An 1880’s Inspired Dress : Pumpkin Project 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the front panel of the underskirt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the “final” pattern.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the worn photos:

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

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The Sunflower Gown : Making a 1830’s Dress

Last Thursday I drove by the prettiest sunflower field, and was overwhelmed with the desire to make something inspired by it.

I also wanted to make something that could be photographed in the field.

Unfortunately, sunflower season is really short and I didn’t expect them to be around for another week.

Which meant I had to make a dress that week.

So I did!

I did the pattern drafting on Friday, and actual construction started on Saturday. I had the dress and a headpiece done and ready to be photographed by Sunday evening.

I think it turned out pretty well for two days of work!

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The idea for this was very much shaped by the fabric I had in my stash. In fact, at first I didn’t think I had any fabric that would be suitable for a sunflowery historical gown. I was planning on making a few 1950’s pieces in autumn tones that would suit the backdrop, and that is what I spent a good chunk of Thursday/Friday working on. But the further along I got, the more I wanted to make something historical instead.

So I went through my stash and came across a recently purchased silk shantung. I would lovingly call this fabric baby poop colored…But I still bought it, because it has a very strong gold/green shift, which is striking when light hits it.

It isn’t exactly sunflower colored – but it has yellow, green and black tones in it which is reminiscent.

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This was my original sketch, along with some skirt variations.

I designed this without researching references, but I did look to Costume in Detail* for construction notes regarding 1830’s dresses, which ended up being very helpful!

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The parts I was most excited about (like the big sleeves and gold petal overlays) ended up in the finished dress. But other plans had to be dropped due to fabric and time limitations.

Remember, I only had two days, and six yards of fabric, which isn’t a lot for a historical gown!

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The first idea I dropped, was the plan of having a pleated bertha collar. I decided it took too much fabric and time to create. Instead I draped and off the shoulder bodice which was shaped with gathering at the front and shoulder.

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I made a mockup for this, then got everything transferred to paper. I also drafted the sleeves right away, which is rare for me. I tend to leave sleeves for last (as in, after the whole bodice is done) because I hate them so much. But there was no time to procrastinate!

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The bodice pattern was cut out twice – once from a floral cotton which will serve as lining, and again from the silk. Boning channels were stitched into the seam allowance at the sides of the lining, and at the center seam.

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I stitched the layers together, with the right sides facing each other, all the way across the neckline.sunflowers (5 of 36)

I ironed the lining inward and stitched around the neckline by hand. At this point the side seams were still left open. And I wanted to leave them open until after sewing the sleeves on. Which meant I had to make sleeves.

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I cut the sleeves out from a layer of black cotton sateen, and a layer of floral embroidered glitter mesh.

I’m SO glad I remembered that I had this fabric in my stash. I don’t own a lot of black material and was quite frantic trying to find something for the sleeves that had a lot of texture, but wasn’t too thick or heavy (my previous candidate was velvet, which is both thick and heavy).

This ended up being perfect, and I had just enough left to work as an overlay.

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The sleeves were gathered down by hand. Originally I wanted these to be pleated, but I thought having pleated sleeves with a gathered bodice would look strange. So I gathered them instead.sunflowers (9 of 36)

I was going to pad these to get the amount of volume I wanted, but I decided to try stitching ribbon in first to see if that would help. I’m not sure what this is called (sleeve stays, maybe?) but it is often shown in sewing books.

The ribbon forces the sleeves to stay a certain length, which prevents them from sliding down the arm and losing their poof. These sleeves were about 13″ long in the center. And the longest piece of ribbon is 7″.

I didn’t have high hopes that this would work based on my test fitting…but it totally did! No need for sleeve pads here!

 

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But the sleeves weren’t done! I wanted the gold fabric to lay overtop of the puffed portion, almost like flower petals.

These petals were created with half circles of fabric, in various sizes.

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Each half circle was folded in half, and stitched together to form a quarter circle shape. The quarters were turned right side out and ironed. Then the rounded edge was gathered down by hand until it was an inch or two long.

Five of these will be used on each sleeve, which the longest petal at the center of the shoulder.

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This was stitched onto the top edge of the sleeve. I also finished the lower edge of the sleeves with matching gold piping.

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The lower edge looks a bit messy from the interior, and the top edge is kind of…uh…girthy? It’s almost a cm thick at points! So I decided not to finish this edge, since any stitching or binding would just add to that.

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Even though it was quite thick, my sewing machine stitched through it like a champ.

Once the sleeves were on, I sewed up the side seams. I also added boning to the front seam (it stops just below the gathering) and the side seams. Leaving me with this!

It looked so much better than I had expected it would – which really got me feeling excited about the project!

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Though the sleeves were the hard part of this project, they were made easier by the fact I had a clear vision. Where my thoughts towards the skirt were murky at best.

I knew I wanted some visual interest on the skirt – I recently made two 1840’s dresses with plain rectangle skirts, and I’m a bit bored with them. Not the shape, just the lack of trimming.

And the 30’s were famous from elaborately trimmed skirts, so I felt this project would be incomplete without something.

My first idea was pintucking the skirt, then decorating it with sunflowers. But the skirt would have been too short if I did that (I was working with the fabrics horizontal width for the skirt, about 45″).

Then I decided to trim the hem with large triangles, made from black velvet and piped with matching shantung. These could be stitched to the underside of the hem and turn outward, like petals. They could also serve as frames for hand made sunflowers. This idea is seen in my original sketch.

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I was pretty committed to this idea, so much so that I wasted 1/2 yard of my precious silk to create the piping. I also cut out a dozen velvet triangles, and  poly shantung for lining.

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The piping was stitched to the lining, with the wrong sides facing outward. Then velvet was pinned on top with the edges tucked inward, covering the frayed edges of the shantung.

These looked OK, but I didn’t love it. The velvet lacked texture since it was so dark, and the piping blended into the skirt. I thought it was too harsh and clashed with the bodice. sunflowers (33 of 36)

So I decided to dress the skirt up with lace instead. I had 12 yards of 7″ wide chantilly lace that I bought on etsy a while back. I figured I could sacrifice a few yards for this, and still have enough leftover for a civil war era gown (which I’m pretty sure was my original intention for it).

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Despite my intentions for something different, the skirt for this was just a rectangle. But I had a reason for it! On top of fabric limitations, this fabric has a very different sheen and coloring depending on the grain line. Cutting the skirt as a rectangle means the grain is the same all the way across, and ensures the sheen will look even.

The rectangle for this was 3.5 yards wide, and the full width of the fabric.

I marked a line two inches away from the selvedge, and ironed the lower edge up so it touched that line.

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Then I hemmed it with a super sloppy, very wide catch stitch.

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The chantilly lace was placed 6.5″ away from the finished hem, and stitched on by hand with running stitches. sunflowers (21 of 36)

The top edge was gathered down by hand to match the waist of the bodice, then stitched on by machine.

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After that, I turned the back edges inward. I had about 1.5″ of allowance on either edge, but I wanted them to overlap so I wouldn’t have to add a modesty panel. I also wanted to stitch boning into both edges without any visible topstitching.

I honestly don’t even remember how I went about doing this, but I know the end result was far from symmetrical and not too pretty in terms of construction. But it looked okay from the outside…which is all I can really ask for when making a dress in two days!

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I stitched hooks and bars into the back to serve as closures.sunflowers (26 of 36)

I also added a belt. I debated about this a lot, but strongly felt the dress needed something to break up the bodice and skirt. I pinned a velvet waistband on first, but wanted something with more texture. So I ended up making a waistband from black cotton sateen, then fussy cutting bits of beaded lace out and stitching them on.

This looks a bit messy up close since the lace has a large wandering floral pattern, and really isn’t made to be cut into tiny pieces. But from a distance it still has visible texture and adds a bit of sparkly!

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Now with my limited fabric and time remaining, I decided to make sunflowers. These were created from dozens of 4″ wide circles. Each one was cut out, then ironed into quarters. Like with the sleeves, the curved edge is gathered down.

Except this time they were sewn on to a circular base of interfacing.

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The bases were covered with velvet, and more butchered black lace. I wanted the centers to have a lot of texture to mimic sunflowers, but I didn’t have time (or enough black beads) to embellish the centers fully.

The lace was a way to quickly get the effect I wanted, and it worked perfectly!

The lace had to be stitched on by hand, and while I was at it I stitched on some larger black beads, and some gold sequins. The sequins were a random addition because I love sequins. But I’m so glad I decided to use them, the contrast of the gold against the black makes them look lit up, regardless of the lighting.sunflowers (22 of 36)

I pinned the sunflowers onto the dress while it was on my form, before sewing up the back seam. This way I could remove the dress from the form and stitch the flowers on while the skirt was completely flat.

Even though that made the sewing process easier, I didn’t do the best job of this. They were *really* roughly stitched on with whip stitches at the underside of the fabric. I tried to stitch through the edge of the interfacing centers, since that is the heaviest part of the flowers.

I wish the stitching was cleaner, but I’m actually pleased with the placement of the stitches. Since I didn’t tack down the petals, they flip outward slightly, making them look more natural. sunflowers (29 of 36)sunflowers (28 of 36)

That was the dress done! But I knew I wanted to make a headpiece too.

This ended up consisting of two gathered strips of the black mesh, and a bunch of the small flower “petals”. These were stitched into a a single strip.

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That I hot glued onto a headband and backed with boning and felt. Am I proud of the quantity of hot glue on this? No. But it looked good in photos and took less than 10 minutes to make.

The “finishing touches” included pinning my petticoats so they hung above my ankle. And pinning fabric sunflowers onto my funtasma shoes* so it was less obvious that I don’t have any 1830’s appropriate footwear.

1830’s footwear is supposedly the easiest to fake, since they wore square toed flats. But I do not own a single pair of flats because they make my feet look massive.

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And that was it! Also for those curious, this was worn over my recently completed 1840’s corset based on a pattern from Norah Waugh’s Corsets and Crinolines*. I have a couple  photos of this on instagram (here, here, and here) and I can vouch for this pattern being awesome – I love the shape of it, and it is pretty comfy!

For petticoats, I wore a cotton/net full length petti that I made a few years ago. It is full length, so I had to pin it up by about 6″ for this photoshoot. And that was stacked on top of two knee length tulle petticoats (specifically, this one).

I’ve been really unhappy with the volume in my other 40s/30s skirts and I thought this would be a good solution. And I was right, look at that poof!

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And as always, thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed!

 

18th Century Redingote, Worn Photos

As promised, today I have the photos of my 18th century redingote ensemble to share! If you missed them, the blog posts about constructing this dress can be found here, and here.

For the fourth year in a row I went to the local pumpkin patch to photograph my newest piece. I really love this as a backdrop, there is something magical about it in the morning! The lighting is so pretty, and the contrast between the field, mud, pumpkins, and corn makes me smile.

My dresses always get a little dirty there, but it’s nothing a bit of water can’t fix, and I think the pictures make it worth it!

This ensemble consists of a redingote, skirt, hat, and fichu, which I detailed the process of making in the posts linked above. It’s worn over a chemise, stays, a bum pad, and a cotton/netting petticoat, which I also made. The only pieces I didn’t make are the socks (charlotte russe), the wig (color.salon, ebay), the shoes (fraser, American Duchess*), and buckles (cavendish, American Duchess*)

If you want to see the layers in a little more detail, I have a video showing the process of getting into this – and a few clips of me wearing it! It can be watched here.

Now onto the photos!

And that’s it! Thanks for reading!

Making a Striped Cotton Dress, Early 20th Century

I recently took a trip into the garment district, and for the first time in years I didn’t have a list of projects I was shopping for. However I did have a list of materials to keep an eye out for, and one of those was lightweight cotton.

Lightweight cottons are incredibly versatile – they can be used for foundation garments from any period, gauzy dresses from the 18th century to the mid 1800’s, and more practical pieces from the beginning of the 20th century.

I’ve always found it difficult to find lightweight, soft, yet sturdy cottons that would work for these pieces. Especially since (for me) a big part of a garment looking authentic is it’s texture – which is one of the challenges with plain cottons. They don’t have a lot of it, and garments can look cheap or flat regardless of how well constructed they are.

Which is why I really lucked out when I came across this striped cotton. It has a faded look to it, and the dots buried in the stripes add a bit of life to it. I originally thought it was red and white, but it’s more of a mauve. It’s very soft and slightly sheer – exactly what I hoped to find, and perfect for an edwardian day dress, which is what I decided to use it for!

If you read my recent Progress Report you may recall me raving over fashion plates of 20th century ladies in antique magazines, which definitely served as inspiration for this style of dress. But my main reference was this dressit was listed on etsy, with a bunch of close ups which helped me figure out the construction.

I think the end result is pretty lovely – but let’s start at the beginning!

Step one was draping. This was tricky to drape, since I wanted the oh so glamorous pigeon breast shape, where volume from the bust carries down the the waist, which is cinched in with gathers. It’s very easy to over exaggerate this shape and end up with way too much fabric in the front.

I was also challenged by the pleats in the shoulder – they look okay here, but I was concerned the ends of the pleats would splay open when it was worn.

The back has a box pleat in it, for decoration more than anything else.

I transferred that to paper, then made a mock up. The pleats and amount of volume worked surprisingly well, so I moved on without any alterations.

I cut all the pieces out, then marked the pleats on the wrong side of the fabric with pencil. They were ironed, pinned, then sewn down by hand. I also gathered the front of the bodice pieces.

And the back. For some reason the pleat wasn’t symmetrical, which really bothers me! But I wasn’t sure how much fabric I would need for the skirt, and I didn’t want to waste any by recutting this piece, so I didn’t bother redoing it.

Then I cut out a “facing” for the collar, which will actually serve as a base for the lace trim that will be shaped into a collar.

This was pinned on top of the striped fabric to prevent the stripes from being visible through the lace.

(before doing this I sewed up the shoulder seam with a french seam)

For lace I used a gathered eyelet trim from Jo-ann’s (I removed the gathers with a seam ripper, then ironed it flat) and a lace I got in a grab bag when I went to Lancaster. I wasn’t a big fan of this combination at first, but I don’t have a lot of white lace in my collection, so my options were limited.

I sewed the lace together by hand, to create a single two inch wide unit. Then I pinned that onto the collar.

And here it is sewn down. I had to pleat and gather parts, but after ironing it looked pretty smooth. It’s a bit hard to tell with the lighting, but the closure point is on the left side of the collar, imitating the dress I based this on.

Now it was starting to look like a bodice! Since one of my goals for this was to keep it very lightweight, I decided not to fully line it.

Instead I sewed the interior seams as french seams, and created a facing that extended from the neckline to the waistline. This was cut from muslin, then pinned to the right side of the fabric. I sewed it on with a half inch seam allowance, then turned it inward to hide the raw edges. I topstitched a quarter inch away from each edge by hand to prevent the facing from shifting and peaking out. I also tacked the far edges of the facing every few inches.

Now onto sleeves! The pattern I created for this is pretty shoddy, but it worked! The sleeves have four tiers, three made from striped fabric, and one made of lace.

The top tier has the stripes going vertically, tier two has the stripes going horizontally.

Tier three is actually muslin, which the lace was sewn over, and tier four is more horizontal stripes. I’m really happy with how the sleeves turned out, I love playing with the grain lines in fabric, but it can be hard to do without wasting a lot of material – not to mention tedious. This was an easy way to sneak it in and add some interest to a simple dress.

The lace pinned together – ready to be sewn together, then onto the sleeves.

And here they are in all their glory!

I left the sleeves unlined, since none of the fabrics are prone to fraying. But I did the side seam up as a french seam.

Then the bottom edge was turned inward by a half inch. I loved working with this fabric since the stripes served as  guidelines for where to sew.

The tops of the sleeves were gathered down by hand and sewn onto the bodice by machine. Then the seam allowance was whip stitched together by hand. This isn’t the cleanest finish, but it was popular in the 19th century and avoids additional bulk in an area where mobility is important – so it works for me!

Now I did a quick fitting and the end result wasn’t great. Though the pleats looked nice on my mockup, during this fitting they bunched really badly above the bust. There was a lot of folded material at the sides too, which was frustrating.

I ended up mostly fixing this by tacking the pleats down further, and tapering the ends off almost like darts. I did this with pins on the left side, which looks a lot better than the right side.

I think the folded material at the sides was caused by excess fabric in the back, which I fixed by gathering the center back portion down to be an inch and a half smaller. I also regathered the front panels so the volume was more focused at the front of the bust.

Later on I played around with foundation garments, and improved the shape even more – I found a ruffled corset cover made me look too barrel chested, but bust pads really improve the crinkling at the top of the corset.

With the fit fixed, I pinned on the waistband.

And that’s it for this post! Next up: the skirt, closures, hat, and finishing touches!

Thanks for reading!

The Christmas Costume – A Glittery Gown – Part 3

Sorry for the late post – WordPress was being odd on Sunday and wouldn’t let me post…then I forgot about it until tonight, oops!

Today I’m going to spend way too long writing about something which seemed like an awesome idea when I was doodling out a sketch. In actuality, making a cape from ten yards of stretch velvet sucks. Seriously, not something I would recommend doing it unless you have masochistic tendencies or enjoy getting into screaming matches with your sewing machine.

When you try to take your anger out on the horrible fabric, it just sits there looking all pretty, draping all nicely, and feeling super soft, all innocent looking! Psh. If this fabric was reincarnated as an animal it would be that cute puppy that pees on everything but is so adorable you can’t bear to part with it.

Yeah. That’s the relationship I have with this project.

I had a very clear picture of how I wanted this cloak/overdress to look, and it was pretty complicated. To make it look the way I wanted I had to build a functional bodice, then add the cape and shoulder details ontop of it.

To get a rough idea of what I wanted, I sketched on some muslin to get the rough shapes.

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This gave  me enough information to draft an actual pattern.

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I was quite pleased with this, it only needed a few minor adjustments.

I cut each piece once from velvet, and again from quilters cotton. Though I purchased stretch velvet, I didn’t want my garment to stretch.Stretch velvet is just the cheapest of all velvet’s (six dollars a yard) and happened to come in the exact color I wanted.

I sewed together my lining at the shoulder seams. Then I used the pattern I made for the bodice sleeves to create the sleeve covers from velvet.

I gathered these by hand, then sewed them on to the lining.

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Then I made up the back panel, this was my first real look at how tricky it is to work with velvet. Honestly, I think it just may be my machine, but no matter what thread/needle/tensions I used the velvet shredded my thread and the machine would unthread every three inches or so. I got so frustrated I switched off to hand sewing for the vast majority of this project.

So it wasn’t that awful, but a project that should have taken a week from start to finish took a lot longer since I had almost twenty hours of hand sewing to do.

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After that was finished I cut the cape, and sewed that onto the back panel. The cape pattern was just two giant rectangles gathered down, and hemmed later on to be the proper length.

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 After this was done I sat down with netflix on and watched a dozen Say Yes to The Dress episodes, and a full season of River Monsters while I went through and hemmed every edge of the cape.

Then I started sewing the velvet pieces to the bodice, which, at this point, was still just quilters cotton.

The bodice pieces looked like this.

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And when they were pinned onto the bodice roughly, the whole thing together looked like this!

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The first part of the back panel was sewn on like so.

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Then the front piece was stitched onto the back panel (the part that had the cape attached) these were sewn on the same way the back panel was.

It’s all sort of complicated to explain, since the pattern was so odd.

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And voila!

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I sewed the side seams together and tried it on over the dress to make sure it all looked right, which it did.

DSC_29274But I had one final piece to sew on, the skirt. Which was just a 50″x65″ piece of gathered velvet . Once that was done it also had to be hemmed, which took three more episodes of River Monsters.

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And that was about it. It wasn’t a terribly difficult project, it was just a lot more time consuming then I had expected when I started! Velvet definitely goes on my hated materials list now, it’s not a fun fabric to work with. But it does look really pretty and drape in a lovely way~

The making of a Red and Silver Renaissance Gown

Part One : June 13, 2013

Today seems like a good day for a double post, doesn’t it?

For my birthday I ended up spending the majority of my money on fabric and pretty trims from the fashion district and on etsy. The fabrics were all brocade with satin, or sateen in coordinating colors. I ended up being really, really happy with my haul and loved every single item I bought.

In the same trip I purchased fabric for Merida, and that costume has already been made – so it’s time to put the other fabric to use! Starting with this little design I drew up.

The fabrics pictured here are from the lovely shop Diana Fabrics who gave me an amazing deal on the material and even threw in a few yards as a gift! The silver trim is from LaceFun on etsy who are also really awesome and always give you extra goodies. The pearls are from DeezTreasures.

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I began with the bodice, since it’s the most detailed bit aside from the sleeves.

I draped the pattern in the usual way. I’ve explained this method a lot before, but still get questions all the time, so I created a more thorough write up on tumblr. If you are interested you can read that here!

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Once that was done it got unpinned, and ironed!

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And after adding seam allowances it became a mock up, which fit surprisingly well.

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I took in the side seams a bit, and made the entire thing an inch longer before drawing out my pattern on paper.

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Since this is historical fashion I decided to add a whole bunch of boning.

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Some of it was metal, but the majority was plastic. Cutting it all took longer then making the mock up.

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When I cut my pattern out, it was for the lining. Which is made from this really lovely red velvet i’ve had around or a long while.

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When it was all sewn together, with the boning it looked like this! I attempted to try it on and it didn’t go as I’d hoped..somehow it had become too big in the bust and I had to add darts and remove a lot of material. Because of this my paper pattern became of little use…

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So instead, I traces out my finished lining piece and turned that into my new pattern for the front facing. I wanted the front to be more fiddly then the lining, so it went from seven pieces to 13!

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Once it was assembled I sewed the neckline with the right-sides-together-pillowcase method to get a finished edge. I went through and did some top stitching by hand, since I needed to stitch around the boning.

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Then I drafted the collar piece by tracing the neckline of the bodice and sketching out the shape I wanted. I cut it out of newsprint as a test to see if I liked it, and it later became my pattern.

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The collar was cut from fusible felt interfacing, which is a really stiff interfacing usually used for purses, or hat making. I fused the maroon colored satin onto it and hand sewed the edges onto the other side so no stitching was visible.

I ended up decorating the collar with some 4mm silver pearls and a bit of lace! It took a long while to sew together but i’m really very pleased with it. I entertained myself by watching Man Lab on BBC throughout hand sewing this – I ended up spending more time laughing then sewing, but I have nor regrets.

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I had to do the back too…I like this picture because it shows what a difference a little lace can make!

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I ended up making a sash that I despise (that will be talked about it a separate post)I tried to save it which rhinestones, but they got pulled off pretty quick since they didn’t actually match. I shall remake this at a later date!

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Here are a few close ups of the bodice in it’s “complete-aside-from-sleeves” stage

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Next step was sewing on the hidden sash. This is what the top gets sewn to, and also what the skirt will be sewn onto. Then the sash can be hand stitched (or fused) on and won’t hold any weight. This was a problem I had with the last dress I made, the sash really pulled and didn’t fully support all the wight of the skirt, so it stretched.

Look at me learning from my mistakes for once

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Then it came time to make the skirt. It hurt so much cutting this fabric because I absolutely adore it.

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Then things got sewn together

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When it came time to sewn on the trim, I ran into a bit of a roadblock. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted it pointing inwards, or outwards. I ended up going with inwards, even though it’s less “obvious” I think it looks much nicer and less messy then the outward facing.

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Earlier today I went through with 1″ lace that is cheap, and scratchy, and awful, and I used it to seal the hem. This way it won’t fray anymore. However it looks bad, so it needs to be hemmed again (by hand) but that was something I had planned on doing, anyway!

I pinned everything all together for your viewing pleasure.

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A lot more is complete now, I have the sleeves almost finished, and it resembles a dress even when removed from the form. But those changes shall be reviled in a later post!

Part Two : June 25, 2013

Here is the second installment of making this pretty little dress I dreamed up! If you haven’t already, you can read part one right here.

For once I was very diligent in my photo documentation, so this shall be more of a photoblog then a…erm, blog!

The next major step was creating the sleeves. In the last dress I made, which was somewhat similar to this, I left the sleeves for last and ended up regretting it. So I dove right in!

I started with a sketch, and some measurements.

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And then It got turned into a pattern

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Once they were cut out the edges were folded to create a finished edge. Between each piece I sewed on a 1/2 strip of my white brocade material. Each of these were originally two inches wide, then folded over, ironed, and sewn into place.

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I ended up sewing them all onto a base of red velvet. This required a lot of yelling at my machine and ripping out, since getting the white right against eachother without any gaps was very tricky!

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I trimmed the velvet on the sides, and pinned it for a fit test which looked like so:

DSC_0493Next up was the silver “poof” portion which was created by pinning trim over an interfaced strip of the white brocade.

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I sewed (carefully) around the edges of the white, and cut away the extra trim. Then It got sewn, and topstitched down onto the velvet.

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After that the final piece was sewn into place, and I was ready to move onto the largest, and most complicated bit…

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The poofy sleeves of doom….

I really despise making poofy sleeves, so i’m not sure why I continuously put myself through this. But I do, and I will probably continue to do so.

Damn pretty sleeves….

I went ahead and drafted a ginormous poofy sleeve pattern, then I cut it from my maroon satin and fused interfacing onto the back. (The larger the sleeve, the more support it needs.)

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Then I went about creating the tricky part. I called these “sleeve doohickeys” throughout making them but ended up googling the proper term for this post and have discovered they are called “Paned sleeves”…I think.

(I also learned about a sleeve nicknamed “imbecile sleeve” which I might have to make next just for the hell of it)

I started out with 2.5″ interfaced strips!

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Which were cut to the proper-ish length…

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The edges were turned over and sewn down, giving me 1.5″ strips.

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Then I cut out 2 inch wide strips of my brocade, which were folded and ironed into 1″ strips.

DSC_0485These got sewn onto the 1.5″ strips of satin, leaving me with strips (doohickeys) that were each 2.5″ wide.

DSC_0486But as you can see, the backs look really crappy, and frayed like crazy. So I cut out 1″ strips of double sided fusible web and ironed that onto the backs.

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When the paper was pealed off, I ironed silver ribbon atop it, which sealed the edges up nice and pretty!

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These were then pinned onto the base sleeve I created earlier, and were trimmed again, this time more precisely.

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I sewed around the edges and then gathered it down by hand, I had to use pliers since there were so many layers of material to stitch through!

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This was sewn onto the fitted portion I created earlier, and voila!

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Then I had to make another one…

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All they needed were side seams done up, but being impatient, I pinned them on for a few photos.

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That’s that! Not to shabby, if I do say so myself. Working on this makes I feel like i’ve progressed a lot, even just in the last few months from when I made my red/gold gown. I’m really proud of it so far, and hopefully it will continue on that way!

Thanks for reading! x