Two weeks ago, I managed to finally make it back to the Warner Brothers Studios in London. For those that might not know, the Warner Brothers Studios was where a lot of the Harry Potter films were filmed and a few years back, they opened part of the studios as an exhibit about the films. They have loads of bits of sets, props and costumes on display, plus lots of information about the behind-the-scenes work that went into the films. I went for the first time around the time it opened, so they had added the Forbidden Forest and the Hogwarts Express exhibit since I’d been.
I don’t usually post about personal things on this blog, but they had a special Wizarding Wardrobe exhibit on and I took a lot of photos of the costumes on display. I’m currently planning on making Hermione’s Yule Ball dress (in blue), so this was like a research trip! Anyway, I thought that the photos of the costumes might help other people that are planning on making costumes from the films.
So one of the things I really enjoy about period costume is the undergarments. They were where I started with period costume, and it’s the first stop when thinking about a new project. When I first got into sewing, the first two things I made were stays using Norah Waugh’s Corsets and Crinolines. The first was 1630s stays, and the second were 1776 stays. Although I had a pair that I could wear, it was really just practice – I didn’t have the correct materials, I didn’t even bother to sew straps.
I’ve also made some 18th century stays using the Outlander inspired Simplicity pattern by American Duchess. I really like them, but they have a different shape which I think resembles more the first half of the 18th century, while I need the conical shape of later on for the project I’m planning.
So with new things in mind, I drafted my own pattern for the 1776 stays using this book:
The pattern only has two pieces (and a strap) and it looked like this:
After the pattern was done, I did one mock-up just to make sure that the fit was about right. The mock-up seemed to fit fine, so I went ahead and cut it out of a heavy cotton drill.
After I had all the pieces cut out, I went about transferring the boning channels to the drill. I used several different methods, but mostly measuring and positioning the pattern over it and marking it. I also used tailor’s tacking. It’s important that they’re symmetric, so I really took my time with this.
I then stared at the front panels and realised I hadn’t added horizontal bones. Horizontal bones held with the shape and also add support to the bust. My bust didn’t really need extra support but I did want a challenge, so I decided to add the two horizontal bones that are also in the Norah Waugh pattern. This would provide sewing headaches further on.
After all the bones were transferred onto the panels, I cut out the panels from the outter fabric. I bought a meter of this lovely old Liberty cotton.
I’ve had trouble before with flatlining bodices by machine as my machine doesn’t have one of those extended tables so the fabric shifts a lot. Since I loved this fabric and wanted everything to go as right as possible, I decided to hand baste the layers together. So I positioned the cotton drill onto the flower cotton, right sides out (the cotton drill right side is actually the one with the boning markings so you know where to sew).
Then it was time to sew the boning channels! This is really tricky and tedious, so my only recommendation is to take your time. I went so slow with these and I still made some mistakes, especially at the little crossroads with the horizontal bones.
I backstitched as I reached an intersection, lifted the needle and shifted down over the channel. Then I backstitched again and continued sewing that channel. This leaves little bundles of thread like this:
Which I then clipped away. If you have enough thread, the best way it to pull both tails to the back and neatly knot them.
For the back panels, I had added a 1” seam allowance at the back, so that I could turn it inwards. This would help support the eyelets. So I turned it inwards and basted it down, and only then I remarked the edge boning channels and sewed them.
This concluded all the boning channels! I went around and knotted all the threads I could and trimmed the rest. Then it was time to do up the seams. Super easy, since there were only three seams.
Then I measured and cut the pieces of synthetic whalebone. I’ve used flat steel boning, plastic boning, and cable ties before. For this, I decided to try synthetic whalebone. I think it’s my favourite so far! It’s light and flexible like the cable ties, but it’s stiffer and provides more support. I also find it more comfortable and cheaper than flat steel boning.
I filed down the sharp edges until they were nice and round and slotted them into position. I used my clips to keep some of them in place, and then went around to the binding.
For the binding, I got it into my head that I really wanted to use leather. I know it’s historically appropriate, there are many extant stays with this sort of binding, plus it would be something new and different. My initial plan was to find soft leather, like suede, that matched the colour of the contrasting thread I’d sewn the boning channels with. THIS PROVED IMPOSSIBLE (unless I was willing to sell my soul for a huge piece of leather).
I took to Goldhawk Road and thankfully found a really nice scrap of soft, brown leather that cost me £10. I was hoping it would be enough, but as it turned out, I didn’t even use up half of it, so it was an excellent buy!
To make the binding, I took my trusty ruler and marked 1” wide strips across the widest direction of the leather. This was my first time working with leather, so forgive any mistakes!
After that, I cut the strips. Because leather doesn’t fray, I didn’t have to sew the strips together. I only needed to overlap the ends when I ran out, which was great. I got a sturdy needle (which bent halfway through binding the stays!) and my thimble. I’m usually terrible at using a thimble just because I haven’t bothered to adapt to use one, but for this, it was my best friend.
Another tip, pinning this was impossible, but little clips worked wonderfully. I use them to secure the binding to the stays. I started on the bottom first, because I wanted to get it over with. I used SO MANY clips that I could only pin small sections at a time because I ran out of clips, but it really help to speed up the sewing (less fidgeting). Also, before pinning the binding, I also cut around the shapes of the tabs. I’d left them uncut because this prevented fraying. I cut them at this point and immediately wrapped the binding around them.
Now, tabs are horrendous. Everyone hates them. The only way I could get around them was to settle that I couldn’t make them look pretty. The excess around the corners is just… it’s just gonna stay there. I tried my best to fold it in to try and make it look half decent. But oh well! I think they turned out better, and they’re easier to handle as you go on.
After the first side was done, I went to the wrong side and whip stitched that down too.
Now, compared to the tabs, the top edge of the corset was a piece of cake! And it also took only a quarter of the time the tabs did.
At this point, I did the eyelets. These were handsewn with embroidery thread that matched the boning channels thread. They would’ve been easier to do when the corset wasn’t assembled, but I was afraid it might need some seam adjustments or taken in at the CB, so I left them from last when I was positive they would fit fine.
After the eyelets were done, I tried the stays on so that I could arrange the placement of the straps. I pinned them in place and then sewed them together with extra strong thread.
I also hand fell the seams so that they were neater.
I originally made this costume last year. I’d only worn it to one convention, October MCM London in 2016, but I only got one or two photos on the day! I really love this costume and I loved wearing it, so I was determined to get more photos this year. I also did a few alterations that I think improved the costume. I made a whole new breastplate (the other one was too big and kept slipping down), I embroidered over the lace which I think looks nicer, and took in the skirt.
Every other time I’ve written a fabric haul, I felt like I’d gone somewhere specifically to find awesome fabric. However, since, I’ve instead been going around the London shops whenever I need anything, not really buying more than enough for one project at a time. But now I need to collect quite a few things, so I decided to do a massive London tour and hit both Goldhawk Road and Walthamstow market!
I got everything I needed in the end, and enough for two petticoats, three dresses and a pair of stays. I’m always financially limited so I always go in with a list, a budget, and a compromising mindset. I wish I could buy silk – but for the moment I can’t afford it. This is what I liked about Walthamstow, everything was super cheap! AMAZING.
The most important thing I want to find was fabric for my new cosplay. I plan on making this for October MCM London but I want to do it ASAP because I’m so excited, but finding the fabric was a huge headache. I’m keeping the cosplay itself under wraps (cause I’m afraid it might go wrong and I won’t finish it), but think musicals! Unfortunately I haven’t seen this particular musical myself, so I only had about three photos to work off of. I spent a few weeks stalking everywhere online and getting samples from London fabric shops. None of them were what I wanted.
I was stuck on the idea of this peach/coral-y taffeta (silk, in my dreams) with a warm sheen/possibly two tone. I couldn’t find anything that was a)like this b)affordable. I found a really good contender that was completely out of budget but it was gorgeous, here but I can only dream of silk. Eventually I settle for this light weight satin that was super cheap somewhere in Walthamstow.
Thinking of the 18th century, I’ve watched so much Poldark over the past few months that I was really itching to make a simple linen 18th century dress. Probably a robe a’Anglaise, I’ve got a book recently about more working and middle class clothes in the 18th century, so I’ll decide after some more research. But I did buy this lovely simple linen in Goldhawk Road! I purchased 5 meters at £5 p/m.
Still with the 18th century in mind, I bought a meter of this ugly quilted thing, but my intentions are to make an ‘ugly puffer’ after American Duchess style. This should help with my 18th century silhouette! This was only £4.50 a meter.
Still for the 18th century, I had just finished drafting my own 1776 stays so I bought one meter of this lovely old Liberty print cotton, at Goldhawk Road, for £8.95.
I also snagged up a scrap of really nice suede brown leather to do the binding. I’ve been meaning to bind with leather forever, since it’s both accurate and aesthetically pleasing, but I found leader really hard to find. Originally I wanted it to match the maroon colour on this fabric, but it was impossible, so I settled for a really nice, warm brown. The scrap should give me approximately nine meters of binding (more than enough) and it was only £10!
And then I found this wonderful, weird… thing. I have no idea what it’s made out of or what it actually is, but it was £2 p/m and I thought it would make a nice petticoat, so I bought 3 meters. For some reason, in my head, this is a great petticoat for Belle’s Yellow Dress but there aren’t any clear screencaps of the undergarments you can see in the film. Either way, it’ll be used for something!
And the last one is something I’ve wanted to make for ages now! Ever since I heard about it, I’ve loved the idea of Disneybounding AND Dapper Day. So I’m combining both and making a 1950s Peter Pan inspired dress. I AM SO EXCITED. I love the circle skirts and the rockabilly look, and I love Disney and Peter Pan so I’m just – so excited. The light green is really nice, light cotton which was £4.95 p/m at Goldhawk Road. I bought lining in both colours, a total of four meters, for around £2 p/m for both, at Walthamstow market. I’m not sure what the dark green is, but it had a really nice drape that I thought would be nice for a circle skirt, and it was £4.50 p/m.
For random bits, I bought two meters of cheap ivory organza at £2 p/m so I could make some petticoat ruffles, and a meter of an interesting textured chiffon for my secret cosplay.
And that is it for now! I’ve got enough for three different projects and a few other bits and bobs. Hopefully I’ll be posting about the making of these projects very soon!
So one of the things that happened in the past cons was that I only ever really got one or two shots of my costumes actually being worn, at the end of the day (also when I looked the worst because I’m still a con rookie and they WRECK ME). Not anymore my friends! I was so privileged this time to be joined by my friend Lachlan Williams (https://www.instagram.com/obscure.lachlan/?hl=en), an amazing photographer. I thank him so much for his patience with me, I’m a terrible model and he’d never done anything like this and I couldn’t keep my eyes open for more than one second so – I’m super impressed with the results! It was so hard to just pick a few to feature here, so if you’d like to see more, follow me on Instagram as that’s where I post most things!
So this dress is now finished! It’s been a wild, long ride. I saw the original inspiration last summer, bought the fabric last Christmas and drafted the mock-ups in February. I usually only work on one project at a time (simply because I always take a while to decide what to make), so it’s great to see this completed. All in all, I’ve learned a lot! (Again) I can see all of my mistakes very vividly, like in other projects, but every time I do feel like I am learning, and unfortunately I seem to learn best through mistakes! I think it looks okay and I’m quite happy with some aspects (I love swishing around in a crinoline and the fabric). Hopefully I’ll have some proper photos soon!
The sleeves were pretty straightforwards, as they looked pretty much the same as the ones on my 1871 Evening Dress, they are little puffed sleeves. Because the bodice is slightly off shoulder, the sleeves just had to fit my upper arm rather than other ~mystical~ sleeve magic (that I still don’t really understand). I drafted them out based on my measurements and the sleeves on the original extant piece PDF pattern. Now the pattern looked different to my evening dress sleeves in the sense that these looked more like rectangles rather than oblong shapes. In retrospective, I regret this, I think it would look better if it thinned towards the underarm like they usually do. However, since I’d followed the pattern for the bodice, I wanted to keep the same shape. I made a small mock-up to make sure my arm measurements were right (my previous sleeves have been a little tight). This worked out pretty well
So the sleeve has two components: the upper gathered puffy sleeve and the cuff. I measured the largest part of my upper arm, and multiplied by 2 and a bit. Then I figured out how long it should be. I cut this out of the fabric. I marked where the gathers would start at the top and the bottom, just a few inches from the edges (so it’s not gathered under the arm). I sewed two rows of machine stitches at the largest stitch setting and then gathered the bobbin thread into the correct measurement (the armhole measurement from the bodice).
The cuffs are my upper arm measurement plus half an inch seam allowance. The cuffs are made like a waistband: I cut a long rectangle of fabric, turned half an inch inwards at the top and bottom and ironed it. Then I folded the rectangle in half and ironed it again. I sewed it like bias tape to the bottom portion of the sleeve and then whip stitched it by hand on the inside, so that there was no visible topstitching (this sandwiches the gathered bottom edge of the sleeve in between the cuff).
I then played around with lace until I was happy. I trimmed off the excess width from the top of the lace and then layered it for some texture on top of the lace again (guess I could’ve just folded it… but why make things easy?). I basted this down and then gathered it lightly.
Then I handstitched it to the inside of the cuff, making sure my stitches didn’t show through to the outside.
However, at this point it was obvious that the satin wasn’t stiff enough to be really poufy so I did the same trick I used for my Jane Porter cosplay.
I added some tulle for stiffness. However, I ran into some issues here because unlined my Jane Porter sleeves, these were not going to be lined (I decided not to line anything out of a mix of laziness and contact with some historical garments with messy inner guts). So I cut two strips of tulle and bound the edges with bias tape, except for the top edge (this was a mistake, I should’ve finished this edge too – I had planned that the armhole seam binding would be enough for it as well but it wasn’t). I then gathered down the top edge of the tulle, inserted it into the sleeve and sewed it down to the gathered top edge of the sleeve.
It was now time to set in the sleeves and I backstitched them to the armhole. Then I covered the seam and raw edges with some lace tape. However, I may still have to cover this with bias tape instead – the tulle is so rough that it still feels a bit uncomfortable through the lace tape.
And onto the skirts!
The skirt was super daunting just because of its sheer size. I started by looking at the PDF pattern and scaling up the dimensions to get an idea of how big the panels would be. Now this is the true reason why this dress took me so long to finish. I spent about two months after running math on the pattern dallying because I thought I wouldn’t have enough fabric. I bought the fabric before I’d even seen the pattern or really understood how much fabric these dresses take and so I only bought 6 meters (I would’ve bought plenty more as it was only 5$ p/yard I miss the NYC garment district so much).
In the end, it was true, I didn’t have enough fabric. So I cut one of the side panels of the skirt, which means it’s not as big and swooshy as it’s true potential but it was a compromise I had to make or ditch the project altogether. So instead I ended up spending way too much time calculating how to best use my fabric (and the fact that I have like two scraps left shows it worked). I ended up with a centre front panel cut on the fold, two side panels, two side back panels and a big back panel as wide as the fabric itself. I kept the dramatic train, though, so the back panel ended up being just short of two meters long (it’s crazy).
After everything was cut out, I pinned and sewed up all the seams, leaving a 7” gap on the side left panel, so I could get it on and off. This would be hidden within the box pleats. I ironed and pinked all the seams. I finished the open slit on the seam with a strip of fabric that I made exactly like I did with the bias tape for the bodice (explanation here) except it was just a scrap and not on the bias. Then I sewed it down by hand.
I then marked out all the double box pleats on the skirt (kinda like on this one pretty much). They ended up being about 4” deep. However I wasn’t sure about box pleating the back so Instead I made some mirroring knife pleats at the back. I basted these down, ironed them and then machine sewed the pleats down, and iron again.
However at this point, I noticed a problem: the petticoats had an even hem because they are basically rectangles. The elliptical cage and skirt do not, so the back looked pretty terrible.
So I decided to add a ruffle to one of the petticoats which should support the hem better. I cut out strips of my scraps of organdie.
Then I sewed everything together into a long strip, turned edges inwards with a rolled hem foot, and ironed it.
I then pinned it and sewed it to one of the petticoats.
Then it was waistband on! Slapped a waistband on, a hook and bar and a couple of snaps.
And all that was left was hemming! I did this by trying it on and marked where it would fall just off the floor. Then I used maths (badly) and horsehair tape. I lined up the horsehair tape edge with the skirt hem edge, pinning it on the right side of the skirt. I sewed it by machine with an inch seam allowance. Then I turned the tape to the wrong side, pinned and sewed with a herringbone stitch (like on here).
I did a final fitting so here are some photos! I think the main final issues are with the petticoats, they need to support the hem and the train a lot better. I’ve already planned a train support extension and some extra ruffles around the hem, so I’ll have those done before I take proper worn photos of this dress!
Things have been going slow! MCM London came and went and it was awesome, and I’ve got photos of both my Jane Porter and Art Nouveau Meg coming soon. Meanwhile, I can’t not sew so I slowly kept working on the ballgown. Bodice construction is still very fiddly so I kept hesitating and putting off working since I was unsure of what the next step might be.
Anyway, back to the beginning! Amazingly, the extant piece I mentioned in my previous post had a PDF pattern based on it! I want to give a huge shoutout to lillea84 on Instagram. She offered her help to translate it, since I can’t speak Danish. It was much easier to understand it translated. You can download the PDF here. I measured and scaled it up.
I made a mock up and made SO MANY ADJUSTMENTS. It was tiny and didn’t quite fit properly by the time that was done, but the final pattern still remained with the same rough shapes. In the end, I think I made three mock ups. I wanted to make sure it fit well.
After I was happy with the pattern, I cut it out of cotton twill for interlining and the mint satin for the outer fabric. I cut the interlining with a 1/4” seam allowance, and the satin with 1/2” seam allowance – I wanted to try this method to see if I would have less bulky seams. I matched up all the pieces and tried machine basting it together, but the satin kept slipping and the end result was baggy so I ended up hand basting it together with large stitches.
Once that was done, I sewed all the seams together.
I have two strips of ribbon with eyelets in that I use for mock-ups and fittings. I basted those onto the edge of the bodice and tried it on. It fit fine! The only small issue was some bagginess by the arms, but that issue is for later on.
Since the bodice fit fine, I went ahead and sewed down all the seam allowances, making boning channels.
At this point I decided to add a couple extra bones. It’s easier to sew down extra boning channels before flatlining bodices but oh well. Very carefully, I laid out some bias tape right down the middle of the front and sewed it down, making sure the stitches only picked up the interlining. I added one bone an inch and a half from the center back, so I could sandwich the eyelets inbetween bones.
After all the seams were sewed down, I turned the center back inwards twice, creating another channel.
Before boning all the channels, I went around and machine basted 1/2” from the bottom and top edge, and the armholes. This would act as a guide later on, when I had to turn these edges inwards. This does, however, close the boning channels, so I had to unpick the stitches at the top that went over boning channels.
Then I boned all of the channels. I used a different mix of flat steel boning, zip ties and plastic boning. I quite like zip ties, but they didn’t fit the very curved back seams well so I replaced them with plastic boning, which was more forgiving on the curves. I used flat steel at the centre front and the two centre backs.
I pinned the bottom edge inwards, using the 1/2” sewing line as a guide. Then I sewed it down by hand with small whip stitches.
Usually I would turn this edge inwards twice, so as to hide the raw edge, but I planned on adding piping to these edges, so it would cover it. And then it was time to try making piping!
This was my first time making piping. I used the instructions on a couple of books I had, and also this blog post has super useful information. I had made bias tape before so that wasn’t so scary. I used my ruler, which thankfully has a 45º marking on it, to fold my fabric on the bias. Then I used the same handy ruler (seriously guys, quilting rulers are the best) to draw lines that were roughly 1 1/4” apart. This was tricky because SATIN DOESN’T SIT STILL. Somehow I managed. I measured the top and bottom edges of the bodice (I wasn’t sure if I wanted to finish the top with piping too but better have extra than not) so I knew how much bias tape I needed, then I measured the drawn lines to make sure I had enough.
Then I cut out the strips of satin. I set the edges at a right angle with each other, right sides facing each other, and sewed them together with a small seam allowance. I’ve always struggled at this point because my strips never really matched all the pictures, but thinking of it just as making sure there is a point at which they meet at a right angle really helped.
After all the little strips were sewn together into one long strip, I ironed all the seams and cut off the extra seam allowance.
Because this isn’t normal bias tape, I simply folded in half lengthwise and ironed it (as opposed to having to turn the edges inwards). I didn’t have proper cording for this (eck) so I just used some random cord I had lying around. It seemed to be roughly the needed size and after a few tests on scraps of fabric, I was happy with the result. So I put the cord in between the bias tape.
Most people recommend pinning but I couldn’t be bothered (eck), so instead I just sewed really slowly. I didn’t have a piping/cording foot so instead I used my zipper foot and it worked really well.
And I ended up with a nice little pile of piping:
I then pinned this over the finished bottom edge. I wasn’t sure how to attach this by hand (I didn’t want to machine stitch this because of all the steel boning in it, I’ve broken a few needles before, but I think next time I’ll just risk it). I ended up backstitching it by hand, making sure my stitches didn’t show through the outer satin.
The top edge was slightly different because I wanted to add gathered lace and I thought the piping would look better over the edge.
So instead, I took a little break from piping and sewed on the eyelets. I really wanted to try it on to see how it fit again. So I marked the eyelets about an inch away from each other with pencil. I used my seam ripper (I usually use an awl but I couldn’t find mine) and then my small scissors to make a little hole, then used a whip stitch with embroidery thread to fill around the hole.
So the next step was to gather the lace! I bought this on Etsy ages ago in preparation for this project and I was delighted when it arrived and it looked lovely.
I trimmed away the extra plain net and lightly gathered down the top edge. So I sewed this down with really small stitches, keeping it flush with the top edge (which had previously been turned inwards). Then I turned towards the inside, and sewed the lace down again with whip stitches.
Then I pinned (or clipped, I’ve realised I’ve been using my clips more than my pins) the piping to the top edge.
Then I sewed the piping down with a backstitch.
Now something I’d noticed in the previous fittings of this (that didn’t happen in the mock ups) was some weird bunching between the bust and the underarm. This had also happened in my 1871’s evening dress, but I couldn’t fix it.
The only thing I could think of was a dart to remove the excess fabric, but I thought that would look UGLY so no. Thankfully this page was pointed out to me:
So instead of taking it out, they proposed filling it in. I used the strips I had cut off my lace (since it was too wide) and gathered them into little ruffles. This is supper soft netting and it didn’t fray so it seemed perfect for some soft padding. I sewed the ruffles down by the armhole and it worked!
The only things left to do are insert sleeves, add a modesty panel and reinforce the front dip.