Todays project is something a bit different for me! It’s inspired by the harem pant ensemble that Sybil wore on Downton Abbey. I watched the show earlier this year and have wanted to make something from it ever since, though I assumed it would be an evening gown, not this!
When I first saw this costume I liked it. The colors and textures used are so vibrant and it’s very unique to anything else worn on the show, so how can you not? But I had no desire to make it, since I much preferred the elegant gowns worn by Cora and Mary.
Then last week a photoset of this costume appeared on my tumblr dashboard and I fell in love. For some reason it really stood out to me, both in design and construction. It struck me as something that would be a lot of fun to make and wear. Since I was between projects I scoured my stash in search of suitable materials and managed to come up with everything I needed. I decided it was meant to be and got straight to work!
In total the costume took a week to make. I used images from the show as my primary reference and didn’t do any research until after completing the costume since I didn’t want to come up with conflicting ideas. Since I made the costume completely out of things I had around, the colors, trims, and textures are all really different, but I did try to achieve the same silhouette.
The materials I ended up using include two different brocades, peach colored netting, and three different shades of chiffon that I purchased for a cosplay years ago. I also used two trims, the gold one is from etsy and the other is from a random shop in NYC.
And of course, lots of sequins. I didn’t have enough embroidery floss on hand to do anything similar to Sybil’s bodice, so I used these to add some texture and design.
The first step was drafting the bodice. I did this the way I always do, by draping it on my dress form then transferring it to paper. My first attempt wasn’t too successful (it’s difficult to achieve a historical silhouette without a corset) but after taking it in slightly I managed to get something more like I’d envisioned.
Then I got right into the construction. I started with the collar, which was cut out of gold brocade. Then I used peach colored netting as an overlay to dull the shine a bit.
I lined the collar with muslin by sewing them together with the right sides facing each other. After turning it the right way out I topstitched across the bottom edges, and around the armscye.
I set that aside and cut out the main portion of the bodice. This is made from the peach colored brocade.
After doing a quick fitting I realized the bodice looked really boring. I thought the prints on the fabrics, and the sheen they have would be enough to make it interesting but no such luck.
So I decided to embellish a fleur-de-lis-ish design on the front. I based this design off the gold trim, which will decorate the waistline.
After several hours of work, the design was embellished! Then I outlined it with some peachy colored sequins, and decorated the brocade with a bunch of seed beads. This material has gold dots printed between the flowers, which I used as a guide for this step.
I lined this portion of the bodice with muslin as well. The pieces were sewn together along the bottom edge to nicely finish that edge before attaching the waistband.
I should also mention that I added a dozen plastic bones to the lining layer of the bodice. I wasn’t aiming for reduction, I just wanted the bodice to be nicely supported so it wouldn’t wrinkle or droop. This was extra important since I wasn’t wearing the bodice with a corset, but wanted it to be really fitted.
Then I pinned the gold lace across the waistline. I ended up basting this down before I started beading since I didn’t want to worry about catching my thread on the pins.
The next step was embellishing the trim, so it would match the bodice and make it look more elaborate. This took ages – like six hours or something. But the end result is very pretty!
With all the beading done I could finally pin the collar onto the bodice.
I sewed it on with embroidery floss and decorative stitching, which will serve as a base for more sequins.
Then I turned the top edge of the lining inward and sewed it down to hide the raw edges.
And the final thing i’ll be talking about in this post are the sleeves. I drafted this pattern myself – which i’m actually kind of proud of, even though they are simple fitted sleeves.
Then I cut the pattern out of lace. This is a curtain lace I got in a grab bag from The Lace Place. I didn’t have very much of it so I had to cut the sleeves from two pieces.
Then I gave the sleeves a bath in tea to dull the bright white color down to something that better matched the warm tones in this costume.
I sewed a layer of starched chiffon over the lace, then sewed sequins on top using the pattern of the lace as a guide. I really like how this turned out, I think it’s a neat effect and these sequins are perfect for it.
I was surprised at how long this took to do. I started watching Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries while working on it to try and avoid boredom during the process!
Then I hemmed the bottom edge, and trimmed that same edge with some of the pink netting I used on the collar. Hopefully this will help tie all the materials used in the bodice together.
The reason the bottom few inches of these sleeves are missing sequins is because I’m going to cover that part with more lace trim.
And that’s it for today! Part two will cover finishing the sleeves, finishing the bodice, and making the pants (something I did NOT enjoy…)
Thanks for reading! And if you want to see more of this project, I have a video log about it which has some extra details. This is the link to it, or it can be watched down below!