Edwardian corset – revisited

My Edwardian corset was one of the first I made, and the very first from a commercial pattern. Generally, I am extremely happy with the fit of Truly Victorian patterns, but for this corset it never quite worked out. Added to that, I didn’t really know how to fit it properly. Because I have a relatively large hip-spring, it turned out too small through the hips. After making a number of other corsets, I realized this actually meant there was barely any waist compression, and the corset smoothed out my figure rather than make it more hourglass. It also got a tendency to ride up when I sat down, making sitting not very comfortable.

The before: (2015)

 

I debated on what to do, because I did like the materials and the lace I used. Initially I thought I had enough silk leftover to make a new one, but that wasn’t the case. So eventually, I decided I’d try just replacing the two side-panels. These are the ones where all the hip-action happens, so where the main changes needed to be. My goal here was to have enough space at the top of the hips, and maybe even a bit too much at the back to allow for padding to achieve the typical S shape. I initially made the corset to go over padding in the back, and although I needed more hip room at the side, I can still use a little help in the back.

S-Bend Corset

The typical S-bend silhouette

 

To figure out how much I needed to add, I removed the binding from the bottom and then slashed the panels to the waist. I then pinned fabric underneath until it felt like I had plenty of room.

20190816_115214b.jpg

Slightly messy picture, but this gives an idea. Black fabric is pinned underneath the slashed panels.

 

I then re-cut the silk panels, removed the binding from the top, removed the lace from the top, and re-sewed the seams. Then I re-attached the binding and lace up top, and at the bottom, where it needed to be lengthened a bit.

20190816_124754b.jpg

The panels were made quite a lot bigger from the waist down

 

 

Seeing how much of a difference this change made to the shape of the corset on me was really eye-opening. I did not change the waist circumference of the corset, it is exactly the same. But because I now have enough space in the hips, I can actually lace down better. Moreover, visually the waist looks even smaller by comparison. For corsets, is all about shape, much more than size.

20200131_131632b

 

The old vs the new. Again, nothing was taken away from the waist or anywhere else. All the difference is in the enlargement you see in the pattern picture above, in the hip portion of two panels (neither of which you can actually see from the front).

img_3069bimg_3071b

I do still use padding, but it’s all to fill out the back and bottom of the hips. The hip-spring itself (so where it curves out from the waist) is not padded at all. The padding maily helps to fill out the back towards a more S like shape.

Although not my neatest work ever, I’m very glad I was able to give new life to this corset by making these changes. I never liked the wrinklyness of this corset, and I still don’t really. But this was actually a really good way to make use of what I already had, and as a foundation garment it serves it’s purpose again. Because of the new shape, I’m now actually looking forward to wearing it again! (Now I just need to adapt the high-waisted skirt that was made to go on top…)

2020 – Plans!

After looking back, it’s time to look ahead! As usual, my most concrete plans have to do with events, and everything else is a bit less defined.

Firstly, 1895! I’ll be going to Bath in May for Isabela’s Victorian ball, and preparations have started. A ball gown is the main thing, and then a day-outfit for the day after.

I have started a new corset, which is just waiting for the boning (which still has to arrive) and then binding.

The other under-thing to make is my final petticoat. I plan to also use this as a test-run for the skirt pattern. I have a blue glazed cotton I’m planning to mix with pale blue lace and white flounces. I don’t know how accurate the blue-white combo is this way, but colored petticoats were definitely a thing!

1898 Vintage Fashion - H.O'Neills Spring & Summer Catalogue Page 31 - Victorian Ladies Skirts | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

 

For the dress, I’m planning on using a green dupioni with black organza overlay. I don’t have one specific example, but it’ll probably be a mix between something like this;

Green/black, with silk dupioni?

And something like this:

Portrait of Countess of Santiago | Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida | oil painting

 

I really want to take my time with this project, and use historical techniques as much as possible. Interfacing the skirt with tartan, having a hem facing and brush braid, slightly gathering channels for boning in the bodice, etc. May sounds like a long way away, but with my speed I know I’ll need time if I really want to pay attention to the details!

For the breakfast the day after I haven’t quite decided yet. My Edwardian tartan outfit might be an option (slightly stretching the theme…), but I do need to fix the skirt to properly fit again (would be a good incentive in any case!). Another option would be a sporty outfit, as I recently found a modern sweater which actually looks a lot like the 1895 sport sweaters. Whatever I decide, I do want to make something to go with the sweater. Specifically, I have a beautiful wool fabric and the TV299 split skirt pattern I want to make up.

An example of a sport sweater, and a split skirt from the MET.

bumble button: advertismentAmerican cycling suit, circa 1896. This particular ensemble features a bifurcated skirt that allows the rider a more comfortable ride while also giving the modest appearance of a skirt at front. Other more daring ensembles feature fully bifurcated Knickerbockers. This suit also includes a pair of gaiters, which provide protection for the legs.

 

For the first half of the year, this is the only planned event for which I really need to make something. Plans for the second half are not finalized yet, but I’m looking into going to England again in fall for a 1830’s event. In that case, I’d want to make the 1830’s dress I have materials and plans for, based on this original (but in green):

Concord museum collection - but in moss green, tucks in skirt?

Concord museum

 

I also really like the idea of having a white cotton bodice to wear with a colored skirt, so I might make that as well to go with the green skirt, and increase versatility.

All The Pretty Dresses: 1830's Bodice

 

And I’d need to make a bonnet (I do already have a pattern), and perhaps a cap.

hats fashion print original 19th century french antique engraving no 3

 

It would also be a good opportunity to finish the pelerine which goes with my gold dress, as in the original outfit.

Met museum

 

I also bought some wool to make an 1830’s coat. That’s pushing plans into the more ambitions though, so who knows whether it would actually happen. But, something like this?

Coat

 

For my non-event related plans, I mainly want to work on my new stays. I genuinely don’t know if I’ll finish those in a year, but I would like to at least have finished all boning channels and main construction. As I’ll also be working on other things in-between progress will be slower than in October, but slow and steady also works!

20191024_184640

The stays will look like something like this for quite a while yet!

 

And that’s it for the somewhat concrete plans! I have a whole lot of fabric in my stash of which I know what I want to make out of it, but as usual planning and impulse at the time will probably dictate what else (if anything) happens and what does not.

2019 in review

The new year has started, so it’s time to look back again! I really like these retrospects as they often reveal I’ve done more than I thought.

Looking back to my plans a year ago, there were three main things. Finish my 1830’s dress, make a Victorian fancy dress fairy costume, and an 1880’s tennis dress for summer picknicks. I didn’t really make plans yet for the second half of the year.

The good news: I actually did all of those things!

The 1830’s dress was finished and worn to two events:

img_5473

 

So was the fancy dress fairy, for a ball in April, and then again last weekend:

IMG_9520.jpg

 

And I finished my tennis dress in summer, wearing it once before and once after all the trimming was done:

20190728_113055

 

I’m actually quite happy I already managed to wear all outfits more than once!

Between May and July, I also started embroidering pockets during travel time, and finished a pair:

20190714_150541

 

After that, I slowed down a bit. I’d been sewing on bigger, deadline-bound projects for half a year, and needed a break from that. I did some little things in August and September, and started working on my new stays in October when abroad. November was mostly spent travelling, and in December I started the prep for my new big project.

In August I re-covered some things for my sewing room, and did some crochet which I didn’t blog about (a shawl, a scarf, a hat, legwarmers, and a neck/arm warmer set):

My sewing room now finally has matching iron/pillow covers

 

In September I started on a new long-time hand sewing project, fully boned hand-sewn stays from Patterns of Fashion 5. I did the drafting and 5 mock-ups in that time.

 

In October I was abroad, and spent quite a bit of time sewing boning channels. I finished the first panel in about 3 weeks, and at least 16 hours of stitching.

 

I started the second panel in November, but didn’t finish yet, as most of the month was spent travelling. In December, after getting back home I started on other things again. I started and finished one wool skirt for daily wear, and a cotton 1894 petticoat. I also finally finished a re-make of my Edwardian corset I’d started on in summer. More on that in an upcoming blog!

 

Overall, I’m pretty happy with my year! Initially I’d expected more full costumes after summer, but with spending two months abroad that changed a bit. I am really glad to have started the new stays though, as I’d been wanting to for at least a year. They’ll be a long term project without set deadline, and I’ve found it’s quite nice to have a hand-sewing task to do if I don’t want to bother with patterning and such. I also really love the materials, which always heightens the enjoyment.

In addition to the sewing, I also visited 4 balls, one fantasy event, organized 3 historical picnics, visited 6 costume exhibitions, went to Edinburgh for a dress-making event, and met fellow costume-makers half way across the world in Wellington. Thanks to everyone for making it a great costume year!

Events2019

 

1894 Petticoat

For my 1890s project I decided I want 2 new petticoats. I have an Edwardian petticoat which is too slim for 1895, but which is usable as a ‘bottom’ petticoat. The second petticoat would build the right shape, and the final petticoat I’m planning to make with the same pattern as the skirt and make in more fun fabric. That one is to really get to the wide shape of the period. This post is about the second, so the middle petticoat! This is how it turned out:

IMG_9405

 

After getting some white cotton I  started looking for patterns. I browsed trough the 1894 to 86 issues of the Gracieuse, and eventually found this petticoat:

Petticoat.jpg

 

There was a tiny pattern on the pattern sheet. Way to small to read any text, but enough to get a feeling for the shapes. I figured that the front and back would be cut on the fold, and that the horizontal line through the back and side panels would be where the gathering happens. I ended up not using the dart in the side panel, as that piece is gathered on anyway.

Petticoat b

 

My first step was to translate it to roughly the right length and width. For the length I just measured how far I wanted it, for the width I used the placement of the front-side seam. In the picture you can see that this is just slightly further than halfway around the body. This way I could figure out the width I wanted the front panel, and increase the size of the others similarly.

My first step was to take some notes and measures:

20191228_192732b.jpg

 

For construction, the first step was to cut the main skirt shapes, and sew them all together. The front panel has two darts, and has a yoke as waistband.

IMG_9409

 

The side and back are gathered to a waistband which is itself a bit larger than the waist circumference. The waistband then encases a string (starting at the seam between front and side panels) which ties in place center back.

IMG_9408

 

On the side and back panels, a piece of cotton tape is stitched on, encasing another cord (again starting at the seam between the front and side panel) which ties center back. Pulling this in keeps the width of the skirt towards the back, and the front smooth. This is quite typical of the skirts of this era. Though very wide, the folds are in the back.

IMG_9407

 

For the ruffles, I cut one strip 42cm high and one about 16cm high. All ruffles were hemmed with a rolled (machine) hem. This took a while. The small ruffle was about 15m long, the other one about 7m.

IMG_9411

 

I used my machine pleater foot to sew the small ruffle to the large one, and the large one to the base skirt. Before sewing, the top was simply ironed over about 1cm. In retrospect I cut too much ruffle fabric, as I didn’t really calculate the ratio beforehand. There’s plenty on the skirt though, and I can easily re-use the rest as linings later.

IMG_9410

 

And this is how it looks finished! I’ve put it over the old Edwardian petticoat to properly show what the shape would be at this point. It’s starting to show the typical A-line shape with fulness in the back. The final petticoat will serve to make the shape even more extreme.

1896 – Suggestions for dressmakers

Along with looking at inspiration pictures (aka: too much pinterest), I’ve been doing some reading on the 1890’s. The website archive.org has a large collection of old dressmaker manuals. Most for the 1890’s are drafting guides, but I also found one book which goes into more aspects of dressmaking. It’s called ‘Suggestions for dressmakers’, from 1896, by Catherine Broughton, and it’s a gem.

It has a lot of tips for how to make stuff up, fitting, lining, etc. But it’s also very funny, although perhaps not intentionally. So in this post, some things I learned, and some funny quotes!

Firstly, this book is written for an American audience, and absolutely cannot get enough of praising Parisians. The author was particularly fond of Worth, though not so much of queen Victoria….

Untitled-1

 

And in case you were wondering how exactly something was done, she reassures us it’s more about general effect. As the Parisians know, of course:

Untitled-2.jpg

 

Although reading the following, I’d probably be a bit less inclined to go to Paris for my dress. About Parisian dressmakers:

Untitled-3.jpg

 

She also has some really good advice though, and describes some clever techniques in enough detail to be very helpful.

These are some comments on fitting I need to remember. The tip to also fit sitting down is one I want to try more. (I’m also definitely guilty of fitting inside out, despite knowing I’m not fully symmetrical…)

Untitled-4.jpg

 

Of course, in case you thought it was easy, here is a comment to put you back in your place.

Untitled-5

 

But she does have good tips! If you fit around a posture you normally don’t adopt, then as soon as you go back into your ‘regular’ posture it won’t fit as well.

Untitled-6

 

And a little note on skirts.

Untitled-7

 

On cutting on grain: (of course, including some snark)

Untitled-8

 

I found the section on linings particularly interesting.

Untitled-9

 

She also has some interesting tips on boning. In particular that the boning should really stretch the fabric, and how to achieve that.

Untitled-10Untitled-11

 

And for everyone who has ever struggled with hooks and eyes which come undone (including myself):

Untitled-12

 

And a little bit on skirt bands. I thought the idea of piping was quite interesting, it definitely makes sense if the bodice goes over anyway.

Untitled-13

 

She then has some chapters on color and style, and her main message is that a dressmaker can make a world of difference. Snarkily worded, of course, we cannot let it get too kind.

Untitled-14Untitled-15

 

I’d definitely recommend everyone to read this little book in full, it has a lot more good advice in it (and also some not so good). It can be found in full online here.

To conclude, some advice on trousers, just so you know.

Untitled-16.jpg

1895 fever

I’m currently on holiday, so a little scheduled prettiness for this post!

Although I’m still working on the stays, I’ve also been brainstorming about my next project, because I’m going to a ball next May with 1890-1902 as theme! I have a ca. day 1905 ensemble, but nothing 1890’s, so it’s time for a new dress.

I have some plans already, which mostly center around year & fabric. I have some emerald green dupioni I’ve been trying to find a project for. The main problem is that it’s dupioni, so not quite historical. My ‘fix’ for this is to overlay it with black silk organza, which I also have in my stash. It will disguise the slubs a bit, and should create a nice overlay effect! (I’m also very partial to black-green combinations, as people familiar with my regular wardrobe will know). The slubs will still show a bit, but this will allow me to finally use this fabric I’ve had in my stash for a couple of years. I’d really hate to ‘waste’ this fabric by not using it, and I think this is a nice compromise.

20180103_113401b.jpg

It’s hard to get the color right on screen, but this comes close. Beautiful color, but quite slubby.

 

The other plan so far is to go full out, crazy 1895. The 1890’s saw quite a lot of change, with sleeves being slim at the beginning and end of the decade, but growing to huge in-between. 1895 is the height of crazy-big sleeve period. I didn’t use to love it, but it’s grown on me, and doing these extreme’s is just so much fun!

So for this post, some big-sleeved inspirations from contemporary plates and portraits!

Some with the lovely green color:

Green/black, with silk dupioni?

 

Some working with overlays and extra ruffles:

 

Portrait of Countess of Santiago | Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida | oil painting

 

And some because they’re just too fun and quirky to skip:

La Mode Artistique, February 1895

L'Art et la Mode 1893 N°02 Complete with colored engraving by Marie de Solar, Emma Calve

L'Art et la Mode 1895 N°25 Complete with colored engraving by Marie de Solar

Cartridge pleating in the 18th century

This is a story about cartridge pleating in the 18th century, specifically on fitted-back (robe a la anglaise) women’s gowns. About how I first did not know anything about it, and then learned about it not existing at the same time as seeing it for the first time. If that sounds contradictory: it is, which is the main reason I’m writing this post. (a hint to the conclusion: they do exist!)

Some pretty pictures to spark your interest (Kunstmuseum Den Haag)

 

First up: a little terminology! (feel free to skip to the picture of the blue damask dress if you already know all of this).

What’s cartridge pleating?

Cartridge pleating is specific way of gathering a width of fabric into a smaller area. Specifically, it involves:

  1. Folding over the top of the fabric to exactly the height you want it to be.
  2. Running multiple (at least 2, but often more) lines of gathering thread exactly parallel to each-other through the whole width of the fabric, one underneath the other. This is done (at least partly) in the folded over part.
  3. Pulling up the threads to form large gathers/pleats. The threads are kept in and secured in place!
  4. Stitching your gathered/pleated strip of fabric to where it needs to be attached (e.g. a waistband) one pleat at a time, catching the outside of the pleat to the inside of the other fabric. This leaves the width on the inside.

A picture for clarity:

Where grey is the right side of the fabric, red are the gathering threads, and purple (last picture) the stitches attaching it to a waistband.

Cartridge pleats

If you want to be sure a piece of fabric has been cartridge pleated, you need to check 3 things. 1, the raw edge is folded down, 2 there are at least two rows of gathering threads in place and 3, it is stitched to the other fabric not by pressing it flat, but pleat by pleat, keeping the width of the pleat. Of these, only the second one is always visible from the outside! But you can typically infer the others if the pleats ‘stand out’ and are not directional (so the ‘fold’ of the pleat is facing directly up in the middle), as this means they have not been flattened when sewn on, and this can only be avoided if you also have a folded over edge.

In my gold 1660’s dress you can see the finished result, with the threads peeking out between the folds.

IMG_4430

 

What’s a robe a la Anglaise? The exact definition differs a bit (in French it’s used for any fitted-back gown), but in this article I’ll be using it to refer to 18th century women’s gowns who have folded pleats in the back which are stitched down and run into the skirt. The skirt of the gown is cut in one with the back, and then pleated down to fit to the other pieces of the body. In English terminology, this is also what you’d call an ‘English gown’.

In this example from the MET museum you can see the folded back, and how those panels run into the skirt (click on the picture to see their high-resolution photos)

Wedding dress, 1776, American, silk.

MetMuseum, 1776, American

 

And now, on with the story!

The first time I saw cartridge pleats 0n an Anglaise was in 2017, when I got a chance to see some of the items in the Kunstmuseum Den Haag behind the scenes, on a study table. Including this dress:

 

 

 

I took a fair number of pictures of it showing the inside. Including of how the skirt was attached to the bodice, which was clearly cartridge pleating. All 3 characteristics were there!

This picture clearly shows how the fabric has been folded over, and how there’s a little ‘ridge’ where it’s attached to the bodice.

18670829_1951362918431589_8351882019846100688_n

 

And this picture from the outside shows, if you look closely, glimpses of the threads keeping the pleats in place.

18620165_1951363018431579_8973063782793935179_n

 

So what, you might ask? And so would I have, until I got a comment on one of my pictures on Facebook: “I thought they didn’t do cartridge pleating in the 18th century“.

I did not know this, and my first thought was: “Obviously they did, look at this dress“.

But once I knew this, I saw many more people talk about how cartridge pleating was just not done on these gowns (or any 18th century gown, for that matter). And these were people who I’d consider experts, long-term costumers and reenactors who had seen many original garments. In short: people much more experienced than me in 18th century dress.

Instead of cartridge pleating, the way to attach the skirts was by knife pleating, which is done by folding the fabric into one direction, stitching it on flattened through all layers. Like I did with my own silver gown: (even though here, the skirt was cut separately from the bodice.)

 

Or on this original gown sold by Vintage textile.com

 

 

18th Century Clothing at Vintage Textile: #2811 French open robe

1780s

 

So maybe the blue gown was just an oddity? That happens, you can often find single exceptions to a rule, and one counter-example does not prove something is commonly done. Maybe the person for who this dress was made just had odd taste?

Except that I also visited more exhibitions around the country. And I kept seeing Anglaise’s with what seemed like cartridge pleated skirts. From the outside, so it’s more difficult to be sure, but it certainly looks a great, great deal like cartridge pleating to me. This blue gown seemed increasingly less an oddity, and increasingly more like a very typical example.

These are pictures of the 4 gowns I’ve seen which seem to be cartridge pleated. Of all of the Anglaises I saw with folded back pleats and where I could see the skirt attachment clearly, this is 100% of them. I don’t doubt there’s English gowns in Dutch collections which clearly show knife pleats. But I haven’t seen any in person.

Kunstmuseum den Haag circa 1775-1799 (although similar, this is a different dress than the first!

Kunstmuseum Den Haag ca. 1780

Kunstmuseum Den Haag ca. 1780

Centraal Museum Utrecht, 1780

 

So what’s true here? Were these experts wrong in saying there was no cartridge pleating? Or was I seeing all of these wrong? My theory is that it’s neither, and although I cannot be 100% sure, what seems most likely to me is this:

Cartridge pleating your skirts was a typically Dutch thing to do. It was normal in the Netherlands, despite not being at all fashionable in France or England (and, therefore, the US).

This fits with the fact that 1. All the experts I’ve heard the ‘no cartridge pleating’ from are speakers of English and most familiar with English and American collections. And 2. All these examples of cartridge pleating occur in Dutch collections. (I haven’t seen enough items from other countries/cultures to know if it extents beyond the Netherlands, but if anyone does I’d love to learn more!). I proposed this theory to the same experts on Facebook, and the general consensus was that this is probably correct. (I was not imagining things, yay!)

8919

A very Dutch ensemble? A chintz gown with cartridge pleated skirt, over a blue satin corded quilted petticoat. (Centraal museum Utrecht)

 

There are two additional things which seem to support this theory. The first is that nearly all the cartridge pleats I’ve seen occur on dresses which share some other shared characteristics. This type of dresses seems to exist much more in Dutch collections than in others, indicating that this style was popular mainly in the Netherlands.

Specifically, all of these gowns have the pleated back (even though by the 1780’s, a back with cut back panels became more popular), they have robings in the front (folded edges running over the shoulder) which run all the way into the skirt, and the space between the robings is filled with either 2 sewn-in panels closing center front, or several sewn-in trips of fabric closing center front. Although you see robings a lot in the 1740’s and 1750’s in England in particular, these robings typically stop at the bottom of the bodice, and the center front of these is open (to be worn with a stomacher). Moreover, this style had become very old-fashioned by the 1780s, while a fair number of these Dutch gowns is dated that late.

This picture points to the robings and cf closure on the green gown.

 

img_5578b.jpg

 

And this picture shows the lining of one of the strips closing the bodice on the first blue gown. You can see the (in the picture) horizontal fold above this, which is the robing.

18620271_1951363041764910_2472099271685503652_n

 

There are more examples in Dutch collections that I haven’t seen in person, such as this lovely red chintz dress:

Japon, robe à l'Anglaise van sits, rood fond met grote veelkleurige bloemen, lijf met vestpanden, aangeplooide rok, mouwen met geplooid elleboogstuk, vierkante halslijn | Modemuze

Museum Rotterdam 1780/1785

 

For more examples of this style, see this pinterest board!

The second is that we know from some contemporary accounts that Dutch women liked their skirts big, and cartridge pleating is particularly suited making very full skirts stand out even more. The book ‘Aangekleed gaat uit’ has a reference to women mocking others for their lack of petticoats, and the book ’18th century Dress in Europe’ has a quote of a contemporary (non-Dutch) traveler remarking on the same thing.

So, the moral of this story? For me, it drove home a couple of things. Firstly, that the further you go back in time, the more important it becomes not to generalize knowledge on one region to another. Yes, people traveled and communicated, but in the 18th century, there were still loads of characteristics of dress common in one region/country but not in the other. The second is that it’s important to ensure that ‘rules’ don’t make you blind to what’s right in front of you. A single exception does not prove a general rule is false, but it could be a sign that there’s more to the story. And finally, that there is definitely such a thing as cartridge pleated skirts to Anglaises, as long as you are talking about a Dutch context, even if there isn’t in a French/English one.

I also now want to make my next Anglaise with cartridge pleats!

Because it’s so pretty!

IMG_5583IMG_5611

 

Edit per 10-01-2020: Two pictures of a silk dress from the Kunstmuseum Den Haag, seen early 2020 which shows cartridge pleats as well. This dress has the same characteristics as all the others, folded back pleats and folded robings in front.

IMG_9437IMG_9440

PoF Stays – Materials

After drafting the pattern, the second step for making the stays was gathering materials. For this pair, my goal was to get it as close to the original as possible. Luckily for us, Patterns of Fashion 5 has very thorough descriptions of what was used, and in the front includes extra info on what historical materials were!

These stays have 4 main layers. Two layers of linen canvas which sandwich the bones, one layer of wool sateen which is included in the stitching and on the outside, and a layer of linen lining which is cut in just two pieces per side and added last.

I started by looking for linen canvas that would work. I knew I wouldn’t be able to find any in local shops, which meant searching online. This actually made it quite tricky, because the most important thing for this linen was the ‘hand’. It needs to be tightly woven and sturdy, but not necessarily heavy. On pictures you can’t always see how tightly woven a fabric is. And although you can often find weights for fabric, weight doesn’t necessarily translate to strength. In the end, I went by recommendations from the very helpful people at Foundations Revealed, and ordered the ‘Artist’s Canvas’ linen from Whaley’s Bradford. I also have a sample of the linen canvas that Sartor  carries, which I think would also work, but is just a bit heavier, and just a tad less stiff. Whaley’s stuff is beautiful, and I’m glad I ordered a bit extra for future projects.

20191004_082542.jpg

 

The second fabric was the wool sateen. To be honest, I’d not even really started looking because I thought it’d be impossible to find wool sateen retail. But then someone mentioned that the same Whaley’s Bradford also carried wool sateen, so I ordered a bit of that! It’s a little whiter than the original fabric, as it’s prepped for dyeing, and I suspect it’s also less stiff. The book mentions that even the wool is quite stiff in the original pair, and my wool is very drapey. However, as the linen is what mostly takes care of the structure, I don’t mind too much. I also really love the pale cream color. It’s one of the most expensive fabrics I’ve ever bought (luckily you don’t need much for stays), but it’s absolutely stunning and beautiful to work with.

20191003_064022

 

The next thing I went looking for was thread. I wanted to sew these stays with linen thread, which actually proved quite a challenge. I knew I could order it from the US, but that seemed a bit overkill for a bit of thread, so I initially went looking in physical shops and Dutch online stores. I could find cotton and silk thread, but not linen. Until I visited the store of Sartor when I was in Prague, and they had some! They sell it in three thicknesses, and I got quite a supply which I hope will carry me through.

20190906_204259

 

To assist with sewing, I’m using bees wax I got from Sew Curvy. I hadn’t worked with waxing thread before, but know it was a very common thing especially for hand sewing with linen, and so far it’s working very well! My other sewing aids are needles I already had, a little pair of foldable scissors and my trusty thimble.

20191024_184640

 

Before I could actually start sewing, I also needed boning. The original stays feature baleen, which wasn’t an option, so I went looking for synthetic whalebone. I initially looked for the 5mm wide as that was the smallest I’d seen in shops, but everyone seemed to be sold out right when I wanted to order. Luckily, Foundations Revealed came to the rescue again, as someone had a lot of left over 4mm wide synthethic whalebone and was willing to sell it to me. I’m very happy with the smaller size, as this will closer mimic the look of the originals with their very narrow boning channels. Additionally, I have some 6mm wide synthethic whalebone which is a little thicker (1,5mm instead of 1mm) as well for next to the lacing cords. And I have one wide metal bone, for the front. The original has thicker baleen horizontally in the front, but as I won’t be able to get synthethic whalebone thick enough, I’ll be using the steel.

20191005_180930.jpg

 

And that’s all the materials I have so far! There are some things still missing, most notably the binding. The top of the stays is bound with linen twill tape. I suspect I’ll have to settle for cotton tape for that one, but cotton did exist in the period so I can live with that. The bottom binding is leather, and I’ll have to look around a bit on what to use. For my green stays I used Chamois, which worked perfectly, but I think the original has stiffer leather. I’m not quite sure what I want yet, as stiffer also means more difficult to sew, and tabs are a pain as is. There’s also a leather guard under the arm, which I have yet to find material for. The lining linen will probably come out of my stash, as I have a couple of different white linens left over from other projects. And finally, there’ll be several pieces of linen buckram to stiffen the front. I plan to make this myself, as I’ve seen several people post on how to stiffen linen with natural glues. I don’t actually need these pieces until after all the channels are sewn though, so that can wait a bit longer.

The next step in the process is sewing the boning channels. This will actually take by far the longest, so it might be a while until there’s a next post about the stays! I’m now going at a rate of about 9cm per 10 minutes, so keep an eye on my Instagram for endless pictures of straight lines of white stitching… Meanwhile, here’s an example:

20191018_075832

PoF5 Stays – Drafting the pattern

This summer, I started on what will be my big project for the rest of the year. A pair of fully hand-sewn stays, based on this beautiful pair in Patterns of Fashion 5:

20191005_175653-01.jpeg

When I first heard Luca Costigliolo describe his (newly found) method for patterning stays at the Structuring Fashion conference a year ago, I immediately knew I wanted to try this out. At the time was in the middle of sewing my 18th century dress, and after that I sewed 3 more outfits for events, all which had deadlines and therefore got priority. There are no more deadlines now though, so I’m getting back to stays!

I picked the wool sateen stays (1760-70) because I wanted to make a fully boned pair, which would work for the second half of the century. They’re a bit too straight to be fully fashionable for the last decades of the century, but wearing a slightly old fashioned style isn’t unthinkable.

FB_IMG_1570708907027.jpg

 

The first step on this project was the patterning. As wasn’t planning to also hand-sew the mock-ups, this had to happen before I left. In the end I made 5 mock-ups, in post is what I learned along the way, and what I ended up with!

To make the pattern, I followed an article on Foundations Revealed, which walks through Luca’s method for drafting step by step. Aside from taking body measurements, this drafting methods also requires some ‘finished stays’ measurements. Most importantly: the front length, back length, and back width. When I tried the mock-up on, I noticed I got the back length right, but the others not so much.

 

The back was too small, and the front too short. It was pointless to try to fix the other fit issues before I got these right, so back to the drawing board! This time, I traced the images of the final stays first, and looked carefully at the proportions to get the measurements right this time.

I re-drafted the whole thing from scratch, and this time ended up with something already quite a bit closer to the original! The main problem of this mock-up, was that it was too large, mostly in the bust. From this point, I made all changes to the same draft.

 

 

For the third mock-up, I shaved quite a bit off the bust by changing the center front line, and I raised the underarm to fit more snugly. With the high back of this model, I felt this would work to keep the back closer to the body. The changes are the black dotted lines as seen on the previous draft.

 

 

At this point I was getting close! It still felt just a little loose, so I shaved a bit more of the bust and the waist. I also changed the second panel so the front tabs would match the original better.

 

Of course, after mock-up number four I noticed I had over-compensated for the looseness, which made it a little too tight and dig into my hips in the back. Following some great advice via Foundations Revealed, I added a bit of room again, but also looked carefully at the pattern lines again. I made some small changes to get it closer to the original. Most important was the little ‘dart’ between the second and third panel, to make the back stand closer to the body.

This picture shows the fourth (red lines) and fifth (black lines) draft.

20191002_083440.jpg

 

This fifth mock-up was finally good enough for me to dare starting my actual fabric! I made some tiny changes to the angle of the front tabs, but that was it!

 

 

 

 

1880’s Tennis dress

The 1880’s tennis dress is finished! I already wore it about a month ago, but without all of the trim. I since truly finished it and wore it again last weekend!

20190728_113055

 

The idea of this dress started last summer, when I realized I did not have any Victorian dresses truly fit for summer weather. And that if you organize Victorian picnics, that is quite a handy thing to have as Dutch weather is most reliable in summer.

I’ve always loved the idea of the ‘sporting’ dresses which you see becoming more popular in the 1880’s. My main inspiration for this project was this dress in the Manchester Art Gallery:

Manchester Art Gallery

 

Although it, unfortunately, does not show any pictures of the back, it does feature a very good description. Including some interesting features. The skirt has boning in it (something also seen in this tennis dress at LACMA), so no separate bustle is necessary. The apron is actually one with the main skirt, while the back bustle is buttoned on over a back-closure. I incorporated all of these features in my skirt as well.

And, of course, I had to have striped fabric for this! Tennis dresses in pictures are nearly always either stripes or a light solid color. I found a lovely thin cotton with blue, red and white stripes, which was perfect for this project. I did line the bodice and skirt, as it is rather thin. The bodice was lined for structure, the skirt to support the weight of the ruffles.

The basic pattern of the skirt is TV261 – 1885 Four-Gore Underskirt. I sewed 3 horizontal bones in the back, and a fourth in a curve, similarly to the TV101 bustle. The bones are sandwiched between the main skirt fabric and lining. The fabric is gathered up to fit the bones, and three ties (one at the end of each bone) keep the curved shape behind the legs, similar to the LACMA dress. The apron I drafted myself, and is caught in the back-side seams of the main skirt. The skirt closes center back, and the slit is actually a bit shorter than I’d normally make it, as it needs to stop right before the first bone.

A close-up of the gathered channels with the boning, and the base skirt (sans hem and waistband at this point.

 

The back drape is very simple, and buttons on the waistband sides and back. I added pockets in the skirt on both sides, the entrance between the first and second horizontal bone. This works okay, but the pocket entry is rather narrow as it needed to fit between the bones. It’s good I have small hands, and I can’t fit very large things in it. It makes me wonder what the original’s pocket looks like, as I’m sure it’d need to be a tad bigger to fit a tennis ball.

The bodice base is TV462 – 1883 Tail Bodice, but without tail. The lining is fitted, while the striped fabric was extended (with a little guidance from Izabella Pritcher’s Victorian Dressmaker book), and gathered to the front. It buttons up front, and has a little lace around the collar and sleeves.

Below a picture of the bodice fronts, and sewing the button holes.

 

I wore the dress for the first time with the main bodice and skirt done, but without all the pleats on the skirts. These are 4 strips, with a 1cm hem and 2 1cm tucks, pleated down. They took a while (it was about 18m unpleated), but do really finish the dress!

I first pleated the strip and pinned it on both sides. Then the pleats were sewn down at the top, leaving the bottom pins in. I then sprayed it with a vinegar/water mix and ironed it. Then took out the bottom pins, sprayed and ironed that bit again. I used some painter’s tape to keep the bottom pleats in tape when sewing on the strips to the dress. They held up okay on wearing! Some of the pleats at the back were a bit mangled, but that was to be expected as I sat on them half of the day, and they were quite good about being ironed back into shape afterwards.

 

The pleats being sewn on, and a little close-up showing the the finished result and the tucks.

 

To finish the ensemble, I cut down the brim of a straw hat I had lying around, slightly curved up the back brim, and sewed on some big bows.

 

To finish off, some more pictures of the final dress on me! I wore it with a simple blue ribbon (leftover from trimming the hat) around the waist, but I might make an embroidered belt as the one on the original in the future.

 

20190728_11310420190728_113108