Category Archives: Hand Sewn Elements

A Chemisette (HSM #3)

I’ve wanted a Regency chemisette to complete my daytime looks since 2012, even going so far as to purchase a specific tool with the intent on using it for a chemisette ruffle. (Unfortunately, my cast iron crinkle cutter has been a very useful doorstop for the last few years but hasn’t been used at all for its actual purpose! To be fair, it still hasn’t been used for its actual purpose, but at least I know now that I have a chemisette pattern that fits, which makes me more likely to try it out for a more finely pleated collar version in the future.)

I’m so happy with this chemisette! I had sized up a chemisette pattern from Janet Arnold years ago, but it didn’t fit me as is, so for this I used the pattern for a pelisse I’m working on as a starting point for fit and the Janet Arnold pattern as a reference for grain lines and overall shape.

The fabric is ‘silky cotton voile’ from Dharma Trading. I used it for Annabelle, one of my mid-19th century dresses and had the perfect long straight scraps left for cutting out a chemisette! The weight of the fabric is lovely and so comfortable to wear and it’s nice and sheer just like a chemisette should be. Plus, it behaved so well, finger pressing as I did the seams and the pleats on the two collar layers.

I decided to add this garment to the list of Regency things I’m trying to get together for an event in April rather at the last minute. I was going on vacation with a very long travel time ahead of me and decided that having a hand sewing project would suit me very well. I found the time to cut the pieces and then hand sewed most of it while I was away, using nail clippers as my scissors. (I didn’t want to get in an argument with TSA about how the length of the blade on my thread snipping scissors actually is within their regulations.)

The chemisette uses a combination of running, whip, and slip stitches for the seams and narrow hems. It ties below the bust using a 1/4″ cotton twill tape. I thought of putting a closure at the neck, but decided against it as there are images of chemisettes being worn open at the neck (like this) and I really like that look on me rather than the head-on-a-platter look of it closed (see a mix of styles including that here). If I had closures but decided to wear the chemisette open at the neck you would see them and I don’t love that idea.

March’s HSM challenge is The Great Outdoors and I’m calling this chemisette a fit for the challenge, as I intend to wear it with a pelisse for an outdoor promenade. Plus, chemisettes are useful for protecting the skin from the sun (which of course you are so much more likely to be exposed to while outdoors!).

So, here are just the facts.

Fabric: Leftover bits of silky cotton voile from another project.

Pattern: Based off of my own, but referencing those in Janet Arnold.

Year: c. 1810.

Notions: Thread and 1/4″ cotton twill tape.

How historically accurate is it?: I’m going to go with 100% on this one. The materials are good and so is the method.

Hours to complete: I didn’t pay attention because I was leisurely sewing this while on vacation. Maybe 8-10?

First worn: Will be worn in April.

Total cost: All from the stash! Free!

1927 Blush Sparkle Dress

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I was at the fabric store looking for other things… (the beginning of a lot of my fabric buying adventures) when two super sparkly fabrics caught my eye. They were screaming “1920s!” But the colors were somewhat costume-y 1920s and not often seen in my research of actual historical dresses from this period–red on nude net and black on nude net. A bit disappointed, I looked at the sparkly lace section some more and found the same fabric in blush on nude net! It was so sparkly and the pattern on it was so perfectly deco that I had to take some home with me. Luckily it wasn’t expensive and only cost $14 for 1.25 yards. Not bad!

The timing was perfect, because I had a 1920s event in January and just enough time to make the dress.  I didn’t have a slip to go under it that was the right shape or color, so I also squeezed in making a bias cut slip.

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For the pictures, I wore my American Duchess black Seaburys. They provided just the right 1920s shoe shape, encasing the front of my foot in a uniquely historical way that modern style shoes do not. You can see the shape more clearly in this post when I wore the shoes with my 1920s bathing suit in a beauty pageant look.

I was also incredibly lucky that the event was held in a historical hotel that provided fun backdrops for pictures! Those elevator doors are lovely! And look at this awesome phone–it had to be included in pictures!

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Another neat place we took pictures was this stairwell. I love how different these two pictures are, despite being so similar. One is much more about the dress while the other shows off the chandelier and is a bit more artsy and mysterious.

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img_3151-1I was so pleased with how my hair turned out! I tried a style similar to one I did last summer for a different 1920s event that I have yet to post about… oops! But here’s a teaser of just my hair. Soon I’ll post the details and it will bring some warm summer memories to my New England winter.

For the summer event I did my hair when it was wet, resulting in a similar style, but much smaller and closer to my head. For that version, I did all the back curls while my hair was still distinctly damp, making the curls much tighter and closer to my head.

For this event, I braided my hair in the morning while it was still damp (to help create waves on the top but curls on the bottom) and left it all day, meaning it was mostly dry when I took out the braid. Then, when doing my hair for the evening, I added small rats under the puffed bottom portion to add a bit more volume than just my own curls. I covered the rats with the length of my hair then carefully placed and pinned the curly ends to imitate having a sort of 1930s smooth-on-top-curly at the bottom style, like this. This style is a few years later than my new dress, but I think it works as a 20s style for someone with longer hair, like me. I have a lot of hair to hide in a 1920s style!

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Both the dress and slip are entirely hand sewn, due to working on it away from home (I would have hand sewed the dress anyway because of all the sequins, but probably not the slip). The dress started out as a tube, but was more unflattering than I was willing to allow. It was fine from the hips down, but needed to be taken in above the hips. What I ended up with is a curved seam (or a long dart, depending on how you look at it–one side didn’t have a seam to begin with) allowing slight shaping from the torso to the skirt portion of the dress. 1920s dresses can be such bags, but after the extra shaping I am very happy with the still somewhat bag-like, skimming shape of the dress without feeling like it’s an absolute sack.

The slip was cut from a pattern I made a few years ago–perfect, since I didn’t have time to pattern something from scratch! I intentionally picked a 1930s pattern in order to have the addition of a perfectly fitting 1930s silk slip to my wardrobe, but also because the shape of the neckline was perfectly suited to the v-neckline I decided on for the sparkly overdress.

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The slip has french seams on the sides. The under-bust seam allowance was trimmed away on the gathered piece and then the body piece seam allowance was turned over it and hand sewn to hide the raw edges. The top edge is mostly bound of with vintage cotton bias (which I removed from the top of the net petticoat I show in this post before shortening it. The piece wasn’t quite long enough to go all around the top edge of the slip, so the center back section is just turned twice and slip stitched, in the same way as the hem.

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The slip fabric is left over from a project that I did about 7 years ago. It’s lovely silk crepe back satin with the perfect weight for making bias cut 1930s clothing. I thought I would have just enough to eke out the slip, but I came up a little short on the back piece and decided to piece it to make it work, as the fabric is so nice to wear and it was the perfect color. As a result, there are two random diagonal seams on the top of the back piece of the slip. Oh well! They add character!

My Favorite Winter Things Skirt

In December last year, I was inspired by a friend to make a Christmas themed skirt. After looking through literally every single the winter and holiday themed cotton prints at Fabric.com, I settled on a print that is not directly Christmas themed. That way I can wear it all through the winter!

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Making the skirt fulfilled one personal goal while simultaneously breaking another. The first goal was that when purchasing fabrics a garment should be made right away, as I did with my winter wool skirt. The other goal was to go away for the holidays without any sewing or knitting project in order to give my wrists a break. But I was so excited about my fabric that I took it with me and started hand sewing the skirt anyway, in a low key way. I didn’t finish it on the trip, but I finished it soon after returning home. At that point, I just wanted it done, so I finished it up mostly by machine.

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I decided to take the pictures on the only really snowy day we’ve had here so far this winter. We’d had a storm the night before with about 6″ of fresh snow that was just begging to be played in and have this skirt as a companion.

I didn’t have anyone to take pictures for me, so out I went to explore the area around my house, finding random objects to support my phone (trash can, bleachers…) and using the self timer. I made a stand for my phone out of a cardboard box and it worked pretty well once I found something heavy enough to anchor the base. As a result of me taking pictures by myself, I have lots of pictures and lots of bloopers, as well as more far away shots than normal, as I wasn’t able to use the zoom feature with the timer.

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I wound up having lots of fun playing in the snow by myself. I bundled up in multiple pairs of fleece lined tights, a wool sweater, and my new carriage boots, amongst other things. The boots did great in the ankle deep snow! My feet were nice and warm and the snow brushed right off (I did spray them with stain/water repellant ahead of time).

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The skirt makes me smile, hence the name of this post. Penguins and polar bears are some of my favorite things, so what could be better than these silly guys having winter fun–skating, sledding, and skiing! Plus, they’ve got winter accessories and fox friends (and igloos!). Some days just need the extra boost of silly. I like to think that the skirt is fun, not juvenile…

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Regardless, I enjoy it. It’s just two widths of 44″ wide cotton seamed into a tube with a waistband and an invisible zipper. The pleating pattern was stumping me, because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I went looking through Lily’s creations at Mode de Lis (since she often makes such lovely things out of cottons) and decided I liked the pleating pattern of her flamingo dress, so I copied it–flat in front for about 6″, then knife pleated towards the back around each side until center back when the two pleating directions meet. And I like it! It’s different than my other skirts. (She’s got lots of closeups of the pleating pattern, if my explanation makes no sense to you. I would normally have taken pictures of the pleating, but I couldn’t do it myself and I didn’t think pictures of the skirt flat would do it justice. The snowy background is essential!)

I had hoped to have a winter fun day with friends this weekend, but we have no snow, so I though this post would be perfect to remind me that I did take the time to get outside and have some fun in the snow the last time we had some.

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HSM #1: Brown Silk Petticoat

While making my 1832 velvet gown at the end of last year, I decided that a generic 1830s/40s petticoat might add to the silhouette, besides being elegant and fun to own. Silk petticoats remind me of Mammy, in Gone With The Wind, who is very excited (and a bit scandalized) about a red silk petticoat gifted to her by Rhett.

I had purchased this silk taffeta a number of years ago on clearance, but it was languishing in the stash due to its unflattering shade of brown. I had 3 yards, which was just right for a petticoat. And since the garment is never seen nor worn near the face, the color was perfectly suited to the project.

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I made a tube of the yardage, then cut off the excess length and used that to make the ruffle. I had thought of making the ruffle twice as high, but realized that I needed to have more than a 1:1 ratio to gather… duh! I was sick while making this and clearly my head wasn’t working terribly well. Anyway, I cut my tall ruffle in half to make a 2:1 ratio and that was that.

The waistband is made of small bits of leftover cotton from some other project. There is evidence of quilted petticoats from the 1830s and 1840s having waistbands made of other fabrics, which was my inspiration (examples can be found here, here, and here). It was a perfect idea, as I was trying to make the best use of my fabric and I did not want to cut a waistband piece out of it.

Petticoats of this type also sometimes close with buttons (like this one), so I chose to close this petticoat in that way as well. It used up a single, random, khaki colored button from the stash and matches the fabric perfectly!

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I added tucks to the petticoat after trying it on with the 1832 dress and realizing it needed to be shorter. Those are hand sewn, but the rest of the construction was done on a machine except for the buttonhole and sewing down the inside of the waistband.

This garment fits the first HSM challenge of the year, Firsts and Lasts (create either the first item in a new ensemble, or one last piece to put the final fillip on an outfit), as it was the start of the 1830s ensemble.

Just the facts:

Fabric: 3 yards brown silk taffeta.

Pattern: None. Just rectangles and math, sort of.

Year: 1830s/40s.

Notions: Thread, a button, and a cotton scrap.

How historically accurate is it?: I’m going to go with 95% on this one. The materials are good and so is the method. The only thing off is the machine sewing and the plastic button.

Hours to complete: Not many, for me. Maybe 10? It didn’t help that I was sick  and not thinking straight.

First worn: December 10 for a ball.

Total cost: $18.

12 Bells Ringing! (1832 Velvet Gown & Hair, HSM #12)

I’ve had my eye on this fashion plate for years. Then earlier this year, I came across a reasonably priced, lightweight polyester velvet and thought it would be just the thing to recreate this gown. I don’t get too many opportunities to wear clothing from this period, but the annual CVD Fezziwig’s Ball, with a general ‘life of Charles Dickens’ timeframe, was the perfect opportunity to try it out. Plus, I’ve worn my green appliqué 1823 ball gown for the last few years, which has been lovely, but I was ready for a change. And, this fashion plate is from the month of December, which makes it even more perfect for wearing to a December event!

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Royal Ladies’ Magazine, December 1832

Also, this dress fits the last HSM challenge of 2016 (Special Occasion: make something for a special event or a specific occasion, or that would have been worn to special event or specific occasion historically)! A ball gown is certainly a garment that would have been worn to a special event in the 19th century.

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Just the facts:

Fabric: About 5 yards polyester velvet.

Pattern: Adapted from Past Patterns #702, 1850s-1863 Dart Fitted Bodices (this is the same pattern I recently used to create Eleanor). The sleeve is a beret sleeve from Janet Arnold and the skirt size is based on information from Janet Arnold as well.

Year: 1832.

Notions: Thread, hooks and bars, two tier lace, pleated ribbon, muslin, narrow yarn for cording, and a brooch.

How historically accurate is it?: I’m going to go with 80% on this one. The materials leave something to be desired, though they have the right look.

Hours to complete: Too many, this dress was finicky!

First worn: December 10 for a ball.

Total cost: About $50.

I put a fair bit of work into this dress, but I don’t feel in love with it, as I often do with my creations. It’s finished (thankfully!) and it was fun to wear, but it was annoying and finicky to sew which made for a not fun process. Actually, the velvet fabric itself wasn’t the problem, even though I started out thinking it might be. I was able to do most of the seams on the machine without an issue despite having a fine layer of burgundy fuzz on everything. So the construction went together pretty quickly. I flat lined the bodice with muslin, sewed up the seams, and made cording on the machine. I did have to sew the piping on by hand at the neck, back, sleeves, and on the belt to get it to behave, as well as setting the sleeves by hand.

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Then I knife pleated the skirt, which was more annoying than that process generally is, and hand sewed it to the bottom of the bodice. I also whip stitched the bottom edge and the bodice seam allowance edges to keep them contained.

Next came the fiddly trim bits, which I usually enjoy. But… the belt wound up being too short, the placement of the fabric scrunched bit on the front was absolutely one of the most annoying dress construction processes I’ve had in years, and I couldn’t put the ribbon around the neck until the bust fabric bit was done. I wrangled the bust fabric into submission eventually, but with a lot of frustration. I solved the belt problem (because I was NOT going to be making another one) by adding a butt bow to fill in the gap, after looking at other 1830s dresses and their trims and being inspired. Actually, I really like the bow as I think it makes the plain back of the dress rather more interesting!

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I was so grateful to be done sewing the thing that I didn’t bother doing anything to keep the sleeves poofed. Looking at pictures, I think some sleeve poofing would help for a next wearing. I’m also a bit disappointed by the skirt silhouette. I made a new silk petticoat to help fill out the skirt (more on that later), and a super quick stiff net ruffle for my waist, but I don’t think they did the job well enough. This picture, with the skirt in motion, is a better than when I’m standing still. Also, I had high hopes to make handmade slippers to wear with this dress, but abandoned that idea after making one, realizing that they were not looking the way I wanted, and that I really didn’t have time.

However, I really wanted the laces across my feet, so I tried used masking tape to attach black ribbons to my modern flats that tied around my ankles. It would have worked for pictures, but I danced before pictures and they fell off mid-dance… That was exciting. I was peering through all the dancers to keep an eye on the ribbons on the floor so I could recover them while hoping that no one would trip… Luckily, no one did! And I recovered the ribbons. I’ll have to try again next time.

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Then there was my hair. 1830s hair is ridiculous, but I was inspired and had a plan. I wanted those silly smooth loops of hair that are often seen in fashion plates. I tried them in fake hair and achieved something–but not what I wanted. And then I ordered false hair bangs to make the side curls, but in a comedy of errors they didn’t arrive until the day of the ball and I didn’t have time to curl and arrange them. All in all, I have concluded that these hair styles are harder than they look and frustrating to achieve! In the end, I resorted to using my own hair, with only a rat on each side to plump up the curls.

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Once I decided to go with the looser floppy loops of hair on my head, as in my fashion plate inspiration, I knew my own hair would do the trick. I wish I’d been able to get them to stand up just a bit more, but overall I like how the hair turned out. I certainly have enough hair to achieve all the different parts of this style. I think my favorite part is the unusual backwards V part in the front, which I saw on multiple images from the 1830s. It’s so unusual, but makes so much sense given the sections of hair needed for this style.

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My hair decoration is wired springs of berries bearing tiny jingle bells! I decided on this because of a mention of putting something from the 12 Days of Christmas in 1830s hair. There are no berries or bells in the modern version of the song, but Wikipedia suggests that in the 1840s the lyrics were ‘twelve bells ringing.’ I was intrigued and decided it would be a fun, silly thing to do. I was also worried that the bells were going to be very noisy! They provided a lovely tinkling sound when I moved, but couldn’t be heard from more than a few feet away and so therefore were not a distraction as I feared they might be.

I wore the gown with my 1860s chemise and corset, as well as the other skirt supports previously mentioned. I added white gloves for dancing and wore red and crystal earrings. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a necklace that I liked, so I decided to go without instead.

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Moose hands! It was fun to be part of a rather large clump of women wearing 1830s to the ball this year. It’s such an odd period and one looks less out of place if others are wearing equally as ridiculous garments and hair as well!

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Vernet Project: Witzchoura Construction

This is the last post about the construction of my amazing 1814 Vernet Project. I really enjoyed doing the research and making the parts of this project. It was great fun and such a lovely learning experience to be part of the group of people making Vernet ensembles. And I was able to wear most of the ensemble for more than just pictures! I hope to find future reasons to wear these again!

I’ve been saving the best for last–the construction of the main piece, the witzchoura itself. As with all the other pieces in this ensemble, the witzchoura is entirely hand sewn. It is made up of a faux fur lining and an exterior of silk taffeta flat lined with cotton flannel and trimmed with more faux fur. Here are some in progress photos.

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Faux fur lining made up but not set in.

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A seam and bust darts in the faux fur lining. The edges were cut without seam allowance, butted together, and whip stitched.

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An interior view of the in progress witzchoura, showing the back pleats and cotton flannel interlining. I believe at this point I had attached the hood/collar as well as the faux fur lining at the neck but had not yet sewn the center front edges together.

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The exterior silk/flannel layer was pleated, but the fur was gathered (it wound up resembling cartridge pleats) to the bodice.

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After attaching the front edges of the exterior and lining I put the witzchoura on squishy to look at the hem lengths. In doing so, I found a few places where the exterior needed to be invisibly tacked to the lining, which is why I’ve got my head between the layers!

Ta da! The finished witzchoura with all of the lovely accessories. It certainly is a luxurious looking and feeling ensemble!

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I thought I would address a few other points as well. Some people have been waiting for answers to these questions for a long time! Thank you for your patience as I waited to answer your questions until now in order to keep everything together in terms of information.

Is it heavy to wear?

No, once dressed, the ensemble does not feel heavy. But, when holding it, or hanging it, or putting it on, YES, it feels quite heavy! It’s a fair bit of fabric, with three layers, and the faux fur gets heavy quickly with such yardage.

What is the weight? How does it compare to a heavy wool winter coat, for example?

Oh dear. I’m very bad at estimating this. I like the comparison question better! If you’ve ever held a very heavy, thick, full length winter coat, I think this is probably similar in weight. But compared to anything less, it would feel heavier.

Is it easy to walk and move with such an enveloping set of objects?

This is the sort of question I would want to know the answer to! Yes, it’s easy to walk. The ensemble does not restrict leg movement. I can also move my head with ease, because the hat sits low enough that it is well anchored and not going anywhere. However, the witzchoura does restrict arm movement some. For example, putting it on without just the right movement (which is lifting it up and behind and then sliding both arms in at the same time) doesn’t really work. And once it’s on, there’s only so much forward and backward arm movements that are possible. Lifting arms is better, but still not full range of movement. Each layer by itself has more possibilities, but the faux fur fills a lot of space inside the silk exterior. This makes it quite warm, but feels a little bit like wearing a marshmallow.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Vernet journey! If you have any other questions about the ensemble please let me know. I would be happy to answer them!

Vernet Project: Petticoat and Muff Details

As the end of this year draws nearer, I feel the urge to complete my plan to share all the details of my 1814 Vernet Ensemble before the end of 2016. In order to do that, I have the smaller garments to discuss (petticoat and muff) and the witzchoura itself, which I know some people have had questions about for probably about a year. Sorry to keep you waiting!

As I’m saving the witzchoura to be the grand finale, today I want to share some details about the petticoat and muff. First, here are some repeat pictures of the full ensemble in case you’ve started reading since this project was unveiled. Both of these pictures are from my Vernet Project photo shoot in 2015. They give you a good glimpse at the petticoat and the muff.

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The muff exterior is the same faux fur as the trim on the witzchoura. The lining is an ivory cotton flannel, which feels warmer on the hands than a silk lining and which I don’t think is out of the realm of possibility in terms of historical reasonability (a theory I have tested out with multiple muffs over the last few years).

In order to get the distinctly Regency style of a beehive style muff, the inner flannel lining is substantially smaller in dimension than the exterior fur. Layers of high loft polyester batting fill in the shape and the fur actually wraps to the inside of the lining for a few inches on each side and is gathered to fit the smaller circumference of the lining. The result is a very large and very cozy muff. (This method is different than making the interior and exterior the same or similar in dimensions, resulting a muff that looks like my 1822 one. The blog post sharing details about that muff has lots of great images of both types of muffs from this period, if you want to see more. Also, it’s worth noting that polyester batting would not have been used to keep one’s hands warm in the early 19th century, but that I chose that materials because I had it on hand and it is not visible.)

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The petticoat is the only piece of my Vernet project that existed before I agreed to participate. It started life as part of a dress, but was removed and languished for years. Turns out I had made it too narrow to dance in, which isn’t very useful in my life. On the bright side, I had just enough of the cotton fabric left to add another panel, thus making the hem circumference much more wearable.

The petticoat had an attached sleeveless bodice before the addition of extra fabric in the skirt, so after adding fullness I was able to simply reattach the bodice. The edges of the bodice are narrow hemmed and it closes at center front with a tie at the waist and a button and loop at the bust. This past blog post discusses extant sleeveless underdresses or petticoats such as this. As with everything else in this project, both this petticoat and the muff are entirely hand sewn.

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The only other changes I needed to make to the petticoat to use it for the Vernet Project were at the hem. I started by adding lace that mimicked the shape of the embroidery seen in my Vernet fashion plate. I whip stitched the lace on with small stitches and then cut away the fabric behind the lace, creating a lovely scalloped hem.

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After trying on the petticoat with the finished hem, I decided it was too long and took a tuck above the hem to shorten it. You can see the tuck in one of the photo shoot pictures early in this post.

This final picture is from when I was hemming the witzchoura. While I had that garment on the dress form I also put the petticoat on to determine the placement  of the lace on the previously hemmed petticoat.

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And that’s it! Those two garments were minor in scale compared to the toque de velours, silly shoes, and the witzchoura itself, both in terms of materials and sheer volume of work involved.