V296: Victorian Christmas…Stuff

With the holidays looming, it’s time to think about what the heck to wear for all the fun Victorian Christmas events.  I’ve been spending 2012 building up my 18th century wardrobe, but sadly neglecting my Victorian.  I have one mid-Victorian dress, but it’s really a summer frock, and that just won’t do for snowy December.

I have a plan, though! I made a skirt out of some black-ish plaid “Homespun” brand fabric from JoAnn’s, a couple years back, and I set aside a little chunk of it for a someday-bodice.  That someday is now. 🙂

This is the skirt made out of the black plaid fabric.

Do I have enough? No clue.  I may need to get pretty crafty with what yardage remains, but I’m betting I can squeak out a simple bodice from this pattern:

The purple bodice, but minus the puffs on the sleeves.

Seems like a quick project.  Let’s hope!  I have plenty of time, of course – my 10 yards of silk brocade for the LACMA Sacque-ma is backordered and won’t be ready for at least a month and a half.  In the meantime…Victorian Christmas Stuff. 🙂


  • Scene in the Past

    October 23, 2012 at 10:39 PM

    Sounds pretty! I get a bodice out of less than half a yard, and depending on the type of sleeves, only a yard total for bodice and sleeves. Two piece "coat" sleeves can be very saving of fabric. It'll be faster (and more accurate for 1860s) if you skip the darts and pointed waist; just gather or tuck it and make it straight across. Or keep the bodice as-is and do different sleeves to make it 1850s.

  • Mistress of Disguise

    October 23, 2012 at 11:12 PM

    I don't know if you've used the Simplicity Historical patterns before, but I found them to be a complete nightmare. They have so much padding in them, it's almost absurd. I didn't care for it at all. :-/

    If you're comfortable sizing historical patterns up, then I'd suggest checking out Ageless Patterns. They're all period patterns that have been reprinted. They take a bit of futzing to get them right, but they're a lot of fun to work with. http://www.agelesspatterns.com/

    Of course, if you don't mind pattern futzing, then the Simplicity pattern could still work. :p I was just really put off by all the padding. O.o

    • Lauren Stowell

      October 24, 2012 at 2:14 AM

      Hi Megan. I have made the Simplicity pattern before an took the padding out. I also found it kindof "whoa," but the rest of the bodice went together really well and somehow fit my freaky long waist really well too. I'm going to give it a try again, but will tak ea look at ageless patterns too. I haven't tried them.

  • Laura Morrigan

    October 24, 2012 at 2:05 AM

    Sounds wonderful! Do you wear your pieces everyday? When I make mine, I want to be able to wear them everyday, and I was wondering what you do about dress lengths, trailing on the ground and all that. Would you take the skirt up an inch or so so that it doesn't trail, or is there some other method to keep it clean when walking down streets, etc.

    • Lauren Stowell

      October 24, 2012 at 2:16 AM

      Hi Laura – I'm not sure I understand the question about wearing everyday? I do tend to make my Victorian skirts short-ish for dancing, and so it doesn't drag the ground if I wear flat shoes.

    • Laura Morrigan

      October 25, 2012 at 3:55 AM

      I think that answers my question. I see a lot of re-enactment gowns that touch the floor, and I was just wondering about raising the hemline a little so that it did not get all dirty and worn away, and stepped on for say, walking down the street.

      I am only starting sewing, and I wanted to make an outfit I can wear around anywhere and get a lot of wear out of, not one I can only wear to really nice places where it stays clean.

      How short do you make your dancing/ walking skirts. Ankle lenght? a bit below? I don't want to make it too short and be "obscene", ha ha.

    • Lauren Stowell

      October 25, 2012 at 4:09 AM

      Hi Laura – a good test for the length of a skirt – walk up an incline, like a slight rise, and if you trip on the front of the skirt, bring the hem up. Somewhere around ankle or just below is good – skimming the top of your boots, perhaps, but it depends on what you are comfortable with. Another good way to save the hem, if it is dragging along the ground a bit, is to use a hem guard. It can anything – I like to use wide bias tape like quilt binding – and bind the hem of the skirt. You often see velvet hem guards or something like polished wool or cotton, anything that can take the abuse. When it comes time tidy up the hem, you just remove the guard and replace it with something else. The brown stripe on the bottom of the skirt in the above picture is a hem guard. Works wonders.

  • vintagevisions27

    October 24, 2012 at 2:35 PM

    Ah! Christmas already?!? I think it's scary when stores start putting Christmas items out before Halloween is even over. Sounds like a fun project though. 🙂 I have that same Simplicity pattern but have never used it. Can't wait to see what you create!

  • KittyKatt

    October 24, 2012 at 3:03 PM

    I made a Victorian-esque ensemble for doing a holiday gift show out of a coat brocade and velour. It was pretty heavy. I have to quit trying to do semi-historical out of coat- and upholstery weight and get brave and try a fabric that they might have actually worn. Too much community theater.

    • Lauren Stowell

      October 24, 2012 at 10:15 PM

      Sounds really clever, though, to make a Victorian piece out of existing garments. Bring on the darts! I may be doing something similar if this bodice doesn't work out.

  • AuntieNan

    October 24, 2012 at 5:22 PM

    Hi — love the look of the check skirt with the contrast border! Sooo pretty! As to the bodice, looks like the Simp pattern cut the sleeves on the bias — NOT doing that will save you some yardage for sure! Or, if you're really tight for fabric, would it be period to combine your check with some contrast solid (to echo the skirt), or with a complimentary stripe, like a ticking stripe? Or a little taffetta set in trim, if you're really working with bits & pieces? I laughed so hard at KittyKat's comment about too much comm. theater! Sooo nice to sew with actual fabrics instead of rummaging in the bag — nylon anyone??– for something.
    Can't wait to see it!

    • Lauren Stowell

      October 24, 2012 at 10:17 PM

      AuntieNan, I had to laugh this morning when I read your comment, because almost all of the things you mention are what I have ended up doing! I've removed the point on the bodice, to shorten it, cut out the neck for a mock insert in linen or somesuch, shortened the cuffs on the sleeves to replace with velvet, and pieced the heck out of the undersleeves, with scraps (and I do mean the smallest little scraps). We read each other's minds!

    • AuntieNan

      October 25, 2012 at 7:15 PM

      No, I'm just thinking of the time I had to re-make Lady Montague's left sleeve, using the "cabbage" strewn around the worktable… (Did Renaissance tailors string velvet cabbage together for 2-piece sleeves, when they forgot about nap direction and cut them wrong??) Well, heck, said I, if the historians in that outdoor audience are sticking their noses up that close to Lady Montague's left underarm, they get what they deserve!

      Can't wait to see the pix of the dress!

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