A modern interlude

Part of the reason I was so swamped in April/May and didn’t come close to finishing my Eliza Schuyler dress (I’m still just on the skirt now…) was because my Advanced Flat Pattern class took a ton of time. We had to sew up one top per week; even with totally unfinished seams and closures, the pattern alterations plus the sewing was really time consuming.

Luckily the teacher allowed us to make one of the garments fit ourselves instead of the dress form (which measures 35-25-35 [which are certainly not my measurements]).

If the dress was going to fit me, I was going to put actual effort into it!

An earlier project in the class had me looking up sheath dresses, and (only a few years after everyone else) I fell in love with the dresses from Mad Men.

Specifically, I needed to have this dress:

Cue me ordering some fabric (because solid colored stash fabric would not do), making up the pattern, and sewing. Noting that this is a friggin check, so I had to pattern match everything! Or at least as much as was match-able. Given that this has an asymetrical skirt, it was not possible to match everything horizontally and vertically.

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Perfect center front matching, and that’s where most of the attention is going to be

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Perfect center back matching too! Except this is fitting closed on my dress form which I know is bigger than me, so that should have been a bad sign if I was paying attention…

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Which meant it was not possible to match up the side seams in the skirt, since the top and bottom did. If I had thought a little bit more I would have at least lined the squares up horizontally, but instead they hit perfectly in the center of each other.

Despite the fact that I made a full muslin, when I went to put on the dress, It Was Horrible.

I made the pattern from a fitted sloper that already fit me, but there was way too much ease in the waist. I need to go back and see what’s up with the sloper, because there is clearly Something Up with the wearing ease. (See, this is why historical stuff is easier. Just fit it tight over the corset, no bothering to figure out how much ease is comfy vs baggy…)

First I stomped around and considered just turning in the garment as is, knowing that I would probably never go back to fit the thing again.

Then I sucked it up, and with a day left before the garment was due, I pinned it up to figure out how much I needed to take in and started cutting. Cue taking out the side seams (which were serged) and removing the pockets (damn skippy this dress was going to have pockets).

And then disaster struck – I started cutting on the seam line instead of including seam allowance on the back skirt.

There are not enough gifs in the world to express the trancendental depths of my rage.

So I SUCKED IT UP once again, took out that back piece completely, and cut a new one. Luckily I have no idea how much fabric modern clothing takes and had bought way too much, even considering for the fact I had to match checks. This required me to take out serged seams (ew), as well as the beautifully even hand-picked zipper (grrrrrr).

Finally the dratted thing was done, and looks pretty cute!

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There are a few oddities here and there – namely the collar facing keeps wanting to flip towards the outside, and no matter how much I iron that kick pleat over my leg won’t stay pleated.

But still, it’s super fun to wear clothing I’ve made to work and it makes me really want to make more. I’m still waiting for someone to compliment me and ask where I got it, so I can humblebrag that I made it…

Posted in clothing from this century? | Leave a comment

Jordan Con – Costume 2 – Melisandre

Costume 2, which I am the most behind on posting. Yes, this is my costume from Halloween which I never actually took pictures of. So to make up for it, super heavy picture post ahead!

The lone construction picture –

IMG_1155So I was sewing this in an 18th-century manner, totally inspired by Katherine’s wonderful Game of Thrones dresses (check the construction links at the bottom).

You can kindof see what is happening in this photo.

  1. The back lining and the back outer fabric are treated as one, and basted together (that’s one of the yellow seams on the left).
  2. The lining fabric of the side back is sewn wrong sides together to the back piece. I did this by machine since it wasn’t going to show, 18th century this would have been by hand.
  3. Then the side back of the outer fabric has the seam allowance pressed underneath, is placed on top of the lining, and is sewn with a top stitch from the right side of the fabric. I did do this by hand since it was going to show, and that is why I was sewing up until an hour into Halloween.

This results in a lined dress with all the seams finished! This is probably my most comfortable costume to wear, because it’s a big wrap dress where the lining is an old cotton sheet. Also it has a pocket for keeping my phone and my con badge, score!

An absolutely required, key part of Melisandre’s costume, is her necklace. It’s basically the thing that makes the costume obviously Melisandre instead of random witchy-vampire-medieval lady. I had commissioned one from an acquaintance, and it broke on first wearing on Halloween. The fixed one arrived in the mail a week before Jordan Con, and unfortunately it just Did Not Work.

The size of the pieces were probably accurate to the show, but (unlike the actress) I pretty much have no neck. Things with high collars, or 3″ tall necklace pieces with point straight up do not work for me, and make it look like I have multiple chins (or are super stabby). A

Luckily, one of my coworkers occasionally dresses up as a Jedi, and when I told him I had a cosplay emergency, he 3D printed me the necklace pieces, totally saving me!

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He spraypainted them gold, then I painted the gem with red nailpolish, and glue gunned bits of chain between the pieces. (At some point I’d like to get this re-printed with holes in the corners of the pieces so I could put the chain through them instead of glueing to the back to be more comfortable, but this totally worked in the short time I had).

To make up for having no photos before, I commissioned an actual photoshoot with my friend Kathy of A Life Condensed Photography. Woohoo for officially the best photos of any costume I have!

Below are some of my favorites, the full set is here.

Yeah look, I know Winter Is Coming and all and Melisandre is supposed to be up in the ice and snow, but this is what you get in Atlanta in April.

A super silly skippy parking lot photo, but it gives you an idea of the wrap dress and the layers.

And one photo in the ice and snow!

And for some more details about the dress:

Material: The most stunning burgundy silk taffeta jacquard from Renaissance Fabrics, my favorite cotton/silk blend for the sleeve lining (I want to line everything in this stuff), plus an old cotton bedsheet for the rest of the lining.
Pattern: The crossover top was drafted from a sloper. The skirts and sleeves were Frankenpatterned on from Simplicity 4940
Notions: I wore this with the Melisandre by Dolluxe wig, burgundy socks from Sock Dreams, the oxblood Stratford shoes from American Duchess, and a custom 3D printed necklace.
Total cost: The sheer size of the sleeves required me to buy an extra 4 yards of silk in addition to the 3 yards already in my stash, so this squarely falls under Not Cheap. 7 yards of figured silk taffeta at $28/yard, 2.5 yards cotton/silk at $12/yard, and $65 for the wig for a total of $291.

Posted in Fantasy/Scifi/Cosplay, Melisandre | Leave a comment

Jordan Con – Costume 1 – Sevanna

This costume will be totally unrecognizable for anyone who hasn’t read Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. And even then you need to make the commitment of getting 8 books in before you see the character dressed in her particular way.

As you may have heard on this blog before, I go to Jordan Con every year. Being me, I also enter the costume contest. (The first year I went I didn’t enter, and it was painful sitting in the audience looking at most of the costumes and thinking “I could do better”. Hey, I’ve never claimed to be modest about my sewing).

So here is a description of the character Sevanna from Winter’s Heart:

The wide, dark skirt looked like the Aiel women’s at a glance, but it was divided for riding and appeared to be silk, as was her creamy blouse, and the hem revealed red boots in her stirrups. The wide folded kerchief that held back her long golden hair was brocaded red silk, and a thumb-thinck circlet of gold and firedrops nestled over it. In contrast to the Wise Ones’ worked gold and carved ivory, her ropes of fat pearls and necklaces of emeralds and sapphires and rubies half hid nearly as much bosom as SOmeryn had on display. The bracelets climbing almost to her elbows differed from those worn by the two Wise Ones in the same way, and Aiel did not wear rings, but gems sparkled on every finger. Instead of a dark shawl, a bright crimson cloak, bordered with golden embroidery and lined with white fur, flared around her in the stiff breeze.

This is not something that would be a winning costume (and I didn’t place at all) but I totally expected that! This costume falls squarely under the “I don’t care if it’s historically accurate, I just want my tits out” form of costuming (with my deepest appreciation to Frock Flicks for coining the phrase)!

I figured this would take me like 2 weeks to make, but somehow it stretched out to be more like 3 months. Since this was somehow taking forever, I have zero construction pictures. But they wouldn’t be very exciting anyways.

The blouse is a big drapey thing that pulls over the head and laces up the front. It has one piece for the front and 1 piece for the back. I wanted it to be nearly sheer, so I made the pesky thing out of silk georgette (one of my oldest stash items) which was drapey and wiggly and annoying to sew. I interlined the neckline facing and cuffs with silk organza to make them less wiggly, but had to sew both of those by hand to get something that wouldn’t be terribly uneven.

The skirt is made exactly like an 18th century petticoat. The fabric was surprisingly difficult to find. I wanted a brown brocade silk or fake-silk, preferably with gold. But I didn’t want any Asian floral inspired patterns since that didn’t seem to fit the medieval-ish world of the book, and that seemed to be all I could find. Finally I found a gold and brown square-print brocade from an Indian etsy seller and decided to chance it. It actually was perfect! I was suspicious about it being pure silk, but it feels like it is (I did not do a burn test to confirm). I’d love to get more of this stuff and do an early 18th or late 18th century mantua one of these days…

Then I went to ebay and lightinthebox to buy as much tacky blinged out costume jewelry as I could find. Add on my blonde wig from my Elsa costume, and you get the closest thing to trailer trash as the Wheel of Time has!

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You know Sevanna would totally do duckface.

Posted in Fantasy/Scifi/Cosplay, Sevanna | Leave a comment

Chemise de bal – a fancy edwardian chemise

Wait, what?

Why am I posting about an Edwardian chemise when I’m supposed to be working on my 18th century dress, which I am definitely already behind on?

So on Thursday I leave for JordanCon, the very best convention in the world. At some point during the con, I usually end up in whatever cobbled together victorian wench-wear because it’s fun. I had tentative plans to make an elaborately flossed and decorated corset, but lol that didn’t happen. And I couldn’t possibly wear the same corset I wore last year!

The only corset I’ve made since is my Edwardian long line corset. (Which I still haven’t taken photos of for this blog after nearly a year. Sorry!) But when I tried on this longline peach taffeta corset with garters over some fake leather leggings, it looked terrible. Garters look silly when they are just flapping around. And all of my skirts were too long and would have been super bunchy between the garters and my stockings.

So, I decided I needed something short to wear under it. And hey, of course if it doubles as a historical garment it’s a bonus for me. I went trawling through my pinterest board of 1910s underwear to see what was out there. Mostly piles of lace and tucks and frills!

At some point in this, I found this post by Romancing the Sewn about a gorgeous set of Edwardian undergarments she made, including something called a Chemise de Bal which looked quite straightforward to put together.

Now, Google Translate tells me that means a “prom shirt”, but I think we can safely assume it is a chemise for a ball, to be worn with a ballgown (as opposed to an every day sort of chemise). The ribbon straps would be easy to untie and tuck in the corset, so they wouldn’t show under a sheer or off-the-shoulder gown.

Since the chemise looked relatively simple to put together, I blatantly ripped it off was heavily inspired by her chemise, and made the same thing!

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My chemise is quite short at 25″ long. My goal was to have something that ended above the knee to show off my corset garters. While many extant fashion pictures show long chemises under a corset (with dangling garters attached to nothing. How can that be comfortable to have them bounce around off your legs?), there are also pictures of short chemises that fit easily under the garters. It’s not clear to me when you would wear one style vs the other, but that was about as much research as I had time for with this project. Also, I only had a little bit of this fabric left in the stash and I didn’t want to buy anything.

1918 Lady Duff-Gordon Corsets

The absolutely stunning lace was from my stash – a few years ago my mother in law gave me a box of vintage laces that she had been collecting over the years. No way can you find this stuff at the local Joann. It had yellowed a bit (and is still more ivory than the chemise), but I got it a bit lighter after soaking it in oxyclean.

For the insertion lace, I used this tutorial from Wearing History. However, that didn’t go into how to finish an end of insertion lace (it assumed your lace went from hem to hem) so I made something up and took pictures along the way.

First, sew all your insertion lace as instructed in the tutorial, stopping about 1/4″ before the lace ends. When you cut into the backing fabric, stop a bit before your stitching, and cut to each end of the stitching in a “V” shape:

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Pull your free lace end through to the back. You can see the little triangle of fabric behind the lace:

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From the front, whipstitch around the edge from corner to corner, making sure to catch the lace and the fabric below. There might be a way to do this by machine, but I felt like this would be more secure.

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Last, just cut off the extra lace and fabric triangle on the back! Here you can see these rows both have whipstitching, but the bottom one hasn’t been trimmed:

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Tada, beautiful insertion lace! I’m really quite pleased with how this turned out for my first attempt at insertion lace.

For the pintucks, I drew a line where the fold would be with my favorite Pilot Frixion pens (discover courtesy of The Dreamstress). The ink disappears when you iron the fabric. I used one of my fancy Bernina feet which is meant for quilting, where the inside of the foot is a 1/8″ seam. I folded the fabric on the ink line and sewed with that foot – making it trivially easy to make 1/8″ pintucks.

Aaand after all that work, I put this on with my corset, and went “no way in hell can I wear this as outerwear”. The beautifully sheer combed cotton lawn is in fact beautifully sheer. And the rows of insertion lace…well, you can guess what they covered and didn’t cover.

Luckily at that point I remembered I actually own a short white lacey dress that would be great under my corset, and at least this chemise could be my entry for the Historical Sew Monthly April! Holy cow, I’ve done all 4 months so far!

The Challenge: Circles, Squares, and Rectangles. This chemise is literally two 21″x25″ rectangles. And technically the insertion lace and ribbon are also rectangular shaped!

Material: About a yard of my favorite combed cotton lawn from Dharma Trading. I use this for pretty much every undergarment from 1850 on.

Pattern: No pattern. I just ripped a rectangle in some fabric.

Year: Based on a Mode Illustree picture from 1902, but you could probably wear this through the 1920s.

Notions: Half a yard of insertion lace, 1 yard of edging lace

How historically accurate is it? I believe the materials and overall look are quite historical. The length is a little iffy, I think a chemise would probably be longer than this, but if I wear drawers and/or a petticoat it makes no difference.

Hours to complete: 4 hours or so? Nearly all of that is for the insertion lace, everything else was done by machine very quickly.

First worn: Hasn’t been worn yet, and I actually have no event coming up where I will need this…

Total cost: This was completely a stash project, so free. The lawn is normally $7.64 per yard, and the lace would probably be several dollars per yard, so maybe $10-$15 if everything was new.

Posted in 1900s, Chemise de Bal, Undergarments | 3 Comments

Hat time

(I looked up quotes about hats to find an interesting post title and totally failed. Let me know if you think of one).

So during March I took a short millinery class at the local community college and made some hats!

First up is this fascinator. I call it the “12 minute fascinator” because, well, I literally made it in the last 12 minutes of class.

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Modelled by my elsa wig

The teacher had all sorts of widths and colors of horsehair braid which is super fun to play with. Stretching it out and messing with it gives you the awesome seen above. This fascinator really needs some kind of button or buckle or flower cluster in the center to cover up the ends of the ribbon. It’s not historical at all, but is fun for playing pretty princess dressup!

Next up is the hat I decorated. The class was unfortunately not long enough for us to learn to block our own hats. The teacher gave us a choice of styles, and pre-blocked a hat for each of us before class. I went with this wide brimmed cloche, which was fashionable in the late 1910s and early 1920s.

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I wasn’t sure how I was going to decorate it at first. I wanted to do something with the gorgeous orange wired ribbon, so I played around with making rosettes, but it looked very meh. Eventually I turned to pinterest and found this 1920s cloche from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and copied the cockade on it (the dangly ribbon however looks silly on a brim this wide and I left it off).

Cloche c.1925. Metropolitan Museum of Art. #2009.300.5580

I pleated the ribbon (since it was wired, it was super easy) into shape and tacked it on to wide horsehair braid, which was in turn tacked onto the hat. At the last minute I added the gold lace because BLING.

Last up, and the most work, is this Edwardian boater hat. There were quite a few steps to making this, from cutting the buckram, attaching the millinery wire, basting fabric the brim and crown and , sewing on the bias tape with invisible handsewn stitches, etc. I used  leftover scrap fabric from my Melisandre dress to cover it.

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All of this took me about 13 of the 16 class hours, leaving no time to trim it. I want to goth it out and black ribbon and bows and feathers.

Conveniently, these hats also fit into the March Historical Sew Monthly Challenge! Which is awesome, because I was too busy working on a cosplay outfit for Jordan Con to make anything else. This puts me at a record breaking 3 challenges in a row! Let’s see how long I can keep it up this year…

The Challenge: The Great Outdoors. For most of history, no outfit outside the home was complete without a hat.

Material: The straw hat used wired ribbon, horsehair braid, and lace. The boater used buckram and silk taffeta jacquard.

Pattern: No patterns needed, just measuring.

Year: The cloche is late 1910s – early 1920s. The further into the 20s you get the narrower the brims become and this would no longer be fashionable. The boat is 1890s – 1900s.

Notions: Horsehair braid, millinery wire.

How historically accurate is it? Very? The cloche was blocked for me from a hat blank, and this trim was based on extant examples. As for the boater, hatmaking techniques haven’t changed all that much.

Hours to complete:  16 hours of class!

First worn: I’ve only worn the fascinator to a friend’s party!

Total cost: The price + materials cost of the class was around $150.

Now I just need outfits to wear with all of these…

Posted in Hats | Leave a comment

Eliza Schuyler / Elizabeth Hamilton – what I actually decided to do

So last time, I had decided against making a francaise or a levite, but what was I actually going to make that is somewhat documentable?

Somewhere in the middle of that searching, I found this dress:

Peach silk satin robe a la anglaise. Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Peach silk satin robe a la anglaise. Philadelphia Museum of Art.

I should have been jumping for joy right? Diagonal buttons on a dress? For some reason this dress bored the heck out of me – maybe it was the bridesmaid color, maybe the styling – and I ignored it

But after rejecting everything else, I kept coming back to this one. And actually, DOCUMENTABLE DIAGONAL BUTTONS IN THE SAME FABRIC AS THE DRESS is pretty freaking cool huh?

I figured with some additional trim, I could make this into something awesome.

So the plan:

  • Robe a la anglaise with a quartered back (also called an Italian Gown). This is where the bodice is separate from the skirts. Matching petticoat.
  • Simple box pleated trim around the skirt edge and neckline, in keeping with the 1780s.
  • Some sort of ruched or pleated cuff, again bringing the dress into the 1780s (compared to the big lacy engageantes from earlier).
  • Covered buttons on the front!
  • I’ve got some white shoes from American Duchess I bought in a sale ages ago, going to paint them pink and bling them out.
  • GIANT HEDGEHOG WIG OF DOOOOM

Now, time to get to

Posted in 1700s, Elizabeth Schuyler | Leave a comment

Elizabeth Schuyler / Eliza Hamilton

So I’ve been all coyly hinting about the 18th century dress I’m planning on making.

Like all right thinking people, I’m obsessed with the musical Hamilton. Somehow I got on the idea of making Elizabeth/Eliza Schuyler/Hamilton dress, but actually historically accurate because obviously, that’s my jam.

While I originally planned on using this for the Jordan Con costume contest, I dropped that idea because it’s really only cosplay if you squint. But, I still want the dress, because there is a whole bunch of upcoming events where I can make use of it (GBACG Outlander event, Peers Hamilton Ball, and when I see the show in San Francisco in May).

So here are pictures of her dress from the first act:

So the main defining characteristics are:

  1. A light aqua color
  2. Has buttons on the front.

At first I figured this would be an easy plan. Make a fancy robe a la anglaise with loads of self trim, and a ginormous 1780s hedgehog wig (I was clearly massively inspired by this gorgeous Italian gown by The Modern Mantua Maker). Except, make the front have a row of buttons going down the middle as nod to the stage dress, aka a compere front (examples here, here).

And then I went to the internet to do research. And now we fall down a rabbithole, so strap in.

Turns out compere stomachers are everywhere,I can only find them worn with a robe a la francaise, and not a robe a la anglaise. Zip zero nada evidence that a compere stomacher can be worn with something else. And since I’ve previously made a robe a la francaise, I don’t want to make another. (Now, from when I originally drafted this blog post to now, I actually have evidence of one anglaise with a compere front. Hallie Larkin posted a picture in one of the Facebook 18th century sewing groups. But it’s clearly not a commonly done thing.)

Ok, plan B. According to this post by Diary of a Mantua Maker, the zone gown can have buttons on the false stomacher. Note, zone gown is not a period term, but it’s the easiest to use, since costumers all know what we mean by it. It’s a dress where the bodice front looks like it is cutaway to reveal a stomacher (in the same color or a contrasting color) underneath.

These gowns are more correctly types of Polonaise, Circassienne, Levite, or Turque (with subtle differences between them, click the links for people who’ve done the real research).

Despite the drawing in her post, I have found only two pictures where the front actually uses buttons in the front instead of pins.

Cabinet des Modes, 5e Cahier, 1ere Planche

Journal des Luxus, March 1790

Both of these are Robe a la Turques I believe (due to the short sleeves over contrasting long sleeves), and neither is the same fabric all over. I don’t know if I can therefore claim historical accuracy if I do a gown in all the same fabric like this.

After weeks of searching, I finally found one extant dress with buttons in front (and this picture is even in Fashion from the Kyoto Institute. Sometimes I should look in my own books before going to the internet.)

Dress detail

Kyoto Fashion Museum. Apologies again for the not-source-picture, but the museum has changed their website and I can’t find a link.

While this dress is pretty and can live on my “one day I’ll make this” list (oh god that list is so long), I still wasn’t in love with it.

There is one more style of gown I found in several paintings, which is really intriguing (my pinterest board).

Speculated to be the Princess of Lamballe. Apologies for pinterest link, I’ve been unable to find an original source.

Portrait of a French Lady, by Alexander Roslin

Portrait of Louise Henriette Boeuf de Curis by Adolf Ulrich Wertmüller.
Is that self trim on the skirt with gauze on the top?

According to Pinterest, Marie Gabrielle Capet by Adelaide Labille -Guiard. Again can’t find an actual source 😦

Marquise de Becdelièvre, by Alexandre Roslin

These all have two rows of buttons, with some kind of cord or ribbon twisting around them. My reaction:

  • What on earth is this?
  • No seriously what is happening in these pictures?
  • Do these have the cutaway front, or are one solid front pinning in the middle? Looks like some of each.
  • Is it one cord looping from top to bottom, or is it one per cord?
  • Is it a coincidence that these all seem to be French women?
  • Maybe I should make this?!?

I showed my friend Bunny these photos, and she helpfully pointed out that they probably are Levites (ish). Evidence being the wide collar, the longer sleeves, and the sash. Additionally, while looking for more information on Levites, I found this fashion plate from Mimic of Modes which clearly shows the loopy-cord-around-buttons thing.

Gallerie des Modes, 1782; MFA 44.1546

Aaaand suddenly my interest in this style deflated entirely.

While I’d be happy to make a Levite in the future, it seems like they were more of a casual style. And if I’m going for 1780, A Winter’s Ball then a casual style just won’t do.

Next up, what I decided to actually do!

Posted in 1700s, Elizabeth Schuyler, Georgian | 4 Comments