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1890s Bicycling Sweater Tutorial and Sewing Pattern

If, like me, you’ve long admired the 1890s bicycling or sporting sweaters but did not know how to knit, this sewing tutorial and pattern is for you, no knitting required!WCIH9664

I wore this sweater to the Reno Tweed Ride, along with a wool skirt and witch hat I made. (A tutorial for the Professor McGonagall-inspired deerstalker hat is in my previous blog post).IMG_3336

This lovely example is from the Met Museum. It features a heavy knit, giant upper sleeves, fitted lower sleeves, a turtle neck collar, and buttons.The Met Museum.jpg

I have made a simplified version with a similar silhouette using 2 yards of 59″ wide  “Telio cable knit” fabric from Amazon (affiliate link). It also comes in pink, gray, and blue. It’s not a real yarn sweater knit but it is inexpensive because of its wide width, easy to get, and most importantly it is chunky and not thin. If you want a more authentic look you can look for a real cable knit fabric in cotton or wool, but it will be more pricey because those come in smaller widths. (If you end up using a “real” knit it will be stretchier so cut a slightly smaller size of pattern).

This tutorial assumes some basic pattern drafting skills and also that you have a serger. (This will keep the knit fabric from fraying and also keep the seams stretchy).

The pattern pieces were drafted to fit a woman with a 34″ bust and 28″ waist (or slightly larger because of the stretch). If you are busty or have a soft belly I have an alternative pattern piece for the front that will fit at least a 36″ bust and 30″ waist, with some extra stretch for slightly larger measurements. (If you don’t fit these measurements I will explain what to do below as well).

All pieces include a 1/2″ seam allowance.

BODICE PATTERNIMG_4296

The pattern pieces for the front (red lines) and back (purple lines) of the sweater resemble a sleeveless top. They are mostly the same except the front piece is a little wider and the neckline is cut a little lower. If you are flat-chested or like a tighter fit use two of the back pattern pieces (and cut the neckline lower on one piece to make it a front). If you use two back pieces this will fit a 34″ bust/28″ waist. If you use the front and back this will fit a 36″ bust/30″ waist. This will fit larger sizes depending on how stretchy your fabric is.

For each piece FOLD YOUR FABRIC IN HALF and put the pattern piece on top, with the folded edge on the right. When you cut through 2 layers of fabric and open them you will have a complete pattern piece. Do not cut the fold!

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If you are slightly larger than the measurements you can scoot the pattern piece towards the left and add extra inches to the folded size.

If you are very different from the measurements you can make your own pattern by taking a sweater that fits you and tracing the main body as a guide. Remember to add seam allowances! IMG_5443

BODICE CONSTRUCTION

After you have your front and back, sew them (right sides) together at the sides using your serger. Repeat by sewing the shoulders together. (Note: on the extant sweaters the shoulders are not sewn together but fastened by buttons. If you prefer that look then you’ll want to not sew your shoulders closed at this part. You’ll also want to extend the top shoulder area of your front bodice piece to ensure an overlap, and serge the raw edges. I opted to sew my shoulders closed because my fabric is stretchy enough that the neck opening was sufficient).

For an extra fitted look (or if you’re wearing a corset) I recommend putting it on inside out, pinching out any excess on the side, marking it with chalk, and sewing and trimming the excess. Do this before you put on the sleeves or collar!

To keep the raw edges from fraying, also serge along the edges of your armholes, neck opening, and bottom hem. Turn up the excess length on the bottom hem and stitch down with your preferred technique (with your serger, zig-zag stitch on sewing machine, or straight stitch if you don’t mind losing horizontal stretch).

You should now have a sleeveless top.

UPPER AND LOWER SLEEVE PATTERN

Each sleeve consists of two parts: a large puffed upper sleeve and a fitted tube-like lower sleeve.IMG_4302IMG_4303IMG_4290

As you can see, the upper sleeve is huge. (The sleeves are the main reason I chose a wide width knitted fabric). If you are uncomfortable drafting a curved sleeve head based on the diagram above you can start with an existing large puffed sleeve pattern from your collection. Perhaps you have a Regency or Victorian dress pattern in your stash? Trace that puffed sleeve, then slice it down the vertical center. Pull the two halves apart. Further. Keep going. Yes, they really are that big. Then fill in the missing middle by tracing your new pattern on another (really large) piece of paper. If the sleeve isn’t tall enough to match the measurements given, you can also slice it horizontally and extend.

The lower sleeve is mostly a tube that tapers below the elbow. I have long slender arms; you may have to widen this part of the pattern if you have a more athletic build.

SLEEVE CONSTRUCTION

Sew the long edges of the lower sleeve (right sides) together to make a tube. (Again, use your serger for the sleeve construction to avoid fraying).

Sew the straight edges of the upper sleeve (right sides) together to make a giant um, thing. Serge all edges of your sleeve openings now because it may be too thick to put through your serger once it is gathered/pleated.

Gather the bottom opening of the upper sleeve so that it fits into the top part of the lower sleeve and sew the two parts together. You should now have something resembling a chicken drumstick. IMG_5459

When worn, you will push part of the lower sleeve up so that the bottom of the upper sleeve hangs over it, like the next photo:IMG_3032

Pleat the top part of the upper sleeve to fit into the armhole of your top. The direction of your pleats is a matter of personal preference, but just make sure you mirror them on the other sleeve. IMG_3298

Put on the sweater, push the lower sleeve to the desired location as described above, and mark where you want your sleeve to end (at the wrist).

Fold up the excess at the end of the sleeve and stitch down to have a finished edge in the same way you did the bodice hem.

COLLAR PATTERN

The turtleneck collar is based on trapezoids. Fold your fabric in half and put the shorter edge of the trapezoid against the fold and cut out your shape, ending up with sort of a hourglass drum. Do this twice.

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COLLAR CONSTRUCTION

For each piece you are going to fold it down the center horizontally, right sides together (so that it is inside out). Sew the side seams and then flip it right side out. The top doesn’t need to be sewn because it was on the fold. Serge the bottom (long edge) shut.

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Pin the collar pieces to the neck opening of your bodice. The front and back collar pieces are going to overlap on the sides where you put your closures. You will want the front to overlap the back on the outside. Sew the collar pieces to the neck opening, right sides together so that the serged seams are hidden inside when worn.IMG_5494

For closures you will add buttons on each side of the collar. The number will vary depending on the size of your buttons. IMG_3361

I put hidden snaps on my collar because my knit was too thick to put through the buttonholer on my sewing machine, and I was not about to make buttonholes by hand! If you’re not as lazy as me or you have a thinner knit you can certainly make buttonholes for your buttons.IMG_3037

Now you are done and your 1890s sweater is ready for a Tweed ride, historical costume event, or even everyday wear as history bounding!

PROJECT COSTS:

I paid $23.06 including shipping and tax for 2 yards of “Telio cable knit” fabric from Amazon (affiliate link). The buttons, snaps, and thread were items previously purchased cheaply and/or in bulk so my total cost was about ~$25 for this project. Obviously, your costs will differ depending on what kind of fabric and buttons you buy, but this is to demonstrate that a historical sweater doesn’t need to be expensive!

FINAL THOUGHTS:

I hope this tutorial was an understandable and accessible way for people who cannot knit (or don’t have the time) to make an 1890s sweater. If you make one with my tutorial please comment below or send me a message on Instagram @freshfrippery and let me know!

For those of you brave souls who actually want to knit your own, there is a knitting pattern for an 1890s sweater by Kelsey Patton on Ravelry. 

For now I am wearing my sweater with a wool skirt but I have plans to make some bicycling pants in the future.

Have fun and go on splendid adventures with your sweater!

I am happy to provide all patterns and tutorials for for free on my blog. It is absolutely optional, but if you would like to donate towards my domain registration and the data costs of hosting the many photos on my site, consider buying me a “coffee”: https://ko-fi.com/freshfrippery.  Thank you!Screen Shot 2019-11-27 at 9.28.46 PM

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Professor McGonagall-inspired Deerstalker Witch Hat Pattern and Instructions

Professor McGonagall is my favorite character in the Harry Potter books/movies, and I love her tartan hat with the little ear flaps. I recently made my own and got some requests to share the pattern so here you go!IMG_3350

The hat has flaps on the ears that you can wear down or tied up. My hat is made from wool left over from a matching skirt that I made. The nice thing about this project is that it doesn’t require a lot of fabric and can be made from scraps.

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This hat sits on top of the head (and the pieces are sized for my 22″ head). If you want the hat crown big enough to cover your head you’ll need to resize the pieces a bit.

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This is the movie hat for reference.

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PATTERN PIECES AND MATERIALS

The hat uses several simple shapes and in the sections below I’ll describe how to draft and assemble them. I apologize in advance that I have a lot of pictures of the pattern pieces and finished item, but not the construction process since I made this at night right before a trip. However, construction is pretty straightforward! The pattern pieces include a 3/8″ seam allowance.

Materials:

  • Tartan/plaid print fabric (wool or cotton flannel)
  • Fusible foam interfacing
  • Regular fabric interfacing or stiff cotton organdy
  • Lining fabric
  • Ribbon or twill tape for ties and inner binding
  • Small comb
  • Thread, etc.IMG_3438

THE CROWN

The pattern:

The shape is a big cone. The center of the cone (which will be the front of the hat) is a little longer than the edges (which will be the back of the hat) since the crown tilts backwards a bit. To draft this shape you can draw a giant circle with a 19″ diameter, and then cut out about 1/3 of it as a starter shape, then use the measurements in the diagram below to help you get close to the final shape. The other option is to draw a triangle with 8.5″x8.5″x16″ triangle and then add the rounded part on the bottom. IMG_3439

Assembly:

Cut 1 fashion fabric, 1 lining, and 1 interfacing. For the lining I used a scrap of nylon (but any thin fabric is fine). For the interfacing I used single sided foam stabilizer which gives your crown some stiffness and structure. I use Bosal brand (Amazon affiliate link) In-R-Form, which is designed for purses but makes nice hats.IMG_3046

Iron lining to foam interfacing first; I’ll refer to it as “lining” from now on because it’s become one piece. Sew the back seams of the lining together (right sides together) to make a cone shape and trim excess bulk from the seam area. Sew fabric into cone shape the same way and flip right side out. Put fabric cone over lining cone and stitch bottom edges together to create your crown.

THE BRIM

The pattern:

The shape is a modified circle with a hole in the middle. To draft it draw a 12″ wide circle (or trace a large plate). In the center draw a 5.25″ wide circle (or trace a bowl). Cut out and discard the inner circle. Draw a curve on the sides like a butternut squash; this is to allow you to pull up your earflaps later. (Fold the pattern in half and cut both sides at the same time to keep it symmetrical).IMG_3442

Assembly:

Cut out 2 brims from fashion fabric and 1 brim from interfacing. You’ll want the brim to be thin and a little floppy so do not use the foam you used for the crown. I used some stiff cotton organdy because I had that available, but you can use other kinds of fabric interfacing.

The goal is to end up with a donut with the interfacing inside, so layer your pieces in this order: fabric, fabric, interfacing (with fabric right sides together).

Stitch the outer edge of all the pieces together, then flip inside out from the center hole in order to have the fabric facing out and the interfacing sandwiched in. Then topstitch the outer edges (for neat finished look) and topstitch the inner edges (to keep the layers together for the next step).

Sew the bottom edge of the crown to the inner edge of the brim, making sure the raw edges of both pieces face into the hat. Trim extra bulk from the foam if needed.

THE EAR FLAPS

The pattern:

The ear flap is a tongue shape. You can draft this piece by making a 4.5″ x 5.75″ rectangle and curving one end. (Fold the rectangle in half length-wise and cut off a rounded corner to make sure it’s symmetrical). The straight edge is the side that will be sewn to the hat.IMG_3443

Assembly:

For each flap cut 2 fabric and 1 interfacing (4 fabric and 2 interfacing total). The ear flaps should be soft so use a very thin and light interfacing, such as the lining to your hat. The assembly for each flap is just like the brim. Summary: put the fabric right sides together with the interfacing on top, sew together on the outer edges, flip right side out, topstitch all edges.

Stitch one flap to each side of the hat underneath the brim. This should be along the area where the brim curves in. I recommend pinning the pieces to the hat and trying it on to make sure the flaps cover your ears before sewing down. Sorry I forgot to take a picture before I sewed in the binding.IMG_3447

To cover up the raw edges inside the hat, hand-stitch in a ribbon, twill tape, or bias tape. I used a 1-inch wide music print twill tape because it was cute, but actually this is too wide and will cause ripples like my hat. If you want a smoother appearance a 1/2 inch ribbon is preferred.

Since this hat sits on top of your head, for security I sewed a small comb in the front.IMG_3448

THE HATBAND AND TIES

The pattern:

The hatband is just a long finished strip. Cut a long rectangle 22 inches long x 2 inches wide.IMG_3449

Assembly:

Sew down the long edges, right sides together, making a tube. Turn right side out and topstitch both long edges. Sew the small ends together to make a big circle. Put the band on the base of the crown and tack down in several places next to the brim to keep it from falling off.

Here’s a top view to show that the top of the band is not stitched down, just the bottom.IMG_3446

For the ties cut 2 pieces of ribbon or twill tape and stitch to the ends of each earflap. I plan to mostly wear my flaps up so the the tape is stitched to the side of the flap that will not show. For an extra neat appearance you can sandwich the ties into the flaps during construction, but if they are sewn to the outside you can switch them later.

My ties are 18 inches long each so that they can also be tied under the chin. If you don’t plan to have the extra versatility you can make them shorter. I used a linen twill tape I had in the stash because it matched my wool, but a wide ribbon would look cute too!

IMG_3351The flaps can be worn tied up but do not meet in the back.

Your hat is now done! Go forth and have witchy adventures in the woods!IMG_3293

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Do you like this sweater? I’ll be posting a tutorial for it too, no knitting experience required! Please subscribe to my blog or follow me on Instagram @freshfrippery to make sure you get notified when the tutorial is posted!

All patterns and tutorials are provided free on my blog. I don’t charge for them but if you would like to donate towards my domain registration and data costs of hosting the many photos on my site, consider buying me a “coffee”: https://ko-fi.com/freshfrippery

Thank you!Screen Shot 2019-11-27 at 9.28.46 PM

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Twinkling Lights Space Dress with LEDs

I am excited to show you my space dress, which had hidden LED lights I could turn on to make a twinkling galaxy with stars! I wore this last weekend to a private evening event at the Lawrence Hall of Science.JJPQ1221

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For the bodice pattern I used Vogue 8789, a 1950s dress pattern, but modified the skirt to be longer and slimmer. IMG_9752

I have used this pattern a number of times and like how easy it is to put together. The front and back of the bodice has 2 pieces each with darts, and the neckline facing just flips inside.IMG_9754

The space fabric is an embroidered galaxy-themed mesh. Since it’s transparent I flat-lined it with opaque black peach skin fabric for the top. For the skirt, I needed to maintain some transparency to let the lights show through, so the skirt is lined with a semi-sheer black chiffon. IMG_9758

Underneath the skirt I wore a petticoat with the lights sewn on in a random pattern. That way I could wash the dress separately. (It’s easier if you attach the lights while the finished petticoat is on a dress form, rather than trying to sew the lights to the fabric first). I made the petticoat about a foot shorter than the skirt of the dress because I was afraid I’d accidentally put my foot in the wrong place and trip on the light strands. (This is why the lights don’t go all the way to the bottom of the dress).IMG_0244

The petticoat is just a large rectangle gathered at the top with an elastic waistband. (Use a wide elastic at least 1 inch wide, otherwise the weight of the battery pack will make the petticoat sag). My battery pack had 3 AA batteries. I’ve seen some that use coin-sized batteries that are lighter, but this is what I happened to have on hand.IMG_0249

The side seam of the petticoat had a pocket for the battery pack, plus a snap to close it. The 3 sets of wires from the battery pack connected to the 3 strands of lights I had on the skirt. (Multiple strands allows you to have them twinkle because they are not all blinking on and off at the same time). I could also have them on continuously all at once.IMG_0246

I got my lights and battery for free, but it is easy to find “LED fairy lights” on Amazon and other sites. Look for battery-operated lights and long strands so you don’t have to use too many. I have not purchased this particular set on Amazon (affiliate link), but if I were to make this again I’d upgrade to these lights that have a remote control!

This dress is a bit hard to photograph in action, but here is an outdoor shot at night. You can visit my Instagram to see a video of the dress blinking.IMG_0108

I wore shoes that I dyed and rhinestoned. IMG_9767.JPG

My solar system necklace was from ThinkGeek.IMG_0250.JPG

DRESS PROJECT COSTS:

  • 3 yards space fabric: $33.57 on Aliexpress
  • 5 yards black chiffon: ~$7 from Fabricmart Fabrics. (I bought it during a $1/yard sale and bundled it with other items for shipping).
  • Thread, zipper, snap, etc. from stash: $2
  • LED lights: $0 (I got them for free but otherwise I’d spend ~$12 on Amazon)
  • 3 AA batteries: ~$1

Total cost: ~$42.57 (or ~$53 if I had to buy the lights)

If you make a space dress of your own I’d love to see it! IMG_0152

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

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

Screen Shot 2018-12-23 at 2.06.12 PM

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