Saturday, August 22, 2015

A 1946 Playsuit

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My 1946 playsuit in a picture taken by my 1919-1924 Brownie No. 2 Model E. It's based on this 1946 suit by Claire McCardell at the Met. It's made of wool jersey from Nature's Fabrics.

I made this in 2013 with plans to wear it to the hopeful pool party on Sunday at Costume College, but that didn't happen. I brought it in 2014 to wear to the beach, but that also didn't happen. I was quite happy to wear it to both the beach and Thursday night pool party at Costume College this year!

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Construction was very straightforward. The top is a trapezoid with a slightly scooped neck that's gathered to self fabric ties. To pattern the top, I took a rectangle of muslin, folded the edges in a trapezoidal shape, gathered it to my neck and underbust, adjusted the width, and marked the curve of my neck. The skirt is a wrap skirt, and just a rectangle of fabric gathered to self ties. The underlap area isn't gathered so the skirt sits better.

To attach the ties, I sewed them right side to right side using my machine's stretch stitch. I sewed the back by hand. I also sewed the ties shut by hand. I'm sure there's an efficient way to do this by machine, but I'm a good enough hand sewer that I found it easy to do this way.

I decided to make the top tie instead of button as in the original to make it easier to fit, and to, although I wasn't planning on wearing this for actual swimming, not have to worry about stretching if it got wet.

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I made the shorts a year after making the skirt and top--fortunately Nature's Fabrics still had the seafoam green! Instead of making the slightly diaper like shorts of the original, I used the pattern for shorts from the vintage pattern I used for my first playsuit. The shorts close in back with a button and loop at the waist and snaps on the placket.

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And though I didn't go very deep, I did wade into the ocean in this! A few waves tried to drench the skirt, but, being wool jersey, it repelled most of the water and dried quickly.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A 1913 Dress Based on a Photograph of Mata Hari


Do you know those dresses that you see and instantly decide that you must have? That was my reaction when I saw this dress in a 1913 photograph of Mata Hari. I abandoned my Costume College gala plans and decided to make it. I'm so glad I did--it's a bizarre little dress and was so much fun to wear!

I used my bustle bodice pattern as a base, lowering the neckline and raising the waist. I draped the side pleats on my dressform. It closes at center front with a front panel covering that opening and snapping into place on the left. This is illustrated in this post.

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The dress is made of silk taffeta from Pure Silks and my bandeau and the velvet for the skirt are from Thai Silks. The lining is the combed cotton broadcloth sheeting from Dharma Trading. The sleeve flounces are silk net.

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My hair is based on this style, and though obviously smaller, I was quite pleased with how it turned out and wish it had photographed more true to life. I did realize though, that this particular style is just 1860s with a bandeau. My necklace is from The Littlest Sister on Etsy, and my earrings and bracelets are from Dames a la Mode on Etsy. My shoes are Capezio ballroom shoes with vintage shoe clips.

Closure and construction information can be found here. Although after my first dress with strange closures I thought I'd never make another one, I've really come to love making dresses with multiple closures. Figuring them out is quite satisfying, and I think they make rather lovely dresses with the hidden closures.

1913 Mata Hari Dress--Closures and Construction

The dress I made based on a 1913 picture of Mata Hari has rather interesting construction. I based it off period examples, and although 1910s dresses commonly closed in back, I decided that mine would close in front for ease of dressing.

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Perspective with this dress is slightly odd. It never seems to look the same in pictures as it does in real life!

The dress opens at center front. The bodice is attached to a straight skirt that also opens at center front. It closes with hooks and eyes.

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A panel of silk lined with cotton covers the closure and snaps into place on the left side.

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The waistband of the bubble skirt closes separately on the left. The picture on the right shows a secret passage in the lower bubble skirt. I closed the bottom part of the seam with snaps, so a tailor's ham would fit through and you can iron it. A good thing, as it is looking a little worse for wear after Costume College!

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The base skirt is shaped a little like a pencil skirt. It needed to be wide enough to fit comfortably over my hips and narrow enough for the wrap skirt and bubble to look good, so it tapers in. The waist measurement is wider than mine, and it's fit to the bodice with darts.

The base skirt is hemmed, and the raw edge of the wrap skirt is sewn on that. It doesn't matter that the wrap skirt edge is unfinished, as it's covered by the bubble skirt.

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The bubble skirt is a giant tube with gathering stitches run at the bottom, middle, and top. The bottom seam is sewn for about an inch or two and then left open for a few inches that close with snaps so the finished skirt can be ironed. The bottom gathers are pulled to fit the base skirt, pinned on top of the velvet wrap skirt, and sewn into place.

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The center line of gathering is pulled in and pinned along the marked line seen on the left. It's then sewn to that.

The top is gathered into its own waistband, and the base skirt is sewn to the waistband bodice.

Though it is quite intricate, the multiple closures are worth it to get these complicated styles.

Faking a Regency Cap--A Tiny Tutorial

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I will happily admit this is not a completely accurate Regency cap. As I was sitting and looking at the strips of fabric that I was thinking about turning into a cap pattern, I realized I could go about it an easier way--I could use my Kannik's Korner cap pattern and add a few Regency elements. Some had ruffles across the crown, others had ruffles facing back, early fashion plates had colorful ribbon, (I'm obviously using the extended stylistic definition of Regency here), and a feature many of them had was the front ruffle extended around the back of the neck.

My cap is made of Swiss muslin and trimmed with Swiss embroidered edging, both from Farmhouse Fabrics. The ribbon is from Silky Way on eBay.

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To make my cap, I used the girl's band and woman's caul, like I have in my previous Kannik's Korner caps. I followed the directions with the pattern. After attaching the band and caul, I whip gathered a piece of the embroidered edging, and sewed it across the back crown of the cap. Then I sewed another whip gathered piece of edging to the back of the band, facing backwards. I then tried the cap on and pulled the drawstring to about where I wanted to wear it. I then took another piece of whip gathered edging and sewed it around the entire edge of the cap, including the gathered portion. Then I added ribbon, which I just played with until I liked the look of it.


And there it is, a very silly, frilly cap!

Binding 18th Century Stays--An Abbreivated Tutorial

After writing my 1780s stays tutorial, I realized that there was one part that was probably more helpful than anything else--binding the stays. I don't take credit for this binding method, rather Nicole, of Diary of a Mantua Maker told me about it, and I was later lucky enough to see it done on extant 18th century stays in Lara Corset's collection.

If you've ever wondered how 18th century stays had such a narrow binding, this is how. Instead of cutting all layers to the edge and binding, a seam allowance was left on the top layer of the stays, which was then wrapped to the wrong side and hemmed, essentially binding the stays before adding the binding.

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Here's the seam allowance on the top of the stays. Right now, it's all layers of the fabric. Inserting the boning is much easier this way.

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Only the inner layers of the stays are cut. The top layer seam allowance is left in place.

Sew the panels of the stays together. No need to do it by hand like I did, unless you're like me and actually think it's fun to hand sew stays!

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Once the panels are sewn together, fold the excess seam allowance to the wrong side and hem it to the lining.

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Here it is from the right side. Now, when you bind the stays, you're not doing it to finish the edge because it's already finished, but rather binding to finish the edge more nicely and provide a little extra strength at the seams.

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Bind the stays however you like. I used ultrasuede (also on Nicole's recommendation!). I'm afraid to get the truly narrow binding though, it does have to be done by hand. You want to catch the top of the hem more than anything else.


And nice, tiny binding, just like real 18th century stays!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

1790s Transitional Stays

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I've needed a new set of early Regency stays for a while. I have 1820s or so stays that I love, but my early stays stretched beyond wearability.

I have a detailed post about making these stays here. The short version--they're based on stays in the V&A and use the 1790 Linen Stays pattern from Corset by Jill Salen as a base. They're cotton broadcloth lined with cotton twill.

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These stays are extremely comfortable--even if I did manage to tie the straps at different lengths and the center front bow came untied, and a tab flipped up for these pictures :)

1790s Transitional Stays--A Tutorial


My main inspiration for these stays was this pair of stays in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Mine are slightly simpler, but keep the elements I wanted. Separate cups, higher waist, and general 18th century cut. I used the 1790 linen stays pattern from Corsets by Jill Salen as a starting point since they had the general shape I wanted. I changed them to back lacing with false front lacing and gathered cups. They're made of two layers of fabric, cotton broadcloth for the outer layer and cotton twill for the inner layer. Both fabrics are from They're boned with metal and plastic artificial whalebone. I used the plastic in the diagonal channels so I could easily shape the end of the bone to fit. They're bound in tight weave cotton ribbon that I bleached white. They're laced with silk ribbon from Farmhouse Fabrics. The cups are drawn in with twisted cotton crochet cord.


Basic construction is straightforward. All seam allowances are turned in towards each other--so they're on the inside--and the pieces are whipstitched together. This is based on early 18th century stays construction, but since the seam allowances are inside, there's no need for a separate lining to cover seam allowances.

To pattern the shaping for the cups, I fit the stays normally, adjusted my bust into the position I wanted it held, and drew a line underneath that. I smoothed out the line when I took the mockup off.


To pattern the cups, I traced the shape of the cup onto paper.


I then cut that shape into strips, spread it out, and traced around that.

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I added a seam allowance on all sides--to sew to the stays and to put a drawstring channel in the top--and adjusted the top line so it would make a smooth line with the straps.

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The cups are two layers of broadcloth. The top is hemmed to make a drawstring channel. The line drawn in the center of the cup is to create a drawstring channel for the center of the cup.


Here it is sewn--there are no eyelets for the twisted crochet cord drawstrings; they're just poked through the fabric.


The seam allowance under the cup is folded down, and the cup is topstitched in. I used a spaced backstitch.


The lining is left loose. The curve is clipped a little to make the seam allowance fold more easily.


The seam allowance folded down, and is whipstitched to the wrong side of the cup.

I did a second row of spaced backstitching after the lining was whipstitched down. This wasn't completely necessary, but it made it feel more finished.


The tabs are cut, boning is added, eyelets are sewn, they're bound, and they're done!


Here they are from the back, which because of the techniques used, looks an awful lot like the front...