I think it’s fair to say that 2020 was a year of unexpected challenges. Despite that, I remain grateful for many things, including the ability, materials, and motivation to sew. The motivation came and went, if we’re being honest, but it was more often present than not. Keeping my hands busy while making things helps me, sometimes.
This year’s event season was cut short, but before things shut down I attended 3 balls and 1 other event (tea, picnic, outing etc.). I’ve also been grateful to attend 3 socially distanced outings in the later part of the year.
To Do Lists
Last year’s to do list was completed by July! It was great to finish off a few projects that had been sitting around the sewing room for a few years: namely, my 1925 Coat and an 1885 wool dress that I don’t have photos of yet. (It was far too warm in July to consider photos of a heavy wool bustle dress!) The 1875 ensemble was a big project that I had fun making. I’m looking forward to getting more photos of that in the future.
I also did a pretty good job at the things on the ‘maybe’ list from last year in the form of my 1875 hat, 1830s cotton day dress, and some modern dresses, pants, and skirts. Some of those were remakes, but I think they still count.
So, for 2021’s ‘definitely’ to do list, we’re keeping expectations modest in scope (Is that cheating? Can you cheat on your own to do list?):
1885 wool mantle (already done in the first days of the new year!)
Small muff to go with my 1885 mantle (already done in the first days of the new year!)
Updating a hat to go with my 1885 mantle (already done in the first days of the new year!)
1838 cotton day dress bodice (this is close to being done!)
The ‘maybe’ to do list:
The 1790s stays I started in the winter of 2018
1836 cotton day dress
Modern dresses, pants, and skirts
I’m so grateful to continue to find joy in sewing. I hope that joy continues and brings sparks of inspiration to each of you in some way, as well. Wishing all of us joy, gratitude, and good health!
A few years ago, I decided I wanted a 1920s coat. The goal was to make it for an event, but I ran into some construction problems along the way that caused me to give up work for awhile. In January, after letting it sit for about two years, I was tired of looking at the half finished project and worked up the determination to actually finish it.
Though I’ve only worn it once so far, I’m very pleased that I finally finished this coat! It is quite decadent and elegant to wear (and it’s nice to have completed the project so I can put it away)!
My inspiration started with the pattern below. I was intrigued by the flared side pieces and overlapped closure. I enlarged this pattern and did a little adjusting for my proportions.
With the pattern ready to go, I purchased the exterior fabric of the coat and got to work. The exterior is made out of fleece backed velvet upholstery fabric from Fabric.com. Thankfully it isn’t super stiff, like some upholstery fabrics are. The fleece backing is actually quite soft and the exterior has a low pile and lovely sheen. It shows every little brush against the nap though, so I was super careful while making it, transporting it, and wearing it to keep the pile brushed the right way.
The inside body of the coat is lined in tan silk shantung. This was a remnant I purchased years ago from a local discount fabric store. I’ve never found a good use for it until now, when I managed to just squeeze out the pieces I needed for the coat.
Unfortunately, that’s also where the problems started. I cut the sleeve linings on the cross grain of the silk (because I was running low on fabric). I know that grain and cross grain can behave differently, but these were drastically different! The sleeves were so constricting!
Also, I hadn’t widened the sleeves enough to actually move in even without the silk lining! I could get my arms in the sleeves but there was no way I was going to bend them or use them for any useful purpose. Oops!
What to do???
Well, with the event I had intended this for fast approaching… I gave up. I put the project on the back of a chair (so it wouldn’t get marks in the pile!) and moved on.
Two years later, I decided it was time to finish the coat. In the spirit of forging ahead and in order to make things work, I changed a few things from my original vision.
For the sleeves, I scrapped the silk linings, opting to just leave the arms of the coat unlined. This worked because of the softness of the fleece backing. In addition, I was able to cut cuff facings and binding for the armhole seam allowances out of my failed sleeve linings.
I thought I could let out the under sleeve seam and it would be enough extra fabric to make the sleeves comfortable. The needle holes had left scars on the fabric, but I figured no one would see it. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough!
So, I ripped out the let out seam, dug out my fabric scraps, and pieced a section down the entire length of the arm. The piece is about 1″ wide at the wrist and 2″ at the armsceye. What was I thinking with my original pattern??? Thankfully the added piece is not obvious, since it’s on the underside of the arm. And I suppose that if you didn’t know where sleeve seams should be it wouldn’t look out of place!
As well as actually fitting my arm (and allowing for movement!), the bigger armsceye on the sleeve allowed me to move the sleeve up on the shoulder a bit, too, which helped the coat not look oversized.
In addition to the sleeve changes, I also changed the front edges of the coat from that nice jag with buttons to straight from collar to hem. I realized there was no way to do buttonholes I would be happy with in my very thick velour and that the angle I had very carefully sewn just would not lie flat. A slight tug line at the inside corner really bothered me.
I looked at these two pages from a 1925 Sears catalog to help with the design choices at this point.
These helped me decide on the button closure. There is one button and corresponding thread loop on the hip and another below the collar.
The Sears images also helped me decide on the location of the fur trim. The bands and collar are made faux fur leftover from my 1814 Wizchoura Ensemble, also from Fabric.com. The collar is especially warm and comfy when buttoned shut, though it’s also a lot around the face… so I think wearing it open is more likely! This combination of red pile exterior and tan fur shows up multiple times on my 1920s Outwear Pinterest board and it was nice to use fur I already owned instead of buying more.
I decided against fur trim on the cuffs and instead kept the French cuff look, set off with two buttons. This was a feature from the original pattern that was supposed to mirror the jag on the front edges that I eliminated.
I didn’t change the flared side pieces of the pattern and I’m very pleased with the end result. They give a 1920s flip to the otherwise very straight shape of this coat.
The six buttons on the coat are from Farmhouse Fabrics. They’re big, about 1 ¼” across, and they have a wavy pattern on them that helps make them interesting looking without being distracting. They match the velour so well!
All together, the materials used on this coat are: 2 ½ yards of the fleece backed velvet, approximately 2 yards of silk shantung for the lining, scraps of faux fur used on my 1814 Wiztchoura, 6 large buttons, and thread. The total cost of these materials is about $70, including shipping.
I didn’t keep track of the number of hours spent making, altering, and finishing this coat, but I would guess that it is around 30-40. There was some serious frustration in there (or despair, as Anne of Green Gables might say!).
As you can see in all the photos, when I finally wore this coat in January 2020 at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel, the Christmas decorations were still up. I loved (and still do!) how festive the coat looks with the decorations, but by the time this post was written it seemed a bit late for the holiday look here on the blog, so I decided to save this post for this 2020 holiday season. Now, after many months of missing fabulous indoor spaces and events, I’m particularly pleased that I have these photos to share!
Today’s post is going to share more details about and photos of my new 1834 yellow dress. If you missed my last post about this dress, it was a lengthy one sharing oodles of construction details and photos. You can read that past post here.
Here is a reminder image of the fully accessorized dress!
The biggest accessory is my newly completed 1831 bonnet. There is a recent (lengthy) post about the construction of that here, if you want to learn more about it.
Back to the dress itself. Let’s start off with the Historical Sew Monthly details. Challenge #9 is Sewing Secrets:
Hide something in your sewing, whether it is an almost invisible mend, a make-do or unexpected material, a secret pocket, a false fastening or front, or a concealed message (such as a political or moral allegiance).
In this dress, I have two secrets, both of which I mentioned in the dress construction details post. One is pockets in the skirt and the other is that the bodice of this dress is detachable.
First, the pockets. Yay! My pockets are made from the dress fabric. They are French seamed and set into the side front seams of the skirt. On the inside, they look like this.
On the outside, they look like this. They’re a secret because they camouflage so well that you really can’t see them at all unless I pull them open or my hand is disappearing inside!
Second, the bodice detaches. This is very unusual (and possibly unheard of) for the 1830s, though it becomes common practice by the 1850s and 1860s. This system allows me to attach the current bodice, which I’ve dated 1834, or a second bodice that I have in the works which is dated 1838. That opens a whole world of possibilities in terms of showing changing bodice and sleeve styles without needing to create an entire second dress!
A bit closer up, you can just barely make out a loop on the skirt waistband that connects to a hook at center front. There are hooks and loops all around the skirt and bodice waistbands to connect them together.
Now that we’ve seen the relevant dress features, let’s look at the other HSM facts:
Fabric/Materials: 7 ¼ yds of reproduction print cotton, 1 yd muslin, a scrap of canvas for the waistband of the bodice, and a scrap of flannel for the cartridge pleats.
Pattern: Adapted from Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 1, with adjustments for fit and style, as well as The Workwoman’s Guide.
Notions: 2 ½ yds narrow cotton yarn for cording, 2 ½ yds of narrow white lace, and about 23 hooks and loops.
How historically accurate is it?: 95%. The pattern, silhouette, construction methods, and fabric are all quite good, but there is machine sewing on the interior seams.
Hours to complete: 25.75 hours.
First worn: In early October, for an apple picking outing, picnic, and photos!
Total cost: Approximately $60.
In addition to the HSM details, I want to share some more photos as well. These photos were taken during an all day outing in October. There’s still a post coming that will share apple picking photos from the outing, but there were many good ones from our later in the day photo shoot as well.
These next photos were taken in a neat conservation area that has beautiful, varied scenery that includes a pond area, open fields, wooded paths, huge rhododendrons, a meandering river, and this lovely row of pine trees.
I enjoy the line of trees and the interesting perspective they provide. So here you go, a front and back view of this ensemble.
Farther along our walk through this beautiful area we stopped to take some artistic detail shots of the sleeves of this dress. First up, the mancheron on the shoulder of the dress. There’s some pretty good pattern matching to admire and it’s fun to see the gathers up close, too.
Here’s another view of the mancheron and sleeve puff, with the zig zag cuff trim in the background.
I can’t decide if I like that photo or this next one best! The next one is similar, but the focus of the photo is on the zig zag cuff trim instead of the mancheron.
The last detail photo shows the cuff trim in even greater detail, as well as my new belt buckle from Ensembles of the Past!
I purchased the ‘antique gold’ color. I love it! It’s substantial in weight, has precise and delicate details, and will probably outlast me in terms of durability. (This is just my opinion–I’m not paid to say these nice things!)
The last photos I have to show you are a bit of a teaser for the apple picking photos that are still to come. We had the most gorgeous autumn New England day!
The sky was a brilliant blue. The temperature was wonderfully comfortable–neither hot nor cold. The leaves were changing and were starting to crown the trees in vibrant red, yellow, and orange.
And a fresh breeze lifted our spirits and our bonnet ribbons! I’ve so missed events and outings. This was much needed (socially distanced) relief for weary souls. I hope that you have also found relief and joy in these trying times!
Some of my recent posts have mentioned my excursion into sewing clothing from the 1830s. Most recently, in September, I posted about making a corded petticoat to help support a fashionable 1830s silhouette. I also shared a reminder about the fabric I’ve had in mind for an 1830s dress since I bought it seven years ago. It’s finally time to share the finished ensemble created with that fabric!
Today’s post is going to focus on the construction of this dress, but, never fear, upcoming posts will share more finished garment photos as well as construction details about the bonnet.
There is a lot of information about this dress to share and many photos of the process, so I hope you’re ready for a lengthy post!
As you probably guessed from the title of this post, this dress is from the year 1834. The trimming details and shape are directly inspired by the dress pictured below, which is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The V & A Dress is dated to 1830-1834. From a style perspective, this makes sense as these are the years from this decade with the largest sleeves, but it is also around this point in the decade that sleeve fullness starts to slide down the arm. This look that is just beginning to show in the V & A dress, which achieves the falling look with the addition of the mancherons at the top. The mancherons both practically and visually push the fullness of the sleeve off the shoulder.
What is a mancheron? The Oxford English Dictionary has the following entry):
mancheron, n. 1.French Heraldry. A sleeve used as a charge. Obsolete. 2. A piece of trimming on the upper part of a sleeve on a woman’s dress. Now historical.
The pattern for this bodice is based on patterns contained in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 1 and Norah Waugh’s The Cut of Women’s Clothes. I was able to start with my basic darted 1860s bodice and adapt it for the 1830s using information about grain line, dart placement, etc. from the books. This worked well because I know the basic darted bodice fits in areas that can be fussy to fit such as neckline, armhole, etc. and those things (in the 1860s) are still very similar to the shapes from the 1830s.
The sleeve pattern is from Plate 12 (page 84) in The Workwoman’s Guide (published in 1838), which can be viewed on Google Books here. I used the big circle sleeve (Figure 8–shown made up in Figure 7) and varied the top shape so that it forms a downward V shape to allow for my mancherons, which are patterned based on the V & A inspiration dress.
The ladies at American Duchess created a very helpful video discussing sleeve shapes from the 1830s, including showing mockups of a few different sleeve patterns from The Workwoman’s Guide. It is wonderful for seeing how the flat patterns turn into 3D shapes, which I found to be very helpful as I dithered about sleeve patterns.. You can view the video here. Lauren also has a blog post talking about 1830s sleeves, which shows the pattern I chose to use in various stages of its construction, from being flat to being made-up.
The skirt is based on information from the same books as the bodice pattern. It is made of 3 panels of my 45″ wide cotton fabric.
Construction Method Disclaimer
I chose to construct this dress in the mid-19th century way of separate bodice and skirt. This is odd for the 1830s (in fact, I can’t think of any examples that are done this way) as they are usually sewn together to make a one piece dress. However, as I was pondering sleeve options and considering my yardage I was faced with an exciting prospect.
There are so many sleeve variations in the 1830s–super poof, takes-a-while-to-get-used-to-looking-at elbow poof, meticulous pleated details as the poofs are reduced and contained… I wanted to make more than one! Also, I had 10 yards of my beautiful reproduction cotton and I expected my 1834 dress to only use about 7. What would I do with the last 3 yards? That’s not enough to make another dress. But… it is enough to make another bodice, even with giant 1830s sleeves that use a full yard for each arm!
I decided to make one skirt with two bodices, so in addition to this 1834 dress I also have an 1838 bodice halfway completed. It is a variation on a theme, using mostly the same bodice pieces, but with a different front style and different sleeves. More on that in the future, but for the purposes of this post it is an explanation for the fact that the skirt of my 1830s dress hooks to the bodice in a way that is common in the mid-19th century, as you can see below. (The loops on the skirt waistband blend really well with the pattern on the fabric, but you can see them if you look really carefully.)
As I mentioned earlier, my skirt is made up of 3 panels of my 45″ wide cotton. They are carefully pattern matched to keep the scrolling consistent across the panels and to help hide the seam lines. They’re not perfect, but they are pretty darn close.
Two seams are on each side of center front and one is at center back. The two front seams have french seamed pockets set into them below the cartridge pleats. This is wonderfully helpful while wearing the dress! I made sure to make the pockets big enough to hold a phone, keys, etc.
The fullness of the skirt is cartridge pleated to the waistband. I find that this quantity of cotton is weeny looking when cartridge pleated to a waistband without a little help to create loft, so I sandwiched a single layer of cotton flannel into the pleats to help them have a little bit of puff. I just used scrap flannel from my stash for this–the fun dot print pictured below. This is the top of my skirt pressed and ready for pleating!
Here is the skirt in the process of being pleated. The top edge is left raw and folded over the flannel before I ran two rows of parallel stitches to form the pleats.
I absolutely eyeball my cartridge pleats! My stitches are vaguely even but I really don’t worry too much about that. I mark the quarter points of the skirt and waistband and then adjust the pleats to fit. No math for this process!
The waistband has a single layer of canvas inside (a scrap from a decorating project) to help stiffen it and provide stability for the cartridge pleats and closures. This is machine stitched to the cotton where it will not show.
The cotton is then wrapped around the canvas and whip stitched in place. I finished the waistband entirely before whip stitching the cartridge pleats in place.
There are other inspirational dresses on my Pinterest board for this project, as well. Many of them are held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Those are excellent because you can really zoom in on the photos to look at details, but unfortunately they don’t often show interior views of the dresses.
The hardest part about this bodice was the pattern matching! It was mind boggling to keep the flowers growing upwards, match the wave, keep the dark pink flowers at corresponding places, and keep some parts on the bias and some on the straight.
For example, here is my first attempt at the front bodice, which is cut on the bias. It’s not awful… but it’s just not quite right, and that bothers my eyes.
I very carefully tried again…
And was able to get this, which I was much happier with!
And I was able to use the reject front piece to cut out a pocket piece (and later a bit of bias as well)… no waste here!
Here is the front piece after flatlining (the fronts, side backs, and backs of the bodice are all flat lined with muslin), stitching the darts, and putting cording down the center front seam.
Ah yes, the cording! There is 1/16″ cotton cording in most of the bodice seams (front, side back, shoulders, armholes, neckline, and to finish the cuffs). This detail is taken directly from extant 1830s dresses.
My cording is made up of bias scraps, some as small as about 4″ long, that are pieced together. The cording is machine stitched. I made it with even seam allowances for most of the seams, but thought ahead and offset the seam allowance for the neckline cording, to make it easier to turn it under and whip stitch later. The photo below shows the neckline cording (on the top) and regular seam cording (on the bottom).
Here are the side back pieces with the cording attached, before being sewn to the back pieces. As you can see, I carefully matched my pattern across these two pieces as well.
And here is one side back sewn to its corresponding back, with the cording in the seam. Even across these pieces my pattern matching is pretty good, especially at the bottom!
And the back! It also makes me very happy, but was a super mind boggle to figure out! I have a flap that overlaps past center back, covering a pleat on the other side that will anchor my loops. I found this detail on a number of 1830s dresses, including this 1835-1836 dress at The Met and this c. 1837 dress at The Met.
It doesn’t look like much until it’s lined up to be closed… and then it’s perfect!
The final step was to finish the bottom. I wanted to have a self fabric waistband on this bodice, as with the bodice at the V & A, so that I would have the option of wearing my dress with or without a belt, while still having the visual change of pattern in the fabric.
The outer waistband and inner muslin facing encase the bottom seam allowance of the bodice. They are machine stitched at the top, have graded seam allowances, and then the muslin is whip stitched along the bottom.
With the bodice mostly assembled, I moved on to the sleeves. These are not flat lined.
I upgraded my sleeve puffs for this ensemble by giving them ties to attach to the armsceye of the dress so I can control the height that they sit at. This is essential for getting the right shape poof with this sleeve style. Looking into a sleeve, here is one sleeve puff tied in place.
I edged my decorative mancheron and cuff zig zag with narrow lace before attaching them to my sleeve. The cuff zig zags are sewn on by hand, while the full tops of the sleeves are gathered and machine sewn to the mancherons (you can see a the seam allowance from this seam in the photo above).
After the trim was added to the cuffs, I sewed cording to the bottom edge and then a muslin facing to finish everything off. This allows me to have nicely finished edges for the sleeve openings, which extend up about 8″ and allow for the tight fit of the forearms.
Here’s what that looks like flipped up and ready to be slip stitched along the top edge. You can see my hand sewing from attaching the cuff zig zag.
So… I got this far and realized that my sleeve was too narrow (even though I’d had no trouble in my mockup!) and my hand wouldn’t fit through the opening! Even if I made the opening higher, the sleeve edges wouldn’t butt, but would have a gap!
It’s good to have extra fabric… Having extra allowed me to make the decision to cut off the old forearm pieces and piece on new ones (with careful pattern matching, of course!). This meant redoing the cuff trim and finishing, but I couldn’t find a better solution. The seam hides under the crazy big sleeves, so it’s really not noticeable at all (even if I hadn’t pattern matched the seam!).
Finally, after these various successes and challenges… the dress was done! Here are some more photos of it in its finished state.
This is the inside of the bodice with the skirt attached. You can see machine stitching, seam allowances mostly left unfinished (they really don’t fray at all), neck binding, closures, etc.
This closeup shows a shoulder seam, as well as the neckline and armhole finishing. The bias on the neck is turned under and whip stitched. The lace is sewn on top of that. The armhole seam allowances were trimmed and then roughly whip stitched to hold the layers together. You can also see a little square of the twill tape tie for the sleeve puff (it is sewn to the armsceye seam allowance below the shoulder seam).
Here is the finished cuff opening. Hidden under the zig zag are the hooks that correspond to the loops on the muslin facing.
This is the center back opening with all of the closures in place. Those hooks really do camouflage well on the brown scroll, don’t they? Doing the closures this way leaves lots of seam allowance at center back for me to make alterations in the future if I need to.
This photo shows the inside of the skirt and bodice. Specifically, you can see the raw edge of the top edge skirt seam allowance folded to the inside (the skirt is intentionally shorter in the front than in the back, which you can see in the varied top edge seam allowanced length), the french seam of the pocket, and the skirt opening, which is simply an opening in the back seam (no placket on this skirt, the fullness of the cartridge pleats easily hides the opening).
One last photo! This is the cartridge pleats and bodice waistband from the exterior. Cartridge pleats are always visually intriguing to me and I also love how the waistband of the bodice is perfectly cut to show off the scroll and flower pattern.
After so many construction photos, here is a reminder of what the completed dress looks like from the exterior. I’m looking forward to sharing more photos in future posts!
Thanks for sticking with me through this very long post!
The first outing of my Plum Pants With Pointed Pockets was to pick peaches! This was a great socially distanced and outdoor activity that I highly enjoyed (apparently the orchards around here are seeing record turnout for pick-your-own this year due to people looking for outdoor activities).
The orchard was lovely, full of charming vistas, and it was easy to walk to the far ends of the orchard where there were few people.
Here I am, casually picking peaches in my plum pants! Lest you fear that masks were not worn on this outing, here is the photographic evidence that I did have a mask with me. I intentionally sought out areas with no other people around so that I could remove my mask for a few photos.
In addition to the fun of hunting for the best peaches on the trees, I had a peck of peaches to bring home with me at the end of the day!
These were the most delicious, sweet peaches!
I ate them plain, I blended them down to make peach puree for cocktails, I baked a peach-thyme galette, I added them to smoothies… There was a lot of peach in my life for a few weeks!
Yum! I’ll definitely be picking fresh peaches again in the future!
And I’m pleased that my Plum Pants have been worn a few times since the peach outing as well!
Last year, I happened across a lovely plum colored linen/rayon blend fabric at Joann’s that was such a perfect Quinn-color that I just couldn’t pass it up…. Accordingly, 3 yards came home with me along with the idea to make wide leg pants out of the yardage.
Trying To Determine The Design
I wasn’t really sure exactly what I wanted in terms of specific design details, which made the patterning and mockup process rather slow. I spent a few hours making mockups that fiddled with the width of the legs, the length of the crotch seams, and my design idea–trying to decide exactly what it is I was trying to make!
I was extremely frustrated for awhile (close to despair, as Anne of Green Gables might say) as the mockups looked like medical scrubs. The legs weren’t wide enough to look like the vision in my head at that point and I just couldn’t figure out what the details would be. I thought I wanted a non-functional wide tie at the waist, but that wasn’t looking right with the scrub looking pants. (The scrub problem was likely related to the fact that the old sheets I was using as my mockup fabric are dark grey, so the color and texture was scrub like…)
Not too long after my frustrating mockup sewing session, I was sewing something else and watching the Netflix series High Seas when I saw a pair of high waisted pants on one of the lead actresses and thought ‘That’s it!’. This particular pair of pants had details I loved: a high waist, wide legs, and pockets that added interest and vintage charm. After that, mocking up the pants and finishing the pattern was so much easier!
After pre-washing my fabric, I was ready to go! The basic pants are pretty straight forward with front and back pieces as well as a waistband, but they have additional pieces for the pockets as well as canvas interfacing for the waistband.
The pants are mostly machine sewn, with a bit of hand finishing on the waistband (you can see the whip stitches on the bottom of the waistband in the photo below). The exposed inside edges are either french seamed, as with the pockets (on the left in the photo below), or finished with a serger (on the right in the photo below).
The pockets and waistband facing are cut from an early mockup iteration made from repurposed sheets (yay for reusing old fabric!). I decided to use the mockup fabric for the real pants because 1) the mockup made me mad and I wanted to get back at it 2) the smooth cotton is a good facing/pocket material.
Here’s a look inside one of the pockets. It’s not likely to ever be seen (in any venue other than this!), but the top stitching along the facing edges makes me very happy.
The pants have a wide hem–2″–that is machine top stitched in place. With perfectly matching thread (that was in my stash as a gift from a friend–yay!), the topstitching blends right in.
While all of the visible stitching is done in the perfectly matching thread, I didn’t want to run out of it and so the interior seams are sewn with a more purple thread. The serging is done in brown, because that’s the closest neutral that I had cones of. It blends with the grey facings/pockets to create what appears to be an intentional ‘design choice’!
The pants close with a lapped zipper at center back.
The Zipper Saga
Oh, and that’s a story! So I bought a zipper, set it in, and was so excited!
I tried on my pants and showed them off to Mr. Q (who wasn’t particularly impressed, because vintage styles don’t really appeal to him). I went to take off the pants so I could finish them off and couldn’t get the zipper undone… I was stuck! And they’re fitted pants at the top, so it wasn’t like I could shimmy out of them. I tried to pick a few stitches, but couldn’t see what I was doing, because the zipper is at the center back, and I was afraid I’d poke myself instead of the pants, or rip a hole instead of picking stitches… I had to go back to Mr. Q and get his help seam ripping the zipper enough that I could get out of the pants! He thought it was hysterical. I don’t know that I completely agree with that… though it is more amusing after the fact.
After managing to get the pants off, I took this photo to document the debacle.
Then the offending zipper was completely removed. I reset it, thinking that I’d stitched too close to the teeth and that was the problem, and it still didn’t work (I tested it out without putting the pants on the second time!). I doubled checked that I didn’t sew too close to the teeth the second time and that didn’t seem to be the problem. I don’t know what the issue was because I’ve set many zippers and haven’t had this problem and this zipper works just fine when not attached to a garment. Horrible thing–it was sternly put away and may never be used again!
The solution was that I went out to a different store and bought a new zipper. It actually matches much better, though it is a regular zipper as opposed to an invisible one. Most importantly, it works as it’s supposed to! So all is well in the end.
Here is a view of the back of the pants, showing the new zipper, darts, interior finishing, and waistband closure.
As I was looking for inspiration for these pants, I was reminded of fabulous wide leg pants made/patterned by other wonderful bloggers. These were all indirect inspiration for my pants.
My new pants are super comfortable to wear. The fabric is stable and yet lightweight enough to flow nicely. The waistband is suitably substantial and does not crease when I sit for extended periods.
The pockets are great! They make a statement that elevates the pants to being stylish (vintage stylish, of course!) and I patterned them to be big enough to easily store my phone and other essentials–so helpful!
One final photo and story for you… I took these photos in my yard without help, so I needed to figure out a way to stabilize my camera and easily maneuver it around my yard. Prior to this, I’d clamped it to a ladder, but the ladder was heavy to move around, so for this photo session I decided to clamp my phone to my lawn mower handle. Yes–lawn mower! It worked pretty well–easy to roll around the yard, but occasionally my phone would slip and I would get a series of photos of the ground and the lawn mower handle! Any neighbors that saw me probably wondered what I was up to!
Added to the challenge was the fact that I didn’t feel like putting contacts in, so I would leave my glasses on the lawn mower, set the timer on my phone, and then run to my chosen marker to stand for the photos. I have pretty terrible eyesight, so I can’t see the timer on my phone once I stand away from it. That plus the bright sun (it was a hot day!) made for a lot of squinting.
This outtake photo is one of the ones that didn’t make the cut (except to be amusing)–squinting as I walk back towards my lawn mower camera setup!
I wanted to up my silhouette game for the 1830s and achieve a fuller looking skirt than I’ve been able to do with my 1832 velvet gown in the past. To that end, I decided to make a corded petticoat.
I followed the directions from American Duchess in this video and only changed the cording pattern to suit my materials. If you’re interested in making a corded petticoat yourself I definitely recommend the American Duchess video. I found it easy to follow along with the steps and appreciated the mentions of pitfalls and tips along the way.
I was super excited to get started and maintained my enthusiasm for the first 4 sections of cording, but by the top 2 sections I was definitely feeling ready to be done! By that point the petticoat was unruly and difficult to turn as I sewed around each channel. Despite being less fun than when I started, I pushed on, and I was quite grateful when I finished the last section of cording!
Here’s a closeup photo of the cording sections. I used a continuous piece of cord for each section, as suggested in the American Duchess video.
My opening is just a portion of one seam left open just above the top section of cording. This is what it looks like from the outside. I made the waistband extra long to allow for future adjustment (just in case!), which is why the button is set over so far from the edge of the waistband.
On the inside, that opening looks like this. The second layer of fabric is just turned back from the edge and top stitched in place. The other seam allowance edges are selvedges, so they didn’t require finishing. Easy and tidy!
The ivory cotton waistband is whip stitched on the inside finish it all off nicely. Hidden underneath is a layer of cotton canvas that helps to stiffen the waistband a bit.
This petticoat is almost entirely machine sewn and took 8.5 hours to make. I used 4 ¼ yards of ivory cotton, 13 ¼ yards of 5/16″ cording from Wawak, 39 ¼ yards of 7/32″ cording also from Wawak, the canvas scrap for the waistband, and a lone ivory button from the stash. The materials cost about $33.
When I started this petticoat, I thought that it would only be worn with the 1832 velvet gown I mentioned earlier, but since then 1830s daywear using the yellow print cotton has made it onto my sewing table… and this will definitely get worn with the new dress. I also hope to be able to wear it with 1840s dresses that will someday make it onto my sewing table. It’s a great step towards improving my silhouette!
Last fall, I had the opportunity to take part in a presentation focused on the clothing of middle and upper class African Americans in Providence, RI around the turn of the 20th century (you can see photos of and information about this event here). In order to generate some promotional materials that incorporated both of the presenters (as opposed to having separate photos of each of us), my co-presenter, Lady Estelle Barada, suggested that we schedule a photo shoot together and so we spent a beautiful, sunny summer morning traipsing around a state park, accompanied by photographer David Cruz.
The outfit I chose to wear, my 1904 Anne of Green Gables Ensemble, has been a difficult outfit to photograph in the past, especially the blouse with its white-on-white lace trim and the subtle changes in the direction of the stripes. Given that challenge, I was extra excited when I saw the results of David’s work. He clearly captured the small details of our clothing, including the blouse details!
There are many wonderful photos from our shoot and I enjoy the captivating liveliness that each photo shares–you can just image that movement will continue as soon as you blink or look away.
On the outfit front, I love how comfortable my ‘Anne Ensemble’ is. I had no difficulty tromping through tall grass, climbing over rock walls, sitting on a picnic blanket, and more!
I was also pleased with how my hair turned out. I was able to achieve Edwardian volume around the face while maintaining a side part that gave me two separate poufs on the top/side of my face.
I’m very grateful that David graciously gave permission for me to share these photos with you. As always, please do not share these photos without appropriate photographer credit and a link back to this source.
Since this photo was taken my shape has changed, making the dress a garment that could no longer be worn.
I’ve also never worn this dress all that much. It’s easy to draw a seam along the bust, but hard to pattern it so that the stripes are straight and it actually follows a curved body comfortably. It was ok, but not the most comfortable dress I’ve ever made. And it was a lot of purple.
I have limited fabric leftovers from this dress–certainly not enough to make a whole new front bodice, which is what would be necessary– and not being completely sold on the idea of the dress as a whole, I decided to turn it into a skirt! This eliminated the bodice problem and instantly cut down on the quantity of purple in one seam-ripping swoop.
I started by removing the bodice and taking out the zipper where it crossed the waistband, as well as down into the skirt just past the seam that connects the waistband to the top of the skirt, as you can see below.
My waist is larger now than it was when I made the dress, but I was saved by the fact that the waist of the skirt had been a few inches too big when I originally made the dress. Whew!
At the time I made the dress, I’d solved the problem of the skirt being too big by adding tucks on the back. This kept me from needing to alter the side seams, which I didn’t want to do because I’d matched the stripes perfectly.
To alter the dress now, all I had to do was take out the tucks and the waist fit! (I’m reminded that I had a similar problem/good fortune while letting out the waist of my 1904 Anne of Green Gables skirt–I mentioned it in this past post. Interesting that they’re both inspired by Annes!)
Luckily, I had enough extra waistband length to accomodate letting out the tucks. It was a little annoying to do, because I had to take the waistband off entirely to reset it with the extra across the back and I had serged the skirt and waistband seam allowances together. It was a bit of extra seam ripping, but that was better than trying to piece the waistband and match the stripes.
The next step was adding a waistband facing. I used a scrap of white striped cotton for the facing. It is machine sewn on the top edge, understitched (to keep the facing from rolling out and being seen), and then hand whip stitched on the inside.
Here’s a closeup view of the waistband. I shorted the zipper so it stops below the waistband, but I did not re-sew the whole zipper length–I still didn’t want to mess up the stripe matching on the side seam!
The final step was a hook and bar to close the waistband.
Ta da! The dress is now a skirt.
I’m not completely sold on the skirt. I like it, but I don’t know if I love it.
And I still feel it’s a lot of purple.
I thought it would go with more tops in my wardrobe, but it doesn’t really. I like it with white. I think it would look nice with yellow, but the yellow top I had in mind is horizontally striped and that just seems like too much with a vertically striped purple skirt!
I think I need to try wearing it for awhile and see how I like it. I haven’t really had a chance to wear it this summer given that I haven’t been going out, or wearing real clothes (as opposed to comfy clothes) very much. So a judgement about whether I like the dress-turned-skirt is on hold. That being said, I’m still excited that at least the garment is wearable now, whereas when it was a dress it was not.
I was recently inspired to finish off not just one, but two UFO ‘this doesn’t fit anymore’ projects that fall into the closet shrinkage category. I’ve decided to post about them separately, since I have a number of photos for each, so today we’ll look at my 1953 Dot Dress and next time we’ll look at my 1940s Inspired Anne Adams Dress.
I loved (and still do) the lightweight fabric, the fun dot print, and the pink, purple, and and rust colors of the dots. I wore this dress for the next few years–to a few historical/vintage events as well as in my everyday life.
This next photo is from 2016–the last time I could squeeze into the dress and actually close the zipper.
After that, I had to accept that the dress no longer fit. My shape had changed and it just wasn’t feasible. I was sad!
Fast forward to 2019, and I had the courage to decide to remake the dress, somehow, to make it fit. I got started by cutting straight down the front, stopping just short of the waistband, to see how much I needed to adapt the bodice…
It was rather a lot! I ran out of inspiration… and let the dress hang in my closet until recently.
I had thought I would just be able to add a piece to the front, somehow, and that would be enough. But when I started really looking at things again, I realized that the dress needed more than that to really do it justice. The side darts needed to be let out, the underarms need to be raised and filled in, the waist was still very tight, and there was the bust issue.
Oh, and I had minimal scraps for these alterations, partly because I’d used some of the larger ones to make ice skate soakers in 2015. (I’m not saying I shouldn’t have used my scraps to make a second project that brings me joy, but… the alterations would have been easier if I’d had wider scraps to work with!)
The front needed to have more more space created, about 3″ worth, but I had no scraps both wide enough and long enough to make a straight panel without seams. So I decided to get creative with a straight panel, adding tucks to it so I could hide seams within the tucks. I was inspired by the dotted dress Miss Hero Holliday wears in this wardrobe roundup post.
Here’s what my pieced piece looked like before pleating (lots of P’s!).
After a fair bit of complicated math (I’m pretty sure I made it more complicated than it needed to be), I was able to achieve a dress front that looks like this.
Essentially, I added princess seams. It was complicated to figure out, because I had cut straight down to figure out what was needed and I needed to add as much as 3″ at the bust while adding nothing at the waist, while actually adding in the panel that was 3″ wide from top to bottom. That means that I basically created a curve on the old center front line that was filled in with the straight pleated panel.
While being worn, it looks like this.
On the inside, I carefully bound all the raw edges in pink hug snug, just as I had when I first made the dress. However, I realized when trying on the altered dress that the pleats just opened up instead of staying put.
This seems like it should have been an obvious problem from the beginning, but my brain missed it until I tried on the dress with the pleats in place.
So I had to figure out how to hold the pleats in place. The middle ones are held by the bits of grosgrain ribbon, while the side ones are invisibly tacked in place under the fold.
In addition to the front pleated panel, I also let out the side darts, which helped to create bust space and also raised the armhole a little bit as well. When I put the bias binding back on after doing all the other alterations I maxed out my meager seam allowance, which also raised the armhole up a bit.
You can just barely see my old stitch line on the side dart (on the top left side of the photo below). (You can compare this updated inside view to the original inside view in this post showing the original construction.)
And as you can see in both the photo above and the one below, I added a piece at the side seam, both above the waistband and in the waistband. There’s also a little crescent of added fabric on the back armhole (on the right sides of these photos), that fills in the raised underarm area.
I was very careful to re-finish the insides of the dress as nicely as I had the first time. That includes binding all the raw edges in hug snug (sometimes piecing in little pieces to do so) as well as adding pieces of bias to finish the new, wider neckline.
I decided to put in the zipper by hand this time around, as my first attempt on this dress with a machine sewn lapped zipper was a bit clunky where it went over the waistband.
All of these steps definitely added a bit of time to the alterations, but it makes me happy to still have lovely finished insides even after altering the dress.
The underarm area looks like this on the outside now. The busy print really helps to hide all my piecing seams! You can just make out some old stitch lines (like the one to the left of the zipper), but they’re not noticeable when the dress is being worn, thankfully.
I’m so pleased that I can wear this dress again! It actually fits better now than it did the first time, imagine that!
I wouldn’t have been able to make these alterations happen if I hadn’t kept my scraps!
I’m so grateful to all those seamstresses from the past few hundred years who have shown me that piecing is ok and making do/repairing/altering to keep getting wear out of clothes is ok, too! It’s a wonderful benefit of making my own clothes and knowing how to sew.