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1830s Dresses at the Romantics Picnic

This past weekend the Greater Bay Area Costumer’s Guild held an 1830s-themed picnic, and I finally got to wear the 1830s cotton day dress I made a few months ago. Before the picnic I got dressed and took a few photos at a friend’s house.IMG_8621

I reused some accessories (like the bonnet and pelerine) from my 1830s silk dress ensemble, paired with a new moire ribbon belt and carved shell buckle. IMG_8618.JPG

Thank you to my friend Kaila who helped me get dressed, and wore a lovely silk gown that day.IMG_8609.JPG

Also joining us was Mena who had the most epic frilled cap!IMG_8622.JPG

The picnic was at Ardenwood Farms and it was a lovely day with a good turnout of wonderful costumes! I was impressed by how many people embraced the silly hair and giant sleeves of the 1830s. (The following group photos are all by Lori Clayton, used with permission). IMG_8431jkl

There were lots of charming ensembles in a variety of colors.IMG_8449IMG_8442IMG_8437

There were also a few gentleman in attendance (not all pictured).IMG_8399

And some of us got sassy showing off our corded petticoats.IMG_8441

The picnic spread was delicious.IMG_8634.JPG

Overall I had a lovely day out with friends! (Photo below by Sara of La Dauphine).from Sara McKee.jpg

The rest of my photos can be found on my Flickr album. IMG_8627

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Edwardian Dress at the Monet Exhibit at the de Young Museum (Plus Butterick B6229 Pattern Hack)

Last weekend my local costume guild organized an outing to see an exhibit of Monet paintings at the de Young Museum in San Francisco and I wore a dress made of blue cotton sateen and antique lace.IMG_7850

I had to take photos looking upwards because my broad-brimmed hat created shadows on my face, and I was also trying to hide a splint on my hand, so sorry about the weird poses! It was a bit cold that morning so I wore an antique Edwardian blouse underneath my dress as a guimpe.IMG_7818

I needed a quick and simple dress so I used Butterick B6229, with modifications. I picked that pattern because I was already familiar with it after using it for my Downton Abbey maid costume, and knew it fit.IMG_8004

This is what the pattern looks like before I hacked it.IMG_7539

The 4 main changes I made to the pattern for this dress:

  • I changed the dress from front-opening to back-opening. The front button closures were turned into back hook/bar closures. (Cut the front bodice piece as one piece instead of two, and cut the back bodice piece as two instead of one. Do the same for the skirt panels).
  • The sleeves were shortened. (I cut them off a little below the elbow and turned the edges inside the sleeve. You don’t need to cut the cuff pattern pieces).
  • I cut a square neckline and omitted the standing collar. (I pinned the lace collar and strudel panel on the unfinished dress while it was on a dress form and marked where to cut the neckline).
  • Instead of having the belt go completely around my waist it does not cover the center lace panel. (I shortened the belt and based on my waist measurement minus the lace panel plus seam allowance).

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I am calling this my Strudel Dress because of the slits in the lace panel down the front. I bought the panel a while back and wasn’t sure what to do with it until I realized it was perfect for this dress. I had just barely enough; I literally had 1 inch of lace left over. My shoes are American Duchess Theda Edwardian shoes, aka “Skeletor,” which also have a bit of a strudel-y look to them.IMG_7560.JPG

The Supima cotton sateen I used has a lovely sheen to it, but is a bit thin and prone to wrinkling so I flat-lined all the pieces with cotton broadcloth. In retrospect I should have skipped the flat-lining for a more flowy Edwardian look, but perhaps having no flat-lining would have made the dress wrinkle even more when I sat down.IMG_8006

The dress closes in the back with hooks and bars, and the belt is sewn down on one side and attaches on the other with hooks and bars. The buttons are decorative only. (They were made with a covered button kit).IMG_8018

The collar is antique lace, picked up at the Costume College Bargain Basement.IMG_8007

The “strudel” lace is from a Costume College marketplace vendor.IMG_8008

The antique lace cuffs were a scrap piece left over from my Downton Abbey maid project, and I had just enough!IMG_8015

Dress Cost:

  • 3 yards blue Supima cotton sateen: $13.20 including tax with stacked coupons at Joann’s
  • 3 yards white cotton lining: $12 including shipping from eBay
  • Pattern: $0, already previously used
  • Lace panel: $5.50 from Costume College vendor
  • Lace collar: $1 from Costume College bargain basement
  • Lace cuffs: $0, leftover from other project
  • Lace for buttons: $0, gifted
  • Buttons, thread, hooks and bars: ~$3 from stash, bought in bulk

Total cost: ~$34.20

Woohoo, less than $35 for a dress!

My hat was made from a straw beach hat I already had and I don’t recall how much I spent on it, but they are easy to find. I hot-glued a lot of fake flowers from my stash onto the hat and filled in a few spots with assorted feathers. (Tip: buying a floral garland from the craft store is cheaper than buying individual stems).IMG_7915

Oops, I just noticed that stray thread. I admit this dress was a bit of a rush job. Aside from the closures and hemming, I made the bulk of it in a weekend using a machine and forgot to iron flat all the seams like I usually do.

There was a neat doorway in the garden where I posed for some photos.IMG_7952 copy

And here are some of the other lovely ladies that were there that day. There were many more that I forgot to capture.IMG_7855

Overall it was a lovely day!IMG_7906

1830s Cotton Day Dress

I have an 1830s-themed picnic later this year, so I made another Romantic era gown! Although I already have the plaid silk dress that I wore to the Dickens Fair, the thought of wearing silk to an outdoor summer picnic did not sound very comfortable. Instead, I decided to have a washable cotton dress in a busy print that could hide stains.IMG_6177.JPGIMG_6179.JPG

The dress is shown above without the sleeve plumpers or the petticoats properly starched, so there will be a lot more poof when I wear it! The fabric is a quilting cotton by Andover Fabrics from their Maling Road collection, shown below with one of the hidden pockets I put in the side seams.IMG_5788.JPG

Although the cotton I bought was not advertised as a reproduction print, I thought the general checkered feel of it was similar to this antique wool gown at the Victoria and Albert Museum.Dress-With-Lace-Pelerine

The cotton pleats up beautifully, as seen in my sleeves. (Since the sleeves have about a yard of fabric, deep pleats are needed to get all that fabric into the armscye. Gathering will be too bulky).IMG_6182.JPG

I have lots of details about construction, undergarments, and accessories in my post about my plaid silk gown, so I’ll just go over the things I did differently in this gown.

As before, I used the Truly Victorian TV455 1830s Romantic Era pattern to make my dress, but this time I redrafted the sleeve pattern to have a more defined difference between the upper and lower sleeve, using the Workwoman’s Guide as a reference (drawing not to scale):IMG_6428.JPG

Other changes I made to the construction (mostly to speed things up):

  • I skipped the piping because the print was so busy, and I wanted this project to be fast!
  • I used the variation of the pattern that omits the pleating at the top of the bodice because I will be outdoors and wearing a pelerine that covers the pleating anyway.
  • I did not line the sleeves this time; this reduced the bulk when pleating.
  • Rather than having an opening in the lower sleeve that closes with hooks and eyes, I just sewed the sleeve seam shut. This means that the wrist area of the sleeve is not very tightly fitted, but still looks slim enough since I have slender hands I can carefully slide in. Having the seam fully shut made construction much easier since I had no lining, and is one less thing to fuss with when dressing.
  • Last time I flat-lined my silk with an organdy interlining, then made a separate polished cotton lining. This time I skipped the lining and flat-lined my cotton print with a plain cotton interlining. Here’s a time-saving tip I posted to my Instagram stories:IMG_5757.JPG

I will be reusing the delicate cotton pelerine I made for my silk gown.IMG_6187.JPG

The yellow ribbon belt is just a placeholder; I am considering a teal or coral velvet ribbon for the sash. I also purchased a lovely carved antique abalone shell belt buckle to use with this dress. It is probably Edwardian instead of Victorian, but it has the right size and proportions.IMG_6221.JPG

I put bust pads inside the gown, which are just cotton pouches stuffed with Poly-fil. They are not really meant to make your bust bigger, but fill out the hollow near the front of your underarm. The size, shape, and placement will depend on your body.
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As you can see, the neckline is just flipped down and hand-stitched into place.

Materials:

  • 8 yards of 44″ wide quilting cotton: $66.75 including shipping from eBay
  • Pattern: $0, previously used twice!
  • Bodice lining: $0 (leftover scraps from other projects)
  • Thread, hooks and eyes, Poly-fil. ~$3 (already in stash and purchased in bulk)
  • Ribbon: TBA

Not including accessories that means the dress will be around $70-75, since I already have all the undergarments, bonnet, shoes, and pelerine!

Here’s a storage tip: I now have three 1830s gowns and I don’t want to have the sleeves crushed in my packet closet. I also didn’t want to make multiple sets of sleeve plumpers. I put a plastic bag inside each sleeve and then put Poly-fil inside the bag. That meant the enormous sleeves of my 1830s dresses could muscle my other dresses in the closet out of the way.IMG_6403

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My event is still more than 3 months away, so I won’t be posting final worn photos for a little while, but I am glad to be done! (I don’t normally finish things this far in advance, but I wanted to make this gown while my previous 1830s dress was still fresh in my mind).IMG_6189.JPG

Good Intentions Don’t Excuse Bad Behavior (Sequel to “It’s Not Necessary to Be Mean: Snark in the Costuming and Cosplay Community”)

About a year ago I wrote a blog post called “It’s Not Necessary to Be Mean: Snark in the Costuming and Cosplay Community” and was meaning to follow up with a part two post on the anniversary, before the holidays buried me. No time like the present! If you haven’t done so, please read that previous post first; it goes over some tips and general manners for both newcomers and veterans to treat themselves and each other kindly. Consider this post a slightly more advanced primer about how good intentions don’t excuse bad behavior! I hope to get people to think about what they have been doing and whether it is unintentionally unkind.

Are your “helpful” comments really helpful?

You may think you’re giving constructive criticism, but please consider carefully if it is 1) wanted by the recipient and 2) whether it could be interpreted as condescending. Here are a few comments I’ve seen that the speaker probably thought were benign or even helpful, but a newcomer or sensitive person could find very hurtful:

  • “I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to take a little extra time to look so much better by doing XYZ.”
  • “Oh yeah, I used to wear stuff like that too when I was new. You’ll learn.”
  • “I prefer to costume at a higher caliber but I guess you can do what you want.”
  • “If you care what others think you should do XYZ.”

To be clear, those can sound judgmental and are not okay to say to someone! Well, what’s okay then?

  • DO: “Do you want to know where I buy my shoes?”
  • DON’T: “Instead of boots like that, you could get accurate ones at this company.”

The first example takes into consideration what the other person wants, and gives them the option to decline. The second example assumes the other person needs and wishes to “improve” and doesn’t have health or funding issues that require them to wear certain footwear.

  • DO: “I’ve had a really good time at that particular costume event, and feel free to ask me if you have questions about going one day.”
  • DON’T: “Costume tourism is the best! You’re missing out on the most amazing experience by not doing a fully immersive week in a castle!”

The first one is a topic of conversation about one’s own experiences and is framed with an offer of help. The second makes the other person feel bad if they haven’t had the opportunity to put together a wardrobe and the financial privilege to travel.

It’s great to be helpful! But be mindful that your suggestions don’t imply that you are judging someone, or that person will be judged by others.


Don’t put yourself down.

Some of you reading this may not realize it, but there are others that look up to you. They may be brand new or established in the hobby but admire your work. Perhaps you are a friend of theirs, or someone they follow on Instagram, or write a blog they follow, but you have more influence than you know.  Many of us are our own harshest critics and may joke about our work being “trash” but others are listening. Imagine how disheartening it would be to think that something you admire and aspire to is “not good enough” for someone you see as a role model, and thus worry your role model may be judging you too. Please be kind to others by being kind to yourself first. We all start somewhere.

I understand that some people make negative comments about their own projects to avoid seeming snobby, or to keep others from making the same mistakes. There is nothing wrong with taking a compliment gracefully with a simple “Thank you.” If your goal is to be helpful, spin your self-critiques positively.

  • DO: “Oh thanks! It’s a good pattern but watch out for the fit on the collar; I found it a little tricky.”
  • DON’T: “Oh I can’t believe you like this! My collar looks horrible!”
  • DO: “I’m glad you like my cape! I was afraid it wasn’t going to turn out right because I picked a really inexpensive fur that sheds a lot.”
  • DON’T: “This cape? Ugh, it is so cheap-looking I’m putting it in the trash when I get home.”


Don’t touch people without permission.

Good intentions don’t excuse bad behavior, especially when it comes to physical contact. Wanting to compliment someone or take a closer look at their costume does not mean you can touch someone without permission. Because you are at a convention or a fellow costumer does not mean you are automatically entitled to permission. No means no!

You would think these are obvious rules, but I am listing these out because of incidents that have actually happened to me or my friends:

  • If you are allowed to touch some fabric on a person’s body, touch their arm and not their butt.
  • If you get permission to examine someone’s corsetry, do not squeeze their breast.
  • Do not approach a gentleman and try to lift his kilt.
  • If you are in a noisy area and trying to get someone’s attention, it may be appropriate to gently tap the person on the shoulder. It is definitely not appropriate to grab their wrist and pull them towards you.
  • Keep hugs (ask permission!) gentle so you don’t break anything.

Please do the following:

  • Remember to ask permission. Ask. Really, ask.
  • Ask yourself if it’s really necessary to touch a costume, prop, wig, or person to have an understanding of it.
  • Consider whether your comment is meant to make the other person feel nice about their work, or fulfill your need to get attention from them.
  • Don’t get mad when someone says no, or try to guilt them into changing their mind.
  • Don’t assume that because you saw someone else (who may be a close friend) touch a particular cosplayer that you should be allowed to as well.


Don’t talk about a stranger’s race.

I’ve sometimes encountered individuals who said things like “Oh, it’s so nice to see a POC in the hobby!” I know they mean well or are trying to demonstrate how “woke” they are, but really the message they are sending is that regardless of my friendliness or skill in costuming, the very first thing they noticed and thought was important to comment on was the color of my skin.

If a particular ethnic group is underrepresented in your circle, a great way to make them to feel welcome is to treat them like everyone else. Specifically pointing out what makes them different may alienate someone.

Don’t assume that just because someone is a POC that their costume is ethnic in some way. If you assume wrong you may make someone very uncomfortable. One year I was at a convention wearing a Game of Thrones costume, along with a dozen other women using the same pattern. I’m pretty sure not everyone was asked questions like “Is that a kimono?”  “Are you Korean?” “Is your hairstyle part of your culture?” “Are you supposed to be a geisha?”

And please never tell someone it’s “not historically accurate” for someone of their ethnicity/ gender/ disability/ age to participate in or be present at a particular event or time period. If you’re a dentist 40 hours a week and pretending to be a Civil War soldier on the weekends, you have no business telling someone who they can’t pretend to be for fun. If you’re into fantasy stuff and cool with orcs and elves but you’re weirded out by the idea of black people in medieval Europe, maybe you should find another hobby.

What if you are an organization?

Note: If you are a reenactment group, living history site, or museum you have the right (or even an obligation) to set your own rules and educate the public about historical facts. My comments are directed at casual costuming groups such as sewing clubs, cosplay conventions, theme parties, etc. to prevent feelings of exclusion and gatekeeping.

Mentor newcomers! Host workshops, have resource lists, create an online forum where they can ask questions, etc. Write out a defined non-bullying policy and make it clear that derogatory comments about a cosplayer’s body shape, culturally insensitive costumes, etc. are not permitted. Allow for beginners to explore their interest in the club without requiring costumes that require a lot of upfront investment in time and money.

Don’t have an intentional or unintentional hierarchy with “elite” club members; encourage everyone equally. For an example of doing it right: my local costume guild had a fashion show this past week. Calls for models were public and open to all skill levels; they were not just friends of the president or “the best of the best.” There were no applications, auditions, lengthy rehearsals, or onerous requirements to enter that would scare off newcomers. The models were all ages, genders, and body types, and wore self-made and store-bought costumes, or even literally artfully wrapped bedsheets, and no one was turned away. There were other activities so that the fashion show was not the main focus, and the organizers made it clear they did not want anyone to feel left out.

Depending on the size of your organization you may require more formality to herd the squirrels. But if you don’t need to, don’t add layers of complexity that scare away shy or new people.

If you are a visitor to an educationally-minded group like a living history site, do remember the distinction between trained employees/volunteers and members of the public.  If your idea of playing along is to dress up in a historical costume that is correct for the time and area that site portrays, great! That does not give you the right to shame others that don’t or make snide comments about how someone’s clothes are off by a decade.

Just remember, time travel should be fun. Enjoy and don’t take yourself too seriously.

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About to drop the hottest album of the 18th century.

2018 Costuming Year in Review

The past year was a rough one health-wise, so it’s a bit of surprise to me writing this post and tallying up my costumes how much I got done! That makes me optimistic for what I can achieve in 2019, even though I’m going to be reasonable in order to keep myself sane and less stressed.

I went to the Legion of Honor museum wearing my 18th century mauve silk dress in February, which I started in January.

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Photo by John Carey

My other January project was to make this steampunk belt and tea holster.IMG_6436

In March I made a Regency outfit for my husband and new dress for myself. (The pelisse and bonnet are not newly made).IMG_7449IMG_7216

At Silicon Valley Comic Con in April I premiered my Vice Admiral Holdo costume, my proudest achievement of the year! (I also joined the Rebel Legion with it!)

Business Insider Melia Robinson

Photo by Business Insider

In April I wore a Victorian/Edwardian-inspired bicycling outfit to a train ride and BBQ.

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Photos by Chris Wiener

May was a mermaid month, with a tail and shell bra.IMG_9098

In June I wore a vintage-style First Order Uniform, inspired by Star Wars.

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Photo by Gloria Sheu

For fun, in June/July I made a medieval fantasy princess dress.EJIY8518

In July I wore Crimson Peak 2.0 (an outfit that I made in 2017 but upgraded to wear to Costume College).

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Photo by Gloria Sheu

It included a big lilac petticoat.C18CCFD1-8D0C-4032-9873-C16C3C447BA4

During the summer I also made myself a cotton novelty dress.IMG_0120.JPG

In October I wore this Gibson Girl dress to a GBACG event.IMG_2856

I also made a big trained petticoat for it.IMG_2162

My last big project was this 1830s Romantic day dress, worn to the Dickens Fair in December.IMG_4506

I also made a blouse using a Wearing History pattern.IMG_4738.JPG

I’m surprised at all the projects from this year and look forward to more! On the horizon I’ve got some more Star Wars outfits, an 1890s sweater, an 18th century dress, a 1920s robes de style, and a lot of vintage-style daily wear.

1830s Romantic Era Plaid Silk Day Dress (Plus Tips on How to Put Together Your Own 1830s Outfit)

As promised in my last post about the Gigot Girl Gang visiting the Dickens Fair, here are construction details about my 1830s Romantic Era day dress, made out of a plaid silk taffeta. Undergarments and accessories and the various vendors I used are also detailed in this post. The sections are: materials, pattern, construction, belt, bonnet, pelerine, undergarments, hair, accessories, project costs, and vendor list.IMG_4468.JPGIMG_4506.JPGIMG_4598.JPGIMG_4609.JPG

MATERIALS

My dress is made of a plaid silk taffeta, with the bodice lined in polished cotton, with an interlining of stiff cotton organdy. (In retrospect the organdy was a little too stiff and I’d use something softer next time). The skirt is unlined. The sleeves are lined with polished cotton as well. Because the sleeves are so large and so much material is pleated into the armscye, I think if I were to make this dress again I would not line the sleeves to reduce bulk. The silk from Fabric Mart Fabrics was advertised as “navy and yellow” but ended up being closer to purple and even more gorgeous than I expected. It changed colors depending on the light.IMG_3441.JPG

If silk is not in your budget, many beautiful gowns from this period were made in cotton prints. In my experience, silk shantung in dark colors or busy prints will hide the slubs pretty well if you can’t afford smooth taffeta. (Silk shantung has fewer slubs than dupioni).

PATTERN

I used the Truly Victorian TV455 1830s Romantic Era pattern to make my dress. I previously used this pattern to make an evening version of the 1830s dress.  I find TV patterns fit very well as long as you follow their instructions to pick the right bodice pieces for your measurements. I have found though, that many TV patterns run long in the bodice (even though I am not shortwaisted), so I recommend trimming any excess off the bottom to avoid having the waist of your skirt sit too low and look unflattering. Definitely make a mockup to ensure a good fit. Below is a photo of my final pattern overlaid on the original pattern. As you can see, I had to shorten the bodice quite a lot at the bottom. I also raised the neckline a little (personal preference) and took in the shoulders because mine are narrow.IMG_3427.JPG

One other change I made was that instead of using the included skirt pattern I just used 3 panels of my fabric. That way I could have seams on each side (where I added pockets), and a seam down the back for an opening.

The TV pattern includes sleeve patterns for day and evening looks. (I have not tried it myself, but Black Snail makes an 1830s evening dress pattern as well).

CONSTRUCTION

I’m not going to lie, pattern-matching a non-symmetrical plaid is not easy. But it makes a really beautiful effect in the end. Look at the front and back of the bodice!IMG_4601.JPG

(I should have taken photos before wearing it and getting it all wrinkled!)IMG_4606

I normally hate doing piping, but it was really part of the look for this era, so I piped the front center seam, the neckline, the armscyes, the shoulders, the sleeves, the side seams, and the cuffs.

Do yourself a favor and buy a piping foot. I did not have a piping or zipper foot that fit my antique sewing machine, and it was um, difficult.

The skirt is knife-pleated and sewn directly to the bodice bottom. I hid a pocket in each side seam of the skirt, and the back opening has a placket. I could have done cartridge-pleating for the skirt but decided it was too much hand sewing to handle this time. (If you want to do cartridge pleating, using gingham ribbon across the top makes an easy guide, as described in my post about how I made my 1840s dress). I increased the density of the pleats in the back of the skirt to subtly increase the “poof” in the back.

The hem is folded up, and up again, to make a deep facing for extra structure. Can you see where the tiny stitches are?IMG_4613.JPG

How about now? =)IMG_4616.JPG

The back of the dress closes with hooks and eyes. I use the kind meant for skirts for extra strength, instead of the tiny hooks and eyes.

I’m showing you a photo of the bodice in progress so you don’t repeat a mistake that I made.IMG_3568.JPG

Above is a photo of pattern pieces cut out. I had carefully pattern-matched everything so that the front, side, and back pieces would line up continuously like a barber pole. However, I forgot to take into account seam allowance! The photo below shows the pieces sewn together; whomp whomp. I had already flat-lined, pleated, and piped the front and back so I didn’t want to recut. IMG_3569.JPG

Matching plaids and pleats while taking into account curvature and sandwiching piping made me rethink the life choices that brought me to this point). Everything was done symmetrically so it still looks good enough for me, even though it’s not the way I envisioned.IMG_3570.JPG

I forgot to take a photo of the interior, but my silk is flatlined with my interlining (cotton organdy), and the polished cotton lining is sewn separately and whipstitched in. The boning is sewn to the seams of the lining. (I also used pre-cased plastic boning to save on time).   This is not the most historically accurate method, but made a clean interior and I didn’t have to do much hand-sewing to whip down raw edges.

BELT

The belt consist of a long piece of vintage ribbon, cut to my size and sealed at the ends with Fray Check, and a reproduction metal buckle. Some of the ladies in our group used antique buckles found on eBay, but reproductions are easily available. Mine is a gold oval one with bees purchased from Kansas Mercantile, which is also available from Ensembles of the Past on Etsy. The ribbon I used is a wide and thick rayon ribbon I bought from a vendor at Costume College. It was too wide but I folded one side down to fit.

BONNET

No respectable lady would go outdoors without a head covering, and the 1830s is a great period for putting a lot of outrageous thing onto your hat. Lynn McMasters and Black Snail both make Romantic bonnet patterns if you want to try your hand at millinery. I was recovering from an injury and could not hand-sew a buckram form when I put together my ensemble so I commissioned a bonnet from House of Loli on Etsy. I sent her some yellow and cream silk taffeta for the bonnet, and then added vintage flowers and mushrooms and feathers to to it.IMG_4629IMG_4630IMG_4635IMG_4626

PELERINE

Period ensembles often include a little cape over the dress, either made of the same fabric as the gown, or a fine cotton. I made mine by assembling a few vintage lace collars together to make it look like one pelerine. If you look at my previous post of the Gigot Girl Gang you’ll see that there are lots of options to making one of your own style: small, big, transparent, or opaque. Mine closes with a little bit of silk ribbon. I think for future wearings I will use something heavier to weight it down, like a brooch, because my pelerine kept going askew.IMG_4623IMG_4624

UNDERGARMENTS

The undergarments needed for the whole ensemble are a chemise, stays, corded petticoat, tucked petticoat, and sleeve plumpers. IMG_4303.JPG

I’m too lazy to make a new chemise for each era, so I have a drawstring one that allows me to change the neckline for each gown. I have details on how I made by hacking an 18th century American Duchess pattern in a previous post.

I don’t like making any sort of corsetry, so I purchased the Charlotte stays from Redthreaded. They are very soft and comfortable because they rely on cording and a curved busk instead of boning. If you are on a budget or want more support using steel, Redthreaded also sells ready-made 1830s stays. My stays from the Atelier line are an investment, but they truly are a work of art, and I plan to use them for 1820s and 1840s garments as well.IMG_4444.JPG

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Photo by Redthreaded

If you want to make your own stays, Black Snail has a pattern for the stays (which also includes a pattern for a chemise, corded petticoat, and plumpers).

I purchased my corded petticoat from Hand Stitches in Time during a sale, but even at full price they would be worth it to avoid what is to me a very tedious task of sewing in all those cording channels! Mine is the 60 row corded petticoat. However, if you want to make your own petticoat I have heard great things about the corded petticoat workbook from Historical Sewing.IMG_4299.JPG

Over the corded petticoat I wore a tucked petticoat that I made out of cotton organdy. It is very simple to make. Take 2 long rectangles of fabric and sew into a tube. Hem the bottom. Mark parallel lines around one end of the tube and make as many tucks as you wish until the petticoat is the length you want. Pleat the top into a waistband. To determine how long of a rectangle you should make, determine the length you want your petticoat to be (waist to mid-calf) and add 1 inch for each tuck you want to make.IMG_4301.JPG

You will want to dip both petticoats in starch, let them air-dry, and iron them for maximum poof! You know they’re ready when they can stand up by themselves like petticoat ghosts. I find it handy to let them dry upside-down in the shower using skirt hangers.IMG_4226.JPG

The last bit of undergarments is the sleeve plumpers. The last time I made an 1830s dress I had to figure out the sleeve supports myself, and they ended up being a little odd. Abby of American Duchess has a plumper pattern that is much easier to use, and I highly recommend it. She has a PDF pattern and Youtube video that shows how they are made. I did a little experiment when making mine.IMG_E4230

The one on the left (above) is stuffed with Polyfil. The one on the right is stuffed with shredded memory foam. The one on the right is a bit lumpier, but compresses more easily for stuffing into the armhole in the dress. (A historically correct method would be to use feathers or down). I could have made my plumpers even bigger but I was afraid of not being able to get them through the armhole. IMG_E4245

As described in Abby’s video, there are ties to tie them to the dress so they don’t move around. In some museum photos you’ll see the plumpers tied to the stays (I believe mainly to show them off), but it is much easier to put the plumpers into the dress and then put the dress on, than to try to get the dress over the pumpers while you’re wearing them!

HAIR

My hairstyle consists of mainly false hair. I have a large braided hair bun on top of my head and 2 curled hair clips in the front, based on the style in this 1835 portrait by August Canzi.

 

The bun is easy to make. Just take false braiding hair (I use the Sassy brand from Sally Beauty Supply), make a thick braid, and wrap it around a hair donut.IMG_4640.JPG

The front clips are made from 2 “side swept bang clips” you can buy on Amazon or eBay. Just make sure you get “side swept” bangs instead of regular ones because they are longer. Wrap the hair in curlers and dip into boiling water for 10 seconds to set the curls. Put on a towel to dry and take the curlers out when they are completely dry.IMG_4378.JPG

The bun is bobby-pinned onto my head while the bangs have wig clips already pre-attached.

If you have long hair, make 2 braids that cross over the top of your head and pin them down to act as anchors for the bun. I have shorter hair cut into layers that makes braiding difficult, so I made a small bun as an anchor, and pomaded all the shorter hairs into place.

The 1830s is full of elaborate hairstyles involving Apollo knots, fancy loops and braids, flowers, etc. You might have fun exploring those for evening ensembles, but if you want simple and easy the bun and bang clips are the fastest way to get the look.

OTHER ACCESSORIES

Besides the belt and bonnet, my other accessories were a round vintage fur muff, grape cluster earrings by The Lady Detalle, and a brooch from American Duchess, given to members of our Gigot Girl Gang. My shoes were the Gettysburg from American Duchess. (I added insoles and a non-slip adhesive pad to the bottom of the shoes). I also had silk stockings and a pair of silk gloves from the 1930s.

 

 

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PROJECT COSTS

If you are starting from scratch, and especially if you plan to outsource all your undergarments, having a full 1830s garment can be quite the investment. However, you don’t have to have 1830s stays. Some of the other ladies cheat with Victorian corsets from later eras. Long-line Regency stays would work as well. I use a chemise from another time period. You can fake having a corded petticoat by using enough starched petticoats or by putting horsehair crinoline into your skirt. You might be able to retrim a bonnet you already have. Instead of a perlerine maybe you have a nice shawl. You probably have some flat shoes that could pass. (Square-toed modern ballet flats are perfectly acceptable for 1830s; just add some ribbon ties). The muff and jewelry are optional. If this isn’t your first costume rodeo and you already have a lot of similar items, don’t feel like you need a whole new set of undergarments. Since it’s possible to “make do,” I’m giving the cost of just the dress. (I don’t want you to have sticker shock at the entire ensemble that I have been collecting for a while, and be discouraged. Repeat after me: You don’t need all new stuff to have a good time).

  • 8 yards silk taffeta: $84.99 + $7.50 shipping from Fabric Mart Fabrics. (Make sure you get on their mailing list to be notified of their crazy sales. I am able to afford silk dresses because I wait until silk drops to ~$10/yard).
  • TV pattern: $0 (used already for a prior 1830s dress)
  • Navy thread: $1.80 from Fabric Mart Fabrics
  • Belt buckle: $13.59 including shipping from Kansas Mercantile
  • Navy ribbon spool: ~$4 from Costume College vendor (with plenty left over)
  • 3 yards polished cotton for bodice and sleeve lining: ~$5 from garage sale
  • 1 yard cotton organdy for bodice interlining: ~$5
  • Hooks and eyes, other thread, cord, etc. from stash: $5

Total for dress: $126.88 (not awful for a huge silk dress, with leftover silk and ribbon for other projects!)

I made the plumpers from materials left over from other projects, so it was “free.” The organdy for making the tucked petticoat is about $5/yard from Vogue Fabrics. (Depending on your size you will probably use 3-4 yards).

Other items you may already have: stays, chemise, petticoats, bonnet, shoes, stockings, gloves, jewelry. Be creative; I reuse my accessories and undergarments for various outfits and eras all the time!

VENDORS

Happy sewing!QGIN4307

Gigot Girl Gang Invades Dickens Fair!

I go to the San Francisco Dickens Christmas Fair every year, but this year was especially fun because a large contingent of us went in 1830s ensembles. I’m amazed at how many beautiful and talented ladies joined in on the wackiness, and went all out with hair, bonnets, muffs, and other accessories with their big-sleeved gowns.QGIN4307

I took a quick snap in front of my house and later at Fair. My next post is going to discuss construction details, a materials list, show all the undergarments, explain the hair, and how to put together your own ensemble. For now, a few brief notes: my gown is sewn by my out of plaid silk taffeta. I am wearing Gettysburg side-lacing boots from American Duchess, earrings by The Lady Detalle, a bonnet by House of Loli that I trimmed, antique gloves, and a vintage muff. Underneath I have a linen chemise, corded stays by Redthreaded, a corded petticoat by Hand Stitches in Time, a tucked petticoat, sleeve plumpers, and stockings.

Enough chatting, you’re here to see pictures of everyone!

Nicole was beautiful in red and a sheer lace pelerine.IMG_4530

Christina had the most amazing pleated bodice hidden by her pelerine!IMG_4527

Abby was our Swedish head balls lady.

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Abby pretended to have beef with our Dane Elizabeth during the fashion contest, who had the most glorious hat.IMG_4476.JPG

Lauren was also part of the plaid contingent.IMG_4544IMG_4542IMG_4546

The American Duchess ladies made these lovely little ornaments engraved with “Gigot Girl Gang 2018” on the back and some of us wore them on our belts.IMG_4618IMG_4589

Kaila had a lovely tobacco-colored silk gown and pelerine, all hand-sewn. Her bonnet veil was just gorgeous! She won a prize in the fashion contest that we all attended as the “Luddite Fashion Society.” (Most of Dickens Fair is 1850s-1860s).IMG_4494IMG_4498

Maggie was a vision in bright yellow, with a little poppet of Cynthia that we passed around.IMG_4570.JPG

We had such a large group and everyone showed up at different times so I couldn’t get shots of everyone. Please forgive the poor lighting at Dickens; I already had to delete so many blurry and dark photos!

We had a grand time at tea.IMG_4564IMG_4557IMG_4556

And we even had an audience with the Queen, played by the beautiful Sarah that day. From left to right: Mena, Kim, Lauren, Sarah, Elizabeth, Sara, and me.IMG_4578

And here we have Sara, Mena, Elizabeth, Sarah, me, Molly, and Kim. I think Kim wins for biggest sleeves!IMG_4574

Many of us plan to wear these gowns again at Costume College in 2019. Please join us if you are interested! I will be making a post explaining how I put together my outfit, and I know American Duchess has some informative blog posts and video planned so come out and play!

More photos are in my Flickr album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/vivien_misc/albums/72157704703672744