Illustration Imitation: Houndstooth McCalls 6566

A few years ago I discovered something really fun (at least I think it’s fun!): I had this early 60s pattern:

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and this fabric:

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For the longest time I thought it was just wool, but while working with it I started to think it may be mixed with raw silk. A very luxurious textile either way, and another great thrift store find!

You see where I’m going with this? Yep, I put them together:

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As you can see it’s not an exact copy. I didn’t have quite enough yardage for the sleeves, but the wool (possibly silk blend) is scratchy and lining sleeves of this fabric would have made for bulky sleeves. So I’m ok with sleeveless worn with comfy knit tops underneath. This also means I have the option to add colour with tops!

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I’m very delayed in posting this, I made it ….oh….. in March? April? And took photos in early May? So this is my 2015 contribution to my “Canadian Spring” wardrobe. I should also be able to wear it through much of winter as well.

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I really like how chic this piece is. I don’t make a lot of “chic” clothes, so I’m quite happy with this addition, I think/hope it will be very versatile.

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I think, however, that I’ll normally wear it with a narrower black belt I have, I think this wide one is too much for my super short-waisted-ness. But it matches the pattern envelope!

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Look at that flawless pattern matching along the skirt back seam! Ignore the less than flawless result on the bodice! Oh well. Can’t win ’em all.

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A couple views of the inside to show my finishing techniques:

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Although using the houndstooth for the neck and armhole facings looks nice, turns out it wasn’t the most practical decision. The fabric is so scratchy that I’m always going to make sure I wear a top underneath that covers those parts and provides a full barrier between it and my skin. Oh well, I still really like it!

Have you ever tried copying a pattern envelope illustration?

After discovering this match-up between pattern and fabric in my stash I started looking for others and found a few more. So I’m thinking of making this kind of a thing. But I think I need a better moniker for it than “Illustration Imitation”, what do you think? Any ideas? Please?!

Natural Form Teagown

This project was finished about a month ago, but I only just got photos of me in it this week, so waited until now to do a proper post. I started this early in the year and used it as my entry for the Historical Sew Monthly challenge for March: Stashbusting.

My teagown is a combination of this inspiration original piece (It’s dated 1886 but I don’t know by what authority and the overall silhouette looks comparable to Natural Form to me):

Abiti Antichi- Abito da casa 3

Abiti Antichi- Abito da casa 3

Abiti Antichi- Abito da casa 3

Abiti Antichi- Abito da casa 3

Using the Truly Victorian 1882 Teagown pattern TV432 as my base pattern:

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And six fabrics in my stash ranging from a few months to over ten years of stashdom.

I put these all together and got this:

Hello! Welcome to my teagown!

Hello! Welcome to my teagown!

The main fabric is silk taffeta in a subtle stripe of celadon and a sort of pale gold/olive. The centre front panel comprises silk chiffon ruffles over a silk charmeuse base in closely matching shades of olive green. The collar, cuffs, and lapel thingies are a Chinese silk brocade – so a silk/rayon blend, but close enough says I! The front “ribbons” are made from a piece of cotton/silk satin in an olive green that matched really well with the chiffon and charmeuse. It really felt like these were all meant to go together!

It’s worn over my full set of Natural Form foundation garments, and my pink corset.

The main alteration I made to the TV pattern was the front panel, but was a pretty straightforward process. I simply drew on the front pattern piece (well, my traced off copy of it) where I wanted the front panel, took the centre most dart allowance out of the resulting edges of front panel and new gown front piece and smoothed the curves/edges. If I remember correctly, I even did this before making my first mock-up.

The next major divergence is the back. The line drawings for the pattern show 2 options: a smooth, seamed back or a pleated Watteau back. However, I think a third option, the one I chose in order to copy the original gown, is actually provided on the pattern itself. I haven’t seen any examples around the internet of this option made up, so I don’t know if people just don’t realize it’s there, or that’s what it is, or whether I’m the only one so far who likes it! (if anyone else has run across this please do share, I’d love to see other people’s take on this!)

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Less major changes I made were to lengthen the sleeves from 3/4 to 7/8 length, and add more fullness to the back pleats and a bit of length to the train. I just drafted the cuffs and lapel pieces.

I flatlined the entire gown with a cotton sheet I got from Value Village. It has a little woven stripe in it that’s very subtle, but which I really like for some reason. I bound all the seam allowance edges with cotton bias binding that was already in my stash – hence why it isn’t all exactly the same, lol.

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It opens and fastens up one side of the centre front panel from the lower hip to the neck with a combination of snaps and hooks & eyes. I’ve seen similar-ish combinations on extant garments and for some reason prefer sewing snaps to hooks and eyes, so used them wherever I could.

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The collar fastenings are the fiddliest bit as the lower end of the free section needs to tuck behind the corresponding neck edge of the centre front panel, yet the upper corner of the panel needs to tuck in under the dress front edge where it meets the collar.

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The gown front edges, hem and sleeve ends are all faced with the silk taffeta. The ruffle under the hem is made from a small piece of pale yellow vintage cotton organdy I found in an antique shop (and had for a few years knowing that eventually the right use for this little piece of special fabric would come along !) edged with some off-white vintage cotton lace.

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My friend Sarah obliged me by taking photos. The location is the Agnes Etherington Art Centre on Queen’s University campus in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. The art centre is a museum/gallery with a particularly interesting feature – it’s attached to a historic house, Etherington House. It was the lifelong home of the art centre’s namesake, who donated it to the university during the mid-20th century as a place for art instruction to begin at Queen’s. Over time, the art centre grew beyond the house (by a lot!) but remained physically attached. It’s now a sort of informal museum space that’s also used for social functions and events. I was curious about trying it out as a backdrop.

It wasn’t as perfect as I’d hoped, the lighting was difficult, so we had to use the flash (which I hate doing). If I was more on the ball I’d have prepared an idea I’ve had for a while to make a little vellum sort of cover for my flash to (hopefully) diffuse the light. But Sarah was a really good sport and got some nice shots all the same! At some point I’ll try doing photos again – in natural light….maybe in a garden. Surely teagowns were acceptable to wear in one’s own backyard?

I also most definitely need a better wig. Someone help! I’m terrible at hair!

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Yep, I know the hair could be better.

 

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Fancy joining me for a cuppa?

 

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Mood lighting fun.

 

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I don’t know if this will help anyone out, but here’s what the back pleats look like from the inside:

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Thank you for visiting, now it’s time for me to change into something I can actually wear in public. Ta!

Overall I’m extremely pleased with how this turned out, and I love wearing it! I have identified just a few things I may or may not address at some point. When I made the mock-up I was being good and running fairly regularly. That had dropped off some by the time of the photos, so it’s just a little too snug through the middle and that’s why it doesn’t lie smoothly down the upper back. I think I should let it out a tad (probably at the side seams where the marks won’t show much). I also got the length of the bodice lapels wrong, they should extend to nearly meet the top edge of the skirt lapels (skirt lapels, is that even a thing?). I misread the inspiration images and thought there was a gap between them, but now see I was wrong. I think it would help with the overall look of the proportions to make new ones that are as long as they should be – I’m naturally very short-waisted, I don’t need that emphasized. I have more of that fabric left, so that’s not a problem and it wouldn’t be horrendously complicated to do, but I’ll probably need some space and time to feel like putting in the effort. Lastly, I think my organdy hem ruffle sticks out too much so I’ll eventually either shorten it or move it up inside the dress.

But I’m still pleased as punch with it and am now determined to host my own Victorian tea so I have an excuse to put this to its proper use! Who wants to join me?

 

Garrison Ballgown 2015

Yes, it’s that time of year again! Or it was, a couple of weeks ago.

This year’s ensemble was nothing like last year’s mammoth undertaking. With a tentative PhD thesis defense date set, there was no way I could devote that much time this year.

However, I may actually love this year’s ensemble as much as last year’s, and I certainly enjoyed wearing it a lot more! lol (this year’s was much more user-friendly!)

To make things easier for myself I used sewing patterns I already had, and just did a bit of frankenpatterning. I combined two 1950s patterns for the dress and used one other for the bolero.

I took the dress bodice from this pattern:

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And used the skirt portion of this pattern. Changes I made to this part: lengthening the skirt to be floor-length, eliminating the button-up front and making a seam + opening at centre back instead and I added a little extra fullness to the side front and side back pieces, because POUFFY:

Advance 6961 front

Once the drafting/frankenpatterning was done, the mock-up came together so well and so easily it was almost wearable itself! However, as not-bad as this ($1/m) fabric ended up looking, I had a GORGEOUS shot silk taffeta in mind for this and there’s really just no comparison.

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You may notice that the side pouffiness of the skirt is not even between both sides in the above photos. That’s because I was doing a little experimenting with my crinoline.

I made a new crinoline for this ensemble that ended up being a whole mini-project of its own. I don’t have photos of every step in its progression, but enough for you to get the idea. I knew from the beginning that I’d want some extra oomph underneath the skirt side gathers to fill them out nicely. So I tried adding an extra piece of gathered, softer crin fabric to one side and it did the trick. They look like this:

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I also, initially, started with a single-layer crinoline, but decided it didn’t have as much fullness as I wanted. It made the dress skirt look like this:

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(yes, that’s the “spontaneous” spencer with it, I was working on them at the same time. I think they actually look kinda cute together, what do you think? lol)

(here’s another view of them together. heehee:

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Anyway. To get more fullness I added a second layer to the lower two sections and that gave me the added fullness I wanted. The crinoline photo farther up is with the two layers. Here’s a gratuitous (superfluous?) photo showing the separate layers:

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And here’s a photo of the actual dress showing the difference between having the extra piece under the side and not. It’s not super-dramatic, but I think it adds just that little bit extra which takes it from nice to really having presence. Or is it just me?

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As you can see, I decided to accent this (amazing coloured) fabric with black. Oh, and the bit of blue you can see peeking out the bottom is some thin (almost sheer) but crisp cotton I found at Value Village to use as underlining to give the silk taffeta just a little more volume. Probably the most perfectly timed find I’ve made there yet, as I was just about to order some silk organza around the time I came across this. Even though the organza was well-priced at $6.99/m (USD), I got the whole piece of cotton (enough to underline the whole dress and make facings, and the bolero as well) for $6-7 (CAD) – can’t really beat that!

The neckline piping is from some silk dupioni scraps I had, the shoulder straps are from a piece of vintage/antique silk velvet ribbon I had to which I also added some dupioni piping along the edges (not that you can see it in these photos).

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I got a 10yd bolt of wide vintage rayon velvet ribbon (it’s SO soft!) for the sash and back tails. I folded the ribbon in half for the waist sash (full width was way too much on short-waisted me) but left it full width for the tails. Initially I tried to find satin-back velvet ribbon, but couldn’t find width + length I needed. Instead, I doubled this up and whip-stitched the edges to make a de facto double-sided velvet ribbon.

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It has a hand-picked zipper in the back, which I initially, intentionally avoided. I wanted a really clean line down the back so tried and invisible zip first. I know they’re not as strong as regular zips, but I made the bodice with a little bit of easy and added a stay at the waist to take the stress there. However, just after I got the zipper in (one of the last things I did – even though I know you should add an invisible zip before finishing the seam) and tried the dress on – the zipper first separated on me, and then broke completely when I tried to fix it/get out of the dress. I was decidedly NOT impressed. I got the zipper from Fabricland and don’t know if I just got a bad one or if the quality of their supplier has fallen. I fear it may be the latter and will not be buying another one from them in a hurry. Ultimately, I used a regular zip I had in my stash in a well-matching colour and all was fine. With the waist sash and tails you don’t see much of the zipper and it’s not like it looks terrible or anything, so I’m good with it.

For the matching/co-ordinating bolero I used this pattern and just modified it a little to have 3/4 length sleeves and meeting centre front edges:

Marian Martin 9390

I had a devil of a time deciding whether to make it of the silk, accented with black velvet, or black velvet accented with the silk. I played around with the fabrics to try and help myself:

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I even posted this on fb to get some advice but the opinions were nearly evenly split between the two. In the end I decided to do both by making it reversible!

Even on the evening of the ball I couldn’t decide which I liked better, so I just kept switching it around during the event, lol.

I didn’t do a whole photoshoot like last year, but got enough snaps to show how it all came together.

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Swirly!

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Dramatic Carolyn is dramatic.

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I didn’t get the constant compliments and attention I did last year, but still plenty and I just loved wearing this so much! It was comfortable, it fit under the table at dinner so I was actually able to pull my chair in properly (unlike last year – that is NOT a sitting dress), it was so much lighter, it took a fraction of the time to make, and I spent so much less money on supplies and accessories (approx. $120 this year vs approx. $700 last year when all was said and done).

ETA: This dress has one more feature that makes me love it all the more – I added POCKETS into the side seams! That’s right, folks, it’s a ballgown with pockets!!

Of all the formal gowns I’ve made in recent years, this is the one I’m most looking forward to wearing again (and again and again!).

The Spontaneous Spencer

This is my entry for February’s Historical Sew Monthly challenge “Blue”. It wasn’t my initially intended entry, which was supposed to be a smart and clever-looking new pale blue wool coat made from a late teens/early 20s pattern I have. However, after doing a muslin and fiddling with it a bit I just wasn’t feeling it. I still hope to make it someday, but I wasn’t feeling totally enthusiastic about it and I think it’s too straight a silhouette for most of the clothes I wear, even though it has a little more flare than most styles from that period.

So, about the middle of the month I decided to completely switch tracks and make something that was nowhere on my sewing list/queue. Very practical decision (please note the sarcasm). I rationalized it to myself by saying that I had intended <someday> to make a new spencer from a piece of pale blue silk in my stash left over from the Regency ball ensemble I made a little over a year ago. And that even though I had no definite plans about it, it did get something off my sewing wishlist, at least, and used up an awkwardly-sized piece of fabric stash. In fact, everything on this came from stash, I didn’t purchase a single little bit for this, and that’s always nice.

I made the even more practical decision to hand sew the entire thing.

So let’s get to it, shall we?

My spencer is a combination of Sense & Sensibility’s pattern (which I already had and already used so I didn’t need to worry about fitting):

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But took the sleeves from the 1818-1823 Pelisse in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion I:

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The construction of the body of the spencer is probably pretty straightforward, but here are a couple of the sleeve to show how those go together.

Curiously, the sleeve head of the undersleeve is a separate piece. I used some of the white linen that I was using for lining (linen still being a common choice for linings at the time, a carry-over from the 18th century).

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The oversleeve before being attached to the undersleeve:

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The underside of the oversleeve to show some of the stitching:

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The over and under sleeves pinned together:

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And sewing the sleeve into the armhole using a thick silk thread and tight backstitches:

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And voila!

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I really love the little wee peplums on the backs of some spencers!

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One of the other HSM participants, Hvar Spae Kona, made a whole slew of Dorset buttons (in tardis blue!) for her entry and that reminded me that I’d gotten a little kit for them at the Fashion Museum at Bath way back in 2008. I thought they’d be the perfect period addition to my spencer and I love them!

ETA: I just found this online tutorial for them that looks quite good, if you’d like to try yourself. They’re quite easy and forgiving if you don’t get them perfect (I certainly didn’t, but it’s not obvious!)

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The Facts…..

Challenge: Blue

Item: Spencer

Fabric: silk dupioni (very low-slub/smooth one); white linen for lining

Pattern: Sense & Sensibility Spence and Pelisse pattern, c. 1818-1823 Pelisse in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion I

Year: c.1818-1823

Notions: metal rings and cotton perl thread for Dorset buttons; silk, linen and cotton sewing threads

Historical Accuracy: I’m gonna go ahead and give myself 95% on this one. It’s a mash-up of patterns, but I think pretty plausible. It’s silk dupioni, but a very smooth/low slub one, so I’m not taking much off for that. It’s 100% hand-sewn with period appropriate methods, techniques, and supplies.

Hours to Complete: Ohhhhhh………lots, for such a little thing. Let’s guesstimate 25-30.

First Worn: not yet (see below)

Total Cost: all from stash whose prices I can’t remember. Let’s guesstimate again at….. $30.

 

AND NOW – all I need is a dress to wear it with! Yes, I made this without already having anything to wear it over. Such a practical project, but I love it , am so pleased with how it turned out and don’t regret it!

Pink Victorian Corset

As part of my adventures in Natural Form foundations garments I also made a new corset. This is something I’d wanted to do for a while anyway. My previous Victorian corset was fine, but I wasn’t getting quite the curve in my figure or roundness in my bust profile I wanted. It also makes my hips sore because – and this was a big revelation for me! – there wasn’t enough fullness at the hips built into the corset. Duh! One of those things that seems so obvious once you realize it. The adjustability gained from having a lacing gap at the back will get you only so far!

Enter this beauty from Jill Salen’s book, Corsets: Historical Patterns & Techniques

 

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This is apparently a Symington corset from about 1875. (Note to self – look-up Symington corsets sometime for fun)

This particular specimen is found as an inset before the book’s title page. As soon as I saw it I knew it was the one I wanted to make. But after eagerly flipping through the book (and finding the set of late 18th century stays I also want to make) I realized there wasn’t a pattern for this one and immediately thought “what the fudge?!” to myself.

A close second look through the book revealed this variation instead:

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It’s nearly an identically shaped and patterned corset to the Symington one. Interestingly, notice the difference in dates. The first one was dated to 1875, this one to 1890-1900. My thinking is this must have been a very popular model/style that remained commercially successful for up to 25 years. This may also be an example of “trickle down” fashion (which I’m usually pretty skeptical of, mind you). The Symington corset is a high-end, expensive model while the later one would have been more economical (based on materials and what looks like less cording through the body).

Anyhoo, it was an easy decision to use the later corset’s pattern to make my own using the Symington one as more of my stylistic inspiration. I also like the versatility in time periods this style allows, being actually documented as existing from 1875-c.1900. I don’t necessarily need to make a new corset if I suddenly decide to foray into the 1890s (which I will, eventually). And this is the corset I’m wearing under my cranberry wool satin winter ensemble. Win-win!

The base/strength layer of the corset is coutil – my first time using this and I may never go back when it comes to Victorian-Edwardian corsetry. This stuff is great! I got mine at Farthingales. The “fashion” layer is some (very) pink Chinese silk brocade that’s been languishing in my stash for well over 10 years. I only had a metre of it, and at 29″ wide that made it tricky to figure out how to use it. This corset was the perfect application and I was so happy to have finally found just the right thing for this fabric to be!

I used 3 types of supports on the inside: flat steel boning for the centre backs and at the fronts, spiral steel boning on either side of the bust gores and at the side seams, and cording beside the front busk, beside the bust gores, beside the side seam at the back and at the upper backs.

I’d never done cording like this before, so tried out a sample with some fabric scraps. Inside the channels I just used some jute twine I had in a kitchen drawer and experimented with thickness. I also did a test patch of the cross-hatched stitching as I wasn’t entirely sure if I would like it on the brocade:

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Turns out I loved it! I did another test of it, though, specifically over a motif just to make sure:

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Yup, I’m sure!

The other, MAJOR, thing I tested was the pattern itself. I did a full mock-up of the corset in some sturdy scrap fabric and both boned it and added lacing holes. I will never make a corset without doing a muslin/mock-up again!!!! This made such a HUGE difference. It didn’t take long and was more than worth the effort. Because of this, I now have the best fitting corset I’ve ever had with better shape than I think I’ve ever had!

Here it is laid out “flat” and looking pretty:

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Here’s the inside:

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While I don’t know how historically accurate the binding of the seam allowance edges is, I really like how clean-looking it makes the insides.

A detail of the stitching at the front hip piece/flange:

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The upper and lower edges are bound with ivory duchess silk satin (using scraps long leftover from my old days working in a custom bridal shop).

A detail of the bust gussets on one side – and the little silk ribbon bow!:

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a detail of one of the back hip gussets:

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Here’s me playing Victorian underwear model:

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I love the shape this gives me!

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It may not be absolutely perfect, but it’s much better than anything I’ve had before. I think this is largely due to my hips finally having enough room, thus accentuating the waist-to-hip ratio.

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Along the back is the one area I’m reconsidering. The laces are not what’s causing the little bit of buckling at the back waist (btw, eventually I’m going to add a hook to the lower front to hook the lacing onto rather than tucking it around the corset itself, which I’m sure if a very naughty thing to be doing), the corset just does that. Looks like my caboose is curvy enough to need a little extra boning back there to smooth out the line.

I’m contemplating adding one or two extra bones down the full length, possibly one on either side of the hip gusset. If anyone has any suggestions/advice on this I’d be very appreciative!

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As you can see here, the effect shows most from the front & back, I actually look a little thicker than normal from the side, but that’s how these work. This was the same with most women historically.

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Look, I found I have a matching teacup! ‘Cause I’m a crazy teacup lady!

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A perfect pairing, I think.

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And here’s me realizing the cup’s shape is slightly reminiscent of the corset’s. I love that!

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And I couldn’t resist trying a Victorian pin-up pose! ;o)

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On a related note, I read this great post earlier today by Cathy Hay that helps bust several corset myths (pun intended, haha), check it out!

Late 1880s Winter Ensemble

***WARNING***Image-Heavy Post – I really love this outfit!!!!***

This was a very spur of the moment make. Only a couple of weeks before Christmas I decided to make it all of a sudden one afternoon to wear out for a holiday dinner with the same co-conspirators friends as the Victorian picnic summer before last. I could have worn my Autumn 1880s ensemble, and planned to do so. But all of a sudden in the afternoon one week before our intended dinner I was struck with inspiration for a new ensemble specifically for winter and vaguely Christmas-y. Within the space of a few hours I had the fabric and design picked out. I don’t know when I’ve ever gotten a sizable project sorted so quickly!

I got most of it done in a week, but ultimately our dinner was postponed until after Christmas. That gave me time to finish it properly, make the hat, and add an extra piece!

In case you missed my year-end round-up post, I won’t keep you in suspense, here it is:

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I used a combination of Truly Victorian patterns and ones from Frances Grimble’s book Bustle Fashions 1885-1887. The foundation garments are a chemise I made from a Simplicity pattern, the TV101 Petticoat with wire bustle and my new corset (to be blogged about soon!).

I made the underskirt from the back piece of TV290 1889 Draped Skirt, which I already happened to have on-hand:

1889 Draped Skirt

And the front gores of TV 121 1879 Petticoat (now discontinued and replaced with TV125). Since I knew I wanted an overskirt, I wanted the underskirt’s front to be narrow and smooth.

From the Frances Grimble book I used this overskirt pattern:

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I modified it a little making the front points and back panel longer. Proportionally, the front points look the same length on me as in the illustration, but when I enlarged the pattern they were quite a bit shorter on me. I lengthened the back panel because a) I had enough fabric to do so; and b) I wanted more to play with for draping – although I think I may revisit the way I’ve bustled/draped the back.

And this Street Jacket bodice pattern:

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Really the only alterations I made to this were for size.

The red and green fabrics were both great finds, but one was more stupendous than the other. The green is a lightweight wool suiting I got for $4/m at Fabricland back in the fall – great buy!

The red was a score of a lifetime! It’s wool satin. Yes. Not super common, but yes it’s a real thing. If you can find it, it normally retails for at least $50/yd (not the most extravagant cost, but its rarity adds to its preciousness. Precioussssssss). A year or so ago I found nearly 6m of it at the Value Village near my parents’ house. It was $7 for the whole piece. I could. not. believe. my. luck. Despite the fact there was recurrent moth damage throughout the piece, there was enough of it that I knew I could do something with it. And you don’t pass up a find of wool satin like that just because it’s been munched on a little!

I had initially intended it for an everyday winter coat for myself. However, when I decided to do this project I knew it was THE perfect fabric to use. Such a luxuriously historically accurate fabric doesn’t come around (to me) that often, it deserved to be something really special.

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The black trim was another great thrift store find. It was a full spool of probably 30m-40m (I used almost 20m in total on this project and still have lots left) and was something like $2 for the whole shebang. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I’m pretty sure it’s vintage something and it has an astrakhan-like appearance while in no way being real astrakhan.

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The black buttons are self-cover buttons I made with some scraps of black cotton velvet I’d been hording. Hehe, justification for hording sewing bits!

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The muff is the same one I made last year for going to the Regency Ball.

(The photo below is my current fb profile picture, just for fun)

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The fur hat is made from more of the leftovers the muff is made from. So much thrifted and scrap materials went into this, and I love that!

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The snowy landscape is courtesy of a typical Canadian winter ;oP

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Clearly, I need to learn how to style wigs. I hope Kendra comes out with a 19th century/Victorian wig book one of these days!

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Yeah, that back bustling of the overskirt is a little “blah”. I’ll have to play around with it sometime to make it more interesting.

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Looks good from the side, though:

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This photo was taken a while into our “shoot” when I realized I’d been partially standing in my husband’s shadow the whole time thus far.

I think of this one as “hey, what’s that crawling up me?”

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And “Ohhh…..that’s what.”

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Because making the outfit wasn’t enough and I had some red wool satin left-over (and didn’t want awkwardly-sized pieces of this left since I wouldn’t know what to do with it but wouldn’t be able to just get rid of it either) I decided to make a matching dolman! I had initially thought to wear my Autumn dolman with this ensemble as I thought the colours would be close enough, but I just couldn’t resist making an actual matching one – not when I had the perfect fabrics!

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I used the Ladies’ Visite pattern, from the same Frances Grimble book as the outerskirt and bodice:

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This one I actually shorted some at the front. As drafted/enlarged it would have been down to my knees and I don’t think that would have looked so good.

I didn’t have enough wool satin for the whole thing, so got clever and used this paisley cotton jacquard from stash for the sleeves and collar – and a snazzy little applique on the back.

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Although it’s perfectly wearable I’m calling it not 100% finished. I want to add one or two more hook & eye sets to close it up a little farther down; and I feel like it needs a little more visual interest on the front. In consultation with my friend, Sarah, I think I’ll continue the black trim around the base of the collar and also add black velvet-covered buttons with cord loops down the front. What do you think?

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The dolman is lined with more stash materials: wool batting left over from my 18th century quilted petticoat (I’m starting to feel like I want to make another one of those…..that’s probably crazy, but…), machine quilted with some black silk habotai. It’s very cozy!

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So now I have only a few little scraps of wool satin left – maybe they’ll end up as buttons on something else some day!

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Have I mentioned how much I love this outfit? ;o)

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Natural Form Foundations

For the last couple of years I’ve become increasingly interested in the Natural Form period of fashion. If you’re unfamiliar with this transitional style of Victorian fashion you can check out my hodge-podge pinterest board on it to get an idea. I’ve been getting more interested in various transitional fashions, really, such 1790s and 1820s. With Natural Form I feel really drawn to the sumptuous use and cleverness of the fabric trims, the svelte contours of the figure, the sweeping trains. The more I’ve looked into it, the more I’ve noticed that Natural Form can actually be divided into two phases of approx. 1876-1879 and 1880-1882/3.

Just for fun, here’s an example of 1876 Natural Form:

May fashions, 1876 France, Journal des Demoiselles et Petit Courrier des Dames Réunis

And here’s 1880:

Victorian Fashion Plate 1880.

At the moment, I’m feeling more into the first phase of the aesthetic – loving all that asymmetrical drapery, knots and volume in the skirts! Yum!

Since making Tree last year, I’ve also gotten really enthusiastic about structured foundations so contrary to how it usually goes I was actually eager to build these pieces before starting on any pretty pretty dresses (but, oh, what I have planned!). These didn’t all happen at once, I made them between September and November 2014, with the chemise being finished early-mid January. I also made a new corset, but I think that deserves its own post!

A big shout-out goes to Jen Thompson of Festive Attyre for inspiring several of these pieces, and thus consequently the full set. She made a hip pad, hooped petticoat and flounced train to go under her Natural Form ballgown a year and bit ago. She presented comparison photos of the great difference the underpinnings made to the look of her dress, convincing me that if I wanted to start down the Natural Form rabbit hole I needed these first! Check out her great post here.

The first piece I’m showing, the chemise, is the most recently completed. I had started it first but it didn’t go well, so I left it for a while and came back to it this month for the first Historical Sew Monthly 2015 challenge, which is foundations.

It’s made using this pattern in Frances Grimble’s book, Fashions of the Gilded Age, Vol 1:

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It’s made from this beautifully light and floaty cotton voile that I initially intended for a late 18th century fichu/handkerchief. That was some years ago, so it wasn’t a big wrench to change my mind and I love having so light and non-bulky under my corset!

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While it is finished, I’m not totally done with it. I’ve decided to change the lace trimming around neck and arms. I’m waiting on some vintage insertion lace to arrive that I’m going to sew to the chemise edges instead, and add the lace on it now to the edge of the insertion lace instead.

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I was quite proud of my 1/8″ French seams!

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Next up are the drawers – also from Fashions of the Gilded Age:

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And yes – they’re split! And I can personally attest that once you go split drawers you won’t go back!

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They’re made out of white cotton from an obliging Value Village-sourced bed sheet.

My favourite part of these are the two vintage/antique cloth-covered buttons from my button stash that I used for fastening at the side.

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I made a new petticoat specifically for the period too using TV121 (now discontinued, replaced by TV125

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For this I used white cotton pillow-ticking. I wanted something fairly lightweight but still crisp, which ticking’s tight weave amply provides.

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The petticoat itself is full length with the bottom flounce applied to it. While I really like the extra bit of body and substance this provides, the hem is forever getting caught up underneath when I put it on.

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Underneath the petticoat are two nifty types of support!

First is the hoopskirt, again from Fashions of the Gilded Age (this has been a very helpful book!)

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This was the piece that kind of inspired the whole lot of these underpinnings. I thought it was just fascinating when I saw Jen Thompson’s version!

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Mine is made from white cotton twill canvas that I had in my stash. The adjustable straps and the waistband are cotton twill tape, doubled up. Those are safety pins you see below the buckles. The buckles I got aren’t quite toothy enough to hold the straps when you start adding layers over top of the petticoat so until I address that the safety pins keep everything in place. I’m not too bothered by it at the moment, still just too excited about making this!

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In addition to also leaving off the front vents I followed Jen’s example by making the inner panel lace-up so it can be more adjustable.

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One note about the placement of that panel – if you ever decide to make one of these you may want to situate more forward than the pattern indicates. The way I read the pattern (possibly incorrectly) is that the panel should be placed at the first set of seams beside centre back. I did this initially and found it didn’t give the right shape. I removed it, then decided to split it in half and have it lace-up, and moved it to the next set of seams. This did the trick!

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The second support is a small bustle pad – which I think is the cutest piece of the bunch!

I didn’t use a pattern for this one, but took inspiration from these two original examples:

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This one is at the MET

English Bustles, 1875-1885 - Fashioning Fashion - LACMA From the exhibition "Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700-1915" at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. On view from October 2, 2010 - March 6, 2011.  (Image source Wikipedia)

My reference here is the one on the far left. These are at LACMA.

My primary reference was the first one, but with fewer tiers and less controlled box pleats similar to the second one.

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This doesn’t add a lot at the rear, just that extra little bit you need for the Natural Form silhouette.

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The base is more white cotton sheet a la Valoo Villahge, the ruffles are hair canvas (the kind typically used in tailoring), the binding is vintage cotton bias binding and the ties are narrow cotton twill tape. I really love this thing and do a little squee every time look at it! lol

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The final, and prettiest, component is the ruffled train, also from Fashions of the Gilded Age:

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SO MUCH RUFFLES!

Ahem. It’s made from more of the white cotton pillow ticking that I used for the petticoat – to which it is also mounted.

To be honest, if I were to do this again I wouldn’t use the ticking for the ruffles. While it’s perfect for the base, using it for the ruffles makes it rather heavy and I fear it causes more drag than is ideal. I’d use cotton voile or lawn instead. This one is still definitely useful (and beautiful!) but will work best under the really narrow skirts of 1880-1882 than the fuller ones of 1876-1879.

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I used some scraps of the cotton sheet to bind the edges (all the rest of the ticking was used up on ruffles!) and added buttons to the sides of the petticoat and thread loops to the train to keep it in place. I think I’ll add one or two sets more for added stability and security. The buttons also need to be replaced with shell ones.

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I added four shell buttons to the back of the petticoat at the waist and corresponding thread loops to the train’s upper edge

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So here’s the whole shebang put together. It’s not a dramatic look, but will really give a sense of substance underneath my upcoming Natural Form dresses (one of which is currently in the works!)

I’ll try to get a picture of my in all of it as part of my corset post.

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How do you feel about making foundation garments (historical or modern)? Love ’em? Hate ’em and can’t wait to get to the good stuff?