Sunday, September 26, 2004

Another yard bites the dust!

More progress! The ruffles are finally all sewn to the underskirt!

To give you an idea of how much fabric I was working with, I've attached a picture of me and the sewing machine, almost lost in a bundle of taffeta. Technically the next step was to make 33 yards of binding tape for the raw edges of the ruffles, but after the battle with the ruffles, I didn't have the heart to start it. I'm also not so sure I like the color I chose for the binding: I bought a yellow satin, thinking the green and yellow might complement each other. But...I'm using cream lace trim as well (cream and yellow...I'm not convinced it works). Instead, I decided to move on to preparing the overskirt and sewing the lace edging to the pattern pieces.

Also, my friend Willow came over this weekend and last weekend to work on her halloween project. I love having friends that I can talk into doing things with me!! We just finished her corset (is it wrong that I want to make one like hers?), bloomers, and a bustle pad. She looks great, and we're looking at fabric selections for her dress! Check out her outfit: we're using laughing moon's corset and undergarments patterns, and the new simplicity bustle dress pattern.

http://www.snapjudgments.blogspot.comPosted by Hello

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Ball Gown: Ruffles Galore

Progress Report: Ruffles Galore!
It's official - I've picked up the green taffeta civil war ball gown that was set aside for a few months. I decided that it would be best to hurry up and get the annoying ruffles pinned onto the skirt and have it over with. So, I sat down in front of the TV for a few hours, pulled in my gathering stiches (remember...each ruffle is 20 feet long) and pinned them to the underskirt. Tomorrow I'll go ahead and sew them down, but the diffucult part is accomplished! I can only hope that the worst is behind me...but then again I've never attempted cartridge pleats, and they're looming on the horizon. Next, I believe I assemble the overskirt, trim the overskirt, and then sew the overskirt and underskirt together.
Posted by Hello

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Future Project: Tudor gown

This is definitely far off in the future (too many patterns waiting in my closet to be made into dresses)...but I would love to make a Tudor gown someday. Supposedly this portrait is of Jane Gray, and her gown is typical of the later Tudor years. I think I would like a different collar, and would want to use these period patterns:

I would probably want either a brocade, velvet, or combination. Maybe I could even go to a flea market and buy an old fur coat so that I could have real fur sleeves - it would probably be cheaper then buying faux fur at the fabric store. I can't decide if I would want a Gabled Hood (boxy shape) or a French hood (rounded)...I guess it depends on if I want early or late Tudor (these hoods came in and out of style as often as King Henry's six wives) Posted by Hello

Upcoming Project: Elizabethean Gown

Shakespeare in Love Dress Posted by Hello

Yet another pattern by Simplicity - this one inspired by Viola's dress in the movie "Shakespeare in Love." The cartridge pleates alone were enough to get me hooked. However, I'm not planning on making this dress exactly as shown on the cover of the pattern. I think I would rather use velvet or a brocade instead of dupioni. I've also never seen any illustrations of period gowns where the bodice was made of a completely different fabric. However, since I'm starting with a pattern that I know is more for show then historical accuracy, I'm not going to sweat the authenticity too much, and just find something pretty. I already have finished the bum roll and farthingale that accompanied this pattern (I figured while I was ordering steel hooping, why not get enough for the farthingale).

There are great advanced instructions on this gown at farthingales:

civil war day dress fashion plate Posted by Hello

Upcoming: Day dress

Upcoming Project:Civil War Day dress Posted by Hello

I should take a moment to define what I mean when I say "upcoming" versus "future" project. Upcoming means that I have the pattern in my house, and could start any day now. "Future" means I'm playing around with the idea of making an outfit someday, but no actual steps towards making one have been made.

I actually do have this dress, and since the undergarments are all completed, it's a project I've been looking at starting. The only thing that's stopping me on this one is that it takes a ridiculous amount of fabric - 24 yards to be precise!! (17 yards for the dress, 7 yards for trim). Even if I made this dress out of cotton, that would really set me back a bit. And of course, I would rather have a silk day dress.

I'm considering ways to fix this problem - I've thought about not sewing the three tiers of flounces. They're all sewn to a base skirt. The only catch is I'm not sure how full the skirt is. Another option is that I could order a different skirt pattern, and then just make the bodice.

The other problem is that anytime you wear this outfit to a historical event, you're almost guaranteed to find several cookie cutter dresses there (this pattern has been a huge success...and it's also very recognizable). But, oh well. I fell in love with this pattern, and have been dying to make it. In fact, this is the very first historical pattern I ever bought.

Above, I've attached a fashion plate from the 1860's of two dresses I think are very nice. I might use the color combination for a bit of inspiration.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Completed 18th Century Undergarments

Completed Stays and pocket hoops Posted by Hello

I used JP Ryan's strapless stays and pocket hoops patter for these undergarments. I borrowed a victorian evening chemise from my civil war collection to go underneath everything. The stays were a true labor of love and took hours to complete: it is 100% boned. I used a combination of steel boning and wood reed. The eyelets were sewn by hand (through 3 very thick layers of fabric). You definitely will need a friend (or in my case a husband) to lace you into these very stiff stays.

A victorian corset (or a corset from any other era, for that matter) will NOT be a good substitute for this corset. My victorian corset creates curves at the waist. These stays flatten the torso into a trianular shape (and push the bust up). A word of caution: 18th century stays do not seem to be created with comfort in mind. Do not lace your stays up too tightly or your back will be hurting in less then ten minutes. 18th century stays were not meant to contract your waist or body in any way.

The pocket hoops were a much simpler project, and probably only took me about 2 hours. Very simple, and I LOVE the fact that they actually have pockets in them for carrying around a wallet, fan, etc. I can never figure out where to hide my wallet when I'm in costume, but that will not be a problem with this outfit.

Completed 18th Century Curaco

Completed outfit.

Once again, I used JP Ryan's pattern and would highly recommend it to anyone. I had a bit of a tricky time fitting the jacket, but the garment turned out beautifully! It's fully lined, and I added the optional polonaise buttons, ruching strip, and sleeve flouces. This was the first time I'd ever worked with linen, and I found it very easy to work with. Later on I may buy some pre-quilted fabric for a quilted petticoat to go underneath the skirt (it helps reduce the appearance of the hoops). Posted by Hello

Civil War Ballgown: In Progress

Civil War Ballgown Posted by Hello

After finishing my civil war undergarments, I did exactly what a novice costumer should not do and decided to make a ballgown (rather then a more practical day dress). I have since seen the folly of my actions...but I can still see why I wanted to make this dress. I purchased a green taffeta for this dress with cream accent fabric and lace. I'm still trying to figure out what to use instead of the roses - I find them to be a little over the top.

So far - I've cut out all the pattern peices for this dress, have assembled the basic bodice (complete with hand sewn eyelets), and have begun sewing the five rows of ruffles onto the under-skirt. Three rows (and miles of ruffles!!) later, I had to set this project aside and take a break from it. The contant snagging of my gathering stiches was driving me crazy - I think next time I'll use the string and zig-zag stich method to gather up such a large amount of fabric.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Upcoming Project: Robe Francaise

Pattern by JP Ryan. Inspiration: Robe Francaise worn by Madame de Pompadour.

I've been just dying to start sewing this project. I have already completed JP Ryan's 18th century stays and pocket hoops, so I wouldn't need to make any new undergarments. If I could choose any fabric, I would want to make this gown out of silk taffeta, but since I'm working of a tighter budget, I've been looking at purchasing dupioni silk with as few slubs as possible. The best price I've seen for dupioni is $5 a yard on ebay...but if anyone knows of a cheaper way to get it, please let me know since I'm looking at buying 13 yards of fabric.

I've always liked the pale colors from this time period, so I think I would want to make either a blue and cream or a pink and cream gown. The petticoat and stomacher would be out of cream, and the gown itself out of the second color. I would use the gown's color as trim.Posted by Hello

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

A Second Corset in my future?

future thoughts.... Posted by Hello

The first Simplicty corset went together so nicely that when I heard there was a new corset pattern I went straight out to get a copy. However, after having read reviews and reading through the instructions, I decided to temporarily shelve this project. It sounds like the sewing skills required might still be a bit above my level, and since I'm tempted to make this one out of a more expensive fabric, I decided to wait. When the time comes, though, DC enterprises ( has a beautiful peach satin corset coutil that I might want to use. If you want to get an idea of what this corset would entail, visit farthingales advanced instruction page for this corset at

Bell Shape!

After finishing the chemise, bloomers, and corset, I moved onto the hoops and petticoat. Again, the pattern was fairly simple. I think the most difficult part was just getting used to working with so much fabric. There are literally yards and yards of fabric (about eight if I recall correctly...). Using my vanishing pen to transfer the pattern markings for the hoops was also no picnic, but it turned out quite nicely. I again used the popular Simplicity patterns and highly recommend them. Posted by Hello

A good foundation...

My first project that I wanted to complete was a Victorian day dress. I saw the very popular Simplicity civil war day dress, and wanted to make it. To start with, I needed to make the undergarments to support the gown. Since this was technically my first sewing project, I thought I'd better start with a simple project - I chose to make a chemise (it's what I'm wearing underneath the corset above) and then move on to the corset. I was pleasantly surprised at how easily the corset went together, and it was actually one of the easier projects I've done to date. The hardest part was putting in the grommets in the back - I had blisters for days!Posted by Hello

Future Project: 1870's Bustle Gown

A possible future bustle project

There's something just gorgeous about all the draping and heavy fabric that goes into a pretty bustle outfit. I've looked over a few different patterns (but haven't bought one yet!) that I might try someday, but so far, this is just something on the back burner.!

I already know exactly where I'm going to go for my patterns: the folks at Truly Victorian and the undisputed masters of the buslte! Check out the following page:

I definitely like the earlier busltle period - I find the later bustle dresses of the 1880's to be more severe. I especially like TV405 (the Vest Basque), the smaller buste pattern TV101, and either TV305 + TV201 underskirt and apron, or a trained skirt TV208. The fabulous folks over at farthingales have a great page devoted to comparing various bustle patterns. A great way to decide which bustle you want to make. Posted by Hello

Costume Journal

Well here's my first entry for the Costume room! After years of studying historical costumes, dreaming of wearing them myself, I finally decided to learn to sew and make a few for myself! What started out as a slow paced project quickly turned into a massive pass-time, with many more projects to come.

I would like to recognize the webmistress of that was an inspiration for this website. If you haven't visited it definitely should! After months of tracking her projects, I realized I wanted something like that of my own. This blog is modest compared to demode...but it's a way to organize my thoughts. I plan to record my progress here, and post pictures of completed costumes. I hope you enjoy watching the costumes come together.

Inoui, your Seamstress.