Saturday, November 22, 2014

An 1860s Yellow Wool Dress with Daisy Buttons


This dress was inspired by a CDV in Who Wore What? by Juanita Leisch. I fell in love the the buttons, their placement, the belt, and the three-quarter sleeves with puffy undersleeves. My version is made of pale yellow wool from Fashion Fabrics Club. It's lined in plain white cotton. As usual, it's my standard 1860s bodice pattern that started as the 1870 pattern from Period Costume for Stage and Screen.

DSC_3041 The finished dress

The box pleated trim is cut on the straight of grain. Instead of hemming it, I folded the edges toward the center and pressed them in place. When I sewed the pleats down, I made sure to catch the center edge, in essence, hemming it.

The finished dress

The belt is the wool hemmed around two pieces of cotton organdy. It hooks shut in the back. The center feature of the belt was made with a single strip of wool hemmed over organdy. I sewed it down at the middle and then a third of the way between each side. It's very much like cartridge pleating.

And that's sparkling water in my glass. We had a lovely picnic with period-ish foods :)

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I wore the dress over a chemise, corset, Needle and Thread cage crinoline, and petticoat. I borrowed the bonnet from Sarah (I wore it with my black spoon bonnet before, giving it a sort of bumble bee look), and my shoes are Robert Land's walking shoes.

Daisy Buttons Daisy Buttons

Daisy Buttons Daisy Buttons

The buttons were very simple to make. They're made of circles of wool, wooden discs, and black lace. First, I cut a circle of wool and gathered the edge. Then I put the disc inside and sewed it shut. Then I gathered the lace and sewed it to the back, and ta da! finished buttons!


Sadly, this dress has been somebody's lunch, and even more sadly, I ran into something very messy the last time I wore this dress and it has huge black marks all over the front. I did wear it four times though, which is more than I usually wear things. I remain optimistic though, and I think there's hope for it yet :)

The Purple Paletot


I love outerwear. It's so much fun, so pretty, adds so much to an outfit, yet, I almost never get to make it, doing most of my costuming in weather that just doesn't allow it. So, when Sarah suggested a trip to the mountains for a sleigh ride to Twila and me, I jumped at the chance to make a paletot covered in soutache.

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I used the Homespun Patterns Paletot pattern as a starting point. As is usual with patterns, the smallest size was much too big for me, but it's a very nice pattern and I think was easier to work with than my bodice pattern like I normally do. It's made with a layer of purple tropical weight wool that I think I found on eBay, interlined with cream wool flannel from B. Black and Sons, and lined with pink silk taffeta from Pure Silks. The soutache is from Farmhouse Fabrics. I used rayon soutache, which, while not period, still looks nice, and is easy to work with. Since I needed so much, wool soutache wasn't an option. The soutache pattern is taken from an original Godey's that I found online, though the site now leads somewhere else.

The bonnet and winter hood I wore with this are both from Miller's Millinery, the low brim and quilted opera bonnets. My scarf is a pattern from Godey's, The Princess Royal scarf.


Sadly, I couldn't take a pony ride. They had a scale though, and I found out that everything I was wearing weighed about fifteen pounds. I'd guess most of it was in the paletot!

IMG_3897 The mostly finished coat!

And here I am being uncharacteristically festive, and the paletot on my dress form, which shows the braiding better.

Construction Construction

First, I made the outer layer of the coat--sleeves and body. I then drew the soutache pattern on tissue paper, basted it to the coat, and sewed it into place. Once the soutache was done, I sewed the sleeves in. Then I made the lining, treating the wool flannel and silk taffeta as one piece. Then I inserted the lining into the coat, wrong sides together, and edge stitched the hems, and folded the center front of the coat down as a facing.


The only non soutache construction picture I seem to have taken is the collar. The collar is lined with a piece of twill for body, and then I sandwiched it between the purple wool and the lining.

In addition to wearing the coat twice, I was able to wear it to work when the building was freezing. I think they were using the air conditioning, even though it was in the 40s out. I'm also planning to wear this for Remembrance Day 2015 in Gettysburg. It should be perfect there :)

For endless ramblings about this coat, I wrote quite a bit on Live Journal.

A Pink Sheer 1860s Dress


1860s sheer dresses are one of my favorite styles, so when this fabric became available, I knew I needed to make this dress. I've worn it twice, once to a local reenactment, and the second time to visit my friend Sarah in Montana.

The dress is made from my 1860s block. The bodice is lined with cotton sateen. The sleeves are unlined, except for sleeve caps and undersleeves, and the skirt is unlined as well. The skirt has a pocket, made of white cotton, that blends in with the white petticoat and doesn't show through the sheer fabric. My bonnet is a straw bonnet from Timely Tresses that I trimmed myself.

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I'm wearing the dress over a chemise, my red 1860s corset, hoop from the Needle and Thread kit, and a petticoat.

Though it looks like it has a pleated trim around the bottom of the skirt, that's really just the effect of the pattern of the sheer fabric without the petticoat shadowing through.

Pink Sheer Dress

The first time I wore the dress, I wore a spoon bonnet that I made from the Miller's Millinery spoon bonnet pattern. It's made of buckram, millinery wire, mulled with cotton flannel, and covered in silk taffeta.

The undersleeves for this dress are made of cotton net with box pleated cotton net trim at the ends. They're basted into the short sleeve cap linings.


My shoes are Robert Land's walking shoes, and are incredibly comfortable. My garters are based on the Workwoman's Guide pattern and are just a strip of knitting in garter stitch with a loop on one end to fasten them.

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One common misconception about historic clothes is that it's difficult to do things in them. I've always found that, in well-fitted clothes, this really isn't the case. As an example, I found it quite easy to climb a ladder in this dress. We were staying in a cabin, and I had the loft room. It was quite cozy :)


And though I have no construction pictures, I do have a picture of the open dress! It was quite hot, so when we were waiting for the train back from Nevada City, MT, to Virginia City, I loosened my dress. You can see the center front opening and the side opening on the skirt.

Friday, November 21, 2014

A 1920s Beaded Dress

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A 1920s dress made of silk chiffon from Dharma Trading and worn over a slip made of yellow China silk from Golden Silks. The dress is tambour beaded with zillions of tiny seed beads from Fire Mountain Gems, and I bought the clip in my headband on Etsy.

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I am not in love with this dress. I didn't give it the attention it deserved, and it has quite a few issues that I really should've dealt with before wearing it. I should have shortened the waist which was stretched a little during the embroidery process and weighed down by the beading on the skirt. When I wasn't happy with the fit, I took in the underarams a bit, but I really should've taken in the whole side seams. That would've meant taking the skirt off, but, well, see number one. I also wanted more decoration, beading around the neckline, armscyes, a fuller design, etc. By the end of the beading, I was probably beading about half as densely as when I started. However, due to having whooping cough the summer I made this, I very much Did Not Care, and the dress just got done. I cared much more about the knit beaded bag I made to go with it--beautiful mindlessness!

I still wore the dress twice--to Costume College and to visit a friend in Montana and go out for a 20s themed dinner (where three of my dresses were worn!) and enjoyed wearing it, so that is something, I suppose! While I do hate it when people put their costumes down, at the same time, I think it's good to share that not everyone loves everything they do!

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I remain enthusiastic about my beaded bag, and I very much want to make more. The bag is from The Hiawatha Book of Beaded Bags and Chains that I bought on Etsy. It has a Ravelry page here.

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This picture perfectly sums up my attitude towards this dress. Plus, I just like the way Aubry of A Fractured Fairytale frames the shot.


My shoe clips (bought on Etsy) though? Possibly the best things ever :)

A few construction pictures are below.

An 1840 Smocked Day Dress

Costume College Sunday

When I made my smocked 1840s ball gown, I knew I wanted to do a day version as well. All of that smocking deserved a little more wear! It was an incredibly easy update--just add long sleeves. The long sleeves are just the lower half of my sleeve block and are basted into the short sleeve. During the 1840s, day dresses could have low necklines, so I left that unaltered.

Costume College Sunday Costume College Sunday

Another alteration that I should've made was to shorten the waist a bit--the cause of the wrinkling here. (The front wrinkling is a bias wrinkle. Evil bias.) I knew from wearing this before that it was slightly long waisted, so I moved the buttons on my petticoat to give me a little more room. That helped, but not quite enough! Still though, I love the dress. Wearing it again, I probably would shorten it properly, but reattaching the skirt just isn't appealing! The wrinkling is less noticeable in person--silk taffeta has a tendency to make wrinkles stand out in photographs.

I'm wearing a Regency chemise from the Kannik's Korner pattern, my hand sewn corded petticoat, Past Patterns 1840 corset (also seen in the petticoat link), and a plain petticoat underneath the dress. All of these were made very long ago, but still work quite well! The shoes are Robert Land dancing slippers.

Costume College Sunday

And a good picture of my sleeve and the little ruffle, and my attitude towards the very loud Sunday pool party at the Costume College hotel.

A Late 1860s Dress Inspired by Princess Alexandra of Wales

Princess Alexandra Inspired Dress

After making the spotty dress inspired by one of Princess Alexandra of Wales' dresses, I decided I needed another. She was an amazingly well-dressed woman, after all! I searched through photographs of her with two goals in mind--one, a wonderful dress, and two, one that I could get appropriate materials for. This meant the gorgeous bustle dress with rows of lace in the skirt was out, but a velvet dress with a low neckline, lace collar, and lace lower sleeves fit both my requirements.

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Despite wearing the dress three times--the ice cream social at Costume College, the Friday night social at Costume Con, and Halloween at work, I don't have the best pictures of the dress. It doesn't help that two of the events were at night and the dress is made of dark blue velvet! I'm wearing the dress over a chemise, corset, Laughing Moon elliptical hoop, and a petticoat.

Costume College 2011

One of my favorite elements of this dress is the long ribbon around her neck. This doesn't seem to have been a common style. The only other example of this I've seen was in a photograph of Alexandra's sister, the future Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia. I suspect it may have been a fad and am always hoping for more examples. My ribbon is made of a flattened tube of silk taffeta which I pinned shut in back. The center is decorated with a vintage pin I bought on Etsy.

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As it was a rather straightforward dress, I didn't photograph it as I was making it. These are the closest to construction pictures I have. The bodice is my standard 1860s bodice pattern cut with a square neckline. The skirt is one of the late 1860s skirts from Period Costume for Stage and Screen. The dress is blue cotton velvet from Sy Fabrics. It's lined with brown polished cotton. The lace around the neck is antique, and basted very carefully to the neckline. The piece of lace fits the collar nearly exactly--there's only a small amount leftover. Instead of cutting the lace, I made a little pocket inside the neckline of the dress to tuck the excess into. The velvet sleeves are elbow length with puffs of cotton net trimmed with bands of black silk taffeta. In the original, the sleeve puffs were also lace, but that much antique lace is difficult to find and anyway, that would be a high stress area to use a delicate textile.
NPG Ax17915; Alexandra of Denmark

And the dress that inspired mine! This is one of my favorite dresses to wear. The fabrics, the train, the little bit of sparkle at the neckline all feel wonderful. I wish I had better pictures to share, but I suppose that means I'll just need to find another opportunity to wear it!

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.

Drop Front--Getting Dressed 4 Drop Front--Getting Dressed 3

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.

Drop Front--Getting Dressed 5

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 :)