Columbine Pierrot Jacket and Petticoat, 1780

IMG_4727My first foray into the wonderful world of the 18th century has already made its appearance all over my social media, but here it is officially!

You may have already seen my new 18th century stays, but in case you missed it, you can read all about them here.

It’s kind of amazing, considering the amount of Revolutionary War reenacting that goes on, that it’s taken me four solid years to jump into this particular century, but once I was ready to get started, I had lots of decisions to make. With a large time-span at most of the events I am likely to attend, I first of all had to pick a smaller span in which to focus my research. I ended up focusing on the early 1780s, since it is it is a silhouette I particularly like.

In the 18th century, I will be primarily demonstrating as a wig-maker: so a trades-person, but one who works in a highly valued and fashion-related trade. Therefore I was aiming for something not overly fancy or ornate, but definitely fashionable and neat. I started by looking through paintings and fashion plates, looking for women with similar ideas. I was particularly inspired by the two plates below. The first is from 1778, and is described as a cook from the provinces, who has just begun to take on the elegant airs of Paris. The second is of a governess in 1780.

I fell in love with that cook as soon as I saw her. There’s just something about her little bows and peplum. “Pert” is the first word that comes to mind, but in the best possible way! I found the governess when I decided I wanted to do a short jacket and petticoat combo, and started narrowing my research even more. I love that the two employ basically the same shapes. but show how much variety you can get out of simple garment forms.

I settled on a Pierrot jacket and petticoat, and since I found a fun red and white stripe cotton for cheap on Fashion Fabrics Club, I decided to base the details of my first outfit on the governess plate.

By the time I got my stays done, I had one week left to make the actual outfit, which was a bit nerve-wracking. I knew I could get the petticoat done in very little time during the week, so I used the weekend to blaze through as much of the jacket as possible. I wanted to drape the jacket, but I obviously can’t drape on my own body, so I hemmed and hawed a bit until my friend Meredith made a genius suggestion. She and I are very similar sizes, and crucially, are both 5′ tall with very short waists. In my stays, padded out in a few strategic places, Meredith made an excellent body double! We spent Saturday afternoon draping and putting together the jacket.

By some stroke of luck that hadn’t attended me in the build up to making this outfit, this process was incredibly fast. I had help from a couple of extant pieces in order to see what the pattern shapes should be, and ended up with a simple pattern of center back piece, side back piece, front piece, and shoulder strap. I’ve got to say, I love the 18th century shoulder strap. It makes draping and construction so easy!

ci1998.253.1.R.jpg
Jacket from the Met.
953c0904f851a9c0da83ceebbfc33ad0.jpg
Jacket from Les Arts Décoratifs.

I am an idiot, and managed not to get any pictures of Meredith in the stays for the entire several hours that she was in them, except on my Instagram story, so those are gone forever…

We draped with the lining fabric (white linen left over from a pair of Brandon’s trousers). Here I am cutting out the second center back piece from the original draped piece:

IMG_4501.jpg

I also cut and sewed the jacket together as we went. I had to sew it by machine to save time, but it is constructed using the ingenious method I learned at a Burnley and Trowbridge workshop, wherein the lining and fabric are both sewn at the same time. Why we stopped doing this, I will never truly understand. Bag lining is the worst. But I digress.

And the front pieces:

With the main body of the jacket together, we decided it was high time for me to give it a try. I ended up making a slight alteration to the side seams, but other than that we were good to forge ahead! Meredith had a go at placing the shoulder straps:

IMG_4511.jpg

And then of course, I remembered that I had wanted a zone front, so I tore the fronts back off again, but it was all ok. We had all the shapes we needed, and (most of) the difficult part was over.

IMG_4513.jpg
I cut the zone front so that the stripes matched those on the front. I briefly considered changing the front to have horizontal stripes as in the extant jacket above, but after looking at it for a bit I decided I just didn’t care for it.
IMG_4517
The edge is then turned under and stitched in place with a minuscule running stitch.

When I got the jacket put back together, and the shoulder strap linings attached, I spent ages staring at 18th century sleeves. It’s always scary jumping into a sleeve design you’ve never worked with before. Luckily, I found that Janet Arnold had patterned the perfect sleeve on one of the gowns in Patterns of Fashion 1, or I might have been stalled by indecision forever. It even had a similar gathered cuff detail to the one I wanted!

IMG_4526.jpg
Testing out the mock-up sleeve.

The grid underneath is the original from Patterns of Fashion, the one on top is my final altered piece. It looks crazy, but it makes a nice shape! The scoop on the bottom right comes up over the top of your forearm, while the v on the right gets sewn together so that it cups your elbow.

IMG_4527.jpg

I really liked the way 18th century sleeves are set, but I won’t tell you all about it myself, because Koshka the Cat has a wonderful post dedicated solely to that, which you can read here. Long story short, the bottom of the sleeve is sewn to the body of the jacket as per usual, then the top is pleated to the shoulder strap lining seperately, making it really easy to adjust the pleats to your liking.

 

IMG_4551
Sleeves on!

 

 

IMG_4549.jpg
Top-stitching the shoulder strap in place on top of the sleeve.

At this point, it’s just a matter of finishing off edges. The lining and fabric edges are folded up towards each other, with the lining just slightly shorter than the fabric, then the whole thing is top stitched in place.

IMG_4542.jpg

IMG_4591.jpg
Technically finished! There were still details to add, but those would have to wait until I had something to wear on my bottom half!

Once again, Koshka the Cat has a fantastic tutorial for putting together an 18th century petticoat. Mine is made to go over a split false rump, and pleated smoothly in the front half, and gathered in the back for extra floof to help achieve that 1780s silhouette.

IMG_4599.jpg
Placing pleats.
IMG_4600.jpg
Finishing off the twill tape waistband. The twill is a bit thicker than I would like but I realized too late that I was out of nice thin linen tape in the right width.

I was cutting it very close on time at this point, so of course I had to have one major disaster. I had pressed up the hem, all ready to stitch, and decided to try the petticoat on to check the length. It wasn’t until this point that I realized that I had gathered the (shorter) front half of the petticoat, and pleated the back, which resulted in a bizarre and unflattering silhouette… So off came the waistband and all that work had to be done again.

After wasting all that time, I was down to just a few hours before I really needed to go to bed so that I would be conscious for Market Fair, so I prioritized my details: Hat trimmings and breast knot, peplum ruffle, sleeve ruffles, hem ruffle. The hem was last because it was big enough that I could either get just the hem ruffle done, or everything else.

On Friday night, I trimmed out my straw hat with peach ribbons and white flowers, and made a lovely little bow for the center of my neckline from the leftover ribbon. That would at least give me a bit of fun even if nothing else got done.

After that, I started on my first ruffle. Time was getting very short now, and I had to hope that I could do it quickly, because once it was part way on, I would be stuck doing the rest, no matter now late I had to stay up.

The peplum ruffle has a narrow hem, the top edge is pressed to the back, and a gathering stitch run through both layers.

I had to stop here for Friday night, but after the event on Saturday, I managed to move one more step forward. The sleeve cuffs are made by pressing under both edges of a tube of fabric, gathering both edges, and then stitching each edge to the sleeve. I really like the way these turned out!

I got started hemming the hem ruffle, but quickly realized that hemming, gathering, and attaching a ten yard ruffle was just not going to happen that night.

I took some photos at the event with no hem ruffle. I still love the way this outfit turned out! Market Fair was freezing cold, so I spent most of the time wrapped up in shawl and gloves, but I can’t wait to wear this next spring!

My wig is the one documented in this blog post. If you’re interested in acquiring your own handmade, human hair, and endlessly customizable beauty (or you’re just interested in seeing more of what we do), check out Custom Wig Company!

IMG_4645

IMG_4637

IMG_4693

IMG_4691

IMG_4666

IMG_4683

I enjoyed wearing this so much. I already have many more 18th century ideas bouncing around, and there will be more outfits coming next year!

PS: The Hem Ruffle!

It turned out to be a good thing I waited on this, because it took me aaaaaages to get it together.

IMG_4635.jpg
Here’s what 10 yards of 12″ wide ruffle looks like waiting to be hemmed…

Like the peplum ruffle, the hem ruffle has a narrow hem, and is then pressed under at the top. This one has two rows of gathering: one 1/2″ below the folded edge, and one another 1 1/2″ below that, creating a ruched band between the two rows of stitches when the ruffle is attached.

Sadly, I’m not sure I’ll get to wear the completed look again between now and Kalamazoo Living History Show in March!

IMG_4720

IMG_4723

IMG_4722

Advertisements

18th Century Stays (Finally!)

It has been a year of starting new periods for me! I began venturing in the the 1870s with my Ravenclaw bustle dress, I dipped a toe in 1890 with my Adora Belle Dearheart costume, and now I’m diving headfirst into the 18th century. This particular new period goes along with a passion project for me at work: Custom Wig Company will soon by launching a line of historically-constructed period wigs, researched and developed by Yours Truly! The line won’t be released quite yet, but I’ll be demonstrating several wig-making techniques at the 18th Century Market Fair at Locust Grove this coming weekend.

It has been rather slow going. I actually started mocking up my stays shortly after we returned from the North American Discworld Convention in September, but with the ever-busy Santa season in full swing at work, and a few small projects and adjustments that needed to get done, I was going pretty slowly. Everything would have been back on track, but of course then I got sick in early October, and ended up (most unusually for me), too lethargic and cranky to work on much of anything. You know I’m feeling bad if I’m not even knitting! Being knocked out of commission for 10 days seems to have jump-started me, though, since I’ve been extra productive since I started feeling better!

But things are certainly moving now! With only 5 days to go until Market Fair, my stays and false rump are finished, and my dress is well underway. For the moment I’ll just be using my Regency chemise, and under petticoats from a couple of different outfits in order to be dressed in time for the event!

IMG_4156.jpg
I used the JP Ryan Half-Boned Stays pattern.
IMG_4158.jpg
My purple sateen mock-up (leftovers from my bustle) turned out so pretty, I’ve decided I need to turn the rest of it into a new Victorian corset! I’m thinking whisper grey flossing.
IMG_4168.jpg
The stays are made from a nice, sturdy linen canvas.
IMG_4217.jpg
The front! (Lots more boning channels to come on this piece, both horizontal and vertical.)
IMG_4355.jpg
There are two horizontal boning channels along the front neckline, which help keep everything in that nice, rounded, ice cream cone shape.

My boning is 1/4″ reed, which you can purchase in enormous quantities from William Booth, Draper. There are two pieces, flat sides together, in each boning channel. The reed was very easy to work with, and so far is comfortable to wear (definitely my most comfortable period shapewear! I’m reserving total judgement until I’ve worn them out for a full day or two, though.

IMG_4378.jpg

IMG_4391.jpg
All the bones in, except the two at each center back. I waited until I’d sewn the eyelets before I did those.
IMG_4402.jpg
I love hand-sewing eyelets and buttonholes! These are opened with an awl, and then secured with a simple overcast in buttonhole silk.

At this point, it’s time for binding! I used chamois leather–just the basic piece you can get for detailing from any auto supply store. One piece was big enough to bind two pairs of stays. It’s cut into 1 1/4″ strips, then sewn to the front side of the stays with a 1/4″ seam,  just like ordinary bias tape, then wrapped around and secured at the back with a whip stitch–no need for any folding under the raw edge like you would with fabric. It was so soft and easy to sew! I did all the binding by hand in order to have more control going around corners and curves. I used a thimble, but that was much more for the canvas than the leather. Chamois is broken down so much in order to make it soft that it’s more like sewing through craft foam than leather.

IMG_4456.jpg
The top edge of the stays, bound!
IMG_4470.jpg
I was especially impressed with how the chamois went around the tabs!

My computer is being a putz about the completed photos for some reason, but luckily it’s ok with this composite I did for Instagram! Like I said earlier, these are definitely the most comfortable shapewear of any era I do! I will put a linen lining in them as well, but I’m skipping that for now due to the need to make a petticoat and jacket before next Saturday! Better get back to that now!

IMG_4489

Adora Belle Dearheart Part 2

With ten days to go until the North American Discworld Convention, my Adora Belle Dearheart costume is finished!

If you missed the first part of this blog, which talks about design, patterning, and building the main body of the dress, you can read it here:

Adora Belle Dearheart Part 1

When I left off, the dress still needed a collar and sleeves. The collar is a simple standing collar, which was very popular in the 1890s. It is lined with the same red fabric as the rest of the dress, and interfaced with canvas to keep it stiff.

IMG_3908.jpg
Stitching the lining, with attached interfacing, into the collar.
The sleeves are two-part with bent elbows. They are fitted through most of the arm, with a puff at the shoulder that gives them an almost spiky appearance.

They have false cuffs–meaning that an extra piece of fabric was superimposed onto the end of each sleeve piece before construction. This is merely decorative–the cuffs can’t fold down or anything, as they are permanently attached to the piece, and sewn into the sleeve seams.

IMG_3930.jpg
I attached the false cuffs with a row of decorative herringbone stitching in grey buttonhole silk,

IMG_3933.jpg
The under and upper sleeves with false cuffs attached.

IMG_3932.jpg
The upper sleeve has a slight gather at the elbow when it attaches to the under sleeve–this helps give it a bit  of flexibility when moving.
The sleeve lining is cut to fit smoothly into the armscye, while the fashion fabric is cut to create the large poof. There is a piece of wadded up stiff netting inside the puff between fabric and lining to keep it, well, puffy.

IMG_3934.jpg

I ended up having to tear out and re-pleat, reshape, and otherwise adjust the sleeves seven different times before I was satisfied with the look, but it turned out worth it!

With all the pieces attached, it was time for lots of finishing touches. That started with finishing off the raw edges of the crossover pieces. The neckline and armscye edges are simply turned under and overcast, but the shoulder seam edge has a piece of heavy cotton facing to give the buttonholes more stability.

IMG_3949.jpg

IMG_3954.jpg
The darts also each got a row of herringbone stitching, which both looks nice and holds down the extra fabric on the inside. I got this detail from one of the original dresses I referenced in Part 1.
At this point, I remembered that I wanted to add a pocket to this dress–never underestimate the importance of having a pocket in any costume you’re planning to wear at an all-day event!

The pocket sits flat inside the bulk at the back of the skirt, with an opening in the center back seam. It is just under the bum-pad, so that any bulk from items is completely hidden in the extra volume. It is made of three pieces–one back piece, and two front pieces, joined above and below a slit that matches up with the slit in the skirt.

Here is the pocket on the inside of the skirt. The ties keep the bulk of the skirt contained in a nice tail, so that it doesn’t just flop all over the place.

IMG_3961.jpg
I also stitched a piece of re-enforcing twill tape up the center back skirt seam to help keep it from stretching, since it is both cut on the bias, and the only part of the dress that isn’t lined.

IMG_3963.jpg
Adding a final row of herringbone stitch just below the collar.
I swear I also hemmed the dress, though I seem to have forgotten to photograph that part. There is a cotton hem facing out of the same material as the one on the shoulder.

The final task was also one of the most daunting: buttonholes and buttons. I don’t normally have an issue with buttonholes, but this particular dress required 47 of them. I did have a contingency plan whereby if I drove myself mad doing buttonholes before they were finished, I would close the lower half of the skirt with hooks and eyes, and simply sew buttons over the top, but I really liked the look of a row of silk-bound buttonholes marching down the skirt, so I pressed on. Adora Belle is a character whose clothes should be a pain to get off.

IMG_3966.jpg
I used a pair of calipers to mark the buttonholes evenly down the side of the dress.

IMG_3974.jpg
I was sewing buttonholes for days… I could get about six done on a week day after work, more on a weekend day.

IMG_3995.jpg
There are four buttons on the shoulder, and 43 down the side.

IMG_3976.jpg
I absolutely adore the vintage buttons I found on Etsy store The Vintage Pillbox! And there are still more available!
It was so satisfying to get the last few on!

I wrestled and fought with this costume a lot as I was building it, but I am so thrilled with how it turned out! The fit is great, the crazy closure worked out properly, and the way it moves makes me want to turn in little circles with joy! (You can see it moving in a video on my Instagram, which is also linked on the right.)

Disclaimer: I do not smoke, but you can find New Rule FX’s fantastically realistic cigarette prop (available in filter or non-filter varieties), here.

If you are interested in the wig I’m wearing, which is hand-tied human hair, and can be styled in almost any way you can imagine (I have so far used it for Snow White from Once Upon a Time, 1840s, and Adora Belle/1890s, and plan to use it in many more ways in the future), check out my day job at Custom Wig Company!

You can see pictures of this wig in action in other styles on my Facebook page or Instagram. You can also read more about the process of making one of these versatile beauties in my post To Make a Wig.

IMG_4014 (1)

IMG_4015 (1)

IMG_4016

IMG_4020 (1)

IMG_4024

Slideshow of detail shots, including me being very excited about my pocket! Also my super awesome black and red clocked stockings from Amazon Drygoods.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_4013.jpg

Only ten days left, so I’ll be fully immersed in Brandon’s golden jacket until we leave. I am so excited!!! In ten days, I depart for a city I’ve always wanted to go to (New Orleans), to attend an event celebrating my absolute favorite book series (Discworld), and just as an extra bonus, it’s my first anniversary! What could be better?

 

 

Adora Belle Dearheart Part 1

If you read this blog, you’ve probably noticed that I’m a bit of a geek. You’ve seen me build Harry Potter cosplays, Game of Thrones cosplays, Once Upon a Time cosplays. You’ve heard me geek out about the wonders of historical garment construction techniques, and apply both sides of that geekery to the beginnings of a Hogwarts-themed 1870s bustle gown.

Well, I’m doing it again. No kind of costume makes me happier than when I get to combine my love of historical costume with the fun of cosplay, and I am now working on another one of these ultimate mash-ups. More than that, it’s a character from my all-time favorite fandom: Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.

The first four days of September this year will be the North American Discworld Convention in New Orleans–since that Sunday will be our first wedding anniversary, Brandon and I are splurging on a trip to celebrate our favorite fantasy world. Of course a big part of this venture is the costumes! We will be dressing as two of our favorite characters: Moist Von Lipwig and Adora Belle Dearheart.

Brandon’s golden suit will be coming along shortly, but today I’m here to talk about Adora Belle. Miss Dearheart was played to snarky perfection by Claire Foy in the 2010 adaption.

1475136852196222556

But while I absolutely adore this movie, I didn’t actually want to use their Adora Belle design. With Discworld, I’d rather work straight from the source.

9780062334978_p0_v1_s1200x630

Like all of the Discworld books, Going Postal is a brilliant piece of satire: engaging, thought-provoking, and hysterically funny. It features the adventures of Moist Von Lipwig, the unfortunately-named con-man-turned-postmaster-general, after the ruler of the disc’s largest city, Ankh-Morpork, resurrects him from the noose in order to revive the collapsed and out-of-date postal service. Just as Lord Vetinari suspected, Moist’s endless bag of huxter’s tricks and boundless charisma are just the shock the system needed, but it turns out there’s much more to reviving the post office than delivering some letters, and Moist is soon at war with some deadly competition.

Adora Belle Dearheart (a name that will surgically remove any woman’s sense of humor), is Moist’s sardonic love interest. The daughter of the inventor of the clacks system (a telegraph-ish method of communication using towers mounted with semaphore arms or, later, light boxes that flash a coded grid), Adora Belle has even more of a bone to pick with the post office’s main competition than Moist does. The current owners of the clacks swindled her family out of their property and worse.

Terry Pratchett’s character descriptions tend to be short, but vivid. In Going Postal, Adora Belle is described as having “coal black hair plastered down and forced into a tight bun at the back, so that she looked like a peg doll.” Her clothing is very consistent. Unlike in the movie, where she wears black velvet, the Adora Belle of the books always wears grey. Moist comments in Raising Steam (the third book to feature these characters) “She had bought a most attractive and therefore expensive gown for the evening. It was still grey, of course, but with a kind of luster to it that made it seem almost festive” (Emphasis mine). In her first appearance in Going Postal, she wears a “tight, grey, woolen dress,” prompting Moist to realize “how well some women could look in a severely plain dress”. Which brings us to one of the most illuminating descriptions of Adora Belle’s general appearance. This one is from the second book about Moist and Adora Belle, Making Money, “The heels helped, of course, but Spike [Adora Belle] could move like a snake trying to sashay, and the severe, tight, and ostensibly modest dresses she wore left everything to the imagination, which is much more inflammatory than leaving nothing. Speculation is always more interesting than facts.”

Here ends the scholarly portion of this post, so let’s get to the actual design I went with. The “industrial revolution” period on the Disc is generally depicted with a late 19th century aesthetic. But, of course there are lots of different looks to choose from in the late 19th century. Sir Terry does give us one clue though. Earlier in Going Postal, Moist observes that “Bustles were back in fashion in the city for some inexplicable reason.” And if we follow Roundworld fashion history, that one sentence narrows us down to one period of less than ten years. It can’t be the 1870s, because bustles have already been in fashion at least once, so it must be somewhere in the second bustle period, about 1883-1890.  I couldn’t really see Adora Belle in the full-on centaur bustles of the mid-1880s, so I decided to focus my research right around 1889-90, when most would still have been wearing bustles, but the more fashion-forward were beginning to deflate their rears into the sweeping A-line shape of the 1890s. It was perfect: I could keep the narrow, severe front of an 1880s gown, but lose the massive bustle for a more graceful volume supported only by a small bum pad to give my backside a bit of extra oomph.

10a
This dress from the Musée de la Mode is what first made the light go off in my brain. It isn’t exactly what I wanted, but it started me onto the 1890 silhouette as the one for Adora Belle.

Once I had that image in my head, I knew when to focus my research:

57a04301c05192f5d0243dbed94a6ff6.jpg
Godey’s Ladies Book, 1890
a1e4a57559fe9264f9df548b3fa347b6
Day Dress, 1891, Gemeente Museum
64614eded9107cde9b9b8c54ed19aab3
Harper’s Bazaar, 1892

But it wasn’t until I found this gown, that everything really came together:

72691546
Afternoon dress ca. 1892. Met Museum

It was perfect! The sleek silhouette, the slinky train, the power shoulders. I loved that it was one piece, instead of a bodice and skirt–I didn’t want to break up the line of the dress. Without the embellishment, it was everything the books describe–tight, plain, severe, but still unbelievably sexy. I couldn’t have asked for a better piece of inspiration.

I was slightly tripped up about the mysterious closure–the only hint to it is a slight rippling on the left-hand side. Luckily, Janet Arnold breaks down a jacket that closes the same way in Patterns of Fashion 2. The dress is from the Fashion Museum in Bath.

It gave me a couple more little details that I think are perfect for Adora Belle. I like the idea of having her dress be very plain from afar, and then, as you get closer, little details start to jump out. This dress, instead of closing with invisible hook and eyes, has a row of little buttons along the shoulder and down the side–what could be more severe yet scintillating? It also has a little row of feathered embroidery along each dart to hold the extra fabric still. In tone-on-tone, this will be invisible until someone is standing near it, but give a nice bit of depth to an otherwise plain ensemble.

The Janet Arnold pattern was a godsend. I was able to use the jacket as a jumping-off point to draft the pattern for the full dress.

IMG_3833
I started by tracing out the original pattern, as is, in orange.
IMG_3835.jpg
Then I made some initial adjustments based on my own measurements in blue.

I sewed the grid interfacing into a mockup I could try on, and made further adjustments from there, but I didn’t take any photos of that fitting.

IMG_3836.jpg
I massively overestimated how much volume I would need in the front of the skirt, so all of the skirt pieces got a slim-down except for the center back.

After much searching, a picked out a charcoal grey linen/wool twill from Fashion Fabrics Club. It took me a long time to find a fabric I was happy with, because I wanted as dark a grey as I could find, and I wanted it to have some texture to it–twill, herringbone, pinstripe, anything to add a bit of depth. I was very pleased to find the linen/wool blend because it looks and feels like wool, but will hopefully breathe as much as possible in the New Orleans heat.

IMG_3839.jpg

The pieces are flat-lined with a plain red cotton, which helps support the twill. I didn’t line the skirt portion of the center back, though, because I wanted it to keep its fluid drape.

IMG_3842.jpg

Testing out the drape on the back.

IMG_3846.jpg

The front lining is done in two pieces, with a piece of hook and eye tape between them. This will attach to an overlapping lining from the other side to help keep everything in place.

There are two darts on either side of the front to help it shape around my waist. These will be accented with tone-on-tone embroidery later.

IMG_3857.jpg

This is the ‘underlap’ for lack of a better word. It is a glorified piece of lining that gives the left sleeve and collar something to attach to when the dress is open, and is hidden by the front piece when the dress is closed. It is made of lining material, with a facing of the grey twill only where it is possible that it will peek out from behind the actual front.

Once the underlap was attached, we did a quick fitting, and I had to adjust the waist and darts a bit.

Conveniently, I had some vintage seam binding sitting around in my stash. I used it to finish the raw, open left side of the skirt. It will give some nice stability where the buttons are attached.

IMG_3886.jpg

A piece of twill tape around the inside waistline of the gown helps support the fabric. The waist will be taking strain both because it is so tight, and because of the weight of the skirt, so it needs all the help it can get from the inflexible twill tape.

IMG_3887.jpg

And then it was time for another fitting–this time to check my adjustments were right, test the placement of the closure, pin up the hem, and test a collar.

IMG_3894

IMG_3895

IMG_3896

I’ll be back soon with sleeves, buttons, and other embellishments!

Ravenclaw 1870s Gown 2: Underskirt

I finally have some real progress to share on the Ravenclaw gown! Things have been going slower than I had planned, but we are moving forwards (though things will slow down even more with Jane Austen Festival this weekend)!

The gown is actually three parts: underskirt, overskirt, and bodice, and I have now finished the underskirt.

You can read more about the dress design here.

The upper part of the skirt is very plain, since it will be almost completely covered by the overskirt, while the hem is heavily embellished.

I used the Truly Victorian 1870s Underskirt pattern (TV 201). The skirt is a great basic shape, and fits perfectly on top of Truly Victorian’s early bustles and petticoats.

The construction is quite basic: one front panel, one back panel, two each side back and side front panels, and a waistband (and a pocket, which is very exciting!). I flat-lined the entire thing with cotton organdy to help it hold its shape and volume.

IMG_3622.jpg
Since taffeta is prone to fraying, I overcast each seam allowance down to the lining, which took FOREVER!
IMG_3624.jpg
I think we can all agree that dresses with pockets are the best dresses.
IMG_3649
I pinned the skirt to my dressform before putting on the waistband because I couldn’t wait to see what the volume would look like!
IMG_3650.jpg
Setting the hem.

Instead of shortening the skirt when I cut the pieces originally, I added a bit of functional decoration with three tucks around knee level.

The waistband is the last bit before the fun of embellishing begins!

The first component of the hem embellishment is a deep, knife-pleated ruffle in bronze-colored taffeta.

Instead of a hem, the ruffle is bound at the bottom with bias strips of the blue taffeta.

I used ye olde stitch-in-the-ditch technique to finish the binding, because there was no way I was going to hand finish the binding on ten yards of ruffle that’s going to be on the ground anyway!

If you and the people around you are interested in sewing, you may have seen a video a few months back of someone very cleverly using a fork to form pleats by sliding one tine under the fabric, twisting the fork so that the fabric wrapped around all the tines, removing the fork, and sewing over the newly-formed pleat. I got to go one better. When my husband saw me heading to my sewing machine with a piece of cutlery, he understandably asked what on earth I was doing. Once I explained the technique, he promptly took the fork away and headed out to the garage, where he fabricated these nifty little devices so that I can now make even pleats in multiple sizes without the need to waste time on measuring or pinning! They made pleating a breeze!

IMG_3684.jpg

 

Brandon also helped me pin the pleated ruffle in place, so that we could make sure it hung at exactly the right point when the skirt was being worn.

IMG_3701.jpg

IMG_3715.jpg
Basting, basting, basting…

Next came the velveteen appliqué shapes that go above the ruffle. I made a quick template out of paper, and cut out 18 shapes to fit around the entire skirt.

IMG_3720.jpg
There’s basically no such thing as too much contrast bias binding.

Placing and stitching the shapes:

I watched a lot of Bleak House while working on these appliqués!

You can see in the pictures above that the raw edges of both the ruffle and the appliqués are showing in the center, so I needed something to cover them up. I used a bias band of the blue taffeta with a row of brown piping along the top edge, where it will contrast with the blue velveteen.

If you’re interested, you can read more about making your own piping in my blog about making Luna Lovegood’s iconic pink coat, here.

I was able to machine stitch one side of this band to the skirt by sewing right in between the blue fabric and the brown piping so that the stitches disappeared into the seam between the two colors.

IMG_3752.jpg

The other side had to be hand finished (more Bleak House!).

Voilà! I’m very excited about how the embellishments turned out! They really look like my sketch, which is so satisfying! But in full color, it’s even better!

IMG_3756

IMG_3757

IMG_3758

IMG_3759

IMG_3760

The next step on this project will be the overskirt, and I’m salivating to see how it turns out, but it’s going to have to wait.

The North American Discworld Convention is happening at the top of September, and Brandon and I need costumes in which to celebrate both our first anniversary, and our favorite fictional universe. I’ll be taking a break from the Ravenclaw gown in order to work on our Adora Belle Dearheart and Moist Von Lipwig costumes, which will be inspired both by the book descriptions and by the fashions of the early 1890s. Can’t wait to show you progress on those! I both dread only having only 6 weeks to work on them (though both of us will be sewing), and think September can’t come soon enough!  (If you don’t know Discworld, go find some now! Your life can only be improved by Terry Pratchett’s hilarious satirical look at life, the universe, and everything.)

 

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.

f3f4353043740f57e96287c045b5fa0d
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!

46c79162874e22aec6366e0b9354dbd9
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.

tumblr_mu88pgofYC1qf46efo1_400
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!

ffbafc5c5b47eb3e7be6720b58e44dac

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

https://sep.yimg.com/ca/I/yhst-137970348157658_2475_370847942
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. Edit–the author has since let me know that a few more copies of the book will be available when they come back from an exhibition at the end of August! Keep an eye out for them here.

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:

IMG_2756

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:

File:1870s fashion plate.jpg

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.

IMG_3357.jpg

There are four horizontal channels, which are very straightforward:

IMG_3358.jpg

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.

IMG_3381.jpg

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?!

IMG_3432.jpg

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.

IMG_3441.jpg

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.

IMG_3461.jpg

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!

IMG_3509IMG_3510IMG_3511

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…