Monday, November 19, 2018

A 1918 Plaid Silk Dress

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When my friend Lauren of Wearing History announced she was hosting the Great War Gallop to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the end of World War I, I immediately wanted to go, and wanted a new dress. After a little searching, I found this plaid dress from Antique dress. I found the perfect pink and green small scale plaid from Pure Silks, and, less than a week before the dance, made the dress.

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The pattern for my bodice is an altered version of the Wearing History Elsie blouse pattern. The underskirt is the underskirt part of the Past Patterns 1913-1915 skirt pattern and I drafted the overskirt myself. There are pictures of the pattern alterations at the bottom of the post.

The dress is mostly machine sewn. Besides basting the collar in and the lace on the collar, only the piped center panel and cuffs, tacking the center panel down, and closures are done by hand.

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I'm wearing the dress over the 1918 Austerity corset from Corsets by Jill Salen, petticoat from the Folkwear Edwardian Underthings pattern, and a chemise and corset cover that I drafted myself based on period examples. Even though the skirt is very narrow, I find it sits best with a full petticoat beneath it. My hat is antique, I bought it on eBay ages ago, and the shoes are custom dance shoes from a store that's since gone out of business.

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I thought that the buckles on the original dress would be easy to find, but they weren't. I found some black buckles on eBay and spray painted them pink. I'm wearing a poppy and my original Votes for Women button as well. The collar is a straight piece of Swiss muslin from Farmhouse Fabrics and trimmed with vintage lace.

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The hall where the dance was held was built in 1911 and hosted dances for soldiers during WWI. The newspapers were a perfect touch! And it's a good thing still photos don't show that you don't actually know how to dance.


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The dress has a somewhat complicated way of closing. Here's the full dress, completely unfastened.

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First, the dress fastens at center front. There are snaps on the bodice and the inner waistband closes with hooks and bars.

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Then the center front panel, which is sewn at the top right side for an inch or so and the waist, fastens at the left side with hooks and bars. There are two hooks and bars at the waist because I misplaced the first one and it needed to be moved. It was easier to do a second one and leave the first just in case it was right.

After the front panel is closed, the overskirt, which is on a separate waistband and sewn to the inner waistband, fastens. I thought about attaching the panel to the waistband, but decided that it would be easier to fasten them separately.

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Then the separate belt fastens with two hooks and bars over the whole thing.

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The pattern alterations were really quite straightforward. Fortunately the pictures of the original dress included one of the dress open so it was easy to figure out what was happening. I just changed the neckline to a square, and folded a piece of fabric into a trapezoid to create the front panel. I did accidentally make the square neckline a bit high, but that was easy to fix without doing anything--I just unsnapped the first snap and tucked it down a bit.

I also trimmed the length a bit, not shown here, because it's a blouse meant to be tucked in. I did that on the actual dress, but not the pattern.

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This is the front panel of the skirt. The back panel is nearly identical--the short side is just a little bit longer. The bias side seam was sewn, the skirt was hemmed, then machine gathered and sewn to the waistband. The shorter, straight of grain side was left open. Then to tuck the skirt up, I sewed a snap on the inside seam and a matching snap at the hem. Much easier for ironing than tacking it into place.

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I don't have many construction pictures--that's what happens when you start a dress on Sunday for the following Saturday. On the left you can see the bodice sewn to the internal waistband before I trimmed the excess. On the right is the almost finished dress without the overskirt.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

A Game of Thrones King's Landing/Handmaiden Dress

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One of my favorite style dresses from Game of Thrones is the drapey, robe a la francaise/piemontaise type dresses popular in King's Landing--worn by women in town, handmaidens, Shae, and more. It's the perfect dress for the last day of Costume College (or any other convention) when you want to wear something, but be a little more relaxed!

Construction information for this dress, including a diagram, can be found here. The dress is very simple though--it's just a tube of washed silk taffeta from Renaissance Fabrics with drawstrings at the center back and center front, fastened at the center back with ribbons, and worn with a belt. Some construction can be seen on Instagram.

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Full length views of the dress--it looks much more structured than it really is! The belt is made of Worbla and chainmail. Unfortunately, I used the wrong type of rings and it pretty much burst apart when I took a deep breath.

I made a new, simpler hairpiece than my first hairpiece. It's two braids twisted together with the ends tucked under with a narrow braid wrapped around it. I sewed a hairnet over it to keep everything in place, and sewed wig clips to the bottom. The back is just a very long narrow braid twisted into a bun.


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The back drape falls in folds to fairly deep in the skirt--about knee level. This makes the dress extremely flowy. The back pleats are narrower than the front pleats, which gives a very elegant line.

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Though it's not obvious in still pictures that the dress is almost five yards around, it's obvious when the dress moves. Especially if it there's any wind. I think my dress is a little fuller than the dresses on the show, but I'm fine with that!

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The gap in the back between the pleats and the dress makes a drapey dress more fitted. Most of the dresses have a decorative center front panel, which also gives shape to the dress. Mine is hand embroidered because I couldn't find a contrast panel that I liked.


Game of Thrones Dress from Katherine on Vimeo.


And a short video of the dress in motion by Taylor of Dames a la Mode. And evidence of what my belt looked like before the chainmail fell apart. My earrings are also by her.

Making A Game of Thrones King's Landing/Handmaiden Dress

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Since first seeing them, I loved the gowns that Cersei's handmaidens, women in King's Landing, and later Shae wore. Looking at them, I realized that they were really quite simple--a giant tube with drawstrings at center front and back and belted at the waist. Mine is made from about five yards of silk taffeta from Renaissance Fabrics which I washed to change the drape of. My belt is made of Worbla based on this tutorial by Jak Cosplay. I learned the hard way that you should read the description carefully on your chainmail rings and make sure they're not for jewelry.

After figuring out my dress, I did a search to see how others had done them. I found a sketch that someone who had come to the same conclusion had done, but haven't been able to find it again. I also found a post on the Game of Thrones Costuming Facebook group with a similar technique.

More pictures of the dress can be found here

Being me, I hand embroidered the front panel, used fingerloop braiding for the ties (using the videos seen here. I used 5 loop flat for the drawstring and 5 loop square for the tie. I finished the ends with gold rings from Fire Mountain Gems by sewing them to the ends and wrapping the join with thread), and hand sewed the seams. However, this can be a very quick project! You can see some progress pictures using the hashtag got_handmaiden_k on Instagram.

But onto the dress! First, a video of putting it on. I also have pictures at the bottom of the post, but the video shows it more clearly. And obviously I don't wear a camisole or underskirt when I'm wearing it, but it was necessary to do something for pictures!


GoT Handmaiden Dress from Katherine on Vimeo.


GoT Handmaiden Construction 1

Here's the pattern for the dress. It really is just a giant tube--this pattern shows half of it. It's of course sized for me, but since it's fitted with drawstrings, very adjustable. I used three panels of 55 inch silk and a contrast panel in front. The width of the contrast panel was decided by the width of the design. You could also use your fabric sideways and have fewer seams, but I was using shot silk and liked the color better used the usual way.

My dress has a circumference of 4.78 yards, or 4.38 meters. It could be a little less full, but not by much. I tried it with two panels of fabric but it wasn't nearly enough and I had to order more.

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Here's the dress laid out flat. If you go to the full size picture in Flickr, you can read the cards around the dress.There are also close ups below

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To determine the size of the drawstring channel at the center front, I held the dress up to me and bunched it until I liked it. The channel is 36 inches or 90 cm long.

To sew it, I first sewed the channel (a strip of silk on the straight of grain) right side to right side. Then I hemmed the top of the dress on either side. Then I folded the channel down and sewed it into place. I topstitched the top edge to help keep it flat.

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I did the same thing for the back, but left out the topstitching. The back channel is 10 inches or 25 cm long.

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To determine where the waist ties should go, I pulled the fabric to the center back and pinned the dress at my waist. I sewed China silk ribbons about an inch in from the edge. These ribbons keep everything where it belongs so the belt doesn't have to do as much work. Ribbons don't need to be as exact as something like hooks and eyes, which works well since the neck might be tied differently or the gathers might be in a slightly different place each time you wear the dress.

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Because the neckline dips down and becomes the waist, hemming this dress was quite awkward! I used the same technique I described in this post only the hem was too steep to just fold it, so I had to cut as I went.

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To make the tube into a dress, thread the neckband through the front drawstring channel. Here it is flat and gathered.

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Then thread the neckband through the back. Once again, here it is flat and gathered.

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Then tie the ends of the neckband together. You could also use a longer neckband and tie it like you would a drawstring. I like the loops at the end because they make it easy to tie it the same length each time.

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And here's what it looks like! It's one of those dresses that really does need to be worn to get an idea of what it's like!

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Putting it on is better illustrated in the video, but pictures are useful as well! To start, put your head through the neckband.

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Put your arms through the holes at the sides and adjust the neck tie.

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Take the waist ties and tie them at center back. This is a little awkward with all the fabric in the way!

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Here's what it looks like tied, and with the back drape hanging in place.

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And add a belt (or not, they're worn beltless too...) and that's it!