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Making a Draped Velvet Dress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I also turned the bottom and back edges inward.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
9 Comments

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

 

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Making a Green Edwardian Gown

This weeks project is one I’ve had roughly planned ever since I saw the first season of Downton Abbey and fell in love with this dress. I love the deep green color, and how elaborate it is while still being simple in design. Back in April I bought four yards of green satin faced chiffon with plans to make something similar.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find an eleborate lace in a matching color, so I decide to make my dress a bit simpler. After some more research I came across this dress, which I really like (especially the lace undershirt and use of black netting), along with these dresses.

The finished dress takes inspiration from all of them – plus some stuff I made up!

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I didn’t take any pictures of the drafting process, but the bodice is a simple three panel pattern with darts to shape the back and front. The skirt is also three pieces, with a straight front, flared sides and a bit of gathering at the back.

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I cut all the pieces out from a light green polyester charmeuse that I picked up for $4/yd during my shopping trip in Pennsylvania. It was a tight fit, but I managed to get all the pieces cut from the three yards I had.

The skirt panels were sewn together with one inch seam allowances. I left the edges raw, and facing outward since the satin faced chiffon will cover them.

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I leveled the hem since it was a bit wonky, then sewed horsehair braid into it to give the skirt a bit more body. I also sewed the darts into the bodice, and the waist seam.

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Then I repeated the process with the bodice – here you can see it on the dress form, along with some matching appliques I found on etsy. The darts on this didn’t turn out very well since satin faced chiffon is a pain to sew with, but luckily it wasn’t too noticeable in the end.

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I cut the skirt out of satin faced chiffon too, then sewed the pieces together. I trimmed the hem and turned it inward by a half inch, then inward by another half inch to create a rolled hem that was whip stitched in place by hand.

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I sewed the chiffon to the charmeuse around the neckline, with the right side of the satin facing the wrong side of the charmeuse. Then I basted the layers together around the arm openings and waistline.

I sewed some black lace around the neckline by hand, then placed the appliques. It took me longer than I would like to admit to get these symmetrical, but I’m happy with the end result.

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I should mention that the appliques match the fabric perfectly, but something about the sheen of the chiffon makes it look teal in photos rather than the emerald green it actually is.

(I made sure to confirm this with every member of my family so I know I’m not crazy)

I’ll edit the color balance in worn photos of it if it becomes necessary, but I couldn’t be bothered for the progress photos.

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I sewed the appliques on and now it was time for sequins. A couple years ago a follower of my blog (I’m not sure if she would want her name mentioned) was kind enough to send me some beautiful vintage sequins. I’ve used the clear ones on a few projects, but this was the first time I had a project suitable for the black ones.

I can’t even tell you how excited I was to finally work with these – look at all those colors! They are black but shine purple and green, almost like an oil slick effect.

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I started off with just a few around the neckline, and some on the sides of the waistband (which is just a gathered rectangle of mesh).

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But I quickly came to my senses and realized it needed way more sequins, which led to this!

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This shows the sheen of the fabric (and the sequins) a bit better. I think it’s a pretty dreamy combo!

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After a fitting I realized the lining was visible below the hem of the satin faced chiffon, so I raised the hem with a horizontal dart a few inches below the waistline. This way I didn’t have to mess with the horsehair braid in the hem.

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Speaking of the hem, I decorated it with some green lace that was stitched on by hand (which once again, matches the fabric but doesn’t look that way in photos) and more sequins. The trim had little swirls that were perfect for embellishments.

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I sewed the back seam of the charmeuse and satin faced chiffon separately, and left the top eight inches of the skirt open. Then I turned that edge, along with the back edge of the bodice inward by an inch. Then I turned it inward again and whip stitched it down.

The back closes with hooks and bars. I sewed the waistband down to either side of the closure point, and when it’s worn the waistband ties in a bow.

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It isn’t the prettiest bow, but it’s still a bow!

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Now it was time for sleeves! These are just simple straight sleeves I drafted, then cut from the satin faced chiffon and charmeuse. The hem is finished with black lace, and a doubled band of netting. I embellished the hem with some sequins and finished the top edge with lace binding.

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The arm openings of the dress were finished with lace binding too, then the sleeves were sewn on by machine.

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There are a few pulls in the sleeves that I’ll have to steam out, but other than that the dress is finished! I really love how it turned out. It’s the elegant, sparkly, simple, edwardian gown I’ve always wanted, and I can’t wait to get photos of it!

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The construction isn’t my best, but I don’t think you can tell from the finished dress. I think it’s pretty lovely for a week and a half of work and less than fifty dollars of material!

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I intend to wear that dress over a blouse, as inspired by this dress. I don’t think it’s necessary for modesty like it is with that gown, but high lace collars are a big part of the early 1900’s, so I wanted to have the option.

I made this from scraps of silk satin I had leftover from a chemise, and a piece of lace that was slightly larger than a fat quarter. Since I didn’t have enough lace for the whole blouse, I made half of it from muslin, and used lace trim down the center of the sleeves and back.

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I don’t think I took any progress photos of this, but it was pretty easy to make. There was just a lot of hand sewing since the lace was sewn to lace trim, then basted to satin.

I used another lace around the cuffs, and added a few sequins for a bit of interest.
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The back closes with snaps.

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I think they look very pretty together!

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To finish off the ensemble I made a headband. I started with a strip of black mesh, then chopped the lace trim I had leftover from the hem into tiny appliques. These were sewn on by hand, with gaps left in between.

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I covered the gaps and edges with sequins, then whip stitched the visible netting inward.

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And the final touch were some dyed feathers I got in the garment district last year. I glued most of these onto the underside of the headband with E6000.

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And that’s it! I haven’t tried all the pieces on together, but I plan to this weekend so I can get photographs of it. It’s so different from the other projects I’ve been working on recently and I adore the end result. Though part of that probably has to do with the materials – emerald green satin faced chiffon and vintage sequins do a lot of the work for you!

Thanks for reading!

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I cut out the lining from lightweight cotton.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I turned the edges inward by machine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

 

1830’s Plaid Pleated Dress, Photos

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

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

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

Post 1: The Bodice

Post 2: The Sleeves, Skirt, and Bonnet

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

Now onto the photos!

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

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And that’s it! Thanks for reading!

 
10 Comments

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

 

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Historical Costume Reference Book Reviews

This post has been planned for years I’ve just always put off writing it. As much as I like writing reviews, looking at a massive stack of books and trying to write intelligently about them is pretty intimidating. But I was determined to get it done, and I have! And just in time for the holiday season! I hope this is helpful for anyone looking to buy books, or if you’re just curious about the books I reference when making costume!

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I have two disclaimers before getting started. Firstly, I do not own the rights to any of these works. The copyright for each book belongs to the authors, publishers, and contributors, not me. In this post I’ve included two pages from the interior of each book which I believe falls under fair use. The photos are sized down or taken from angles where the pages aren’t usable for anything other than understanding the format of each book. They are not intended to harm the commercial value of the books. But I’ll happily take down any of the images if the copyright holders ask.

And the second: The links in this post are amazon affiliate links. This means if you buy something through the links I get paid small percentage of the purchase price for referring you to that item. It doesn’t change the price of the item, or the shopping experience at all.  But if you’re uncomfortable with this the links should be avoided.

Now onto the reviews!

I’ll start with some of the most popular, which also happen to be the first historical fashion books I got. They are a series of books called “Patterns of Fashion” which were written by Janet Arnold. There are four books in the series and I own three.

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Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s Dresses and Their Construction  by Janet Arnold

This book focuses on women’s fashion from the 1660’s through the 1860’s. It’s primarily a pattern book but starts off with a fifteen page introduction, which includes quotes from magazines and journals, very brief drafting instructions, notes on how to cut dresses from limited fabric, and paragraphs devoted to things like making piping or pinked trim. I’m sure these notes are helpful for someone but I find them a little vague (and also confusing at times).

But this isn’t why I bought the book, so I’m not bothered by it. I bought it for the patterns!

Unlike a lot of pattern books, this series includes detailed drawings of the completed piece from the front and back, and usually includes drawings of the interior as well. There is also a paragraph or two talking about the dress, including what it was originally made from and any unique construction notes.

The patterns in this book are all made based on measurements taken from existing historical examples, so they are very accurate (as are the notes about each piece). But keep in mind that these patterns will require scaling up, and alterations to fit your measurements.

The patterns in this book are beautifully laid out. They are printed on a grid, which makes them easy to resize and they are filled with construction notes which make the intimidating and unusual nature of historical patterns a lot easier to tackle. The pattern notes are clear and concise – pretty much perfect in my mind! The patterns are also very detailed, with the trim placement and embroidery patterns documented as well.

The only thing I don’t care for are the pieces chosen for the book. Some of them are quite similar. It’s especially obvious with the two 1840’s and 1860’s dresses which have very similar sleeves and tiered skirts. Compared to Norah Waugh’s books which have fewer patterns but a larger variety it’s a bit disappointing.

I still think it’s worth it – over two dozens patterns for thirty dollars is a fantastic deal, even if you only use half of them. And the notes for each piece gave me a much better understanding of the construction progress for historical dresses.

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Patterns of Fashion 3: The Cut and Construction of Clothes for Men and Women  by Janet Arnold

This book focuses on mens and women’s fashion from the 1560’s through the 1620’s. It’s twice the length of the first one, with a fifty page introduction. Luckily the introduction in this book is a lot more interesting. It’s filled with pictures and the writing compliments them nicely.

The pictures range from patterns to etchings and paintings. It also has a lot of photographs showing the details on original garments from the 1500s. It’s really interesting to see close ups of the fabric manipulation, closures, stitching, and lining techniques. Things you hear mentioned a lot in other books but never actually see. I’d say the book is worth looking through just for those images alone.

The patterns in this book are documented in the same way as Patterns of Fashion 1. They are on a grid, with one page devoted to drawings of the finished garment and a brief description of the piece. The notes are just as helpful, and even more in depth since 16th century fashion was so complicated.

The thing I don’t like about this book is, once again, the lack of variety. I believe there are twelve mens doublet patterns, half of which are pretty similar. The variation in the women’s clothing patterns is good, but lacking some of the “classic” tudor styles. The examples are all very elaborate, which I find inspiring, but they are complicated and probably not the best for beginners.

Like the first book, I think it’s a good deal and the notes are very helpful whether you’re using the patterns included or trying to draft your own in an accurate way. If you have an interest in the periods it covers I would highly recommend it.

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Patterns of Fashion 4: The Cut and Construction of Linen Shirts, Smocks, Neckwear, Headwear and Accessories for Men and Women  by Janet Arnold

I regret buying this book.

This isn’t a bad book by any means. In fact it’s really interesting to read through, and I’ve never seen anything like it before. It focuses on accessories and underpinnings for men and women, which isn’t the most exciting topic, but the introduction is filled with close ups of the detail work on garments from the 1500s and 1600s.

It has diagrams of the stitches used for openwork seams, eyelets, lace, and embroidery. It has pages devoted to the variety of cuffs that were worn, and another for collars. It’s fascinating to see that alongside photos of embroidery work done five hundred years ago. And like the last book, the photos are accompanied by descriptions. But the descriptions are a lot more brief, and the pages far more photo heavy than the previous book.

The patterns are well documented, with drawings of the embroidery motifs and lace patterns in case you want to recreate them.

The reason I regret buying this book is because I’m not at a point where I’m willing to spend forty hours adding blackwork embroidery to an undershirt. And even if I was, I feel like that information is available online. As far as the patterns go, I’ve never followed them. Because things like smocks and ruffs are very easy to draft on your own – they are just rectangles. There are a few patterns for gloves and collars that are unique, but also pretty easy to draft on your own or find elsewhere.

I think this book is best for someone who wants to make exact historical replicas. Otherwise it probably won’t get a lot of use. I’m hoping to take advantage of the embroidery patterns someday, which is why I’ve held onto it, but this isn’t a book I feel I need in my collection.

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Another silly complaint which I have about all these books is that I don’t like the size of them. They are maybe 11″ x 16″, and since they are thin and paperback they don’t stand up, even if you lean them against something. And they take up a ton of room when laid out on a table. Plus the pages are too big to scan, which is sort of silly since that’s what you have to do to resize the patterns. Though it isn’t a deal breaker for me by any means, it’s kind of frustrating!

The Tudor Tailor: Reconstructing Sixteenth-Century Dress by Ninya Mikhaila and Jane Malcolm-Davies

This is a book I bought when making my Tudor Ensemble, since Patterns of Fashion 3 didn’t have quite what I was looking for and I was completely clueless about this period. This came highly recommended on every blog I read, so I decided to give it a try.

To be honest, it isn’t my favorite book. Compared to other pattern books (like Janet Arnold’s and Norah Waugh’s) I find it uninspiring. The patterns and examples all seem to be lacking the exaggeration and detail work that that period was famous for. I don’t want to make anything from the patterns since they seem lackluster, where with other books I want to make everything!

But it isn’t a bad book! Much like the others it starts off with an introduction, except theirs is split into chapters. One of which focuses on the basics, another talks about the materials and dyes that were available, and another shows construction techniques. The pages are pretty dense, but it’s easy to read through and really interesting.

The patterns each have one page devoted to assembly instructions, with a photo (or drawings) of the finished piece. Each pattern has several variations, with the amount of material needed to make it listed. The patterns are also on a grid, which makes them easy to size up. I really appreciate the range in patterns – each one has a different silhouette, and they cover everything from dresses for the everyday tudor woman, to court gowns for the rich. It has mens patterns too, patterns for foundation garments, and patterns for headpieces.

I think this book would be good for beginners, since everything is much simpler than Janet Arnold’s, and it has more notes than Norah Waugh’s. If you find those patterns overwhelming, this is a better place to start. It’s also a lot more complete – you can make everything from foundation garments to accessories with it.

But as I said, I find the patterns lacking the exaggeration and detail work that I like in patterns. And for as simple as the patterns are, the lines are wobbly and the markings for pleats and boning are less clear.

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Corsets and Crinolines by Norah Waugh

This is by far the most used pattern book I own. Every corset I’ve made has been based on patterns from this book in some way or another.

Unlike the other books, there is no introduction. The book is split into chapters, with several dense pages of text between each pattern. This text doesn’t usually relate to the pattern, just the period that pattern is from. Some of the text is heavy, and since it was written seventy years ago it can seem a bit stiff. But I’ve read it pretty much cover to cover and enjoy how much information is packed into it, and how nicely it explains the transition between silhouettes and foundation garments.

In addition to her own words, this book includes samples from journals and newspapers. Some of these are silly (and in another language) but it’s interesting hearing about the foundation garments from the perspective of people who wore them.

The patterns are quite simple, made from a few pieces with only the boning placement marked. However the patterns aren’t on a grid, instead you use a key at the bottom of each page as a guide. The patterns also lack notes, which isn’t a big issue since corsets are quite self explanatory, but it’s very problematic when recreating things from her other book “The Cut of Women’s Clothes: 1600-1930“. Things like how the dresses close, and the order of assembly can be tricky to follow without anything but the pattern to go off of.

In addition to patterns on bodies, stays, corsets, and girdles, this book also has patterns for hoop skirts, panniers, and petticoats. It’s incredibly helpful for creating the proper silhouette for historical costumes and I would highly recommend it – though once again, keep in mind that alterations will have to be made for the patterns to fit you.

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Norah Waugh has two other books, The Cut of Women’s Clothes: 1600-1930 and The Cut of Men’s Clothes: 1600-1900.

Though I don’t own either of these, I have followed patterns from the Women’s book and had the opportunity to look through it. I really enjoy the patterns included in this book since the variety is a lot greater than what’s in Janet Arnold’s, with patterns from the 1600s all the way to the mid 1900s. It covers a huge range of styles and silhouettes, and no two patterns are alike.

As much as I like the patterns, as I said earlier, the lack of construction notes becomes a bit problematic with some of these patterns. They can usually be figured out with a bit of experimentation, but the way things are supposed to go together isn’t always clear since there are no notes.

A recent addition to my collection is 59 Authentic Turn-of-the-Century Fashion Patterns by Kristina Harris

You’ve probably heard me talk about this book before, since I used it for three recent projects. It’s quickly become one of my favorites since I’m a bit enamored with the 1890’s, and this is one of the few books I’ve found that focuses on that period.

This book has a single drawing of each finished garment, plus a paragraph long description of it. The garments are organized by date and season. Though it primarily has patterns on women’s fashion there are a dozen or so children’s patterns.

I find a lot of the patterns to be quite similar, but there are subtle differences between them. And at the price point (twelve dollars or so) It’s easy to forgive. The patterns aren’t on a grid, and there isn’t a key that makes them easy to scale up. Instead the edges of each piece have measurements listed. The patterns do have errors that I’ve noticed, the most major being that they often use improper fractions like 3 7/4″ or 9 13/5″, which is confusing at times!

Much like Waugh’s book, I wish the patterns had notes on them. To create poofy sleeves and gathered bodices the lining often has a completely different shape than the fashion fabric that goes overtop of it. But it isn’t always clear how they go together.

However I still really like this book. The variety in sleeve patterns is fantastic, and the skirt pattern I followed for my recent 1890’s dress was wonderful. It’s a great book to have around, and you can’t beat the amount of patterns you get for the price!

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The “Keystone” Jacket and Dress Cutter: An 1895 Guide to Women’s Tailoring by Chas Hecklinger

I’m not sure if i’m allowed to review this since I haven’t used it the way it’s intended to be used. I bought this as a visual reference for making fitted 1890’s jackets with flared skirts. And I’ve since used it as a visual reference for how double breasted jackets and shirtwaists should look when flat…then used that as a guide when draping similar garments.

But this book is intended to be a drafting manual. It includes instructions on how to measure yourself and how to create flat patterns based on those measurements. Since this is an older book, the instructions are stiff, but don’t seem very difficult to follow.

After the drafting system is explained it has pages devoted to garment diagrams, and a page of drafting instructions to go along with each one.

The diagrams cover everything from short fitted jackets to to double breasted riding coats with flared skirts. It also has diagrams and instructions for sleeve patterns and several shirtwaists. At the back of the book there are drawn examples of each piece.

Overall, this served the purpose I bought it for. It helped me understand what lat 20th century patterns looked like flat, which helped me drape my own equivalent. But I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the instructions since I haven’t followed them!

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Costume in Detail: Women’s Dress 1730-1930 by Nancy Bradfield

This isn’t a pattern book, but I keep it with my pattern books since I think it’s a great accompinment to them. This book has a unique format, with at least two pages devoted to each costume. Each costume is dated, with a paragraph of typed text about it. But the rest of the pages are filled with drawings and notes made by Nancy.

There are a lot of unique notes and information in this book. In addition to sketches of the exterior of the costume, there are notes about the interior – how things were lined, what materials were used, where the boning was placed. How long the train was, and how much of the train was lined. Even things like the width of the fabric used, and the number of seams in a skirt are documented alongside detailed sketches. Technically things that can be learned through pattern books, but alongside the sketches it’s a lot easier to follow.

Ecspecially for things like lining and closures. Seeing how the fabric drapes over the closures, along with how they looked from the interior makes it seem more approchable. In addition to dresses, shoes, petticoats, hats, and chemises are all discussed as well.

Though I wouldn’t use this as a standalone reference for a costume, It’s a fantastic resource to use along side inspiration books (with lots of photos of costumes, but none of the construction) or pattern books that are hard to imagine in a three dimensional way.

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Those are all the construction focused/pattern books I own. Now I’m going to talk about inspiration books, which feature a lot of images of historical costumes, but very little information about the origin or interior of the garments. I use these when I’m not sure what to make, or when I want more references to build out a costume idea I already have. These first four are all illustrated, with no photos of costumes.

Complete Costume History by Francoise Tetard-Vittu (artwork by Auguste Racinet)

I originally discovered this when I took a class and the teacher had the large copy of this book. looked through it one day and fell in love with the full color illustrations that were packed onto every page, and the huge variety of styles it included.

I personally own the smaller version, which has two volumes. The first volume has the illustrations, and the second has more information about the drawings. The drawings in this book aren’t modern, they were created and researched in the 1800s, which means they aren’t the most accurate depiction of history.

But the drawings are beautiful. And every time I look through the book I find something new I want to make. Unlike most books it isn’t exclusively european fashion. It has pages devoted to Egyptian times, Ancient Greece, China, Africa, and Spain. In addition to hundreds of full page color illustrations it also has drawings of furniture, architecture, weapons, instruments, and even camels. It provides a well rounded image of not just what people wore, but also what they were surrounded by.

The only negative I can say about this book is that the time periods for each page aren’t labeled. They only have the country listed. Volume II does have additional information about each page, but it’s awkward switching between them. Now I know enough about historical fashion to know approximately which decade each page focuses on, but when I first got it I had no clue.

Also as I said earlier, this isn’t the most accurate depiction of history. If your goal is to make historically accurate costumes you’ll need additional references. Even if you don’t want to make historically accurate costumes you’ll probably want more references since most of these drawings only show one side of the garment, and don’t delve into the details.

But I love this book! Looking through it makes me happy and fills me with ideas. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in historical fashion, regardless of whether they make costumes or not.

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Historic Costume in Pictures by Braun & Schneider

This book is quite similar to The Complete Costume History in that it consists only of pictures. Except this book lists the date on each page in addition to the country of origin, which I like. The drawings are more detailed in this book, though there are less of them, and the pages are in black and white.

The costumes plates in this book were originally researched and published in the later 1800s, so once again they aren’t the most accurate. But I still enjoy this book. When I got it I didn’t know very much about historical fashion, flipping through this gave me a good grasp on the various silhouettes and styles, how they evolved, and when they were popular. Since the information in it is limited, that means it’s easy to absorb. I’d highly recommend it to beginners, as long as they are aware that the drawings aren’t completely accurate and are willing to research the garments more on their own.

I don’t think I’ve made anything based on the drawings in this book, but I do enjoy flipping through it when in search of inspiration.  However I enjoy The Complete Costume History more and don’t think you need both.

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Victorian Fashions and Costumes from Harper’s Bazar, 1867-1898  by Stella Blum

I think this is a great book to get along with one of the ones listed above, since it covers the major decade they miss: The mid to late 1800s.

I purchased this early in the year since I was struggling to find references of garments from the 1890’s. Disappointingly, this doesn’t have a lot of pages devoted to that period. It’s far more focused on the bustle dress eras. But I’m very happy that I purchased it, since it’s made me enjoy, and respect a period of fashion I previously thought I hated.

Though these fashion plates were also drawn in the mid 1800s, they are very accurate since they depict the garments that were worn during that period.

This book has my favorite format of all the “Inspiration” books. Each dress is accompanied by a short, concise paragraph that talks about the style, colors, and when it was worn. It gives you enough information to research it further on your own, and some insights into how dresses were trimmed and the fabrics used.

Though the majority of the pages are devoted to full length dresses, there are many drawings of accessories. Headpieces, foundation garments, parasols, children’s clothes, shoes, and jewelry all have pages of their own.

I think this would be a valuable book for anyone who appreciates historical fashion in general. I didn’t expect to like half the examples in this book since I’m not a huge fan of bustle dresses, but I still really enjoyed reading through it and seeing how the styles evolved. It’s also been a fantastic reference for several of my projects, and served as the main inspiration for a few things I currently have in progress.

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Women’s Hats, Headdresses and Hairstyles: Medieval to Modern  by Georgine de Courtais

This is one of my most referenced books. It isn’t detailed enough to be a standalone reference on hats throughout history, but it’s a really great start and source of inspiration. I bought this when I knew very little about hats and after flipping through it once I had a basic understanding of  historical hats and what periods they belong to. Even now that I know more about hats, I’ll still look through this for ideas on what to pair with ensembles I’m planning.

The book has one page of numbered drawings accompanied by a page of text that explains each hat in greater detail. Something I like a lot about this book is that it talks about how hats evolve – it doesn’t just say “This is a flower pot hat, worn in the 1890’s” is says why they were called that and how they are different from the hats worn a few years prior. Along with how that style changed throughout the decade.

The book covers a huge range of time – from 1100 all the way to 1980, with the 1700’s and 1800’s being covered with the most detail.

A downside to this book is that the illustrations only show each example from one angle. The descriptions are very helpful, but short. So you don’t get enough information about each example to use them as your only reference when making a hat. The writing is also a bit blocky, and lacking line breaks between the explanations for each piece, so it isn’t enjoyable to read through in it’s entirety.

I’d still highly recommend it if historical hats are something you want to learn more about. It’s taught me a lot and was my main motivation for getting into headpiece making.

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Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century by The Kyoto Costume Institute

I think this is the prettiest book I own. And also the heaviest!

It’s a two volume set of books, which as far as I know have to be purchased together. The first book shows fashion from the 18th century to the early 20th century, and the second book is entirely 20th century fashion.

These books are beautifully put together, especially the first volume. I really can’t recommend the first book highly enough. The garments chosen are beautiful, and wonderfully styled and photographed. It’s incredibly inspiring to look through and made me fall in a bit more in love with historical fashion.

The photos mostly show the full length dresses, but there are pages devoted to the detail work and accessories. Each dress is accompanied by a very short explanation, with some having full paragraphs. Some pages have more text than others, but the real star of this book are the pictures. Most of the images are photographs, but some of them are paired with fashion plates and drawings.

Overall It’s a stunning collection of garments and photos. I’ve had it for almost a year now and I still really enjoy looking through it. It would make a fantastic gift, since not only is it a great reference, it’s also pretty enough that people who don’t really “get” historical fashion can enjoy it.

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Volume II however…Well, it’s not my cup of tea. I enjoy the first portion since the 1920’s dresses are beautiful, and a lot of the dresses from the 50’s are nice too.

The rest of it is a bit weird and I find the examples they chose for garments very odd. There are shoes made out of grass, dresses made from plastic, and a plethora of awkwardly shaped runway pieces. I understand that the uniqueness of these pieces are why a museum would have them in their collection, but I was disappointed by them. It didn’t feel cohesive with the tone of the first book. However if you like unusual fashion, and appreciate the more sculptural aspect of clothing you’ll probably really enjoy it.

Overall I think it was worth what I paid (a little more than twenty dollars). I would pay the same amount over again for just the first book, since I think it’s fantastic. But the second book isn’t my favorite, and I wish there was an equal amount of focus given to all the periods, rather than the 20th century getting a volume of its own, with the prior two hundred and fifty years compacted into one. More examples of fashion from the 1800’s and turn of the century would have made it a lot more enjoyable for me personally.

In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion by Anna Reynolds

Speaking of pretty books, this one is a beauty! I purchased this as a visual reference since I wanted more examples of Elizabethan and mid 17th century fashion in my collection, something this book is filled with. Every page has at least one painting printed on it, and almost a quarter of the pages are taken up entirely by prints.

This book really focuses on the details, often cropping paintings to highlight the embellishment or textures used on the garments. It also pairs paintings with photographs of similar items to what’s worn in them. For example a chemise with blackwork embroidery is on the page across from  a tudor portrait of a woman wearing a blackwork embroidered partlet.

Even though the real star of this book is the artwork, there is a lot of text too. Far more than I had expected. To be honest I haven’t read a lot of it, since I purchased it primarily as a visual reference. What I have read was well written, but not especially captivating.

My only peeve with this book is the formatting. Large portions of pages are often left blank because of photo placement, ands sentences run on between several pages. For example “The embroidered waistcoat is clearly decorated in a similar manner to a waistcoat in the Fashion Museum, Bath. Wheras” – that sentence continues three pages later. It seems poorly planned.

Another note is that this book is divided into chapters such as: Dressing Children, Dressing Men, Dressing Women, Painting Dress, Dressing Across the Borders, etc. This is nice because it means all the examples within a chapter are relatively cohesive, since they have the same theme. I’m sure that makes it nicer to read too.

But I’m used to historical fashion books being sorted by date, with the earliest examples at the beginning. And in this they are scattered all over within the chapters. From the perspective of someone trying to use it as a reference, it can be difficult finding what I’m looking for. It usually means I have to look through the entire book to find anything – but it’s a beautiful book, so that’s usually a treat more than anything else!

Overall I love looking through it and the examples they chose to include. They never cease to inspire me. It’s visually pleasing from the outside too, and would be a nice coffee table book in addition to being a wonderful reference.

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20,000 Years of Fashion: The History of Costume and Personal Adornment by Francois Boucher

I think out of all the books I own, this one has the most “complete” coverage of historical fashion. It begins with prehistoric fashion before moving into things from the early third millennium. Egyptian artwork and how it depicts costumes has two chapters of its own – and so do many other periods that don’t fit into most historical fashion books. I reach for this when working on medieval projects, since it has far more examples of artwork from the 1000-1200s than any other book I own.

The book is quite text heavy, but every page is dotted with pictures that help give you a sense of the period. I’m not a huge fan of how this is written, it’s readable and interesting but not compelling. My attempts to read it from cover to cover have been squashed, but I do enjoy reading pages related to what I’m currently working on.

The pictures are a mixture of paintings, fashion plates, sculpture tapestries, and photographs. To get inspired I always flip to the pages about the period I’m planning on making something from. Though the pictures aren’t as pretty as other books, they pick a lot of unique examples that differ from what you usually see on pinterest.

It’s a book I’m very happy to have in my collection, but probably not one I would recommend as a gift since it isn’t as immediately exciting as the others.

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I have one technique focused book to talk about and then I’m done!

This is called The Art of Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolff. The cover caught my eye when I was browsing, and the reviews won me over.

I don’t use this book very often, but it’s fascinating. Each page describes multiple techniques and has instructions on how to do them. The instructions are usually paired with diagrams that show the steps.

It begins with basic things, like making ruffles. Then moves onto similar, but more elaborate things that use the same techniques, like fluting and furrowing. It also has picture examples of everything – including gathering examples that show the fullness of of fabric when it’s gathered to be one half, one third, or one quarter of it’s original length.

The techniques get more complicated as the book goes on, but still cover basics like shirring, godets, pleating, and making simples flounces. A lot of the examples go far beyond the level of patience I have, but it’s still neat to see instructions about them, and how they look executed perfectly in the examples.

It’s an interesting book to have, regardless of your skill level. Since it covers the basics it can work for beginners, and I guarantee that no matter how long you’ve been sewing there will be something in here you’ve never seen before.

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Some other books I own but don’t feel comfortable reviewing yet include:

Authentic Victorian Dressmaking Techniques – I’ve referenced this for specific projects a few times, but haven’t read it from cover to cover. So far I like it and how they touch on things not usually mentioned in modern sewing manuals.

The Art of Sewing Books – I got these at a vintage book store. I like the way they are laid out and the diagrams but they aren’t relevant to what I’m currently doing so I haven’t read them.

Women’s Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences manuals/textbooks – My Great Aunt gave me these and they are wonderful. I love the way things are explained and the huge variety of techniques. If you can find them I’d highly recommend them, they are really useful and also a piece of a history since they were printed in the 1920s!

That’s it for reviews! I hope you enjoyed this and found it helpful.

It would be nice if the comments were a bit of a discussion – are there any historical costume books you would recommend? Any I liked you that didn’t? Ones on your wish list?

I’m hoping to get “Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette”  for Christmas and am keeping my eye on “Art Nouveau Fashion” – I want more picture books!

Though I used amazon links in this post, remember to look around for better deals! A few of these were purchased from Barnes and Noble since they were cheaper there AND had $10 off coupons for Black Friday. A fifty dollar book on amazon cost me $28 with free shipping from B&N. Book prices also change all the time, so if something is too expensive keep checking back – I’ve seen prices drop from $55 to $38 in a day.

I think that’s all I have to say for today, thanks for reading and I hope you have a nice Thanksgiving – or if you don’t celebrate, then a really fantastic week in general!

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2016 in Reviews & Hauls

 

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Plaid, Pleats, and Piping – Making an 1830’s Dress, Part Two

This post is about making the sleeves, skirt, and bonnet for an 1830’s ensemble. I posted about making the bodice for this project a few months ago but didn’t finish the ensemble until last week!

I looked at a lot of sleeve examples from the 1830’s but finally decided on something a little silly that would let the plaid really shine – shirring.

I sketched a few designs but ended up making the the sleeves with four portions – two shirred upper portions separated by piping, a loose puffed portion, and the cuff.

The first step was cutting out four sixty inch wide strips. Then I used the lines in the plaid as a guide for gathering the strips down.

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This was very time consuming to do. Each sleeve had seven rows of gathering – that’s 420″ of fabric that had to be gathered down, and that’s just for one sleeve!

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Then I sewed piping onto the bottom edge of each piece.

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The second shirred panel was sewn on, just below the piping.

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Then I trimmed the top of the sleeves so they would fit the armscye.

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The third portion of the sleeves we large rectangles. I turned the bottom few inches of the side edge inward to hide the raw edges, then gathered the top and bottom edges. The top edge was gathered to the width of the shirred panels, and the bottom edge to the width of the cuffs.

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They were sewn on to the shirred panels.

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Then the top portion of the sleeves were lined with cotton to hide the raw edges.

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The cuffs are interfaced rectangles of cotton with the edges ironed inward. Then I sewed piping onto each edge.

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I used whip stitches for this, so the stitching wouldn’t be visible.

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The cuffs were sewn onto the sleeves by hand, with more whip stitches.

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Then lined with cotton. The fabric is lightweight enough that even when gathered down this densely it doesn’t add much bulk to the seam.

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I did up the side seam, then covered the raw edges with plaid bias tape.

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The final step was sewing two hooks and bars into each cuff.

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I sewed the sleeves on by hand, with slip stitches, and then the bodice was complete! I’m pretty happy with this. At first I thought the plaid was too busy, and the shirring looked odd with the pleating, but I got over that and now I think it’s wonderful.

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I didn’t take very many photos of making the skirt since I made it in two hours the night before we photographed this project. But it’s pretty easy to explain since the skirt is just a large rectangle!

I turned the hem inward by a half inch, then inward again by two and a quarter inches. I used a cross/catch stitch for this, and I have a tutorial on the process that can be watched here!

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The top edge was pleated with knife pleats. I originally had the waistline being straight, but after a fitting I realized it was too long in the front. I cut the waistline on an angle so it was two inches shorter in the front than in the back, which leveled the hem.

Then I sewed on the waistband – this was done by machine to save time.

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The back edges were turned inward twice to form a finished edge. Then I sewed hooks and bars in. The back seam was done up with a french seam.

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And that was it for the skirt! I hemmed it to sit nicely over a single cotton and tulle petticoat, along with a weird bum pad I made for an 1880’s dress. This caused it to flare out a bit in the back which wasn’t uncommon in the 1830’s.

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The final piece for this project is a bonnet. I used this as my main reference image and pinned paper onto a wig head until It had the shape I wanted.

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I transferred that onto a new sheet of paper and cleaned up the edges. Then I cut the pattern out from heavyweight interfacing.

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I sewed wire into the edges of each piece, then covered them with velvet.

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The cap portions of the bonnet were lined with scraps of silk taffeta, then sewn together by hand.

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I lined the brim with bright orange silk shantung, which matches the piping on the dress.

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It was sewn in with whip stitches, then sewn onto the cap!

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I’m pretty happy with how the shape turned out, and I love these materials together.

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Since the dress is so wacky I decided to keep the bonnet somewhat simple. It’s decorated with strips of orange silk that form a criss cross pattern with a bow in the back and ends that fall at either side. These can be used as ties, but the bonnet stays in place thanks to a comb pinned into the back of the brim.

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I should have photos of the finished ensemble up soon – we took some in a pumpkin patch, which made a nice backdrop for this fun dress. I just have to finish editing them!

Thanks for reading!

 

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1890’s Day Dress, the “Pumpkin” Gown, Photos

Today I have some photos of my completed Orange Taffeta Dress to share! We photographed it in it’s natural habitat – a pumpkin patch!

These aren’t my favorite costume photos (I probably prefer last years) but I’m just happy we got some that were usable. The day we photographed this it was insanely windy to the point where the dress wouldn’t lay out properly. And since it was so difficult to control the dress I wasn’t comfortable walking in the dusty or potentially muddy areas, which left us with limited background options.

Luckily we managed to get a few I really like – though I would like to get more photos of it in calmer weather in the future, it has a lovely silhouette when it isn’t being battered by wind!

Construction notes about this dress and hat can be found here, here, and here. It was worn over a steel boned 1880’s style corset which was made from a pattern from “Corsets & Crinolines” by Norah Waugh. The skirt is supported by two petticoats that were taken up by three inches the night before this shoot so they would sit properly underneath the skirt. I also wore it with these boots* – you can’t see them in the photos, but they made me feel more authentic which has to count for something.

Now onto the photos!

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This one is my favorite. I love how the light catches the feather, and the waistline makes me feel better about how uncomfortable the stupid corset was!

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The abundance of “looking off into the distance” shots has to do with it being really sunny and that being the only way I could fully open my eyes.

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And that’s it! Thanks for reading – a new “Making of” post should be up tomorrow!

 
15 Comments

Posted by on November 17, 2016 in 19th century, Completed Costumes

 

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Making an 1890’s Day Dress, the “Pumpkin” Gown, Part Three

It has taken me longer than expected to write this, but I finally have the last “Making of” post about my orange 1890’s dress to share!

Part one can be seen here and shows the making of the bodice. Part two is posted here and focuses on the sleeves. This post will be about the skirt and some of the finishing details. I didn’t take a lot of photos of these steps but hopefully I took enough for it to make sense!

Since I was unhappy with my previous 1890’s skirt attempt I decided to use a pattern for this one. I once again referenced 59 Authentic Turn-of-the-Century Fashion Patterns *, using the pattern from one of the ladies street costumes. Of course I altered it to match my measurements, but the shaping of the pieces is the same.

Here is the finished pattern. The side and back pieces were both cut out twice and the front panel (the narrowest one) was cut on a folded edge of the material.

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After cutting it out from the material I assembled the pieces with french seams and roughly pinned them onto my dress form.
I was originally a bit disappointed by the slim silhouette since SO much fabric went into this skirt, but I liked the shape enough to stick with it.
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I turned the top few inches of the back edge inward twice, so the raw edge was hidden. Then I sewed the edge down. I left this portion of the skirt open and sewed the rest of the back seam normally.

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Then I gathered the back of the skirt by hand.

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The silhouette looked a bit fuller after this, which I was happy with. However I was not happy with the length of this skirt, it’s a whole inch shorter than I had envisioned. There was no room to do the pretty hem I wanted.

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To make things even more annoying, the back was too long and had to be cut down.

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I had to scrap my ideas for a one inch rolled hem and chose to face the hem with some suiting instead. I sewed this on with a quarter inch seam allowance to keep the hem as long as I could.

I don’t think this was a bad idea, but I should have used a lighter (or stiffer) fabric. This one didn’t iron smoothly and the hem ended up looking puckered even though I was very careful when sewing it. It bothers me to the point that I plan on redoing it soon, which is pretty drastic for me!

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After hemming the skirt I sewed loops and buttons onto the top portion of the back seam to keep the opening I left closed. I’m not sure where my pictures of that went, but the process was identical to adding buttons and loops to the sleeves.

Then  I sewed the bodice onto the skirt with the wrong sides facing each other, so the raw edges are on the outside.

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 I covered the raw edges with a waistband that has a pleat running horizontally across it to add interest. It was originally supposed to be gathered but that didn’t look very nice so I pleated it instead!

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The final touch was adding a matching modesty panel to the back to hide the foundation garments that were peeking out from the loops the last time I tried it on.

This is just a rectangle with the edges whip stitched inward, then it was whip stitched to the lining.

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And that was it! Here is the back all done up. Not historically accurate, but I love the buttons and how far down they extend.

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Here is the front.

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A close up of the brooch~

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And pictures of it on the dress form – keep in mind that it doesn’t really fit my dress form, the silhouette is a lot more dramatic when I wear it over a corset.

There is also a bit of petticoat peeking out since the hem was shorter than I had planned. Even though I was annoyed by this, it was kind of a blessing in disguise since it forced me to shorten my petticoats which were all way too long.

Overall I really like this dress. I’m so happy with the fit, and how light it is. The fabric is beautiful and was wonderful to work with – even though the color isn’t my favorite, I like how striking it is. And the button details make me so happy.

The only thing I don’t like is the hem, but I’m confident that can be fixed.

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With the dress discussion done, it’s time to talk about the hat! I’m not the biggest fan of hats from the 1890’s since I feel like they are out of proportion with the full sleeves. I looked through a lot of references and couldn’t find anything inspiring (except for the ones with birds on them…but one bird hat is enough for me, or at least for this year).

At least until I came across this fashion plate – I’m not sure where this is from or if it was even drawn in the 1890’s, but I love how different it is. It’s like a twentieth century bicorne.

I made the base from interfacing.

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I bound the seams by hand, then sewed wire into the edges.

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I made a cap from interfacing too. The cap was covered with brown silk and lined with cotton, then sewn to the brim.

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The brim is covered with brown silk as well, and lined with some leftover orange material.

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For decoration I used a peach ostrich feather across the top.

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And the side is decorated with fake roses, leaves, and some small brown feathers.

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It can be worn in a variety of ways – with the feather facing the front, or either side. I ended up wearing it like this and pinning a comb into the cap to keep it in place.

And speaking of hats, I wanted to take a minute to mention the video I made about all my hats. It shows them in detail, along with how they look worn and a bit about the construction process/period they come from. If you like hats, you might enjoy it! It can be watched here.

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And I think that’s it for this post! The dress is done, the hat is done, and so are all the things that go underneath them. I’ve already photographed this project (in its natural habitat, a pumpkin patch) and as soon as I get done editing  I will post them too!

Thanks for reading!

 

 

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Making a 1920’s Inspired Coat, Part One

It’s been a few weeks, but I think I’m back to my normal blogging schedule! I took on a commission that ate up two weeks of time, and have spent the last week trying to prepare videos for the next two months. Which hasn’t left me with a lot of time or enthusiasm for writing. But I do want to get back on track, and I’m starting by talking about my plan for a winter coat!

I really like making jackets and coats, so it seemed appropriate to make myself one that I could wear on a regular basis. But to make it more interesting I decided to base it off of designs from a period I haven’t explored much before – the 1920’s. A while back I came across this post, and fell in love with some of the designs in the Bellas Hess catalogue. I used those as inspiration and will be incorporating a lot of the detailing into my jacket, I just slimmed the silhouette by a lot to make it more flattering.

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For this project I’m using a faux wool flannel from Joanns, I like the texture and weight of this a lot.

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I also bought a fun flannel for the lining, and a polyester silky lining for the sleeves and front panels (to make the jacket easier to get on, and to avoid bulk).

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Then on etsy I found these beautiful vintage buttons – they are a bit smaller than I wanted, but I love the design too much to care. They are a rich orange color, with copper stars on the front. I paid seven dollars for sixteen. The seller doesn’t have any more listed, but they have some other neat ones and they are way cheaper than buying carded buttons in store!

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I draped the pattern the way I usually do. This was my first time (successfully) draping an asymmetrical pattern, so that was interesting! The only things I knew about drafting asymmetrical jackets were from this book*…but they involve a lot of darts, and are very fitted, so it didn’t prove to be very helpful. But I eventually figured it out!

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After draping I transferred the pieces to paper to create a pattern.

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I worked on the collar first since it’s the most striking part of this design. The collar is made from four pieces (two on each side) with an additional four pieces cut out for lining. Both the top layer of the collar, and the lining were cut from the faux wool.

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Then I backed the pieces with interfacing, which was cut to sit half an inch away from each edge.

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All the pieces were sewn together. In this state it has the shape of a giant dead moth. Glamorous. 

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Then I pinned the top layer and lining together, making sure all the points lined up.

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I sewed the pieces together with a quarter inch seam allowance, then turned it the right way out.

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It’s such a crazy shape, I love it. Here you can see the back of it on my dress form.

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Now onto the bodice portion! I started by cutting everything out, and adding interfacing to the panel that will overlap the other.

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Then I sewed all the pieces together.

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And the same process with the lining. As you can see the back portion of the lining is cut from printed flannel, and the front portions from silky lining to avoid excess bulk. I cut the very front of one side of the lining from the faux wool, just in case a bit of the lining is visible after it’s all put together.

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Then I pinned those layers together across the neckline, arm openings, and front edge. I sewed around those edges as well.

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I pinned around the arm openings.

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Then topstitched across those edges with brown thread.

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Around this point my buttons arrived, and I loved them soo much that I decided to topstitch the jacket with thread that matched them. This was a great idea in theory, but I have a machine made for lightweight fabric. And when I work with many layers of heavy fabric, it has the tendency of skipping stitches (even after changing the needle and making new bobbins).

By the time I remembered this I was already too invested in the process. But the skipped stitches look really bad. I’ll either have to fix them by hand or come to terms with how it looks 😦

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The topstitching runs across the front edges of the jacket and the edges of the collar.

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With that done I gathered the front panels of the jacket.

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Then sewed on the waistband. I topstitched it on with one row of stitching, but I think I’ll add another row later so it matches the topstitching on the rest of the jacket.

And I sewed the shoulder seam up with a french seam.

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Here it is pinned on my dress form with the buttons (roughly) in place. I want to move them closer together, but my inspiration coats don’t have many buttons. Then again, they have much larger buttons so the proportion is different. I’m going to wait until the rest of the coat is done before deciding for sure.

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Then the collar was sewn on by hand, with heavy duty thread and a whip stitch. It still needs closures and sleeves, but the top of this coat is done! I reached this stage a couple weeks ago but have been too busy to make more progress since then. I’m hoping I’ll have time to finish it this week since I want to start wearing it already!

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And the back. I love the collar soo much.

(aside from that damn topstitching)

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If you’re interested I also have a video showing this process, it can be watched here, or down below depending on your browser/email settings!

And that’s it! Thanks for reading!

 

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Progress Report : Recent Projects

Today I’m talking about all my recent projects – which means there is a LOT to talk about! Though I haven’t finished a whole lot in the past months, I have a ton of things in progress and a bunch of recently abandoned projects. I did a big sewing room cleanup yesterday and came across a lot of those projects and thought it would be fun to share them with you! I also want to go over some of my future plans since I’m always planning something. 

But as I usually do with my progress reports, I’ll start off with things I’ve recently finished.

Using the term “recently” loosely, I finished my Civil War Era ball gown, which I adore. 
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And from the same period I made a more casual ensemble…er, I tried to, at least. This ensemble was supposed to consist of a blouse, hat, and skirt. But I didn’t have enough material for the skirt so it didn’t sit nicely over my hoop skirt. The fabric I used for the waistband was really delicate and unraveled. And somehow the skirt was sewn onto the waistband incorrectly, leaving the side seam at the center front.

I decided the skirt was cursed and gave up. Usually I push through to the end of projects, but this one wasn’t worth it. However I do really like the blouse! And I made a really cute pork pie hat to go with it. I used buckram, heavy weight interfacing and wire for the structure. It’s covered with velvet and decorated with a cheap brooch from ebay and a few feathers.

Before discarding the skirt I put it on and got some waist up photos, which I think turned out nicely!

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I’ll probably remake the skirt someday, and try to get better photos of this ensemble because I really the parts I did finish!

The wig in these photos was from a Halloween shop, I braided it nicely in the back but you can’t really tell. And the earrings are these ones* – I wear them all the time since they make me feel fancy.

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Around the time I finished that blouse and hat, I also made an 1890’s cycling costume. This is still one of my favorite things I made this year, it’s really comfortable, cute, and feels more complete than most of my costumes. Not because of how it’s constructed, it just the way everything from the hat to stockings and shoes match. It was also really enjoyable to make, flared jackets are so much fun!

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I find jackets so fun that I’ve decided to make myself a winter coat this year. Well, I originally wanted to make myself two coats, one 1920’s inspired, and another based on this 1950’s image, but I could only find the material for one coat and decided to make the 1920’s inspired one first.

Though I’m determined to make a coat like the one on the right some day.

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The design I settled on is based on some of the designs in this Bellas and Hess catalogue. I’m going to make mine a lot more fitted than those, but the length, crazy collars, and flashy buttons will definitely feature in the one I’m making. And if I have enough fabric leftover I’ll make a hat too.

Hopefully the end result will be something I can wear on a regular basis. My current winter coat is falling apart so if it turns out well it would definitely be an improvement! And a lot more unique than the ones I’ve tried on in stores.

I picked a fairly plain brown faux wool flannel from Jo-anns, and bright orange vintage buttons for it. But right now it’s just a sketch (on left).

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Part of my motivation to make something more wearable comes from a 1950’s inspired dress I finished recently. I was browsing on etsy when I came across a vintage dress from Over Attired that has a really interesting dart placement – they were parallel to the neckline and extended out from a center seam. The dress also had sleeves incorporated into the bodice pattern rather than being a separate piece.

I loved the dress, but it wasn’t in my size. So I decided to make my own! I used a lightweight polka dot material for it and lined it with cotton. It closes with a zipper up the back and a hook/eye. I drafted the pattern myself and absolutely adore the end result, it’s so much more flattering than most dresses I own and really comfortable. It’s made me want to make more of my own clothing, rather than just elaborate costumes.

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There won’t be a blog post about that dress, but there is a video showing how I made it here!

And I’ve already started on another 1950’s inspired project, with a similar sleeve design. But this one is bright yellow with a cute collar!

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Back to discussing finished things! My most recently completed costume is a Sybil inspired ensemble. Making this was the most fun I’ve had on a historical costume in a long time. I think it was a mixture of the materials, the huge amount of hand sewing, and the spontaneous aspect of it. I didn’t have built up expectations while working on it so I could just go with the flow which was great.

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I’d hoped to replicate those feelings with another Edwardian project, but it didn’t quite go as planned. I had a few other things in progress and this got put on the bottom of the pile rather than the top, which ruined the fun of it. But I do plan on going back to it soon when I have time to give it more attention.

The plan for this was a simple dress, fitted at the bodice with short sleeves and a skirt that falls away at the hips. For the dress I was going to use green satin faced chiffon, some trim I had around, and these matching appliques.

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The dress would be worn over a lace blouse made from silk, vintage lace, and cotton. This was the part I was most excited about since I love mixing trims, but I didn’t get very far before moving on to other things. I’m DEFINITELY coming back to it, I just need to finish some other stuff first.

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And that reminds me of another lace blouse that hasn’t been finished either. I started this a few months ago and got the bodice almost finished – it’s a mix of lace fabric, lace trim, and soft mesh. It was supposed to have a high lace collar and matching sleeves but I was so indecisive about which style to go with that I ended up setting it aside and haven’t gotten back to it. I’d like to resume this someday, but I’m still not sure what direction to go in!

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My other recent edwardian plan had a similar fate. It was supposed to be a suit based on this ensemble from a vintage magazine. I was really excited about this project, but I wasn’t very committed to it. I made the base for the hat, then got bored before I finished it. I made bust pads to achieve the proper silhouette and drafted a pattern for the suit, but I lost interest in that too and never finished it!

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A project I did successfully finish is this 1890’s taffeta dress. I have the first few blog posts up about this already and the final one should be up next week!

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Unfortunately my other 1890’s project hasn’t gone as well. This was supposed to be a fast fun project, made from a yard of glitter velvet and some two tone chiffon I had in my collection. The plan was to make a cute, short jacket and let the material really shine. But then I had the bright idea to embellish patterns on it with sequins, which looks fantastic, but took forever. 

After finishing the embellishing I took a break from it. Then a few weeks later I tried it on and realized the stupid thing doesn’t fit. Well, it kind of fits, but it’s too short in the waist. I might be able to salvage it by sewing in boning and adding waist tape that hooks closed, but that doesn’t seem like much fun so I’ve been avoiding it.

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I have two more abandoned projects to share, and then I’ll go back to the positive stuff!

A while back I had the bright idea to make something really different from everything else I had in progress – a tudor ensemble made from a variety of black materials. This was a flop too. I  think black fabrics (specifically velvet?) hate me. Or suck the inspiration from me. Or both.

In this projects defense, nothing went wrong with it. I drafted and fitted the project, then assembled the bodice. I did a bit of beading on it too before losing interest. I haven’t trashed this, and I’d still like to finish it, but my feelings towards is are very “meh” – there are more exciting things to sew, so I’m avoiding it for now.

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My final flop is the one I’m most annoyed about, because I invested so much time into it. This was supposed to be an 1880’s day dress, with a slight bustle. I made the bodice from cotton sateen I salvaged from another project and striped fabric I got for a dollar in Lancaster.

I draped, fitted, cut out, assembled, added hooks, sewed on the collar and sewed on the sleeves before realizing this didn’t fit. The main fit issue is with the shoulder, it’s too tight but not sloped enough, so it causes bunching below the neckline and around the chest. It looks terrible and can’t be fixed without removing the sleeves and collar.

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On top of that I sort of ran out of fabric. I thought I had more cotton sateen from a recent trip to the garment district that would match, but it doesn’t. Which means the bustle dress would have very tiny, awkward draped panels on the skirt. I could probably make it work but I’m not sure if it’s worth it.

Here is the skirt in its current state, without any draped panels. 😦

There is also a matching hat lacking trimming which I don’t have photos of.

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On a brighter note, I do have a few works in progress that seem to be going well! The first is my 1830’s dress, which I’ve blogged about already. I finished the bodice for this, and made major progress on a matching bonnet.

I still haven’t started on the skirt since I’d really like to make a shorter petticoat before working on it. But I haven’t been in the mood to make a petticoat, so I may make the skirt over my existing petticoats and  hem it shorter later.

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I’ve (bravely) taken on another 1880’s project. This is a natural form era gown, with a very fitted bodice and skirt that is wide around the hips but tapers towards the hem. It’s a very different silhouette for me and will require a LOT of work but I’m excited about it. I’ve been working on this for a while, with a bit of progress happening each week.

I guess the slow and steady technique has worked, because the bodice is almost done (minus some ruffles).

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I drafted the underskirt, and have spent ages beading the front panel, but it hasn’t really taken shape yet. Hopefully it will soon.

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I’d hoped to focus on some 18th century projects this October – partially because the name is catchy, but also because I have so many I want to make. The first project on this list is an elaborate turque which I mentioned in my birthday haul earlier this year.

The bodice is almost done – it’s fully constructed, just needs some trim and sleeves.

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I also got the skirt cut out. The skirt is made from shantung and trimmed with five yards of home made organza puff trim. By some miracle I finished that last week, and have moved on to hemming and gathering the ruffles for the petticoat. These are made from a snazzy taffeta and striped organza

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My other 18th century project is in a similar state. The bodice is almost done and i’ve confirmed that it fits, but it’s missing trim and I still haven’t drafted the sleeves. This is made out of that beautiful striped taffeta I got a few months ago. I love it soo much, I can’t wait to see this finished!

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I have the matching petticoat cut out as well. Both edges of the petticoat ruffle were hemmed by hand, which is like fourteen yards of hand hemming! But it’s done now, so I can move onto gathering it and attaching it to the upper portion.

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And I think that’s everything! I probably left out a few of the things I completed, but you’ve seen them before anyway. I thought it was better to focus on my fails and what I’m currently working on. Hopefully it was interesting and made you feel a bit better about any UFO’s you have laying around!

My goal for this month is to finish the turque, the winter coat, and the 1830’s dress. Then I can focus more on the other 18th century project and maybe something edwardian. I’d really like to work through some of these WIP’s!

Thanks for reading!

 
11 Comments

Posted by on October 7, 2016 in Uncategorized