Making a Plaid Dress, 1860s, Part One

This is going to be a simple project. I swore my next 19th century project would be something elaborate and unique…But then I bought this plaid fabric with a civil war era gown in mind. Chopping it up to make a huge gored skirt would result in none of the stripes lining up and i’m not sure if I could deal with that!

So my elaborate dress from the 1860s is going to be on hold for the new year, and i’m making a much easier dress instead, because it suits this fabric nicely.

The design I came up with was mostly inspired by this and this. But instead of adding darts to the bodice, I want to pleat it. My original design also features bishop sleeves with cuffs, but I ended up changing that later on.


 I’m making the dress from eight yards of this plaid material I got from Joanns, plus a yard of matching green fabric. This fabric was part of their “Fashion for Fall” line or something like that. It feels like a really nice wool flannel, and I love the weight of it.

Unlike wool flannel, it frays a lot, which sort of sucks. But on the bright side, it was 50% off and I had a 25% off entire purchase coupon, so it ended up costing $35 for the whole bolt!


 I started off by draping the pattern. This was a big struggle to get the way I wanted. Usually draping goes quite quickly but I must have fought with this for a good hour!




 I marked out all the pleats, then removed it from the dress form. It looked a little sketchy, not very precise at all, but I fixed it!

DSC_0560 Once I was done I had a functional pattern! It’s on the left, I’m not sure why but the Christmas Angel bodice pattern is on the right.


 I turned that into a mock up and tried it on. I wanted a little more wiggle room, so I decided to let it out a half inch at each side. I also added darts to my pattern to take care of the shoulder wings.

The biggest issue here is that the front didn’t line up! I’m not sure how I didn’t realize that this would happen. It seems really obvious looking back on it, but it didn’t occur to me at all until I tried it on.

Since this bodice will close at the front with buttons, one side overlaps the over by an inch and a bit. Which means the pieces won’t meet in the middle – duh!

Photo on 11-22-14 at 9.43 PM I fixed this by straightening the pieces so they are flat in the middle, which I think is what was done in the picture I used for inspiration (it has a similar seam line across the bust)

When that was resolved I cut the pieces out from my plaid material and marked out all the pleats and darts.


 Then the front and back panels got pleated.



When that was done I stitched up the side seams – unfortunately these seams don’t line up! Neither does the one at the back. But everything else is pretty damn perfect when it comes to matching the stripes.


I marked the hem on the collar.


Then stitched it in place.


Before I could stitch that onto the bodice, I had to add lace! I was given two yards of this lace a few months ago, it’s really delicate and lovely. But it also happened to be white, and I wanted it to be darker.

 I darkened it by tea staining it. I put it in a plastic bag with three packets of black tea for ten minutes to darken it to a beige. I let it dry overnight and sewed it on in the morning.


 The collar portion was sewn onto the body of the garment and ta-dah, I had a bodice!



 I tried it on and was quite pleased with it! The fit was very nice, the only issue were the shoulder wings. But I had been expecting those to pop up, so I wasn’t surprised by them.

Photo on 12-5-14 at 12.07 PM I took it in at the shoulders and I was very pleased. Unfortunately the next step wasn’t a fun one, because it involved stitching button holes by hand.

If you are wondering why I don’t do them by machine, I have a few reasons! The first is because I don’t have a machine that does satin stitching, or button holes. I could borrow one but even then i’m not very fond of how machine stitched button holes look.

Even though you can adjust it, most machines don’t stitch very densely around the button hole. Which is okay with lightweight fabrics that aren’t prone to fraying, but really sucks if you are working with thicker fabrics, or fabrics that fray a lot. It’s the same thing for eyelets. You can do them on a sewing machine, but if done properly the hand stitched versions should be more durable, and hopefully, more visually pleasing.

But I totally suck at button holes, so that isn’t usually the case.

To prep for it I drew out some guidelines and stitched around them with my machine.


Then I slashed each one and stitched around them with a quadruple layer of cotton thread.

This sewing session went better than I had expected, but I still ended up with a lot of size variation from hole to hole, which isn’t good. The only way to get better is with practice, maybe next time will go better!


The buttons I chose were ones I picked up in NYC. Most of the buttons I came across were too shiny, plastic, or ugly. I don’t love these but they were the right size and had an okay finish so i’m happy I found them!


I actually think they look really nice on the garment!



The only photos I have of it worn also include my sleeve muslin. So that’s all for now. Next time i’ll talk about making the lining and sleeves.

Thanks for reading!

Making a 1830’s Bonnet


For my last project (the 1837 floral dress) I really wanted to make a bonnet but didn’t have enough material. Which is why for my red dress I made sure to buy two extra yards just to make sure I had plenty left over for a fancy bonnet!

I looked all over the internet for photos of bonnets I liked  and came up with over two dozen pictures. But none of them were quite right, they were all filled with flowers, ribbons, and piled with ruffles, more flowers, and ruched panels. They were way too ornate to go with the simple dress I had created, so I decided to make up my own design!

I had no idea whatsoever how to draft a bonnet pattern so I decided to do what I usually do – drape. I set out my wig head and went at it with newsprint and tape. The end result was something like this.


Okay so it doesn’t quite look like a fantastic, elegant, bonnet that a lovely lady from the 1800s would wear. But I was somewhat confident it would all work out.

I turned that into a proper pattern, and only had to make a  few alterations to ensure everything would fit together properly.

The pattern looked really, super strange. I’m glad I didn’t try to flat draft it because the end result would have been awful!


I copied my pattern onto medium weight buckram, then very carefully cut each piece out.


I set my buckram pieces onto cotton sateen and cut roughly around them – since I was adding lining later on I wasn’t very concerned about my edges being even and precise.


I trimmed all the edges to to be around half an inch, then hand sewed the material to the underside of the buckram. This was a really terrible process and by the end of it my fingers were really sore and kind of bloody. I think buckram won this battle.


I assembled the two back pieces – luckily everything lined up really nicely and I was actually super happy with the end result! I sewed a lace ruffle onto the back of this, and used a light cotton sateen to line the interior. Unfortunately I forgot to take photos.


Then I moved on to the largest panel, and the most prominent since it’s at the front.

DSC_6277I wanted the lining of this panel to be pleated so it would match the dress, so I got to work and pleated down a long length of fabric to the right size.


I ironed them all down, then marked out the size of the piece of buckram. I sewed around the piece of buckram to make sure none of the pleats would move and set this aside.


I sewed a strip of hooping wire into the brim so I could control the shape of the bonnet and how closely it framed my face. Then I covered the outside of the buckram with cotton sateen.


I sewed in the pleated lining and a strip of eyelet lace. It all looked quite lovely but the hooping wire had caused the buckram to take on a wobbly shape which I didn’t like. I steamed the whole thing, then used binder clips with hopes it would sooth it out.


It didn’t really work, but I used the words “good enough” and sewed the large brim piece onto the back hat like portion.

It looked nice but it was still missing something, so I decided to make a pleated band to cover up the seam between the brim and hat.

I hemmed the edges then once again did a whole bunch of knife pleats.


I sewed the pleats down, and then stitched down a one inch wide strip of cotton sateen which would serve as the ties. The strip was created by sewing a three inch wide strip in half, then turning it right side out.


And tah dah! My lovely bonnet was done!


I still felt like the look was missing something – since I had gone for a simple bonnet design I decided to jazz up the hairstyle with some plastic flowers and a pearl headband.


I wore these with a crudely styled with from the seller cosplaywig.

And that was that! I really adore how this came together. There were points where I didn’t like this dress at all so seeing the ensemble come together just the way I had imagined was wonderful!

DSC_635732 DSC_6425resiz

Thank you for reading!


Making a Red 1830s Day Dress, Part Two

Sorry for the lack of updates! I have been doing a lot of blog stuff, but I somehow forgot to write actual posts.

I’m currently in the process of updating my blog format, so the sidebar will be really wonky and there may be dead links all over the place for the next few days.

I’m trying to separate cosplay/historical stuff, and get all my posts into proper categories. In addition to that I want to get a FAQ and About Me page written. It’s all been quite a bit more time consuming then I had expected, but hopefully by the end of the week everything will be sorted out and much more current!


This is the second post on how i’m making my red pleated front dress. Post one can be read here!

Today i’m talking about making the sleeves, skirt and basic assembly.

I started by making the sleeves, I knew the pattern for these needed to be giant but I wasn’t sure how giant so these took a bit of fiddling and several re-drafts before I was finally happy with them. My sleeves ended up being a full sixy inches wide before they were pleated down.


I cut my sleeves out, marked out all the pleats, then spend two hours pinning them all in place. Once that was done I sewed them down and I was left with something that resembled a sleeve!


I set that aside for the time being and began work on the cuff. After I created a pattern that fit me, this really wasn’t difficult. Unfortunately I made the sleeves too short, so I added the lace to make this less obvious!


The lace was sewn down.


Then I sewed those to my giant poofy, freshly pleated sleeves.


I’d left enough room to french seam the sides of my sleeves, but not enough at the top. To finish it off nicely I made bias tape from the cotton I used for lining, then sewed that on.


Once that was finished I cut my cuff pattern out of cotton, this would serve as lining. I hand sewed the lining in, and aside from the back seam, my sleeves were done!


I did up the back seam, then stitched the sleeves onto the bodice.


After that was done the bodice was completely finished, and it was time to work on the skirt!

The skirt ended up being almost four yards of cotton sateen that I cut to be fifty seven inches long.


I hand stitched a 1.5 inch rolled hem and the length ended up being perfect – something that pleased me a lot since my last dress was way too long.



Then I went ahead and pleated the whole thing down to twenty seven inches. Oddly enough, this took much longer then the hemming!


I sewed across the top to keep all the pleats in place, then I sewed the bodice on…and that was it! I have sewn a zipper in for fitting purposes but I will replace this with lacing or buttons before taking proper pictures of it.

I think this dress would look really lovely in a rose garden…future dream photoshoot, I suppose!

My next blog post will be talking about the thing that really finishes off the look – the bonnet!