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1660s Cavalier Dress

The Costume College theme this year is “60s” and the Gala theme is “Dinner at Tiffany’s” so I am making a black 1660s dress with large pearls, inspired by this portrait of Grand Duke Ferdinand II of Tuscany and his wife Vittoria Della Rovere by Justus Sustermans at the National Gallery in London.1660s-probably-grand-duke-2

This is a stash-busting project!

A while back I got 10 yards of 36″ black silk taffeta for $5/yard. With this project my goal was to stay as close to $50 as possible, which meant the other materials had to not only be stash, but what I call “legit stash” (leftovers from other projects). As much as we like to pretend it doesn’t count if you buy it and hide it in the closet for a few years, it still cost money up front. Aside from the black silk I wanted to use things that were already accounted for in the costs of other projects. Luckily I had scraps for lining, reed from my stays, and other miscellaneous materials:

This means not all of the materials are ideal. However, my rallying cry is STASH-BUSTING! Stash-busting

I used silk taffeta for the interlining that encases the boning because I didn’t want my bodice to be too thick, since I will have to add more layers afterward (a fashion fabric that has to be flat-lined to prevent the boning from showing).

Please keep in mind that silk can be rather insulating and warm! I used silk interlining anyway because:

  • STASH-BUSTING!
  • I’m going to be wearing this in the evening and indoors, in an air-conditioned hotel.
  • I feel cold all the time. I promise I’m not a vampire.

I am using the Nehelenia 1660 Baroque dress pattern.IMG_2598.JPG

Please note, this pattern is not for beginners. No boning channels are marked, and you have to figure them out by yourself. I recommend having made stays before you tackle this project, because the bodice is essentially stays with fashion fabric on top.

The pattern calls for about 2.5 meters of fabric for the skirt, which is 98 inches. That is not particularly full. I looked at some other bloggers’ recommendations and Kendra of Demode and the Dreamstress both recommend about 150 inches for a modern frame, even though a smaller circumference was historically accurate. I ended up using 4 panels of 36″ fabric.

Here are some quick progress shots of the inside and outside of the bodice. (The sleeves are still a mess and I have to add eyelet closures down the back and some silk gauze to the neckline).IMG_2601IMG_2603

I have cartridge-pleated about 3/4 of the skirt. My trick to save time marking and measuring is to sewing gingham to the inside and keep it there as a way to make the pleats fuller.IMG_2605IMG_2606

For a “simple” black dress this is proving to be a lot of work (much of it hidden). There is. boning, binding of tabs, cartridge-pleating of the skirt and sleeves, etc. I am having surgery later today so I will have to take a bit of break from sewing and the computer. I hope I can still finish before Costume College!

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