A smocked blouse

The first couple of months of this year were mostly spent on a project which I’d wanted to do for a long time, a reproduction of this lovely reform blouse in the Amsterdam museum:

Amsterdam Museum: Reform blouse

I’ve loved this blouse since I first saw it. In particular the smocking, which is the embroidery holding the pleats together. You often see this type of smocking in items of the ‘reform’ movement, as it gives garments a lot of flexibility, as well as this hand-embroidered touch which was so popular for the style.

A while ago, Michelle from Clockwork Faerie released her pattern for her version of this blouse. I immediately got it, because I’d been looking at this blouse for so long that anything to make the guess-work less was very welcome!

Michelle’s version, of which she released her pattern

The original blouse is described to be made out of crepe de chine. I’d never worked with that, but I figured that if I was going to spend the time smocking, I might as well use the best fabric I could find (it helps that the smaller yardage for a blouse than a dress makes it more affordable!). I ended up ordering black silk crepe de chine from Sartor fabrics, as well as silk embroidery floss. I decided to make my blouse in black, because at the end of the day, I know I’ll get more wear out of something black than something purple.

And then the project got put on hold for a bit, as other things came up. Beginning of this year, I finally started on it. First up was the mock-up. When I got the pattern it was a single size only (it has since been graded), so I wanted to check whether it would fit as-is. My measurements were fairly similar to those indicated and it’s a loose fitting garment, but still. I opted to use the template for the top to cut a separate piece, and to gather the bottom part to that, to check the fit. I put a belt on top to see how it would work tucked in. Although it looked odd made up like this (in old sheet fabric…) it worked quite well size-wise, so I went ahead with it. For those planning to use this method: know that the smocking will have quite a bit of stretch in it, which the template cut out of plain cotton does not, so using a stretch fabric for the smocked part might be even better to check fit.

Next up was figuring out how exactly to do the smocking… The pattern doesn’t include smocking instructions in detail (it’s ‘go smock now’) , so in the end I bought a book. The A-Z of smocking was pretty much the only one I could find in the Netherlands, but it turned out to be a great book. It describes all the stitches you see on the blouse and many more, in very detailed step-by-step pictures. If you want to do English smocking (pleat first, then embroider on top), I definitelly recommend it. It’s not a guide which will start with ‘step 1’, because the book is alphabetical, but if you want to look something up it’s great.

The only main question I had left was: how far apart should I space my gathering stitches? The book was frustratingly vague on this, just saying to ‘use your pleater’ (these machines go for 300 euros and up, so I didn’t get one), or ‘use dotting paper’ (impossible to get in the Netherlands), or ‘use the spacing as indicated on your pattern’ (I didn’t have one). In the end, I found the progress notes of Laurance Wen Yu-Li which she kindly shared via Facebook. She used a cotton fabric which is different from mine, but with the notes of 6mm wide 1cm high I at least had an indication of where to start experimenting. (Go check out her version of this blouse, it’s amazing, and there’s even a matching skirt)

I ended up making two samples to test the stitch spacing and practice smocking. The right example I did first and was 7mm wide stitches. Those were too wide, so I did another one in 4mm wide. This ended up just a little too narrow, so I opted for 5mm in the end. I also drew out completely how the different stitches would have to fit on my fabric, how high they would be corresponding to the ‘rows’ of the stitching, and how many of them I’d need where. I ended up doing 15 gathering lines 1cm apart, which fit well.

Knowing how to start, I cut my fabric, serged around the edges, and stitched the shoulder seams. Then, I could start the gathering. This involved a lot of drawing lines with my ruler, a lot of wobbly crepe de chine which moved all over the place (the stuff is beautifully drapey, and horrible to draw straight lines on), and in general just a lot of time. Just drawing the grid took me hours. I opted for a grid rather than dots, as this was quicker. After the drawing came the gathering. I did it in two parts, as otherwise my gathering threads needed to be insanely long. So I did all 15 threads untill I ran out of thread, gathered them all up enough to get some slack again, and then did the final part. All in all, this process took a couple of days at least. To give you some idea: the whole width of fabric did not fit on my living room table, nor on my ironing board. That little round shape in the right picture? That’s just the first armhole, so the ‘flat’ part on my ironing board is only about half of it.

I ended up doing most of the work over weekends, as I had to do it with the piece lying flat, and putting it away & picking it up again would mean re-ironing, re-starting and even the danger of the chalk fading. It did make for a good tv-watching activity! With the lockdown at the beginning of the year, I had the time…

When it was done, I could finally gather up the threads, following the template on the pattern. This was definitely one of the most satisfying moments of this project, as this is where it actually starts to look like something with shape!

I tried it on just in case, it still fit, and so I evened out the gathers, wrapped the thread around the needle at the end to anchor it in place, and started the embroidery!

In total I used 4 different types of stitches on this yoke. There’s a single chain stitch at the very top. Then two rows of honeycomb stitches just below to form the small triangles. The larger triangles are wave diamond stitches below each other, 6 for the top part, 7 for the bottom part. The more solid stitches in-between and at the bottom are each 4 rows of trellis stitches closely spaced together. It was sort of cool to find that I could directly find all of the stitches used on the blouse in my book.

The smocking took a while, but was also really fun to do. Once I had the stitches figured out it was quite meditative, and it made for light sewing. I started out using a thimble, but the one thing I found was that the silk embroidery thread snagged on absolutely everything, including the thimble (I have a plastic one, and it’s been used enough to be in a bit of a rough shape). So I ended up just ditching the thimble which worked fine with such thin fabric. I used a single strand of the thread for everything but the very first chain stitch, and this worked well with the embroidery thread I had. The one other thing to be careful of was the tension, as you don’t want to pull the pleats closer together than they are layed out to have it keep shape.

Fast-forward a couple of months during which I took my time, and the main smocking on the neckline was done! I took the pictures below before I removed the white gathering threads (as you can see I embroidered between thread 2 and 14), as that was a bit scary to do for the first time!

This was around the end of March, and I suddenly realized that I had two options to wear the blouse end of April and beginning of May. So it would be great if I could finish before then… Cue me speeding up a bit!

I’d decided fairly early on in the project to not use the sleeves in the pattern, but go for a look more similar to the original blouse. I ended up taking the sleeve pattern for my Edwardian lace blouse (which were in turn adapted from a Wearing History pattern), and widening that one to match the rough ratio of fabric-pleated down fabric that I wanted. The sleeves are basically straight down from the arm hole, with just armhole shaping. The lower arm is then gathered down to fit the lower arm snuggly.

Once I had the sleeve pattern figured out, it was back to drawing lines and gathering threads!

In-between working on the sleeves, I also did the collar. The original has this beautiful point detail which is also on the pattern. I ended up narrowing the collar a fair bit to fit my neck better, so my points ended up a little more to the outside than on the original (I took the width out of the center back after doing the stitching), but I’m pretty happy with how the stitching looks in the end!

To do the embroidery on the sleeves, I basically had the easter weekend. I spent time with family, but brought the smocking with me, as it’s a good activity while sitting on the couch. I finished the smocking beginning to end in a couple of days like this, and at the end of the weekend they were both done! I was really happy with that, as by that point I had about 9 days left to finish the blouse, all of which either included a full work day or day-long activities.

This is a look at the finished sleeves in the blouse. I ended up ‘hemming’ the blouse by turning over the bottom edge and including this in the gathering and smocking. I’d cut the sleeves with the selvedge at the bottom, and this was light enough for this to work beautifully. Can you spot the line of where the selvedge ends in the right picture?

I set the sleeves and added closures in the final evenings. The center back is sewn up to a point, and then attaches with snaps below the smocking. The collar has hooks and bars to stay put, as this is the only part which might receive some tension.

And then she was done! I opted not to finish the bottom beyond a serged edge. The original has a waistband, but I prefer the versatility of tucking it in, and arranging as I see fit. This way I can pull it out more for the 1905 edwardian blouse effect, or wear it more tightly if I want on other occasions.

To show a bit better what it looks like when worn, I pinned a tape on top in these pictures:

I really love how the smocking turned out. I had a lot of fun making this, and I can definitely see myself doing a project like this again in the future.

I’ve now worn the blouse twice. Once with my green sil 1895 skirt, and once with my 1905 high waisted wool tartan skirt. Two very different looks, but both I really liked!

With the green skirt (Thanks to Peryn for the picture), tucked in a bit more tightly.

And with the tartan skirt, tucked in so that it’s more ‘pigeon-breast-y’ (Thanks to Niklas for this picture):

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…)

Black & White lace

I’ve been quite busy working on several projects, but none are quite ready yet to be blogged about. (For progress pictures etc. see my instagram and facebook page). So for now, some more very pretty pictures. The topic was inspired by the last inspiration post, where I couldn’t include all of these.

Lace has been used for centuries, but the height of it’s popularity might be the turn of the 20th century. I adore these dresses, and would love to recreate them, but the cost of suitable lace is frighting, so instead I just admire. Although there were a lot of solid white and colored dresses with lace, this post would be too long if I included them all. So the theme will be black & white.

 

DressJeanne Paquin, 1902The Museum at FIT:

Jeanne Paquin, 1902, The Museum at FIT

 

Ball gown dress of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. 1900-1901:

Dress of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. 1900-1901

 

From the collection of Alexandre Vassiliev:

From the collection of Alexandre Vassiliev

 

From the collection of Alexandre Vassiliev:

From the collection of Alexandre Vassiliev

 

Half-Mourning Dress  1889-1892:

Half-Mourning Dress 1889-1892

 

Circa 1906 black silk and lace evening gown, Bonnaire, Paris.:

Circa 1906 black silk and lace evening gown, Bonnaire, Paris

 

Dress, Evening  Date: 1898–99 Culture: American:

Dress, Evening Date: 1898–99 Culture: American, MetMuseum

 

1900s evening dress:

Musée de la Mode

 

 

Edwardian outfit – pictures

Last April I wore my full Edwardian outfit for a yearly fantasy event. There are always a lot of photographers present, and I met up with the same photographer who took the latest pictures of my 1860s ballgown, so I now have some very nice images of my outfit! All images were taken at Elfia, on the grounds of Castle de Haar (restrored from a medieval ruin between 1895 and 1912, so the outfit fits quite well with the grounds 😉 ).

I wore nearly my full Edwardian outfit, I only substituted my shift with a thermo-shirt as it was about 8C outside (seriously, it was the 25th of april, stupid weather). Luckily, we did manage to keep it mostly dry with only brief showers. Those are also the reason for the umbrella I’m carrying in some of the images.

What I made in this outfit: Bust-improvers, Corset, Corset-cover, Drawers, Petticoat, Blouse, Skirt, Jacket, Hat & Purse. The gloves are vintage and the umbrella was a necessary evil because of the weather. (by the way, an umbrella combined with a hat this size doesn’t work, no way to keep it centered above you as the hat is in the way. I just fled inside when it started to rain).

 

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Photographer: Brigitte Jansen

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Photographer: Ron Lauwers.

Erwin van den Eijkhof

Photographer: Erwin van den Eijkhof

 

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Photographer: Martijn van Huffelen

SONY DSC

Photographer: Martijn van Huffelen

SONY DSC

Photographer: Martijn van Huffelen

SONY DSC

Photographer: Martijn van Huffelen

SONY DSC

Photographer: Martijn van Huffelen

SONY DSC

Photographer: Martijn van Huffelen

SONY DSC

Photographer: Martijn van Huffelen

Sewing – Edwardian Hat & Jacket

My Edwardian outfit is now really done! I finished my hat last week, but didn’t manage to get the hairstyle completely right on the first try. This weekend I tried again, with a little more success. I also managed to finish my jacket last week, so I now have proper images of both! Hopefully, I’ll be able to wear the entire outfit in 2 weeks, provided it doesn’t rain that weekend.

The plan for the hat was ‘big’, and I was strongly inspired by this hat in the met:

I already had some black ostrich feathers from antique shops, and leftover black velvet.

I started with taking the dimensions from the inspiration and making a paper version. I then cut down the height quite a bit, because it looked strange, and ended up with this paper version.

 

The next step was to cut the buckram. Because I bought it in LA and had to take it home on a plane, it was folded:

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The brim of the hat was cut across some folds, and the buckram wasn’t flat anymore. So I wetted it, and placed it flat to dry in the hopes the folds would dissapear. Only problem: I needed something to keep it down which would still let it dry. So all the tea-lights I never light finally got a purpose! It looked a bit funny though…

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It turned out a little wobbly, but good enough. Next step, construction!

I folded the sides of the crown inwards and outwards by cutting slits into them, and then stitched this to the crown and the brim.

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Around the brim I put steel thread to strengthen it. This I attached by machine, which took some careful sewing, but I managed not to break my needle!

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So now I had a hat, but not a very pretty one. I covered the hat with black velvet. First the crown, which I stitched to the buckram around the sides. The side of the crown and the brim I sewed together, then putting it on by sliding it over the crown. I turned over the raw edge at the top to the inside, and turned the raw edge around the brim to the underside.

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The bottom I covered with black cotton, following a similar process as for the velvet. around the brim I turned over the cotton and sewed it to the velvet. Inside the crown, I just cut a rectangle strip and made a bag-like inside with a cord, so I can adjust the size of the crown on the inside. (clearer picture will follow).

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So now I had a fully covered hat! It’s still a bit plain though, so this is where the feathers came in. I had 2 of batches, one bigger than the other. It took some careful placing, but I managed to sew them all to the hat. I covered the end of the feathers with a velvet ribbon bow.

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So I now have a finished hat! I really love how big and dramatic it is. Even though it’s not perfect (the fabric around the crown isn’t as tight as I’d like, I’ll probably attatch it differently next time), I still think it’s a pretty good first hat!

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The inside can be made smaller with a piece of string. I don’t really need this with full Edwardian hair though! Pictures of me wearing it at the end of the post!

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I also finished my Edwardian jacket. I drafted the pattern myself, the plan was a jacket which was open in front to still show my blouse. I wanted it to reach just to the top of my skirt, have 3/4 length sleeves and velvet details. I didn’t plan on the lapels, but when drafting the piece of cotton I was using happened to have the perfect shape, so I kept them! I used a similar sleeve pattern as in my blouse, just with a little less width and a little shorter. I also pleated the sleeve caps instead of gathering. Pretty happy with how it turned out, I now have a proper walking costume!

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I hope to get pictures of the whole ensemble on me in a couple of weeks, but for now a picture of the hair/hat test!

 

 

This was the second attempt, as my hair needs to be pretty big to support the hat properly. I only had a hair rat for the front of my hair at first, and the hat kept sliding off. I also tried just back-combing, but my hair really doesn’t have enough volume for that to work. My attempt was for this hairstyle:

Wearing History Blog | French Gibson Girl Hairstyles, 1908 | Mirror Des Modes, May 1908:

I ended up buying 4 bun-filling rings for a sock bun, like these:

I cut all of them open and sewed them together into a big ring. This allowed me to put this on my head and use as ‘filler’ for the rolls. My hair is pretty thin and sleek, so I need filler. This worked quite well, and made my hair big and sturdy enough so I could put my hat on it and make it stay in place.

 

 

Inspiration – Edwardian tartan

After cutting the fabric for my Edwardian skirt, I realized I have enough left over to do something else with. I’ve been thinking on making a short jacket out of it, to go with the skirt. Not a full one, because the fabric is very busy, and I like the idea of showing off my blouse underneath. But it would make a nice ensemble. So I’ve been browsing for inspiration images, and additionally found some more images of Edwardian tartan/plaid/checkered ensembles. So it’s time for pretty pictures!

All images are from the 1905-1907 archive of the Dutch fashion magazine de Gracieuse.

 

 

Edwardian winter jacket

Last year I stumbled on an add on Marktplaats, a Dutch version of Ebay, advertising an old jacket. There were no exact dates, or provenance, just ‘antique 19th century’. But it looked really lovely, and for the asking price I figured I’d probably even want it if it wasn’t actually 19th century. So I bought it, and it’s absolutely gorgeous! Not entirely sure if the ’19th’ century is correct, but I’d date it between 1897 and 1910, so close enough. The inside is beautifully finished, and the trimming is obviously done by hand. It’s made of wool, and unlined. The only damage is that 4 of 6 buttons are missing, and the braid has turned slightly brown. This last thing is also what made me conclude on the dating, as there’s been some research to this type of discoloring. It probably happened in the early stages of viscose production and dyeing, because the proces wasn’t perfected yet, ageing turns the viscose brown. (There’s a full Dutch article on it here, based on research for a master’s thesis: https://www.modemuze.nl/blog/verkleuringen-bij-een-zwarte-damesjas).

I’m still planning to see if I can take a pattern from the jacket and the braid pattern, but haven’t gotten around to that quite yet. So for now, I just tried to take some proper pictures! There’s loads of them, so if you don’t like a lot of images maybe stop reading now. I personally always get frustrated when museums don’t post all views, so I tried to give plenty of perspectives!

The full jacket:

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Some detail shots of the finishing and the jacket on the dummy:

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The jacket closes with a double-layered flap which hides the buttons and buttonholes. Only 2 of the buttons are left, the others have fallen off.

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Some images of the construction and the jacket lying flat. The jacket is not lined, but all the inside raw edges are covered with tape including the arm holes, so it’s beautifully finished. The buttonholes are also obviously worked by hand, and the stitching of the braid shows on the inside. The collar has a facing for extra protection and two hooks and eyes to keep it closed. The tag is still included and says ‘Nouveaute’.

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Finally, I tried to take some images of the pattern of the braiding lying flat. Of course, it didn’t want to lie flat at all, so apologies if it’s still a bit wobbly. The braiding is gorgeous, and done by hand. I also appreciate how it’s not 100% symmetrical, there are some slight differences. That’s also the reason I tried to photograph both sides. When wearing the jacket, half of the braiding on the right side isn’t even visible, but the attention to detail is amazing. On the collar, both the inside and the outside are also decorated.

The left (viewer perspective) side of the front braiding.

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And the right side:

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The inside collar

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And the outside:

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Edwardian Skirt & Petticoat

It’s done! My high-waist Edwardian Skirt is done, and with it the petticoat to go underneath.

Both the petticoat and skirt were made with the 10-gore skirt pattern from Truly Victorian. I made the base of the petticoat first, to test the fit. After slightly correcting the fit at the top (it was a bit too wide, otherwise it fit very well), I cut off the top part to make the petticoat sit at the waist. I added a drawstring to close it, and moved this closure to the front.

After hemming, it was time to add some trim and ruffle. I chose to add a broad strip of bobbin lace and one row of ruffles. There’s 2 meters of fabric in the ruffle alone, cut in 4 parts and sewn together, so 8 meters to gather and hem. I used a small rolled hem at the top and bottom, and gathered and sewed the ruffle to the underside of the lace.

The finished petticoat:

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The hem of the ruffle.

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The lace:

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The cord and closure

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In the mean time, I also started working on the skirt! Cutting the fabric was quite scary. I bought the wool in Edinburgh, so no possibility of getting more, and tartan wool isn’t the cheapest of fabrics. I used black cotton for the lining.

 

From cutting the wool I now know my living room is 5 meters long, it fit exactly… I spent quite some time laying out the pattern pieces, trying to get the plaid to match at the waistline.

 

I didn’t take a lot of progress pictures, so a quick walk through. The first step was to flat-line the lining to the wool. After that, I made the placket for the closure and sew on all the hooks and eyes.

Then it was time to sew all the panels together. Always the most fun, because it’s quickest and it now actually looked like a skirt!

Next up was making boning channels and inserting the bones and sewing the whole result to the seam allowances. Less fun, and loads of hand sewing. I used plastic boning, mainly because I’ll be wearing this over a corset anyway and it’s a lot cheaper than steel.

Next up, finishing! The top was finished with bias binding. Stitched to the right side by machine and turned over and hand-stitched down.

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The last step was the hem. After trying on the length with the petticoat, I sewed hem stiffener to the bottom. Then I cut a broad bias strip from black cotton and sewed it to the hem as facing. Finally, I hand-stitched the hem-facing down. And we’re done! Technically, I finished the last hand-sewing on the 2nd of January, but as I did all the other work last year, I’ll count it as a 2015 project.

So, some more pictures!

First a comparison of with and without petticoat. I hadn’t finished the hem yet on these pictures, but you can see the difference the petticoat makes!

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The closure:

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One of the bones and the facing at the top:

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And at the hem. The hem-stiffener is underneath.

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The whole thing! I quickly put my blouse on top for the effect. (I was lazy and didn’t do any underpinnings for the blouse, sorry!)

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My only regret on the skirt is that the center-back doesn’t line up. I matched up the pattern pieces, but made the mistake on doing it on one side of folded fabric. Turned out the fabric wasn’t lying completely straight. The other panels are fine, but one of the back panels was off. Ah well, better next time.

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It’s still very pretty though…

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Achieving the Edwardian silhouette – but how?

Often in historical costuming, we try to create an outfit with which we’ll look like we just stepped from a period painting or photo. This means sewing the clothes as worn in a certain period, with varying degrees of historical correctness. Even with a perfect replica though, it often takes more than just making a dress, or a blouse and skirt. It was often the underthings which created the silhouette, and many historical dresses look a bit frumpy when not worn over the correct undergarments. But how to achieve these silhouettes? The first things to get right are usually the corset, hoops, bustles and petticoats. But some era’s need a little more. Today’s blog is on the top half of the Edwardian silhouette, and some photo comparisons on how to achieve it. If you’re in doubt on how to recreate the look, I hope this post is helpful!

 

Let’s start with some info on what we’re trying to achieve with the Edwardian silhouette I’m talking about.

The era right after 1900 was characterized by a very typical shape in women’s clothing. An hourglass figure, with a very small waist, wide hips and a large chest. It also saw the rise of the so-called ‘pigeon-breast’. This term was used to describe a women’s top half when seen from the side. In the Edwardian silhouette, the chest was left in its natural position (as opposed to the more pushed-up look from the Victorian era, or the fashionable silhouette in contemporary fashion). Additionally, the top of some dresses and blouses was left to hang very loose from the chest, to then be cinched at the waist. As is more often the case, pictures describe the look a lot better than words can.

This lovely girl shows the classic ‘pigeon breast’ silhouette.

Some more lovely ladies

The first thing important in achieving this look is to wear a correct corset. Edwardian corsets don’t push up the chest, while a Victorian corset or modern bra will do just that. But there’s a little more which can help to get the silhouette right. The first option is wearing a ruffled corset cover.

Corset covers were simple garments worn to disguise the corset lines underneath thinner dresses and blouses. They were already worn in the Victorian era, but became a bit more elaborate in the Edwardian era. More specifically, they became fuller to support the new fashionable silhouette.

The earlier corset covers could be quite lovely decorated, but were meant to be worn underneath form-fitting dresses, and therefore thin and flat.

Lovely corset-cover from the Met, 1860

Although Edwardian corset-covers can still be ‘flat’, for wearing under form-fitting evening gowns, some became more elaborate to support the fullness of the gowns and blouses.

Corset cover, Met museum 1884

Corset cover, Met museum, 1902

Some corset covers even incorporated boning to provide the shape people were looking to get.

Corset cover with boning. Met museum 1900-1910

 

Aside from the corset cover, a little extra help was sometimes needed. So-called ‘bust-improvers’ were used as extra padding. There’re multiple still in existence. This is another option to create the look.

Woman’s Bust Improver (Falsies), England, circa 1900, image from LACMA

 

So, you might ask, what’s the difference if you wear these items or not? I’ve made both bust improvers and a ruffled corset cover, and took some pictures to show what it did to the silhouette. I haven’t made a boned corset cover, but for anyone who’s interested, you can check out Fashion through History’s blogpost, because she made one.

The corset-cover I made was done using the Truly Victorian Edwardian underwear pattern. It features a chemise, drawers and both and evening and daywear corset cover. I made the latter, with the ruffles. The corset seen in the images is also from Truly Victorian, the Edwardian corset pattern.

The bust-improvers were made with a pattern from Wearing History. I also used one of their patterns for the blouse. (just for the record, I’m not affiliated with either company, but they make great patterns!)

I originally made both because I figured I could use all the help I could get to achieve the correct period effect.

I photographed both the corset cover and improvers on my dummy. For the bust improvers, I believe you’re supposed to wear them underneath the corset, but some bust improvers might have been worn on top, so I showed the difference. I personally wear them inside, because otherwise my corset is a bit large at the top. I also took pictures both with and without my Edwardian blouse on top, so you can see what the underwear does to the silhouette.

These show the different versions from the front. Some differences already show. Most noticeably, the dummy without any underwear shows that the blouse is a bit baggy (far left). On the other hand, the dummy with both the improvers and corset cover shows that the blouse is straining a bit. Nothing serious, but the blouse is just a bit too small to fit over everything.

All options front

 

Things become more interesting when looking at everything from the side. There’s a dramatic difference between no extra underwear (leftmost image) and any of the supporters. The corset cover only (2nd from left), or the bust improver in the corset (4th from left) have a very similar silhouette, which works well for the Edwardian ideal. The bust improver worn out of a corset (middle image) shows a nice full shape which is probably closest to our a modern silhouette. The bust sits a bit too high for a proper Edwardian look though. The corset-cover plus bust improver (rightmost image) clearly has the largest shape. For me personally, this is a bit too much. I have a rather small frame, and with all the padding and ruffles it feels a bit over the top.

All options side

 

My personal conclusion is that I’ll wear my bust improvers inside my corset, without the ruffled corset cover. The main reason to pick this option over the corset cover only is that my corset doesn’t really fit well without the improvers. I’m guessing that this is a good option for people with a relatively small bust, who wish to make a standard-sized corset fit a bit better. (I took sizes into account when making the corset, but could still use extra padding in the front…). For people who don’t really need this extra filling, I’d probably recommend making the ruffled corset cover. This has the added advantage of hiding corset ridges. For me, I’ll probably be adapting my corset cover by taking off the ruffles. This way, I can wear it for outfits with a tighter fit as well, and it will work better together with the bust-improvers.

I hope this comparison was useful for everyone, and I’d love to see how other people achieved the period look!

 

 

Edwardian blouse – finished

It’s now actually, completely done! Since my last post, I bought some new buttons, sewed the button-holes, attached the buttons and made the hooks & eyes for the collar. I also managed to make some better pictures. So I can now present the front:

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And the finished back!

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The buttonholes were sown by hand. Mostly because I don’t trust my sewing machine. It has an automatic buttonhole function, but depending on the nr. of layers it needs to sew through it makes the hole smaller or bigger, which is not helpful. I also find I like the look of hand-sewn buttonholes much more, and it’s a relaxing exercise. The collar closes with hooks and eyes, because buttons in the thin lace wouldn’t work.

 

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I’m still really happy with how the lace work turned out, so some more pictures, because it’s so pretty!

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Finally, a shot of the inside where you can see the hem and the french seams (this one is on the lining). If you look closely, you can also see where I attached the lining to the main blouse on this (side) seam.

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I also managed to get some pictures of the blouse worn! No detail shots, because that’s difficult when taking photos of yourself. I wore a short skirt which sort-of has the right silhouette and a modern belt, but it does the job of showing the silhouette. It has a slight pigeon-breast effect, exactly as it should have!

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Apologies for the awkward pose in this image, but this picture shows off the silhouette best. I love how the width of the blouse helps to make the waist look small.

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And one more, just because I liked the picture.

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Some statistics:

Fabric: White cotton

Pattern: Wearing History Edwardian blouse, with extra width added to the upper sleeve

Year: ca. 1906

Notions: Antique bobbin lace, modern bobbin lace, bias tape (to finish the edges on the lining), buttons and hooks & eyes

How historically accurate is it: I’d say pretty good. The pattern fits, as do most of the materials. I did use polyester thread and I suspect the buttons are also plastic. I also inserted the lace by machine, which probably would’ve been done by hand at the time.

Hours to complete: Around 2 days.