Project Journal: Versailles Sacque: Construction Details

It’s time for some in depth detail about the construction of the robe a la francaise I wore to Versailles in May. My original plan was to use pink silk in my fabric stash to create a robe de cour inspired by Maria Federovna, but I realized when I went to cut out the pieces that I did not have enough fabric.

The change in plan resulted in new fabric and a new plan. I stuck with the decade of the 1770s, but decided to make a robe a la francaise, or sacque, instead of a robe de cour as it seemed like a garment I might be more likely to wear again in the future. Accordingly, I found and ordered new fabric: 11 yards of a very lightweight changeable silk ‘lutestring’ from Burnley and Trowbridge. Luckily, the new fabric still worked with the metallic silver net I’d purchased for trim. It’s the same metallic silver net that is on my 1885 Night Sky Fancy Dress, just cut into strips.

The pattern is from JP Ryan: it’s the Pet en Lair pattern, lengthened to create a gown as they suggest. Underneath I’m wearing a shift, stays, pocketsMr. Panniers, a generic 18th century petticoat, and the petticoat that matches the gown. I also have American Duchess clocked stockings and embellished American Duchess Kensingtons. All my jewelry is from eBay. You can read more about how I created my hairstyle and the hair ornament in this past post.


Regarding the pattern, I found some of the directions to be confusing. For example, making the petticoat seemed way overcomplicated.   You can read more details about how I made my petticoat here. Also, I found the directions for pleating the front robings/facing and the back pleats quite confusing. There, I was saved by this post written by AJ who also used the JP Ryan pattern, got confused, and posted about the confusing bits. Very helpful! Aside from the confusing directions, the gown pieces went together perfectly with no trouble. I did have to alter the front strap area to make the front sit flat against my body. Two friends who used this same pattern did not have to make that adjustment, so I chalk it up to differing body shapes but do not think it negatively affects the pattern.

IMG_0687 (1)The lining of the gown is made from a one yard piece of cotton/linen blend from my stash. Also from my stash and used inside the gown were a scrap of medium blue linen and a scrap of medium blue cotton twill used to interface the stomacher. These were all the bits left of those three stash fabrics–yay! I was also amused that all of the random non-silk fabrics in this gown and petticoat wound up being blue. I used my lining as my mockup, meaning that I had to take a dart in the front strap area, but was able to adjust the pattern to eliminate the dart before cutting out the silk.

The back of the lining is adjustable using a tie threaded through eyelets. The edges are boned with reed. The pattern suggests ties, but you also see lacing in extant garments and this seemed easier to adjust and that it would use less length for the tie(s). There are examples of both ties and lacing on my Pinterest board for this project. The tie is a 1/4″ cotton twill tape. It’s not accurate, but did the job.

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Underneath the decorative stomacher, the gown closes with lacing panels attached to the lining. Again, mine laces closed using twill tape.

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This is the inside of the front lacing panels. You can see the medium blue linen backing. I think I had run out of the cotton/linen blend at that point. As is usual with 18th century garments, the armhole is left unfinished.

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Here’s a close up of the back pleats. These are stitched all the way through to the lining. The directions for the pleats were slightly confusing, but made sense once I started fiddling with my fabric. It was important that I had transferred all the markings from the pattern to make the pleating easier to understand. The pattern uses another four pleats pleats, underneath these, that you can’t see to add volume to the back.

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Due to the unexpected nature of the purchase of the silk fabric for this gown, I decided to do that fabric justice by hand sewing the entire garment. So in addition to the exterior stitching like that anchoring the pleats on the back, all of the interior seams are also hand sewn. I rather enjoy hand sewing and it makes a lot more sense given the way 18th century garments were constructed.

Here is the gown mostly sewn in its essential elements, but lacking trim. The sleeve flounces were individually gathered and sewn to the arm openings. They are pinked with scalloped shears on the top and bottom edges.

The following image is the gown that I followed in terms of trim placement. It took many more hours than I thought it would to pin the trim on. Those big waves are more complicated than they look, plus I had the challenge of creating the smaller scallops as I went along as well. All of the trim had to be sewn along both sides and tacked at each scrunch after it had been pinned.

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Robe a la Francaise. 1765. LACMA.

You can see that I pressed my robings down all the way to the hem, though once the trim was applied on top it was really not very noticeable. I like the finished result, but I think it’s worth pointing out that this pattern is designed to have a wide stomacher. I was envisioning it coming out a little narrower at the waist. But I think adjusting the back opening enough to make a noticeable difference would only create awkward wrinkles under the arms.

The finished stomacher was covered in scalloped trim and finished off with a sparkly brooch. I went to France with an untrimmed stomacher and no clear idea about how I wanted to trim it except that I wanted it to be an all over metallic feast for the eyes. Luckily, early in the trip I was able to go see the 300 Centuries of Fashion exhibit at Les Arts Decoratifs. In addition to being amazing (I got to stand within 6 feet of Dior’s Bar Suit and see many garments I’ve only ever seen on Pinterest!), I also took a picture of a stomacher that was inspirational in terms of the overall wavy patterns and filler shapes. That picture is below.

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Trimming the stomacher took place in the evenings in the few days before the special event. Here is the stomacher in progress. I took it specifically to show the amazing green color that the fabric can appear from some angles. I was hoping to get a picture of the finished gown looking this color, but had to be content with seeing shades of green in some of the pictures as we didn’t capture any where the whole gown was this color.

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Another part of the dress that was finished in France were my engageants. The pattern includes flounces of two lengths to be made of silk and then one longer flounce for an under flounce or engageant. I sacrificed some lace I’ve been intending for another project, threw some darts in at the longest section to get the scalloped edge to be the right shape, and filled in the length with a bit of mystery ivory sheer. The resulting flounce was gathered and sewn to a cotton tape that was basted into the arm opening.

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It sure sounds like a lot of work, recounting these bits of the process. It was! And it paid off. I’m very pleased with the gown. And very pleased that this picture captures some of the stunning green in the fabric!

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How I Organize My Patterns And Sewing Books

I showed you how I organized my fabric stash and now I thought I’d show you how I organize my patterns and sewing books.

Most of the patterns I make and choose to keep are for historic clothing. I choose to keep them so that I can use them as a reference for future garments or so I can reuse them as is. A lot of these are garments that I’ve made for myself, but some are also patterns I’ve made for work. Probably 85% of the patterns I keep are historic or vintage. And probably 90% of my patterns are self-made. (I really like having self-made patterns–I find it easier to see what’s going on when there is only one size on the pattern, no seam allowance included.) Some of the envelopes contain vintage and modern commercial patterns for which I’ve traced off my size for the given garment pieces, sometimes making changes to them as well. At that point, I choose to keep those pattern pieces separate from an original purchased pattern.

Given these factors, I choose to organize my patterns by historic period. I use the post-it notes so I can easily change which folder the label is on. Purchased patterns (of which I only own very few) are stored separately, because there are so few of them.

Each self-made pattern is folded and put into a manilla or recycled envelope. I label the front of each envelope with:

  • the month and year I made the pattern
  • the name of the garment
  • other pertinent information: such as the measurements the garment is made for, whether a mockup of the garment is also in the envelope, and an image or drawing of the garment if possible, etc.
Each section is also organized chronologically.

At this point, I’ve maxed out the number of patterns I can fit in this one basket, so I’m trying to decide what categories of patterns can be stored somewhere else, and where that somewhere else is… Someday when I have a sewing room I hope to change these over to a filing cabinet.

As for my books, I keep all of my personal books at home and bring them into work only on an as-needed basis. I do this for two reasons: first, that I’m very protective of all books that I own and want them to stay in the best condition possible; and second, that I enjoy seeing these books regularly.

The books are organized by the type of information they contain, then chronologically, if possible. The binders peeking up from the bottom shelf on the left are all full of notes and samples and other construction-related information. The books on the bottom right are other things including a binder of cooking recipes, wedding research, knitting books, and my Janet Arnold books.

How do you organize your sewing related patterns and books?

Ca. 1860 Corset Intense Details

This is a follow-up post to my last post: ca. 1860 Corset For Me! (HSF #4)That post has a short background on my reasons for building the corset, but it doesn’t mention other details, so that’s what this post is for!

My new ca. 1860 corset.

So let’s start with more background, since this post is all about intense amounts of details! We’ll start with the pattern I made for this corset: you’ll notice it has bust and hip gores as well as that curved piece on each side of the front. The bust gores aren’t so unusual for a modern 1860s corset recreation, but I don’t see too many corsets made (and certainly not many corset patterns) with hip gores and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone reproduce an 1860s corset with that curved piece in front. I found these details intriguing and wanted to make this style for two reasons: 1, because it’s a style I haven’t seen recreated, but which I have multiple examples of in my research, and 2, because it seemed like it would fit into a new thought I absorbed a few months ago.

1865-1867 corset, The Met

First, a discussion about the style. It seems like a lot of modern ca. 1860s corsets are cut with vertical seams that run from top to bottom of the corset to create shaping, sometimes with the addition of bust gores. (The corset on the right is an example of one from the 1860s that uses this style of seaming to create shape.) These corsets are cut with shaping in the seams to create space for the bust and hips, but an alternative to this is to use bust and hip gores to achieve shape for the body. The interesting thing is that hip gores do not seem to be very commonly used in historic corsets made by modern people, despite their use in historic clothing. I attribute this to the fact that shaped seams are easier to execute than inserting gores of any type, but especially gores that are not in a seam (like the gores in my corset). Also, I would think that pattern companies have an easier time grading patterns using the shaped seams, because the gores (particularly hip gores) really need a lot more individual adjustment and fiddling on a body than shaped seams do.

Second, about this new thought that I absorbed. While reading Merja’s most recent blog posts about corset construction, I was rather surprised by a simple statement that makes so much sense but which I haven’t necessarily followed in corset making  in the past (here are Merja’s gusseted 1870s corset, which has the sentence which mentions this magical new thought, as well as her 1880s purple corset and 1860s white corset with seaming like the Met corset, above, which exhibit the thought without it being explicitly stated). Essentially, she says that she always makes adequate space in the corset for bust and hips, so that the corset is only constraining her waist. Duh! A related thought is that when you tighten your corset you displace some bits to your bust and hips, so your corset really does need adequate room there to accommodate the normal and the extra. That makes so much sense and sounds so much more comfortable than having a corset that digs into your hips or pushes your bust around uncomfortably. I made the goal to take this approach for the new corset and all future corsets! and this new corset was my first attempt at really following this sound piece of information.

So given that the style I set out to make is one that I haven’t ever seen a pattern for, where did I get mine? Well, it’s loosely based off of one in Corsets and Crinolines by Norah Waugh (the pattern is ca. 1873, pg. 80). I say loosely, because I started there, but then began combining pieces and changing the shape of them to suit my measurements and the seam placement that I wanted (most importantly the hip gore and that curved front piece). Interestingly, Waugh notes on a different corset pattern (ca. 1860, pg. 78) that the 1860s style of corset without bust or hip gores (more like what I seem to see in modern made ca. 1860 corsets like the one from the Met at the top of this post) was a style preferred in France. The English preferred the style of corset I am making with gores. (Merja’s white 1860s corset I mentioned in the pervious paragraph uses this French corset pattern in Waugh, if you’d like to see what it looks like made up.)

I wound up making two mockups to get the pattern the way I wanted it even after adjusting the pattern from the beginning (and still made a few alterations before cutting out my real fabric). The original pattern in the book had a waist that was much too small and a bust that was a little large relative to my measurements. Despite my changes, the first mockup was too short waisted, needed bigger and longer bust gores, smaller hip gores (I had overestimated how much ease I needed there), and a little bigger waist. The second mockup was still a little short (I added another ½” to the top), the hip gores were still just slightly too big, and the lacing gap between the back pieces was wider than I wanted it to be by about 3″. Ugh! I actually determined that last fact after cutting out and sewing up my actual fabric. Turns out my shoulder blade area is bigger than I thought. I had an inner struggle about if I wanted to take out the small stitch size flat felled seam to insert a piece or if I wanted to just let it go. Adding a piece won in the end, because I figured that I was spending so much time on the corset that I really wanted to be pleased with it and not have nagging doubts for the next number of years until making a replacement. (The piece I added is between the front and back pieces. You can see it easily in the first picture in this post. It’s a v shaped piece that extends from top to bottom.) Adding the piece actually wasn’t so bad, despite all my inner complaining and I’m very pleased I did it, because I am happy with the result.

1864 corset, The Victoria and Albert Museum.

That’s all the aspects of choosing the pattern and executing it. Now I can move on to my inspiration for creating it. This blue corset at the V and A is the most thoroughly photographed piece of inspiration (click through, there are lots of different angles of the corset, and close up pictures!). As you can see, the blue corset has bust gores, that curved front piece, (and if you look at the pictures of the back…) hip gores, as well as useful close up construction photos showing the flossing, how the busk is sewn in, how the binding is sewn on, etc. You can also see great detail for things like how to sew the points of the bust darts and the tops of the hip gores: they are overcast near the tips of the bust gores and tops of the hip gores before being machine sewn with topstitching to the binding. I used this method in my corset, sewing the overcasting by hand. I found that it was very useful on the bust gores (since mine are set into a slit in the fabric, not a seam) because the amount of seam allowance near the points is negligible (like, less than ⅛”) and that would have been extremely frustrating to try and machine sew! Also, the overcasting kept the edges from fraying as I was working with them. It also adds an extra measure of stability and sturdiness to those areas.

1839-1841 corset, The Met.

Other very useful images to me were this orange 1860s corset front and side views (with generally similar lines as the blue V and A one) and this 1862 Godey’s image of a corset (with very similar lines as the blue V and A one). (As a side note: Does anyone know what collection houses the orange corset? I’ve only been able to find images, but no real source.) These corsets provide a nice end date range for my corset pattern, because in the 1870s the corset begins to change shape. But to determine a good start date for my corset I had to look elsewhere. The Met has a corset dated 1839-1841 with similar hip gores and the front curved piece (great zoomable pictures including an interior view, click through the image!), but it does not have separate bust gores (they are cut in one with the front pieces as is usual for 1840s corsets) and it does not have a front opening busk (those weren’t in general use until 1849). The 1839-41 corset is more curvy than the 1860s ones, as you would expect from an 1840s corset, but it still looks like a forerunner to me! Waugh has an 1844 corset pattern (pg. 77) that has similar lines to the 1839-41 Met one, with bust gores but without hip gores or the curved front piece. These 1840s corsets are useful for determining the start point of my date range, which seems to safely be the 1850s. Thus, my corset is dated ca. 1860, which is just a shorter way of saying 1850-1870. That makes sense looking at the silhouette of the dresses from these decades, as well, since neither the 1850s or 1860s require the curvy shape of 1840s or 1870s corsets.

EDIT: The orange corset mentioned above is in the collection of the Manchester Art Gallery via this link.

I used all of these different images to look for construction details to use in my corset. Specific things I was looking for include: stitch size, width of the binding, method of sewing the binding, placement of bones, design of flossing, seam placement, method of setting bust and hip gores, location of topstitching, placement of eyelets down the back, finishing of the interior of the corset, and length of the busk. Some of these things can be determined by looking at the extant corsets I’ve shared in this post, but others required other helpful research. Specifically, the gusset construction method I used came from this image that Merja shared in her 1870s corset post. It’s from 1872, but is still relevant for my corset, because if you look at the blue and orange corset pictures you will see it used on the overcasting at the bust and hip gores. This image, from 1868, shows similar methods as well (and has a selection of mostly French and a few English style corsets if you’d like to see more examples of those).

And now, here are the close up construction details of my corset that I promised.

An interior view of my corset. It’s important to me that the inside of garments is as nicely finished as the outside, as you can see. It’s a little hard to see, but the grommets near the waist are set closer together than the ones a the top and bottom.
Details: Hand sewn overcast stitches at the bast of the bust gore and machine top stitching above that. Machine sewn button holes for the busk hooks (I’ve found this method to be much sturdier than leaving a gap in a seam on the edge).
Details: The busk is top stitched around the top curve to keep it from moving. There is flossing at the top of the boning channels (every boning channel is flossed at the top and bottom). Machine sewn top stitched binding.
Details: The top hook of my busk is a few inches below the top of the corset, so I added a hook and thread loop at the top to keep it closed. I used coutil cut on the straight of grain for my boning channels: the edges are pressed under and then they are topstitched into place and into the proper number of channels (keeps the inside tidy and doesn’t require extra notions!). The seam allowance of my bust gores is turned under and flat felled by hand with a whip stitch that only catches the coutil. The curved front piece is flat felled by machine.
Years of use have caused my busk to have a bend in it at my waist line. See how it curves up from the table in the middle? Impressive, really, that my body can permanently change the shape of metal.

I’m hoping to get pictures of the corset on me this weekend at its first ever wearing. Hopefully I’ll be able to share those in the near future!

1917 Knitted Sweater Of Angorina Annotated Pattern

In the spirit of the HSF #23: Generosity and Gratitude, I thought I’d share an annotated version of my altered 1917 Knitted Sweater Of Angorina pattern. Who knows, maybe you’re thinking of knitting this sweater or something similar right now, and this version of the pattern and these notes will come in super handy as you knit your own sweater?

The original:

“Knitted Sweater of Angorina” from the Star Needlework Journal 1917.

My version:

“Knitted Sweater of Angorina”

Here’s the pattern. I’ve put original directions in [brackets] if I’ve changed them, and included my version before the original version, so you can compare. My version of the pattern and any notes that I have added are in italics.

One of the major reasons I adjusted the pattern in places was in attempt to make it to my measurements (40″ hips, 30″ waist, and 36″ bust). On size 5 needles I was knitting 10 stitches in 2.5″, which was 2 squares of the pattern, and knitting 1″ vertically every 6 rows, which was 1 square of the pattern. If I had knit the sweater with this gauge and the original directions I would have had a sweater body that would be too big: about 12″ too big around and 3″-5″ too long in length.

ABBREVIATIONS: K – knit, P – purl.

MATERIALS: 6 skeins of probably acrylic yarn (of medium weight and unknown length, though on the smallish side, as modern skeins go (and I could have used 7!)); 5mm and 3mm knitting needles; 6 plastic buttons.

[17 balls of THE AMERICAN THREAD COMPANY’S Article 200 “Angorina” Fluffed Cotton, size 4; two long celluloid knitting needles No. 5 and two shorter celluloid knitting needles No. 3; 6 buttons.]


For the Basket Stitch pattern: Cast on a number of stitches divisible by 10 and 2 over for the edge stitches. (So the 10 is the repeat of two squares of the pattern, and the 2 extra are for the edges.)

lst Row: Slip the first stitch (this is the edge stitch) , * then knit 5, and purl 5, repeat from * to the end of row ending with P 6, turn (the last stitch is the edge stitch).

2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th rows: Same as first Row.

7th Row: Slip the first stitch, * then P 5, and knit 5, repeat from * to the end of Row, ending with K 6, turn.

8th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th Rows: Same as 7th Row.

These twelve rows form the pattern, which is knit throughout the sweater.


Cast on 82 [112] stitches on the long celluloid needles No. 5 and begin to K at the bottom of the sweater,

FOR THE BORDER: K plain back and forth for 14 rows or 7 ridges (2 rows of plain knitting back and forth form a ridge).

Now begin to knit the pattern as directed above.

K 12 [14] rows, then begin to decrease 1 St at the beginning and end of every third row until 10 stitches have been decreased at each end.

There are now 62 [92] stitches left in the row and 42 rows of pattern K.

Continue knitting the pattern for 120 [138] more rows or until 15 patterns or 180 patterns are K in all. (That last section of directions about 15 patters and 180 patterns confused me, so I just sort of ignored it…)

This completes the length of the back.

Next Row: Slip the first stitch, then knit 5, and P5 for 21 [31] stitches (this is for the right shoulder), bind off 20 [28] stitches for the back of the neck, the next 21 [32] stitches left on the needle are for the left shoulder.

Now put the first 21 [32] stitches on to a spare needle or thread (and I added one stitch to make it 22, so I would have a 20 stitches for the repeat of the pattern and one for each end), and continue knitting the left front as follows: K the pattern for 8 rows pattern (this is for the shoulder), then begin to increase 1 stitch at the beginning of every second row, this is at the neck – until 20 stitches have been increased.

There are now 42 [52] stitches in the row.

K the pattern without increasing for 84 [104] rows, then begin to increase 1 stitch every 3rd [7th] row at the outer edge (the outer edge was the end of each 2nd row for me) (the front edge must be straight) for 10 [5] times (that means I knitted in this fashion until I had increased 20 stitches), then K 12 more rows without increasing. (I chose not to knit the final 12 rows: I just ignored that direction.)

16 patterns of 192 pattern rows are now K for the length of, the front. (Again, I was confused by this direction and just ignored it.)

K 7 ridges plain back and forth for the border. (7 ridges equals 14 rows.)

Bind off loosely, break the thread. Now K the right front to correspond with the left front, then sew up the underarm seams (this is the length of 10 ½ patterns or 126 pattern rows from the bottom of the sweater up). (I waited to sew up my seams until I was entirely finished knitting the sweater. As before, I ignored the confusing direction about the number of patterns and pattern rows.)

Repeat the directions from right after “This completes the length of the back…” for the right front of the sweater. I’ve repeated them here, with the changes I made for knitting the right side instead of the left. 

Next Row: Slip the first stitch, then knit 5, and P5 for 21 [31] stitches (this is for the right shoulder), bind off 20 [28] stitches for the back of the neck, the next 21 [32] stitches left on the needle are for the left shoulder.

Now put the first 21 [32] stitches on to a spare needle or thread (and I added one stitch to make it 22, so I would have a 20 stitches for the repeat of the pattern and one for each end), and continue knitting the left front as follows: K the pattern for 8 rows pattern (this is for the shoulder), then begin to increase 1 stitch at the beginning of every second row, this is at the neck – until 20 stitches have been increased.

There are now 42 [52] stitches in the row.

K the pattern without increasing for 84 [104] rows, then begin to increase 1 stitch every 3rd [7th] row at the outer edge (the outer edge was the beginning of each 2nd row for me) (the front edge must be straight) for 10 [5] times (that means I knitted in this fashion until I had increased 20 stitches), then K 12 more rows without increasing. (I chose not to knit the final 12 rows: I just ignored that direction.)

16 patterns of 192 pattern rows are now K for the length of, the front. (Again, I was confused by this direction and just ignored it.)

K 7 ridges plain back and forth for the border. (7 ridges equals 14 rows.)

Bind off loosely, break the thread.

FOR THE SLEEVES (The following directions are what I used for my first attempt at a sleeve for this sweater… I didn’t like the resulting sleeve and chose to take it apart and try again. I’ll include my revised sleeve pattern following these directions for the sleeve I didn’t like. You can read more about why I changed my sleeve pattern and see pictures of the before and after, in this previous post.):

Cast on 72 stitches, and K the pattern for 3 rows, then begin to decrease 1 stitch at the beginning and end of every second row until 5 stitches have been decreased at each end.

There are now 62 stitches left in the Row.

Knit 120 rows of pattern. [K 9½ patterns or 114 rows without decreasing.]

Now slip the stitches on to the No. 3 needles, and K plain back and forth for 18 ridges for the cuff, bind off, and sew up the seam.

Place the sleeve in the armhole, so that the sleeve seam and underarm seam meet. (I waited until all of my pieces were knit before sewing any seams.)

(So now, here is my revised sleeve pattern):

Cast on 72 stitches (I added a single plain knit row, as a transition), and K the pattern for 3 rows, then begin to decrease 1 stitch at the beginning and end of every second row until 5 stitches have been decreased at each end.

There are now 62 stitches left in the Row.

Knit 60 rows of pattern without decreasing. Knit 60 rows, decreasing 1 stitch at the beginning and end of every 4th row. [K 9½ patterns or 114 rows without decreasing.] (Again, I ignored the first part because it is confusing.)

Now slip the stitches on to the No. 3 needles, and K plain back and forth for 10 [18] ridges for the cuff, bind off, and sew up the seam.

Place the sleeve in the armhole, so that the sleeve seam and underarm seam meet. (I waited until all of my pieces were knit before sewing any seams.)

This second sleeve pattern worked much better for me, so I repeated it for my second sleeve.

FOR THE BANDS: Cast on 12 [16] stitches on the No. 3 needles. K plain back and forth for 2 1/2 [4] inches (25 rows), then make a buttonhole as follows: K 4 [7] stitches. bind off 4 [6] stitches, K 4 stitches (this leaves 4 [5] stitches at each side of the 4 [6] stitches bound off).

In the next Row cast on the 4 [6] stitches bound off, thus forming a buttonhole.

K back and forth for 3 1/2 [3] inches (35 rows), then make the next buttonhole.

Continue knitting plain back and forth making 4 more buttonholes so that there are 6 in all, always leaving an interval of 3 1/2 [3] inches (35 rows) between each buttonhole.

(I calculated these measurements and row lengths between buttonholes to fit into the length of the front of the sweater before the V neck starts… in my case, that length was 21″. If your gauge is different you might want to consider changing these directions to suit you.)

(At this point I became very worried about running out of yarn. I wish I would have had enough to make the bands as wide as the original pattern called for… but I had to make them narrower, so my revised pattern will reflect that. If you have enough yarn you should keep the band wide and only adjust for length.)

K 1/2 [1] inch (5 rows) after the sixth buttonhole then begin to decrease 1 stitch at the beginning of every second row until 8 stitches have been decreased.

There are now 8 stitches in the row. Knit for awhile… turns out I knit plain for 45 rows. Begin to increase 1 stitch at the end of every 2nd row until 8 stitches have been increased… in theory that was my plan, but since I was running out of yarn, I just slowly decreased until I ran out of yarn. [K plain for 18 inches or long enough to go around the neck, then increase 1 stitch at the beginning of every second Row until 16 stitches are on the needle again.]

K plain for 21 inches or as long as the wider part of the band with the buttonholes, bind off loosely.

Sew the buttonhole part of the band on to the right front, the narrow part around the neck and the plain wider part to the left front, this should be done very carefully, then sew on the buttons.

Whew! At this point I just need to sew up my seams and sew on the buttons. Yay!

HSF #23: 1917 “Knitted Sweater Of Angorina”

My “knitted sweater of Angorina.” (Thanks to Mr. Q, who consented to take pictures of me with no hassle on my first ask!)

And here’s the image from the pattern, for comparison.

“Knitted sweater of Angorina” from the Star Needlework Journal 1917.

This is my entry for the HSF Challenge #23: Generosity and Gratitude. This challenge “is not about a particular item or aesthetic, it’s about celebrating the generosity of spirit and willingness to help others that makes the historical sewing community great, and giving credit and thanks to those who have contributed to our collective knowledge without expecting payment in return.”

My special thanks goes out to the person, or people, who took the time to put this knitting pattern out there on the internet, for free! I wouldn’t have been able to complete this project with the pattern, obviously. Thanks!

As it is, I’m really pleased to be done knitting and putting together this sweater. I’ve been using my sew time to knit, which has been a nice change and fun, but I do miss sewing! So now it will be back to sewing, which is good, because I have a lot of projects I’m working on!

Also, this sweater was a bit stressful… It started out on a relaxing note, but after completing the front, back, and one sleeve, I realized that it was taking way more yarn than I expected and I started to get worried I might run out before finishing the sweater! So as I was knitting my brain kept trying to think of ways to conserve yarn and wondering if there would be enough. I actually wound up completing unraveling one sleeve in order to knit it with less yarn… and thank goodness I did, because I barely had enough yarn to get as far as I did, and that was still with alterations to the original pattern to accommodate my dwindling yarn pile. You see, after knitting the front, back, and the two sleeves, there’s still the buttonhole/neck/button band to be knit, and you need enough yarn to stitch the seams! The sweater is quite long, so these things take more yarn than you might think. I used up literally almost all of the yarn I had…

The first sleeve before it was unraveled and re-knit.
The new sleeve shape with alterations to the pattern.
Sewing up a side seam. The front, back, sleeves, and band are all knit separately, and flat, and then seamed together, creating side seams, armsceye seams, underarm seams, and a seam to join the band to the front/neck opening.
These are literally the only pieces of yarn I have left… The longest is about 6″!

Here are the facts:

Fabric: 6 skeins, of unknown length, of probably acrylic yarn.

Pattern: 1917 Knitted Sweater of Angorina.

Year: January-March 1917. Here’s a blog post about the history of knitting in WWI that explains why the months are so specific.

Notions: Heavy thread to sew on the buttons, and 6 plastic buttons.

How historically accurate?: Acrylic wasn’t invented until 1941 and as fas as I know plastic buttons of the sort I used weren’t in use in 1917, but as a historic costume I’d give myself 95% on looking right, even if the materials aren’t 100% historically accurate.

Hours to complete: Oh goodness… mounds. It took me the entire month of October, and that was working on the sweater for 2-4 hours almost every day.

First worn: For pictures! Hopefully I’ll get to wear it later this month for an event.

Total cost: $2.50 for the knitting needles, $3 for the yarn, $1.50 for the buttons… total = $7! Now that is a project total I’d love to have more often!

Things I’m proud of in this sweater? #1: It’s the first sweater I’ve ever knit! #2: I was really careful to keep the pattern perfectly knit, sometimes taking out 5-10 rows after noticing I had made a mistake, so I could go back and fix it (let me just say that un-knitting, like seam ripping, is not nearly as exciting as knitting or sewing!). The end result is that the pattern is perfect everywhere… yes, I’m a perfectionist. #3: I did a really good job sewing up the seams, especially on the front band. #4: I learned out to knit a button hole! It’s not that hard, really, just casting off one row and on the next, but it does take your brain a little bit to figure it out. As I went along my button holes became neater and neater, as you would expect. #5: The band fits nicely around the neck opening and is a lovely way to finish off the sweater edge.

Where front meets front band. See that seam? Nope, you don’t, because it looks like I knit it all at once! (ooo, and see my button holes?)

Things that make me call this sweater “wonky” or “original” or perhaps just simply “hand knit”? #1: That I had to cut corners because I was running out of yarn. The part of the band that goes around the neck is not as wide as the pattern calls for. And the part of the band that should have the buttons sewn to it is, well, non-existent. I literally ran out of yarn. #2: Because the button part of the band is non-existent, the neckline isn’t actually symmetrical… the side with the buttons doesn’t widen to be the same width at the button hole side. So the neck V doesn’t quite want to center, and the buttons/button holes wind up being slightly off center, too. (Honestly, though, I don’t think other people would notice those things if I didn’t point them out…) #3: Even with my sleeve alts, the sleeve is still rather large around (can you imagine if I hadn’t re-knitted them?!?) and they are a little long, even with a cuff. #4: Now that it’s finished, the sweater is rather heavy and prone to sagging some in places like the sleeves. Oh well!

See the side with the buttons? Yup, no band there!
Looking at my slightly loose, and rather long, sleeve.

For a first try at knitting a sweater, and using a historic pattern, I’m calling this one a  success!

Belated HSF #11: 18th Century Apricot Petticoat

Life! Is often great, but does rather get in the way of sewing plans sometimes…

This HSF challenge #11 had a due date of June 3rd. I actually finished sewing on June 18th, but I’ve been busy posting about other things so this has been even further delayed. Oh well, I had the best of intentions: to complete this 18th century petticoat for the Squares, Rectangles, and Triangles Challenge.

Many historical garments, and the costumes of many people around the world, use basic geometric shapes as their basis. In this challenge make a garment made entirely of squares, rectangles and triangles (with one curve allowed), whether it is an 18th century kimono, a flounced 1850s skirt, or a medieval shift.
Apricot (orange) 18th century under petticoat.

Just the facts:

Fabric: Almost all of 4yds of apricot cotton I bought back in January.

Pattern: None, but I referenced both of these tutorials on constructing 18th century petticoats.  Katherine’s tutorial is for a petticoat with an uneven length (to go over panniers, or a bum roll, for example). Rebecca’s tutorial is for a petticoat with an even length (the same length all the way around, to be worn without extra supports). Both tutorials have construction information, Rebecca’s includes a bit more detail in terms of which stitches and methods to use.

Year: Loosely 1700-1790.

Notions: Thread, yellow polyester ribbon for ties.

How historically accurate?: I give it 70%. Accuracy gets knocked down because: 1- the color is a bit vibrant for the period (but it’s an under petticoat, and I wanted it to be fun!), 2- all unseen seams are machine sewn, 3- I used bright yellow polyester ribbon for ties, 4- I haven’t seen much research that shows cotton being used at this time for a single plain petticoat of this sort. On the other hand: 1- all finishing was done by hand, 2- the dimensions and method of creation are historically accurate.

Hours to complete: 6 or 7? I can’t really remember…

First worn: Well, Squishy wore it for pictures!

Total cost: $12 for the fabric. The ribbon is leftover from my childhood craft projects…

Side view.
Front. See the yellow ribbon?
Back. I love how the pleats fan out.

I chose to bind the top with self fabric and use polyester ties in a fun color for this petticoat, since I knew it wouldn’t be seen and I might as well use some of those things from my stash! The back half of the petticoat ties in front, then the front ties wrap all the way around to the front and also tie in front. That’s why you can see all the yellow ribbon crossing in the back. This method used a solid 3 yds of ribbon, though the ends I have to tie with are generous and could probably be shorter if I wanted to save on tie length.

Back tied in front before the front gets tied. There are hemmed pocket slit openings on each side.

I just love the color of this petticoat. It’s so bright and sunny and cheerful, especially with the yellow ribbons! There’s also a sneak peek in this last picture at what will likely be a future HSF item: the bum roll… more on that soon-ish.

Resource: Commercial Pattern Archive at URI

Recently, I’ve been doing lots of thinking about and planning for a variety of summer sewing adventures. Whenever new projects begin there is a lot of research into the silhouette, cut, and fabrics. I’ve got my oft-referenced books, but the internet contains caches of great (and trustworthy) information as well, if you look in the right places and are wary of the information that is untrustworthy.


Here is one new information source you probably haven’t come across in your internet travels: the Commercial Pattern Archive at the University of Rhode Island. “CoPA-Online contains over 50,000 scanned images (garments & pattern schematics) from 42,000 commercially produced patterns, dating back to 1868 and is growing daily.” Here is the background on this great resource:

The Commercial Pattern Archive database, CoPA, provides a unique tool for researchers and designers to recreate or date clothing from 1868 to 2000. There are several collections from the States, Canada and the UK represented in the database which functions like a Union Catalog of pattern collections. The cornerstone of CoPA is the Betty Williams Collection. Betty Williams, a theatrical costumer in New York City, pioneered research on commercial patterns in the early 1980s. She became a leader in the field, establishing a major personal pattern collection and encouraging others to actively participate in the collection and storage of patterns. Betty passed away in 1997 leaving a wealthy legacy of research, and an extensive pattern collection now housed at the University of Rhode Island. The Williams Collection is combined with the URI and Joy Spanabel Emery Collections in the Commercial Pattern Archive in URI Library Special Collections.

One of my students shared this resource with me a few months ago and I have only just started digging into all the wonderful information that is available. You have to subscribe to see all of the patterns in the collection, but there is a free sample search that brings up a limited amount of patterns. I’ve just been using the free sample search and have found lots of fabulous patterns. Some of the patterns just show the envelope front images, but a lot of them also contain an image of the construction pieces. It’s great, because you can see lots of patterns and layouts for different silhouettes from different periods. The archive includes clothing patterns for men, women, and children, nightwear, underwear, swimwear, outwear… a huge variety of patterns and information! It is also possible to arrange to visit the archive in person.

Coming up in my sewing queue for the summer are garments from the 1760s, 1860s, 1880s, 1920s, and 1950s. Ooo, exciting variety, right? You never know in what period I’m going to turn up next! (Except that in the past it was pretty likely to be between 1810-1930… but I’m pushing the boundaries now on both ends!) So far I’ve accessed CoPA to find resources for the 1880s and 1920s. Here are some examples:

1885 Beatrice Bodice Pattern at CoPA.
1927 Slip On Dress with Pleated Skirt Pattern at CoPA

This really is a great resource! Go check it out!

Details Of The Bronze And Pink 1893 Ball Gown

I’ve been meaning to post about my new 1893 ball gown since Newport Vintage Dance Week back in August… Well, I’m slow about getting it done, but but this is going to be a post with mounds of great detail, so I think the wait was worth it!

At the 1890s Soiree during Newport Vintage Dance Week in August.

This gown is constructed of bronze shot silk shantung with pale pink slightly slubby silk satin. It is flat lined throughout with ivory waxed cotton. It is stabilized with cotton canvas at the hem and in the waistband. The bodice is trimmed with ivory net and bits of metallic bronze/gold net that have sequin motifs on it (in fact, it’s the same metallic net as the top sleeve section of my 1912 burgundy silk evening gown, which I also wore at Newport). The sash is trimmed with the metallic bronze/gold net. The sleeves have layers of ivory tulle inside them to help maintain the full shape.

I wore this dress with a combination, a corset, a slight bum pad, two petticoats (one silk, one cotton), stockings, and shoes. Exterior accessories include cotton/poly elbow length white gloves (I have lovely leather ones that come up above the elbow, but they are getting soiled from being worn while dancing with men who are not wearing gloves (breech of decorum on their part!), so I chose not to wear those to this ball); my handy Battenburg lace fan; my faux pearl drop earrings; a long strand of faux pearls (originally bought to be worn with my 1928 green silk evening gown); a nice bling-y necklace borrowed from a friend for the evening; and my fabulous almost-Victorian tiara from eBay!

My tiara shares a general design with the Lover’s Knot Tiara, below. Both tiaras have round elements connected by jeweled arches above a second row of round elements, both rows of which are surmounted by tear shaped pearl elements which are set above a final row of further round shaped elements around the base. Additionally, in both tiaras there is a high point in the center which then diminishes toward each side. Obviously, the two are not exactly the same, but I think they’re similar. Of course, wearing mine for an 1893 look is slightly earlier than the given date of the Lover’s Knot Tiara, which is c. 1913. But isn’t that excusable, when the tiara looked so wonderful with my dress and accessories? There’s a closeup of my tiara below so you can compare.

Lover’s Knot Tiara by Garrard c.1913.
My eBay tiara.

It took a bit of work to come up with a hair style I liked that also worked with the tiara, I can tell you. I wanted to have a puff of hair not directly behind the tiara, but close enough that it would provide a dark background for the tiara to stand out from. Unfortunately, I don’t have any great pictures of my hair. Oh well! It also took A LOT of bobby pins to secure the tiara. I  think I used about 20 for the tiara alone. I put one between each of the base pearls, then another to cross the first one. I also secured the ends of the tiara with extra pins. It was really stable and didn’t move at all during the entire night, so that part was successful!

Here’s a closeup of the jewelry.

In the picture above you can see the jewelry better. You can also see the one major flaw in this dress. The wide neckline wasn’t shaped quite right, so the sleeves started slipping off my shoulders, making the sleeves look slightly less impressive. This is one of those things that was perfectly fine in all my fittings. It’s during those pesky balls, when you move and sweat, that you really discover the flaws in your clothes! I’ll have to do something about that before I wear the dress again.

A full length view. This was the end of the night, and the end of the week, so that’s why I look tired.
A full length back view. Again, you can see how the sleeves just didn’t want to stay on my shoulders.

Now on to the specifics of patterning. The bodice (and especially the sleeves) of this dress are from Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 2, as is the skirt. The decorative sash and bodice trim were inspired by an image in Norah Waugh’s The Cut of Women’s Clothes. I looked at many images that had similar sashes with bows, so I’m sure I was influenced by those as well.

The next thing to discuss is the construction of the dress. It is in two pieces: a plain bronze silk skirt and a decorative bronze and pink silk bodice. The wonderful thing about this arrangement is that I can make other bodices to go with the skirt (I’ve got extra bronze and pink silk). For example, I plan to one day make a day bodice to go with the same skirt. Since the skirt takes the biggest bulk of fabric, this is an economical and practical plan in addition to adding to my wardrobe!

I’ve got some great closeup pictures of the bodice construction, but I didn’t take any close up pictures of the skirt, come to think of it. Honestly, though, it’s not as interesting. The skirt is gathered in back and set into a waistband which closes at the back with hooks. There is a placket opening that is hidden in the gathers. The entire skirt is flat lined with ivory cotton. In addition, the hem has a 12″ band of bias cut canvas tacked between the silk and cotton. The canvas helps the skirt form those wide folds at the hem as well as providing a certain weight and gravity to the lightweight silk. Finally, it also helps provide a clean sharp edge over which to turn the hem. For the hem, the bronze silk is folded to the inside over the canvas, turned again, and stitched to the cotton lining. The hem is about 1/4″.

The bodice, by itself. As you can see, the sash is a part of the bodice.
Here is the net applique on the sash ends. The net is great because it doesn’t fray, so I simply had to cut out the motif I wanted and then stitch it around all the edges to the sash. The sash is a tube of bias finished at an angle on the ends with a slip stitch.
A closup of the shoulder and top of the sleeve. You can see the ivory net trim around the neck of the bodice, which terminates in those cute bows on the shoulder. The bronze part of the sleeves are rectangles that are knife pleated radially at the shoulder, which you can see in this photo. And finally, you can see the gold net applique which is stitched over the ivory net around the neck opening.
Then comes the question, where are the closures on this bodice? Well, the sash is stitched to the bodice from the right side front around the left side to center back. Then the bodice opens up center back.
To keep the sash in place around the right side, there are three hooks that correspond to thread loops on the bodice. This keeps the sash in place. You can see the canvas backing of the sash in this picture.
One of the thread loops on the bodice that holds the sash in place.
The center back closure is hooks and thread loops. I like thread loops better than the metal eyes or loops because you can’t see them when the bodice is pulled tight, like you can with the metal. You can see that I added a placket that extends farther than the loops just in case something pops open.
The inside of the bodice. I LOVE to make the insides of garments pretty, and I think this is one of my finest examples! Aside from the fact that it is modern materials, it looks just like an extant garment from the 19th century. The bodice is boned up center front, the front darts (which create a V-shape on either side of center front), the side seams, and each of the four side back seams. The neck and hem are finished off with self fabric bias with is then nicely whip stitched to the cotton flat lining. The armholes are bound with self bias. Then there is also a waistband, to help alleviate the tension on the center back closure. This waistband is cross stitched to each boning channel and closes with hooks and eyes.
The right side of the bodice. You can see the bias bindings, the boning channels, cross stitched waistband, and hooks. Oh, and I just noticed that I also finished the exposed seam allowances by turning them back on themselves and whip stitching. (The seam allowances under the boning channels are trimmed and left raw.)
Center front. The boning channels were whip stitched to the cotton lining along the sides. It was a bit of a logistal problem to determine how to nicely bind off the edges of the bodice with bias, since there is a sash part of the way around. You can see that there is a separate piece of bias covering the join between the sash and the bodice from the right side where the sash opens.
The left side. On the waistband I did use the metal bars instead of thread loops, since I knew they wouldn’t be seen from the outside. You can also see how the sash was attached. It was flipped up and topstitched to the bodice (avoiding bones!), then flipped down to cover the raw edges and joined to the bottom of the bodice with bias.
The interior of the pink under sleeve. The silk is gathered into a cotton lining. Of course, you can’t see up into the sleeve when there is an arm in it!

It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, to have such a beautifully finished bodice. And I felt like such a princess at the 1890s Soiree, to be wearing an all silk dress with silk petticoat and a fabulous tiara!


1812 Guerriere Weekend Part IV: A New 1812 Gown

My favorite picture of my new 1812 gown, from the Guerriere weekend at the Commandant’s House at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston.

Ok, I admit that it is not a very clever title, but it fits the subject matter perfectly!

First, some details. This 1812 reproduction gown is constructed from 100% cotton curtains from Ikea. Yes, Ikea. You never know where you’re going to run across fantastic fabric. In fact, these Matilda curtains were made in India, which is very fitting for a Regency gown, because cottons in the early 19th century were being imported from India. It is very lightweight, sheer gauze with a 1/8″ vertical stripe spaced every 1″ across the fabric and with woven in dots every 1″ vertically. I bought a package of two curtain panels, each 55″ wide by 98″ long.

Does it look like a curtain dress? I’m sad to report that Mr. Q didn’t realize, until I explained it to him, that the idea of a curtain dress is a famous theme from Gone With The Wind… How could I have attached myself to someone who doesn’t know that? Opposites attract?

The skirt for the gown is a two panel tube, 43″ long by 110″ circumference. The front is stitched flat to the waistband and the remaining fabric is tightly gathered into the back across 13″. Center front and center back are actually the middle of the panels, so that the two seams are lost in the back gathers. The gown opens center back with hooks and eyes on the bodice and a narrowly hemmed slit that extends 8″ down the center of the back panel. The slit is also lost in the gathers. The waistband is 1″ wide. It was cut on the cross and has long tucks taken all around it so that it has three stripes spaced close together.

You can really see the difference between the flat front and the gathered back in this side view.

The bodice pattern is taken from Janet Arnold Patterns of Fashion I “c. 1806-1809 frock” and adjusted for fit and so that the entire front panel has a 2:1 gather ratio at the top and bottom (essentially, just more gathers than the original dress). What I really love about that pattern is the simplicity of the neckline. The bodice is cut separately from the straps, and the straps are cut on the straight grain, thus they fit really well with a wide square neck that stays square and doesn’t fall off your shoulders! GENIUS! Sometimes those historic tailors and dressmakers really amaze me with their sensible-ness. The bottom gathers are sewn to the waistband, but the top gathers are adjustable with a tie at center front. The ties are stitched to the armsceye seam allowance and can be tightened from center front then tucked inside the gown. The shoulder straps are folded in half with the fold towards the neck so that I didn’t have to finish that edge (another 19th century smart trick!). There is a stripe in the middle of each strap.

Oooo, wait, I love this picture too! Sometimes I think my smile is dorky, but not here! And the leaves make a lovely background. Anyway… you can also see the bodice details better in this photo.

The sleeves are a conglomeration of various patterns… essentially they are just a normal Regency short sleeve pattern with about 6″ extra fullness at the top and bottom which is gathered into the armsceye and the sleeve band. The sleeve bands are cut on the cross, like the shoulder straps, and on the fold. They are placed so that the stripe runs around them. I wanted them to puff more, so after these pictures I took a few tucks in the underarm seams of the sleeves so they can’t hang as low on my arms. We’ll see how that looks next time I wear the dress.

With regard to inside finishing… The skirt seams didn’t need anything, because they are selvedge edges. The hem is 1″ turned twice and stitched down with a small running stitch (stitches every 1/16″ to 1/8″). The waistband is faced on the inside with a second waistband (without worrying about having three stripes running around it) that encloses all of the gathers on the top and bottom. The armsceyes are bound with self fabric bias strips. The few bodice seams are flat felled. The top edge of the back of the bodice has a narrow hem.

You can see the fabric pretty well in this photo.

The best part about this dress is that it is the first entirely hand sewn reproduction garment I’ve made (I think). I’ve come pretty close in work I’ve done in the past, but I’ve always used a sewing machine for inside seams and things that won’t be seen. Not so with this one. There were two reasons for hand sewing it: 1-I wanted to have the satisfaction of it 2-I had a week to make the dress and a long road trip for about half of the week I had… you can’t use a sewing machine in a moving car as far as I know… but you can hand sew! So the second best part about this dress: I whipped it up in one week, with undergarments!

I hadn’t mentioned that part yet. To accomodate the wide, square neckline and sheer sleeves of this gown, I had to make three other new pieces as well! A sleeveless chemise to accommodate the square neck and sheer sleeves, an underdress/petticoat to add some opacity which also needed to have a square neck, and a new pair of stays in white (because my only other regency pair are pink… and that would have not been subtle at all!). To be fair and honest, I didn’t get all the inside finishing done on these four garments the first time I wore them, and I did use a sewing machine for the undergarments. I was saftey pinned into the stays… I was madly hemming the underdress the day of our final dress rehearsal… and the chemise had unfinished edges… but you couldn’t tell once I put the dress on! I still need to finish some of the undergarments, actually… so hopefully once I do that I can take some pictures of them and do a post detailing their construction! Also in the works is another underdress that can be worn under this white dress. It will be a nice medium Regency-like blue.

Titanic Weekend Part II: All About The New 1912 Day Ensemble

We took a rather in-depth look at my new 1912 evening gown. Now, on to the second 1912 ensemble that I also wore during the weekend: day gown and hat!

Gown and hat with (unbuttoned...) white kid opera gloves. I'm so pleased with the overall effect! Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of the back. There are cool details back there, so another fashion shoot will be required in the future...

This gown is constructed from silk charmeuse. The skirt is a single layer in addition to the overskirt panel in front. The bodice has a foundation of the same white cotton as my new evening gown. Mounted on to that cotton are (from the neck down) layers of ivory silk charmeuse, ivory silk flat lined with fabulous ivory colored diamond lace, black silk velvet, and black silk charmeuse. The overskirt panel is trimmed with matching silk velvet and the belt is constructed of the same. There are small buttons on the overskirt velvet trim (because, really, the Edwardians just loved adding buttons everywhere!). Because the back bodice mirrors the front in its style (which unfortunately I don’t have a picture of right now…), I had to be crafty with my closures. The dress has two places that open with hooks and bars: the left side from just under the arm to a few inches down the hip and the left shoulder seam around the neck to the center back of the collar. The effect is a form fitting dress that looks like it was magically donned. The side closure is straight forward, with the foundation layer hooking first, to take the tension of holding the dress tight, and the outer charmeuse layer hooking over that simply to stay closed. Again, the foundation is essential to achieving the elegant, effortless exterior. The neck closure is a series of hook and bars that turn different directions to accommodate the seams: front to back at the shoulder, hooks that hook up on the collar to attach it to the back neck, and hooks going sideways on the center back of the collar.

In addition to the gown, I also constructed what I call the “mushroom” hat, which you can read more about in this previous post. I created the pattern for the hat, which is basically just a shaped brim with circular side band. The side band support the crown, which is a circle that is pleated to create that “mushroom” shape. I love the hat! It lends such an air of Edwardian drama and elegance to the look! And I am so pleased the the “mushroom” shape worked out!

Hm… Patterning this dress… Well, the general skirt shape is from Janet Arnold, but it is adapted to have two symmetrical box pleats that terminate at the top in delightfully detailed seams (which I really, really need pictures of!). The bodice pattern was draped with many references to my inspiration image. I created a basic shape for the bodice and then cut in into the different pieces (ivory silk, ivory silk and lace, black velvet, and black charmeuse) so that each piece would fit together perfectly. The belt is slightly shaped but doesn’t actually have a pattern.

The dress is inspired by this image from a 1910 issue of the magazine Bon Ton.

I'm sure you can guess, but the dress I was referring to is the one on the right.

In the end I made a few changes: I added a train, discarded the white under sleeves (I made them, I tried them, and they just didn’t work! They pulled the bodice in all sorts of weird ways… Maybe if the were not so tight they wouldn’t pull so much? I am fine with having gloves cover my lower arms, anyway.), and drastically scaled back the beading. Perhaps you’ll remember my plan to bead this dress? Well, the beading was drastically scaled back because I didn’t like the beads I bought as much as I thought I would (they are rectangular and larger than I thought… not seed bead-y at all), I realized I didn’t want to devote as much time as it would take to do the amount of beading I originally intended, I didn’t have enough beads to bead all four panels as much as the one panel I completed and I didn’t want to buy more beads, and I didn’t like the beading motif I had created, nor was I inspired to change it. You can see that I did leave one outline shape of beading on the bodice in the velvet section, but the rest was scrapped. That one line is repeated front and back (symmetry, you know). I did actually complete the overskirt top panel, but decided not to use it after my scaling back plan was complete (you can see it, below). I’m going to keep the beaded panel and see if it finds its way onto another project one day… I would still love to do intense beading on a garment, but I’ll have to pick a different one, because it wasn’t measuring up to my expectations for this dress.

Scrapped beaded panel. A mix of silvery and black beads. I started in the center with the somewhat wonky lines, can you see improvement? I think it would have been distracting from the dress to have four panels like this.