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 a Linen Robe à l’Anglaise: the bodice

So over the summer I binge watched the most recent season of Poldark. Although the costumes aren’t super historically accurate (I really enjoyed reading Frock Flicks articles on Poldark – and the rest to be honest – although I enjoyed the show!), I was really inspired by the simple look of the linen and cotton gowns worn by the lower classes. I was pretty unhappy with the fit of my previous Anglaise (no written posts, just a photo post here). It was my first 18th century dress, my first historical dress, so it was littered with mistakes and faults.

I wanted to re-do this style, since I think it’s my favourite 18th century style. I went shopping for linen way back in the summer, and I included the fabric I got for this in my last haul post . I got it at Goldhawk Road for £5 p/m, and I bought five meters. I thought it was a really good deal! It’s a really nice cream linen, but it has a plaid pattern on it and different patches with a whiter weave.

My starting point was the pattern I used for my previous Anglaise. I dug it out and cut it out of a mock up. I remembered the bodice fitted weirdly by a combination of issues with the grainline and it being too big. This first mock up fit very poorly. I struggled with the grainlines (since I put none of the original pattern which was drafted with Friendship’s Creating Historical Clothes – there was also no mention of grainlines in the drafting section) and the fit was atrocious. I fiddled with the fit and cut out a second mock up – the front piece was just not working at all, though the back fit really nicely!

 

So instead I cut the back away from the mock up and pinned it on my dressform. Then I decided to drape the front part of the dress. This wasn’t ideal – especially because I was still being really lazy with draping and used random scraps of fabric and pieced it. But in the end that’s what happened. I transferred the drape to paper and then cut a second mock up. This fit a lot better.

Draping. The super lazy way. Don’t recommend.
I straightened the centre front when I transferred it to paper I swear.

 

However I still wasn’t 100% happy with it, and I was awaiting the delivery of my American Duchess’ Guide to 18th Century Sewing, so I thought I would wait the couple of weeks there was for it to be delivered. (Quick rant: Amazon originally had the same delivery date as America, but then when I checked closer to the date, the UK release date was pushed back to December, then in December it said my order had gone out of stock and they didn’t have a new delivery day – I ended up cancelling the pre-order I’d done in JULY and bought it from Book Depository, which arrived within four days. For once Amazon sucked.) Point of this was I ended up delaying the Anglaise until the end of December, at which point I was making my Edwardian ensemble.

Even though I didn’t use this pattern, I used American Duchess’ Guide to 18th Century Sewing to help with the grainlines.
Fighting with grainlines.

I started working on this again in January and since a month had elapsed, I cut out a new mock up out of calico instead of flimsy cotton and was much happier with the result. I just had to tweak the centre front (really weirdly I couldn’t have a straight centre front, it had to nip in at the top more than anywhere else – so weird!) and a couple of other small things like raising the neckline and it was good to go.

I was really careful with fitting and trying this on, so I cut it out of the interlining layer of cotton twill first, and assembled that to try on (even though I would have to unpick it later). I tried on the interlining layer and it fit alright so I moved forwards.

Cutting it out of the twill to interline.
The centre front pattern piece.
Tried it on.
I think this ended up fitting better than the final bodice. Somehow.

To cut it out of the linen, I cut each piece individually so I could work on lining up the pattern. I made sure that each piece was a mirror of the other.

Aligning the stripes.
Worked!

And the back! I didn’t bother with the sides.

I unpicked the seams that I had sewn to try on the interlining layer. Then I pinned all the corresponding pieces together and basted them.

And basted,

Then I pinned the seams and basted them, trying to line up the pattern where I could, mostly the CB and CF seams. Then I sewed them. I started from the centre back outwards.

Basted seams.
Sewn.

I did the shoulder seam last. Once all the seams were sewn, it looked like this:

At this point I tried it on, as I was worried about the wonky centre front. AND I WAS RIGHT TO WORRY.

I honestly have no idea why it’s so wonky. The pattern looks right – maybe the grainlines? Or is it just meant to be like that? Either way, I could force it closed, so I went with it. I was already worried as the centre front wasn’t completely straight, because of my weird proportions.

I finished the top edge by rolling the seam inwards twice and then stitching that down by hand.

The finished top edge.

The next step was to sew down the seam allowances so that they became boning channels.

The guts of the bodice.

I used synthetic whalebone, which has become my favourite for boning everything since last May. I simply cut the length needed (minus half an inch at the top and bottom) and file the edges down with a nail file. Then they are inserted into every channel. Now that the boning was in, I could finish the bottom edge. I did the same thing as on the top edge, by rolling the raw edge inwards twice and sewing down by hand.

For the bodice closure, I handsewed eyes and hooks to two lengths of twill tape. Then I sewed the tape to the centre front of the bodice. I thought this would be easier, as when I sewed hooks and eyes to my first Anglaise, it was very time consuming and fiddly. I think it worked out well in the end. The bodice fit isn’t perfect in any way – it still really bothers me that at times it seems too big.

For sleeves, I started out with the same pattern from my first Anglaise. It was a fitted elbow sleeve, drafted with Friendship’s Creating Historical Clothes. The most important bits are the elbow darts. There are two: one on the bottom edge of the sleeve, and one horizontally on the sleeve.

I cut the pattern out of the linen and out of simple white cotton to line the sleeves with.

I sewed the darts first, on each piece individually.

The darts.
And on the lining.

Then I matched the edges and basted them together.

Just pinned.

I finished the side seam with a french seam, then pinned the sleeves to the bodice. I sewed them together by machine. However at this point, when I tried on the bodice, my arm’s movement was very restricted and I felt like the sleeves were tight. So I undid the french seam and inserted a gusset under the arm. A gusset is a triangle of fabric, larger on the arm scythe and thinning out towards the elbow. I sewed it on by hand.

I used the lining to cover the new seams. It worked in the end, and the sleeves were a lot more comfortable after.

I finished the bottom edge by turning the lining and the outer fabric inwards, and sewing them down together, finishing them in one go. And that was it for the bodice! (except some small sleeve flounces I added later). Next up, the skirt, fichu and flounces!

Although it’s not perfect on me, it fits a lot worse on my dressform!

Making an Early Edwardian ensemble: the skirt and the hat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I secured the pleats down by sewing them by machine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the skirt was done!

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

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

 

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

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

Top piece is the correct shape.

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

This is what all my pieces looked like:

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

I also added some piping to the top edge!

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

I covered the brim with fabric.

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

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

My new favourite thing.

I sewed it down by hand.

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

Making an Edwardian Corset

Hello everyone!

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

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

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

I scaled that up and made a mock up.

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

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

I don’t.

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

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

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

The pattern pieces and the cut twill.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The rest of the lining in place.

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

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

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

Making a Jane Porter cosplay: the photos

So one of the things that happened in the past cons was that I only ever really got one or two shots of my costumes actually being worn, at the end of the day (also when I looked the worst because I’m still a con rookie and they WRECK ME). Not anymore my friends! I was so privileged this time to be joined by my friend Lachlan Williams (https://www.instagram.com/obscure.lachlan/?hl=en), an amazing photographer. I thank him so much for his patience with me, I’m a terrible model and he’d never done anything like this and I couldn’t keep my eyes open for more than one second so – I’m super impressed with the results! It was so hard to just pick a few to feature here, so if you’d like to see more, follow me on Instagram as that’s where I post most things!

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I’ve got several shots in B&W which also look amazing

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By the end of the con, my hair wouldn’t stay up no matter what. Guess cons are kinda like the jungle.