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Making a Black Lace Dress, Part Three

 

We are onto the third and final blog post about this dress! Part one shows the process of making the bodice, part two shows the skirt, and this part will cover making the collar and adding the final touches. I also have video “progress logs” about this project posted here.

The most unique part of this dress is the collar.  This was a big part of what attracted me to the dress I used as inspiration, and what I was most excited to replicate. Unfortunately my materials didn’t let me do that.

I had planned on making the collar from ruched lace. That didn’t go so well. Since the lace print consists of solid floral designs and sheer mesh I ended up with areas completely opaque, and others that were very sheer. Even though it was gathered properly it looked uneven and messy. My only other option was using the point d’esprit netting for the collar, but I didn’t like how it looked gathered either. The stiffness of this netting makes it bulky when it’s gathered, which isn’t very flattering in the arm area.

So after a very frustrating evening I gave up on my pretty draped neckline and chose to pleat the netting instead. This way the netting will lay flat and won’t add bulk, it just looks nothing like what I had planned.

I pleated large rectangles down by eye – I didn’t want to leave any visible marks on the mesh so I tried my best to make them even without the help of a ruler.
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Before attaching the collar I sewed the black lace around the neckline, with only the scalloped edge extending past the bodice. Once the collar is sewn on only the scalloped edge will be visible. I did this partially to created some contrast, since the netting is similar to my skin tone, and also to imitate the way the scalloped edge of black lace meets the netting on the skirt.

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I sacrificed some skin from my knuckles (holy mother of pin pricks this process was not fun) and spent an hour pinning and arranging the collar in a way I liked.

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I put it on my dress form and was surprisingly happy with it. Does it look anything like I had planned? Nope. But once I got over that, I started to appreciate it for what it is, not what it was supposed to be. That isn’t ideal, but sometimes it happens. And what matters is that in the end I had a dress I really liked!

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It  looked surprisingly like the sketch I made for this project before studying the Mairlyn dress. I sort of forgot about this, and chose to go in a different direction after sketching this, but the dress looks almost identical to it! I guess sometimes your first instincts for what to do with fabric are the best ones.

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I sewed the collar on and tacked the pleats down with a whole bunch of hidden stitches. I also gathered the collar slightly on each side of the armholes, which makes it sit a little nicer on my arms.

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Here it is worn. This was my first time trying it on so I was a bit nervous! Luckily the collar looked pretty, more symmetrical than I had expected, and it fit my arms. Those were the three things I was concerned about and to have them all be non-issues was a pleasant surprise.

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Now it was time for rhinestones! A little while ago Creative Crystal sent me the bejeweler pro tool, which is for hotfix rhinestones. It is supposed to pick them up, melt the glue, then drop the crystal when it’s pressed against the surface you are embellishing. When I decided to buy rhinestones for this project I chose to buy them from the same store so I could give it a try.

I bought two hundred 3mm crystals, and two hundred 4mm ones. The 8mm ones were sent to me along with the tool, and they are all in the shade Jet. This project has pretty low fabric costs (maybe $30? the lace and netting were cheap) so I could justify spending the $27 for swarovski crystals…though I definitely won’t make a habit of it!

I felt the tool worked really well for the 3mm ones, it picked them up and melted the glue very quickly. The 4mm ones were kind of a hassle, the tool wouldn’t pick the stones up at all so they had to be placed by hand before using the tool to heat them. But the process was definitely cleaner and faster than it would be if I was using E6000 and the stones felt very secure once attached. So I kind of have mixed, but mostly positive feelings towards it.

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I placed a bunch of 3mm ones underneath the collar.

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And you can’t really tell, but 4mm crystals were placed in the center of each dot on the scalloped lace that trims the neckline.

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But most of the stones went into the skirt. I placed them somewhat randomly on the lower four inches of the lace. They look really pretty in certain lights, but aren’t as noticeable as I had hoped. I think it’s my own fault for buying black stones and placing them on black fabric, but still, i’m a bit disappointed!

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With the skirt and bodice done it was time to focus on attaching them to each other. But before doing that I cut out the lining and assembled it.

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Then I pinned the lining into the bodice.I only stitched it down around the neckline, the lower edge and back edges were left open and will be sewn down once the skirt and zipper are attached.

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It was at this point I realized the bodice wasn’t quite as symmetrical as I had thought. From the front it looked pretty good, but the pleats did not line up in the back. Luckily I had the perfect solution: Use a bow and cover that shit up. This isn’t the most professional solution, but I had wanted to put a bow on the back of this dress from the beginning.  I just placed it a little bit higher so it has a benefit other than being adorable.

The bow attaches with two hooks/bars after the bodice is zipped up, so if you are some  strange person who is offended by bows you can take comfort in the fact that it’s detachable.

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I sewed the back of the skirt up with a french seam. I left the top eight inches open, since that is where the zipper will be.

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Apparently I don’t have any photos of the zipper or attaching the skirt. But the process was pretty straightforward, the skirt was whip stitched to the interior of the bodice, then the lining was folded over the raw edge and sewn down. I sewed the zipper in but the zipper was three inches too short. Which is a stupid thing to have happen.

At this point I just wanted it done, so I closed the top few inches with hooks. Then I sewed the lining to cover the edges of the zipper. The final step was sewing in the petticoat topper, which is what you see below.

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And it was done!

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Here are some worn photos of it. After taking these I decided it needed a necklace, so I bought one from Macy’s which I will wear to the wedding. The shoes are lace with scalloped edging, which makes them perfect. They were purchased from DSW. The hair clips are from H&M, the earrings are PBS Downton Abbey Collection,  and the lipstick is Colourpop liquid lipstick in Creeper. I had lace nail decals from jamberry as well, but you can’t really see them.

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The bow is a little crooked in this picture, but that is an easy fix.

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And that’s it! I think this will be the last fashiony thing I make for a while. Even though I love how this turned out, I didn’t enjoy the process as much as I would have liked. I’m definitely ready to get back to historical stuff – maybe with a silly Halloween project mixed in.

Thanks for reading!

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2015 in Fashion & Fantasy, The Making Of

 

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Making a Black Lace Dress, Part Two

Today i’m blogging about making the skirt to match the black lace bodice which I posted about last week. This part of the project went better than the bodice, and ended up being pretty easy!

 The pattern is a simple 18.5″ long three quarter circle skirt. The finished length after seams will be seventeen inches, which is pretty short, but there will be a six inch ruffle sewn onto the hem so hopefully it will rest just above my knees.

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The skirt was cut out of the polyester shantung I used for the bodice. I had just barely enough left!

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 I sewed a layer of black petticoat net overtop so it would match the bodice. The bodice actually had two layers of petticoat net on it, but I figured the gathered black lace at the waistline of the skirt would make it look darker and balance out the color difference.

Also I didn’t have a lot of petticoat net leftover. The second layer would have been made up of three or four pieces which I didn’t think would look that good.

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I was going to do a normal rolled hem on this but I ended up having just enough one inch wide horsehair left. So I used that instead. I sewed the horsehair on by machine, then turned the hem over and sewed it down by hand with whip stitches.

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With the circle skirt done I switched over to working on the petticoat topper and ruffle. The petticoat i’m wearing under this is  my cheap leg avenue one, since I plan on traveling with this dress and that one can be squished into a small plastic bag. But that petticoat is shorter than this skirt and doesn’t have the level of volume I wanted.

Which is where the petticoat topper comes in! It adds the length I want and a bit more poof. And it gets sewn into the dress so the dress could even be worn without a petticoat and still have a bit of volume.

I cut twelve and eleven inch wide strips for the petticoat topper, and six and a half inch wide strips for the ruffle on the hem of the circle skirt. All of these were cut from a beige point d’esprit netting I got from Joanns. I was pretty impressed with this netting – I think I paid less than $3 a yard for it and it was really soft and easy to work with, while still creating a good amount of volume.

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Anyway! The eleven inch wide strips got gathered down and sewn onto the twelve inch wide strips.

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And then the top was gathered down and tah-dah! It doesn’t look like much here but trust me, it helps with the skirt shape.

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Then the six inch wide strips were sewn together and the twelve yard length was gathered down.

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That is some ruffly goodness right there. I left all of these strips unhemmed because I prefer the look of that. This netting is soft enough that it isn’t scratchy, and it doesn’t fray, so it doesn’t really need to be hemmed anyway.

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The ruffle got pinned on.

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And topstitched on. I could have sewn it on by hand but I didn’t think anyone would really notice.

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Here it is on the dress form – It looks a little uneven but I promise it isn’t!

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With that done I cut out the lace overlay. This was nineteen inches long and three yards wide. I figured after the top was gathered down it would fall just below the hem of the circle skirt and make a nice transition into the netting.

I did that, and it kind of worked but I didn’t like the result.

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So I ripped the gathers out and pinned the scalloped edge of the lace onto the point where the netting attaches to the circle skirt. Then I roughly pinned the top to the waistline.  I realize this looks messy right now, but I liked this soo much better!

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I sewed the lace onto the hem.

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Then gathered the top down and sewed it onto the waistline of the circle skirt.

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I thought it looked really lovely, but there was a slight problem.

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The scalloped edge kept flipping up and that looked bad.

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So I spent an hour hand sewing the scalloped edge onto the netting.

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And then it was done! Or almost done. I still have to glue on the rhinestones but everything else is finished. I love how this turned out. I think the fabrics look lovely together and it’s so pretty and delicate. I was worried the lace would look cheap (I think I paid like $6 a yard for it? so it was cheap) and that my dress would end up looking cheap. But that concern went away after getting it to this point.

Like the last blog post, this one has a video counterpart which can be watched here.

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And that’s it! Part three should be up on Friday and will talk about the collar.

Thanks for reading!

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2015 in Fashion & Fantasy, The Making Of

 

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Making a Black Lace Dress, Part One

In a couple weeks my uncle is getting married. That means i’ll being going to a semi-formal event and need to wear a semi-formal dress. I’ve made a few of those before but they all either obnoxious, too formal, or white, which wouldn’t be very appropriate! I could have bought a dress, but for the first time in forever I had the opportunity to make a dress and actually wear it somewhere, and I felt like I owed it to myself to do just that.

I bought the fabrics before I had a design in mind. I had fifty percent off coupons and thought the fabrics looked pretty together so I picked up three yards of black lace and four yards of point d’esprit netting. I also ended up buying shoes to match the lace before actually making the dress, so those are pictured below as well.


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I had some black cotton sateen, ivory shantung (leftover from my Royal Milk Tea costume), and quilters cotton  laying around as well. The material costs on this dress were pretty low so I splurged and ordered four hundred swarovski crystals in the color “jet”.

Now I had my materials, but I didn’t have a design.

I wanted an A-line silhouette with a structured bodice since I think that flatters me best. I sketched up a simple strapless dress with a lace overlay, which was nice but very boring. The shape of it made me think of vintage dresses from the mid 1900s, so I started browsing pinterest in search of inspiration. Eventually I came across something I really, really, liked. It’s the dress Marilyn Monroe wore to the oscars in 1951.

I think it’s beautiful. I wanted to make something really similar to it, as in identical but with a shorter hem and contrasting fabrics. I titled my progress folder “Mairlyn” because of that.

But things really didn’t go as planned. I  made some decisions which took the design in a different direction, and my materials were way stiffer and more opaque which prevented the airy ruched collar. So my dress looks nothing like this one, at all, but I still love this dress and wanted to share it because look at it. It’s so pretty.

Step one was draping the bodice. One of my favorite details about the dress I used for inspiration is the illusion neckline created with flesh toned fabric. I figured I could do something similar, which is why there is a line about an inch away from the edge around the bodice neckline.

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I wanted this bodice to be really structured so I cut it into several different pieces which allows me to add boning into the seams.

I copied all the pieces onto tracing paper and added seam allowances so I could assemble my first mock up.

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Here is the fabric after being removed from the dress form.

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And the pattern it got turned into.

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I made my first mock up and it went really well. So well that I decided not to bother making another mock up. I regret this decision because I think the finished bodice would fit a lot better if I had made a second mockup and did a test run with the boning.

Since my mock up didn’t have boning in the bra cups they slouched down a bit and made the neckline look a lot deeper than it actually was.

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Because the neckline was lower than I expected I decided to remove the illusion neckline aspect of the bodice. It was revealing enough without that, and even though it wouldn’t cause more skin to show it would hint at it, and I didn’t think that was necessary.

So I made some pattern alterations and added more seam allowance. Now I had a pattern that looked like this!

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Like most structured bodices this will be made up of three layers. The top layer is made from the fashion fabrics, the base layer where boning and structure is placed, and the final layer is lining to hide anything ugly on the interior.

I started by making the base layer. Since the top layer will be stiff I didn’t want to add bulk by having a base layer made from heavy materials. So I chose a medium weight quilters cotton. All the boning channels will be backed with canvas and it will be stitched directly to the top layer of fabric so i’m not worried about it stretching or warping overtime, even though it is a lighter fabric than what would usually be used as a base.

I cut all the pieces out and marked the boning channels. Then they were sewn together with three quarter inch seams.

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I clipped the bust seams just below the line where underwire will be added, then I turned the seam allowance inward and pinned them down. Once these are sewn I will have boning channels I can feed plastic boning into. Plastic boning won’t compress the bust, but it will prevent the fabric from turning over or collapsing down, which happens a lot on strapless bodices if you have a small bust.

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Then I created the rest of the boning channels. I used spiral steel boning and bias tape to create underwire beneath the bust. Ribbon backed with canvas was sewn on to create channels for the really thick, stiff, steel bones. Some seams were folded inward to create channels for the flimsier bones, which are either plastic or spiral steel.

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Here the bodice is with all the bones added and the bra cups pinned in. These were bra cups I bought for my Royal Milk Tea costume ages ago – I threw that costume away a long time ago but salvaged the trims, boning, and notions. When I installed these in that costume I had no clue how to draft a bodice to fit them, or how to sew them in. They ended up being really uneven and that bodice gaped horribly at the neckline, you see straight down it.

Those were bad times. But i’ve learned a lot since then, and this time they got sewn in properly!

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Here is how the base layer looked when I tried it on. I was so ridiculously pleased with this fit. There was a bit of warped boning in the back – this is the fault of a spiral steel bone. This was my first time using spiral steel and i’ve decided it’s pretty damn useless, plastic boning holds its shape better, is easier to move in, and a lot easier to install.

Aside from that, I thought this looked pretty great.

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Here it is laid flat. The underwire doesn’t look great here, but it sits smoothly against the body when it’s worn.

There were a couple things I noticed during the fitting. The first was that the neckline was way higher (like, a whole inch higher) than I was expecting. As I said earlier, this is because my mock up didn’t have boning in it so it slouched down. With the boning holding the material up it sits much higher on the body. This is good and bad. It means the neckline is high enough for me to feel comfortable adding the illusion neckline back in (yay!) but I think the neckline is a little bit too high. If I ever use this pattern again I would chop a half inch off.

The other thing is that it’s slightly too long in the waist. By maybe a quarter inch. Which means it digs into my hips a little. But this dress will be worn over petticoats, which should provide a bit of padding and prevent anything from bruising or bleeding (I hope).

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Since the illusion neckline is back I made a quick alteration to the two front panels of my bodice. On the left you can see the original pattern, and on the right you can see the altered version.

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Finally we are onto the top layer of the bodice! I cut everything out from polyester shantung, then pinned two layers of petticoat net overtop. I didn’t like how bright the ivory was beneath the black lace, this helps dull that a bit.

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…And now we skip a few steps! I sewed the netting overtop of the shantung, then basted a layer of lace on top. The only panels that didn’t get an overlay are the top pieces of the front panels. I left this material plain so it would better match my skin tone.

All the pieces got sewn together with three quarter inch seams.

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I didn’t do the smoothest job on those curvy seams at the bust, but that’ll be hidden by the collar so it’s okay.

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I traced around the neckline and measured an inch and a half away from the traced line, this created a facing which got sewn onto the right side of the bodice.

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I turned the facing over and sewed it down to get a finished edge. I tucked the base layer between the facing and top layer of fabric, then stitched it to the facing.  To further secure the base layer in place I sewed the lower edge of the top layer to the base layer and turned them over to get a finished edge.

I hope that paragraph makes at least a little bit of sense.

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I created a paper guide for where topstitching should be around the bust. I used pins as a guideline and carefully stitched across them by hand to secure the two layers together.

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When it came to actually trying on the bodice I ran into a little problem. It wasn’t too small, but it was too small to zip up (there is totally a difference). If I added a lace up back it would have been fine, but I didn’t want to do that. I tried adding extensions onto the back of the bodice but then it was too big and the boning gaped away from my body.

Finally I figured out a solution: Make a little girdle/waistband thing that goes on before the bodice to cinch my waist in, then zip the bodice up.

To do that I quilted a piece of shantung and backed it with cotton. Then I sewed in plastic boning so it wouldn’t scrunch up. Hooks/eyes were stitched into the front with upholstery thread to create a closure.

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It leaves behind some pretty ugly marks, but it worked really well!

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The bodice zips up nicely. Does it kind of painfully dig into my hips? Yup. Will the petticoats help pad that? I really hope so. Even if it doesn’t I should be fine, it doesn’t restrict or alter my breathing in anyway so it isn’t dangerous, it’s just uncomfortable and might leave behind some bruises.

I wish I could change a few things to make it fit better (like go back in time and make another mock up… ) but at this point those would be MAJOR changes, and I only have a few days left to get this project finished. So i’m leaving it this way for now, and i’ll suffer through for the sake of looking pretty.

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I think that’s it for the bodice – the skirt, collar, and other good stuff will be coming up next week. Also I vlogged throughout the whole process. If you would like to hear me ramble on about my thoughts on this project as I make it, you can watch the videos here!

Thanks for reading!

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2015 in Fashion & Fantasy, The Making Of

 

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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 a Dress out of Ikea Curtains

I recently went to ikea. Going to ikea is usually a fun experience, because I enjoy places with a lot of stuff I don’t need but find very appealing because it is cheap and aesthetically pleasing. I got a new rug for my sewing room, and a little wire cart for under my desk. But the most exciting purchase were the curtains I got.

I don’t need curtains. I don’t plan on using any of the sets as curtains. The reason I bought them is because the curtains are effectively very large panels of fabric. About five and a half yards of fabric, in fact, which is enough to make a dress! That’s what i’ll be doing today. This entire dress is made from a pair of curtains and a zipper, which cost a grand total of $16. And it only took me five hours to make!

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I sort of gave up on photographing this project part way through. I made this dress for my youtube channel, and wasn’t even sure if I would blog about it, which is why the pictures are limited. But there should be enough for you to understand the process!

Here is the material. These are EIVOR curtains.

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Two 57″ x 98″ panels – that is soo much fabric, it ends up being less than $3 a yard.

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It’s a stiff cotton fabric and it feels a lot like the broadcloth you get at fabric stores. This isn’t a print I would usually go for, but I thought it was really cute. It’s a large sketchy black pattern of branches, leaves, and birds.

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As I said, this isn’t a print I would usually go for, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to make with it. I decided to browse etsy for ideas. I ended up searching for 1950s summer dresses, since they often have cute, but simple designs, which suit a large print. I found two that I really liked, they can be seen here and here.

Here is one of the images from the listing (photo belongs MinxouriVintage, not me) in case it gets removed and isn’t visible later on. I thought this neckline was pretty, and the bows on the straps won me over completely.

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So I used some scraps of a batik fabric and draped a pattern on my dress form which I felt looked similar. I know it looks pretty shoddy here, but I ironed it, cleaned up the edges, and transferred it onto paper.

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After all that it looked like this! Much nicer!

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I cut the bodice out twice. One layer will be the front, the other will be the lining. Since this fabric isn’t completely opaque the print on the lining layer is visible from the outside. I could have used a pure white cotton lining instead, but I liked being able to see the print. It ads a shadowy effect which I think is cool.

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I marked the darts onto the wrong side of the fabric. Then they got pinned and sewed in place.

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…And that was where I gave up on photographing the process. So we skip a lot of steps! I pinned the layers together, so the right sides were facing each other. Then I sewed around the neckline and center back with a half inch seam allowance. I turned the bodice so the right sides are facing out and top stitched around the neckline.

Then I made bias tape from one and a half inch wide strips of bias cut fabric. I folded the edges inward and pinned them over the arm holes. I made the bias tape sixteen or so inches longer than the arm hole. Eight inches hang off of either side and will serve as straps.

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I sewed the bias tape on and that was pretty much it for the bodice! The straps got tied into bows and it was done.

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The skirt is three twenty three inch long panels, which are the full width of the curtains (fifty seven inches).

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I sewed them together, then hemmed the bottom edge. I did this by machine for once, hoping to save time. The edge was turned over by a half inch, then by one inch, to get a clean finish.

The top was gathered down by machine as well. I pushed the fabric under the foot as I went and ran it through the machine several times to get it down to the twenty eight inches it needed to be.

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The skirt was pinned to the bodice and I sewed the waist seam. I also covered the raw edge with bias tape.

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The final step was adding a zipper and sewing up the back seam. Then it was done!

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And here it is worn. It looks cute without a petticoat, but for these pictures I wore a cheap leg avenue petti – I got mine on ebay but i’m pretty sure that is the same one.

I like this dress a lot, especially considering it only took $16 and five hours to make!

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Thanks for reading!

 

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Grey Taffeta Dress & Hat

This ensemble was based off of a portrait of the sixteenth century woman Ana de Mendoza.  In her lifetime she was a countess, duchess, princess, and prisoner. I picked this portrait as inspiration because I enjoyed the contrast of the colors, and it was something I could easily make from materials I already owned. The costume consists of four pieces, the kirtle, an undershirt, a hat, and an eyepatch.

The kirtle is made from six yards of dark grey polyester taffeta. It is heavily boned in the front, and laces up the back through hand sewn eyelets. Taffeta was draped over a heavy layer of canvas which serves as a base for all the structure. Strips of wool circle the arm holes, and ruffled lace decorates the neckline. Light grey pearls were sewn all around the neckline and a brooch I purchased online completes the bodice.

The hat is made from felt weight interfacing and wire, which provide the structure. Each piece was covered with flannel for padding, then taffeta which matches the dress. The interior is lined with a damask print denim and cotton gauze. Strips of wool suiting were placed around the brim and crown of the hat to cover the stitches keeping the pieces together. It’s decorated with four ostrich plumes, pearls, and a sash of blue silk chiffon.

The undershirt is made from cotton gauze, with lace sleeves that have ruffles at the cuffs. They tie at the center with sashes of blue silk chiffon, which match the one used on the hat.

The final piece is an eyepatch, which was also made from felt weight interfacing. It’s covered with damask print denim, lined with wool, and ties in place with black covered cord.

I have three posts about the process of making this costume, which can all be read below.

Making the Kirtle

Making the Undershirt

Making the Hat (and eyepatch)

Costume Spotlight

(a video)

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Making a Plaid Dress, 1860s, Part One

This is going to be a simple project. I swore my next 19th century project would be something elaborate and unique…But then I bought this plaid fabric with a civil war era gown in mind. Chopping it up to make a huge gored skirt would result in none of the stripes lining up and i’m not sure if I could deal with that!

So my elaborate dress from the 1860s is going to be on hold for the new year, and i’m making a much easier dress instead, because it suits this fabric nicely.

The design I came up with was mostly inspired by this and this. But instead of adding darts to the bodice, I want to pleat it. My original design also features bishop sleeves with cuffs, but I ended up changing that later on.

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 I’m making the dress from eight yards of this plaid material I got from Joanns, plus a yard of matching green fabric. This fabric was part of their “Fashion for Fall” line or something like that. It feels like a really nice wool flannel, and I love the weight of it.

Unlike wool flannel, it frays a lot, which sort of sucks. But on the bright side, it was 50% off and I had a 25% off entire purchase coupon, so it ended up costing $35 for the whole bolt!

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 I started off by draping the pattern. This was a big struggle to get the way I wanted. Usually draping goes quite quickly but I must have fought with this for a good hour!

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 I marked out all the pleats, then removed it from the dress form. It looked a little sketchy, not very precise at all, but I fixed it!

DSC_0560 Once I was done I had a functional pattern! It’s on the left, I’m not sure why but the Christmas Angel bodice pattern is on the right.

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 I turned that into a mock up and tried it on. I wanted a little more wiggle room, so I decided to let it out a half inch at each side. I also added darts to my pattern to take care of the shoulder wings.

The biggest issue here is that the front didn’t line up! I’m not sure how I didn’t realize that this would happen. It seems really obvious looking back on it, but it didn’t occur to me at all until I tried it on.

Since this bodice will close at the front with buttons, one side overlaps the over by an inch and a bit. Which means the pieces won’t meet in the middle – duh!

Photo on 11-22-14 at 9.43 PM I fixed this by straightening the pieces so they are flat in the middle, which I think is what was done in the picture I used for inspiration (it has a similar seam line across the bust)

When that was resolved I cut the pieces out from my plaid material and marked out all the pleats and darts.

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 Then the front and back panels got pleated.

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When that was done I stitched up the side seams – unfortunately these seams don’t line up! Neither does the one at the back. But everything else is pretty damn perfect when it comes to matching the stripes.

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I marked the hem on the collar.

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Then stitched it in place.

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Before I could stitch that onto the bodice, I had to add lace! I was given two yards of this lace a few months ago, it’s really delicate and lovely. But it also happened to be white, and I wanted it to be darker.

 I darkened it by tea staining it. I put it in a plastic bag with three packets of black tea for ten minutes to darken it to a beige. I let it dry overnight and sewed it on in the morning.

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 The collar portion was sewn onto the body of the garment and ta-dah, I had a bodice!

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 I tried it on and was quite pleased with it! The fit was very nice, the only issue were the shoulder wings. But I had been expecting those to pop up, so I wasn’t surprised by them.

Photo on 12-5-14 at 12.07 PM I took it in at the shoulders and I was very pleased. Unfortunately the next step wasn’t a fun one, because it involved stitching button holes by hand.

If you are wondering why I don’t do them by machine, I have a few reasons! The first is because I don’t have a machine that does satin stitching, or button holes. I could borrow one but even then i’m not very fond of how machine stitched button holes look.

Even though you can adjust it, most machines don’t stitch very densely around the button hole. Which is okay with lightweight fabrics that aren’t prone to fraying, but really sucks if you are working with thicker fabrics, or fabrics that fray a lot. It’s the same thing for eyelets. You can do them on a sewing machine, but if done properly the hand stitched versions should be more durable, and hopefully, more visually pleasing.

But I totally suck at button holes, so that isn’t usually the case.

To prep for it I drew out some guidelines and stitched around them with my machine.

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Then I slashed each one and stitched around them with a quadruple layer of cotton thread.

This sewing session went better than I had expected, but I still ended up with a lot of size variation from hole to hole, which isn’t good. The only way to get better is with practice, maybe next time will go better!

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The buttons I chose were ones I picked up in NYC. Most of the buttons I came across were too shiny, plastic, or ugly. I don’t love these but they were the right size and had an okay finish so i’m happy I found them!

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I actually think they look really nice on the garment!

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The only photos I have of it worn also include my sleeve muslin. So that’s all for now. Next time i’ll talk about making the lining and sleeves.

Thanks for reading!

 

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Diaphanous Flower Dresses

This is an ongoing series of dresses that represent seasons or holidays. Each dress pairs heavy fake flowers with lightweight airy fabrics and full silhouettes. So far the series consists of three dresses, one that represents summer, one that represents fall, and one that is halloween themed.

The Fall Fairy: 

This dress is inspired by fall and the warm tones of the season. It’s made from organza and chiffon with horsehair in the hem. It’s decorated with hundreds of fall themed flowers and had a peach toned overlay of tulle. The bodice is lightly boned and also decorated with flowers and tulle. The dress laces up the back and has a sash of tulle around the waist.

I have three blog posts on the process of making this costume, along with four videos.

Making the Bodice [video]

Making the Skirt [video]

Making the Accessories [video]

Applying the makeup

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The White Rose: 

This is the first dress I created for this series, the skirt is made from organza and chiffon with horsehair in the hem. Red and off white flowers were glued into the hem and it was overlayed with white tulle. The bodice is also made from organza and chiffon with boning sewn into the seams. The bodice is decorated with  more flowers as well as pearls and jewels around the neckline.

The entire dress is sheer aside from the waistband which is made from white cotton sateen.

I have two blog posts about this dress, as well as a video showing the headpiece process.

Making the Bodice

Making the Skirt

Making the Headpiece

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The Glittery Gothic: 

This dress was inspired by Halloween decor, unlike the other dresses it has a base of solid black, but it does feature a tulle overlay which makes the dark color look light ad airy. The hem is filled with glittery black roses, spiders, pumpkins, and glittery christmas decorations.

The bodice is heavily boned to create a conical shape, it laces up the back with silver grommets and orange ribbon. The dress ties at the shoulders with bat fabric.

I have two posts about making this dress, along with a video that shows the matching headpieces.

Making the Bodice

Making the Skirt

Making the Crowns

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Making a Glittery Gothic Dress, Part Two

This is the second part in my glittery gothic adventures, part one talks about the bodice and can be read here!

Since I didn’t have very many flowers I decided to make this skirt a half circle instead of a three quarter circle (like my previous flower dresses). Looking back on it I regret this because it didn’t create a very nice silhouette, this type of dress really works better with a fuller skirt!

 I cut the pattern from black broadcloth, but since all my flowers were black they didn’t really pop against the fabric, they blended in and looked terrible.

My solution was spray painting the hem silver to get a grey foggy effect. I think it worked really nicely, it looks interesting but keeps with the spooky/black theme, which normal grey fabric wouldn’t.

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 Even though I was happy with the paint job on the skirt I had no clue what direction to take this project in. It sat on my dress form for several days looking like this and I debated about scrapping the idea and giving up.

Part of the problem was the bat wing bodice (which was a huge failure) but just in general I wasn’t sure how to arrange the flowers and decorations in a way that wouldn’t look silly. My attempts with pinning things on to get a feel for how they would look just made things worse since it looked so bad.

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 I still wanted to move forward with this project so I decided to dive in and hope for the best. Just because one or two flowers looked bad doesn’t mean twenty will…or so I hoped!

Step one was hemming it, I used black two inch horsehair braid to add a bit of lift to the skirt. My sewing machine foot left tracks in the paint which was weird since I left it to dry for several days!

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DSC_9154The skirt totally retaliated by getting paint all over my hand and machine. I really wouldn’t recommend the whole spray painting fabric method because the paint seems to stick to everything else rather then the fabric, and it’s tough to get off.

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Then it was time for flowers. Despite my worries I was really excited about this, everything was so sparkly it was hard not to feel giddy!

I arranged this all on a table because I knew if I tried to do this on my rug I would never get all the glitter off.

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Then I started gluing stuff on. It took me a while to get the hang of it, working with flowers that were all the same color was a bigger challenge than I had expected, but in a fun way. I had to pay more attention and plan things out a bit more to get them to look the way I wanted.

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Here is what it looked like with all the flowers added! I’m really happy with it. It isn’t quite what I had imagined but I think it came together really nicely, it’s tacky but not in a really obnoxious way, which is impressive considering the materials I was working with!

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Then it was time for tulle. I used a piece that was five yards wide and twice as long as the waist-to-hem measurement of the skirt.

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Once it was cut out I gathered each edge and secured them at the waist of the skirt.

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Here is what it looks like with all the tulle sewn on!

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But the skirt still wasn’t finished. Though I really liked how it was decorated  the silhouette still wasn’t very nice. It looked too small and sad. To try and oomf it up a bit (that’s a technical term) I decided to add gathered pieces of bat material. Doesn’t that sound like a fantastic idea?

This would add more volume on the sides of the skirt without covering any of the decorations . It also helped blend the skirt and bodice together since the bodice has a bat fabric overlay but the skirt does not. Plus I can say it’s super loosely inspired by panniers which go nicely with my stay inspired bodice shape.

To make these I had to steal fabric from my failed Morticia costume, which I made last year around this time. The fabric was actually cut and sewn into the skirt as godets and seam ripping them out was a huge pain!

They were already cut into diamonds, which made triangles when they were folded in half. I didn’t want to make them any smaller so I decided to leave them in this shape and gather the tops down.

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It worked surprisingly well!

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I sewed those onto the waist of the skirt, then sewed the bodice to the skirt.

DSC_9197The skirt got sewn up the back and it was done! On and I paired it with a sash made from iridescent black/silver mesh. I like these photos since they were taken in front of a window and you can see the glitter!

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And here are some poor mirror shots that show it full length.

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DSC_9198That’s about it for this costume! I also made a headpiece and necklace but I didn’t take many (any) photos of the process. I will have a video tutorial about them so maybe i’ll post a link whenever I get it uploaded.

And I tried to get photos of the whole ensemble but everything went wrong and after three hours I was left with zero usable photos. Tomorrow i’m going to try again and hopefully get some better shots to show it all together!

Thanks for reading!

 
10 Comments

Posted by on October 9, 2014 in Fashion & Fantasy, The Making Of

 

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Making a Glittery Gothic Dress, Part One

A few months ago I shared some pretty controversial news about my hatred towards Summer. Surprisingly I received a lot of positive feedback from likeminded people, which is why i’m feeling brave enough to make another statement. This time about a beloved holiday: Halloween

I don’t like it. At all.

Honestly my favorite thing about October 31st is that the craze l ends and I can stop hearing about it and seeing posts related to it. That probably sounds really bad. Like i’m some sort of halloween grinch. Sorry.

I enjoyed it when I was much younger, but I grew out of it before I was in my teens. I used to think it was pretty silly and didn’t understand why it was even considered a holiday, and I still feel that way. But it seems I’m the only one since every year people are bursting with Halloween spirit as soon as October comes along.

I know I should like it, someone passionate about costumes should appreciate a “holiday” centered around them.  However I love costumes so much that I wear them whenever I feel like it, I don’t confine my costume ideas and wear time into a single day.

All that being said – you guys know I have a huge weakness when it comes to seasonal decor. Even though I dislike halloween, and orange is my least favorite color, and gore makes me want to puke, I found myself in the Halloween section of Michaels on a fateful Monday night.

And I left with $70 of halloween, and weirdly, christmas decorations with a project in mind.

Paired with a trip to Joanns and the weirdly tempting pile of crappy polyester that is the Spirit halloween collection and the project was confirmed. I already showed my haul for this project in my progress report last month, so go browse that if you want to see the raw materials before I tore them apart for this project!

My original idea looked like this. I wanted it to be similar to my other flower dresses but with an edgy twist.

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 I wanted the bodice to be shaped like bat wings, which was a neat idea in theory but didn’t end up looking that great. Since I have a pretty small chest there wasn’t enough room to get the shapes the way I wanted.

But I figured it would be okay and moved forward with the idea.

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I actually added all the boning and hemmed the edges before realizing it just wasn’t working. It looked like something you could buy from a Halloween store and the shapes were more spidery than batty.

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So I trashed that. As in literally threw it in the trash and started over. Instead I took it in a different, simpler direction. I decided to make a vaguely 18th century stays reminiscent bodice that would give a conical shape and tie at the shoulders and up back.

The pattern looked like this.

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I managed to reuse all the boning from my failed bodice, so that was good. The boning channels were made from one inch wide strips of cotton broadcloth that had the edges folded over.

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I cut my bodice base from the same broadcloth, then marked the boning channels and “hem line” where the edge will be folded over.

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All the boning channels were sewn in place and boning was added.

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I was happy with it but it looked really cheap, which isn’t surprising since broadcloth is less than $3 a yard. To fancy it up a bit I took some black mesh and stitched it on as an overlay. This was purchased from the spirit fabric line at Joanns a few years ago, it has spiderwebs and bats stitched into the mesh, it’s really cute!

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After that was sewn in place I rolled all the edges over and sewed them down.

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Warning: if you have a fear of glitter I would suggest skipping this part

Then it was time for the fun part, embellishing! I saved some glittery bats, leaves, and spiders for this along with the orange and silver christmas decorations. Unlike my previous flower dresses, there aren’t any flowers in the bodice.

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I was really torn about how this looked, but it’s grown on me over time! I think it’s really strange and pretty.

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I removed any glue strings and added the tulle overlay. I was surprised to find that it looked very sheer. I was hoping it would subdue the decorations a bit and make everything a bit less intense, but that didn’t happen!

The tulle does still have a purpose though, it keeps glitter from escaping.

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The edges of the tulle were rolled over and stitched down. Then I added silver grommets to the shoulders.

These days I usually hand embroider eyelets but I thought the contrast of the silver grommets would look better in this particular garment.

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I cut strips of my batty mesh material and used those as ties at the shoulder.

To finish off the garment I sewed black bias tape around the interior to cover any ugly edges.

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Then I added grommets to the back and it was done! It didn’t turn out the way I had planned but I think it’s cute, sparkly, and tacky without looking cheap. So it meets all my goals for this project.

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Here is the bodice worn, this is a few steps further along after it had been sewed to the skirt and I added a sash.

It fits really nicely and I like how the neckline turned out!

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Next week i’ll talk about making the skirt and assembling it all together. I also have some historical projects coming up this month, if you are getting sick of fashiony stuff just wait around a bit longer!

Thanks for reading!

 
10 Comments

Posted by on October 3, 2014 in Fashion & Fantasy, The Making Of

 

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