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Monthly Archives: December 2014

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!

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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. =)