Making & Wearing a 1950’s Swing Coat

Usually I start the year off with a wrap up showing the previous years projects and my thoughts on them. But I’m not particularly happy with how 2017 went, and I’d rather move forward with new things than write about my previous work.

So today’s post is going to focus on my first project of 2018: A 1950’s ensemble. This project was inspired by the glorious mid century costumes used in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “The Crown”.

(both of which are wonderful shows if you are looking for something new to watch!)

Mrs. Maisel featured a lot of very vibrant pieces, with outfit changes between almost every scene. I was especially fond of her oversized coats, and it seemed like an appropriate season to sew one for myself!

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I didn’t have anything in my stash that would work, and most wools I found online were outside of my price range. But I ended up lucking out and finding a 5 yard cut of bright green textured wool from Fabric Warehouse that was $50. Score!

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I did a lot of pinterest browsing prior to draping this, but nothing really sparked my interest. I wanted this to be styled after swing coats, with tons of volume. But I also wanted to have it be functional, with a collar and buttons as opposed to an open front. To make it harder,  most of the wintery “swing coats” I found were lacking the dramatic silhouette I wanted.

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I had a few ideas sketched out but created most of the design elements while draping. Which was also a challenge – I’m not entirely comfortable draping loose garments, since there isn’t as much of a guide to go off of when it comes to fit. It was also difficult to imagine the design made out of the thick wool when I was draping it from flannel.

I ended up with this, which surprisingly turned into a passable mockup. So I transferred it to paper and decided to go for it! I figured worse case scenario the panels would be wide enough I could make changes as I went.

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I focused on the back panel first, since it has the most volume.

It’s made from four pieces – two that meet at the center back, with one gored panel on either side. The pieces were sewn together with one inch seam allowances, then topstitched down. I didn’t worry too much about raw edges since this wool doesn’t fray.

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Then the back panels were pleated. I topstitched the top 12 inches of the pleats down to create a slimmer shape around the torso.

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Another view – the stitching isn’t perfect but this was very difficult to manipulate through the sewing machine, so cut me some slack!

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Then I cut out the sleeves…which were also upper portion of the back panel. The sleeves are raglan style, so these pieces were connected.

I stitched three quarters of an inch away from the bottom edge to create a guide for turning the edge inward.

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And here it is pinned on. I topstitched this in place by machine.

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The front panels are much narrower, and shaped with darts above the bust. I topstitched the upper portion / sleeves onto these pieces as well.

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Even though the edges of the wool don’t fray, the interior of the upper portion was looking pretty messy, so I lined it with a colorful cotton sateen. green coat (16 of 45)

Now it was time for the buttonholes. I chose to do welted buttonholes since I like how professional they look. I was a little worried the material would be too thick to pull them off, but it totally worked!

This was actually my first time using this technique on a garment so I didn’t take many pictures of the process, but there are a lot of tutorials out there if you’re curious.

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I turned the front edges inward and lined them with more cotton sateen. The lining around the buttonholes got a bit messy – I should have marked the cutout placement on the fabric instead of doing it by eye.

But no one will see that since I only photographed the other side!

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The front lining was secured with a cross stitch, and I hand stitched across the center front edge with a running stitch.

Then I sewed on buttons, which are very simple, but MASSIVE. I originally wanted to use vintage buttons on this, but they were all too expensive. So I purchased these from here instead.

I think this was a good call – not only were they cheaper, the more elaborate vintage buttons might have been a bit too much for this design.

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Now the shoulder seams and side seams were done up…only for me to find out the jacket was too big. I cut a good two inches of width out of the underarm, then redid the seams. This looked way better.

At this point I was trying to figure out the cuffs. I originally wanted them to flare out and reveal the lining. But the edges were really bulky and I thought the visible splash of pink made the coat less versatile. So I cut four inches off the sleeves and sewed on rectangular cuffs made from a scrap of green wool instead.

This looked so much better, I’m thrilled I made the change.

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Now for the collar! This was made from a layer of wool and a layer of cotton sateen for lining.

I made a mockup for this at the beginning of  the project, but decided to do another test before cutting it from wool. This was another good call! After a few minor changes to the pattern the proportions of the collar were way better.

I sewed it onto the neckline by hand, then flipped it out and pinned the edges while it was on my dress form. I’m not sure how I came to the idea (because it looked fine before I did this) but I decided to pleat the front of the collar. This added more shape and a really unique detail – so I decided to go with it!

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The collar was tacked in place, and that’s it for the jacket!

I did also make a hat to go with this – I didn’t document the process very well, but I’ll do a pillbox hat tutorial in the future. It was basically a rectangle and oval cut from heavy weight interfacing, with wire in the edges and cotton sateen lining.

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I padded the top and edges heavily, then pinned an oval of coating on the top. Then I pulled a loop of coating over the sides,  and whip stitched around it. The bottom edge of the coating was whip stitched to the lining, and a comb was pinned into it prior to wearing. Easy peasy!

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I did also make a dress to go with this. But at this point I was focusing on filming the process (that video can be seen HERE) so I neglected to photograph most of the steps.

The dress was supposed to be a simple number made from a bright pink cotton suiting which was shown in the material picture at the top of this post. But after washing that fabric it felt like cheap, stiff, thick, bedsheets – not really what I wanted. I also wanted to wear black and white shoes with this ensemble and knew that wouldn’t match.

After another pinterest browsing spree I decided to make a fitted bodice with a sheer pleated overlay and full skirt.

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Here is the mock up – this was intended to be the base layer. The pleated layer would be made from rectangles that were draped, gathered, and trimmed overtop.

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Mockup number one looked okay.

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But when I did some tests with my fabric, I realized the sheer fabric I wanted use crinkled up when it became wet. It’s a cool effect, but not for the structured pleats I wanted. It also ruined the dresses washability…so I decided to use the cotton on its own.

This meant I had to pleat down rectangles then kind of cut them to the shape of the pattern pieces…but not entirely, since then the pleats wouldn’t be straight. It was all less than ideal but looked okay in the end.

The pleats are half inch wide knife pleats which I topstitched down a quarter inch away from the edge.

There is also a facing that flips outward to create a decorative collar detail, which is what you see here.

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My original button plan had to be scrapped since they were ivory and clashed with the white cotton. But this meant I could use these bright vintage ones I bought in PA earlier in the year! I got these for $1 a card which I was pretty happy about.

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Buttons on, buttonholes done. I realize now the buttonholes were too close to the edge because I did my math wrong. So I need to be more careful about that next time..but it still looks okay!

At this point I did a fitting and removed a huge wedge from the side seam. I also shaped the bodice with a dart/pleat instead of the originally planned gathering. Though this was a thin cotton, it looked to bulky when I attempted that.

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The seams were done up with french seams. I also drafted a quick sleeve pattern and got that sewn on. I wasn’t kidding about the lack of progress pictures, this is the next one I took!

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One of my favorite bits about this is a little placket (?) / tab (?) thing that I added. This extends out from the neckline and hooks on to the second button. It looks cute on its own, and even cuter with a bow threaded through it!

This bow was made from a floral fabric I got at jo-anns. The bow was made from triangles, instead of rectangles, which gave it an interesting shape.

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The skirt was made from my remaining fabric – I tore it into two 30″ x 72″ pieces, then sewed them together with a french seam. The front was folded inward several times until the material was thick enough to sew button holes into.

(the bottom 12″ or so of the front skirt panels were topstitched shut as opposed to seamed)

I did a massive 4″ hem on this skirt, then gathered down the top by machine. The pieces were sewn together at the waist, and I bound the edge with bias tape.

And that was pretty much it! A few more buttons were added and its done. Not quite what I originally envisioned, but I like the end result.

It’s slightly long waisted and the buttons are too far over, but for $16 of material and less than two days work I think it is okay!

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And with the coat (which is the real stunner, in my opinion)

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Now for the finished “look”! Modern pieces are so much more fun when it comes to makeup and accessories.

I tried curling my hair outward to get that Mrs. Maisel flip, but it was sort of a fail – I think my hair is too long. Regardless, I like how it looked, and it held up to the crazy winds we had when photographing this piece.

My lip color is Dusty Rose from Besame, and everything else is pretty much identical to what I show in this video (I go through my hair styling process in that, too).

The earrings were my moms and perfectly match the buttons on the dress!

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The belt was vintage from the etsy seller TwinFoxVintage. And the shoes are from Royal Vintage*.

I want to talk about these shoes for a second, because visually they are probably my favorite pair I own. Black and white spectator pumps* are such a classic, and these are beautifully made. They really cup the foot and have sturdy padding in the soles.

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I know sometimes with cheap shoes (of which I own plenty) your foot pops out regardless of size since they aren’t shaped properly. That definitely isn’t a problem here.

I didn’t have any issues with grip when wearing them and the heel height is perfect. They are really flattering on the foot too, and creasing/wear on the leather has been minimal so far. I would definitely order more from the brand in the future with this in mind. (They’ve been teasing spring releases on instagram and I’m already excited).

BUT

They don’t fit me. The site advertises them as running large, so despite being a solid 10 I bought a 9.5. The right shoe actually fits me well, but the left shoe is…evil. It felt okay when I wore it around the house, just a little tight, but I was confident the leather would stretch. I also thought a size up might be too big for my right foot.

I WAS SO NAIVE.

After wearing them…Well, I’d share a picture but it’s not safe for work. It gave me blisters that bled through my sock after 20 minutes of wear. And I was in a situation where I had to wear them for hours. By the end of the day it was pretty horrifying. I refused to wear hard shelled shoes for the following two weeks.

I don’t think this is the shoes fault, just the sizing instructions. If I bought a 10 I would have been fine, but by the time I realized it wasn’t fine, the shoes had marks on their soles and couldn’t be returned.

I’ve been trying to stretch them with crumpled paper and it’s helped a lot, but I think the wearing in process is going to be long and hard for me. It sucks because if these did fit, I think they would probably be my most comfortable pair of heels based on what I mentioned above.

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So next time I’ll order my normal size (or maybe a size up). And do an indoor wear test for a lot longer to ensure they fit before wrecking my ability to return them!

As for foundations, the petticoat is from modcloth (it’s their longer one, but I really don’t like it and wouldn’t recommend it). The stockings have proper seams in them and were purchased from sockdreams, but are by the brand leg avenue. I ordered the plus sized option since I’m tall and they fit great!

This was also worn with a longline bra from the 50’s which I got on ebay.

Now for pictures!

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And that’s it! First project of the new year done. Now onto something new!

Thanks for reading!

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1918 Ensemble, Dressing for Downton

Today I’m dipping my toes into 1918, and the wonderful fashions it has to offer.

I actually researched this period quite heavily earlier in the year when I was pursuing a design job for something set in the early 20’s. The job didn’t work out, and it left me a little bitter towards the era. But this weekend my mom and I booked tickets to the Downton Abbey Exhibition and I thought it would be fun to wear an understated period costume to the event.

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The late nineteens are a perfect period for casual historical dress since the silhouette (though more modest than what is fashionable now) wasn’t dramatic like the early 1910’s, or the later 1920’s. Though corsets would have still been worn during this period, waistlines were starting to widen and you can get away without one. Perfect since I would have to wear this for four hours of public transit!

(it was also 2 days after Thanksgiving so a corset would not have been welcome regardless of the wear time…)

I based this ensemble mostly off of two ads: This one for the blouse, and this one for the skirt. I also made a coat to wear over it, which was based on ones from a winter Sears catalogue.

I had all the materials for this on hand, and made it over a 4 day period (some of those were half days with Thanksgiving and all). I’m really pleased with the end result and this may motivate me to make more vintage themed clothing to wear on a regular basis!

I started with the first piece: the camisole.

I draped this on my dress form. Getting the right amount of flounce at the hem to create the proper silhouette was probably the most difficult part.

This is it transferred to paper.

The body of the camisole is made from silk charmeuse. This particular cut was *very* off color, so one side is more yellow than the other, but it’s only really noticeable at the back.

I sewed a strip of wide cotton lace into the center (backed with more charmeuse) to serve as the statement of this blouse.

I’m not sure when this lace is from, but it came from a collection that included pieces from 1910. Based on the design and weight I would not be surprised if this lace was also from that period. I outlined it with some zig-zag edging to add a bit more texture.

The collar of the camisole is also charmeuse, but I backed it with fusible interfacing. Then I stitched a half inch away from each edge, and used that as a guide when turning the edges inward.

It was pinned to the top edge of the camisole, with the right side facing the wrong side. Once turned the right way out all the raw edges will be hidden!

Then I topstitched the bottom edge down.

The bottom edge was gathered slightly at the front and sewn to an interfaced waistband.

The final addition were straps, made from bias cut strips sewn into tubes.

The back closes with three glass buttons. This is the first time I’ve done functional button holes in…3 years? Maybe longer?

I finally bought a home sewing machine, which though slower than my industrial, has some stitches and features that I’ve missed! The automatic buttonhole is one of those things.

It is a SINGER 4423 Heavy Duty *, if you were wondering. I go more in depth about it (and all my sewing machines) in this video.

I used the camisole as a base for draping my next pattern: the blouse. I believe these pieces would have been combined in the 20’s, with a closure hidden on one side. But I thought making them separate would make the pieces more versatile. And the camisole also provides enough coverage that I didn’t need to wear a slip over my bra.

Here is the pattern I ended up with. It’s shaped by pleats below the shoulder with a drawstring waistband.

I cut all the pieces out from a thin, crisp, silk shirting. This fabric was a dream to work with – I’ve never had something make french seams easier!

I didn’t take a lot of progress pictures for this, since it came together in a single evening. But here you can see the main pieces assembled. All the edges were finished by machine with rolled 1/4″ hems. Seams were flat felled, or finished with lace binding. And the bottom edge was turned inward to create a channel for ribbon.

I tried to draft the sleeve pattern for this the historical way, but I got confused and made it up instead. This worked surprisingly well! Fit the armscye perfectly on my first try. I just had to adjust the length and width a little.

The cuffs were gathered by machine.

Then sewn onto the cuffs. The raw edges were bound with lace binding. I wanted to add button closures but didn’t get the buttons (or know what size they would be) until the day before wearing this piece, so I used hooks instead.

The sleeves were sewn on by machine, then the raw edge was bound.

I also made the collar. This was assembled from a layer of the checked silk, which was backed with interfacing, and a layer of silk charmeuse, which was supposed to be lining. I sewed the layers together with the wrong sides facing each other, then topstitched around the edge.

It looked great! Until my iron smeared burned goop all over the corners of the checked side. I couldn’t get it off, and I didn’t have a lot of fabric left…so I made the charmeuse side face out instead. I actually really like the contrast of this, so it was a happy accident. But it means the topstitching looks a little sloppy since it was originally done on the other side.

I sewed the collar on by machine, then tacked it down a half inch away from the edge to keep it in place. The final touch were silk covered 3/4″ buttons. Three on either side of the bodice, and two on each cuff.

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I also added a snap just above the top button to secure it to the camisole.

And the back! I didn’t expect to love this as much as I do, but I’m really happy with it. It’s delicate yet structured and so different from anything I’ve done before.

I usually shy away from thin or slippery fabrics, unless I’m using them as an overlay. But making a tailored piece out of them was surprisingly easy and fun – I think this will motivate me to branch out more with my fabric choices.

Unfortunately the skirt didn’t go as well. At all. My first attempt was made from a beautiful wool, but the finished skirt looked awful. It had a wide, rounded waistband that made me look so heavy.

There was also way too much fabric, and it drooped at the seams. It was supposed to have pockets, which I tried making out of a contrasting wool, but then there was way too much contrast. So I remade them from matching fabric and it looked even worse! The whole thing was an unsalvageable mess.

Attempt number two was made in three hours from a purple chevron fabric I got from the plaiditudes collection at Jo-anns. I draped the skirt design on my dress form, then used the muslin as a pattern, adding seam allowances by eye. It was SO messy, but the end result turned out a million times better than my first attempt.

This skirt has way less volume, and has pleats in the back instead of gathers. The waistband is still wide, but it’s straight which is a lot more flattering. And there is decorative seaming down the front instead of pockets.

It’s not my best work, but it fit, and it looked pretty good!

I think the same can be said about the jacket. This piece was actually drafted, partially assembled, and completely cut out over a year ago – I even made a video about it. I planned on this being my winter coat for 2016, but after buying a glorious winter coat from J-Crew I lost interest.

The jacket also had some issues I wasn’t happy with. I ran low on material so I couldn’t make the skirt as wide or long as I wanted (it actually has plenty of volume, so I’m sort of glad for that now). I also had to ignore the grain line on some pieces, and didn’t have enough left for a matching hat which I was originally really excited about.

Plus the topstitching on this jacket was plagued with problems. It kept skipping stitches, which meant I had to sew over them again, leaving backstitch marks. This was made worse by my plan to use contrasting stitching during construction.

Even though this was only a year ago, I’ve learned a lot about my machine since then and working with heavier fabrics in general. Unfortunately that helps me moving forward, not with the issues this jacket already had. To fix the topstitching I would have had to completely disassemble the bodice and remove it all by hand. And that still wouldn’t resolve the grain line or length issues.

But I already had a lot done. So I decided to take a half day and get it finished, fully knowing that it was impossible to make it perfect given its other issues.

Finishing it included:

Figuring out which pieces went together

Figuring out wtf I was thinking with the pocket design (the required topstitching would have sewn them shut..)

Sewing the entire bottom half together

Hemming it

Sewing the cuffs on

Attaching / lining sleeves

Attaching bottom half

Lining the waistband

Sewing in closures

Tacking the collar

Sewing on buttons

…in less than a day.

Surprisingly, it turned out okay! I’m not going to share close ups since the finishing isn’t great at all. The interior skirt seams were left raw, and the topstitching  got a little messy at points. But it’s finished, and I love the shape and design of it. Hopefully I can reuse the pattern for a similar jacket, made to my current standards.

It’s a little wrinkly from yesterday.

And that is it! Four pieces in four days. All together I think they looked lovely. And it was surprisingly comfy and weather appropriate!

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I accessorized the ensemble with a pair of Katie & Kelly shoes (these were like $12 on clearance at DSW last year) and the Authentically Academic bag from Modcloth. I had gloves from the 40’s with me too, along with a 50’s themed pair of Quay sunglasses…so it was a little all over the place, but very retro.

For my hair I slept with a mixture of 3/4″ and 1″ curlers in, all wound inward towards my face. In the morning I brushed them out, then tucked the ends under and pinned them to the base of my scalp.

Sort of how you would do a faux bob, but the volume from the curls makes it look more like a fancy up do. I teased my bangs a bit and pinned them to the side. Then sprayed my hands with hairspray and used them to smooth and flatten the top before setting it with a heavy misting. It’s probably more of a 40’s style than 1918, but I felt it looked passable.

Any loose bits are probably from me trying to adjust bobby pins after putting the blouse on and getting the buttons caught in it. That happened several times.

That is it for today! Thanks for reading!

My next post will be about the exhibit itself!

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 18th Century Accessories + Shoe Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now for the wear test!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

Making 18th Century Jumps – And how they look worn!

Today’s post focuses on a project that I did a terrible job of documenting (to be honest, that’s been most of my projects recently). It was also completed more than three months ago, and in progress long before that. So even if I did have a lot of photos of making it, the details are a little fuzzy in my eyes.

The reason this was so poorly documented photo wise is because I filmed the whole process. And up until last month I only had one camera, which didn’t let me take photos without disrupting the filming process.

This is bad news for those of you who like written descriptions, but if you are more of a visual learner the videos showing all the steps can be found on my youtube channel (here for the jumps, and here for the skirt) or down below depending on your email settings.

Now what is this project? It’s my second adventure into casual 18th century costumes. If you read my posts about making this dress than you may be familiar with my fascination towards what was considered casual hundreds of years ago.

Even though that dress was considered “Undress” it still required getting into stays and I felt awfully formal when wearing it. I wanted to stick to the same undress theme but make something that looked and felt different.

Unsurprisingly I found inspiration in Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century*, specifically this ensemble that consists of silk jumps and a matching skirt.

(this definitely contributed to the shaping too)

While researching that I came across a blog post (which I’m so mad that I can’t find again – I think it may have been on the American Duchess blog) that talked about French fashion being considerable more casual in the 1700’s than most of Europe. With an emphasis on practically in dress (so, not skirts so long you would trip over them).

I had also been seeing ads everywhere for the live action Beauty in the Beast movie, which got me thinking about what a historically accurate version of the famous blue dress would look like.

With enthusiasm coming from those discoveries (and dozens of fashion plates) I got to work!

I started by draping the jumps. For those unfamiliar with these garments, they were a support garment most often worn by working class woman. They are conical shaped down to the waist, but usually flared out beyond that point so they could be worn over skirts.Their structure comes from layers of fabric quilted together rather than boning. This makes them a lot more comfortable than stays, while still providing some shaping of the torso.

Here is the front of my draped jumps – this was tricky since I’m draping over a dress form made from hard foam. When the garment is actually worn my body (especially my bust) will compress to be a different shape.

If you don’t have a dress form, or find this hard do bypass, I think you could get away with altering a 18th century riding coat pattern. The shape and structure of this is similar, it just sits higher on the shoulder and has a smaller skirt.

The side…

And the back. I draped this over the appropriate petticoats to make sure there was enough volume in the tabs.

I traced the pattern onto paper, then made the necessary alterations so it had more of a conical shape, and added seam allowances. After a quick mock up I moved onto the final garment!

I cut all the pieces out from the top layer of fabric (a home decor material from Jo-anns), a cotton for lining, and quilt batting.

The first step was marking lines for the quilting onto the lining. These are diagonal across the pieces and a half inch apart. All the lines line up at the seams to create a subtle chevron effect (which was probably more trouble than it was worth).

The quilt batting in sandwiched between the lining and the home decor material. I trimmed the quilt batting so it didn’t extend into the side seams, then got to sewing!

The first two panels done – I used a pale blue thread and longer than average stitch length. These panels were my test, so after it worked I repeated the process with the front and back pieces.

The rest of the lining cut out and marked. You may notice that the only seam allowance is in the side seams. The rest of the edges will be bound with binding, like stays.

All sandwiched together!

Quilted and stitched together!

Now here is my major regret – I hand stitched the seam allowance down, and hand sewed boning channels into the interior of this to add more support. I don’t regret adding these channels, but hand sewing them was a terrible idea. It was so slow and not nearly as sturdy or clean as I would like.

If I made this again I would make another lining layer from lightweight cotton, add the boning, then sew it to the interior of the quilted bodice before attaching the binding. It would be a lot faster, shouldn’t add too much bulk, and would look so much better!

Now for the binding. I’ve mentioned my hatred for binding concave curves many times, and that still runs strong. It was made a lot worse on this project because of fabric choice.

I choose to use this polyester suiting I bought many years ago (if you’ve been around since my Napoleon costume, this is the scraps from that!), since it was the best match for the floral design. This frayed so much, and seemed to pucker rather than stretch, even though it was cut on the bias. 

I machine stitched one side, then turned it inward and whip stitched the other side to the lining. It isn’t very even since parts frayed away to nothing before I could sew them, but from a distance it looks okay(ish)!

To make the curves look a little bit better I blanket stitched around them with embroidery floss.

Then I sewed eyelets into the front. I assumed since this fabric was quilted it would be thick enough to hold the eyelets. I was wrong – they haven’t torn out, but they are really warped after a single wear. Definitely should have added canvas to the front few inches to avoid this.

I also bound the arm openings.


And that is it! Overall I think they are pretty, just a couple of things I would do differently next time. And there will probably be a next time, since I really like the shape and functionality of this garment and am itching to make another! Maybe out of maroon and gold jacquard? With a shantung skirt.

Speaking of the skirt, I literally have no photos of it or the construction process. It has three panels (two in the back, one in the front) and a pleated waistband with side closures. The hem is straight, with the length adjusted at the waist. But the hem didn’t end up being that level, since the weight of the additional fabric in the back flattened my petticoat and made it appear several inches longer than the front.

Speaking of petticoats: I used an ample bum pad with the cotton/tulle petticoat overtop. The tulle was pinned up quickly before photographing this, which is the reason for any skirt lumps. This skirt fabric was a lot thinner (but also weirdly heavier) than I had expected and would have suited a quilted petticoat much better.

The shoes are, as per usual the Funtasma Victorian-03* (I’m looking into getting a more 18th Century appropriate pair soon, I swear!). I used my real hair with a few feathers and fake flowers stuck in it.

I made the chemise from some fabric I had around. And the apron is from what I had leftover. It’s two rectangles of fabric with curved tips, and a lace overlay. I gathered the top and used lace to bind the edge and form the ties.

Overall I like this ensemble. Especially the fit of the jumps. I think from a distance it’s really lovely, but I want to remake it with different materials and a slightly different construction strategy!

Here are the photos of it worn:

(Fun fact these were taken next to a busy street on the weekend before July 4th. Everyone was staring. The fence was also infested with caterpillars, which I didn’t realize before putting my hand on it. I really don’t like caterpillars and was not happy)

That’s it for this one! Thank you for reading!

Making a Rapunzel Inspired 1820’s Dress, Part One

Surprise! I’m back!

I realize it’s been a very long time since I’ve posted anything. It wasn’t my intention to be away for so long, and I don’t have a reason for the lack of updates. It just wasn’t something I was enthusiastic about doing and my last few projects weren’t documented particularly well. But I have been sewing, and I plan on doing a Progress Report soon to update you on all my WIPs and recently finished things.

But in the mean time I want to post about something I started approximately 12 hours ago. I’ve been working on a relatively elaborate 18th century piece for the last little while, but injured my wrist last week which makes lacing the stays and doing fittings very difficult.

So I decided to make something new this week. I wanted this to be something I could make quickly, not have to buy anything for, and could be worn over foundation garments I can currently get into. I also didn’t want to waste an expensive cut of silk or brocade since my “quick” projects aren’t always very well made.

In the end  I was loosely inspired by this painting and used this piece as my main reference for the dress design. I also took some inspiration from my favorite disney princess film Tangled – at least in terms of color scheme and period. For those unfamiliar with the film, Rapunzel wears light purple gowns   for both of her outfits, and her family crest is a golden sun.

A while back I bought satin and a *stunning* glitter embossed mesh because it reminded me so much of her design. And this seemed like the perfect time to use it! The film is also supposed to take place in the first third of the 19th century, so with the 1820’s references I guess you could say this is my more historically accurate take on her ensemble.

(but obviously glitter mesh isn’t quite historically accurate)

This material was from Hamed Fabrics in NYC, and was $8/yd. The glitter application and print actually reminds me a lot of the fabric used for the live action Belle dress (but prettier, in my opinion).

I’d also like to incorporate this brooch which I bought for a dollar at an antique market.

As per usual, my first step was draping the pattern. I did this out of cotton on my pinable form.  

Nothing very special about the design, though the neckline was kind of tricky. Very low and almost off the shoulder, but not quite! I drafted the back normally (rather than the exaggerated seaming seen in 1810 and the 1830s) with a separate shoulder strap.

Then I transferred everything to paper and cut out a mock up. This fit surprisingly well! The straps and bust were a little loose, but that’s an easy fix. I also ended up adding a half inch to the neckline since I thought it would be a little low after seam allowances if I left it as it was!

I dove right into cutting out the bodice. Everything was cut from once from satin (the top fabric) and again from cotton (the lining).

I also cut out mesh to use as an overlay for the back panels and straps. The mesh overlay for the front panels was draped overtop of the pieces after they were sewn together.

And here you can see that draping in action. I cut out a square I thought would be big enough for half of it, then pinned it until I was happy with it. I trimmed the edges, then removed it from the form and used it as a guide for cutting a matching piece for the other side.

Here is the overlay after being trimmed. I sewed these pieces together at the centerfront with a half inch seam allowance, then trimmed the allowance down so it would be less noticeable.

I pinned the overlay in place once again. I pinned it to the neckline and side seams first, then fiddled with the ruching at the center until I was happy with it.

Eventually I decided there wasn’t enough fabric in the ruching…so I gathered it more than originally planned. Which is why there is a big gap of fabric at the bottom of the bodice. I will cover that with a glittery waistband later.

Iremoved this from the dress form, then sewed around the overlay to secure it in place before removing any pins.

Now I could sew the bodice together. It didn’t look like much at this point!

I assembled the lining out of cotton, and sewed the seam allowance down to create boning channels.

I pinned the bodice to the lining, with the right sides facing each other. Then sewed around the neckline to secure them together. Then the bodice was turned the right way out, and I tacked around the neckline. Now it looked much better!

After a fitting I realize it was a bit too small. Luckily there was extra fabric in the center back edge, so I let it out by a half inch on either sides. Now the lining doesn’t match up with the back edge, but it’s better than the bodice not fitting!

At this point I was going to add boning to all the seams…but I forgot to sew two of boning channels. And I tacked over the center boning channels when sewing the overlay in place. So boning was only added to the side seams and the back edge. Oops.

The two dots of thread are where I tacked the overly to the under bust area. these dots, and some stitching down the center front are the only things that keep the pleating/gathering positioned.

My plan was to cover the gathering point of the overlay with the brooch, but I came across several examples of banding at the center of 1830’s bodices. Some of these also included banding on the straps, which I thought was a clever way to widen the neckline and cover seams.

 I cut some 1.5″ wide strips of mesh, folded them in half, and sewed the raw edges together with a quarter inch seam. However I quickly discovered the mesh was too delicate to turn the right way out. So instead I tacked the strips so the seam allowance was at the back of the bands and not visible.

Here they are in position. The middle one was secured by hand, and the ones on the straps will be held on by the same stitching that secures the sleeves.

And that was it for day one of making this project! I’m going to use a sleeve pattern from another project, and the skirt will be a gathered rectangle. So if all goes according to plan I can wrap this up tomorrow.

Thanks for reading!

 

Making a Historical Swimsuit, 1910

Since it is now officially summer (and disgustingly hot and humid), I’ve decided to spend this week focusing on some more weather appropriate projects.

And I’m starting with most summery of all projects: A swimsuit!

Or more specifically, an edwardian swimming costume based on examples from the early 1900s.

My original inspiration for this project was this picture.  I saw it just before leaving for a trip to Jo-anns and instantly decided to add 5 yards of black cotton to my shopping list. It wasn’t until I got home and did more research that I realized that is not an Edwardian swimming costume – It’s a pair of swimming bloomers with a corset cover from an earlier period.

So I did a bit more research after that, and finally decided to base my ensemble on this garment. I also discovered some glorious sailor inspired suits, but I didn’t have suitable (heh, suitable) fabric for them.

In my research I also learned that swimsuits during the early 1900s were made out of wool. But I knew finding lightweight wool would be a challenge, and it would probably be a tightly woven suiting that didn’t have much texture to it.

In the end I bought a lightweight cotton, which might be a quilting cotton, but it has a strong sheen to it, almost like cotton sateen. I’m happy with this choice since it’s more interesting (and way cheaper) than matte black wool, but it wrinkles like crazy which isn’t ideal.

I also bought buttons, and stole a 1/2 yard of paisley quilting cotton from my moms stash, which will be used for binding.

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Step one was draping. This has a flat back and collar, with a gathered front.

My fist mockup went surprisingly well! I had to lift the waistline slightly, but the amount of volume and gathering was perfect.

I started assembly by cutting out the collar pieces. They were sewn together at the centerback, then backed with interfacing. The piece on the left is the lining.

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I sewed those together with the wrong sides facing each other.

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Then bias binding was pinned and sewn on!

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I folded the binding inward and stitched it down with whip stitches, so both sides of the fabric are nicely finished.

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The front few inches of the bodice panels were backed with interfacing. Then these edges were turned inward in preparation for adding the closures.

I also gathered the top and bottom edges by hand.

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I sewed the front pieces to the back pieces with french seams. Then I finished the arm openings with facings.

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I sewed the collar on by hand. The raw edges from the bodice were turned inward and whip stitched down.

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I didn’t love the sleeves on the extant garment I based this on, so I decided to make mine with more volume. I fiddled with the pattern for a while before settling on this. The top edge is straight, and the bottom is curved.

The pins were used to mark the right side of the fabric – the sheen of this fabric is definitely more prominent on one side, but not very visible in certain lightings, so I had to be careful!

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The bottom edge was trimmed with bias tape – once again sewn on by hand. And the top edge was gathered slightly.

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I sewed the side seams as a french seam, then stitched the sleeves to the bodice by hand.

I also sewed on all the buttons (which are decorative), and closures into the center front. The collar closes with hooks, and the bodice closes with snaps.

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The “skirt” was draped out of some random cottons. I was very concerned about the shape of this – I wanted it to have some volume, but not flare out too much. I also didn’t have a ton of fabric, so I couldn’t make the panels too wide.

The skirt pieces were sewn together with french seams.

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Then all the edges were trimmed with bias tape – once again stitched on by hand!

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The skirt was gathered near the front, and at the back.

Then I sewed the skirt to the bodice with the wrong sides facing each other, leaving the raw edges facing out. The waistband will cover these later.

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After a fitting I realized the skirt looked longer on one side than the other…despite them being the same length (trust me, I measured). So I sewed a dart into the top of one of the panels, making it a half inch shorter.

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Now it was time for the waistband! This is made from a bias cut strip of printed fabric that has the edges turned inward, and an interfaced strip of black fabric with its edges turned inward.

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I basted the strips together, then sewed them to the bodice by hand with tiny whip stitches.

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The final step was sewing on two hooks – one at the front, and another where the waistband ends.edited (25 of 32)

(It’s already wrinkly)

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Now for the bloomers – because that bodice would be indecent without them! For these I used the bloomer pattern originally drafted for my cycling costume, I just made the pattern shorter.

However I also should have made the pattern narrower, these had way more volume than they needed.

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I didn’t take very many photos of this process, but the pants were sewn together with french seams. To keep the front smooth, I moved the closures to the sides of the bloomers. To do this I left the tops of the side seams open, and sewed buttons and loops onto either side of the waistband.

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The top edges were pleated to avoid excess volume under the bodice.

There are channels for the drawstring cuffs sewn five inches away from the hem of the bloomers. These were made out of strips of black fabric.

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Then the bottom edges were finished with bias binding, and a ribbon was threaded through the channel. I left a 1″ gap in the side seam where the channel is, which allows the ribbon to peek out.

As a side note, to get the cuffs to stay where I wanted them, I had to tie the ribbon before putting the bloomers on. There was no way to tighten them enough to stay up while they were on my legs.

The top edge is finished with bias binding, and has the loops/button closure method that I mentioned earlier. Unfortunately these ended up being WAY to big for me, so I had to pin the sides when we photographed it. Definitely something to fix in the future.

Also, these bloomers ended up being ridiculously long. I made them 3″ shorter than my cycling bloomers, but cut another 5-7″ off before binding the waistline. They were so baggy it was ridiculous.

And that’s it!

All and all this was a fun, easy project. I’m happy with how the bodice fits, and how it all looks together. It isn’t the best thing I’ve made construction wise, but for $30 of fabric and 4 days of work I’m pleased with it.

I’ve already photographed this project, and here is a partially edited preview of it all together!

This photoshoot wasn’t very successful since it ended up being really sunny, and the beach I wanted to go to required permits we didn’t have. Hopefully I can edit out some of the harsher shadows and get the full set posted soon.

Thanks for reading!

 

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.

 

Making an 1860’s Beetlewing Dress, Part One

If you clicked on this post thinking that title is an exaggeration, then you have severely underestimated me and the things I will buy on etsy.

I discovered beetlewing embroidery several years ago, when I was still really active on tumblr and this picture came across my dashboard. I thought it was stunning, and the fact that all the detail work was made from bugs fascinated me. But at the time I wasn’t doing a lot of hand work, and it never crossed my mind that I could make anything similar.

Over the past few months I’ve come across pictures of more extant garments that feature this technique. And after my tiny embroidery project earlier in the year (a stomacher), and an elaborate 1860’s dress under my belt,  I felt like I could actually take this on.

Beetlewing embroidery goes back hundreds of years, and from what I can tell, originated in China, Thailand, and India. I’m not sure how it came to be popular in Europe in the mid 1800’s, but it was, and the results are stunning. This pinterest board has lots of lovely examples.

My first “step” was buying the wings. I ordered 2,000 from this seller, which I’m really hoping will be enough.

The wings feel (and look) a bit like press on nails, but are a bit thicker and more brittle. Though they are wings, they aren’t like dragonfly wings – these are a firm shell.

A few other bloggers have made dresses featuring them, and they mentioned steaming the wings to make them flexible enough to poke holes in, where others used drills. I found this prospect kind of terrifying because I had a lot of wings, but luckily mine haven’t required either method. A sharp (large) needle goes through them and creates a big enough hole to get a smaller needle and a few strands of embroidery floss through.

The more time consuming part has been cutting off the point where the wings connected to the body of the beetle. It’s also sort of gross even though it’s all dried out.

As for fabric, I’ll be using 12 yards of lightweight cotton which I got from Hamed Fabrics.

The design isn’t fully figured out yet, but I know it will consist of a skirt, an evening bodice, and a day bodice. Which is very common for designs in the mid 19th century.

My inspiration for the bodice shapes, and the sleeves, is this ensemble – the skirt design is still kind of a mystery, but I’ll figure it out once the upper half is done. The embroidery pattern is made up, but influenced a lot but every other example I could find online.

The first step was draping – draping loose fitting bodices is always a pain, but I did the best I could.

I tried to change it up a little bit, so instead of the shoulder seam sitting at the top of the shoulder, it’s further back and gathered to add volume to the bust.

Here is one of the front pieces, with the shoulder gathered.

The back pieces, stitched together with french seams.

And here they are sewn together.

The side seams were done up as well, then the collar and hem were bound with bias tape made from green silk shantung. The front edges were also turned inward to finish them off nicely.

Now for the fun part – the beetles! I designed the embroidery pattern on paper, and fiddled around with the wings until I liked the shapes they made.

The paper was then placed underneath the fabric. I traced the stem design onto the right side of the fabric with a wash away pen.

And then the embroidery began! I didn’t do a great job documenting this, since I wasn’t sure it would work. I’ll make sure to take more photos of the skirt during these steps.

The stems were sewn with a split stitch. I outlined each one with two parallel lines of stitching, with a small gap between them, which is where I sewed gold seed beads. Then the wings were sewn on, and the “gaps” between the wings, as well as the base of them, were covered with green seed beads to make them look more like foliage.

I did as much of this as I could with a hoop.

  Then I sewed sequins around the design – a mixture of flat gold ones, faceted gold ones, and some that match the wings almost perfectly. 

Here is one section done!

However when it was all done, it felt a little sparse. So I added bugs. The bodies were made from embroidery floss and gold beads, with the beetle wings making up the wings. Then I embroidered on antennas and used faux black pearls as eyes.

I may make a video showing this process at some point!

After the embellishing was done I sewed in hook/bar closures, and gathered the waistline. However after a fitting I realized the waist was too small, so the gathering was ripped out and re-done.

Now time for the sleeves! It looks like a relatively normal sleeve pattern, but the twist is a rectangle gathered every 4″ to create puffs, which is sewn between these two pieces.

The top piece is the front (ignore the writing saying otherwise) – it’s narrower, so the puffs are more visible from the front and side of the sleeves when they are worn.

Here are the puffed portions after being gathered.

I sewed them onto a smaller piece of material so they held their shape.

Then that was sewn to the other pieces.

They looked okay, but were obviously missing bugs.

(I will never say that about anything else if my life)

I placed the bugs in the center of the gathering points, surrounded by sequins.

The side seam was done up, but I left the bottom few inches open to allow me to get the sleeves on and off. Then I turned the seam allowance inward with whip stitches to hide the raw edges.

The cuffs are made from interfaced cotton, with green silk piping trimming the edges. They are lined with more cotton, and close with two hooks/bars. Weirdly, these gave me a lot of trouble. I cut them the wrong length the first time, and had to re-do them. Then I gathered the sleeves to be too small and didn’t realize until after the cuffs were sewn on and the lining was in…cue me having to re-do it, again.

Here you can see the difference between the front and backs of the sleeves.

They were sewn on by machine, and that’s it!

And here are some worn photos – I don’t love the fit, I feel like it should be a little looser to provide more mobility of the arms. But I also really like how it looks.

(note, the ribbon is a placeholder to imitate the waistband of the skirt, it isn’t part of the bodice)

I think the proportion of the embroidery at the front is really nice, and I love the sleeves, the bugs with the gathering is really charming to me.

One things I’ll have to do before labeling this costume complete is make a corset cover. My corset is bright red, which doesn’t pair well with sheer white fabrics.

And that’s it! I’m not sure when the next post about this project will be done, since the skirt isn’t even started and the evening bodice is missing sleeves. But hopefully it will all come together nicely in the near future!

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!