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!

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Making an 18th Century “Undress” Costume – The Skirt & Accessories

Today I have the second making of post for my 18th century undress costume to share! I’ll go through making the skirt and matching accessories. If you missed part one, it can be read here, and talks about making the jacket and stomacher.

I originally planned on making the skirt for this costume very simple – three panels of the brown material knife pleated down to fit the waistline. But the more I thought about it, the more concerned I was that it wouldn’t have enough volume. So I decided to make an open front skirt, with a petticoat made from the stomacher fabric underneath. Except I didn’t have enough of the stomacher fabric to make a petticoat. Which meant the dress needed to have a fake open front, which made it way more complicated.

Anyway, step one was measuring from my waist to the floor while wearing the proper foundation garments, which in this case were a *new* bum pad (new year, new bum pad, that’s what I always say) plus a cotton/tulle petticoat. Not accurate, but way lighter than quilted petticoats with less bulk at the waistline.

I wrote down the center front, side front, back front, and center back measurements, then used those to figure out the dimensions of each skirt panel. This was pretty easy to do since they are rectangular, with a sloped waistline.

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I didn’t take any pictures of the skirt panels in this stage because they were just giant rectangles. But here is how much fabric I had left after cutting them out – I quite literally cut it pretty close!

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Before doing much with those panels, I cut out and assembled the front panel. This was made from a forty inch wide piece of the woven polyester, with horsehair sewn into the hem to prevent it from rippling in the front.

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Then I cut out a thirteen inch long strip. The top edge was cut with pinking sheers and left raw, and the bottom edge was turned inward twice and sewn down by hand.

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I gathered the ruffle by machine, then pinned it to the other panel, an inch above the hem.

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The ruffle was sewn on by machine as well. Since the ruffle was so dense the stitching wasn’t very visible. The sides of this panel were fraying a lot, so I finished them with bias tape that was sewn on by machine.

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Now back to work on the brown panels! I cut them so two 40″ wide panels would make up the back. The remaining panel was cut in half, with one half on either side of the ivory panel.

I interfaced the front of these panels with 12″ wide strips of medium weight fusible interfacing, which helped a lot with the shape. However I should have also lined the panels, because the interfacing looks terrible when the front panels flip back (something I struggled with when photographing this costume on a windy day).

The front edge of these panels were folded inward, then I sewed the folded edge to the ivory front panel.

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I thought this looked okay at first, but it was one of those things that looked worse the longer I left it on my dress form. It was very obvious from certain angles that the skirt was all one piece, rather than an open front gown with an underskirt, which was the effect I wanted.

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See? It was worse on this side for some reason.

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So I ripped out the stitches that secured them together. Then I sewed 20″ wide panels of muslin onto either side of the ivory panel, and evenly gathered the top. This time my plan was securing these panels together at the side seam, which prevents tension from being put on the front edge of the brown panels. Luckily, this worked and I could move forward!

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I turned the top ten inches of the side edges inward by hand, twice, to neatly finish them. This will be the point where the skirt opens.

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Then I figured out a pleating pattern I liked, and sewed the pieces together with french seams.

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The top portion of the sides were left open, these allow me to get the skirt on and off. I much prefer this to back closures, but it requires costumes with skirted bodices or jackets…otherwise it can look a bit awkward.

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The brown portions of the skirt were hemmed by hand. I turned the hem inward by a half inch, then an inch and a half.

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The finishing touch was binding the top edge of the skirt. I didn’t have enough brown fabric left to make bias tape, so I used the ivory material instead. Not the nicest finished, but it won’t be seen when it’s worn.

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I sewed a single eyelet into each end of the binding (so four in total, two on the back, two on the front) ribbon can be threaded through these to tie the skirt in place.

And here you can also see the back pleating pattern. The pleats on this were very finicky – I spent a lot of time redoing them on the dress form until the looked right.

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That finished up the skirt and jacket! Here it is worn.

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But it isn’t done, don’t be silly. Have I made a costume in the last year that doesn’t have some sort of accessory? Why would this be an exception?

Though I couldn’t find a style of hat that would pair well with this, I did find some knitwear accessory inspiration through the designs Claire wears in Outlander (side note; the designer has a really great blog that I would highly recommend). And I just so happened to have an interesting purple knit fabric collecting dust in my stash!

I decided to make a pair of mitts, and a shawl. The mitts were made using a pattern I found online (located here – but it appears to have been taken down), which I would recommend. But if you’re using knit fabric, don’t add seam allowances! That was my one big mistake, parts of it ended up too big.

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I finished the edges by turning them inward by hand, and left the mitts unlined.

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I wasn’t super happy with how the laid on my hand (probably because I added seam allowance and they looked silly!), so I folded the pointed edge back and sewed it down with a button as decoration. This was actually very common during the time, and a convenient fix for me.

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Next accessory: A shawl, which could also be tucked into the neckline and used as a fichu/neckerchief. This was super easy, I cut it out from a corner of the knit material, then turned the edges inward by a half inch and sewed them down by hand. I didn’t do a rolled hem because this knit was fine enough that it didn’t fray much or unravel (thank god).

In the photos below I used one of my great grandmothers brooches to secure it in place.

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And that’s it! Here is the finished ensemble. I’m very happy with it. I really love the color palette and textures in this project. The fit of the jacket, the drape of the skirt, the embroidery…it all turned out even better than I expected, which is a rare and wonderful thing!

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I’ve already photographed this project and have a costume spotlight video filmed that goes into more detail. But it will probably take me a week to get that edited and posted. In the mean time, here is a little teaser.

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That’s it for now! Thanks for reading!

A look back at 2016

This post is long overdue. I’ve attempted writing it at least a dozen times, and I never get past the first paragraph. But I was determined to get it up before the end of the month, and I managed to make that deadline!

If you hadn’t guessed by the title, this post is an end of the year wrap up where I go through all the projects I made in 2016. I share my thoughts on each one, my thoughts on the year in general, and goals I have for the year to come.

I’ve written posts like this before, both in 2014, and 2015. Those posts were some of my favorite to write because it made me realize all I’d accomplished and gave me motivation moving forward. But I didn’t accomplish as much as I would have liked in 2016, and looking back on it has made me more frustrated than inspired.

It isn’t that the number of costumes I made that I find lacking or upsetting, it’s the amount of time I wasted. There were weeks that passed where I didn’t sew at all because I wasn’t feeling inspired. It made me realize how much I depend on motivation, and how lost I am without it.

As much as it sucks to look back on a year that I wasted a lot of, I learned a lot in 2016, and it’s made me realize ways I can improve in 2017. So it was worth something – and I like a lot of the things I made – it just wasn’t a good year for me.

Now onward with the costumes! I kept a list this year of things I completed, so this should be a bit more accurate than usual.

Then first project I finished got an honorary mention in my 2015 wrap up, since it was mostly finished then. But I put the final touches on it and declared it complete in January. It’s an 18th century riding ensemble, that consists of a skirt, bodice, embellished jacket, and hat.

The dress has some issues that make it unwearable without the jacket (they are fixable, I just spent so long on this project that I can’t bring myself to revisit it and fix it, even though it would only take a day or two) which is a bummer. But I love the jacket, and the hat, and how it works together in the finished ensemble.

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In the same month I also made a set of 1890’s foundation garments, including a petticoat, corset, chemise, and combination set. This is also when I began work on my purple taffeta dress, which I majorly blame for my lack of motivation in the months that followed.

To avoid working on the purple dress, I took on a week long break and made a women’s cotehardie, which was meant to coordinate with the mens cotehardie I made in 2015. The timeline on this dress was tight since I wanted to finish it before we got snow. I think I spent a solid four days working on it before declaring it complete.

I like how it looks visually – the brocade against the blue velvet, the buttons, and the large sequin embellishments. However the rush job shows in the fit of the shoulders and sleeves, which I’m not thrilled about.

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After completing that I was still avoiding my purple taffeta dress. However I had put so much work into the foundation garments for it that I decided to put them to good use and make something from the same era. That something was a turn of the century walking ensemble made from red plaid.

This costume really tested my patience (so much hand basting), but also proved to be a fun challenge (the plaid matching). I learned a lot about construction from this costume (collars!), and even tried a new hand sewing technique with the soutache designs on the collar and back. I stepped outside my comfort zone even further by decorating a home made hat with the wings of a bird.

Even though I struggled with this project at times, I don’t think it shows in the finished costume. And it’s by far my favorite thing I made that year, I really love it.

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Next I finally (after several months) finished the purple taffeta dress. The only thing I like about this costume is the hat. The rest, as far as I’m concerned is scrap material. It’s too tight and short in the bodice, and too long in the hem. The shoulders aren’t wide enough and the waistband is too wide. It’s a mess.

Working on this really sucked all the fun out of sewing and I regret forcing myself to finish it.

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My next costume was much simpler and a refreshing change. It’s a grecian costume that consists of a chiton, skirt, crown, and belt.

This was a costume I had been planning for ages and I was thrilled to finally make it a reality. The dress portion of this was very simple, but I invested a good twenty hours in the belt and crown. They were embroidered and embellished by hand, which took longer than I had expected. But I’m very pleased with the end result – the only thing I want to change is the chiton length, which won’t take more than an hour or two.

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It was around this time that I destroyed my neck while making a massive petticoat for my 1860’s evening gown. I regret pushing myself so hard on that one, and making a petticoat instead of a hoop skirt in the first place! This lead to another downfall in motivation, and I didn’t get much done for almost two months.

I split what little time I spent sewing between my civil war era evening gown, a cycling costume, and an 1860’s day ensemble. The day ensemble was the first to be finished…but I use the term finished loosely. It was supposed to consist of a blouse, skirt, and hat, but the skirt didn’t really work out and I didn’t have enough material to fix it. Which is why I only have waist up photos of this ensemble.

The skirt is a shame, but I do like the parts of this project I finished.

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I took on a quick hand sewing project after that and made a horned headpiece. This took a week or so, and was incredibly fun to work on. I love the variety of materials that can be used in these, and the challenge of bringing the shape to life. It isn’t historically accurate at all, but I think it looks quite believable in a way.

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The ball gown was finished next. This was one of my dream dresses. I worked on it for months and questioned whether I would ever complete it several times. I usually break elaborate projects down into pieces or steps so I don’t get overwhelmed while working on them. I did that with this project too, but there were so many pieces and each one was so time consuming to make that it felt like it would never end.

But eventually I did finish it, and I’m very proud of it. Especially the bodice – I think it’s lovely and it fits perfectly. The skirt doesn’t have quite the right shape, but the amount of hand sewing and work that went into each tier was insane, I’m so pleased I accomplished it. I like the headpiece too, I think it ties all of it together!

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After finishing that I wanted to make something simple that didn’t require an inch of lace. So I followed a pattern from The Cut of Women’s Clothes* and made a 1790’s round robe. This project wasn’t as simple as I had hoped, since I had to remake the bodice and figure out how it was supposed to go together without any instructions.

But I did appreciate the break from frills and lace, and I think the finished dress is quite lovely (though not particularly flattering). I altered a hat to match, and stuck a quilted petticoat under it. The dress was easy to get into and very comfy, which I appreciated!

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Around this time I made a pair of stays – which, like my previous pair of stays, fit horribly. And an 1880’s corset, which looks lovely, but has issues with the busk being out of alignment. Both took far longer to make than I would care to admit, and probably need to be remade in the future. But they did make good bases for things I worked on in the next few months.

I also finished my cycling costume, which had been in progress for weeks before it was complete. I blame the fact this had so many pieces. Including a hat, tie, jacket, shirtwaist, bloomers, shoes, and stockings.

Though it took a while to complete everything, I really like how this turned out. My only peeve is the collar on the shirtwaist. But I find the fit and proportions of this costume quite charming – and once again, it’s super comfy and easy to get into, which is a total bonus.

It was also my first time buying shoes to go with a historical costume, which made such a huge difference in how I felt wearing the costume. It was pretty amazing!

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Next up was my reattempt at an 1890’s day dress. My purple taffeta dress (attempt number one) turned out horribly, and I wanted to redeem myself. So I made a few design changes (which made it look a lot more like the dress that originally inspired me, from Crimson Peak), bought a better fabric, and focused more on the fit. I also referenced historical pattern books and used those as a guide which lead to a way better silhouette.

I like this dress so much more than my first attempt. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite thing I made this year, but it’s up there. I consider it quite striking.

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I also put together a few dresses for my youtube channel (and posted 40 videos throughout the year, which I’m pretty proud of). My favorite of these is a blue dotted dress inspired by the 1950’s. Researching dresses from this period made me feel excited towards making my own clothes (not just costumes) and potentially creating more 1950’s inspired pieces. Though it isn’t somethings I’ve pursued yet, I’d like to venture into it more in 2017.

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I followed that up with a spur of the moment Donwton Abbey inspired costume made from things I had in my stash. This isn’t the best costume I’ve ever made construction wise, since I have little patience when working with chiffon. But I really enjoy the end result.

It was quite different for me, with the large harem pants and fitted sleeves. The bodice is loosely boned and heavily embellished. Though a lot of work went into it, the whole thing was finished in a week!

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My next costume was a commission, which was quite a big step outside my comfort zone. I was asked to make a light up ball gown for the Scottsdale Princess hotel. This proved to be a challenge, since I had to find Christmas decorations at the start of October, and only had 10 days to construct it. But I got it done, and I managed to correct a lot of the “mistakes” I made when making this dress for myself two years ago.

I’m especially happy with how the bodice of this turned out – I love the sleeves! And I think it’s given me the confidence to potentially take on commissions in 2017.

(the dress isn’t complete in the photo below, but it’s the final photo I took of it on my dress form)

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The next costume is a fun 1830’s ensemble, which consists of a bonnet, top, and skirt. I really enjoyed making this. As much as I like ruffles and lace, it’s nice to focus on the construction and fabric manipulation, which this project requited a lot of. Between the plaid matching, pleats, gathers, and piping, it was a lot of work!

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In October I revisited an 18th century Robe a la Turque I started on much earlier in the year.  It was a very hand sewing heavy project that included home made trim, hand beaded fringe, and a lot of sequins. The project has a vest like dress with a train, a skirt that is visible from the front, and a turban inspired headpiece.

My feelings on this are..mixed. I love the materials and a lot of the details. But the patterning in the bodice could be a lot better. It also needed boning, or some sort of support in the bodice which I didn’t add since I didn’t do a lot of research before starting.

I’ve come a long way since I first started on that project, but a lot of the issues were unfixable by the time I revisited it. So it’s frustrating to see those faults in something I recently completed, since I know I’m better than that.

But from a distance, I think it looks pretty great!

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Another 18th century project I finished is inspired by one worn in The Duchess. I made something inspired by it in 2014 and it was bad. Like really, really, bad. I’ve wanted to reattempt it for a while now, and when I saw this striped silk I new it was time.

There are a few issues with the fit of this dress – It’s a bit tight, and the waistline is too high. I also need to take the underskirt in, it’s got so much volume it flairs over the over skirt, which is a no-no. But I love the trim on this, the stripe matching, and the mobility I have in it. I really learned my lesson from my previous few 18th century attempts. This bodice is lightweight, but well supported so it doesn’t crumple at the sides or back.

I also very much enjoy the matching hat I made. Trying this on really made me feel like an 18th century lady, I was so sad to take it off! Once I make the necessary alterations I want to get more pictures of it.

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In December I made an edwardian evening gown, which I still haven’t got worn photos of. But I really like how this turned out. The construction isn’t my best, but the color, trims, and simplicity of the design make me really happy, and I enjoyed working on it a lot.

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I also made a few headpieces in December, including this antlered one!

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And finally, my Christmas costume. I’ve gone over my thoughts on this recently, and the remain the same. I like it as a finished ensemble, but It’s far from my favorite thing I’ve made this year.

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I also want to give an honorary mention to my 1880’s evening gown. I got this 98% complete (seriously, a hundred hours must have gone into it and it’ll only take two more to finish it)  in 2016 but moved on to other things after Christmas and didn’t complete it. In fact I still haven’t completed it – I got distracted by the materials I got for Christmas. But I will finish it soon, and hopefully have blog posts detailing the construction process following that.

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There are a few other things that I think deserve mentioning in this post, like my attempt at an 1880’s striped bustle dress. And my sequined 1890’s jacket. And a black 16th century gown.  And probably a few other things I’m forgetting that ate up 10 or 20 hours of time but never got completed. I think that was part of my problem this year, when I was lacking motivation I would try to kickstart it by making something new…but I didn’t put a lot of thought into those projects, so they either fizzled out before I reached the half way point, or I realized they didn’t fit or weren’t accurate and never bothered to complete them.

Which brings me into my costume related goals for 2017!

The first one is to try be more diligent. I’m great at working when I’m inspired, but I want to get to a point where I can push myself to work regardless of how motivated I feel. I’m not saying I won’t take breaks, but I don’t want to procrastinate and accomplish next to nothing for several months because I “don’t feel like it”. I did that last year and it sucked.

I’d also like to try and find more balance. I think my procrastination sprees partially happened because I got burnt out or bored. Having projects with a lot of contrast in progress at the same time should help. And I think finding things I enjoy doing outside of sewing would help me relax and feel less burnt out.

Another one would be putting more thought into the projects I take on. A lot of my unsuccessful projects were ones I made on a whim, didn’t sketch first, didn’t research, and didn’t have enough material for. I like taking on spontaneous projects since they can be a lot of fun, but I feel like spending a few hours thinking and researching before getting started would save me materials and time in the long run.

I don’t have project specific goals this year, but I would like to:

Focus more on foundations. I don’t put the effort into these that they deserve, I’d love to have a corset and petticoat that I’m really proud of and fit well. And potentially a chemise with some embroidered details.

Venture into other eras and silhouettes. I gained a new appreciation for the late 1800’s this year and challenged myself quite a lot with dresses from that period. I’d love to push myself even more and make a bustle dress, regency gown, and something elizabethan.

Remember my love of simplicity. I tend to forget how much I enjoy projects that are construction based. I love ruffles too, and I tend to be most attracted to projects that have lots of them. But I really enjoy making simple kirtles and structured jackets. I’d like to keep that in mind this year and potentially make an Edwardian suit, or more casual wear from the 1500s/1600s.

A bit of a silly “goal” – but I would really like to have a dress from every decade of the 1800s. I have dresses from the 1830s, 1860s, 1880s, and 1890s. Along with materials for dresses from the 1820’s, 1840’s, 1850’s, and 1870’s. It isn’t something I’ll push really hard to accomplish, but I should be able to do it and I would be thrilled if I did.

And that’s it! Thanks for reading. I hope you had a productive 2016 and that the first month of this year has served you well.

Progress Report : Recent Projects

Today I’m talking about all my recent projects – which means there is a LOT to talk about! Though I haven’t finished a whole lot in the past months, I have a ton of things in progress and a bunch of recently abandoned projects. I did a big sewing room cleanup yesterday and came across a lot of those projects and thought it would be fun to share them with you! I also want to go over some of my future plans since I’m always planning something. 

But as I usually do with my progress reports, I’ll start off with things I’ve recently finished.

Using the term “recently” loosely, I finished my Civil War Era ball gown, which I adore. 
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And from the same period I made a more casual ensemble…er, I tried to, at least. This ensemble was supposed to consist of a blouse, hat, and skirt. But I didn’t have enough material for the skirt so it didn’t sit nicely over my hoop skirt. The fabric I used for the waistband was really delicate and unraveled. And somehow the skirt was sewn onto the waistband incorrectly, leaving the side seam at the center front.

I decided the skirt was cursed and gave up. Usually I push through to the end of projects, but this one wasn’t worth it. However I do really like the blouse! And I made a really cute pork pie hat to go with it. I used buckram, heavy weight interfacing and wire for the structure. It’s covered with velvet and decorated with a cheap brooch from ebay and a few feathers.

Before discarding the skirt I put it on and got some waist up photos, which I think turned out nicely!

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I’ll probably remake the skirt someday, and try to get better photos of this ensemble because I really the parts I did finish!

The wig in these photos was from a Halloween shop, I braided it nicely in the back but you can’t really tell. And the earrings are these ones* – I wear them all the time since they make me feel fancy.

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Around the time I finished that blouse and hat, I also made an 1890’s cycling costume. This is still one of my favorite things I made this year, it’s really comfortable, cute, and feels more complete than most of my costumes. Not because of how it’s constructed, it just the way everything from the hat to stockings and shoes match. It was also really enjoyable to make, flared jackets are so much fun!

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I find jackets so fun that I’ve decided to make myself a winter coat this year. Well, I originally wanted to make myself two coats, one 1920’s inspired, and another based on this 1950’s image, but I could only find the material for one coat and decided to make the 1920’s inspired one first.

Though I’m determined to make a coat like the one on the right some day.

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The design I settled on is based on some of the designs in this Bellas and Hess catalogue. I’m going to make mine a lot more fitted than those, but the length, crazy collars, and flashy buttons will definitely feature in the one I’m making. And if I have enough fabric leftover I’ll make a hat too.

Hopefully the end result will be something I can wear on a regular basis. My current winter coat is falling apart so if it turns out well it would definitely be an improvement! And a lot more unique than the ones I’ve tried on in stores.

I picked a fairly plain brown faux wool flannel from Jo-anns, and bright orange vintage buttons for it. But right now it’s just a sketch (on left).

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Part of my motivation to make something more wearable comes from a 1950’s inspired dress I finished recently. I was browsing on etsy when I came across a vintage dress from Over Attired that has a really interesting dart placement – they were parallel to the neckline and extended out from a center seam. The dress also had sleeves incorporated into the bodice pattern rather than being a separate piece.

I loved the dress, but it wasn’t in my size. So I decided to make my own! I used a lightweight polka dot material for it and lined it with cotton. It closes with a zipper up the back and a hook/eye. I drafted the pattern myself and absolutely adore the end result, it’s so much more flattering than most dresses I own and really comfortable. It’s made me want to make more of my own clothing, rather than just elaborate costumes.

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There won’t be a blog post about that dress, but there is a video showing how I made it here!

And I’ve already started on another 1950’s inspired project, with a similar sleeve design. But this one is bright yellow with a cute collar!

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Back to discussing finished things! My most recently completed costume is a Sybil inspired ensemble. Making this was the most fun I’ve had on a historical costume in a long time. I think it was a mixture of the materials, the huge amount of hand sewing, and the spontaneous aspect of it. I didn’t have built up expectations while working on it so I could just go with the flow which was great.

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I’d hoped to replicate those feelings with another Edwardian project, but it didn’t quite go as planned. I had a few other things in progress and this got put on the bottom of the pile rather than the top, which ruined the fun of it. But I do plan on going back to it soon when I have time to give it more attention.

The plan for this was a simple dress, fitted at the bodice with short sleeves and a skirt that falls away at the hips. For the dress I was going to use green satin faced chiffon, some trim I had around, and these matching appliques.

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The dress would be worn over a lace blouse made from silk, vintage lace, and cotton. This was the part I was most excited about since I love mixing trims, but I didn’t get very far before moving on to other things. I’m DEFINITELY coming back to it, I just need to finish some other stuff first.

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And that reminds me of another lace blouse that hasn’t been finished either. I started this a few months ago and got the bodice almost finished – it’s a mix of lace fabric, lace trim, and soft mesh. It was supposed to have a high lace collar and matching sleeves but I was so indecisive about which style to go with that I ended up setting it aside and haven’t gotten back to it. I’d like to resume this someday, but I’m still not sure what direction to go in!

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My other recent edwardian plan had a similar fate. It was supposed to be a suit based on this ensemble from a vintage magazine. I was really excited about this project, but I wasn’t very committed to it. I made the base for the hat, then got bored before I finished it. I made bust pads to achieve the proper silhouette and drafted a pattern for the suit, but I lost interest in that too and never finished it!

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A project I did successfully finish is this 1890’s taffeta dress. I have the first few blog posts up about this already and the final one should be up next week!

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Unfortunately my other 1890’s project hasn’t gone as well. This was supposed to be a fast fun project, made from a yard of glitter velvet and some two tone chiffon I had in my collection. The plan was to make a cute, short jacket and let the material really shine. But then I had the bright idea to embellish patterns on it with sequins, which looks fantastic, but took forever. 

After finishing the embellishing I took a break from it. Then a few weeks later I tried it on and realized the stupid thing doesn’t fit. Well, it kind of fits, but it’s too short in the waist. I might be able to salvage it by sewing in boning and adding waist tape that hooks closed, but that doesn’t seem like much fun so I’ve been avoiding it.

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I have two more abandoned projects to share, and then I’ll go back to the positive stuff!

A while back I had the bright idea to make something really different from everything else I had in progress – a tudor ensemble made from a variety of black materials. This was a flop too. I  think black fabrics (specifically velvet?) hate me. Or suck the inspiration from me. Or both.

In this projects defense, nothing went wrong with it. I drafted and fitted the project, then assembled the bodice. I did a bit of beading on it too before losing interest. I haven’t trashed this, and I’d still like to finish it, but my feelings towards is are very “meh” – there are more exciting things to sew, so I’m avoiding it for now.

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My final flop is the one I’m most annoyed about, because I invested so much time into it. This was supposed to be an 1880’s day dress, with a slight bustle. I made the bodice from cotton sateen I salvaged from another project and striped fabric I got for a dollar in Lancaster.

I draped, fitted, cut out, assembled, added hooks, sewed on the collar and sewed on the sleeves before realizing this didn’t fit. The main fit issue is with the shoulder, it’s too tight but not sloped enough, so it causes bunching below the neckline and around the chest. It looks terrible and can’t be fixed without removing the sleeves and collar.

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On top of that I sort of ran out of fabric. I thought I had more cotton sateen from a recent trip to the garment district that would match, but it doesn’t. Which means the bustle dress would have very tiny, awkward draped panels on the skirt. I could probably make it work but I’m not sure if it’s worth it.

Here is the skirt in its current state, without any draped panels. 😦

There is also a matching hat lacking trimming which I don’t have photos of.

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On a brighter note, I do have a few works in progress that seem to be going well! The first is my 1830’s dress, which I’ve blogged about already. I finished the bodice for this, and made major progress on a matching bonnet.

I still haven’t started on the skirt since I’d really like to make a shorter petticoat before working on it. But I haven’t been in the mood to make a petticoat, so I may make the skirt over my existing petticoats and  hem it shorter later.

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I’ve (bravely) taken on another 1880’s project. This is a natural form era gown, with a very fitted bodice and skirt that is wide around the hips but tapers towards the hem. It’s a very different silhouette for me and will require a LOT of work but I’m excited about it. I’ve been working on this for a while, with a bit of progress happening each week.

I guess the slow and steady technique has worked, because the bodice is almost done (minus some ruffles).

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I drafted the underskirt, and have spent ages beading the front panel, but it hasn’t really taken shape yet. Hopefully it will soon.

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I’d hoped to focus on some 18th century projects this October – partially because the name is catchy, but also because I have so many I want to make. The first project on this list is an elaborate turque which I mentioned in my birthday haul earlier this year.

The bodice is almost done – it’s fully constructed, just needs some trim and sleeves.

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I also got the skirt cut out. The skirt is made from shantung and trimmed with five yards of home made organza puff trim. By some miracle I finished that last week, and have moved on to hemming and gathering the ruffles for the petticoat. These are made from a snazzy taffeta and striped organza

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My other 18th century project is in a similar state. The bodice is almost done and i’ve confirmed that it fits, but it’s missing trim and I still haven’t drafted the sleeves. This is made out of that beautiful striped taffeta I got a few months ago. I love it soo much, I can’t wait to see this finished!

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I have the matching petticoat cut out as well. Both edges of the petticoat ruffle were hemmed by hand, which is like fourteen yards of hand hemming! But it’s done now, so I can move onto gathering it and attaching it to the upper portion.

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And I think that’s everything! I probably left out a few of the things I completed, but you’ve seen them before anyway. I thought it was better to focus on my fails and what I’m currently working on. Hopefully it was interesting and made you feel a bit better about any UFO’s you have laying around!

My goal for this month is to finish the turque, the winter coat, and the 1830’s dress. Then I can focus more on the other 18th century project and maybe something edwardian. I’d really like to work through some of these WIP’s!

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.

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And a more developed sketch.

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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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And here it is after being gathered!

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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.

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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…

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

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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!

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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.

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

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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.

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

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Now it was starting to look like something!

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

A look back on 2015

I’m a little late with writing this – but not as late as I was last year! So hopefully that counts for something!

Like the title of this post implies, this is going to be a look back on what I made in 2015. I’m going to share my thoughts on each project, my goals for 2016, and my feelings towards this year as a whole. And it’s probably going to be a long one since I made a lot of stuff!

Project wise this year was kind of weird. I don’t mean to be a downer, but i’m not very happy with what I accomplished this year. Not because of how many things I made – I finished more than twenty projects and the majority have multiple pieces, which I think is pretty respectable. But I didn’t enjoy working on a lot of the projects I finished.

When I started off this year I had a plan, and I was determined to stick to it. I had several big elaborate projects I wanted to work on and figured i’d make easy fashion projects in between. Those fashion projects didn’t end up being easy, I actually found them to be really time consuming and draining to work on. But I had the materials for them and they were part of my plan so I kept making them – even though I didn’t enjoy them at all.

That led to rut of sorts, where I didn’t want to work on anything. Especially the really elaborate projects I had originally planned. The enthusiasm for them wasn’t there at all, which is why I only finished one of the three projects I had planned at the beginning of 2015.

Luckily I did get back into the swing of things after a shopping trip to the garment district in October. I picked up materials for a slew of medieval projects which really restored my enthusiasm towards sewing. So I managed to finish the year on a high note, and i’m feeling very inspired and excited about my projects for 2016!

But before talking about those projects, it’s time to look back on 2015…

January: 

In January I started working on the underthings for my Tudor project, which involved making A Pair of Bodies and a Chemise.

But my first project of the year was a cotton sateen polonaise circa 1790, which was intended to be worn over a embroidered satin gown. I finished the dress but the polonaise is currently living in my bin of death and I don’t think it will ever get finished. I could not for the life of me get this thing to fit and eventually gave up due to frustration. Quite sad – in it’s early stages I really liked how it was coming along!

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I did manage to successfully finish one project that month, and that’s my Silvery Blue Dress which is inspired by a gown in the show Galavant. I like how this turned out a lot, and I would like to expand this ensemble by making a cloak to go with it.

It’s also worth mentioning that this is the first of many blue dresses I made in 2015. More than a third of my projects this year were blue!

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February: 

I continued making Tudor underthings and managed to finish the Farthingale. Alongside that I made the Tudor Kirtle. This is one of my favorite pieces from the year. There was a lot of trial and error involved since I wasn’t very familiar with the silhouettes from that period. That made it quite challenging, but also very enjoyable since I had to get creative. I’m also really pleased with the beading on this dress, it was my first time doing such an elaborate pattern and really inspired me to include more beadwork in my future projects.

My next project was a three piece ensemble which I titled the “Fluffy Feathered Dress” which was inspired by Marchesa dresses. I like how this turned out, and I enjoyed parts of the process. I used a lot of sequins and lace on the bodice to create a variety of textures, which was fun. The rest of the dress was kind of boring to work on by comparison.

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March: 

At this point I became frustrated with my tudor project, so I decided to make a dress from materials I had around. This project ended up being titled the “Pleated Navy Gown“. I enjoyed the process of making this a lot. It was very quick, I made it in less than a week and I think it’s one of the most visually impressive things I made this year. I love the fabrics and the drape of the sleeve.

But this dress isn’t perfect. The bodice is really thick at points, and since it isn’t boned it doesn’t sit very nicely on my body. I need to figure out some way of fixing that before properly photographing this project.

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April: 

I started work on the foundation garments for my 18th century ensemble and managed to finish the Half Boned Stays and Chemise. I realize now that the stays are too big and the fabric for the chemise was way too thick, so both need to be remade in the future. That’s kind of a bummer, but at least i’ll know for next time.

This was also the beginning of my Cinderella dresses from hell, though at this point I only had the Petticoat finished. I think these were the main reason I became so frustrated and uninspired. These were very time consuming, not very enjoyable, and seemed to fight me at every turn. I really wish I had given up on these dresses and moved onto something else instead of working through the misery to finish them.

A project I like more is my Orchid Inspired Dress, which I made from materials I got during my birthday in the middle of the month. This project had it’s ups and downs but for the most part I enjoyed working on it, and I like how it turned out. Though as always, i’d do some things differently next time!

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May: 

I finished one of my Cinderella Dresses but my happiness towards that was overshadowed by my struggles to complete the second dress in the series.

I did manage to figure out the bodice of my Tudor Project, which was great. I was also working pretty intensely on my 18th century dress. I made a set of pocket hoops, the bodice, and dyed the lace for the skirt. Unfortunately that was the last time I worked on that project, and though it isn’t abandoned, I haven’t made any effort to finish it.

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June: 

I finished my Tudor Project this month, which was a huge accomplishment for me. The final pieces include two necklaces, a french hood, foresleeves, and lace cuffs. I have mixed feelings about this project – I love all the detail work put into it, and how the pieces work together, but I don’t think it was completely successful. There are little fit issues here and there and the level of mobility is really bad.

I think my expectations for this project were higher than what it ended up being, which is why I don’t feel completely happy with it. But I am proud of it! I think it’s the most elaborate thing i’ve ever made.

I also FINALLY finished the second Cinderella dress. Thank goodness. This turned out better than I had expected but I hated working on it, so that soured the end result for me.

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July:

This was my favorite month project wise. I got so much done and I love everything that I made.

After months of on/off work I finished a Brown Menswear Ensemble. I made the pants for these in January, the shirt in March, and the hat in July. Those pieces were simple compared to the doublet (which was made in November 2014) but weren’t a big priority of mine, so they took a while to finish. I like how this turned out a lot, I think it’s cute!

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I made my favorite project of the year this month, and that’s my Heinrich Inspired Dress (along with two matching headpieces). I adore everything about this, I don’t think I have a single bad thing to say! It was really fun to make and I think the end result is gorgeous.

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Another one of my favorites is this Taffeta Ensemble based off a portrait of Ana De Mendoza. The dress, hat, and chemise were all made in the same month. I really enjoyed making this. The hat and dress bodice especially. Everything went so smoothly! And I’d never made a hat like this before, so completing it really motivated me to attempt more elaborate headpieces.

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August: 

August was less successful. I had a lot of things in progress throughout the month – including an elaborate mermaid inspired gown which I ended up putting on hiatus. I also started work on my Damask Print Medieval dress, which was fun at first but turned quite frustrating at the end.

I managed to finish three projects. The most successful of the bunch is a Regency Dress and Bonnet made from floral curtains and cotton sateen. I liked this project but I didn’t feel very excited about it while working on it, it was just something to pass the time. And looking back at it I still don’t feel very excited about it! I think it’s cute but needs some alterations before I’ll feel comfortable photographing it.

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The other project I didn’t enjoy very much at all…it was messy, and boring, and quite frustrating at times since I was allergic to all the materials. But I managed to complete my Forest Sprite project. I also made a quick dress in five hours from curtains which was fun, I’ve called that my Ikea Curtain Dress.

September: 

This month my main priority was a Black Lace Dress, which I wore to my Uncle’s wedding. This project ended up being frustrating at times, but I think it turned out very pretty!

I also kept working on my damask print dress, and I made two skirts. One was a plain circle skirt, and the other is a ruffly horsehair skirt. Both were the subjects for youtube tutorials so I never blogged about them.

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October: 

I managed to finish my Damask Print Medieval Dress this month, and a pair of PJ’s inspired by Toothless! I really dislike how the Medieval dress turned out but I think the Toothless PJs are pretty cute!

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With that finished all my “commitments” for the year were done. I didn’t need to create projects for youtube content and most of my WIP’s were complete or abandoned, so I could start fresh! This is when my enthusiasm really came back and I got back to creating projects I really love.

The first of those projects was a Medieval Escoffin and matching Dress. I love this project. It was so much fun to make and I think the end result is quite stunning, and different from everything i’ve made before. I’m very pleased with it!

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November: 

I didn’t finish any projects this month, but I made a lot of progress on various pieces. One of those pieces was a Medieval Cotehardie. I also made a headpiece to go along with a Civil War Era Dress, a medieval hennin, chiffon chemise, and a gold brocade kirtle. I really like how all of these pieces turned out, though I haven’t blogged about any of them yet!

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This month I also began work on a 1630s dress, an 18th century riding coat, medieval mantle, lace chemise,  long toed shoes, and a Burgundian Dress.

December: 

I had a massive to-do list for December. I didn’t accomplish everything on it, but it still ended up being a very productive month. I finished my Burgundian Dress and Medieval Menswear Inspired ensemble, both of which i’m very happy with.

These two projects rank highly on my list of favorites for the year. I really like how all pieces come together to make something interesting and elegant. And since I was constantly working on a new piece of each project I stayed really enthusiastic, which let me pack way more hours of time and detail work into each element.

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And of course I finished my Christmas Project! Which I ended up being surprisingly happy with as well.

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It’s worth mentioning that a good portion of this month was spent beading a riding coat which isn’t finished yet, but is coming along quite nicely. I spent the week between Christmas and New Years Day working on this like crazy. So much beading!

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Now for the fun part – what’s next! I’ll actually have a blog post all about the fabrics I bought with my Christmas money, and what I plan on doing with them. So I won’t talk too much about my future plans, but I did want to share my goals. My goal is actually pretty vague – i’m a bit worried to commit to anything in particular, since that let me into a creative ditch last year!

But my main goal for this year  is to improve my general knowledge of historical fashion, and learn more hand sewing and fabric manipulation techniques.

I like reading and I like learning, but I like sewing more. So I don’t put a lot of effort into research or new techniques unless it’s related to a specific project. And I want to change that. I own a lot of really great reference materials that I look through when i’m stuck on something, but I haven’t read many of them cover-to-cover. And I definitely haven’t practiced all the techniques that are detailed in some of the books.

There are some really basic techniques, like blanket stitching or smocking that I don’t know how to do, since i’ve never had a project that requires them. This year i’m going to try and push myself to learn and practice those techniques, even if they are only used to create a sampler.

I think if I took a few hours each week to read through my reference books i’d have a more well rounded skill set and knowledge of historical fashion. Right now what I know is pretty limited to european fashion from the 15/19th centuries. And even that is a little spotty. I’m interested in learning more, and I have the books around to do so, I just need to take the time to read them!

As for project plans, mine are very loose because I never seem to be able to stick to the solid plans I make, and this year I don’t want to, I want to work on what I feel enthusiastic about and go with the flow. But I do have a few things I would like to accomplish and that includes:

-A draped gown. Probably inspired by the statues from the Metropolitan Museum of art that I was fascinated by. I have the fabric for this (ten yards of satin faced red chiffon).

-An 18th Century Project. I’d be happy just to finish the one I have in progress! But I have fabric for a turque and chemise a la reiene so the possibilities are endless.

-A 20th Century Project. More on this in my next post, since I picked up fabric for this on a recent NYC shopping trip!

-A Regency dress. I’ve made a few of these but don’t love any of them, maybe i’ll get one right this year.

-A big ball gown. Probably a Civil War Era evening dress – potentially made out of pink cotton sateen and lace that i’ve had forever.

-Something Tailored. Maybe a women’s suit? A riding ensemble? I’m not sure what.

Of course there are many more things i’d like to make. Another menswear inspired project is on my list for this year, and I want to make a women’s cotehardie very soon. I also have four projects I purchased fabric for over Christmas, which will keep me busy for the first half of this year. But I can’t list all my ideas, there are simply too many to share!

Also I think i’m going to, for the most part, be doing more of the same this year. I’m hoping to get more of my projects photographed, and take on a wider variety of silhouettes and era so my portfolio has a little more variety. But I think my blogging schedule will stay the same if not more frequent.

And that’s it! This post is massive so I’ll end it here. I hope you enjoyed my blog throughout 2015 and that you continue to enjoy it throughout the new year. And of course, I hope your year is off to a good start!

Thanks for reading!

Making a Gold and Ivory Gown, Part One

It’s that time of the year again! The time where I make a dress inspired by my favorite holiday, which is Christmas.

In case you are new to my blog, this is my third year in a row making dresses with this theme. My previous two holiday inspired dresses  can be viewed here and here. And like last year i’m filming the process of making this, the videos about it will be posted here.

This years dress has proved to be more of a challenge than ever. Not because it was difficult to make, in fact the construction was a lot more straightforward on this dress than last years. The challenge was coming up with an idea, which is weird for me, usually the idea is the easy part!

The ideas behind my previous Christmas dresses were very solid in my head for a few weeks before I started working on them, which made the lack of inspiration about this years project all the more frustrating.

After a lot of consideration I’ve decided to make something simple. I think my problem was  trying to overcomplicate this project and come up with something really impressive. But I don’t feel like making a really complicated this year. I want to make something quite simple and pretty that goes with this headpiece that I made last year.

I’m making the design somewhat Angelic once again, with a fitted bodice, full length puffed sleeves, and a full skirt. It’s kind of a throwback to the Renaissance inspired dresses I made when I first got into historical sewing a couple years ago – but the construction will be much better.

Today i’ll be showing you my materials and how I made the bodice.

I’m using fabrics I already had around. The bolt  of striped brocade was picked up earlier this year, and the other brocades were bought last year. I’m also using a bit of off white chiffon. Ideally this dress would be made entirely out of the striped brocade, but I only have four yards. That’s enough to make a relatively full skirt and pair of sleeves, but not enough for the bodice. So that’s where the gold brocade on the left side will come in.

The chiffon is for a gathered panel at the front of the bodice, which will make it look like i’m wearing a chemise underneath the dress. The did this with a lot of Lucrezia’s dresses in “The Borgias” which is one of my favorite series and probably why i’m so obsessed with this style.

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Once I selected the materials from my stash I went on a little trip to joanns and browsed the Christmas selections with hopes of finding inspiration. I didn’t find too much, but I did get these cute little velvet birds, a gold cage, seasonal sprigs, and some braided trim. I really loved the little birds, and the contrast between the doves and cardinals. That was something I wanted to incorporate into my dress.

Once I got back home I discovered some red and gold ribbon that I bought a few years back (for 70c or something crazy, thanks to sales) which matched the little birds perfectly! So I chose to feature this ribbon prominently in the dress at the waist and cuffs. I also pulled some gold sequins, seed beads, and 4mm fake pearls from my stash which i’m going to use around the bodice neckline.

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With all that settled, I got to work on the bodice. Instead of drafting a new pattern I used a vest pattern I made a few years ago to wear with my Pretty Pirate Project. I altered it quite a lot but the shape is still the same. The main changes were making the neckline wider and deeper, lowering the waistline, and removing the side seams.

Then I cut out a layer of cotton and marked all the boning channels. I drew these out randomly, with most of the bones at the center and sides of the bodice. I went a little crazy with the boning channels, but i’m using all plastic bones, and to get a nice shape with them you have to go a bit overboard.

Also, since i’m using brocade which shows every flaw I wanted the bodice to have a very stiff, smooth base, which is the effect lots of plastic bones give you.

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I cut a layer of twill out and pinned them together, then sewed all the boning channels. This took a while but I like sewing boning channels, it becomes relaxing after a while.

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I used the twill/cotton layer as a guide to cut out the brocade layer of the bodice. Then I pinned them together with the right sides facing each other and sewed around each edge. This should have been really easy, but I did it wrong. Or at least I thought I did it wrong. So I cut a few slits in the brocade layer, then began seam ripping the stitching. Only to realize a minute later that I DID sew it the right way.

Would have been nice to realize that before I cut the fabric…

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Anyway! I redid it and it turned out fine. Then I added some lightweight fusible interfacing to the back edges of the bodice, so the eyelets will sit better in the brocade.

I also trimmed the curves and corners so everything would look sharp when it’s turned the right way out.

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Speaking of turning things the right way out, I spent half an hour doing just that. I used pliers and colored pencils to speed the process up but it still seemed to take ages. When I was finally done I pinned around the edges, making sure that none of the twill/cotton/base layer was visible from the front side of the bodice.

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I sewed around each edge with a whip stitch so the brocade layer wouldn’t move around and reveal the base layer. You can avoid doing this if you make the lining slightly smaller than the top layer of fabric, but I didn’t want to risk doing that when boning channels were involved.

I only grabbed a few threads from the top layer of fabric so none of these stitches are too visible.

When that was done I added boning to the bodice and tried it on – luckily it fit!

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Then I stitched all the eyelets. I had the realization last week that you can use embroidery floss for sewing eyelets and it is way easier to work with than regular thread. I don’t know why this never occurred to me – it’s so obvious! Embroidery floss for embroidered eyelets. Makes perfect sense.

With this newly discovered process I decided to be brave and sew eyelets in a contrasting color. I went for a cheery red shade that matches the ribbon i’m using at the waist~

Fun fact: Totally pricked my finger when I was doing this and now it’s infected (though the doctor I saw insists it’s a bruise – despite the swelling, redness, and pain). I have my fingers crossed (the ones that aren’t infected) that it will resolve itself soon.

But hey, that barely matters because the eyelets look super pretty!

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I also trimmed the bottom edge and sewed on bias tape to cover it.

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To create the gathered front panel I cut out a strip of chiffon. Then I folded it in half and hand stitched across the folded edge so it wouldn’t shift.

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I gathered it by hand at two points – one is three quarters of an inch away from the top edge, the other is half an inch away from the bottom edge.

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Then I sewed it into the bodice with small whip stitches.

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I liked how it looked, but when I tried it on the gathering stitches at the top snapped. So I regathered it down to twelve inches (instead of the eight it was gathered down to originally) then sewed some thin elastic at the gathering point. This holds it close to my body but gives it the ability to stretch if it needs to.

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With that done it was time to add the embellishments to the neckline.

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I alternated between 4mm fake pearls and gold seed beads, then whip stitched the strand in place. Below that I sewed a spattering of gold sequins on. It’s subtle, but I think it’s very pretty!

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I didn’t extend the beading to the back of the bodice because I didn’t have enough pearls. And beading on the backs of dresses is kind of a pain, hair gets caught in it so easily.

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And here it is with the shoulder seam done up! I did sew lining into the bodice but that step came after attaching the sleeves, so i’ll show that in another post.

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And here is a preview photo of what the whole thing looks like finished, because the details are so much clearer in this photo and I wanted to show how smooth the brocade looks. I’m quite proud of that!

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More photos and The Making of Posts about this project will be up soon!

Thanks for reading!

Progress Report: November / December 2015

It’s been a while since i’ve done one of these, my last one was back in August so this is long overdue! I have a lot to share, so I have a feeling that this post will be really long and all over the place. Sorry about that.

If you are new to this type of post,  Progress Reports are a monthly round up of what i’ve been working on, what i’ve purchased, and what I plan to start working on soon.

I’m not going to talk too much about what i’ve finished in the past few months. Partially because I can’t really remember since i’ve had so much in progress recently. But mostly because the year is almost over, which means my “Year in Review” post will be up soon and in that i’ll be talking about everything i’ve finished this year.

So I won’t bore you with that information twice. But I do want to mention the projects I managed to get photographed this month, since i’m quite happy about those!

I made an escoffin and matching maroon dress to create a medieval ensemble. I’m really happy with how this turned out and I love the photos of it, I think they are quite striking. Unfortunately i’ve been really slow when it comes to editing photos, so I still don’t have this set completely finished…or any of the photosets. Hopefully i’ll get them done soon!

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We also photographed my Damask Print Medieval Dress. I don’t like how this dress turned out, and the photos were a it of a flop. Most had weird shadows in them and the best ones of the bunch were taken with a flash – which made my eyes look really dead. But I do like this photo, it really shows off how pretty these fabrics are in sunlight.

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And I FINALLY got photos of my Civil War Era Dress! I adore this costume, it was one of my favorite things that I made in 2014. Unfortunately I never got photos of it, or made a petticoat to go with it, or even finished blogging about it!

 I still have all the progress photos of it, so a long overdue post about making the skirt and headpiece will be up in the coming months.

In the mean time, look at all the pieces together! I’m still thrilled by how this project turned out. The fit, the sleeves, and the fabric, I love it all.

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I didn’t end up making a petticoat to go with this dress, instead I layered petticoats over my farthingale, which has an elliptical shape similar to large dresses from the mid 19th century. It wasn’t pretty, but I got a decent silhouette out of it.

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Then I re-hemmed the skirt so it sits properly over it and made the half bonnet from lace and matching green fabric. I think it finishes off the look nicely.

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Since i’m talking about photographing finished projects I think I should mention this years Christmas Project, which I finished a few days ago. My dad and I went out to the Christmas Tree Lot (for the third year in a row) and took some pictures. Last year this was a bit of a fail, but this year they turned out wonderfully. I’m not ready to share any of them yet, but here is a little preview of the costume!

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I’ve made Christmas inspired dresses for the last few years, and usually the ideas for them are easy to come by. That didn’t happen this year. Coming up with a concept was really hard, and I ended up going for something quite simple. But I do like how it turned out. The construction process went really nicely and I think the dress is very cute, even if it isn’t as exciting as the dress I made last year.

I used gold brocade from my stash as a base, some beads in matching colors, and red ribbon for a pop of color. I took some color inspiration from these little velvet birds I found at Joanns. I found the contrast between the red and white really striking, and I wanted to do something similar.

I won’t ramble on about it too much since a “The Making of” post about the process is going up tomorrow, but here are the things from the Joanns trip that helped inspire this dress.

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I ended up using some of the materials I got to create another seasonal crown (yet again, for the third year in a row). I’m very pleased with how this turned out as well, I added some battery powered lights to it and I think the whole thing looks magical. I can’t wait to get worn photos of it!

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I did film a video tutorial on the process, but i’m not sure when it will be going up.

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I also got a few other bits and pieces from Joanns, thanks to Black Friday sales, so i’ll share those as well.

I got six yards fake wool flannel for $24 – which I think is an absolute steal. I love this fabric, It’s what I used for my Civil War Era dress and the texture of it is wonderful. Unfortunately they didn’t have the best color selection, or enough fabric left in most colors for me to do something great with it. But I do like the one I bought.

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I also got four yards of a sari fabric and a yard of this textured stretch fabric. Not sure what i’m going to do with any of these materials, but I really like all of them!

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These next few things I didn’t buy, they were a gift from my Great Aunt. She gave them onto me a few months ago when my family was visiting Canada to attend a wedding.

She got these from an auction at a theater that was shutting down. They are all vintage costume and sewing books – I think they were all printed before the 1960s, some as early as 1907.

The first few are a set of textbooks from the 1920s, which were created by Mary Picken for the Women’s Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences. I haven’t read through them all just yet, but i’m really impressed by them. They explain a huge variety of techniques in really simple terms that makes the most complicated of things pretty easy to follow.

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The other books are specific to costumes and historical dress. Again, I haven’t read these through yet but i’ve enjoyed browsing them! And I will take the time to read them cover to cover soon.

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They are all well balanced between photos and text, which I appreciate since i’m a very visual person.

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Now lets talk about some things in progress. Of which I have plenty. I decided at the start of December that I wanted to finish five projects before the new year. Five! In a month! As you can probably imagine my to-do list has been looking really overwhelming since I made that decision. I have managed to get a bunch of things crossed off in the last week, but here you can see it in it’s original state.

So many things.

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I want to start fresh in the new year, and be able to focus on new projects without these weighing me down. Not that I dislike the projects, but I know when January rolls around i’ll be ready to work on something new. So I’d like to get these things finished first.

But that is easier said than done.

The project i’m closest to finishing is my Cotehardie ensemble. If you’ve seen my last post than you’ll know I finished the cotehardie part of this and i’m pretty happy with the outcome.

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But that piece is one of many. I still have to finish the crown and mantle which go along with it. Luckily i’ve finished the shoes which were the part I was really scared of, and the leggings. If I remade either of these things I would do them a bit differently, but for the most part i’m happy with them.

Wool Shoes~

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A blog post about these should be up soon – these were a step (ha!) outside of my comfort zone, so I think they will be fun to write about!

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The dagged edges on the mantle are what slowed me down, but they are done now so the rest should go quickly!

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The crown is…well the crown isn’t going too well, but hopefully I can get that figured out soon and have the whole thing done!

My next “almost done” project is a Burgundian Dress. This project has actually been going quite well, though i’ve hit a bit of a setback because I don’t have enough trim to hem the skirt with…and the trim is discontinued, so I can’t get more of it, which means I have to take in my pretty skirt. I’m annoyed by that even though it’s my fault for measuring wrong.

Aside from that, all the difficult parts of this project are done, but it’s usually the easy finishing bits that take me ages, so i’m not sure when it will get finished.

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That dress will be paired with a Medieval Hennin, which I finished this month. It’s made from matching fabric with a chiffon veil and lots of pretty beaded trimming.

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I don’t think the chiffon matches very well,  I’ll definitely be on a lookout for a lighter, more grey toned chiffon next time i’m in NYC. But it works fine for now!

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The Burgundian dress is worn over a kirtle, which i’ve also finished. It’s made out of the most annoying brocade ever but I think it turned out quite nicely. Here is a WIP of it, from before I added the sleeves and trimming.

I don’t want to give away too much about these projects since I really want to write detailed blog posts about all of them, but i’m so far behind with my blog that those posts probably won’t go up for another month or two. 😦

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The third project is already done, and that’s my Christmas project. As I said earlier blog posts about that will be up really soon, so i’ll talk more about it there.

Unfortunately my other two projects that I want to finish haven’t been going as well. The first one is a 1630s  ensemble that i’m becoming quite frustrated with. First the shoulder didn’t fit, then I fixed that and realized the bodice was too short waisted. I spent many hours hand sewing the strips for paned sleeves only to realize they are the wrong length and the arm hole isn’t wide enough.

This week I started work on a matching chemise to go under it and the sleeves for that are too full and short even though I triple checked the length. It’s like this project is refusing to go well!

I think i’m going to have to completely start over…but my motivation towards this  project is fading, and i’m not sure I can remake it without giving up. It’s such a shame since this is my favorite style of gown ever, I’ve been so excited to make one and now that I am it’s going horribly.

It could turn itself around, and I haven’t given up on it yet, but i’m certainly not happy with it at the moment!

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Here are the pieces bound together, you can see how shoddy the shoulders are due to crazy alterations. I’m also not happy with my choice to have the bodice close at the front, if I redo this it’ll have lacing in one of the back seams.

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The chemise might not fit nicely under this dress, but it looks pretty so far! I’m using a lovely lace fabric over white chiffon and embellishing it with iridescent white sequins.

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The sleeves cuffs are finished with more sequins and some iridescent braided trim.

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The other project i’m determined to finish this year hasn’t been touched in months, even though it’s close to being done. It’s an 18th century gown that will be worn over a chemise, stays, and pocket hoops. The gown has wide lace across the hem and will be worn with a riding coat and hat.

I started on it this summer and it hasn’t changed much since then. The underthings were done, but i’ve realized I need to remake the chemise from lighter fabric and take the stays in so they are smaller.

The bodice is almost done, it’s just missing sleeves. And the skirt is almost finished as well, I just have to finish sewing on the lace.

But the jacket and hat? No clue how to make those or what the patterns will look like. I haven’t even thought about it. But I know the beading and detailing will take time so I want to get started soon. I need to have a research day and figure out what this costume is even going to look like, then get my butt in gear and actually finish it!

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I think my goals for this month might be a little bit too ambitious. We’ll just have to wait and see if I can accomplish them.

Oh! I’m also working on a velvet kirtle, but i’m honestly not feeling very excited about this project and I don’t see myself finishing it this year. I don’t dislike it, it’s just boring. It will eventually have a cartridge pleated skirt, small sleeve rolls at the shoulder, long velvet sleeves and white cuffs. I’d like to pair it with a damask print vest and hat as well, but I don’t see any of that happening any time soon.

I made the smock this month as well. I used three yards of a really neat metallic chiffon and it has a gorgeous sheen to it.

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With all the stuff I have in progress out of the way, lets talk about the future! I’m going into NYC to spend my Christmas money soon and I have big plans. Okay that is kind of a lie – I don’t have any plans because I haven’t researched anything yet, but I have big ideas!

I’ve been watching Downton Abbey recently and it’s given me an appreciation for fashion from that era that I didn’t have a few months ago. I’ve always considered the silhouettes and styles from the late 19th/early 20th century to be quite…ugly, and unflattering. They still aren’t my favorite but i’ve definitely found a few gowns from those times that I love. And the challenge of working on designs from an era I haven’t worked on or researched before has me excited.

I’ll be doing historical research of course, but thanks to the dresses in Downton Abbey and the costume design for Crimson Peaks i’ve decided an Edwardian day dress, hat, matching cloak, and sparkly evening dress are all in my future. I’d also like to look into making a flapper dress, but I feel like the shape of them would look awful on me

In addition to those plans I’ll be searching for some wool to make a large cloak to wear over my Silvery Blue Dress for a photoshoot in the snow.

And though I won’t be shopping for it on this trip into NYC, I think a 1880s bustle dress might be in my future as well. Which probably doesn’t sound odd to you guys, but I’m a bit shocked to be saying that! A year ago I would have sworn that I would never make anything from that period. How things change!

I also have a few menswear projects on my upcoming “to sew” list. I picked up these shoes from a modcloth sale because they reminded me of 18th century footwear. They are really inaccurate but I don’t care. I have some blue jacquard fabric that matches them nicely, and some blue velvet laying around. So i’m totally going to make a horribly tacky menswear inspired 18th century ensemble and wear these with it. I can’t wait.

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I’d also like to make a 19th century court dress from the embroidered blue velvet I got last year. And I have some gold trim and taffeta that I’d love to use for a matching menswear ensemble from the same period.

Though i’m not super excited about this one, because i’ve made similar things in the last month, I want to make the women’s cotehardie ensemble I bought fabric for a few months ago. I  want to photograph it in the snow, which means it will be at the top of my project list for January!

The one i’m most excited about is a civil war era ball gown. I bought cotton sateen and lace for this a few years ago but it wasn’t until I was altering my Plaid dress from the same period that I remembered how much I love the silhouette and dresses from that time. I’m on the look out for another material in the same color scheme that I can use for an ovelay on the dress. If I find it when i’m in NYC i’ll be starting on it right away. But I do have to make a petticoat to go under it, which will probably take ages, so I might not have a lot of progress to share about it any time soon!

We are almost at the end of this post! The last things I wanted to mention are social media related. Nothing super exciting has happened, but last month I was part of Schmetz Inspired to Sew Series. The interview I did with them can be read here if you are interested!

I also (finally) made an instagram. I wasn’t expecting to like it because i’m not someone who reaches for my phone very often, but I love it. I’ve found it very convenient and have been updating at least once a day with some stuff that doesn’t get posted anywhere else. So if you have an account and want more regular updates on my work, I would suggest following me there! My account name is AngelaCostumery.

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I also hit 50,000 subscribers on youtube quite recently which is insane, but awesome. I’m really excited and grateful to know that that many people are interested in my work!

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And speaking of youtube, I made a much requested video this month which is an updated tour of my sewing room. It’s really long but it goes over pretty much every detail of how I store my costumes, fabrics, trims, notions and all sorts of stuff.

I had intended to make a blog post showing the room as well, but I think the video format works better for the amount of information I wanted to share. If you’re into that thing it can be watched here! 

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And that’s it!

As an end note I wanted to say that i’m sorry i’ve been slacking so much when it comes to blogging. I went through a weird phase where I wasn’t excited enough to write about my projects. Now i’m over that and really enjoying my projects but seem to be making them faster than I can write about them, so I just haven’t bothered.

Now I have enough photos to write about 20 detailed “The making of” posts, but so much to do before the New Year that I haven’t written any of them. I think January and February will be slower months, since i’ll be making corsets and petticoats and patterning new projects. There won’t be much to report there which means I should be able to make my way through the backlog i’ve developed recently. I really appreciate your patience when it comes to this stuff.

Thanks for reading!

Progress Report: July & August 2015

It’s been almost two months since my last one, which means it’s time for another progress report!

I got a lot done in the past two months, and i’m happy with what I got done, but it doesn’t feel like enough. I had a little mid year crisis in July, where I felt like I hadn’t accomplished anything. Six costumes in seven months isn’t bad, but i’m not particularly happy or proud of any of those projects. So I sulked about that for a bit, then got super motivated and completed five projects. Which is awesome, but would be more awesome if I didn’t feel like I need to make up for the previous seven months where I got so little done.

I’m mostly over that now, and i’m feeling enthusiastic about new projects, so I think it was just a temporary sewing slump. I felt this way around the same time last year too. I guess July isn’t a good month for me!

Anyway, onto what I got done in july and august, and what I plan to do in the coming months! I promise the rest of this post is happier than that intro!

I started and finished my Heinrich inspired dress. I also made two headpieces to go with it. I mentioned in my last progress report that I wanted to make this and I’m so happy that I did. This really got me out of my “sewing slump” and left me with enough enthusiasm to finish up some frustrating projects.

I’m really pleased with how this turned out, I wasn’t at first but now I really love it.

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A couple weeks later I decided to take on another fast but relatively elaborate project, which is based off of a portrait of Ana de Mendoza. I’m very pleased with this costume as well, I think it and my Heinrich inspired dress are tied for my favorite projects of this year (so far). I really like both of them, and I like wearing them.

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I also made a dress out of ikea curtains – I don’t know if this really counts because I made it in a day, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to mention! I like how this turned out, but I definitely prefer my more elaborate historical ensembles.

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I also finished off two projects that had been dragging on, and they are both short fashion-y dresses.

This month I came to the realization that I need to take a step back from the fashion and fantasy projects. I started doing them as a fun “break” from the complicated historical pieces but they really aren’t. I don’t enjoy making them as much, they aren’t valuable in my portfolio, and they tend to be just as time consuming and expensive to make as something like my Heinrich dress.

In fact, my Cinderella dress took over two months and the Forest Sprite took a solid two weeks of on and off work. My Ana de Mendoza costume and Heinrich dress were each made in less than a week.

I have a couple more fashion projects planned, but they will be hugely different in silhouette and design from anything i’ve done before.  Or they will be truly simple projects I can make in a day, like my ikea curtain dress. No more of making these short fluffy dresses just for the sake of it!

 Here is my Cinderella dress! This took ages, everything that could go wrong went wrong and it was a battle to get it finished. But I made it to the end, and it turned out pretty cute!

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The other fashion project was a Forest Sprite costume, inspired by materials that were on sale at Michaels. This wasn’t fun to work on for various reasons (one of which being my allergy to burlap and moss…two materials that are prominently featured in this costume) which i’ll go into more when I blog about the process.

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I also got photos of a couple projects. One of those is my brown menswear ensemble.

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And another is the Forest Sprite. I haven’t finished editing this set, so i’ll be a couple weeks before I post them, but here is one i’ve finished.

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I mentioned last month that I wanted to take some painting-esque photos of my Tudor costume. I attempted to do that – I even set up a backdrop and lighting! It kind of worked, but the fake drapery I used looked really bad and my room was too small to include the hem of the dress in the photos. I plan to attempt this again, but I have to make proper velvet curtains and hang a curtain rod in my room…so it might be a while before that happens.

I think my photo goal for this month is to take photos with flowers. I have a half dozen costumes which haven’t been photographed outside my sewing room that would look really nice in a garden. I want to accomplish that before autumn and winter come. The only problem is finding a garden that would allow it.

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Now, lets talk about things I’ve started and should be finishing soon.

I’m mostly done with a regency gown. I really love the fit and shape this has, and i’m excited to complete it. The only thing I don’t like (and it’s a big one) is my material choice. This dress is also made out of a set of Ikea curtains, when I bought them the print reminded me a lot of this chintz dress that I love. Once I turned them into a dress I began to realize how modern this floral print looks, and now I’m less happy with it.

But i’ll carry on and get it done! Hopefully blog posts about this will be up soon.

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I’ve also been working on the 18th century project I mentioned in my last progress report. I raised the waistline of the skirt (the hem is straight, so it has to be pulled up from the top to sit evenly over the panniers) and pleated it. I had planned on beading the lace elaborately, and I started with a ten inch test section. Unfortunately it looked really bad, and I much preferred the look of the lace without it. So I removed the beading and have decided to leave it this way.

I’m a bit bummed about this, but I think it was the right decision. Since it won’t have pink and gold beads on it I feel like this dress will better suit the colors in winter (it will be paired with a red riding coat). I’m still going to finish sewing on all the lace and plan on drafting the sleeves for the bodice in the next month or so, but i’m not in any rush to finish.

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The final thing I have in progress is a stomacher i’m working on embroidering (I stole the pattern from photobucket, I hope that doesn’t offend anyone). Before this i’d never embroidered before, so it’s been a learning process. I’m terrible at making this symmetrical, but aside from that i’ve really enjoyed it!

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I work on it whenever I have TV to watch. It’s nice having a small handsewing project I can do on my lap. I usually use a whiteboard as a table that rests on my knees, and Guin sits next to me while I work. I’ve been really into crappy reality shows on the History channel and watching Friends on netflix.

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The design for the project which will use that stomacher is still a mystery. I want to make a 17th century ensemble (I have enough 18th and 16th century project planned) but they didn’t have colorful embroidered stomachers during that time. I think i’ll ignore historical accuracy and go with the silhouette of the 1630’s with the colors and fabrics from the 1560’s. It won’t be accurate, but it will be pretty!

Even though the design doesn’t exist yet, i’ve bought fabrics for it!

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During Joanns student discount month I picked up supplies for a fashion project – I know what I said earlier, but this one has a very different shape and i’m really excited about it. I’m not making it because I want a break from historical things, i’m making it because i’m enthusiastic about the design. It’s going to be a mermaid inspired dress made from glittery and sheer materials, and decorated with rhinestones and shells.

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I’ve mentioned these a couple times (and already used two sets…) but here are the ikea curtains in their original form. Two of them have already been turned into dresses, and i’m hoping to do the same with the final set later on this month. It’s a beautiful lightweight cotton gauze that is very soft . When I saw it I knew immediately that I wanted to make a Chemise a la Reine of it.

I’d really like to get that started (and finished) soon since it’s a summery style of dress, but I don’t have the materials for a matching sash or hat. So I might put this off for another month or two.

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I have a lot of plans and hopes for the next couple months – an early 1800s velvet court dress, another menswear project, an embroidered 18th century gown, and lots of others. But the two that I really must finish are a damask print medieval dress and a short lace dress, which i’ll be wearing to my uncles wedding. I’ll have more info on the lace dress soon, but here are the materials for the medieval one. This will be my next “The making  of” project on youtube, so I need to get started on it soon!

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I’m not completely set on a design yet, but it’s mostly based off this painting of Eleanor of Portugal and the women’s dresses below. Whatever I end up doing will be worn with a gold headpiece, I bought some gold mesh especially for it.

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And the final thing I wanted to mention is that i’ve opened an etsy store. I really want to sell spiked headpieces like the ones I made to go with my Heinrich dress. I have all the supplies for it, so now I just have to make a bunch of them and figure out how to work paypal, then i’ll be in business!

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And that’s it for today – this post became much longer than I had intended, but I had a lot to share. A “The making of” post should be up early next week!

Thanks for reading!

Making a Dress out of Ikea Curtains

I recently went to ikea. Going to ikea is usually a fun experience, because I enjoy places with a lot of stuff I don’t need but find very appealing because it is cheap and aesthetically pleasing. I got a new rug for my sewing room, and a little wire cart for under my desk. But the most exciting purchase were the curtains I got.

I don’t need curtains. I don’t plan on using any of the sets as curtains. The reason I bought them is because the curtains are effectively very large panels of fabric. About five and a half yards of fabric, in fact, which is enough to make a dress! That’s what i’ll be doing today. This entire dress is made from a pair of curtains and a zipper, which cost a grand total of $16. And it only took me five hours to make!

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I sort of gave up on photographing this project part way through. I made this dress for my youtube channel, and wasn’t even sure if I would blog about it, which is why the pictures are limited. But there should be enough for you to understand the process!

Here is the material. These are EIVOR curtains.

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Two 57″ x 98″ panels – that is soo much fabric, it ends up being less than $3 a yard.

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It’s a stiff cotton fabric and it feels a lot like the broadcloth you get at fabric stores. This isn’t a print I would usually go for, but I thought it was really cute. It’s a large sketchy black pattern of branches, leaves, and birds.

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As I said, this isn’t a print I would usually go for, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to make with it. I decided to browse etsy for ideas. I ended up searching for 1950s summer dresses, since they often have cute, but simple designs, which suit a large print. I found two that I really liked, they can be seen here and here.

Here is one of the images from the listing (photo belongs MinxouriVintage, not me) in case it gets removed and isn’t visible later on. I thought this neckline was pretty, and the bows on the straps won me over completely.

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So I used some scraps of a batik fabric and draped a pattern on my dress form which I felt looked similar. I know it looks pretty shoddy here, but I ironed it, cleaned up the edges, and transferred it onto paper.

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After all that it looked like this! Much nicer!

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I cut the bodice out twice. One layer will be the front, the other will be the lining. Since this fabric isn’t completely opaque the print on the lining layer is visible from the outside. I could have used a pure white cotton lining instead, but I liked being able to see the print. It ads a shadowy effect which I think is cool.

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I marked the darts onto the wrong side of the fabric. Then they got pinned and sewed in place.

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…And that was where I gave up on photographing the process. So we skip a lot of steps! I pinned the layers together, so the right sides were facing each other. Then I sewed around the neckline and center back with a half inch seam allowance. I turned the bodice so the right sides are facing out and top stitched around the neckline.

Then I made bias tape from one and a half inch wide strips of bias cut fabric. I folded the edges inward and pinned them over the arm holes. I made the bias tape sixteen or so inches longer than the arm hole. Eight inches hang off of either side and will serve as straps.

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I sewed the bias tape on and that was pretty much it for the bodice! The straps got tied into bows and it was done.

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The skirt is three twenty three inch long panels, which are the full width of the curtains (fifty seven inches).

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I sewed them together, then hemmed the bottom edge. I did this by machine for once, hoping to save time. The edge was turned over by a half inch, then by one inch, to get a clean finish.

The top was gathered down by machine as well. I pushed the fabric under the foot as I went and ran it through the machine several times to get it down to the twenty eight inches it needed to be.

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The skirt was pinned to the bodice and I sewed the waist seam. I also covered the raw edge with bias tape.

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The final step was adding a zipper and sewing up the back seam. Then it was done!

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And here it is worn. It looks cute without a petticoat, but for these pictures I wore a cheap leg avenue petti – I got mine on ebay but i’m pretty sure that is the same one.

I like this dress a lot, especially considering it only took $16 and five hours to make!

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Thanks for reading!