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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the top edge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is before trimming…

And after!

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

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

It was sewn with whip stitches as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was cut out of felt weight interfacing.

Then wire was sewn into the pieces.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Making a Green Edwardian Gown

This weeks project is one I’ve had roughly planned ever since I saw the first season of Downton Abbey and fell in love with this dress. I love the deep green color, and how elaborate it is while still being simple in design. Back in April I bought four yards of green satin faced chiffon with plans to make something similar.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find an eleborate lace in a matching color, so I decide to make my dress a bit simpler. After some more research I came across this dress, which I really like (especially the lace undershirt and use of black netting), along with these dresses.

The finished dress takes inspiration from all of them – plus some stuff I made up!

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I didn’t take any pictures of the drafting process, but the bodice is a simple three panel pattern with darts to shape the back and front. The skirt is also three pieces, with a straight front, flared sides and a bit of gathering at the back.

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I cut all the pieces out from a light green polyester charmeuse that I picked up for $4/yd during my shopping trip in Pennsylvania. It was a tight fit, but I managed to get all the pieces cut from the three yards I had.

The skirt panels were sewn together with one inch seam allowances. I left the edges raw, and facing outward since the satin faced chiffon will cover them.

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I leveled the hem since it was a bit wonky, then sewed horsehair braid into it to give the skirt a bit more body. I also sewed the darts into the bodice, and the waist seam.

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Then I repeated the process with the bodice – here you can see it on the dress form, along with some matching appliques I found on etsy. The darts on this didn’t turn out very well since satin faced chiffon is a pain to sew with, but luckily it wasn’t too noticeable in the end.

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I cut the skirt out of satin faced chiffon too, then sewed the pieces together. I trimmed the hem and turned it inward by a half inch, then inward by another half inch to create a rolled hem that was whip stitched in place by hand.

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I sewed the chiffon to the charmeuse around the neckline, with the right side of the satin facing the wrong side of the charmeuse. Then I basted the layers together around the arm openings and waistline.

I sewed some black lace around the neckline by hand, then placed the appliques. It took me longer than I would like to admit to get these symmetrical, but I’m happy with the end result.

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I should mention that the appliques match the fabric perfectly, but something about the sheen of the chiffon makes it look teal in photos rather than the emerald green it actually is.

(I made sure to confirm this with every member of my family so I know I’m not crazy)

I’ll edit the color balance in worn photos of it if it becomes necessary, but I couldn’t be bothered for the progress photos.

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I sewed the appliques on and now it was time for sequins. A couple years ago a follower of my blog (I’m not sure if she would want her name mentioned) was kind enough to send me some beautiful vintage sequins. I’ve used the clear ones on a few projects, but this was the first time I had a project suitable for the black ones.

I can’t even tell you how excited I was to finally work with these – look at all those colors! They are black but shine purple and green, almost like an oil slick effect.

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I started off with just a few around the neckline, and some on the sides of the waistband (which is just a gathered rectangle of mesh).

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But I quickly came to my senses and realized it needed way more sequins, which led to this!

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This shows the sheen of the fabric (and the sequins) a bit better. I think it’s a pretty dreamy combo!

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After a fitting I realized the lining was visible below the hem of the satin faced chiffon, so I raised the hem with a horizontal dart a few inches below the waistline. This way I didn’t have to mess with the horsehair braid in the hem.

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Speaking of the hem, I decorated it with some green lace that was stitched on by hand (which once again, matches the fabric but doesn’t look that way in photos) and more sequins. The trim had little swirls that were perfect for embellishments.

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I sewed the back seam of the charmeuse and satin faced chiffon separately, and left the top eight inches of the skirt open. Then I turned that edge, along with the back edge of the bodice inward by an inch. Then I turned it inward again and whip stitched it down.

The back closes with hooks and bars. I sewed the waistband down to either side of the closure point, and when it’s worn the waistband ties in a bow.

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It isn’t the prettiest bow, but it’s still a bow!

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Now it was time for sleeves! These are just simple straight sleeves I drafted, then cut from the satin faced chiffon and charmeuse. The hem is finished with black lace, and a doubled band of netting. I embellished the hem with some sequins and finished the top edge with lace binding.

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The arm openings of the dress were finished with lace binding too, then the sleeves were sewn on by machine.

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There are a few pulls in the sleeves that I’ll have to steam out, but other than that the dress is finished! I really love how it turned out. It’s the elegant, sparkly, simple, edwardian gown I’ve always wanted, and I can’t wait to get photos of it!

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The construction isn’t my best, but I don’t think you can tell from the finished dress. I think it’s pretty lovely for a week and a half of work and less than fifty dollars of material!

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I intend to wear that dress over a blouse, as inspired by this dress. I don’t think it’s necessary for modesty like it is with that gown, but high lace collars are a big part of the early 1900’s, so I wanted to have the option.

I made this from scraps of silk satin I had leftover from a chemise, and a piece of lace that was slightly larger than a fat quarter. Since I didn’t have enough lace for the whole blouse, I made half of it from muslin, and used lace trim down the center of the sleeves and back.

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I don’t think I took any progress photos of this, but it was pretty easy to make. There was just a lot of hand sewing since the lace was sewn to lace trim, then basted to satin.

I used another lace around the cuffs, and added a few sequins for a bit of interest.
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The back closes with snaps.

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I think they look very pretty together!

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To finish off the ensemble I made a headband. I started with a strip of black mesh, then chopped the lace trim I had leftover from the hem into tiny appliques. These were sewn on by hand, with gaps left in between.

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I covered the gaps and edges with sequins, then whip stitched the visible netting inward.

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And the final touch were some dyed feathers I got in the garment district last year. I glued most of these onto the underside of the headband with E6000.

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And that’s it! I haven’t tried all the pieces on together, but I plan to this weekend so I can get photographs of it. It’s so different from the other projects I’ve been working on recently and I adore the end result. Though part of that probably has to do with the materials – emerald green satin faced chiffon and vintage sequins do a lot of the work for you!

Thanks for reading!

 

Plaid, Pleats, and Piping – Making an 1830’s Dress, Part One

This weeks post is about another new project, but this time i’m venturing into an era I haven’t sewn from in a while – the 1830’s! I went through a phase a couple years ago where I made three dresses inspired by this period, and I had so much fun making them. But for some reason I never revisited the period until now.

For Christmas I got Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century*, and looking at the silly 1830’s dresses featured in it reminded me how much I love the period. The dresses make me so happy, with the bold prints, large skirts, ridiculous sleeves, and delicate accessories. I still can’t get on board with the crazy headpieces, but I love everything else.

So when I was in Pennsylvania and came across a bright cotton plaid I knew it was time to make a boldly printed ridiculous 1830’s dress. This is the material was four dollars a yard, and I bought seven yards.

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I’m going to pair it with the orange taffeta leftover from my 1890’s Dress, and some berry colored velvet I got in NYC a while back.

When it comes to design I was a little bit conflicted. I originally wanted to make something based on this kooky dress, but the neckline and sleeves are quite similar to a dress I made in the past so that seemed kind of boring. And most of the other dresses I found were better suited for a less busy fabric.

I ended up mixing the dress linked above with the bodice design of this dress – I really like the piping, basque waist, the neckline, and the more elaborate sleeves. All those things make it more time consuming to make, but you know how much I love time consuming projects…

Here is my weird sketch which I didn’t really end up following (oops)
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I draped the pattern on my dress form, then transferred it to paper. The bodice is made up of 8 pieces, with an additional 4 pieces for the collar.

In the past when doing pleated collars I’ve pleated a rectangle of fabric, then cut it down to the shape I want. This time around I cut it down to the right size before pleating – which was kind of scary, since I was sure it would turn out the wrong shape. But it totally worked and made the process a lot easier, so i’m definitely doing it this way from now on!

I marked the pleat pattern onto the collar with chalk.
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Then used my iron to crease the tops of the pleats.

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Then actually pleated them and pinned everything in place! This is the front.

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And this is the back.

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The front panels were carefully pinned, then sewn together. It was unintentional, but the horizontal pattern ended up being almost symmetrical on these panels. They didn’t match up the first time I sewed it, but they were so close that I ripped the seam out and redid it so they match!

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The shoulder of the collar pieces were done up with piping sewn into the seam. The bottom edge was hemmed by eye, and the top edge was turned inward by a half inch. Then I hand stitched some piping around the neckline.

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To keep the pleats in place I loosely tacked them down from the underside. This was trickier to do than I was expecting. Since the fabric is so thin I couldn’t feel how many layers I was stitching through, and I ended up sewing through the front of the fabric a few times. Those stitches are pretty obvious since I used dark purple thread, which doesn’t match 80% of the colors in the bodice.

Luckily the crazy print also works to my benefit  – your eye skips over the visible stitches and assumes it’s part of the chaos that is this fabric!

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With the collar done the bodice assembly began! I made this more difficult by adding piping to every seam (something I’ve never done before). And I chose to use yarn as piping cord, which was way too thin and looked flat after being ironed. Not my best decision, but I kind of made it work!

These are the front panels…

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More front panels.

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And the back panels!

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The arm openings were finished with facings.

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And then the collar was sewn on! This was done by hand to avoid any visible topstitching.

After a quick fitting to check the length I hemmed the bottom edge and trimmed it with more piping.

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And now it was time for lining! This was assembled completely by machine and is made from muslin.

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It took me ages to get it pinned in properly – somehow the lining was too short, so it kept causing the front layer of fabric to bunch up. But I managed eventually, and sewed it in place by hand.

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I finished one of the back edges with bias tape (leftover from my 1890’s dress), then finished the other edge with a strip of bias tape that was turned inward and sewn down so it isn’t visible from the outside.

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The back closure consists of hooks and loops, which were sewn to the strips of taffeta.

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Unfortunately the print on the back of the bodice doesn’t line up perfectly, but it’s close-ish!

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Here is the front.

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And a close up of the pretty pleats! So far i’m happy with how this looks, though i’m second guessing my decision to go for a more complicated design. I think it might be a bit too busy – but the 1830’s were famous for being crazy, so maybe it works?

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That’s it for today! The next post will be about sleeves. I’m not sure if it will be about my 1890’s dress or this one, but it will definitely involve sleeves haha!

Thanks for reading!

 

Making a Shirtwaist – 1890’s Cycling Costume, Part Three

This week i’m talking about making another shirt. I actually finished this one before my 1860’s blouse, which means it’s the first structured shirt i’ve ever finished! I think I made a few jersey shirts when I was cosplaying, and i’ve made partial shirts/corset covers recently, and tons of chemises, but never a proper structured shirt. Then last week I made two! Which is a big accomplishment for me.

This shirt is a proper shirtwaist.  I based it mostly off of this example, but I searched for shirtwaist advertisements before  starting just to get a better idea of the silhouette. This shirtwaist is going to be part of my 1890’s cycling ensemble, but the shape and sleeve design is a lot closer to what would have been worn in the early 1900s since I find them a lot more visually appealing.

And before getting started I wanted to mention that I also filmed the process of making this shirtwaist. So if you’d like to see me sewing it and describing the process in a bit more detail then you can watch the video here!

For this project i’m using two and a half yards of striped cotton shirting, and vintage shell buttons I picked up on etsy.

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I started by draping the pattern. This would have been really easy to flat draft  but I was feeling lazy.

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Once taken off the dress form I had something that looked like this. It’s rough around the edges but surprisingly it looks a lot like the shirtwaist patterns I found online. One is posted here, and another with more photos is here.

I’d planned on linking to a few paper patterns for shirtwaists but weirdly I couldn’t find any, which i’m assuming is because they are so easy to self draft. The closest things I could find are linked above, but I know the The “Keystone” Jacket and Dress Cutter* has drafting instructions for a couple styles (along with sleeves and collars).

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I smoothed out the edges and added seam allowances. Then I made a sleeve and cuff pattern. I chose to make the sleeves one piece with a dart from the elbow to cuff, which probably isn’t historically accurate, but when it’s worn you can’t even tell.

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I cut the sleeves out.

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Then added the dart. This was sewn with a french seam so raw edges weren’t visible on the interior.

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I turned the edges of the cuff inward, then fused interfacing overtop to give them a bit more structure.

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Then the lower edge of the shirt was gathered down and pinned to the cuff.

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I sewed the cuffs on with slip stitches.

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Then turned the lower eight inches of the seam allowance inward by a quarter inch. Then inward once again to hide the raw edge. I sewed this down by hand with whip stitches.

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Then I sewed lining into the cuffs and snaps to keep them closed. I used snaps for all the closures on this project, since the buttons I picked are really tiny and there was no way I could make buttonholes that small without them looking awful. The snaps definitely aren’t historically accurate, but they do make it easy to get the shirt on which I appreciate!

The final touch were three shell buttons on each cuff.

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I gathered down the top edge of the sleeves and that was it, they are finished!

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After cutting out the bodice panels I used red thread and basting stitches to mark the pleat points. Then I turned the front edge inward by a quarter inch. I covered that edge with a one inch wide strip of interfacing, then turned it inward once again.

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Then the panels were pleated. I started at the center front and pleated towards the side seams. The thread marks made this really easy to do.

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The process was repeated on the back seam. After doing this I sewed across the pleats by machine with two rows of stitching. Then the basting stitches were removed and the pleats were ironed.

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Buttons and snaps were sewn onto the two front panels.

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This took me ages since the snaps are so tiny.

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The bodice panels were sewn together at the shoulder with french seams. Then I turned the neckline inward by a quarter inch, then inward once again. It was sewn down with whip stitches to keep it in place.

With that done I sewed on the final snap and button.

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The sleeves were sewn on with a half inch seam allowance, then I covered the raw edge with lace binding. After that I did up the side seams with french seams – the side seams were sewn from the hemline to several inches above the cuff (to the point where the edge was turned inward, which leaves an opening to get my hand through).

I hemmed the shirt by machine and that was it!

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Well…kind of. The shirt was wearable at this point, but I wanted mine to have a collar.

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So I made one out of cotton sateen. It’s two layers of material that were sewn with the right sides facing each other. Then it was turned the right-way out and the bottom edge was finished with lace tape.

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I sewed that onto the collar of the shirt and now it’s really done! I think it looks quite nice. I really like the  sleeve volume and the proportions of this. It’s a bit big in the waist (which could be fixed with the waist ties/belt that were usually worn with shirtwaists ) but that isn’t a big deal at all. I think it looks pretty good for being my first real shirt.

And it’s definitely the most comfortable piece of a historical costume i’ve ever made. The fabric is thin enough to hide the corset, but light enough that you can feel a breeze through it. I wore it for around three hours last weekend (along with a pair of flannel pants, full length socks, a corset, combination chemise set, wig, and wool hat) when it was 80+ degrees out with very high humidity and managed to stay pretty comfortable.  So I can definitely see why these were paired with sporting costumes!

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However as much as I like it, it still didn’t seem quite finished. And that’s because it was missing a bow. I made the bow for this by folding a two inch wide ribbon into this shape. (Isn’t that a great description?) I basically fiddled around with the ribbon until it started to look like a bow. This is it from the front.

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And the back. I ended up sewing the ends of the bow to the portion of the ribbon that is folded over.

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Then I gathered the bow down at the points where stitching is visible.

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Which turned it into this! I sewed a center overtop of it, then strung thinner ribbon through the center.

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The ribbon that goes through the center of the bow ties at the back of the neck…which is honestly a pretty bad design. The ribbon is prone to slipping which makes the bow droop, which makes the collar loosen, which makes the neck look wider. It isn’t a huge deal, but once I got home and after wearing the costume and looked at photos of the ensemble I realized the problem right away .

Luckily that can be fixed by creating a tie that snaps or hooks closed.

Here it is with it’s pretty little bow~ It’s so perky looking I love it.

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And here it is with the matching wool jacket! It’s all starting to come together and I love how it looks so far.

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And that’s it! Sorry if descriptions and photos were a little vague this time around, since I filmed making it I didn’t tak as many photos as usual.

Thanks for reading!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Then I gathered down the top and bottom edge.

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

Then they were pinned onto the sleeves.

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

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

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

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

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Then I sewed those onto the hem of each cuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And the exterior!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Today i’m blogging about another bodice that I have in progress. This one is based on one of my favorite 19th century dresses, which was worn by Countess Anna von Hallwyl in 1865. The portrait of her wearing it can be seen here, and the actual dress can be seen here. I’m pretty sure that’s the same dress, but the exact details are hard to track down since the gown is part of a swedish museum archive that doesn’t allow english search terms.

I discovered this painting years ago, before I was even making historical costumes. I was instantly charmed by it and those feelings haven’t changed at all. I still adore the dress and think it’s a really interesting example of 1860s fashion. I love how it has the traditional bertha style neckline, but instead of being created with pleats or ruffles it’s ruched! And the banding details on the collar carry over to the sleeves, which create a paned effect that dates back to renaissance times.

I bought fabric for this project shortly after seeing the painting for the first time, but I didn’t have the confidence to make it until now. So i’m very excited to finally be working on this gown.

Even though this project is based on a specific painting, and has the same color scheme, i’m not aiming to recreate the dress linked above. The finished project will be a mixture of elements from the Boutibonne painting and my own design choices. But the similarities are pretty clear in the bodice! Since one of my favorite things about this dress is the collar, that will be prominently featured in the version i’m making.

Here is the sketch that I started out with.

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And a full length sketch.

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I started by draping the bodice, then turing it into a paper pattern. At this point I realized the collar would have to be a bit wider, and the neckline a bit higher than I had originally planned.

I made a mock up to check the fit, which made it clear that some alterations were needed.

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I lengthened the basque waist and trimmed a half an inch off the waistline. I took in the front seams by half an inch, lowered the shoulder by a half inch, and made a few alterations to the arm holes. Overall these are pretty major changes, but at this stage they were easy to make.

(also I should mention that this is pictured over my Cotton Sateen Corset)

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After fixing the pattern I began cutting out the bodice. The bodice has two layers – a top layer of pink cotton sateen, and a base layer of stiff cotton to prevent the top layer from stretching.

My fabric choice for this project was kind of poor (in my defense I made it three years ago when I had way less fabric knowledge) the material is too lightweight for the bodice, so I backed the cotton sateen with lightweight fusible interfacing before cutting it out.

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I created boning channels on the front and side panels with twill tape. The boning channels are visible on the front panel (sewn after attaching the cotton sateen to the stiff cotton layer) but the side ones are hidden.

This bodice will be worn over a corset, so the boning isn’t for reduction purposes. It’s just to support the bodice and keep the material laying smoothly over the body.

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I sewed the right sides of the sateen/stiff cotton layers together around the arm hole, so once they were turned the right way out I had a finished edge. Then I hand stitched around the edge to keep it in place.

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The bodice was sewn together by machine with half inch seam allowances. A few things didn’t line up as well as I would have liked, but overall i’m happy with it.

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I boned the bodice with quarter inch steel, then sewed an alencon lace applique to the front. This lace was another one of those bad material choices, since alencon lace looked very different in the 1860s and wasn’t common at the time. But I love this fabric and it matches perfectly, so i’m using it anyway.

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I folded the bottom edge inward by a half inch, then sewed piping to the edge. I tried doing this a few different ways with various sizes of piping, but this looked the best.

When the bodice is worn tension keeps the piping smooth and it looks symmetrical. When it’s flat the piping does it’s own thing and it looks like this, which is a bit unfortunate!

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At this point the exterior looked pretty, but the inside was quite messy. I didn’t want to line it, since that adds bulk to the garment, but I didn’t want frayed edges either.

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So I trimmed each edge slightly, then whip stitched lace hem tape overtop. this was a little time consuming, but i’m really happy with the end result!

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Now I could finally move onto the collar! The collar started as a single piece of cotton sateen, which was also backed with fusible interfacing.

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Then I pinned lace appliques overtop. All the appliques used on this project were fussy cut out from a piece of lace fabric. That lace fabric had borders on each edge, which were also fussy cut out and used to trim the skirt. It’s a much more affordable way of buying lace appliques/trim as long as you don’t mind spending a few evenings cutting it apart!

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Here the lace is after being sewn on. It looked very pretty at this stage, but unfortunately that didn’t last, because the next step was covering the collar with two layers of gathered tulle.

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After adding the tulle the lace became really difficult to see. But even though it’s barely visible it still adds a lot of dimension and sparkle to the collar, so I think it was worth doing.

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I made the bands for the collar out of one inch wide strips of cotton sateen. I ironed the edges inward, then fused a small strip of interfacing over the back side. This isn’t the most secure method, but it was much faster than hand sewing them and it looks much cleaner.

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The bands were pinned in place two inches apart, but after draping the collar over my dress form I made a lot of changes. I probably spent and hour arranging them until I felt they were perfect.

The bands were sewn on by machine. Then the raw edges of the collar were covered with bias tape that was stitched on by hand.

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Close up showing the lace detailing beneath the tulle.

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I liked how this was coming along, but it was a bit dull looking. So I did the obvious thing and added sequins.

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They really do fix everything! They should be advertised as the duct tape of the embellishment world.

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Now I started adding the frills. The first addition was a scalloped lace from etsy, which was hand sewed around the top and bottom edge.

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Then I sewed a bit of lace trim to the center of the neckline. I had to sew the lace to tulle, then sew the tulle to the collar to get it to stay like this.

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Now it was time for the lace ruffle which goes across the underside of the collar. I used chantilly lace for this, and trimmed the edges so the lace will be longer in the back and shorter in the front. I also saved the bits I trimmed off – they were helpful when it came to making the sleeves!

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I gathered the lace down by machine.

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Then pinned it onto the collar. This was almost as time consuming as placing the bands, I spent so long lifting portions by a quarter inch only to drop them again. There was also a big struggle in getting both sides to be symmetrical, but I think I got it figured out!

Here it is sewn in place.

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I love how frilly this is. Everything should involve a minimum of four different types of lace.

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Then the collar got sewn onto the bodice, and suddenly it started to take shape!

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I tried putting it on my dress form so you could see how it drapes, but that didn’t work so well. The proportions don’t look right since my dress form doesn’t fill out the shoulder and bust of the bodice. I guarantee that it looks much better when worn.

On the bright side it does show how nicely all the materials work together!

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Now it was time to finish and bone the back of the bodice. I did this by making a one and a half inch wide facing. One edge of the facing was turned inward by a half inch and sewn down to create a boning channel, and the other edge is sewn to the centerback of the bodice.

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The facing was supposed to be attached with a half inch seam allowance, and hidden by the exterior of the bodice…but when I measured the waistline it was only 25″ and I didn’t want to lose a whole inch of seam allowance. So the facing was sewn with a quarter inch seam allowance and didn’t get folded under completely.

Then I sewed a quarter inch away from the edge to create a boning channel. The end results looks pretty bad, but it’s at the back of the bodice so i’m not that bothered by it. The lacing will mostly cover it, and If I have leftover chantilly lace when i’m done making the skirt i’ll stitch some overtop to cover it completely.

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Boning was inserted, then I embroidered eighteen eyelets into each side. They are spaced more densely near the waist of the bodice since that’s where the most tension will be.

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I lined the collar with muslin since the interior of it was a mess.

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And that’s about it! I’m really pleased with how it turned out. I think the materials work nicely together and it’s just as frilly as i’d hoped it would be.

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I haven’t included a worn photo in this post since the silhouette didn’t really come together until after I added the sleeves. But I promise there will be some in the next post about this project!

In the mean time, here is a detail shot.

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Thanks for reading! I don’t think I have any more bodices in progress right now so the next post will probably be about poofy sleeves and skirts!

Making an 1890’s Plaid Walking Ensemble, Part Four

We are onto the final post about making this ensemble! This will cover the process of finishing the jacket and making a matching hat. The previous posts about this project can be read here, here, and here!

At this point the jacket really needed a collar, which meant I had to draft the soutache pattern for the collar.  Once I did that I scanned my sketch, then loaded it into photoshop. I mirrored the image and printed it out. Then I redrew the portions of the knot that are supposed to interlock.

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The design was then traced onto interfacing, which got fused onto a piece of silk. I stitched through the design with thread in a light color so it would be visible from the front side of the fabric.

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I sewed the green soutache braid over the stitch lines, then sewed it to a piece of plaid material with the right sides facing each other. When it was turned the right way out I stitched along the edge to secure the pieces together.

This was the final result!

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I liked how it looked but once I pinned it in place I realized it was too small. It needed to be two inches wider and an inch deeper to have a chance of looking good. It was a little too late to remake it (limited amounts of fabric, soutache braid, and patience) so I added extra fabric to the bottom of the collar and hoped for the best. Here you can see the plaid fabric I added, plus the unfinished edge of the collar (which was supposed to be flat against the neckline.

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At this point I also realized the collar should have been attached before lining the lapels. My fix to this was sewing the lapel over the collar and tacking the collar lining to the shoulder of the jacket so the raw edge wouldn’t be visible. It’s all quite difficult to explain but by some miracle everything worked out okay and the collar/lapel looks absolutely find from all angles.

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With that crisis avoided/resolved I moved on to the final bit of soutache, which goes across the front of the jacket. I drew out my design, scanned it, then printed out a copy for either side of the jacket.

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The design was traced onto interfacing, then ironed into the jacket interior.

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Once again I sewed the braid on by hand.This time I left loops of braid open on the right side of the jacket to hold the buttons in place.

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Okay that is a lie, the button loops don’t hold anything in place. They are largely decorative (as are the buttons) the jacket actually closes with three hooks and eyes.

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When all that was done I stitched up the side seam and plopped the jacket on my dress form. Pretty pleased with how this looks!

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I sewed the buttons on and tried the jacket on. I was less pleased after this fitting. Though it fits well, the buttons/braided detail/closures sit too high – more than a full inch above my waist, which makes the jacket  less flattering than I had hoped. I added an extra hook a half inch below the buttons, but at this point that was all I could do.

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I hemmed the jacket by hand, then assembled the lining from muslin.

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The rest of the buttons got sewn on, then I pinned the lining in place.

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It was sewn in by hand with small whip stitches.

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And then it was time for sleeves! I was not looking forward to this part of the project at all but it ended up being really easy. I used a pattern from “59 Authentic Turn-of-the-Century Fashion Patterns” and it worked so well. I really like draping patterns, but I hate sleeves so I see myself reaching for this book again in the future.

The original pattern looked like this.

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After a fitting I made some changes – they were a little too wide, short, and I wanted more puff at the shoulder. Here is the altered pattern (it looks really similar, this pattern was awesome from the start).

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Unfortunately when cutting the sleeves I goofed up and cut off the extra inch I was supposed to leave to make them more poofy.

On top of that disappointment, I wasn’t able to cut these out in a way where both seams would match up. But I did find a way to get the front seam to match!

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Here are the front seams.

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I hemmed the sleeves by hand, then stitched some vintage lace across the hem.

I sewed the lining together but it ended up being two inches too short, which was bizarre since I used the same pattern that was used for the sleeves which fit perfectly. To fix it I filled in the gap between the hem of the sleeves and the lining with more lace.

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Then I gathered the top edge of the sleeves so they would fit into the jacket.

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Here they are pinned in place – I managed to get one of the stripes to line up between the shoulder and the sleeves, which was kind of cool!

The sleeves were attached with tiny whip stitches. When that was done the jacket was finished!

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I’m so thrilled with how this came out – even with the wonky waist and lack of symmetry on some of the soutache pieces. This is the happiest i’ve been with a project in a long time. It’s really surpassed my expectations and i’m so pleased with it. I really want to make more jackets like this in the future, it was so much fun!

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Now onto the hat! I’ve debated about whether to even post about this part of the project, since it’s probably going to be a bit controversial (i’ll say why in a bit) but I think it adds a lot to this ensemble, and I wanted to share the process of making it.

The shape of this hat is based off the “upside down flowerpot” hats that were common in the 1890s. I wanted to make a proper top hat to go with this dress, but ladies didn’t wear them during this period and this was the closest I could find while still remaining “accurate”.  The one I made is loosely based on this hat and this one. I also used the illustrations from “Women’s Hats, Headdresses and Hairstyles” as a guide for the back of the hat.

After coming up with a pattern I cut the top portions out from buckram, and sewed wire into the edges.

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I used felt weight interfacing for the brim but I should have used buckram since the edges of the brim ended up being quite thick.

The edges of this were also reinforced with wire that was whip stitched in place.

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I covered the pieces with a thin layer of quilt batting, then sewed silk overtop. Each piece was lined with muslin after finishing this step.

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The process was repeated on the brim, except it’s lined with red velvet, not muslin. And instead of the raw edge around the brim being folded under it was trimmed, then the edges were finished with bias tape. Which was a complete pain to do with this fabric since it was very finicky!

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The raw edges toward the hats opening were finished with bias tape as well.

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Then the brim was sewn to the cap, and I had a hat!

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Now for the controversial part: In the 1880s and 1890s there was a phase where the most common hat decorations were birds. Not feathers, actual stuffed birds. It got to the point where species were being hunted to the point of endangerment just for the sake of fashion. This craze led to strict preservation laws that make owning most feathers illegal.

I’ve always found that bit of history interesting. Though a lot of the hats are extreme and creepy, I find the more subdued ones quite striking and pretty to look at.  In February I was going through my reference books in search of ideas when I came across a full page photo of one of these hats which got me wondering if it would be possible to make one in this day and age.

It turns out it is possible since dried/preserved pheasant pelts are very commonly sold. Sporting stores sell them for fly tying, hunters sell them so they don’t go to waste, and feather shops sell them for crafts. After seeing the wide availability of the pelts, and how beautiful the colors in them are, I chose to use one as my primary hat decoration.

Personally I don’t see a big difference between this and using feathers in general, since most feathers sold are not naturally shed/cruelty free. But I know everyone has different opinions, and If this concept, or the visual of feathers in their natural form it is bothersome to you, I’d suggest skipping the final few photos in this post!

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I decorated the hat with a band of red velvet, some of the lace I used on the jackets cuffs, and a bow. I used two goose feathers on the side with the bow, and attached the wings/green feathers of the pheasant to the other side.

I purchased this partial pelt from ebay (the seller JellyHead!) It’s a golden pheasant pelt and cost ten dollars. The one I purchased only included the body/wings, no crest and no tail feathers. I trimmed it significantly so it would sit nicely on the hat and the red/green portions would be the most visible part. I don’t think these photos do it justice, all these feathers have a gorgeous iridescence when the sun hits them.

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When I wore this I pinned a comb into the interior so it wouldn’t shift around on my head.

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And that’s it! I’m very pleased with how this  came together. Seeing photos of it makes me smile because It looks so much better than the picture I had in my head, which almost never happens.

Here are a few photos of the finished ensemble. My favorite pictures of it are from the front and back, but i’m still in the process of editing those, so think of this as a preview. I should have the full set, along with a “costume spotlight” video about this up on Friday!


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Plaid 1, Resize

Thanks for reading!

Making an 1890’s Plaid Walking Ensemble, Part Three

It’s time for another update on my plaid walking ensemble! The first post about making this can be read here, and part two is posted here – if you haven’t read them already I would suggest you do so, otherwise this post won’t make much sense!

I’m switching things up a bit and talking about the skirt today. Since the skirt came together pretty quickly i’ve also included the making of a simple silk undershirt, which I will wear with this ensemble.

When I last left off the skirt didn’t look like much. But before doing any assembly I wanted to add closures to the back of the skirt.

To do that I folded the top ten inches of the back seam inward. Then I fused thin strips of interfacing overtop of the raw edge, starting a quarter inch away from the folded edge of the material.

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The interfacing didn’t look very nice so I covered it with bias tape which was made from scraps of the plaid material.

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I sewed the bias tape in place by hand then stitched six size 1 hooks/eyes on top of the bias tape, near the folded edge. These are each spaced about one and a quarter inches apart.

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Once the hooks are done up the back looks relatively smooth.

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With the back panels finished I went ahead and did some skirt assembly. The front, side, and back panels were all sewn together with french seams. I ended up redoing part of the left front seam since it was puckering (visible in this photo) but everything else matched up well!

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Though I did have a slight problem when sewing the back panels on. For some reason the pattern didn’t match up, so I had to move the back panel down and trim almost two inches off the top edge of the side panel.

I also noticed an awkward “poof” at the side seam near the waist. I fixed this by sewing a dart into that seam, in this photo you can see the dart pinned.

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After making the alterations mentioned above I hemmed the front and back panels. I did this with loose whip stitches. I wasn’t concerned about them being very pretty or durable since they will be covered by a facing.

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The facing looked like this! This facing probably should have been between six or ten inches wide, I have no idea why I made it this huge, it was kind of unnecessary.

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The facing was sewn in with much smaller, prettier, whip stitches.

When that was done I got to try the skirt on!

This was really exciting at the time since I could start to see the silhouette coming together.

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I was pretty happy with it. I thought it was a little bit too long but I didn’t have any trouble walking in it when I was on hard wood floors/smooth surfaces so I decided it was fine.

Now that i’ve actually worn this finished skirt on a variety of terrains I can tell you that my first instinct was right, the hem should be taken up by an inch. The length doesn’t look bad, but it definitely drags more than it should.

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The next step was making the waistband. I based this design on “corselet waistbands” from the late 1890s/early 1900s. I like these because they bring attention to the waistline, and the pointed back means I can mount the skirt lower which helps make up for how much fabric I had to trim from the top of the side panel!

The waistband is made from the silk fabric used elsewhere on the project and reinforced with a medium weight fusible interfacing.

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I ironed all the edges inward by a half inch.

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Then pinned thin piping onto the top and bottom edges. I made this piping from knitting wool and bias cut strips of silk (which were offcuts from the pleated panels made for the skirt).

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The piping was whip stitched on, then ironed, which left me with a waistband that looks like this!

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I gathered the back of the skirt slightly, so the top edge of the skirt matches the size of the waistband.

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Then I pinned it onto the skirt. I decided to hide the raw edge of the skirt in the waistband. I usually wouldn’t do this since it adds bulk to the waistline, but since this skirt is quite slim cut there isn’t much bulk in that area.

I sewed the waistband on with two rows of whip stitches. The first goes through the interfaced portion of the waistband and the skirt, and the second attaches the piping to the skirt.

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Then I sewed cotton lining into the interior of the waistband to cover all the raw edges.

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And the final step was sewing in hooks! I used four size 2 hooks/eyes for this part.

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Finished skirt from the front…

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And from the back. There is a bit of overlap here, when the skirt is worn and there is tension on the waistband it looks much better!

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The skirt was technically done but after working on the jacket I decided to add buttons to each side of the front panel. I used smaller versions of these buttons on the jacket, so I think it ties them together quite well.

I should also mention that I redid the bottom few inches of these seams several times, yet they are still puckered and unfortunate looking. To fix it I would have to give up on matching the pattern at that point, and I don’t want that. So I think it’s something i’ll have to deal with, even though it bothers me!

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With the skirt done I could begin work on another piece to wear with this ensemble!

This piece is a bit confusing. It’s supposed to look like a shirtwaist from the front, but is constructed like a corset cover (which usually weren’t meant to be seen). I didn’t want to make a full shirtwaist since they require a lot of material and tend to have full sleeves which add bulk to the shoulder/arms of the garments worn overtop of them. So I made a sleeveless shirtwaist that is intended to be worn underneath something so the back/arms won’t be seen.

Make sense?

I originally made this garment out of a striped shirting (i’ll probably show it in a future Progress Report) but I didn’t like the end result, so I made a new pattern and searched my stash for new fabric. The fabric I settled on isn’t new, and it wasn’t from my stash. I harvested the fabric from this dress. It was a bit sad taking it apart but the dress was held together with E6000, safety pins, straight pins (which I didn’t even know were there), and hot glue, so it was definitely not going to be worn again.

The dress also featured embarrassing hand sewing details like this hem. Look at that top stitching. Wow.

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There was just enough ivory silk satin on it to cut out my pattern, plus a two inch wide bias cut strip that will be used as a sash for an 1890’s hat I plan on making soon.

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This material is really prone to slipping around. So I cut my pattern out from white muslin first, then used the muslin pieces as a guide for cutting out each piece of silk.

I sewed the pieces of silk to the muslin with the right sides of the fabric facing each other. Once turned the right way out the edges are finished nicely and I don’t have to worry about them fraying in the future.

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I left the bottom edge open since it will be finished with bias tape, and the top edge open since it will be lined and covered with a gathered strip of satin.

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The front panel was gathered at the waist to add volume to the center front and across the chest.

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The edges that touch the neckline were gathered as well.

I did up the side and shoulder seams, then sewed the gathered edges at the neckline to the collar lining.

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A strip of bias cut satin was sewn overtop to cover the raw edges. I finished the edges of this strip by hand with a rolled quarter inch hem.

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I sewed  the fitted portion of the bodice on and finished the bottom edge with double fold bias tape. The bias tape extends beyond the back edge so it can be used as a waist tie to keep the bodice in place.

The entire back edge of this bodice and collar opens with hooks and bars. It takes some flexibility to do up, but I can get it on and off myself which i’m very happy about!

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At the center front I attached two shell buttons. These were purchased from the shop “VintageLinens1” on etsy – I got a big package of them for a very reasonable price.

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Here it is when worn! I should have made this a bit smaller at the waist (it fits well over this corset, it’s too big for my other one) and made the shoulders a little wider, but overall I really like it. The sheen of this fabric is gorgeous, it has just the right amount of volume in the front, doesn’t add bulk underneath dresses, and I can get it on and off by myself. I’m very pleased.

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The final post about making this ensemble will be up next week. Assuming I can get everything edited in time, there should also be photos of the finished ensemble and a costume spotlight video up shortly thereafter.

Thanks for reading!