It took almost exactly a year for the entire outfit to come together. Before that, though, I had been thinking, and researching, and planning, and sketching for nearly two years. At first it was just casual. At the time, my work consisted of four people: a Gryffindor, a Hufflepuff, a Slytherin, and me. So we cooked up a scheme to create four bustle gowns, one for each house. We wanted to make them, but mostly it was something to talk over in great detail over long days of tying hair. Unfortunately, the four house gowns never happened, but I couldn’t get the dress I wanted to create out of my head.
So I decided to do it anyway, despite the fact that I had nowhere to wear it, no goal in sight! I started planning in earnest: costing out silk, and saving money, shopping though patterns for good underthings, and base shapes, and thinking through the draping and drafting on elements that I knew I would have to do myself.
Now, more than a year later, I still have nowhere planned to wear it (hit me up with good events within a reasonable distance of Louisville, KY), but I do have something wonderful to share.
At the end of May, I had the fun of doing a photoshoot with the wonderful Ben Marcum Photography. I have done many kinds of shoots with Ben: headshots, my wedding portraits, beauty shoots, and cosplay. I can tell you this–if you are in Louisville, or coming through Louisville, and can find any excuse to have some professional photos done, go have your portrait taken by Ben. Especially if you hate having your photo taken. (Believe me, we also did some Adora Belle photos at the shoot, and next week I will reveal one of the only photos I’ve ever liked of my own profile!)
Even if you are nervous in front of a camera, Ben will make you laugh, make you comfortable, and make absolutely beautiful images of you every time. I always look forward to doing a shoot with him, because I know that I will have a great, goofy day, and come out of it feeling good about myself.
The wig I’m wearing is, of course, from Custom Wig Company, styled by yours truly. The beautiful cameos are from Dames à la Mode. The set was styled by Ben’s wife, my awesome boss, Heather Fleming. The books are a blend of antiques, and handmade replicas by Strano Books.
So without further ado:
You can read all about the ensemble’s construction, from beginning to end, on the blog.
Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have ideas of ways to add to the ensemble! At some point, I would love to make an evening bodice to turn the gown into a stylish and practical day-to-night outfit. I also have ideas for a feather mantle wired with LED lights so that it glows from between the feathers.
Wow… what I had hoped would be another week or two of work on this bodice has turned into months. To be fair, not all of that was working on the bodice, since the bodice work ran into prep time for the Fort Frederick Market Fair, and I had to take a break from the Victorian Era to spend some time in the 18th Century. I hope you’ll all agree that it was worth the wait!
Truly Victorian’s 1871 Day Bodice made the perfect blank canvas for me to play with. I modified the back pieces in order to create the peplum I wanted, but otherwise I used the pattern as-is.
Truly Victorian includes a system in the pattern booklet to help you get a fit as much like a custom garment as possible. Using certain measurements, you decide which pattern size to cut each different piece of your bodice. My back pieces were one size, my front and side another, and my sleeves a third. It seems weird at first, but it worked great. The mock-up fit well right out of the gate!
The bodice, like the skirts, is made of silk taffeta, flat-lined with cotton organdy, apart from the sleeves, which are lined with cotton lawn for less stiffness. It has flat steel boning along the seams and darts.
The peplum also has a ruffle of feather-like shapes. You can see the gown that this was based on in my research post. I originally cut this with the shapes all one even length, then trimmed it down to a shape that I liked while it was draped over the bustle.
Before I could attach the ruffle though, lots of details had to fall into place!
Firstly, I made a triple row of piping in alternating colors to go around the bottom edge of the bodice.
Testing things out on the dress form:
The front edge of the bodice is faced with some of the blue taffeta:
And the neckline and sleeves are bias bound with more taffeta. It’s the easiest way to finish off the raw edges, and since they will be completely covered with trim, the binding will not be visible.
The feather peplum also has quite a few layers of decorative elements that needed to get done before it could be attached to the bodice.
The top, connected part of the peplum is covered with a layer of velvet, which extends partway down each of the feathers in a triangle shape that mimics the velvet appliqués on the skirts. Each of these triangles (of course), has its very own piece of bronze piping.
Using cord or braid to create a design on a garment was a popular embellishment technique throughout the 19th century. I used brown crochet thread to create more detail on each of the feathers.
When that was finished, I backed the feathers with another piece of taffeta to hide the stitches and complete the piping.
Ok, one section of embellishment finished, on to cuffs and collar!
There are rows of small knife pleats along the neckline and wrists, bound at the edge to match the pleats on the skirts.
The cuffs also have a band of feathers similar to the peplum, but in this case the chevron shapes are only at the feather tips, and since there is no velvet, I put a Fleur-de-lys in between each feather to fill in the empty space.
They are also backed with blue taffeta. There is a layer of organdy backing on the embroidered piece in order to help it keep its shape, since it will be defying gravity a bit.
Those raw edges were covered with a band of velveteen, piped with bronze taffeta.
The neckline didn’t get any feathers. They’re all done, thank goodness! But it does get a velveteen appliqué. This starts at the back as a reflection of the same shapes I used on the skirts, and the ends extend up over the shoulders and cross in the front, where they will be closed with a brooch.
I used pins to smooth out a piece of velveteen and sketch out the shape I was looking for.
I then piped the edges in bronze, and backed the parts that will not be sewn down with blue taffeta.
And then I stitched it down:
The final result:
For a fun contrast with the taffeta bodice, I covered the buttons with the velveteen, and embroidered a small feather on each with bronze silk thread.
The buttons, however, aren’t functioning. I was afraid that a velvet covering on such a small button would be too delicate to withstand a lot of use without shredding, so the bodice actually closes with hooks and eyes.
There we have it! It hasn’t quite hit me yet that this enormous, months long part of the project is finished.
All that’s left now is a hat!
Once that’s done, I’ll be doing a big photoshoot of the whole outfit with Ben Marcum Photography. I’m just showing the bodice for now because I want to do all the starching, and pressing, and adjustments, and get all the bits together with a beautiful backdrop and wig and everything before I spoil the effect!
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.
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.
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.
The back piece is pleated into the side seams in order to give extra volume to the polonaise (the puffy portion) at the back.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Slideshow of detail shots, including me being very excited about my pocket! Also my super awesome black and red clocked stockings from Amazon Drygoods.
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!)
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.)
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)
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.
This dress gave me the perfect swallow-tail back to go with my winged overskirt!
I love the amount of contrast bias edging on these ruffles! This photo also shows just the silhouette I’m going for.
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.
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!
I also looked at lots of fashion plates in books like this one:
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.
After putting all of this information into my brain, and stirring it around, this is the design I came up with:
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:
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:
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.
There are four horizontal channels, which are very straightforward:
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.
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?!
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.
Put the boning in:
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
That is the final thing that needs doing before the rest of the lining goes in!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
The first step is the decorative tucks at the bottom:
Then you sew the legs into tubes–I used French seams.
Add a hem, and some lace if you want!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.