Project Journal: 1863 Apricot Evening Gown Part VIII: ‘Of Apricot Silk With Cream Lace And Red Velvet Bows’ (HSM #10)

DONE! I am so glad to be done. I’m also excited to have a new dress (and, despite the challenges and worries along the way, one I like the look of! YAY!).

I’ve kept you waiting to see photos of the finished dress. Life got a bit busy after the ball and then I wanted to share my final sewing details with you. But now it’s time to introduce you to Genevieve, my 1863 Apricot Evening Gown, also known as the Orange Monster for the last few months. Here she is!

I’m excited that this dress qualifies for the October HSM challenge.

Details: Sometimes the little things really make something fabulous. Focus on the details of your garment, to create something that just gets better the closer you look.

This dress is definitely one of those garments! I’ll explain and show you lots of reasons why in these finished photos, but there are currently seven other posts in this series sharing tons of details about the planning, patterning, sewing, and trimming process as well.

First, the facts:

Fabric:  6 ⅔ yards of apricot silk, ½ yard of dark red silk velvet, approximately ½ yard of ivory tulle, muslin scraps for hem facing, a scrap of canvas for stiffening the waistband, and about ½ yard of drab cotton for flat lining.

Pattern: It originally came from Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 2 but has been adapted over the course of a few dresses.

Year: 1864.

Notions: 25 yards of 3 ¾” lace, 2 brooches, 3 yards of ⅜” polyester ribbon, a few plastic cable ties, about 1 yard of bone casing, a variety of hooks and bars, and thread.

How historically accurate is it?: 95%. A few substitutions of modern materials exist but aside from that it’s pretty much as close as I can get.

Hours to complete: 57.

First worn: September 28, 2019.

Total cost: $112.78

The cost breakdown is as follows: $66 for the silk (local discount store in 2016), $12.50 for the velvet (WM Booth Draper in 2011), ~$2 for the tulle (local discount store in 2011),~$1 for the drab cotton (local discount store in 2018), ~$15 for the lace (Debs Lace and Trims in 2019), $6.28 for the brooches (Etsy in 2019), ~$6 for the ribbon (Farmhouse Fabrics in 2019), and we’ll say $4 for the scraps and other notions since they’re from the stash, reused from other projects/mockups, or used in very small quantities.)

Visible details, you ask? Well, in addition to sharing so many other details along the way, the finished dress has many visible layers of details. The most time consuming detail is the hand sewn 3 tiers of lace ruffle/silk scalloped & pleated trim around the skirt. This detail alone took 17.5 hours. There is a whole post dedicated to this aspect and the details that went into it.

That form of decoration is continued on the bodice sleeve caps. Here’s a closeup where you can see the pleated silk. It is meticulously hand stitched with tiny stitches everywhere it is used.

Another layer of detail is the bertha and sleeve caps. Those have tulle, gathered tulle, and lots of velvet details. My last post explains how these are made.

I found the sleeve caps to be rather unusual amongst dresses from this period, so I was pleased to find this fashion plate which has a similar look.

(This next one is a great ‘I’m plopped and tired of standing’ photo!)

And as for details, let’s not forget the velvet bows in addition the velvet trim. Especially that oversized skirt bow! I also spent quite a bit of time looking for the gold brooches to go on the velvet bows.

Aside from the photo above I don’t have many directly front facing photos of this dress–I guess I did a lot of my posing at an angle–but here is one that is slightly less angled and gives the full effect of all the trimmings.

I was super pleased to wear my American Duchess burgundy satin Amelie shoes with this dress! They matched my velvet trim quite well and were fun to have peeking out from under the giant skirt. It’s such a fun piece of history to have contrasting shoes that actually match your dress! Yay! You can see them in this next photo.

The venue we were in for the ball not only had a number of fabulous staircases leading to the ballroom but also many photos of generals and other military figures from the Civil War. It seemed fitting for this period of dress even if they do occasionally seem to be ‘photo-bombing’! Here’s an example. I love this photo! But does the painting look amused, or disapproving? Hm…


I’ve got a post coming up specifically about my grand crown hairstyle as well as a few photos of the ball in general. For now though, thanks very much for bearing with me through this project! I’ve appreciated your encouraging words and excitement about seeing the finished product!

 

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Project Journal: 1863 Apricot Evening Gown Part IV: Bodice Progress

In the most recent post in this series, I left off my discussion of the creation of my new 1860s dress with an assembled bodice with nicely finished seam allowances. Since then I have made a significant amount of progress on bodice finishing and have also moved on to the skirt and its multitude of trim! But more on the trim in the next post–for now we’re sticking to the bodice.

The next step in my bodice sewing process was boning. The boning helps keep the front point of the bodice smooth over the skirt, keeps the center back edges smooth under the lacing, and supports the other seams, allowing the bodice to fit smoothly over the corset without wrinkling. In the past, I’ve used both steel and plastic for boning 1860s dresses. I’ve found that both options work equally well, though plastic is lighter and easier to cut and shape.

For this dress I chose plastic again. I used ⅜” wide zip ties from the hardware store. They are quite long (18″ I think), so sometimes one zip tie will make multiple lengths and one package lasts for multiple projects, and they are easy to cut with a sturdy pair of scissors (I used my kitchen shears). In addition to cutting the length I needed, I also used the scissors to snip off the pointy corners and, in the case of bones that intersect an edge at an angle, angled the edges to snug up agains the finished edge of the bodice. Here’s an example of what I mean. This is a side back bone sitting next to its bone casing on top of the seam where it will be sewn in.

I cut a length of pre-made bone casing for each bone in the bodice except center back. This densely woven flat tube can be purchased from speciality sewing supply stores by the yard or roll in black and white in different widths. It’s not perfectly accurate, but it approximates the bone casings I’ve seen in 19th century bodices without needing to create my own from scratch. I’ve made some bodices that have used the seam allowances or darts for bone casings, but this fabric and pattern didn’t accommodate that choice.

Here is that same side back bone in its casing, sewn onto the seam allowances with whip stitches. The bone casing end at the top is tucked under to keep the bone from poking out. At the bottom the bone casing is left alone–the bias binding will cover it and keep the bone from poking out without adding bulk.

The photo above also shows the center back edge progress I’ve made. I left extra seam allowance here in order to provide a self facing for my eyelets, then sewed all of the eyelets that won’t intersect with the bias binding (I’ll finish the ones that intersect the binding later in the process). There is a half width plastic bone between the eyelets and the center back edge. This allows for a narrow edge (less than ¼” rather than the full ⅜” width of the zip ties) and stabilizes that edge so it will stay smooth after being laced.

After those steps, I cut, pieced, and sewed very narrow cotton cord into the bias strips for the top edge, armholes, and bottom edge. For this bodice I decided to try something new (based on this 1860-1861 dress at The Met) and do double piping on the bottom edge of the bottom (zoom in on the photos at The Met to see the double piping up close). It’s a subtle detail, but so very 19th century! I made my bias a little wider for the double piping than I did for the single piping.

Here’s the assembled double piping being sewn to the bodice bottom edge. I just winged my method for creating double piping by sewing a first row of cord into the bias, then a second row next to that. For attaching it to the bodice, I sewed between the rows of cord. I graded my seam allowance, then flipped it to the inside to hand sew, just as I would with single cording.

I did run into a few ‘oops’ spots when I sewed the double cord on. Below is an example. Just below the seam is an extra fold of the bias seam allowance. I had to go back and fix a few of these spots.

Aside from that, it was pretty painless! The only problem at this point was that the two rows of cord were pushed apart a bit by the three rows of machine stitching between them, so I ran a line of thread, by hand, between the two rows to snug them together.

Here’s the inside of the bodice with all of those steps complete except for the bias being flipped to the inside and hand stitched down.

And here’s what the outside of the bodice looked like at this point.

Finishing the bias top and bottom edges really pushed the bodice along towards looking done (although it doesn’t have sleeves or a bertha yet… I’m working on the skirt trim first so I can balance the whole thing out in terms of trim). Here’s the bodice in it’s current state: waiting for sleeves, bertha, and a few more eyelets, but otherwise wearable and done!

Project Journal: 1863 Apricot Evening Gown Part III: Starting On The Silk

The previous post in this series stopped at the point of my successful pattern changes for this new dress. Now we’re on to the more fun part of getting to work on the visible parts of the dress!

The first step after ensuring that my ‘mockup’ flat lining fit was to take the seams apart and press the pieces flat. Rather underwhelming as sewing steps go, but it meant that I didn’t have to cut out a separate mockup of my bodice. Yay!

After that I was ready to cut out the silk bodice pieces!

Before cutting out my bodice, I had to very carefully calculate the yardage I needed for my skirt, the self fabric trim I have planned, the bodice, and the sleeves. It turns out that what seemed like plenty of fabric turned into not as much as I thought once I calculated how much fabric I needed to make pleated trim bands that would circle my skirt three times! 160ish” hem + 3 rows of trim + x2-3 fullness for the pleated bands + maybe seam allowance to do hems on the trim… yikes! I think I’ll be doing a whole post dedicated to my trim plans sometime soon, but back to the bodice for now.

When I checked the fit I didn’t worry about sleeves. I knew that if the armhole fit I could decide on a sleeve option after seeing how much silk I really had to work with.

After measuring all the skirt pieces out and laying out the bodice pieces, I decided to use the sleeve pattern I made for Eleanor with a few changes to save fabric. First, I put the grain on the straight instead of the bias. Second, I made the sleeves a little less poofy than the version on Eleanor.

Then I took the plunge and cut off each skirt panel, the bodice pieces, and the sleeves. That left a few pieces still to be cut–the waistband, bias piping for the bodice, and the skirt trim being the main pieces– but most of the silk cutting was done!

I layered each piece of cotton with the corresponding piece of silk and hand basted each piece around the edges. This flat-lining provides extra support for the silk exterior and allows for finishing that can be sewn to the cotton without showing on the exterior. I reassembled the bodice, pressed my seams open, and then whip stitched each seam allowance over the edge to control the fraying silk.

The next step is to add boning to the bodice to keep it nicely smooth while it is being worn. After that I’m not sure exactly what steps I’ll be inclined to work on. Options include initial work on the skirt and more bodice finishing. Then there’s the trim to think about and execute, too! We’ll just have to see what task appeals most.

Project Journal: 1863 Apricot Evening Gown Part II: The Pattern

Fabric and design decided on, the next step in the process of creating my new 1863 evening gown was to decide on a pattern.

I decided to start with the pattern I used for the bodice of Evie, my 1864 evening gown (this originally came from Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 2). You might remember that I needed to adjust Evie to fit me two years ago, so I knew that the pattern would not work as is. For the new pattern, I added some space to the waist circumference, bust area, and across the shoulder blades in back.

To test out my pattern changes before cutting into the silk, I cut my flat lining and basted it together to check the fit. Looks good in the front!

And also looks good in the back! Success! No further alterations needed! 

The zipper in the back is my fitting zipper–a long separating zipper I can baste into mockups to check the fit without having to pin anything. This is great for fitting on myself! The zipper ensures the my center back edges will meet nicely so I can move on knowing that the bodice will fit.

As a side note, I have to mention how silly bodices from this period look without skirts! The bodice stops at the natural waist on the sides, which makes my legs look super long and my torso super short! This bodice actually stops even a little higher than my natural waist. The layers of hoop, petticoat, and skirt waistbands all add bulk that needs to be accommodated for smooth lines on the finished bodice.

The next step will be to work with the lovely apricot silk that will be exterior of the dress.

Meet Georgina!

“Georgina” is the name I’ve chosen for my new 1858 cotton print day dress. Being a day dress from a new decade (the 1850s), makes her a fabulous new expansion in my wardrobe of historic clothes!

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Georgina: 1858 cotton print day dress.
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Back view.

The dress is constructed from about 5yds of a Marcus Brothers reproduction historic cotton print I purchased earlier this summer. I used Past Patterns #701 and #702 bodice patterns as a starting point, though I had to make significant alterations to achieve a comfortable and pleasing fit, especially in the shoulder/armsceye area. I used the darted pattern for the fitted lining and the gathered pattern for the gathered exterior. The sleeves are the bishop sleeves from one of the patterns, though I totally changed the cuff design.

The cuff design and a lot of other fiddly details were taken from this c. 1852 dress at the Met (pictured below). If you zoom in on the cuffs on the Met website you can see that they look just like mine (pictured later in this post)! I also used the following design elements from the Met dress: piping at the neck and waist, gathers that are tacked down beyond the seam line, button closure on the cuffs, and cartridge pleating all around the skirt. I have a whole pinterest board of inspiring images for this dress and hat ensemble, but this dress is the one from which I took the most information and detail.

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c. 1852 Dress, Met.

Here are a few pictures of the fiddly details I integrated from the Met dress:

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Gathers at the center back that are tacked down beyond the seam line. I like the controlled look these extra stitches produce.
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Self fabric cuff finished with a small ruffle. The cuffs close with a hand sewn buttonhole and button.

Georgina’s bodice is lined with white cotton. There are hand sewn boning channels sewn into the bodice in the front darts on each side and on the sides. The bones are then slipped in between the layers of fabric. I didn’t have the right length metal bones, so I used heavy duty plastic wire ties–but–I cut them in half the long way so they are much skinnier than normal (they just don’t look at all historically plausible in their normal width, in my opinion). Once they’re in the bodice, you’d never know they are plastic instead of metal.

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The proper left side of the bodice: hand stitched boning channels in the darts, front hook closure, a hook to attach the skirt and bodice together, and nicely finished piping along the bottom edge.

The bodice is finished at the neck and bottom edge with piping that is nicely whip stitched to the inside. There is also piping in the armsceye seam. The sleeve seams are french seamed by machine with the opening seam allowance at the cuff turned twice and stitched by hand. The other bodice seams are all machine sewn and the bodice is hand finished. The bodice closes at center front with hidden hooks and bars. It also hooks to the waistband of the skirt to keep the two pieces from gaping while worn.

The skirt has a wide hem that is hand stitched. The long skirt seams are machine sewn. The waistband is the same cotton print with an interfacing layer of canvas to create stability. The skirt is cartridge pleated and hand sewn to the waistband. There is a single layer of lightweight flannel folded into the cartridge pleats to give them a little more bulk than the thin cotton had on its own.

I also took the time to add pockets to this skirt! This turned out to be really useful for storing gloves, sunglasses, chapstick, a fan… with two pockets a lady can store so many things! Here’s how I made them and sewed them into the skirt:

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The pockets are muslin rectangles with a piece of the cotton print topstitched on the top center (this is the part of the pocket that can show while I’m wearing the dress and taking things in and out of the pockets).
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After the cotton print was sewn on I french seamed the vertical seam and then the bottom seam by machine, making sure that the cotton print stayed centered. On the left is what a pocket looks like with the french seams facing out. On the right is a pocket turned inside out to show the cotton print centered at the top.
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I left the top part of the vertical seam open and hand sewed that into slits in the skirt using a whip stitch through the pocket and the seam allowances (essentially under stitching the pockets, which keeps the muslin from rolling to the outside!). The pocket slits were made after the skirt was cartridge pleated and attached to the waistband, so the slits stop below the cartridge pleats (it was way too much thinking to try and figure out where the pockets should be before cartridge pleating the skirt!).
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It worked wonderfully, and the pockets blend right in and are hardly noticeable, even when they gap open! (I’ve turned the edges of the pocket so you can see the muslin pocket for this picture, but they don’t actually stay turned out like that, and you can imagine how the print fabric of the skirt blends right into the print section of the pocket).
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On the inside, the top edge of each pocket is stitched to the cartridge pleats to evenly distribute the weight of anything in them.

Georgina cost about $18: $15 for the fabric and about $3 for hooks and eyes. The various other fabrics (cotton lining, canvas interlining, etc.) were all in my stash from previous projects (yay!). I first wore Georgina last weekend to a vintage dance performance on George’s Island in the Boston Harbor. I’ve got pictures of the performance and pictures of island exploration coming up soon!

Project Journal: 1815-1820 Regency Ensemble: Part VII: Gown Progress

I’ve been stitching away at the re-make of my 1819 Regency gown. The progress:

  • the bodice and skirt ruffles are all being hemmed by hand and there is only one skirt ruffle left to complete
  • the bodice has been put together, with the exception of sleeves and the finishing of the neck edge
  • the seams on the bodice are finished by hand (each seam is flat felled to hide the raw edges on the inside)
Skirt ruffles in progress: I've actually completed more than is pictured
The hem and join of one skirt ruffle
The bodice seams with ruffles inserted
The rolled hem on the bodice ruffles
Center front on the bodice has a double edged ruffle
The flat felled seams on the inside of the bodice
The flat felled seam used on each seam on the bodice and the hand sewn top stitching (which is only along these curved back seams)

Here is a refresher of the bodice inspiration image. My bodice looks like a reasonable interpretation to me. I am quite pleased with the progress and overall look so far. How do you think my interpretation compares?

The inspiration for my bodice

Lastly, here is the image of the sleeve I plan to use. I described the sleeve in my last post, an overview of my planned gown updates. The sleeve is on a page with many other sleeve variations from the 1830s, but I think that it will suit my 1819 Regency (pushing 1820s) dress quite well. I am debating the possibility of outlining the triangular inset with piping. Do you think that would suit the dress and be a faithful representation of the double line delineating the inset in the image? Alternatively, there is a possibility that I might use green piping or ribbon (the same shade of green used  in my 1819 spencer) to delineate that line. But then must I also use the green somewhere else to create visual harmony? Hmm…

From the first few pages of Janet Arnold's early 19th century pattern book