Sunday, December 30, 2012

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V345: Finished 1880 "Lobster Tail" Bustle

I finished off my electric blue "lobster tail" tournure this morning, and I'm really happy with the result!  I took lots of photos of the construction, so I will write a tutorial soon, but for now, here is the finished thing:

The whole thing is made out of this weird glazed batiste stuff I had in the stash.  I was having trouble imagining it as a dress, but I hate waste, so it has become this obnoxiously blue bustle.

With the help of lovely Elizabeth L., and looking at some of the extant tails from The Met, I worked out a simple 3-piece pattern I will show you later.  Also, special thanks to everyone who commented on yesterday's post, and on Facebook, with so many helpful tips!

The tail uses 7 bones, tied across inside with twill tapes.  There are buttons on the 2nd tier up that will serve for attaching another ruffle, for even more floof.

Here is the effect this bustle gives beneath the Green Acres underskirt, with one petticoat to support:

This could do with another petticoat and that additional ruffle on the bustle, to help it kick out even more in back, while keeping the nice straight, bulk-free front.

Tomorrow I shall endeavor to share how I made the tail, so stay tuned :-)
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Saturday, December 29, 2012

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V344: And Now To Make a Lobster Tail

...a bustle, I mean, or a tournure.

Originally I had planned *not* to make a big ole honkin' bustle, but I can see now why it is a necessity.  The big huge skirt of a well-trained gown needs support beyond just the petticoat.  On my dress form now, I have a bum pillow, a wire collapsible bustle, a slim petticoat with flounces at the hem, my 18th c. flounced petticoat, and the trained bustle petticoat.  All that to support the skirt on top, but it's no good - it's TOO much!  The layers are so thick that the waist is no longer elegant and slim.

Enter the lobster tail.

The idea with the long bustle is to provide the necessary oomph at the bum, but to also support the back of the skirt all the way down, where it needs it most.  How many of you have suffered "bustle slump?"  I know I have...
This is an old project, but a good example of "bustle slump" - the back is dipping inward and not flowing out nicely, because there is no support back there.  Dang... this thing is ugly...

Here is a bustle from The Met that I've been eyeballing this morning...

The Met, 1880s - a great example.  This one has a ruffle that buttons on mid-way up.  The waistband ties at front, and the skirting at the sides also tie across the front.
The Met, 1880s.  A better view of the ruffle where it buttons on, and also how the hoops squeeze in halfway down.
 This is very typical of this type of bustle, though certainly not "the rule."  Here are some additional images showing how this sort of contraption works:
The Met, 1883
The Met, early 1870s
The Met, 1885

 My plan is to...well, I don't really have a plan.  Truly Victorian has a pattern (TV163), as does Patterns of Time, but if I'm honest, this doesn't look so hard to figure out, and I don't have patience enough to wait for a pattern to arrive.  So it's time to go experiment with giant zip ties and a fair amount of muslin!
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Thursday, December 27, 2012

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V343: Costumer's Christmas Swag

Some of the lovely, lovely items I received for Christmas...

Costume books! The one beneath is an illustrated shoe reference guide - good stuff!
A lovely beaded 1920s style purse.  I've been sorely in need of one.  Also, a feather hair clip adornment.  Feathers are always welcome :-)
More costume/history books! I can't wait to read "Plumes," all about the history of the feather industry.  Beneath is "Circus," a Taschen feast-for-the-eyes full of beautiful photos and artwork.
A set of French curves.  I don't know how to use these yet, but I shall learn! I know they are handy for pattern drafting.
What lovely costume/history/geek things did you get for the Holidays?
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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

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V342: 1930s Christmas Dress, Decades of Style #3007

Happy Holidays! For those of you who celebrated Christmas, I hope you had a wonderful one! We had a family-and-friend-packed day, full traditions old and new.

One of my new traditions is to make and wear a vintage style dress for Christmas Day.  Two years ago I made a 1960s gold brocade, but last year I wore just jeans and a t-shirt, and felt like a scrub all day, so I decided to revive the Christmas Dress this year (and ever after), and make an effort to look nice at our family gathering.  I decided on this '30s frock because I thought it would look great in a strong plaid, but also because I didn't want too much tightness around the waist - always regrettable after a big Christmas feast.  I wore my Christmas Dress complete with hair and hat, though I was skipping around the decades a bit - the dress was '30s, the hair and shoes '40s, and the hat '50s.  Here it is:

Pattern: Decades of Style #3007, "1930s Button Dress"
Fabrics: Medium weight cotton plaid stuff, and light weight white cotton

Alterations: I gathered the butterfly sleeves into puffed sleeves, and set the waist ties at an angle instead of straight.  I hemmed the skirt at 3 inches.

Overall Impressions: I liked this pattern a lot, and was impressed with how nicely the pattern pieces matched up.  I noticed quite a difference between the pattern envelope illustration, and how the dress looks when complete, namely that the curved "waist" seam isn't up under the bust, but more somewhere between the empire and natural waists.  The pattern schematic is much more accurate.

The instructions were clear and easy to follow, especially with the wonky way in which the sleeves attach to the bodice, and also create the tie at the back.  The pattern markings were present, relevant, and helpful.

I took in the bodice considerably at the sides - about 4-6 inches total - but not the skirt.  In a softer, drapier fabric this dress would look, fit, and hang completely differently.  I like that it is versatile enough to make both a Summer dress and a Winter dress, and I wouldn't feel weird making this up again and having two of the same pattern in my closet, because you can customize the overall appearance in your choice of fabrics and trims.

Overall, I recommend this pattern. It's easy to sew, looks nice when complete, and was created by an independent company.  The $20.00 price tag can be off-putting, but this is one that you can sew again and again.
The pattern envelope, but with my own color applied to the drawing.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

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V340: 1930s Christmas Dress, "Green Acres" Gown Progress, and a Flippin' Button Hook

It's Christmas Eve!  Yeeeeeeee!  Aside from running around buying last minute gifts and groceries, it's a great day off to get a little sewing in.

I finished my 1930s Christmas dress, and can't wait to wear it tomorrow.  It looks TERRIB on the hanger (as do all my other '30s frocks), but really cute worn - I'll take pictures to share.  I was really pleased with the pattern - Decades of Style 3007 "Button Dress," - although I did have to take it in quite a bit at the side seams (better than having to let it out, right?).  I'll do a pattern review later...

'30s dresses seem to have so little hanger appeal...
I've also been applying trims to the Green Acres Bustle Gown underskirt foundation.  I've still not sewn up the side seam of the skirt, thank goodness - makes it much easier to put the trims on, of which there are many.

Trim Trimminy Trim Trimminy Trim Trim Taroo...

Currently I've got two applied and one pinned (the flutes).  I have a horizontal swag to go on top of the flutes, and I'm also thinking there needs to be another pleat or ruffle-somethin' between the deep pleats and the second tier ruffle-puff, just at the back.

Planning an expansion...
Once the skirt is complete, it's on to the overskirt, yay!

And finally....FINALLY...I've put in an order for button hooks.

Don'tcha want me, baby? Don'tcha want me, ooooh?
I had these made from an original, and have had the darndest time finding a manufacturer to create them, primarily because of the stainless steel + cast handle construction, and also because we're not ordering, like, 10,000 of them.  If you've purchased Tavistock Button Boots, and you don't already have a button hook, you'll want one of these.  They're not in the shop yet, but I'll make a big flap when they are...

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

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V338: Green Acres Bustle Gown Skirt Progress

It's slow going over here in Green Acres, partially due to laziness, and partially due to the omg-howmuchyardage!?-for-trims that comes along with many bustle projects.

My original plan for the trimmeries on my underskirt is as follows:

Figuring out how much yardage I needed for each type of trim
I've done away with the flutes nearest the hem because they ended up not showing under the deep pleats.  The ruffle in the middle will become a ruched band instead of a free ruffle.  Otherwise, it's all-systems go.  I cut out all the strips of self fabric needed, and have been stitching them together, ironing in hems, and beginning the tedious task of pleating, fluting, and ruching.

Before I could apply these trims, though, I had to mostly finish the skirt, and mark it for trim placement.  I decided to do this mostly flat (although my waistband has been attached - you could do it completely flat, though, and do the darts and gathers last), measuring up from the bound hem, and marking each placement line in chalk.

Lines marked in chalk
I discovered an issue with the train on the skirt, once the whole thing was together - the back did not want to train nicely.  The back panel on the pattern is a straight rectangle, with the waist tightly gathered into the waistband.  I thought I could train it by cutting it longer, with the side gores adjusted to meet the additional length at back, but the whole thing needed more of an arced shape to work, so I applied a godet that will be covered in trim.  The godet could have been even larger for more spread.  Next time I will know to cut the shape of the hem on these narrow skirts in a more circular fashion.

Other deets - the whole skirt is lined in lightweight cotton muslin, with a foot of hair canvas at the hem for stability and weight.  It weighs more-than-a-little, but the paper-thin Dupioni needed some structure beneath it, particularly to keep it from stressing too much at the top and hanging funny from the weight of the trims below.

One last bit before I run off to pleat 102 inches of flounce - the flutes!  So...after my test piece, I went for the whole, huge, 190 inches of fluted trim.  I discovered that the practice does take, well, practice - there are many factors to consider, such as how wet the fabric is, and how hot the plate and iron are.  I initially used vinegar to set the pleats, but had better luck with spray starch.  The next time I will use quite a lot more starch - it didn't hurt the silk at all, thank goodness.  The biggest revelation, though, was the very last action - run a gathering stitch along the top edge of the flutes.  It transforms them from "meh" to "holy-wow-flutes!" and keeps them in place when you go to sew them onto your garment.  The gathering stitch is the key.

Fluted trim, with the gathering stitch run along the top edge.
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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

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V337: Bustle Decoration Inspiration

I've been so bad about blogging recently.  So much for 365 straight days of blogging! I will make it to 365, but it won't be by January 1st, haha!

Anywho, I thought I would share the gowns that are inspiring my Green Acres Gown decoration ideas...

The Met, 1871
Young Ladies Looking at Japanese Objects--Tissot, 1869
From the book "Les Petites Dames de Mode: An Adventure in Design"
The Met: 1881–84 
I have all the lines marked out on the underskirt, now it's to the binding, the pleating, the gathering, the fluting,  and attaching all of these to the skirt...
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Sunday, December 16, 2012

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V336: The Geneva Hand Fluter - Experiments

Last to arrive from my round of eBay acquisition was the Geneva Hand Fluter, a ridged iron that was used to flute, or crimp, all kinds of things, like cuffs, collars, ruffly trims, from its patent date of 1866 to about the 1920s.

There are several kinds of fluters.  I chose the most available and affordable option, the Geneva, which come in two cast iron pieces - a base plate and a rocker with a handle.

The width of the plate is 3 inches, and it is about 5 inches long.  It had rust and crud on it, but in the spirit of restoration, Chris took a wire brush to it and annihilated all the build up from the last two centuries.  Patina is nice and all, but not when you intend to actually use the thing.

Next came seasoning - after a good scrub, I coated both pieces with canola oil and baked them for about 1.5 hours, allowing them to cool off in the oven overnight.  Just like a cast iron skillet, seasoning protects the metal from rust, yet isn't oily or dirty.  It's like magic!

Tis the seasoning to be jolly...
This morning I tested the whole thing out, with a piece of 4.5 inch long Dupioni silk, from my Green Acres dress.  I heated both pieces of the iron in the oven, at 450 degrees, for about 25 minutes.  I sprayed the silk piece with straight up vinegar, blotted it on a paper towel to remove the excess, then layed it on the plate for a good, sizzling fluting.

....and it worked!  Like pleats, the ridges shorten the fabric - in this case, it went from 4.5 inches to 2.5 inches, so I know how long I will need to cut my strips to meet the 100-or-so inches of hem to which the fluted trim will be applied.

Of course, I also burned myself, but dang those flutes look good!
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Saturday, December 15, 2012

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V335: eBay Find of the Year: Antique Button Boots...That FIT!

In my recent eBay haunting, I've collected a number of interesting items - a leather punch, a cast iron fluting iron, two early Victorian slippers, and a pair of Edwardian button boots.

As with all the antique shoes I buy, I veer towards oldies that have seen better centuries.  Usually they're wrinkled, they're flakey, they're teeny-tiny, and they're cheap, all great attributes to have for study pieces, rather than display.  The idea of *wearing* these doesn't even enter my head.

The real McCoy - 100-year-old button boots...on my feet! I normally wear a 7.5 B width.
...Except for these button boots.  I got them on eBay for a shockingly low price, thinking it'd be nice to have them in my growing collection, as a reference point for Tavistock.  I didn't even read the measurements, but when they arrived, looking like they'd been run over by a truck, they kindof looked...well...surprisingly big, for Edwardian shoes.  Lo and behold, they fit!  I mean...they REALLY fit (I'd say like gloves, but they're shoes, so that doesn't really work.)

So Chris and I took some shoe cream to them, along with most of a tin of Kiwi Parade Gloss, and hot-spooned these puppies into the wee hours of the morning.  After all was said and done, holy cannoli, they're shiny and lovely and quenched.

After polishing. The leather is still worn, but in some places it almost looks new. 
I wore them tonight to the High Desert Steam Christmas Party, and I can't wait to wear them again to whatever the next Victorian event might be.  The costume/history geek in me is squeeing with delight!

My "formal" Steampunk costume - I need to make a shorter skirt now to show off the boots!

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

V334: My 2012 Costuming Year in Review

Several lovely costume bloggers are doing their years-in-review posts, and I thought I'd jump on board.  I think it's easy to forget just how much sewing we all do, over the course of a year.  Here are my finished pieces (because nevermind the pile of UFOs stuffed in closets, under the couch, and possible even in the trash) from 2012...

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

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V333: Precious Things: Early 19th Century Slippers

I've been spending way too much time on eBay, building the American Duchess Historical Footwear collection ... out of real historic footwear!  My latest acquisitions ...

This single shoe is quite precious, with a ribbon rosette on the high vamp, and wide ribbons hand-stitched to the sides, to tie up around the ankle.

This slipper dates c. 1815-30.  It is straight-lasted, completely hand-sewn, and exhibits the sole shape, seaming, and vamp length typical of this period.  I am honored to have this lovely creature in my collection!

The second shoe is from a later date, c. 1830-50.

She has the characteristic square toe, straight last and narrow arch on the sole, plus evidence of now-lost, very narrow shoe strings that would have tied around the ankles.

I adore both of these little beauties!  They were both wedding shoes, made of white silk, lined with linen, and bound in galloon.  The square-toed flat has a kid leather insole, and both examples have quite thin leather outsoles.  I am imagining reproductions in dyeable white satin..... :-)
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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

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V332: New Project: Giant "Green Acres" Bustle Gown

I am suffering from severe CADD (Costume A.D.D.) lately.  My '30s plaid Christmas dress sits on the mannequin, nearly complete, but with the arrival of a giant roll of green silk, new Truly Victorian patterns, and a healthy dollop of inspiration, all I want to do is sewing a giant green bustle dress.

I have made a bustle or two in the past, but it's not one of my major periods of study.  Pity, that, because I absolutely adore the styles, and I have far more opportunities for 1870s-80s dress up than 1770s-80s.  This dress will be used in an upcoming photo shoot for the "Tavistock" button boots, as well, so the project has an element of theatricality to it, in that sense, and is all about texture, color, and mood.  Here is the initial inspiration:

Michael Eastman: Cuba:
Yep, it's a room, an incredible room.  That color!  I imagine a historical gown of the same color, overflowing with ACRES of pleats, frills, ribbons, beads, fringe, trims of all variety, all in that green, all in different textures.  These were my inspiration sketches:

I settled on something along this line:

I am using Truly Victorian patterns TV261 (skirt), TV364 (apron), and TV420 (bodice) with some alterations.  The skirt pattern also makes a great petticoat, which I whipped up last night, shown here over a wire collapsible bustle, bump pad, and two petticoats:

The fabric I have chosen is a rich green raw silk.  I know slubby silk is not accurate for historical reproductions, but I chose this fabric for three reasons: color, texture (this gown is geared towards theatricality and how it will look in the photo shoot), and price.  I ordered 15 yards and I'm nervous it won't be enough.

In addition to the silk I would like to use a matching or black velvet ribbon, and a matching or black sheer of some sort, perhaps a net or a point d'esprit, for effects of this nature:

The Met, 1881-84
I have also acquired an antique fluter, also called a crimper.  It has not arrived yet, but I'm looking forward to testing it out, and fluting a bajillion yards of green silk trim - more on that later. :-)  This is the one I bought on eBay:

So...back to the sewing room!
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