About a month ago I posted about my vest project, in which I’m making a 1890’s ladies vest from the leftover wool of my split skirt. That post finished with the mock-up done, and the pocket practiced. I had to wait a bit for my lining and back fabric to arrive, but after that I could finally get started on making this. I finished it last week, and wore it for a photoshoot this weekend!
I started the sewing with the basic construction of the back, which is a single layer of black cotton. This also means that the seams are finished nicely, as this bit won’t have lining. Basically, one edge of the seam allowance gets trimmed away, and the other edge is folded over and in, to hide the raw edge. Then it’s topstitched in place. In this picture I’m ironing it in place.
The fronts were where the main work lay. I interlined my wool to give it just a little bit of extra body. The pocket was made right after. A scary part, but it went well!
Then there was the canvas structure layer, which was pad stitched to the wool/cotton layer, and tailor’s tape was attached in certain areas to avoid it stretching. I totally applied the tape first, and did the pad stitching after, which is not what you’re supposed to do. I’d luckily taken into account the turn of cloth when stitching on the tape, so I was fine. My pad stitching was a little unnecessary, but something I wanted to try out. I do better understand how it works now, so I call that success enough! I also completely forgot to take pictures here, of course. So here’s one after the facing was already in place, but showing a peek at the layers.
The canvas, tailors tape and pad stitching are what help shape the garment. When those were attached, I could stitch the fronts to the back, and do a final fitting to double check the size.
Then, there was attaching the facing (basically the part of the collar that you can see) and then finally the lining. Final step was to attach the buttons and sew the button holes. I debated closing it left over right, instead of the (modern) ‘normal’ for ladies garments right over left. In the end, I left it as on the pattern though. My buttons were ordered, I normally try to pick those out in person but of course shops were closed. I ended up ordering 4 different styles just to be able to check the color and size. Hopefully I’ll be able to use the other buttons some time in the future!
Last weekend I got dressed up, as I had a photoshoot! The photographer I usually collaborate with contacted me, as we’re still allowed to meet 1 on 1 outside, so with the current measures such small shoots are pretty much the only costumy thing we can do. I wore the vest with my 1890s sports blouse, the split skirt, American Duchess Balmoral boots and an antique boater I bought this summer. I added a watch with a chain to the pocket. I really loved wearing this outfit, it makes you feel a little like a late 19th century explorer :).
I already got some pictures, which are really lovely. Thanks to Martijn van Huffelen for these:
I had predicted that this would be a year of more sudden changes in plans than normal, and so far that’s proving to be true. I’m still waiting on the fabric for my vest to arrive, and in the meantime I decided to make a day bodice to wear with my green 1890s skirt.
I’m participating as an extra in a Dutch show about history, and I was asked to wear my green ballgown with a cloak on top of it for an outside scene. I suspect they just chose that outfit because they wanted darker colors, but a ballgown in the middle of the day is a bit odd. It would be covered by a cloak, so in theory invisible, but then the weather turned, and the prediction for filming day was -2 degrees. Not the best weather to have bare arms.
I didn’t have any plans in the weekend before (because, you know, covid), so I decided I might as well try my hand at making a new bodice. I still had plenty of green and black silk left, so this could be done entirely from my stash. The bodice will have long sleeves, which I could even wear extra layers underneath as well. I had 3 full days for this, as well as a couple of evenings after work, so I wanted a design that wouldn’t take a lot of figuring out or trimming. In the end, I settled on this dress as inspiration:
It’s interesting without being overly complex, and as a bonus, the Victorian Dressmaker book actually has a pattern for this. Not to my size, but with the Truly Victorian pattern I’d used for my ballgown bodice as base and the rough shapes in the book, adapting became a lot easier. I still have some black velvet from my 1860s gown, so the velvet details were covered as well.
So I set to work! I didn’t make a lot of pictures, but after day 1 I had the main bodice drafted, cut out, sewn together and fitted! This seems like the most work, but as it’s nearly all machine work, it actually comes together relatively quickly. It also helped that I skipped the mock-up. I’d used this pattern for my ball gown, so I knew it fit, and pinning the darts on the body allows for last-minute adjustments.
Day 2 was for the sleeves. These are fairly complex because they have 7 pieces of fabric each. An organza, dupioni and cotton layer for the inner sleeves, and an organza, dupioni, tarlatan and cotton layer for the outer sleeve. The outer sleeve lining was fitted (with slight gathers) to the armhole first, then the tarlatan was pleated and pinned in (this is just a small strip, meant to give volume), and then the large fashion layer with dupioni and organza was pleated down to fit the smaller lining. Then the inner and outer sleeve were sewn together, and the whole thing was set in by hand, as wrangling layers is just easier that way.
Day 3 was spent on finishing the edges. This dress has a collar and belt of pleated velvet. I pleated them and stitched down the pleats by hand to make them invisible. Then they were both lined in cotton, stitched on along the velvet edge, and then the cotton layer was hand-sewn in place to finish it off. The sleeves I bound in bias tape, finished by hand.
That was the end of my weekend, and it was nearly there! The main thing left was closures, as that’s really essential to wearing, this was done in evenings. It closes with a combination of hooks and eyes, hooks and bars and snaps.
Final touches were a big velvet bow on the back collar, and a smaller one on the belt to hide the closure. I also decided to add a strip of black velvet ribbon along the sleeves.
All in all, I’m pretty happy I got this done within a week, and I can now wear my green outfit for day events as well as balls!
After finishing my split cycling drawers, I had quite a bit of wool left over. So I figured that I could actually make a shirt and vest to go with it, for a slightly more summery version of the outfit (as opposed to a heavy sweater). I made the blouse last summer, and now finally got started on the vest!
I’m using the 1890s vest pattern from Black Snail patterns.
It’s made to go over a corset, and has a beautiful line. I went for the double breasted view (B), with a small pocket for a watch. This pattern covers a number of tailoring techniques, and welt pockets, which were all new for me.
I started with a mock-up, and actually found I had too much room in the upper chest area.
I took out a bit of room there by basically putting a dart in the pattern. This slightly rotates the angle of the shoulder, taking out space where I needed without needing to put a dart in the fabric itself. (Thanks to Foundations Revealed for helping out with this!). Other minor changes were to let it out just a little in the hips, and take it in a tiny bit right under the arm.
I fitted the pattern both with and without a corset. My plan is to make it fit just right without a corset on, and then when wearing a corset to use the little straps at the back to pull it in. I won’t wear my corset very tightly anyway as this is more of a sporty outfit, and this way I have the option to wear it in more history bounding situations as well. I’ll have to see whether I add boning to the vest at some point to keep it smooth without corset underneath. I’ll see how all the layers work together first though, it’s difficult to estimate whether this will be necessary when a single layer of cotton is so different from wool, cotton and interlining together.
After fitting and pattern adaptations, it was time to cut the fabric! I cut the wool and the horsehair interlining, and then discovered that the brown cotton I’d planned to use for the back was nowhere to be found. I thought I had some leftover from lining the split skirt, but apparently not.
So while I’m waiting for new fabric to arrive, I decided to practice the pocket instead. Noelle from Costuming Drama made this vest and shared her process on her YouTube channel, including her iterations of pocket practice. I have a tendency to just dive in with new techniques, but I’m glad I did try it out, as I now actually understand how these pockets work.
I made one version in plain cotton (from scraps, which my iron then decided to bleed on, so forgive the slight stains):
And then a version with my wool:
My main takeaways from practicing were to mark well (a thin chalk pencil is a life saver here), stitch very precise and snip corners all the way. Also, when working with the wool, to perhaps use some fray-check on those snipped corners, as the wool has a tendency to unravel quickly. You need to snip corners all the way to not get any puckering, but there’s a fine line between not cutting enough (puckering) and cutting too much (fraying holes)!
These welt pockets are made in the 19th century way, which is slightly different from the modern method. I believe the main change is that the welt itself is folded inwards and stitched down, rather than out behind the fabric to be secured with the pocket itself. This way is not necessarily easier , and if you want a good tutorial on the modern way, I definitely recommend this video by my friend Nikki, who explains how to do it step by step! (She also includes a bit of the outer fabric beneath the welt, so your pocket fabric doesn’t show, which I’m not using either).
Now these are practiced, the next step is to cut the back, and the flatlining of the front, both of which I need to wait for the new fabric for. Stay tuned for further progress once those arrive!
I finished another UFO! When I made my gold 1830’s dress, I also cut out the fabric for a pelerine, as my inspiration original had a matching one. However, I didn’t have occasion to wear my dress outside, nor did I have a hat to do so, so the pelerine didn’t have any urgency. It also had many scallops, so I left it. But I’ve been on a UFO finishing streak and I now have a 1830s bonnet, so it was time to finish the pelerine!
I chose to finish my scallops by lining them instead of binding them as it would cost less fabric and I thought it might be easier. I don’t think it was all that much easier in retrospect, but I’m happy enough with how it turned out. I did add the piping between scallops and the pelerine though!
I tried two versions of the scallops beforehand, and settled on the deeper scallops. In retrospect, I should have drawn them out fully, as the trick to clean scallops is that you can cut the seam allowance all the way to the point. Turns out that’s very difficult if your stitching lines are too close. I did this right in the sample, but in many places in the eventual thing I had to snip some stitching to make it lay nice (and then use fray check, which is definitely not what you’re supposed to do…). Drawing out the scallops would have helped to keep enough space between the stitching lines.
I’ve tried to illustrate this below. Red is how to do it, with the green arrows showing you could cut all the way between the red lines. Blue is how not to do it, as there is a large overlap of the stitching lines of both sides which will make the scallops impossible to turn around.
I like how I now have a pretty versatile set of 1830’s things. I have 2 dresses, one green and one gold. The gold has detachable lower sleeves, so can be worn for both evening (ball) and day wear. The green would work for (non-ball) evening and day activities as well, it’s copied from an evening gown but has long sleeves to work for day. I have a brown/white bonnet which will go with both dresses. I have an antique white cotton pelerine which will go with both (though probably looks best on the green), and I have a gold silk pelerine which would work both with the green and the gold dress. Ideally, I’d have two more additions to this: a white bodice/blouse to wear with the green skirt (as the gold dress doesn’t have a separate skirt/bodice it won’t work with that) and make it more informal; and a coat, for which I actually already have green wool fabric. Those aren’t up next though, because I’ll first be making an 1890s vest of the leftover fabric of my split skirt. I’ve already started on that!
Usually, my plans for a new year are pretty directly correlated to plans for events to attend. I want to make the things I can wear somewhere.
Obviously, that makes planning for 2021 a little bit different. Any events which are tentatively planned are those that got moved or cancelled last year. And mostly, I’ve already made the outfits for them.
This makes planning more difficult obviously, but is also an opportunity in a way, to tackle some projects that never happened because no events came up.
So far, I’ve already started on some UFO’s. I finished a winter dress I started last year, my 1830s hat, and an 1940’s dress which has been in my UFO basket for at least 2 years.
I also want to finally make the 1830’s golden pelerine to go with my golden dress, which I’ve been stalling a bit because it has tons of scallops. I started on that last weekend!
And obviously, I want to continue working on my hand-sewn stays. I’m getting an increasing itch to do more 18th century stuff, and it would be really nice if I could actually fit things over new stays. The good news on these is that I’m now on the back-panels, which are both the last ones, and the one with the least boning in them. So the end of sewing channels is actually in sight!
I’ve also been thinking of making a vest to go with my split skirt. I’ve already got the fabric and pattern for that, so it would be a really nice venture into tailoring.
The final thing I’ve got plans for is slightly different, as I’ll be making my sister-in-law to be’s wedding dress! I’ve already started on it, as I wanted to make sure I’d have plenty of time to work on this. It’s a little different from what I usually do, but I’m very excited to work on it. It gives me the opportunity to work with different fabric and use new techniques, which is really exciting.
So, as you can see, I don’t have a lot of full-outfit plans yet! I’m taking this slight ‘lag’ in event-sewing as an opportunity to not plan quite so far ahead. And to do first whatever strikes my fancy first. I have plenty of long-term projects, a lot of which I actually have fabric for already. So some of that list might finally happen! Below are some inspirations of things that are floating in my mind somewhere.
Early 1850s Mourning perhaps? I have some lovely thin black cotton which would work well.
I also have white silk and black lace, which I want to make into a late 1850s ballgown. Though I’d have to check whether I have enough lace for this precise design, I do love it.
Of course, I’ve also still got green wool for an 1830’s coat
Or, if I’m in a mood for bustles, I’ve got the perfect checkered silk for this outfit on the left?
And, if I finish my stays, I can perhaps even finally start on that chemise gown I have the perfect fabric for….
Of course, a lack of events is also a chance to sew on a whim a little bit more, so we’ll see which of these actually happens. But it’s fun to cream of all the pretty things!
I make one of these posts every year, looking back at my plans at the beginning of the year, and what I actually did. Obviously, the big difference with other years is that all of the events I planned to sew for were cancelled this year. Despite that, I did actually end up making quite a bit from my list. I couldn’t wear the outfits to events, but I did dress up and make pictures, and I now have some nice additions for my wardrobe when events can happen again.
My plans started with the 1890’s, wanting to finish my new corset, make a blue petticoat, and then a green/black silk ball gown.
I actually did all of these, although I think I never even showed the finished corset? I’m wearing it in the top two pictures, it matches nicely with my petticoat!
For the day time, I planned to either re-make my Edwardian corset and tartan skirt to fit better, or to make a split skirt to go with a (modern, but fits the shape) sports sweater.
In the end, I did both. I enlarged the hips on my Edwardian corset, and added some gussets to my tartan skirt to fit my rib-cage. They aren’t the prettiest fixes, but definitely worth being able to wear them again.
I also made the split skirt, and later in the year added a sport’s blouse for a more summery version of the sport’s outfit. (Even though I haven’t actually worn the sport’s blouse with the split skirt yet…)
For the second half of the year, my plan was mostly to focus on the 1830’s, again for an event. I wanted to make a new dress, and then a white bodice for mix-matching and a hat, and maybe a coat.
In the end, I finished the dress, and started on the hat, which got done right after the new year. Because any urgency of an event was off, the blouse and coat never happened. I’d still like to make both, though.
The final plan I wrote down was to work on my 1780’s hand-sewn stays. I did work on them, though they didn’t progress quite as much as I’d hoped, and I’m still sewing boning channels. These are definitely a slow but steady type of project!
I did also make a number of things which weren’t planned. In April, American Duchess released a pattern for a lovely wrap cape, which I couldn’t resist making up.
In May and June, I went on a bit of a Regency sewing spree. (At that point, I still had some hopes for a Regency weekend in November…). I made new stays, which fit me quite a bit better than my old ones, made two dresses, and altered two spencers and a dress to fit better again.
Over the summer, I picked up an old project, for which I’d only done the drafting, and made my folded jacket.
And finally, after finishing the 1830’s dress I made a stripey bustle gown. This really was a palate-cleanser type of project, using cotton and poly taffeta, and making the design such that I could use patterns without any adaptation. That made the whole process much quicker, and it is such a fun dress to wear!
For the final months of the year, I took a step away from the big historical projects, and just worked on my bonnet and some unfinished stuff. The main thing I finished was a modern dress made from a fun panel fabric (adapted from “IJsvermaak bij een stad”, painted by Avercamp ca 1620). This project had been in the ufo basket since I had to change plans due to too little fabric. It isn’t the prettiest thing I’ve ever made sewing wise (and reminded me I don’t know enough about sewing knits…), but I’m glad it’s done, and it does look nice when worn!
Happy 2021 everyone! With the new year, it’s time for the looking back & looking forward posts, but I thought I’d start with my first finished project for 2021. A new hat!
I started this 1830s bonnet after finishing my 1830s dress, which I took pictures of with my Regency bonnet. The styles are similar enough to work, but hats did grow a bit more in the 1830s to match the wider skirts and bigger sleeves. For my bonnet, I wanted something that’d work with both my green and my gold dress, and I settled on a white/brown combination of fabrics.
And, I actually used a pattern! That was quite helpful, as bonnets are complicated. Mine was the Romantic period bonnet pattern by Lynn McMasters.
My main inspiration for the trim and look was this bonnet from Costumes Parisiens (1834)
I found some ribbon which was perfect for the style, and set off to work. That took a while, as I don’t particularly enjoy making hats, so I worked on it on and off since October. I made the frame, wired it, mulled it, and covered it, and these last past days I stitched on the trim to finish it.
So now it’s done, which means I have a full 1830s outfit to wear to outside events as well. Hopefully I’ll be able to take these out on a picnic sometime this year!
Time has been a bit odd this entire year, but November in particularly disappeared very quickly. I have done some sewing since finishing my stripey bustle, but haven’t started any big new historical projects. Instead, I’ve picked up a modern dress I started on last year, worked on an 1830s bonnet, and got back to sewing on my hand-sewn 18th century stays. None of those things are ready to show though.
So instead, I figured I’d share some inspiration pictures. I love dark red and dark green as colors, and love how they look combined. There’s just something very festive about it. As a theme, here are some 1890s fashion plates in holiday colors. I hope they make you smile the same they do to me.
Some snassy stripes,combined with red and green? The left outfit is also quite fabulous.
Plaid is always a good choice for the holidays.
A little brighter, but they make such a striking pair I couldn’t leave them out.
Again, fairly summery, but the colors are definitely festive!
Although these don’t have green, I did think they fit the theme:
And her friend was just too fabulously wacky to leave out:
Wouldn’t this make a great new-year’s look?
And to finish off, this fabulous lady. I had planned to only include fashion plates, but she was too good to pass. The color, the silhouette, the shine of the fabric. I might need to put this one on my own wish list…
I made a thing. It’s fabulously seasonal, wasn’t at all on my to-do list, and I’m really happy I made it.
The thing is that I have a ton of projects on my to-do list, both smaller things to finish and bigger ones I’ve already got the fabric for. There are enough plans on there to last me a couple of years I suspect.
But after finishing my green 1830’s dress, I mainly wanted an ‘easy’ project, something that wouldn’t require too much thinking, and which would be fun. And finishing old projects is just never as exciting as starting new ones, and the new projects on my to-do list all required more thinking than I wanted.
So instead, I turned to my pattern stash and pinterest. I’ve had this Truly Victorian pattern for a number of years, but I didn’t have plans in which it would fit yet. It was perfect for what I was looking for though, exciting, yet simple enough because I could just follow the pattern directly.
The other thing I’d been thinking about for a couple of years was a black and white striped dress. There’s just something about this type of fabric that the goth in me still really appreciates. I especially love the ones which combine the stripes with solid black, like this one:
So I ordered a pattern for a bodice, which was a little more interesting than the base pattern I already owned. Again: for the purpose of not having to change much, and just being able to make it up as it was intended. I settled on the Truly Victorian Senora bodice:
And I ordered some fabric swatches. I found black/white striped cotton. I wanted to pair it with solid black, to break it up a bit, but the solid black cotton didn’t quite give me the right feeling. While the striped cotton is printed, the black is probably dyed and it makes the color a bit less intense. It also was more loosely woven than I’d hoped. So instead, I went with a black poly taffeta from the same shop. I wasn’t quite ready to use my (much more expensive) black silk taffeta on this, and the poly stuff looks enough like the real deal from a distance. I also wouldn’t be using it for all of the bodice, which means that hopefully it will still be breathable enough.
And then I started to doodle around in photoshop! I wanted to try out which bits to make of which fabric, how to combine the stripes and the black. In the end, I settled on this design:
I cut the pattern and made a mock-up in the first weeks of October, after finishing the 1830’s dress. My fabric arrived half way through the month, after which I immediately started sewing.
I was aiming for about a month to make this, but it went so fast! Starting right after a holiday meant I had quite a bit of sewing energy, and having planned everything beforehand + working from patterns meant I could go full steam ahead, so that I was actually finished with the skirt within a week, and had the bodice ready in another. For me, this really is super fast. It did also really help that I went the ‘quick’ way on almost everything. Not bothering about too much stripe matching, hemming by machine, etc. Spending time on those things definitely give a costume an extra touch, but for this one, the goal was to make something fun, rather than something perfect.
As a final touch, I decided to get some bright orange ribbon and give the dress a seasonal vibe. I made a ton of bows, and pinned them all on the dress. They are all removable, which means I can still wear the dress out in a slightly more subtle version as well. They are quite fun though! For the pictures, I re-styled my 1870’s hat with some other trim (I saved the old one)
I think that after this, I’m ready to tackle some of my unfinished projects. This dress was really about instant gratification, and it did it’s job perfectly.
At the beginning of the year, when I was roughly planning out projects, I decided to work on 1830’s things after the big 1895 project was done. The main reason was a romantic (so, 1830s) weekend in the UK I was hoping to go to. Of course, that weekend got cancelled, but I decided to just go ahead with my plans. My main inspiration was this dress from the Concord museum:
I really love the bodice treatment in particular. You see a lot of pleats in 1830’s bodices, but I’d never seen this particular style which creates a diamond shape in the middle. I’ve since looked at fashion plates for something similar, but it seems to have been a fairly unique design.
While I was working on the base of the bodice, I also found a photo of the back. I’d only seen exhibition pictures up to that point, all taken from the front as the back was to a wall. But the museum actually posted the back view on their Instagram, which was super useful! It has this fun little ‘cape’ going around the back, which I never would have seen otherwise.
I started this project in June, and first up was patterning. I wanted to achieve a couple of things with this. First, was to use padding and really strive for the very ‘wide’ off the shoulder silhouette. The second was to pattern everything before I started cutting, including all the pleats. That was mostly because my fabric was only 80cm wide, and even with 8m of it, it was going to be a bit tight.
The pattern gave me some trouble this time, and it took a while to get everything fitting like I wanted to. A big shout-out to the Foundations Revealed community here for helping me out. But, eventually, I got there, and had all the pattern pieces in place!
I opted to use my silk only where visible. So there’s no silk underneath the pleats on the front, nor at the top back which is hidden by the cape. The sleeves had to be pieced, as my fabric wasn’t wide enough otherwise. That’s exactly what they also did in the period due to similarly small widths, so I am actually quite pleased with that.
I started sewing with the skirt, which is fairly simple, just rectangles. The front is pleated with knife pleats, the back is cartridge pleated. The whole skirt is lined, as the silk is rather flimsy on it’s own.
Skirt done, it was time to start on the bodice! I only cut those parts that would be visible out of the silk, so the front base is entirely out of cotton, and so is the top of the back. The side panel of the silk actually extends to the front to end where the pleats begin, and the center front ‘diamond’ is a square of silk whose edges are hidden by the pleated panels.
The pleats are stitched down strategically in places by hand, just taking small bits of the silk under a pleat to make sure the attachment wouldn’t be visible.
After the pleats were stitched down, I could add the padding. I’d already made the shapes out of thick flannel layers to fit my bodice pattern over. They were pinned in, and covered by a layer of cotton which I stitched around by hand.
Then came the sleeves. There’s a join in the silk, and the sleeves are again fully lined to give a bit more structure. There was a lot of gathering involved! I tried to get as much volume as possible towards the back, but in the end it’s pretty evenly gathered as tightly as possible all the way around to make it fit. I finished the slits in the sleeves first, by simply laying the lining to the silk right sides together and turning inside out. This gives a neat finish to the edge.
The cape was piped with double piping, which was quite fiddly as it needed to go around all the points. I decided not to line the cape, as I was afraid the lighter cotton would show too much, and I didn’t have enough silk left to fully line them with that. So the piping around the edge is stitched down as small as possible to not show too much on the right side. The cape was stitched onto the neckline first, which was then finished by a row of single piping, with a slightly larger cord. It’s actually important to finish the necklines of these gowns with something non-stretchy, as you don’t want an off-shoulder gown to stretch and slip off.
Final touches were the waistband, boning, and the hooks and bars. The back was finished the same way as my friend Nikki shows in her wonderful video here.
As a quick wrap-up, I made myself some sleeve plumbers from the AD pattern here. These are quite important for keeping the dress in shape, though I think I want to experiment a bit more on how to attach them best to the dress.
And then she was done! This project took some time, mostly as I took long stretches off to wrap my head around what to do next. With the bodice taking a number of drafts, and the layers of silk and cotton and pleating in the bodice all needing some figuring out, it took more brainpower than I had most evenings after work. I’m really happy with how it turned out though, and can’t wait to wear it out when it’s possible to have events again.
Meanwhile, I took it for a brief spin during our holidays near the forest, to get some pictures! I took my antique pelerine and Regency bonnet as accessories, because I’m still working on an 1830’s bonnet. It’s not quite big enough, but has an okay shape.
The pelerine is very pleasant for covering your shoulders, but also effectively hides the most interesting part of the dress: the bodice pleats. So I also took some pictures without.