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Making an 18th Century “Undress” Costume – The Skirt & Accessories

Today I have the second making of post for my 18th century undress costume to share! I’ll go through making the skirt and matching accessories. If you missed part one, it can be read here, and talks about making the jacket and stomacher.

I originally planned on making the skirt for this costume very simple – three panels of the brown material knife pleated down to fit the waistline. But the more I thought about it, the more concerned I was that it wouldn’t have enough volume. So I decided to make an open front skirt, with a petticoat made from the stomacher fabric underneath. Except I didn’t have enough of the stomacher fabric to make a petticoat. Which meant the dress needed to have a fake open front, which made it way more complicated.

Anyway, step one was measuring from my waist to the floor while wearing the proper foundation garments, which in this case were a *new* bum pad (new year, new bum pad, that’s what I always say) plus a cotton/tulle petticoat. Not accurate, but way lighter than quilted petticoats with less bulk at the waistline.

I wrote down the center front, side front, back front, and center back measurements, then used those to figure out the dimensions of each skirt panel. This was pretty easy to do since they are rectangular, with a sloped waistline.

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I didn’t take any pictures of the skirt panels in this stage because they were just giant rectangles. But here is how much fabric I had left after cutting them out – I quite literally cut it pretty close!

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Before doing much with those panels, I cut out and assembled the front panel. This was made from a forty inch wide piece of the woven polyester, with horsehair sewn into the hem to prevent it from rippling in the front.

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Then I cut out a thirteen inch long strip. The top edge was cut with pinking sheers and left raw, and the bottom edge was turned inward twice and sewn down by hand.

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I gathered the ruffle by machine, then pinned it to the other panel, an inch above the hem.

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The ruffle was sewn on by machine as well. Since the ruffle was so dense the stitching wasn’t very visible. The sides of this panel were fraying a lot, so I finished them with bias tape that was sewn on by machine.

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Now back to work on the brown panels! I cut them so two 40″ wide panels would make up the back. The remaining panel was cut in half, with one half on either side of the ivory panel.

I interfaced the front of these panels with 12″ wide strips of medium weight fusible interfacing, which helped a lot with the shape. However I should have also lined the panels, because the interfacing looks terrible when the front panels flip back (something I struggled with when photographing this costume on a windy day).

The front edge of these panels were folded inward, then I sewed the folded edge to the ivory front panel.

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I thought this looked okay at first, but it was one of those things that looked worse the longer I left it on my dress form. It was very obvious from certain angles that the skirt was all one piece, rather than an open front gown with an underskirt, which was the effect I wanted.

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See? It was worse on this side for some reason.

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So I ripped out the stitches that secured them together. Then I sewed 20″ wide panels of muslin onto either side of the ivory panel, and evenly gathered the top. This time my plan was securing these panels together at the side seam, which prevents tension from being put on the front edge of the brown panels. Luckily, this worked and I could move forward!

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I turned the top ten inches of the side edges inward by hand, twice, to neatly finish them. This will be the point where the skirt opens.

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Then I figured out a pleating pattern I liked, and sewed the pieces together with french seams.

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The top portion of the sides were left open, these allow me to get the skirt on and off. I much prefer this to back closures, but it requires costumes with skirted bodices or jackets…otherwise it can look a bit awkward.

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The brown portions of the skirt were hemmed by hand. I turned the hem inward by a half inch, then an inch and a half.

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The finishing touch was binding the top edge of the skirt. I didn’t have enough brown fabric left to make bias tape, so I used the ivory material instead. Not the nicest finished, but it won’t be seen when it’s worn.

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I sewed a single eyelet into each end of the binding (so four in total, two on the back, two on the front) ribbon can be threaded through these to tie the skirt in place.

And here you can also see the back pleating pattern. The pleats on this were very finicky – I spent a lot of time redoing them on the dress form until the looked right.

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That finished up the skirt and jacket! Here it is worn.

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But it isn’t done, don’t be silly. Have I made a costume in the last year that doesn’t have some sort of accessory? Why would this be an exception?

Though I couldn’t find a style of hat that would pair well with this, I did find some knitwear accessory inspiration through the designs Claire wears in Outlander (side note; the designer has a really great blog that I would highly recommend). And I just so happened to have an interesting purple knit fabric collecting dust in my stash!

I decided to make a pair of mitts, and a shawl. The mitts were made using a pattern I found online (located here – but it appears to have been taken down), which I would recommend. But if you’re using knit fabric, don’t add seam allowances! That was my one big mistake, parts of it ended up too big.

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I finished the edges by turning them inward by hand, and left the mitts unlined.

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I wasn’t super happy with how the laid on my hand (probably because I added seam allowance and they looked silly!), so I folded the pointed edge back and sewed it down with a button as decoration. This was actually very common during the time, and a convenient fix for me.

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Next accessory: A shawl, which could also be tucked into the neckline and used as a fichu/neckerchief. This was super easy, I cut it out from a corner of the knit material, then turned the edges inward by a half inch and sewed them down by hand. I didn’t do a rolled hem because this knit was fine enough that it didn’t fray much or unravel (thank god).

In the photos below I used one of my great grandmothers brooches to secure it in place.

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And that’s it! Here is the finished ensemble. I’m very happy with it. I really love the color palette and textures in this project. The fit of the jacket, the drape of the skirt, the embroidery…it all turned out even better than I expected, which is a rare and wonderful thing!

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I’ve already photographed this project and have a costume spotlight video filmed that goes into more detail. But it will probably take me a week to get that edited and posted. In the mean time, here is a little teaser.

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That’s it for now! Thanks for reading!

 

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A look back at 2016

This post is long overdue. I’ve attempted writing it at least a dozen times, and I never get past the first paragraph. But I was determined to get it up before the end of the month, and I managed to make that deadline!

If you hadn’t guessed by the title, this post is an end of the year wrap up where I go through all the projects I made in 2016. I share my thoughts on each one, my thoughts on the year in general, and goals I have for the year to come.

I’ve written posts like this before, both in 2014, and 2015. Those posts were some of my favorite to write because it made me realize all I’d accomplished and gave me motivation moving forward. But I didn’t accomplish as much as I would have liked in 2016, and looking back on it has made me more frustrated than inspired.

It isn’t that the number of costumes I made that I find lacking or upsetting, it’s the amount of time I wasted. There were weeks that passed where I didn’t sew at all because I wasn’t feeling inspired. It made me realize how much I depend on motivation, and how lost I am without it.

As much as it sucks to look back on a year that I wasted a lot of, I learned a lot in 2016, and it’s made me realize ways I can improve in 2017. So it was worth something – and I like a lot of the things I made – it just wasn’t a good year for me.

Now onward with the costumes! I kept a list this year of things I completed, so this should be a bit more accurate than usual.

Then first project I finished got an honorary mention in my 2015 wrap up, since it was mostly finished then. But I put the final touches on it and declared it complete in January. It’s an 18th century riding ensemble, that consists of a skirt, bodice, embellished jacket, and hat.

The dress has some issues that make it unwearable without the jacket (they are fixable, I just spent so long on this project that I can’t bring myself to revisit it and fix it, even though it would only take a day or two) which is a bummer. But I love the jacket, and the hat, and how it works together in the finished ensemble.

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In the same month I also made a set of 1890’s foundation garments, including a petticoat, corset, chemise, and combination set. This is also when I began work on my purple taffeta dress, which I majorly blame for my lack of motivation in the months that followed.

To avoid working on the purple dress, I took on a week long break and made a women’s cotehardie, which was meant to coordinate with the mens cotehardie I made in 2015. The timeline on this dress was tight since I wanted to finish it before we got snow. I think I spent a solid four days working on it before declaring it complete.

I like how it looks visually – the brocade against the blue velvet, the buttons, and the large sequin embellishments. However the rush job shows in the fit of the shoulders and sleeves, which I’m not thrilled about.

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After completing that I was still avoiding my purple taffeta dress. However I had put so much work into the foundation garments for it that I decided to put them to good use and make something from the same era. That something was a turn of the century walking ensemble made from red plaid.

This costume really tested my patience (so much hand basting), but also proved to be a fun challenge (the plaid matching). I learned a lot about construction from this costume (collars!), and even tried a new hand sewing technique with the soutache designs on the collar and back. I stepped outside my comfort zone even further by decorating a home made hat with the wings of a bird.

Even though I struggled with this project at times, I don’t think it shows in the finished costume. And it’s by far my favorite thing I made that year, I really love it.

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Next I finally (after several months) finished the purple taffeta dress. The only thing I like about this costume is the hat. The rest, as far as I’m concerned is scrap material. It’s too tight and short in the bodice, and too long in the hem. The shoulders aren’t wide enough and the waistband is too wide. It’s a mess.

Working on this really sucked all the fun out of sewing and I regret forcing myself to finish it.

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My next costume was much simpler and a refreshing change. It’s a grecian costume that consists of a chiton, skirt, crown, and belt.

This was a costume I had been planning for ages and I was thrilled to finally make it a reality. The dress portion of this was very simple, but I invested a good twenty hours in the belt and crown. They were embroidered and embellished by hand, which took longer than I had expected. But I’m very pleased with the end result – the only thing I want to change is the chiton length, which won’t take more than an hour or two.

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It was around this time that I destroyed my neck while making a massive petticoat for my 1860’s evening gown. I regret pushing myself so hard on that one, and making a petticoat instead of a hoop skirt in the first place! This lead to another downfall in motivation, and I didn’t get much done for almost two months.

I split what little time I spent sewing between my civil war era evening gown, a cycling costume, and an 1860’s day ensemble. The day ensemble was the first to be finished…but I use the term finished loosely. It was supposed to consist of a blouse, skirt, and hat, but the skirt didn’t really work out and I didn’t have enough material to fix it. Which is why I only have waist up photos of this ensemble.

The skirt is a shame, but I do like the parts of this project I finished.

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I took on a quick hand sewing project after that and made a horned headpiece. This took a week or so, and was incredibly fun to work on. I love the variety of materials that can be used in these, and the challenge of bringing the shape to life. It isn’t historically accurate at all, but I think it looks quite believable in a way.

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The ball gown was finished next. This was one of my dream dresses. I worked on it for months and questioned whether I would ever complete it several times. I usually break elaborate projects down into pieces or steps so I don’t get overwhelmed while working on them. I did that with this project too, but there were so many pieces and each one was so time consuming to make that it felt like it would never end.

But eventually I did finish it, and I’m very proud of it. Especially the bodice – I think it’s lovely and it fits perfectly. The skirt doesn’t have quite the right shape, but the amount of hand sewing and work that went into each tier was insane, I’m so pleased I accomplished it. I like the headpiece too, I think it ties all of it together!

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After finishing that I wanted to make something simple that didn’t require an inch of lace. So I followed a pattern from The Cut of Women’s Clothes* and made a 1790’s round robe. This project wasn’t as simple as I had hoped, since I had to remake the bodice and figure out how it was supposed to go together without any instructions.

But I did appreciate the break from frills and lace, and I think the finished dress is quite lovely (though not particularly flattering). I altered a hat to match, and stuck a quilted petticoat under it. The dress was easy to get into and very comfy, which I appreciated!

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Around this time I made a pair of stays – which, like my previous pair of stays, fit horribly. And an 1880’s corset, which looks lovely, but has issues with the busk being out of alignment. Both took far longer to make than I would care to admit, and probably need to be remade in the future. But they did make good bases for things I worked on in the next few months.

I also finished my cycling costume, which had been in progress for weeks before it was complete. I blame the fact this had so many pieces. Including a hat, tie, jacket, shirtwaist, bloomers, shoes, and stockings.

Though it took a while to complete everything, I really like how this turned out. My only peeve is the collar on the shirtwaist. But I find the fit and proportions of this costume quite charming – and once again, it’s super comfy and easy to get into, which is a total bonus.

It was also my first time buying shoes to go with a historical costume, which made such a huge difference in how I felt wearing the costume. It was pretty amazing!

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Next up was my reattempt at an 1890’s day dress. My purple taffeta dress (attempt number one) turned out horribly, and I wanted to redeem myself. So I made a few design changes (which made it look a lot more like the dress that originally inspired me, from Crimson Peak), bought a better fabric, and focused more on the fit. I also referenced historical pattern books and used those as a guide which lead to a way better silhouette.

I like this dress so much more than my first attempt. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite thing I made this year, but it’s up there. I consider it quite striking.

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I also put together a few dresses for my youtube channel (and posted 40 videos throughout the year, which I’m pretty proud of). My favorite of these is a blue dotted dress inspired by the 1950’s. Researching dresses from this period made me feel excited towards making my own clothes (not just costumes) and potentially creating more 1950’s inspired pieces. Though it isn’t somethings I’ve pursued yet, I’d like to venture into it more in 2017.

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I followed that up with a spur of the moment Donwton Abbey inspired costume made from things I had in my stash. This isn’t the best costume I’ve ever made construction wise, since I have little patience when working with chiffon. But I really enjoy the end result.

It was quite different for me, with the large harem pants and fitted sleeves. The bodice is loosely boned and heavily embellished. Though a lot of work went into it, the whole thing was finished in a week!

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My next costume was a commission, which was quite a big step outside my comfort zone. I was asked to make a light up ball gown for the Scottsdale Princess hotel. This proved to be a challenge, since I had to find Christmas decorations at the start of October, and only had 10 days to construct it. But I got it done, and I managed to correct a lot of the “mistakes” I made when making this dress for myself two years ago.

I’m especially happy with how the bodice of this turned out – I love the sleeves! And I think it’s given me the confidence to potentially take on commissions in 2017.

(the dress isn’t complete in the photo below, but it’s the final photo I took of it on my dress form)

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The next costume is a fun 1830’s ensemble, which consists of a bonnet, top, and skirt. I really enjoyed making this. As much as I like ruffles and lace, it’s nice to focus on the construction and fabric manipulation, which this project requited a lot of. Between the plaid matching, pleats, gathers, and piping, it was a lot of work!

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In October I revisited an 18th century Robe a la Turque I started on much earlier in the year.  It was a very hand sewing heavy project that included home made trim, hand beaded fringe, and a lot of sequins. The project has a vest like dress with a train, a skirt that is visible from the front, and a turban inspired headpiece.

My feelings on this are..mixed. I love the materials and a lot of the details. But the patterning in the bodice could be a lot better. It also needed boning, or some sort of support in the bodice which I didn’t add since I didn’t do a lot of research before starting.

I’ve come a long way since I first started on that project, but a lot of the issues were unfixable by the time I revisited it. So it’s frustrating to see those faults in something I recently completed, since I know I’m better than that.

But from a distance, I think it looks pretty great!

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Another 18th century project I finished is inspired by one worn in The Duchess. I made something inspired by it in 2014 and it was bad. Like really, really, bad. I’ve wanted to reattempt it for a while now, and when I saw this striped silk I new it was time.

There are a few issues with the fit of this dress – It’s a bit tight, and the waistline is too high. I also need to take the underskirt in, it’s got so much volume it flairs over the over skirt, which is a no-no. But I love the trim on this, the stripe matching, and the mobility I have in it. I really learned my lesson from my previous few 18th century attempts. This bodice is lightweight, but well supported so it doesn’t crumple at the sides or back.

I also very much enjoy the matching hat I made. Trying this on really made me feel like an 18th century lady, I was so sad to take it off! Once I make the necessary alterations I want to get more pictures of it.

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In December I made an edwardian evening gown, which I still haven’t got worn photos of. But I really like how this turned out. The construction isn’t my best, but the color, trims, and simplicity of the design make me really happy, and I enjoyed working on it a lot.

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I also made a few headpieces in December, including this antlered one!

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And finally, my Christmas costume. I’ve gone over my thoughts on this recently, and the remain the same. I like it as a finished ensemble, but It’s far from my favorite thing I’ve made this year.

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I also want to give an honorary mention to my 1880’s evening gown. I got this 98% complete (seriously, a hundred hours must have gone into it and it’ll only take two more to finish it)  in 2016 but moved on to other things after Christmas and didn’t complete it. In fact I still haven’t completed it – I got distracted by the materials I got for Christmas. But I will finish it soon, and hopefully have blog posts detailing the construction process following that.

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There are a few other things that I think deserve mentioning in this post, like my attempt at an 1880’s striped bustle dress. And my sequined 1890’s jacket. And a black 16th century gown.  And probably a few other things I’m forgetting that ate up 10 or 20 hours of time but never got completed. I think that was part of my problem this year, when I was lacking motivation I would try to kickstart it by making something new…but I didn’t put a lot of thought into those projects, so they either fizzled out before I reached the half way point, or I realized they didn’t fit or weren’t accurate and never bothered to complete them.

Which brings me into my costume related goals for 2017!

The first one is to try be more diligent. I’m great at working when I’m inspired, but I want to get to a point where I can push myself to work regardless of how motivated I feel. I’m not saying I won’t take breaks, but I don’t want to procrastinate and accomplish next to nothing for several months because I “don’t feel like it”. I did that last year and it sucked.

I’d also like to try and find more balance. I think my procrastination sprees partially happened because I got burnt out or bored. Having projects with a lot of contrast in progress at the same time should help. And I think finding things I enjoy doing outside of sewing would help me relax and feel less burnt out.

Another one would be putting more thought into the projects I take on. A lot of my unsuccessful projects were ones I made on a whim, didn’t sketch first, didn’t research, and didn’t have enough material for. I like taking on spontaneous projects since they can be a lot of fun, but I feel like spending a few hours thinking and researching before getting started would save me materials and time in the long run.

I don’t have project specific goals this year, but I would like to:

Focus more on foundations. I don’t put the effort into these that they deserve, I’d love to have a corset and petticoat that I’m really proud of and fit well. And potentially a chemise with some embroidered details.

Venture into other eras and silhouettes. I gained a new appreciation for the late 1800’s this year and challenged myself quite a lot with dresses from that period. I’d love to push myself even more and make a bustle dress, regency gown, and something elizabethan.

Remember my love of simplicity. I tend to forget how much I enjoy projects that are construction based. I love ruffles too, and I tend to be most attracted to projects that have lots of them. But I really enjoy making simple kirtles and structured jackets. I’d like to keep that in mind this year and potentially make an Edwardian suit, or more casual wear from the 1500s/1600s.

A bit of a silly “goal” – but I would really like to have a dress from every decade of the 1800s. I have dresses from the 1830s, 1860s, 1880s, and 1890s. Along with materials for dresses from the 1820’s, 1840’s, 1850’s, and 1870’s. It isn’t something I’ll push really hard to accomplish, but I should be able to do it and I would be thrilled if I did.

And that’s it! Thanks for reading. I hope you had a productive 2016 and that the first month of this year has served you well.

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Making a Grand Pannier

Today I’m talking about 18th century skirt foundations – or more specifically, making a grand pannier.

This post was written as an accompaniment to my video on this project, where I switched between speeded up footage of the process and clips of me talking about how things were progressing as I worked on it. There are way more construction details (and frustrated rants) in that video than in this post, but I wanted to talk about it here too.

I took on this project because I decided mid last year to make an 18th Century court gown. I bought fabrics for it (for a total of $49 for 13 yards – still giddy about that deal) but at the time I had just finished an 1860’s ball gown, and took on an eleborate 1880’s evening gown a few weeks later. So there wasn’t a good time to start on it. Until now.

But before starting I needed to sort out the foundations. And it just so happened that Simplicity – who sell a grand pannier pattern which is a bit famous in the historical costuming community – emailed me and asked if I was interested in any of their patterns. So of course I said yes!

(For the record, I wasn’t encouraged to talk about this pattern and I bought all the other materials myself.)

You can purchase the pattern from their print on demand service here. Or try to find copies of the discontinued tissue paper version, the pattern number is EA363501.

Also for this project I used 5 yards of hot pink broadcloth, 10 yards of 1/4″ hooping steel, satin ribbon, and twill tape.

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I folded my fabric to be four layers thick, then cut out all the required pieces once. It was faster doing this way, but pretty hard on my scissors so I wouldn’t recommend it!

At this point I notched the pieces, but didn’t think to mark the circles or boning channels. I blame not having followed a commercial pattern in years for this oversight.

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I immediately – like, within five minutes got confused about one of the instructions and kind of did my own thing instead.

The pieces were all sewed together with flat felled seams – which was super frustrating. I found the notches extended past the half way point of the seam allowances, so raw edges stuck out and it was really hard to get them even. If I remade this I would definitely add a half inch to each seam, then sew down french seams or do wider flat felled seams. Something to make it a bit easier!

Aside from that, assembly was pretty easy. I found the instructions a bit confusing, but the construction was pretty intuitive when I ignored those.

After everything except for the side seams were sewn, I finally drew the boning channels and other markings onto the pieces. My fabric was thin enough that I could trace the design through the material which made it really easy to do, even this far into the project.

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Then the side seams were done up – as you might be able to tell, the top few inches of the centerfront were left open. This is how you get the pannier on and off.

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Instead of using the recommended bias tape, I made boning channels from twill tape and ribbon since they will be less prone to stretching. I also added a boning channel to the hemline, to give the skirt more support.

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The top edge was finished with bias tape, then I threaded ribbon through the bias tape to gather it down to my waist measurement. I’m not thrilled with this, I find it’s really prone to slipping down in the back, and it’s hard to gather evenly. I might swap it out for a straight waistband with an eyelet front closure in the future.

I also sewed all the ribbons in at this point. These ribbons are sewn just above the boning channels and tied to shape the skirt. The instructions said to do this after the boning was in, but that seemed frustrating so I did it beforehand.

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I boned this skirt with a mixture of things. I mostly used the new hooping steel, but the second boning channel has hooping wire in it, and the third tier has normal steel boning, which I will be swapping out very soon. I misread the material list and didn’t buy enough boning, so I had to compromise.

Also I ranted about this in the video, but feel the need to mention it again. What was commonly used for hoop skirts (hooping wire) was discontinued a year or two ago. It was made from two bands of steel covered with buckram or plastic. It was incredibly strong and supported skirts of any size beautifully. It was also around $1.50/yd.

The only “replacement” I could find was from CorsetMaking.com. They advertised this as a great alternative. No. It’s not. It pretty much sucks. The more I think about it, the more bitter I am. It behaves more like corset steel than hooping wire and is very flimsy. The bottom few bones in this skirt are collapsing a bit in the worn pictures – and that’s without a dress on top of it! I’m really worried that it won’t support the dress, which is frustrating.

It’s also much thinner than hooping wire (.25″ or .29″) and more expensive at $29/$36 for ten yards. I think using two bones per a channel would help, but that means buying more of this ridiculously expensive poorly performing steel.

It would probably be fine for smaller hoop skirts, pocket hoops, lobster tail supports, etc. but I was really disappointed in it’s performance in this skirt. I will try gluing buckram over corset steel, or doubling up the zip ties they use in shipping before buying more.

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Anyway, I carried on despite that annoyance and tied the ribbons to shape the skirt, which worked remarkably well.

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And that’s it! I was originally very happy with the shape of it, but after getting worn photos I’m not as thrilled.

I feel like the top portion should be wider – it’s probably fine for 95% of people, but I’m tall, have broad shoulders, and don’t find the proportions as exaggerated or flattering as I had hoped. I don’t think that’s really fixable at this point, unless the petticoat performs miracles on the amount of volume there!

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I also need to take the bone in the hem in a little, so the overall shape is smoother. But that’s an easy fix.

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Other than that, I really liked this pattern. It wasn’t too difficult to put together and the most challenging parts, like the boning channels and ribbon placement were well marked and easy to transfer onto the fabric. I’d recommend it to anyone looking to make a grand pannier, though I would suggest a few of the alterations mentioned in this post.  Like the additional bone in the hem, extra room in the seams, and twill tape for boning channels instead of bias tape.

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Thanks for reading! I should have another “Making of” post up soon, maybe even tomorrow if I can get it together on time!

 

Fabric Haul and Future Projects, January 2017

I’m happy to report that I’m starting my year off with lots of new fabric, and many sewing plans! Once again I chose to put my Christmas money towards materials purchased in the NYC garment district, and today I’m sharing what I got and what I plan on turing them into.

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I went in with a flexible list of things I wanted to make and was lucky enough to find the perfect fabrics for most of them. I think I bought enough fabric for ten projects – after a few trim orders from etsy arrive I’ll be set for the next few months!

The first project on my shopping list is one I’ve wanted to make for a long time: a mid 17th century evening gown. I purchased material for one a couple years ago, and even got the bodice mostly constructed. But the fit was really off, and I didn’t go in with a solid plan so it was hard to overcome the problems I hit.

However I’ve learned a lot since then, and it’s still one of my favorite periods for fashion. I’m determined to make a dress that will do the era justice. I’m using a lot of reference photos for this costume, but my main inspiration is this funny little painting. I love the bold color, heaps of trim, and the hat!

With that in mind, I purchased eight yards of this orange brocade. It’s base color is peach, but it has rich orange and gold flowers woven into it. I love the sheen it has and think it will make a lovely gown!

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As happy as I am to have found a fabric in the color I wanted with such a beautiful sheen, I wish I had found it earlier. Because at the beginning of the day I came across a very pretty raspberry brocade and decided it was probably the closest I would get, so I bought it.

Now I have two brocades, and no real plans for the first one I bought. But it is beautiful! It doesn’t have the scratchy texture that most brocades have, it feels almost soft, with a very finely woven print. I think it will be lovely to work with whenever I find a use for it! I’m open to ideas.

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It also has a fair amount of body to it…I purchased six yards since it’s 60″ wide. I wonder if that would be enough for something Elizabethan? Though the color is a little unusual for that period.

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Also for the 1630’s ensemble I bought a yard of stretch velvet in a greyish blue. This is for the hat.

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I bought some brightly colored feathers for the hat too, which I think will help tie the costume together.

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And lastly for this project I bought three yards of embroidered mesh. I saw this while walking out of a store and turned back for it. I thought it would be perfect for decorative under sleeves – not the most accurate choice, but it’s so pretty! And it has sequins on it. I can’t resist sequins.

Much to my surprise, it was only four dollars a yard. So I got three yards of it, which should be enough for a decorative chemise. I think it may be too cool toned for this project (it looked warmer under the lights in the store). So I’ll probably wait to make the chemise after the dress when I have a better idea of what will compliment it.

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The next project I purchased fabric for is a simple medieval costume. I’ve been wanting to make another one of these for a while, since really enjoyed the Cotehardies I made this time last year.

I haven’t planned the design for this project too much, but I want it to consist of a front lacing kirtle with a surcoat layered over top. The project won’t have any embellishments, other than some trim on the hem of the surcoat (and that’s only if I can find any I like).

I purchased two medium weight wools for this project. It was quite the challenge finding these fabrics. The person helping me kept asking what I wanted, and all I could say was “Something with nice texture to it that will be $10 or less a yard” because I didn’t have a color in mind, I just wanted fabric with enough texture that it wouldn’t look boring despite the simple design.

Luckily we managed to find something, and I love it. It’s dark purple and  medium weight – too heavy for suiting, but lighter than a coating. I think it’s perfect.

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The second material I purchased is probably less historically accurate – I doubt that weave would have been possible in the 1400s. But I really like the weight of this, and think that texture will look awesome in photos. It was also one of the few fabrics I could find that looked nice with the purple (other options were black, or light pink).

If we’re ignoring historically accuracy, I’m really happy with this fabric. It feels almost like flannel, very soft but drapes the way you would expect medium weight wool to. I think both of these fabrics will be really nice to work with.

Side note: I was really impressed with the store I bought this from, Fabric Express. I’ve been in there before but only bought lace, or talked to the assistant. I was helped by the owner this time and he was really patient and I got great deals on everything – the wool, brocade, velvet, and lace fabric are all from this shop. Silk is cheaper at Diana’s Fabrics but this is going to become one of my go-to stops for other things.

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Another project I have planned is an 1820’s evening gown. I actually came across the inspiration for this while researching another idea I had. One of my search terms brought up this fashion plate and I fell in love.

I like the silhouette of the 1820s in general, but this dress is inspired by renaissance fashion while also having infamous details from the 1820s, like padded hems and trim, which makes it even better. I’ve never made a dress that incorporates padding, and it seems like a fun challenge!

I had hoped to find silk satin for this project, but it was very expensive, even in the garment district. So instead I bought silk shantung. I think the stiffness of this will really help with construction and creating the bell shape this dress requires…but it doesn’t have quite the look I was going for.

For the pink trim I bought cotton sateen. I’m actually disappointed in this purchase too, I feel like the shade of pink is too bright and cool toned. It makes me think of pepto bismol. So I’m going to keep my eyes out for sales and see if I can pick up a fabric in a better shade.

Aside from that, I’m really excited to get to work on this project. I think it’ll be fun!

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From Diana’s fabrics I picked up more silk shantung. This is the same shop I bought the bright orange silk from for my Pumpkin dress. I had so much fun working with that fabric that I knew I wanted to pick up more, this time with an 1880’s bustle dress in mind.

I went for a lovely copper color, that shines red and brown depending on the lighting. It’s really pretty and I’m sure it will be lovely to work with!

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From the same shop I bought the base material for a dress I plan on making, which is inspired by this painting. I’ve always been a fan of Russian court dresses, but they usually involve long trains covered in elaborate embroidery that would take teams of master embroiders 6 months to make. There isn’t any way I could take a project like that on myself without spending hundreds of dollars on pre made appliques.

Which is why I was very excited to come across this painting. It has some of the features of Russian court gowns that I really like, without the embroidery. Once again silk satin probably would have been more accurate for this project, but I found a polyester shantung in the color I wanted, with a beautiful two tone sheen, and a crispness that should make the pleats in the skirt easier. It was also $5 a yard, which is tough to beat!

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The color is kind of unappetizing, but I think the sheen and two tone effect will make up for that.

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For the front panel I purchased two yards of alencon lace. I think this will provide a good base for the heaps of rhinestones and embellishments that the skirt will eventually have.

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I plan on getting most of the embellishments online, but I did make the mistake of purchasing some at beads world. See that tiny bag on the right? That was $10 dollars. The bag on the left with 12x the number of rhinestones? It was $13. I goofed up by going to beads world first – I always forget how overpriced some of their stuff is.

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Also from beads world I bought white sequins in a variety of sizes/sheens, which I plan on using for the 1820’s dress. And some glass montees for the court dress and headpiece.

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On the topic of notions, I only purchased two trims on this trip (though I ordered a dozen others from etsy). The first is for the 1820’s dress, it’s a very soft and sweet lace trim with a few beads and sequins for embellishments. I thought this would be cute around the neckline and cuffs of the sleeves.

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I also purchased some woven trim. This wasn’t purchased with anything in mind, but I really like the weight of it and think the colors will be easy to match within my stash (or things I buy in the future) so I’m confident it’ll be used eventually.

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Now back to fabrics! The rest of these materials weren’t on my list, they were just things that caught my eye.

The first is a striped silk broadcloth. I love striped fabrics, especially the challenge of matching them up and playing with the different directions they can go. It’s kind of a pain sometimes, but it’s also very satisfying. Unfortunately it’s pretty difficult to find apparel weight striped fabrics that aren’t pin striped. So when I came across this: Striped, light weight and in the color I have a weakness for…I needed to take it home with me.

I purchased eight yards of it. But it’s quite narrow, so I picked up five yards of cotton sateen in a matching color to compliment it. The striped fabric was from Hamed Fabric, and the sateen was actually from Jo-anns.

I plan on using these for a seaside costume – either from the late 1800’s or early 1900s.

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Another striped fabric that caught my eye is this lightweight polyester. It feels like a softer version of taffeta, without the sheen. I really liked the width of the stripes in this, and the tweed texture on the material between them. I though this would work well for a bustle dress, since I could play with the directions of the stripes in the ruffles.

It was the end of the day and I had gone over budget, so I only purchased five yards of it, which isn’t enough for a full dress. But I think it will be easy to match, since the main colors are white, grey, black, and dark red – I may even have a dark red cotton sateen in my collection that would match.

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A project I had in mind, but not on my list was a Renaissance ensemble. I’ve wanted to make another one of these for a while, but didn’t have enough brocade on hand for one. This one caught my eye because it’s an interesting color. I would describe it as a cool toned pink, but it has a strong gold sheen to it.

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It’s almost two tone, with how vibrant the gold is in the light. I think it will make a beautiful skirt!

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From another shop I bought two yards of metallic rose printed brocade. I had hoped this would match the other pink fabric, but it’s way too warm toned. However I think it will make a beautiful foundation garment – I’m making a few 18th century undergarments this year, and two of them are pink. A matching set of brocade stays would be quite lovely!

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The last fabric I bought was one I saw early in the day, but put back because it was too ridiculous. But then I kept thinking about it. Because it’s sparkly, and pink, and ridiculous, and just the time of thing I want in my life but probably won’t use.

However I know from previous shopping trips that when I think about a fabric that much, I usually regret not getting it. And at eight dollars for a yard and a half I figured it couldn’t hurt.

This is a pink mesh with metallic cording stitched on to form scallops and a floral pattern. Both edges have trim, with appliques trailing through the center. I have no idea what I’ll use this for but I really love it.

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And that’s it! I’m very happy with what I got, and excited to get started! Annoyingly I can’t begin on the more elaborate projects until some trim I ordered arrives, but that gives me a reason to finish a few WIP’s from 2016, so it’s probably for the best.

I hope you have lots of sewing plans for the new year too 🙂

Thanks for reading!

 

 
9 Comments

Posted by on January 15, 2017 in All about Fabric, Reviews & Hauls

 

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Making an 18th Century “Undress” Costume – The Jacket

It’s been a few weeks since I last posted. I was busy enjoying a break from social media obligations, but I’m back now and happy to be writing again! I have a ton of projects to talk about – both ones in progress, and ones I completed last year and never wrote about.

But I’m going to start the year off by talking about the first project I’ve completed in 2017: An 18th Century “Undress” Ensemble. It sounds a bit scandalous, but in this case “Undress” is used to refer to informal garments from the 1700’s, rather than anything that goes underneath them.

I decided to start on this after flipping through reference books in search of inspiration. The patterns for “undress” appropriate jackets in Janet Arnold’s  Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s Dresses* caught my eye – and a quick search through my stash showed that I had almost everything I needed to make one…plus a matching skirt and some knitwear accessories inspired by Outlander.

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I’m really happy with material selection for this – I used 6 yards of a checked brown and black fabric from the Plaiditudes collection (my favorite), 2 yards of loosely woven polyester, and a yard of purple sweater knit. I don’t think any of these are historically accurate, but I love the textures they have.

I did have to buy two buttons, two yards of interfacing, a yard of muslin, and two packages of embroidery floss (which came to a grand total of $8) but everything else was from my stash.

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To get started I scanned, then resized the jacket pattern from Janet Arnold’s book and copied it to paper. When doing this I changed the scale from 1″ to 1 1/4″ – which meant my pattern ended up being considerably larger than the original one. This was intentional, since I knew it would be easier to size it down than size it up while trying to preserve the pleats in the skirt.

The end result was way too long waisted for me, but the width was almost perfect. I raised the waistline by an inch, changed the back curve, and added a dart to the bust, but otherwise it was good!

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Here is the mock up I made. This jacket is meant to be worn with a stomacher, but a pattern for that wasn’t included. So I pinned a piece of cotton to the front of my stays, then drew the shape I thought the stomacher should have onto the cotton.

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The stomacher was actually the first part of this costume I began work on, and one of the things that attracted me to this project. I was going through hand sewing withdrawal and wanted something I could work on in front of the TV – hand embroidery seemed perfect for that!

I browsed through a lot of stomacher patterns but most were more eleborate than I wanted (and could manage with my meager embroidery skills). So I freehanded my own design that was simpler.

I drew the design right onto my pattern, then scanned it and made a few changes in photoshop. The design was mirrored, then printed out and taped together.

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wanted to traced the design onto my fabric, which would have made embroidering it way easier. But the weave of the fabric I chose was too loose – pencils didn’t mark it, and ink would spread down the fibers and be visible in the end.

So I used the method I usually use for sequins: Trace the design onto interfacing, then ironing the interfacing onto the back of fabric. I used basting stitches to bring the design to the front, then got to work!

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I didn’t take any progress shots with my “blogging” camera, but I did post a couple on instagram. I used a split stitch to outline everything, then filled sections in using a satin stitch. I tried to pick colors for this design that had the same level of depth as the purple and brown fabrics I’m using for the rest of the costume.

Here it is finished, right out of the hoop.

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And after being ironed! I’ve attempted a few embroidery projects before but this is the first one I’ve finished. Considering that, I’m really happy with it. It isn’t as symmetrical as I would like, but the inconsistencies aren’t too major either.

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I cut the embroidered piece to the right size, then sewed it to canvas and cotton with the right sides facing each other. After turning it the right way out the edges were neatly finished. Plastic boning was inserted between the cotton and canvas to help it sit nicely, then I tacked the layers together by hand.

I added a ruffle to the top edge for a bit of interest, and tabs of ribbon so I can pin it to my stays. And that was it!

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The rest of the jacket pieces (except for the sleeves…more on those later) were cut from the brown checked fabric. The bodice of the jacket was assembled by machine with half inch seam allowances.

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The “skirt” of the jacket was hemmed by hand. Looking back I wish I had bag lined with instead – doing those points was fiddly, and this fabric frayed so much that I had to do a double hem. The end result is really bulky and the pleats didn’t set as much as I would have liked.

But in the past I’ve bag lined the bottom of jackets and the lining was visible and looks awful. I guess the answer would be facing the hem with fashion fabric, then sewing lining in…but I didn’t have enough fabric to do that. Sometimes it feels like you can’t win!

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I ironed the pleats in place and marked the pocket placement with basting stitches.

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The waist seam was sewn – this should have been easy, but getting the point at the center back symmetrical was a huge chore and still isn’t perfect. After redoing it four times I gave up.

With the skirt on, I turned the front edge and neckline inward and sewed it down by hand.

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Then the lining was sewn in. The lining is made using the same pattern and made from lightweight cotton. It has two bones at the side seams and center back, along with a bone from the dart at the front down to the waistline. These help support the points at the front and back of the jacket as well as the eyelets.

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Here it is after all those steps.

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Next up – the eyelets. Annoyingly I couldn’t find brown thread that matched, so I used black instead. These were sewn by hand.

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And on to pocket flaps! I traced the pattern onto cotton, then pinned the cotton to my fashion fabric and sewed around the line I traced.

I cut a generous slash in the back so I could turn them the right way out, then topstitched around the edges by hand.

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Messy on the inside, but the front is what matters, right?

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I sewed them on over the basting stitches with tiny whip stitches.

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I really splashed on the buttons for these. They were a whole 60c.

(I bought and sewed these on after finishing the rest of the jacket so you won’t see them in the next few photos)

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Now it was time for sleeves. I was not excited about these. My instant success with the fit of the jacket did not extend to these – I found the original pattern for them way too wide in the cap of the sleeve, too curved at the elbow, not curved enough at the armscye. They didn’t sit nicely or fit at all.

After a ton of alterations I got something I was happier with. And I freehanded a cuff pattern to go with it.

Originally I was going to make the cuff a different style, but I didn’t have enough fabric for my first choice. And by that point I was too lazy to size the pattern up again just to trace the cuff out so I made something up.

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Everything was cut out. Then I marked the pintucks onto the top of the sleeves.

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These were pretty fiddly to do…

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But offer a smoother alternative to pleats or gathers, which I like.

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Then the side seams were done up.

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And I repeated the process with a silky lining. Not accurate, but makes getting a costume on way easier.

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I sewed these together at the cuff, then turned them the right way out and basted along the top edge.

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The cuffs were backed with interfacing, then sewn together. I used stitching to make guidelines a half inch away from each edge, then turned these edges inward by hand.

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I lined the cuffs with a heavyweight twill to help support them.

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Then I made a ruffle from the same fabric I used for the stomacher. Originally the tops of these were supposed to be visible over the cuffs…but that looked bad.

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After some trial and error I decided they looked best pinned to the interior of the sleeves. I neglected to finish the top edge before sewing these in place. The end result is hilariously messy. I’m kind of ashamed.

BUT I was an hour away from finishing this costume and really impatient, so I pressed on. I do plan on fixing this later, but it would have been a lot faster to finish them in the moment. I don’t know how my brain gets so excited to spent 15 hours embroidering something but can’t take an extra 10 minutes to neatly finish a raw edge.

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Luckily it looks nice from the outside.

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I sewed the sleeves onto the bodice, and that was it!

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Aside from a few details in the finishing (the point at the back, the hem, the interior of the cuffs…) I’m really happy with this. The fit is pretty great, I can get into it on my own, I love the fabrics, and it’s a bit different from what I usually do.

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Here is a crappy picture of it worn.

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In case the dirty mirror makes that photo too horrifying to look at – here is a photo of it worn with the skirt!

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And that’s it for today! Part two should be up soon, but I have a fabric haul to share first.

Thanks for reading, and I hope your year is off to a good start!

 

 

 

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Draped Velvet Dress, Photos

As promised, here are the worn photos of this years Christmas Costume!

These were taken at a Christmas tree farm. This was our fourth years photographing a costume there, and I think this year was the most successful. The lighting was on our side for once, and it’s easier to focus on a red dress than a white one. It’s also a really easy dress to lay out and walk around in since there isn’t a petticoat.

The only downside was it being a bit muddy and really cold. It isn’t a practical dress for December. But I think it looked lovely in this environment, so I’m glad that I didn’t let that stop me.

Construction notes on this dress can be found here. And making of videos are posted here.

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And that’s it! I think I have one more post going up before Christmas, but incase I forget: I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, or Holiday, or if you don’t celebrate, then a really great week in general. Thanks for reading!

 

 
15 Comments

Posted by on December 18, 2016 in Completed Costumes, Fashion & Fantasy

 

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Making a Draped Velvet Dress

It’s that time of the year again! The time where I make a holiday inspired dress out of festively colored fabrics! In the past these have been elaborate gowns, and usually some of my favorite costumes that I make in a year. This years doesn’t rank that highly on my list, since it’s lacking the ruffles and beaded details that I gravitate towards, but I do like how it turned out! Especially considering that inspiration was tough to come by for this piece.

really wanted to make an elaborate 1950’s style evening gown, but I didn’t have the materials for it. The next idea I had and felt enthusiastic about was more appropriate for a snowy winter backdrop, which we won’t get until January or February. So I settled on this design: A “simple” draped gown made from red velvet.

Though this looks easier than my previous Christmas costumes it took longer than last years to put together. I’m far more comfortable with making structured, or ruffly gowns. Doing something sleek and draped requires skills I’ve never had to develop.

But I think I managed to do an okay job! Since the dress was lacking drama I paired it with some home made accessories with hopes it would dress the ensemble up. I think it worked out quite nicely, though it still isn’t my favorite project of the year.

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The first step was playing around with velvet and pinning it to my dress form until I had a shape I liked. I really liked how it looked with the center gathered, a deep neckline, and off the shoulder draped straps (sleeves?) so I decided to go with that. Then I pinned cotton onto the other side of my dress form until I achieved a similar shape.

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I transferred that onto paper and added seam allowances. Now I had a pattern to use for the base. Even though this dress looks loose and (hopefully) effortless, it has a stiff base layer that supports the shape and keeps everything in place. This is especially important for this project since velvet is heavy – keeping it up takes work!

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I debated about making a mock up but since the boning determines the fit, and boning is a pain to sew into mock ups I decided to make the real thing right away. But I was willing to restart if it was really off.

Luckily it fit perfectly! I decided to deepen the neckline, and make it more of a “V” than the sweetheart shape it originally had, but everything else seemed fine.

The base layer was cut from a cheap, stiff, quilting cotton. I cut each piece out four times, so the base is two layers of quilting cotton thick. This makes it more supportive and means I could insert the boning in between the layers of fabric rather than having to sew external boning channels.

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After adding the boning (all 1/4″ plastic bones) I turned the neckline inward.

In this picture the left is turned inward more than the right side to create the V effect I wanted. After deciding I preferred this I repeated the process on the other side

. Since the base layer will be hidden by velvet I sewed all these edges by machine.

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I sewed facings to the arm openings…then realized I forgot to support the highest points of the bodice, which also happen to be where the straps mount. This meant there would be nothing to support the straps, and they would flop outward.

So I sewed external boning channels made from ribbon on either side of the arm openings.

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I also turned the bottom and back edges inward.

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The final step for the base layer were the sleeve supports – which are just pieces of ribbon sewn to the high points of the bodice.

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Here it is on the dress form. The ugly side faces outward, since that will be the side covered by velvet.

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While it was on my dress form I draped velvet overtop and used basting stitches to mark the points where the velvet should be gathered or turn inward.

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Once I took it off my dress form I smoothed out the edges, then used it as a guide for cutting out a piece of velvet for the other side.

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These pieces were sewn together across the front edge with a one inch seam allowance. Then I used pins to mark the gathering line at the front.

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It was gathered down by hand with running stitches. Something about gathering velvet is super satisfying, it’s thick enough to form cartridge-pleat-like gathers but has a wide enough weave that it’s easy to sew through. Every other part of working with velvet sucks, but it gathers beautifully.

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I roughly turned the edges inward and pinned the front panel onto the base layer.

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Then I pinned that onto my dress form and draped the skirt panel for the back of the dress.

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And I used that as a guide for cutting out the panel for the other side.

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The top edge was gathered down so there is more volume at the back of the skirt.

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Then it was sewn onto the bodice portion of the back panel, which was cut from the same pattern as the base layer.

The side seams were sewn up too, with a one inch seam allowance. I sewed all the seams in this normally – no french seams for once! Velvet is really prone to shifting and sewing the pieces together once was enough of a headache, so I just pinked the edges and decided to let them be.

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To make the neckline a little less extreme (and to incorporate a color I plan on using for next years project) I cut four inch wide strips of mesh. I folded the mesh in half so it was more opaque, then sewed it onto the neckline of the bodice in such a way that it extends three quarters of an inch past the base layer.

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Then I pinned the dress onto the base layer. I started at the waistline, then moved upward.

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I sewed the waistline of the velvet layer to the base by hand with whip stitches.

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I tried the bodice on at this point and the result was disappointing. The waistline looked fine, but the velvet was really droopy in the bust area and I couldn’t see how to fix it. I didn’t think the bodice fit my dress form well enough to adjust the draping there, and the dress didn’t have closures yet, so I couldn’t wear it while adjusting it.

After a few days of procrastinating I tried pinning it to my dress form and that worked amazingly well. In ten minutes and with a bit of pinning I had fixed the droopiness. I’m glad I found an easy solution, but I sure wish I had tried it a few days earlier!

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After smoothing out the edges a bit more I took the dress off my dress form, then sewed around all the edges with slip stitches so they are secured to the base layer.

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I also folded the bottom edge of the straps inward, and the material at the back of the bodice. The photo of it finished is a bit blurry, but you get the idea!

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Then I sewed closures in, which are eyelets embroidered with matching thread.

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At this point I decided to finish the dress in two days so I could photograph it that weekend (made more difficult by the limited hours I could work on it and have good enough lighting to film the process) so photographing my progress fell to the wayside. Sorry about that, I’ll try to explain everything I forgot to photograph!

After a fitting I realized the bodice was a bit big – it stayed in place when worn, but wasn’t as flattering as I wanted. I ended up taking it in near the side seams with darts.

I also realized that the straps looked pretty pathetic, which I was expecting. They were really narrow and lacking the draped effect I wanted. So I cut out two rectangles, hemmed the edges with a cross stitch, and gathered the short edges down to approximately two inches. These were pinned just underneath the existing straps. I sewed the gathered edges to the base layer, with the top edge secured to the bottom of the ribbon sleeve support.

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I sewed up the back seam with a one inch allowance and left the top ten inches open. I folded the edges of the unsewed portion inward, then sewed them down by hand. Three snaps were sewn to the opening to keep it closed. Then I sewed a velvet modesty panel to the back, it’s mostly to prevent skin from showing through the eyelets, but I extended to past the opening left in the skirt, since snaps aren’t super reliable.

The hem is a half inch rolled hem sewn by hand. It might be my least favorite hem I’ve ever done – the sewing is fine, but it’s SO uneven. I leveled it while the dress was on my dress form and though it looks perfect when worn, I swear there are four inch discrepancies between each side. I have no clue what happened.

After a fitting I noticed the dress was gaping away from my shoulders. It fit the bust fit fine, but the weight of the velvet I added to the straps made the high points of the bodice fold outward. So I sadly had to add over the shoulder straps, which did not go with the design I planned. But it meant I got to use some of the glittery velvet ribbon I’ve been hoarding since last Christmas, which was nice.

In future I would shorten these straps – I sewed them on the night before wearing it, and did not do a fit check. They stay up but only if I stand very straight, which is kind of annoying.

The final touch were a few velvet poinsettias and sprigs of pine that I glued on.

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I was worried these would take away from the simple elegance of the dress, but I think they add a lot to it. It makes it more interesting it and ties the dress and the accessories together.

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Only thing I regret is placing one pine sprig in such a way that it digs into my armpit. That was a bad decision.

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Speaking of accessories – this dress has three! The first is the headpiece I made last year, which you can see a tutorial of here.

The other two are new additions – a staff, and a necklace. I thought the dress was a bit boring on it’s own, and these made it more exciting and costume-y. They were also really easy to make.

For the necklace I used two strands of red glass beads I got from Jo-anns, plus a crystal pendent. These were threaded onto some 6lb fireline with a clasp at the back. Then I used some thread to tie a piece of chain to the clasp, which hangs closer to the throat. I also tied three smaller crystal beads onto it. The whole thing isn’t very sturdy, I really should have bought a heavier thread, and chain that was meant for beading, not for sewing onto garments, but it’s pretty!

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The staff took longer to make, but it wasn’t very challenging either. My dad and I went hunting for appropriate sticks in our backyard and eventually found a small pine tree that had been cut down a few years prior. We broke off the branches and he cut off the bottom twelve inches so it would fit in the car.

Then I decorated it. Since the bark was spiky I glued ribbon around the point I planned on grasping it. I also glued on glittery pine cones, fake glittery pine branches, and velvet poinsettias to make it more exciting. There is a strand of lights on it took, which unfortunately don’t show up well in photos.

I was worried I didn’t get enough to decorate it (I was too cheap to buy the garlands – the ones I liked would have been thirty bucks). In total I spent fifteen dollars to decorate it and I have a ton of flowers leftover.

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And that’s it! As I said, it isn’t my favorite Christmas costume, but I like how it turned out. Especially with all the accessories – I think they really bring it together.

I’m also glad I pushed myself a bit, maybe I’ll do more things with draped details in the future.

Thanks for reading! A post with photos will follow this one! And if you want to see videos of me constructing then click here!

 
9 Comments

Posted by on December 18, 2016 in Fashion & Fantasy, The Making Of

 

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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!

 

 

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Making an 18th Century Robe a la Turque (or something similar), Part One

Last month I finally felt brave enough to revisit a period I always seem to fail at: The 1700’s. The eighteenth century seems to be the favorite of historical costumers, but my attempts never seem to turn out well. In 2014 I devoted October to 18th century projects which ended with two finished dresses that both sucked. Last year I made a more elaborate ensemble, which I like…but the skirts hem is uneven, and I can barely lift my arms when it’s worn.

Earlier this year I had some success with a 1790’s dress, which gave me enough confidence to attempt 18th Century October again. The plan was to complete a Robe a la Turque, and a striped Robe a L’anglaise. I didn’t end up finishing these in October since the month was busier than planned, but I did complete both projects in November! And today I’m going to talk about one of them.

I came up with this design and purchased the fabrics for this back in April. It’s supposed to be a Robe a la Turque, but 18th century garment classification is hard and I haven’t researched it that thoroughly so I’m not sure if this qualifies as one or not. I think it is just a zone front gown, but I’m going to style it like a turque and it has features that were common on them.

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The fabrics I got are very warm in color – orange shantung, iridescent organza, and pink taffeta. I based the color scheme and design on this painting.

All the fabrics are polyester and not particularly accurate to this period

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The first step in making this was creating a pattern, which I draped on my dress form, then transferred to paper. I turned the pattern into a mock up which actually fit pretty well!

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I originally cut out and assembled the bodice with a straight waistline. Only after doing this did I realize the back should be pointed. So I did a bit of adjusting, then recut the bodice. This is actually still wrong, the back panels should have continued down to form the skirt, but I didn’t know that until recently.

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I cut out the lining from lightweight cotton.

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Then from shantung. Everything was assembled with half inch seam allowances, then sewn together with the right sides facing each other. I stitched around each edge by hand.

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The very front edges were turned inward by a half inch as well.

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And trimmed with piping. I used gold spandex for this piping which was really dumb. I forgot that I have gold brocade that would look better and be more accurate.

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I wanted to add interest to the front of the bodice, so I sewed on some glittery organza ribbon.

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Then I outlined the ribbon in sequins. And this is where I abandoned the project and chose to focus on my Civil War Era dress instead (this was months ago) since it seemed weird having two very detailed projects in progress at once.

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I resumed work on this at the end of September, where the first thing I did was cut out the overskirt. This was cut from the same shantung as the bodice.

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I turned the edges inward by machine.

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Then made a TON of piping and sewed that onto the edges.

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The reason I did all of that by machine is because the edges will be covered with puffed trim. I made the puffed trim from strips of organza that had the edges ironed inward. I left the wrong side facing up since I like the texture it has.

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The trim was created by gathering and sewing down the organza every inch. I’m going to make a tutorial on the process in the future, but “The Art of Manipulating Fabric” covers the process nicely (I reviewed that book here).

To make it a bit more interesting I sewed three sequins above each puff. This process went surprisingly quickly, I had it done in a few days (while also working on other things) and zoomed through it while watching TV.

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The top edge was gathered down and that finished the overskirt!

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As much as I like the detail work on this, I really regret not taking more time to shape it. I cut the train in a bit of a rush and didn’t realize how ridiculously long it was until after finishing all the detail work. And at this point it was too late to cut it. I’m really hoping it will look less silly when it’s worn.

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I worked on this project a bit backwards, and I’m blogging about it in the same order as I constructed it. Which means now it’s time to talk about the petticoat/underskirt which can be seen above.

This is a relatively simple garment, made from rectangles that are gathered and sewn together. But it took me a month of on and off work to finish between the other things I had going on. By the time I finally finished it I was so sick of looking at it that I stuffed it in my closet.

I made the lower portion first, which will eventually form a ruffle. This was made from strips of striped organza sewn together, which was then sewn to taffeta to give it the opacity needed.

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Both edges were hemmed, then I gathered the ruffle down to half its length. I did this by machine at first but didn’t love how it looked, so I did it again by hand.

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The upper portion of the skirt is also made from rectangles. The front panel was cut entirely from taffeta and organza, but I didn’t have enough left for the back panels. So I cut them partially from cotton, which is hidden by the overskirt when the costume is worn.

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After sewing the side seams for the upper panels I topstitched the ruffle onto the bottom edge.  Now it was time for even more puffed trim. I made, and sewed the trim all the way across the point where the ruffle was gathered.

Then I roughly pinned the skirt to my dress form, which made me realize the front was too long.

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I ended up cutting the waistline on a slope, and raised the front by three inches.

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I left the front ten inches of the waistline smooth, which makes the front of the skirt flat, and gathered the rest down until the top edge measured twenty eight inches.

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I turned the top few inches of the back edge inward twice, by hand, to prevent it from fraying. I left this portion open so I could get the skirt on and sewed the rest of back edge into a french seam.

The waistband is another rectangle. The top edge of the skirt is tucked between its layers to hide any raw edges, and it closes with three hooks and bars.

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Was it worth a month of work? Probably not. But I do like how it turned out, the fabrics for this project make everything look so pretty!

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And that’s it for this post! The bodice beginnings, a skirt, and an overskirt, how exciting. The next post will show the completed bodice, the process of making sleeves, and making a matching headpiece.

Thanks for reading!

 

1830’s Plaid Pleated Dress, Photos

Today I have another set of photos to share. Much like the last photos I posted, these have an autumn theme and were taken in a pumpkin patch. I thought it would be make the perfect lighthearted backdrop for a wacky dress like this one, and it did not disappoint!

This was my first time having the whole ensemble on and I was pretty pleased with it – everything fit and was really comfortable. I was a bit concerned the petticoat would show, or that the bonnet would slip around, but neither of those were an issue.

I paired this with my regency stays that I made ages ago, and my “Victorian“* boots. Neither are particularly accurate to this period but helped achieve the silhouette I wanted. I talk more about the petticoats and the construction of this costume in these posts:

Post 1: The Bodice

Post 2: The Sleeves, Skirt, and Bonnet

Before getting into the photos I wanted to mention my last post, where I reviewed a bunch of costume reference books. If you’re interested in any of them this is the time to buy! Amazon has $10 off book purchases, and Barnes & Noble has 15% off your order, which makes the price of those pretty inspiration books a bit easier to manage!

Now onto the photos!

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And some muddy boots after a long morning! Luckily none got on the dress.

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And that’s it! Thanks for reading!

 
10 Comments

Posted by on November 28, 2016 in 19th century, Completed Costumes

 

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