Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My 1840s Wrappers

What do you do when you've been coughing all summer, did some rather serious damage to your ribs as a result, and have a build your own event and an 1860s ball with a friend (Hi, Sarah!) in Montana and absolutely cannot wear a corset? You make that wrapper you've loved for years and fortunately have the perfect fabric for. And then you make an evening version for the ball out of silk for a Florentine giornea you're never going to make because your other option is twenties. It wasn't an authentic ball, so I felt ok with this option! In other words, wrappers aren't meant for balls. Even silk ones :)

Loads of construction information here--a full tutorial!. So this will be a picture post except for a few small details.

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The day wrapper is pink and green floral stripe from Michael Levine's and partially lined in Egyptian cotton. The evening wrapper is silk from Home Fabrics (both LA Garment District), and partially lined in Egyptian cotton. The day version is entirely hand sewn, the evening has a lot of machine sewing. They took three days a piece, with longer days obviously spent on the day version!

I'm wearing them over a chemise, short petticoat, corded petticoat, and plain petticoat. That's it! Amazingly comfortable.

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It's important to note, they don't fit like dresses. The silk one especially was a little loose in the back. Since the front fits loosely, all back tension is created by pulling it under the belt. Springy silk doesn't do this as well as cotton!

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The side views. You can see the difference in how the fabric drapes.

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I carried my knitted pineapple with the day dress, and the purple knitted star bag with the evening, though I didn't take pictures with it. I did, however, wear the same tiara I wore with the Angry Birds dress. Doesn't everyone wear tiaras with what's essentially a bathrobe? :)

An 1840s Wrapper--A tutorial

A few years ago, I got a copy of Garibaldis, Engageantes & Cages: American Fashions of the Civil War Era, 1840-1870 from the Shippensburg University Fashion Archives (which is very sadly out of print), and ever since, I've wanted to make the absolutely adorable 1840s wrapper in it. After Costume College this year I was suddenly in need of a wrapper, and I had the absolutely perfect pink and green floral striped cotton for it. I documented each step, as it is a rather unusual thing, and here I present a tutorial!


As usual, I started with my 1860s base pattern. The wrapper has a one piece fitted back, two front pieces gathered at the shoulder and loose at the waist, two belt pieces that lace shut over the front pieces, long tight sleeves, and a separate skirt, cartridge pleated in back and flat to the bodice in front. The side seam is left open from underarm to waist. This open seam is covered by the belt.

I've followed the notes with the pattern as closely as possible with a few variations. The original has a hook and eye at the neckline. I closed it with a pin and brooch. I made the sleeves fit so they didn't need a hook and eye, I added a pocket (cell phones you know, mine doesn't fit in my knitted pineapple!), and used eyelets instead of thread covered metal loops for lacing. I also hemmed instead of faced it. Hemming was still done, and it saved time. As I wanted to make two of these in six days, it seemed a reasonable compromise!

Anyway, onto construction!

Wrapper Construction

Here are the pattern pieces laid out. The back is lined, the belt pieces are lined, and the front pieces are left unlined.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Grumpy Cat Sundress

I'm a huge Grumpy Cat fan. I can't look at her picture without smiling. She'd hate that! So when we decided to go to the Huntington before Costume College this year without dressing up (it would be my third trip to the Huntington--I wanted to see it this time!) I needed something that wasn't dressing up, but was dressing up. The idea for the Grumpy Cat sundress was born.

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The dress is made from cotton poplin from Spoonflower. It's lined with blue China silk that I dyed with my 1920s beaded dress, but ended up not using for that project (yay for repurposing!). The bodice is a 1950s McCall's, I think, pattern that I've used several times before. I loaned it out a few years ago, but still have the me sized pattern. I made slight adjustments to the neckline and readded the bust darts. The skirt is a 1951 McCall's pattern that thankfully fit perfectly with no alterations, well, other than shortening it about six inches, so that doesn't count. I had originally planned to use a 1950s Vogue juniors pattern, but the seven inches of ease made me not want to deal with it. It also had a center front skirt seam and I didn't think half Tardar Sauces would look very good up the front of the skirt!

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Construction is very straightforward. Everything is sewn right sides together. The silk lining was sewn separately and then put wrong sides together and bound at the neckline and armscyes. I then added a waistband (hidden by the belt) in cotton, sewed the skirt on, sewed the skirt lining on, and finished the interior with a piece of seam binding. The zipper is set by hand, and I will never set one by machine again. It was so easy, and I love the little spaced backstitches. The skirt is hemmed with seam binding, as this is one of those fabrics that gets visible creases from the iron.

The front of the skirt is one piece, the back is three slightly gored panels. I have to say, I'm very proud of my fabric positioning on this dress!

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And accessories! I have a Pokey the Cat tote (Grumpy Cat's brother) from Society 6, and a No necklace from Etsy. The sunglasses are also from Etsy, and bought for my 1950s faire dress. And what to read while wearing a Grumpy Cat dress! A Grumpy Book, of course!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Then and Now!

I was very disappointed that last time I used my Brownie, we only took one--one!!!--picture with a modern camera at the same time. This time, with the help of Amy and Aubry, this has been fixed!

I thought I'd share a few of the better matched pictures. I did crop the modern ones, but other than that, no editing!

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My dress from faire. Complete with the Kennedy, the Man for the 60s button that I sadly forgot to wear before!

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Slightly different angles, but still a good comparison!

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I just love the fluff :)

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Yes, that's my Grumpy Cat dress. There will be a full post! It is from 50s patterns, and they did use novelty prints in the 50s :)

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And what else should you read when you're wearing a Grumpy Cat dress?

For all the pictures, go to the Flickr photoset!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Angry Birds Dress!

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A little history here. I am obsessed with Angry Birds. I started playing in November 2010 when I got my a smartphone and haven't slowed down since. I have three starred every level of every version (except the last five levels of Red's Mighty Feathers, but those don't count since it's a different game, but I will get them done *someday*), so when by Teija Vesterbacka, wife of a Rovio executive, wore an Angry Birds dress to a dinner at the Finnish Presidential Palace, many friends shared the picture with me. And last year at Costume College, Sara told me I had to make it. The rest is history.

Construction can be seen here. This post is devoted to the dress itself!

And a side note--my tiara is a vintage one from Etsy and soooooo sparkly in person. I love it. Now onto the dress!

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The dress is made of silk charmeuse, the bodice lined with Egyptian cotton, and it's lined with China silk. It has a small sweep, which isn't completely apparent in the pictures. As you'd expect, it feels incredibly luxurious to wear!

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I find it amusing how the bird peeks out from the dress. It's as if he's hidden, but not quite. My shoes are a pair of sparkly bronze flats that I already had. The color was perfect, and who can resist sparkly shoes?

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I of course played Angry Birds while wearing it. This is one of the Birdday Party levels. Sadly, I didn't pass it this time around :)

Angry Birds Dress--Construction

Since my Angry Birds dress is quite different than just about anything I've ever made, I fully documented how I made the bird face.

For reference--Angry Birds Dress Makes Big Fashion Statement The dress I'm copying was worn by Teija Vesterbacka, wife of a Rovio executive, to a dinner at the Finnish Presidential Palace.

The dress itself is really quite simple. It's one shouldered, floor length with no hem seam, and a separate drape of fabric (obvious in a video that I haven't refound) from the neck to the hem, with a bird peeking out from beneath the drape.

I used my 1950s sundress base, made it one shouldered, and added skirts just like I did on Eowyn's Travelling Coat that I made many years ago.

The dress is made of silk charmeuse, the bodice is lined with Egyptian cotton, and the dress is fully lined with China silk.

I cut out a waist length bodice in cotton. I cut out the front of the dress on the fold, with two shoulders. It was much easier to cut it with two shoulders since it was on the fold, and this allowed for any slight wonkiness in the charmeuse.

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I then pinned the lining to the wrong side of the charmeuse at the neckline, sides, and bottom edge of the lining. I also pinned the shape of the bird's head into the charmeuse. I then basted the shape of the bird's head.

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Next, I basted the edges. This is much easier to see from the back. You can also see the second shoulder. I left this on until I was done basting, once again because charmeuse is wiggly. I did end up trimming the lining once the dress was done as there was a line where it ended.

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Next came the scary part--I cut the second shoulder and the space for the bird's face out.

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I then used the cut out piece to create a pattern for the white part of the bird face. I added seam allowances to the center, top, and bottom, but left the side and armscye without seam allowances.

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Next, I laid the bird face over the dress, marked the beak with pins, and added a circle for the eye and a shape for the eyebrow. I cut the face shape a half inch from the line of pins for the beak, and then used that piece to make a beak shape.

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All the pieces laid out to make sure I like them! The beak is pinned to the face in this picture.

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I made the eye like a covered button. I gathered the silk around the edge, put a wooden disk in the middle, pulled it up, ironed it, and took the disk out. A very easy way to get a neat circle!

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I then sewed the beak to the face and put it right side to right side on the bodice. I sewed that seam down and flipped the fabric up.

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You can see that I cut the white part out a little bigger for safety's sake! I then pinned the center front under, the part of the top that isn't covered by the eyebrow, and the side seam and sewed it all into place.

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I then pinned the eyebrow into place, and before sewing it, positioned the eye. To sew the eye, I very carefully took a stitch into the white fabric a few millimeters inside the eye's circumference and then took a stitch in the seam allowance underneath the eye, so that no stitches would show. I repeated this for the top of the eyebrow.

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And we have a bird face!

And here end my pictures. The rest is very straightforward though, and I'll do my best to explain in just words.

I sewed the front to the back, right sides together as normal. I left the left (non bird face) side seam open for a regular zipper, which I put in by hand. I then made a lining in China silk to the same pattern, put it in wrong sides together, turned the edges in and sewed it to the zipper, and bound the armholes.

The drapery in front is a single rectangle with a double box pleat. I sewed it to the neckline before binding it. It's very, very heavy and made the dress fall forward. Now, what I should've done was take a few darts in the neckline, but I wasn't going to take everything out as I had thought binding would take care of this. I figured out that tacking the drapery to the bodice under the top pleat would help, so I did that, and gathered it up just a tiny bit. Not so much that it wouldn't be smooth, but enough to give it some support.

Then I hemmed it, which is a seriously atrocious thing to do on your own. I had made sure to cut it too long--it's too easy to make these things too short! I used rayon seam binding instead of turning the top in on itself. The lining is hemmed by machine and probably not at all even. It doesn't show under the skirt though, so all is good!

I wore it to the ice cream social at Costume College, it was was the most fun thing to wear ever. The finished dress can be seen here!.