Making a 1840s Floral Red Dress, Part Two

I’m a few days late but here is the second part of making this floral lacy dress! Part one shows the process of making the bodice and can be read here. Today i’ll be talking about how I made the sleeves and skirt.

I went back and forth about what type of sleeves to make for this dress. I love huge frilly sleeves but the neckline of this dress has so much detail that big sleeves would take away from it. So instead I settled on small sleeves with a little bit of lace, which ended up being very similar to the ones shown in the painting I used for inspiration!

To create a pattern I measured the arm hole, measured my arm, and used a lot  of guess work when it came to the length and slopes.

I made a mock up from broadcloth and liked how they looked enough to turn them into a paper pattern which was used to cut them from my floral fabric!

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I also cut the pattern from muslin. I pinned the muslin and floral fabric together, then sewed around the top and sides. This created three finished edges and saved me from making bias tape and sewing french seams later on.

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I folded the fabrics inward by a half inch on the lowest edge to create the appearance of a finished edge and pressed them in place. Then I pinned lace in between the two layers.

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Then the lace was into place, this is what the sleeve interior looks like! I usually don’t make sleeves that allow for this method (It can’t be done on puffy sleeves without adding a lot of bulk) which sucks because it’s so easy and looks so nice.

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I did up the only remaining seam and the sleeves were done!

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I sewed them in place with small straight stitches, then went around the outside with a whip stitch to make sure they are secure.

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After the sleeves were done I sewed together my lining and pinned it in place. Aside from attaching the panel of buttons I think this is the only machine sewing on this costume.

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The lining was completely hand sewn in place. Once that was done the bodice was finished! The lining on this isn’t perfect but it’s pretty close, it’s the damn basque waist that always screws me up.

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Since the bodice is done it’s time to talk about the skirt! Like my last two 19th century dresses, the skirt is made up of one big rectangle. Because I didn’t have that much fabric this skirt is only one hundred inches wide, which makes it look a little weird over petticoats.

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I marked out the hem line in pen.

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I did a sort of strange hem on this dress, the selvage was rolled over and basted in place, then the new edge of the fabric was rolled over to create a two inch hem. I used a cross stitch for securing this hem, since it’s kind of fun to do and you don’t see any stitches from the exterior of the garment!

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Then I gathered the top of the skirt. They aren’t large enough to be called cartridge pleats, but I used the same method just with quarter inch wide stitches. There are two rows of gathers, each a half inch apart. I left sixteen inches ungathered in the front, which was turned into a four inch wide box pleat.

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I pinned the skirt onto the bodice and sewed it in place with a whip stitch. This took ages and I ran into so many problems, my  thread was so tangly and broke a half dozen times during this process.

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After the skirt was stitched on I sewed it up with a french seam, I left a six inch opening in the back to make this dress easy to get into. The opening closes with five small snaps.

Once the back was all figured out the dress was done! I’m really pleased with this dress. It’s so girly and lacy, just looking at it makes me smile. I’m also proud that I managed to make this dress from start to finish in forty eight hours, without sacrificing the quality of the finished garment.

I think I might do more forty eight hour challenges in the future, hopefully they will all be as satisfying as this one!

I have a whole bunch of photos of this dress laying flat, but no worn images just yet. I’ll post those next week along with a write up on how I made a matching headpiece.

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Thanks for reading!

Making a 1840s Floral Red Dress, Part One

This project was really spontaneous. Usually i’m a planner and I think about things for days or weeks before starting on them, but this project is an exception. I was feeling overwhelmed by other projects and wanted a break, but I still wanted to be productive. So I decided to make something new, and to try and make it from start to finish in forty eight hours!

I succeeded and in two days I had a fabulous [18]40’s dress.

The dress is a bit odd. Probably because I made it on a whim and spent about five minutes planning it before I got to drafting. The skirt and fabric choices are the type you would see on a day dress, but it’s an evening style bodice, so it’s kind of all over the place. However I still think it’s really lovely and I adore the end result because it’s so girly and delicate!

The original inspiration was this painting, I really loved the neckline and sleeves with the lace trim. I chose to use the floral home decor fabric I got many months ago in April, along with the matching buttons and a few yards of lace I bought on etsy over two years ago.

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I started by pleating a panel of fabric for the collar, then draped everything around that.

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When I was happy with that I removed it from the dress form and made a proper paper pattern. I’m really pleased that I managed to draft this without any seams in the front…even though front seams are more historically accurate I like how it looks without them so much more.

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The first piece I tackled was the pleated neckline, because I knew it would be the most difficult part.

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After cutting it out I marked all the pleat lines with a colored pencil.

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I used my iron on the highest setting and a very potent starch/water mixture to make sure these would stay in place.

DSC_8933When the pleats were finished I cut each panel down to match the “finished collar size” pattern, which will be used to cut out the lining later on.

I sewed across the front edge of the panels to keep the pleats in place when sewing the front seam.

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To make sure they would line up I pinned them very carefully, then used a pen and ruler to mark exactly where the seam needed to be.

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I hand basted across the line I drew.

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And they lined up perfectly, yay!

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I repinned the panels together, then sewed the seam with my machine.  I pressed the seam “open” from the front and back to make everything really flat.

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And they looked pretty damn good! Not completely perfect but pretty close.
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I set aside the collar and moved on to the main part of the bodice, which is made up of three pieces.

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On the back panels I sewed in loops of ribbon, my plan was that the bodice could be laced up, then closed with a false front of buttons and snaps.

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Once all the pieces were sewn together the ribbon became encased in the seams.

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I set my bodice aside and resumed work on the collar. The next step involved tacking the pleats down. I do this by marking out lines every three inches and pinning the pleats in place.

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Then using a matching thread color and tiny whip stitches I secure the pleats together. If done right the stitches should not be visible from the front.

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Once the tacking was finished I hemmed both edges.

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I also hemmed the lower edge and arm holes on the bodice.

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Before attaching my collar I added the lace. This lace was originally a pure, bright, blue toned white that didn’t match at all. I put it in a plastic bag with hot water and two tea bags for ten minutes until it was the ivory tone I wanted.

I draped and pinned it to the neckline until I liked how it looked, then trimmed it and repeated the process on the other side.

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Here is how it looks cleaned up, just before it was sewn down.

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 After the lace was sewn down I attached the pleated neckline.

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Lastly I attached buttons and snaps to two strips of floral material. These serve as the closures on the bodice and were stitched on to the center back.

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On the finished bodice they look like this!

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Next week I’ll talk about adding the lining, making sleeves, and the skirt.

Thanks for reading!