded inward twice to hide the raw edges. This was sewn down by hand, with more whip stitches.

I put it back on my dress form and used pins to mark where I thought the hem should go. Then I tried it on and adjusted the hem more – I’m so, so glad I tried it on during this stage, since it was an inch shorter than I wanted!

I marked my desired hemline with pencil, then measured three inches away from that and marked another line. This left me plenty of room for a pretty hem.

I folded the dress in half and pinned all the seams together, then laid it flat. I did this because the hemline was only marked on one side and I wanted it to be symmetrical.

This is before trimming…

And after!

I transferred all my markings onto the other side of the skirt.

Then turned the raw edge inward by an inch, and inward once again at the line I drew. This left me with a 2″ deep hem.

It was sewn with whip stitches as well.

Now it was time for buttons. I spent a long time searching for suitable buttons on etsy but couldn’t find anything in my price range in the size I wanted.

So I decided to use coverable buttons. I was trying to decide between making them maroon or white when I realized another fabric I purchased in the garment district matched the stripes perfectly. I ended up using it and I really love how they look.

Before sewing them on I tried the dress on again, and marked where the snaps/hooks/bars should be. I sewed these on first, then used the buttons to cover the threads used to securing the closures to the fabric.

I also lined the waistband – here you can see some of the hooks, along with pencil markings for snaps.

In total there are seven hooks and six snaps. Hooks are placed where more support is needed – like at the collar and waistline. Snaps were used for the rest.

There are three snaps and one hook further down which keeps the skirt together – I used three more buttons to cover that stitching as well.

Here is the finished bodice. I’m really happy with how the closures for this turned out, front closures can be hit or miss but everything lines up nicely and it’s really easy to get into!

Now onto the hat! I based this on fashion plates in the catalogues I looked through when visiting McCalls. There were a lot of hats that were covered in flowers to the point where you could barely see the crown. I usually put flowers on hats, but this inspired me to go all out.

First came the paper pattern – I made a few of these before I got the “perfect” size. My original pattern is laid on top of the one I ended up using.

It was cut out of felt weight interfacing.

Then wire was sewn into the pieces.

I covered all the panels with white cotton sateen, and lined them with the striped material. For the brim I gathered the striped fabric at two points to create ruched lining, which I didn’t realize would need to be secured at the gathering point in the middle to sit properly – which left with these ugly dents in the material.

My solution to this was covering it with bias tape. Which just so happened to match the bias tape I made to bind the brim of the hat.

Here is the bias tape sewn on. In the photo above you might be able to see pencil dots, which were used as a guide when sewing it in place.

I also sewed together the crown of the hat, then sewed it to the brim.

At this point I liked the lining better than the front!

But after piling it with flowers the outer layer of the hat grew on me a lot! I wish I had only used pink flowers, and not brought in the small yellow ones. But I still really like it. I used an entire bunch of fake roses, a few sprigs of fake paisleys, fake ivy, and fake ferns.  Along with a sash of silk and an ostrich feather.

I think there may be room left for a few more roses, but I haven’t decided how high I want them to go up the sides of the hat. For now I’m calling it finished.

And that’s it for this project! I’m hoping we’ll have some nice weather soon and I can photograph it against a backdrop of spring flowers. I think it would suit that environment nicely.

Overall I’m really happy with this dress. I think the silhouette turned out very nicely – slim but still obviously historical (that’s more prominent when it’s worn by a person, not a dress form). I like how easy it is to get on, and how comfortable it is to wear. I also have a ton of mobility in it – I can raise my arms all the way above my head without any snaps popping or seams ripping! So if I get attacked by bees when photographing it in front of flowers I’ll have a chance to swat them away.

(or if I ever get invited to a historical event at a theme park I’ll know which dress to bring)

Another cool thing: This dress has maybe $35 of material in it. And that’s including the hat. But I’m really tempted to buy a pair of white shoes to go with it, which would nearly double that total.

And that’s it! Thanks for reading, I should have a fabric haul with the other materials I picked up on my recent shopping trip up soon!

Making a Striped Cotton Dress, Early 20th Century

I recently took a trip into the garment district, and for the first time in years I didn’t have a list of projects I was shopping for. However I did have a list of materials to keep an eye out for, and one of those was lightweight cotton.

Lightweight cottons are incredibly versatile – they can be used for foundation garments from any period, gauzy dresses from the 18th century to the mid 1800’s, and more practical pieces from the beginning of the 20th century.

I’ve always found it difficult to find lightweight, soft, yet sturdy cottons that would work for these pieces. Especially since (for me) a big part of a garment looking authentic is it’s texture – which is one of the challenges with plain cottons. They don’t have a lot of it, and garments can look cheap or flat regardless of how well constructed they are.

Which is why I really lucked out when I came across this striped cotton. It has a faded look to it, and the dots buried in the stripes add a bit of life to it. I originally thought it was red and white, but it’s more of a mauve. It’s very soft and slightly sheer – exactly what I hoped to find, and perfect for an edwardian day dress, which is what I decided to use it for!

If you read my recent Progress Report you may recall me raving over fashion plates of 20th century ladies in antique magazines, which definitely served as inspiration for this style of dress. But my main reference was this dressit was listed on etsy, with a bunch of close ups which helped me figure out the construction.

I think the end result is pretty lovely – but let’s start at the beginning!

Step one was draping. This was tricky to drape, since I wanted the oh so glamorous pigeon breast shape, where volume from the bust carries down the the waist, which is cinched in with gathers. It’s very easy to over exaggerate this shape and end up with way too much fabric in the front.

I was also challenged by the pleats in the shoulder – they look okay here, but I was concerned the ends of the pleats would splay open when it was worn.

The back has a box pleat in it, for decoration more than anything else.

I transferred that to paper, then made a mock up. The pleats and amount of volume worked surprisingly well, so I moved on without any alterations.

I cut all the pieces out, then marked the pleats on the wrong side of the fabric with pencil. They were ironed, pinned, then sewn down by hand. I also gathered the front of the bodice pieces.

And the back. For some reason the pleat wasn’t symmetrical, which really bothers me! But I wasn’t sure how much fabric I would need for the skirt, and I didn’t want to waste any by recutting this piece, so I didn’t bother redoing it.

Then I cut out a “facing” for the collar, which will actually serve as a base for the lace trim that will be shaped into a collar.

This was pinned on top of the striped fabric to prevent the stripes from being visible through the lace.

(before doing this I sewed up the shoulder seam with a french seam)

For lace I used a gathered eyelet trim from Jo-ann’s (I removed the gathers with a seam ripper, then ironed it flat) and a lace I got in a grab bag when I went to Lancaster. I wasn’t a big fan of this combination at first, but I don’t have a lot of white lace in my collection, so my options were limited.

I sewed the lace together by hand, to create a single two inch wide unit. Then I pinned that onto the collar.

And here it is sewn down. I had to pleat and gather parts, but after ironing it looked pretty smooth. It’s a bit hard to tell with the lighting, but the closure point is on the left side of the collar, imitating the dress I based this on.

Now it was starting to look like a bodice! Since one of my goals for this was to keep it very lightweight, I decided not to fully line it.

Instead I sewed the interior seams as french seams, and created a facing that extended from the neckline to the waistline. This was cut from muslin, then pinned to the right side of the fabric. I sewed it on with a half inch seam allowance, then turned it inward to hide the raw edges. I topstitched a quarter inch away from each edge by hand to prevent the facing from shifting and peaking out. I also tacked the far edges of the facing every few inches.

Now onto sleeves! The pattern I created for this is pretty shoddy, but it worked! The sleeves have four tiers, three made from striped fabric, and one made of lace.

The top tier has the stripes going vertically, tier two has the stripes going horizontally.

Tier three is actually muslin, which the lace was sewn over, and tier four is more horizontal stripes. I’m really happy with how the sleeves turned out, I love playing with the grain lines in fabric, but it can be hard to do without wasting a lot of material – not to mention tedious. This was an easy way to sneak it in and add some interest to a simple dress.

The lace pinned together – ready to be sewn together, then onto the sleeves.

And here they are in all their glory!

I left the sleeves unlined, since none of the fabrics are prone to fraying. But I did the side seam up as a french seam.

Then the bottom edge was turned inward by a half inch. I loved working with this fabric since the stripes served as  guidelines for where to sew.

The tops of the sleeves were gathered down by hand and sewn onto the bodice by machine. Then the seam allowance was whip stitched together by hand. This isn’t the cleanest finish, but it was popular in the 19th century and avoids additional bulk in an area where mobility is important – so it works for me!

Now I did a quick fitting and the end result wasn’t great. Though the pleats looked nice on my mockup, during this fitting they bunched really badly above the bust. There was a lot of folded material at the sides too, which was frustrating.

I ended up mostly fixing this by tacking the pleats down further, and tapering the ends off almost like darts. I did this with pins on the left side, which looks a lot better than the right side.

I think the folded material at the sides was caused by excess fabric in the back, which I fixed by gathering the center back portion down to be an inch and a half smaller. I also regathered the front panels so the volume was more focused at the front of the bust.

Later on I played around with foundation garments, and improved the shape even more – I found a ruffled corset cover made me look too barrel chested, but bust pads really improve the crinkling at the top of the corset.

With the fit fixed, I pinned on the waistband.

And that’s it for this post! Next up: the skirt, closures, hat, and finishing touches!

Thanks for reading!

An Orange Brocade Dress – Making a 17th Century Costume, Part One

It’s taken me longer than I had hoped, but I’m finally back with a “Making of” post! And it focuses on a project I’m really excited about: a seventeenth century ensemble.

I’ve wanted to make something from this period for a long time. It’s not a popular period for historical re-creation, but I’ve been attracted to it since I first started researching historical fashion. The high waists, bright silks, full sleeves, and jeweled decorations really appealed to me. And now that I know more about fashion from the 1500s and 1700s, I find the mid 1600s even more interesting since they are so drastically different than what came before them.

It’s also the period depicted in most of of Rembrandt and Peter Paul Rubens work, who are some of my favorite artists.

Despite my interest in the era, I haven’t completed a costume from the mid 1600’s. I’ve made some attempts, and even gotten pretty far! But bad fabric choices, fit issues, and poorly thought out designs have led to failure every time.

But this time I was determined. And luckily things went a lot better.

My previous attempts were based on simpler dresses that were free of decoration.  I’d still like to complete a dress of that style some day, but I thought success would be more likely if I went in a different direction.

Then I came across this painting and fell in love. I don’t like the mask, but textures, print, colors, and details really drew me in. I love the sheen on the dress, and how much depth it has. The amount of trim on it, and the paned sleeves looked like they would be a lot of fun to recreate. And I adore the hat, it helps balance out the proportions of the sleeves and skirt.

I couldn’t find a fabric deep enough in tone to match the painting, but I did find a lovely peach/orange/gold brocade in my price range. It’s from Fabric Express in NYC and cost $6/yd. I purchased eight yards but barely had enough material left to cut out the sleeves, so I should have bought more.

The trims are all from etsy. Seven yards of wide embroidered mesh trim (from HARMONYDIYLIFE), twenty yards of metallic embroidered mesh trim (from lacetrimwholesalers), and four yards of braided trim (from ddideas). I spent less than thirty dollars for the lot of them, and really lucked out in terms of color. They match the brocade perfectly. 

Once my materials were sorted, I did a bit more research and came up with a complete design (since the painting that inspired me only shows the top half of the bodice). I mostly used references from In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion*, which has some great images of paintings and extant garments from the period. This ensemble was also helpful to me (especially for the skirt), since it’s more complete than a lot of seventeenth century examples.

The Dreamstress and Before the Automobile have made dresses from this period, and I found their write ups helpful in terms of understanding the construction.

When it came to the pattern I discovered two in my collection – one in Patterns of Fashion*, by Janet Arnold, and another in The Cut of Women’s Clothes* by Norah Waugh. I ended up using the pattern from Norah Waugh’s book, with a few alterations.

I used a trick mentioned in one of the blog posts linked above, and fitted my first mock up over 18th century stays.  I lowered the neckline, let out the waist, lowered the waistline, and made the front piece longer. I debated about cutting the front and sides as a single piece, but decided assembly would be easier with them separate, so that’s what I did!

Then I made the base layer. Which is effectively fully boned stays – there is so much boning in them. The channels were all marked onto cotton, then backed with medium weight twill and sewn by machine. I used plastic quarter inch boning to fill them, then assembled the bodice.

I did a fitting here, and realized the bodice was too big! Well, too big might be a stretch. but it wasn’t giving me the shape I wanted, so I removed a half inch of material from the side panels.

Then I cut out the top layer from the brocade which was backed with fusible interfacing. I wanted to avoid the bodice being thick, or heavy, but I also wanted the top fabric to be thick enough to hide the boning. I haven’t had any problems with that, so I’m glad I decided to interface it.

Lace was sewn into the seams (which were stitched by hand) and in a straight line on the back edge.

Lace was also sewn onto the front panels. A lot of lace. Three rows of embroidered mesh ribbon, with the wider embroidered trim near the neckline. I also cut out brocade strips from the “wrong side” of the fabric, sewed those down, and covered the edges with lace. This added more depth to the front of the bodice.

I basted the center front seam first, just to make sure everything lined up. Then sewed it by machine.

Then the side seams were sewn.

I pinned the top layer of fabric to the base layer. The tabs and neckline were cut without seam allowances, so I whip stitched the edges together. But the back edges, and the bottom edge of the front panel were folded over the base layer, then sewn down.

Now it was time to bind the tabs. I hate binding tabs. I always do a really terrible job – and that’s when working with lightweight cottons! I figured binding brocade would be impossible. Since I was already prepared for them to look bad, I decided to try a new technique and used half inch wide strips of leather.

(The Dreamstress did this for her 1660’s piece as well)

Both the top, and bottom edge were sewn by hand. I don’t think the end result looks great. But I liked doing it all by hand, and the leather curved around the edges better than I had expected. I also liked being able to snip the underside without worrying about fraying.

The underside.

And a close up. I cut the strips from a skin I bought on ebay a while back. I don’t think it was quite as soft/thin as the kid leather that is usually used for this, but it was easy to get a needle through. And my sewing room smelled like leather for days!

Next up was the lining – cut from two pieces of cotton and sewed together at the center front. There weren’t any raw edges on the tabs, so I didn’t bother lining them.

The lining was whip stitched to the base layer.

Then I sewed all the eyelets! It was a bad week for my fingers between these and the tabs, but the embroidery floss I bought matches the fabric really well and I’m happy with how they look.

And the lined interior. The back edge of the lining was sewn after I finished the eyelets so it would cover the loose threads.

I also fray checked the back of every eyelet, since brocade is prone to fraying.

Now I had something that looked like this!

I sewed the shoulder seam, then did a fitting. Which went surprisingly well. The waist is a little tight, but there isn’t any gaping in the back. And it fits my shoulders nicely.

I was even happy with the neckline!

I finished the bodice off with more binding. I used quarter inch wide gold bias tape for the neckline, and half inch wide bias tape in matching brocade to finish the armscye.

And that’s it for this post!

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed! I should be back with another one soon.

Part two of this post can be read here.