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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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…)

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:

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

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

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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:

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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!

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

 

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Embroidered pockets

Earlier this year I was travelling, and looking for a project to take with me on the trip. As my regular projects are rather a hand full, I decided to try my hand at embroideriy.

I’d been wanting to make an 18th century pocket for a little while. I currently use a very functional, and very ugly black pocket I made very quickly years ago. It works, but having admired other people’s embroidered pockets, I wanted something prettier. As embroidering a pocket takes some time, yet is all hand work and small enough to fit in a carry on, it was the perfect project for a trip!

I really enjoyed working on the pocket, and finished the embroidery soon after I got back. So when I had another trip shortly after finishing the first, I decided to make a pair!

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This was my first try at ‘real’ embroidery, although I had done corset flossing before. Because of that, I saw this mostly as a practise project. I drew the designs inspired by originals, but not really copying anything. The first (pink) pocket was sewn from colors I already had, the second one I ordered colors for.

During the trip, I kept my materials in this lovely antique cardboard box.

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Both pockets were started at the airport. The branches are done in chainstitches

 

I worked on both pieces during flights, and during the stays at times. As both were solo trips, it was nice to have an activity for during tea, lunch, or slow evenings.

 

The embroidery was done on linen. After finishing, I constructed the pocket (also by hand). The finishing was done completely with whatever I had laying around.

 

The pink one has a back from Ikea cotton, the blue one a scrap of blue cotton. Both are bound with left-over pieces of binding.

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The binding was stitched on with small stitches, but actually came together quite quickly. The slit was bound with white bias tape on both.

 

The second pocket was sewn together on a train, continueing the travel tradition. It took about 1,5 hour start to finish.

 

I decided to make two separate pockets, instead of attaching both to the same ties. This way I can choose to wear just one, and am a bit more flexible on positioning when wearing both.

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To finish up, some closer looks at the embroidery! It’s definitely not perfect, but I’m pretty happy given that I’d never done either a chainstitch or a satin stitch before.

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Victorian Fancy Dress

I was very excited when Shari from La Rose Soiree announced that she’d be holding a Victorian Fancy dress ball. It’s a very specific theme, but it also gives opportunity for some very fun costuming!

I based my dress on fabric I already had, and it turned out to be a purple gold fairy. A short video of how it turned out!

 

I had this purple gold shot silk organza in my closet already. Originally I planned to maybe make a fantasy type of francaise with it as it was a cheaper find, but that never really happened. So when this theme was announced, I figured it’d be perfect for it! Colored organza is not really something you see a lot historically, but it does fit the fancy dress theme quite well.

For the design, I started with looking at a lot of different plates for inspiration.  I knew I wanted something flowery/fairy like, as that would fit the fabric best.  I also knew I wanted a ‘short’ dress, as that’s so specific to fancy dress, and looks so fun! (It’s also great for dancing ;)! ) In the end, I settled on two main inspiration pictures.

This was the main fairy inspiration. Although a different color, I like how this dress could very well have been made of organza as it has the same light feel to it. I also liked the fairy with flowers concept, and the length.

 

The skirt design I wasn’t 100% sure about, so I did some more looking for dresses with flowers, and eventually settled on this pink dress as main inspiration for the skirt. I really like the pleats on the under skirt, and the flowers to the side of the drapery.

Right, gold flowers

 

With those ideas, I went to work! The very first step was deciding how to treat the sheerness of the organza, as it’s definitely see-through. I settled on lining it with cotton in a light blue color. The blue makes the purple a tad less bright, and a bit more lavender-like, which I preferred.

I cut the lining as mock-up, and fitted it that way first. Then all the pieces were flat-lined, stitched together, and the darts were pinned through all layers on the body to get a smooth fit.

 

For the base skirt, I cut the cotton following the basic 1880s underskirt from Truly Victorian. The organza layer was cut nearly twice as wide for the front and side pieces, to allow for the pleats in front. The organza was hemmed with french seams, and all the layers were caught at the top in the waistband.

 

Fitting time! This is always the exciting stage where things start coming together. At this point, the center front is still pinned to do a final check of the bodice fit over the skirt, before it’s sewn shut.

 

The bodice is boned center back, with eyelets to close it. I had a look, and saw both offset and parallel rows of eyelets (for spiral and criss-cross lacing respectively) on 1880s dresses, in the end I went with a parallel line. I worked the eyelets with silk machine thread doubled up, which worked quite nicely.

 

The overskirt was based on Truly Victorian TV362, but shortened. In this picture it’s still un-hemmed. I already shortened it when cutting, but this shows that especially the apron needs further shortening still, to give room for flowers on the underskirt! The right picture shows the gathers at the top back of the underskirt.

 

For the bodice decoration, I draped some pieces of organza on top until I liked the look.

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The skirt decoration is made of plastic flowers, as I didn’t really want to make flowers myself (nor had the time). I ordered a mix of gold and purple flowers, and spray painted them with white gold in various thickness to make them match with my fabric. On the underskirt, there’s two roses glued to one gold flower, then backed (first glued, than stitched) with felt, and then the whole thing is stitched on.

 

For the side drapery, I used a purple garland and just twisted gold and purple flowers into it. The whole thing is attached to the side gathers of the overskirt on both sides.

 

Final touches were the roses on the bodice and shoes, both which I backed with leafs originally attached to the gold flowers. The shoes are American Duchess Tissots, and the roses are sewn onto shoe clips to make them versatile!

 

The sleeves were finished with some leafs as well, and I also had some leftover time to make wings! I based these on plates of Victorian ballet dancers, as I wanted a small shape which wouldn’t hinder any dancing. They are made of wire, with fabric glued on. The fabric is glued around the edge of the wire, and the raw edge was hidden with some glitter glue I found in an old crafting box.

 

So that’s the whole look put together! It was such a fun project to work on, and the finished result is so whimsical it really makes me happy to just look at. It was also very comfortable to wear! The shorter skirt makes dancing a breeze, and I had to check myself when I didn’t even have to lift my skirt when going up the stairs. I definitely showed a lot of ankle, but fairies can be a bit scandalous, right?

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New-year ball in Ghent

As mentioned in my 1830’s dress post, I wore it to the new-year’s ball in Ghent. The theme was 1830-1860 this year, and it was the perfect excuse to finally make this dress.

The ball is held in the opera of Ghent, in a beautiful baroque style room. This year, there was a dance workshop in the afternoon, which we went to as well.

After the workshop, it was time to eat, and then prep for the evening! I started on my hair, as I’d never done 1830’s hair before. I tried to photograph the process, maybe it’s helpful!

As I don’t have any hair shorter than hip length, I used fake hair for the side curls. This is such a typical thing for the era, I didn’t want to do without. These are real-hair extensions which I modified, and I’d curled them with rollers (wet-set) before.

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My other piece of fake hair was a very long weft. I used this to supplement the braid. Although my hair is very long, it’s not very thick, so I can usually use a little extra volume.

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Firs step was making the typical v-shaped parting. I then put everything up in a very high ponytail.

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Next was clipping in the front extensions. I then took two pieces from my ponytail and made two small rope braids, which go over the line of the extensions to hide them. (A quick note: this took a lot of fiddling and even more pins, I really want to find a quicker way to do this…)

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The front done, I pinned the weft into my ponytail and braided the whole lot. I then wrapped it into a bun, taking care to wrap the second time on top of the existing braid to create height. I then hid the ends and elastic inside the bun.

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And done! To finish it, I clipped in two huge flowers to the side of the bun. For another tutorial (including the famous loops), my friend Nikki has a wonderful tutorial on her youtube channel here.

The ball itself was really nice. There was a lot of dancing, and swooping crinolines. I quite liked my corded petticoat, it was definitely easier to dance in than a hoop!

 

 

In-between dancing there was social time with friends, taking pictures, and just looking at all the other lovely people. Some pictures!

The golden girls, with Josselin (my partner in crime for the weekend) and Corina. Gold was quite a popular color in this era! I love how we’re slightly chronological, early 1840’s, midway 1830’s and early 1830’s.  (It shows beautifully in the hem length!)

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We did a 1830’s group picture at the end. It took a while to get us in order, but eventually we managed to behave.

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Some more pictures of my finished dress

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1830s dress

I started thinking about a 1830s dress quite a while back, mostly inspired by the wonderful Nikki, who does this era so well. About half a year ago, the theme for the new-years ball in Ghent was announced to be 1830-1860, and I figured that this would be the perfect excuse to finally start this dress.

I already had the fabric, a wonderful pale gold figured silk. So I started looking at pictures, and was immediately drawn to the pleated sleeves you see appear around 1836. The 1830’s is known for the huge sleeves, and I do like those, but I love the pleats, so that’s what I went for. (When in doubt: do what excites you most). I looked at quite a lot of originals (online) in the MET museum, and eventually settled on this dress:

Jan historical - gold 1830s gown

 

I love the sleeves on this dress, how they still have the fabric fullness, but also the pleats. I also quite liked the shape of the bertha, and the little rosettes. Extra bonus was that I figured I could make the ‘sleeve bands’ removable, and make the dress more versatile this way. It also has removable undersleeves, and a pelerine which transforms it into a day dress. I’m all for versatility, so that’s great.

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In making this dress, I tried to copy it as much as possible. That meant lots of piping, and double piping, which was quite a bit of work, but definitely worth it.

The process of making double piping I found in the 1876 ‘Guide to dressmaking ‘, which can be found online (page 30). Basically, you take a bias strip, put a cord in one half, then a cord in the other half, then fold double to get a double cord.

 

The bertha was made following Janet Arnold’s ca. 1840 dress. It has a cotton canvas base, and the silk are bias strips which are stitched on top. It looks like pleats when finished, but the construction is quite different.

 

For this dress, I also really wanted to try out padding, inspired by a talk by Luca Costigliolio on padding in 19th century bodices. (The gist: it’s extremely common, for all types of figures, through the eras. Sometimes visible, sometimes hidden.). The silhouette in this era is quite wide, and I can use a little help in the bust era in general. I made my padding of cotton quilting sheets. Cutting in layers of 2, I cut 4 circles in increasing diameter.

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I ended up taking off the smallest one, and folding it up to fill in the space above the bust a bit. This is a place you often see padding in originals as well. The padding was placed quite wide in the end, as the main goal was to increase width. I really love how it ended up, the effect is subtle enough that you don’t immediately think it’s padded, but it helps the whole shape so much.

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I sewed a cotton ‘lining’ to the padding before sewing the whole thing into the bodice. This is the final shape.

 

The sleeves are pleated towards the middle at the top, and then stitched a bit further down as well. The armhole is piped, and the shoulder seam as well. For the final sleeves, I made sleeve bands which are pinned around the fullest part of the sleeve.

 

I also followed Janet Arnold for the skirt, taking inspiration for the skirt fullness, and gathering the very back, then pleating the rest forwards, as the original also shows. I choose not to fully line the skirt, as my original shows a line of stitching where the facing is attached, so I faced the hem as well.

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Hem facing. The long stitches are to catch the silk where it’s folded double, so the hem is basically 2 layers of silk and one of cotton.

I sewed all invisible seams by machine for this dress, but all the finishing is by hand, as usual. The dress closes with hooks in the back, and the final touch are the little rosettes. One to hide the endpoints of the bertha, one on each sleeve band and one in the back. They are made by covering a button, and then gathering a folded strip of bias to form a circle.

 

I managed to finish the whole dress just in time for the new years ball last weekend. I’d counted on skipping the sleeve band, or not finishing the insides, due to lack of time, but it was done! I made this in about 5 weeks, (2 of which were holiday), which I think is a record for me. I also managed to finish without rushing through anything, which I’m really pleased with. Now I just have to make under sleeves and a pelerine with a whole number of small petals….

So, some finished pictures of the dress on me! More on the ball itself in a next post!

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