Ada Bodice

Lol, once again I failed to make this costume in time for Halloween. It was for a good reason – in my tailoring (coat making) class, after 6 weeks of trying and failing with my teacher to get a coat pattern to fit, she asked if I would mind starting over and drafting the pattern myself. She said that I really should just make all my own patterns going forward, since it would be faster than making a commercial pattern fit.

So, after cursing the universe REPEATEDLY, she was totally right, and in 2 weeks my self-drafted coat muslin was a much better fit than the other had been in 6 weeks, but that meant I was 6 weeks behind in class, and still had to draft the coat collar and sleeves. So no time at all for holiday sewing. I wore my Eliza Schuyler dress to a party and that was great!

New goal, have this ready to wear when I go to Dickens with GBACG in a month?

Here’s where we left off:

I started with the bodice base from my 1850s evening gown. I’ve learned more about fit and pattern making since this version, so I knew I wanted to make the fit better. I also raised the neckline, moved the opening to the front, and cut off a 2″ piece from the bottom to be replaced by a waistband.


I originally had taken in the top of the front seam in order to make it curve in and not gape over my bust. I’ve now learned the proper way to make this kind of fix – I added extra back to the seam to make it a straight line, but took out the same amount by slashing and overlapping from the neckline to the darts. This kind of alteration is called contouring.

IMG_1635 copy

Hopefully this makes sense. The same amount that was added to the front was then taken out in that overlap. By slashing to the darts it made the dart openings bigger. We basically moved the fabric from the neckline to the waist, then took it out in the darts.

After doing that I made it into a surplice/wrap front. To do this you extend the front out in that triangle shape, but again have to take some length out by slashing to the dart to avoid the gaping you often see in wrap dresses.



Early mockup, looking pretty good except for that collapsing by the arm at the bust. I’ll add some padding here in the final version.

I don’t know much about draping, but here I messed around with draping some muslin over the lining in order to get a pleated look for the front. This dress form is not very me-sized, but for a single pattern piece it works well enough.


It worked well enough for me to do in the actual fabric! Although you lose some of the pleating effect due to the stripes.


The inside. Random pleats don’t just stay because you ask them nicely, or even ironing them. These pleats are tacked down from the inside through the bottom layer of the pleat so they aren’t going anywhere.


I really love this little detail – the shoulder strap has a line of gathering, and some piping where it attached to the back shoulder.


So now it is Halloween and I am still only up to working on sleeves. Time to speed run if I want any hope of wearing this in 2017!

Posted in 1830s, Ada Lovelace dress | 8 Comments

Re-kickstarting Ada Lovelace

So 2 years ago I posted that I was going to make an Ada Lovelace costume for Halloween. I don’t know what was in my brain, that I could finish an elaborate costume the same month I got married.

So that didn’t happen. I had even mentally repurposed the mini purple-on-purple stripe now in the stash to be this 1890s dress:

Aaand then some jerkwad decided to post a memo on various topics including how women were biologically unsuited to work in the tech industry.

(I’m not linking to it because dude got enough attention. Note, all eyerolling here is my opinion, and not the opinion of my employer.)

So my coworker Bunny (she of the idea to do suffragettes at Costume College as a subtle protest against the extreme vile twatwaffle that is American Politics right now) said we should dress up as Ada Lovelace – the first woman programmer – as our own form of protesting as women in tech.

Feminist Halloween costume hell yeah!

So the purple stripe got re-re-purposed to be Ada Lovelace again, and I got to work.

I decided to stray further away from the complete shenanigans that is the dress in one of the few Ada Lovelace portraits, and use it as a general inspiration to make a purple dress from 1838.

My first plan was to make it with detachable lower sleeves, so the dress could double as a day dress (with the longer lower sleeves, a chemisette, and a bonnet) and an evening gown (with shorter sleeves, a lower neckline, and clowntown 1830s hair). Amazingly, after I decided to do this, I actually found two extant gowns where this was done!

According to the website, this is a “Printed wool challis dress with detatchable sleeves.”

1838 dress from the Museum of London

1836 dress from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. #1988.105.5a–d. I loved this top so much I considered doing this instead, but I really wanted poofy lower sleeves.

And the detachable sleeves!

I took inspiration from a hodgepodge of other gowns to create something recognizable from the era.

I plan to do a surplice (also known as a wrap or crossover front) with pleats like so:

Silk day dress from Augusta Auctions

It will have two ruffles on the upper sleeve:

And some sort of poofy monstrosity on the lower arm:

Metropolitan Museum of Art, #1984.89

Piping and gathering on the shoulder straps:

Dress from Manchester City Galleries

A big ol’ bias flounce on the skirt going up the side:

Really this dress ended up being everything I’m looking for in one

And while it seemed to be less common, 1830s dresses could open in the front, as seen here:

Unless someone is taking some serious artistic license, I don’t see a back closure on that left dress.

Same on the green dress

And a real dress that closed in front.

I haven’t found any evidence of evening gowns opening in the front, but I value dressing myself really super highly so I’m going for it anyways.

Now that this is posted, I’m nearly done with just the bodice top. Which is a corded petticoat and sleeve pattern behind where I wanted to be by this point in the month… At this point I don’t have any concrete Halloween plans anyways, so I may just dub this a dress for Dickens and re-wear something else for Halloween.

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Costume College – Saturday

Lol, my last post was about how I was posting about Costume College a month late. And this post is a month after that one.

Saturday during the day, I was so happy to wear the updated version of my Eliza Schulyer dress. It looks so much better with trim on it!



Not in love with how the ties to draw up the skirt are behaving. Need to move them around.



The trim is strips of taffeta which have a scalloped edge cut with pinking shears, which is the closest I could get to the 18th century scallops-on-scallops look (which was originally done with a punch and a hammer).

I had helpful cats while sewing this.

The kerchief is from a Larkin and Smith kit. It’s got ruffles on the edge, but I tucked it into my dress since I wanted the buttons to show. I used the leftover ruffle fabric which wasn’t gathered into the ruffle to make the sleeve ruffles. It’s entirely handsewn – I originally thought it would be a fast project but I learned my lesson when a 9 hour flight back from London had me only finishing the hem on around half of the kerchief (without even starting the ruffle).

I bought the cap from Polly’s Wardrobe on etsy. It was a phenomally good price for a handsewn cap, especially when I learned how much I hated doing stroked gathers from the ruffle on the kerchief. Bonus when wearing a cap – no need to do hair!

While in that dress I took a class for making tiny steam punk top hats, which was super fun and I need to do this will all of my friends. Sometimes it’s nice to just get out the glue gun and cardboard and go wild.

I stayed in 18th century for the whole day and wore my sack gown for the gala.


The color looks so different in different lights


It’s fun to take up an entire chair!

Sunday I wore my Melisandre dress to the fantasy tea, but ended up without any photos.

And with that, CoCo was over, and my brain is entirely eaten up with ideas for costumes for next year! But there is Halloween and Dickens Faire and Jordan Con and my tailoring class to get through first…

Posted in 1700s, Elizabeth Schuyler, Lady Moiraine's Sacque Gown | 2 Comments

Costume College, Thursday and Friday

Only a month behind, that seems pretty on top of things for me and this blog, eh?

The pool party night was Disney themed so I pulled out my old Elsa costume, since that seemed like a pretty good excuse to wear it again. I did make a new undershirt as I wasn’t thrilled with the last one. I bought a new wig from Star Force Rebel Cosplay as she was having a sale.

And oh my, that wig ended up a lot bigger than I expected…

I’ve also got enough of a widow’s peak to make hard-front wigs problematic.

Andrew Schmidt: Costume College 2017 Vol 1 (TF) &emdash;

With other Disney princesses (plus a few villains)

The combo of the extreme wig width plus my hair showing in the front made this kinda eh, even if it was super fun to sweep around in my cape. I’d still like to redo the top of this one of these days to actually give me a waist, but that’s so far down the list I doubt it will ever happen.

Friday during the day I wanted something nice and easy to wear, so I pulled out the Mad Men inspired dress I made for my sewing class. Turns out adding pantyhose, heels, an updo, and a vintage hat instantly turns this into a vintage look!

Being sassy in the hotel room

Due to the utter bullshit that is American politics, my friend Bunny loosely organized a group of suffragettes for the Friday night social for a wee bit of subversiveness. I joined the legion with my Bubblegum Titanic dress I made last year.

I made a “Votes for Women” sash with some cotton from my stash, plus some poly satin ribbon from Joann. For some reason I had it in my head that the suffragette colors were yellow and purple – turns out green and purple became more common, but yellow and purple was also a thing.

So many excellent suffragettes in varying time periods!

Punch the Patriarchy!

Posted in 1910s, Bubblegum Titanic Dress, clothing from this century?, Elsa, Fantasy/Scifi/Cosplay | Leave a comment

Eliza Schuyler Skirts and first wearing

After fitting the bodice, time to turn to a part I was dreading – the skirts. Me and knife pleating are not friends.

I let my perfectionist tendencies go, and pleated this without measuring! Without counting!

It did take several tries to get the two sides the same length.

Looks fairly even from the outside:


But lol this is what happens when you flip it over and check the inside.


You can tell that I did the left side (from the inside) second, but I was not about to undo the right side to redo it.

I laid the bodice on top of the skirt on the ground to figure out how to pin it, since the bodice has a deep V point. Popped it up on the dress form to check, and holy cow it looks like a dress!



At this point I went into whiz-bang-sew-all-the-things mode because I needed to have the dress done for the Hamilton Ball, so I have no more photos. My attempt to alter the sleeves from my francaise gown ended up awful, but I was able to call in my friend Bunny again who heroically saved the day and draped new sleeves on me.

For the front buttons, I bought wooden button molds from William Booth Draper. I cut out circles of fabric and went over the edges with fray check. I did a running stitch around the edge of the circle and pulled it in, creating a nice little pouch for the button. Then I did a bunch of random messy stitching to try and hold the button together. Last, I cut circles of white felt and whipped it onto the back of the button, to cover up the messy stitching, and also give me something to sew onto when attaching these to the bodice.


With that, I promptly ran out of time before I could add any trim to the dress or make a hedgehog wig before the Hamilton Ball, so I dubbed it wearable.




“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal”




Despite the fact that the right shoulder kept wanting to fall down, and my stays and shift wanted to poke out the whole evening, and it desperately needed some trim, I still felt pretty awesome in this! Next up, photos from Costume College where I actually managed to fix (some of) those things.

Posted in 1700s, Elizabeth Schuyler, Georgian | 3 Comments

Eliza Schuyler Bodice Fitting

Warning, picture heavy post.

Because I’m cheap frugal, I didn’t want to spend $30 for a Larkin & Smith pattern, so I figured I would scale up Janet Arnold and hope for the best. I used one of the Snowshill gown patterns, and cut it with 1″ seam allowance so I would have some wiggle room, since the pattern measurements weren’t wildly far off from mine.

Of course, despite hoping that this would be one of those times that a pattern magically fit perfectly the first try, lol of course it didn’t.

No pictures available of v1, but the most major change I had to make was moving where the strap started in the front, since it was practically under my arm instead of in front of it.

Here was v2:





What is that nonsense under the arms


Checking in with the 18th Century Sewing facebook group, the general advice was that the waist was too long (which was causing those wrinkles), and something funky happening at the underarm as well. They also pointed out the back pieces looked too big, and I should take a bit of width out of them. The center back seam did have a lovely shape though, and I was able to see the deep V I was looking for.

So, made more changes and on to mockup 3. I have no actual photos of this one either. I ended up cutting too high up the hip, and planned to put some of that back. The biggest issue was that there was some looseness around my shoulder blades on the back, which of course is the least reachable part of the body to fix yourself.

Friends to the rescue! My friend and coworker Bunny has made oodles of 18th century dresses before, so I met up with her to do the final fitting. She pinned in the bodice here and there, and I was able to land on the 4th and final mock!





Finally time to start cutting the real thing. I used some leftover linen for the lining. I really wanted to handsew the whole thing, but at this point I was running out of time until the Hamilton ball, so parts that wouldn’t show needed to be by machine.

Here is the back lining pieces. They were sewn together at center back, and the seam allowance was sewn down to form a casing for the boning. (If you look at Janet Arnold, it looks like these Italian gowns all had some amount of boning in the back to keep the deep V shape from flipping up.)


The seam next to center back is a fake seam – it’s just a little tuck in the fabric to look like an extra seam, but isn’t actually a separate piece. I ended up needing to unpick this seam the first time, because I forgot that I wanted the tuck to go through silk and lining fabric the first time…

The silk is on the other side of the back lining. Here I’ve placed the next piece of the lining on where it will be sewn:


This is what it looks like from the right side:


The basting on the right is to hold the silk and linen together before the next piece is sewn on. Since it’s a curved seam, it might wiggle.

After pressing:


And from the right side:IMG_1463

Then the side piece of silk would have the seam allowance pressed under, be placed on top of the side lining, and topstitched on.

Repeat for the other pieces until bodice is complete!

(Since this dress was made, I took an 18th century dressmaking class from Janea Whitacre, the head mantua maker at Colonial Williamsburg, and learned just how off my techniques are. They aren’t totally wrong, but everything would have been draped on the body and not made from a pattern, and that makes a difference.)

Posted in 1700s, Elizabeth Schuyler, Georgian | 2 Comments

Eliza Schuyler Petticoat

Way back in March ahem I told you about my grand plans for my Elizabeth Schuyler dress.

I found the most perfect fabric match ever from The Lady Detalle – an aqua silk taffeta. It is shot with ivory, which just gives it a really luminous glow in certain lighting.

I started off with the petticoat, because petticoats are pretty straightforward. Cut rectangle for front and back, the back being longer to fit over the bumroll. Hem the bottom. Sew the sides together, stopping before you hit the top to leave room for pocket slits (all by hand! This was back in March, I was still feeling ambitious about the amount of time I had to finish, and in March that made sense.) Fold down the top edge (angling where necessary to shape over the bumroll).

Pleat. Realize halfway through the pleats that you are going to end up too long. Undo pleats and pleat again. Hold up to dress form. Realize it’s about an inch too long. Take out all the pleats, make the top fold an inch bigger and put all the pleats back in.

A visual representation of what it takes to eyeball pleating

I really hate knife pleating by the way.

Do the same to the front. Sew linen ties to the front and back.

For the skirt trim, I copied a petticoat ruffle from Janet Arnold. It has scallops on the top edge and triangles on the bottom.

I made a template made of cardboard. Then traced the scallops and triangles onto 4 widths of fabric (2 for the front and 2 for the back). I cut these out with pinking shears to try and get the 18th century look of scallops-on-scallops – my wrist was not thrilled with me afterwards.


Now these were perfectly pleasant box pleats (compared to knife pleats), because it was easy to divide and conquer! Pin at halves, pin at quarters, keep pinning in the middle of whatever is left until you have a small enough bit that you can make a box pleat. These are sewn on with a running stitch.


Of course I realized afterwards that I had the seam of the trim dead center where it would be the most noticeable. But I was *not* about to take this off and redo it. And hey, noone commented on my bad seam placement when I wore this so *thbbbt*


Trying it on out my rather capacious bumroll

Next up, the most difficult part by far, getting a fitting bodice pattern.

Posted in 1700s, Elizabeth Schuyler, Georgian | 2 Comments