Friday, April 30, 2010


Going Baroque: Progress Bit-by-Bit

I could say that this is going slowly and tediously, but each piece is exciting to me!  Last night I stitched on another piece of the satin bodice covering, and now have only 3 pieces left to do!  Some fiddling with the front piece, which overlaps the lacing, letting the point free of the lining, and adding a couple bones to keep those edges straight.  Looks good.

Just for fun I squeezed the whole thing onto my Not-So-Unique-Me dress form, with the skirt pinned on just willy-nilly.  I've decided I simply *must* keep the train, and will devise some way to keep it up off the ground when dancing - buttons or ties or loops or something.

I also popped out to get new trim and silver spray paint yesterday.  The trim is maroon lace with silver bits in it, absolutely GORGEOUS.  I should have gotten the hot pink version of it, because now I'm having trouble covering all that pretty in silver paint.  You can see it's temptingly lovely pinned on, but I'm going to stick to my plan of painting it - maroon isn't quite right, and silver seems like the better way to go.  I'm planning to do some beading too (which is just unheard of for me, but shows how much I love this dress!).

I cut the fabrics for the sleeves, and put together one last night.  I did end up using muslin to back the satin, because the organza was too poofy, and I like the heavy drapey look from 17th c. portraits.  The cotton is working fabulously!  I've decided to knife pleat instead of cartridge pleat, which is tedious and stupid and the devil!(opinion only!)

I noticed in some of the gowns where you can see the sleeve heads, there are teeny little wings/sleevecaps.  Demode did this for her sleeve heads on her Nell Gwyn gown, and I thought it charming, so I made up a couple and they really add something to the overall look of the dress!  I didn't think they would be so to follow!  I'm waiting to stitch on the sleeves until I have the whole bodice casing done, so you just have to wait until next time!

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Going Baroque - The Danger of Satin, and a Tale of One Sleeve

This 1660s bodice is coming together in bits and pieces, in no particular order, with no particular sense, yet is somehow coming out alright.  I've run out of bones, but that didn't stop me from forging ahead.  I finished stitching the boning channels into the linings, and then moved on to mounting the poly satin on top of this under structure.

Satin is a dangerous fabric.  And polyester even moreso.  A bit of bad tension on the sewing machine can cause ripples and buckles like you wouldn't believe.  My goal is to stretch the satin as tautly across the corset-like lining, and hand stitch it into place (like flat-lining, but on the outside), to avoid rumples, wrinkles, buckles, and pulls.  I want the polyester-ness of this gown to be as discreet as possible.

This is tedious and takes lots of time, but I'm very happy with the results so far.  I like the tiny top stitching too - for some reason, in the sea of anachronisms and costuming sins that is this dress, these little seams make me feel oh-so-historically-accurate...they look just like seams I've seen on 18th c. extant garments :-).

I've many more pieces of the satin covering to go, but it moves along surprisingly quickly.  There are a couple rumpley buckles in the side pieces, but I suspect these are caused by the un-cut tabs, and will disappear once I've made those slices.

For the front pieces, I've lined them in muslin, since these pieces hang free of the lining at center front, and will be heavily boned and pinned into place over the front lacing closure.  Just for fun, I pinned all the trim on the front, to get an idea how it will look.  I'm still not sure about this trim - it's very stiff and doesn't arc nicely over those curved seams.  I'm also not thrilled with my mistake in placement of the curved seams.  The more I work on this dress the more I realize how *wrong* I've gotten everything!  It's almost more of a Victorian interpretation of a 17th c. gown...

So without finishing the satin cover, I attempted to draft/drape the sleeve pattern, which I've actually never done before.  I don't count this occasion, since all I did was pleat up one side of a fatty tube, then pleat up the other, and call it done.  I don't know if it's right - I didn't put a curve in the top of the sleeve - but I've been wearing it around for awhile and there seem to be no problems.  Surprising range of motion, too.

I'm thinking of lining the sleeves in muslin, to give them a bit more body.  The satin is very soft and floppy, and I need the sleeves to poof a bit without being gigot-ish.  There will be a line of trim covering the seams on the sleeves, which match up nicely with the side front seams of the bodice.  Yay!

No telling what's next on this project, but I'll be sure to take pics and update soon!
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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

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Going Baroque: De-Bling-ification

That's just TOO MUCH BLING!

Yesterday I acquired my trim, 8 yards of stiff, shiny, blingy silver goodness, about 2" wide...but unfortunately blisteringly, blindingly blingy.

Too much bling - baroque though it may be, even the ladies of the 17th century would shade their eyes to this trim.  So why did I choose it?  Reason #1 - they had a large assortment of silver trims, but all of them were this sort of shiney, so I picked the best, most workable one.  Reason #2 - $1.60/yard.  I looked up metallic lace last night, just to see what I'd missed, and found it to be well over $10/yard (or that might have been in feet!), which for the amount of trim I want caked on this gown, would have blown my $75 budget.  Reason #3 - I knew it could be changed...with RIT.

Back when I was fiddling with The Hair of Great Enormity, I added extensions to the bottom of the brown wig, which looked great except for the fact that they were blonde.  I researched dying synthetic hair, and found that one could not dye it, but stain it, using good old-fashioned fabric dye, RIT.  It worked wonderfully, and so I've used the same method on this plasti-bling trim, just enough to knock the shine off a bit.
The trim is not this black - more like the top photo
showing the comparison.

I could not be happier with the result!  The trim stained to a slightly darker silver, closer in color to the gunmetal satin fabric.  It looks fantastic against the fabric - still blingy, but less POW.  I am considering doing some beading on the trims, so this is the perfect "canvas" for it, to add on small pearls, jet beads maybe.

More pics to follow as this projects starts to get interesting!
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Monday, April 26, 2010


Going Baroque - The Guts of the Beast

So excited about this costume am I that I spent tonight sewing the lining (simple white muslin) and the interlining (canvas) together and beginning my boning channels, to make the structured base upon which will be placed my gunmetal satin and all its glorious trimmings.
The canvas layer (interlining)

I've done a front-closing bodice, with the linings lacing closed beneath a stomacher-like placket that will be pinned into place.  This seemed like the best method to ensure an exact fit, and also the ability to get myself in and out of this gown (always important).

The two linings sewn together, with only hemp in the
curved seams and some channels sewn up the back.
You can see it does not conform the body much at all, 
and needs structure.

I zig-zag stitched fatty hemp cord to the curved seams of the canvas layer, for both stability and stiffening.  You can see that the canvas, muslin, and hemp is stiff and conforms the body a bit, but doesn't have quite enough structure...a bit rolley and smooshy, asking for more boning.

 Looking great, and wears quite comfortable, with
vertical bones in the front (lacking the
two that will be either side of the cut for the tabs).
No gapping issues at all with the neck, or wrinkles

I'm using 1/4" lightweight zipties for the rest of the boning, and running them vertically from the bottom of the tabs to wherever they end up hitting - you can see I curved the tops of the bones, on the front, under the curved bust seam.  Lacing into this, I noticed an AMAZING difference, and am SO pleased with how it is turning out.  Unfortunately I'm out of bones, so off to the hardware store I go.  The back needs channels and bones as well.

The bodice at this point fits like a glove, a shockingly comfortable glove, even without the tabs being yet cut.  I can only hope and work diligently to make *sure* the gunmetal grey satin is stretched perfectly over this lining - no wrinkles!, and secured to the base at any opportunity.  I suppose that is the next step - cutting out the satin and acquiring tons and tons of metallic silver trims! yay!
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Sunday, April 25, 2010


Going Baroque : Patterning Extravaganza

Ah, the joyous process of draping and drafting.  There is nothing quite like developing a pattern from nothing, finding the shapes, getting the exact fit.  I don't claim to be *good* at it, only passable, and of course, each time we do it, we get better.
 Version 2 pattern
The first pattern I quickly draped (in the last post), was incredibly short waisted.  I must remember that both of my dressforms are short in the waist, and to always account for this.  My usual method is to use both my Uniquely Me form (Jane), and the Dritz My Double form (Millie) to work on a pattern, and somewhere in the middle of going back and form between them, I will end up with a toile that fits me.  Millie, however, is also short waisted - you can see in Version 2 of this bodice pattern than I have the waist at the indicator on the dress form...
 Version 3 pattern, with the waist 
adjustment in red (and seam allowances added too)
...but in Version 3, I've dropped the waist down a good two inches or more to where my actual waist is, which conveniently falls at the bottom of the indicator on Millies' waist.
 Version 3 pattern, much much better
I've come up with a pattern I'm very happy with.  How historically accurate is it?  Probably not at all - the front seams are curved over the bust.  I did this because a) I wanted perfect fit, particularly in the off-the-shoulder scooped neck, and b) because tons of silver trim will be covering that seam, and it made sense to put it there instead of in an area where it will not be covered in trim.

The muslin pattern, pinned together, fit me perfectly (despite looking rather rumpled in the photos here), so I've gone ahead and cut the canvas interlining and cotton lining...but that is for another update!

Version 3 pattern on me, over loosely laced
18th c. stays.  I will not be wearing stays with
this bodice, as it will be fully boned, and worn
over a chemise only.
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Saturday, April 24, 2010

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Adventures in the Forgotten Century - American Duchess Goes Baroque

There comes a time in every girly costumer's seamstressing career when she wants a pink polonaise, a huge, fluffy, crispy, pink taffeta 18th century polonaise.  She salivates over the mere idea of it, as she flips longingly through the pages of the Kyoto Costume Institute Book, and eyeballs Janet Arnold's not-so-hard-looking polonaise patterns in  Patterns of Fashion 1: 1660-1860.

Then she goes shopping for fabric online, looking for pink taffeta.  She runs across a sale - $5/yd for silk taffeta, in steel grey.  "Steel grey is a lovely color," she thinks, "one of my favorite colors, in fact.  How would a polonaise look in grey?  Quite sophisticated, maybe."  She recalls that she in fact has some grey satin-y, shiny stuff tucked away in her stash, a fabric she bought years ago but then decided wasn't good or appropriate for anything, being *gasp!* synthetic.  She pulls it out anyway.

She haphazardly pleats the enormous length of gunmetal grey satin around her dress form, steps back and marvels at the glory of the fat pleats trailing down into a beautiful sweeping train.  Oh, it's GORGEOUS!  Shiny, and gorgeous!

However, after fiddling for awhile with potential polonaise gatherings, she comes to a's just not right for 18th c.

What then?  The fabric is asking to be made into, well, something, but it could be so many things!  Then it hits her...the time has come to walk down the long, forgotten road of the 17th century, an era that has piqued our heroine's curiosity for some time now, but as the Black Hole of Costuming, has been untouchable, unsewable, unthinkable!

Back in the first person, I set about collecting reference images I liked, primarily from two sources: the incomparable Kendra of Demode, who made a 1660s "Nell Gwyn" gown not too long ago; and Isis of Isis Wardrobe, who has been asking and posting about the 17th century for the past couple weeks, on her blog.

I decided in favor of the 1660s, and wasted no time in attacking my dress form with muslin and pins, draping a basic working pattern for the bodice.  The gown shall be covered in metallic trims, set together to make wide swaths down the front of the bodice and skirt.  The bodice will be front-closing with a hidden lacing placket, covered by the front edges, pinned into place to keep them closed.  The bodice shall also be fully boned using 1/4" zip ties, and I will not make a separate corset for this.  The sleeves will be oh-so-puffy, with the large voile and lace cuffs midway up the forearm.  I might also need a chemise of some sort.

Of course, this is exactly the sort of thing I ought NOT to be working on right now.  I want to finish it in time for June Gaskells (at the end of that month), but have a mid-Victorian event in early June that needs to see a finish to my 1850s day dress I started back in December...and a bonnet...and accessories.  How can I resist the new shiny ballgown though!?  I suppose it shall all just have to be made up at once!
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Sunday, April 18, 2010

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1940 Floral Summer Dress - Progress

As promised, progress photos on the 1940 dress, done up in brown floral cotton shirting, and using a vintage 1940 Simplicity pattern belonging to my grandmother.

The wonderful thing about vintage patterns is that they very often have either darts or gathers, and these can be let out or removed altogether to allow the difference between my grandmother's measurements and my own.  Little tweaks here and there will get the thing to fit without grading the pattern at all!  There are some problems with this - one is that I need to add at least 1" to the shoulder seams, in future patterns, and possibly to the waist, because the tininess isn't just around the waist and bust, but neck-to-waist as well.

I've altered some things, and gone about the construction my own way.  For one, I'm not doing a side zipper - they are the devil's work, and since this dress has buttons up the front, might as well make them functional!  I'm also sure I didn't do the sleeves according to spec, and I will never, so long as I live, put in shoulderpads.  Luckily for me, the extra space that would have been there in a size 30-26-33 lady isn't there in my modern bigger body.  Yay!

My regret - not finding magenta piping.  The brown floral is so busy that you lose the details, and a bit of piping would have been just perfect around the belt waist, trimming the cuffs of the sleeves, up the front placket.  Instead, I will finish the dress, so I can wear it, and keep my eye out for magenta ribbon that I can couch on in the future.  I do have lovely magenta buttons what will help break up the space, but after working on James' 18th c. suit, everything seems to be under-trimmed, lol!

The dress isn't quite finished - I need to attach the skirt, do all the interior seam finishing, and work out the buttons and buttonholes on the front, as well as put in the hem.  Another day's work, but then I'll have Vintage Summer Dress #1!
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Saturday, April 17, 2010


Pattern for Smartness - 1940s Sewing Inspiration

I clicked through to this video from la Chatelaine Chocolat's blog, so we have her to thank for the link.  I'm enthralled by this little video put out in 1948, but Simplicity.  Bad acting, great clothes!  Just the thing to get me started on my 1940 floral summer dress :-)

You'll have to click the link to watch the video - the embed function is too large for the bloggy area. Worth, it though!
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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Plans: Vintage Summer Dresses, 2010

As the massive project of James' 18th c. suit draws to a close, I have much to think about of where I want to go next.  With the weather beginning to warm up, the choice is clear: summer dresses!

I love dresses in summer.  They are easy to wear, requiring only two choices - which dress and which shoes - rather than the tedious task of matching a skirt to a blouse; they are cool in hot weather; they are easy to dress up or dress down.  And of course, because this is me, they are always dresses made from *vintage* patterns.

I was lucky enough to receive a bag full of vintage patterns from my grandmother.  There are patterns for blouses, skirts, and frocks, ranging from the late 1930s to the later 1950s.  Not a one of them will fit me, but luckily I am able to grade them up a couple sizes (remember sizing this pattern from last summer?).  I also went a little wild at the 70% Vogue Pattern sale a month or so ago, and bought a handful of Vintage Vogue patterns, which I find to be not-so-accurate, but generally quite lovely, so I've got one of those on "to do" list as well.

Here are the patterns and the fabrics (which came today!):

A 1940 Simplicity Pattern, and lovely brown floral cotton lawn.  
I plan to resize this pattern to fit me, and to remove
the shoulderpads - who likes shoulderpads!?

A 1950s pattern - no specific date - with some interesting pleating detail.  
Looks a little stodgy in the illustration, but will be 
lovely in this pink floral on white, cotton lawn.  
I plan to resize this pattern, add a zipper in the back 
(in stead of buttons), and probably shorten the skirt.

style pleating in the front.  The photo of this dress in the 
Vogue book looked like it needed some tailoring, so I plan 
to adjust the bodice to fit pretty closely.  The fabric is mint green
cotton lawn, nice and thin and summery.
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Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Little Business of Ribbon Cockades

I enjoy making these WAY too much.  So much, in fact, that I went to the fabric store and came home with, uh, 11 rolls of grosgrain ribbon.  Whoops!  I'm ever so happy with what I've made so far, though.  I've decided to put them in my Etsy shop to see if there is any interest.  What do you think?  I want to make up some "make your own cockade" kits as well, with ribbons and instructions and whatnot, the way Princess Lasertron does her little felt flower kits. 

I thought I might offer custom - singles, doubles, even triples, or in custom sizes specifically for shoes and whatnot.  I suppose ideally a customer would talk with me about what colors they'd like, send me a photo of their costume or hat, and I would make them the cockade, with either a clip back, pin back, or buckle back for shoes.  I can do them in quantity for a group, or for weddings, for instance - I know some of you have had to make these in quantity in the past and it was a pain in the neck.  Would be happy to do it for you at a reduced quantity price! 

So far I'm charging $25 for single cockades, and $35 for doubles.  Customs go up a bit because of the material cost of ribbons and bows specific to a project.  Quantity price would be lower.  What do you guys think of the prices?  Too low, too high?

Red and White double cockade with rhinestone centerpiece and striped tails - on Etsy, $35

Yellow, White, and Black "BumbleBee" Double Cockade - on Etsy, $35

More to come - have a couple others to post on Etsy before I put pictures here.
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Monday, April 5, 2010

A Few 18th c. Style Fabrics You Should Know About...

I've been scouring all my favorite web-haunts for fabrics from which to make my summer dresses.  In the search, I've come across some really gorgeous batistes, lawns, and voiles that are just squeeking to become 18th and early 19th c. gowns.  So I'm passing on my findings to you...

DISCLAIMER:  I am not a hard core period-correct stickler.  I go for fabrics that represent the look and feel of a period.  Some of these fabrics are not 100% period, but in my humble opinion, they would make delightful gowns.

Delightful blue floral with dots, and on sale for $2.99/yard, from  I ordered this for a 1950s dress, but I can see it as a Robe a l'Anglaise, or a Regency day dress, any number of things.

Navy Blue/Cream mini floral, cotton lawn, $4.45/yard from Fashion Fabrics Club. You can get this in black and white as well.

Another from Fashion Fabrics Club, black and white floral cotton lawn, $4.45/yard.

Peach floral cotton lawn, from Fashion Fabrics Club, $4.45/yard.  Get it in a yellow style here, and  a more tan coloration HERE

Pink and Yellow cotton lawn, from Fashion Fab's Club, $4.45/yard.  Comes in purple/yellow and  blue/green too.

For more accurate cottons, try Reproduction Fabrics - here are a couple examples I love.

So pretty, but kindof expensive, this floral-dot from Reproduction Fabrics - $9.25/yard.
Not so far off from one of the ones above. Reproduction Fabrics, $9.25/yard.

This lil' post isn't intended to be a comprehensive search of 18th c. styled fabrics on the web.  These are just some things I ran across while shopping fabrics for something totally different.  I'm hoping these inspire some of you to begin your floaty summer wardrobes and spend not-a-whole-lot doing it!
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