Sesquicentennial Ensemble: Skirt Foundations Trials and Tribulations

Quick re-cap of this project:

This year is Canada’s Sesquicentennial – aka: 150th birthday. I went to Ottawa for Canada Day this year (or Dominion Day for those who go old school) which was on July 1st when some friends and I celebrated in 1867 style. If you’re just tuning in you can see the finished outfit in this post.

The silhouette and style I went with is more 1867-ish than straight on 1867 because, to me, the whole 1840s through 1860s is such a snooze fest fashion-wise. I just do not like 1860s fashion; so I pushed mine more into 1868/beginning of the bustle-era. What’s the point of making something that I’m just not interested in, right?

I’m doing a whole post on just the skirt supports because, lemme tell you, this was a whole journey in itself!

For reference, this was my primary inspiration for the dress overall:


I had initially intended to use TV 108:

TV108 - Grand Bustle

However, I really love the look of this 1868 crinoline/bustle:

Corsets & Crinolines in Victorian Fashion - Victoria and Albert Museum:

Unfortunately, there aren’t any patterns specifically for this style in *these proportions* (that I know of, and I’ve looked – but if anyone can point me somewhere I haven’t, please do!). In casting about to decide what to do I came upon Laughing Moon 112, which is for various crinolines and bustles, including this one:

Not exactly the same as the extant but pretty darn close! I was sure I could work with it!

And so here’s mine:

So……I really love this! I love the shape with the graceful swoop at the back! It’s going to be perfect for late 1870s Natural Form (especially under the dress I plan to make for my birthday party in October) but…’s not got quite the volume I need for late 1860s. So I had a dilemma: do I make a different hoop? I could probably pretty easily alter the pattern of this one to make it fuller around the bottom, but that would mean making another one, which I wasn’t keen to do again so soon. Or, do I add fluffy petticoats on top to add volume? I had hoped to keep this whole ensemble pretty lightweight because summer but I already needed at least one petticoat to go under the sheer organdy of the dress anyway, so maybe one more wouldn’t be too bad? Maybe?

And my desire to not make another hoopskirt won out and I made a fluffy, ruffled petticoat to go over the hoopskirt:

Pretty, but this didn’t seem to give enough volume for a late 1860s silhouette.

So, in my attempt to continue avoiding making another hoopskirt I kept adding layers underneath……

My small false rump and natural form ruffled train – pinned up to focus the volume behind the legs……

I made a multi-ruffled petticoat to go over these and under the single-flounced one….

And achieved this level of fullness. Not bad. Not great. But not bad.

This is how the dress skirt looked over top of the crazy conglomeration of layers.

Kinda meh.

I finally had to admit to myself that I was just going to have to make another hoopskirt. Oh well.

I thought about altering the initial pattern I used to add more volume to the back but finally realized that the best thing all round was to go with an actual elliptical crinoline and add a bustle/bustle pad on top.

Fortunately, it went together quite easily and quickly and I had enough left over hooping for it:

And I have to admit I think it’s pretty cute.

I also decided to make something new to create a bustle effect over top of the crinoline, the Mantua Maker’s travelling bustle pattern:

Now, in looking at online images of it made-up……

and at the shape of the pattern pieces….

The pattern didn’t create quite the desired floof as-is.

So I did some pretty simple manipulation, mostly with slashing and overlapping to create shapes that I thought would better replicate the historical illustration:

A quick mock-up showed I was on the right track:

I used double layers of stiff cotton organdy (the cheap stuff from Vogue fabrics) and some cute bias tape from the stash.

It’s a very easy make and the genius part of it is that the bustling effect is achieved with a drawstring threaded through the binding along the upper edge – so that when you go to pack it you can flatten it right out!

Pretty cute, huh?

Now, it does crush after a while. The pattern instructions say you can add fishing line (threaded through the perimeter binding of each layer) to make it more springy. It’s not HA but can work. I think I may try this since I have some fishing line kicking around. If I were to make it again, however (which I just might!), I would make it out of double layers of hair canvas instead since it’s naturally more springy.

Here’s the elliptical crinoline + travelling bustle under the single-ruffled petticoat:

Here’s how it looks under the dress skirt:

And here’s a comparison of the two sets of skirt foundations under the dress skirt:


Makes quite a difference in volume, doesn’t it?

And it’s 3 layers instead of 5+

So, it was definitely worth it to make the new foundation structure and I really just wasted time in the end trying to make the first one work (that multi-flounced petticoat will be useful for other things but took me nearly a whole day to make!).

Has this ever happened to you? You make one thing, turns out not to be quite right, you try to make it work but ultimately just have to give in and make the right thing after all?


Raspberry Mint Sorbet Bustle Dress Part the Third: The Hat – Both the Making and In Action!

This is the third and final post on the construction of my Raspberry Mint Sorbet bustle dress completed back in May

If you’re just joining now, here’s the first post, about the skirts, and here’s the second, about the bodice.

I started thinking about the hat while I was finishing sewing the dress. In looking at mid-1880s fashion plates I quickly knew I wanted to do one of those small-but-tall crowned hats from the period. They just look so pert and jaunty – and have such ridiculously fun trimming!

Some examples:

the upper and lower left-hand ones here

Illustration of bonnets and hats - 1887

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CoCo 2017 – (some of the) Awesome Costumes I Saw!

I’m probably one of the last people to finish getting the CoCo posts up but, hey, better late than never, right?

There are quite a lot of photos in this post and it still represents only a small fraction of the wonderful things and people I saw and met!

These photos were all taken by me and I’ve made the decision to not credit/tag people in them because it would take FOREVER and also because I didn’t necessarily get everyone from their absolute best angle or expression, so they may not want to be tagged, lol. If anyone particularly wants to be tagged or would prefer I remove something I’m more than happy to oblige if you could let me know!

So this is basically just like a photo album with little text, broken down into the days of Coco.

Without further ado……


I was still wrapping my head around this whole CoCo thing at the Thursday evening pool party and so this is almost my only photo from it.

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Costume College 2017 – What I Wore!

If you wondered at all why it’s been so quiet around here the past month the answer is simple: Costume College!

This year was my very first time attending Costume College, the annual 3-4 day costume conference in California. And, whoo-boy, what an experience!! I had a fantastic time, met lots of awesome people, got all kinds of inspiration from both them and the classes I attended and have come home with my mind in a frenzy of possibilities for CoCo 2018 and the year in between!

But, for those of you who didn’t get to attend, you’re probably really just mostly interested in what everybody wore, right? There were so many good outfits, on a wide range of themes. However, to make things more digestible I thought I’d start with my own CoCo 2017 wardrobe.

I had 6 outfits/costumes in total. Three come from my costume closet and three were new makes.

Things kicked off properly on Thursday evening with the Pool Party. The overall theme for CoCo this year was to do with the 1960s so I paid my one homage to that at the pool party:

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Celebrating Canada 150 in 1867 Fashion(s)

I’m posting about this project in a backwards manner, showing you the finished ensemble being worn before the construction post(s) – and before I’ve finished with the Raspberry Mint Sorbet. But I wanted to get this up as close after the July 1 weekend as possible, and so you get the good stuff first!

So, as you may have guessed from the title of this post this year Canada celebrated its 150th “birthday,” maybe not such a big deal as a centennial or bicentennial, etc but still significant for us as quite a young country; plus, I wasn’t around for the centennial and will have to live to nearly 90 to see the bicentennial, so I’ll take it!

For the occasion a few friends around Ottawa and I decided to make historical dresses inspired by the year of Canada’s confederation, 1867, and get up to some shenanigans around the capitol over the holiday weekend. We initially intended to have picnics throughout the weekend but the weather ended up being just about as un-co-operative as could be and rained heavily, thundered and lighteninged most of the time. So we had to make some hasty re-arrangements and I’m quite pleased with what we managed to throw together last minute. I also actually quite like that we ended up doing something different each of the 3 days.

For the Friday we found a teahouse to accommodate the 4 of us who could make it (Me, Sarah, Liz, Catherine):

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Raspberry Mint Sorbet Bustle Dress Part the Second, aka Adventures in Bodice-ing

If you’re just joining, this is the second in a small series of posts about my most recently completed project, which I dubbed the Raspberry Mint Sorbet bustle dress, for probably pretty obvious reasons.

Here’s where we left off (because I haven’t shown this image enough already, lol) – which is where I left off last summer (post covering the skirts here).


My initial inspiration for the bodice was this fashion plate that I also liked for showing a similar colour combination to my own, which still feels a little too, I don’t know, for HA.

Le Salon de la Mode 1884:

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Raspberry Mint Sorbet Bustle Dress – The Skirts

If you saw my post about this year’s historical sewing plans then you may remember my mentioning this UFO that I started on a whim last summer. I got as far as having the skirt mostly finished before it was time to start fall sewing, at which point I was all about fall colours (which I love SO MUCH) and this make instead of summery ice cream-like colours.

Fortunately, it did not have to languish in the UFO pile for terribly long. In the winter I received an invitation to a Victorian picnic in May. I ended up not being able to go as I was attending a conference in England over the same weekend. However, as luck would have it I received an invitation from another friend for a Victorian picnic in June so I didn’t lose my incentive for finishing this ensemble! Hooray for UFO-busting!

I’ve decided to do a post for each component of this ensemble (skirts, bodice, hat, everything together and “in action”) to keep it manageable.

Here’s where I had got to last summer:

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Late 1780s Cutaway Front Anglaise + Hat of Unusual Size (H.O.U.S)

This dress is the first off the list of 2017 historical sewing projects. Hooray for crossing items off lists, I love that feeling! (if you’d like to, you can check out the full-ish list here)

This is something I had planned/wanted to make for some time – basically ever since I bought the fabric a few years ago. It’s a scrummy silk taffeta in irregular micro-stripes of light robins egg blue and ivory and I the moment I saw I had late 18th century visions. In fact, I loved it so much that after first buying 6m of it I went back to the store (it was on sale at Fabricland) and bought the rest of the bolt for a total of about 12m!

After making my quarter-back Italian gown in the fall I really wanted to make an Anglaise with an en fourreau back. Initially I thought I would do the regular kind, just with the late 18th century quite narrow en fourreau. But then I saw this and I was instantly won over:

Robe à la Polonaise Date: ca. 1775 Culture: British Medium: silk, cotton:

I had actually seen one (or two) other such dresses in-person in the UK as part of my research so I knew it wasn’t a complete one-off-outlier and I think it’s just such a neat twist on the en fourreau style I had to have it!

I was also keen to try a cutaway front bodice (often referred to as a “Zone front” but as that’s a modern term I try to stay away from using it) and so put all of these elements together in one dress.

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c. 1780 Italian Gown – Sleeve Cuffs & False Rumps

I’ve finally gotten around to doing a sort-of how-to post on the ruched sleeve cuffs of my rust 1780s Italian Gown. This is very far from an authoritative description or tutorial as it was entirely trial and error, my own cuffs are far from perfect and I didn’t have a full tutorial in mind when doing it. But, hopefully it can somewhat helpful to people and it would be awesome if it was a starting point for someone to come up with a much better and more comprehensive how-to!

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2017 Sewing Plans

I’ve never done a sewing plans post before but with the year ahead already starting to fill-up event-wise I thought it might be useful for me to have it all laid out in one post. This is going to be (primarily) historical sewing plans because they (usually, though not always) involve more planning and lead-up time. Modern makes are often more spontaneous.

So here’s what’s on the docket for this year in (roughly) order of making: Continue reading