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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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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!

A Giraffe Dress and Elephant PJs Using Fabrics from Tanzania

Earlier this year my friend Kim visited Tanzania and brought me back some great African fabric as a special gift.

I used this vibrant giraffe print to make myself a long dress for summer. It’s opaque enough that I was able to skip a lining, making it a perfect cotton dress for warmer weather.img_0713

I cut it out a few months ago but only recently finished because I got distracted by the Tudor kirtle.img_0714

I think it looks like the giraffes are having a chat and perhaps giving a little side-eye.img_0715

I used Vogue 8789 for the pattern, and just extended the length of the skirt to use up the width of the fabric. (You may recognize the bodice as being the same shape as my Black Swan 1950s  Ball Gown). The dress used 3 meters of fabric.img_0716

The other fabric I received from Kim was a kanga. (You can read about them and how they are used on KangaUSA). This elephant kanga is printed with the phrase “Wanyama ndiyo urithi wetu tuwatunza,” which is Swahili for “Animals are our inheritance, we should protect them.”IMG_9037.JPG

Because of the shape of the fabric and the way the print is formatted I had to think about how to cut the fabric, but realized that pajama bottoms are a great way to use a rectangular print.img_9038

The pattern is Butterick 6837, which I’ve used a number of times in the past to make PJs for myself and my family. If you have a serger and put in an elastic waistband you can make PJ pants in about an hour with enough practice.IMG_9040.JPG

I was able to use up the kanga with very little fabric wasted. Because of my height I had to piece a little fabric at the top to make it long enough, but a shorter person could skip this step. This project was so quick it was my first sewing project right after attending Costume College in August, when I wanted something easy.

I’m still working on my last project of 2016, but Happy New Year!

Tudor Kirtle (Part 3): Kirtle and Smock

Tudor Kirtle (Part 3): Kirtle and Smock

I finally had some sun and a weekend at home to take some pictures. I had 4 garments that were finished and not photographed, including this kirtle and smock. I made the kirtle earlier in the year for a faire I ended up not being able to attend, so I don’t have any pictures of it worn yet.img_0729

The kirtle is made of a blue worsted wool and lined with a linen-blend, which was also used to make the smock. Both garments are made with patterns from the Tudor Tailor.img_0731

The kirtle has spiral lacing on both sides. I chose to have the openings on the side to increase the versatility of the kirtle. I can wear it as-is, or with other clothing over it.img_0734

The back has a rounded neckline.img_0739

Parts 1 and 2 discuss my construction details.

The smock is rather straight-forward, and is really a series of rectangles of varying sizes. Most of the time was spent on the collar and cuffs, so if you wanted a plain one the sewing would go very quickly.

Final project costs:

  • 4 meters blue worsted wool: $104.88 from Aliexpress. (I probably could have made this out of 3 meters, but bought 4 to be safe. I still have plenty to make sleeves).
  • 6 yards Kaufman handkerchief linen/cotton: $45.17 with tax from Fabric.com. (I used this for the smock and lining, and have enough left over for a 18th century chemise).
  • 10 yards linen tape: $10.40 including tax from Britex Fabrics.

Total: $160.45

This is a bit more than my usual projects, but wool is not cheap (even though I felt I got a decent deal on the fabric), and I have plenty of materials left over for other projects.

I would like to make a pair of sleeves and a partlet to wear with it. I already own a few other accessories, such as a straw hat, my gorgeous American Duchess Stratfords (affiliate link),  and a beautiful blackwork coif commissioned from Romantic Recollections!img_0744screen-shot-2016-12-26-at-3-21-45-pm

Tudor Kirtle (Part 2): The Skirt

Part one, learning from my bodice mistakes, is here. This post is about what I learned while making the skirt the wrong way.

After cutting out the skirt panels, which are really just two large rectangles, one for the front and one for the back, I folded the tops over, stitched them, and then folded them over again to enclose all raw edges. (Have you figured out yet what I did wrong?) Then I pleated them and stitched the top of the pleats in place. (Each long edge of each panel was folded in once because it was the selvage).img_9245

The panels were stitched together at the sides, leaving room for pocket slits. Then the pleated edge of the skirt was sewn to the bottom edge of the bodice, right sides together. (Here my sewing got very sloppy because I was making the kirtle last minute for an event). This is what the interior of the kirtle looked like:fullsizeoutput_c7

Remember from part one how I realized the worsted wool was too fine for boning, and the reed showed through? Since I had folded the tops of the pleats over twice, the extra bulk showed through on the other side! It wasn’t obvious when the skirt was on a hanger, but once I put it on my stomach pushed the pleats outward, causing a visible line on the outside where I did not want it.

I realized at that point that what I should have done was pleat the skirt panels, attach them to the bodice, then finish sewing the bodice lining over the pleats to enclose the raw edges.

I was too lazy to take it all apart due to all the hand-sewing involved, so I ended up having to unfold part of the pleats and trim off the stitched edge with scissors. Here is the inside again:img_0618

I should still trim the raw edge with pinking shears to prevent fraying, but now there is not a bulky line that shows when worn!fullsizeoutput_c8

Then when hemming I made the mistake of just folding up the bottom a certain number of inches and stitching without pinning and putting it on before sewing because I was in a hurry and thought I had cut things pretty evenly.

Yeah, it wasn’t that even, and wool stretches. So, after my event got rained out and I couldn’t go, I put the kirtle on and had some friends help me look it over so I could re-hem it evenly.

The kirtle is now done, but I have been waiting for a sunny day to take pictures, since I haven’t had a chance to wear it out. All the pictures in this post were taken indoors, some at night, and you can see it made the wool seem like four different colors!

To wear under the kirtle, I made a smock using a pattern from the Tudor Tailor book I bought on Amazon (affiliate link). It is also awaiting proper photos. Meanwhile, here is a teaser picture!img_9824

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!