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Regency Diadems

The Napoleonic era is filled with gorgeous golden diadems, studded with coral, pearls, gemstones, or lovely cameos. What court outfit is complete without a tiara?

This garnet diadem was sold on Ruby Lane.Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 7.28.31 PM.pngThis coral diadem made from gilded brass from A. Brandt is very elegant.Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 7.23.31 PMScreen Shot 2017-03-10 at 7.23.51 PM

Here is a beautiful cameo tiara sold by Sotheby’s that inspired me to want my own.Regency2

This parure (matching set) that belonged to Caroline Bonaparte is stunning!Regency

Last month, I hosted a group of friends and we decided to try our hand at making our own, using this great tutorial from the Mistress of Disguise, for a Regency Tiara Making Day! Behold, crafting chaos.IMG_1157.JPG

We bought materials from a variety of places, including Michael’s,  Joann’s, and eBay for beads and wire; Hobby Lobby or Amazon for brass sheets and metal combs; and Whittemore-Durgin, Etsy, and Ebay for our brass lamp banding. It’s hard to say how much it cost to make each one, since some things were bought in bulk and we did a lot of sharing. Here are our tiaras!IMG_1159

There was some trial and error, and things we learned during the process:

  • Soldering looks better but hot glue is much faster than soldering, especially when you have a group.
  • High-temp hot glue is required; the mini glue guns used for crafting don’t stick as well.
  • Big tin snips instead of small jewelry snips are better for cutting through the brass banding. (Regular scissors can cut through the brass sheets).
  • If you have tarnish on your brass, use Simichrome polish.
  • Wiring metal combs to the diadem is more sturdy than gluing metal or plastic combs.

Here are my “practice tiaras.” They are not perfectly straight and there are some little issues I’d like to work on (such as the thickness of the brass, the overall proportions, and remembering to push the head pins down before the glue set!) but they were really fun to make and I want to make more! I’d like a thinner, more delicate pearl one, and a pink coral one to go with my court gown.IMG_1258IMG_1261IMG_1266IMG_1264

Beaded Regency Court Dress (Part 3)

I’m still working on the rest of the court ensemble but at least my dress is complete! B.JPG

I didn’t have all my accessories yet at the time so I wore a pearl tiara I had instead of a Regency diadem and did a quick updo. (My next post will be about Regency diadems; I got together with a group of friends for a tiara-making day).D.JPG

You can read Parts 1 and 2 for more information, but to summarize a few details, my dress is made up of one layer of beaded and sequined mesh, an interlining of seam foam chiffon, and a lining of cotton voile. It is made from Butterick B6074 View B, with some modifications:

  • I combined some pattern pieces to minimize seams in the beaded fabric.
  • I skipped the gathered overlay on the bodice which is recommended for solid fabrics.
  • I raised the back neckline about 1 inch.
  • I extended the bottom front bodice about 1 inch since I was not trying to achieve the tiny bodice/pushup bra look.

Note: Butterick B6074 runs large! It has a lot of ease built in for the modern wearer. I recommend going down 2 sizes.

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For undergarments I am wearing a shift, short stays, a corded petticoat and a ruffled petticoat. I normally would not wear a corded petticoat with Regency but this dress is heavy.

I have decided to go with a rose velvet for the train, and I have been spending far too much time searching for pink velvets, getting swatches, and looking for trim. However, I think we have a winner. IMG_1185.JPG

I still need to order the rest of the fabric and find the trim, but I’ve purchased lining and have the pattern ready. I’m mulling over whether I should use my leftover beads and sequins to decorate the trim, but that may be madness speaking.

By the way, in case you think my life is glamorous, here’s a peek at real life (bad posture, clutter, and photobombing) vs. the cropped version of a selected few pictures for the blog!img_1155

UPDATE:

I wrote a tutorial for this dress, which Fabric Wholesale Direct spiffed and made into this post on their website! 

All the fabric I used for this project is from Fabric Wholesale Direct. Thank you!

Beaded Regency Court Dress (Part 2)

The dress is nearly done!img_1061

I’m excited that this is nearly complete, with just a few minor things to do. It’s taken a little longer than I thought! Sewing is about learning from your mistakes, and I’ve been doing some learning.

Lesson 1: It’ll stretch more than you think

I accounted for a bit of the stretch of the mesh fabric when cutting out the skirt, but underestimated how much more it would stretch afterwards. I was afraid I was being too careful and the skirt would be a little too short, but after I attached it to the bodice and let it hang for a bit, the heavy beads dragged the skirt down to a length that would have required stripper heels instead of dainty Regency slippers to manage.

Due to the scalloped border I couldn’t hem the fabric at the bottom of the skirt, so as much as it pained me to undo all the hand-stitching I removed the skirt, cut off some excess at the top, removed even more beads, and reattached it.

Lesson 2: What looks good on the dress form doesn’t always look good on you

Redoing the skirt gave me the chance to also redistribute the gathering. Originally I had made the front flat to avoid the dreaded pregnant Regency look, and focused most of the fabric on the sides and back. However, once I put the dress on I realized the extra beading on the sides made me look a little wide and boxy. Here are some quick shots with my phone showing before (left) and after (right) without petticoats.

Because of the peculiarities of my figure (mainly the shape and size of my ribs and chest), the version on the left looked better on the mannequin, but not particularly well on me. Normally, to reduce bulk at the waistline I would have cut tapered panels, but could not do that with the beaded fabric. I also wanted it to be fuller than the lining underneath. Since the beaded layer is essentially a gathered rectangle there’s a bit more bulk around the empire waist than I would like, but the new version with redistributed fabric is still a little more flattering on me than looking like a sugary green rectangle.

Although most of the examples of Napoleonic dresses I’ve seen have a flat, columnar front, I did find this extant dress worn by Empress Josephine that is gathered all around.regency1

Lesson 3: Working with sheer, beaded fabrics will double your sewing time.

This bag represents only a portion of what I had to carefully unpicked from the seams,  darts, and placket panel. There are plenty more that ended up on the floor or hiding in the corners of my house. My next dress will definitely be made of solid fabric!img_1032

To minimize snagging on the mesh, instead of hooks and eyes I made covered buttons and loops for the back closure, and added a placket. (Yes, I had to remove all the beading on the fabric used to make these buttons too).img_1018

I think smaller buttons might have been a better choice, but that size of button-covering kit was what I had on hand, and I do like having them large enough to have a different pattern on each.

Lesson 4: If you hoard it long enough it will come in handy

Years ago, when I started sewing, I bought a spool of “invisible thread.” It was actually beige nylon and not as invisible as clear fishing line, so I never knew what to do with it until I obtained beige netting fabric! (I’m not kidding when I say I think I’ve had the spool for nearly 15 years).

The beaded motifs are staggered in a way that I had to cut through a few of them to make the center back seam, and the beige nylon thread came in rather handy for putting the two sides together. (I hand-sewed two rows of stitching for extra security).IMG_1043.JPG

I would  have loved to do a slight train on the dress, but the fabric I had was not wide enough. I will have to make up for it with the velvet court train for the rest of this ensemble!

I still need to bind the raw edges inside, do a little bit of final fit adjustments, snip loose threads, etc. to clean the dress up before I wear it to take photos.

My to-do list:

  • Buy materials for the court train: I’m looking for a rose cotton or silk velvet
  • Make matching shoe clips for my American Duchess Pemberly slippers (affiliate link)
  • Make a Regency diadem; I already have the materials ready!
  • Make a reticule out of leftover pieces of the beading. (I have no more of the green chiffon except some small scraps, so I may make the base fabric match the velvet train).

Read part 1 here.

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Beaded Regency Court Dress (Part 1)

My current project is a beaded Regency court dress using Butterick B6074 as a starting point. Here is a sneak peek of the bodice; I took this picture before closures were added.img_0973

The dress consists of 3 layers: a sheer netting with beads, sequins, and faux pearls; a seafoam green chiffon interlining, and a cotton voile lining. I don’t know if the seafoam green is historically correct. Most of the extant Napoleonic court gowns I’ve seen are white or ivory, with most of the color in the embroidery and the sumptuous court trains.  However, I love that particular shade, and the way it looks against the bronze sequins in the netting. (The fabric is from Fabric Wholesale Direct and has gold embroidery, with round and cylindrical seed beads, round and leaf-shaped sequins, and round and oval faux pearls).img_0802

I did find this portrait of the Empress Marie Louise in what appears to be a light blue gown.lefevre_maria_luigia

Because the fabric I’m using for the outer layer of the gown is sheer and beaded I am trying to minimize seams. It keeps me from cutting through too many motifs, and saves me some time since I have to remove all the beads and sequins from each seam to reduce bulk. I altered the pattern by combining the two should strap pieces into one (eliminating the shoulder seam), and redrafting the back bodice and side bodice pieces to be one. The placement of the seams are no longer quite correct, but it did make sewing easier. I also raised the back because it is very low cut and my stays would have shown.IMG_0887.JPG

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Because of all the beading, and because the foot pedal of my sewing machine is having electrical problems, this gown is mostly hand-sewn. Thus, it is taking a while, especially since I am super paranoid every time I have to cut into this precious fabric!img_0998

2017 Costuming Plans

I have three large projects planned for 2017, although I’m sure little projects will pop up in between if I get invited to events or get distracted by shiny things. I’m happy to report that I already have most of the materials on hand for my three projects, much of it acquired through some lucky bargains!

Regency court dress

I am not planning to reproduce this exact outfit, but this picture is to give you an idea of what I have in mind. I will be making a beaded Regency evening dress, for which I already have the materials (courtesy of Fabric Wholesale Direct). I’ve started on the dress so that will be the focus of my next series of posts. The color and type of fabric I will be using for the train has not been decided and will depend on what I can get for a reasonable price.

1660s Cavalier gown

I’ve never made a 1660s outfit before, so this is an era that is new to me. Although I think satin might be a little more appropriate, I will be making this out of black silk taffeta because I happen to have it in my stash (from the wonderful $5/yard sale from Fabric Mart!) Although I had already picked out this dress to make for the gala at Costume College this year before the theme was announced, it ended up being the perfect choice. The theme will be “Dinner at Tiffany’s” so a black dress with pearls is quite appropriate!

Crimson Peak picnic outfit

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I already have the right color silk for the skirt due to a serendipitous find from a friend’s garage sale! I won’t be able to find the exact lace for the blouse but I have something with a similar feel. The biggest challenge will be sculpting the hand belt. This outfit is being planned for a spooky Victorian tea in October.

I hope your sewing adventures in 2017 are fun and fabulous!

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!

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!