Ravenclaw 1870s Gown 3: Overskirt

Pant…pant…pant… It’s here! It has been six months since my last post about the Ravenclaw bustle gown due to more time-sensitive projects barging their way to the front of the line! When last we met here in Ravenclaw-land, I had just finished the underskirt, but that wasn’t the only thing going on the bottom half. Here we have…(drumroll)…the overskirt!

In the true spirit of bustle-era excess, I ask: why have only one skirt encrusted in intricate detail when you could have TWO?!

I started the overskirt by mocking it up in some very fun harlequin print quilting fabric that I had sitting around.

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Here is my sketch so that you can get an idea of what I was going for.

The mock-up was draped right on the dressform, just moving bits around and bunching things up until I was happy with how things looked.

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Cutting out the real fabric. The pieces are also flatlined with cotton organdy.
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Checking the fall of the front panels with the tucks at the waist.

In order to give myself a solid base on which to gather the polonaise (the puffed-up portion) at the back, I made an extra organdy lining to go inside the back.

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Finishing the front hems with the help of my new sewing bird!

The back piece is pleated into the side seams in order to give extra volume to the polonaise (the puffy portion) at the back.

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Finishing off the extra back lining.

I got the base of the skirt done pretty fast…

…and then had this thought that kept bugging me in the back of my brain. Wouldn’t those side seams look extra cute with a bit of bronze piping? So I tore it apart again.

Which wasn’t so bad, because I decided to put the trim in place before putting it back together so that I would only have to wrestle with one piece at a time.

The first stage of trimming involved figuring out the size and placement of the velveteen false turn-backs at the skirt front. I did this in the pretty non-scientific way of sketching a shape I sort of liked with a marking pencil onto the skirt front, and then cutting the velveteen to match, plus extra for hem allowance.

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I had a slight crisis-of-faith after cutting the first one, and tried out a couple of other shape variations with fabric scraps before deciding that I did like the first one best after all.

I folded the edge under, and backed the edge with an offset piece of the bronze taffeta for extra contrast against the main skirt body, then set these pieces aside to attach later.

The rest of the overskirt decorations are the same as the underskirt, so I will only go through them quickly.

Binding the hems of what will become the pleated ruffle:

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The velveteen appliqués are also bias bound.

Piping and attaching a strip of blue taffeta to cover the raw edges of the pleats and appliqués.

And then I attached the false turn-backs. I stitched along the edge of the velveteen, through all layers, so that the edge of the bronze isn’t held flat against the skirt.

The velveteen is hemmed to the inside of the front edges several inches in in the hopes that it will provide some weight to keep the skirt from flying open when I walk, and to provide a bit of coverage over the white organdy if it does.

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The piping on the side seams extends past the seam and all the way down the edge of the back piece. The swallowtail at the lower half of the back is finished with a backing of blue taffeta to make sure the white organdy lining doesn’t show.

The inner edges of the swallowtail got a row of pleats, and one of the blue bands to finish the pleat tops, but no velvet appliqués.

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Yes, I did pick out the basting on the pleats once things were in place.
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A slightly blurry look at the side seam piping.
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Finishing off the top edge of the taffeta backing.

Gathering in the back and stitching the waistband in place:

This waistband was out to get me. First a thread broke about a third of the way through. Then I ran out of bobbin thread another five inches after that. Then when I got to the end, I realized that the gathers hadn’t made it into the seam in two places, and had to go back and open it up to get the raw edges back inside the waistband. It was a lot of drama.

The final step was to put it on the dress-form, play around with the bustle area, and tack the polonaise in place when I liked how it looked!

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I feel like this has taken me for-absolutely-ever (not the six month break, just building it took waaaay longer than I had anticipated). Hopefully the bodice will be a bit friendlier. I can’t wait to see what it all looks like together, though! Wish me luck!

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.

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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.

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I attached the false cuffs with a row of decorative herringbone stitching in grey buttonhole silk,
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The under and upper sleeves with false cuffs attached.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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I used a pair of calipers to mark the buttonholes evenly down the side of the dress.
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I was sewing buttonholes for days… I could get about six done on a week day after work, more on a weekend day.
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There are four buttons on the shoulder, and 43 down the side.
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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.

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

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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?

Edit to add a few photos from outside our hotel in New Orleans! (Including Brandon in his Moist Von Lipwig suit!)

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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. 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://i0.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