This dress was made based on an extant 1871 evening dress at the Fashion Museum Bath. There’s a picture of it in my first post. You can find the Making of posts here, here and here.
I really enjoyed the process of making this. It involved making a bustle cage, which was a first. I wore it over my Victorian corset, the bustle cage and two early bustle petticoats. The dress is made up of a bodice, a skirt and an overskirt. Like at the time, the bodice remains separate from the skirt. Since I have some leftover fabric, it might be nice to try an make a day bodice for this project at some point in the future! In the end, I had a lot of fun and I’m happy with a lot of the elements.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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:
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 cuffs were made from a rectangle, interfaced and folded in half.
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!
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.
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!
I didn’t really know what to call this so for now I’m going with the Cream Dress. To be fair, it does look very cream. This is a dress I’d thought up doing a few months ago, after seeing a photo of a dress from Reign that I quite liked. It seemed fairly simple and I wanted something to keep me busy and with which I could practice more. The dress I originally saw on Instagram looks like this:
While I don’t really watch the series any more, I have always appreciated the prettiness of the wardrobe (even if it isn’t historically accurate). And so I was all for it! I bought the fabrics for this over the summer while I was away in Alicante. I bought a meter for the white and gold brocade bodice, a meter for the sleeves and four meters of the light cream with discreet dots for the skirt.
You can’t really see it in these photos but the bodice fabric and the sleeve fabric have wonderful sheen to them. I am especially in love with the white fabric, I can’t really say what it is – it is light like chiffon, but feels more like cotton and muslin. It has a sort of shiny sheen of it, though it is very discreet. As I said, I am in love and sad that I did not buy more.
For the bodice, I got to try out something new. The last bodice I drafted was for my robe à l’Anglaise and I flat drafted that following the instructions from a book. I didn’t really like that method, it took forever and a lot of maths. But in the meantime, my dressform arrived and I could finally dip into draping! So I did. I read up on what I could, but it’s pretty self-explanatory. You put a piece of fabric on it and you draw on it.
I did one mock-up for this, where I realised the back was too big so I took it in by about an inch. Then I turned it into a pattern and cut out the pieces.
The bodice is made up of one layer of the fashion fabric and one layer of stiff cotton twill. On the cotton twill, I sewed on a couple of boning channels, as I planned on using the seams as bone channels.
I wish I hadn’t, because I didn’t leave enough seam allowance to make them nice and neat, so the edges are fraying a bit. Oh well! After attaching bias tape as the extra boning channels, I then proceeded to flatline the bodice. I decided to use this method because when I assembled the lining and the outer bodice separately and then joined them on the edges before, it always ended up being baggy and not… great. I was hoping this would look better. To flatline it, I simply pieced all the equivalent pieces together and machine basted around the edges, at a quarter inch in the seam allowance. Then, I assembled the body pieces in one go.
I sewed down the seams and used spiral and steel boning to fill the boning channels. Then I turned in the top and bottom edges and sewed that down by hand, so that there were no visual stitches. The only bit that gave me grief were the shoulder seams, as I couldn’t get them quite to line up and they were very chunky. I ended up having to try to hide some imperfections further on. Then I worked on the final bit of the bodice which was the closures. Instead of going with eyelets like usual, I decided to go with loops for closures. For this, I cut a long thin strip of the brocade. I ironed half an inch on each side inwards and then folded it in half. It’s the same process for making bias tape, though I’d never bothered with that before. Then I stitched the folded edges together. I cut twenty eight two inch long bits. Then I pinned them onto ribbon, which I folded over to hide the raw edges.
The process of stitching over these was so painful. I found some of the loops were too short, so if I sewed too far from the edge of the ribbon, the tips of the loops would stick out. After the first few straight stitch rounds, I found that sewing over with a zig zag stitch worked really well in keeping them attached. I’m not sure how sturdy, or practical, they really are – but they are damn cute!
And that is for this bodice! Up next are the sleeves, frills and skirts.