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1840s Fan Front Dresses at the Dickens Fair – and Twins!

Last weekend I went to the Dickens Christmas Fair and wore my 1840s fan-front dress, along with a few other friends wearing the same style. One of my friends had the same orange and navy fabric that we purchased independently by coincidence, so we had a good time being twins!img_0498

I made this dress last year so you can read about my construction details on a previous post. I am wearing a bonnet by Lynne Taylor, a shawl from eBay, and ivory silk stockings and Tavistock button boots from American Duchess.img_0538img_0535

Our “backstory” for that day at fair was that Elizabeth had consumption (hence the dark eye make up). As her dear devoted sister I made her many nutritious broths and teas, which tasted like almonds.img_0509

She spent a lot of time coughing while the rest of us enjoyed ourselves!img_0502

I love this cotton print very much, and I think the orange bows that Elizabeth surprised me with were a nice touch this time.img_0507

1830s Romantics at the PEERS Victorian Gothic Ball

This weekend I went to the PEERS Victorian Gothic Ball. We were invited to wear 1830s or 1840s clothing and dance the night away, along with actors portraying characters from Jane Eyre and readings by Mr. Edgar Allen Poe and other poets. There is a mini-reunion of our Hopeless Romantics group, along with a few new ladies in 1830s clothing.IMG_9359

I wasn’t quite sure until a few hours before the ball that I would be wearing that particular dress because I had a back injury and could not wear a corset or spend a lot of time with my arms above my head doing elaborate hair. Luckily I already had an easy hairpiece from a previous outing (with a tutorial here) and managed to squeeze myself into the dress sans corset by shifting my petticoats down a bit. The silhouette is not perfect, but I made it to the ball!IMG_9365I am wearing jewelry from Dames a la Mode and Pemberly slippers from American Duchess.

I tried to pose like a serious portrait.IMG_9308

A close-up of the hair and jewelry.IMG_9307

And I shall end with the delightfully silly menu from the bar that evening.IMG_9301

1840s Fan Front Dress at Dickens Fair

I have been so busy sewing a new 1840s Victorian dress the last several weeks that I didn’t even make any progress posts, so this will be a long one with lots of pictures and information about the pattern, accessories, hair, and such. I started sewing after my last visit to the Dickens Fair at the beginning of the season wearing my 1850s plaid silk dress, so this dress only took a few weeks!

I made an 1840s fan front day dress out of a wonderful reproduction cotton print by Andover Fabrics, based on an antique quilt housed at the University of Nebraska. It’s a very nice machine-washable fabric that doesn’t seem to wrinkle much. I was able to take this out of the dryer and not iron it before sewing!

I wore my dress with a cashmere/silk paisley shawl and a gorgeous sapphire silk taffeta bonnet made by my friend Lynne Taylor (more on that later).

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I apologize for the quality of the pictures; the lighting at the Fair is terrible. I do have detail shots taken at home following these photos.IMG_6401IMG_6406IMG_6410

I wish I had darker gloves; I think the white gloves look rather stark against the navy and orange.IMG_6368

I put piping in the neckline and bottom of the bodice, but it gets lost in the dark and busy print, so I didn’t bother piping the shoulders and sleeves.IMG_6371

The front is gathered into the shoulders.IMG_6373

The back closes with 8 black hooks and bars. My husband was complaining they were hard to see when he helped me get dressed.IMG_6375

The side panel is cut on the bias, so I couldn’t quite get the pattern to match up.IMG_6380

I am pleased with how invisible the hem came out.IMG_6377

I ended up with more leftover fabric than I anticipated according to the pattern. I didn’t know this when cutting out the panels, so my hem facing is only a few inches deep this time.IMG_6379

Can you see the pocket hidden in the side seams? The pattern has huge deep pockets and I put one on each side. It was actually a little awkward trying the reach the bottom of the pockets, but I was able to hold my wallet, phone, keys, fan, water bottle, tissues, a snack, a tin of hair pins, a schedule, and my ticket!IMG_6383

I used the Laughing Moon Round Dress #114 Pattern. It is a decent pattern, but I recommend some changes if you use it:

  1. The shoulders are very broad. I had to take mine in at least 2 inches and adjust the armscye. Two friends of mine also used this pattern and had to do the same.
  2. There is a lot of fabric in the front bodice overlay, and I think you can get a more flattering shape if you increase the gathering. The pattern calls for 7 rows of gathering in the center bottom front, but I tripled that. I added extra rows in between the original rows, and additional rows above it so that the fan rises higher.
  3. I saw a few reviews that said the sleeve is a bit wide, and one friend said it is a bit short too. If you like a more tightly fitted sleeve you’ll need to adjust the pattern. (I ended up reusing the sleeve pattern from my chemise dress, with some minor changes, but I still cut the sleeves on the bias).
  4. If you have a 45 inch fabric the pattern recommends cutting 3 panels of that, plus a 13 inch wide panel, and making a final hem circumference of 144 inches. Regardless of the skirt style I like to have 3 panels so I can have pockets in the side seams and one seam in the back for the opening, so I skipped the 13 inch panel. My skirt was narrower, but I wanted a smaller silhouette to navigate the crowded fair with.
  5. The pattern calls for boning in the darts of the lining. I gathered my fan so tightly that the front panel was already pretty stiff, and I made this dress to be machine washable, so I skipped that step.

The skirt is cartridge pleated, and I used gingham ribbon as a stitching guide, rather than tediously marking 2 rows of dots a half inch apart. Fold over the top of your skirt like you normally would when cartridge pleating, then lay the ribbon over the fold. Use the little squares as a guide for your rows of stitching, and the ribbon will be sewn to the skirt. When you are done, the ribbon remains, and also adds extra body to your pleats!IMG_6305

As I mentioned earlier, my coal scuttle bonnet was made by Lynne Taylor. She is a very talented milliner and did a lovely job. The bonnet is wired buckram, covered in sapphire blue taffeta. (It is much brighter than it appears in the pictures). The inside and outside are pleated, and the top of the crown is double piped and padded. There are little bows over the moire ribbon that circles the middle of the crown, and the same moire is used for the ties. IMG_6390IMG_6392

I was delighted with the whole ensemble, and will gladly wear it again to fair next year (and to Costume College as well!)

For my hair I tried to fake the 1840s style. I took a large section of hair on each side of my head and coated it with lots of mousse, then curved it gently forward and then up, and then pinned it to the side of my head. I then did my usual little bun on the back of my head, covered with a big fake braided bun. Since most of my hair is covered by the bonnet all you see are the “droopy puppy ears” and not the messy mass of bobby pins on my head and doesn’t matter if the rest is not appropriate to the decade.IMG_6387

Final cost of the dress, minus accessories:

  • 7.25 yards cotton fabric: $50 + $12.65 shipping (from destash group on Facebook)
  • Bodice lining left over from other project: $0
  • 1 roll gingham ribbon: $2.99 plus tax (from Michael’s)
  • 1 hank nylon parachute cord for piping: $1.79 plus tax (from Michael’s)
  • 1 package skirt hooks and eyes: $3.74 (from Amazon)
  • Pattern: $18 (from Amazon)

Edit (I forgot to add in the pattern!) TOTAL: $89.34

The dress was worn over 4 petticoats (1 ruffled, 1 corded, and 2 flat) that I already owned for other outfits.

I still have 1 yard of the printed fabric left. Normally I would want an evening bodice when I have leftover fabric, but the cotton is not right for that, and the skirt is gauged onto the bodice, so I will have to figure out what to do with it!

Pink Plaid Silk Dress at the Dickens Fair

Last Saturday I went to the Dickens Christmas Fair and wore my 1850s silk plaid dress. Here I am on the streets of “London” (photo by Laurie Tavan):

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I made the dress last season (and you can read construction details here), but I had a few new accessories this time. IMG_6184.JPG

I made a new pair of silk taffeta undersleeves. They are so easy to make! Normally I machine sew as much as I can, but these are completely hand-sewn because I needed a small project for a sewing party. The overall steps were:

  1. Make a rectangle of fabric a little longer than your forearm and sew into a tube with French seams. (My tube was a little curved at each corner for a slight barrel shape).
  2. Make a cuff by sewing a tube of fabric, then folding it in half.
  3. Gather one end of fabric into the cuff and stitch. (Slip stitch on the inside to finish).
  4. Make a channel in the other end of the sleeves and place elastic into it to gather.
  5. Sew lace onto the cuffs.

I have small hands so I cheat on sleeves by making closed cuffs instead of buttoned cuffs. The elastic end goes around your upper arm above the elbow and should be tight enough for the sleeve to not fall down, but not so tight it is uncomfortable.

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I made a simple belt using some moire ribbon, backed with satin ribbon, and a pearly slider buckle.

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I dressed up a pair of vintage gloves with some new ribbon roses.These gloves are not new, but I decided to wear cotton gloves instead of the kid leather gloves I wore last year, because Dickens Fair is rather dusty, and these gloves are much easier to clean!IMG_6217.JPG

Costume College 2015 Thursday

I am back from Costume College, and all unpacked! There were so many wonderful things that I will have to make multiple posts to summarize the whole event.

We drove down Thursday morning, and 4 of us met up partway down for lunch, and then again at FIDM to check out their costume exhibit. There were a lot of outfits from Emmy-nominated shows (most of which I had never seen), but what we were there to really see were the historical gowns on exhibit. Here are a few of my favorites.

IMG_4999 IMG_5012IMG_5005Check-in at the hotel was an adventure, since their computer system decided to go down on one of their busiest days of the year! Luckily, we did not have to wait too long for our room, although some people who got there earlier had to wait more than 2 hours.

Right before the annual pool party there was a special taping of the Frock Flicks podcast, hosted by Kendra, Sarah, and Trystan. It was a lot of fun.

IMG_5052Effie Trinket (of the Costumer’s Closet) also showed up.

IMG_5054Our Bevy of Bathing Beauties group assembled at the podcast before going down to the pool. We made Victorian bathing suits and took some silly photos!

IMG_5030 IMG_5031Maybe next year we’ll have more than one Bathing Dude.

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IMG_5026More details about my outfit were posted previously.

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Curtis was the only one brave enough to go into the pool. Some of us feared drowning.IMG_5065Stay tuned for Friday!

Victorian Bathing Suit

Costume College is just days away! Yesterday I finished my Victorian bathing suit for the Thursday night pool party.

I was inspired by this bathing suit from the Met Museum.

IMG_4848I made mine out of a gray and black wool/polyester blend. I didn’t have time to order red petersham, so I used grosgrain ribbon for the trim. It looks nice on straight lines, but doesn’t curve as well as I would have liked for the collar and sleeves.

Here are a few quick photos of the outfit!

IMG_4932Oops, I didn’t notice I put my belt on off-center.IMG_4934 IMG_4936 IMG_4938I didn’t have time to make bathing shoes, so I bought some cheap $6 flats from Amazon and used up the rest of the ribbon I had left. This photo looks like it was taken by someone else, but really I leaned over, then turned it upside down!IMG_4941I used Ageless Patterns #1410 to make the dress and bloomers.

1410The pattern isn’t awful, but I can’t really recommend it. Ageless Patterns are traced from extant patterns and magazines of the period, which makes them historically accurate, but lacking in directions and specifics about size. This pattern was simply listed as “medium.” (I think it fits more like a large). The arm holes are also strangely big, the shoulders are rather low, the sleeves didn’t quite fit right, and the collar piece was completely useless. It was a bizarre shape and didn’t fit. I eventually gave up and just bound the neckline.

The good thing about the pattern, aside from the sleeves and collar, is that it is ridiculously easy to put together. The dress consists of one back piece and 2 front pieces, and you gather at the waist. The bloomers consist of a front and back for each leg.

Since the pattern was large on me I was able to cheat on the closures. I put an elastic channel into the waist, which is covered by the belt. The dress from the waist down is sewn shut, and the top half closes with hooks and eyes. The buttons are false! No making buttonholes! I just pull this dress over my head, put the belt on, and then hook up the top. Super easy, and comfortable, too!

Project cost:

  • 4 yards wool blend: $54.35 including tax (hooray for the clearance table at Britex!) – I still have more than 1 yard left
  • 3 yards Kaufman Duet Linining: $6.86 including tax and shipping (with a coupon and free shipping from Fabric.com)
  • 2 rolls of grosgrain ribbon: $5.23 including tax (with a coupon from Michael’s)
  • 10 buttons: $0, kit left over from my maid dress
  • shoes: $6.27 including free shipping from Amazon
  • pattern: $15 + $4.85 shipping from Etsy

Total: $92.56

(Edit: Post updated! I forgot to add in the price of the pattern).

Past Patterns 702 (Dart Fitted Bodices) Review

I made my 1850s gown using Past Patterns 702 (Dart Fitted Bodices). I found some good reviews online, especially about the ease of construction, so I decided to give it a try. Although it was a useful starting point, and there are other nice things about the pattern, it is not a pattern I would recommend if you are small-busted and long-waisted.

CONSTRUCTION

Pro: There are not a lot of pieces, so construction is not difficult. The pattern is relatively simple, and consists of pieces for the bodice front, bodice back, side back, your choice of a pagoda or coat sleeve, and an optional epaulet. There is also an undersleeve pattern if you make the pagoda sleeve.

Con: Because of the pattern encompasses sizes 8-26, and appears to be scaled by computer and not hand-drafted, some of the pieces don’t quite fit together. Here are the pattern pieces for the bodice back and bodice side back, compared to the lining for the back:

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Pro: The fitting is done at the shoulders and side seams. The pattern suggests cutting out your lining as a mock-up, then having a friend help you fit it. When you sew your fashion fabric you finish the front closures before taking in the side seams to fit yourself. If it works, it’s very simple.

Con: To employ this technique, you must have a friend help you, or a dress form with shoulders (because of the historically accurate dropped shoulder), or keep putting the bodice on and taking it off.

Con: The lining for the back of the bodice is one larger piece encompassing both the bodice back and side pieces. There is no explanation on how to translate the adjustment you made on one pattern piece into two pattern pieces.

Con: The size chart is inaccurate and the pattern is too large. According to the pattern I am between a size 10 and 12. The size 10 was too large for me. Even when I recut the pieces to size 8, it was still too big.

Con: There was a huge excess of fabric in the chest and shoulder area. Since I have a small bust I am used to taking in patterns a bit, but usually not as much as I needed to this time.  I realized that this pattern is designed to fit someone with enough assets to spill over the top of her corset, and slightly broader shoulders. In the end, to make this fit I had to not only drastically alter the front bodice piece, and a little of the shoulder seam in the back bodice piece, but I had to also stuff my corset with bust pads when wearing the dress. This photo shows my fabric on top of the size 8 pattern (but with the size 12 seam lines at the bottom because otherwise it would have been too short in the front). I also had to move the darts a little bit. (My final pattern still had 2 darts, but I did not cut out the second one).

IMG_2999Con: I am not sure how much of the problem stems from my adjustments, or if this is an issue you would encounter even without such a change, but my sleeves did not fit into the sleeve heads. I had to gather the sleeve to make it fit, and did not have the smooth transition I was expecting.

If you have the ideal Victorian figure, and can fill out a corset, I think this pattern would be quite flatting and easy to put together. If you are on the petite side, it would be easier to find another pattern that does require quite so much adjustment.