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

Bedazzling 18th Century Shoes

So I had some white leather Kensingtons I bought a while ago from American Duchess in one of the sales of Imperfects (where the shoes have some visual issues or markings that don’t impede the function, so they are sold cheaper).

Since I finally got around to making an 18th century dress I figured it was finally time to decorate them.

Note, in doing this I checked my email and saw that I purchased these in DECEMBER 2012 HOLY COW. I really did not realize I bought these so long ago…

I was massively inspired by this Kensington upgrade by Kozy Kitty.

I went looking on the internet for additional 18th century shoes that I could mimic with applique and trim (since gluing stuff to shoes is really not historical. Shoes like this would have been made with pre-embroidered fabric.

Pair of silk shoes: 18th century. Museum of London.

Light blue satin shoes with silver braid, c. 1770. Charleston Museum. These are so over the top, I was tempted to try and do this exact pattern.

Women’s silk shoes ~1780. Museum of Arts and Sciences.

I used these American Duchess tutorials:

I decided on a pink shoe (which I figured would be a fun contrast to my blue/black francaise and aqua Italian gown) with silver trim and applique.

First, I painted the shoes with Angelus Leather Dye in shell pink. After buying shell pink paint, I don’t know why I was surprised when the shoes ended up being shell pink instead of the rose pink I had pictured in my brain.

Sometimes I wonder at myself. I decided it wasn’t worth buying more paint to try and get a slightly darker color.

I bought this amazing real metal braid from etsy to use on all the edges.

Some Krazy Glue and some binder clips to hold it on while it dried:


Aaand this is what it looked like the next morning after yanking the buckles on and off:


Womp womp saddest trim

It turns out that Krazy Glue was not strong enough to deal with this. I went back to Target and bought the big guns, aka E600 glue. Now we were talking!

Accurate Dramatization of me re-gluing the braid

Then I watched the American Duchess Tutorials to put the buckles on, and it honestly did not go well. They ended up too loose on the first attempt, which is why you can see two sets of holes on the image above if you look at the latchet.

The underside of the latches also started to crumble off. I’m not sure if this was because the shoes were Imperfects, nearly 5 years old, or both.



The lovely buckles are from Sign of the Gray Horse during a sale, and are also sold by American Duchess directly, so I was surprised to find that they seemed too narrow to fit over the latches even with minimal trim. I really had to yank them on (which is why I never take them off. The shoes are a bit big on me, so I just slip them on and off every time.)

Now it was time for Moar Bling! I bought some silver and pearl appliques from etsy as well.

It was great that they came in a mirror-image 2 pack for getting symmetrical shoes. I played around with them until they looked nice, then SLATHERED them with MOAR GLUE to stay on the shoes.




So shiny!



The sparkles will make you ignore the extra prong holes!



And hooray, these worked out for the Historical Sew Monthly theme of June, Metallics. Yes, that is *6 whole months* in a row!

(Note there was no chance of keeping up this streak in July, because of Costume College.)

What the item is: 18th century shoes

The Challenge, and how this item fulfills it: Metallics! The trim around the edges is real metal trim. The appliques are (fake) silver, and the jeweled buckles are obviously some kind of metal.

Fabric/Materials: American Duchess (imperfect) Kensington shoes, applique, metallic braid.

Pattern: NA

Year: 1760 – 1780s ish

Notions: Pink paint, lots of E600 glue

How historically accurate is it? This really falls under “costume that looks nice”, rather than having any real claim to authenticity. 18th century fancy shoes would have been made of pre-embroidered fabric, definitely not leather + applique.

Hours to complete: ~2. Painting took the longest, but everything else was glued on

First worn: With just the edging trim, in April for an Outlander ball. With the applique addition at Costume College.

Total cost: Between the shoes, paint, trim, applique, and buckles, it would be ~$120. The shoes were half price as they were “imperfects”, and I had an etsy gift card so it only ended up being aruund $60 out of pocket.

Posted in 1700s, Georgian | 6 Comments

A new petticoat and stomacher for an Outlander Ball

(Hah this has been in draft for 2 months now… Finally have time for posting after Costume College. Oh right, and after moving in June. )

The Greater Bay Area Costumers Guild is threw an Outlander themed ball in June While I was hoping to have finished my Eliza Schuyler dress by then to wear (even if it is ~30 years too late for Outlander), it rapidly became obvious there was no chance of that happening.

So I put the 1780s aside, and it was finally time to whip together the historical versions of the petticoat and stomacher for my Lady Moiraine francaise. Being 1760s or so, it is much closer to the 1740 time period of Outlander.

You can date it to the 1760s because the trim on the dress is wavy. Later in the 1770s, you see trim becoming much more linear (straight lines of box pleats for example), along with fabric having a lot of vertical elements (stripes, plaids, etc).

I used this portrait for inspiration for my stomacher:

Mrs. Francis Beckford, 1756 – Joshua Reynolds

And while I didn’t copy any dress exactly for my petticoat, I was inspired by these images:

Mrs Cadoux, Tate Museum

Robe a la Francaise, Kyoto Costume Institute

1759 Lady Louisa Conolly, née Lennox, in court dress at age 15, a bride by Allan Ramsay

MK & G museum


I went for a small wavy ruffle on bottom, with a giant flounce in the middle. It is gathered to 3 inches in two places, giving it a somewhat wavy appearance.


It’s amazing how much this looks like a curtain valance.


Also how the colors of my previous sewing room turned this dress black in photos.


And pictures from the ball!




I discovered that a fellow student from my Advanced Flat Pattern class was also into costuming!

Because this was for an Outlander event, I also declared it to fit into the Historical Sew Fortnightly for May, as the theme was literature. Count it, that’s 5 whole challenges done so far!

The Challenge: As I said, I made this new petticoat and stomacher to go with my gown for an Outlander ball. I can’t lay claim to any specific character, but this would be appropriate for a lady in Paris (where the characters ended up in book 2), and definitely not one in rural Scotland.
Material: A (fairly smooth) blue/black shot silk shantung
Pattern: No pattern. The skirt is two rectangles pleated to fit over pocket hoops. The skirt trim is a big rectangle gathered across and gathered up in 2 places, plus a gathered wavy bit on bottom.
Year: The curvy lines of the trim place this around 1760. We will ignore that Outlander takes place in the 1740s.
Notions: ~2 yards linen tape to tie the petticoat
How historically accurate is it? The overall silhouette and look is decent. However, I think there is something subtly off about the proportions of the trim (perhaps not placed correctly on the petticoat). I would need to examine portraits and extant gowns to figure out why this isn’t reading quite right to me.
Hours to complete: Everything here was handsewn except the long seams of the petticoat, so around 5 hours.
First worn: To an Outlander ball on 5/13. I am just late getting the pictures up!
Total cost: This took around 2.5 yards of the silk, which would be $35 by itself (although I bought it years ago when I made the original gown).

Posted in 1700s, Lady Moiraine's Sacque Gown | 1 Comment

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.


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


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…


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!


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? | 4 Comments

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!


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!




You know Sevanna would totally do duckface.

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