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 Hermione’s Yule Ball dress: the bodice

After re-reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire earlier this year, the idea of cosplaying Hermione’s Yule Ball dress came to mind. I had always thought it a beautiful dress, but never thought of cosplaying it because I just don’t really enjoy pink that much – and I thought a fully pink dress might be a bit overkill for me. However, upon reading the book, I was reminded that originally she was described as wearing periwinkle blue robes.

PROBLEM SOLVED.

My plans for MCM May had already been decided, but while I was out fabric shopping for those, I always kept an eye out for appropriate fabric. I think I’m just too picky with fabric, I ended up agonising over it for months. I hoarded up different shades and samples. I was conflicted about how dark it should be, did I want it more blue or lilac-y – just overthinking everything basically. I wanted it to come out perfectly.

Some of the fabric samples from my many shopping trips.

After going to the Warner Bros. studios in September (photos here!) I was absolutely decided to make it for MCM October. So here are some photos of the dress that I took while at the Studios:

I knew I would never be able to get it as perfect as this – I’m still fairly new to sewing and this was a very ambitious project. Nevertheless, I was very determined.

My first step was to sketch and plan out the whole dress as best as I could.

My sketch!
My plans! I swear they made sense… at some point.

Then I finally committed and went fabric shopping. I bought this beautiful satin at my local fabric shop. I bought four meters and it was around £8 p/m. I then bought around ten meters of chiffon, in three different shades. I wasn’t sure of how much I needed, but after doing some research online, it seemed that everyone that had made it had used a lot of chiffon, which made sense! My first shade was a light two-tone chiffon, blue and lilac. The second was a stronger blue, and the last a darker two-tone blue and purple.

It’s not quite periwinkle but it’s the closest I could get.
And the chiffons!

So it was on to pattern drafting. I actually had draped an original pattern and done a couple of mock-ups way back in February when I’d first thought about this project. It was really hard to come back to a pattern that I hadn’t touched for so long. The fit of this dress is super fiddly and so hard to achieve that I think I ended up making about six mock-ups before I called it a day with the pattern.

The bodice consists of a main triangle in the breast cup, and then two triangle-shaped layers over top. These seams were very tricky, but at least the amount of mock-ups helped me become comfortable with the construction of the bodice!

On the left is the first mock-up I made after picking up the pattern again. The right side is after some alterations and made of a more similar fabric to the satin I would be using.

Some mock-up progress!
The final mock-up! Each fitting only needed small alterations, like taking or adding a quarter inch here or there, and the changes were more noticeable on me than on my dressform.

Once I was somewhat satisfied (I will never be satisfied), I went ahead and cut out the pattern pieces from the lining and the outer fabric. I started my assembling my lining, as more of a… seventh practice run.

So the bodice consists of a main triangle, then followed by two… weird triangle strips over it. The top two layers united at the centre front. The layer immediately over the triangle unites with the main front bodice. Both of the top strips extend to meet the back panel at the side seams. The main bodice has a soft point both at the top and bottom at the centre front.

At this point, I sort of messed up the seam allowances which messed with the fitting of the lower cup in the main triangle. I noticed that the hard triangular seams were easier to sew with a small seam allowance, so I only added 1/4”, but for the main bodice pieces I added 1/2”. This resulted in some bagginess immediately beneath the cups, so that the bodice doesn’t hug the bodice like the original A lot of piecing together and ironing later, I had a semi-decent bodice!

Assembling the outer fabric. Some tips: small seam allowances, basting before sewing and snipping the seam allowances.

The inside seams of the bodice!

Then I pinned the lining around the neckline to the outer fabric, right sides together. I sewed and ironed that seam. Then I ironed the lining inwards, and tried out a technique called ‘sewing to the under’ (highly recommended by Hoppin Bobbin). This would help keep the lining in place.

Lining and outer fabric pinned together!

I basted the top half of the bodice together and then sewed it down.

I waited until the skirt was attached to add the zipper to the back and finish the lining, so instead let’s talk about sleeves!

The straps are just long strips of the satin fabric, rolled over twice and sewed down into straps.

The strips were cut on the bias.

Then I cut two circular flounces for the sleeves. I cut the circle open and trimmed off a bit from the front sections so that it would flow longer into the back. I overlocked all the edges. Then I sewed them to the straps by hand.

The lining was only finished after attaching the skirt so I’ll talk more about it on the next post!

Sneak peek of more chiffon flounces:

 

Making a Jane Porter cosplay: the bodice

You can find the previous post about this cosplay here. I explain a lot of the concept behind this project there, but I’ll give a brief summary here. I wanted to make a more detailed version than the film. For my Esmeralda cosplay, I made it with plain, block colour fabrics, and while I love the result, I would also like to push this next Disney cosplay and try to give it more of a different spin. A huge inspiration was a redesign by Designer Daddy (photo in the other post!). And so, while I was calling this ‘Victorian Jane’ in my head, there is nothing historical accurate about it and it’s not meant to be!

Also quick reminder that this is a description of how I did things – they are by no means the best or correct methods!

With that in mind, I went about tackling the bodice. I really liked the idea of a square neckline and then something that looked like a chemise or blouse underneath, with a high collar. I had a look in some pattern books, but I couldn’t find anything that sort of matched what I wanted, so instead I draped it on my dressform. I’m still fairly new at this, but I was happy with what I came up with. I started by using large-ish pieces of fabric and laying them on the dressform, pinning them so that they laid flat. I marked the seams and cut out the extra fabric, and drew on the shape of the bodice. It left me with this:

Side view
Back view

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Front view

I marked where all the seams were, where they joined and what each bit was. Then I took it off the dressform, pieced it together, and cut a mock-up. After some adjustments to it, I made a pattern and a second mock-up.

The draped pattern taken off the dressform.
My first mock-up. Some of the adjustments included making the waist longer and taking it in at the bust.

After I settled on all alterations, I went ahead and cut it out of the lining, the outer fabric and a layer of cotton twill as interlining (placed inside, between the fabric and the lining, to stiffen it).

The cotton drill layer being cut out.

I wanted to add some boning for structure support. I decided to add boning to all seams, but I also wanted some at the centre front to support the neckline. So I marked out two boning channels in the centre front and sewed half an inch bias tape to the cotton drill. I then flatlined the outer fabric to the cotton drill, matching each piece individually, and basted with a large machine stitch very close to the edge. Then I assembled the bodice by sewing the seams together with a half an inch seam allowance. I then went ahead and assembled the bodice with the same seam allowance.

 

Pinning the lining layers together.
The assembled bodice. I’m actually in love with this lining. It was super cheap but it doesn’t look it – it’s this beautiful shimmering gold and I want to make everything out of it.

I turned all the edges inwards by half an inch on the main bodice. I didn’t bother turning them twice to hide raw edges as I would be putting the lining over top and so they wouldn’t be visible anyway (and this made the edges less bulky). I did turn the back edge twice under to create a boning channel at the back to support the eyelets.

This bodice had a lot of sharp edges that were a PAIN TO TURN. I was always afraid of clipping too much, but then if I didn’t, it wouldn’t lay properly.

I handsewed all these edges down because I didn’t want top-stitching. I went into this cosplay thinking it would be a lot less time consuming than my other historical projects, but turns out I don’t like visible stitching on these either! Silly me.

After all the edges were turned inwards (including the armholes), I moved on to drafting the chemise/blouse looking bit. Originally my plan was to have it simply as an extension of the bodice, stitched onto the bodice itself. This meant that I had to attach before I could sew on the lining, to hide the stitching.

Draping the blouse looking bit. I used off cuts and small bits of the proper fabric.

This was made up of the flat section of the shirt and the collar. I then cut these out of plain cotton as a mock up.

My biggest issue was that, while it was pinned, there was not enough tension for it to lay flat and I couldn’t tell if it would work properly out of the lace. So instead I started looking at alternatives. I decided upon making it into a chemisette. They were worn mainly in the 19th century to fill in the neckline and they gave the impression of a blouse. Sounds perfect, right? I just wish I’d thought of it immediately.

So I added two extending panels to the mock-up so that it was longer, ending just about the natural waist. I turned the bottom edge inward twice so it made a channel and then passed some ribbon through to tie in place. And it looked much better!

Now that I was happy with this, I came to the next conundrum. This project has really highlighted a terrible flaw in me. I am awfully indecisive. I don’t want to commit to a decision and I’m always afraid that something else would’ve looked better. It’s something I’ll have to get better at, if only for efficiency’s sake (since I end up putting off deciding and delay projects). I think if I ever get more confident in my sewing, this will get better naturally. Anyway, I had to decided whether I wanted to line the chemisette. The lace was somewhat see-through and originally I thought that would look good – but then I didn’t quite like the contrast that seeing my skin through the lace would give the costume. Instead, I thought lining it would be a nice throwback to Jane’s solid looking bodice.

So I decided to line it.

Cutting the bits out of cotton to line the lace.

I cut all the bits from the plain cotton and then the lace. Then I pinned the respective sections of cotton and their lace equivalent, right sides together, and sewed them with a half an inch seam allowance. I pressed the seams open and then trimmed them, as the lace is see-through and you could spot some of the wider ones. I then turned it the right side out and pressed everything again.

Then I sewed the shoulder seams and attached the collar (very fiddly).

(sneak peek at the skirt, which I actually completed first!)

I turned the bottom edge inwards twice, creating a channel for ribbon, and added snaps and hooks to the closure at the back. I was very happy with the result!

With the chemisette finished, it was time for the sleeves! I couldn’t sew in the lining without sewing the sleeves in first (the lining was meant to hide all my shame). I got on to drafting. In my quest to never have to draft sleeve patterns from scratch, I decided to just use patterns I had already made. The sleeves are made of three components: the puff sleeve, the straight bottom portion and the cuff.

For the puff sleeve, I dug out the pattern from my Red Velvet dress and slashed it further.

The original Red Velvet dress sleeve pattern

I ended up slashing it a total of five times, adding about 5 extra cms every time. I wanted the pouf! But the first time I only slashed it an extra three times.

After the first round of slashing.

Then bottom portion is just a rectangle, of how wide I wanted the sleeve to be and my arm measurement. I then made a cute little mock-up:

The mock-up, minus the cuff.

I was happy with it, except for a few minor alterations. I wanted more pouf and the bottom portion was a little tight and short. I slashed the pattern again and then cut out my actual fashion fabric and lining portions. Then I flatlined the lining to the outer fabric.

The sections. A bit blurry, sorry!

The cuffs were made from a rectangle, interfaced and folded in half.

Exactly like a waistband, but for the arms. Armbands.

 

I have a few things I would’ve done differently. I wouldn’t have interfaced it, as it makes them a bit stiff and uncomfortable. I would’ve sewn them on before sewing up the side seam on the bottom portion of the sleeves (this was just stupid of me). I also sewed them on by hand, which made them not completely flat (would fix by sewing with my machine).

Then I sewed the gathering stitches on the pouf sleeves. Since I suspected the sleeves still weren’t good enough, I decided to add a layer of gathered tulle. I could’ve made sleeve supports (they were a thing) but I didn’t want to further hinder the costume (comfort and practicality were my point with this cosplay!). So instead I sewed two rows of gathering stitches on the lining layer and on the outer fabric layer, on the top portion of the sleeve (the two pieces weren’t basted together in the upper section). Then I gathered them down to the required size and I gathered down a layer of tulle about 7” wide to the same length. Then I sandwiched it between the lining and the outer fabric and sewed the three layers together. I did up the side seam and I had a pouf sleeve!

The side seams were done with french seams for finished insides.

I also added a layer of gathered tulle in between the outer fabric and the lining of the sleeve. This was just a gathered rectangle of tulle that would help support the puffy sleeves.

Then I attached the cuffs to the bottom portion of the sleeves. The cuffs were cut purposefully of the wrong side of the fabric, because in the original film they look like they’re a lighter colour than the rest of the dress. I assumed this was because it was made to look like the the bodice had full length sleeves that were rolled up (some people have made the cuffs a totally different colour, like white, which also looks good, but I was satisfied with the wrong side of the fabric). I sewed them on by hand, sandwiching the bottom edge between the cuff. Then I pinned the upper section of the bottom sleeve (sorry, I can’t thin of a better way to explain it!) to the pouf sleeve, and sewed them together by machined with a a half an inch seam allowance. Then I did a flat fell seam by hand.

The flat fell seam.

Then I sewed the sleeves with a half an inch seam allowance to the armhole bodice, with a backstitch, by hand.

And since this was all done, I could attach the lining! I turned all the edges under by about half an inch, so that it was blush but not over the edge of the bodice, covering all seams.

That was sewn on with a whip stitch by hand.

Then I put in the eyelets at the back. For now, I’ve gone with brass eyelets. I’m not sure I’ll stitch over them with embroidery thread, I kind of like the antique brass look.

And it was finished! It only needs some snaps here and there, but otherwise it is done. There are a couple of details that are in the bodice area (the extra collar and the cravat) that I will include in another post (probably about accessories).

I did a quick fitting and I was happy with it! The next post will be about the skirt and the overskirt. Thanks for reading!

Making a Jane Porter cosplay: plans and undergarments

With MCM London coming up in May, I’d been weighing up my options for cosplays for a few weeks now. I didn’t have anything particular in mind. Cosplaying Merida showed me that, at least for now, I could only really do brunette cosplays as I still haven’t figured out how wigs work. I only used a wig that one time, and yes it was cheap and not great and it squished my brains into oblivion so I’m not sure I’m ready to revisit wigs! So I made my little list of option and eventually decided on making a Jane Porter cosplay.

Jane is from Disney’s film Tarzan and she looks like this:

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However, though there are amazing cosplays of this costume, I was more interested in making a more detailed version. In my head and notes, I’ve been calling it ‘Victorian Jane’ – but this makes no sense, really, as there is little Victorian going on in my version. Dating Jane’s costume is hard; it makes little since. There is a bustle going on, but little else that falls within the stereotypical bustle era gowns. So I thought I’d make it clear to state that this was not, in any way, intended as a historically accurate version of Jane. This costume is for cosplay and I just wanted to have fun with it.

With that said, my main inspiration for this costume is this version by the amazing Designer Daddy (he is such a great inspiration in everything):

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Designer Daddy’s version, isn’t it gorgeous?

This was made for Jessica LG and you can see photos of it being worn there! So my ideas rotated around brocade fabric, lace everywhere and as many details as I could cram in. I made a sketch for this and went into planning and fabric shopping.

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My sketch! I’m terrible at drawing so please forgive.

Fabric shopping was a pain. I couldn’t find anything that I really liked. I didn’t want it to be too gold or it might not be recognisable, and I didn’t want it to be too yellow in case it looked tacky. And I also didn’t want it to be expensive. Eventually I settled on this home decor yellow brocade fabric I found, it was £6.99 p/meter and I bought six meters.

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My fabrics!

But before getting to work with that, I had to work on foundations! I definitely wanted to keep the bustle look from the film and add the cupcake-look from the version above. I didn’t want a bustle cage because I thought it might  be uncomfortable for a busy convention, so instead I made a bustle pad. I used this tutorial by the wonderful Izabella. I did pretty much just follow her instructions so not much to add!

To decide how big I wanted it to be, I simply took a tape measure and held it up to my mannequin’s butt and did a bit of guess work.

My nonsensical schematics
Gathered down the bigger panel
Pinned the two layers together along the sewing lines

After sewing along the gathered lines, you’re also meant to sew one of the shorter sides closed (the other is left open so you can stuff the thing). My suggestion would be to bind the already closed edges at this point if you’ve got a little uncooperative sewing machine like mine. I ended up having to sew the last edge shut and do the whole binding by hand because my machine would not sew the stuffed pad, couldn’t get a right angle between the foot and the machine arm. Or maybe use the bag method if you’re more comfortable with that.

And then I filled with polyester toy filling until I couldn’t cram any more in

Then I sewed together the open edge through which I had stuffed the pad, and then bound all the seams with bias binding. Then I gathered down a lace ruffle and sewed than on (by hand as well as my machine wouldn’t do anything to the stuffed pad). Then I added two ribbon ties and it was done.

The finished pad

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On to the petticoats. And here is where I messed up. While the original skirt could be achieved with a plain gored skirt, like the one in my 1871 Evening Dress but shorter, Designer Daddy’s looked a lot more voluminous and ‘cupcake-like’. I liked this idea. As I am a huge fangirl, I’ve watched some of his live streams on Facebook and realised some of his amazing skirts are achieved with circle skirts – so in my head I instantly assumed this was a circle skirt too. And of course, what would give more volume to a circle skirt? Circle skirt petticoats!

groan.

This was also around the time I had determined to try out organdie for petticoats, at the recommendation of Jennifer at Historical Sewing. While organdie is great and I am a huge fan now, IT IS A STUPID CHOICE FOR A CIRCLE SKIRT. I am an idiot. It doesn’t drape! And circle skirts do! This is entirely my mistake and I wish I hadn’t insisted on it and ended up cutting two circle skirts before giving up. But I did – so I was determined not to let it go to waste.

I used Angela Clayton’s circle skirt tutorial to draft my pattern.

Then I cut it out of organdie, it was positioned so it was a double layer.

The side seams were sewn up, leaving one with a six inch gap. These side seams used the fabric selvage, so I didn’t even have to finish them. Then I used a bit of ribbon as waistband, not sewing the two edges together like recommended. Instead, I simply turned the raw edge inward and sewed the edge down. Then I folded it, so that it created a channel for some more ribbon and it closes in a drawstring manner.

I decided to add a layer of tulle inbetween the circle petticoats in hopes it would help. I added a long two inch wide ruffle at the bottom edge and initially gathered down the top side to fit the waist, but I found this added too much volume on the front. It was about this moment I decided to get a full bustle look, keeping volume away from the front if I could. So instead, I added two darts to the front and pleated the excess at the back, over the bustle.

The silhouette looked like this at the moment:

I used an old circle skirt over it so I could see what the final skirt would look like

While it was getting there, it wasn’t quite what I wanted it to be. The organdie doesn’t fold well into the circle skirt shape, so it jolts out at awkward angles. Right about this time, I found this old instagram photo of Designer Daddy, which shows his petticoat:

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I was so mad! I over-complicated everything. I just needed to make ruffles! In an effort to salvage my petticoat trials, I decided to add flounces and ruffles to the tulle layer, in hopes that it would life the upper organdie petticoat into submission. And it worked! I added two plain cotton ruffles all the way around the bottom of the tulle petticoat, each 5” wide. Then I added one final 5” organdie ruffle on top of that. The silhouette
was much better and I was satisfied!

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With the bustle pad and the two petticoats, the undergarments were completed. As I said in the beginning, there’s nothing really historical about them! I learned a lot from this. I really enjoy building a silhouette and I feel like I learn a lot every time! The skirt is sufficiently poofy for me, while still keeping the flat front and the bustle-y back.

The next post will be about the bodice!

Making a Cream Dress: the Photos

This dress was a project on a whim. I was on holiday in Spain and I’d seen an awesome fabric shop but had no immediate projects. So I set out to the internet and found a photo of a costume in Reign that I used as inspiration. I wanted it to have that romanticised medieval look, so though it is historically inspired, it is in no way accurate. I am quite happy with it! It was very good practice on building bodices, drafting sleeves and general dressmaking skills. I also got to embellish it with beads and pearls, which I loved! You can find the posts about making it below. These photos are, like all of the others, taken by amazing friend and photographer, Raquel Gaspar. Also, this dress does have a sash to go with it, which I mentioned in the blog posts, and it annoys me so much that I forgot to take it to the shoot! It really completes the look (and hides some mathematical imperfections in seam making). But alas!

Making a Cream Dress: The Bodice

Making the Cream dress: sleeves, skirts and details

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Twirling to try and show off the skirt! Instead, it got covered in mud.

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Bloopers: very unladylike boots.

Making an 1871 Evening Dress: the sleeves and details

Once the skirts were done, I moved on to the sleeves. The sleeves were rather simple. As the bodice fell just off the shoulder, they didn’t need to fit in the same manner as normal sleeves. So to draft these, I simply drew an almost oval shape, longer than the armhole size so I could gather it down to make nice puffy sleeves.

I cut out two of them and then two long rectangles to make little cuffs. I made the cuffs in the same manner as usual, by interfacing it and then ironing the edges inwards like with a waistband. But this time, I added a piece of plastic boning to make them nice and round. I gathered the lower and bottom edges of the upper sleeve and then attached the bottom edge to the cuff, by slotting it into the middle of the cuff.
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I sewed this by hand, so that there was no visible top stitching. They looked pretty adorable at this stage.

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Then I attached them to the bodice with a double threaded back stitch, for sturdiness. Then I covered this seam with bias tape (as I’d ran out of lace tape by this point, oops!).

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Sleeves were attached and I moved on to decorating the collar, as I wanted some hand-stitching. I wish I’d decided to do this before attaching it, as it would have been much easier, but alas. I ordered some sequins online and decided to attach them around the collar, to cover the awkward bias that was bothering me.

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The last element for the bodice were the two little bows that are perched just over the shoulder on the original dress. I’d never made fabric bows before and two tiny ones took me a shameful amount of time. Like, I am literally ashamed. I turned all the edges inwards by hand, because I didn’t want top stitching, so this was what set me back. I cut some rectangles, two different sets, one set larger than the other. One rectangle for the main body, one for the tails. All the edges were turned inwards by hand and then the middles were gathered down.

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The gathering stitches

After they were gathered, I tacked the two together and cut one long strip from the same fabric, about one inch wide, which I used to tie over the middle. Then I added sequins over the edges of this strip. Yes, they took forever, but they looked adorable so I forgave them.

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I attached them to the bodice with some strong stitches. And with this done, the bodice was complete! The insides were a bit rough still, but I’m waiting for more lace tape to arrive so I can clean them up properly.

The last step was the trim made of the same fabric for the skirt. It would decorate the overskirt and also hide the side closure. For this, I cut some long strips of the fabric, and pleated them.

This was quite easy to do, because the stripes were good guidelines. Then I tacked them down very carefully on both edges, trying to keep my stitches as discreet as possible.

After that, I pinned them to the overskirt and sewed them down in the same way with the tacking stitches.

I was pretty happy with everything at this point, but too lazy to lace up the bodice on the dressform so instead here’s a 19th century crop top:

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Last thing to do was to hem the skirt. I decided to use crinoline tape (also called horsehair tape) for this. It was quite hard to find in the shops at a reasonable price and wide enough, so I bought it online. It ended up being 13 cms wide. I lined it up with the edge of the right side of the skirt and sewed it down with a half an inch seam allowance, on the right side.

Then I turned it over to the wrong side and smoothed it over, making sure it was pulled tight, and pinned it in place. Then I used a herringbone stitch to secure it.

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I also made a little placket from the fabric to cover the cut edges of the tape where they met, as they were quite rough.

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And it was done! I learned a lot from this project. I liked all the decorating, but I also learned I have to take more time to sort out the fit, instead of getting excited and moving ahead. I still have some fabric left over so I think maybe a day bodice to pair with this might be fun to make sometime in the future. I don’t have edited pictures of this dress yet, so here’s a little sneak peek:

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Flawless photography by Raquel Gaspar

Making an 1871 Evening Dress: the Skirt and Overskirt

After the struggles with the bodice, I approached the skirts with a bit more care. I had a look at patterns for skirts of the time, and decided to go with a panelled skirt. Thankfully the striped fabric I bought was wide enough to cut the skirt panels with the stripes. I hadn’t done a panelled skirt yet, I’ve only done rectangular skirts which are very easy. I made one petticoat once using a commercial pattern that was made up of panels. Keeping that in mind, I went about measuring everything (twice) and drafted up the skirt. I simply drew it directly on the fabric and cut out the pieces, each individually, and making sure that the sloped seams would match. The back also had to dip towards a small train. There was a front panel cut on the fold, two side fronts, two side backs and one extra wide back panel to fit over the generous bustle.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take photos of pretty much everything! (eck!) I cut out all the panels and made a waistband. I decided to leave a slit between the side front and side back panels on the left side. It couldn’t be on the back as usual because it had to fit nicely over the bustle back – and the side bit would be covered by the overskirt so it would be okay. I sewed up all the seams together with french seams for neatness (to compensate for the messiness of the bodice I guess).

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They are a bit tedious, but they do work well. The only thing that annoyed me was that because the fabric is quite strange, it didn’t take well to being ironed. So after I sewed the second seam, it wouldn’t iron properly so it doesn’t look very flat. But oh well! I also only then decided to interface the top portion of the skirt, to support the pleats better. I wish I’d done it before sewing, as it was hard to interface the sloped waist line. I left a six inch gap on the left side seam, to get in and out. I turned these edges inwards by band, and then I fit into the waistband.

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The waistband was my desired width and my waist measurement plus seam allowances. I interfaced it, then ironed the long edges 1/2” inwards and then ironed it in half. Then I sewed the edges, right side to right side, and turned it the right way out.

I pleated the back to fit into the waistband, and then sewed over the waistband, the half that would be hidden by machine and the other half by hand. I added a hook and bar, and a snap and it was done. I really like the way it fits and falls.

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The overskirt worked very similarly, but is made only of two panels, the front and the back. It slopes backwards as well, so that it is longer in the back. The front panel fits snuggly on to the skirt, and is curved in the centre, while the back was very wide so it could be pleated over the bustle.

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The overskirt’s back panel

So I only had two seams to sew. I sewed the back to the front at the side seams, and left a six inch gap on the right side seam. This would be covered with self made trim. I pleated the top and fit a waistband the same way. I added a hook and eye (I’m terrible at positioning these right) and snaps so that the slit closed. I then hemmed the edges and gathered and sewed lace to it, the same way I did to the collar on the bodice.

I didn’t take any photos of the skirts at this point, as I was motoring onwards towards the self-made trim, which will be my next post!