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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the top edge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is before trimming…

And after!

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

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

It was sewn with whip stitches as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was cut out of felt weight interfacing.

Then wire was sewn into the pieces.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Making a Striped Cotton Dress, Early 20th Century

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here they are in all their glory!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With the fit fixed, I pinned on the waistband.

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

Thanks for reading!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then the side seams were sewn.

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

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

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

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

The underside.

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

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

The lining was whip stitched to the base layer.

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

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

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

Now I had something that looked like this!

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

I was even happy with the neckline!

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

And that’s it for this post!

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

Progress Report: January, February & March 2017

Hello everyone! It’s been a while since my last post. In fact, I think this six-week absence may be the longest I’ve ever gone without posting on this blog. That wasn’t intentional, and I didn’t realize quite how long it had been until I sat down to write this.

I thought a good way to get back to writing would be with a Progress Report, so I can update you on all the things I’ve been up to. But I think it’s best to start this off with an explanation for my lack of updates, both on here and on youtube. If you’re not interested in this then skip down to where the sewing updates begin!

I don’t have a reason for my lack of blogging. However at the start of 2017 I made a conscious decision to focus on projects that I’m excited about, rather than projects that lend themselves well to documenting.

I feel like my lack of satisfaction with what I accomplished in 2015 and 2016 has a lot to do with the pressure I put on myself to keep up with social media…specifically Youtube. The videos I was posting weekly (especially the “Making of” ones) are very time consuming to make, and were taking a lot of time away from the things I actually wanted to work on.

I also had a bit of a wake up call when I realized that I’m turning 20 in a month. Though that isn’t old at all it feels like a very significant age, and made me realize that the time I have now to focus on passion projects is something I should take full advantage of. Because it won’t last forever.

Even though that decision was only supposed to effect Youtube, it’s obvious my blog suffered too. Which is something I would like to change, because I’m working on stuff and I want to share it! So hopefully I can get back to posting a couple times a month, at the very least.

Also I am in no way quitting Youtube. I currently have 6 videos filmed, and they should be going up within the next few weeks. Making videos is something I enjoy doing and want to continue with, it just isn’t going to be my main priority, which means uploads will be less consistent.

Another reason for my lack of posting is because of a job opportunity I’ve been pursuing. I have no idea if it will work out or not, but I devoted a lot of time to researching the project which took away from sewing.

It also motivated (and forced) me to do things I should have done a while ago – like making a portfolio. Buying business cards. Creating a website that doesn’t have “doxiequeen” in the title. Making galleries and writing descriptions for all my projects. Stuff that takes I way longer than you would expect! In fact those last two things are still a work in progress, so I can’t share them yet, though I can share my business cards which make me feel very professional.

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Now with the excuses out of the way, I’m very happy to say that despite my lack of updates, I have been productive! This isn’t like my absence last year where I lazed about for a month. There are several costumes I completed, and a bunch more that I have in progress.

Unfortunately the weather has been so bad that I haven’t gotten to photograph any of the pieces, aside from my 18th Century Undress Costume, which you’ve seen already.

Something you may not have seen is the video I made about this project, which goes into a bit of detail about each piece, shows how it is put on, and how it looks in action. I’m really happy with the movement this piece has and I’m very pleased that this video shows that!

I’ve also finished a Medieval costume, which consists of a surcoat, headpiece, and kirtle that laces from the front. I thought I documented this fairly well, but I can’t find any photos of it past this point. I think I posted a few “finished” photos of it laying flat on instagram, so I must be getting confused. Or I put them in a specific folder which somehow got deleted.

I have mixed feelings about this costume. The bodice is fully lined which made the dress almost impossible to take in…and it really needed to be taken in. I did the best I could, but it’s still too large and gapes away from my body at the waistline, which means the silhouette isn’t what I wanted. The surcoat was also a bit rushed, and I don’t love the hemline. Overall this ensemble is “Ok” but it isn’t what I hoped it would be.

There will be a write up with finished photos included whenever the weather is nice enough to take them.

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I also finished another 18th century undress costume. I had so much fun with the last one that I couldn’t resist. This time it’s more casual, consisting of a chemise, cotton skirt, apron, and jumps! It was loosely inspired by the blue dress from Beauty in the Best, since all the movie advertisements got me wondering what a casual lady in France during that period could get away with wearing.

The finished ensemble is really comfortable and I love the silhouette. However the construction on the jumps is just ok – I used the wrong type of material for binding, didn’t add enough support to the eyelets, and sewed internal boning channels by hand which are really flimsy. I see myself remaking these with the same pattern but different construction methods.

Anyone who follows me on youtube will be happy to know that I filmed the process of making all the pieces for this costume. And those videos should be going up soon.

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I’ve almost completed my “big project” that I took on at the beginning of this year. It’s a 1660’s masquerade costume based on this portrait. The costume consists of a bodice, skirt, and hat. The bodice and hat are finished, but the skirt still requires a bit more work.

So far I’m really happy with this. The bodice fits perfectly, and the skirt is looking good as well. I’ve had a lot of fun working with so many different trims and lace, and it’s nice putting them onto something structured so they really shine. I think my next “Making of” post will talk about this, since I’m excited to write about it!

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Underneath that is a chemise made from sequined lace fabric and embroidered lace trim. I whipped this up in four hours so I could wear it to a photoshoot the next day!

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I also made a few things based on existing patterns. The first was this pannier, which was followed this pair of pants. It’s based on a Simplicity pattern and I’m so pleased with the end result. They are in a 1930’s style, with a high waist, pockets, and pleats in the front and back.

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All the seams on mine match, and they have gingham lined pockets. I plan on making this pattern in a more understated print, and potentially in solid black. I think the style suits me a lot more than the fitted trousers that are currently in style. And they weren’t hard to make at all!

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The final pattern is from McCalls, which brings me to a fun thing I did last month:

I was lucky enough to be invited to tour their headquarters in NYC where they design, draft, construct, and test patterns. The tour was really interesting, and I saw people do everything from writing pattern instructions to making mock ups and producing samples. Every part of the process happens there, aside from printing and shipping the finished patterns.

The space also featured things like full walls devoted to buttons and fabric samples, sewing trinkets from the 1800’s, sketches from the 1950’s, and an archive room.

I want to live in their archive room. It’s amazing. For those unfamiliar with pattern history, they were originally printed in women’s magazines – usually without measurements or instructions. The magazines mainly consists of drawings that show what was fashionable, but also include advertisements, stories, news, embroidery patterns, sewing patterns, etc.

And their archive room has dozens of those magazines in hard cover editions dating all the way back to 1907! Many of them feature full color pages that are just stunning. I would frame so many of these images if they were available as prints.

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A few of the books had typewriter written notes tucked between the pages, usually documenting what happened in that week’s meeting, and dated from the early 1900s. I also came across articles about Woodrow Wilsons Inaugural Address in 1913!

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From the 1920’s onward they have the pattern catalogues, which you could order tissue paper patterns from. These were equally as beautiful and interesting – and they have these for almost every year leading up to present times!

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It was a wonderful experience – both seeing the working environment, and getting to look through some of what they have in the archive room.

I left feeling so inspired that I went straight to the garment district. I picked up some silk shantung in green and purple, along with a matching cotton. I think something edwardian will come of these some day soon!

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While browsing cottons at the back of the store (Diana’s Fabrics) I came across this wonderfully awful material. It’s bright orange and has Dr.Seuss-esque monkeys on it. It may be the ugliest fabric I’ve ever seen. But it’s also kind of charming. And it was really cheap. So I bought it. And it has now been turned into a dress, made following a Vintage Vogue pattern.

I had a few issues with that pattern (V8789) – It seems to be drafted for someone whose back is as busty as their front. There was so much excess material at the back that I could put the dress on backwards and it still fit fine. It was also a bit big in the waist, even though I sized down.

On the bright side, the instructions were very easy to follow, and the shape of it is cute.  However since the sizing is off I’d highly suggest making a mock up first and being prepared for alterations. It’s very difficult to alter after cutting it out because the shaping is done with darts, not seams.

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I filmed the process of making that dress, and I plan on filming some more videos showcasing the “Vintage Vogue” line. The styles really appeal to me and I was so impressed with the instructions. I have three others to choose from, I just need to get fabric first!

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Another neat thing from the past few months: I was in the NY Post! A reporter emailed me and asked if I would be okay with being interviewed – I said yes, and a week later this came out. I’ve been interviewed for articles before, but this was my first time seeing one printed in the paper rather than an online article. Which made it seem a lot more real, and much more exciting.

Though the article is nice, my favorite thing is the response I got when I posted about it. I got almost two hundred replies with some really supportive, kind messages and comments. I try not to pay too much attention to comments (though I read them all!) because I don’t want them to skew my opinion on my work too much.

But It made me realize how many people out there want me to succeed. And I feel really grateful and touched to have that support behind me.

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Another interesting thing from this month was that I had a photoshoot with three of my costumes. Like a proper photoshoot. Not me doing my makeup and balancing a tri-pod on my ironing board. Or my dad and I shooting in natural light in the woods on a Saturday morning.

There was a makeup artist, a hair stylist, a photographer, and assistants. I’m not sure when/if I’ll see photos back from it, but I’m glad I got to have the experience. I especially enjoyed this 1830’s inspired coif that was somehow created with just my shoulder length hair!

Makeup by Roshar, hair by Linh Nguyen

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Perhaps the most exciting thing in my world is that I’ve decided to swap my sewing room and my bedroom! My bedroom is bigger than my current sewing room, so I’m hoping it can accommodate most of my finished costumes (which are currently living in my brothers bedroom), a standing height cutting table, and everything that is in my current sewing room.

I’m a bit scared of the change since I really really like my sewing room. But I’m excited to have more room, and hopefully get things organized in a more functional way.

So far the room has been painted a light teal and is holding some new Ikea furniture….along with (empty) storage boxes from Target, and (empty) wall units from Michaels. Oh and all my clothes and bed. I think this photo sums the rooms current state up pretty nicely!

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I’ll probably swap the room completely in the next week or two. I’d like the cutting table to be built first, but that may take a while since this is its current state:

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My dad is being nice enough to design and build it for me…but that means I’m not involved in how long the build takes. So it could be a while.

In the mean time I’m focusing on what I can control, the decorations! I need frames for some prints I bought, and in my search for those I’ve found other things I needed…this calendar with vintage ladies on it.

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I may have also wandered into the vintage figure section of ebay. So now I’m doing my best to resist the urge to collect the pretty porcelain ladies from Homco and vintage Florence Ceramics because that could get expensive fast. But they have such pretty dresses and hand painted details, which have me very tempted.

I did crack a little bit, and bought a set of vintage avon thimbles in the shape of historical women. Which I think are delightful – they aren’t practical as thimbles, but it combines my two loves and I smile every time I see it on my shelf! I’m calling it my sewing room warming present to myself.

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I think that covers all my “life” updates, now on to what costumes I have in progress! I’m on a bit of a 1820’s kick right now – it started when I saw this garment, and fell in love. I had some black suiting and enough gold looped braid around to make something similar, so I did. Or I am. I have the jacket almost done aside from the collar, but I haven’t even started on the skirt and hat.

So far it’s been fun. I really like working with this looped braid.

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I also started on a project that has been planned for years, a Regency Court Gown out of blue embroidered velvet. I have everything for this cut out, the bodice is assembled, and the skirt is gathered. It’s just a matter of finishing the sleeves and sewing it together.

I don’t think this project will have a headpiece, but I’d like to make some matching slippers to go with it.

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just began work on this evening gown which was mentioned in my Christmas haul.  I’m having fun testing materials and seeing how to create the padded portions. It should be an enjoyable challenge as long as I don’t procrastinate much!

And the final WIP is a major flop – it was supposed to be a gown made from glittery mesh and iridescent fabrics, with a fitted mermaid silhouette. But I made it in a big rush, didn’t think a lot about the seaming, and overestimated how opaque the mesh overlay would be.

The combination of those things lead to something I’m really unhappy with and won’t be continuing to work on. Though I do like the bodice and skirt pattern separately (and plan on using them again) I should have sewed them together at the natural waistline. Because this ended up being really unflattering.

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As for future projects, I’m thinking about making a bustle dress from silk shantung. And I would like to do something Renaissance themed – I bought some lovely silks from Fabric Mart during a sale that would suit one nicely. But I haven’t been able to settle on a design that doesn’t look straight of The Borgias. It’s hard to be creative when perfection already exists!

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My birthday is also coming up, so I need to think about new materials I may want.

I’d like to branch out a bit, either in silhouette or texture. I’ve been really interested in the variety of materials used in 1920’s dresses, so that might be fun.  And I would like to make a muslin gown at some point – maybe incorporating  beetle shells. I’ve also been imagining another 17th century project from a light blue silk.

But I’m trying to focus on my current projects, since a couple of them are so close to being done. 

And I think that covers everything! This has been more rambley  than usual, but I thought a wordy update might be appreciated after so long without posting. And it was a lot of fun to write!

Thanks for reading – Hopefully I’ll be back with another update soon! This time in “Making of” form.

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.

Making a Grand Pannier

Today I’m talking about 18th century skirt foundations – or more specifically, making a grand pannier.

This post was written as an accompaniment to my video on this project, where I switched between speeded up footage of the process and clips of me talking about how things were progressing as I worked on it. There are way more construction details (and frustrated rants) in that video than in this post, but I wanted to talk about it here too.

I took on this project because I decided mid last year to make an 18th Century court gown. I bought fabrics for it (for a total of $49 for 13 yards – still giddy about that deal) but at the time I had just finished an 1860’s ball gown, and took on an eleborate 1880’s evening gown a few weeks later. So there wasn’t a good time to start on it. Until now.

But before starting I needed to sort out the foundations. And it just so happened that Simplicity – who sell a grand pannier pattern which is a bit famous in the historical costuming community – emailed me and asked if I was interested in any of their patterns. So of course I said yes!

(For the record, I wasn’t encouraged to talk about this pattern and I bought all the other materials myself.)

You can purchase the pattern from their print on demand service here. Or try to find copies of the discontinued tissue paper version, the pattern number is EA363501.

Also for this project I used 5 yards of hot pink broadcloth, 10 yards of 1/4″ hooping steel, satin ribbon, and twill tape.

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I folded my fabric to be four layers thick, then cut out all the required pieces once. It was faster doing this way, but pretty hard on my scissors so I wouldn’t recommend it!

At this point I notched the pieces, but didn’t think to mark the circles or boning channels. I blame not having followed a commercial pattern in years for this oversight.

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I immediately – like, within five minutes got confused about one of the instructions and kind of did my own thing instead.

The pieces were all sewed together with flat felled seams – which was super frustrating. I found the notches extended past the half way point of the seam allowances, so raw edges stuck out and it was really hard to get them even. If I remade this I would definitely add a half inch to each seam, then sew down french seams or do wider flat felled seams. Something to make it a bit easier!

Aside from that, assembly was pretty easy. I found the instructions a bit confusing, but the construction was pretty intuitive when I ignored those.

After everything except for the side seams were sewn, I finally drew the boning channels and other markings onto the pieces. My fabric was thin enough that I could trace the design through the material which made it really easy to do, even this far into the project.

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Then the side seams were done up – as you might be able to tell, the top few inches of the centerfront were left open. This is how you get the pannier on and off.

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Instead of using the recommended bias tape, I made boning channels from twill tape and ribbon since they will be less prone to stretching. I also added a boning channel to the hemline, to give the skirt more support.

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The top edge was finished with bias tape, then I threaded ribbon through the bias tape to gather it down to my waist measurement. I’m not thrilled with this, I find it’s really prone to slipping down in the back, and it’s hard to gather evenly. I might swap it out for a straight waistband with an eyelet front closure in the future.

I also sewed all the ribbons in at this point. These ribbons are sewn just above the boning channels and tied to shape the skirt. The instructions said to do this after the boning was in, but that seemed frustrating so I did it beforehand.

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I boned this skirt with a mixture of things. I mostly used the new hooping steel, but the second boning channel has hooping wire in it, and the third tier has normal steel boning, which I will be swapping out very soon. I misread the material list and didn’t buy enough boning, so I had to compromise.

Also I ranted about this in the video, but feel the need to mention it again. What was commonly used for hoop skirts (hooping wire) was discontinued a year or two ago. It was made from two bands of steel covered with buckram or plastic. It was incredibly strong and supported skirts of any size beautifully. It was also around $1.50/yd.

The only “replacement” I could find was from CorsetMaking.com. They advertised this as a great alternative. No. It’s not. It pretty much sucks. The more I think about it, the more bitter I am. It behaves more like corset steel than hooping wire and is very flimsy. The bottom few bones in this skirt are collapsing a bit in the worn pictures – and that’s without a dress on top of it! I’m really worried that it won’t support the dress, which is frustrating.

It’s also much thinner than hooping wire (.25″ or .29″) and more expensive at $29/$36 for ten yards. I think using two bones per a channel would help, but that means buying more of this ridiculously expensive poorly performing steel.

It would probably be fine for smaller hoop skirts, pocket hoops, lobster tail supports, etc. but I was really disappointed in it’s performance in this skirt. I will try gluing buckram over corset steel, or doubling up the zip ties they use in shipping before buying more.

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Anyway, I carried on despite that annoyance and tied the ribbons to shape the skirt, which worked remarkably well.

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And that’s it! I was originally very happy with the shape of it, but after getting worn photos I’m not as thrilled.

I feel like the top portion should be wider – it’s probably fine for 95% of people, but I’m tall, have broad shoulders, and don’t find the proportions as exaggerated or flattering as I had hoped. I don’t think that’s really fixable at this point, unless the petticoat performs miracles on the amount of volume there!

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I also need to take the bone in the hem in a little, so the overall shape is smoother. But that’s an easy fix.

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Other than that, I really liked this pattern. It wasn’t too difficult to put together and the most challenging parts, like the boning channels and ribbon placement were well marked and easy to transfer onto the fabric. I’d recommend it to anyone looking to make a grand pannier, though I would suggest a few of the alterations mentioned in this post.  Like the additional bone in the hem, extra room in the seams, and twill tape for boning channels instead of bias tape.

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Thanks for reading! I should have another “Making of” post up soon, maybe even tomorrow if I can get it together on time!

Fabric Haul and Future Projects, January 2017

I’m happy to report that I’m starting my year off with lots of new fabric, and many sewing plans! Once again I chose to put my Christmas money towards materials purchased in the NYC garment district, and today I’m sharing what I got and what I plan on turing them into.

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I went in with a flexible list of things I wanted to make and was lucky enough to find the perfect fabrics for most of them. I think I bought enough fabric for ten projects – after a few trim orders from etsy arrive I’ll be set for the next few months!

The first project on my shopping list is one I’ve wanted to make for a long time: a mid 17th century evening gown. I purchased material for one a couple years ago, and even got the bodice mostly constructed. But the fit was really off, and I didn’t go in with a solid plan so it was hard to overcome the problems I hit.

However I’ve learned a lot since then, and it’s still one of my favorite periods for fashion. I’m determined to make a dress that will do the era justice. I’m using a lot of reference photos for this costume, but my main inspiration is this funny little painting. I love the bold color, heaps of trim, and the hat!

With that in mind, I purchased eight yards of this orange brocade. It’s base color is peach, but it has rich orange and gold flowers woven into it. I love the sheen it has and think it will make a lovely gown!

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As happy as I am to have found a fabric in the color I wanted with such a beautiful sheen, I wish I had found it earlier. Because at the beginning of the day I came across a very pretty raspberry brocade and decided it was probably the closest I would get, so I bought it.

Now I have two brocades, and no real plans for the first one I bought. But it is beautiful! It doesn’t have the scratchy texture that most brocades have, it feels almost soft, with a very finely woven print. I think it will be lovely to work with whenever I find a use for it! I’m open to ideas.

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It also has a fair amount of body to it…I purchased six yards since it’s 60″ wide. I wonder if that would be enough for something Elizabethan? Though the color is a little unusual for that period.

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Also for the 1630’s ensemble I bought a yard of stretch velvet in a greyish blue. This is for the hat.

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I bought some brightly colored feathers for the hat too, which I think will help tie the costume together.

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And lastly for this project I bought three yards of embroidered mesh. I saw this while walking out of a store and turned back for it. I thought it would be perfect for decorative under sleeves – not the most accurate choice, but it’s so pretty! And it has sequins on it. I can’t resist sequins.

Much to my surprise, it was only four dollars a yard. So I got three yards of it, which should be enough for a decorative chemise. I think it may be too cool toned for this project (it looked warmer under the lights in the store). So I’ll probably wait to make the chemise after the dress when I have a better idea of what will compliment it.

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The next project I purchased fabric for is a simple medieval costume. I’ve been wanting to make another one of these for a while, since really enjoyed the Cotehardies I made this time last year.

I haven’t planned the design for this project too much, but I want it to consist of a front lacing kirtle with a surcoat layered over top. The project won’t have any embellishments, other than some trim on the hem of the surcoat (and that’s only if I can find any I like).

I purchased two medium weight wools for this project. It was quite the challenge finding these fabrics. The person helping me kept asking what I wanted, and all I could say was “Something with nice texture to it that will be $10 or less a yard” because I didn’t have a color in mind, I just wanted fabric with enough texture that it wouldn’t look boring despite the simple design.

Luckily we managed to find something, and I love it. It’s dark purple and  medium weight – too heavy for suiting, but lighter than a coating. I think it’s perfect.

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The second material I purchased is probably less historically accurate – I doubt that weave would have been possible in the 1400s. But I really like the weight of this, and think that texture will look awesome in photos. It was also one of the few fabrics I could find that looked nice with the purple (other options were black, or light pink).

If we’re ignoring historically accuracy, I’m really happy with this fabric. It feels almost like flannel, very soft but drapes the way you would expect medium weight wool to. I think both of these fabrics will be really nice to work with.

Side note: I was really impressed with the store I bought this from, Fabric Express. I’ve been in there before but only bought lace, or talked to the assistant. I was helped by the owner this time and he was really patient and I got great deals on everything – the wool, brocade, velvet, and lace fabric are all from this shop. Silk is cheaper at Diana’s Fabrics but this is going to become one of my go-to stops for other things.

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Another project I have planned is an 1820’s evening gown. I actually came across the inspiration for this while researching another idea I had. One of my search terms brought up this fashion plate and I fell in love.

I like the silhouette of the 1820s in general, but this dress is inspired by renaissance fashion while also having infamous details from the 1820s, like padded hems and trim, which makes it even better. I’ve never made a dress that incorporates padding, and it seems like a fun challenge!

I had hoped to find silk satin for this project, but it was very expensive, even in the garment district. So instead I bought silk shantung. I think the stiffness of this will really help with construction and creating the bell shape this dress requires…but it doesn’t have quite the look I was going for.

For the pink trim I bought cotton sateen. I’m actually disappointed in this purchase too, I feel like the shade of pink is too bright and cool toned. It makes me think of pepto bismol. So I’m going to keep my eyes out for sales and see if I can pick up a fabric in a better shade.

Aside from that, I’m really excited to get to work on this project. I think it’ll be fun!

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From Diana’s fabrics I picked up more silk shantung. This is the same shop I bought the bright orange silk from for my Pumpkin dress. I had so much fun working with that fabric that I knew I wanted to pick up more, this time with an 1880’s bustle dress in mind.

I went for a lovely copper color, that shines red and brown depending on the lighting. It’s really pretty and I’m sure it will be lovely to work with!

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From the same shop I bought the base material for a dress I plan on making, which is inspired by this painting. I’ve always been a fan of Russian court dresses, but they usually involve long trains covered in elaborate embroidery that would take teams of master embroiders 6 months to make. There isn’t any way I could take a project like that on myself without spending hundreds of dollars on pre made appliques.

Which is why I was very excited to come across this painting. It has some of the features of Russian court gowns that I really like, without the embroidery. Once again silk satin probably would have been more accurate for this project, but I found a polyester shantung in the color I wanted, with a beautiful two tone sheen, and a crispness that should make the pleats in the skirt easier. It was also $5 a yard, which is tough to beat!

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The color is kind of unappetizing, but I think the sheen and two tone effect will make up for that.

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For the front panel I purchased two yards of alencon lace. I think this will provide a good base for the heaps of rhinestones and embellishments that the skirt will eventually have.

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I plan on getting most of the embellishments online, but I did make the mistake of purchasing some at beads world. See that tiny bag on the right? That was $10 dollars. The bag on the left with 12x the number of rhinestones? It was $13. I goofed up by going to beads world first – I always forget how overpriced some of their stuff is.

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Also from beads world I bought white sequins in a variety of sizes/sheens, which I plan on using for the 1820’s dress. And some glass montees for the court dress and headpiece.

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On the topic of notions, I only purchased two trims on this trip (though I ordered a dozen others from etsy). The first is for the 1820’s dress, it’s a very soft and sweet lace trim with a few beads and sequins for embellishments. I thought this would be cute around the neckline and cuffs of the sleeves.

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I also purchased some woven trim. This wasn’t purchased with anything in mind, but I really like the weight of it and think the colors will be easy to match within my stash (or things I buy in the future) so I’m confident it’ll be used eventually.

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Now back to fabrics! The rest of these materials weren’t on my list, they were just things that caught my eye.

The first is a striped silk broadcloth. I love striped fabrics, especially the challenge of matching them up and playing with the different directions they can go. It’s kind of a pain sometimes, but it’s also very satisfying. Unfortunately it’s pretty difficult to find apparel weight striped fabrics that aren’t pin striped. So when I came across this: Striped, light weight and in the color I have a weakness for…I needed to take it home with me.

I purchased eight yards of it. But it’s quite narrow, so I picked up five yards of cotton sateen in a matching color to compliment it. The striped fabric was from Hamed Fabric, and the sateen was actually from Jo-anns.

I plan on using these for a seaside costume – either from the late 1800’s or early 1900s.

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Another striped fabric that caught my eye is this lightweight polyester. It feels like a softer version of taffeta, without the sheen. I really liked the width of the stripes in this, and the tweed texture on the material between them. I though this would work well for a bustle dress, since I could play with the directions of the stripes in the ruffles.

It was the end of the day and I had gone over budget, so I only purchased five yards of it, which isn’t enough for a full dress. But I think it will be easy to match, since the main colors are white, grey, black, and dark red – I may even have a dark red cotton sateen in my collection that would match.

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A project I had in mind, but not on my list was a Renaissance ensemble. I’ve wanted to make another one of these for a while, but didn’t have enough brocade on hand for one. This one caught my eye because it’s an interesting color. I would describe it as a cool toned pink, but it has a strong gold sheen to it.

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It’s almost two tone, with how vibrant the gold is in the light. I think it will make a beautiful skirt!

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From another shop I bought two yards of metallic rose printed brocade. I had hoped this would match the other pink fabric, but it’s way too warm toned. However I think it will make a beautiful foundation garment – I’m making a few 18th century undergarments this year, and two of them are pink. A matching set of brocade stays would be quite lovely!

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The last fabric I bought was one I saw early in the day, but put back because it was too ridiculous. But then I kept thinking about it. Because it’s sparkly, and pink, and ridiculous, and just the time of thing I want in my life but probably won’t use.

However I know from previous shopping trips that when I think about a fabric that much, I usually regret not getting it. And at eight dollars for a yard and a half I figured it couldn’t hurt.

This is a pink mesh with metallic cording stitched on to form scallops and a floral pattern. Both edges have trim, with appliques trailing through the center. I have no idea what I’ll use this for but I really love it.

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And that’s it! I’m very happy with what I got, and excited to get started! Annoyingly I can’t begin on the more elaborate projects until some trim I ordered arrives, but that gives me a reason to finish a few WIP’s from 2016, so it’s probably for the best.

I hope you have lots of sewing plans for the new year too 🙂

Thanks for reading!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here it is finished, right out of the hoop.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Here it is after all those steps.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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These were pretty fiddly to do…

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

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Then the side seams were done up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Luckily it looks nice from the outside.

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

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

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Here is a crappy picture of it worn.

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

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

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

 

 

Draped Velvet Dress, Photos

As promised, here are the worn photos of this years Christmas Costume!

These were taken at a Christmas tree farm. This was our fourth years photographing a costume there, and I think this year was the most successful. The lighting was on our side for once, and it’s easier to focus on a red dress than a white one. It’s also a really easy dress to lay out and walk around in since there isn’t a petticoat.

The only downside was it being a bit muddy and really cold. It isn’t a practical dress for December. But I think it looked lovely in this environment, so I’m glad that I didn’t let that stop me.

Construction notes on this dress can be found here. And making of videos are posted here.

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And that’s it! I think I have one more post going up before Christmas, but incase I forget: I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, or Holiday, or if you don’t celebrate, then a really great week in general. Thanks for reading!