Ravenclaw 1870s Gown 1: Research and Design

When anyone asks “what is your dream project?” I can’t answer because of all the bustle dresses battling in my mind. There is something about the more-is-absolutely-more level of detail, and the unique silhouettes that gets my creative juices flowing. This dress started as an idea that we were batting around at work several years ago: Hogwarts themed bustle dresses! Hogwarts houses are a fun bit of inspiration because they are associated with three different things: a color scheme, an animal, and a personality type. Now, if you’re going to design a Hogwarts house themed dress, you obviously have to start with your own house. In my case: Ravenclaw, hands-down. So for Ravenclaw, that means:

Color scheme: Blue and Bronze (yes it was blue and silver in the movies, don’t get me started)

Animal: Eagle

Personality type: studious, bookish, intelligent, witty, driven by knowledge above all

It was fun to imagine a muggle-born Ravenclaw witch paying calls to her muggle family while sporting her house colors. I’d imagine Victorian witches pioneered the idea of hiding wands inside of umbrellas.

I started by digging through photographs of extant dresses from the early 1870s for ideas of ways to use color, and for bird and feather-like details.

Those tiny knife pleats around the neck are wonderfully feathery, but the real kicker here are the wing-like foldbacks of the overskirt front. I knew I wanted an overskirt, but there was something about the apron-y look of many of them that just didn’t stand out to me for this dress. The overskirt here was a breakthrough for me.

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Dress, early 1870s, from the Irma Bowen Textile Collection at the University of New Hampshire

This dress gave me the perfect swallow-tail back to go with my winged overskirt!

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Walking Dress, 1870-1875, The Met

I love the amount of contrast bias edging on these ruffles! This photo also shows just the silhouette I’m going for.

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Dress, 1870, Kent State University Museum

I love the skirt trim on this–knife pleats on the bottom, scallop-y shapes on top, with what seems to be a velvet ribbon in-between.

Day dress, American, ca. 1870-75. Silk faille and velvet.
Day dress, American, ca. 1870-75. Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington

I’m having trouble finding the exact documentation on this dress, but the shapes look right for the time period, and that feather-y trim everywhere was too good to resist looking at!

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I also looked at lots of fashion plates in books like this one:

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You can find it here.

And I’ve been absolutely loving the book Embellishments: Constructing Victorian Detail, which not only has wonderful detail shots of extant gowns, but also teaches you how to create some of the most common yourself! Unfortunately, it seems to have gone out of print, but you can find used copies around.

https://i2.wp.com/www.schaefferarts.com/dev/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/EmbellishmentsCov72-tilted.pngAfter putting all of this information into my brain, and stirring it around, this is the design I came up with:

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I wanted to keep the bodice plain–a bit uptight and schoolmarm-y, and then make the skirt magical and bird-like.

It will be made in Midnight Blue and Cocoa Brown Silk Taffetas with Navy Cotton Velveteen details. All of the fabrics come from Renaissance Fabrics.

I’m currently working on bringing the underskirt into being, and in the meantime you can read all about the making of my Victorian understructure:

Chemise and Drawers

Corset

Bustle and Petticoat

1870s Unmentionables: Layer 3-Bustle and Petticoat

And here we are! The third and final segment of 1870s undergarments! If you missed the last two, check out:

1870s Unmentionables: Layer 1-Chemise and Drawers

and

1870s Unmentionables: Layer 2: Corset

The final additions to the silhouette are all about skirt volume. Skirts in the early 1870s were just beginning to deflate from the full elliptical hoops of the 1860s. But instead of going completely away, the volume moved up, settled just below the back waist and became the bustle. So this:

Victorian fashion plate with children 1867.

Victorian fashion plate with children 1867.
Fashion Plate from The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, May 1867

Became this:

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Fashion Plate from Victoria, March 1870

I was going for a silhouette from the very beginning of the Bustle Era, so my base layer is Truly Victorian’s voluminous Grand Bustle, which gives support both to the bustle shape in the back, and also around the hem, so that the entire skirt maintains some volume. The pattern is very simple and easy to follow, and you can even buy pre-cut boning for your size right from Truly Victorian‘s website, which was both cheaper and easier than buying a 10 yard roll.

My fabric is a gorgeous purple cotton sateen from Renaissance Fabrics. I can’t say enough good things about this fabric, is beautifully soft, has a stunning sheen, and I love the color!

It begins with stitching the two front pieces together, leaving the top of the seam open, and stitching down the seam allowances to make a placket where the bustle will close.

Then you put the boning channels, which are pieces of bias tape, in the back. I used tracing paper and wheel to mark where the channels needed to go.

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There are four horizontal channels, which are very straightforward:

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And then one more, which is made of two diagonal pieces and one small “tab”, for a fifth bone to go through. This bone helps the bustle keep a nice dome shape without drooping.

 

Ruffles all down the back help give the shape extra floof, while also softening any awkward lines created by the boning. The final ruffle at the bottom won’t go on until everything else is put together.

My ruffles are made of cotton organdy because it’s lightweight and easy to gather, but stiff enough not have the volume completely crushed out of it by heavy skirts. I bought white organdy and dyed it purple to (sort-of) match the sateen. It’s not perfect, but close enough for under-garments, right?

The back also has a brace that pulls in the edges of the piece to make sure all the volume goes straight back, rather than expanding too much to the sides.

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It was pretty nuts to crush base fabric, brace, ruffles, and bias tape into the side seams, but it did happen.

Once the fronts and backs are put together, one more bias tape boning channel goes around the entire bottom of the skirt, about four inches up from the hem. The hem itself is also used as a boning channel.

The final ruffle can either stay on the back with the rest of them, or go all the way around the hem. I chose the latter option because why say no to MORE FLOOF?!

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The final task is to get everything gathered onto the waistband. I decided to gather the back volume, and pleat the front/side volume to give myself as much poof in the back as possible, while keeping the front relatively smooth.

I finished off the inside of the waistband with a quick whipstitch.

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Put the boning in:

And voilà!

The petticoat is view one of Truly Victorian’s Victorian Petticoats pattern. It’s a great, straightforward pattern that includes variations to get you from the early 1870s all the way through the turn of the century.

The petticoat starts the same way as the bustle: sew a center seam, leaving the top open for a placket, though this time the closure is at center back.

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The upper portion of the petticoat is very simple: there are darts in the front and side pieces to eliminate bulk, and then a nice large back section to gather up over the bustle. Things start getting exciting with the middle section, the flounce. It is gathered onto the top section, and ornamented with tucks, which help to stiffen it. The tucks take forever, since the piece is about five yards around. I also added an extra two tucks to shorten the petticoat.

And then there are 10 yards of ruffle to contend with. Once again I did this in organdy for extra stiffness. The ruffle gets hemmed first, then gathered onto the middle flounce. When gathering, I normally divide up the piece into quarters in order to distribute the gathers more evenly, but this ruffle was so huge, I had to divide it into eighths!

And one more waistband, this one narrower and closed with a drawstring:

And we’re done!

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And that’s a wrap on the undergarments! Next comes the underskirt! I will probably be working on this project concurrently with my upcoming Adora Belle Dearheart cosplay, since the North American Discworld Convention will be here before I know it, and I have a petticoat, gown, possible jacket, and parts of Brandon’s suit to complete before September!

Idle hands, you know…

Two Weekends of Tambour

I’ve gotten to spend the past two weekends doing one of my favorite things: dressing up and demonstrating needlework at Locust Grove! For these demos I was doing tambour embroidery, which was a very popular form of embellishment from the mid-18th century up into the early Victorian era, when it was eventually supplanted by machine work and fresh, new hobbies. It has never gone away completely, however, and is still used in embellishing couture clothing, and especially for bead and sequin work.

The late 18th century and Regency eras were the heyday of tambour whitework, which produces a beautiful lacy effect on either fine fabrics, or net. It is very fun to do and satisfying, and makes a great demo because it progresses faster than needle and thread embroidery, so guests can see a piece growing even if they only watch me work for a few minutes.

The first piece, which I finished at Gardener’s fair two weekends ago, I’ve been working on for quite some time. It is a fichu embroidered with a design from the August 1814 issue of Ackermann’s Repository.

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I was very excited to finally finish up this piece on Sunday!

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The second design is from March 1814. I am doing two strips of it, about 18″ long, which will make some lovely sleeve cuff ornamentation. I started working on these during our Farm Distillery opening this past weekend.

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It’s been a great two weekends, but it will be very nice to have a quiet weekend at home. I’ll be moving forward once more with the bustle and petticoats for my Ravenclaw-inspired 1870s look!

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1870s Unmentionables: Layer 2-Corset

Despite my long time love of late-Victorian silhouette and detail, it has taken me a long time to jump in to an outfit. This is partly because I didn’t have any immediate upcoming event at which to wear a bustle gown, but mostly because all of those underlayers are intimidating! You have to dig through a lot of non-visible structure before you get to the pretty dress, and once you’re there, the gown is no picnic.

Chief among these complicated structures is the corset. I have made multiple sets of Regency stays before, but as far as I’m concerned, those are nothing compared to the Victorian corset. So I dragged my feet for a long time, but after the dullness that is making chemise and drawers, the corset looked much more interesting.

And you know what? It was! I was shocked how much I enjoyed making this thing. Two rounds of test corsets were boring, and took me a while, but once I got to the real thing the process was surprisingly fun, and even more surprisingly fast. The only part of making the corset that took as long as I expected was binding the edges. Oh, and flossing, which took much longer than I expected.

I used Laughing Moon 100–the same pattern I used for the chemise and drawers. It has two corset options the Dore, which has no bust gussets, and the Silverado, which does, I chose the Silverado.

I started with a test corset. I didn’t take pictures of the first one because it was frankly embarrassing. I am very short, so I went ahead and shorted the pattern by two inches, which in my defense, I often have to do. Turns out, not this particular pattern. I made a second test corset, shortened by one inch, which came out much better.

I ended up shrinking the gussets by one size, trying that out, and then cutting the real fabric!

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I used a subtly-striped cotton twill as my outer fabric. When it came it was slightly lighter-weight than I would have preferred, but since I had a very strong backing material, I went ahead with it anyway. I anticipate needing to replace this corset in the next few years, but since I enjoyed making it, that’s fine with me. It will give me a chance to make one covered in pretty taffeta!

The first step in the actual corset build is inserting the front-closing busk, which is a little fiddly, but not nearly as involved as you might think from looking at them. For the hook side, you simply line up the busk with the seam-line on the correct front piece and trace around it, skipping over the hooks.

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Then you can simply sew the front and the front lining together at the center front as normal, but leaving gaps in the seam for the hooks to poke through. Then turn it right side out, put the busk in place, and stitch around it to keep it secure.

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And now: the knob side. You stitch together the other front and front lining as per usual, then line it up with the hook side on the table, as if it were closed in front, and mark a dot in the center of each hook.

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Then one by one, you open a hole at each dot with an awl, and put the knob side of the busk through and stitch it in place, just as you did with the hook side.

Ta-da! One finished busk!

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The back pieces come next–the fabric is sewn to the lining along the center back seam so that the grommets can go in now, when you won’t have to wrestle with an entire corset.

And with the hardware in, the real sewing starts.

First: the gussets. Bust gussets are just extra pieces of fabric that help the corset fit around your bust. They can be a bit tricky, since they are inserted into just part of a seam between two other full-length pieces, but I find them very satisfying when put in correctly. One side of the gusset gets sewn to one of the two corset pieces from top to the point at the bottom where the seam allowances on either side of the gusset piece would intersect. Then the other side of the gusset is sewn to the other corset piece from the top to the same point. The, with the extra gusset seam allowance pinned out of the way, the two corset pieces are sewn together below the gusset.

These gussets got some nice top stitching to keep them sturdy.

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The rest of the corset body is very straightforward sewing, which I didn’t bother to take photos of it, but I did take the last chance to check for fit when the outer fabric was all sewn.

And good thing I did too, because it laced completely shut, and I ended up taking 1/4″ out of each seam!

The other important thing to note when trying it on at this stage is where it creases at the waist. Since the waistline takes a lot of strain from the laces, it gets reinforced with a piece of twill tape to prevent it from stretching. I simply marked where the creases were at the waist and pinned the twill tape following that line.

And then stitched along each seam to hold the tape in place.

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That is the final thing that needs doing before the rest of the lining goes in!

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And now, the fun begins. Boning channels!

Because I wanted to reinforce the structure in every possible way, I first stitched in the ditch to hold the fabric and lining together securely.

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There are a total of 24 bones in this corset–one along each seam, two at center back, one down the center of every piece where there was space for them, and three in the middle of each side-front piece.

Before binding the edges, I basted some cute little lace along the seamline, where it would poke fetchingly out from under the binding.

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I bound the edges in bias strips of the outer fabric.

And now for the part I was most excited about! Flossing! Flossing is a kind of embroidery around the ends of the bones, which is both decorative and functional. It helps hold the bones still in their channels, and prevent them from tearing through the fabric with wear. It is much easier to replace some worn out flossing than to replace an entire hole-y corset!

I did my flossing using a dark teal cotton embroidery floss.

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My first attempt (right side) was a bit wobbly…

I did the wing shaped ones on either side of the grommets, then switched to criss-cross ones on the rest of the corset.

I watched North and South on Netflix while I was stitching, and Marionette was very happy to help.

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Flossing finished!

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I am so excited about this corset! I really enjoyed making it, and I’m actually excited about making another, fancier one in the future. It’s a pretty basic corset, but the little details make me happy.

I’m on to the bustle and petticoat, and then I finally get to start covering up all that under-structure with beautiful silk! I can’t wait!

1870s Unmentionables: Layer 1- Chemise and Drawers

It’s here! I’m finally starting on a project that I’ve been planning for close to two years!

At work, since we work with out hands, we end up talking about a lot of random things: food, Star Wars theories, the relative merits of various names, cats, genetics, and Harry Potter to name just a few. Not just about Harry Potter, of course, but about the whole Wizarding World: its history, its issues, its everything. We love to speculate about things, and with this kind of talk come all sorts of fun costuming ideas. We’ve all seen what wonderful things can happen when you put wizards in the 1920s in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. But before that even came out, I was planning this outfit: an 1870s bustle gown inspired by Ravenclaw House. It will be a historically-accurate (as much as anything is) gown, fit to wear to reenacting events, but the colors and the design are inspired by the personality and the symbols of Ravenclaw.

There will be more about that as I get to work on the actual gown, but before you can have an 1870s gown, you must have an 1870s under-structure, so that is where I am beginning.

For the chemise, drawers, and corset, I am using Laughing Moon #100.

https://i1.wp.com/www.voguefabricsstore.com/images/P/LM100.jpgI started with the innermost layer: the drawers.

Victorian drawers are very strange to our modern sensibilities because for the most part, the are left open in the center to allow for ease of doing-one’s-business in large, complicated skirts. It would also be almost impossible to pull down a pair of drawers once a corset was tightened over the top of them, and certainly impossible to pull them back up again. Many modern reenactors choose to close them up, but I agree with the Victorian ladies–I’d rather get used to open drawers than fight with them in order to use the facilities.

An extant pair of drawers at The Met, dated to the 1850s.
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A drawing from an 1869 pattern, available to the modern costumer through Ageless Patterns.

Both of these examples are similar to the ones that I made. The drawers are very simple to put together–only three pieces total, but the leg pieces are some of the strangest pattern pieeces I’ve worked with. They are wider than anything I’ve ever used that wasn’t an enormous skirt panel. I had to open up the piece of lawn and cut each leg individually, because they didn’t fit on the folded fabric!

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The first step is the decorative tucks at the bottom:

Then you sew the legs into tubes–I used French seams.

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Add a hem, and some lace if you want!

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I cut out one inch self-bias strips to bind the open center edges.

The pattern comes with two waistband options: straight, and pointed, but, like most waistbands, they both go on the same way. The tops of the legs are gathered onto the right side of the waistband, and the back of the waistband gets pressed under and slip-stitched to cover the raw edges.

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I had to pin them to the front of the dressform, so they look a little sloppy, but there’s no way I was taking a picture of myself in just these!

The chemise is a bit more complicated. By this point, chemises were no longer a bunch of squares, rectangles, and triangles, constructed in a way that allowed for the most efficient possible use of fabric. This chemise is gathered into a yoke that is shaped around the top of the bust.

I wanted lace around the neck and arm openings, so my first step after sewing the front and back of the yoke together at the shoulders was to baste some lace along the seam lines.

Once the lace was in place, I sewed the yoke and the yoke lining together, turned the whole thing right-side-out, and pressed. I ended up writing “right side” on the side I wanted to show, since the sides are basically identical.

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The front body is gathered into the front yoke, and the back into the back yoke. Nothing is attached at the sides yet, just at the shoulders. The front yoke overlaps itself in the center, but that bit of the seam doesn’t get sewn yet.

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Then, you sew the side seams–body, yoke, and yoke lining all in one fell swoop. I used French seams here as well. Now that everything’s all in one piece, you can finish the yoke lining.

At this point, you pin the center front yoke so that everything is nice and square and even, and then sew it in place at the bottom.

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Buttons and buttonholes at the top:

And tucks and hem at the bottom:

And you have a Victorian chemise! I may add lace at the bottom later on to match the drawers, but right now, I don’t have anything in my stash that will work.

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I am on to a much more fun part of the process now–the corset! There are so many steps before I finally get to the big, beautiful dress, but once I have this, I’ll have a good foundation for many other Victorian dresses to come! So many plans! If I can make half of them happen, I’ll be a happy costumer.

Spectra Spec-tacular: Part 2

With the biggest part of my new Luna Lovegood cosplay out of the way (the coat–which you can read about here), the rest of the pieces came together very quickly.

I bought the tights, a pair of pink Converse shoes, and the official Spectra Spec replicas. The tights and the specs got to stay as they were, but the shoes, not so much.

The Converse that Evanna Lynch wore as Luna in HP and the Half Blood Prince were a pair of special editions called Autumn Flowers, and since the movie came out in 2009, they have obviously long been out of production. I have an eBay search for them saved, but so far I haven’t seen a single pair, let alone one in my size. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. In the meantime, I wasn’t about to let that stop me!

Using a few pictures of the shoes, I drew out the design on my light pink shoes in pencil.

I painted the shoes with acrylic paint, which I water down slightly so that it soaks into the fabric and spreads really nicely. I painted the background color first. It’s an extremely dark brown, almost black.

I also gave the white soles a coat. It’s not a permanent solution, since it chips off of the rubber quickly, but it got me through Lexington Comic and Toy Con and bought me time to find a better solution.

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Then I started filling in the base colors of the flowers, refining their shapes a bit as I went. I knew I was going to go back with a second coat of the background color at the end, so it was fine to leave a few pink spots here and there.

I painted things in one color at a time, so that once I had mixed a color, I wouldn’t have to re-mix it later in order to match what I’d done before.

Then there were the details. Each flower has a contrasting center, and some other details–smaller petal shapes or little dots around the center.

Once I went back and touched up the base color, I went around and outlined the details in black sharpie to make them pop.

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After a couple coats of Scotch Guard, the shoes are ready for action!

Now, for that wonderful skirt. The original was from H&M. Once again, it has obviously been out of stores for many years. I’ll keep searching for an original on eBay, but since H&M clothes aren’t exactly built to last, I won’t hold out too much hope.

Luckily, I had a pretty good solution. My brother is studying to be an animator, and thus, is fantastic at digital art. He made me a design similar to that out-of-this-world horse, bird, star, and heart print, which I got printed at Spoonflower. The design looks great, but it’s definitely not a perfect solution. I ordered it on cotton poplin, but the printing process stiffens the fabric so much that it might as well be quilting cotton. It did soften up a bit after a wash, but it’s still pretty stiff.

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The skirt is super simple: just a couple of rectangles stitched together and gathered onto an elastic waistband. I flatfelled the seams to finish them.

The entire thing is done by machine (a rarity for me), so it only took an hour or so!

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Luna also has a bag, which any con-going cosplayer will tell you is a lifesaver! I could actually carry all must stuff around with me!

The bag is made of a fun blue woven with lots of other colors in it, and I lined it with some heart-printed calico from my stash.

It’s about the simplest bag in the world. The bag portion is two rectangles, the strap is attached on each side, and the join is then covered with another square of the blue fabric. I attached the lining with a zigzag stitch in purple for a bit of extra detail.

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I didn’t quite get the final item of Luna’s outfit done in time for Lexington Comic and Toy Con, but it did give me something to do with my hands!

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I even used an on-theme stitch marker!

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I really need to get better about remembering to take pictures at cons–I’m lucky I remembered to have someone take the one of me knitting! Here’s one that was taken by another awesome cosplayer at the event (check out @queenaslaug on Instagram!).

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This is definitely my comfiest cosplay so far, and it’s really fun to hang around as Luna!

Watch out for Nargles!

Spectra Spec-tacular: Part 1 (plus piping mini-tutorial)

Almost two years ago, I completed my first cosplay: Luna Lovegood’s dress from Bill and Fleur’s wedding in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. You can read all about the (rather haphazard) construction here. I picked that dress because it seemed simple, and I though I had quite a bit of sewing experience, I was only just wading into the world of making my own patterns.

Looking back two years later, I can hardly believe how far I’ve come in such a short time. Two years ago, it was the coat that scared me away from Luna’s iconic outfit from Half-Blood Prince. I knew that if I did that outfit, I would want a coat as similar to hers in shape as possible, and I definitely didn’t trust myself to make that pattern up. Now that I’m doing it, I’m glad I waited. I don’t know how I would have done the construction then, but I know it’s better now!

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I stared at pictures of this coat for a long time, and watched the scene it appears in over and over. There is never an unobscured shot of it. She is always holding the Quibblers, or has her arm up, or the shot is too close up to see, or it’s dark. Luckily, when she finds Harry on the floor of Malfoy’s compartment on the Hogwarts Express, she holds the magazines enough to one side that you can get a pretty good idea of how this all goes together. After all that, here is the quick sketch that I came up with:

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It’s basically a little bolero jacket with a pleated skirt portion attached. The placket for the buttonholes is part of the same piece as the pleated portion. It has a large collar and sleeves that have a gathered cap which is tall, rather than full. I assume that the pocket flaps are false, since They seem to flatten the pleats along the bottom edge more than they would if they actually opened, and I have no idea why anyone would decide to put actual pockets through three layers of pleated coating.

I draped the body on my dress form, then used those pieces to make a quick mockup. It fit quite well right out of the gate (not that it’s a particularly fitted garment). All I had to do was adjust the front placket and the shape of the center front edge of the bolero portion just a smidgen so that the closure wouldn’t gape between buttons.

I spent a long time staring at pink coating fabrics before I picked a pink, white, and burgundy wool blend from Mood Fabrics. The threads are a bit larger than the ones in Luna’s coat, but it was the only fabric I could find that had all three colors I was looking for that wasn’t a regular pattern like plaid. I thought about going with a plainer pink fabric, but I figured with Luna, always err on the side of more out-there. Even though it’s not exact, I also love the addition of the sparkly bronze bits in the weave as well. Makes it a bit more magical?

The lining is a deep purple linen/rayon blend from Joann.

I had to think long and hard about the order of operations on this jacket, since the construction is a bit odd. The bolero and the pleated skirt aren’t sewn together by a normal seam, but by the zigzag detail about an inch in from the edge of the bolero.

So, up to a certain point, I needed to prepare the two sections separately. I started by sewing the skirt fronts and back together, and pressing the bottom and center front edges of both the lining and fabric under. Then I placed the lining on the fabric, slightly offset, and slip stitched the two together.

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I then folded the pleats and basted them in place ,and the skirt portion was ready to go.

The bolero is a bit more exciting: its edges get piped with patterned piping! I scoured Joann and found one that had a pattern with a lot of the same colors as Luna’s piping: purple, coral/orange, and white.

But before all the fun, I had to put the pieces together. It is very simple: no darts or anything, just one back piece and two front pieces.

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Because the edge of the bolero will over hang the skirt portion a bit, it needs a facing so that if the underside is ever seen, it looks the same as the outside. This is where the piping comes into play:

Mini Tutorial: Piping

Step 1: Cut fabric into bias strips. I only cut mine an inch wide, but to be on the safe side, I would recommend cutting 1.5 inch wide strips. Bias strips are cut at a 45 degree angle to the grain of the fabric. Since fabric stretches more on the bias, this allows the piping to go around curves without bunching.

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Step 2:

If you need lengths of piping longer than the strips you were able to cut from your fabric, you will need to sew some together. The best way to sew  bias strips together is to to it at an angle–you may have noticed this if you’ve ever paid attention to the seams in your commercial bias tape. You will do this by placing the diagonal edges of your strips right side to right side at a right angle as shown below. The pointy ends will hang over on each side.

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Sewing the seam like this means that you are sewing with the grain of the fabric, which will help the seam disappear. Since the seam is at an angle once you open up the pieces and press it, it also distributes the bulk of the seam allowance, making the join more, well, seamless.

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Step 3:

Fold your strip in half around a piece of cord in whatever size you would like your piping to be. For garments, I usually opt for ordinary butcher’s string/kitchen twine. It’s a good size, it’s very flexible, and best of all–it’s extremely cheap!

Make sure that from the bottom of the string to the raw edges of the fabric is at least as wide as your seam allowance–I had to offset my edges to make sure of this, but that’s ok, because none of this will show in the end!

Using the zipper foot of your sewing machine, stitch through the fabric right next to the cord but NOT through it. I always move my needle as close to the cord as I can get it by adjusting the “stitch width” setting. The closer you can sew to your cord, the neater your piping will look and the happier you will be!

 

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When you have sewn all of your piping, put a ruler of measuring tape up right against the bottom of the cord and make sure that your seam allowance portion is the same as the seam allowance your are using for your project (1/2″ in my case). Trim off any excess. This may seam tedious, but I promise you won’t regret it!

Inserting the piping:

Step 1: Take one of the two pieces of fabric that will form the seam where the piping will sit. Pin (or Wonderclip!) your piping to your garment. Because you’ve trimmed your piping seam allowance to be the same as your garment seam allowance, this means you just need to line up your piping edge and garment edge just as you would if it were two pieces of fabric. The bottom of your piping will automatically be right at the seam line.

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Now, at this point, you could just sandwich the other piece of fabric on top and go to town, but I find that if I do that there’s always at least one spot where the piping shifted slightly and went under the needle by accident, meaning you’ll have to either live with wonky piping or tear that portion out and do it again. But, this can be avoided! Follow these next three steps and you can have perfect piping every time!

Step 2:

Still using the zipper foot, sew the piping to your one piece of fabric (in the case the outer fabric of the bolero), still keeping the needle as close to the cord as possible, right on top of the stitching that holds your piping together.IMG_2848.jpg

Step 3:

Pin the second piece of fabric (in this case the bolero facing) to the first, just as you would if you were sewing the seam as normal without piping.

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Step 4:

Turn the work over so that the seam that holds the piping on is facing up. Sew right along the same line. (My fabric was so heavy that the zipper food became awkward, so I switched back to the basic foot. You may find that continuing to use the zipper foot works best for you.) Doing this ensures the piping sits exactly where you wanted, and never either gets squished in the seam, or extends too far out, forming unsightly lumps and bumps.

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Perfect!

As long as I was piping things, I also made the false pocket flaps. In addition to the piping, these get a row of decorative zigzag stitches about an inch in from the edge. Once they were on and I stepped back, I realized that just one row of zigzags didn’t show up much against such a busy fabric, so on the collar and the bolero, I ended up doing two rows right on top of each other.

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And then I draped the collar, since I was too lazy to do that back when I was makign the rest of the mockup.

The collar is made in the same way as the pocket flaps, with piping and zigzag details. When it was made, I basted it to the neckline of the bolero.

I was running low of fabric when I did the collar, and worried about having enough for the sleeves, so the underside is more of the crazy fabric from the piping!

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So, both the upper and lower parts of the coat were basically ready (minus the sleeves–I decided that it would be easier to attach sleeves to the full coat than to worry about them getting in the way while I tried to attach the two halves.

After doing one row of the decorative zigzagging around the edge of the bolero, I pinned the lower half inside of the upper one, making sure that it overlapped the zigzagging completely.

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And then I simply sewed a second row of zigzags right on top of the first, which made it much more simple than if I had wanted just one row of stitching!

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Nearing completion!

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I drafted a sleeve pattern and then tested it several time with alterations in between until I was happy with this one:

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When the sleeves were on, I sewed a lining for the upper portion of the coat. I machine sewed it to the neckline, with the collar sandwiched between, then pressed it down and anchored it with a row of stitches below the collar. Then I just turned the jacket inside out and folded the edges of the lining under and slipstitched in place.

Finally, I made a pair of decorative bands for the ends of the sleeves. After attempting one, I realized that if I piped them the same way as everything else, I couldn’t turn them back right-side-out. The piping made them too stiff, and the fabric was so thick, but so loosely woven, that I ended up with an unraveling mess when  I tried! So, I sewed the piping to one piece (I used a quarter inch seam allowance), then pressed the seam allowance to the wrong side and covered the raw edges with a piece of bias tape sewn along the back of the strap.

The straps are sewn down, and the buckle is entirely decorative, since the finished straps were far too thick to be able to go through the buckles twice!

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After that it was just buttons and buttonholes:

And a bit of top stitching to smooth out the edges and the pleats:

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And we’re finished! Now I just have to get the rest of the costume finished in time for Lexington Comic and Toy Con this weekend!

Now back to sewing, painting, knitting, (and, of course, hunting wrackspurts) to make everything as magical as possible!