c. 1880 Petticoat (HSM #5)

I decided I needed a new petticoat as part of the 1875 ensemble I’ve been working on for the last few months. I have a very ruffly petticoat from 1883 (shown in this past post) that helps with the shelf backside shape that became popular in that year, but I wanted a different shape for 1875… something to produce a more rounded silhouette and support the train I was expecting to include on my new dress.

My original thought was that my balayeuse would button to this new petticoat to create the support for the train of my dress (as opposed to making a trained petticoat and then potentially needing an additional petticoat without a train in the future). The idea is that the balayeuse + new petticoat will provide lots of wearing options for the future.

Along those lines, this new petticoat is able to fit over my large bustle from 1883 as well as having the ability to contain the back fullness so that it can also be used for the Natural Form years of approximately 1877-1882 (you can see the bustle in the same past post as the super ruffle-y petticoat). I don’t have a Natural Form dress yet, but it is on the to-do-someday list and in the spirit of reusing garments and saving time, this seemed like a reasonable decision.

Here is the new petticoat over my large bustle. The drawstring partway down the back allows for the adjustment for different bustle shapes. It is anchored in the side seams.

Here is the petticoat without the large bustle. This is approximating the Natural Form look. While the hem pulls up a bit over the large bustle (above), it is pretty even for the Natural Form look (below). The great thing is that once there is a dress over the petticoat you can’t tell what the hem is doing!

The pattern for my petticoat is from Frances Grimble’s Fashions Of The Gilded Age Volume 1, page 107. It’s a pretty simple shape. Accordingly, I made mine using straightforward details and machine sewing/finishing.

The petticoat has a drawstring at the waist, for adjustability. The drawstrings run through the waistband and are anchored along the sides with a line of machine stitching.

At center back the drawstring closes the top of the placket. The placket is just a slit that is bound with a strip of cotton cut on the grain. No bias here–this saves fabric and makes things easier to sew! The waistband and placket biding are finished by stitching in the ditch.

I decided on a medium width pleated ruffle for the bottom edge of this petticoat. I used a fork to help space the pleats, eyeballing and ironing as I went along.

The ruffle is edged with a stiff lace from my stash. I’ve had this for nine years and always wondered what to do with it, because it is so stiff. Turns out it was perfect for a petticoat, when a little stiffness is helpful! The lace comes in the stack of three that I used to top the ruffle. To get the single width I simply cut apart sections of the stack.

Here’s another view of the stack of three lace, the pleated ruffle, and the drawstring. Both this drawstring and the one in the waist are cotton twill tape.

This simple garment qualifies for the Historical Sew Monthly challenge #5: Basic. I imagine it will be used for any project I make, day or evening, from about 1875 through 1882.

Make a garment that can be used for many occasions (like a shift, or the classic ‘Regency white dress’), or a simple accessory that will help you stretch the use of an already existing garment.

Just the facts:

Fabric/Materials:  3.5 yards plain cotton.

Pattern: From Frances Grimble’s Fashions Of The Gilded Age Volume 1.

Year: c. 1880.

Notions: 1 yard ⅝” cotton twill tape, 1 yard ¼” cotton twill tape, 5 yards lace, and thread.

How historically accurate is it?: I’m going to give this one 95%. It’s good on shape, materials, and methods. I believe would be recognizable and plausible for its time.

Hours to complete:  8 ¼ hours.

First worn: In May, for photos with my 1875 ensemble!

Total cost: This was a stash project, so free, but the original cost of the materials were $10.50 for the fabric, $2 for the lace, and about $2 for the twill tapes, so $14.50 total.

While not the most exciting project, this was a great start on the way to making my 1875 ensemble. I’m pleased to have made a garment that is easily adjustable, useful for multiple types of events and silhouettes, and is functional but still pretty!

Project Journal: 1863 Apricot Evening Gown Part VII: Finishing Details

Next post will be photos of my finished apricot dress… YAY! But first, I have the final finishing details to discuss. Most of the finishing left was on the bodice, so let’s start with that.

Bertha

Side note: have we ever talked about what a bertha is? A bertha is a collar of lace or other thin fabric, particularly popular during the 19th century. Check out this link to learn a little more about the history of the word.

In my last post, I included a photo showing the assembled front of the bertha for this dress before I attached it to the bodice. My goal was to make the bertha completely separate so that it would be easy to change if I decided to do that at a later time.

The foundation is a single layer of ivory tulle cut to the shape of the front (and one for the back) of the fully assembled bodice. A gathered piece of my lace trim was machine stitched to the bottom edge of the tulle, about ½” up from the cut edge.

On top of that foundation is a second layer of tulle that is gathered at both the top and bottom edges. The top edge is folded under by about ½” and the gathering stitch run through both layers so that the top edge is a fold rather than the cut edge of the tulle.

It took quite a few pins to secure the gathered tulle to the tulle underneath. It was finicky–tulle on tulle… not fun!

And I might have made a mistake while ironing my first foundation piece of tulle. Any guesses about what that was?

Oops! I like to iron with a hot iron but the nylon tulle was having none of that! I had to cut a new piece… and turn down my iron for a bit! The bottom gathered tulle in the above photo shows another failed experiment. That tulle is a full double width folded at the top and gathered top and bottom. I decided it was too bulky and not as elegant and decided to go with my previously explained method of only turning the top to create a fold.

After machine sewing my successful gathered tulle to the base layer of tulle it was time to add velvet trim. The velvet was cut on the bias, both edges pressed under, and then it was slip stitched over the stitch lines in the tulle. I also created velvet bows, as I hinted about last time. This is one of the bows I created before I realized I needed more than I had cut out… oops again!

After recutting my bows, this is the velvet I had left. I didn’t include anything for scale, but the longest piece in this photo is about 6″!

Remaking the bows (or rather, cutting new ones and disassembling ones I had already made) brings us back to where we were in the last post. The old velvet bows had top bow parts and dangling bow parts cut on the straight of grain, but due to my limited fabric I cut out the new bows with bias dangling parts. In the end I’m glad I did, because I think they hang more elegantly than the straight cut version.

Brooches

You might have noticed that the center velvet bow on the bertha has a gold filigree oval on it. In my inspiration it looks like these are buckles or brooches of some kind. I started by trying to use my stash, finding two matching football shaped buckles that I hoped could work. But the more I looked at them the more I didn’t like them.

So I spent a long time looking for something else low-cost that would work. Ideally, I wanted two sizes of the same style, but that quickly proved to be hard unless I wanted smallish very sparkly rhinestone buckles. But of course the scale of this dress is not small. Eventually I found the right search terms to find open centered brooches intended for creating your own cameos. I purchased these and painted them gold using acrylic paint. Despite being the same size for the bodice and skirt, I think they worked well!

Sleeves

I suppose I should also mention the sleeves. They made it onto the bodice but I haven’t talked about them at all. They are cut on the straight of grain and are basically a round-top trapezoid shape, with an outer layer of silk that is larger than an inner layer of my flat lining cotton. The silk was gathered around the bottom and around the armhole to fit. Due to the longer measurement of the silk it rolls up inside the sleeves by about 1″, which keeps the cotton from showing while being worn. Here you can see the poofy sleeves as well as the bertha before it had velvet added.

Oh, but those sleeves weren’t done yet! My inspiration had sleeves that appeared to be droopy continuations of the bertha. This is a detail that is different from all of my previous dresses from this period, so I felt it would be a neat detail to include. It took quite a bit of pondering to decide how to achieve the look and it was something I didn’t feel I could tackle until well into the process when I could see what the bertha and sleeves were doing without the extra layer.

My solution was to create sleeve caps of single layers of tulle with more of my lace and silk pleated trim on top. The tulle rather disappears when worn, giving the effect of floating trim. It’s pretty neat, actually.

Sewing the lace on was easy and relatively fast, as I did it by machine. But the silk… well, I thought I had enough left over from my crazy skirt trimming for the sleeves but those pleats eat silk so quickly! I only had about 75% of what I needed.

It was less than a week before the ball. I had returned the scalloped scissors to my friend so I couldn’t cut more silk. I tried spacing out what I had as much as possible without looking different from the skirt. And I was still short! UGH! Last minute challenges aren’t very fun. I pleated and re-pleated. Got a few more inches covered. Then I decided to harvest some pleated trim from my skirt, from underneath the big velvet bow where it wouldn’t be seen. Not terribly fun, to seam rip something you’ve just made. And the pieces I got were about 5″ in length. But I got them. And I put them on those sleeves. And even though they’re pieced you can’t tell at all and those sleeves got done!

This photo shows the first sleeve in progress, before I realized I didn’t have enough silk trim…

I sewed the sleeve caps on with small top stitches to the outside of the bodice at the armsceye seam. Again, this makes them easy to remove if I want. Also, I’d already set the sleeves… so I couldn’t easily put them into that seam (oops?). In the end, it doesn’t matter that they’re on the outside, because the bertha lace completely hides the armsceye along the top of the sleeve.

Bodice Finishing Details

In addition to sewing on the sleeve caps, I also attached both the front and back bertha layers to the bodice.

I finished my eyelets and ran the lacing ribbon through the top half. I find that 3 yards of ribbon allows me to leave the ribbon laced through the top eyelets and still get in and out, which makes getting dressed faster as the person helping me then only has to lace the bottom half of the bodice and tighten the ribbon at the top.

I also made and whipped in a placket. That’s the rectangular piece that’s rather wrinkly in the center of the photo below. While this bodice fits perfectly now, you never know what the future will bring and this will allow for a slight gap (if needed) that will still look like dress fabric and not like underwear.

I added hooks and thread bars to the bertha at the right shoulder, as well as two along the right back neckline to hold it in place along that edge. There is also a hook on the lace to secure it to the lace on the front of the bertha. Once hooked it looks seamless!

The final step was to sew hooks on the front and sides inside the bodice to allow it hook to the skirt. You can see the hook on the boning at the center front in the photo below.

Skirt Finishing Details

The skirt was basically done once I added my giant velvet bow except for a few things.

I added two hooks and bars to the waistband to close the skirt. The narrow hemmed opening is hidden under a pleat and will allow for future changes in waist size if needed.

I added loops to hook the bodice to. You can see one of those on the left. Turns out I didn’t line the side ones up very well (I think this was the very last task late one night on the last night I was stitching), so we added a safety pin at the ball and hooked the bodice to that. The safety pin is visible just to the right of the loop. At some point I need to move the loop to the location of the safety pin. Boo! There’s always something to fix or repair or change once you wear a garment!

And finally, when I added the waistband I also added hanging loops for the skirt. There’s one poking up on the right. These allow me to easily hang the skirt to keep it from getting wrinkled in storage.

And finally… after many, many hours of sewing, this dress is done. I like big projects but I confess to getting a bit sick of this one after sewing on it every day for about a month at the end of the process. Next post will be photos of the finished dress. (And I can report that I was happy with it in the end! Yay!)

Autumn Plaid Dress

I’d like to introduce you to my Autumn Plaid Dress! This is one of the dresses that I mentioned in my end of 2018 post as something that was made but never posted about. The goal was to post about it early this year. I would say it’s now mid-year, but better late than never, right?

I made this dress at the very end of last summer. I even made sure to find time to take photos of it while the trees were still in full autumn glory! The colors in the fabric reminded me so much of autumn that I felt that photos with lovely changing leaves were essential!

This dress came about due to the intersection of inspiration and fabric. I think the inspiration came first, when I found this dress (with no further information other than the single image). I loved the irregular large scale plaid, hidden placket, shirt collar, and long sleeves. It’s just a very different plaid dress than the often some-amount-of-circle skirt and smaller scale plaid dresses I am often drawn to.

In November of 2016, I saw the perfect fabric at Blackbird Fabrics. Of course it’s long gone now, but I snapped up 1.5 meters at the time. I loved the rich autumnal colors and large scale plaid! That pop of orange is unusual and great!

After that, the fabric sat in my stash… Until last year, when I actually make time for the dress. In August, I decided that now was the time!

The first step was to figure out a pattern. The bodice started life as McCalls 7351 because I didn’t want to deal with drafting a collar or front button placket. I also thought it might be a good starting place for sleeves.

I made multiple mockups of this pattern, fiddling with the fit especially in terms of the sleeves. I wanted to have a dress I could work in, with full range of motion for my arms without feeling constricted or lifting the dress at the side seams. This is not what I got with the sleeve straight out of the envelope. It looked nice with my arms down, flat and smooth, but I had very restricted arm movement. (So I guess this pattern wasn’t the easiet starting place for sleeves… oh well!)

After finally sorting out the fit of the sleeves and body pieces, I moved on to changing the front button placket to be invisible as I really liked that feature of the inspiration dress. This tutorial from Threads Magazine was great for this pattern change. Once I understood the different parts and how the folds interacted it was easy to alter the width of each fold to make a narrower placket than the tutorial.

I drafted the skirt pattern on a dress form. I wanted to get the deep pleats and rounded silhouette of the inspiration. It was a bit tricky and required lots of fiddling, playing with pleat depths, and also playing with the angle of the pleats at the waist seam.

Armed with my pattern pieces, I sat about cutting my fabric… and realized that 1.5 meters was not enough fabric to make the dress I had patterned! Oh no! What to do?

The first thing I did was eliminated some of the fullness I put in the skirt. I was able to keep the pleats, but the hem is narrower than I’d originally patterned. (But that’s fine in the end, because I think it’s a nice shape without being too full.) Then I started very, very carefully planning where to put each of the other pieces I needed. I realized that I could use less fabric if I changed the back from the original pattern (with a yoke and bottom section with a box pleat as on a man’s dress shirt) to a simple darted one-piece back. I did some pattern piece mashing, tested the new pattern out, and was able to move forward again.

My detail-oriented brain clearly decided on symmetry of the plaid (even though the inspiration didn’t worry about that at all and that’s something I liked… I find it’s hard to break the desire for symmetry!). That meant the cutting layout needed to be very specific in order to accommodate both that and the quantity of fabric I had to work with.

I fit the skirt pieces on the yardage (with a tiny hem). Then found places for the fronts (without the placket extensions) and back. The sleeves barely fit. I could have shortened them and had plenty of fabric but I really wanted the wrist length. The collar and placket pieces were next. They got squished in between the larger pieces. Of those, only the upper collar is one piece. As you can see in the next photo, the under collar and both layers of collar stand have seams at center back (though I did manage to make them all symmetrical!). The button placket had to be seamed on and pieced horizontally and the buttonhole placket also had to be pieced on. There’s a narrow orange line near the buttonholes just across from the horizontal piecing seam where the placket extension was stitched on to the front piece.

This was absolutely a case of laying out every single piece before cutting anything! After all that, this is what I was left with for fabric scraps. I’d say that’s a pretty good use of all my fabric, wouldn’t you?

I was very amused by the fringe-y selvedge edge and wanted to incorporate it into the dress. I used those selvedges for the inner edge of my plackets. The already finished edge was stitched down but not turned under, so a little bit of the fringe pokes out when the dress is worn. I did debate if it was making the dress too home-made looking, but I think it’s subtle enough that it doesn’t have that effect.

At some point I also made space on the fabric for a belt. There was no way to make this symmetrical without a lot of piecing, given the spacing of the plaid and the placement of the plaid on the dress, so this is my nod to asymmetry. I can line up one of the orange lines somewhere, but somewhere else around my waist they don’t line up.

I finished this dress right around the time that the pre-orders from Royal Vintage Shoes were delivered last fall. I had great fun wearing this dress with my new burgundy Aspen Boots. I couldn’t resist having red winter shoes!

I love these boots! I added an insole under my heel to help cushion my feet and they are so comfortable! I can wear them standing and walking all day and not have aching feet. The low heel is flattering and snazzy without feeling like a heel. The rubber soles are great for wearing in rain and snow. They are great with pants and skirts/dresses. And they’re a fun color! I feel very confident when I wear them and get lots of compliments. Can I say anything else positive? I love these!

What else have I not mentioned about the dress?

The buttons are from my stash and are plain and dark. I was one short, so there’s a slightly different dark button at the bottom. It’s fun to have details like that on clothes you make yourself.

My fabric is a nice medium-weight twill, which makes the dress well suited to fall and winter wearing. The dark colors didn’t really speak to me to wear this spring and it’s not a summer dress, so it’s waiting for autumn to roll around again to be worn. In the meantime, I’m happy to have captured the lovely colors of the leaves with the wonderfully autumnal colors of the dress. Maybe this year I’ll take photos of it with pumpkins…!

Vintage-Inspired Book Dress

Two or so years ago, I came across this dress as I was poking around the internet. I loved the print, but the style was not for me. The peter pan collar, in particular, isn’t really my style. However, I got it in my head that maybe I could make my own version of this dress, with style details that suited me better.

This led to a hunt for the fabric. With a little bit of searching, I was actually able to find the exact cotton print fabric used in the dress I originally liked! I bought mine from Fabric.com, but it was (and still is) also listed on Etsy. It has a little bit more stiffness than your average quilting cotton, which makes for a dress with nice body. It also has little hints of metallic gold in the book titles, some of which are readable. This makes it a little festive and fun without being over done.

That was back in 2016. It took me about a year to get around to making the dress, but I finished it in late 2017. And I’ve been wearing it! It just took another year to wear it somewhere that was good for taking photos. (I still hold out hopes of taking photos of it in a fabulous wood paneled library, while holding my hardcover copy of Gone With The Wind. That’s one of the readable titles on the dress! Not sure when that will happen, though.) In the meantime, I’m very pleased with these photos from my trip to Universal Orlando, where we took photos of this dress in various Harry Potter locations.

I used Butterick 5880 (a retro pattern from 1951) for the bodice of this dress. This is the same bodice I used for my Happy Clover Dress, which I finally finished in 2017 as well. Both of these dresses have a different neckline than the original pattern. I’ve found that this is a great basic pattern for me. It fits well, I like the all-in-one-with-the-bodice sleeve, and different necklines work with it to change it up from one dress to the next!

The square neck inspiration for this dress came from a blog reader in 2017, who commented on my Happy Clover Dress post and suggested that a square neckline might be a nice vintage touch. I thought the idea made sense with the square corners of the books in this print and decided to give it a try!

As with the Happy Clover Dress, I did not use the Butterick skirt pattern, instead opting to create my own. My vintage inspired skirt is simply a tube that is 122″ in circumference, knife pleated to fit the waist size of the bodice. I carefully cut and seamed the panels to maximize my fabric use and have side seams as well as a center back seam. Part of the reason I had to maximize my fabric use was that I used up pretty much all of all 2.5 yards that I bought. In fact, I didn’t even have scraps big enough to make pockets out of after cutting out the bodice and skirt pieces! I used what I had and pieced the rest of my pocket bags with fabric left over from my 1860s Flower Basket Fancy Dress project. I had dyed the fabric a mottled brown, had only had small scraps left, and the look reminded me of book leather, so it seemed like a fitting thing to use.

Pockets in a dress is excellent! And you can do that when you make your own clothes. Actually, while I was on my trip I was asked whether I’d made the dress. The giveaways were the fact that I had my hands in my pockets and the knife pleated skirt, both of which struck the person who asked as being vintage and self-made details–not a combination that would be easy to buy in a store. I thought that was fun!

I made this dress using modern techniques. All of the inside seam allowances are finished using a serger/overlocker. There is an invisible zipper in the back. It is almost entirely machine sewn, including the hem and armholes. The only hand stitching is the finishing of the brown bias tape that finishes the neckline, in order to keep that nice and invisible. On the hem and armholes the black machine stitching blends into the print and is hardly noticeable.

I have fun wearing this dress and pairing it with different cardigans in the colder months! Black and red are my favorites. And I can report that it was very enjoyable to be dressed in slightly-vintage-style to visit Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. I had no trouble on the rides and was as comfortable in the heat of Florida as I would have been in shorts or capris and a tee shirt, which is what most people were wearing. I felt more put together and enjoyed the themed dress! I might have to do things like that more often!

1925 Lace Cloche

I knew I wanted a cloche to go with my 1925 Blue Coral Dress from early on in the process of making it. It was going to be hot when I wore the dress, so I knew I wanted something that would both look and feel lightweight. Turns out any hat was warmer than a bare head (well, one with hair on it!), but that being said, I think this was on the right track with a lightweight hat.

I considered making the cloche from fabric, but couldn’t decide on a style with seams that I liked. However, as I was browsing my Pinterest board, my eyes kept settling on straw, horsehair, and lace hats. It seemed like that was the way to go.

I didn’t have any particular materials on hand or in mind for that type of hat but I had come across a modern cotton lace cloche on Amazon for $14 that seemed like a good starting point. It’s no longer available, but I’m sure a careful search could find something similar. To the right is what it looked like before I started changing it up.

Generally, modern cloches have such a deep crown that they don’t leave any space for hair arranged on the back of the head. I have long hair, so that just doesn’t work for me. Cloches from the 1920s frequently have a cutout in the back to allow for your neck… or hair! They also have more interesting brims than modern cloches often do. Perfect. That’s what I wanted. An interesting brim and a cutout for my hair.

With my design plan in place, I started disassembling the modern cloche. First, I removed the braided band and flower. Then, I started unwrapping the lace on the brim, taking out the stitching that held one circumference to the next. I stopped at the bottom of the crown. I removed the inner hat band for most of the way around the hat, so I could stitch the new brim shape and the back cutout without stitching through the hat band.

Next, I played with the lace I had unwrapped for the brim to decide on a new shape. Once I made some decisions I had to make a few shorter pieces out of the lace, but most of it I tried to keep intact. In the back, I decided where I wanted my cut out to be… and cut it! Then I bound the edge using the lace and topstitched it down to encase the edges.

It was a bit tricky to find an acceptable shape for the new brim. The first few tries were so similar in shape to the crown of the hat that they hardly showed when I put it on my head. I ended up with a brim that flares out a bit so it stands away from the crown of the hat, especially in the front. I had to be careful to cover the ends of the plastic horsehair braid that backs the cotton lace, as it is very poky when cut. I covered the ends either by turning them under or having the inner hat band cover them.

After sorting out the brim and back cutout it was time to reattach the inner hat band. Then I sewed on my trim. Here’s what the hat looked like on the inside after all that.

I’ve loved Leimomi’s cloche decoration in this post since she posted about it in 2014. Having that in mind, I thought of what bits of trim I already had in my stash and what might work for this hat. I decided on a random yard of navy grosgrain ribbon, which I cut into thirds, pleated, and attached in imitation of this hat.

When I styled my hair, I tried to have hair come down to my jawline more than I usually do. I think cloches look less silly if there is some hair showing around them. My hair didn’t really look like a bob, but at least there was some hair showing in the front. In the back, it was pinned into a low twist-y mass of curls.

The great thing about the materials of this hat is that they are intended to be flexible for packing and traveling. Not only is it easy to store this hat but it’s also easy to remove it at a picnic and leave it on the blanket or put it in a bag without worrying that it will be damaged. It can get crushed and bounce back into shape!

In the end, I continue to think my head looks like an egg when I wear a cloche. I like styles that don’t hug my head better! That’s my own feeling–other people don’t think it’s nearly as egg-like as I do! But as egg-heads go, this was better than some attempts, so I think we’ll call it a success! It certainly looks cute on the fence!

A New Old(er) Dress

Today, I present a new version of an old dress.

(Well, not old in the usual way on this blog, which is a dress that is often 100+ years old. In this case, the ‘old’ dress is about 8 years old. I couldn’t pass up the colors in the flowers, though the cut and fabric was more ‘junior’ than adult woman, especially with the built in underskirt of tulle which I promptly cut out as soon as I reached home. However, worn with a waist length or otherwise cropped cardigan, the original dress saw me through a number of summers.)

And then my shape changed and the the dress became a bit too small and a bit too tight. This is the standard my-clothes-shrunk-in-the-closet problem. Boo! But I still loved the colors, so when I happened to see a similar fabric at the fabric store I snapped it right up with the goal of making a new, older (as in, not ‘junior’ style) version of the original dress, so I could retire the original from my wardrobe and send it on to a new home. (In fact, when Mr. Q saw me working on the new dress he confused it with the old one because the colors are so similar!)

I decided to use New Look #6143 as a starting point for a pattern for the new version of the dress. It’s got a basic bodice that would be good for other things if I liked it made up and a variation on a basic skirt, which never hurts to have either. I believe the only thing I changed from the original pattern design was the neckline in the front. Of course, it took me probably two years to actually get around to finishing the darn thing. I started it, realized it was too big, got frustrated by the amount of alterations needed, and let it languish (for years…).

This year, however, I was determined. Turns out I had just cut a size larger than I needed. (P.S. I hate figuring out commercial pattern sizing. There is so much ease that the size the pattern envelope claims I should be is often too big, as in this case. Do you ever have that struggle? When I took apart my bodice pieces and traced out the lines for a smaller size, the bodice fit perfectly. Nice, but it would have been so much better if it fit perfectly the first time!) I had already pleated the skirt and added side seam pockets when I started the dress years ago-I wasn’t going to change that–so instead I angled the side seams from the pockets up to the waist to take in the excess amount. Not the most perfect solution, but in a full skirt you can’t see the fudge.

I love how tidy the insides of Carolyn’s modern dresses are (like this and this) and I wanted similar tidiness for this dress. The bodice of my dress is fully lined in lightweight cotton and the skirt edges are all overlocked to keep them from fraying.

Oh, and as I mentioned, I added pockets! Most dresses are better with pockets! (I would say all, but some lightweight dresses just pull in awkward ways with things in the pockets, so really, why bother adding them?)

The dress closes in the back with a (pink!) invisible zipper that is carefully sandwiched between the floral exterior and the bodice lining. The pink zipper matches perfectly and amuses me greatly. It’s a fun color!

At the bottom of the bodice lining the seam allowance is turned up and whip stitched to the waistband seam allowance to create a tidy finish. Tidy finishes like this make my heart pitter-patter with glee!

I’m very pleased with the new version of this dress and so pleased that it is off of the UFO pile! My only slight complaint is that I wanted an everyday dress, but the fabric is a little satin-finish-y rather than matte, even though it’s cotton, which takes it more in a ‘dinner’ or ‘event’ direction rather than ‘wear to work’. Oh well! It’s cute, it fits, and the colors are perfectly me.

I’m looking forward to trying this pattern out in other variations! I have plans to make another version of this dress soon–probably during August!

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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!

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.

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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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Project Journal: Versailles Sacque: A Pretty Petticoat

The petticoat for my Versailles Sacque has been done for a few weeks now, but was waiting in the blog post queue to have its progress made public. It’s sort of boring to look at the whole petticoat, because it’s just a petticoat with longer sides than normal, so I’ve focused the pictures on the more interesting waistband section of the petticoat. (As you can see, this picture was taken before I ironed the front of the petticoat…)

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In making the petticoat I referenced Katherine’s 18th Century Petticoat Tutorial and The Standard 18th Century Petticoat Tutorial at A Fashionable Frolick. The nice thing about Katherine’s tutorial is that it’s adjusted for a petticoat to go over pocket hoops, while the great thing about the tutorial at A Fashionable Frolick is that it has tons of detailed construction information like which stitches to use. Both tutorials are clear and very helpful.

When it came to pleating, I thought I might struggle as Mr. Panniers is larger than normal pocket hoops, but I found that once I put the petticoat on the dress form with Mr. Panniers underneath I could neatly arrange the pleats around the waist and not go into the extra complicated pleated needed for a very square and wide pannier shape (such as in Katherine’s court gown and Kendra’s court gown). Whew! I placed all my pleats off to the side (further than I would for a normal 18th century petticoat) to keep the front of the petticoat flat where the trim will be visible between the fronts of the sacque.

The front panel of my petticoat is the fashionable silk that my sacque is/will be made of. (Enjoy the sneak peak!) The back panels are the same blue mystery fabric that Mr. Panniers is made of. The ties are polyester ribbon to match the silk, because hey, I was already fudging the accuracy of materials with the mystery fabric but on the other hand the color compliments the silk very nicely!

Here’s what the inside looks like. The extra fabric at the top of the petticoat is turned to the inside, slit up the middle to accommodate the curved top edge, and left raw.

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And here is the back. The petticoat is hand sewn. The center back seam is felled mostly because I am slightly obsessive with having nice insides and the other two seams are selvedges. For some reason the raw edges across the top don’t bother me. Go figure.

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I’ve also been playing with hair styling. I’m not satisfied yet, so I don’t consider it done, but at least I’ve made a start! The sacque is coming along nicely, too!

  • Panniers
  • Petticoat
  • Robe a la francaise (with a subset of trimming)
  • Hair
  • Shoes

HSF #1: Elusive Blue In 1899

I made my (first) and last 1890s ball gown in 2012. It is from 1893, with super poof sleeves, and is lovely, but after wearing it to more events than I’ve kept track of without serious thought (which means somewhere over 5 and probably under 10), I was growing tired of it and wanted something new. (Of course, now I’m curious when I wore it. Let’s see: last January’s 1890s ball in 2015, the Nahant Vintage Dance Weekend Grand Ball in 2014, a December Victorian ball in 2013 where I solved the problem of it sliding off my shoulders when I wore it for the first time during Newport Vintage Dance Week in 2012, plus various performances.)

I already had inspiration pinned to a board, I had fabric in the stash (the fabric is more of the same elusive blue I used to make my 1811 evening gown in 2014–it time travels!), and I had an opportunity to wear an 1890s gown this past month! With a vague plan in mind, I started the skirts* sometime in the fall with the sincere hope of getting a fair bit done on them, but only got as far as cutting them out, after which they languished in the closet while I worked on other projects. Languishing is a variation on procrastination, which is the HSF challenge for this January. And so, with the languishing having finished its course, here is the finished new gown.

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Just the facts:

Fabric: 5 yards or so of (likely polyester) elusive blue chiffon, 3 yards or so of elusive blue polyester for skirt lining, 3/4 yard or so robin’s egg blue cotton, 1 yard or so of pink glazed cotton, 1/8 yard or so of taupe silk shantung, some small bits of ivory polyester tulle and ivory silk gauze.

Pattern: Created by me, with reference to Janet Arnold dresses from the 1890s.

Year: 1899.

Notions: Wide grosgrain ribbon, bone casing, 1/4″ plastic wire tires, narrow grosgrain ribbon, black velvet and organza millinery flowers, hooks and eyes, and thread.

How historically accurate is it?: Definitely recognizable in its own time. The silhouette is spot on. The colors are inspired by extant clothing. The construction is mostly accurate. The materials are a mix of accurate and inaccurate. I’ll give it 80%.

Hours to complete:  Many. I worked on this over a few months.

First worn: January 9, 2016.

Total cost: About $15-$20.

(The low cost is due to the fact that the chiffon and lining fabrics were purchased for the amazing price of $1/yard and that many of the notions and small bits were in my fabric stash.)

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For the bodice, I started with the pattern for my 1893 gown (which was adapted from Janet Arnold originally). The back needed very slight alteration, but the front had quite a few changes, due to being worn over my new 1880s corset  and because I wanted different dart placements, neckline, a front/side hidden closure, etc. I did multiple mock-up fittings (no pictures, sorry) before feeling ready to cut real fabric.

Here is the bodice in the middle stages on construction. You’d never guess from the exterior, but the bodice is flat lined with pink! This is not a standard lining color, but I had it on hand, it is the right weight (with a glazed finish, which is standard), and it amused me. By this point, I’d finished my edges, adding boning, nicely finished my interior seam allowances, and covered the back with elusive blue lining and chiffon cut on the bias.

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Next was creating the front bodice main piece, which is also on the bias. I draped it and then bagged the lining/chiffon with the robin’s egg cotton to create nice finished edges. The flapping bit on the left of the picture was turned under and hand sewn later in the process.

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Draping the silk was next. There are actually a number of small pieces carefully pleated before being hand sewn in place.

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My original main inspiration was this gown at the Met (and the alternate skirt follows this idea quite closely), but when I looked at my material options, I really loved this variation, also from the Met. Other dresses with a similar cut were also influential, including this, this, and this. Here’s a similar example that clearly shows the shadow of a side closure.

In the next picture, both the left and right sides have been covered in silk. Each side of the bust layers and attaches separately. I also started playing with flower placement at this point. I was inspired to add black accents to the otherwise subdued colors by this dress. I really like how the black pops!

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Here’s the back around the same stage.

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At this stage, I’ve added gauze and tulle to the front and am playing with the chiffon edging. The flowers are tucked into place to see the effect. I’ve also sewn down the proper right (left in the picture) side. The proper left (right in the picture) side is pinned and tucked, waiting for a final fitting before finishing and adding closures.

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The back also received a treatment of gauze and tulle in addition to a chiffon edging. You can see that the flowers came in stems of three (these are another part of one of two huge hauls of millinery flowers for super cheap that I’ve had in the last few years, yay!).

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Sewing down all the pleats just so, in order to look natural and not constrained, took rather a long time, as did nicely tucking all the silk around the armhole. But it was worth it!

Here is the inside of the bodice, finished. I decided to bind the seam allowances in the same robin’s egg blue cotton that I used for bias binding for the edges and armholes. A hong kong finish is not accurate, but I didn’t feel like hand whip stitching all the seam allowances (although, in the end, it probably would have taken just as much time, or less), plus, I enjoy the effect. There are also closures (yay!) and a waist tape.

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And here’s what the bodice looks like with center fronts together. The bit with the tulle actually hooks over the other side (but pictured this way, you can see the closures). After that, the front panel hooks across the front and is securely hooked at the side seam, effectively covering my pink lining.

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The untrained skirt is flat in front and gathered at the back. It is cut in an umbrella shape (like my 1895 skating ensemble skirt), so that the only seams needed are center back, and a diagonal seam across the back to add width to the panel. The waistband and placket are standard 19th century style, with the exception of the fact that the ribbon I used to stabilize the thin fabrics is leftover gift wrapping ribbon from wedding gifts we received from Crate and Barrel. Yay! It’s hidden on the inside and folded in half, but it amuses me, because recycling is great and it’s nice to have a bit of Mr. Q-related-something in a dress.

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A nice package of placket and waistband pieces. I made one for each skirt.

The most annoying thing about fitting this gown was marking the hem on the skirt. (Fitting the bodice on myself with all the layered closures was also a feat, but more uncomfortable twisting than annoying.) Chiffon is annoying to hem most of the time and it only gets more complicated when you’re marking the hem on yourself. It meant looking in the mirror, bending over to place a marking pin while everything shifted, standing up to check things, and then repeating that over and over again to shift pins by tiny amounts until they all looked good (while wearing a corset and fluffy petticoat of course, so the whole thing would hang properly on my body). Once that was all over, I hemmed each layer with self fabric bias that is turned to the inside and invisibly hand stitched in place.

I was quite successful, but it took a whole afternoon to mark and cut and sew the hem of the chiffon and of the lining (because of course the lining couldn’t stick out or be too short!). The whole thing would have been much speedier if I’d had someone else to mark the hem for me. (I thought of using my hem puffer, but the floor is too close for the puffer to reach and I didn’t have anything to stand on.)

Anyway, the end effect was fabulous. The chiffon and lining swooshed so beautifully that it was necessary to get “swooshy skirt” pictures at the ball just to highlight their movement.

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The ball also gave me an opportunity to have fabulous hair and a new hair ornament instead of a tiara as well as an opportunity to photograph my new 1880s corset completely finished and the fabulous petticoat I have for 1890s/1900s styles. It gets worn often, but hardly ever seen (which I suppose is rather the point of a petticoat, but when you have one as lovely as this, it really should be seen!). There will be future posts for the hair and undergarments, as this post is getting pretty long.

Overall, 1890s ball was lovely, with beautiful dresses and beautiful dancers. There were fun new people as well as quiet moments to sit and have engaging exchanges with friends.

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And the new gown was very comfortable and fun to wear. I’m looking forward to completing the trained skirt (hopefully without too much procrastination) and wearing it this summer!

*My plan is to have two skirts for this gown, one without a train, for dancing, and one with a train, because trains are fun! I only finished the non-trained skirt for the ball, though the trained skirt is assembled and mostly finished with the exception of a closure and hems.