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!

 

 

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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!

1930’s Summer dress

A little while back I managed to get my hands on my first actual vintage sewing pattern. Even better; it was a 1930’s one! People looking for vintage patterns will concur that the older the pattern, the rarer, so that made me very happy. The seller wasn’t sure what size it was, and just told me it came in all the sizes listed on the back. As I suspected, when I got the pattern it was only in 1 size, but I was lucky that it was exactly right for me!

This is the pattern envelope front. The envelope is damaged along the folds, but all the pattern pieces are in a very good state (very minor short rips around the notches), and the pattern instructions as well.

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Included are a dress with either long or short sleeves, and a jacket. These were the pattern pieces.

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There’s a fabric market that comes to the town where I live, and this spring I found some lovely dress fabric coupons perfect for a 1930’s dress. I had to find 2 the same, as one wouldn’t be enough for the dress, but managed to find one in a lovely red flowered dress fabric.

First was mock-up time! I’ve had some experience with modern simplicity patterns being either too narrow in the back, or too full in the bust. That’s because I’m a bit smaller on top than the standard size, so I was ready to make some adaptations. This is what my dress front blouse piece looked liked after the small-bust adjustment. Cutting and overlapping so that the waist, shoulder and armhole seams stay the same, yet there’s less width across the bust. I looked at online tutorials for this, google is your friend!

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Fitting and tracing is not really my favorite part of sewing, but tea and blueberries are  good companions!

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I only took one progress picture after this… I really loved working with the vintage instructions. I’m also seriously impressed by how they managed to get 3 sewing steps in one picture and still made it make sense. The pattern instructions were one side of the sheet, both dress and jacket, and I didn’t once feel lost despite their compactness.

They also gave several ways of finishing the raw seams, and I decided to pink them for this project! The neckline and sleeves are finished with bias tape, and facing along the neckline split. I appreciated how all hems and facings needed to be finished by hand. With my experience with historical sewing I know how much prettier some things turn out when done by hand, and I think it’s something we’re just not used to anymore.

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As that’s the only progress picture I have, some images of the final dress!

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I was a bit too lazy to set-up the full photo equipment, so just one image of the dress on me, from a slightly odd angle… It looks better on me than on my dress form though, so to show the difference.

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Time for details!

The top of the bodice.

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Sleeve gathers.

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The back neckline has darts for shape. Tiny stitches where the facing is attached.

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The front bodice attached to the skirt. There are gathers on 2 sides, and the skirt is top stitched.

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The only difference I made to the original pattern was to use a invisible zipper, which I believe weren’t actually invented yet in the 1930’s. The instructions do show how to put a zipper in, although they don’t actually call it that yet, and they do also provide a hooks-eyes option.

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All in all this was a very enjoyable project, and I really like the dress. I have several reproduction-vintage patterns I still need to make up, and I’ll definitely keep an eye out for originals in the future!

Medieval Kirtle

After making a medieval smock, it was time for a kirtle!

Definitions are tricky, and I’m no expert on Medieval fashion, but as far as I could find the term ‘kirtle’ generally just means a close-fitting dress. Usually they were worn underneath another dress, or layered, but this depends a bit on the era and the social class of the wearer. Lower class working dress often had a kirtle as outer dress, while an upper class person would be much more likely to only wear them as a base layer.

Les Tres Riches Heures du Jean, Duc de Berry, created in 1416:

Blue kirtle worn over what seems like just a smock. Short sleeves, clearly working dress.

 

Kirtles were probably most often made of wool. The other option is linen, which was more often used as fabric for undergarments. I’ll be making mine out of linen, also because I’m mainly making this dress as undergarment for a silk burgundian gown and I suspect linen will be more comfortable (=less warm) than wool. But I also want to be able to wear it on its own, which means a linen kirtle as outer dress. I believe this did happen, but was most likely as a working outfit, and not really what a higher class lady would wear.

I’m making a green linen kirtle. There’s plenty of examples of green dresses, but in retrospect I’m not entirely sure how likely this would be, especially as outer dress. The reason for that is that linen can be a bit tricky to dye, it doesn’t take color quite as well as wool or cotton. Additionally, green isn’t the easiest color for fabric as it requires 2 layers of dye, a yellow and a blue one, dye specifically for green didn’t exist yet. That makes green a more expensive color. Taken together, it makes me wonder how likely it is that a linen, more lower class kirtle is green. If anyone has any thoughts on this I’d love to know!

I’m sticking with it though, as I do love the color. You do also see plenty of green in paintings, which makes me wonder if it’s because it was more expensive as a dress color, so showed status, or also because green paint was easier? Anyway, here’s an example of a green kirtle.

A kirtle or, under gown, is a garment worn by men and women in the Middle Ages(15th century), a one-piece garment worn by women from the later Middle Ages into the Baroque period. The kirtle was typically worn over a chemise or smock and under the formal outer garment or gown.kirtle  sotto la veste, è un indumento indossato  nel Medioevo (15 ° secolo), un indumento di un solo pezzo indossato dalle donne  Il kirtle era indossato sopra una camicia o grembiule e sotto il mantello o abito formale.

Anyway, on to the dress diary! I patterned the kirtle using a variation of this method. The difference was that I didn’t lie down, and didn’t have anyone helping me. That mainly just meant more taking it off in between to pin, then putting it back on again. For the gores and sleeves I used the Medieval tailor’s assistant book by Sarah Thursfield as base. I read some conflicting things about the width of the gores, and in retrospect I think I made them a bit too wide. I suspect the variation comes from variations in gore height, mine are actually not that high up, which means they could be narrower. I might go back and change this in the future, but for now it’s fine.

After patterning & cutting, the first thing I did was sew the lacing holes. My kirtle will be front lacing, with 19 eyelets on both sides. Suffice to say, sewing those took a while.

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Patterning, fitting, cutting & sewing

 

With the eyelets done I could check the fit, and as that was right I moved on to the sleeves. Back to mock-up time! I’m pretty happy with how these turned out, and the mock-up shows I could move my arm, which was the most important thing.

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Never mind the huge seam allowances, I tend to be a bit cheap and avoid cutting in mock-up fabric. But I could move!

 

With the sleeves in, I made cloth buttons. Again, as I’d never done this before, google helped me out. This was a great tutorial, and after a couple of tests I got it down.

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Follow the link above to get a description, but this is what the process looked like.

 

After the buttons, time for button holes. They didn’t turn out very pretty, but they’re functional. My main problem was a combination of too many fabric layers (hem+facing made 5 layers in some places) and thin thread. I really wanted to use silk thread though, and I couldn’t find that any thicker, so I tried to stitch super close together and be patient. That took ages, and didn’t make it perfect, but a little better. Conclusion: try to avoid too many layers when sewing button holes!

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When buttoned they look okay, not perfect, but good enough.

 

Final thing was finishing. Although I did the main seams by machine (I know, cheating, and not correct at all but quicker), I did hand-finish all the edges.

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Neckline

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Hemming

 

So now it’s done! To take the pictures I also made a fillet (following the Medieval Tailor’s book again), and a round linen veil, 1m across. I was greatly helped by this tutorial for the size, and a short instagram tutorial she made for narrow hems. I think I need to wash the veil because it’s a bit stiff still, which makes it hang a little weirdly, but overall I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. It definitely finishes the outfit!

The full dress:

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And a little closer (I do love the little sleeve buttons!)

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1820’s Ballgown

A couple of months ago I was at a fabric market and stumbled on a lovely light-blue fabric with silver ribbon embroidery on the sides. I totally wasn’t planning on anything where it would work, but it was too pretty to leave! Also, it was pretty cheap, being a poly-satin, but the color was so nice that it didn’t actually look too cheap. As a good price is always a good incentive to buy stuff you don’t have plans for, I got it.

The color, drape and border really spoke regency to me, especially the latter regency where emphasis on the hem was getting more pronounced. Say early 1820’s. This was also a nice new challenge, as my previous regency projects were a bit earlier, with the waistline directly below the bust. In the 1820’s, the waistline started dropping and I suspected that would actually be more flattering on me. I don’t really have a lot of bust, so regency dresses make me very tube-like. Of course, that was the idea at the time, but a little more waist emphasis can be more flattering to a modern eye.

I still had a couple of other things to finish up first, but I did start thinking and playing with designs.

 

This is the design I came up with:

I wanted to use the ribbon part for the hem and the sleeves, but also let it return in the bodice a bit. To not make it too overpowering, I decided to just use it in the center-front. The little stripes on the bodice were inspired by this dress (natmus.dk), and are stuffed fabric tubes. I also decided to make a ‘waistband’ as in this example to lower start of the skirt a bit more, and to make the back bodice gathered as in this example.

Brunrød silkekjole, 1816

I did nearly all of the work on the dress in one weekend. I started with lengthening my bodice pattern for the regency dresses a bit, and after that was cutting the fabric!

The lay out for the center bodice part. I cut off the sides of the pattern and cut those from the plain fabric. The pieces will be sewn together and the seams hidden by the fabric tubes.

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All the bodice pieces cut out. I flatlined the bodice in white cotton, because the blue fabric was very slippery.

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The back panel was made wider in the center-back to allow for the gathering. I made the lining slightly shorter than the outer fabric so it wouldn’t show. The pink stripe on the lining is the original width of the bodice.

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A picture which shows the bodice pieces sewn together. To make the fabric tubes I used fiber fill and rolled it into strings, wrapping it in fabric strips and hand-sewing them closed, then hand-sewing them onto the bodice. I believe the original versions of these were made with carded wool stuffing, but I happend to have fiber-fill laying around. It worked okay, but I had to be careful to make the tubes even. I also didn’t cut the strips on the bias, which probably would’ve made them a bit less wobbely as well.

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What it looked like with half of the fabric tubes sewn on! The waistband is still just pinned at the center-front so I could stuff the tubes in the seam.

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I didn’t take much pictures after this, but construction was fairly straight forward. The sleeves were the typical regency-sleeve pattern, only extended at the bottom to be a couple of cm. longer than the original pattern. The back bodice was gathered onto the waistband, the top raw edge of the bodice folded over and hand-stitched to the lining. I attached 2 cotton cords to the shoulder seams to run through the folded-over outer fabric towards the back. These will be the draw-strings to close the back. The skirt was basically 2 rectangles, the back a 2m wide one gathered to the side & back panels, with a slit in the middle.

Finished photos!

 

And because I couldn’t resist, one with an old version of Pride & Prejudice

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Red/White regency dress

My red/white regency dress is done! The planning took ages (other projects took precedence), but the sewing was actually rather quick! I really love how it turned out.

My original inspiration and plan

And the details of the bodice construction

I didn’t take a lot of images of the skirt construction, as it’s basically two rectangles (front & back) and a sort-of-triangle (side). I didn’t use a pattern, but I did take inspiration from the patterns in the book Regency Women’s Dress: Techniques and Patterns 1800-1830, by  Cassidy Percoco. 

The finished dress on my dress form.

 

And a detail of the bodice:

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The bodice closes with a bunch of ties. I tried to photograph how it’s done, so these are the steps.

This is what it looks like without anything attached. (Over only a shift, as my stays don’t fit my dress form very well)

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The first 2 ties are attached to the center back of the lining and tied in front. These are just to stabalize everything.

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Next up is the bodice lining. This is closed with a pin to the right hand side (as viewer). It’s hidden under the dress here, one of the following picture shows the pin.

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The left (viewer perspective) bodice part isn’t attached to the skirt, but has a small modesty placket and a tie at the tip. This is closed through a loop in the right-side lining, as shown in the next image.

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This image shows the pin which closes the lining at the side. Underneath there’s a little loop (which is very hard to see, sorry). This loop is used to close the side of the bodice which isn’t attached to the skirt. This has a tie which goes through the loop and is secured in place.

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The other bodice part is attached to the skirt and has a long tie at the end. This wraps around the entire dress, through the loops in the back. This tie is hidden in the end by the red bow.

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The tie is pinned to the dress at the split, the remaining tie can be hidden within the split.

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The whole thing lying flat, showing all the ties.

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The hem facing is made similarly to bias tape (just not cut on the bias), and longer for the front than the back part. I machine sewed it in place on the right side of the dress, and hand-stitched it in place at the back. Most of the dress is machine-sewn, but I didn’t want any of it showing, so most finishes were done by hand.

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I also managed to take some pictures of myself wearing the dress, as it does fit me better than my dress form.

 

And some details of the top:

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Regency cross-over front closing gowns

Since I’ve been looking into the making of my red/white dress again (yes, it’s going to happen someday!), I’ve been researching the construction methods a bit more. Specifically, I’m looking at front-closing gowns with a v-shaped neckline. I believe there’s different names out there, such as cross-over gown, wrap front gown, apron gown, bib front gown and drop-front gown. All of these names are used somewhat interchangeably for gowns which close in the front, although they all have their own characteristics as well.

The dress which started my search has a deep v-shaped neckline and slit on the left hand side (ca. 1810 – 1820)

To start with, some terminology and what I believe they commonly refer to.

The term ‘bib front gown’ is used most, and is usually used to refer to those dresses where the front of the bodice is attached to the front of the skirt, but not to the side pieces. It has slits on either side, and is shut by pinning the bodice front onto the lining front (which is attached to the side bodice pieces), and tying strings around the body. These dresses could have both a straight square or a v shape neckline, although the former seems to be much more common. One great diagram (by the Hungarican Chick) of a bib dress is below. In this case, pictures are always much clearer to me than trying to describe it! (She has more great articles, including on stays, so if you’re interested, go check out her blog!)

I believe the apron-front and drop-front gown are just alternative terms for the bib front.

The cross-over, or wrap front dress is slightly different in that the front bodice panels are attached to the side bodice panels, but not to each-other. This always gives the v shaped neckline. The skirt has a slit on one side (the side which crosses over) and is attached to the bodice front, or it has slits on 2 sides and is loose from the bodice and closes with ties. The first picture in this post is an example of a cross-over front dress (with one slit in the skirt).

The problem with these gowns is that when you start looking for extant examples, you find many different variations in bodice styles, where the skirt is attached and how the skirts close. I recently asked about these cross-over/bib front dresses in a Facebook group on Regency sewing, and got a lot of different input from people on how they believed dresses were worn. There seem to be a lot of variations, and the discussion inspired me to try to give an overview of what the possibilities might be! This post is by no means meant as a complete study of how dresses were made, but just as an overview of the variations I’ve seen and how they seem to close. For now, I’ll focus on the front closing v-shaped neckline dresses ca. 1805 to 1815.

 

To start, I’ve tried to create some images of the 3 different types of gowns I want to focus on. From now on, I’ll name them ‘bib-front’ gown, ‘cross-over side-slit’ and ‘cross-over drop-front’ gown. Some schematics of the front and back view for these dresses, which I’ve colored for clarity. Blue is background, pinkish is skin (sorry for the nakedness, of course you’d be wearing a shift and stays beneath, but all the white would be confusing 😉 ), yellow would be the outer fabric of the dress and white the lining or inside of the outer fabric.

The bib-front gown (as also seen in the previous images):

Regency dresses - Bib front

 

The cross-over gown side-slit:

Regency dresses - Cross-over Slit

 

The cross-over gown with drop front:

Regency dresses - Cross-over Apron front

 

These schematics show how the bodice and skirt are connected together to form both the v-neck shape and to have the closure in the front. The front-closure is particularly handy if you want to get into your gown by yourself. (I, for instance, am not able to close my blue dotted dress by myself, my arms won’t go that far back with the sleeves set so far in the back. I always need help to close the thing).

The question now, of course, is how you make sure the bodice stays crossed-over and the skirt stays up?

This was the question which inspired quite a lively discussion on the Facebook post I mentioned before. It seems clear that there’s some ties involved, and maybe some pinning. But where do the ties go? How are they attached? And is that enough, or do you still need pins somewhere? I’m afraid we didn’t reach a simple answer to this question, but there were a couple of good theories I’ll try to describe here.

The easiest to answer is probably the bib-front gown, as this is the one most commonly re-created today. It closes with a combination of ties and pins. Specifically, there are 2 ties to each side of the skirt. These wrap around the gown to the back, (often through little loops where the back bodice connects with the skirt), and then close underneath the skirt panel. The bodice front stays up with either pins or buttons to the corners of the panel connected to the skirt.

Or, in a picture:

In this case blue and red are the left and right string. Green are the loops in the back keeping the strings in place. Pink are the spots the pins or buttons would connect to keep the bodice in place.

Regency dresses - Bib front strings

 

I believe this is the common way to wear a bib-front gown, I’ve never seen other versions. It becomes a bit more tricky with the cross-over models. In these cases, several options seem to exist.

To start with the cross-over side-slit dress. For the position of the strings, I looked at the images of the interior of the dress I started this post with. They show several strings.

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I’ve highlighted the strings I could find in red. Now my question was, what ties to what? Because I cound 1 loop and 4 strings. That’s 5 things, which doesn’t seem to add up. There’s a tie at the center-back lining, there’s a loop and a tie in both bodice panels, and there’s a tie on the edge of the skirt. The ties to the bodice are all plain, so appear to be tied invisibly somewhere. The tie on the skirt is a type of trim though, and looking at pictures of the back of the dress you can see it passing along the back.

The general consensus after my blog bost was that the ties in the back would be tied in the front to stabalize the dress. The ties to the front panels would be tied to eachother (possible because they’re not at the very tip of the bodice). The tie to the skirt probably starts somewhere on the side panel. It then wraps around the back and would be pinned in place somewhere at the side panel where it started.

In a picture. The red and pink ties are attached to the inside of the bodice and tie to eachother. The purple and blue tie are sewn to the inside back panel and tie to eachother in the front. The green tie starts at the side of the dress and goes around to be pinned shut where the tie started. I haven’t been able to figure out if it is just pinned in place, or if there’s a slit or tie somewhere. The images of the existant dress don’t show this.

Regency dresses - Cross-over Slit

Another option I wondered about would be to tie the left-front tie to the right-back tie and the other way around. That would look something like this, the blue and purple ties again attaching in the back, the pink and red in the front lining. (the location is a bit awkward for clarification, they’d probably be tied in roughly the same spot.

Regency dresses - Cross-over Slit strings 2

So, are there other options? The above are based on 1 extant example, but one can imagine other possibilities. One would be that there was a string on the inside of the bodice not attached to the skirt (red in the above examples). If there were a slit on the side of the dress, the skirt tie could wrap around and attach to the bodice string on the inside throught the slit.

Something like this, with the red string attaching tot he bodice, the green wrapping around on the outside and attaching to the red throught the slit (blue) on the side. Just a disclamer, I’ve never seen an extant example like this, but it looks like a possibility. This could also be combined with two ties in the back (purple and blue in the first example) which would tie in the front.

Regency dresses - Cross-over Slit strings 3

 

For the cross-over apron-front dress I found some input on the facebook group. One extant dress showed the ties and closure. Mackenzie Anderson Scholz kindly let me post her images here. She’s working on a pattern for Fig Leaf Patterns, hopefully out in fall 2016, based on this dress.

These images show how the ties from the front panels tie to the ties at the center back. Left front to right back and the other way around. The right image shows how the skirt closes in the center-back. The image below shows the front with and without skirt closed. You can see that there’s a little gapping going on at the front, which seems a common occurrence with this type of dress.

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A shcematic. There are two ties to the front, red and pink. Then there’s two ties at the inside center back (blue & purple). The left front ties to the right back and the other way around. Then there are ties to either side to the skirt which tie around in the center back. There they’re held up by loops.

 

Regency dresses - Cross-over Apron front string

It seems all skirts of these type of dresses have ties which go around an tie in the back. The bodice might also just be held shut with pins though, without the ties.

Another problem with this type of dress is that the skirt panel falls down because it’s not really attached to the bodice front. For this, more pins might be a solution to keep it up.

 

To round up, something which also came up in the original discussion was that probably, women in the Regency era were also just doing whatever worked. You can’t see from a fashion-plate how a gown closes or a skirt stays up. Commercial dress-patterns were nonexistant and most front-closing dresses were made that way for practicality, so not for the highest classes. Many were also home sewn by women themselves, who were not necessarily dress-makers. This means that probably, everyone just fiddled along just as we do in trying to get it to work. (Some likely with more success than others). So fiddling around to make it work is period!

Finally, a little thank you for everyone who contributed to the original post on Facebook. If you recognize your own opinion here and would like credit, please let me know because I might’ve lost track of who said what.

 

I hope this post has offered a little insight on the possible options to close and wear these type of dresses. I’d be very interested in new insights on this, so if anyone has any ideas, or knows of extant examples which show different closures, I’d love to know!

 

Just as a closure, some commercial patterns of these type of gowns: (Let me know if I’m missing something)

Fig leaf patterns Apron-front gown (straight front, but could be adapted to a v-shape)

Sense & Sensibility Elegant lady’s closet (Cross-over gown)

Laughing moon 130 (Cross-over drop-front)

Laughing moon 126 (Bib-front, including v-neck option)

Period Impressions Bib-front gown

Past Patterns Empire Gown

 

1860’s Balgown – photos

I finished the ballgown bodice for my black velvet 1860’s dress quite a while back. I’d hoped to wear it to an event back in April, but it was rainy and too cold, so that didn’t happen. Luckily, I had another event last weekend and this time the weather was perfect! So I finally have some photo’s of the new bodice on me, together with the new hoop and petticoat I made.

The whole outfit:

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A close-up

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And some better pictures of the bodice!

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1860’s Ballgown bodice

My 1860’s ballgown bodice is done! Over a year after first drafting the pattern, but it was always meant to be a long-term thing. I drafted the pattern back when making the dinner bodice, just as a try out. I then cut the fabric a little while later, because I also wanted to make my Irish dance dress out of the same velvet. Luckily, I had enough!  The construction was started a couple of months ago. I’m afraid I didn’t take a lot of progress pictures…

This was the drafting stage

The front. Don't mind the ugly left part, that was just for fitting and I didn't have enough fabric.

The front. Don’t mind the ugly left part, that was just for fitting and I didn’t have enough fabric.

And here I’m planning the lace trimming. I looked at a lot of extant ballgowns, and most actually have more complicated trimming. I really liked the lace though, and even though you see this more on 1850’s bodices, I decided to go with 2 rows of lace. It could be a re-fashioned bodice, right?

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Planning the trimming. I decided I liked the lace sleeve best.

 

The bodice is made with a point in front, just in case I ever want to wear it over my skirt. I have a belt for the skirt with a big bow though, and I love the bow, so I’ll probably tuck the bodice into the skirt. So, now onto the photo’s of the finished thing! (The lace is nearer in color to the velvet in real life. The lace reflects much more light, and these photos were taken with a flash because it was dark, so it show up a little lighter).

Front:

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And the back:

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You’ll have to forgive my dress form for not filling up the bodice completely, it’s just a bit smaller than me in the waist. Wrinkles should be a lot less on me! (photo’s with the dress on me will follow soon hopefully)

The trim is 2 rows of lace on the neckline and 1 on the sleeves.

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2 rows of lace on the neckline and 1 around the sleeves

 

The back has little hand-sown eyelets (20 of them… why do I keep doing stuff like this?) and laces closed. They’re not extremely even and round, but overall I’m happy with them.

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Eyelets. There’s 2 more at the top (between the layers of lace) and 2 more at the bottom

 

And with the skirt! (and new 1860’s hoop!)

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Irish dance dress – finished

A while back (read, half a year ago) I wrote a post about my plans on making an Irish dance dress for myself. It’s taken a while, but the dress is finally finished!

I drafted most of the pattern myself, with the exception of the sleeves for which I used a commercial pattern. Because of the low waist-line, there weren’t really commercial patterns which would fit the bodice.

The design of the dress started with this lovely fabric. Because I couldn’t make any of the traditional embroidery, I wanted a quite busy fabric. Irish dance dresses are usually very bright and meant to get attention on stage. This fabric is lovely, while standing out it’s still classy. As complementing colors I chose black (velvet) and old-pink.

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This was the design. A faux-bolero of the rose fabric, a black velvet base, a dropped waist, a pleated skirt with the rose fabric at the bottom and pink accents.

Black velvet for the base, with a (faux) silk with velvet roses fabric for the bolero and old pink accents.

Black velvet for the base, with a (faux) silk with velvet roses fabric for the bolero and old pink accents.

 

After drafting the pattern (which was a pain, dropped waists are tricky!) I could cut out the fabric:

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The sleeves

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Cutting the velvet.

I lined the dress in black cotton and made the lining first to check the fit again. To make the skirt stand out a bit, I used tule. I still had a short tule skirt I bought a while ago and it was the perfect length to use as sewn-in petticoat. These were the base layers:

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After this, I attached the outer layers of the bodice to the lining. (never mind the laundry behind the dress 😉 )

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The next step was to attach the sleeves and the skirt. Especially the skirt was tricky. It was velvet lined in pink, and pleated so that it formed 6 layers in total. With the addition of the tule, it meant I had to sew 7 layers to the 2 layers of bodice and lining. It took a long time fiddling with fabric, but came out all right! With the skirt and sleeves done, it was time for decoration. I tried plain strips of pink along the bolero, but it was too plain, so I found some pearly strings and decided to decorate. I then spent a long time hand-sewing the pearls to the strips and the strips to the dress, but it looked pretty!

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This is what it looked like after attaching the strips. I also sewed one string of pearls around the sleeves. At this point, I decided that I also needed something to separate the skirt form the bodice. I tried one string of pearls, but that was still too plain, so more pink with pearly swirls it was!

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And then it was done! I attached a cameo brooch to the neckline as extra decoration.

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