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18th Century Half-Boned Stays (Part 3)

I took a break from my 18th century half-boned stays to work on my silk plaid Dickens dress, but I recently attended a sewing party where I made some more progress on the stays.

I put in the horizontal bones, and most of the long vertical bones, and the stays are starting to take shape!

IMG_3604However, I am going to have to make a modification to the boning in the tabs. The JP Ryan pattern has a lot of the vertical boning channels along seams, which is quite handy, but when they get to the tabs there is no room for binding. I will shorten the boning and sew additional short channels.

IMG_3605Some parts of the pattern already have shorter channels for boning in the tabs, but they are still on the edge. I have added an additional row of stitching nearby to move the boning channel. The white pin shows the original stitch line, and the red pin shows the one I added.

IMG_3610To give you an idea, here are some hasty crooked red pen markings on my pattern pieces:   IMG_3611See parts 1 and 2.

Happy New Year! (and New Dress Form!)

Happy New Year everyone!

This morning the Fedex truck rolled up to my house with a present from my husband: a new dress form! I had been telling him that I was looking for a proper dress form. What I’ve been using for a while, bought years ago when I didn’t know any better, was advertised as a “dress form,” but was really a plastic mannequin with a lightly padded cover. I had to slide pins in sideways, and it did not squish like a real body. The boobs were very hard, and in an odd place. The mannequin was useful for hemming, and as a starting point for mock-ups, but I had to do a lot of fitting on myself.

Since I’ve gotten more serious about historical costuming and having underpinnings, I wanted a dress form that I could pad up, then squish down with a corset, or even maybe put bean bag boobs on. To accomplish that I needed to find a very small mannequin – smaller than me. I had looked at child-sized ones because they were flat-chested, but they were too short. I told my husband that it can be hard to find a size 0 adult dress form, but I was considering one I found on Amazon. Isn’t it nice when husbands listen, even when they’re saying they don’t know what you’re talking about?

Here she is! She’s fully-pinnable, with magnetic removable shoulders and a very heavy wheeled base. My old one was on a wooden tripod and not too stable.

IMG_3547She’s got a butt, instead of a mysterious smooth cliff.

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I like that there are visible seams in the linen cover, which will help me keep things straight.

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She’s quite an improvement over what I had before and I’m glad I get to start the new year with a nice new dress form!

Past Patterns 702 (Dart Fitted Bodices) Review

I made my 1850s gown using Past Patterns 702 (Dart Fitted Bodices). I found some good reviews online, especially about the ease of construction, so I decided to give it a try. Although it was a useful starting point, and there are other nice things about the pattern, it is not a pattern I would recommend if you are small-busted and long-waisted.

CONSTRUCTION

Pro: There are not a lot of pieces, so construction is not difficult. The pattern is relatively simple, and consists of pieces for the bodice front, bodice back, side back, your choice of a pagoda or coat sleeve, and an optional epaulet. There is also an undersleeve pattern if you make the pagoda sleeve.

Con: Because of the pattern encompasses sizes 8-26, and appears to be scaled by computer and not hand-drafted, some of the pieces don’t quite fit together. Here are the pattern pieces for the bodice back and bodice side back, compared to the lining for the back:

IMG_2997FIT

Pro: The fitting is done at the shoulders and side seams. The pattern suggests cutting out your lining as a mock-up, then having a friend help you fit it. When you sew your fashion fabric you finish the front closures before taking in the side seams to fit yourself. If it works, it’s very simple.

Con: To employ this technique, you must have a friend help you, or a dress form with shoulders (because of the historically accurate dropped shoulder), or keep putting the bodice on and taking it off.

Con: The lining for the back of the bodice is one larger piece encompassing both the bodice back and side pieces. There is no explanation on how to translate the adjustment you made on one pattern piece into two pattern pieces.

Con: The size chart is inaccurate and the pattern is too large. According to the pattern I am between a size 10 and 12. The size 10 was too large for me. Even when I recut the pieces to size 8, it was still too big.

Con: There was a huge excess of fabric in the chest and shoulder area. Since I have a small bust I am used to taking in patterns a bit, but usually not as much as I needed to this time.  I realized that this pattern is designed to fit someone with enough assets to spill over the top of her corset, and slightly broader shoulders. In the end, to make this fit I had to not only drastically alter the front bodice piece, and a little of the shoulder seam in the back bodice piece, but I had to also stuff my corset with bust pads when wearing the dress. This photo shows my fabric on top of the size 8 pattern (but with the size 12 seam lines at the bottom because otherwise it would have been too short in the front). I also had to move the darts a little bit. (My final pattern still had 2 darts, but I did not cut out the second one).

IMG_2999Con: I am not sure how much of the problem stems from my adjustments, or if this is an issue you would encounter even without such a change, but my sleeves did not fit into the sleeve heads. I had to gather the sleeve to make it fit, and did not have the smooth transition I was expecting.

If you have the ideal Victorian figure, and can fill out a corset, I think this pattern would be quite flatting and easy to put together. If you are on the petite side, it would be easier to find another pattern that does require quite so much adjustment.

1850s Plaid Silk Dress at Dickens

Last Saturday I went to the Dickens Christmas Fair wearing my new 1850s plaid silk dress.

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The bonnet is one I trimmed during a previous year, and I am wearing Tavistock button boots from American Duchess. I am standing in front of Cuthbert’s Tea Shop at the Fair.

I would like to make a matching blue belt for the next wearing. I also didn’t have time to make some new silk undersleeves, so I made do with the sleeves of a frilly blouse peeking out. I’m also thinking of trimming the skirt in the same manner as the sleeves, but perhaps I shouldn’t get too carried away.

The dress is made from a plaid silk dupioni. The bodice is flat-lined with a cotton canvas, and closes with hooks and eyes. The covered fabric buttons are decorative only.

DSCN1383The skirt hem has a circumference of 136 inches, and the skirt is made up of 3 straight panels. I originally planned a skirt circumference of about 150 inches, but after I cut the panels out I realized the blue stripes were not a uniform width, so changed my plan to have the blue stripes go vertically instead of horizontally.

The collar is lace I found on eBay.

DSCN1376The sleeves are a pagoda shape, and lined with ivory silk taffeta left over from my 1830s Romantic dress. They are trimmed with ribbon I had to hand-pleat as I sewed, to make them follow the curve I had chalked out on the fabric.

DSCN1381Originally, I planned to knife-pleat the skirt to save time, but I caught a cold and stayed home from work for 2 days, and cartridge-pleated while watching Netflix. It was my first time doing cartridge pleats, and although time-consuming, I do like the effect, even though I think I should make them a little tighter next time.

DSCN1385I received some advice on my last post to cut the side back panels on the bias, since I was having a little trouble with perfectly matching the plaid along the curved seams, so I changed the bodice.

DSCN1388A few of the things I liked about this dress are things you can’t see, precisely because you can’t see them. The skirt is unlined, except for a self hem-facing of about 10 inches that is hand-sewn. Can you see the horizontal stitch line? (Sorry, I didn’t take photos before wearing at Dickens Fair, and the car ride has rumpled the skirt quite a bit).

DSCN1391I hid a pocket in each side seam, and I had a lot of trouble finding my pockets throughout the day. Let’s play find the pocket.

DSCN1393In the past, I’ve added the skirt placket near the end of construction, but this time I followed Jennifer R’s instructions on how to put in the placket before you even sew your skirt panels together, and I think it came out much neater.

Overall I am quite pleased with this outfit! There are a few tweaks I would like to make, and accessories to add (plus add a little more floof on top of my hoop) but it came out better than expected. I used Past Patterns 702 (Dart Fitted Bodices) as a pattern, and I will write a review about the pattern fit and construction in my next post.

Project Costs:

  • Fabric: 6 yards 54 inch silk: $59.98 + $13.90 shipping (I still have enough left over for an evening bodice!)
  • Pattern: $14 + $3.25 shipping
  • Lining: 1 yard cotton canvas: $12.20 + tax
  • Sleeve lining: $0 (remnants from a previous project)
  • Lace collar: $5.99
  • 3 spools ribbon: $11.30 (I still have plenty left to trim the skirt or make a belt)
  • Hooks and eyes: $3.65

Total cost: $124.27

If I didn’t pay for shipping or the excess ribbon the cost would have been around $100. Not bad for a silk dress. =)

1850s Plaid Silk Dress for Dickens Fair

My next big project was supposed to be a gown for the PEERS Game of Thrones ball in February, but I’ve been distracted by my 18th century stays and now, a new 1850s plaid silk dress for the Dickens Fair.

I wasn’t planning to make a new dress for the fair, but then I ran across some lovely plaid silk for a bargain price of $60 for 6 yards of 54 inch fabric! It is a dupioni and not a taffeta but it’s not too slubby, and the busy pattern and dim light of Dickens will make it look nice.

Here are a couple sneak peeks.

Cartridge pleats! The skirt has its waistband, placket, hooks and eyes, and pockets. It still needs to be hemmed and trimmed. This was my first time doing cartridge pleats. I was originally planning to knife-pleat the skirt for speed, but then was home sick for 2 days with a cold, so what else can one do when Netflix is playing?

IMG_3017The pagoda sleeves are trimmed with satin ribbon.

IMG_3021The bodice is in progress. I still need to iron flat the seams, put in darts and closures, and do a lot of finishing. Matching curved plaid that isn’t symmetrical is driving me nuts! One part of a seam will match, and another not.

IMG_3022I had to pretty much redraft the pattern I’m using (Past Patterns 702), which was not designed for someone with my shape, but I will make a more detailed review in another post.

18th Century Half-Boned Stays (Part 2)

I’ve sewn together the silk cover and canvas interlining. Most of the boning channels are stitched, although the last two channels next to where the eyelets will be in the back are going to wait until I have a fitting.

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Since contrast stitching was popular with stays I decided to go with blue thread, and later I will have blue binding to finish the edges. To save time I did machine stitching, but if I have the opportunity to make another pair of stays I would prefer to do hand-sewing or not do contrast stitching. The colored thread make the areas where I had to backstitch on the machine much more obvious, such as the short horizontal boning channels. It’s also harder to control exactly where the stitches end on a sewing machine, and there were places where I had to rip out stitches because I wasn’t entirely happy with the placement. Oh well, lesson learned! Still, for a first try at stays I’m satisfied with how it’s turning out.

The remaining steps are determining the placement of the eyelets and final channels, boning with reed, attaching the lining, slashing the tabs, and then binding all the edges.

18th Century Half-Boned Stays (Part 1)

I have decided to make some 18th century stays, in preparation for making a chemise a la reine for April 2015, as part of the same group that have been 1830s Romantics and Gibson Girls!

I am using JP Ryan’s Half-Boned Stays pattern, and planning to bone with reed cane, both of which I purchased from Wm. Booth Draper.

stays0Currently I am past the mock-up phase and have cut out my pieces, and I’m getting ready to start sewing today (unless Costume ADD strikes! I admit I have been spending a lot of time online, looking at pictures of plaid dresses).

I have heard of people making mock-ups out of cardboard, which seemed like a nifty way to save fabric and avoid boning a mockup since the cardboard was so stiff. Plus taping is much easier than sewing, right?

It was a good experiment, but it didn’t work out too well for me. I did learn a few things though for the future, although I doubt I will be repeating this:

1. Don’t use masking tape. Try duct tape; it’ll hold better.

2. Don’t use super stiff cardboard. It won’t bend to fit you, even if you have a boyish figure.

3. Use cardboard pieces large enough that you can cut the pattern pieces out with the corrugated channels in the same direction as your boning.

4. Since you are taping, not sewing, don’t forget to take out the seam allowances in the pattern when cutting out the cardboard. I ended up having to cut the pieces down a bit, which negated some of the time savings I was counting on.

Here are my cardboard stays:

stays1I couldn’t get it to conform to my body well enough to be a proper mock-up, but it did give me enough of an idea that I felt comfortable cutting out the lining and putting it together like a second mock-up.

stays2The lining is made of linen scraps left over from my 1920s Daisy Dress.

I’ve cut out the interlining, which is white cotton duck, and the cover fabric, which is a cream-colored silk taffeta. The silk is thicker and stiffer than your usual taffeta, and was a remnant, so I decided it was perfect for this project. Here are a few pieces waiting to be sewn:

stays3This is my first foray into stays and corsetry. Wish me luck!

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