I originally made this costume last year.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.
This project has been in my head for a while now. I first ran into a photo of the extant gown that inspired it last summer, so nearly a year ago. I found this photo of this 1860s ballgown held at the National Museum of Denmark:
Although the photos are blurry, there was something about it that grabbed me. I love the colour but also the simplicity of the design. There is no trim but the gathered tulle on the neckline. Though I absolutely love detail, I thought it might be interesting as well to make something where I can’t hide mistakes under trim. I really want to work on my fit and construction so I decided to tackle this.
I found the fabric for this dress back in December, when I visited New York and had the best time in the garment district. I don’t think any fabric shopping will ever compare to that. I found this lovely mint/light green satin for $5 a yard. FIVE DOLLARS. I could never find anything so affordable in London. Anyway, I got a bit confused. I was frazzled because there was so much fabric around and I was so excited and a bit overwhelmed by the shopping and the shop owners, so I didn’t buy enough. I originally asked for five yards, and then six when I remembered yards are different from meters but still… as I drafted the plans for this, it was just cutting it close and I still had to reduce the gloriously long skirt.
The museum has a whole page on the original dress here. It had some useful information about materials and dimensions. I had found this page before buying the fabric, but when I actually sat down to plan this dress properly, I made the best discovery: on the bottom right corner of the page, tucked away, is a pdf of a pattern drafted from the original dress! SCORE.
My next hurdle was that I don’t speak Danish. Thankfully Instagram is amazing, so a huge shout out to lillea84 on IG, she kindly volunteered to translate it for me. These notes on the pattern were very helpful in understanding its construction.
I sketched out the project and set about making the foundation garments.
Some of them were already made. I used my Victorian corset, which I made quite a while back, using a pattern by Redthreaded. I already have a Victorian chemise, though I think it’s too big for this so I might make a new one with a lower neckline and no sleeves. But the big missing item was the crinoline. Although the dress is dated 1860s, I thought the crinoline definitely looked elliptical so I went for the Truly Victorian 1865 Elliptical cage pattern. I bought a kit from Vena Cava Design which included the pattern and everything I would need for it.
Though it ran a bit pricey, I calculated what the items would’ve cost if I bought them individually and this was a very good deal in the end. The pattern was fairly easy to follow, and the kit was wonderful. My only comments would be that I would’ve used a lighter weight cotton drill or something cheaper, because the twill provided was very good quality but also very heavy and for a cage that was already going to have 30 meters of steel on it, weight was a concern. Secondly, their buckle and waistband didn’t work for me. The cage was too heavy to be secured properly with the buckle they provided. I would’ve needed an extra hand. I ended up stabbing my finger on one of the teeth of the buckle and bleeding all over the cage. I switched out the buckle and used two sets of hooks and bars instead.
Because I followed the pattern, I didn’t actually take any construction photos, I didn’t think they would be very helpful? Feel free to tell me if you think otherwise.
Here are some photos of the foundation garments:
Here I was wearing with the tied drawstrings, but I think I’ll loosen them for a fuller shape. I’m also making an extra petticoat in case I want extra pouff (I probably will). And that is it for foundations and plans!
Update! I did make an extra petticoat. It is three tiered, the top layer is plain cotton and the bottom two are organdy. I measured around the crinoline so that I made sure each tier was bigger than the corresponding hoop, gathered the long edges down and sewed it together. Then I did up the back seam, leaving a seven inch gap so I could get into it. I turned the gap edges inwards, attached a waistband and ta-da, extra poufiness!
So it’s the final post about this costume! Yay! I had started making this with the intention to wear it to the London MCM Expo in May. The weekend is coming up and I can’t wait to debut this costume! (Also a relief to wear a skirt that can’t be stepped on). I’ll link the other posts about this cosplay below. I am overall very pleased with it. The bodice/sleeves are my only issue with it. The fit could be better, I think, and the way I worked the chemisette into it. But I do enjoy the overall look and how ‘complete’ it feels, with all the details and accessories! So onto them.
I had quite a few elements as far as accessories went for this costume. I wanted to get Jane’s complete look! Plus, this is for London MCM so an umbrella is always handy. First, I started by making the scallop trim that goes on the hem of the skirt and on the umbrella.
I bought gorgeous white duchess satin for this. It was a bit more expensive than I wanted it to be, since it was just for trim, but it was so gorgeous I didn’t mind. First, I figured out how long and wide I wanted the individual scallops to be. Once that was figured out, I folded a piece of paper in half and drew half the scallop, and cut it out. This was to ensure it was symmetrical (because I really can’t draw). Then I outlined this individual scallop on a piece of paper and repeated it a few times. This gave me the pattern for the scallop trim. I made it as long as the width of my fabric.
Then I pinned it onto the fabric and cut it out from the duchess satin and from plain cotton (which was going to act as a lining, as I’d rather waste the cotton than the satin).
Then the strips were sewn together on the side seams. After that, I pinned the cotton and the satin layers together, right sides facing each other. Then I sewed them together on my machine. I went very slowly to try and get a clear shape. Some of them still look very wonky. I clipped all the round seams and turned it the right way out.
Then I carefully ironed each scallop to better the shape. And ta-da! I had to make about six meters of this, three for the hem of the skirt and three for the umbrella.
I sewed it on the skirt by machine, by actually just sewing it to the horsehair tape so that there was no visible top stitching. It was much quicker than sewing it by hand.
I bought the umbrella off ebay. It was cheap and bright yellow, so I bought some acrylic paint and painted it ‘Antique Gold’ which was much closer to the yellow of my dress.
Then I let that dry. I should have thinned the acrylic paint, but I didn’t know at the time, so the paint is cracking a bit in certain places. Then I sprayed it with a sealer and hot glued the scallop trim around the edges and the top.
Jane also has these adorable little gloves. I found the gloves I’m wearing for this costume before I’d even started it. I found them accidentally at a vintage shop in Angel, and bought them on a whim. They are from the 1920s and they were a steal for £8 or something like that, probably because they had a little whole in between the fingers, which I quickly mended. My original plan was to trim them to be wrist length, as they are a bit longer than what Jane wears in the film – but I think it would break my heart to cut them so… I might not.
Next up is the collar. So even though I made a nice little collar for my chemisette, I decided to add Jane’s iconic pointy collar too. I stared at some photos of it and then draped it onto my dressform.
I actually had to do this a couple of times because I couldn’t make it fit properly. I used the same method for the scallop trim: I transferred it onto paper and then cut that pattern out of the duchess satin and plain cotton. Then I sewed them together, right sides together, clipped the seams and turned it right way out.
I left one of the sides open to turn it to the right side, and then folded the raw edges inwards and sewed them down by hand. I added two snaps to the back and it was done!
However, at this point, I was staring at the empty neckline and remembered I had originally bought some lace to add to it. I completely forgot about it. The right time to have added it would have been before lining the bodice, so that the insides were tucked between the bodice and the lining… but oh well. I gathered down a pretty lace flouff and hand-sewed it to the bodice.
Then I turned it over the neckline edge and hand-sewed, with tiny little running stitches, so that it stayed down.
The last accessory is the cravat! Jane has this nice little purple cravat that looks adorable. Originally I bought this strong purple fabric for it. It’s not the same colour as the one in the film, it’s a lot darker but I really enjoyed the contrast with the other fabrics so I decided to go on ahead with it. I read a few online tutorials about how to make a cravat. I then flat drafted a pattern for it and cut it out of the purple fabric. I turned all edges inwards twice and sewed them down by hand.
Lastly, Jane also has a safari hat. I bought one off ebay and made a purple sash out of the same fabric as the cravat.
And then it was done! Wooooo!
Actually there is one more detail. Jane has amazing Victorian looking boots. My original plan was to find some plain brown pumps and make some spats. But then I got reckless and instead finally made a dream come true and bought some American Duchess shoes! SO EXCITING. And here they are, my amazing ‘Manhattan boots’!
Oh and one more! I’ll be wearing it with a plain brown belt, but I don’t have photos of it on my mannequin, so here is a quick photo of my fitting with the complete costume: