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Making a Striped Cotton Dress, Early 20th Century, Continued

Last week I shared the process of making the bodice and sleeves for my striped edwardian dress. Today I’m writing about making the skirt, the hat, and the adding the finishing touches.

Let’s start with the skirt. This took me a while to “draft” because it’s so narrow – I’m used to making skirts that fit over petticoats or hoops, and without those as a base I felt a bit lost!

So I began by cutting a rectangle of material, then cutting it in half. Which left me with two 22″ x 45″ish pieces. I pinned one of the pieces onto the front of the dress form and played around with the amount of volume I wanted it to have.

Then I removed the panel from the dress form, trimmed the top edge, and gathered it properly. This was repeated on the other panel as well.

I cut out another rectangle, and while the fabric was folded in half I cut across it diagonally. This left me with three gored panels. I made sure all the diagonal cut edges were sewn to straight edges (to prevent warping), with the wider ends at the hem so it would have the most volume.

I didn’t photograph this process because my floor was really dirty, but you’ll see the skirt laid flat in a minute and hopefully it will make sense then!

Here is the top edge.

I pleated this edge so it would line up with the pleat at the back of the bodice.

Then gathered it down, so the whole thing was the same width as the bodice waistline.

Speaking of the bodice, here it is which the fit updates mentioned in the last post. The pleats were tacked down, and the waistband was sewn on by hand with running stitches.

I also decided to add ruffles to the hem of the sleeves, since they were an awkward length. The ruffles are 25″ x 4″ strips that were folded in half to create a finished edge, then I gathered the tops by hand and whip stitched them on.

I matched the seams in the skirt with the seams in the bodice, then sewed it onto the waistband.

The front edges were folded inward twice to hide the raw edges. This was sewn down by hand, with more whip stitches.

I put it back on my dress form and used pins to mark where I thought the hem should go. Then I tried it on and adjusted the hem more – I’m so, so glad I tried it on during this stage, since it was an inch shorter than I wanted!

I marked my desired hemline with pencil, then measured three inches away from that and marked another line. This left me plenty of room for a pretty hem.

I folded the dress in half and pinned all the seams together, then laid it flat. I did this because the hemline was only marked on one side and I wanted it to be symmetrical.

This is before trimming…

And after!

I transferred all my markings onto the other side of the skirt.

Then turned the raw edge inward by an inch, and inward once again at the line I drew. This left me with a 2″ deep hem.

It was sewn with whip stitches as well.

Now it was time for buttons. I spent a long time searching for suitable buttons on etsy but couldn’t find anything in my price range in the size I wanted.

So I decided to use coverable buttons. I was trying to decide between making them maroon or white when I realized another fabric I purchased in the garment district matched the stripes perfectly. I ended up using it and I really love how they look.

Before sewing them on I tried the dress on again, and marked where the snaps/hooks/bars should be. I sewed these on first, then used the buttons to cover the threads used to securing the closures to the fabric.

I also lined the waistband – here you can see some of the hooks, along with pencil markings for snaps.

In total there are seven hooks and six snaps. Hooks are placed where more support is needed – like at the collar and waistline. Snaps were used for the rest.

There are three snaps and one hook further down which keeps the skirt together – I used three more buttons to cover that stitching as well.

Here is the finished bodice. I’m really happy with how the closures for this turned out, front closures can be hit or miss but everything lines up nicely and it’s really easy to get into!

Now onto the hat! I based this on fashion plates in the catalogues I looked through when visiting McCalls. There were a lot of hats that were covered in flowers to the point where you could barely see the crown. I usually put flowers on hats, but this inspired me to go all out.

First came the paper pattern – I made a few of these before I got the “perfect” size. My original pattern is laid on top of the one I ended up using.

It was cut out of felt weight interfacing.

Then wire was sewn into the pieces.

I covered all the panels with white cotton sateen, and lined them with the striped material. For the brim I gathered the striped fabric at two points to create ruched lining, which I didn’t realize would need to be secured at the gathering point in the middle to sit properly – which left with these ugly dents in the material.

My solution to this was covering it with bias tape. Which just so happened to match the bias tape I made to bind the brim of the hat.

Here is the bias tape sewn on. In the photo above you might be able to see pencil dots, which were used as a guide when sewing it in place.

I also sewed together the crown of the hat, then sewed it to the brim.

At this point I liked the lining better than the front!

But after piling it with flowers the outer layer of the hat grew on me a lot! I wish I had only used pink flowers, and not brought in the small yellow ones. But I still really like it. I used an entire bunch of fake roses, a few sprigs of fake paisleys, fake ivy, and fake ferns.  Along with a sash of silk and an ostrich feather.

I think there may be room left for a few more roses, but I haven’t decided how high I want them to go up the sides of the hat. For now I’m calling it finished.

And that’s it for this project! I’m hoping we’ll have some nice weather soon and I can photograph it against a backdrop of spring flowers. I think it would suit that environment nicely.

Overall I’m really happy with this dress. I think the silhouette turned out very nicely – slim but still obviously historical (that’s more prominent when it’s worn by a person, not a dress form). I like how easy it is to get on, and how comfortable it is to wear. I also have a ton of mobility in it – I can raise my arms all the way above my head without any snaps popping or seams ripping! So if I get attacked by bees when photographing it in front of flowers I’ll have a chance to swat them away.

(or if I ever get invited to a historical event at a theme park I’ll know which dress to bring)

Another cool thing: This dress has maybe $35 of material in it. And that’s including the hat. But I’m really tempted to buy a pair of white shoes to go with it, which would nearly double that total.

And that’s it! Thanks for reading, I should have a fabric haul with the other materials I picked up on my recent shopping trip up soon!

 

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Making a Striped Cotton Dress, Early 20th Century

I recently took a trip into the garment district, and for the first time in years I didn’t have a list of projects I was shopping for. However I did have a list of materials to keep an eye out for, and one of those was lightweight cotton.

Lightweight cottons are incredibly versatile – they can be used for foundation garments from any period, gauzy dresses from the 18th century to the mid 1800’s, and more practical pieces from the beginning of the 20th century.

I’ve always found it difficult to find lightweight, soft, yet sturdy cottons that would work for these pieces. Especially since (for me) a big part of a garment looking authentic is it’s texture – which is one of the challenges with plain cottons. They don’t have a lot of it, and garments can look cheap or flat regardless of how well constructed they are.

Which is why I really lucked out when I came across this striped cotton. It has a faded look to it, and the dots buried in the stripes add a bit of life to it. I originally thought it was red and white, but it’s more of a mauve. It’s very soft and slightly sheer – exactly what I hoped to find, and perfect for an edwardian day dress, which is what I decided to use it for!

If you read my recent Progress Report you may recall me raving over fashion plates of 20th century ladies in antique magazines, which definitely served as inspiration for this style of dress. But my main reference was this dressit was listed on etsy, with a bunch of close ups which helped me figure out the construction.

I think the end result is pretty lovely – but let’s start at the beginning!

Step one was draping. This was tricky to drape, since I wanted the oh so glamorous pigeon breast shape, where volume from the bust carries down the the waist, which is cinched in with gathers. It’s very easy to over exaggerate this shape and end up with way too much fabric in the front.

I was also challenged by the pleats in the shoulder – they look okay here, but I was concerned the ends of the pleats would splay open when it was worn.

The back has a box pleat in it, for decoration more than anything else.

I transferred that to paper, then made a mock up. The pleats and amount of volume worked surprisingly well, so I moved on without any alterations.

I cut all the pieces out, then marked the pleats on the wrong side of the fabric with pencil. They were ironed, pinned, then sewn down by hand. I also gathered the front of the bodice pieces.

And the back. For some reason the pleat wasn’t symmetrical, which really bothers me! But I wasn’t sure how much fabric I would need for the skirt, and I didn’t want to waste any by recutting this piece, so I didn’t bother redoing it.

Then I cut out a “facing” for the collar, which will actually serve as a base for the lace trim that will be shaped into a collar.

This was pinned on top of the striped fabric to prevent the stripes from being visible through the lace.

(before doing this I sewed up the shoulder seam with a french seam)

For lace I used a gathered eyelet trim from Jo-ann’s (I removed the gathers with a seam ripper, then ironed it flat) and a lace I got in a grab bag when I went to Lancaster. I wasn’t a big fan of this combination at first, but I don’t have a lot of white lace in my collection, so my options were limited.

I sewed the lace together by hand, to create a single two inch wide unit. Then I pinned that onto the collar.

And here it is sewn down. I had to pleat and gather parts, but after ironing it looked pretty smooth. It’s a bit hard to tell with the lighting, but the closure point is on the left side of the collar, imitating the dress I based this on.

Now it was starting to look like a bodice! Since one of my goals for this was to keep it very lightweight, I decided not to fully line it.

Instead I sewed the interior seams as french seams, and created a facing that extended from the neckline to the waistline. This was cut from muslin, then pinned to the right side of the fabric. I sewed it on with a half inch seam allowance, then turned it inward to hide the raw edges. I topstitched a quarter inch away from each edge by hand to prevent the facing from shifting and peaking out. I also tacked the far edges of the facing every few inches.

Now onto sleeves! The pattern I created for this is pretty shoddy, but it worked! The sleeves have four tiers, three made from striped fabric, and one made of lace.

The top tier has the stripes going vertically, tier two has the stripes going horizontally.

Tier three is actually muslin, which the lace was sewn over, and tier four is more horizontal stripes. I’m really happy with how the sleeves turned out, I love playing with the grain lines in fabric, but it can be hard to do without wasting a lot of material – not to mention tedious. This was an easy way to sneak it in and add some interest to a simple dress.

The lace pinned together – ready to be sewn together, then onto the sleeves.

And here they are in all their glory!

I left the sleeves unlined, since none of the fabrics are prone to fraying. But I did the side seam up as a french seam.

Then the bottom edge was turned inward by a half inch. I loved working with this fabric since the stripes served as  guidelines for where to sew.

The tops of the sleeves were gathered down by hand and sewn onto the bodice by machine. Then the seam allowance was whip stitched together by hand. This isn’t the cleanest finish, but it was popular in the 19th century and avoids additional bulk in an area where mobility is important – so it works for me!

Now I did a quick fitting and the end result wasn’t great. Though the pleats looked nice on my mockup, during this fitting they bunched really badly above the bust. There was a lot of folded material at the sides too, which was frustrating.

I ended up mostly fixing this by tacking the pleats down further, and tapering the ends off almost like darts. I did this with pins on the left side, which looks a lot better than the right side.

I think the folded material at the sides was caused by excess fabric in the back, which I fixed by gathering the center back portion down to be an inch and a half smaller. I also regathered the front panels so the volume was more focused at the front of the bust.

Later on I played around with foundation garments, and improved the shape even more – I found a ruffled corset cover made me look too barrel chested, but bust pads really improve the crinkling at the top of the corset.

With the fit fixed, I pinned on the waistband.

And that’s it for this post! Next up: the skirt, closures, hat, and finishing touches!

Thanks for reading!

 

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