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2016 Costuming Year in Review

Looking back, 2016 was a fun and productive year full of costuming adventures!

Our fabulous 1940s Star Trek groupIMG_8018My 1940s Star Trek dress (one of my favorites from this past year!)IMG_7949

1920s Egyptian Revival dress and Poiret cocoon coatIMG_7051Robe à l’Anglaise retroussée18th century elegance by Andy Schmidt

Lady Tremaine (my biggest project of the year!)IMG_88531950s vintage dressIMG_89481830s flashbackIMG_93081930s vintage dress at the Gatsby Picnicimage1950s skirt

Royal lolita coordinateimg_9740Indian salwar kameezimage1950s Black Swan ballgownimage1840s flashbackimg_0538Tudor kirtle and smockimg_0729Giraffe dress and elephant PJS

And finally, a preview of a 1950svdress I made but haven’t decided if it is finished. (I may make a matching belt).IMG_0701.JPG

Happy New Year!

A Giraffe Dress and Elephant PJs Using Fabrics from Tanzania

Earlier this year my friend Kim visited Tanzania and brought me back some great African fabric as a special gift.

I used this vibrant giraffe print to make myself a long dress for summer. It’s opaque enough that I was able to skip a lining, making it a perfect cotton dress for warmer weather.img_0713

I cut it out a few months ago but only recently finished because I got distracted by the Tudor kirtle.img_0714

I think it looks like the giraffes are having a chat and perhaps giving a little side-eye.img_0715

I used Vogue 8789 for the pattern, and just extended the length of the skirt to use up the width of the fabric. (You may recognize the bodice as being the same shape as my Black Swan 1950s  Ball Gown). The dress used 3 meters of fabric.img_0716

The other fabric I received from Kim was a kanga. (You can read about them and how they are used on KangaUSA). This elephant kanga is printed with the phrase “Wanyama ndiyo urithi wetu tuwatunza,” which is Swahili for “Animals are our inheritance, we should protect them.”IMG_9037.JPG

Because of the shape of the fabric and the way the print is formatted I had to think about how to cut the fabric, but realized that pajama bottoms are a great way to use a rectangular print.img_9038

The pattern is Butterick 6837, which I’ve used a number of times in the past to make PJs for myself and my family. If you have a serger and put in an elastic waistband you can make PJ pants in about an hour with enough practice.IMG_9040.JPG

I was able to use up the kanga with very little fabric wasted. Because of my height I had to piece a little fabric at the top to make it long enough, but a shorter person could skip this step. This project was so quick it was my first sewing project right after attending Costume College in August, when I wanted something easy.

I’m still working on my last project of 2016, but Happy New Year!

Tudor Kirtle (Part 3): Kirtle and Smock

Tudor Kirtle (Part 3): Kirtle and Smock

I finally had some sun and a weekend at home to take some pictures. I had 4 garments that were finished and not photographed, including this kirtle and smock. I made the kirtle earlier in the year for a faire I ended up not being able to attend, so I don’t have any pictures of it worn yet.img_0729

The kirtle is made of a blue worsted wool and lined with a linen-blend, which was also used to make the smock. Both garments are made with patterns from the Tudor Tailor.img_0731

The kirtle has spiral lacing on both sides. I chose to have the openings on the side to increase the versatility of the kirtle. I can wear it as-is, or with other clothing over it.img_0734

The back has a rounded neckline.img_0739

Parts 1 and 2 discuss my construction details.

The smock is rather straight-forward, and is really a series of rectangles of varying sizes. Most of the time was spent on the collar and cuffs, so if you wanted a plain one the sewing would go very quickly.

Final project costs:

  • 4 meters blue worsted wool: $104.88 from Aliexpress. (I probably could have made this out of 3 meters, but bought 4 to be safe. I still have plenty to make sleeves).
  • 6 yards Kaufman handkerchief linen/cotton: $45.17 with tax from Fabric.com. (I used this for the smock and lining, and have enough left over for a 18th century chemise).
  • 10 yards linen tape: $10.40 including tax from Britex Fabrics.

Total: $160.45

This is a bit more than my usual projects, but wool is not cheap (even though I felt I got a decent deal on the fabric), and I have plenty of materials left over for other projects.

I would like to make a pair of sleeves and a partlet to wear with it. I already own a few other accessories, such as a straw hat, my gorgeous American Duchess Stratfords (affiliate link),  and a beautiful blackwork coif commissioned from Romantic Recollections!img_0744screen-shot-2016-12-26-at-3-21-45-pm

Tudor Kirtle (Part 2): The Skirt

Part one, learning from my bodice mistakes, is here. This post is about what I learned while making the skirt the wrong way.

After cutting out the skirt panels, which are really just two large rectangles, one for the front and one for the back, I folded the tops over, stitched them, and then folded them over again to enclose all raw edges. (Have you figured out yet what I did wrong?) Then I pleated them and stitched the top of the pleats in place. (Each long edge of each panel was folded in once because it was the selvage).img_9245

The panels were stitched together at the sides, leaving room for pocket slits. Then the pleated edge of the skirt was sewn to the bottom edge of the bodice, right sides together. (Here my sewing got very sloppy because I was making the kirtle last minute for an event). This is what the interior of the kirtle looked like:fullsizeoutput_c7

Remember from part one how I realized the worsted wool was too fine for boning, and the reed showed through? Since I had folded the tops of the pleats over twice, the extra bulk showed through on the other side! It wasn’t obvious when the skirt was on a hanger, but once I put it on my stomach pushed the pleats outward, causing a visible line on the outside where I did not want it.

I realized at that point that what I should have done was pleat the skirt panels, attach them to the bodice, then finish sewing the bodice lining over the pleats to enclose the raw edges.

I was too lazy to take it all apart due to all the hand-sewing involved, so I ended up having to unfold part of the pleats and trim off the stitched edge with scissors. Here is the inside again:img_0618

I should still trim the raw edge with pinking shears to prevent fraying, but now there is not a bulky line that shows when worn!fullsizeoutput_c8

Then when hemming I made the mistake of just folding up the bottom a certain number of inches and stitching without pinning and putting it on before sewing because I was in a hurry and thought I had cut things pretty evenly.

Yeah, it wasn’t that even, and wool stretches. So, after my event got rained out and I couldn’t go, I put the kirtle on and had some friends help me look it over so I could re-hem it evenly.

The kirtle is now done, but I have been waiting for a sunny day to take pictures, since I haven’t had a chance to wear it out. All the pictures in this post were taken indoors, some at night, and you can see it made the wool seem like four different colors!

To wear under the kirtle, I made a smock using a pattern from the Tudor Tailor book I bought on Amazon (affiliate link). It is also awaiting proper photos. Meanwhile, here is a teaser picture!img_9824

Tudor Kirtle (Part 1): The Bodice

Near the end of the summer I started on a wool Tudor kirtle to wear for a last minute outing to a Faire. I was so busy sewing that I didn’t blog about the process along the way, but took photos so future me wouldn’t have to repeat the sad mistakes of past me.

I am using patterns from The Tudor Tailor by Ninya Mikhaila and Jane Malcom-Davies to make the wool kirtle and the linen smock. It’s a great book with clear diagrams and historically accurate patterns. (You will have to know some basic drafting and how to scale things to yourself. I lucked out and am close to the measurements of the person the patterns are based on). I bought my copy of the Tudor Tailor on Amazon (affiliate link).

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This is the example shown in the book, which is back-lacing. (Mine is side-lacing). More variations on lacing, the shape of the neckline, and sleeves are in the book.5cc1d9067bfceb1a0f1b358f1769eb49

My kirtle bodice is made of a layer of blue worsted wool, a cotton canvas interfacing, and a linen/cotton blend lining. At first I thought it would be a good idea to put in a little bit of reed boning down the front for structure. I was wrong.(Here are the wool and canvas layers before being sewn together).img_9111

First, boning is not actually needed. Upper class clothing of the era could be highly structured, but the middle class look I am going for has a softer silhouette, and in some period portraits you can see the creases in the front of the bodice. Second, I was using a fine worsted wool, which is not very thick, and you could see the lines of the reed on the outside.img_9112

I took out the reed and pinned the canvas to the worsted wool, folding the extra fabric of the wool over the canvas.img_9113

After stitching those together by hand to keep the stitches from showing on the outside of the garment, I put the lining over the canvas and stitched that by hand as well.img_9199

Before I began I thought, “Hey kirtles have an easy shape, it shouldn’t take too long!” I sadly underestimated the amount of hand-sewing required if you are particular about having your stitches show.

Here is the outside when finished. (It looks a little wrinkly on the table, but it’s because it’s not actually flat, and should be slightly curved to fit a human body). The left side is the front, and the right side is the back. I made a slight point in the front bodice, but it can be cut to be curved or straight across.img_9122

I made this bodice to lace on both sides, so I put eyelets on each edge of the front and back pieces. My usual technique is to use metal eyelets that are then bound with matching thread.This gives me a guide to keep them even.IMG_9860.JPG

Next up, skirt successes and fails!

1840s Fan Front Dresses at the Dickens Fair – and Twins!

Last weekend I went to the Dickens Christmas Fair and wore my 1840s fan-front dress, along with a few other friends wearing the same style. One of my friends had the same orange and navy fabric that we purchased independently by coincidence, so we had a good time being twins!img_0498

I made this dress last year so you can read about my construction details on a previous post. I am wearing a bonnet by Lynne Taylor, a shawl from eBay, and ivory silk stockings and Tavistock button boots from American Duchess.img_0538img_0535

Our “backstory” for that day at fair was that Elizabeth had consumption (hence the dark eye make up). As her dear devoted sister I made her many nutritious broths and teas, which tasted like almonds.img_0509

She spent a lot of time coughing while the rest of us enjoyed ourselves!img_0502

I love this cotton print very much, and I think the orange bows that Elizabeth surprised me with were a nice touch this time.img_0507

Black Swan 1950s Ball Gown at the Vampire Ball

Last weekend was the annual Vampire Ball hosted by PEERS. I wore a dress I made from a 1950s pattern that I am calling my “black swan” ball gown because the many organza ruffles remind me of a tutu.image

The skirt of my gown had what seemed like miles of organza ruffles. I was able to save a lot of labor by using fabric that already came pre-ruffled. I thought that the strips of ruffles all ran parallel to each other, but actually change direction every few rows. It made the fabric a little harder to sew, but probably added more visual interest. It was certainly very fluffy! (I had many people asking to pet my skirt).image

The bodice was made using Vogue 8789. I highly recommend this pattern for its flattering shape and ease of construction. The facings for the neckline are cut as part of the bodice pieces, and folded inside and tacked. (I’m used to sewing and wearing historical garments that have more boning and structure up top, so this seemed to go together extremely quickly). The Vogue pattern has a short skirt and is meant for daywear, but I was able to adapt it to an evening gown by making the skirt longer and fuller.  I felt very elegant in this dress; I think my friend Kim captured my mood perfectly in the photo below.image

The sash was made of red stretch taffeta, tied into a large bow in the back. The front was accented by a rhinestone pin from my costume jewelry stash.image

Black dresses are always hard to photograph, so here’s a lightened close-up of the fabric:image

You can’t see my shoes but I was wearing my American Duchess tango boots to give me some extra height as I socialized with the undead.

Project costs:

Total: $109.64

I want to thank Fabric Wholesale Direct for providing all the fabric for this project! The ruffle organza was a very cool fabric and definitely turned heads!  It was also my first time using one-way stretch taffeta, and I found it to have a nice body and opacity, and be very easy to work with.

You can read my tutorial for this dress posted on the FWD site!

Update 12/8/16: Here is a photo courtesy of the talented John Carey, of me sitting on the downstairs steps in my ballgown!vampire-ball-by-john-carey-photographic-imagery