Friday, October 31, 2014

A Regency Drop Front Dress

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The Sunday night before Halloween, I decided I needed a new dress to wear at work on our Halloween, which was Thursday. Nothing in my admittedly extensive wardrobe felt quite right, plus, I was up for a challenge (hand sewn dress in four days!) and had some rather fabulous new red silk Robert Land boots that needed to be worn. The result--a Regency drop front dress from one of my first LA garment district purchases at my first Costume College in 2003.

Construction details can be seen in this post.

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It is a rather straightforward dress, the interest coming from the stripe and the bias touches--I love bias stripes! The ruffle around the hem--of which there will be two--is gathered over a cord. My turban is just two pieces of my backdrop silk twisted together and tacked into place. Of course, I decided to use some of that silk that I bought just for backgrounds before I even used it as a background :)

Regency Boots

The silk boots that are largely responsible for this dress being finally made!

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Here's the dress, ready to be put on. The waistband/ties are threaded through the loops in back, and the front hangs loose.

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The first step is to pin the flaps. I find it very helpful to pin the flaps to my stays. If I don't do this, then the flap rides up. I haven't come up with a fitting solution for this, and I've tried everything I can think of. I just don't have the figure to keep the flaps in place.

You'll notice ties on the inside of the bodice--I decided against using these when I put it on, although they are seen in original dresses.

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Once the flaps are pinned, this is what it looks like from behind. The ties are through the loops at back, and the front is hanging down.

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Now, here's the front. The ties are pulled so that everything is tight. The loops guide them into place--it's quite simple to do!

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The loops are then tied. I chose to tie them under the bib. Then pin the bib into place. As complicated as this style looks, it's really quite easy to put on by yourself, which is rather nice in this era with many dresses closing in back.

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Underneath my dress, I'm wearing a shift made from Dharma Trading's batiste (I think, it's over ten years old!) and stays based on an 1820s pair at the Met. Initially, I had planned to wait to make this dress when I had new 1810s stays, but it should fit over those easily when I get around to making them.

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My chemisette is made from Swiss Finella muslin from Farmhouse Fabrics. It's based on the pattern in Patterns of Fashion. It ties at the neck with a cord twisted out of crochet cotton, and ties at the waist with 1/4 inch cotton tape.

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My petticoat is just two panels of fabric, open at one side seam, and held up with straps. The straps also did a brilliant job of holding the chemisette in place.

And that's the dress! Though I do try to limit myself to larger projects now, I do find working on dresses in such a limited time frame to be a rather satisfying challenge :)

A Regency Drop Front Dress--Construction!

Copper Stripe Drop Front 5

One of the first style dresses to catch my interest as a costumer was a drop front (or bib front or apron front) Regency dress. My first, was one of my earliest costumes, the next was the much more elaborate copy of a dress from the V&A. My third was a copy of a dress in the Danish costume museum.

My fourth, which I'm explaining here, is one of my earliest planned dresses--I bought the fabric in the LA garment district at my first Costume College in 2003. It's quite straightforward in style. The pattern, like my other three, is based on the pattern in Patterns of Fashion

Drop Front Construction 1

The dress is made of a linen lining and a cotton "silk" blend stripe. At least that's what I was told in 2003. I decided to believe it then, but was suspicious--those suspicions were confirmed when I melted a bit of the fabric. Oops. However, a little synthetic is no reason to not use such a perfect fabric!

The linen lining is made separately, and then the striped fabric is mounted on top.

Drop Front Construction 2

After pressing the seams, I laid the striped center piece, wrong side to wrong side, on the linen lining.

Drop Front Construction 3

Next, I pinned the front piece on top. I found it easiest to start at the neckline curve, then smooth it from there. The neckline, waistline, and armscye edges are matched, and the side back seam allowance is turned under and pinned. This will then be topstitched down. I used a spaced backstitch. If you notice, the striped fabric doesn't extend all the way to the front edge, and I actually trimmed it a little more after this picture. This actually helps the bodice lay nicely--the one layer of linen molds better to your body than the linen with the outer fabric, as I discovered on my very first drop front.

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Here's a closer view of the side back seam.

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Next, topstitch the side back seam and the edge of the striped fabric on the flap. Then, finish the neck and waist edges. On this dress, I hemmed the edges based on this dress on Pinterest. On my previous dresses, based on Janet Arnold, I turned the edges in to each other to finish them. The sleeves are inserted normally.

The bib can be anything from a plain hemmed rectangle of fabric, to a gathered piece of fabric, to a tucked piece of fabric, to fitted with drawstrings, and I think I've even seen one fitted with darts. Mine is a bias cut rectangle with a straight band on top. The bib needs to be finished before it's attached.


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Now, onto the skirt! The skirt is quite straightforward. It's just a tube of fabric, sewn selvage to selvage with the top 12 inches on each seam left open. My skirt is about 90 inches around, which is slightly narrower than the Patterns of Fashion skirt. The top center front of the skirt is cut with a very slight scoop where the bib goes to help it sit flat at the waist. It's no deeper than an inch at center front.

Once the skirt is sewn, press the top edge down, as in cartridge pleating.

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Then pin the back of the skirt to the back of the bodice. The edges of the skirt should be around the underarm. I chose to use a mix of knife pleats with cartridge pleats at the center back. Sew these pleats into place.

The back of the bodice has loops to hold the ties in place. On this dress, I used large thread eyes, but you can also use loops made of the dress fabric. I placed these loops on the bottom edge of the bodice directly on each side back seam.

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There's more than one method to do the front. I chose to do a waistband that doubled as ties and cartridge pleat the fabric on either side of the bib to it. Another option is to hem the top front of the skirt and run a drawstring through the area that I pleated on this skirt.

First, I sewed the waistband to the skirt.

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Next, attach the bib. Put it right sides together with the waistband (or hemmed top of the skirt) and whipstitch it together.

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Here's the pinned bib from the right side.

And that's it! Well, except for hemming and any trim you might want. It's really quite a straightforward dress!

More pictures of the dress--including how you put it on--can be seen here!


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Game of Thrones King's Landing Dress--Done!

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I've practically written a novel about my Game of Thrones dress--the ten posts I've written are linked below! It has been such an enjoyable project though! I very much want to make another--I'm thinking one in the style Cersei wears to the purple wedding. What I enjoyed so much though, was they've truly created fashion on the show--clothes for different climates, different levels of society, different everything, yet they remain consistent in fashionable details. It was almost like discovering a new historical period. The style dress I made, for example, is heavily embroidered for Cersei, has a little embroidery for Sansa, and is trimmed with contrasting fabric for Ros, yet the lines remain the same. (Three samples are on my small GoT Pinterest board.) I wanted my dress to be between Sansa's and Cersei's, as would fit an adult member of a noble house. In my case, House Caron of Nightsong.

My hair is done with two hairpieces, a roll mounted on a band, and twists attached to a braid. A tutorial is linked below. I styled my hair a little differently this time though. Instead of pulling it all back, I did a center part, waved it with a triple barrel curling iron, and twisted those parts and pinned them under the band. This hid a little of my very high forehead.

I made my own pattern for the dress and underskirt. I plan on tracing my pattern and adding a scaled copy to the construction posts. Hopefully this week! I'll edit this post when I do that :)

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My dress is made of green silk taffeta (that I washed with baby shampoo), cotton/silk metallic brocade, crinkled metallic silk, and yellow/gold plain silk from Pure Silks. The bodice is interlined with lightweight linen from Dharma Trading. It's embroidered with beads, beetle wings, and gold thread--all these are linked in the beetle wing embroidery post below. It's edged along the neckline and side panels with 3mm Italian tubular mesh from Mimi's Gems that Michele Carragher used on her embroidery for the show. If you haven't seen her site--do visit. It's beyond amazing! The underskirt is purple silk from Thaimpex on Etsy. It's a softer silk taffeta than most, which was perfect for my purpose.

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To get the dress to drape the way I wanted it to, I washed the silk taffeta. The texture of the silk in this picture of Cersei's aqua dress reminded me of silk taffeta that had been washed. I suspect they dyed their own fabrics for the show, which would give the same texture as washing. Though a little scary to do, I was very pleased with the texture of the washed silk.

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I decided on dark purple for the underskirt as it would be an unexpected pop of color with the muted green. Sansa's contrasting underskirt can be seem here. The wrap on the dress is quite shallow, so it does show when you walk or sit.

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I couldn't resist showing some close ups of the embroidery! The beetle wings are just so wonderful in sunlight. For most of the wings, I used the bottom half of the wing. In the picture of the sleeve cuff on the right, you can see some slightly bulkier wings. These are the top half of the wing.

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Instead of embroidering first, I did basic construction and then embroidered. This meant the embroidery lined up with no worries. A description of how I transferred the embroidery pattern to the almost finished dress is linked below.

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My locket is the House Caron sigil--a nightingale. I bought the locket on Etsy. I also have an embroidered bag, linked below, with the house words--No Song So Sweet--but I forgot to take the bag to take pictures.

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The dress closes with functional ties. I suspect the dresses on the show have internal closures. In some shots, it looks like they're held together at the very top of the crossover. I just used three ties on the outside, and one on the inside waist.

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It's a little hard to see, but on the underlap side, I added two small darts to the neckline. I stretched the neckline while embroidering, and it didn't sit quite right. I also ran a few gathering stitches in the lining to pull it up a bit. Interestingly, Cersei's aqua dress does the same thing mine did. I think I may be on to something!

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Both Cersei and Sansa wear strapless, front lacing 18th century style corsets under their dresses. The outline of Sansa's corset can be seen here. They're also visible in some of the less, uh, pleasant scenes. I had intended to wear my almost finished stays under the dress, but I didn't like the way they looked underneath--I love the figure they'll give me for the 1780s, but it was too smooth for this dress. In the spirit of 18th century stays though, I wore an 18th century waistcoat that I made for a lounging outfit. It's just my basic 18c pattern lengthened with tabs, and tied at the front and shoulders.


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My stockings are the Phoebe Over The Knee from Sockdreams chosen because they're quite pretty and my house colors, and my shoes are the Juliet Garden Shoe from Revival.us that I use for early Renaissance and Medieval costumes.

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And my Not Today garters. These are inspired by historic garters with phrases such as Stop or Do Not Pass. A short tutorial is linked below!

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And just a few pictures to show how the dress moves.

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More movement, and the dress shown open. It was very warm out--about 100 degrees.

So I seem to have written another novel about this dress! I really couldn't be happier with it though, and hope to get to wear it many times!




Construction, Part One
Construction, Part Two
Construction, Part Three
King's Landing Hairpieces
Not Today Garters
Oops! Alterations
Beetle Wing Embroidery and Beading
Transferring Embroidery to a Finished Dress
Transferring Embroidery When You're Out of Ink
A Lined Bag