Making a Black Lace Dress, Part Two

Today i’m blogging about making the skirt to match the black lace bodice which I posted about last week. This part of the project went better than the bodice, and ended up being pretty easy!

 The pattern is a simple 18.5″ long three quarter circle skirt. The finished length after seams will be seventeen inches, which is pretty short, but there will be a six inch ruffle sewn onto the hem so hopefully it will rest just above my knees.

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The skirt was cut out of the polyester shantung I used for the bodice. I had just barely enough left!

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 I sewed a layer of black petticoat net overtop so it would match the bodice. The bodice actually had two layers of petticoat net on it, but I figured the gathered black lace at the waistline of the skirt would make it look darker and balance out the color difference.

Also I didn’t have a lot of petticoat net leftover. The second layer would have been made up of three or four pieces which I didn’t think would look that good.

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I was going to do a normal rolled hem on this but I ended up having just enough one inch wide horsehair left. So I used that instead. I sewed the horsehair on by machine, then turned the hem over and sewed it down by hand with whip stitches.

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With the circle skirt done I switched over to working on the petticoat topper and ruffle. The petticoat i’m wearing under this is  my cheap leg avenue one, since I plan on traveling with this dress and that one can be squished into a small plastic bag. But that petticoat is shorter than this skirt and doesn’t have the level of volume I wanted.

Which is where the petticoat topper comes in! It adds the length I want and a bit more poof. And it gets sewn into the dress so the dress could even be worn without a petticoat and still have a bit of volume.

I cut twelve and eleven inch wide strips for the petticoat topper, and six and a half inch wide strips for the ruffle on the hem of the circle skirt. All of these were cut from a beige point d’esprit netting I got from Joanns. I was pretty impressed with this netting – I think I paid less than $3 a yard for it and it was really soft and easy to work with, while still creating a good amount of volume.

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Anyway! The eleven inch wide strips got gathered down and sewn onto the twelve inch wide strips.

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And then the top was gathered down and tah-dah! It doesn’t look like much here but trust me, it helps with the skirt shape.

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Then the six inch wide strips were sewn together and the twelve yard length was gathered down.

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That is some ruffly goodness right there. I left all of these strips unhemmed because I prefer the look of that. This netting is soft enough that it isn’t scratchy, and it doesn’t fray, so it doesn’t really need to be hemmed anyway.

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The ruffle got pinned on.

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And topstitched on. I could have sewn it on by hand but I didn’t think anyone would really notice.

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Here it is on the dress form – It looks a little uneven but I promise it isn’t!

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With that done I cut out the lace overlay. This was nineteen inches long and three yards wide. I figured after the top was gathered down it would fall just below the hem of the circle skirt and make a nice transition into the netting.

I did that, and it kind of worked but I didn’t like the result.

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So I ripped the gathers out and pinned the scalloped edge of the lace onto the point where the netting attaches to the circle skirt. Then I roughly pinned the top to the waistline.  I realize this looks messy right now, but I liked this soo much better!

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I sewed the lace onto the hem.

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Then gathered the top down and sewed it onto the waistline of the circle skirt.

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I thought it looked really lovely, but there was a slight problem.

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The scalloped edge kept flipping up and that looked bad.

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So I spent an hour hand sewing the scalloped edge onto the netting.

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And then it was done! Or almost done. I still have to glue on the rhinestones but everything else is finished. I love how this turned out. I think the fabrics look lovely together and it’s so pretty and delicate. I was worried the lace would look cheap (I think I paid like $6 a yard for it? so it was cheap) and that my dress would end up looking cheap. But that concern went away after getting it to this point.

Like the last blog post, this one has a video counterpart which can be watched here.

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And that’s it! Part three should be up on Friday and will talk about the collar.

Thanks for reading!

Making a Black Lace Dress, Part One

In a couple weeks my uncle is getting married. That means i’ll being going to a semi-formal event and need to wear a semi-formal dress. I’ve made a few of those before but they all either obnoxious, too formal, or white, which wouldn’t be very appropriate! I could have bought a dress, but for the first time in forever I had the opportunity to make a dress and actually wear it somewhere, and I felt like I owed it to myself to do just that.

I bought the fabrics before I had a design in mind. I had fifty percent off coupons and thought the fabrics looked pretty together so I picked up three yards of black lace and four yards of point d’esprit netting. I also ended up buying shoes to match the lace before actually making the dress, so those are pictured below as well.


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I had some black cotton sateen, ivory shantung (leftover from my Royal Milk Tea costume), and quilters cotton  laying around as well. The material costs on this dress were pretty low so I splurged and ordered four hundred swarovski crystals in the color “jet”.

Now I had my materials, but I didn’t have a design.

I wanted an A-line silhouette with a structured bodice since I think that flatters me best. I sketched up a simple strapless dress with a lace overlay, which was nice but very boring. The shape of it made me think of vintage dresses from the mid 1900s, so I started browsing pinterest in search of inspiration. Eventually I came across something I really, really, liked. It’s the dress Marilyn Monroe wore to the oscars in 1951.

I think it’s beautiful. I wanted to make something really similar to it, as in identical but with a shorter hem and contrasting fabrics. I titled my progress folder “Mairlyn” because of that.

But things really didn’t go as planned. I  made some decisions which took the design in a different direction, and my materials were way stiffer and more opaque which prevented the airy ruched collar. So my dress looks nothing like this one, at all, but I still love this dress and wanted to share it because look at it. It’s so pretty.

Step one was draping the bodice. One of my favorite details about the dress I used for inspiration is the illusion neckline created with flesh toned fabric. I figured I could do something similar, which is why there is a line about an inch away from the edge around the bodice neckline.

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I wanted this bodice to be really structured so I cut it into several different pieces which allows me to add boning into the seams.

I copied all the pieces onto tracing paper and added seam allowances so I could assemble my first mock up.

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Here is the fabric after being removed from the dress form.

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And the pattern it got turned into.

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I made my first mock up and it went really well. So well that I decided not to bother making another mock up. I regret this decision because I think the finished bodice would fit a lot better if I had made a second mockup and did a test run with the boning.

Since my mock up didn’t have boning in the bra cups they slouched down a bit and made the neckline look a lot deeper than it actually was.

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Because the neckline was lower than I expected I decided to remove the illusion neckline aspect of the bodice. It was revealing enough without that, and even though it wouldn’t cause more skin to show it would hint at it, and I didn’t think that was necessary.

So I made some pattern alterations and added more seam allowance. Now I had a pattern that looked like this!

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Like most structured bodices this will be made up of three layers. The top layer is made from the fashion fabrics, the base layer where boning and structure is placed, and the final layer is lining to hide anything ugly on the interior.

I started by making the base layer. Since the top layer will be stiff I didn’t want to add bulk by having a base layer made from heavy materials. So I chose a medium weight quilters cotton. All the boning channels will be backed with canvas and it will be stitched directly to the top layer of fabric so i’m not worried about it stretching or warping overtime, even though it is a lighter fabric than what would usually be used as a base.

I cut all the pieces out and marked the boning channels. Then they were sewn together with three quarter inch seams.

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I clipped the bust seams just below the line where underwire will be added, then I turned the seam allowance inward and pinned them down. Once these are sewn I will have boning channels I can feed plastic boning into. Plastic boning won’t compress the bust, but it will prevent the fabric from turning over or collapsing down, which happens a lot on strapless bodices if you have a small bust.

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Then I created the rest of the boning channels. I used spiral steel boning and bias tape to create underwire beneath the bust. Ribbon backed with canvas was sewn on to create channels for the really thick, stiff, steel bones. Some seams were folded inward to create channels for the flimsier bones, which are either plastic or spiral steel.

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Here the bodice is with all the bones added and the bra cups pinned in. These were bra cups I bought for my Royal Milk Tea costume ages ago – I threw that costume away a long time ago but salvaged the trims, boning, and notions. When I installed these in that costume I had no clue how to draft a bodice to fit them, or how to sew them in. They ended up being really uneven and that bodice gaped horribly at the neckline, you see straight down it.

Those were bad times. But i’ve learned a lot since then, and this time they got sewn in properly!

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Here is how the base layer looked when I tried it on. I was so ridiculously pleased with this fit. There was a bit of warped boning in the back – this is the fault of a spiral steel bone. This was my first time using spiral steel and i’ve decided it’s pretty damn useless, plastic boning holds its shape better, is easier to move in, and a lot easier to install.

Aside from that, I thought this looked pretty great.

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Here it is laid flat. The underwire doesn’t look great here, but it sits smoothly against the body when it’s worn.

There were a couple things I noticed during the fitting. The first was that the neckline was way higher (like, a whole inch higher) than I was expecting. As I said earlier, this is because my mock up didn’t have boning in it so it slouched down. With the boning holding the material up it sits much higher on the body. This is good and bad. It means the neckline is high enough for me to feel comfortable adding the illusion neckline back in (yay!) but I think the neckline is a little bit too high. If I ever use this pattern again I would chop a half inch off.

The other thing is that it’s slightly too long in the waist. By maybe a quarter inch. Which means it digs into my hips a little. But this dress will be worn over petticoats, which should provide a bit of padding and prevent anything from bruising or bleeding (I hope).

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Since the illusion neckline is back I made a quick alteration to the two front panels of my bodice. On the left you can see the original pattern, and on the right you can see the altered version.

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Finally we are onto the top layer of the bodice! I cut everything out from polyester shantung, then pinned two layers of petticoat net overtop. I didn’t like how bright the ivory was beneath the black lace, this helps dull that a bit.

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…And now we skip a few steps! I sewed the netting overtop of the shantung, then basted a layer of lace on top. The only panels that didn’t get an overlay are the top pieces of the front panels. I left this material plain so it would better match my skin tone.

All the pieces got sewn together with three quarter inch seams.

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I didn’t do the smoothest job on those curvy seams at the bust, but that’ll be hidden by the collar so it’s okay.

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I traced around the neckline and measured an inch and a half away from the traced line, this created a facing which got sewn onto the right side of the bodice.

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I turned the facing over and sewed it down to get a finished edge. I tucked the base layer between the facing and top layer of fabric, then stitched it to the facing.  To further secure the base layer in place I sewed the lower edge of the top layer to the base layer and turned them over to get a finished edge.

I hope that paragraph makes at least a little bit of sense.

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I created a paper guide for where topstitching should be around the bust. I used pins as a guideline and carefully stitched across them by hand to secure the two layers together.

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When it came to actually trying on the bodice I ran into a little problem. It wasn’t too small, but it was too small to zip up (there is totally a difference). If I added a lace up back it would have been fine, but I didn’t want to do that. I tried adding extensions onto the back of the bodice but then it was too big and the boning gaped away from my body.

Finally I figured out a solution: Make a little girdle/waistband thing that goes on before the bodice to cinch my waist in, then zip the bodice up.

To do that I quilted a piece of shantung and backed it with cotton. Then I sewed in plastic boning so it wouldn’t scrunch up. Hooks/eyes were stitched into the front with upholstery thread to create a closure.

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It leaves behind some pretty ugly marks, but it worked really well!

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The bodice zips up nicely. Does it kind of painfully dig into my hips? Yup. Will the petticoats help pad that? I really hope so. Even if it doesn’t I should be fine, it doesn’t restrict or alter my breathing in anyway so it isn’t dangerous, it’s just uncomfortable and might leave behind some bruises.

I wish I could change a few things to make it fit better (like go back in time and make another mock up… ) but at this point those would be MAJOR changes, and I only have a few days left to get this project finished. So i’m leaving it this way for now, and i’ll suffer through for the sake of looking pretty.

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I think that’s it for the bodice – the skirt, collar, and other good stuff will be coming up next week. Also I vlogged throughout the whole process. If you would like to hear me ramble on about my thoughts on this project as I make it, you can watch the videos here!

Thanks for reading!

Making a Dress out of Ikea Curtains

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

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

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

Here is the material. These are EIVOR curtains.

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

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

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

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

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

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After all that it looked like this! Much nicer!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thanks for reading!

Heinrich Mücke Inspired Dress

I try not to make separate posts for indoor pictures since they are never that great. But it’s already been a couple week since I finished this project and it might be a couple more before I have outdoor photos, so this will have to do!

Overall i’m really happy with this costume. I love the dress, headpiece, and how they look together. I’m pretty happy with how my wig and makeup turned out too! But I don’t love these pictures. I wanted the dress to be long and flowing but it’s a little too…flat.

I think next time i’ll wear it with a petticoat to get a bit more volume. I posted a video (here) of me spinning in it to get the hem laid out for photos – the volume it has in motion is something I want to carry over into photos as well. But that is an easy fix and not related to the dress itself, just the way it’s worn in the future.

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And some portraits taken a few days later. I was trying out a new lighting setup, which I really liked, but I didn’t like the background. Going to change that next time!

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Thanks for reading! A “The making of” post should be up on Monday!

Making a 16th Century Dress, Part Three

So I skipped almost two weeks of posting. In my defense, I was traveling for a week of that and fully planned on updating while in hotel rooms. I had several hours to kill most evenings, and nothing to do but blog! Unfortunately that plan didn’t work out since none of the hotels had reliable internet that allowed me to access wordpress, much less post anything. When I got home I had a rough time getting back into my routine, but i’m back!

I really wanted to make this post a progress report, since I have several projects in progress right now and plans for a few exciting ones. But I figured after two weeks a “The Making Of” would be more appreciated. So lets go through the process of adding a skirt to my tudor costume. If you are unfamiliar with this project, the previous posts can be read here.

I’m not sure where the photos of this laid out flat went, but I can’t find them. I think my folder with the first five photos or so got deleted, which is a shame. On the bright side,  the skirt pattern was really simple, two rectangles plus a rectangle with an arched bottom to create a train. If I had another two yards of material (which I planned on having) the train would be longer and the skirt would have two extra panels.

The panels were all sewn together with french seams. Then the lower edge was turned over by a half inch and basted down. Then it got turned over my an inch and a half and pinned down.

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Then that was stitched down with whip stitches.

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The side edges of the skirt also got turned over by an inch and a half. I stitched down both edges of the fabric with tiny running stitches.

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Since this fabric is pretty thin and cartridge pleating works best with thicker fabrics I decided to back the top few inches with flannel. I cut several strips of flannel and folded them in half.

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Then I sewed it on.

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The top edge was fraying like crazy, so I decided to cover it with bias tape. I had some of the damaged damask leftover and decided this would be a good use for it. I marked out all my two inch wide strips.

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Then cut them out and sewed them together.

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I ironed the raw edges inward and I had bias tape!

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One edge got sewn on.

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Then it was folded over the top edge and pinned down.

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And sewn down.

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Now it was time for pleating! I used chalk to mark two lines that are one and a half inches apart. Then I drew a line every four inches, which is how big the pleats will be. They are massive.

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I used upholstery thread to pleat everything so there was no chance of my thread breaking. Here is how it looked after being pleated.

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I was really happy with them until I pinned them onto my bodice. After I pinned them I realized cartridge pleats at this size collapse down and look a lot like normal box pleats. They do fold underneath and give a LOT more volume than regular pleats do, but i’m still a little disappointed!

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I sewed the skirt on with small whip stitches and upholstery thread…then went over my stitching again because I did a terrible job. I could fit my whole nail between the stitches!

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And that is it! The skirt was done and my dress finally had a lower half.

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Here is a teaser – in my super dusty mirror – of how it looks worn!

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I’ll be taking proper photos (maybe with a nice backdrop, if I can set something up) within the next week or two. But in the mean time, I did a video about this project which shows some close ups and the order everything is worn! That video can be watched below, or through this link.

This project is complete, but I still have a couple more blog posts to write about it, so you’ll be seeing lots more on the topic within the next little while.

Thank you for reading!

Making a Orchid Inspired Dress, Part Two

This is the second post about making my Orchid Inspired Dress! Today i’m going over the process of making the lower half of this costume. The post about making the bodice can be read here.

The skirt base is a really big circle skirt cut from striped upholstery material. Unfortunately at the time I bought this material my math skills failed me and I purchased wrong amount. I only bought three yards and I really needed another eighteen inches. I had to crop the front and back of the skirt by four inches just to cut the skirt out. Yikes.

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Here you can see how that ended up looking on my dress form. Do you see the problem?

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Luckily I had a plan that would cover the hem! It would involve the three yards of organza I bought without  a real purpose in mind.

So I did a rough patching job that lengthened the front of the skirt. It was pretty ugly, but it’s okay if it’s ugly, I can cover that up later.

(that could be my personal motto)

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The back of the skirt was also too short, so I used leftover fabric to make a train. I planned on using the organza to cover the seam, so the stripes not lining up shouldn’t be noticeable in the end.

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With the skirt the right length all the way around, I could move onto hemming! I started by stitching a half inch away from the lower edge. This was done to prevent fraying more than anything else.

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It still frayed a huge amount in some spots, so I trimmed those places with pinking shears.

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Then I used a basting stitch to turn the edge over.

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And then the edge got turned over again, this time by two inches.

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I sewed that down, by hand, with a whip stitch. This hem was ridiculous, I think it was six yards long or something similar. It took all afternoon to finish!

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It was around this point that I felt the skirt looked a little boring. So I decided to paint spots up the back of it. The logic here was “My Orchid has spots, so my dress should have spots!” which seemed like a bright idea at the time. I drew these spots out with a colored pencil, then filled them in with a jacquard paint in the color “violet”.

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After putting on the first layer I had a “Oh god what have I done” moment of immediate regret. I definitely didn’t love how it looked, but by this point I was committed so I kept going.

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The paint wasn’t as opaque as I had hoped, so I did a second coat with a setacolor ink. This stuff wasn’t very opaque either, but I was running out of it so I decided two coats would have to be enough!

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With the spots done it was time to decorate the hem with organza. I debated about what technique to use, but finally decided to sew it into tubes and to tack them down kind of haphazardly. It all sounds very strange but I had a vision!

Here are the strips of organza.

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They got sewn into tubes, then the seam allowance was trimmed down, and they were turned rightside out.

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I had a few different sizes. I really wish I had bought more organza because I didn’t have nearly enough. I had hoped to use some of these on the bodice and top of the skirt but I needed them all for just the hem,

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I didn’t steam or iron any of the tubes, so they still had a lot of volume after being pinned and stitched onto the hem. I also used all the remaining mesh from my Fluffy Feathered Dress to make it look like flowers were growing up the dress. I’m pretty happy with how this turned out, though I wish I had more organza so I could have made the strips wider and the effect more pronounced.

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With the bottom of the skirt done, it was time to focus on the top half – I guess this part could be considered a peplum, but that isn’t a word I think of applying to part of a ball gown!

These are the pieces that drape down from the bodice in petal like shapes. I drafted these by hanging my few remaining pieces of organza from the waistline, then trimming them into the correct shape.

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Once laid flat they looked like this. I sewed the darts and cleaned up the edges.

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Then I finished those edges off with home made bias tape.

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Now it was time for the draping! This would be done with purple taffeta, like the bodice was. I used the same technique and cut strips of taffeta which got folded in half and stitched up the side, then turned right side out.

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After a lot of pinning I came up with something I liked!

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So I took it off the dress form and tacked the strips down so the draping pattern would stay put. Then I stitched the tops of the “petals” together so sewing it onto the bodice would be easier.

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But before sewing anything I decided to make another piece for this dress: A bow. I cut three more strips of taffeta and sewed them into tubes (see a running theme with this dress?) then folded the edges into points and whip stitched them closed.

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Then I put the bodice, skirt, peplum, and bow onto the dress form just to make sure everything looked the way I wanted.

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I was really happy with the draping and placement of everything (and the bow, I always love a good bow) but I thought the skirt was lacking in volume. Though it had tons at first, my petticoats have a habit of deflating, and after two weeks of working on this project the skirt had shrunk and looked pathetic.

But any good seamstress should have a bolt of petticoat net on hand! And I did! I cut out a few large rectangles and sewed them into strips.

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Then the lower edges got trimmed with home made bias tape so they wouldn’t catch on anything.

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The tops were gathered down and stitched together.

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And in no time at all I had a netting lining for my dress!

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Now I felt comfortable sewing everything together. But (isn’t there always a but?) I had to fix up the opening in the back first, because it had turned into a frayed mess.

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I trimmed back the worst of the frayed parts, then attached taffeta bias tape around the opening.

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I also sewed a zipper underneath the bias tape, but for some reason I didn’t take photos of that part.

Now I could finally begin assembly! The peplum was sewn onto the skirt, then the netting was sewn in. The photo below shows the netting just before being tacked to the interior of the zipper.

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With all the layers together I could finally attach bias tape to the top. This prevents fraying and any scratchiness from the netting.

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And then the bodice got attached!

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Here is how it looks finished! I wish I had photos of the back but this dress is too big for my room, the train ended up being cut off in every picture.

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Thank you for reading!

Making a Orchid Inspired Dress, Part One

I’m back with yet another fashion project, which has kept me from going insane while finishing up the final details on my tudor costume! As the title suggests, this is a dress inspired by my orchids. I got the materials for this project (and talked a bit about it) in my birthday haul.

 In that post I mentioned that i’m really easily inspired, especially by things around me. I’ve had a pretty little orchid sitting next to my desk since January, so it was only a matter of time until I made a dress inspired by it. I’m honestly pretty impressed with myself that I  managed to hold off for three months.

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The original dress design can be seen below. I wanted it to be simple and elegant while still being visually interesting.That is a description I would use when talking about orchids, so I think it makes sense that my orchid-inspired-dress can be described with the same words.

. I had hoped to find materials in dark ivory, light purple, and a dull fuchsia, which when used together would create a gradient effect.

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But then I got another orchid. And I found the color patterns of this one a lot more interesting. I think the deeper purple spots and contrast against the lighter ivory better fits my “Simple, elegant, and interesting” description. So the sketch got revised a bit, and my fabric choices became much different than I had originally planned!

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I ended up with three yards of 120″ wide striped fabric, three yards of silk organza, and three yards of silk taffeta. I thought I bought four yards of the silks, but I remeasured and realized I was wrong about that! Honestly I should have bought four yards of all these fabrics, I  almost ran out part way through the project.

But I standby the actual fabrics I picked, even though I got the wrong amounts. I love the color, sheen, and weight of the taffeta, it was lovely to work with. The striped material gives just enough texture to what would otherwise be a boring circle skirt, and the organza gave it a lightness that the project needed.

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And here is Dotty (yes, I name my orchids) with the inspiration fabric.

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Okay! Now for actual progress photos! I wanted the bodice to be asymmetrical, and by that I mean as asymmetrical as I could get with everything still being covered. The majority of the bodice would be made from off white material, with a purple taffeta “collar” across the neckline and shoulders.

 I managed to accomplish the shape I wanted pretty easily, and my mock up fit on the first try!

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I made a few slight alterations to my pattern, the most major of which involved lowering the waistline. Then I marked out the boning placements and where the lacing loops would be.

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After making the skirt (which I will blog about next week) the fabric I had planned on using was almost entirely gone. I had enough to use for the bodice, but none of the stripes would have pointed in the right direction, much less matched up. So instead I decided to make the bodice from organza, with the option to add lining later on.

This is the bodice cut out.

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And with the boning channels marked out!

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I cut my boning channel casings from the leftover striped material. I cut these  out across the fabrics grain so you can see all the stripes. It isn’t very noticeable when the bodice is worn, but I think it’s a fun touch!

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Those got sewn in place. Unfortunately this part didn’t go smoothly. The two bobbins I had made in advance had something (I have no clue what) wrong with them which caused a tension problem and left me with very messy loose stitches on the underside. Ripping out stitches on organza is hell so I just went over the channels again after fixing the bobbin.

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Then I added boning! These bones don’t go to the top of the bodice, so  I had to hand stitch stoppers to keep them in place.

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Then I added another layer of organza overtop. This diffuses the look of the boning channels and makes the bodice slightly more opaque.

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I cut two inch wide strips of purple taffeta on the bias and folded them into double fold bias tape. Then I pinned them around the bodices edges.

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I sewed it down by hand and for once i’m pretty happy with how it looks! My hand sewn bias tape hasn’t been cleanest in the past, so this is a big improvement for me.

Not sure if it balances out the sloppy boning channels, but it certainly helps!

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I also cut out one inch wide strips of fabric on the bias. These got ironed and sewn into quarter inch wide strips that are three inches long. I made about twenty of them, all to be used for loops up the back of the dress. I think loops look a lot more elegant and since elegant is the buzzword for this project, I decided it was worth the extra time to make them!

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They got folded into loops, then pinned onto leftover bias tape.

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I sewed over them several times until I was confident the loops were secure.

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Then the loops got sewn onto the bodice. This part doesn’t look as pretty. I was trying to avoid hitting the boning channels while being unable to see where the bone ended since the loops covered them.

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Now it was time to add the collar. I cut more strips of taffeta and sewed them into tubes, so the raw edges were hidden inside the tubes. It’s a little wasteful fabric wise, but saves the time it takes to hem the strips and completely avoids having to combat puckered silk hems.

I can’t really describe how I draped this. I pleated the end of the strip and placed it at the waist, then I just tugged, folded, and pinned until I was happy with how it laid. I cleaned it up a little bit after taking this picture, since the neckline wasn’t as smooth as I wanted it to be.

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Then I tried it on! I liked how it looked a lot, but it needed a couple of alterations. The biggest one was taking in the collar (that feels like the wrong name for this, though i’m not sure what else it would be called) at the shoulder, and taking the entire bodice in by more than an inch.

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I re-draped the collar so it was a little smaller in the shoulder, then tacked everything down so the pins could be removed.

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Before doing that I took it in by a inch. I did this in the under arm area, right next to the boning channels. Then the extra fabric was stitched underneath the boning channels. It’s obvious from the interior, but from the outside it is hard to tell!

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Back to the collar. Here are all the tacking stitches. Not the prettiest thing ever, but much nicer to look at than tons of pins or puckers, which are the two alternatives. The edges of the taffeta were tucked underneath the loop closures and whip stitched down.

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With the collar done, all I needed to do was finish the lower edge with bias tape! So I did that. This time I used cotton bias tape that I had leftover from making the skirt.

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And it was done! Could probably use a steaming, but that’s all that I have left to do on it.

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Thank you for reading!

Making a Pleated Navy Gown, Part Two

The draped dress continues! Part One is posted here, it talks about making the lining for the dress, and though that was successful, it wasn’t looking very pretty. Today i’ll be adding the satin faced chiffon and making it look much better!

So this is the mess I left off with. The first step towards improving it was creating side panels from chiffon.

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But the chiffon is too delicate to keep the shape these panels require. So I backed them with a medium weight fusible interfacing.

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The edges got turned under, then the side seams were sewn.

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I removed the bodice lining from the dress form and pinned the side panels over it. I rested the bodice over an ironing ham to make sure the shape was right!

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Then the side pieces were sewn on with big basting stitches, these will get removed later on so the sleeves can be attached.

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Here is what it looks like on the form! Once it was pinned in place I could begin draping the chiffon overtop.

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I had this weird assumption that this part would be easy. I was wrong.

Granted my only experience with draping comes from watching Rami Kashou and Austin Scarlett do it on project runway, which apparently isn’t enough of an education to make my attempts turn out brilliantly on the first try.

After two – or maybe three, it all blended together in a big mess of frustration, hours I had something that looked decent! And kind of symmetrical. Not really symmetrical, but it was close(ish).

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I used large basting stitches and white thread to secure down all the pleats. My first plan was to sew them down by hand, which I did on the left side. After trying it on I realized it looked TERRIBLE. Even the tiniest stitches created a lot of puckers and it lost the effortless look I was going for. So that got ripped out.

You may notice the back left side looks a little weird. Because I was doing this in a dim room and didn’t realize I was working on the wrong side of the fabric, so that had to be ripped off and re draped.

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The back up plan of keeping everything when it should be involved ironing the crap out of it and hoping the pleats would stay in place, which totally worked!

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Now it was time to move onto the skirt! I cut out another large rectangle, but I made it a couple inches longer than the gabardine layer I cut for lining. I wanted to make sure the gabardine wasn’t visible at the hem, and since I wanted the skirt to drag it made a lot of sense to leave it extra long.

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After cutting the skirt to the proper length I had a three inch wide strip leftover. I folded that strip in half and ironed it so there was a sharp fold. Then I stitched the side with two raw edges onto the raw edge of the skirt.

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I treated it like you would any hem tape and turned it inward to the wrong side of the fabric, so the raw edge was hidden. I pinned this in place and then spent a few hours hemming the damn thing, doing my absolute best to avoid puckers.

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When that was finished I stitched the top of the skirt to the gabardine layer. Then I pleated the top into three quarter inch wide pleats. Two thirds of them face one direction, and one third faces the other.

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I attached a gabardine waistband to the skirt and turned the raw edge under so there was no added bulk at the waist. Then the raw edge was finished with home made bias tape to prevent fraying.

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With all that pinned to the dress form I had something resembling a dress!

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Now it was time for sleeves! The original plan was to have an undershirt made from brocade with fitted sleeves. I made the undershirt but I eventually realized the print was a little busier than I wanted, and I wasn’t happy with how it looked under my dress.

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So I scrapped it, and decided to make sleeves from ivory jacquard. Coming up with a pattern was a huge pain because the bodice has pointed arm holes, which are really difficult to set a sleeve into. The end result aren’t very pretty on the upper arm, but they are functional enough.

I didn’t take any pictures of the process, but here they are!

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Overtop of those sleeves I wanted draped sleeves that were open at the tops and nearly hit the floor. I was expecting this pattern to be quite complicated, but after cutting my remaining chiffon into two panels (40″ x 60″) and playing around I realized I could create a really pretty sleeve without cutting them at all!

This is just a rectangle pinned around the arm hole, and it falls really nicely.

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So I went with that! After making sure both rectangles were the same size I used a crayon to mark guidelines on the raw edges. The raw edges got turned inward by a half inch, twice, to prevent fraying.

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I stitched them down, which was time consuming since this fabric is so delicate.

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But the end result was really lovely. In this photo they are just pinned, but they got stitched on properly soon after. Both sleeves were sewn onto the lining, then the side panels of the bodice – which were previously basted in place, were stitched around the sleeves to hide any raw edges.

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The skirt got sewn onto the bodice, then I made a waistband to cover the raw edges. I wish I had enough chiffon leftover to make a blue sash, but the only remaining fabric was a 1/2″ wide strip of salvage. So Instead I used a piece of brocade. Brocade also got sewn on to create a collar.

Lastly I stitched eyelets into the back of the dress, I had originally stitched a zipper into the back but it wouldn’t zip smoothly past the bulk the pleated skirt created. But that’s okay, I like eyelets!

With that finished, the dress was done.

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Here are some worn pictures! I used the salvage strip of leftover fabric in the wig because I didn’t have a matching headpiece.

I think in the future I would like to add some boning to the centerfront and sides, which should keep the front smoother and allow me to lace it tighter at the back. Right now it isn’t very flattering. But before making any changes i’ll try it on with my pair of bodies or stays, which should give a similar result.

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So that’s it! Not bad for something I made in four days from things in my stash.

Thanks for reading!

Making a Fluffy, Feathered Dress, Part Two

It continues! This is the second post about making my fluffy ivory dress, the first post talks about the concept and how I made the skirt. It can be read here, and the video that goes along with it is posted here! I would suggest viewing those first, if you haven’t already.

Now we can move onto the bodice, which I think is a lot more exciting.

I draped the bodice on my dress form, but the process was a little different than usual since I was working around the shapes of various appliques. I draped fabric tightly around the form, then started pinning the appliques on top to determine the bodice shape.

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When I had an idea of where that was going I draped things properly and ended up with this! It has an odd, low neckline, which will eventually be covered by feathers.

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Off the form the fabric pattern looked like this. Because of the low neckline and my complete lack of bust I managed to make it all one piece, which is great! If I can avoid sewing princess seams I will.

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I transferred the fabric pattern to paper and marked out the boning channels. I decided to make the bodice very structured because I knew the lace/mesh/layers of fabric on the front would add bulk, and I really didn’t want to look bulky in the dress (or any dress).

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I cut strips of the jacquard i’m using for the bodice and ironed the edges inward to get three quarter inch trim. These will be used for boning channels and to cover any raw edges.

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I cut out the bodice pattern and marked out all the boning channels. Then I lined the edges up and pinned my trim down!

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Those all got topstitched down. The amount of pins proved to be a bit dangerous but I managed to avoid getting blood on the dress, so all is well!

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I also stitched a half inch away from the top edge, this creates a “stopper” for one end of the boning and provides a guideline for how long each bone should be.

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I used hooping wire for boning since I wanted it to be really stiff and straight. I tipped it with duct tape and wrapped the ends in scotch tape to make sure it wouldn’t move. Not the best method, but it is fast and works!

Then I stitched a half inch away from the bottom edge, creating another stopper so the boning can’t escape.

Finally I pinned the top edge over.

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It got stitched down by hand, so I wouldn’t break any needles on the boning! The bottom edge doesn’t get turned over since that seam allowance is needed when attaching the skirt.

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That bias tape I made earlier got pinned over the raw edge to finish it off. I really didn’t want to add lining to this bodice so I decided on bias tape instead.

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Here it is all stitched down – I did this part by hand too!

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And I had a nice, but very plain bodice. It was practically begging to be embellished.

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….so I did just that. This is actually my “test” to get a good idea of how to lay things out. I’m using leftover fabric from the skirts, lace, sequins, and feathers that are glued to buckram. I believe these are sold for fascinator decoration, but I bought them a long time ago for a hood that I never made.

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All that got unpinned and (kind of) arranged around the blank bodice.

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The first thing to be attached was the ruffled jersey. Then the white feathers were stitched on with upholstery thread. Normal cotton thread gets shredded when sewing buckram which is why I used a much heavier alternative. I pinned mesh mounted chiffon flowers (fussy cut from leftover skirt fabric) overtop.

I was aiming for a very layered, texture heavy type of look.

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Then I added lace to the center front, and finally, the ivory feathers!

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It was still looking a little boring, so I went ahead and added dozens of sequins.

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And it was pretty  much done!

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I was really happy with it, so I moved on with the finishing touches. The first thing to do was add eyelets. I wanted this dress to zip closed but I forgot seam allowances at the back of the dress, so it ended up being an inch smaller than it should be. I can lace myself into things that are too small, but zippers aren’t that forgiving, which is why I opted for grommets!

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And that was pretty much it, actually. I sewed on the skirt and stitched up the back with a french seam. I should probably finish the seam at the waist with bias tape, but i’m leaving it for now since none of the fabrics fray that much.

This is the finished dress.
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And a close up of the bodice!  One feather is trying to escape. I might have to pluck it, but hopefully hairspray can fix it.

Overall I’m really happy with this dress. I think it’s very pretty. It is similar in shape to my flower dresses and I don’t think I learned anything from making it, but sometimes you just want to make something fun that you know will turn out well!

DSC_2934Even though the dress is done, I did make a mesh overlay which has sleeves on it. So this project isn’t over!

Also there is a video about making this bodice, and it is posted here!

Thanks for reading!

Making a Silvery Blue Dress, Part Three

This is the final post about making this dress! I originally posted about it at the end of January, almost two weeks after I finished it. It’s inspired by Madalena’s wedding dress in the show “Galavant” and has a Renaissance/Fantasy flair to it.

There is more information about all that in the first, and the second posts about this project! I would suggest reading those first, if you haven’t already.

In my last post I had just completed the bodice and sleeves, which meant it was time to focus on the skirt! The skirt is made entirely from the greyish “mystery” fabric. I had quite limited amounts of fabric, so I couldn’t make the skirt as full as I had hoped. It ended up being a rectangular front panel, with three gored panels in the back. Skirts like this can be cut from three and a half yards of fabric, which is super handy!

I gave it a small train – I would have made it longer if I had more fabric, but it only ended up being around sixteen inches.

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 I had planned on cartridge pleating the top, so I cut strips of flannel on the bias to back the waistline with. This will give the fabric more volume which makes it pleat nicer!

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I hemmed one edge, then stitched it onto the skirt. One end folds over a half inch, and the other is one and a half inches long.

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Unfortunately even with the backing this fabric really didn’t want to pleat nicely. I ended up with really tiny, sad looking gathers and I wasn’t pleased with them at all.

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So I decided to pleat the top instead. I had hoped having a gathered waist would help differentiate it from the dress I used as inspiration, since i’m not trying to make an exact copy of it. But sometimes you have to do what works with the fabric, even if it isn’t part of the plan!

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This is it all pinned! One large box pleat is in the center, then knife pleats on the sides.

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Then it was time for hemming! I marked one inch inside the hem and folded the edge to touch it, then basted it down.

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Then I turned that edge inward again, until I had an even one and a half inch hem. I did make the hem a little deeper towards the back, so I could get really smooth curves.

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I stitched it by hand with a cross stitch to make it nice and pretty!

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I turned the top of the back seam edges over to create a slit.

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I finished the edge with bias tape and sewed hook/eye closures every one and a half inches to keep the skirt closed. I don’t think I got any photos of those, but below you can see the markings I made for them.

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Then the skirt got pinned on!

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And finally sewn on. I did this by hand to try and hide the stitches, but both of these fabrics are very pucker prone so i’m afraid it isn’t as smooth as I had wanted!

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Here is the finished dress – all it needs is a good ironing!

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I’m probably most pleased with the tiny gathers on the sleeves.

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I decided to pair this dress with the silver crown I got on ebay last year. I’m a little annoyed because it has started to turn gold in some areas which is really bizarre. I’ve heard of fake gold turning silver, but never the reverse! Luckily it kind of comes off with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol.

I also wore it with a bunch of rings I got from ebay and forever 21, and a pair of earrings from Charlotte Russe.

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After wearing this dress for a bit i’ve decided there are two things I want to change. The skirt REALLY needs a liner of some sort, the fabric is too flowy and looks very lumpy, even over a smooth petticoat. It also caves in at the bottom so I think adding six inch horsehair in the hem would make a huge difference.

I’d also like to pick up something to cover the waist seam – next time i’m in NYC I’ll keep a look out for silver lace!

Here are two pictures of the finished costume. We got some snow I thought it would make for a pretty backdrop!

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Thanks for reading!