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Category Archives: Costume College

1660s Cavalier Dress at Costume College (and Bonus: Hacking the American Duchess 18th Century Undergarments Pattern to Make a 17th Century Chemise)

I now have photos for my 1660s Cavalier dress from official Costume College photographer Andrew Schmidt, as well as a great group photo of the rest of my Cavalier ladies!IMG_4216-(ZF-7662-83598-1-001)

You can see my previous posts about this project under the tag “Cavalier” but if you keep reading I will discuss the things that went wrong with this project, and what I would do differently in the future, so you can learn from my mistakes!IMG_4217-(ZF-7662-83598-1-002)

I am very happy with how our group turned out, with the variety of colors, trimming, and hairstyles. Left to right, back to front: me, Teresa, Cate, Kim, Jessie, and Elizabeth.IMG_4211-(ZF-7662-83598-1-003)

I used the Nehelenia 1660 Baroque dress pattern. This era is completely new to me, and I have no experience with this shape of the bodice, so I followed all the instructions. This included making bound bodice tabs (similar to 18th century stays, seen below) to help distribute the weight of the skirt, and sewing all the bodice pieces of the fashion fabric together before attaching it to the boned interlining.IMG_2904

These steps may be period correct, but created some extra work and issues, so I have some comments about what I would do differently if I made another dress of this style:

  1. No tabs! Anyone who has made stays knows how time-consuming it is to bind them! Since my skirt was a lightweight taffeta, I could have skipped the tabs and pleated the skirt directly to the bodice and saved a lot of time. (I would not recommend this for a heavy skirt like velvet or brocade). Dressing would have been much easier too, since I would have had a one-piece dress to slip over my undergarments. Instead, I had to make sure the front tab was over my skirt, while my back and side tabs were underneath my skirt, while my bum roll was over my bodice back tabs but under my skirt. It took some help getting dressed!
  2. Do not finish the fashion layer before sewing it to the interlining. I had some problems with wrinkling in the bodice. I think it would have helped if I sewed the fashion fabric to the interlining, and then sewed each pattern piece together (the way 18th century stays are made). This would have reduced the wrinkling and wiggling. I talked to someone else at the  Gala who was also wearing a 1660s gown, and hers was so smooth! She said she sewed the bodice the way she would a pair of stays.
  3. Maybe skip the cartridge-pleating. I love tiny cartridge pleats; they look delightful and neat. I am glad I did them for this dress, but for speed in the future I would probably do larger pleats to save time. I ended up spending so much time on them that I was not able to do my eyelet closures before a medical procedure made it impossible for me to sew, and recovery took longer than expected so I had to be sewn into my dress at CoCo! (I can’t remember the last time I showed up at an event without closures, but it’s a humbling reminder that life sometimes intervenes.)

Some of my problems may have been attributable to my use of silk taffeta instead of a thicker silk satin, but I wanted to use what I had in my stash, and the skirt was so light and lovely to wear.

I made the jewelry out of giant acrylic pearls, strung with fishing line. Glass pearls would have been lovely, but very heavy, and since I was going to pin the drape directly to a silk taffeta dress with a silk gauze neckline, I wanted it lighter.

Bonus: Hacking the American Duchess 18th Century Undergarments Pattern to Make a 17th Century Chemise)

I promised a pattern hack in the title, and here it is! This 17th century dress required an off-the-shoulder chemise, which I did not have. I also did not want to draft one from scratch, so I hacked the American Duchess 18th Century Undergarments pattern (Simplicity 8162). This is what the original pattern looks like:8162

Ignoring the ruffles, you have a body panel with a shoulder strap, a sleeve gusset for the underarm, and a square sleeve that is folded to form a tube.IMG_2634.JPG

However, what if you fold down the shoulder strap, shift the sleeve and gusset down, and double the size of the sleeve piece to make it fuller? (Previously you cut a square that became a tube, now you cut a large rectangle that becomes a square).IMG_2639.JPG

This is the shape you get:IMG_2644.JPG

Add a drawstring neckline, and you get an off-the-shoulder chemise!IMG_2648.JPG

Please note, my sleeves are a bit shorter than what you see historically. A proper 17th century chemise would have had much longer and exaggerated sleeves. I made these shorter for several reasons:

  1. I plan to reuse this with other gowns where a billowy chemise sleeve would be inconvenient.
  2. The portrait I am using as inspiration has an exposed chemise sleeve made of finer materials than the linen I used, plus little ribbon ties; thus I made false sleeves that can be attached to my black bodice that will allow for nicer fabric and no need to fuss with tying bows each time I wear it.

So, if you do not have the reasons enumerated above, you should quadruple (not double) the original sleeve pattern into a giant square, not a rectangle.IMG_3853

(Yes, those are green and purple crayons because my child left them next to my computer and I was too lazy to go looking for nicer writing implements).

Final reckoning:  Let’s tally up!

  • 10 yards of 35″ black silk taffeta: $49.90 + $8.75 shipping = $58.65 (Yay for fabulous sales from FabricMart!)
  • Nehelenia pattern: $23.96 including shipping (I ordered with a few other ladies and split the postage from Europe)
  • Lining and boning: $0 (left over from my 18th century stays project)
  • 2 yards linen (for chemise) and 1 yard silk gauze (for bodice neckline): $23.94 including tax and shipping from Dharma Trading (I ordered double that but am setting the rest aside for a different project, so I’m halving the cost)
  • 1 yard silk cotton blend for lower sleeves: $17.99 from Amazon
  • 120 giant pearls: $11.28 from Aliexpress
  • 2 brooches: $5.40 from Aliexpress
  • 2 “small spiral corkscrew” cheerleading/Irish dancing hair clips: $43.11 including shipping from eBay seller american_costumes
  • Ribbon, thread, hooks and eyes, polyfill for the bumroll, etc. from stash ~$5?

Total: $189.33

So the silk was cheap, but all the extras added up! Normally I do not count accessories and hairpieces, but in this case they are very specific to this era and the portrait inspiration, and they’re not very versatile for other eras.

Finally of course, as always, my shoes are American Duchess. They are the Pompadour French Court Shoes in black (affiliate link).

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This was a long post, so thanks for reading!

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Costume College Recap (Part 1)

I am back and mostly unpacked from Costume College. It was so much fun and so much happened I will have to break everything up into multiple posts: Thursday/Friday recap, Saturday/Sunday recap, final details and summary about my Napoleonic ensemble, final post about my Cavalier dress, and a “loot” post about the goodies and antiques I managed to snag from the dealer’s hall and bargain basement. You have been warned!

I traveled down on Thursday with Natalie (frolicking_frocks) and Kelsey (irreverentvintagegirl)IMG_2941

After checking in and unpacking we ran over to the exhibit hall, where I was invited to display my Lady Tremaine costume. There were other really talented costumers in the room so please see my Flickr account for more photos!IMG_2944

My travel companions helped me dress and pad the mannequin, plus make boob-arms.IMG_2942

Later that night at the pool party my 1940s Star Trek group had a revival, with a new addition of a galaxy by Christina of The Laced Angel.IMG_2948

We passed out custom badge ribbons.IMG_3033.JPG

I didn’t take many photos at the pool party because of the lighting, but look at these great Reys!IMG_2964.JPG

Friday started out with fun. (I wore a traditional embroidered German dirndl with a vintage 1930s apron) and Stratford shoes from American Duchess (affiliate link).IMG_3036

Maybe too much fun (with Elizabeth/peachassassin’s codpiece).IMG_3001.JPG

Kim had a really cute 60s coverup and Tab soda. (The overall theme for CoCo was the 60s). It’s hard to see in the picture but underneath there is an adorable gingham bikini top and shorts beach set.IMG_3023

I took two great classes during the day: “Beyond the Fringe: Unravelling the Myth of the 1920s Flapper” by Leimomi Oakes and “Finishing Your 18th Century Look” by Abby Cox. I would highly recommend any classes taught by these ladies.

That evening I finally wore my completed Napoleonic court gown and train. (I’ll post more photos and a final summary later, but you can see my other construction notes along the way).IMG_3153IMG_3146

My pearl necklace and earrings were made by Gloria of Inthelongrun.IMG_3192.JPG

There were so many incredible costumes at the Friday Night Social I can’t post them all so here’s a selection.

Natalie as Dolores from Westworld and Kelsey as Annie Oakley.IMG_3172

The awesome Adria Renee in her take on Star War’s Orson Krennic.IMG_3178

This great Outlander gown.IMG_3135

Some awesome Barbarellas by diystopia, Elizabeth, and Cynthia of Redthreaded.

Look at this amazing cord and soutache ensemble by Kelsey!

And we ended the evening with kigurumi shenanigans at the Pink Drink party!IMG_3204

Costume College 2016: Thursday and Friday

As usual my roommate and I drove from the Bay Area to LA on Thursday. Normally we make a stop in between to visit FIDM before going to the hotel, but the costume exhibit was closed, so we went straight to the hotel. We arrived at 2 PM and found it made a world of difference! There was no line at all for check-in (compared to the huge one last year), and we didn’t have to wait for a porter. We were able to snag 2 luggage carts and within 15 minutes of arriving, we were checked in, the car parked, and all of our things unloaded in the room!

We were able unpack a bit and have a relaxing afternoon looking for friends arriving, until we got changed for the Thursday Night Pool Party. The theme was “Mod” and I wore a vintage 60’s dress.

By accident, Ginger, Vanessa, and I made a Powerpuff Girls team.IMG_8592

My dress had a cape so I guess I was sort of a superhero!IMG_8574

It was late when I started taking pictures, and most of my photos came out dark and of poor quality, so let’s skip straight to Friday.

Natalie and I wore our 1940s Star Trek costumes that we previously debuted at PEERS, and had a blast in them again. “Set phasers to sew!”IMG_8610We even met someone who said said she knew LeVar Burton (Geordi) and took a picture to show him!

There was this fantastic Star Wars group at CoCo, consisting of Loren, Jen, Katherine, Ginger, Twila, and Amy. They were all great, but I have a special fondness for Edwardian Kylo Ren.IMG_8629.JPG

During the day I took a few really great classes. Samantha Bullat of Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation taught two classes: “Because few Taylors” (about the challenges of presenting an accurate living history experience within the confines of modern needs, laws, and budgets) and “Understanding the Oorijzer” (a metal frame Dutch women used to prop up their caps). Both were very informative and presented well. I also took a class called “Accessorizing Your Teens/Twenties Outfits” by Mela Hoyt-Heydon. Her lecture focused on how to get that Downton Abbey look, and Mela is a great speaker and her classes always fun.IMG_8596

After my classes I made a donation to the Scholarship Fund so I could go do some early bird shopping in the dealer’s hall. I spent most of my money at one booth (Acme Notions) which consistently has lovely and interesting things. This time I got many millinery flowers, some odds and ends, and pretty vintage deadstock lingerie.

The Friday Night Social was full of lots of great costumes, as usual. The theme was circus, but it is not mandatory and I wore my 1920s cocoon coat, a beaded 1920s reproduction dress from Unique Vintage, Miss L Fire Vista shoes, and a beaded headband.

Natalie wore a beautiful green bustle dress.IMG_8650

Judy and AJ made really cute Sleeping Beauty fairies.IMG_8666

Merja had a great fox-trimmed ensemble.IMG_8668

Kevin and Kathy rocked the Roman look. (It’s hard to tell from the photo, but Kathy put so many tiny tiny curls in her hair to achieve the historical frizzed look!)IMG_8670

Molly looked so cute in Renaissance.IMG_8662

Bridget, ?, and Lana looked lovely, just out of a painting.IMG_8688

Gretchen’s circus outfit was just smashing, and one of my favorites of the evening.IMG_8724

I took many more photos, so those were just the highlights. I can’t fit them all here so take a look at my Flickr account for more. I will be making another post with the Saturday and Sunday photos, which include the wonderful things people put on for Gala!