Monday, November 24, 2014

Mourning for Prince Albert--An 1860s Black Silk Dress

Posing by the lake

Possibly my favorite dress I've made is my day and evening black silk 1860s dress. While it's basically a fashionable black dress, I was inspired by the idea of sympathetic mourning--in this case, for Prince Albert. Black ball gowns were fashionable for a time as a result of his death. My dress, however, doesn't follow the standard conventions of mid century mourning--it's silk taffeta, not a dull silk, and quite sparkly with glass jet beads.

Posing with the cannon. black dress 3

The day version of the dress is heavily inspired by this dress in the Danish national costume museum. Instead of a separate waistcoat though, I made a sleeveless bodice that was attached to the skirt. I've worn the jacket two ways--hooked shut, and fastened just at the neckline.

The dress is made of silk taffeta and trimmed with the softest velvet ribbon I could find and glass beads. the undersleeves are cotton organdy trimmed with black silk ribbon and basted into the armscyes of the jacket. The jacket sleeves are lined in white China silk and trimmed with white box pleated pinked silk.

Skirts!  Petticoats! black dress 1

Underneath the dress I'm wearing a chemise, corset, Needle and Thread cage crinoline, petticoat, stockings, garters and Robert Land side lacing boots.

Pumpkins :)

And with a pumpkin. Because every black dress worn close to Halloween should be accessorized with a pumpkin.

Under a Tree

As for more typical accessories, my bonnet is the Miller's Millinery spoon bonnet. Sadly, it has since been crushed, I think beyond repair. It was damaged travelling and I managed to revive it, but as it's currently inside out, I rather despair about its chances.

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Though I've written about the ball gown before, I thought I may as well share again! I've been lucky enough to wear this several times--at a Social Daunce Irregulars ball, Costume Con, a dance at a reenactment, and a ball in Virginia City, Montana.

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And the dress in motion. It should have black lacing, but it somehow got separated from the dress and no place in Virginia City sold ribbon. Fortunately I had a spare chemise with me that had ribbon in the neckline lace!

A little more below, including the dress worn without the jacket, the jacket hooked shut, and ballgown undersleeve construction.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Grey Wool 1860s Dress

Grey 1860s

My grey wool dress is one of three dresses I wore to a local reenactment in 2008. Despite my loathing of sewing points, I decided to make three on this bodice--two sharp points in the front, and a shallow one in back. The collar and cuffs are made of very fine handkerchief linen. The cuffs are just strips of fabric folded and basted in. The collar pattern was based on the neckline of the dress and made of a double layer of linen.

The dress is made of tropical weight wool from B. Black and Sons and lined with polished cotton. The ribbon trim is from Dharma Trading and I dyed it bright blue with their dyes.

Grey 1860s Grey 1860s

I wanted to bring the dress a little further into the 1860s than my other dresses. The skirt is cut very slightly gored. The difference is small, but typical of skirts just barely moving out of the straight panel phase. I'm wearing it over my Laughing Moon elliptical hoop as well.

My bonnet is the low brim bonnet from Miller's Millinery.

Grey 1860s Grey 1860s

The ribbon trim simulates a jacket, a style that was popular in the 1860s. It's just box pleated and sewn down the center. The lightweight ribbon springs up and gives it quite a bit of texture.

Grey 1860s

As usual, I used my 1860s base pattern for the dress. To make the points on the front, I cut my front bodice pieces extra long, and then drew in the shape of the point I wanted. I added seam allowance and cut. It was a little frightening, but anything to avoid a muslin! The darts are boned so that the points stay flat. The buttons are false, and the dress closes with hooks and thread eyes. Though metal eyes were more typical, thread eyes were found as well and are my preferred closure.

A Brown and Pink Cotton Print 1860s Dress

Brown print dress

Despite its simplicity, this is one of my favorite dresses. Many of my more elaborate dresses feel like costumes, while more everyday dresses like these feel so much more natural and make it easy to imagine how women in the past felt in their clothes.

The dress is made of a cotton print from Reproduction Fabrics and lined in polished cotton. My sortie cap is made from an 1858 Godey's pattern.

Brown print dress Brown print dress

My pattern is my 1860s block that started as the 1870 bodice pattern in Period Costume for Stage and Screen. I drafted the coat sleeves based on an existing sleeve pattern. The cuffs are just strips of lighweight cotton folded in half and basted in. The collar is an embroidered collar I use with most of my 1860s dresses. I'm wearing it over a chemise, corset, Needle and Thread cage crinoline, and a petticoat.

With my sontag and sortie cap Brown print dress

My first wearing of this was rather chilly--a nighttime event in the 30s, so I knit a sontag to wear with it.

Brown print dress Election, 1860s style :)

I really wish I had taken construction photos while I was making this. Cotton dresses were typically gathered, not darted. While I successfully gathered the bodice on my first sheer dress, it wasn't easy. Because my figure is really only suited for the 1920s--straight up and down--and gathers seem to want some tension, I had to do all sorts of contortions to make the gathers work. The heavier cotton just didn't want to behave. What I ended up doing was based on an original bodice that I own. I darted the lining and then fit the print over it with tucks. It's slightly visible in these pictures where you can see the fabric loosens a bit at the top of the sewing instead of smoothing out like with a dart.

And I think I'm being very ladylike before people show up, no? :)

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.