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:

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.

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 interlining layer.
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.

 

Pining 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 set of slashes.
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.
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!

Making an 1871 Evening Dress: Foundations and the Bodice

Before the summer, I came across this photo of an 1871’s evening gown held at the Fashion Museum at Bath:

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I’m not sure what about it made me go ‘oh my god’ but I did. And in the summer, I found some very cheap though enchanting light blue fabric that I bought with the intention of using it for this dress. I am sort of disappointed now, because it’s a very light and soft sort of fabric and I wish I’d bought something more lavender and taffeta/silk-ish for this project. Nevertheless, everything seemed to be prepared.

With every historical project, the trick is to start from the inside out. This dress is dated 1871 which means it falls into the Early Bustle period, where the Victorian skirt widths were pushed backwards into a rather generous backside. However, those skirt support cages seemed so complicated so I made a weak attempt with manipulating my existing bum rolls and sorts.

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Didn’t work.

As you can see, it keeps the 18th century shape so I went ahead and bought a pattern by Truly Victorian TV108 – Grand Bustle. It worked really well and I’m very happy with the shape! I paired it with a petticoat made from another pattern by Truly Victorian and my existing Victorian corset, pattern by Redthreaded.

Before and after the petticoat! So after the foundations were sorted, it was time to move onto the dress. I wanted to keep it quite close to the original garment, so I tried to mimic the seams locations.I draped the pattern on my dressform and then transferred it to paper. It need quite a few alterations as the seams were at a few awkward places and I still have a lot to learn about fit. Nevertheless, I made two mock-ups and I was happy enough to go forward.

I cut the fabric out of something similar to cotton twill and then from the fabric. I had to interface both of these layers because they were too soft to make a stiff bodice (this goes back to the poor fabric decision). I used the lining twill to cut out the outer fabric so that it made sure they were about the same size (plus it already had seam allowances).

Then I flatlined all the pieces together and assembled them with 1/2” seam allowance. I did a quick fitting and though I noticed that the shoulders, armhole and back were a bit off, I thought it would sort itself out once I’d turned all the edges inwards by the seam allowance.img_1214

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I regret not trying to fix it properly at this stage. Maybe if I had, the bodice would fit a lot better by the end. Nevertheless, I went ahead and pressed all seams and sewed them down to create some boning channels.

I used zip/cable ties for boning, since the bodice is meant to be worn over a corset already. I boned all the channels and then turned the upper, side and lowers edges inwards by 1/2” inch. I also turned the back edges inwards by half an inch twice and sewed it down to form a boning channel. However, because I hadn’t added seam allowances to the back, this was too small. I had expected that this would make it fit well for a lace-up back but it was far too small. I ended up altering these later to give the bodice a bit more room in the back (unfortunately not enough, it still has an ugly gap). At this point, I also sewed on the eyelets. It was far too early for them so this was a mistake! As I had to resew the back boning channels, it meant that the eyelets are now too far away from the edge and they look so awkward.

The original back edge

 

Then I decided to move onto the collar. The original dress has what looks like gathered tulle in the collar. I’m sad I didn’t have the reference photo next to me while I figured out the collar because I’m unhappy with some decisions. I draped it by pinning some left over fabric to the existing bodice and then drawing the shape. I accidentally made it deeper in the front and wider in the shoulders than it should be.

Draping the collar!

 

Then I cut it out of the actual fabric as a base for the gathered material.I made some notches and started turning edges inwards when I realised this would leave the gathered material’s edges raw, so I decided to bind it with bias tape instead.

Instead of tulle, I decided to gather some lace. Because I love lace. As I made the collar/bertha very deep in the front, the lace wasn’t wide enough to cover it. I thought it would look fine when I bound the edges, but the gap really bothers me now. A lot. So I think I may embellish over it later to try and make it more pleasing.

So then it was time to make some bias tape! I wanted it to match the fabric, so I decided to make it. This was the first time I made bias tape, so I looked at a few different tutorials online and went ahead. My first step was to cut 2” wide strips of my fabric at a specific angle, which involved some folding. This was very easy with my clear quilting ruler.

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Then I had to pin all the strips together and sew them, also at an angle.

This meant I now had one long strip. I took it to my ironing board and ironed the edges so that they met in the middle, which left me with 1” wide bias tape. I pinned it to the bertha so that it wrapped around and then hand-sewed it to hide stitches.

Then I sewed on a piece of ribbon which you can see in the inspiration dress. This ribbon hid the gathering stitches on the lace! It was the closest I could find in colour to my fabric. This fabric is a very pale blue, that looks mostly white in photos (though it isn’t!). It also looks sparkly in some lights, so it’s obviously some sort of mythical creation that has come to bless my days. Later, I found some other ribbon with a smoother colour that I liked better, so I replaced it. The original dress has fringe trim around the edges of the collar, but I couldn’t find any to buy that didn’t remind me of curtains. So instead I decided to go with gathered lace (because I LOVE LACE). This is a very pretty wide lace I bought in Portugal last time I was home and I’m very happy with how it looks.

 

Draping the lace to see if it was the right decision

 

It’s lace, so of course it was. I was having some trouble calculating how much I would need to add to the overskirt, as that had fringe trim as well that I would be replacing with this lace. Since I hadn’t made the overskirt yet, I couldn’t calculate properly. I was afraid of running out of lace, so I decided to gather it by hand so that I could control how much gathering went on. I was trying to gather it very lightly, so it came to about x 1.5.

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Pinned on!

Just had to pin it on and hand sew it. I’m not a fan of visible top-stitching, so I try to keep the most noticeable bits hidden. Which means a lot of hand sewing, but I enjoy it! (Plus I sort of binge watched all of Dowton Abbey while making this dress).

Then I sewed on the bertha with some slip stitches. I realised I should have sewn it on before I hand sewed the eyelets (BIG sigh), so the back looks a mess. Imma try to attach some snaps so that it can sit properly on the bodice. During this process, I had also decided not to line the bodice. I hadn’t planned on it, hadn’t thought it would be necessary, but with the seam allowance boning channels, they were fraying so much that the insides were really messy. So I took my lace tape and hand-sewed it over every turned edge of the inside of the bodice. I’ve ran out of lace tape and it is impossible to find in the UK, so until I find a solution, there will be no photo of the inside of the bodice!

The awkward gap in the back

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And that is it for the bodice! I only have some inside tidying to do. The next post will be about the skirt and the overskirt (and maybe the sleeves!).

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Making a Red Velvet Dress: the Skirt and Crown

Now that this costume is finished, I’m actually pretty happy with it! It doesn’t fit as well as I’d hoped. I’m still learning and struggling with fit, so it isn’t as comfortable as I’d wished it to be. I wanted it to be a dress I could wear, comfortably, every day if I wanted to. Though it fits, it is a little tight in the bodice and the sleeves are a little short. Nevertheless, I’m fairly happy with it! It’s everything I wanted it to be. So on to the skirt.


The skirt if very simple. Originally I’d intended for it to just be one long rectangle and then remembered that this is… velvet. Which has nape and looks different. So I cut three panels so that it would match the bodice. I sewed them together. I didn’t bother finishing these seams as not only did they use the selvage edge, but they would also be facing the inside of the lining. The lining is a long rectangle that I cut slightly shorter than the velvet. I turned the top edges inwards of both layers then basted them together with the wrong sides facing each other. Then it was just a matter of sewing two rows of gathering stitches for the three meters and some of the length of the skirt (I like full skirts, they’re so pretty).

Sounds easy, right? Everyone knows the gathering nightmare, and I experienced it once again while sewing this. Just as my gathers were nearly done, one of the threads broke so I had to rip everything out. I was slightly traumatised (it had taken me hours to sew them and very carefully gather it down), so I decided to re-sew the gathering stitches by hand. I used extra strong thread and sewed two rows. I also gathered as I went in an attempt to save time. I wanted to finish this dress before going to New York, as I’m returning on Christmas Eve. This worked perfectly and I think the gathers looked even better this way!

I didn’t take any photos of the skirt process because I was in a rush (bad me). Once the skirt was done, I sewed it onto the bodice with double threaded needle and a backstitch. I’m always terrified that the bodice-skirt sleeve will fall apart, but this seems sturdy enough. By this point, it was time for my biggest fear: the zipper. Dun dun dun.

I bought the longest invisible zipper I could find, in a matching colour. I’ve worked with zippers a little bit (only a little bit), so they’re still rather intimating. This wasn’t the worst bit, though. Because I’d sewed the cotton drill and the velvet in the bodice with the bag method and then it also had the extra panel seam, this side seam was SO BULKY that my machine hated it. It became a case of ms vs. machine.

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The machine won.

Nothing like almost getting blood on your dress to persuade to sew by hand. So back I went to double thread and backstitching and I sewed the zipper on by hand. This worked (somewhat), and by some miracle, it fit. By this point, it was 3 am and I was very tired. The next day, I only had to hem the skirt. I did this with a herringbone or catch stitch (Angela’s awesome tutorial here). I didn’t have to hem the lining because it was luckily the selvage edge and since it was shorter and inside, no one would see it.

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I was in a rush so they’re longer than they should be

That done, the final bit was to attach the bodice lining. It took forever to have it mildly match up and cover all the seams. But I managed, with lots of pins that turned it into a death trap.

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Then I sewed it down with a whipstitch.

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And with that, it was done!

To get further into the holiday spirit, I also decided to make a holiday crown. Again, Angela Clayton makes these and she’s got loads of tutorials on Youtube about how to make them. I spent weeks looking for wreath picks, but it was impossible to find them in London. I ended up finding some suitable ones in a garden centre out by Orpington. I followed her tutorial and made my crown.

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My materials, a bunch of wreath picks and ribbon
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First step was to cut down the wreath picks into manageable bits
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Then I cut a bit of plastic boning to be one inch larger than my head. I used hot glue to overlap that one inch and glue the plastic boning together, into a circle.
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Then I glued the ribbon over it.
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First I glued on the leaves and pine bits, and then the bigger bits such as the birds and pine cones.
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Once I couldn’t see any ribbon or fit any more in, I called it finished.

Many selfies followed.

FINALLY, MY PRINCESS CROWN. And my holiday project is finished! I love love love it. Especially the crown, but all of it together makes me very happy. Here are some photos of the finished project! Thank you for reading and happy holidays!

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