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!

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1830’s Plaid Pleated Dress, Photos

Today I have another set of photos to share. Much like the last photos I posted, these have an autumn theme and were taken in a pumpkin patch. I thought it would be make the perfect lighthearted backdrop for a wacky dress like this one, and it did not disappoint!

This was my first time having the whole ensemble on and I was pretty pleased with it – everything fit and was really comfortable. I was a bit concerned the petticoat would show, or that the bonnet would slip around, but neither of those were an issue.

I paired this with my regency stays that I made ages ago, and my “Victorian“* boots. Neither are particularly accurate to this period but helped achieve the silhouette I wanted. I talk more about the petticoats and the construction of this costume in these posts:

Post 1: The Bodice

Post 2: The Sleeves, Skirt, and Bonnet

Before getting into the photos I wanted to mention my last post, where I reviewed a bunch of costume reference books. If you’re interested in any of them this is the time to buy! Amazon has $10 off book purchases, and Barnes & Noble has 15% off your order, which makes the price of those pretty inspiration books a bit easier to manage!

Now onto the photos!

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And some muddy boots after a long morning! Luckily none got on the dress.

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And that’s it! Thanks for reading!

Historical Costume Reference Book Reviews

This post has been planned for years I’ve just always put off writing it. As much as I like writing reviews, looking at a massive stack of books and trying to write intelligently about them is pretty intimidating. But I was determined to get it done, and I have! And just in time for the holiday season! I hope this is helpful for anyone looking to buy books, or if you’re just curious about the books I reference when making costume!

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I have two disclaimers before getting started. Firstly, I do not own the rights to any of these works. The copyright for each book belongs to the authors, publishers, and contributors, not me. In this post I’ve included two pages from the interior of each book which I believe falls under fair use. The photos are sized down or taken from angles where the pages aren’t usable for anything other than understanding the format of each book. They are not intended to harm the commercial value of the books. But I’ll happily take down any of the images if the copyright holders ask.

And the second: The links in this post are amazon affiliate links. This means if you buy something through the links I get paid small percentage of the purchase price for referring you to that item. It doesn’t change the price of the item, or the shopping experience at all.  But if you’re uncomfortable with this the links should be avoided.

Now onto the reviews!

I’ll start with some of the most popular, which also happen to be the first historical fashion books I got. They are a series of books called “Patterns of Fashion” which were written by Janet Arnold. There are four books in the series and I own three.

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Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s Dresses and Their Construction  by Janet Arnold

This book focuses on women’s fashion from the 1660’s through the 1860’s. It’s primarily a pattern book but starts off with a fifteen page introduction, which includes quotes from magazines and journals, very brief drafting instructions, notes on how to cut dresses from limited fabric, and paragraphs devoted to things like making piping or pinked trim. I’m sure these notes are helpful for someone but I find them a little vague (and also confusing at times).

But this isn’t why I bought the book, so I’m not bothered by it. I bought it for the patterns!

Unlike a lot of pattern books, this series includes detailed drawings of the completed piece from the front and back, and usually includes drawings of the interior as well. There is also a paragraph or two talking about the dress, including what it was originally made from and any unique construction notes.

The patterns in this book are all made based on measurements taken from existing historical examples, so they are very accurate (as are the notes about each piece). But keep in mind that these patterns will require scaling up, and alterations to fit your measurements.

The patterns in this book are beautifully laid out. They are printed on a grid, which makes them easy to resize and they are filled with construction notes which make the intimidating and unusual nature of historical patterns a lot easier to tackle. The pattern notes are clear and concise – pretty much perfect in my mind! The patterns are also very detailed, with the trim placement and embroidery patterns documented as well.

The only thing I don’t care for are the pieces chosen for the book. Some of them are quite similar. It’s especially obvious with the two 1840’s and 1860’s dresses which have very similar sleeves and tiered skirts. Compared to Norah Waugh’s books which have fewer patterns but a larger variety it’s a bit disappointing.

I still think it’s worth it – over two dozens patterns for thirty dollars is a fantastic deal, even if you only use half of them. And the notes for each piece gave me a much better understanding of the construction progress for historical dresses.

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Patterns of Fashion 3: The Cut and Construction of Clothes for Men and Women  by Janet Arnold

This book focuses on mens and women’s fashion from the 1560’s through the 1620’s. It’s twice the length of the first one, with a fifty page introduction. Luckily the introduction in this book is a lot more interesting. It’s filled with pictures and the writing compliments them nicely.

The pictures range from patterns to etchings and paintings. It also has a lot of photographs showing the details on original garments from the 1500s. It’s really interesting to see close ups of the fabric manipulation, closures, stitching, and lining techniques. Things you hear mentioned a lot in other books but never actually see. I’d say the book is worth looking through just for those images alone.

The patterns in this book are documented in the same way as Patterns of Fashion 1. They are on a grid, with one page devoted to drawings of the finished garment and a brief description of the piece. The notes are just as helpful, and even more in depth since 16th century fashion was so complicated.

The thing I don’t like about this book is, once again, the lack of variety. I believe there are twelve mens doublet patterns, half of which are pretty similar. The variation in the women’s clothing patterns is good, but lacking some of the “classic” tudor styles. The examples are all very elaborate, which I find inspiring, but they are complicated and probably not the best for beginners.

Like the first book, I think it’s a good deal and the notes are very helpful whether you’re using the patterns included or trying to draft your own in an accurate way. If you have an interest in the periods it covers I would highly recommend it.

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Patterns of Fashion 4: The Cut and Construction of Linen Shirts, Smocks, Neckwear, Headwear and Accessories for Men and Women  by Janet Arnold

I regret buying this book.

This isn’t a bad book by any means. In fact it’s really interesting to read through, and I’ve never seen anything like it before. It focuses on accessories and underpinnings for men and women, which isn’t the most exciting topic, but the introduction is filled with close ups of the detail work on garments from the 1500s and 1600s.

It has diagrams of the stitches used for openwork seams, eyelets, lace, and embroidery. It has pages devoted to the variety of cuffs that were worn, and another for collars. It’s fascinating to see that alongside photos of embroidery work done five hundred years ago. And like the last book, the photos are accompanied by descriptions. But the descriptions are a lot more brief, and the pages far more photo heavy than the previous book.

The patterns are well documented, with drawings of the embroidery motifs and lace patterns in case you want to recreate them.

The reason I regret buying this book is because I’m not at a point where I’m willing to spend forty hours adding blackwork embroidery to an undershirt. And even if I was, I feel like that information is available online. As far as the patterns go, I’ve never followed them. Because things like smocks and ruffs are very easy to draft on your own – they are just rectangles. There are a few patterns for gloves and collars that are unique, but also pretty easy to draft on your own or find elsewhere.

I think this book is best for someone who wants to make exact historical replicas. Otherwise it probably won’t get a lot of use. I’m hoping to take advantage of the embroidery patterns someday, which is why I’ve held onto it, but this isn’t a book I feel I need in my collection.

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Another silly complaint which I have about all these books is that I don’t like the size of them. They are maybe 11″ x 16″, and since they are thin and paperback they don’t stand up, even if you lean them against something. And they take up a ton of room when laid out on a table. Plus the pages are too big to scan, which is sort of silly since that’s what you have to do to resize the patterns. Though it isn’t a deal breaker for me by any means, it’s kind of frustrating!

The Tudor Tailor: Reconstructing Sixteenth-Century Dress by Ninya Mikhaila and Jane Malcolm-Davies

This is a book I bought when making my Tudor Ensemble, since Patterns of Fashion 3 didn’t have quite what I was looking for and I was completely clueless about this period. This came highly recommended on every blog I read, so I decided to give it a try.

To be honest, it isn’t my favorite book. Compared to other pattern books (like Janet Arnold’s and Norah Waugh’s) I find it uninspiring. The patterns and examples all seem to be lacking the exaggeration and detail work that that period was famous for. I don’t want to make anything from the patterns since they seem lackluster, where with other books I want to make everything!

But it isn’t a bad book! Much like the others it starts off with an introduction, except theirs is split into chapters. One of which focuses on the basics, another talks about the materials and dyes that were available, and another shows construction techniques. The pages are pretty dense, but it’s easy to read through and really interesting.

The patterns each have one page devoted to assembly instructions, with a photo (or drawings) of the finished piece. Each pattern has several variations, with the amount of material needed to make it listed. The patterns are also on a grid, which makes them easy to size up. I really appreciate the range in patterns – each one has a different silhouette, and they cover everything from dresses for the everyday tudor woman, to court gowns for the rich. It has mens patterns too, patterns for foundation garments, and patterns for headpieces.

I think this book would be good for beginners, since everything is much simpler than Janet Arnold’s, and it has more notes than Norah Waugh’s. If you find those patterns overwhelming, this is a better place to start. It’s also a lot more complete – you can make everything from foundation garments to accessories with it.

But as I said, I find the patterns lacking the exaggeration and detail work that I like in patterns. And for as simple as the patterns are, the lines are wobbly and the markings for pleats and boning are less clear.

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Corsets and Crinolines by Norah Waugh

This is by far the most used pattern book I own. Every corset I’ve made has been based on patterns from this book in some way or another.

Unlike the other books, there is no introduction. The book is split into chapters, with several dense pages of text between each pattern. This text doesn’t usually relate to the pattern, just the period that pattern is from. Some of the text is heavy, and since it was written seventy years ago it can seem a bit stiff. But I’ve read it pretty much cover to cover and enjoy how much information is packed into it, and how nicely it explains the transition between silhouettes and foundation garments.

In addition to her own words, this book includes samples from journals and newspapers. Some of these are silly (and in another language) but it’s interesting hearing about the foundation garments from the perspective of people who wore them.

The patterns are quite simple, made from a few pieces with only the boning placement marked. However the patterns aren’t on a grid, instead you use a key at the bottom of each page as a guide. The patterns also lack notes, which isn’t a big issue since corsets are quite self explanatory, but it’s very problematic when recreating things from her other book “The Cut of Women’s Clothes: 1600-1930“. Things like how the dresses close, and the order of assembly can be tricky to follow without anything but the pattern to go off of.

In addition to patterns on bodies, stays, corsets, and girdles, this book also has patterns for hoop skirts, panniers, and petticoats. It’s incredibly helpful for creating the proper silhouette for historical costumes and I would highly recommend it – though once again, keep in mind that alterations will have to be made for the patterns to fit you.

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Norah Waugh has two other books, The Cut of Women’s Clothes: 1600-1930 and The Cut of Men’s Clothes: 1600-1900.

Though I don’t own either of these, I have followed patterns from the Women’s book and had the opportunity to look through it. I really enjoy the patterns included in this book since the variety is a lot greater than what’s in Janet Arnold’s, with patterns from the 1600s all the way to the mid 1900s. It covers a huge range of styles and silhouettes, and no two patterns are alike.

As much as I like the patterns, as I said earlier, the lack of construction notes becomes a bit problematic with some of these patterns. They can usually be figured out with a bit of experimentation, but the way things are supposed to go together isn’t always clear since there are no notes.

A recent addition to my collection is 59 Authentic Turn-of-the-Century Fashion Patterns by Kristina Harris

You’ve probably heard me talk about this book before, since I used it for three recent projects. It’s quickly become one of my favorites since I’m a bit enamored with the 1890’s, and this is one of the few books I’ve found that focuses on that period.

This book has a single drawing of each finished garment, plus a paragraph long description of it. The garments are organized by date and season. Though it primarily has patterns on women’s fashion there are a dozen or so children’s patterns.

I find a lot of the patterns to be quite similar, but there are subtle differences between them. And at the price point (twelve dollars or so) It’s easy to forgive. The patterns aren’t on a grid, and there isn’t a key that makes them easy to scale up. Instead the edges of each piece have measurements listed. The patterns do have errors that I’ve noticed, the most major being that they often use improper fractions like 3 7/4″ or 9 13/5″, which is confusing at times!

Much like Waugh’s book, I wish the patterns had notes on them. To create poofy sleeves and gathered bodices the lining often has a completely different shape than the fashion fabric that goes overtop of it. But it isn’t always clear how they go together.

However I still really like this book. The variety in sleeve patterns is fantastic, and the skirt pattern I followed for my recent 1890’s dress was wonderful. It’s a great book to have around, and you can’t beat the amount of patterns you get for the price!

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The “Keystone” Jacket and Dress Cutter: An 1895 Guide to Women’s Tailoring by Chas Hecklinger

I’m not sure if i’m allowed to review this since I haven’t used it the way it’s intended to be used. I bought this as a visual reference for making fitted 1890’s jackets with flared skirts. And I’ve since used it as a visual reference for how double breasted jackets and shirtwaists should look when flat…then used that as a guide when draping similar garments.

But this book is intended to be a drafting manual. It includes instructions on how to measure yourself and how to create flat patterns based on those measurements. Since this is an older book, the instructions are stiff, but don’t seem very difficult to follow.

After the drafting system is explained it has pages devoted to garment diagrams, and a page of drafting instructions to go along with each one.

The diagrams cover everything from short fitted jackets to to double breasted riding coats with flared skirts. It also has diagrams and instructions for sleeve patterns and several shirtwaists. At the back of the book there are drawn examples of each piece.

Overall, this served the purpose I bought it for. It helped me understand what lat 20th century patterns looked like flat, which helped me drape my own equivalent. But I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the instructions since I haven’t followed them!

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Costume in Detail: Women’s Dress 1730-1930 by Nancy Bradfield

This isn’t a pattern book, but I keep it with my pattern books since I think it’s a great accompinment to them. This book has a unique format, with at least two pages devoted to each costume. Each costume is dated, with a paragraph of typed text about it. But the rest of the pages are filled with drawings and notes made by Nancy.

There are a lot of unique notes and information in this book. In addition to sketches of the exterior of the costume, there are notes about the interior – how things were lined, what materials were used, where the boning was placed. How long the train was, and how much of the train was lined. Even things like the width of the fabric used, and the number of seams in a skirt are documented alongside detailed sketches. Technically things that can be learned through pattern books, but alongside the sketches it’s a lot easier to follow.

Ecspecially for things like lining and closures. Seeing how the fabric drapes over the closures, along with how they looked from the interior makes it seem more approchable. In addition to dresses, shoes, petticoats, hats, and chemises are all discussed as well.

Though I wouldn’t use this as a standalone reference for a costume, It’s a fantastic resource to use along side inspiration books (with lots of photos of costumes, but none of the construction) or pattern books that are hard to imagine in a three dimensional way.

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Those are all the construction focused/pattern books I own. Now I’m going to talk about inspiration books, which feature a lot of images of historical costumes, but very little information about the origin or interior of the garments. I use these when I’m not sure what to make, or when I want more references to build out a costume idea I already have. These first four are all illustrated, with no photos of costumes.

Complete Costume History by Francoise Tetard-Vittu (artwork by Auguste Racinet)

I originally discovered this when I took a class and the teacher had the large copy of this book. looked through it one day and fell in love with the full color illustrations that were packed onto every page, and the huge variety of styles it included.

I personally own the smaller version, which has two volumes. The first volume has the illustrations, and the second has more information about the drawings. The drawings in this book aren’t modern, they were created and researched in the 1800s, which means they aren’t the most accurate depiction of history.

But the drawings are beautiful. And every time I look through the book I find something new I want to make. Unlike most books it isn’t exclusively european fashion. It has pages devoted to Egyptian times, Ancient Greece, China, Africa, and Spain. In addition to hundreds of full page color illustrations it also has drawings of furniture, architecture, weapons, instruments, and even camels. It provides a well rounded image of not just what people wore, but also what they were surrounded by.

The only negative I can say about this book is that the time periods for each page aren’t labeled. They only have the country listed. Volume II does have additional information about each page, but it’s awkward switching between them. Now I know enough about historical fashion to know approximately which decade each page focuses on, but when I first got it I had no clue.

Also as I said earlier, this isn’t the most accurate depiction of history. If your goal is to make historically accurate costumes you’ll need additional references. Even if you don’t want to make historically accurate costumes you’ll probably want more references since most of these drawings only show one side of the garment, and don’t delve into the details.

But I love this book! Looking through it makes me happy and fills me with ideas. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in historical fashion, regardless of whether they make costumes or not.

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Historic Costume in Pictures by Braun & Schneider

This book is quite similar to The Complete Costume History in that it consists only of pictures. Except this book lists the date on each page in addition to the country of origin, which I like. The drawings are more detailed in this book, though there are less of them, and the pages are in black and white.

The costumes plates in this book were originally researched and published in the later 1800s, so once again they aren’t the most accurate. But I still enjoy this book. When I got it I didn’t know very much about historical fashion, flipping through this gave me a good grasp on the various silhouettes and styles, how they evolved, and when they were popular. Since the information in it is limited, that means it’s easy to absorb. I’d highly recommend it to beginners, as long as they are aware that the drawings aren’t completely accurate and are willing to research the garments more on their own.

I don’t think I’ve made anything based on the drawings in this book, but I do enjoy flipping through it when in search of inspiration.  However I enjoy The Complete Costume History more and don’t think you need both.

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Victorian Fashions and Costumes from Harper’s Bazar, 1867-1898  by Stella Blum

I think this is a great book to get along with one of the ones listed above, since it covers the major decade they miss: The mid to late 1800s.

I purchased this early in the year since I was struggling to find references of garments from the 1890’s. Disappointingly, this doesn’t have a lot of pages devoted to that period. It’s far more focused on the bustle dress eras. But I’m very happy that I purchased it, since it’s made me enjoy, and respect a period of fashion I previously thought I hated.

Though these fashion plates were also drawn in the mid 1800s, they are very accurate since they depict the garments that were worn during that period.

This book has my favorite format of all the “Inspiration” books. Each dress is accompanied by a short, concise paragraph that talks about the style, colors, and when it was worn. It gives you enough information to research it further on your own, and some insights into how dresses were trimmed and the fabrics used.

Though the majority of the pages are devoted to full length dresses, there are many drawings of accessories. Headpieces, foundation garments, parasols, children’s clothes, shoes, and jewelry all have pages of their own.

I think this would be a valuable book for anyone who appreciates historical fashion in general. I didn’t expect to like half the examples in this book since I’m not a huge fan of bustle dresses, but I still really enjoyed reading through it and seeing how the styles evolved. It’s also been a fantastic reference for several of my projects, and served as the main inspiration for a few things I currently have in progress.

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Women’s Hats, Headdresses and Hairstyles: Medieval to Modern  by Georgine de Courtais

This is one of my most referenced books. It isn’t detailed enough to be a standalone reference on hats throughout history, but it’s a really great start and source of inspiration. I bought this when I knew very little about hats and after flipping through it once I had a basic understanding of  historical hats and what periods they belong to. Even now that I know more about hats, I’ll still look through this for ideas on what to pair with ensembles I’m planning.

The book has one page of numbered drawings accompanied by a page of text that explains each hat in greater detail. Something I like a lot about this book is that it talks about how hats evolve – it doesn’t just say “This is a flower pot hat, worn in the 1890’s” is says why they were called that and how they are different from the hats worn a few years prior. Along with how that style changed throughout the decade.

The book covers a huge range of time – from 1100 all the way to 1980, with the 1700’s and 1800’s being covered with the most detail.

A downside to this book is that the illustrations only show each example from one angle. The descriptions are very helpful, but short. So you don’t get enough information about each example to use them as your only reference when making a hat. The writing is also a bit blocky, and lacking line breaks between the explanations for each piece, so it isn’t enjoyable to read through in it’s entirety.

I’d still highly recommend it if historical hats are something you want to learn more about. It’s taught me a lot and was my main motivation for getting into headpiece making.

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Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century by The Kyoto Costume Institute

I think this is the prettiest book I own. And also the heaviest!

It’s a two volume set of books, which as far as I know have to be purchased together. The first book shows fashion from the 18th century to the early 20th century, and the second book is entirely 20th century fashion.

These books are beautifully put together, especially the first volume. I really can’t recommend the first book highly enough. The garments chosen are beautiful, and wonderfully styled and photographed. It’s incredibly inspiring to look through and made me fall in a bit more in love with historical fashion.

The photos mostly show the full length dresses, but there are pages devoted to the detail work and accessories. Each dress is accompanied by a very short explanation, with some having full paragraphs. Some pages have more text than others, but the real star of this book are the pictures. Most of the images are photographs, but some of them are paired with fashion plates and drawings.

Overall It’s a stunning collection of garments and photos. I’ve had it for almost a year now and I still really enjoy looking through it. It would make a fantastic gift, since not only is it a great reference, it’s also pretty enough that people who don’t really “get” historical fashion can enjoy it.

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Volume II however…Well, it’s not my cup of tea. I enjoy the first portion since the 1920’s dresses are beautiful, and a lot of the dresses from the 50’s are nice too.

The rest of it is a bit weird and I find the examples they chose for garments very odd. There are shoes made out of grass, dresses made from plastic, and a plethora of awkwardly shaped runway pieces. I understand that the uniqueness of these pieces are why a museum would have them in their collection, but I was disappointed by them. It didn’t feel cohesive with the tone of the first book. However if you like unusual fashion, and appreciate the more sculptural aspect of clothing you’ll probably really enjoy it.

Overall I think it was worth what I paid (a little more than twenty dollars). I would pay the same amount over again for just the first book, since I think it’s fantastic. But the second book isn’t my favorite, and I wish there was an equal amount of focus given to all the periods, rather than the 20th century getting a volume of its own, with the prior two hundred and fifty years compacted into one. More examples of fashion from the 1800’s and turn of the century would have made it a lot more enjoyable for me personally.

In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion by Anna Reynolds

Speaking of pretty books, this one is a beauty! I purchased this as a visual reference since I wanted more examples of Elizabethan and mid 17th century fashion in my collection, something this book is filled with. Every page has at least one painting printed on it, and almost a quarter of the pages are taken up entirely by prints.

This book really focuses on the details, often cropping paintings to highlight the embellishment or textures used on the garments. It also pairs paintings with photographs of similar items to what’s worn in them. For example a chemise with blackwork embroidery is on the page across from  a tudor portrait of a woman wearing a blackwork embroidered partlet.

Even though the real star of this book is the artwork, there is a lot of text too. Far more than I had expected. To be honest I haven’t read a lot of it, since I purchased it primarily as a visual reference. What I have read was well written, but not especially captivating.

My only peeve with this book is the formatting. Large portions of pages are often left blank because of photo placement, ands sentences run on between several pages. For example “The embroidered waistcoat is clearly decorated in a similar manner to a waistcoat in the Fashion Museum, Bath. Wheras” – that sentence continues three pages later. It seems poorly planned.

Another note is that this book is divided into chapters such as: Dressing Children, Dressing Men, Dressing Women, Painting Dress, Dressing Across the Borders, etc. This is nice because it means all the examples within a chapter are relatively cohesive, since they have the same theme. I’m sure that makes it nicer to read too.

But I’m used to historical fashion books being sorted by date, with the earliest examples at the beginning. And in this they are scattered all over within the chapters. From the perspective of someone trying to use it as a reference, it can be difficult finding what I’m looking for. It usually means I have to look through the entire book to find anything – but it’s a beautiful book, so that’s usually a treat more than anything else!

Overall I love looking through it and the examples they chose to include. They never cease to inspire me. It’s visually pleasing from the outside too, and would be a nice coffee table book in addition to being a wonderful reference.

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20,000 Years of Fashion: The History of Costume and Personal Adornment by Francois Boucher

I think out of all the books I own, this one has the most “complete” coverage of historical fashion. It begins with prehistoric fashion before moving into things from the early third millennium. Egyptian artwork and how it depicts costumes has two chapters of its own – and so do many other periods that don’t fit into most historical fashion books. I reach for this when working on medieval projects, since it has far more examples of artwork from the 1000-1200s than any other book I own.

The book is quite text heavy, but every page is dotted with pictures that help give you a sense of the period. I’m not a huge fan of how this is written, it’s readable and interesting but not compelling. My attempts to read it from cover to cover have been squashed, but I do enjoy reading pages related to what I’m currently working on.

The pictures are a mixture of paintings, fashion plates, sculpture tapestries, and photographs. To get inspired I always flip to the pages about the period I’m planning on making something from. Though the pictures aren’t as pretty as other books, they pick a lot of unique examples that differ from what you usually see on pinterest.

It’s a book I’m very happy to have in my collection, but probably not one I would recommend as a gift since it isn’t as immediately exciting as the others.

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I have one technique focused book to talk about and then I’m done!

This is called The Art of Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolff. The cover caught my eye when I was browsing, and the reviews won me over.

I don’t use this book very often, but it’s fascinating. Each page describes multiple techniques and has instructions on how to do them. The instructions are usually paired with diagrams that show the steps.

It begins with basic things, like making ruffles. Then moves onto similar, but more elaborate things that use the same techniques, like fluting and furrowing. It also has picture examples of everything – including gathering examples that show the fullness of of fabric when it’s gathered to be one half, one third, or one quarter of it’s original length.

The techniques get more complicated as the book goes on, but still cover basics like shirring, godets, pleating, and making simples flounces. A lot of the examples go far beyond the level of patience I have, but it’s still neat to see instructions about them, and how they look executed perfectly in the examples.

It’s an interesting book to have, regardless of your skill level. Since it covers the basics it can work for beginners, and I guarantee that no matter how long you’ve been sewing there will be something in here you’ve never seen before.

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Some other books I own but don’t feel comfortable reviewing yet include:

Authentic Victorian Dressmaking Techniques – I’ve referenced this for specific projects a few times, but haven’t read it from cover to cover. So far I like it and how they touch on things not usually mentioned in modern sewing manuals.

The Art of Sewing Books – I got these at a vintage book store. I like the way they are laid out and the diagrams but they aren’t relevant to what I’m currently doing so I haven’t read them.

Women’s Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences manuals/textbooks – My Great Aunt gave me these and they are wonderful. I love the way things are explained and the huge variety of techniques. If you can find them I’d highly recommend them, they are really useful and also a piece of a history since they were printed in the 1920s!

That’s it for reviews! I hope you enjoyed this and found it helpful.

It would be nice if the comments were a bit of a discussion – are there any historical costume books you would recommend? Any I liked you that didn’t? Ones on your wish list?

I’m hoping to get “Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette”  for Christmas and am keeping my eye on “Art Nouveau Fashion” – I want more picture books!

Though I used amazon links in this post, remember to look around for better deals! A few of these were purchased from Barnes and Noble since they were cheaper there AND had $10 off coupons for Black Friday. A fifty dollar book on amazon cost me $28 with free shipping from B&N. Book prices also change all the time, so if something is too expensive keep checking back – I’ve seen prices drop from $55 to $38 in a day.

I think that’s all I have to say for today, thanks for reading and I hope you have a nice Thanksgiving – or if you don’t celebrate, then a really fantastic week in general!

 

 

Making an 1890’s Day Dress, the “Pumpkin” Gown, Part One

Today I’ll be talking about making another 1890’s day dress from taffeta. But this time around my posts will be a lot more positive since i’ve already finished this dress and i’m really happy with the end result. The finished dress actually fits, and isn’t too long, which might be a first for me!

Before talking about construction I wanted to explain the design of this, because if you’ve seen the movie Crimson Peak it may look familiar!

If you read this blog post you’ll know my foray into 1890’s fashion was originally inspired by what Edith wore in the film, specifically this gorgeous coat. Back in January I bought fabric for a coat based on that design, and material for a dress to wear underneath it. Even though I really liked the dress Edith wore with the jacket in the film, I chose to create an original design instead.

And it failed horribly.

The design wasn’t the reason why that project failed, but I didn’t want to be reminded of it when attempting another project from this period. So I settled on a simpler design, which features the most common skirt and bodice design from the 1890’s, and the signature puff sleeves. You can see similar designs in Victorian Fashions and Costumes from Harper’s Bazar* which I had open while sketching this ensemble.

Since my last dress was very heavy I chose to leave this one free of embellishments and trim, with the only decoration being buttons down the front and a brooch. This was the only thing I intended on copying from the dress in Crimson Peak. But when I compared my sketch to the costume from the film, I realized they were pretty much identical!

This was made even more apparent because the fabric I purchased for this project is quite similar to what was used for Edith’s dress. But I like the design, and I like the dress from the film, so i’m okay with them being really similar, even if that wasn’t my original intention.

As I said, I used Victorian Fashions and Costumes from Harper’s Bazar* as a reference, along with a bunch of things i’ve pinned and the gown from the film.

I purchased seven yards of an orange silk for this dress, and plan on wearing it with this beautiful moth brooch I got for two dollars on ebay. I’ve been wanting to include it in a costume for ages, and I feel like this is my chance – even though brooches this bold aren’t really historically accurate, ecspecially on a day ensemble.

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And a more developed sketch.

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 I started off by draping the pattern. It’s a pretty simple design, but it took a bit of fiddling to get the amount of volume I wanted while keeping the shoulder and sides perfectly smooth.

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Here you can see it transferred to paper with the seam allowances added. This picture was taken after I made my first mock up and some pattern changes. Those changes included making the waistband longer, taking the collar in by an inch, adding a dart to the front, and raising the waistline.

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Just to be safe, since the fit of my first 1890’s day dress was so bad, I decided to cut out and assemble the lining of the bodice first. This would serve as a second mock up of sorts, and allow me to make minor changes before cutting into the silk. I’m SO glad I did this, because some weird issues popped up.

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The collar was too big (I think I took it in by a full inch), the gathers at the front were gaping, and there was a lot of wrinkling and bunching in collarbone/shoulder area. The wrinkling was weird, since every other part of the bodice seemed to fit fine.

I couldn’t find a solution online, or in Patternmaking for Fashion Design* (which everyone says has all the answers) but luckily I found a handy diagram in one of the 1920’s textbooks from the Woman’s Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences which my Great Aunt gave me.

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I was skeptical about their solution, since the shoulder seam fit quite tightly, and if anything there was more excess fabric near the collar than the shoulder, but it totally worked! The shoulder seam just needed to be on more of an angle. I guess I’ve never run into this problem before since I don’t make high collar bodices very often.

In addition to that, I also took the collar in and sewed a strip of material across the front to control the gathers. In the future I would make a separate lining pattern that isn’t gathered, which would avoid this problem.

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Here you can see the strip I sewed to the front. After this was done I tried the bodice on again, and it fit well enough that I felt comfortable with moving forward. So I sewed a few boning channels into the lining, then filled them with plastic bones.

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It’s the wrong fabric and color, but it looks the way I wanted!

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Now I cut the bodice out from silk. Here is the front panel before I gathered it down.

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And here it is after being gathered!

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And sewn onto the back panels – can we just take a moment to appreciate how the seams on this fabric are practically invisible? I was so worried about making a full dress from silk, since the last silk I used was a VERY finicky dupioni that puckered horribly any time a needle passed through it.  But this fabric doesn’t have that issue, It sews beautifully and seams disappear after ironing.

Plus it has a gorgeous two tone look to it, and the weight is perfect – light enough that it is easy to manipulate, but heavy enough that I didn’t have to interface or flat line it. I want to own this fabric in every color and use it for everything, it’s wonderful.

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I sewed up the shoulder seams and added the waistband. Notice how the front and back panels have the same sheen to them? That’s because I paid attention to grainlines this time around…

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And a quick test on the dress form to make sure the gathered looked okay.

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Now it was time to add the closures. I chose to make the dress close down the back, and decided to go for something that would be decorative and functional: buttons and loops. I don’t think this is historically accurate, but i’ve wanted to make a dress with this type of closure for years and this seemed like a perfect opportunity.

To make the loops I cut out one inch wide strips of silk on the fabrics bias. Then I sewed them into tubes with a quarter inch seam allowance.

When it came to turning the tubes the right way out, things got tricky. I tried to turn the first one by hand, with the help of pliers. Which worked, but damaged the fabric and took ages – like three hours to finish one thirty inch long tube. It was ridiculous. For the other two I used the safety pin method of pinning it to one end, then threading it through the tube and pulling it out the other side. This worked way better and took less than ten minutes, so I should have done that in the first place!

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I ended up cutting the tubes into two inch lengths, then ironing them into the shape seen below. These were pinned onto ribbon, then sewn to the ribbon by machine.

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The ribbon was then pinned onto the back of the bodice.

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And sewn on by hand. Not my prettiest hand work, but I went over each loop several times to make sure they are really secure.

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With the loops on, I went ahead and sewed in the lining.

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Now it was starting to look like something!

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But it was still missing all the buttons, which meant I had to make some. I bought a tool for covering 5/8″ buttons, along with fifty loop back sets. These were purchased on etsy for a grand total of nine bucks.

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A few hours later I had an adequate number of buttons. Though I had to make more later for the sleeves and skirt.

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Buttons were sewn onto the back, which unfortunately I didn’t take a picture of, and the front, which looks like this!

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The gathered front of the bodice has a tendency to flop over and hide my beautiful buttons, so I’ll have to do something to fix that. But aside from that I really like it! I love how clean it looks, with the focus being on the color and buttons. It’s interesting working on something that is so bold (a lot bolder than my usual projects) yet really simple by comparison.

Speaking of that bold color, i’ve nicknamed this the pumpkin dress because of it! The color probably reminds me of cheetos more than pumpkins, but I think “pumpkin” is a slightly more glamorous name for it.

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And that’s it for this post! Thanks for reading!

Making a Pink Sateen Ball Gown, 1860’s Inspired, Part Two

This post is the second one about  making my Civil War Era evening gown. Part one talks about making the bodice and can be read here. This post will cover the process of making the sleeves and include photos of the finished bodice.

I really enjoyed this part of the project. Puffy sleeves are relatively easy to make and don’t require too much precision or fitting (unlike most sleeves). Plus they are adorable. Something about them makes me ridiculously happy. These ones are ecspecially frilly and detailed, which made them even more fun to work on.

The first step was drafting a pattern. Since this bodice sits off the shoulder I didn’t have to worry about fitting a sleeve cap, which made the process way easier.

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I cut the pattern out from cotton sateen, then pinned lace appliques onto the lower half of each sleeve.

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After sewing the appliques on by hand I cut out the tulle overlay. The tulle overlay consists of two layers of gathered tulle (one layer is white, the other is ivory – when layered the create a warmer white tone, which better matches the lace used on this costume).  I didn’t use a fancy pattern for the overlay, I just cut out strips of tulle that were one inch wider than the widest point of the sleeve, and three times the sleeves length.

Then I used my machine to gather the edges down to the sleeves length.

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I pinned the overlay on and trimmed any excess material at each edge. Then I sewed the overlay down.

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This is the same process I used on the collar. The tulle really dulls the appearance of the lace, but the lace is still slightly visible and adds a lot of texture to the sleeve.

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Then I gathered down the top and bottom edge.

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And now it was time to create the “paned” effect. I did this by cutting out one inch wide strips of cotton sateen. The edges were ironed inward then covered with interfacing to stiffen them and hide the raw edges.

Then they were pinned onto the sleeves.

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I secured them by sewing across the top and bottom edge – they look a bit silly here, but after steaming them they started behaving a bit better.

I also covered the top edge with lace ribbon to hide the raw edge.

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Now it was time to work on the cuffs. Each cuff was made from strips of cotton sateen that were folded in half. I sewed a quarter inch away from the folded edge to create a channel. Then I filled the channel with a piece of plastic boning. This helps the sleeves keep their shape.

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I gathered down some chantilly lace (these were the scraps leftover after trimming lace for the collar) to create lace ruffles.

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Then I sewed those onto the hem of each cuff.

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I still felt like the cuffs were missing something so I added a bit of beading. I used glass seed beads and white fake pearls for this.

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They were sewn onto the sleeves with a half inch seam allowance.

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Then the raw edges were turned inward and covered with more lace ribbon.

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The side seam was sewn up with a french seam, and that was pretty much it!

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The final step was adding a bit of alencon lace to cover the topstitching on the cuff.

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The sleeves were sewn into the bodice by hand, with a slip stitch. Then the top edge was whip stitched to the lining. This is the finished interior of the bodice.

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And the exterior!

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The back currently looks like this. After taking this photo I realized the sequins don’t extend all the way to the center back, so i’ll need to fix that. And i’ll probably have to add a modesty panel at some point. But other than that it’s finished!

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Here is how it looks worn – these were taken on a very overcast day, and my lighting isn’t the best, so I apologize for that. But hopefully you can get an idea of how it looks!

I was seriously thrilled when I tried this on because it fits! I was worried the shoulder would be too small, and I was concerned about the waistline, but both those things are perfect!

In addition to liking the fit, I also really like how it sits on the body. One of my favorite things about historical fashion are the ridiculous proportions, and how effectively they create a flattering silhouette despite the overwhelming amount of fabric, ruffles, and lace. I think this is a good example of that.

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I think my only regret with this bodice is that I didn’t made the front point longer. From the side the point looks quite dramatic (it extends six inches past the waistline).

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But from the front it doesn’t look long enough. I’m not too upset about it, but it’s something to keep in mind for future projects from this period!

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Here is the back – it isn’t laced perfectly since this was just a fit test, so ignore that and just focus on the fact that is can lace completely closed! I

But I am a bit peeved with how the lace ruffle abruptly ends. I think I need to add a bow to cover that since I don’t have anymore of this lace.

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And that’s it! This is probably my favorite bodice i’ve ever made. It’s so frilly and lacy and sparkly, I can’t help but adore it. The design of it is also quite special to me since i’ve had this project planned for so long. I was worried I might be disappointed by the end result since I had this project built up so high in my head, but so far it’s surpassed all my expectations and I hope it continues to do so!

Thanks for reading! I think my next post is going to be a fabric haul…

 

Making a Floral Regency Dress, Part One

It’s been almost two weeks since my last post, which is pretty awful. I had a month where I was feeling very uninspired and didn’t get very much done. Then my family was traveling and I ended up going almost two weeks without sewing, for me that’s kind of crazy since I usually sew everyday.

But i’m back in the swing of things now! I have a few new projects already started, and plans for several more. I’m feeling really enthusiastic about all of them so I think this next month will be a lot more productive. And the more productive I am, the more blog posts I write, so I should be getting back to my twice a week schedule soon.

As much as I want to post about the things i’m actively working on, I should probably start by blogging about the dress I finished almost a month ago.

I’ve already written about making the bonnet that goes with this dress, that post can be read here. But today i’ll be talking about the process of making the actual dress.

This dress was inspired by a set of curtains. Yes, this is another curtain dress. When I was in Ikea I saw this set which reminded me of Chintz print dresses from the early 1800s.

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The more I’ve worked on this project the more modern I think this fabric looks. It definitely has a different color palette than chintz dresses had a couple hundred years ago, and the pattern is a little more abstract. I still really like the fabric, but i’m not sure if it was the best choice for a historical project.

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After I bought the curtains I began searching for inspiration online. Almost a year ago I pinned a few photos of this dress, which I decided to use as my main reference point for this project. I also used this blog post for more reference images, since it has many detailed photos of the back of regency bodices.

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Then I got to draping the pattern. This was quite tricky to drape since I wanted a low neckline, but not too low. And I wanted a tightly gathered bust, but not so tightly gathered that it looked bulky. It was difficult to balance those things but after a lot of fiddling I had something I was happy with!

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When it was removed from the dress form it looked like this. I ironed it, then copied it onto paper and added seam allowances.

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And here is the paper pattern.

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After making a mock up I decided I was happy with the pattern. So I cut each piece out twice, once from the curtain fabric, and again from a white linen which will be used as lining.

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Then the front side of the bodice was gathered down by hand.

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When the gathering was finished the back panel and strap got sewn on.

I did a quick little fit test here before moving on.

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Then the raw edge around the armhole got turned over and sewn down.

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Here you can see the peculiar patterning on the back. This was very common on regency dresses and I actually really like how it looks. The only thing I don’t like is drafting sleeves that fit into those funny arm holes…

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I went ahead and sewed together my lining. Then it was gathered and had the edges around the armholes turned over.

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Now it was time for the dreaded sleeves. But for once this went surprisingly well! I drafted a pattern with a few measurements and a lot of guess work and didn’t have to make any alterations! The mock up fit perfectly. So that was awesome.

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The sleeves got cut out and darts were sewn in.

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Then the bottom edge was turned under.

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And the back seam was done up with french seams.

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The sleeves got sewn on by hand with little whip stitches.

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Now it was time for lining. I pinned the lining to the neckline of the bodice with the right sides facing each other, then stitched a half inch away from the edge. When it was turned the right way out the neckline had a finished edge. Then I topstitched around the neckline by hand, to keep the lining in place.

The lining at the back, bottom, and around the armholes was left open. Eventually the lining around the armholes was whip stitched down, so it covers the top edge of the sleeves, which was left raw. The back and bottom edges can’t be sewn down until the back closures and skirt are attached, so that will be done later on.

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Here it is with the lining sewn in!

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And here it is on my dress form. As I said, I don’t love this print for a historical costume, but I am pretty pleased with how this bodice turned out. Two of my recent (as in within the last year) big project failures have been Regency era pieces, so i’m happy to finally have one go as planned!

And as a bonus, it’s really comfortable compared to most of my historical dresses.

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Thanks for reading – I think I will have a fabric haul up on Friday!

Making 16th Century Foresleeves

Today i’m talking about foresleeves. This is the…honestly I have no idea what number this post is, this series has been going on for so long! But all the previous posts about this project can be found here.

Foresleeves (or false sleeves) are a bizarrely shaped piece of material that covers the arm from the elbow to the wrist. They are large and rounded in shape with strips of material pulled through slits at the lower edge and wrist. They are often trimmed with material in a different color and embellished. You can see examples of foresleeves in a couple paintings which served as my inspiration for this ensemble, those can be viewed here and here!

This was a fun post to write because I hadn’t realized how much work went into this part until I was resizing photos. These sleeves were one of the first pieces I began working on, and one of the last I finished.

I started with a pattern. Ignore the tick marks for now, those were supposed to be where the fabric was pulled through to create puffs but I changed the sizing later on.

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Then I cut my sleeves out. The body of them is made from silk dupioni, like the kirtle. If I was smart I would have interfaced them at this point, but I put that off until later (which I now regret).

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Then I pinned bias tape over the edges. I used my machine to sew down the backside and hand stitched the front.

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It looked so smooth and pretty! So smooth and pretty that I decided to not add puffs at the wrist. There are paintings that show puffs only at the bottom edge of the sleeve so I figured that would be good enough.

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But then I set these aside for a couple weeks and realized the reason I didn’t want puffs at the wrist is because I was scared I would mess up. And that is a silly reason not to do something since i’m trying to learn. So I marked out the slashes where the puffs would be inserted, then stitched around them to help prevent fraying.

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I cut each slash open and bound them with quarter inch wide bias tape. This was tricky and time consuming since I was working with two fabrics that fray a lot and I didn’t have any room for error. But it turned out okay!

Unfortunately I had to add interfacing at this point and couldn’t avoid the wrinkles near the wrist. I’m a bit bummed about this, but oh well, i’ll know for next time.

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I played around with a lot of different fabrics in an attempt to find the perfect fabric for the pulls (I like calling them puffs, but that is incorrect, meh). I tried off white cotton gauze, ivory silk organza, a satin material, and even a knit! None of those are very historically accurate but I hated how the linen I had looked. Even when tea stained to be off white it looks very stark and inexpensive compared to the silk and damask.

So I put organza overtop of it. Which added some depth and made it look a little fancier. These are the five inch squares which got gathered down at each end to create the wrist puffs.

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Here they are pinned into place! These got stitched down shortly after.

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One side done. Unfortunately this step created even more puckers at the wrist, but at least it is less noticeable when worn.

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At this point that I decided to turn the top edge over to make each sleeve a little shorter. They actually went past the crook of my elbow which was a bad sign. Luckily this was easy to do and fixed the problem.

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Another thing to fix was the huge amount of fraying of the wrist puffs. it wasn’t visible from the outside of the sleeve, but the interior was a mess. So I half lined them with leftover linen.

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Then it was time to make the pulls for the lower edge. I decided there would be five puffs on each sleeve, and each one would be made from five inches of material. So I cut two twenty-five inch long strips of linen and organza – one for each sleeve.

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Then I gathered the strips every five inches to create puffs.

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Which got sewn to the underside of each sleeve. Aside from the puckers, I was really happy with how these were turning out!

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With all the pulls done it was time for embellishing. I put a large glass stone and two pearls at the base of each wrist puff.

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I was running low on glass stones, and wanted to save the ones I had for the jewelry and french hood. So I decided to keep it simple and only use a pearl and two seed beads between each puff on the underside of the sleeves.

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This is how they looked!

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The only thing left to do was create some sort of system to attach them onto the main sleeve. I opted for eyelets, since they are easy to do and historically accurate. There are three sewn at the top of each foresleeve.

After trying them on I also decided to stitch up the back of the sleeves so they would sit better on my arm and keep their shape. And that is it! They were done!

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Here is how they look worn! This was before attaching the oversleeves to my dress.

Photo on 4-27-15 at 1.19 PM #2

 My next post will be about making the accessories for this project…or maybe it will be about the skirt. I haven’t decided yet, but it will be one of those two.

Thank you 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!

Making a pair of Bodies

My first “The making of” post for this year! I think it has been over a month since I’ve done one of these, which is crazy! I have quite a few things in progress right now, and two dresses i’ve completed, but I thought I would start with I finished yesterday: A pair of bodies.

As I mentioned in my last two posts, i’m going to be making a tudor ensemble! It will consist of a chemise, a pair of bodies, a hip roll, a farthingale, kirtle, sleeves, and a dress. I decided to start with the pair of bodies first, then built up and under from them.

“Bodies” were the 16th century equivalent of stays or corsets. A stiff foundation garment to give your body support and to create a conical shape, which was all the rage in the mid 1500s.

My pair of bodies isn’t meant to be seen, which is good because visually it didn’t turn out very well!! Like most of my attempts at foundation garments, it was a not complete success. But they fit, and are functional, which is more than I can say for some of my creations!

The pattern i’m using is from Norah Waugh’s “Corsets and Crinolines”. This pattern is labeled as being from the early 1600s, but i’ve seen very similar ones used for recreations from the mid 1500s, so i’ve decided to use it for just that!

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For materials I decided to use a hand embroidered linen napkin. I was given this a while ago and it was either embroidered by my grandmother or great grandmother many years ago. It is very pretty but stained and a little worse for wear, so I decided to repurpose it!

I’m using yellow thread for the boning channels, plastic boning, a canvas base, and green broadcloth for lining and bias tape.

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I copied the pattern from the book, then altered it a lot. I let it out almost two inches, changed the straps a bit, and made it longer in the waist. The tabs had to be adjusted as well.

Eventually my pattern looked like this!

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I cut everything out from the canvas first.

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Then drew out all the boning channels with pen. I also marked out where padding would go in the bust.

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I used the canvas as a base to cut out the top material. I tried to get this as symmetrical as possible – I thought I did an okay job, but it was almost a half inch off, boo.

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I stitched all the boning channels and ended up with this mess! You can’t backstitch with these things so all the threads have to be tied off and buried by hand.

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The fabric puckered really badly but it (luckily) ironed out with a bit of water.

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Unfortunately without me realizing the top layer of fabric slipped, and the pattern slid up half an inch on one side. Which makes the pattern difference almost one inch, since I cut them unevenly as well. It is my own fault for not checking the front of the garment between stitching, but still, i’m annoyed!

Here one side has the threads buried – can you tell which one I didn’t iron?

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Here all the pieces are just before adding boning! I was pretty pleased with how it was coming along, despite the embroidery not really lining up…

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Then disaster struck. I was using a purple sharpie to mark the boning lengths and a little spot got onto the front of the fabric. I, oh so cleverly, jumped into action and dabbed at it with alcohol which faded the mark completely! Unfortunately the alcohol lifted all the pen ink I used to mark the boning channels. Within minutes my tiny sharpie mark had turned into this…

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I scrubbed at it with dish soap and a toothbrush. I tried a bleach pen too, and it just made things wore. This was really frustrating, even though this garment won’t be seen I was trying hard to make it look pretty.

On the bright side, this has taught me a valuable lesson: Never use ink on a garment again. I don’t wash my dresses since they don’t get much wear, and it honestly never occurred to me that detergent or alcohol or potentially even water would lift the ink and damage something beyond repair.

I tend to use pen since I don’t  mind permanent markings on the interior of things and it doesn’t tug at fabric the way chalk and pencils do. But after this is experience i’m going back to wax/chalk pencils because I don’t want this to EVER happen again!

For salvaging the garment, I attempted to put patches over the mark, but the patches had raised edges which could create bumps and make the dress worn over it look a little lumpy. Which I definitely didn’t want.

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I tried patching it with muslin, but the ink stain showed through, and I couldn’t patch it with the linen because it frays too much. I ended up using a scrap of cotton sateen, trimmed the edges with pinking shears, and fused it over the spot. A few people suggested I dye the whole garment blue, or to add a patch on the other side, but both of those things felt wrong to me. I don’t think a mistake should effect your entire project, so I covered it and moved on!

I made bias tape from green broadcloth and stitched it on by hand.

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Before attaching the bias tape to the top layer, I padded the bust with some quilt batting.

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Then added the bias tape.

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I cut out the pattern from green cotton and assembled it. This is the lining.

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I sewed on the tabs and then pinned the lining in place.

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And whip stitched that in place.

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Then it was time for eyelets! I haven’t sewn a bunch of eyelets in a while, and after trying to do fifteen in a single evening my fingers were not happy with me. It took a few days, but I got them all done!

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It definitely isn’t the prettiest thing i’ve ever made, but it is functional, and when it comes to foundation garments that is the most important thing!

Here is how it looks worn.

(Without a chemise, because I haven’t made one yet)

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Now I just have to make the understructure for the skirt, the chemise, kirtle, sleeves, dress and headpiece. Yikes. It is kind of scary to think that this was one of the easiest pieces of the set and gave me so many problems! Hopefully I ran into all my problems on this piece, and everything else will be easy.

Thanks for reading!

Making a 1840s Floral Red Dress, Part One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DSC_8929Then pinned them into place.

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

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

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

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

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I hand basted across the line I drew.

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And they lined up perfectly, yay!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Once the tacking was finished I hemmed both edges.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On the finished bodice they look like this!

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

Thanks for reading!