Making a Taffeta Dress, 1890’s Inspired, Part Two

Making a Taffeta Dress, 1890’s Inspired, Part Two

This is a post i’ve been trying to avoid writing, because this part of the project wasn’t very much fun to make.  I made a lot of weird decisions and bad choices early on that contributed to a horrible end result. I managed to fix it, so most of those mistakes aren’t visible in the finished piece but I still have a lot of regrets about this project, which are never fun to write about.

But this blog isn’t just about my successful projects, it’s about all my projects. And some of those don’t go as smoothly as others.

This was my original reference when making this skirt. I loved the dramatic pleats and thought that would make the costume far more interesting than having a typical flared skirt, which look like this. But after all the mistakes I ended up with a typical flared skirt!

Step one was making the pattern. I used a half dozen sheets of newsprint for this and after a ton of draping I came up with something I liked.

Here you can see mistake number one. The hem isn’t nearly wide enough, the pleats aren’t deep enough to sit properly. At the hemline you can already see them being pulled out of shape even though they are made from paper! They’ll be far more prone to holding their shape in this form than after being cut from fabric, so this was a bad sign.


These are the front and back panels – these ones aren’t far off, though if I used this pattern again i’d add a few inches to the back.


The side panels aren’t a bad shape, they are just half the width they should be to support the pleats I wanted.


I cut all the skirt panels out, then marked the pleat lines onto the underside of the fabric and loosely pinned the pleats in place.

This is mistake number two, the side panels should have been interfaced or backed with a netting right after cutting them out. They need a support structure to give them enough volume to create the dramatic pleats.


Once I liked the way the pleats were sitting I basted them in place. Then I hid the opening for the skirt underneath one of the pleats. This will line up with the side opening of the bodice, and serve as the way to get the dress on and off.

I cut a ten inch long slit into the fabric, then covered the edges with matching bias tape.


I sewed hooks and bars underneath the bias tape to keep the slit closed. then sewed snaps onto either side, which hold the pleat in place. Here is how it looks open.


And here it is closed. In this setting you can’t see the closures, but when the skirt was on my dress form and there was more tension put on the material the snaps were slightly visible.


With the closures done I gave the side panels a good steaming, then sewed together all the skirt panels with french seams. This is the stage where the skirt looked it’s best. The pleats aren’t perfect, but the shape is right.



Now it was time to add the facing, and this is where I made my biggest mistake. I used a ridiculously heavyweight home decor material which weighed down the hem like crazy and totally changed the nice shape that the skirt had. It may not have been so bad if i’d made the facing a few inches wide, but for some dumb reason I made it eighteen inches wide. Why? I have no idea.


That got sewn in with a half inch seam allowance.


Then turned inward so the raw edges were hidden. This was sewn in by hand at the hem, and at the top edge of the facing.


Now it was time for the first fitting. This went…badly. You can see here how odd the shape is thanks to the heavy facing. It doesn’t drape nicely over the upper portion since it’s weighed down. It’s also about an inch too long – something I ignored at the time, but I realize now is a big issue.


But the front view is beautiful compared to the side view, which is awful.

Once again length is an issue, but the big problem is that the pleats don’t have enough fabric (or volume) to hold themselves in place. I tried tacking them down at points but that looks bad since the tension of the fabric caused the stitching to be visible. It was a mess.


I took out the back seam and re-pleated the side panels, hoping to salvage them, but there just wasn’t enough fabric there. And I didn’t have any material leftover to add additional panels.


So I ripped the pleats out. And then I realized the closures on the side panel would be visible. No problem, I could just remove them…but I couldn’t remove the slight tears they made in the taffeta, or the the white placement marks underneath them.


My solution to this was to make a giant dart in the side panel. This would remove all the damaged (and excess) fabric at the waistline and I could hide the new closure method in the seam.


After ironing out all the crease lines from the pleats I pinned the giant dart, then repeated the process on the other side of the skirt.


To add a bit of detail I sewed lace into the top ten inches of this seam. This is the same lace I used on the bodice neckline, which I think is a nice touch.

The skirt is still far from finished but it immediately looked way better.


I left the top ten inches of the dart open on the right side, so I could add the closures. I decided to use hooks and bars that were stitched onto a piece of twill tape, then sewn onto the taffeta with small whip stitches. This way there isn’t any stitching visible on the top side of the fabric.

After making sure this worked I finished the raw interior edge with ribbon and added lace trim to the folded edge.


It was a lot of work to get it to this point, but It finally looks okay!


I think the skirt gods took pity on me because my closure method actually worked! It looks just as smooth as a regular seam.


The front and side panels were sorted, but there was way too much excess material in the back. I decided to do something like this back detailing, but instead of knife pleats I went for cartridge pleats.

This was mistake number…I don’t know, five? My skirt didn’t have enough fabric in the back for cartridge pleats, and it turns out taffeta isn’t very forgiving about that sort of thing.

I marked the pleat lines onto a faux wool flannel material, which will bulk up the taffeta and make denser looking pleats.


I didn’t want the bulk of gathered flannel in the waistline so I sewed ribbon across the top edge. The ribbon will serve as my half inch seam allowance instead of the wool.


I pinned that to the taffeta, then got to sewing. From the back it looked like this.


And from the front it looked really bad. Since there wasn’t enough material to gather into nice cartridge pleats a lot of my gathering stitches are visible, and the gathers aren’t very even. It actually looks okay from a distance, but up close it’s pretty rough.


I finished the top edge of the skirt by sewing it to a two inch wide strip of cotton, with the wrong sides facing each other. The end result finishes the interior nicely and leaves the raw edges on the front side of the material.


I’ll sew the bodice onto the top edge of the cotton, then cover the raw edges with the  waistband later on.


And that’s it for this post!

This may not seem like that tiresome of a project, but it really ate up my enthusiasm towards sewing. Every problem felt like such a drag, I didn’t even want to look at it, much less work on it! I think part of the problem is that I don’t usually run into issues when making skirts, so  I wasn’t really sure how to fix them. It took days of thought in between each step to come up with something that might help.

I think the end result is pretty okay, but i’m still disappointed by it since it’s so far from my original plan. But I definitely learned a lot and plan to use my newfound expertise on making another 1890s skirt in the near future.

I’m going to try this skirt on tomorrow and see if any alterations are needed – I have a feeling the hem will need to be lifted, and I may remove part of the facing depending on how the shape looks. I’ll talk about any changes in the next post about this project, which will also cover making the sleeves, the waistband, and show photos of the finished dress!

Thanks for reading!



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

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.


And a full length sketch.


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.


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)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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!


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


Close up showing the lace detailing beneath the tulle.


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


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


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.


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.


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!


I gathered the lace down by machine.


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.


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


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


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!



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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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!


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Making a Taffeta Dress, 1890’s Inspired, Part One

This post is long overdue since I finished this part of the project back in January! I put off writing about it for a while because the skirt was giving me trouble, and I wasn’t sure if the project would even get completed. But now it’s done! So I can finally share the process of making it.

This project is an 1890s themed dress made from purple polyester taffeta. I based the neckline of this dress on this fashion plate, and planned on it having a very full skirt with pleats on each side like this example. The dress will be worn over a set of foundation garments and this partial shirtwaist.

My original sketch and the fabrics for this project are shown in this post. My sketch didn’t end up being very accurate, but I did use it as a guide for draping the bodice.

Speaking of draping the bodice…

After fiddling around I came up with a five piece pattern. The front panel is gathered slightly at the waist and fitted over the chest.



I turned that into a pattern that looks like this. The gathers are marked on this as well as the button/hook closure placements on the side and back of the bodice.


At this point I also drafted the sleeve pattern, which is MASSIVE. I wanted the sleeves to be fitted below the elbow so they would look nice underneath a jacket (which will hopefully be a companion piece to this project in the near future) so I cut them as two pieces, which is a bit unusual for this period.

To add a bit of interest to the sleeves I made the fitted portion pointed at the top.


I made a mock up of the sleeves from some damaged cotton sateen and stuffed them with quilt batting. The finished result had the amount of poof I wanted, but was a bit too big at the wrist. So I ended up making a few alterations there.


I also made a mock up for the bodice. This was a bit large so I took it in at the sides. I also widened the neckline a bit.


Here is the bodice mock up + the sleeve mock up. So much poof!


After making my pattern alterations I cut out the bodice. Then I faced the bottom half of the right side seam with strips of faux wool flannel.


This finished the edge nicely and creates a base for the hooks/bars that will run down the side of this dress.


Then I sewed up the side seams normally, but left the faced portion on the right side open.


Interior view.


Now we skip a few steps! I originally sewed the back panels together and stitched buttonholes into the top few inches…but the buttonholes looked bad so I ripped out the stitching and covered the raw edges  with a scrap of taffeta (as seen on left).

Before doing any of that I added a faux wool flannel facing to the neckline and shoulder of the bodice and stitched them in place by hand. Then I gathered the bottom edge slightly and stitched in elastic so the gathers have a bit of stretch which makes the bodice easier to get on and off.

And somewhere along the way I also stitched up the side back seams. If those look funny to you it’s because those panels were cut on the wrong grain line to save fabric. When I was sewing them on I realized they were puckered, and that was likely the reason why, but after ironing they seemed okay so I moved on.

That was a mistake. Not only as they still puckered, they also look like they were cut from a different fabric. This fabric is two tone, but that quality is only visible on one of the fabrics grain lines. See how the front panel has a grey shift to it in the folds? The back panels don’t have that and appear darker.

 I didn’t realize all of this until I tried the finished bodice on and noticed how terrible it looked from the back. At that point it was way too late to fix it, which really sucks. On the bright side I definitely learned my lesson and will never make that mistake again.


I ignored the issues and buttonholes for a while and focused on the side closure instead. This involved sewing in six hooks.


Then I moved on to beading. For this I used 6mm glass pearls and two different types of glass seed beads. At this point I wasn’t completely sure what beading pattern I was going to use, but these matched the costume and I figured I could come up with something as I worked.


I ended up stitching pearls with seed beads on each side about an eighth (tenth?) of an inch apart all the way across the neckline.


Here it is from a distance.

In this photo you can also see the new and improved (though still pretty ugly) button holes I stitched into the right side.


I finished off the beading by stitching the grey seed beads into a pattern that wraps around the pearls. This was pretty easy to do once I got the hang of it and I really like how it looks.

I ended up making a tutorial on the process, if you’re curious it can be watched here.

After taking this photo I thought the neckline was still a bit bland, so I decorated it with vintage cluny lace which really brings it all together!


With the detailing done I pinned polyester lining into the bodice.


Then stitched the lining in by hand.


Look at how pretty it is!


Here is a close up of the finished neckline.


I did up the back seam, then sewed bias tape onto the bottom edge.


After a quick fitting I realized it was difficult to get on and off. So I reopened the back seam and added another button hole and three hooks to the back of the bodice. The end result isn’t as seamless as I’d hoped, but it’s a lot more practical.

The final step was sewing on the buttons (which I switched out for different ones later) and the bodice was done! All it needs is sleeves.


That’s it for this post! I should be writing about the skirt and sleeves very soon!

Thanks for reading!


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Progress Report: February / March 2016

It’s been a while since my last post. Sorry about that! After my last project I wanted a little break, then I came down with a cold and wasn’t feeling well enough to respond to comments, much less write an entire blog post. But i’m back! And today I have a massive progress report to share. If you’re unfamiliar with these posts, they include updates on what i’m currently working on, a look back at what i’ve finished recently, what I plan on starting soon, and any other costume related bits that have happened in the last few months.

Let’s start with what i’ve completed so far this year. Which, to be honest, isn’t much. I’ve only finished three costumes. I’m really pleased with all of them, I’d just hoped to have done more.

The first costume I completed was made in the first week of February. It’s a medieval cotehardie, and the female equivalent of this ensemble. It’s made from velvet and brocade, and is trimmed with hundreds of sequins and more than fifty buttons. The dress laces up the back and is paired with this crown.

I haven’t spoken much about this project since I didn’t take many photos when I was making it. But I did film the entire process, and i’ll definitely write a bit more about it as soon as I have those videos edited and uploaded (though that may be a while, I have 15+ hours of footage…)


The cotehardie was made in less than a week – I think it took five days? I realized the season of snow was coming to an end, and I knew I wanted to photograph this project in a wintery landscape. I definitely didn’t want to wait another year before making it, so I drafted the patterns, put it together, embellished it, embroidered more than thirty eyelets, and sewed on all the buttons in less than a week. I had it done just in time to photograph it the last big snowfall of the year!

Here is a close up of the hemline, adding these sequins was the most time consuming part.


I also “finished” this 18th century ensemble – though it isn’t really finished, since the dress isn’t wearable on its own. But I did make the jacket, hat, and refit/complete the bodice. So i’m counting it anyway!

Angela Clayton_ Riding Coat_ 3

I also made a plaid walking ensemble, which i’m pretty sure is my favorite thing i’ve ever made. I’m really happy with how this turned out and it was definitely worth the days spent matching the plaid!

Plaid_1890s_Angela Clayton5

And though I haven’t finished any other ensembles, I have completed a few individual pieces. I made this petticoat, a chemise, and a corset, which all match and are based off garments from the late nineteenth century.


Here you can see the corset in detail. It’s made from cotton eyelet fabric, denim, and steel bones. I trimmed the top with chantilly lace and ribbon. I’m really happy with how this looks, and it’s quite comfy to wear, but it doesn’t give me as much reduction as I’d hoped which is dissapointing

(I put the busk in upside down, shhh)


A few days ago I pieced together a matching combination set, which can function as bloomers and a chemise. This is to go underneath a cycling ensemble I plan on making soon, which is also based off designs from the 1890s.

This came together really quickly – I’d say four hours or so? I used more of the eyelet cotton, a lace applique I was gifted, and some embroidered mesh to make pretty cuffs. I draped the pattern and put it together without making a mockup, and by some miracle it fits!


This was such a fun little project. I’m planning to photograph ALL these pieces soon, then i’ll write about the process of making them. I just have to make a pair of bloomers first, which will complete the set!


The final thing I’ve finished is a partial shirtwaist. I’m don’t think i’m going to post about making this, since I didn’t take many photos and don’t plan on wearing it any time soon. It was made to go with an 1890’s gown, but I don’t like how the asymmetric collar and gold buttons look with that dress.

It has a very similar construction to this partial shirtwaist, but ties at the sides with bias tape instead of at back. The neckline opens down to the waist with snaps and has decorative gold buttons. It’s made from a lightweight striped cotton that I tea stained, lined with muslin, and trimmed with vintage lace.

I’m going to keep this around in case I have a use for it someday, but right now it feels like a waste of time/effort/materials!


I suppose completing two hats, two jackets, a dress, a skirt, two undershirts, a chemise, petticoat, combination set, and a corset isn’t too bad considering we are only three months into the year…but i’d really like to do double that in the coming months. Luckily I have some things in progress, so that may happen!

The first project I started on this year is an 1890s taffeta dress. Once my foundation garments were finished I went straight into drafting the bodice for this gown. The bodice actually came together really quickly – in a week or so I had it and the sleeves, completely finished.

Here it is before I added the sleeves. It’s made from polyester taffeta, faced with faux wool flannel, lined with a basic polyester lining, trimmed with vintage lace, and beaded around the neckline. I’m really happy with the fit of this, though the back panels pucker pretty badly when it’s worn since I wasn’t paying attention to grain lines.

I’m also happy with the beading on this, I think it turned out nicely!


The sleeves are made from the same materials and feature the same beading pattern. Gathering these and attaching them to the bodice was a huge pain since taffeta is so tightly woven and difficult to stitch through. I pricked myself way to many times and I had to take lots of breaks, but I did get it accomplished!

Unfortunately that’s about all I got accomplished on this project. I made major progress in January and then ignored it for more than a month. Even now, three months later, it still looks about the same.


This was mostly because my 18th century ensemble and cotehardie took priority, but it also has to do with a roadblock I hit when working on the skirt. The skirt was supposed to have large pleats in the side panels, but I couldn’t get them to work. I spent ages trying to fix them before deciding to remove the pleats and simplify the skirt.

After fixing the skirt I got the waistband put together and closures sewn in. Then I abandoned it, again.

I’m going to try to resume progress this week and get it finished. I have to add cuffs to the sleeves, replace the buttons on the bodice, attach the skirt to the bodice, and sew on the waistband. That shouldn’t take me more than a day, I just need to find the motivation to get it finished!

And hopefully when the dress is done i’ll have enough enthusiasm to make the matching hat and cloak that are meant to go with this dress. The cloak is already drafted and the hat has been cut out, so it could happen!


Another ensemble I had planned on finishing by now is an Edwardian evening gown. Unfortunately as soon as I began work on this I realized the design I had come up with wasn’t going to work. The illusion neckline and appliques down the sides looked very modern, not historical at all. I played around with some of the appliques and realized that putting them across the shoulder and down the front of the dress looks way better.

But this means that the asymmetrical hem detailing i’d planned won’t look very nice. I’m not sure how to rework that part and still like the end result, and since the bodice and skirt are cut as a single piece, I need to figure that out before working on this project at all. So i’ve decided to put this project on hold for now, and come back to it when I have a new idea that incorporates the design changes.

Hopefully that will happen soon since i’m dying to work on this – look at how pretty the lace is!


I really wanted to work on something detailed that involved sequins and beading, and since I couldn’t move forward with my Edwardian project I decided to start something new. And that something is an 1860s evening gown, inspired by this painting. It won’t be a recreation, but I’m basing the bodice quite heavily on the one shown there, and it will have the same color scheme.

Here is my sketch.


I’m using cotton sateen for this, and pairing it with an alencon lace (which can be seen here) and some chantilly lace that I recently purchased.

I got it from the seller PrettyLaceShop on etsy. This lace has a few issues (uneven “eyelashes” on edges, a couple tiny oil stains, and the occasional tear along the top edge) but the sheen and design is beautiful. And it’s cheaper than anything else I could find. I think it was $40 for seventeen yards, which is pretty amazing considering how wide this trim is (more than ten inches at points).


This costume is no where close to being done, but I have enjoyed working on it so far. The bodice has a lot of details and layers to it which i’ve loved creating. This is just the collar, photos of the entire bodice and a “Making of” post about this should be up next week!


The lower half of this project hasn’t been quite as enjoyable to make. I spent a few evenings fussy cutting out twelve yards of lace trim, then spent another few evenings stitching the lace  onto a length fabric which will form a ruffle for the skirt. But that part was fun compared to making the understructure for the skirt.

I decided to use my farthingale as a base for the skirt (since that worked well for this dress) and planned on making a very full petticoat to go overtop, which will add enough volume and length to the farthingale to create an appropriate 1860s silhouette.  I chose to do this because I didn’t have enough hooping wire on hand to make an elliptical hoop skirt (and spending $40 on lace for this project was more appealing than buying $40 of wire).

Even if I did make an eliptical hoop, I would still have to make a petticoat to soften the shape of it. Making a super full petticoat seemed like the better, cheaper option than making a new hoop skirt and a new petticoat.

Oh boy was I wrong. After cutting out dozens of strips for ruffles I managed to injure my wrist. And after three days of nonstop hemming my neck was hurt too. My wrist was fine a few days later, and my neck has improved by a lot, but it’s still hurts if I spend more than a few consecutive hours sewing. I lost almost a week of work time because it was so bad, which has added to my lack of progress over the past few months.

On the bright side, the petticoat has a nice shape and it’s super fluffy! I’m going to try and get it finished this week so I can draft the skirt for this project. It’s 95% done so hopefully I can manage the last bit without hurting myself again.


The final thing I have in progress is a renaissance inspired dress. I started on this before the Civi War Era gown, because I wanted something flowy and easy to make. It hasn’t quite worked out that way. The construction hasn’t been difficult, but I have a lot of conflicting ideas and can’t figure out which direction to take this project in.

I’ve temporarily set this dress aside since i’m not sure how to move forward, but i’m sure i’ll come back to it soon.

So far the bodice looks like this.


And I made a very fancy beaded collar, which looks like this.


I also managed to make some major progress on the matching headpiece and collar (which is for a cape, not the dress). Those pieces were wonderful when I got sick because it was the only thing I felt capable to work on and kept me distracted from my runny nose and sore throat!

I managed to draft the headpiece and collar, then spent an entire week beading them.


The color scheme for this project gave me a chance to use these weird resin “stones” I bought last year. I think these are gorgeous and i’m so thrilled to finally have a use for them!


My other reason for not getting much done these past few months is because February was kind of…weird. I don’t know if it was allergies, or lack of inspiration, or what, but I felt really burnt out. I had to force myself to work on stuff in the mornings, and by the time afternoon rolled around I was exhausted. None of my projects were going well and instead of pushing through the problems I ignored them, which lead to me getting very little done.

This is part of the reason why my 1890s taffeta dress didn’t progress much, and why my blog and youtube channel were so dead for a while. Luckily that went away in March and got back on schedule. But February was mostly spent in my sewing room procrastinating. And one of my favorite things to do when i’m procrastinating is organizing.

So I rearranged things to be more convenient – The velvet, suiting, and quilt batting that was previously stored on the top shelf of my closet got moved into the bins underneath my desk, where they are much easier to access.

Then I spent a whole day winding most of my lace collection onto Kraft tags I got from michaels…


And I switched all these boring bins out for colorful photo boxes I got from Michaels. It went from this:


To this!


Even though February wasn’t a productive month, I am happy with the storage changes that came out of it!


One exciting thing that happened in February involves a package I received from my Great Aunt. She was cleaning up her sewing room and came across an issue of “The Lady” magazine from 1896. She thought I might appreciate it, so she sent it my way. I’m so glad she did. It’s incredibly interesting to look through and see real advertisements and illustrations from  that period.

I’m sure there are books that include the same fashion plates, but seeing them printed on paper that is more than a hundred years old is just incredible. Not to mention super inspiring, since the 1890s is a period i’ve been researching a lot recently.

I may make a blog post completely devoted to the pages of this, but for now i’m just going to share my favorite. I believe these show fancy dress costumes from the period, but they may also be illustrations of the characters featured in the short stories that are spread throughout the magazine.

Either way, they are awesome. Here you can see a medieval inspired gown, an 18th century inspired witch, and a lovely riding ensemble.


My favorite is probably this one, which is titled “Carnival in black and white”


Here you can see more details on the “Modernised Witch” who has skulls and snaked decorating the hem of her skirt and shoes. The lady on the lower left is simply titled “chrysanthemum” and has feathery looking bits decorating her skirt and sleeves, which I can only assume represent the flower!


The ads throughout the magazine seems to focus on corsets, skirt facings, and outwear (which makes sense, it’s from November). I’m sure i’ll be using some of these as references in the future!


I think that covers everything that has happened so far this year! When it comes to the next few months, i’m not entirely sure what my plans are – but I need to decide soon because my birthday is coming up, which means i’ll be taking a trip into the garment district within the next week.

Usually I go in with lots of costume plans and a carefully crafted list of materials i’m on the lookout for. And I could do that this time, I certainly have enough ideas for it. But I also want to go in with an open mind and the goal of  expanding my stash of fabrics. Because I really miss the days when I had enough random fabric around to make whatever I liked without planning ahead. If I was stressed and a costume wasn’t going well I could start something new to distract me. Or if I came across something inspiring on pinterest I likely had enough materials around to make something similar.

I still have a lot of fabric, but I have specific plans for most of it. And the materials I don’t have projects in mind for are too small to turn into a full costume.

So going in without a list is really appealing to me…but i’m such a planner, and I have so many specific ideas that I want to work on. I’ll probably end up shopping for a couple specific projects, then spend whatever money is left on silks, sateens, taffetas, brocades, velvet, and any materials that could be used for a bunch of different projects and would suit a variety of eras.

Whatever I decide to do, i’m really excited about getting new materials and having the opportunity to start new projects. I know it will be a lot of fun. But i’m trying not to think about it too much since I have a massive list of things to accomplish this week, and the thought of new projects and fabric is only going to to distract me!

Thanks for reading! I should be back to my usual schedule now, and have a “The Making of” post up on Friday!


Posted by on April 12, 2016 in Progress Report



1890s Plaid Walking Ensemble, Photos

I’ve already talked about this project a lot, so I won’t ramble on for too long. But I wanted to say once again that i’m really pleased with how this project turned out.

I don’t think these pictures are the best photos in the world, but i’m so happy with how the costume looks in them. Sometimes I see other bloggers photos and wonder how they make historical costumes look so…right, and effortless when worn. Mine always take ages to lay out, and if I move the skirt has to be refluffed and the bodice adjusted to make sure it looks okay.

This costume doesn’t have any of those issues. Even after walking for half a mile on dusty trails it looked fine as soon as I dropped the skirt. So when I see these photos I see the ease of wearing this costume, which makes me feel like i’m one step closer to making things that are on the same level as the costumers I admire. And that is a pretty wonderful feeling!

A brief write up of this project can be found here, along with links to the “Making of” posts which detail the entire process of creating this costume. 

I’ve also uploaded a video that shows the details of this costume, the process of getting into it, and some footage of it being worn. If that interests you it can be watched here!

Now as promised, here are the finished photos of the ensemble!

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Plaid 1, Resize

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And a close up of the back – I don’t like this photo, since the wig looks shiny, but I wanted the show off the soutache detailing!

Plaid_1890s_Angela Clayton12

That’s it for today, thanks for reading!


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Making an 1890’s Plaid Walking Ensemble, Part Four

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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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!



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.


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


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


It was sewn in by hand with small whip stitches.


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.


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).


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!


Here are the front seams.


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.


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


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!


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!




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.


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.


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.


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!


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


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


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!




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.


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


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!


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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.


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


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.


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


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


I ironed all the edges inward by a half inch.


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).


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


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


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.


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


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


Finished skirt from the front…


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!


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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!


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18th Century Riding Ensemble – Photos

I’m excited to post these – it’s been a while since I’ve had photos of a finished costume to share!

I’m really pleased with these pictures. There were a few issues with the hat and wig, but overall I’m thrilled with how it came together, especially since this was my first time having the entire costume on.

These photos were taken during a pretty intense blizzard (I posted a short video on Instagram that shows how hard it was snowing) and though I love the contrast of the jacket against the snow, I think it hid a lot of this costumes details. I still really like these pictures, i’m just not sure all my hard work shows in them. Because of that I plan on getting more photos of this ensemble in the future – including some that show the dress that goes underneath this project!

Speaking of that, I realize that I still haven’t blogged about the dress worn with this project. The dress is technically finished, but i’m not completely happy with it, so I think i’ll hold off on writing about it until it’s been fixed up. However I have blogged about making the jacket and hat which are the real stars of this ensemble!

Here are the photos!

Angela Clayton_ Riding Coat_ 1

Angela Clayton_ Riding Coat_ 2

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Angela Clayton_ Riding Coat_ 6

Angela Clayton_ Riding Coat_ 3

Thanks for reading! Another update on my Plaid Walking Ensemble should be up tomorrow!


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Making an 1890’s Plaid Walking Ensemble, Part Two

Making an 1890’s Plaid Walking Ensemble, Part Two

A couple weeks ago I posted about the plaid skirt I have in progress. That skirt is part of an ensemble which will also include a blouse, jacket, and hat. The skirt design came really easily to me but figuring out the upper half proved to be more of a challenge!

I had a very rough idea of what I wanted this jacket to look like but couldn’t seem to find anything that matched my “vision”. The traditional eton jackets were a bit simpler than what I wanted and everything else seemed too big and poofy.

I ended up purchasing the book “Victorian Fashions and Costumes from Harper’s Bazar, 1867-1898″ which was a big help. I didn’t see anything in it that I wanted to replicate but it gave me a better idea of the silhouettes and closures used on jackets from the 1890s, which made me feel more comfortable in making up a design of my own.

Here is a rough sketch of what I had in mind.


Then it was time to make the pattern. I had planned on flat drafting this but after reading about the process I felt too intimidated and chose to drape it instead. Even though I didn’t flat draft it,  I used the patterns in “The Keystone Jacket and Dress Cutter” as a guide for the shapes of the pieces, which was helpful.


Once copied to paper my pattern looked like this!


I used that pattern to make a mock up which looked like this! I wasn’t expecting it to look anywhere near this good on the first try, so this was a very pleasant surprise.

There were a a bunch of changes that had to be made – like lowering the hem and waistline by a half inch, taking the front dart in by a 1/4″ at the waist, and adding a half inch to the arm openings. But all of those are pretty simple to do.

I also decided to add an inch to the front of each panel so the jacket could close with buttons. That wasn’t part of my original plan (or sketch) but I thought it would look more flattering in the end.


Once the pattern was altered I drew diagonal lines onto each piece. These lines are a guide for which direction the plaid should face, and line up with certain points on the plaid material.

Each pattern piece is pinned onto the material, with the guidelines carefully matched to points on the plaid.


Once one piece is cut out it’s used as a guide for cutting out the next piece so I can guarantee everything is symmetrical.


By some miracle I managed to cut out seven of the nine jacket pieces from the weirdly shapes scraps I had leftover after cutting out the skirt. This was fantastic news since I only had a yard and a half of material leftover aside from the scraps, and I needed ALL of that yardage to cut out the sleeves and front panels of the jacket.

Speaking of the front panels, these had me stumped. I drew the guidelines onto the pattern, just like I did with all the other pieces. But after doing that I realized a major problem.


Once the dart is sewn the plaid would not match. Here you can see how far the guidelines are from lining up.

If this was at the back of the bodice I might be more lenient, but this is the front, it can’t be that far off!


So I chopped my pattern into two pieces, added seam allowances, and cut them out on separate grain lines.


Then I sewed the pieces together – I realize it doesn’t look like much here, just wait!


Before sewing the dart I interfaced the lapels and collar. I’d planned on pad stitching this but I didn’t have the right materials around so interfacing seemed like the best option.


Now I could finally do the dart up and see if it worked, which it totally did!  I’m pretty sure I made an squealing noise when I ironed this and pinned it to my dress form. I knew it should work, but I was not expecting it to look this good and match up this nicely.

It isn’t perfect but it’s way closer than I had expected it to be!



With the front panels done I moved on to assembling the rest of the pieces. Each piece was basted together by hand, then sewn.


The basting stitches are more secure than pins, so the fabric doesn’t move when I sew it and I can make sure everything lines up just the way I want it to!


Once the back panels were assembled I decided to try something new. It’s a technique called Soutache, which involves creating patterns out of braided cord. I bought sixteen yards of green soutache braid back in December, which I planned on pairing with this fabric before I even had a design in mind.

I was mostly inspired by this jacket, though I used some references from the Victorian fashion book as well. I spent hours trying to figure out the name of this type of design since I hoped to copy an existing pattern but I couldn’t find anything similar so I had to draw it out myself.


Then I loaded it into photoshop and mirrored the image. I also made the top loops a little bit bigger and stretched the image to make it longer. After printing it out I used white out and a sharpie to rearrange a few things I wasn’t happy with.


Then I traced the design onto interfacing, which got fused onto the back of the jacket panels.


Then I sewed through the design with pale thread so the design was visible on the front of the fabric.


And lastly I sewed the braid on. It is SO far from being symmetrical, which bothers me, but aside from that i’m pretty happy with how it looks. I was worried it would look too busy, or barely be visible on the plaid, but neither of those things were an issue in the end.

 Also I’m pretty sure the goal of these designs is to have them be made from one continuous piece of braid, which definitely isn’t the case for the design I came up with. So that’s something to keep in mind for the future.


Despite the lack of symmetry, I really do like how it looks when the jacket is worn or on my dress form.


When the back detailing was done I sewed the shoulder seem of the jacket, then cut out the  facing/lapels from silk. This is the same material I used for the pleated portions of the skirt panels and was also used to make the hat.


The lapels were stiffened with fusible interfacing, then I sewed them into the jacket with the right sides facing each other, trimmed the corners, then turned things the right way out and pinned around the edges.


I used small whip stitches to secure the layers of fabric together, then ironed the lapel so it was smooth.


I didn’t figure out a soutache design for the lapels until after they were sewn to the jacket. And at this point I couldn’t use interfacing on the underside of the fabric to transfer the design. So I traced the design onto the tissue paper that comes with interfacing.


Then pinned that onto the lapels and sewed through it. Once I was done I very carefully ripped the tissue paper away, making sure that I didn’t tear out my stitches.


And now I had a pattern to follow!


Here is the jacket after the braid was sewn on. I changed the design up a bit, but it is still very similar to the pattern shown above. I really like the way the green braid pops against the silk, and how it nicely ties in with the detailing on the back of the jacket.


That is it for this post, but I should have another one up soon showing the finished jacket!

Thanks for reading!


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Making a Tricorne Hat / 18th Century Riding Ensemble

Making a Tricorne Hat / 18th Century Riding Ensemble

This post will make more sense if you’ve seen my post about making an 18th Century Riding Jacket, since this hat was made to go with that piece.

This hat was an adventure. It had a lot of ups and downs, but I think the most difficult part was figuring out how big it should be. The ensemble this project is based off of is worn with a very small decorative hat, which I like. But I didn’t think it would flatter my wider frame/face and the proportions of the rest of the costume.

Making a full sized one didn’t hold a lot of appeal either, that seemed too practical to go with the heavily beaded jacket. So I split the difference and made a medium sized one. I don’t love everything about this hat but I am happy with the sizing of it, so i’m glad I took so much time to think about that before getting started.

This is the pattern I came up with for the cap of the hat. I started by drawing out the top then fiddled around with strips of paper until I got a shape I was happy with.


I cut out both pieces from buckram and marked the seam allowance onto the piece that makes up the “taper” (sides) of the hat.


I clipped the seam allowance at the top edge of the taper, then pinned it to the crown of the hat.


And sewed it down with a ton of upholstery thread.


Then I covered it with two layers of quilt batting to round out the shape.


Now it was time to cover the cap with wool. This step made me think back to some wet moulding tutorials I saw a while back, which gave me the brilliant idea to wet the wool and mould it over the cap. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about seams or gathers at the base of the hat.

If I had taken a few minutes to actually google those tutorials, or to think about this idea for more than thirty seconds I might have realized how stupid this plan was. Because the wool i’m using isn’t felt, so it doesn’t stretch, even when it’s wet. But you know what does stretch when it gets wet? Buckram.

The wool quickly dampened the buckram and the tension on the pins securing the wool to the buckram caused the buckram to bunch up at the sides and even disintegrate at points. I tried to salvage it by pinning it to a wig head, but the wig head was too small. It was a complete mess.

I ended up with this lumpy, uneven thing. But I didn’t want to redo it because I had limited quantities of wool and buckram. So I moved forward and hoped it wouldn’t be obvious in the end.

The best part of this whole thing is that a week later I came across a pre formed buckram hat base which was the exact size and shape I was going for. If I had remembered it’s existence a week earlier I would have saved myself some frustration and have a significantly less lumpy hat!


I set the cap aside for a bit and drafted the brim. This part was pretty tricky, I made three or four attempts before coming up with this which still isn’t perfect but worked well enough.


I cut it out from felt weight interfacing, then sewed wire into the edges so I would be able to shape the brim.


I covered the top side with wool then basted it down a quarter inch away from the outside edge. The outside edge will be finished with bias tape later on so it doesn’t matter, but I folded the inner edge so it’s on the underside of the brim.


Then I sewed it down.


And I sewed the cap to the brim. This was a pain since the buckram had warped to a point where it really did not want to fit in the opening.


The end result was pretty bad but at this point I had invested so much time into it that I felt I had to finish it.


So I moved forward! I pinned wool to the underside of the brim and sewed it down with a mixture of whip stitches and basting stitches.


Then I sewed up the back seam and sewed bias tape around the outside edge of the brim. This bias tape was made from a mottled gold brocade which matched the beading on the jacket nicely.

By some miracle the hat looked pretty decent once it was folded into the tricorne shape. I think the front is a little bit long, and the sides could be shaped a little bit differently, but this was a way better result than I was expecting.


To jazz it up a bit I sewed sequins onto the bottom half of the bias tape, then I sewed on a thin gold ribbon a quarter inch below that.


I had four inches of lace left after finishing the jacket, which was just enough to add this decoration to the right side of the hat. I trimmed the lace with sequins and beaded it using the exact same method ghat was used on the jacket. Then I added a beaded tassel and a button.


I still wasn’t super happy with how the sides of the cap looked. So I used my usual method to fix this sort of thing which involves adding stuff until I like the way it looks. On the left side I added two home made chiffon flowers that have fake pearl centers and two bleached peacock feathers.


The other side has three ostrich plumes – two in a peachy color, and one that’s white. The base of the feathers are hidden by another chiffon flower, which has a gold floral cameo center.


And another photo of the lace detail on the side because that’s my favorite part!


I also covered the seam at the back of the hat with gold braid and added sequins to the top side of the centerfront.

And that’s it! The hat is finished.


The underside isn’t too pretty since my attempts at lining it ended badly. Eventually I decided that it didn’t matter since the wool doesn’t fray.

The saftey pin is there so I can hang the hat on my wall – it doesn’t have any structural purpose, I just forgot to take it out!

The plastic comb was a late but very necessary addition to the hat. When we were taking photos of the finished ensemble the hat was a bit of a fail, it had no way of staying on my head and I didn’t have enough range of motion in my arms to pin it to my wig after I got the dress on.

The hat refused to stay where I wanted it and fell off so many times that the brim got really bent out of shape. Which was easy to fix, but not something I noticed when we were taking the photos. So the hat isn’t sitting properly/shaped properly on my head in most of the photos which is dissapointing.

But thanks to the comb that will not a problem when I wear it again!


Here is a photo of how it’s supposed to look when its worn. Obviously the hair and styling isn’t right, but you can get an idea of the shape! I think it turned out really nicely in the end, which i’m pretty amazed to be saying since the construction process didn’t go very smoothly.

Photo on 2-5-16 at 2.29 PM #3

And here it is worn with the finished ensemble! I don’t think the snow did a lot of good for the hat – the feathers kind of deflated, and the decorations are hidden by snow. But it adds a lot to the outfit and i’m excited to get more photos of it in the future!

Angela Clayton Riding Coat 1

And the last thing I wanted to mention is that I bought an accessory to wear with this costume – it won’t be visible when the whole thing is worn, but the color was so perfect that I couldn’t resist. These are clocked stockings from the American Duchess store. They are so pretty, and red, and pair with this so nicely!


And that’s it! The full photoset of this project should be up next week!


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