Inspiration – new finds

Sometimes I see an image of a dress and I immediately fall in love with it. Those are the dresses I keep going back to, looking at the details and day dreaming of making it. It doesn’t happen too often, but recently I found 3 pieces I completely adore.


The first one is this 1880’s dress from the Met:

Every time I think that by now, I should have seen every dress in the metropolitan, an image pops up to prove me wrong. The great thing about the items in this collection is that they’re generally very well photographed. High-quality photos, and not just from one angle, which always annoys me because for so many (especially bustle) dresses the back is at least as relevant as the front and they’re not always symmetrical.

What struck me about this item was firstly the top. The lace at the top part and the silk part shaped almost like a corset is something I haven’t seen before. Other than that, I love the lace at the bottom. The color of the silk and the pattern on the fabric are things I like a little less, but you never know if it hasn’t colored with age.

When I went looking for more pictures, I found this:

This photo is amazing, it clearly shows how the bodice was realized, with two separate layers! It’s always great to see images of the construction of dresses, because it demystifies how they were made. This image also shows that the silk of the dress was originally more pink than now! I vastly prefer the more pinkish hue to the more brownish it has become.

Aside from the bodice, which I love, the back and bustle of this dress are amazing:

Look at the v-line at the back of the bodice, and that train! I’m still not crazy about the feather pattern, but the lace is beautiful.

I’d love to recreate this dress, but it would be a huge challenge. I’ve never made any bustle skirt, let alone one this complex. Moreover, that bodice is so particular that any pattern would be greatly adapted for it to look like this. And then there’s the issue of fabric, which would be very expensive. Silk is never cheap, and the only nice lace you can find is usually in the bridal-section of fabric stores. High-quality, and definitely not cheap. Still, it’s a dream, and this design might be worth the cost, so who knows.


The other two dresses I stumbled on are both from paintings. The first one is this lovely regency-scene:


Portrait of the Elisabeth, Amalie and Maximiliane of Bavaria (Joseph Karl Stieler)

The color of these dresses is just so lovely. What makes these amazing though, is probably also the scene, the fact that there’s two identical dresses for identical girls. Any recreation wouldn’t capture it fully, but the painting is definitely a favorite.

From the other painting, I first saw a close-up of the dress.

I always love cut-outs on bodices, so that in combination with all the lace and the deep brown of the rest of the dress made me love it instantly. I did some research, and found out it was actually a portrait of Marie-Antoinette with her children.

Marie Antoinette with her children By Adolf Ulrik Wertmüller Date	circa 1785-1786

I’ve never made anything 18th century before and this is a dress which would require a huge amount of trimming, but it will definitely go onto my list of eye-candy!

Regency short stays

Now my black dress is done, it’s time to start new projects! I want to make a new regency ballgown, but before that I’d like to make proper undergarments. The previous regency dresses I’ve made were fitted over modern underwear as I didn’t want to spend much time working on something no one could see, but for the next one I’d like to take a bit more time to do it right. This December Sense & Sensibility patterns had a discount action and I bought 3 of their e-patterns. Even though the printing can be a hassle, e-patterns are truly a great invention, especially if you live far away from the pattern companies. They’re a lot cheaper, get there a lot quicker and you save shipping costs which can double the price. This weekend I started with the regency short stays, and actually got pretty far!

I’m using coutil for the interlining (left-overs from my 1866 corset) and white cotton for the lining and interlining. I’ll probably bone the stays, though I’m still debating between plastic and steel boning. I don’t need that much support, so plastic would work, but those bones are black and will show through the white cotton lining…

For now, progress pictures!

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The original pattern pieces, cutting out the muslin.

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The mock-up. I tend to be lazy and just pin my mock-ups and not sew them because it’s so much quicker and easier to just adapt the pins.

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Cutting out the modified pattern in coutil. You can see I lowered the neckline slightly and went down in size a bit. Those were really the only changes needed.

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Sewing the coutil layer together first to check the fit. It was alright, although a bit tighter than the mock-up because the fabric doesn’t stretch.

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Clipping the seams on the coutil layer.

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Cutting the cotton for the lining and outer fabric.

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Sewing together the lining and pressing the seams.

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Almost everything was done with the machine, but the gussets on the outer fabric were done by hand. This part took such precision that when doing it with the machine it sometimes got a bit sloppy for the lining and interlining.

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Pressing the to prepare for the second gusset.

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Done! Hand-sewn gussets.

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All three layers are done!

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Here you can see how the layers will go together. The lining and interlining with wrong sides together and the outer layer with the wrong side to the interlining.

1860s Dress finished

My 1860s dress is finished! It still feels a bit weird, I’ve been working on this since June last year so it’s been a long project, but completely worth it as I still get giddy every time I see the finished thing. Because I’ve already shown the bodice, here’s a photo which shows off the skirt:


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Some information:

Fabric: Black velvet for the dress, belt and bodice, black cotton for the lining. Only the underside of the skirt and the bodice were lined.

Patterns: TV400 for the bodice, the 1866-7 Day dress pattern from Janet Arnold for the skirt. The belt was made without pattern.

Foundation: This project started with a corset, hoopskirt and petticoat. 

Originally I didn’t want to make a train for practical reasons, but when I was hemming the skirt I loved the little train it had so much that I kept it. Instead, I sewed some small ribbons to the inside of the skirt so I could tie it up inside and make the train disappear. I’m planning of wearing it to an event where they have a lot of gravel and dirt paths, and I didn’t want to kill the skirt on the first outing. I have no clue if this is historically accurate, but it looks pretty good.

Some more pictures. The first one is the dress which inspired the entire project, from the met museum:

And the side/back of the inspiration

And some more photos of the finished dress. The front:

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The side (with the train tied up)


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The back : (train tied up)

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And some details:

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Traditional costume – Staphorst

The Dutch town of Staphorst is probably known best for its religious population and its folk costume. It has some of the youngest and most people still wearing folk costume daily, with around 500 women still wearing it in 2008.

The costume is known best for what is called ‘stipwerk’, or ‘dot-work’. Parts of the costume are made out of black fabric decorated by patterns of different coloured dots. The main variations in costume are of mourning/regular and sunday/workday, with special costumes for children.

Three women from Staphorst in their Sunday church clothes, the left most is out of mourning, the middle one in light mourning and the right most in heavy mourning.


The back, here you can see the pleated shawls.


Mourning is expressed with the colours, as in most Dutch costume red is for out of mourning, blue and purple for light mourning and black for heavy mourning. The daily wear differs mostly with regards to the headwear, women wear simple dotted caps on work days.

A photo from the sixties of the daily wear out of mourning.


The typical dotted patterns were often made by the women themselves, and created with the heads of nails and fabric paint. You’d need to stay out of the rain, because they’re not very water resistant!


Typical fabric, this one would be for out of mourning.


Mourning fabric


A work in progress. You can see he’s holding a cork with a nail in it to make the dots.


Of course, large patterns could also be made with these blocks.


The costume exists of black stockings and shoes, an under-skirt, a dark blue pleated skirt of sturdy fabric (black for heavy mourning), a black shirt, a black apron with a border at the top (flowers or checkered), a ‘kraplap’, a pleated shawl and the headwear.


An under-skirt, worn as a petticoat.

A Sunday-skirt. The front is made out of different fabric, which didn’t matter because the apron would cover it.


Black shirt

Kraplap, worn over the shirt. This one is for light mourning.

Kraplap for out of mourning

This would be pleated in a specific way and worn as a shawl (Mourning)

Out of mourning, the shawl was red.