Making 18th Century Accessories + Shoe Review

This post will cover making the accessories to go with the redingote featured in this post!  I’ll be talking about a ridiculous hat, a fichu, and a petticoat/skirt. I’m also including a review for the shoes I purchased to match, which are the Fraser style by American Duchess.

I’m going to start with the skirt, since it’s probably the “biggest” part of the costume, after the redingote.

My original plan for this was two rectangles, one for the body of the skirt, and one for a ruffle around the hem. But I just finished making a skirt like that out of a different fabric. And I made two others the year before. And another the year before that. They are easy to do, but kind of boring. I knew I wanted to put a twist on this, and eventually decided on making the ruffle with a zig-zag hem.

I thought this was appropriate – it kind of reminds me of the texture of leaves, or if we are really stretching to meet the Halloween theme, the teeth of a carved pumpkin. I’m glad that I did this since it’s way more interesting than my other skirts…but it was alway way more labor intensive.

I decided to back the main suiting with a thicker one. This will give it more structure and help the points hold their shape. I probably would have used taffeta, or a lighter material if I had one around, but this worked in a pinch.

I traced all the points onto the lining – this along took an hour. This was an eight yard strip of material.

Sewing them took another hour. Then I trimmed around each edge, and clipped the points and corners. I also used a seam ripper to remove the stitch at the very top of each concave point. This makes it turn out smoothly, but does reduce long term durability.

And it was gathered down to be four yards long, the same width as the top portion of the skirt. Here you can see the drawer unit I kept rolling around to support the fabric as I sewed – this was super heavy!

I sewed it to the top portion of the skirt with a three quarter inch seam allowance. It still looked a little drab, so I decided to make a ruffle out of leftover brown taffeta. This helped tie the garments together, and added more interest since it’s a different texture.

I cut strips out of the fabric on its bias with pinking sheers. Then I sewed the strips together, and gathered them down the middle. I sewed it onto the skirt in large scallops.

I did all of this by machine since I was rushing. If I wear this again I want to cover the stitching with trim or beads. It doesn’t look great and isn’t super even since the skirt was so hard to get through my machine. But from a distance I really like it!

Then I lifted the waistline of the skirt until it sat at the length I liked. I trimmed the excess, and gathered the top edge.

I made the waistband out of matching fabric, sewed in a hook, and sewed up the side seam. I really like how this turned out, but the waistline is a little large – it kept slipping down and is visible in some of the pictures. So the hook has to move before re-wearing.

Next up: The fichu. This is basically a shawl that could be worn under dresses as an alternative to an undershirt. They would fill out the neckline, make dresses more modest, and serve as a stylistic choice. I made mine in an hour or two, out of a scrap of thin cotton and two four yard lengths of mesh lace.

I started by cutting out a triangle – as large as I could from the material I was working with. Then I turned the edges inward by a quarter inch, twice in order to finish them. I did this by hand, but machine sewed everything else, which was sort of silly!

I used two four yard lengths of lace from etsy. One has little bows on it, the other is a leafy design. I liked the leafy one more, so I put it closer to the top. Then I covered the gathered edge with a narrow mesh lace.

I like how this looks, but I wish the lace was more dense. I may add onto it before reusing it. I see myself getting quite a bit of use out of it with other costumes, since this was a staple in most 18th century ladies wardrobes!

Now for the hat! I might be biased, but I think this is the best part of the costume. Looking at it makes me smile. Wearing it makes me smile. It’s great.

I made this based on images in Women’s Hats, Headdresses and Hairstyles*, along with references from various paintings. I constructed it from a self drafted pattern, out of felt weight interfacing with wire sewn into the edges. Then I covered the pieces with interfacing, lined them with scraps, and stitched them together with upholstery thread. It took me two evenings to finish.

The brim is lined with orange silk (leftover from the pumpkin dress!) and more brown taffeta ruffles.


I trimmed the exterior with a strip of the striped silk (I cut the edges with pinking sheers), and a band of the orange silk. These were loosely sewn in place since the top of the hat narrows and they kept trying to slip upward.

For decorations I made a rosette from more strips of silk. These were gathered down as tightly as I could, then I sewed up the side seam. I was going to add a smaller ruffle to the center, but I decided beading it would be more fun. So I stitched a base of suiting material onto the back to support the embellishments.

The embellishments consisted of a bunch of faux pearls, and a spider brooch. The back of this had bent and was really thick, which made it difficult to wear. So it got a new home here! I think it looks quite comfortable.

In my mind this added to the totally not obvious witch element. I also liked how the orange stones would catch the light.

That was glued on, along with a white feather and two pieces of fake fern. I was originally going to use orange feathers, but I like how the white one ties in with the pearls and lace on the dress.

The ferns – though completely inaccurate, tie the colors together really well. They fade from a deeper orange (like the striped silk) to a lighter orange, like the shantung scraps. It’s one of my favorite hats i’ve ever made – I think the contrast and trims are perfect!

And that is it for the pieces I made! So if you want you can stop there. But I did want to mention, and give a little review of the shoes I bought to go with this.

These were my main purchase last month. The price hurt a bit, but I’ve enjoyed my other historical themed footwear so much that I wanted something similar for 18th century projects. I invest so much time into pieces that accurately(ish) represent the period from the hem upward, it seems like a shame to skimp out on the shoes! Plus they will go with a lot of future projects too, not just this one.

(also I don’t think the price of these is unreasonable at all, it’s just much more than my other shoes)

They are the “Fraser” 18th Century Leather Shoes (Black)(1700-1760)* by American Duchess, listed here*. I purchased them in a size 10, along with the cavendish gold  buckles.

Overall, I like these. The shape is lovely, and surprisingly flattering to the foot. I adore  the side profile – the heel is so cute! And the shell of the shoe is very soft and flexible, which makes them more comfortable than the vast majority of my shoes.

I also like the sheen of the leather used, and that natural materials were used for the lining, too. The construction of them seems nice, and they were symmetrical and free of flaws.  They also came with replacement heel caps.

I compared them to other shoes I own that are a similar heel height, and they were the same length if not a little longer. I’m a solid size 10, and these fit me well lengthwise.

On the downside, the fit is hard to determine until after the buckles are installed, and they obviously aren’t returnable after the buckles are in. I found the shoes a little big width wise and assumed the buckles would tighten them. I placed the buckles as far back on the latchet as I could (up until it tapered to a point where it would not fit through the buckle smoothly) and they are still a little large on me. I probably would have returned them for a 9.5 if I had known.

The buckles are also way harder to install than I thought. There is a diagram on the website, but I feel like a video or picture tutorial would have been more helpful. I ended up using photos of the shoes with the buckles installed as more of a guide than the actual tutorial.

Neither of those are really flaws of the shoes, just things I noticed.

My only real disappointment is how much the lining frays. The edges are topstitched to the interior of the leather, not folded inward. So there isn’t anything preventing it from fraying. And since the shoes are black the raw edges of ivory lining are quite obvious. I’m going to trim the frayed edges and finish them with glue, which isn’t a hard thing to do at all, but it would be nice if it wasn’t an issue.

Now for the wear test!

I wore these for around 2 hours during the photo taking process. They really are one of the most comfortable pairs of shoes I’ve ever worn, and the leather didn’t mark at all – even when walking through some rough terrain. The soles got super dinged up, especially around the edges, but I was expecting that.

I was walking through gravel, and on unpaved paths, so it’s understandable. But it was a very very short walk. I’m not sure how these would fair at reenactment events where you are more active on similar terrain, or even on a daily basis with textured asphalt.

(I’ll scrub the dirt off before putting them away!)

I did notice that one shoe creased quite a lot at the toe. I’m not bothered by this, but it’s kind of odd that it only happened to one of the shoes. It looks like I buckled this one a little tighter (though I could still get it on and off without unbuckling it…so I don’t think it was *too* tight) which might have been the cause.

Those are my thoughts! Visually I love them, and I’m very glad to have them. I don’t think they would be the best shoes for everyday use (I wasn’t expecting them to be), but I will really enjoy wearing them with other 18th century pieces. I think they are a nice finishing touch to the costume!

Most of the negative things I mentioned aren’t even negatives. They are things that happen when you wear shoes. They go on the ground. They wrinkle. I made peace with it before buying them. But I was curious how the more authentic materials would wear compared to plastic and rubber, which is why I mentioned it.

Now I’m eyeing up the red kensington and edwardian pumps…but those are a few paychecks away, at the very least!

That is it for this one! I should be back with more photos tomorrow, and maybe a video if I can get it done in time.

Thanks for reading!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the top edge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is before trimming…

And after!

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

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

It was sewn with whip stitches as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was cut out of felt weight interfacing.

Then wire was sewn into the pieces.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making a Horned Headdress from Pink Brocade

Last week I found myself in a bit of a rut. I had finished a few projects and wasn’t feeling very inspired or motivated to move forward with any new plans. My progress was so slow that it was barely worth making the effort.

Usually when this happens it means it’s time for me to make something fun that is different from my recent projects and won’t take very long to complete. I didn’t have anything specific in mind, but during a trip to Jo-anns I came across a pack of framed stones that gave me an idea.

Isn’t it funny how you can have a room full of fabrics and beads and no idea what to make, but a four dollar pack of embellishments can give you a dozen ideas? I bought some seed beads to go with the stones, but I already owned the rest of the materials for this project.

Those materials include various gold brocades, a pink floral brocade, scroll print chiffon, fake pearls, and a few different types of glitter mesh.

Horned headpiece progress-7949

I planned on using these materials to make some sort of elaborate horned headpiece, with one of the stones sitting at the center front. None of the materials for this project are historically accurate, but I wanted to make the silhouette very close to the traditional heart shaped headpieces from the 15h century.

Like most of my headpieces (ecspecially the medieval ones – remember my escoffin?) this design was inspired by, and based on an image from Women’s Hats, Headdresses and Hairstyles: Medieval to Modern*.

Here is my sketch, and some fabric swatches.

Horned headpiece progress-8245

Drafting this was…interesting. I started by making the cone since I thought that part would be easy. I was wrong. The cone isn’t a partial circle. To cup the head properly and cover the ears it has to have a totally different shape. And trying to fit the base those cones attach to was a challenge as well.

Eventually I ended up with something that looks like this. The original plan was for the horns to be sewn together at the center, which would give them an upright look. When I attempted to do that after assembling the horns I realized that would cause my ears to show, so instead they were sewn a quarter inch apart. That’s why my finished headpiece has a flatter top than what’s shown here.

Horned headpiece progress-7963

Horned headpiece progress-7964

I transferred my pattern onto thicker paper, then traced the new pattern onto heavyweight interfacing and cut the pieces out.

Horned headpiece progress-7966

Three of the pieces were sewn together to create the domed back of the headpiece. Then wire was sewn into the edges of all the pieces.

Horned headpiece progress-7968

The wire caused the base of the horns to sit nicely, but the tops were collapsing inward. So I sewed two more bands of wire into each horn to make them stiffer.

Horned headpiece progress-7971

The horns were a bit bumpy at points, since the interfacing can have a weird texture to it when it’s forming curves. I covered them with quilt batting to fix this, then pinned them into cones and held them up to make sure the shape was right.

Horned headpiece progress-7974

They looked pretty good, so I went ahead and draped the striped patten that goes overtop.

Horned headpiece progress-7975

The pattern was cut apart, then transferred onto paper where I added quarter inch seam allowances to each piece.

Horned headpiece progress-7981

Then I cut all the pieces out! This took longer than I had planned since I ended up adding overlays to most of the tiers. To do this I roughly cut out the pattern from mesh, then sewed it onto the base fabric and trimmed the edges.

Trimming the edges afterward means you don’t have to worry about the mesh warping as you sew it and becoming too small to cover the base layer.

Horned headpiece progress-7984

Here are a bunch of trimmed pieces, ready to be sewn together.

Horned headpiece progress-7985

I started with the top tiers.

Horned headpiece progress-7987

Then did the rest! I wasn’t thrilled with the end result – the seams are a bit bumpy and I felt like the contrast between the fabrics was poor. But I wasn’t too upset since I knew beading would help differentiate the tiers and add a lot of texture to the piece.

Horned headpiece progress-7988

Horned headpiece progress-7989

I stretched the fabric over the cones, then folded the raw edges under the interfacing. After sewing the edges down I did up the back seam with upholstery thread, which turned them into actual cone like horn things!

Horned headpiece progress-7991

And the beading begins! I decorated the second tier with iridescent sequins that follow the pattern of gold mesh. Then used two rows of pearls and seed beads to cover up the seam line.

Horned headpiece progress-8001

The forth tier has rows of gold seed beads spaced one inch apart. Once again each seam is covered by a line (or two!) or fake pearls that are framed by seed beads.

Horned headpiece progress-8089

The bottom tier has a quilted design created from pink seed beads, and the bottom edge is trimmed with piping.

Horned headpiece progress-8090

Here are the two horns finished!

Horned headpiece progress-8091

I covered the interfacing that makes up the back of the headpiece with quilt batting and gold brocade. Then I sewed the horns onto it. After doing this I could try it on and get an idea of how it looked. It was at this point that I realized the panel i’d cut out for the front was way too small.

I recut it from more interfacing, this time adding a half inch to the sides and a full inch to the back edges. Once again I sewed wire into the edges, then it was covered with pink chiffon and trimmed with piping. I sewed it onto the rest of the headpiece, and now I had something wearable!

Horned headpiece progress-8096

To finish it off I cut out the veil  (a partial circle)  from the scroll print pink chiffon. Then I turned the edges inward by hand so they wouldn’t fray.

Horned headpiece progress-8098

I sewed the veil onto the front of the headpiece, then covered its join point with one of the stones that originally inspired this project. The final touch was a line of pearls across the front, and that was it!

Horned headpiece progress-8240

The headpiece is currently unlined, since I’m not sure if I should partially stuff the horns before lining them or not. I’m also not sure if I should sew combs in to help keep it in place. I’d like to figure those things out before finishing the interior.

After trying this on I noticed the horns didn’t cup my my head as nicely as I wanted. This was fixed by gathering the center back slightly and bending the wire.

As you can see the back isn’t too pretty (or symmetrical – oops!), but the veil covers most of it!

Horned headpiece progress-8243

And here is a close up of the horns, look at all those different fabrics!

Horned headpiece progress-8242

I took some worn photos of this headpiece yesterday, but the lighting wasn’t the best and the only photos I like show it from a single angle, which sort of stinks.

I’m sure i’ll get more pictures of it in the future once I make a costume that matches it! In the mean time I’m wearing it with a brocade kirtle I made last year.

Horned headpiece 2

Horned headpiece 1

After wearing it for a bit I’m pretty sure I need to add a ruffle to the back to cover my hairline…or maybe wrap my head with fabric before putting it on, so that isn’t visible. But since it’s quite tight that might be difficult. I’ll have to play around with it a bit.

Other than that, I really like this! I think the beading turned out nicely and I love all these fabrics together. It took me about a week to make, but I could have made it in half that time if it was my only focus.

It was a lot of fun, but unfortunately now that it’s done i’m back to feeling uninspired! I may have to make another one of these…

Thanks for reading!