Making a 1940s dress: dress in a weekend

Recently I got more and more into vintage fashions. I think it was a combination of tv shows (I was rewatching Agent Carter and The Marvelous Mrs.Maisel) and seeing it pop up more on my social media. I started looking more into it and I really liked the idea of following an original printed pattern AND making something I could actually wear outside.

I spent a few days (I mean in, it’s a dangerous rabbit hole) browsing Etsy for patterns and finally found one that I liked. I also spent some time on the popular Vintage Patterns Wikia but I find it a bit hard as you can’t really filter it and the sheer volume of patterns in it actually hinders research. It’s a nice resource to browse though!

So I ordered this pattern off Ebay, it cost about £10 which I thought was a good enough deal.

After the pattern arrived, I started thinking about fabric. Originally I wanted to make a light, colourful dress, something very Spring-y. However after prowling all of Goldhawk Road, I didn’t find anything like it. Eventually I found a nice lightweight cotton (I think it’s a rayon blend) at my local fabric shop. It was £4 per meter and I bought four meters. I also bought matching (well, the closest they had) lining as the fabric was a little see-through. The pattern didn’t mention lining, only a couple of facings.

The pattern was a size 14, which was a 34 inch bust. I subtracted this from my bust measurement and figured out how much I had to add. I found that the difference between my bust and the pattern bust was an inch at each side seam, and it worked out perfectly for the waist too (hips are free since it’s a circle skirt sort of skirt). I copied out the pattern onto pattern paper and did the alterations, then cut out a mock-up. I was happy with the fit, so I went ahead with it and cut it out of the fabric and lining.

The bodice front is cut on the bias.

I also added an inch to the skirts side seams, to match at the waist. I cut out the skirt at the same time, since it needed to hang overnight because the bias warp. I also sort of ‘live-blogged’ the construction of this dress through my Instagram stories, and I have them pinned on Instagram profile.

The lining.
I used the lining to cut out the main fabric, as it already had the extra inch on the side seams. I swear I straightened it out better than on this photo!

Then I hung it up and left it there overnight.

The skirt warped a lot. The next morning, I laid it out flat on the floor and repositioned the pattern over it, to cut off the excess so it matched the original hem.

For the construction of this dress, the bodice and skirt are assembled separately and then joined at the waist on the final steps. Starting with the construction of the skirt, after fixing the hem, I sewed up the centre front and centre back with French seams (although I didn’t have to, it was actually kind of unnecessary since I was lining it). Then I started working on the pockets. This pattern has welt pockets. For the welted bit, I cut out the rectangles and interfaced them.

Then I sewed around the edges and turned them the right way out.

It was my first time making pockets of any sort and they were really complicated, but something I think will get better with experience. The welts were then basted on the front side of the skirt, one on each side.

Then the pockets were pinned and basted on.

This was done individually on each side. So one side of the pocket was basted onto the centre front side seam along with the welt piece, and the other half to the side back of the skirt. Only then were the two pocket halves sewn together (after following these instructions, I think I would change them slightly since this seemed a bit unnecessary). Then the side seams were closed. I tried to do French seams here too and it… well, did not go well so the pockets are a bit messy where they meet the side seam.

And the skirt was done!

For the bodice, I started with sewing the darts. There were two bust darts at the front, and four shaping darts at the back. The dress was pretty forgiving in terms of the visibility of the darts.

Thee is a bust dart in there!

Then the shoulder seams were done up. All these steps were repeated the same way for the lining. Except for the interfacing. So there was a bit of interfacing added to around the neckline to stabilise it.

For the collar, I cut out two pieces of the pattern. One of them was interfaced, then they were sewn together, right sides together.

Seams trimmed and corners clipped.

This was turned the right side out, pinned and basted to the neckline. This step was weird. According to the instructions, the back of the collar is only eased and basted on. Then the collar is sewn to the bodice only up to the shoulder seam, so the back is left only attached by basting. I found this  a bit weird – maybe I misunderstood a step. But it worked in the end!

Collar basted on.
Only meant to baste through the interfaced layer at the back.

Then the lining was matched to the bodice, pinned on and basted.

Ironed it and turned it the right way out.

Then I sewed up the side seams of the bodice and the lining. There was a gap left unfinished on the left hand side, for the zipper.

Then I made bias tape out of the scraps of fabric to finish the armholes.

I cut two inch wide strips of the fabric on the bias.
Then ironed the edges inwards for a finished 1” wide bias tape. The strips were long enough to finish the armholes, so I didn’t have to seam them.

I pinned on the bias tape to the armhole edge and sewed half an inch from the edge on the right side.

I turned the bias edge inwards, pinned and finished by hand.

I finished the skirt lining and attached it to the bodice lining at the waist.

I basted the skirt to the bodice, very carefully, to match the centre front and back seams.

I was very proud of this!

I moved on to inserting the side zipper. I was a nightmare. The best way I found in the end was to basted the lining and outer fabrics together and then insure the invisible zipper. It was very fiddly to do this with a finished dress, as it was quite cumbersome.

It was on to the final steps. I tried on the dress and marked the hem.

I am fairly shorter than the standard pattern size! I marked this so it was calf length. I cut off the excess, leaving two inches to turn up. Since the fabric was so slippery, I turned it one inch inwards, then basted it down. I turned it over again, and basted that down again.

I sewed it down by hand with a double threaded herringbone stitch.

It was finally warm enough this past weekend to wear the dress, so here are some worn photos! Kudos to my sister who did up my hair in a quick 1940s inspired style.

Tried in the shade as well since it was actually too sunny to keep my eyes open!

Featuring my new Gibson shoes by America Duchess! They were a little tight so I’m hoping they will get better with wear.

I look so PALE IT REALLY ANNOYS ME OMG I live in England I haven’t seen sun in like 6 years

And a funny last blooper as I took my glasses off as they weren’t very 40s!

Making an Early Edwardian ensemble: the photos

I finally remembered to post these! I took these just before the end of the 2017, as I wanted this to be my last costume of the year. The only day I could try to photograph it was on the 30th of December, which happened to be a cloud and very windy day! The flowers came off my hat at least four times and I was afraid I was going to loose it. Everything worked out in the end though! All in all, I definitely love this costume. Next steps would be a proper corset (this current one has some fit issues) and a corset cover (the blouse is quite sheer, and the corset was blue). All in all, though, I think it captures the look I was going for!

Making an Edwardian Corset

Making an Early Edwardian ensemble: the blouse

Making an Early Edwardian ensemble: the skirt and the hat

I’ve also got a Facebook album on my page with more photos and better quality (I had to compress them to upload here!). You can find them here!


 

Silly out take – it was so windy!
Featuring my Manhattan boots, by American Duchess!

Making an Early Edwardian ensemble: the skirt and the hat

Once the blouse was complete, I moved on to the skirt. I knew what kind of style I wanted to go for: a simple skirt, fitted around the waist and hips, but pleated at the back. I believe this style is called the fan skirt. The skirt is gored and made up of seven panels.

Some of the inspiration behind it.
Image result for fan skirt 1900s
Inspiration silhouette.

For the skirt, I found a pattern in The Voice of Fashion.

I’m very impatient with skirts and so I rarely ever make a paper pattern for them. I drafted the front panel onto a scrap of old fabric just to see how it would hang.

I liked the look of it, so I went ahead and drafted the pattern directly onto the wool for the skirt.

I cut these pieces out and sewed them together with french seams.

I left a 10” gap at the CB seam, as the skirt closure.

Then I finished this gap by ironing half an inch inwards, and setting it down with a strip of interfacing.

Then I cut two rectangles to finish over top the interfacing, both to hide the ugly interfacing and for stability. I whipstitched them down.

I pleated the back panels and side back panels to fit my waist measurement. They form one big box pleat, sort of.

I secured the pleats down by sewing them by machine.

To pair with this skirt, instead of just finishing the skirt with a waistband, I wanted to try making an Edwardian style belt. I felt these were very iconic for the period and they were common in the illustrations in The Voice of Fashion. To do this, I simply designed a pattern with the measurements to match my waist. I cut this out of the wool.

I hadn’t really thought through the construction of the belt, so I ended up doing a log of fiddly things that were very time consuming. I’m sure there’s a more streamlined way to do it, but here is how I did mine. I turned all the edges inwards by half an inch, clipping the seams and sewing them down by hand.

Then I backed it with interfacing, which covered the raw edges. I ironed it all flat and it looked really nice and crisp.

I also made some piping to go around the belt edges to add more dimension. I go over better detail about how I made piping on my post Making an 1860s ballgown: the bodice. The main difference here was that I was out of cord, so I used some thicker wool I had laying around.

I sewed it down to the belt by hand. By this point, I couldn’t be bothered with lining it but I really wish I had.

I pinned it onto the skirt and stitched it on by hand.

I added hooks and eyes to the back of the belt and the gap in the skirt, as closure.

The only thing left to do on the skirt was to hem it! I decided to try hemming it with a facing for the first time. This basically meant I had to cut huge bias strips out of the wool.

I cut enough to have a total length that matched the hem of the skirt.

I sewed the strips together, ironed the seams and pinned it onto the skirt edge, right sides together.

I sewed this on my machine with a one inch seam allowance, then turned it the right way around. I ironed this in place, rolling the edge so that facing was hidden.

Then I turned the raw edge under by about half inch, and pinned it down. I sewed it by hand with a herringbone stitch.

And the skirt was done!

I thought this wouldn’t be a proper Edwardian (even if early) without a hat. I’ve been really interested in hats and headpieces, but I’d only made crowns before. I was really excited to get started on a hat. My materials consisted of heavy weight interfacing, the wine coloured wool from the skirt and the silk from the blouse. I also used millinery wire and feathers, bought at Petershams.

I started by looking at research online and in books. Then I drafted a pattern.

 

I was pleased with the dramatic shape, and cut it out of the interfacing. I don’t think this interfacing is as strong as it could be, something more structured would have held the wide brim better. The next step was to add the millinery wire as support.

Then I realised that the shape was wrong. The connecting bit between the wide brim and the top of the hat couldn’t just be straight for the shape I wanted, it needed to be curved.

Top piece is the correct shape.

I added millinery wire to the edge of the brim, first my hand. However because the interfacing wasn’t stiff enough, I added another layer of wire at the middle of the hat, and a second run around the brim. At this point, I realised this wasn’t too bad by machine, using a large zig zag stitch, but it was very difficult to control, which is why the inner layer is so poorly positioned (but it did the job).

This is what all my pieces looked like:

Then it was just a matter of covering the pieces with the wool and then attaching them.

I also added some piping to the top edge!

Then I seamed the long edge together and attached it to the top bit (super professional names).

I covered the brim with fabric.

Then I attached the other… bit, using extra strong thread.

The last thing left to do was make the lining. I wanted it to be ALL RUFFLES because I love ruffles. So I cut long strips out of the silk I used for the blouse, and gathered them down the top and bottom edge.

My new favourite thing.

I sewed it down by hand.

However it ended up being a little short, so I covered the gap with some satin ribbon.

And the hat was done! All that was missing were the trimmings. I had some fake flowers from the Christmas section and some feathers from Petersham.

The ensemble was done. I wore it out that weekend (it was so windy) and took some photos. This was my last project in 2017 (I managed to squeeze in the photos on the 30th of December). I’m pretty happy with the general look of it.

Thanks for reading!

Making an Early Edwardian ensemble: the blouse

I got it into my head that I wanted to squeeze in one last project before the end of the year. I moved houses just after October Comic Con, so there was a whole month where I couldn’t sew because I was either packing everything or unpacking everything. Originally I had planned for this to be a new Robe à L’Anglaise. I have had this planned for a few months already, inspired by binge watching Poldark and some lovely linen I found. However I was struggling with the patterning and decided to wait for my American Duchess Guide to 18th century to arrive before pursuing it.

So instead I got curious about the early 20th century. I’d done a half scale late 1890s costume before and I had really loved the changing style lines of these decades. I didn’t want to go full Edwardian though, I personally find the pidgeon breast style unflattering. So instead I tried to keep my marks between 1898 and 1903. Small window but I was researching for references within this time limit. I settled on a skirt, blouse and hat ensemble.

For fabric, I wanted to get something cream in colour and light in touch for the blouse, that I could then trim with some lace. The skirt I decided on a lightweight wool in preferably a wine colour. I’m actually really happy with the fabric I found to match my initial desire! I went to Goldhawk Road and managed to find some really nice wool, of which I bought 5 meters for I think it was £9 p/m. Then I found this lovely silk which I already dreamed I couldn’t afford. It was perfect: light, crisp, cream and had some duopioni texture to it which I loved. This was a great find. The silk was stained throughout the roll and discounted, and after talking to the really nice shopkeeper, I took 6 meters for £12. I really hoped I could piece around the stains for this, but since I only originally needed three meters, I hoped the surplus would be enough. I also bought some plain polycotton for the petticoat. I ended up pairing the silk with some lovely cream lace I’d bought ages ago in Spain (that fabric haul is here).

As always, I started from the inside out, as I had no appropriate foundations for this. I already wrote a post about making the corset. The pattern is from Norah Waugh’s Corsets and Crinolines and is dated 1903. It was the closest pattern that I had at hand in terms of time period. The petticoat was much simpler. I acquired a copy of The Voice of Fashion by Francis Grimble, and it was very useful for the construction of this costume. I used the instructions on page and somewhat adapted them to fit the amount of fabric and trim I had.

I bought some cheap polycotton for this (one day I’ll invest better on my foundations, I promise) and tea stained it to match some vintage eyelet trim I got off Etsy. It was my first time tea-staining so here is a quick run down for absolute beginners:

(disclaimer: I am not, in anyway, saying this is the right way to do it! Like I mentioned, it was my first time. I read a few instructions from searches on Google and thought I’d give it a try.)

I used a plastic basin for this. First I rinsed my fabric in cold water. For tea, I picked English Breakfast because I know nothing about tea and this was at hand (I actally really hate tea so brewing a few litres was weird). This actually gave the fabric a more reddish tone, so be careful of which tea you pick! I had to boil the kettle three or four times but filled the container with boiling water. Then I put in about six tea bags and let it sit for approximately ten minutes. I removed the tea bags and carefully added the fabric, using wooden spoons to fully submerge it and try to get rid of the bubbles of air. I would turn it every five minutes to try and make sure all the folds in the fabric would be exposed. I think I left it a total of twenty minutes until I thought the colour was good. Since this is a poly mix, it doesn’t take the colour was well as other fabrics and it would be lighter when dry. Then I rinsed out the fabric in warm water, and then let it sit in cold water with some vinegar for an hour or so. This helps the colour sink into the fabric. In the end, I thought it looked better with the vintage trim!

I ended up using around three meters for the petticoat and around 16 meters of trim (!!). I hadn’t realised how much trim petticoats eat up. In the end, it looked like this:

Funny story: after wearing, I accidentally put it in the washing machine with the wool skirt and so it turned out a marshmallow pink. Then I bleached it which removed the cream/tea stained colour, so at the moment it’s bright white! I want to tea stain it again soon though.

After, I moved onto the blouse. This really intimidated me as I had no idea how to draft it, so I actually purchased a pattern and then altered it. I chose Black Snail’s Edwardian Blouse Sewing Pattern. My alterations consisted on entirely different sleeves, shortening and narrowing the blouse. In the mock up, the blouse was quite loose and the collar too big, so I changed both (the collar ended up being too small after!).

First I sewed up the shoulder seams.

Then I got the collar ready so that I could attach it.

I actually cut the collar on the fold so that it added some structure without interfacing or interlining. The collar was one placket with eyes, but I ended up also adding a placket for the hooks as the collar was too small for my neck. This gave me an extra inch without messing up the collar too much. I also basted down the edges of the collar together to it would be easier to sew on.

Then I carefully pinned the collar and sewed it on the neckline.

At this point I was thinking about the stylist side of things and how I’d want to add lace, and then remembered the lace I’d bought in Spain. It was actually the perfect width for the collar so I thought it was fate. I handsewed it on.

Looking back I just wish I’d centred the motif instead of not even thinking about it.

I thought it would be easier to handsewn the lace to the blouse before doing up the side seams, so I started playing with placement and settled upon a V-shape.

The lace was sewn on by hand and tapers off into a larger, wider V at the back.

Handsewing it.
I really love this lace.

Then I did up the side seams and turned the bottom hem inwards by two inches. It was then sewed down by hand.

For the sleeves, I used this pattern from The Voice of Fashion as a base:

I cut it out of the silk and sewed on two gathering rows of stitches both at the top and bottom of the sleeve. Also, I thought I’d just show you some of the staining I was working around for this:

I do think it was worth the bargain in the end.
The pattern!

These were gathered down to match the arm opening and my wrist measurement respectively. I only gathered the top of the sleeve at the top, as I didn’t want them sleeves to be too full at the top. Then I sewed the inside seam with a french seam (though, guys, remember to leave some inches open at the bottom to get your hand through it because… I didn’t. And then I had to back and cut into the seam).

For cuffs, I cut two rectangles out of the silk and interfaced them. The two rectangles are the measurement of my wrist in the length, and then double the width of the cuff (1”) and seam allowances.

Seam allowances ironed inwards and cuff ironed in half.

Then I handsewed these onto the bottom edge of the sleeve, as it was quite hard to get them under my machine. I think in a previous post I already mentioned this but if you can, sew on the cuffs before the side seams. It’s just so much easier. And I forgot. Again.

Super fiddly to avoid top-stitching.

Then I set in the sleeves by pinning them into the armhole and sewing them by machine! However I think they skewered a bit while sewing, so that the fabric on the sleeves sometimes appears twisted. Definitely recommend basting beforehand and I’ve learned my lesson.

The last step was to add the buttonholes and buttons to the back of the blouse. Since the silk was quite light, I interfaced the back edges on both sides to better support the buttons and buttonholes.

It was my first time using the buttonhole function on my machine (or any machine for that matter), so I made sure to test it out a few times, first on scrap fabric and then on scraps from the silk. I marked the positioning of all the buttons and buttonholes to make sure they matched up. I was amazed at how quickly my machine got through the buttonholes! Then I sewed on the buttons on the other side by hand.

And that was it! What do you think?

It fits on me, I promise!

 

Making an Edwardian Corset

Hello everyone!

It has been a little while since my last post. Productivity has not been very high. I started a full time job and had to abruptly move house. But once all that was somewhat settled, I was eager to start on a new project. Ever since watching Downton Abbey and other shows such as Howard’s End, I have rethought my feelings towards Edwardian fashion. I also dipped into the 1890s on a half scale project and was excited to look more into this sort of period.

So I decided to go for a turn of the century look. I’m no expert in this time period and I also struggled with finding good sources. There seemed to be a wide variety of outfits around this time. However I decided to go for a simple skirt and blouse early Edwardian look. But of course, as with every costume, I had to start from the inside out!

I searched everywhere for Edwardian corsets and such looks. I finally settled on a pattern in Norah Waugh’s Corsets and Crinolines. It’s a pattern for a straight front corset from 1901. It was the closest in date to what I wanted.

I scaled that up and made a mock up.

This pattern was a pain. As you can guess from looking at the seams, it’s not beginner friendly. I think I bit off more than I could chew.

While the corset construction was fairly straightforwards, which I managed, I wasn’t too sure about the fit. I only realized how far off it was when I remembered that the diamond shape is BAD. What I mean is when the center back lacing leaves a diamond shaped gap. This is something someone with experience knows how to fix.

I don’t.

I know there must be some seam fiddling to fix it, but the pattern pieces were already terrified so I just left it as it was. Obviously it doesn’t give me the ideal shape, but I think it’ll serve the purpose. Plus it’s not a corset I’ll be wearing often.

So let’s get into the construction! Perhaps this might be helpful to someone.

After scaling up this pattern, I cut each piece out of the outer fabric (some leftover blue duchess satin), cotton twill and then plain cotton for lining.

The pattern pieces and the cut twill.

I flatlined the satin to the twill, by hand, to make sure they were as flat as possible. I find smaller pieces like this often shift when I try to flatline them by machine, as my machine has a small surface.  I didn’t, however, flatline the top of center front edges and the edges themselves. This was to allow me to use the twill as a seam to set in the busk.

The twill and satin pinned together.
And hand basted together!

The second step was to set in the busk. I ordered mine from Sew Curvy and also used her tutorial for setting in the busk (tutorial here). It was fairly straightforwards to follow. Instead of using the seam allowance, I used the twill. I sewed the twill to the satin with the busk gaps, and sandwiched the busk sides inbetween them.

I didn’t take photos of the busk process, but you can see one side up close here.

Then for the seams, I moved from the center front backwards, leaving the hip gores until last. I basted all the seams before sewing them by machine, I found this helped a lot with these aggressive curves. I also ironed all the seams as I went, clipped and trimmed the seams allowances. I wasn’t going to use them as boning channels.

The first few seams.
All the seams. I found some of them particularly tricky and had to re-do them. Particularly piece 2 to the centre front and piece 3. The hip pads are only pinned on in this photo.
The inner cuts with ironed and clipped seams.

In Corsets and Crinolines, Norah Waugh only draws on the boning pattern in the back pieces of the corset, but draws the boning on the picture of the finished corset (refer back to the photo of it up top). These don’t quite follow the seams. Working closely with the image, I positioned strips of bias binding to acts as channels, making sure they mirrored each other on either side of the corset. I hand-sewed these channels down to avoid top-stitching.

Positioning the boning channels.
A LOT of pins.
Sewed down by hand.

Then I cut synthetic whalebone to the appropriate lengths and filed the edges, then inserted them into the boning channels. I made sure that they were half an inch short on both the top and bottom edge.

My roll of boning. I love synthetic whalebone, it’s definitely my favourite.
The filed edges of the boning.

To insert the lining, I sewed the top of the corset with the right sides together. Then I flipped them the right way, ironed and top stitched so that the lining wouldn’t show.

The lining was sewed to the top with 1/2” seam allowance.
I first hand basted and then top stitched the top.

Then I pulled and pinned the lining into place, matching the inside seams of the corset to those of the lining. Then I turned the raw edges inwards of the satin and then the lining overtop. I pinned them in place and hand sewed it down.

The rest of the lining in place.

To finish, I added eyelets to the back. Because I wanted to finish this quite quickly, I used metal eyelets, but I fully intend to replace them with hand-sewn ones soon. I used an awl to make a hole and then scissors to enlarge them.

Then I hand-sewed lace trim to the top edge and it was done!

Accidentally cropped this image weirdly.
Couldn’t get any proper photos of the back, and it isn’t laced properly! It laces more lower on the hips, which shows the diamond shape more.