2017 recap

2017 recap in March, so basically par for the course on this blog.

I started off slow by working on a Wheel of Time costume for Jordan Con, of the character Sevanna:


From January through July I worked on all the parts for my Eliza Schuyler gown, which included:


A completely handsewn chemise


A rather capacious split bumroll


A patchwork pocket


Blinged out shoes


Sheer fichu. I thought I could get this done in a 10 hour plane flight from London. Hah, that got me through the hand-rolled hem on about 2/3 of the big piece without even touching the ruffle.


Tiny hems and whipped gathers!

Which all went under the petticoat and italian gown:



There were interludes in that dress effort to do hats:


I actually wore this to an outdoor wedding where big hats were specifically requested!


This one has never been worn. One day your time will come with an 1890s day dress…

And a chemise:

And a 1960s Mad Men inspired dress, which is the first pattern I’ve truly drafted from scratch:

And a new stomacher and petticoat for my francaise:


A suffragette sash:

I ended the year with Ada Lovelace.

Which included a corded petticoat I never posted about:

(As well as a boring plain petticoat which is literally 2 widths of cotton gathered into a waistband so you don’t need photos, and a wee bumroll)


I also made a double breasted peacoat for my tailoring class which was super fun and a whole new method of construction. I finally got the buttons on, but for some reason they look crooked and uneven when the coat is on (even though they aren’t when the coat is unbuttoned on a table) so no pictures until I fix that.

In my head I thought I had only made two outfits (Eliza Schuyler and Ada Lovelace) and was judging myself, but in putting this post all together I see there is actually a lot more! Accessories and hats and undergarments really improve the look of an outfit and do take time.

I kept up with the Historical Sew Monthly from January to June, before Costume College totally derailed that.

For this upcoming year, my sewing plans are a bit awry because I’m currently 20 weeks pregnant!

This means that while Jordan Con is on and I’m working on a cosplay that will be fun with the belly, Costume College is right out since I’ll have a 2 week old infant. (Of course this was after I bought the wool and silk for a Mary Tudor gala gown. Oh well, neither CoCo or my fabric stash is going anywhere).

So that means I don’t want to sew anything this year involving a waistline, because who knows what size I’ll be by the end of this process. Which means this will definitely be the year of accessories and mending. (More like half year. I’m assuming once the small human being appears my sewing pace will drop dramatically…)

Posted in 1700s, Ada Lovelace dress, clothing from this century?, Elizabeth Schuyler, Fantasy/Scifi/Cosplay, Hats, Sevanna, Undergarments | Leave a comment

Presenting Ada Lovelace

So after sewing frantically fpr days, I finished my dress the day before the Greater Bay Area Costumer’s Guild was meeting up at Dickens Faire!

Then the morning of I got sick and couldn’t go.

Luckily I was able to go with friends on the last weekend. I wore the dress this with my standard Victorian corset, a corded petticoat (which I thought I posted about, but whoops it looks like I never did), a boring plain petticoat that wasn’t worth posting about, and a tucked petticoat (which I apparently made 2 years ago and never actually wore). There was still no time to make a bonnet, so I wore it with a tiny steampunk top hat I made in a class at Costume College.

I did the thing costumers really shouldn’t do, and put on the whole ensemble for the first time right before heading out.



It’s interesting to note that you really can’t see the fabric mini-stripes in a full length photo. How many patterns or stripes might be hiding in black & white Victorian photography?


I also got tapped near the entrance to participate in the Costume Contest later that afternoon! I didn’t win, mostly due to the unfinished-ness of the ensemble (no hat, gloves, etc) which I certainly can’t argue with. But I did get a whole bunch of nice compliments especially from the emcee Lynn which I’ll take!


Some closeups of little details that aren’t noticeable from far away, but make me super happy:


Gathering detail near the shoulder, and shoulder seam piping. I’ve shown this already but I love how it looks so much.


Everyone loves cartridge pleating! I stuck a strip of linen in the pleats to bulk them out, and it probably could have used a doubled-over strip for even more bulk.


There are two rows of gathering above the cuff to bring the sleeve in from the poof over the elbow. The cuff is piped all around.


And for a hidden surprise, the cuff is lined with a bit of red silk! Costume in Detail had an 1830s dress where the cuffs were lined with black silk, and I thought that was a fun idea.

I’m pleased, but there are a whole bunch of things I want to change for the next wearing:

  • Actually finish a bonnet
  • And a chemisette
  • And a big bias ruffle on the skirt
  • And a belt
  • Move the sleeve ruffles up the sleeve an inch or two, so I can do the same for the lower sleeve portions. I felt like they got a bit scrunched which actually made them look less poofy.
  • Move the hooks and eyes over a bit on the waist. I never tried this dress on with the 3 petticoats, and it ended up being really tight over all of those, which is causing wrinkles in the back.
  • After all that talk about bumrolls last post, I’m not thrilled with the shape this one gave. It was too shelf-like instead of a gentle enhancement. I may try and do something with canvas like so.
  • Starch the petticoats
  • Uh, closures on the petticoats. Or just keep pinning them, whatever.
  • Pockets! Every dress should have pockets.

Phew, so lots of things to change which will enhance the ensemble, and most of them won’t actually be noticeable to other people. But I still had a ton of fun wearing this, and I finally got 2 year old planned project finished!

Posted in 1830s, Ada Lovelace dress | 7 Comments

Redonkulous Sleeves, plus Hilarious Notes from the Workwoman’s Guide

Last up, I made a bodice!

Next, I needed to figure out how to do ridiculous late 1830s sleeves. By this point, the fullness had collapsed at the top of the arm, leaving you with all the fullness from the elbow down. Kindof like a bishop sleeve on steroids.

I chose to make my sleeves as two pieces; an upper and a lower sleeve. You could do them as one piece and pleat the top down to fit snugly, but pleats don’t show up very well on a narrow stripe fabric so I didn’t think it would be worth it. Also, I want to be able to use this dress as an evening gown, which I can do by removing the lower sleeves and just leaving the upper part.

For the upper sleeve, I grabbed the sleeve pattern from Truly Victorian 440 (which I have never actually used). I figured this would fit the off-the-shoulder bodice armscye well enough. I didn’t use the whole sleeve, only the top part which would be above the elbow.


Then I mocked it up and put it on. Of course, this sleeve was way too big around, when I wanted something close fitting around the arm. Sheesh, looking back at the pattern it was super obvious this would be wide. You’d think it was the first time I’d ever seen a sleeve pattern before… I ended up taking out about 6 inches of width from the bottom.

For the lower sleeve, I first tried scaling something up from The Workwoman’s Guide (see below) but I didn’t like the shape. So I went to the old standby Janet Arnold. I started with one of the giant 1830s sleeve patterns, but left off the top part so as to approximate a sleeve starting at elbow length.


Yes, this is a sleeve pattern.

I made a mockup, and pinned it onto the upper sleeve with some fabric scraps to see if I liked the double-ruffle look I had planned.



Looking good! I cut the sleeves out of fabric and lining fabric. I interlined the top opening with a strip of crinoline to keep them nice and poofy. This is accurate for 1890s sleeves, but not so much for 1830s. I think they only used separate puffs at this point to keep sleeves large, as none of the examples in Costume In Detail describe a stiff interlining.


I kept a note pinned to the right sleeve the whole time so I would know which was which until it was finally sewed on.


With a bias binding at the top and a cuff at the bottom, sleeves are finally done!

And now for a detour –

The Workwoman’s Guide is a book from 1840 aimed at middling class women on various domestic arts, with lots of emphasis on sewing and clothing construction. You can download it for free on Google Books.

Among other things, it also has advice on packing, drying clothes, folding clothes, mourning clothes, etc. I figured something for lower/middling women of 1840 would be perfectly valid for upper class women of the late 1830s. It had some useful notes, plus some hilarious notes which I’m including down below.

“It is a good plan to line silk and merino, or stuff gown bodies, with strong linen or brown Holland as it keeps them in shape, by preventing them from stretching.” ( pg 106)

  • Check! I used an old sheet to line the bodice and face the hem of my dress. It was fairly stiff with a lot of body, and it reminded me of the color of the brown polished cotton you often see in dresses of the time.

“Checks are becoming to tall people, and stripes to short ones, as the former rather diminish, while the latter give an appearance of greater length to the figure than is natural to it, in the same way that a striped paper makes a room look higher, than one which is checked, or of which the pattern goes round instead of from top to bottom.” (pg 106)

  • Hah! I happen to think I would look fine in either, but I did use a striped silk for this dress. It is left as an exercise to the reader as to whether I’m getting an appearance of greater length.

Cap for a young lady – this is a pretty cap for a young lady or invalid as it is not liable to be crushed by lying on a sofa.

  • Lol. I do a lot of lying around on a sofa, but never in a cap.

“A widow’s cap is a very difficult thing to make well, and looks particularly slovenly when ill put together.”

  • *clutches pearls* Not a slovenly cap!

“Bustles are worn by those whose shape requires something to set off the shape of the gown. They should not be too large, or they look indelicate, or in bad taste.”

  • I do plan to make a small bumroll (bustle) to wear with this gown, just to add a bit of extra oomph. But certainly not a large enough one to be in bad taste!

Next up, frantically working to get the dress into a wearable (if not finished) state before Dickens.

Posted in 1830s, Ada Lovelace dress, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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