A last-minute bodice

I had predicted that this would be a year of more sudden changes in plans than normal, and so far that’s proving to be true. I’m still waiting on the fabric for my vest to arrive, and in the meantime I decided to make a day bodice to wear with my green 1890s skirt.

I’m participating as an extra in a Dutch show about history, and I was asked to wear my green ballgown with a cloak on top of it for an outside scene. I suspect they just chose that outfit because they wanted darker colors, but a ballgown in the middle of the day is a bit odd. It would be covered by a cloak, so in theory invisible, but then the weather turned, and the prediction for filming day was -2 degrees. Not the best weather to have bare arms.

I didn’t have any plans in the weekend before (because, you know, covid), so I decided I might as well try my hand at making a new bodice. I still had plenty of green and black silk left, so this could be done entirely from my stash. The bodice will have long sleeves, which I could even wear extra layers underneath as well. I had 3 full days for this, as well as a couple of evenings after work, so I wanted a design that wouldn’t take a lot of figuring out or trimming. In the end, I settled on this dress as inspiration:

It’s interesting without being overly complex, and as a bonus, the Victorian Dressmaker book actually has a pattern for this. Not to my size, but with the Truly Victorian pattern I’d used for my ballgown bodice as base and the rough shapes in the book, adapting became a lot easier. I still have some black velvet from my 1860s gown, so the velvet details were covered as well.

So I set to work! I didn’t make a lot of pictures, but after day 1 I had the main bodice drafted, cut out, sewn together and fitted! This seems like the most work, but as it’s nearly all machine work, it actually comes together relatively quickly. It also helped that I skipped the mock-up. I’d used this pattern for my ball gown, so I knew it fit, and pinning the darts on the body allows for last-minute adjustments.

Day 2 was for the sleeves. These are fairly complex because they have 7 pieces of fabric each. An organza, dupioni and cotton layer for the inner sleeves, and an organza, dupioni, tarlatan and cotton layer for the outer sleeve. The outer sleeve lining was fitted (with slight gathers) to the armhole first, then the tarlatan was pleated and pinned in (this is just a small strip, meant to give volume), and then the large fashion layer with dupioni and organza was pleated down to fit the smaller lining. Then the inner and outer sleeve were sewn together, and the whole thing was set in by hand, as wrangling layers is just easier that way.

Day 3 was spent on finishing the edges. This dress has a collar and belt of pleated velvet. I pleated them and stitched down the pleats by hand to make them invisible. Then they were both lined in cotton, stitched on along the velvet edge, and then the cotton layer was hand-sewn in place to finish it off. The sleeves I bound in bias tape, finished by hand.

That was the end of my weekend, and it was nearly there! The main thing left was closures, as that’s really essential to wearing, this was done in evenings. It closes with a combination of hooks and eyes, hooks and bars and snaps.

Final touches were a big velvet bow on the back collar, and a smaller one on the belt to hide the closure. I also decided to add a strip of black velvet ribbon along the sleeves.

All in all, I’m pretty happy I got this done within a week, and I can now wear my green outfit for day events as well as balls!

The Stripey bustle

I made a thing. It’s fabulously seasonal, wasn’t at all on my to-do list, and I’m really happy I made it.

The thing is that I have a ton of projects on my to-do list, both smaller things to finish and bigger ones I’ve already got the fabric for. There are enough plans on there to last me a couple of years I suspect.

But after finishing my green 1830’s dress, I mainly wanted an ‘easy’ project, something that wouldn’t require too much thinking, and which would be fun. And finishing old projects is just never as exciting as starting new ones, and the new projects on my to-do list all required more thinking than I wanted.

So instead, I turned to my pattern stash and pinterest. I’ve had this Truly Victorian pattern for a number of years, but I didn’t have plans in which it would fit yet. It was perfect for what I was looking for though, exciting, yet simple enough because I could just follow the pattern directly.

The other thing I’d been thinking about for a couple of years was a black and white striped dress. There’s just something about this type of fabric that the goth in me still really appreciates. I especially love the ones which combine the stripes with solid black, like this one:

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So I ordered a pattern for a bodice, which was a little more interesting than the base pattern I already owned. Again: for the purpose of not having to change much, and just being able to make it up as it was intended. I settled on the Truly Victorian Senora bodice:

And I ordered some fabric swatches. I found black/white striped cotton. I wanted to pair it with solid black, to break it up a bit, but the solid black cotton didn’t quite give me the right feeling. While the striped cotton is printed, the black is probably dyed and it makes the color a bit less intense. It also was more loosely woven than I’d hoped. So instead, I went with a black poly taffeta from the same shop. I wasn’t quite ready to use my (much more expensive) black silk taffeta on this, and the poly stuff looks enough like the real deal from a distance. I also wouldn’t be using it for all of the bodice, which means that hopefully it will still be breathable enough.

And then I started to doodle around in photoshop! I wanted to try out which bits to make of which fabric, how to combine the stripes and the black. In the end, I settled on this design:

I cut the pattern and made a mock-up in the first weeks of October, after finishing the 1830’s dress. My fabric arrived half way through the month, after which I immediately started sewing.

I was aiming for about a month to make this, but it went so fast! Starting right after a holiday meant I had quite a bit of sewing energy, and having planned everything beforehand + working from patterns meant I could go full steam ahead, so that I was actually finished with the skirt within a week, and had the bodice ready in another. For me, this really is super fast. It did also really help that I went the ‘quick’ way on almost everything. Not bothering about too much stripe matching, hemming by machine, etc. Spending time on those things definitely give a costume an extra touch, but for this one, the goal was to make something fun, rather than something perfect.

As a final touch, I decided to get some bright orange ribbon and give the dress a seasonal vibe. I made a ton of bows, and pinned them all on the dress. They are all removable, which means I can still wear the dress out in a slightly more subtle version as well. They are quite fun though! For the pictures, I re-styled my 1870’s hat with some other trim (I saved the old one)

I think that after this, I’m ready to tackle some of my unfinished projects. This dress was really about instant gratification, and it did it’s job perfectly.

1890s sports blouse

It’s been almost a month since my last post! August flew by, I was busy first with work and then with taking some time off. I did, however, finish a small(ish) project!

Shari from La Rose Passementarie has been hosting some sew-alongs, to get people motivated to start projects which might not have an event. This month, the theme was ‘1890s shirtwaists’. I didn’t have this on my direct project list, but I did have a pattern. And I sort of want to make a vest with the leftover fabric from my bicycle skirt, which means I also need a blouse to wear it with. That was enough motivation to get me started.

I used the Black Snail sport blouse pattern. I chose a simple off-white cotton for the blouse + collar. This will be a fairly functional blouse, and this way it’ll fit with almost anything.

Edwardian Blouse worn about 1900 to do sports PDF Sewing Pattern ...

 

 

It is a fairly straightforward blouse, with the tricky bits being the collar and sleeve split+cuffs. I definitely needed to read the pattern a couple of times, and it helped to see the collar construction in this blog. It’s technically a different Black snail blouse, but the collar pattern is the same. If you’ve made 2 piece collars before it might be easier, but those bits would make me hesitant to recommend the pattern to real beginners.

The only thing I changed was to hand-fell the seams, instead of doing that by machine.

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I really like how this came out. For a next version, I might move the sleeves a little bit, as 1890s sleeves are fairly high up on the shoulder. But I am quite happy with the shape, it’s actually quite a flattering shape even if it’s not tucked into a skirt.

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Shortly after I finished the blouse, we actually had our first event since January, a Victorian (distanced) picnic. I took that opportunity to wear the blouse with my 1890’s petticoat/skirt, and that combination worked quite well! These pictures are by Martijn van Huffelen:

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1895 Ball gown – Bodice

The ball I was making my 1895 gown for was supposed to be today. Instead, it’ll happen next year. But the dress is finished, so to celebrate the occasion, instead here’s my post about making it!

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The bodice of this dress was difficult mostly because for a long time, I didn’t know exactly how to trim it. I knew I wanted extravagant trim, but not exactly what. I had an antique beaded collar-like piece which seemed perfect first, but had rather wide shoulder pieces which didn’t fully fit the 1895 style. So when I started off, I decided to just do the base bodice first.

I used TV493 – 1896 Plain Bodice as a base. It’s not a ballgown bodice, but the goal was to get the basic shape and as usual for me with TV patterns, it fit almost perfectly out of the envelope.

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First bodice fitting, pretty good!

 

The bodice is made of 3 layers, silk organza, silk dupioni and white cotton. I sewed all layers together and then treated them as one.

After the base was sewn and the bottom finished with binding tape, it was time to decide on the neckline. My original piece of trim was definitely too wide for the shoulder, but I got another one, and this one was more promising.

Left the original plan. Super pretty, but too wide for the shoulder. To the right the new plan: it fits better, but needs something more.

 

The new beaded piece was also in a bit of a shabby state, as the threads had faded from black to light brown, something you see more often with old black dyes. I decided to re-dye the piece to make it look better. I tested first on another old faded piece, and when the threads didn’t disintegrate, I moved on to the trim piece. It’s still not 100% black, but the brown is a lot darker and less noticeable.

Before & after dye. The little round thing was my dye test.

 

Aside from the beaded piece, I knew I wanted something more. In the end, I found this fashion plate which has a somewhat similarly shaped front piece. I took inspiration from that and created organza ‘poofs’ running from the beaded piece unto the shoulder line. I also found black antique lace in my stash, and used that to both fill in the neckline and create extra interest around the sleeves and back neckline.

The rough  inspiration for the bodice

 

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Trying out stuff. The only piece I ended up leaving out is the little extra beaded piece CF at the top.

 

Finally,  I added velvet trim. The skirt has velvet trim as main accent, and I wanted to create a bit of cohesion. I added it along the bottom, and then decided to also put it on the back seams.

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The sleeves were created after most of the trim was put on, especially the organza poofs and lace run into the sleeve seam, so had to be done first. I used the TV495 – 1890’s Sleeves pattern as I wanted different sleeves as came with the bodice. I ended up using view 5, but without the ruffle to get short ballgown sleeves. The sleeves have a fitted inner layer, and an outer layer of the organza + dupioni. To make them poof, they have a structure between those two layers. As the inner layer is fitted, it’s not possible to wear separate sleeve supports. So instead, I consulted Janet Arnold and found a ‘sleeve interlining of black stiffened cotton’ in the pattern for the 1894-5 London Museum dress. Via the Foundations Revealed live-calls, I’d already heard Luca talk about these, and I made mine of tarlatan after his suggestion.

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Comparing sleeve shapes from TV & Janet Arnold

 

This layer of tarlatan is pleated and attached at the top of the sleeve. It stands out sharply, and holds up the outer sleeve perfectly! I just have to be careful not to squish the bodice. Of course, it would also loose shape when wet, but given my dress is silk I planned on avoiding that anyway.

 

The sleeves were stitched in by hand, as I was handling a good nr. of layers. Silk organza and silk dupioni in ruffles, pleated tarlatan ( so 3 layers at times), cotton inner sleeve and the silk organza, silk dupioni and cotton of the bodice. I also made sure to attach the sleeves pretty high on the shoulder, as is typical of this era.

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The very last thing to do was to add boning, and closures. The dress closes center front, underneath the beaded trim. I debated putting in a center back closure, but eventually decided this’d be nicer for getting in/out by myself. There’s hooks and eyes center front, and the beaded piece is only stitched down on one side. When the center front is closed, the beading can be closed on the other side as well with hooks and eyes. This does mean the beading is handled on closing the bodice, so to give it a bit more stability I backed it to another layer of black silk organza. The lace filling up the neckline is attached to the organza on both sides, so it closes with the beading.

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Backing the beaded piece with organza

How the bodice closes:

 

Because I didn’t want to directly put the dress in my closet again, I wore it for pictures across the street last week. I’m already looking forward to wearing it again next year!

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I also took it for a twirl!

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1895 Ball gown – skirt

The ball is officially postponed until next year May, but I have still been working on my gown. I want to just finish it as planned, and the first bit is now officially done!

 

The skirt of the gown is finished. She hangs a little bit oddly on my dummy, mostly because the waist needs to be properly tight to not fall down in the back, which works better on me. This was probably the most involved skirt I ever made, using a lot of different techniques and materials. I was greatly helped by the live calls at Foundations Revealed on historical skirts and sewing techniques, and I tried to use as many as possible in this skirt.

The pattern was the same as I already used for my blue petticoat/skirt. The skirt has three main layers. A green silk dupioni as base, a black silk organza overlayer and a tarlatan interfacing. The tarlatan I used for the interfacing was relatively soft, so just a very lightly stiffened cotton mesh.

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The first step was to line the dupioni and tarlatan. I based all layers in place, and then sewed the main skirt seams.

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The organza layer was sewn up separately, as I wanted it to ‘float’ over the other layers. All seams were French seamed, so first with the allowance to the right side, and then again to capture the raw edge on the wrong side. I kept an opening in the same place for all layers to create the pocket. The two skirts were then put on top of another, and the back was pleated all layers together, and stitched in place.

For the waistband, I used two layers of dupioni and one layer of organza. It’s made to be as thin as possible, so I folded over the dupioni at the top and the edges in on the inside, and the organza over the dupioni at the top and in at the bottom. Then the top and bottom were stitched to keep everything in place.

This means the waistband was completely finished before stitching on the skirt. To do this, I first did a running stitch over the ‘flat’ skirt pannels to ever so slightly ease it. Then, the skirt layers were folded over right above that stitch and whipped to the underside of the waistband through all skirt layers. This way, the raw seam allowance lies downwards to the inside of the skirt and there is no bulk at all in the waistband itself.

Whip stitching the waistband on:

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Pictures of the finished waistband. Showing the running stitch as well as the whip stitch (which was done from the other side).

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The edge is left raw and turned down.

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This is what it looks like from the outside

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And in the back, with the pleats. If you look very closely, you can see the whip stitches.

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For the pocket, I used a pattern from Patterns of Fashion, and stitched that into one of the back side seams of the dupioni/tarlatan layer. Then I folded the organza to the inside of the pocked and hand-sewed it in place, so I can access the pocket easily despite the skirt layers. The top of the pocket has a little bit of tape which attaches it to the waistband, so the weight does not hang from the skirt seam.

The pocket slit from the outside, and the pocket as it looks when turning the skirt inside-out.

 

For the hem, I used another layer of tarlatan, this time a bit stiffer. This was cut to size, and then a layer of black cotton was put overtop and sewn to the bottom of the skirt (by machine) and whip stitched down at the top, completely hiding the tarlatan. This extra layer helps the skirt keeps its shape.

 

To further shape the skirt, ties are sewn to the inside, starting next to the center front panel. This tape gets increasingly narrower towards the back, making sure all the pleats of the skirt stay towards the back when moving around. I tacked the organza layer to the same place as the tape was attached to ensure it would behave similarly.

The spot in which the organza is tacked to the rest (it’s not as poofy normally), and the tape in the back.

 

As decoration, the skirt has an extra layer of organza at the bottom, topped by a velvet ribbon. This extra organza layer was cut to size and stitched on, the ribbon was machine stitched on top. The extra layer is only attached to the organza skirt layer, so it too moves separately from the base layer.

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Both layers of organza were hemmed by first running a machine stitch along the bottom edge, then turning it up twice (firstly along the machine stitch), and whip stitching it in place by hand. Basically, the entire skirt was hemmed by hand three times. Let’s just say the hemming took a while.

 

And then it was done! I’m very happy with how it turned out, and how much structure it has. The two fabrics are beautiful together, and especially in movement you get a subtle shift of how dark it is as the black organza moves differently from the green base layer.

 

Next up is the ball gown bodice! The base of that is done, but it still needs a lot of trim and general fancying-up.

1895 petticoat/skirt

For my 1895 ballgown, I wanted 3 petticoats. The mid 1890’s silhouette is all about volume in the skirt, so all the floof!

I’m using my old Edwardian petticoat at the bottom to start building volume, and I made a white cotton petticoat from de Gracieuse to start the correct silhouette. For the final petticoat, I wanted two things. Firslty, to make it in some color/pattern, as these were a thing and I already made a fully white petticoat. Secondly, to make it out of the same pattern as the skirt. This is actually a decent way to start to achieve the right silhouette, as it would have the same shape, and would also allow me to test my pattern.

Petticoats 1 and 2:

 

I initially wanted a striped petticoat, but I wasn’t able to find striped cotton in a color/weight which I liked. It’s a lot easier to find cotton in summer than in winter, so alas. But I did stumble on a glazed cotton in a beautiful blue color, so I decided to go for that instead. I didn’t get enough to also make ruffles, as it was a bit heavier and pricier than I’d originally aimed for. Fine for the base skirt, but adding frills would just add a little too much weight.

When I was in Ghent for the new-year’s ball, I found some lovely light blue lace, which I took home to use on this project.

The picture doesn’t really show it, but the lace itself is also light blue, and perfectly translates between the blue of the skirt and white of the ruffles.

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As a pattern, I’d gotten the Truly Victorian Ripple skirt. However, I decided I wanted a slightly different cut. The TV pattern is made so that you cut the front, side front and back with the center on-grain, and there’s one very large side-back panel which has one edge on grain. This is a historical pattern lay-out, however, I knew many patterns were also cut with one edge on grain and the other on the bias. All bias edges are matched with a straight edge which limits stretching and moves the width of the skirt to the back. So I decided to re-draw the pattern. I laid out all original pieces, and using Patterns of Fashion 2 as a guide, re-drew the lines so I had a front-side, side, back-side, and back piece with one edge to be on grain. The front piece I kept as was. Despite changing it up, I don’t regret getting the pattern, as it helps to get the width/length right without too much fuss. (I’d also love to one day make the pattern as-was, to compare the differences!)

A rough outline of how I changed the pattern. (These pieces are roughly based on the PoF2 skirt with a similar pattern as the TV one). Step one is to arrange all pattern pieces so the sides match.

 

Then, I divided the waist and hem by 5, marked those spots and connected the dots to end up with 5 even patterns. (Note that in the red pattern, the back panel is fully shown, while I wanted one per side. In the TV pattern, I also ended up with exactly the front panel as new front panel).

 

And then all panels are turned and grainlines drawn such that the edge on the front is on grain, and the back edge on the bias! I did it this way to ensure I ended up with a suitable waist and hem measurement and curve. This little picture was done by eye, so they don’t really match in size properly, but this gives an idea!

Pattern sketch 1e

 

Main construction was fairly simple. I didn’t interline the skirt as I meant for it to be a petticoat, and I gave it a center-back closure. When the basic skirt was constructed, I fell in love with the color even more. This was the point where I thought how great it would be if I were able to wear it as an outer skirt as well, because it was just so pretty!

So when it came to the lace, I had to think a bit on how to place it, as on an outer skirt it would be much more visible. In the end, I decided to place it not on the bottom edge, but a little higher up. Moreover, I decided on adding white cotton ruffles. I’d originally thought about these for a petticoat and wondered if they wouldn’t make it too underwear-like, but I’m really happy I went with them.

Debating lace placement options

 

I could actually use most of the left-over hemmed strips from my previous petticoat (for which I’d hemmed too many ruffles), so that was good!

The base skirt was hemmed a little on the short side, to be able to still work as petticoat as well. I did this  by machine as the ruffles would cover it up anyway. The ruffles were stitched on, and then the lace on top.

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And then it was done! I’m very pleased with how this came out, and that I can wear it as outer wear as well. It actually looks quite good with my Edwardian blouse, despite that being a little later in date! I wore the skirt + blouse to a shoot day at castle Geldrop, where it fit quite well with the surroundings!

Ruud De Korte

Photographer: Ruud de Korte

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Photographer: Martijn van Huffelen

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Photographer: Werner Russel

Bicycle skirt

Beginning of this year, a friend of mine found a sweater in a modern shop which looked remarkably like a 1890’s sports sweater. It’s not quite perfect, but it definitely mimics the look. I debated about it, but in the end I couldn’t resist and followed her example and got one as well.

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An original sweater from the MET ca 1895

 

I’ve had the TV299 pattern for a ca. 1900 split skirt (bicycling/riding) for years now and never had a good reason to make it, but I now needed something to wear with the sports sweater, so it was perfect! Although dated a bit later, I found some earlier examples of similar split skirts, so I called it ‘close enough’.

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Cycling suit (MET, 1896–98) – the TV pattern image – Lady cyclist tabacco card (NY public library)

 

I knew I really wanted wool for this project, and preferably a plaid. In the end, I found this beautiful brown fabric, which has hints of green, blue and red running through. It was just a little thinner and drapier than I was hoping for, so I chose to interline it with unbleached cotton to give it a bit more structure and volume.

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The fabric, this picture probably shows the colors best

 

Shosing the interfacing when I was hemming. The bottom has a brown cotton hem facing. Because I made it bycicle length, and I didn’t want the white cotton to show when moving.

 

I tend to use patterns as inspiration and basic shapes, changing things as I go and not follow instructions. But for this skirt, I actually stuck with the pattern very closely. Technically, this is a pants pattern. It looks like a skirt, but it’s pants with really wide legs and strategic pleats. So it’s a little more complicated to me than skirts or bodices, as the only ‘pants’ I’d ever made were split drawers. Not quite the same. (What’s complicated depends on experience, pants patterns scare me much more than corsets).

 

The pattern went together quite well (when I was paying attention), the only thing I had to read a couple of times were how to fold the back pleats. It worked out as I was doing it though. My only nit-picky comment would be that because you sew the buttonholes in the front leg through 2 layers of fabric (basically in the pleated part), that bit becomes quite difficult to hem at the end. If you want your final button hole close to the bottom, I’d actually advice not stitching that when the pattern tells you (before construction), but leave that one to last (after you’ve hemmed everything). The only minor thing I changed was to take in the side/back seam a bit and widen the darts in the side, as I picked a size based on hip measurement (as advised), meaning I had to make the waist smaller by 3 inches. That worked quite well though! I was a bit scared because of all the pleating, but the relevant seams are not pleated, so I could check for fit quite well.

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Back pleats

 

I’m really happy with how this turned out, and love the fabric with this style. All the buttonholes (20…) were a bit of a chore, but they do add that little extra interest.

Button holes & buttons on the opening.

 

Making this in the shorter bicycle length means it actually reads quite modern! I didn’t necessarily plan this beforehand, but by now I’ve already worn it in daily life a couple of times!

When visiting the museum!

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I also wore the split skirt with the sweater to a photoshoot day. I made a beret to go with it the day before as it does really call for some type of headwear. I’m very happy with how this look turned out! It’s fun, but also very comfortable and easy to move around in.

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Photograph by Amabile

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Photo by PressCoat Photography

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Photo by PressCoat Photography

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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Victorian tennis dress

It’s been a while! Right after the fancy dress ball, I dove into a new project. However, it’s not quite done yet, and I’ve been away from home for a couple of weeks, so nothing finished to show off yet. So this post will be about some of the inspirations instead!

I’ve been working on an 1880’s tennis dress. This dress started with the realization that I only owned silk, wool and velvet Victorian dresses. Which are fabrics I love, but they’re not ideal for warm summer days. So I set out to remedy that, and when looking at possible designs for cotton bustle dresses (as I love the 1880’s), I stumbled on tennis dresses.

This is one I’ve always really liked in particular:

Ephemeral Elegance  Cotton Tennis Dress, ca. 1884-86  via Manchester Galleries  http://manchesterartgallery.org/collections/search/collection/?id=1947.4150

Manchester Art gallery

 

But there are some other great existent examples, such as these:

Article Image

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Tennis Dress 1885 The Metropolitan Museum of Art

MET museum

 

One of the questions I had initially, was what makes these dresses tennis dresses, and not just cotton bustle dresses? Partly, it was probably just that they were made with a specific purpose in mind, but looking at these garments more closely does give some more clues!

The first thing (which I know is a feature of the first two of these dresses, although I’m not sure about the third), is that the boning which creates the bustle shape is actually a part of the dress itself.

This is a feature I first ran into in Izabela Pitcher’s book ‘the Victorian Dressmaker’. She has a yachting dress which features boning in the skirt. The dress from LACMA actually has pictures of the boning structure, and for the Manchester Art Gallery dress you can read about the boning in the description. I’ve also seen this being mentioned for light cotton summer dresses.

Woman's Tennis Dress | LACMA Collections

The inside of the LACMA dress, showing the boning and tapes to create the bustle

 

 

This inclusion of boning in the skirt means that the outfit does not require a separate bustle case, nor a petticoat to go on top of the cage. Although you might still want one petticoat to go underneath, this definitely does cut out at least 2 layers of skirts, making the whole thing lighter, and probably easier to move around in. The Manchester dress even sports an apron in one with the main skirt to reduce layers, and a back overlay which is buttoned on. So the goal definitely seems to reduce weight! This is my own theory, so I am curious to find out if I can feel the difference when wearing the finished dress!

Another feature the tennis dresses seem to have are special pockets to keep the tennis balls in. Although bustle dresses feature pockets more often, these are definitely shaped and sized for tennis balls. Pleats are a popular choice for trimming, otherwise the dresses are relatively simple, with just a little lace. All these examples also feature a bodice which has extra fabric in the front, and which is gathered into a band which sits at the natural waist. Pictures of tennis dresses do show other types of bodices, although the ‘looser’ gathered look does seem to be the most popular.

Some pictures of ladies in tennis outfits:

Victorian Era Tennis | Share

Early 1890s

 

Finally, there’s of course the little references to tennis, such as the embroidery on the belt. These three examples are all made of cotton, although different fabrics such as light wool could probably also be used. And they are all striped! When looking at pictures and prints, you see that most dresses are light colored, and either a solid color or made in stripes.

1888- Tennis

All the stripes!

Tennis outfits

The stripes weren’t just for the ladies either!

 

For my own dress, I’ll be using the Manchester dress as main inspiration. It has a very good description on the website, although the pictures don’t show the back. Main features will be: bustle cage included in the skirt, gathered front bodice, apron sewn in one with the skirt and separate back drapery, a ball pocket, pleated ruffles, and striped cotton fabric!

I’ve now got most of the skirt base and bodice together. It needs some finishing (closures, hem, etc), and then all the ruffles on the skirt. Here’s a little glimpse of the fabric, and the gathered channels which hold the boning for the bustle in the skirt.

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Finally, I also found this lovely article, which has some more info on tennis dresses in the period, including some original source quotes!

Victorian Picnics 2 & 3

About a week ago, we held another Victorian picnic, the 3rd already! That also made me realize I haven’t actually blogged about the second one either, so here’s a post making up for that!

For a little background: about a year ago I got the idea that if I wanted more historical events, I could also organize something myself. I’d have to be fairly low-key though, as I didn’t actually have a lot of time to do so. So I settled on organizing a picnic, where everyone brings their own food. As we have a lot of Regency events here, but not so much Victorian, that became the theme, and we included the often forgotten 1830’s to get a time range of ca. 1830-1900. In august, we held the first picnic at de Haar castle.

Shortly after that first picnic, the idea came to go to another castle in autumn. This time, we did not take our own food in case the weather was bad, and decided to eat at the local restaurant instead. The weather turned out to be beautiful, so we had a very nice walk, as well as a lovely visit to Kasteel Zypendaal. Thanks to Martijn van Huffelen, we also got some lovely pictures of the day:

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During the second picnic, someone asked if we couldn’t do a ‘winter’ picnic. This would mean having an indoor location though, but luckily one of our group was able to arrange this. So last weekend, we visited the beautiful Huis Doorn. Again, we were very lucky with the weather, and we again toured both the house and grounds after a lovely lunch. Martijn took some lovely pictures again:

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It’s so nice to see how the group has steadily grown, and to see people come back again for a second or third time. It’s also very inspiring to see all the beautiful costumes, and all days were lovely days out with lovely people. We’ll definitely be doing more of these come spring and summer!