An Orange Brocade Dress – Making a 17th Century Costume, Part Two

Welcome to part two of making my Orange Brocade dress, if you missed part one it can be read here. That post ended with a fitting, and binding the arm openings of the bodice. This post will cover everything else – from the sleeves, to the skirt, chemise, and hat! It was originally going to be divided into three posts, but since I’ve been off my blogging game recently I thought you deserved them all at once.

Here is what I ended up with…

And here is how I did it!

Since my fitting was successful, it was time to move onto the sleeves. Like the bodice, I copied the pattern from Norah Waugh’s “The Cut of Women’s Clothes: 1600-1930“*. The pattern is kind of ridiculous, with a bunch of marks that aren’t labeled (seen here). Some markings are for the paned portions, others for knife pleats, gathering, or cartridge pleats. It’s also a lot smaller than I would have expected, being less than 30″ wide.

But this totally worked in my favor since I had barely any material left. After a mock up and a few alterations I cut the sleeves out, and lightly gathered them.

The gathering is only where the paned portions will be. Then there are knife pleats at the lowest portion of the sleeve, which will sit under the arm.

Then I made the paned portion of the sleeves. These are strips of the same brocade, with the ‘wrong’ side facing outward so they appear darker. I turned the edges of these strips inward twice by hand, to prevent fraying. Then embroidered ribbon lace was stitched on by hand to both edges.

There are only 3 panes for each sleeve, which matches Waugh’s pattern. I planned on adding more, but lack of material got in my way once more.

These were sewn onto the sleeves, and completely cover the gathering.

Now it was time for cartridge pleats. You’ll see these on most sleeves from this period and they are glorious. But they usually require a lot of fabric, a thick fabric, or a combination of the two. Otherwise they can look pretty bad. And since my sleeves did not have a lot of material, and are made from a very thin brocade, I had to fake this.

So I cut out facings for the top and bottom edge of the sleeves, made from cotton. Then I marked a line half an inch away from the bottom edge of the facing to indicate seam allowances. And finally, I marked vertical lines every half inch all the way across the facing, except for where the paned detailing is.

Then I cut up pieces of cord (I used 1/4 cord made for upholstery piping that felt almost papery) and sewed a piece onto every. Single. Line.

I hemmed the bottom edge of the facings, then sewed them onto the sleeves with the right sides facing each other. I turned the facing inward and stitched a quarter inch away from the edge to secure it in place.

Then I got out my heavy duty thread and sewed through the facing and top layer of fabric, between each piece of cording. This created the appearance of full cartridge pleats, while only using 1/2″ of fabric and no stiffening!

There are two rows of stitching to secure these, approximately half an inch apart.

I sewed the back edge up with a french seam.

Then made cuffs out of strips of brocade that is backed with ribbon.

The cuffs were sewn on by hand, then covered with embroidered ribbon and the trim I used on the neckline of the bodice. For some reason the cuffs gaped outward at the hem, so I had to hand stitch tiny darts into them. I’m not thrilled with that, but it isn’t obvious unless you get really close up.

The sleeves were pinned in place.

And sewn on with lots of tiny whip stitches.

And that’s about it for the bodice! After another fitting I added a modesty panel, and it was finished.

I’m pretty ecstatic with how this turned out. The fit and the way the materials work together is even better than I had hoped. The skirt didn’t go quite as well, but it all evens out.

The skirt for this project was an adventure. Not because the patterning was difficult – it’s basically rectangles with a sloped top. It’s the waistline that had me stumped. But we’ll get to that later.

Step one was cutting out four 42″ wide panels for the skirt, then sewing them together. This was easier said than done, since I wasn’t sure what petticoats I would be wearing with this, or how much volume the cartridge pleats would provide. So I had to guess the length. But I couldn’t cut the panels too long, since then I wouldn’t have enough fabric for the sleeves. It was stressful!

Once I managed that I sewed the pieces together, with seams at the center front, center back, and sides. The skirt opens from the front, so 10″ of the center front seam was left open.

I also sewed the front seam with a 5″ seam allowance, and with the wrong sides facing each other. Then ironed it open. This causes the darker “wrong” side of the fabric to be visible, and added more contrast after sewing on the trim.

For some reason I don’t have photos of any of those steps, but hopefully you’re still with me!

Next up was the pleating. Much like with the sleeves, I created a “facing” for the top edge of the skirt, which had guidelines marked.

The skirt actually had enough fabric in it to do real cartridge pleats (unlike the sleeves, where I needed to fake it). But the brocade I’m using is very thin, so I would have had to back the fabric with something thicker. And I was worried that would make the pleats stick out too much, creating more of an Elizabethan effect.

So I used cord to pad the pleats. These were cut into one and a half inch lengths.

Then sewn onto the cotton facing, and pinned to the top edge of the skirt.

I turned the facing inward to hide the raw edge, and it was ready for pleating!

After doing half the skirt, it became very clear to me that the cords were wayy too close together. The skirt would have had a waist of 60″ if I kept going!

So I started over and used a seam ripper to remove every other piece of cord.

When I resewed it the pleats were a lot deeper, and the waistline was much smaller.

Now it was time to add the waistband…that seems easy, right?

For most skirts from most periods, it would be.  But 17th century waistbands are a mystery to me because they don’t seem to exist. 

It’s a known fact that most bodices from this period had tabs to prevent the heavily boned bodices from digging into the wearers waist. Which means to cover the tabs, the skirt needs to go over the bodice. Except the waistband for the skirt isn’t visible in any. Of. These. Paintings.

Also – the point at the front of these bodices are visible in every. Single. Painting. Which means the skirt is worn over the tabs, and under the front of the bodice.

You may be thinking that an easy solution is sewing the skirt to the bodice, and having it close down the back. But that interrupts the cartridge pleats and destroys the shape of the skirt.

In this extant garment a small waistband is shown, and after many hours of frustrated searching without finding a better alternative, I decided to go with it. So my waistband is made from strips of brocade that were reinforced with interfacing and folded like double fold bias tape. The skirt was sewn to it by hand, with upholstery thread.

I actually used upholstery thread to do the pleating too, since it’s less likely to break under strain.

Here it is!

And from the interior.

I left the front of the waistband un sewn, since unlike the majority of the skirt, the front ten inches are not gathered. Instead they are left flat, and help create the smooth front, large rump effect that was popular in the mid 1600s (and continued to grow in popularity in the 1700s!).

Here you can see it in it’s current state on my dress form.

I realized that the waistline needed to be lower at the front so it could tuck under the bodice, so I cut several inches off.

Then I tried the skirt on and marked the hem. The skirt is hemmed symmetrically, but not evenly, since it was longer in some places than others, and I couldn’t predict the correct length when cutting the panels since I wasn’t sure how much volume the cartridge pleats would provide.

(The more volume a skirt has, the farther it will flare out, and the longer it needs to be)

And now it was time for sewing on the trim. I used seven yards of embroidered mesh lace that I bought on etsy. This was hand sewn on with two rows of stitching – one on either edge.

As you can see, down the center front (where the interior fabric was turned outward) the trim stands out more.

And on the hem it’s a bit more subdued.

Annoyingly, I was 4″ short of trim. Which left this gap at the back. I didn’t want to buy more trim, since it was only sold in 7 yard lengths, and took several weeks to arrive (at this point I planned on finishing this costume much earlier). My fix for this was sewing the narrower trim down the center back, which covers where the wider trim ends. There is still a gap, but it looks more intentional.

Then I sewed the remaining bit of the waistband onto the skirt, treating it like double fold bias tape.

The final few things to do where redoing things I had already marked as being finished. These things weren’t difficult, but they definitely weren’t fun. So I put them off for two months and only revisited this project earlier in the week.

(oops)

Thing one was tacking down fusible interfacing I had ironed to the center of the skirt to keep it smooth. It had started to pull away from the fabric and refused to stick.

It went from this:

To this! Much better.

I also had a problem with the waistband gaping where the cartridge pleats started. This was fixed with a little knife pleat that I tacked down by hand.

As far as closures go, the waistband attaches to the bodice with a hook and bar on either side. The bar is placed just above where the tabs end.

The slit closes with snaps. Half the snaps are actually sewn to a modesty panel, so the front of the skirt doesn’t overlap.

And that’s IT! After many weeks of work, and a lot of procrastination, this dress is finished! And I love it so much.

The only fault I have with it (aside from the gab in the trim) is that it could have used an extra half inch in the waist, since it’s hard to get the back to close completely when lacing it myself. But it does lace all the way closed if I put the effort in (which I didn’t for these photos…)

This dress will be worn with two accessories. The first is the chemise, which shows slightly at the neckline and underneath the sleeves.

For this I used two yards of sequin mesh – which looks beautiful, but those sequins are like little knives once you have the pressure of the bodice overtop…so I regret that.

 I also didn’t have enough fabric to make this the way I wanted. Or any trim that matched it. I regret that too.

I used the dress pattern as a base for the arm openings and neckline, I just made the bodice much bigger and longer so I could get it over my head.

I also used the sleeve pattern as a base – I just cut it to be more narrow.

After gathering the sleeves I sewed them to a gathered strip of lace, which had more of the sequin mesh sewn onto the hem. I’d originally planned on doing all of this out of sequin mesh, before I realized I didn’t have enough fabric.

The body of the chemise was originally made from two pieces of fabric, but it was comically small. I ended up using what little fabric I had left to form a gusset at the front – this looks really funny, but made it wearable, which was nice!

The top edge is trimmed with the scalloped edge of the fabric.  I hand stitched the seam allowance down to form a channel.

Then I threaded two strands of ribbon through the channel to create a drawstring effect – allowing me to lower or raise the neckline so it matches the neckline of the dress.

I sewed the sleeves on, and it was done! It came together in a few hours and looks quite nice underneath the dress.

The final accessory is a hat. As I said in my first post about this project, the inspiration is this painting. I bought a yard of blue stretch velvet for the hat, along with some bright orange feathers.

I made the base out of felt weight interfacing, with wire sewn into the edges. The brim was lined with brocade, then covered in velvet. The top portion was covered with velvet, then lined with cotton and sewn together.

I bound the brim with gold brocade, and covered the stitching with orange and gold sequins.

I sewed the pieces together and covered the join point with some braided gold cord.

I trimmed it with a gold bow and the feathers. I originally wanted to add flowers, but it ended up looking messy.

With the hat done, this project as a whole is done!

Though there are things I would change if I could, I’m really pleased with this project. I love the dress and the trims and the hat – and even the chemise, with it’s mismatched lace. I’m already brainstorming another (slightly less elaborate) 17th century project. But I may hold off for a couple months.

Thanks for reading – I hope you enjoyed! And hopefully I will be able to photograph this soon.

 

Advertisements

An Orange Brocade Dress – Making a 17th Century Costume, Part One

It’s taken me longer than I had hoped, but I’m finally back with a “Making of” post! And it focuses on a project I’m really excited about: a seventeenth century ensemble.

I’ve wanted to make something from this period for a long time. It’s not a popular period for historical re-creation, but I’ve been attracted to it since I first started researching historical fashion. The high waists, bright silks, full sleeves, and jeweled decorations really appealed to me. And now that I know more about fashion from the 1500s and 1700s, I find the mid 1600s even more interesting since they are so drastically different than what came before them.

It’s also the period depicted in most of of Rembrandt and Peter Paul Rubens work, who are some of my favorite artists.

Despite my interest in the era, I haven’t completed a costume from the mid 1600’s. I’ve made some attempts, and even gotten pretty far! But bad fabric choices, fit issues, and poorly thought out designs have led to failure every time.

But this time I was determined. And luckily things went a lot better.

My previous attempts were based on simpler dresses that were free of decoration.  I’d still like to complete a dress of that style some day, but I thought success would be more likely if I went in a different direction.

Then I came across this painting and fell in love. I don’t like the mask, but textures, print, colors, and details really drew me in. I love the sheen on the dress, and how much depth it has. The amount of trim on it, and the paned sleeves looked like they would be a lot of fun to recreate. And I adore the hat, it helps balance out the proportions of the sleeves and skirt.

I couldn’t find a fabric deep enough in tone to match the painting, but I did find a lovely peach/orange/gold brocade in my price range. It’s from Fabric Express in NYC and cost $6/yd. I purchased eight yards but barely had enough material left to cut out the sleeves, so I should have bought more.

The trims are all from etsy. Seven yards of wide embroidered mesh trim (from HARMONYDIYLIFE), twenty yards of metallic embroidered mesh trim (from lacetrimwholesalers), and four yards of braided trim (from ddideas). I spent less than thirty dollars for the lot of them, and really lucked out in terms of color. They match the brocade perfectly. 

Once my materials were sorted, I did a bit more research and came up with a complete design (since the painting that inspired me only shows the top half of the bodice). I mostly used references from In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion*, which has some great images of paintings and extant garments from the period. This ensemble was also helpful to me (especially for the skirt), since it’s more complete than a lot of seventeenth century examples.

The Dreamstress and Before the Automobile have made dresses from this period, and I found their write ups helpful in terms of understanding the construction.

When it came to the pattern I discovered two in my collection – one in Patterns of Fashion*, by Janet Arnold, and another in The Cut of Women’s Clothes* by Norah Waugh. I ended up using the pattern from Norah Waugh’s book, with a few alterations.

I used a trick mentioned in one of the blog posts linked above, and fitted my first mock up over 18th century stays.  I lowered the neckline, let out the waist, lowered the waistline, and made the front piece longer. I debated about cutting the front and sides as a single piece, but decided assembly would be easier with them separate, so that’s what I did!

Then I made the base layer. Which is effectively fully boned stays – there is so much boning in them. The channels were all marked onto cotton, then backed with medium weight twill and sewn by machine. I used plastic quarter inch boning to fill them, then assembled the bodice.

I did a fitting here, and realized the bodice was too big! Well, too big might be a stretch. but it wasn’t giving me the shape I wanted, so I removed a half inch of material from the side panels.

Then I cut out the top layer from the brocade which was backed with fusible interfacing. I wanted to avoid the bodice being thick, or heavy, but I also wanted the top fabric to be thick enough to hide the boning. I haven’t had any problems with that, so I’m glad I decided to interface it.

Lace was sewn into the seams (which were stitched by hand) and in a straight line on the back edge.

Lace was also sewn onto the front panels. A lot of lace. Three rows of embroidered mesh ribbon, with the wider embroidered trim near the neckline. I also cut out brocade strips from the “wrong side” of the fabric, sewed those down, and covered the edges with lace. This added more depth to the front of the bodice.

I basted the center front seam first, just to make sure everything lined up. Then sewed it by machine.

Then the side seams were sewn.

I pinned the top layer of fabric to the base layer. The tabs and neckline were cut without seam allowances, so I whip stitched the edges together. But the back edges, and the bottom edge of the front panel were folded over the base layer, then sewn down.

Now it was time to bind the tabs. I hate binding tabs. I always do a really terrible job – and that’s when working with lightweight cottons! I figured binding brocade would be impossible. Since I was already prepared for them to look bad, I decided to try a new technique and used half inch wide strips of leather.

(The Dreamstress did this for her 1660’s piece as well)

Both the top, and bottom edge were sewn by hand. I don’t think the end result looks great. But I liked doing it all by hand, and the leather curved around the edges better than I had expected. I also liked being able to snip the underside without worrying about fraying.

The underside.

And a close up. I cut the strips from a skin I bought on ebay a while back. I don’t think it was quite as soft/thin as the kid leather that is usually used for this, but it was easy to get a needle through. And my sewing room smelled like leather for days!

Next up was the lining – cut from two pieces of cotton and sewed together at the center front. There weren’t any raw edges on the tabs, so I didn’t bother lining them.

The lining was whip stitched to the base layer.

Then I sewed all the eyelets! It was a bad week for my fingers between these and the tabs, but the embroidery floss I bought matches the fabric really well and I’m happy with how they look.

And the lined interior. The back edge of the lining was sewn after I finished the eyelets so it would cover the loose threads.

I also fray checked the back of every eyelet, since brocade is prone to fraying.

Now I had something that looked like this!

I sewed the shoulder seam, then did a fitting. Which went surprisingly well. The waist is a little tight, but there isn’t any gaping in the back. And it fits my shoulders nicely.

I was even happy with the neckline!

I finished the bodice off with more binding. I used quarter inch wide gold bias tape for the neckline, and half inch wide bias tape in matching brocade to finish the armscye.

And that’s it for this post!

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed! I should be back with another one soon.

Part two of this post can be read here.