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.


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.



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.



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…

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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.

Now, time to get to

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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 | 5 Comments

A (mumblecentury) pocket

Since in this modern world, you can pry my cell phone out of my cold dead hands, I figured I needed a pocket to wear with the upcoming 18th century dress (which I still haven’t told you about) so I have a place to put said phone.

While fancy embroidered pockets were the norm,

I found information at The Young Sewphisticate about patchwork pockets, and decided that was a nice compromise between totally plain, and fancy embroidery.

Here are some super fancy patchwork pockets:

Early 19th Century pocket. Cotton. Metropolitan Museum of Art. C.I.41.145.6

Early 19th Century pocket. Cotton. Metropolitan Museum of Art. C.I.41.145.6

Early 19th Century pocket. Cotton/wool. Metropolitan Museum of Art. C.I.41.161.5

Early 19th Century pocket. Cotton/wool. Metropolitan Museum of Art. C.I.41.161.5

Since I did not have the inclination to do detailed quilting, I was pleased to find this much simpler example of a patchwork pocket.

Early 19th Century pocket. Cotton/linen. Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2009.300.5669

Early 19th Century pocket. Cotton/linen. Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2009.300.5669

So I went into my box of tiny scraps that I always hope will one day prove useful, and pulled out some random bits of linen and cotton.

For the pattern, I drew a rectangle. Then I tapered the ends to make it narrower at the top and rounded all the corners.

I sewed squares of linen into a larger square


I cut an interlining of yellow cotton (leftover from my 1930s dress) and basted it onto the wrong side of the linen patchwork. This was to cover all the raw seams. You don’t want raw seams when you are going to be frequently putting items into and out of a pocket, as that would be a great way to get fraying seams.


I drew a line for the slit, and machine basted around it at 1/8″ from the slit. This will prevent the layers from shifting when cutting the slit.

I covered the slit with a bit of silk taffeta bias tape that was leftover from an old dress. Silk is so not the right material for this, but I didn’t want to cut new bias tape because see again: laaaazy. Since this was fiddly work, I handsewed this part.


Then I sewed the lining and the patchwork piece wrong sides together around the sides and bottom. I trimmed down the seams, cut into the curves, and flipped it right side out. Then I sewed a running stitch around 1/4″ away from the outside edge, almost like a french seam. Alternately, you could put the pocket and lining wrong sides together and use bias tape around the whole outside. Two out of three examples above didn’t use bias tape, and I thought I could see that little hem around the edge, so I wanted to try that out.

I folded a piece of cotton around the raw top edge, and whipstitched that down on both sides. Voila, a finished pocket!


I also tried it on with the whole 18th century undergarment set!


Should pocket go over or under the bumroll?


This cat does not like being picked up, but she also doesn’t have opposable thumbs, so I won this round.


The other cat was more interested in gnawing on the string for the blinds.

Now, the historical accuracy of this pocket is questionable at best.

We have examples of patchwork pockets, and even one exceedingly simple one, but I’m not sure about the cotton and linen mix I’ve got going on. The silk bias tape is definitely a no-go. You’ll also note the example pockets date to the 19th century, not 18th. Patchwork seems plausible for the 18th century, but I can’t document it.

The biggest issue is that I plan to wear this pocket with a fancy 18th century dress. The fanciness of the 1780 dress would definitely warrant an embroidered pocket, and not such a plain one.

Regardless, I’m pleased with how this turned out, and it was a pretty quick project. And attempting to keep up the momentum of the Historical Sew Monthly, I’m entering this for February!

What the item is: A linen patchwork pocket.

The Challenge: Re-make, re-use, refashion. I’m stretching the definition a bit – the white linen here are scraps from when I was cutting down the sleeves from a shift I was working on. It had ended up more 1750s and I wanted 1780s. Cutting down shift sleeves is a plausible re-make, so I’m going with it. The other linen squares are from my remnant box, so there was nothing new used here, which feels in the spirit of the challenge.

Fabric/Materials: Linen, cotton interlining, silk bias tape, cotton tape.

Pattern: No pattern, just drew it out.

Year: As described above, while I plan on using this for 18th century, patchwork pockets are really more of a 19th century thing…

How historically accurate is it? Iffy, as described above

Hours to complete: 4 or so, this was a super fast project. It’s only this long because I did a bit of handsewing on the bias tape and around the edges.

First worn: Only for photos

Total cost: Everything here was tiny scraps, so I’m counting it as free.

All my new 18th century undergarments are done! Now I can get started on the dress, which I shall finally tell you about in the next post!

Posted in 1700s, Undergarments | 2 Comments

Oh My God Becky, Look At Her Bumroll

I’m planning a 1780s dress (I promise to tell you about it eventually), and needed some new junk-in-the-trunk support garments. My previous dress used pocket hoops, but those are so passé by the time you get to 1780.

I read about Aubry’s split bumroll for her 1780s quarter back gown, and since that’s exactly what I’ll be making, I figured I would make the same bumroll for myself.

Not much to talk about here – I freehanded a pattern, cut out some linen (leftover from the shift), stuffed it, and attached it to a waistband. I went with the waistband instead of ties because there are enough things tying around my waist with this costume (pocket, petticoat) that I wanted to avoid another tie.

I was originally going to stuff the bumroll with muslin scraps (I muslin everything, so I have a lot of useless scraps), but that really weighed it down. Since no-one likes a droopy bum, I bought some polyester stuffing and used that instead (Bless Your Heart if you thought the Joann near me would actually have any kind of wool batting…)



Basically a self portrait of me in my new bumroll

Basically a self portrait of me in my new bumroll

Posted in 1700s, Undergarments | 1 Comment

Finished shift

The piece of shi(f)t is done!

I practiced my deep breathing, and ended up removing and re-sewing the backwards sleeve, plus removing and resewing the backwards cuff.

Then onto a new skill for me, handmade buttonholes. I went off of instructions from The Sewing Academy.

Here are my practice attempts, the left with buttonhole silk twist, and the right with a doubled piece of cotton thread.


I wish I had a thread in between these two sizes. I ended up going with the doubled-length of cotton, since I thought the silk was too big.

My actual buttonholes did not end up this pretty, because there were more layers of linen in the cuffs, and they got a bit temperamental. But, they are mostly covered up by the sleeve buttons anyways!

And finally this evil shift was done!


My favorite part by far, are these adorable sleeve buttons from William Booth Draper.


Bonus, they save you from having to do any kind of complicated cuff.

My other favorite part is the teensy 1/8″ rolled hem on the neckline. Linen makes it really easy to do this kind of hem.


And extra super bonus, this qualified for the January Historical Sew Monthly!

The Challenge: Firsts and Lasts. This is the last item for my robe a la francaise  (was wearing a tank top underneath until now), as well as being the first item for a new 18th century gown I have planned (blog post coming!). It was also the first time I made buttonholes by hand.

Material: Linen

Pattern: Sharon Burnston’s pattern and instructions, with the sleeves significantly shortened and narrowed. http://www.sharonburnston.com/shifts.html

Year: 1780s ish. The sleeves would be fuller and longer for earlier in the century.

Notions: Pewter cuff buttons, cotton thread.

How historically accurate is it? Eh. Historical aspects – I handsewed this using period techniques, it’s made from linen. Unhistorical – I used cotton thread instead of linen. The linen is not as fine as what you would find in period. However, I rate it exactly 50%. The reason being – shift linen was much narrower in the 1700s, being exactly the width you needed your shift to be (around 30″). This would allow you to cut your gores and attach them by whipping the selvedge edges together. Since I used modern linen that was 60″ wide, I had to flat fell all my gores and seams, because I didn’t have the selvedge to work with. So, because flat felling is twice as many seams as would be in period, I am taking half off my accuracy score.

Hours to complete: 40? More? This shift absolutely would not cooperate. As described, I had to take in the sleeves twice, sewed in a sleeve backward, and one cuff backwards. I sewed cuffs *4 times* for a shift that has only two arms.

First worn: Not yet! Probably some time in April. At the latest, when I dress up in costume to see Hamilton in May.

Total cost: $37 for linen (although I have about half leftover that isn’t the full width, so say 18.50), and $9 for pewter sleeve buttons.

Now for some photos with my stays. The purple fabric draped over some fabric rolls was an attempt to create a pretty photography background. Yeah, it needs some work. Plus the fact that this room has no overhead lighting and only one lamp…




Stays are still my favorite thing I’ve ever made. And no, they still aren’t lined.


You can only get a shift neckline this close to the stays by trying it on before fully cutting/hemming the neck.


I’m still not entirely convinced that the sleeves are short enough. I’ll have to shove them up above my elbow to not show under a fancy gown.

Posted in 1700s, 18th c shift, Undergarments | 2 Comments

Can I throw every piece into the fire now?

This EXPLETIVE shift just does not want to get made.

After taking out the gathers, cutting down the shift sleeves and sewing them in, I popped the shift back on again. Sleeves were still too long. I ended up taking off another two inches from each. This left the cuff opening to only be about 1″ long on each sleeve, but I can still get it on so good enough.

I just spend some time practicing my first hand-sewn buttonholes before putting the actual ones on. Just grabbed the shift to draw on the buttonholes.

One shift sleeve is inside out. I sewed it the wrong way. I can either take out the whole thing and flip it, or leave the gore inside out and redo the cuff.

The other sleeve is right-side out, except for the cuff. Only way to fix it is to finish the cuff.

Fuck this noise. I’m shoving this shift into a corner and doing something else.

All of these items are my shift

All of these items are my shift

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