Warm weather means pretty cotton frocks to me so I just recently completed this yellow floral dress, inspired by the cute “milkmaid” style dresses. A lot of cotton prints are a bit thin and require some lining, and I have a special trick to save time by using my serger instead of cutting out the lining twice (later in this post).
The dress is made of 100% cotton and the yellow print has white and gray flowers and foliage. (I bought 3 yards of a 58″ wide fabric and had some left over). I did not want the top to be see-through so I needed to line it. For this particular dress I decided to flat-line it, which means each individual lining piece is attached to the fashion fabric before the garment is assembled. (This is different from the approach of constructing the fashion and lining layers separately, then putting them together).
The classic method of flat-lining is to cut out the lining and fashion pieces and stitch them together, but I have a time-saving hack using my Janome FA4 serger! First, I put the fashion layer on top of the lining fabric, put in a few pins to keep it from shifting, and cut it out roughly with my rotary cutter.
Then I serge the edges of the fashion fabric, while using the built-in blade of my serger to trim away the excess lining. This saves me the trouble of carefully cutting out the lining and making sure all the edges line up perfectly before sewing!
After serging/flat-lining all the pieces I sewed the seams together normally. This is the bodice without the bust cups:
The bust cups are oval pieces of fabric that are gathered at the top and bottom to fit into the U shapes of the bodice. (The top is folded down to make a drawstring channel for the ribbons, which meet in the middle to make the top adjustable).
The sleeves have channels on both the top and bottom for elastic to gather it into a puffed sleeve. The underarm of the sleeve is sewn directly to the underarm of the dress while the top of the elasticated sleeve turns into the shoulder of the dress. A few tips I have for sewing this kind of style sleeve: (1) Finish off the top of the back bodice by folding down the serged edges before you attach the sleeve, otherwise you will end up with an odd corner in the back where some serging is visible. (2) Anchor one end of the elastic by sewing it down in the channel where the sleeve attaches to the back of the dress. Use a safety pin to keep the other end of the elastic from sliding back in the channel. Try on the dress, unpin the elastic and pull it tight until the sleeve fits you over the shoulders, then pin it back until you sew it down permanently. Tip #2 is especially important if you don’t have a helper; you can fit the sleeves yourself in a mirror because the loose elastic is in front!
The dress closes in the center back with an invisible zipper. Janome makes a concealed zipper foot (Z) that makes it easy to install one!
I am looking forward to wearing this dress this summer!
Last year I had the wonderful privilege of being one of the finalists selected to be in the Her Universe Fashion Show (HUFS), and then ultimately one of the winners! The show is normally held yearly at San Diego Comic Con during the summer but the applications open up in the spring. Since this year’s show announcement is coming up, I thought this would be a good time for me to write up a post about my experience and the many questions I’ve been asked since last summer. (If you want to see the FAQ that includes what the show is, how the contest is run, any advice, etc. please see the second half of this post after my design photos). In 2021 Her Universe held a virtual show, which meant that instead of walking the stage in front of a live audience in San Diego, we submitted a lot of footage that was edited for judging purposes and streaming as part of Comic-Con at Home. My experience is a little different from the in-person show, but a lot of the information is still applicable!
(Most of the photos in this post were taken by lovely friend Natalie while assisted by my other equally lovely friend Kelsey).
For those of you that don’t know, Her Universe and the HUFS was founded by Ashley Eckstein to promote geek fashion. The HUFS is a runway show where designers submit a “geek couture” design which is high fashion inspired by a fandom. The idea is to make something that wouldn’t be out of place on a Hollywood red carpet, rather than a direct cosplay of a character. Although Star Wars, Marvel, etc. are popular inspirations each year, ideas from books, TV shows, and obscure fandoms are accepted as well.
I was selected as the audience’s choice winner, and Teighlor Johnson and Skyler Barrett and were tied for the judges’ pick in Pokemon and Queen’s Gambit-inspired designs, respectively.
My design is called “This is the Way” and was inspired by the Armorer from Star Wars: The Mandalorian. This outfit consists of 5 pieces (a jumpsuit, a cape, a headpiece, a belt, and a purse). I have nods to her helmet in my headpiece, her fur cape in my epaulets, her tools in my appliqués, and the Beskar steel she works with in the fabric of my jumpsuit.
The jumpsuit is made of a silver and black silk and wool challis fabric woven to look like Beskar steel. The jumpsuit has super wide leg palazzo pants (with hidden pockets!) that are full enough to look like a skirt when standing still. The upper sleeves are fitted with a balloon shape in the lower sleeve, gathered into a cuff.
I love this fabric! Below from left to right is a dart, then an invisible zipper, then another dart. Running horizontally is a seam.
I used gold pleather to make a flame appliqué on the bodice to reference the forge where the Armorer works, and accented the appliqués with gold glass beads. The belt is a gold metal band that closes with an art nouveau clasp in the front. Gold chains hang from the belt on each hip.
The bodice has a wide boat neck that creates a peekaboo effect combined with the high-necked red pleather backless “cape.” The brick red cape (lined in the same color) consists of a neck piece that covers the collarbone and extends to the shoulders, and long open “sleeves” that are long enough to trail on the floor, creating a train effect despite having no gown. The cape is open in the front and back so the jumpsuit is fully visible except for the shoulders, which has light brown fur epaulets on the cape. More gold chains hang from the shoulders and across the chest and back.
The cape closes at the neck with hidden hooks and bars. Then the epaulets and chains go on top, and I have hidden magnets sewn into the shoulders of the cape and the underside of the epaulets. The magnets I used are encased in plastic so I can sew them on. Here are some test pieces I did so you can see what they look like:
The headpiece is inspired by 1920s/1930s flapper headdresses and consists of 3 brass bands across the top of the head, attached to art nouveau style large decorative brass pieces over the ears. The front band has small golden spikes like a crown. The bands and ear pieces are wired together but the spikes are attached by drilling holes in the bands and screwing them in. I also added some gold pleather padding inside the ear pieces for comfort.
The purse is a clutch made of brick red pleather and lined in the same fabric as the cape. The purse flap is pleated like the Armorer’s apron and has her tools appliqued in silver. I created the design using my Silhouette Design Software and used glitter heat transfer vinyl.
The purse opens with a magnetic clasp and is decorated with gold metal half moons. As usual, I hand-sew in my labels.
Here is a video I made showing off some close-ups, when the online voting opened.
The talented artist Dani Balangawa drew this lovely portrait of my winning design and sent it to me as a surprise!
I was short on time and worldwide shipping was a little dicey at the time I was getting my materials so I bought a lot of things that I knew could get to me quickly. A lot of the items, especially the metal findings, may also be found through my usual sources of Aliexpress, eBay, and craft stores.
Where can I see examples of past Her Universe Fashion Show entries?
You can watch last year’s show on the HUFS blog, which also has links to photos from earlier shows. The site also has archives of footage from previous shows. I highly recommend you review those so you don’t inadvertently submit any similar designs.
What is the selection process like?
There is an online application where you can submit up to 3 original designs plus a written description. You will also be asked for a personal bio, info about your design/sewing experience, and some portfolio images. There may be additional questions about how you heard about the show, if you have any previous press, what you think about geek fashion, etc. You can also include links to your social media and personal website and an optional video about your designs.
Up to 25 finalists are chosen by a selection committee that consists of Ashley Eckstein and employees of Her Universe/Hot Topic. Those finalists are the ones that will appear in the HUFS during SDCC. There is one winner picked by judges at the show, and a second winner picked by audience voting. There can be more than two winners in case of a tie.
What should be in your portfolio/video?
The portfolio is a chance for you to show that you can complete your design. HU does not want to select a person who has a great sketch but doesn’t know how to sew. Your portfolio should demonstrate your skill and experience and prove you can deliver a finished item on show day. Personally I recommend submitting a collage for each image so that you can show some close-up shots of your details and accessories made, plus make sure that some of the skills and materials in your submitted designs show up in your portfolio. For example, if you submit embroidery or leatherwork you should show you have experience with embroidery or leatherwork.
The video is optional. There is a time limit of 5 minutes but it is a chance for you to talk about your designs and show off your personality or inspiration. You can hold up sketches, show off fabric swatches if you have any, etc. Not everyone submits a video with their application but I feel like it’s a great way to explain difficult concepts and convince them you should be in the show.
What is the general time line?
Generally, applications open in spring after WonderCon and the show is in July during San Diego Comic Con. In 2019 (live show) applications opened April 1 and closed April 19, notifications went to finalists on April 26, and the show was July 17. In 2021 (virtual show) applications opened March 18 and closed April 2, finalists were announced April 16, and the show aired July 23 but we had to be finished with our designs and submit photographs/videos by June 4 in order to give them time to edit the footage.
What prizes do the winners get?
The judges’ pick and the audience winner get equal prizes. Winners are invited back the following year to judge the next contest at SDCC and their travel is covered. There is also a cash prize (I’m not sure if the amount varies each year), a chance to design a collection for Her Universe/Hot Topic, and royalties from that collection.
What is the HU/HT collection? Do you get your designs reproduced or get to choose the theme?
The collection is determined by HU/HT based on their licensing agreement with an upcoming movie. The 2021 winners designed items to come out in time for the 2022 Jurassic World movie. Some past winners have designed Star Wars, Marvel, and Wonder Woman items. The collection is mean to be casual/streetwear garments and are sold online at HU and in HT shops.
Do you have to have a ticket to San Diego Comic Con to apply?
No, you do not need a SDCC ticket to participate in the show or come watch as an audience member. The HUFS is held at a hotel during SDCC, but is a separate event. Finalists in the show are also often gifted a pass to SDCC.
Do finalists have their costs covered?
No, you are responsible for buying your own materials for your design, and covering your own travel to San Diego. As stated above, you do not need to pay for a SDCC ticket. If you win and are invited back as a judge, then your travel is comped for your subsequent trip.
Is there an age limit?
You need to be at least 18 for HUFS. (One year there was an affiliated junior design contest for minors, but that was different from the main runway show). There is no upper age limit and you don’t have to be fresh out of design school. There are people in the show in their 30s and 40s, with established careers and/or kids doing this for fun.
The contest is called the HER Universe Fashion Show. Are men allowed?
Yes, male designers are allowed to participate. In past runway shows male designers submitted womenswear, but during the 2021 virtual show the finalists could also present menswear designs.
Do you have to model the clothing yourself?
No, you can have a friend model the clothing if you don’t want to wear it yourself and many designers prefer to hire a model for various reasons (runway experience, having a particular look in mind, ease of fitting, honoring a particular culture, etc.) However, many people also love modeling the clothing themselves! It is up to you.
Do you need to be a great fashion illustrator or submit professional drawings?
No, the design sketches just need to be able to convey your vision clearly to the selection committee. You are also allowed to include written descriptions and your sketch can be a collage that includes pics of fabric swatches, etc. You can also use your optional video to describe your design.
You are allowed to hire a pro artist or friend to polish up your designs, as long as all the ideas are your own. For example, maybe you’re not confident about rendering fabric or comfortable about your illustration skills, you can have someone do your final sketches, as long as they are not helping you design.
For myself, I have submitted before using my own drawings, and have also applied by having my drawings translated by costume illustrator Emily Hasty. You can see below my original sketches and notes and the professional rendering by Emily.
Here is the sketch from Emily I submitted as part of my HUFS application.
What is the “portfolio review” at WonderCon?
At WonderCon, a few months before SDCC, and before the HUFS application officially opens, the Her Universe/Hot Topic team will usually host a portfolio review at WonderCon. (This is separate from the HU panel that consists of the past year’s winners that will be judges for the year). This is a chance for aspiring applicants to have a few minutes with some HU/HT reps to get some quick feedback about their designs. This is completely optional, and is a nice bonus for anyone who’s already attending WonderCon who wants a second opinion, but is not a requirement to enter. (The HU/HT reps may or may not be the same people on the final selection committee).
Is there another place to get feedback?
There is an unofficial Facebook group called “The Workshop” that is a support group consisting of many past finalists and people who are interested in applying. It’s a friendly place to ask questions or talk about your designs.
What is the HU panel you referred to at WonderCon?
The panel consists of the previous year’s winners and gives info on the upcoming show plus a sneak peak at the HU/Hot Topic collection that is being released.
Would you recommend participating?
Absolutely! I had a wonderful experience and the people involved in the show (both organizing and participating) were lovely. The HU/HT staff provided lots of guidance, were available for questions, and were really responsive. Prior to applying for the first time I had talked to previous finalists about the general vibe to see if HUFS was something I wanted to join. Everyone I asked said that it was the type of show where people hyped each other up and helped each other backstage so please keep that atmosphere going if you participate! Since the 2021 show was virtual, we had weekly Zoom meetings hosted by HU and a private Facebook group. People were offering to help each other shop for materials in the LA Fabric District or mail spare supplies. When online voting opened the participants were encouraging their followers to check out the other finalists as well. It definitely felt more like a bunch of theatre kids banding together to put on a show rather than competitors in a pageant. I am very grateful to have been part of this experience and am looking forward to being a judge this year and cheering all of you on!
I was making a Borgias-inspired Renaissance dress and decided to lean into to the green gold color scheme and make it a historical Loki variant costume. I wanted a Renaissance gown but being shiny and pretty was more important to me than historical accuracy so this isn’t pegged to a specific decade, but rather a look inspired by both the Borgias HBO show and the character Loki from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The dress is made from beautiful green and gold shot raw silk suiting. The bodice uses the same fabric but with a silk/rayon organza burnout overlay, and the lining is a black cotton canvas for structure.
The skirt is made of pleated rectangular panels. Each of the front and back are 1.5 panels wide, with the seam hidden under the metallic jacquard trim.
The sleeves are basic sleeve shapes but cut a little loose to allow for the chemise underneath. They are somewhat like tie-on sleeves except instead of ribbons I sewed them at the meeting points with a glass pearl and some gold bead caps.
Underneath the dress I wore a Tudor chemise because that is what I had on hand. (It was also made using a pattern from the Tudor Tailor book). However, at a later point I’d like to make a Renaissance camicia with a different neckline and much fuller sleeves to puff out through the gaps in the green sleeve.
I bought the Loki crown as 3D printed pieces from Parton Prints on Etsy. The horns come as separate pieces for ease of shipping and I glued them on using E6000 glue. After a little sanding, I used a primer that someone recommended to me for 3D printed plastics Tamiya Gray Fine Surface Primer (Amazon affiliate link) I finished up with two coats of Rust-Oleum Metallic Spray Paint in Gold. Originally I used more E6000 to glue on a black elastic strap but decided to cut them off. Instead I used the nubs of those straps as an anchor point to sew on some gold necklace chains both as decorative dangling elements in the front and also as a visible gold band across the back to hold the crown on.
I am wearing a wavy black wig from Amazon (affiliate link) under the crown. I wish my hair was that luxurious! The necklace is a secondhand eBay find.
And here is a video of the dress in action!
I had so much fun pretending to be a villain. Here are a few of the fun TikTok videos I made as Lokizia Borgia:
Transforming into Lokizia Borgia:
2. Asking you to join me in ruling the galaxy:
3. Starting my villain arc:
5 yards green/gold raw silk suiting from Fabricmartfabrics.com: $52.50 + $9.99 shipping (some left over)
2 yards organza burnout from Fabricmartfabrics.com: $16.10 (shipped with silk suiting, a lot left over)
Winter is here and I wanted a cute and cozy accessory that was a nice shawl, but also a surprise hood and scarf! I made this out of a wool knit jersey but other soft fabrics with a bit of drape would work as well. I added some pompom trim for whimsy but that is optional; this surprise hood would work well untrimmed, or finished with decorative stitching or other touches. This was inspired by Victorian mantelets with front lappets, knit sontags, chic old Hollywood head scarves, and modern cozy.
Note: I am a member of the Janome Maker program and this project was sewn on a Janome Skyline S9. (This post is sponsored by Janome but all content and opinions are mine).
WHAT YOU WILL NEED
Soft fabric with drape (wool jersey, lightweight cable knit, rayon challis, lightweight wool suiting, etc.)
The yardage depends on how wide your fabric is. (I used 1.5 yards of a 58″ wide fabric by alternating the wide and narrow ends of the pattern pieces while cutting).
Thread, scissors, chalk, pins.
Optional: 5 yards pompom/ball fringe trim, lace, rickrack, etc.
DRAFTING THE PATTERN
Don’t worry if you don’t have any pattern drafting experience! I’ve broken it down into squares/rectangles/triangles so if you have a ruler you can draw these shapes. Start with these basic geometric shapes; I find it is easiest to draw the square first, then the rectangle, then the triangle on a large piece of paper. (It doesn’t have to be fancy or special drafting paper; a roll of gift wrap works great).
Next, draw the curves indicated in red on the diagram. Then, discard the shaded areas.
Now you have your pattern that you can cut out of paper and use to trace onto your fabric! (This includes 1/2 inch seam allowance. You can add more when cutting out your fabric if you want your shawl a little wider or are skipping any trim).
Cut out 4 identical pieces of fabric. 2 will be the fashion layer and 2 will be the lining. (If you want, you can use a different fabric for the lining but then the hood will be a different fabric when flipped up).
Sew the center back seam of the 2 fashion pieces together. Repeat for the lining layer. Press the seams flat.
Put the fashion and lining layers right sides together. If you plan to use pompom trim or lace, this is the time to sandwich your trim in between the two layers as shown, with the edges flush. (This is so that the pompom balls are “inside” when sewing the edges but will be on the “outside” when the shawl is flipped right side out). You will have trim everywhere except the neckline. (If you are using rickrack, instead of sandwiching it in the layers you should sew it to the fashion layer before it is attached to the lining).
Sew all along the outer edges of the shawl, except for the neckline, as shown in the earlier image.
Turn the right sides out through the opening in the neckline, exposing the pompom trim. Fold in the raw edges of the neckline and topstitch closed.
Right now you will have a long flat piece as shown below. (The ends are folded in so I could fit everything in the photo).
Pleat the neckline area (up to where the pompoms start) to fit the curve of your neck. The finished curved area should cover the back half of your neck. (If you have a dress form handy, an easy way to determine how to do the pleats is to pin the center back seam to the center back of the form, pin where the pompom trim starts to the shoulder point on the form, then pleat using the neck of the form as a guide). To keep the pleats in place, stitch down the pleats over the previous topstitch line either by machine or by hand.
Optional: Use one of the embroidery stitches to add some extra decorative details to your shawl. Some ideas include using a continuous stitch along the edges of the shawl, or putting a monogram on the tails. You can also do a decorative stitch along the edge after the shawl is sewn, rather than using pompom trim. (These examples are under the Decorative stitch menu on my Janome Skyline S9).
HOW TO WEAR
This can be worn multiple ways!
Wear the draped back and front tails down as a shawl.
Pull up the draped back over your head as a hood (with the tails in front or pushed behind your shoulders).
Wrap one or two front tails around your neck like a scarf.
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!
I made this fantasy costume back at the start of the year and realized I never wrote up a post! With the 20th anniversary of the Lord of the Rings films coming up, this is a good time to finally blog about this dress with elven vibes. I had fun walking around in nature, pretending to be regal, and hope to wear it to an actual event some time!
I made the main body of the dress using an embossed navy blue velvet, and the cape is a sheer netting with silver glitter stars.
I created moon phase appliqués out of silver glitter heat transfer vinyl with my Silhouette machine to decorate the front of the dress. (If you’re not familiar with HTV, the material is on a plastic backing. You iron on the appliqué and then peel off the plastic backing, revealing your design).
I glued crystals around the moons using E6000 Fabri Fuse (which is not the same as regular E6000). I glued larger crystals onto a piece of grosgrain ribbon to make the belt.
The pattern I used is Butterick B4827. It is a princess-seamed fantasy dress and I made very few modifications. I turned the lace-up back into a zipper back, and I added the cape. The cape is a long rectangle, pleated into the back neckline, with a cut open center slit part way down the back to access the zipper.
The front of the cape is sandwiched into part of the armscye shoulder seam, with excess removed, as explained in this video.
I made my flower crown by spray-painting sola wood flowers with Rustoleum silver spray paint. The base of the circlet is silver floral wire, and the flowers and a necklace are attached to the base using 26 gauge wire. I also glued crystals onto the petals using E600 Fabri Fuse. This video shows the process:
I have a few scraps left of the velvet and I am planning to make a pouch for carrying items. In my haste to whip up the long seams of this dress quickly, I serged all the panels together and forgot to add pockets!
4 yards embossed navy velvet: $52.59 including tax and shipping from Amazon. The blue is sold out but there are other colors like black and ivory still available from Amazon (affiliate link). You can also find it at Fabric.com
2 meters glitter star fabric: $19.84 including shipping from Aliexpress
Crystals, glue, flowers, thread, ribbon, wire, paint, etc. were items I already owned and mostly left over from other projects, but I’d estimate if I had to go buy that all new from a craft store I’d spend ~$20.
Total cost: $72.43 out of pocket plus miscellaneous stash items.
Thank you for reading! I took these photos on a cloudy day. Maybe one day I’ll get a chance to take some atmospheric night time photos!
I liked the big lapels, sailor collar, and tulip-shaped pockets and cuffs.
I used a gray and black houndstooth wool for the skirt and accents and a yellow wool for the jacket. The black buttons are vintage Czech glass buttons and the the yellow ones are vintage handmade.
There are different options for collars and pockets in this pattern.
The skirt is made according to the construction methods of the era where there’s an internal waistband that actually holds the skirt up. The waistband you see on the outside is attached at the top but not at the bottom, allowing for the gathers in the back of the skirt to hang loosely.
I made myself a matching hat which was pretty easy! The base of the hat used the same pattern as the jacket belt. I wrapped it around my head at a jaunty angle and pinned it to fit. The center of the hat is just a giant pleated rosette with a pompom hiding the center hole.
I’m afraid I took my photos while it was getting dark quickly during winter, so they are a bit grainy.
Some sizing notes: This is based on an antique pattern from the period.
The original skirt is quite long (great for tall people) but WH includes a cutting line if you want a shorter version of the skirt. I am 5’6″ and cut the shorter version.
The shoulders of the jacket are rather broad. I had to take in the shoulders a little bit to reduce the width.
The jacket is very full and loose but this is intentional. Shaping is done by the belt. You do not need to cut a smaller size; it is supposed to be a bit tent-like. (For security I have some hidden snaps in the jacket and hooks and bars in the belt).
3 yards gray/black houndstooth wool: $31.50 plus tax and shipping from Fabricmartfabrics
Pattern from Wearing History: $28 plus tax and shipping
4 yards yellow wool: $65 including tax and shipping from a FB destash group
Vintage yellow buttons: $6 + tax from a marketplace
Vintage Czech glass buttons: from eBay; I’ve had them for years and don’t remember how much I paid
Thread, snaps, etc. from stash
I’m not quite sure of the total cost because items 1 and 2 had shipping bundled with other items; I don’t have receipts for everything, and I have leftover wool in both colors, but I hope this gives you an approximate idea of what it will cost you to make your own. Thank you for reading!
For Halloween I made myself a Victorian/Edwardian-inspired mashup witch costume. I got large amounts of sari fabrics rather cheaply from a local person after they were used as party decorations, and even after distributing most of it to friends I still had a lot left over, and decided they were perfect for a bright Halloween witch. Since this was a costume I didn’t worry about combining details from various decades.
The skirt is a basic pleated two-panel skirt with seams on the sides. One seam has a pocket and the other has an invisible zipper. Since the sari is thin and I had so much of it I flat-lined it with more of the same.
The blouse and vest patterns are both from Black Snail Patterns on Etsy. They are the 1890s Late Victorian Day Blouse/Bodice and 1890s Edwardian Ladies’ Vest. Because this was meant to be a Halloween costume I took a “theatrical” approach to the construction and skipped a lot of the detailed and historically accurate instructions in the patterns such as creating facings, boning, etc. so I cannot comment on those. As usual, I did find the pattern pieces to be well-drafted and needed very little adjustment. My biggest cheat is I sewed the sleeves from the blouse pattern directly to the vest to make one garment. This saved me a lot of time, and also made the costume less warm with less layers!
Instead of making lots of buttonholes for my small gold buttons I did hidden hooks and bars down the front of the bodice and the buttons are decorative.
The belt is made from a scrap of the green sari fabric, paired with a vintage belt buckle. The buckle is actually plastic painted gold but looks pretty good from a distance!
I’m afraid I didn’t do a great job tracking the yardage since I had basically unlimited fabric, but I would estimate that I used 3 orange saris (since everything was 2 layers) and one green one. The saris I got were used and pre-cut and were 3-5 meters each. Thus, my rough estimates for project costs are as follows:
4 saris: ~$20 (yeah I got a great deal!)
25 yard roll of pleated grosgrain trim: $9.50 from Amazon, and I have a lot left. (The trim usually runs about $40 a roll but I’ve bought other colors through random price drops).
Gold buttons: free from a friend
Vintage buckle: ~$10? (I don’t remember).
Thread, hooks and eyes, collar interfacing, lining: ~$5 (stash and scraps from other projects)
Bodice pattern: $8.60
Vest pattern: $7.37
Printing costs: $5.56 plus shipping (I had my A0 patterns printed by PDFplotting.com and the shipping was bundled with other things)
Total: ~$45 for materials and ~$25 for patterns I will reuse
Some final thoughts:
This project was all polyester. The fabric was pretty enough it didn’t “matter” if it was silk and I hope this a reminder that costumes don’t need to be expensive.
Did you notice that I pleated the front of the skirt differently than I did the back? I didn’t until I put the waistband and zipper on, and I didn’t care to redo it! Here’s a reminder that maybe “mistakes” aren’t really that big of a deal and probably most people won’t notice.
I did some cheats to simplify construction. What works for you is what works for you, whether it is historically accurate, historically appropriate, historically adequate, or historically adjacent!
Thank you for reading!
My necklace is antique glass and brass from the 1930s and my shoes are from American Duchess.
I had some gray and pumpkin-colored knit fabrics in my stash so when I saw that pattern I thought it was the perfect way to use up some fabric. This was a sewing pattern, no knitting knowledge required! Plus it has pockets! (I decided to color block my pockets. That is not in the pattern; if you like to keep things simple you may find it easier to make solid pockets as instructed).
Because this is a pattern using stretch knit fabric I recommend that you have a serger. If you are very determined to make it you could probably zig-zag everything tightly. This pattern is meant for knit fabrics; I don’t know how it would look with woven fabrics.
This is a reproduction of an antique pattern from the 1920s so it came in only one size (42″ bust). This was not my size so I had to grade down from the pattern to make it fit me. I also found the sleeves too baggy on me so I also had to slim them down. The pattern does not have a lot of pieces (back, fronts, collar, sleeves, pockets, waist tie) so if you have knowledge of grading you can manage it just fine. I am 5’6″ and did not have to adjust the overall length.
Depending on the width of your knit fabric and your size you’ll need about 2-3 yards to make this cardigan. (Please see the size chart on the pattern listing). The knits I was using were very thin and fine so I had to self-line and double my yardage. I used 2 yards of the pumpkin fabric, all lined with gray fabric. My collar, cuffs, ties, and pockets all used some gray as well. I had scraps left over from both colors; I would estimate I used almost all of the 2 yards of pumpkin and about 3 yards of gray. (If you are using a thicker knit you won’t need to line so your yardage would be half of what I used).
This pattern is listed as “expert difficulty.” My personal opinion is that the construction is not very difficult but the reason why this is not a beginner pattern is because it comes in one size (42″ bust) so you will have to know how to grade patterns if it is not your size. (Luckily it is an open front cardigan so it can run big and has room for error!) The other reasons why Wearing History lists her “Archive Couture” patterns as advanced or expert is because some of her patterns (plus the instructions) are reproductions from antique patterns, which assumed a certain level of sewing knowledge and did not do illustrated step-by-step instructions like modern patterns.
Pattern from Wearing History: $5 from her Etsy; it is on sale for now
5 yards of rayon/poly/lycra rib knit: $26 plus $5 shipping from Fabric Mart.
If you are looking for something comfortable to wear around the house I highly recommend this pattern! I’ve already been looking at my stash and thinking I can make another one for wearing at the office or with dresses.
Note: You may have noticed that my cardigan is used as an example on the Wearing History Etsy listing. The photos are used with my permission. I paid for the pattern myself, and was not paid to make this blog post.
At the event I wore the pants without the extra skirt panel, but for a future wearing I plan to use this versatile garment with the skirt panel buttoned in (which makes them surprise pants!)
I used 20 silver-colored metal shank buttons that have been in my stash for years. I think I paid 25 cents a button a long time ago and have been saving them for a project that needed 20 buttons! I got the wool for a great bargain too ($20!)
The blouse was up-cycled from a second-hand cotton dress! I removed the skirt and used the extra fabric to make new sleeves and cuffs (replacing the 3/4 sleeves), extend the hem of the blouse, and also line my vest. (It would have been even less work to just cut the skirt off a few inches below the waist seam, but it had a lot of gathered material that would have created bulk below the split riding pants).
For my other accessories I wore American Duchess Tavistock boots, vintage fringed sueded gloves with studs, a wool hat with a silver emblem I got from Poshmark, and a pleather pouch from Amazon.
The pouch (Amazon affiliate link) had slits in the back for threading the belt through to wear as a hip pouch, plus internal loops to wear as a purse. It’s “old-time” enough that I think it’ll end up in other costume ensembles!
Some notes about the Wearing History pattern: It comes with a short and long version of the skirt. Since I had limited fabric I cut the shorter version and was able to get a vest out of the scraps. (I used 3 yards of 54″ wool). The pants are unlined.The skirt panel is faced with self-fabric and contains all the buttonholes while the buttons are sewn onto the pants. There are two options to attach the skirt panel. You can have one side sewn into the seam of the pants (which means you won’t lose the panel and you can make half as many buttonholes) or you can have the panel completely removable. If you have the panel attached you fold it over to one side and button it down. I opted to have the panel completely removable because my self-faced fabric folded over would have meant 4 layers of medium-weight wool and more bulk than I wanted. (If you use a lightweight wool or other fabric you don’t have to be concerned about that).
The back of the skirt has an inverted box pleat that you can stitch down the center back seam. I did not do the stitching, in order to make the back more skirt-like.
The pants are very full so even if the skirt is buttoned in place in the front there should be plenty of range of motion due to the extra fabric in the sides and back.
Pattern difficulty is “advanced” according to Wearing History. This is because this is a reproduction of an antique pattern from 1919-1920 and assumes certain basic knowledge. Wearing History has added some really helpful notes, but this is not the kind of modern pattern that has step-by-step illustrations. You should know how to make and attach a placket for the opening and the facings on the bottom hem. (These are rectangular pieces you make yourself from scraps, and are not included in the pattern).
I am an experienced costumer maker and have made pants before, so I did not find this pattern particularly difficult, but it is not a beginner pattern for sure. I highly recommend this pattern if you are experienced or an ambitious intermediate seamstress. It was definitely fun to wear with the rest of my guild!
In February my local costume guild went to see an exhibit of James Tissot paintings at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco, and we dressed up in bustle gowns. The exhibit was wonderful and it was lovely to see my fellow costumers.
My shoes are American Duchess Tissot shoes that I dyed blue and made shoe clips for out of my fabric scraps.
The blue trim is pleated grosgrain ribbon, which I put on the collar, cuffs, belt, and skirt flounces. I made my hat using a palm fan (more on that later in this post)!
My buttons were made using vintage fabric over vintage covered button kits. (The bodice actually closes with hooks and bars and the buttons are decorative). I prefer this technique because it means I can adjust the fit more easily and I don’t have to make a lot of buttonholes!
I recommend the Black Snail pattern. It consist of a bodice with an attached “apron,” a skirt, and long sleeves. The bustle effect is achieved by having ruffled flounces on the apron and skirt, and by having hidden ribbon ties underneath the apron.
The pieces all fit together well and the sizing chart was accurate. I was impressed that even the very large pieces of the skirt panels fit together, which means the pattern was graded well.
The sleeve is an 1870s two-part coat sleeve with a seam down the elbow and another seam on the inside of the arm. It is loose-fitting and appropriate to the era, and the fullness of the sleeve head needs to be eased into the shoulder of the bodice.
I made some simplifications to the Black Snail pattern in order to speed up the project:
I did not bother making a skirt placket and facing for the underskirt, since the top half is covered by the apron overskirt anyway.
The pattern calls for the back half of the underskirt to be cartridge pleated into the waistband. I did regular pleats since the top would be hidden.
I cut my flounces using the straight grain instead of on the bias like the pattern calls for. This is so I could use the selvedge instead of hemming the many yards of flounced fabric. However, this meant that my flounce stripes are horizontal instead of diagonal so you should cut on the bias if you prefer the diagonal. (The other reason why I used the straight grain is because I had limited fabric and the bias cut takes up more yardage).
The bustle effect comes from gathering up the apron overskirt in the back with twill tape. The pattern asks you to sew pieces of tape to the bodice then sew buttons to strategic parts of the overskirt that get attached to buttonholes on the tapes. In order to skip making the buttonholes I just used tapes on the skirt as well to tie to the bodice tapes.
Just a warning: if you purchase the pre-printed pattern please make sure you have large paper around your house. There are some pattern pieces where you are told to extend the piece by up to 15 inches. (This was done by cutting a piece through the middle, inserting some paper, then drawing lines to connect the original pieces). I had to do this for a number of the larger pieces, and I didn’t expect to do so much assembly for a pattern I did not print at home. I’m not sure if the reason behind this was to save paper costs, but I would have gladly paid a little more for the pattern to avoid the extra work.
Here’s some photos I took of the dress in progress so you can see what the apron looks like up and down.
Black Snail recommends 11 yards of 51″ wide fabric for this dress. I only had 9 yards of 42″ fabric but made it work by using straight grain flounces instead of cutting my flounces on the bias like the pattern recommends.
Underneath my skirt I wore a “phantom bustle” (made during a class taught by Christina Deangelo) and two antique petticoats.
On top I wore this custom silk brocade late Victorian corset by Redthreaded. I own several other pieces by them and they are all very well-made. They offer both ready-to-wear and custom sizing and the owner Cynthia Settje is committed to great customer service and fair treatment and wages for her employees.
My hat base was made by me using a palm fan I had around the house! I trimmed it with leftover fabric from my dress, some leftover floral trim from my 18th century shepherdess outfit, and a little bird I got from the craft store. (I am wearing glass intaglio earrings from Dames a la Mode).
The fabric is a long pleated rectangle with pointed ends.
When I said palm fan, I literally meant a palm fan.
I soaked it in water to soften it, cut off the handle, and molded it around a bowl.
After it was dry I machine-sewed the ends together and trimmed off excess.
Voila, a hat base!
For my hair I wore 3 false hair pieces: a large braided bun, a crown braid, and twist hanging from the bun.
I used a remnant of pink ribbon I had around the house to trim the hat, but I think for a future wearing I’d like to replace it with a much wider and longer ribbon.
Project costs (not including undergarments and accessories):