Making a Jane Porter cosplay: the skirt and overskirts

Hello everyone! I’m back on writing about this costume – I really need to start writing up closer to the sewing time, because I end up forgetting a lot about how I made things (my memory is terrible). I have one post about the concept and the foundation garments for this dress here and the post about the bodice here. Once again, just a quick reminder that I did not intend this dress to be a historically accurate Jane! I just wanted it to be more detailed and more ‘me’, while keeping some historical elements like the bustle back. So on to the skirts!

I decided against my original plans of making a circle skirt for this dress. I know, right? So indecisive. Circle skirts just weren’t working for me in this project. I decided that a panelled skirt, like that of my 1871 evening dress would work better. It would still accommodate the bustle back, I could give it a large hem so that it swished, but it would also keep a flat front, which I thought was in line with Jane’s original dress.

The skirt consists of four panels: the front (which is cut on the fold), two sides, and one back. I had all my plans written out for this but I’ve lost them, so eep! I didn’t make a pattern for this, I just drew out the shapes I wanted on a piece of paper and did maths (gross) to figure out lengths and slopes and etc. I used the same method as I did on my 1871 evening dress skirt, and I had sloped panels so I could get a large hem (the hem ended up being three meters). The top of the front and side panels is small, so it ends up being almost triangle shaped, but the back panel is as wide at the bottom as the top, so I had enough room for the bustle.

I drew the shapes directly onto the fabric and then cut out the panels. I used those panels to cut out the lining.

One of the side panels, in the lining.
The front panel being cut out of the lining. It’s cut on the fold so there’s no seam at the centre front.

Once all the panels were cut out, it was smooth sailing. So to speak. I somehow managed to warp the fabric when I cut out the front panel so that it was slightly cut on the bias and it draped weirdly. One side ended up being nearly three inches too long. I was so lazy and decided just to go with it, that I could level it once I hemmed it. I ended up sewing up the whole skirt, lining and everything, and then deciding to rip it out and re-cut the front panel.

But anyway

I pinned the panels to their corresponding lining and then flatlined them (machine basting around all sides). I then went over all the edges with a zig zag stitch. I don’t have an overlocker (though I really really want one) and the lining fabric was fraying so much, that this seemed like an easy fix. I wanted this cosplay to be durable, so finishing the seams was a must and this seemed like the easiest way. I’m glad I did it this way, because if I had used another method, like french seams, it would have been much more of a pain to rip out the front panel.

Because of the bustle back and the fact that this was meant to be a separate bodice and skirt piece, I left a six inch slit in between one of the side panels and the front panel. I turned the edges inwards twice. I pleated the skirt down to my waist measurement, making most of the pleats on the back panel so it went nicely over the bustle. Then I added a waistband and a bar and a hook. I hemmed the skirt with horsehair tape, which is my new favourite thing. This is quite narrow, so I sewed it on the right side of the fabric with 1/4” seam allowance, then turned it to the wrong side, pinned it and sewed it by hand with a herringbone stitch.

Tape sewn to the right side
And turned it to the wrong side!

The skirt was done! Or so I thought.

You can see it was still un-hemmed in these photos. Also fun fact: draping over a bra is dangerous.

 

 

The answer is… WRONG! After the whole costume was finished, the overskirts and bustle were weighing down the skirt so much that it didn’t line up with the bodice AT ALL, so I ended up having a whole flash of flesh at the back (not okay). It was a crop top. So I ended up sewing the bodice to the skirt, to make it a dress, which meant relocating the closure to the back. Thankfully the overskirts cover the previous closure so it can’t be seen!

Onto the overskirts then.

I wasn’t sure how to achieve the effect of Jane’s overskirt. But after I looked around, the costume Jane wears at Disney World shows the pleats much better, so I got onto pleating. I took the old front panel of the skirt and pleated the sides just to get an idea of how long the overskirt panel should be. The pleats are just wide, knife pleats going against the flow of the skirt, so it looks like is folds inwards.

Like so.

Once I figured out how long it had to be and how wide, it was just a question of drawing out the schematics and then cutting the fabric. I drew it directly onto the fabric, which was cut on the fold. It looked like a slightly sloped rectangle. It had to be as wide as lowest point where it hit the actual skirt, so that it fit comfortably and didn’t look strained (this is something I learned from my failed overskirt in my 1871 evening dress).

After that was cut out, I made the three pleats, the first is 3” deep, the second 4” and the third 5”. I found I liked the look of this slight difference.

I sewed the pleats down by machine, after ironing them.

Then  I turned the bottom and side edges inwards twice by hand, to hide the raw edges. This also hid the machine stitching. Then I made a waistband for the top, not sewing the sides so that it formed a channel through which I threaded a piece of matching ribbon. This is the overskirt closure.

For the pouffy bustle… bit (I’m not sure what to call it, pad maybe?), I pretty much winged it after a rough mock up. I made it quite wide and very sloped. I noticed that the sides of the pad covered the sides of the pleats in the front overskirt, so I measured them (12”) which told me how long the side panels of the pad had to be before they sloped. Then I sloped them into one big curve. Once again, it was cut on the fold. This gave me a rough oval shape (when the top was gathered down). The top had to be quite wide to fit comfortably over the bustle. Originally I tried pleating it, so it would match the front overskirt, but it didn’t give the same look as the one in the film. So then I tried gathering it with two rows of stitching and it worked! I also noticed that Jane had some sort of border around the pad which seemed to be stuffed, because it stood out from the pad.

To achieve this, I cut wide bias strips of fabric. Because there was a slight difference in colour, I used the wrong side of the fabric, like I did for the sleeves. I turned the long edges inwards by 1/2” like when making a waistband. Then I pinned and sewed one side down, all around the pad. Then, while turning the other side and pining it, I added polyester toy filling to it, and sewed it down by hand.

Then I added a waistband, like on the front overskirt, and threaded some ribbon through it. I added a couple of snaps to the side, so that it would attach to the front overskirt (this whole costume is rigged with snaps and hooks to be honest).

And that is it for the skirt and overskirts! Here are some photos of the costume at this stage (roughly), including a sneak peek at the collar and scallop trim. The next post will be about the collar, cravat, umbrella and misc. accessories/details!

(this is not the final belt, it was just here for picturing purposes!)

Making a Robe à l’Anglaise: the Photos

This was my first historical project and I learned a lot from it. I finally got the opportunity to take some proper photos of this dress a few weeks back and I’ve got the photos back from my amazing friend Raquel Gaspar. I’m so happy to share them! The dress has some flaws still and things I would like to fix, but since the fabric basically disintegrated every time I rip out a stitch, I think it’ll have to keep its flaws. I do wish I could have attempted a more complete look, but hair frightens me and 18th century hair is terrifying. Maybe one day! It also annoys me that the freshly ironed petticoat got very crumpled in the walk between my house and the park, but oh well!

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Making a Cream Dress: The Bodice

I didn’t really know what to call this so for now I’m going with the Cream Dress. To be fair, it does look very cream. This is a dress I’d thought up doing a few months ago, after seeing a photo of a dress from Reign that I quite liked. It seemed fairly simple and I wanted something to keep me busy and with which I could practice more. The dress I originally saw on Instagram looks like this:

The inspiration dress is from season 3 episode 5

While I don’t really watch the series any more, I have always appreciated the prettiness of the wardrobe (even if it isn’t historically accurate). And so I was all for it! I bought the fabrics for this over the summer while I was away in Alicante. I bought a meter for the white and gold brocade bodice, a meter for the sleeves and four meters of the light cream with discreet dots for the skirt.

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In much need of ironing

You can’t really see it in these photos but the bodice fabric and the sleeve fabric have wonderful sheen to them. I am especially in love with the white fabric, I can’t really say what it is – it is light like chiffon, but feels more like cotton and muslin. It has a sort of shiny sheen of it, though it is very discreet. As I said, I am in love and sad that I did not buy more.

For the bodice, I got to try out something new. The last bodice I drafted was for my robe à l’Anglaise and I flat drafted that following the instructions from a book. I didn’t really like that method, it took forever and a lot of maths. But in the meantime, my dressform arrived and I could finally dip into draping! So I did. I read up on what I could, but it’s pretty self-explanatory. You put a piece of fabric on it and you draw on it.

I did one mock-up for this, where I realised the back was too big so I took it in by about an inch. Then I turned it into a pattern and cut out the pieces.

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The bodice is made up of one layer of the fashion fabric and one layer of stiff cotton twill. On the cotton twill, I sewed on a couple of boning channels, as I planned on using the seams as bone channels.

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I wish I hadn’t, because I didn’t leave enough seam allowance to make them nice and neat, so the edges are fraying a bit. Oh well! After attaching bias tape as the extra boning channels, I then proceeded to flatline the bodice. I decided to use this method because when I assembled the lining and the outer bodice separately and then joined them on the edges before, it always ended up being baggy and not… great. I was hoping this would look better. To flatline it, I simply pieced all the equivalent pieces together and machine basted around the edges, at a quarter inch in the seam allowance. Then, I assembled the body pieces in one go.

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I sewed down the seams and used spiral and steel boning to fill the boning channels. Then I turned in the top and bottom edges and sewed that down by hand, so that there were no visual stitches. The only bit that gave me grief were the shoulder seams, as I couldn’t get them quite to line up and they were very chunky. I ended up having to try to hide some imperfections further on. Then I worked on the final bit of the bodice which was the closures. Instead of going with eyelets like usual, I decided to go with loops for closures. For this, I cut a long thin strip of the brocade. I ironed half an inch on each side inwards and then folded it in half. It’s the same process for making bias tape, though I’d never bothered with that before. Then I stitched the folded edges together. I cut twenty eight two inch long bits. Then I pinned them onto ribbon, which I folded over to hide the raw edges.

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The process of stitching over these was so painful. I found some of the loops were too short, so if I sewed too far from the edge of the ribbon, the tips of the loops would stick out. After the first few straight stitch rounds, I found that sewing over with a zig zag stitch worked really well in keeping them attached. I’m not sure how sturdy, or practical, they really are – but they are damn cute!

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And that is for this bodice! Up next are the sleeves, frills and skirts.

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Art Nouveau Meg: Details

After finishing the main construction of the costume, I was finally ready to tackle Worbla again. All I had left to do was the belt. I rolled a long strip of Worbla into a tube, moulding it with my fingers to try and make it look branchy. I then drew and cut leaves out of Worbla, using a shaping tool to draw the little leafy channels. After melting the edges of the leaves and pressing them to the belt, I realised I’d made it too big. It wasn’t in proportion to the rest of the costume, it’s bigger and chunkier than it should be. However, I went ahead and painted it, made the medallion and kept it.

I drew the medallion on craft foam and cut it out. Then I sandwiched it in between Worbla, using a crafting tool to press in the edges and dents. Then it was finished with layers of craft glue, then paint and then I used black paint to detail. Then I put on the same gems as on the shoulder bit.

And it’s come to the final details! The first thing I decided to tackle were the details on the bottom of the skirt. I had been panicking about these forever as I didn’t trust my ability to draw out a pattern. I first tried to lift the pattern off the digital image, but I’m not Photoshop able enough to accomplish that. So! I took up pencil and paper and stared at the image until I could draw something.

So I came up with this:

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There was more to the left, the design spread over four A4 sheets

I inked it, photocopied it and then stuck it on a flattened cardboard box. I used Ginger Liz’s method, since hers turned out so great! Her method was to paint it over parcel tape so that the paint sort of pools over on the right side of the fabric and becomes smooth. Top tip: make sure that the parcel tape doesn’t ripple. I didn’t and mine ended up having grooves all over. So then I just painted it over in sections, letting it dry for 24 hours in between. I used Jacquard Lumière Metallic Gold and it took nearly two bottles for the whole costume.

The chiffon shifted a lot as well, so I have to be careful. But it was done! Then I ironed it to set the paint and hemmed the skirt up with Heat’n’Bond. Unfortunately, it is still too long but since it’s painted I can’t hem it any more than it is. I used this same method to paint the golden borders on the edge of the sleeve and toga.

Then I did the little bit to decorate the top shoulder of the toga bit. It just looked like a bumpy trim. So I simply took a bit of leftover trim from the making of the breastplate and sewed it so that it had little raised pockets.

I attached that to the gathered stitches at the top of the sleeve. Then I painted the little dots on the sleeve. I wanted to use Tulip’s Beads in a Bottle but unfortunately I couldn’t find anywhere in the UK that sold the metallic gold I wanted and it was too late to order it from the USA. So instead I used Tulip’s Metallics Gold 3D paint which allowed me to do little raised dots on the sleeve. It’s a different sort of gold, so I experimented with painting over the dots with Jacquard, but I figured I liked this darker gold as well.

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I also painted the accessories with the same acrylic paint I used for the armour. The accessories consist of two headbands, a hair accessory, and a snake bracelet – all were bought from eBay. I also varnished them to try and keep the paint from scratching.

The last thing I had to do was to cut and add the chains! I used little jewellery hooks and closures to attach them to the shoulder piece. Hopefully it’ll be enough to hold it in place! I am wearing this costume to the London Comic Con this weekend and I’m so afraid of ruining it. The chiffon seems to tear and crumble with everything! Wish me luck.

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Making a Robe à l’Anglaise: The Skirts, Sleeves and Trim

I wasn’t too happy with bodice, but I moved on to working with the skirts. I picked a contrasting colour, a soft blue, for the underskirt and the overskirt, connected to the bodice, is of the same fabric as the bodice.

I started with the underskirt and it was fairly straightforward. I used the width of the fabric as the length of the skirt, which means it was basically a very long rectangle. I used just under 4 meters for this. I hemmed it then pleated the top to my waist measurement. I’m terrible at pleating math (which screwed me over again later), so I spent a long time doing and redoing pleats. I loved the look of simple knife pleats, but I ended up having to include some box pleats in the beginning to take up more fabric.

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I was trying so hard to do everything neatly: finish all seams, sew straight, make it look nice and proper. So I was being super careful… until I came to the waistband. I had the iron on too high and burned a HOLE THROUGH IT.

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Thankfully that was the last hazard. I was too heartbroken to make it again (and by heartbroken I mean LAZY), so instead I strategically placed the hook and bar so that this bit was on the inside, hidden. Otherwise, I am so happy with it! I love it, it’s light and the pleats are ADORABLE.

After this, I started working on the sleeves. I used the same book, Creating Historical Clothes by Elizabeth Friendship, to draft the sleeves. The pattern looked like this:

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Then I cut it out of the fabric. I sewed the cuff dart and the tuck, then the side seams with french seams. I turned the lower edge inward twice, so that it hid the raw edges. They looked like really cute tubes!

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And the sleeves were done! Moving on to the overskirt. I had originally planned to do it exactly like the underskirt, but then remembered the fabric actually has a pattern, so I couldn’t use the width or the pattern would be sideways. So I cut three panels to measure up to about 4.5 meters. Then I hemmed it. I’ve been meaning to try cartridge pleating for a while now, and this seemed like a good chance. After digging around, I figured I still couldn’t figure out any pleat maths (I suck), so I just marked the fabric with dots, each 1/4 inch apart. This was marked on the folded top edge. I left an extra four inches at the top of the skirt, so I could fold it over and it would help support the pleats. I topstitched it down along the top edge, so that the fold would stay and it would be easier to pleat.

However, this didn’t work. I ended up with a full extra 10” inches over the desired waist measurement (since the skirt is opened at the front, this was 26” inches). At this point, the whole cartridge pleating process had taken something up to five hours, because it was my first time, I was slow, and the fabric was stiff and hard to sew through. It sucked, but I had to rip out those stitches and start again. I went for 1/2 inch pleats this time and it worked! I do hope I can figure out pleats math soon, cause otherwise I might lose it.

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Plus the 1/2 pleats looked much nicer

That settled, I attached it to the bodice by sewing through each pleat with extra strong thread. With the skirt finished, I moved on to attaching the sleeves. I set the extra bulk at the top by doing two small knife pleats, and then I covered the instead of the sleeves with bias tape, by hand.

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Then I wanted to figure out the trim. The dress looked pretty plain and boring, so I wanted to make some pleated trim out of the leftovers from the blue underskirt. I had plenty left. I bought a scalloped edge scissors and fray checked the edges. I played around with box pleats and knife pleats and ended up going with box pleats, since I think I’d seen more examples of this sort of trim in my Google searches.

After pleating all the trim and sewing the pleats down by machine, I used a small stem stitch in similar embroidery thread to hide the machine stitches. I’d originally wanted to bead it, but it felt like it wouldn’t fit in with the rest of the costume, so I went for embroidery instead. I’m happy with this result! I think it looks neat but still a little different.Then I tried it all together! I had made a little bum roll to go with this, but the cartridge pleating and the heavy fabric already raised my hips so much, I didn’t think the bum roll looked right (I’m still unclear about period silhouettes, so I can be very wrong!). I wore it over my 1770s corset from Norah Waugh’s Corsets and Crinolines, which was one of the first few things I made. Because it was one of the first few things I made, it doesn’t even have straps (I didn’t bother at the time). Since I drafted the bodice from instructions, the necklines don’t match up, so you can just see the stays popping up on the side edges. I might make another 18th century corset to compensate, but I’m not sure which pattern/style to go for.

Unfortunately, because I didn’t have any steel boning for the bodice, the back point of the bodice collapses a bit under the weight of the overskirt, which makes it look kind of… terrible. I don’t know what to do about that. After taking the following photos, I decided to add the same trim to the edges of the sleeves, since they looked a little short and boring.

The trim on the sleeves and a detail of the embroidery stitch on the trim.

And that concludes this costume! I hope to photoshoot it soon, somewhere pretty.

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I quite hate how the back looks