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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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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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Historically Inspired

Welcome to my historically inspired page! Here you will find all costumes that are historical recreations or garments  influenced and inspired by historical fashion.

This page only includes completed projects that were made entirely by me. If something seems to be missing it was probably removed due to poor documentation.

I’m constantly making new things and trying to keep this updated, so if there are any dead links they are probably for projects I’ll be posting about soon!

Each link leads to specific pages for the costume mentioned, which includes links to every post related to that costume, along with a brief description and photos of the completed project

1890’s Day Dress, the “Pumpkin” Gown

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1830’s Plaid, Pleated, Dress

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18th Century “Undress” Costume

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Sybil Inspired Edwardian Ensemble

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Pink Sateen Ball Gown, 1860’s 

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Cycling Costume, 1890’s

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Plaid Walking Ensemble,1890’s

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1790’s Round Robe

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Grecian Costume, Chiton and Crown

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Grey Plaid and Velvet Ensemble, 1860’s

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18th Century Riding Ensemble 

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Gold and Ivory Gown – Holiday Dress 2015

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Maroon Medieval Dress & Escoffin

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Civil War Era Dress

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Taffeta Kirtle & Hat

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Gold Foiled Dress, Heinrich Inspired

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Damask Print Medieval Gown

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Pleated Navy gown

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Silvery Blue Dress

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Orange Tudor Ensemble

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Brown Beaded Doublet

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Structured Chemise a la Reine

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Dewdrop Series

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Isabel de Requesens

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Blue Taffeta Hooded Dress

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1830s Floral Dress

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1830s Pleated Red Dress

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1840’s Pleated Floral Dress

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Christmas Costume, Glittery Gown

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Maroon Dress

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Striped Taffeta Dress

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Black and Grey Dress

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Pretty Pirate Project

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(Posts below were are projects, which are not very well documented or fully completed)

Red Renaissance Gown

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Red and Silver Gown

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