17th century shift

Although I finished my 1660s gown nicely on time in 2017, the outfit wasnt’t quite complete yet. Most importantly, I still needed a shift!

In many 1660’s portraits, you see large white ‘under’ sleeves beneath the bodice sleeves, which are (I suspect) usually the sleeves of the shift. Additionally, you often get a bit of white fabric above the neckline of the bodice. Again, probably usually the shift.

Although you see many different styles, both in neckline and undersleeve, this was the look I was going for.

Caspar Netscher The lady at the window (1666, Heydt Museum Wuppertal)

Caspar Netscher The lady at the window (1666, Heydt Museum Wuppertal)

 

So a large pouf with a ruffle beneath the sleeve, and a thin white band above the neckline.

Just in comparison, some of the other styles I found.

Many Dutch portraits show the more ‘modest’ (protestant?) look with narrow sleeve cuffs and/or a large lace collar. I might try my hand at these as well some time, but for the ball I wanted a more ‘evening’ look.

Portret van een jonge vrouw, Isaack Luttichuys, 1656 - Rijksmuseum

Portret van een jonge vrouw, Isaack Luttichuys, 1656 – Rijksmuseum

 

You also sometimes see a clear ruffle above the neckline, instead of just a narrow band.

c. 1668 Elizabeth Wriothesley, Countess of Northumberland, later Countess of Montagu (1646-90) by Peter Lely

c. 1668 Elizabeth Wriothesley, Countess of Northumberland, later Countess of Montagu (1646-90) by Peter Lely

 

Additionally, some sleeves seem to be gathered up and pinned, instead of having the ‘pouf’. You also see some sheer fabric in the necklines, which is different from the sleeves. I suspect these are separate and draped on top, although I’m by no means an expert.

Diary of a Mantua Maker: 1670s Gown

Margaretha Van Raephorst by Johannes Mijtens, 1668

 

Basically the main conjecture for shifts seems to be: gathered neckline, with or without extra ruffle, and long wide sleeves, either pinned up or gathered into a pouf. The portraits showing ladies in their underwear seem to confirm this.

Two portraits of Nell Gwyn. The first shows the gathered strip at the neckline.

Nell Gwyn, was a long-time mistress of King Charles II of England. Called "pretty, witty Nell" by Samuel Pepys, she has been regarded as a living embodiment of the spirit of Restoration England and has come to be considered a folk heroine, with a story echoing the rags-to-royalty tale of Cinderella.

Portrait of Nell Gwyn.
Painting by Sir Peter Lely

 

This second one is just gathered at the top.

Nell Gwyn (v 1680) by Simon Verelst (1644-1721)

Nell Gwyn (v 1680) by Simon Verelst (1644-1721)

 

In the end, I chose to base my shift on the one made by Before the Automobile. I liked her method of seamless gores, and it ticked also the boxes of having a pouf sleeve (although I made mine slightly longer) and a band at the neckline.

I sort-of measured the neckline to get the width of the finished shift, and cut my pieces about 2x as wide to allow for gathering. The shift is about 1m long from the neckline down. The eventual pattern pieces about these sizes: Front: 75 wide, 100cm long. Back: 75 wide, 105cm long, Sleeves: 60 wide, 50 long, Gussets: 13×13, Gores: 70 wide at the bottom, length to fit with front & back.

Before any gathering. The back is slightly higher than the front.

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I sewed most of the shift by machine as I wanted to finish it in a day. I might go back and hand-finish the seams from the inside.

The sleeves were hemmed with a small hand-sewn hem-stitch though, as these will show underneath the dress. (I need to iron them I see…)

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Some more pictures (apologies for the grainy quality, I won’t have any opportunities to take pictures with daylight for 2 weeks, so it was dark when I took these).

The gathering on the neckline and sleeve.

 

Left is the view from under the arm, from the side. The gusset is inserted into the gore, which is cut open, and then attached to the sleeve. And left is the finished shift!

 

 

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2017 in review

A new year means time to look back to what I’ve done last year!

I had some concrete plans, and some more tentative ideas. The concrete plans were for the first half of the year. These were: a balayeuse for the 1870’s gown, a day bodice for said gown, a bodice & overskirt for the 1870’s dress of a friend, finish the red fancy spencer, and a 1940s floral dress.

Of those, only the floral dress hasn’t been done, so pretty good in total!

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The balayeuse

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1870’s day/dinner bodice

 

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A bodice, belt and overskirt for Marije

 

A very fancy spencer

 

The tentative plans were: a red 18th century cloak, a brocade burgundian gown and steeple henin, a satin 1660’s dress and a black-white 1870’s dress.

Of these, the burgundian got made but the henin was simplified into a flowerpot style. The 1660’s happened, but in a much fancier fabric and with a different design than I was first thinking of.

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A damask burgundian gown.

 

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The 1660’s gown. This became a much larger project, as I wanted to do the fancier fabric and trim justice.

 

And, of course, I also made some things which weren’t on the list. In addition to the 1870s day bodice, I also made a hat and chemisette. The burgundian gown actually started with a linen smock, and then kirtle, which I hadn’t planned at the beginning of the year. Although not the one planned, I did make 2 vintage dresses, one 1940s and one 1930s. I also made a full 1880’s winter ensemble, and a corset to match.

 

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Chemisette for the 1870’s dress. I also made a hat and bag.

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A medieval smock

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An medieval kirtle and veil

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An 1940’s dress inspired by my grandmother.

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An 1930’s dress from an original pattern.

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An 1880s corset

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An 1880’s winter ensemble, underskirt, overskirt, bodice, hat and muff.

 

All in all, a pretty productive year! I also visited a number of fashion exhibitions, which was really great. And I went to Bath for the Victorian ball. Stay tuned for some tentative plans for next year!

1660’s skirt & full ensemble pictures

The skirt for the 1660’s dress was quite a bit simpler to make than the bodice. The skirts of this period are basically rectangles pleated to fit a waistband, so no tricky patterning there. The main question was: how wide should my hem be?

I looked at some other costumers for information, as the book I based the bodice on didn’t have a matching skirt in it. Some very helpful blog posts were by the Dreamstress, Before the Automobile and Demode. From their research I found that skirts are typically between 115″ and 150″ wide, so between 2,9m and 3,8m. My problem now was that I wanted to use full widths of my fabric, and have a very full skirt. With 1,5m wide fabric, that meant choosing between a 3m or 4,5m wide hem. The 3m would probably be more historically accurate, but with my very fancy gold fabric, I didn’t want to have a relatively narrow skirt. So in the end, I went with a 4,5m wide hem. A little wide, but the fabric is quite lightweight for the period, so it doesn’t look too much to my eye.

After sewing the 3 skirt panels together, leaving a slit center back, it was time for pleating. There’s some debate on whether skirts of this period are cartridge pleated, or knife pleated. I believe the main consensus is that they’re probably very wide cartridge pleats, folded to one side so they look like knife pleats. The extra threads of the cartridge pleating hold them in place though.

I opted for slightly narrower pleats, mostly because I had to fit 4,5m to my waistband, which was quite a lot. The cartridge stitches are 1cm wide, and I made 4 rows to about 10cm deep. I cheated slightly on the markings, and omitted those. Instead, I marked my finger and then stitched the next rows in the same place by eye. Not quite as neat as marking, but a lot less work.

Black marks the width, red the height for the first row.

 

Pulling the pleats in is one of the fun bits!

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I first bound the inside of the pleats to a piece of linen tape, to hold them in place. After that the waistband was stitched on, pushing the pleats to lie (somewhat) flat towards the back.

The inside, with tape to keep the pleats in place (left), and stitching the waistband on (right)

 

The hem was faced with grey linen I had in my stash.

I have one little pieced bit of hem on my skirt, underneath the lace. This was a measuring mistake on my part, where I thought I could cut more than I could in reality. I started with two coupons of 3m of fabric, and with piecing I could leave myself with one piece of about 2m, instead of two pieces of 1m. So I chose to mend the little ‘gap’, and as it’s underneath the lace, it barely shows.

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The top part of the lace in this picture will be the hem, so all of the piecing is covered in the end.

 

All the lace was stitched on first, and then the hem facing and waistband were added. The stitching only shows on the inside where there’s a single layer of fabric. I used the same netting as for the bodice, and the scalloped trim I also put on the sleeves. The other (prettier) scalloping I used on the bodice I only had a little off, so barely enough for the bodice alone. But despite the different laces, I think it works pretty well!

There are 6 ties on the inside. 2 are actually near the front, on the sides of the ‘flat’ piece. This is the only part of the skirt to go under the bodice, and in this way you can tie that part in place, then put on the bodice, and afterwards tie the rest of the skirt. I got the idea from Demode’s blog, who in turn looked at these pictures of the Bath dress, taken by Cathy Hay. (This is why I love the online community). The other 4 ties are in the back, I made 4 so the back might overlap a bit (difficult with 2 ties center back).

Above: putting the front ties on, below is a look from the inside of the skirt.

 

I also made a bum roll to go underneath, and a grey linen petticoat, following this great tutorial. The grey linen was originally intended for something medieval, but no concrete plans. So I used most for the petticoat, and the rest to bind the hem of the skirt. Stashbusting!

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The bum roll, it’s almost a croissant!

 

The skirt finishes off the look! So some pictures of the whole dress, only lacking a chemise now.

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More pictures!

And some details

 

1660’s bodice – Finished!

The 1660’s dress is done!

Well, nearly done, because I’m skipping the lining of the bodice for now, as I also still need to make a shift, and the ball is in two weeks. First up, construction of the outer layer and the sleeves! (scroll to the end for pretty pictures).

When I left off in the previous post, the foundation of the bodice was done. The silk outer layer is attached to the foundation piece by piece, by hand. It’s also not patterned the same as the outer layer, so the first thing I did was compare where the new seams would be on the foundation pieces, and draft the pattern on top of the foundation. A lot easier than adapting the pieces first time around, as I now had the foundation to start from! I also put a cotton layer between the foundation and the silk, to get some extra ‘padding’ to hide the boning. Cotton is not period, but I didn’t have linen thin enough laying around, and my goal was that all visible parts would look period, and you can’t see this layer anyway. The original bodice did not have a layer of interfacing like this everywhere, but did have paper in places. I’ve no clue what type of paper would be best, so I used cotton.

Cutting the silk was terrifying by the way.

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The first piece that was attached was the side back piece. It was also the most difficult piece, as the foundation has a little gore between two of the tabs, yet the outer layer has not.

The book described how the outer layer was basted in place first with pad stitches, before being stitched down, so I did that for this piece. Took time, but helps in getting it to lay flat.

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After the basting, it was stitched in place around the edges and around the tabs.

Next up was the side front piece. For this one (and the others) I skipped the basting. Instead, I pinned the silk over the foundation while it was on my dummy, so it would follow the right curve. I kept most of the pins in while stitching the edges in place, which was a challenge as they were sticking out straight in the back. Yes, I pricked myself regularly.

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The edge next to the side back was cut to size (as I’d cut the pieces quite large), folded over and top stitched.

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For the front piece the process was slightly different. The sides were folded over first and stitched in place, before attaching it to the bodice.

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This is done because the lace is attached to the silk before being stitched to the bodice. I used antique metallic lace, a combination of netting and a scalloped lace. The cords are modern, but I wasn’t counting on getting lucky enough to also find golden metallic cord.

The netting was stitched on first, two rows down the center and along the edges.

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After that the scallops came on, and finally the cord was stitched along the edges. I really love the depth of combining the lace like this.

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The front piece was then attached as a whole. The back piece was stitched on much like the others, seams folded back along the side back seam and top stitched. Center back it was turned around the edge and prick stitched in place so that the space for the eyelets was secure. I forgot to take pictures at this stage….

I did take pictures of making the eyelets though! I also calculated that these took about 10 hours in total. I spaced them quite closely, as I find that eyelets spaced too far apart really look too modern.

It’s a bit of a pain to do so many.

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But so worth it.

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The top edges of the back of the bodice was finished by turning the silk in between itself and the foundation, and stitching it in place. Possible as the top of the foundation was already bound. The front wasn’t, so there the top was folded over to the inside and stitched in place there. The raw edges will eventually be covered by the lining.

Then it was time to trim the back! Again I used a combination of netting, scallops and cord. This time it was stitched on through all layers.

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Final thing on the main bodice was to bind the tabs! The original used a silk ribbon, I chose just to use strips from the silk fabric. This was my first time binding tabs, and they’re not the prettiest thing, but as they’ll be worn inside the skirt I’m okay wit that. You can also see quite clearly which side I did first (left image). I did get better (right image)!

 

Bodice done, right? Except the sleeves, which I’d put off slightly… I made a rough mock-up by making a cotton sleeve and fitting that, to see if I could use the original size sleeve without alterations. Turned out I was rather restricted in my movement, but that was wholly due to the strap being quite low on the shoulder, the sleeve was fine.

The little sleeve-wings were made first, 2 layers of linen, covered in silk, covered in netting.

The sleeves themselves are made of silk, with a cotton lining, and a layer of heavy linen partly covering the top. This linen mostly helps to fill out the cartridge pleats. The sleeves were trimmed with one side seam sewn.

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Inside stitch lines, also showing where the layer of linen stops.

 

After that came stitching the other side seam, and then the cartridge pleating, and pleating and binding the bottom. After pleating, they were attached to the bodice. The shoulder wings I attached after I did the sleeves to get the placement right, and the finial step was to trim the bottom of the sleeve.

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Almost ready to be attached! Left is already pleated, right not yet.

 

And now it’s done! This took so much hand sewing fiddling, pricking in my fingers etc. I’ts probably the most labour-intensive thing I’ve ever made, definitely the most structured. I learnt a lot making it though, and I’m really proud of how it turned out. The materials are gorgeous (still so happy with my metallic lace!), and with the heavy boned interior I think it really gets the look of the period right.

So, time for pretty pictures!

From the front:

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And a slight angle

 

I also love how the back came out.

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And some details:

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I’ve put the bodice over my new petticoat in these pictures. The skirt is also done, but deserves it’s own post (this one is getting way too long), so that’ll follow shortly!

 

 

Dutch quilted petticoats

As it’s almost Christmas, something winter-themed for today, namely 18th century quilted petticoats!

When looking through the Dutch collections, I noticed a couple of skirts with very similar stitching patterns. You have to look carefully, but they’re all just slightly different. All of these are also in different museum collections! Apparently, this was a popular design.

Below is one of the best photographed of the lot. Clicking will bring you to the museum page, where you can zoom in to see the details.

 

Quilted petticoats were very popular during the 18th century all over Europe. They gave more volume to a skirt than a ‘regular’ petticoat due to their thickness. They were also nice and warm due to the wool inner layer. Although they went out of fashion at the end of the 18th century, some regional costumes in both the Netherlands and France kept them. This might be one of the reasons so many of them survive in the Netherlands. Another possible reason might be that there were some Dutch regions where the jacket/petticoat combination was worn more than full gowns, even for the middle upper classes. More use for pretty skirts!

Very similar to the first one! But this one has a small yoke at the top.

 

 

Many existing petticoats are of silk satin, with a wool inner layer and lined in linen. You see linen, cotton and wool examples as well though. The stitching is incredible to see up close, I’ve seen some originals and the workmanship is amazing. These petticoats would’ve often been made by specialist stitchers, a newspaper from Friesland mentions the move of such a professional lady in 1762 (https://www.modemuze.nl/blog/winterwarme-rokken-0).

Nope, it’s not the same! See the little singular diamonds in the bottom pattern? Those aren’t there in the other ones.

 

 

I know that at least in some of the examples, the technique used was different from what we’d call ‘quilting’ nowadays. Instead of a layer of wool or flannel put between the outer and inner layer, wool threads were pulled through the stitched channels afterwards. This technique is called matelassé in French, and ‘Zaans stikwerk’ in Dutch, after the region where it was found a lot. I suspect that in these petticoats, the bottom part might be matelassé work.

Yet another one! This one is display with a chintz jacket, showing how it could be worn.

 

1880s Winter bustle – pictures

Yesterday I wore my 1880’s dress for the first time, to the Midwinter Fair. It was really nice to wear, and even though it was rainy I had a good time.

Because of said rain, we only took some pictures inside. By this time my curls had started to sag a bit, but I was quite happy with how my hair turned out. Not having bangs, I flipped two curls towards the front and pinned them in place underneath the hat. Looks ridiculous without the hat, but with hat you’d never know!

 

Today it’s been snowing all day. Snow doesn’t happen that much around here, and when it does it usually disappears very quickly again. So I thought I’d take advantage, and dragged my boyfriend outdoors for a couple of minutes to take some more pictures. I didn’t curl my hair this time, too much effort, but the braid this way also works okay. And the dress looks really pretty in the snow!

 

You can’t really see it in these pictures above, but I’m wearing my winter boots with them! Very nicely warm and comfy.

 

 

Some more pictures!

 

Construction post is here!

1880s Winter bustle – construction

If you’ve been following this blog you might remember that when I got the Victoria winter boots from American Duchess, it got me thinking of wintery wool bustle dresses.

The shoes. I’m still in love (and they’re so comfy and warm!)

 

So when I was making sewing plans in September, an 1880’s winter wool bustle dress was put on the list next to the golden 1660’s gown. I had an event to wear it to in December, so a good deadline as well!

I decided on making it in burgundy, with black faux fur and black trim. This was the plan.

Winter bustle

 

It’s strongly inspired by fashion plates and pictures. The main inspiration was this one, mainly for the shape and fur placement.

1880s winter ensembles

 

But as I also really love the loopy trim that became popular, I wanted to incorporate that.

This plate is awsome as well.

early 1880s winter ensemble

 

And this is a great example of swirly trim.

Close up of 1880s photograph depicting a Victorian jacket with beautiful soutache decoration, embellishments. Passementerie. Detail.

 

The fabric I’m using is a wool/polyester mix. Not accurate of course, but it is a nice quality fabric still and has the advantage of being a bit cheaper than full wool. The fur trim is black faux fur.

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Main construction was relatively straight forward. I used the 1880’s underskirt from Truly Victorian, which came together really quickly. Only change was that I added the pocket from the 1870’s underskirt, because pockets are awesome.

Pleating the back. They’re cartridge pleats, so much width had to be fit into the back normal pleats wouldn’t have worked. Pretty!

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The bodice pattern was adapted from the 1883 tail bodice from TV. I took away the pleats in the back and lengthened it a bit. That lengthening caused it not to close in the bottom (I should’ve also added more width), but I actually really liked the look, so I kept it. Make a mistake and like the result anyway: just pretend it was done on purpose.

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Fitting the bodice. Another mistake: making the mock-up of cotton instead of wool, which makes it looser. The wool version was a bit smaller, oops. It worked out in the end though.

 

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The eventual shape of the bodice, falling open at the bottom. We’ll just pretend I planned it that way.

The overskirt I ended up draping myself, because I wanted that particular shape seen in the fashion plate. Took some fiddling with old sheets, but I’m quite happy with how it turned out.

Rather bad lighting, but the base of the under and overskirt together.

 

 

Then it was time for button holes! I spaced them really closely together, as seen on the photo I showed above. I didn’t have much overlap, so needed small buttons, and those always look better without too much space between them.

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With the fur trim on it already looks almost done, but I wanted more trim, and loops, and more loops. I eventually got 50m of the cotton cord for a bargain, because I needed 30 and the whole roll was 50 and the seller didn’t really feel like unrolling so much.

The overskirt first got a velvet ribbon next to the fur, and then the cotton cord next to that, with a knot in the corners.

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The inspiration for the knot:

Military Braid, Gold Lace, and Other Trimmings for Uniforms and Decorative Accents

 

The underskirt also got a velvet ribbon, but then more loopy trim and another cord above that. I made a template for this one to get the sizing the same everywhere. And it miraculously almost fitted around the whole skirt without weird overlaps being necessary! (I’d like to pretend that was measured out and done on purpose, but I was too lazy do do that so it was pure luck)

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Template and chalk marks.

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Done!

 

For the bodice I took the photo of the original bodice shown above as inspiration, but omitted some loops as my cord was a bit on the thick side.

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Playing with the trim to settle on the design.

 

Finally, I trimmed the sleeves, and then decided the back was too empty, so I trimmed the back of the bodice as well.

 

And then it was done! I’ll be wearing the dress next weekend, so proper pictures of everything finished and worn will follow!

1660’s bodice – foundations

I’ve gotten quite a long way on my 1660’s dress, and the base of the bodice is nearing completion. Time for a blog post about the interior, as it’s quite interesting on it’s own!

Although stays were already worn in the 17th century, the particular type of bodice I’m making does not need stays. Instead, the bodice itself is heavily boned to provide the support.

I started making my bodice with the guidance of the book Seventeenth Century Women’s dress patterns. It shows close-ups, an x-ray picture (to see the boning), patterns and full construction notes for every original garment. I based my bodice on this one from the book.

Pale-coloured silk satin bodice, 1660-1669, V&A. Decorated with parchment lace. The boned foundations is made from twelve pattern pieces, reinforced at places with up to three extra layers of linen. The middle side panel is unboned but stiffened with buckram and wool and may be a later addition to increase the size...

 

I made some changes to construction though, mostly because I machine-sewed the parts I could without it showing on the outside. I also didn’t always add every extra layer of linen. The original has loads of little extra pieces stitched in in places, and most of those I left out.

While the outer layer was attached entirely by hand, the foundation is therefore not constructed in a historical accurate way, just as a disclaimer.

First step was adapting the pattern. I’d scaled it up, but made it a bit too big, so had to take it in again. I also took away most of the bust curve in front as I didn’t need it, and I lowered the neckline. Many 17th century bodices are quite low, with maybe a shift on top to make them a bit more modest.

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Copying the pattern to cm grid so I could scale up to my full size cm gridded pattern paper.

 

Not necessarily too modest though.

Gerard Soest (1600-1681) Portrait of a Lady seated at a table with a jewel casket

Because I don’t think this one could’ve been much lower…

 

Being rather small on top, that means I could cut it lower than the original. I also changed the angle of the straps slightly so they would still lay over the shoulder okay.

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2nd mock-up. With a busk for fitting purposes.

 

After fitting, it was time to start the sewing! I used sturdy linen for the foundation. Every piece has 2 layers of linen. First step was drawing the boning channels on top, trying to follow both the original lines and accounting for different pattern shapes and bone width.

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Sewing the boning channels took some time, even by machine. I respect those who do this by hand.

One piece in the original is unboned, and instead stiffened by extra layers of linen buckram and wool. I used coutil because I didn’t have buckram (I know cotton coutil isn’t period), and some leftover wool from another project. Those layers were pad-stitched together for extra support.

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After that, I sewed all pieces together, again by machine.

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The trickiest part was a little gusset added between two of the tabs, for a little extra flare. It worked quite well on the body! It’s just sewn in by laying it next to the foundation and sewing it together. Both sides will be covered anyway, by lining or outer layer.

 

After that I put the boning in, I could still reach most places after construction. The only construction done after the boning was the strap, as that closes off the channels. I used 5mm wide German synthethic whalebone for this project. I’d gotten a 25m roll, and after my 1880’s corset and this bodice I had 2cm left over… Suffice to say you need a lot of meters for continuous boning like this!

 

The foundation layer also has a pocket for the busk. This was gone in the original, but is there in most other examples of such bodices. It’s basically a strip of linen sewn to the inside, and a pocket at the tip.

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Insides. All seams are stitched down, necessary because the linen is so thick it doesn’t lay nicely flat otherwise.

 

The final step of the foundation was to bind the bottom of the front panels, and the top of the back panels. These are the places where the allowance of outer layer will be turned in between the layers and sewn down. (The bottom of the back panels will be bound all layers together, the top of the front will be finished by turning the allowance of the outer layer to the inside around the linen.

 

That finished the foundation! It already looks really great, the most annoying thing at this point was not being able to try it on yet. The eyelets are sewn through the outer layer as well, so no way to close it yet until those layers are on and all eyelets are in.

At the moment I’ve only got a little bit of trimming and sleeves to do, so when those are done I’ll show the bodice with the golden silk and trim on top!

 

Blog anniversary

My blog is 4 years old today! In summer 2013 I started my first big historical sewing project. I’d only made a (not very accurate) Regency dress before, and this project was a 1860s dinner dress including all undergarments, so quite a leap. When this blog started I was still working on that dress, and suffice to say that project got me hooked!

Since starting historical costuming, I’ve made 4 corsets, 4 chemises, 2 pairs of drawers, a corset cover, two hoop skirts, a bustle cage, a bum pad, five petticoats and a balayeuse. That’s the underwear list (it’s mostly stored in one very, very full box).

My first and last Victorian corset. Still room for improvement, but it’s definitely moving in the right direction.

 

For outer wear, I’ve now made dresses/outfits for 7 different era’s. Late medieval, 1810’s, 1820’s, 1860’s, 1870’s, 1900’s and 1920’s. Aditionally, there are 2 spencer jackets, one mantelet, a jacket and 4 head pieces. Accessories really do finish a look.

My first and last regency outfit. Left was a dress only (no period underwear yet), right is a chemise, stays, petticoat, dress, spencer and bonnet. The left dress was a great place to start costuming though! (Right image by Martijn van Huffelen)

 

It’s always fun to look back, and a good reminder that your current skill level always matters a lot less than the fun you have in making and wearing your outfits. The whole process of research and discovery and learning is such an important part for me, and the great thing is that there’s always so much more to learn!

At the moment there are two more outfits in the making, and I’ve got loads of plans for more! Suffice to say, I haven’t grown tired of this hobby yet in the past four years.

Since starting this blog I also made a Facebook page and Instagram account for it. I just saw that I reached a 1000 followers on the Facebook page this week, which is honestly still a bit unreal to me! A big advantage of Facebook is connecting with other enthusiasts through groups, and Instagram is great for showing progress. Nevertheless, I still really value the more in-depth view a blog offers, so this one will definitely continue to exist as well. In any case: to anyone who has been following me, thank you!

One of the things that inspired me to get started with historical sewing were the other sewing blogs out there. I still really enjoy seeing other peoples projects, so to close this anniversary post a shout-out to some of the blogs that really inspire me!

The Dreamstress

This was the first historical sewing blog I stumbled upon, and I actually went all the way to the beginning to read the whole thing (that took a while). This blog really inspired me to get started on the big, elaborate projects, and to do it right.

Before the Automobile

One thing most historical costumers strife for is to look as you’ve stepped out of a photograph. To really get the silhouette, details and accessories right. This lady does that so well, and the way her dresses are fitted is perfection.

Prior Attire

Izabella runs her own business sewing historical pieces, and has made so many lovely pieces from all different era’s. On her blog she shares loads of advice, and I’m always impressed with how generous she is with her knowledge. Plus, I briefly met her at her Victorian ball last year, and she was a lovely host as well!

 

 

 

 

 

 

1880s corset

The mid-1880’s are all about the dramatic silhouette. The bustle is back in full force, and the fashion is for a small waist, full bust and relatively broad shoulders. In fashion plates you can clearly see this fashionable shape, which is of course exaggerated to near impossible proportions.

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I’ve started working on my first 1880’s dress, which will be a burgundy wool winter gown. Although I already have a 1870’s corset, I wanted to try to approximate the fashionable shape of the 1880’s a bit more. In my case that meant padding in the bust area, as there’s no way I can achieve (or even approximate) it naturally…

That’s when the idea for a new corset started, to be patterned on top of a padded bra. In my previous post I showed the process of patterning, and afterwards I could finally start making the corset!

It’s a single layer coutil corset, so there’s no extra lining or fashion layer. First order of business was inserting the busk. Because there’s no extra lining, I cut a facing for the center front, and the bust is inserted between the facing and outer layer.

 

 

 

I really love cording on corsets, and wanted to incorporate it in this one as well. As first I was wondering if it’d be possible with a single layer, but then I saw this corset on a visit to Stockholm. As you can see, there’s an extra piece of fabric placed on top of the main fabric to serve as corded panel.

Corset ca. 1860-90  From the Nordiska Museet

 

I decided to copy this method. Using small pieces of black taffeta, I stitched 15 thin cords onto the two front panels (on each side). As in the example above, I left the bottom and top piece of the taffeta uncorded.

I made a test piece first. cm next to it to see the tiny cords.

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After that, I corded the actual corset panels.

 

 

 

Construction was done after the cording, and was pretty straight-forward, I didn’t take a lot of pictures of these steps. All pieces were stitched with wrong sides together, leaving the seam allowances on the outside.

The boning channels were made from a cotton polyester mix, leftover fabric from my red spencer. The red with the black gives a lot of extra drama, and you do see contrasting boning channels in the 1880’s quite a bit, such as this yellow-black combination.

Corset, 1880-93

 

5cm wide strips were cut and sewn into tunnels with a 5mm allowance, creating 2cm wide tunnels. Those were then stitched on top of the (trimmed) seam allowances and stitched on in the center and to the side. This created space for 2 5mm wide bones (synthethic whalebone) in each channel. The center back also has a facing, creating 2 layers for the eyelets and an extra channel next to the bones. I also added one more boning channel for 1 bone next to the eyelets. Both this one and the center back were flat steel bones for extra strength.

 

 

 

After the boning channels the boning was cut, the edges molten (plastic is so much easier to finish than steel!), and inserted into the corset. The binding was machine stitched on, I used regular black cotton bias tape.

 

 

 

The final big step was the flossing. I love the fancy decorative flossing you see so often in the 1880’s. I looked around for inspiration, and eventually settled on the design of the corset below. I like the flowers, and how it covers 2 bones.

Terminology: What’s the difference between stays, jumps & a corset | The Dreamstress

 

I made a little prick-template so I could place dots on strategic places of the embroidery pattern. This way, all the bones will have the same size and proportion flossing. I adapted the pattern slightly to also floss the single bones in the center back.

 

 

 

Before you begin flossing it feels like you’re almost done, but I think the embroidery might’ve taken as much time as all the rest of construction… I did 20 double bone motifs and 4 single bone, the double bone ones took about 25 minutes to complete each. And that’s without the test sample.

But, it’s done! I’m really happy with how this came out and I really love the shape. If I ever find some narrow antique black lace I might decorate the top, but as I don’t have that in the stash for now I’m calling it done.

The front and side:

 

 

And side-front and back: