An 1880’s Inspired Dress : Pumpkin Project 2018

It’s become a bit of a tradition for me to make a Autumn themed ensemble in October, and photograph it in a local pumpkin patch. Last year I made an 18th century Redingote and the year before that, an 1890’s dress.

This time around I wanted to venture into a period I’m a bit less familiar with – and slightly terrified of (fitting, since it is halloween, huh?) : The 1880’s.

The bustle decades of fashion in general intimidate me. I think I understand how the dresses are supposed to go together, and the rough shapes the pieces should have. I mean I’ve read books about them, looked at original patterns, and scoured photos of dozens of extant garments! But I always get overwhelmed when it comes to making them, and had never finished one…until now!

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It has its problems, but I learned a lot and its made me way more confident about attempting costumes from this period, so I think it is a success – at least in my eyes!

I went into this project knowing what period I wanted it to be from (the 1880’s) and what fabrics I wanted to use (orange silk shantung, black faille, and black sequined lace)…and not a lot else.

I tried to design it without referencing fashion plates, since I wanted it to be somewhat original. I also wasn’t too concerned about historically accuracy – I was OK with it having some fantasy elements to it (like fake spiders. and sequins. and fake spiders with sequins on them). I figured that would take a lot of pressure off me when constructing it, which was good since I only had a week to make this!

This was my first sketch, but I did make some changes as I got further along with this project.

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I decided to make the skirt first, so I could drape the bodice over the skirt and hopefully have a better fit.

I also decided the skirt would be two layers. Layer one has a black base, with contrasting trim on the hem, and a sequined overlay.

Layer two is orange shantung that has been pleated and trimmed to form a bustle.

Both of these layers go on top of this petticoat, which I hemmed and pinned to be more appropriate for the 1880’s, and a lobster tail bustle straight out of Norah Waugh’s Corsets and Crinolines*.

I put the foundations on my dress form, took measurements off them, and used that to create a underskirt pattern. Well, pattern might be a stretch! I figured out the dimensions of the pieces, then these were transferred directly onto the faille with chalk.

This is the front panel of the underskirt.

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…And the finished underskirt. I wasn’t great about documenting this. The back panel is just a rectangle gathered to fit the waist, with a ruffle sewn on to the lower half to add volume.

The waist was finished with ribbon, and closes with a hook at one side. Everything was stitched with french seams, except the top 10″ of the right side, which was left open to make the skirt easy to get on and off.

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I originally wanted to add dagged trim to the hem – to look like Jack o lantern teeth, but I didn’t have enough fabric. So instead I sewed together several rectangles of orange fabric,  hemmed them by hand, then pleated them down to add texture.

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The pleats were kind of unruly, so I tack stitched them down 2″ away from the top edge. I also finished the top edge with binding, to prevent fraying.lightroom (9 of 32)

I topstitched the pleats on to the underskirt…and then top stitched black binding on top, because I realized the white binding I originally used would be visible through the lace overlay (oops).

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I don’t actually have any photos of adding the lace overlay, but it was effectively a three yard cut of lace that I trimmed hemmed, and gathered, until it fell just above the pleated trim. It was stitched onto the underskirt, just below the waistband.

I was originally going to fussy cut the lace into the shape of trees and hand-stitch it on, but I ran out of time and the lace wasn’t really dense enough to do that.

( In these photos the overlay is just roughly pinned on – it hasn’t been hemmed and gathered yet!)

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This is also the kind of beginning stages of my bustle.

The bustle had three pieces – two “poofs” made out of rectangles with three sides gathered (the other edge makes up the hem, and was stitched by hand). And the front portion which draped down, and was made by draping the fabric and pleating it until I liked the shape.

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The pleats were tacked down by hand, and the back edges were bound. Then I pinned lace across the pleats to add interest.

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That was all stitched on by hand, too. And that was about it for the skirt! I added a waistband to the bustle layer, and a few hooks to keep is closed. There were also some plastic spiders added later, just for good measure.

The bodice pattern was draped over all the skirts, and though I draped/patterned it myself, I used a lot of original pattern images as a reference when placing the darts and seams (you can see some of them here, if you scroll around).

Then I transferred that to paper, and turned it into a mockup…which was way too big. Like so big I couldn’t even tell how well it would fit when taken in. I pinned the necessary alterations, then marked them all on my pattern.

This was mock up number two, which still needed a few changes but fit surprisingly well! I loved the shape of the hem, and I thought the fit through the bust and shoulders was pretty great!

Here is the “final” pattern.

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Most of the garments I’d seen from this period were flat lined. So I cut each piece out twice, once from shantung, and once from a lightweight canvas-y fabric.

Each piece of shantung was backed with the canvas, then treated as a single piece.

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Unfortunately I didn’t realize until after sewing all my bodice pieces together that I still had a large needle in my machine, like the type you use with thick wools. It had caused the seams to pucker quite badly. I didn’t have enough fabric to recut the entire bodice, but I did re-cut the front panels.

Here you can see the difference in the darts sewn with a silk needle (left) and one with the heavy duty needle (right). Changing your needle matters!

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Now I had to assemble the center panels before doing a fitting. These were made from the black faille, and lined with the canvas material.

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I bound the edges to prevent fraying, and used my machine to stitch 15 buttonholes into the left front panel. Then I sewed 15 buttons onto the other!lightroom (18 of 32)

Here is the first fitting (this is before I replaced the font panels, so ignore the puckers!) – somehow the black panel was too short, leaving a gap at the shoulder. So I had to add an extension there. But everything else looked really good!lightroom (19 of 32)

So I decided to add boning into the bodice. Most garments I looked at from the 1880’s had pinked seams, with boning sewn into the center. Though I wasn’t aiming for perfect historical accuracy (in case the sequined lace didn’t throw you off!)  I did want to practice some historical techniques for future projects.

I used spiral steel boning for this, since I thought it would bend well with the curved seams. I loosely whip stitched 3/4″ twill tape around the bones, then used more secure whip stitches to sew the bones into the bodice. lightroom (21 of 32)

Here is the interior – you can see the bones, and the grosgrain ribbon waist tape that I added.

You can also see the bias binding, which I used to finish the bottom edge of the bodice.

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Now onto sleeves! I flat drafted these using a few measurements, but they were way too big.

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This is take two, which was better, but still not great.

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I think it took me three more attempts before I ended up with something I was happy with. I don’t have a worn photo, but this is the final pattern.

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The sleeves were…one of the more frustrating parts of this project. It seemed like no matter how I lined them, what I lined them with or how much ease I added, they wanted to wrinkle.

Finally I attempted flat lining them with the canvas I used on the bodice, which seemed to work OK but still isn’t perfect. I realize now it must have been a drafting error…but I didn’t have any of those problems on the mockup!

The sleeves have a velvet cuff, which covers the top edge of more pleated trim. I also stitched on more lace, and I tried to make it look like the lace was crawling up the sleeves.

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I sewed the sleeves onto the bodice, then trimmed the seam allowance down to 1/4″ and whip stitched it to the lining.

The bodice also got a collar (basically a 2″ wide rectangle with curves at the front) made of velvet and lined with faille. I like the contrast of the super black velvet against the less black faille.

Then I added a bunch of lace to the shoulder of the bodice…and a couple of spiders. My whole concept for this is that the lace is a spiderweb.

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The final touch for this costume is the hat! It has a brim made out of buckram, a cap made from interfacing, and is generously decorated with lace and various halloween decorations. Including a whole fake bird I bought from michaels.

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The interior is lined with gathered tulle, and cotton. A comb was sewn in so it can sit at an angle without falling.

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Now up until this point, I was pretty happy with this project. And then I tried it on. And somewhere between adding the waist tape and sleeves, the fit became awful.

Or not even the fit, the fabric just…rebelled against me. It puckered really badly and rippled down the back (not something visible in ANY of my previous fittings) and the darts at the front strained too. But I don’t think it was too small. Because the bodice almost gaped away from my back.

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Despite the fittings when making sleeve mockups going fine, it was suddenly really tight around the underarm and shoulder. But when the sleeve head was larger, it was baggy!

I think these problems would have been less obvious with a cotton fabric, or something without a sheen to it. Unfortunately one of the reasons I gravitate towards shantung, is because of its sheen.

I think I can probably fix it (or greatly improve it) by removing the boning in the back seam and taking it in slightly. I think removing the sleeves, letting them out, and cutting 1/4″ of material out of the armscye might help with the issue there…and I’m sure there are other fixes too.

But even with its faults, I’m happy with this project. I like the design of it, the fantasy elements, and the fact I finally finished a bustle dress! That fact alone has given me the confidence to attempt more…and hopefully those will fit a bit better.

Here are the worn photos:

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I hope you’re having a lovely Halloween, and thank you so much for reading!

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Silvery Blue Dress, Photos

I finally got around to editing all of these! So here they are, finished photos of my silver/galavant/renaissance inspired fantasy dress! I really need to think up a better title for this dress, but i’m the worst at naming things.

This dress was inspired by Madalena’s wedding dress in the show “Galavant” and has a few qualities to it that remind me of early Renaissance gowns. I made it from materials I had around, which included five yards of a shiny “mystery” fabric and a matching brocade. I made it in about two weeks, and it was a really enjoyable project! More information about the inspiration and construction process is posted under this tag.

These photos were taken during one of the many snowstorms we got this year – which are quite inconvenient, but make for some pretty pictures!

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I mentioned in the last post about making this dress that I would like to add a liner to better support the skirt, because the flowy fabric doesn’t hold its shape. I’d also like to make a better petticoat to pair with my renaissance dresses, since I have many dresses with this shape and no specific petti to support them.

But aside from that, i’m really pleased with this dress and how the photos turned out!

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!

Making a Silvery Blue Dress, Part One

Here is a new project! I started this when I was at a point where I didn’t have anything in progress and I didn’t feel comfortable starting on a big project because I hadn’t done enough research. So I chose a simple dress in a style i’m familiar with to keep me busy while I read up on elaborate dresses from the 1500s.

After watching “Galavant” I felt really inspired and decided to make a dress based off of Madalena’s Wedding Dress. Most of the costuming on that show drive me crazy (not in a good way), but I thought this dress was gorgeous, even if it isn’t anything near historically accurate!

I decided to use a blue brocade and a silvery blue ~mystery~ fabric that is silky on one side and matte on the other (definitely not satin or charmeuse). I talked about these materials in a Fabric Friday post ages ago, about how they were so pretty I couldn’t bear to use them. But now i’ve had them for almost two years and think it’s time they have a life beyond sitting in a box. I can always get more!

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I had planned on beading the bodice and creating a very full skirt but after deciding on the brocade and silver material I knew I wouldn’t be able to do either of those things. The brocade is delicate and I think it would catch on the beading, and the second fabric is too soft to form such a full design.

This sketch was done before I had picked fabric, so it isn’t quite accurate!

DSC_2015 I started by draping – this was a very easy pattern to drape!

This mock up features sexy delivery men. Of course.

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DSC_2017I removed it from the dress form and turned it into a paper pattern, which looks like this! Usually I would draft the front of the bodice as one piece, because princess seams didn’t exist in the 1400s. But in this case I wasn’t focusing on accuracy at all.

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I cut my pattern out from lining fabrics first. I decided to use scraps of batik – i’ve had these for ages and they are too small to use for draping and most mock ups, so it was nice to finally have a use for them! I think they look quite nice together too, funky lining makes everything better.

Once the pattern was cut out I sewed it together and tried it on – it was actually a pretty nice fit!

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 Then I cut  my bodice pattern out from brocade.

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 Which also got assembled.

DSC_2039 When all the seams were pressed I went through and stitched a 1/2″ away from the edge, around each edge. This prevents the brocade from fraying and creates a guideline of where to turn the edge over, without leaving any marks on the interior of your fabric.

(after the pen incident I have converted to using this method as much as possible)

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 I went through and turned over all the edges and secured them in place with a tiny running stitch. This is before it was ironed, the brocade is very delicate and prone to puckering so it didn’t look great at this point.

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 I repeated this process on the cotton lining. The only difference is that the center back edges were turned over by machine, and done in such a way that it creates a pocket. In this pocket I put a piece of plastic boning.

Without the boning whatever closure I add will be prone to bunching up, this solves that problem!

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 Speaking of closures, for this particular piece I wanted to try creating loops to lace through instead of eyelets. I made these by cutting one and a half inch wide strips of bias cut fabric – in this case I used the same fabric that will get used for the skirt.

I turned the edges inward, then folded them in half again. This is the same way you make bias tape, except I stitched the folded edges together.

I made twenty four two inch long pieces for the loops, and one piece that is three yards long to serve as the lacing.

DSC_2025 I pinned the bits of fabric (soon to be loops) onto ribbon.

DSC_2045 Then stitched over them a bunch of times. The end result were two pieces of ribbon with loops attached. Perfect!

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 Then I sewed these onto the back of the bodice lining and ta-da, a functional closure!

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Since the skirt fabric was now incorporated into the back of the bodice, I decided to bring some to the front by decorating the neckline with a folded bias cut strip of the material. I’m not sure why it is puckering a bit, I made it properly and ironed it loads. Luckily it looks find when worn, so i’m not going to get too upset about it!

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So that is it for this post. Because the next step was attaching the sleeves, and this post would be very long if I included that part too! Hopefully that will go up next week, along with another post. I’m going to try to get back onto my twice a week schedule because I miss it.

Thanks for reading!

Dewdrop Series, Making Another Dress, Part Two

Here is the second, and final post in making this more modern dress for my Dewdrop series. I talk about my ideas and how I made the skirt in the previous post which can be read here.

As per usual I started by draping the pattern on my dress form. I’d hoped to alter a pattern for this bodice but realized part way through that draping it would just be easier.

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When I removed it from the dress form it looked like this! I had to iron it out before making the pattern. I still plan to make a tutorial on this process but i’ve been too distracted by making things to sit down and write it.

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The end pattern looked like this. For this project I wanted to try something new, so I didn’t add seam allowances to the neckline. The understructure of this bodice was cut without seam allowances at the neck or waist, then my top fabric was draped over the understructure. This meant their was less bulk and made everything look smoother.

I used a pen and ruler to measure seam allowances to my top fabric later on.

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Then I made my mock up! I was pretty happy with it, though it was a bit large in the bust.

There were two visible problems here, the first is that it was riding up, and the second is the shape of the garment, but I wasn’t worried because they will both be fixed when I add boning later on.

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 After making the pattern adjustments  I started cutting out the bodice fabrics, which was quite the task since it has four layers!

Like the last bodice I made from this series, it has a base of twill and cotton sateen, with linen lining and a damask front.

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I drew out all the boning channels onto my sateen layer and pinned them to the twill.

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 Each boning channel was sewn.

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And then it was time for my least favorite step – cutting and tipping bones ;;

I used the same method from last time because it seemed to work really well. Each bone was cut with tin snips, then labeled with a letter that corresponds to a boning channel.

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I used a dremel tool to soften any sharp edges, then tipped them with medical tape and dipped them in clear nail polish. I left them to dry overnight and by morning they were ready!

Though I still dislike this process I have to say i’m getting a lot better at it. It went much faster this time and the results are far better, if I keep improving maybe soon I won’t mind this step!

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 I assembled the base layer and added all the boning. I had a mix up and ended up with two “T”s and two “L”s that were very different sizes, but luckily everything slipped in just fine and I didn’t have to many any changes!

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I covered all the edges in linen bias tape to ensure the bones wouldn’t poke out.

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I also took a minute to assemble the lining and top fabric.

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The top fabric was stitched down by hand onto the base layer.

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Although the shape is symmetrical (the “horns” are the same size) my seams don’t line up. One seam cuts through the tip, where as the other is nearly a half inch off. Luckily it isn’t noticeable when worn,  but it bothers me a lot!

After the base layer was attached to the top fabric I  sewed in the eyelets.

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Then the waistband was sewn on by hand – I worked so hard to make sure this lines up perfectly, and it does! So that pleases me a lot. Not enough to make up for the sloppy seams, but it’s close.

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The skirt was sewn on and the lining was sewn in, both by hand. Then the other edge of the waistband was sewn down and the whole thing actually resembled a dress! To make sure the waistband could handle the slight curve I didn’t add interfacing to it, this means it looks pretty floppy and bad when laid flat, but when worn and under tension it looks fine.

Here you can see how uneven the seams are, but you can also see how well the pattern lines up on the front panels.

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 I sewed the final eyelets and tried it on! It’s a little more risque then I had expected but oh well, at least thanks to the boning it stays on really nicely. I like the shape it has, the conical-flat front bodice reminds me a lot of the first dress from this series, so that’s good!

 It’s far from my favorite thing i’ve made, but considering it has twenty hours of time and $20 of material in it, I think it was worth making.

I took pictures without a wig for once and of course my hair is a big mess, please ignore that.

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Related posts: Part One, Part Two, Photos of Completed Dress

Dewdrop Series – Making a Velvet Cloak

I really love cloaks. They are so dramatic and different from everything in modern fashion. Putting one on makes you feel like a magical princess from another time and world.

So it’s pretty weird that I haven’t actually made one. I made a hooded dress, a dramatic velvet overdress, and even a cape at one point, but never a proper cloak. Horrifying, isn’t it?

But don’t get scared! I’ve resolved the problem and can now officially say that in addition to being a cloak enthusiast, I’ve also made and worn one. And this post is about that process.

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I started with a bunch of doodles. Doodles are the best way to figure out how on earth to make something.

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I actually wanted the hood shape to be very similar to the one made for my Blue Dress, but I wanted to achieve the shape through gathering, which meant I couldn’t reuse the same pattern.

On the bright side, there is a lot more wiggle room when you’re gathering, if something is too big it’s easy to gather it down to be smaller, and if it’s too small you can let it out. Because of this I felt really confident – so confident I decided not to make a mock up.

In my defense I probably wouldn’t have been able to get a good idea of the finished product through a muslin mock up. Velvet is so much heavier then most materials, it reacts really differently and I don’t have anything around that will imitate that.

I also have an extra two yards of velvet, so mistakes were acceptable.

The main pattern pieces looked like this.

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I set aside the brim pattern (which is just a long rectangle) and recut the hood pattern from my ivory damask, which I decided to use as lining. Then I basted these pieces together by using the largest stitch length on my sewing machine.

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Then I set that aside and began work on the brim. The brim is the most important part since it supports the rest of the hood, and it’s also the most visible piece, so it needs to be very nicely finished.

I started by fusing a heavyweight interfacing to the back of it, this gives it more body, and it also prevents the fabric from stretching.

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I cut two strips of my demask material, then I folded them in half and sewed them on to the underside of the velvet brim. These are channels that will eventually house hooping wire, which is what gives the hood shape.

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I could have just rolled the edges and been done with it, but I decided to be fancy and add cute little chiffon ruffles. I used three inch wide strips of chiffon which were folded in half and ironed down, then I ruffled them by hand and stitched them onto each side of the brim.

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Next I prepared the hooping wire. I used bolt cutters to cut two forty-four inch pieces – I later decided these were too long and cut five inches off each piece. These got threaded through the channels I made, and were then set aside.

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Moving on to the  actual hood piece!  There wasn’t that much to do here, I just had to cartridge pleat it down to the right size.

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Once that was done I sewed the brim on and it looked like a hood! Wow.

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Though there was still a bit of work left to do on the hood I decided to take a break and work on the cape instead. Capes are really easy, they are either half circles or rectangles that are gathered down. In this case I was using rectangles, I cut three panels of velvet to make up the cape, after they were sewn together the final measurement was 67″ x 118″ or so.

It’s a real beaut, huh?

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I pinned my hood and cape up on my dress form and it looked like this, already taking shape!

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 I went around ever edge and hemmed them with a three inch seam allowance. I usually use a slip stitch so you can’t see the thread from the other side, but I found that puckered the velvet. So instead I did two rows of a running stitch, and I kind of like that it’s visible from the other side. It gives it character.

I apologize for the lint – I did all the handsewing on the couch and i’m pretty sure my dogs used this as a blanket for part of that time.

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After that was finished the cape needed to be gathered. But first I had to figure out what to gather it onto. I really didn’t want to do the traditional cloak attached to the hood type of thing, because that’s no fun. So I came up with a funky idea that involved these U shaped bits of material. I rolled the edges over and sewed around them, then used a heavyweight interfacing to make these a little more sturdy.

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I gathered my cape down with cartridge pleats and sewed it on.

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Then I did the same thing to my hood.

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I cut away the excess material, then used linen as lining to bind the seam closed. I sewed the edges of the hood piece and cape piece together, so the back ended up looking like this. I think it’s a lot more interesting then the traditional hood back, plus it doubles as a sweat vent in super hot weather.

(is that gross?)

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The last step was attaching hooks and eyes to the cloak and dress so they would stay together. The weight of this thing is pretty crazy, there is no way it would stay on without them.

So that’s that!

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And here are a few of the dress, after trying it on for a few minutes I quickly realized the petticoat will not work – it really needs a pair of pocket hoops underneath it to achieve any sort of shape. But other then that, i’m really pleased with it!

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 So theres that project, all finished! I currently have a few things in the beginning stages, but i’m not sure what my next post will be about. At this point it could be a regency dress, a tulle ball gown, or a Raphael painting i’m trying to bring to life

Thanks for reading!