The Pink Confection Gown

PinkConfectionTease

There has always been something about a frothy pink Natural Form era gown that has caught my fancy. Any time I came across paintings of heavily trimmed pink Natural Form gowns on Tumblr I would fall in love all over again.

The_end_of_the_ball_Rogelio_de_Egusquiza

The End of the Ball by Rogelio de Egusquiza

watercolorist in the Louvre

Young Watercolorist in the Louvre by Pascal Adolphe Jean Dagnan-Bouveret

When Prior Attire announced the date for their 2018 Victorian Ball in Bath, and that the theme would be Natural Form era, I decided it was time to finally make my pink confection, and to take a chance and go to the UK for the first time–for a costume event!

Very long, so please click to read more!

Continue reading

Advertisements

Bijoux Pattern Co. Victorian Corset: A Review of Sorts

Well. It’s been a lot longer between posts than I meant for it to be. I’ve been drowning in a project that I started back in December and fought with right up to April 1st, and it took up so much of my time and caused me so much doubt and frustration, that although I meant to write a post about my Victorian corset, I haven’t been able to until now.

This corset gave me a bit of trouble, and in the middle of it last year it felt like it was weighing on me quite a bit (though now I know how much worse it could be, after the project I’ve just finished…). But it did turn out very well in the end, and once it got finished I was quite happy with it, and boy is it comfy to wear, too!

VictorianCorset

The finished corset, on my duct tape dress form.

Sometime early last year I purchased a corset kit and a copy of the Bijoux Pattern Co. #1 Ladies Victorian Corset pattern from corsetmaking.com. You have the option of buying the Laughing Moon pattern with the corset kit, but I priced it out and realized it was less expensive to buy the Bijou Pattern, which is a division of Laughing Moon, separately, so that’s what I did. I’m not sure if that was the cause of my troubles, but as you’ll see, the Bijoux Pattern version left me slightly less than impressed.

One of the first things that I noticed as I began looking over the measurements and double checking which size I needed was that the instruction sheet referred to fitting instructions that were not included in my packet.

VictorianCorsetinst1

There was no reference to the fitting instructions on the little “contents” page that listed things like the size chart, fabric and notions, and pattern piece illustrations. And the fact that the phrase finishes with those xx’s in place of a page number made it feel like the instruction sheet was hastily thrown together and someone didn’t take the time to make sure everything was accurate and included. (Also notice the misspelling of “coutil” next to the right-most pattern piece drawing.)

As I read through the instructions I noticed a few more typos that didn’t alleviate the feeling of haste and disorganization.

VictorianCorsetins3

VictorianCorsetinst4

In the end I had to simply trust that the measurements chart was pointing me in the right direction in order to choose a size to make. Luckily my proportions are pretty standard, so I can usually trust that patterns as printed will fit me okay. If I had an extra long or short torso, or a larger cup size, or was wider in the hip than the chest, I don’t know what I would have done without the fitting instructions. Assuming these mythical fitting instructions even include adjustments for things like that.

My mockup seemed to fit okay, so after testing it out I got to work in the real fabrics. Unfortunately I seem to have neglected to take photos of most of the progress on this! Or the photos were lost somewhere in the year it’s been since I started work on this corset. But basically I used plain white coutil that came with my corsetmaking.com kit and basted a thin pink indeterminate stash buster fabric over it.

When I got to the lacing grommets, as you do pretty quickly when corset-making, as they have to go in before much of the pieces are sewn together, thus ensued the Great Sewing Injury of 2017, which I wrote about in May of last year (tl;dr: grommet pliers are bad and can cause muscle stress injuries, don’t use them. Grommet anvil and die sets are infinitely better, and grommet presses better still). I’m actually still suffering effects of my grommet pliers injury, as the muscles in my hand will sometimes tense up or my knuckle will start twitching if I’ve strained it too much by say, carrying a heavy bag of groceries, or driving for 3 hours gripping the steering wheel anxiously. Anyway, at the time of the injury I had to put aside the corset for a few months to recuperate, and also because I didn’t have an alternative tool to put the other half of the grommets in with. I finally purchased a die and anvil kit and lo and behold, the grommets set much easier and much neater than with the pliers. And no injuries.

VictorianCorsetgrommets

Pliers-set on the right, die and anvil-set on the left. Seriously, step away from the pliers.

I’m now happy to announce that I received an amazing gift of a grommet press for Christmas after this whole debacle and I’ll never have to struggle with grommets again. (I cried a little bit, actually. My boyfriend’s mother was very confused that I was crying over getting a tool for Christmas).

After finishing the grommets, the rest of the corset proceeded almost astonishingly fast.

VictorianCorsetunbound

All pieces sewn together, no bones or binding yet.

I soon encountered another issue, though, when I went to put the bones in. The kit I had purchased came with pre-cut lengths of spiral steel. This being my first time boning with steel, I didn’t catch the fact that the items in the listing didn’t include any flat steel, which you need for the back opening at the very least. And because the spiral steel was pre-cut, it didn’t all quite fit the boning channels as I placed them, so I came up short. I ended up having to measure the channels I had left and place another order from the site. I also ordered additional pieces of flat steel to place in with my busk, because the busk I received with the kit was a bit bendier than I thought it should be, so I wanted to reinforce it.

Once I had that sorted out the rest of it went together very quickly. I lined it with map fabric left over from a dress that I made a couple years ago.

VictorianCorsetinnards

The bit of lacing that came with the kit could have stood to be a bit longer, but I’m able to get it on and lace myself down just fine. And it is COMFY. I’ve already worn it for 10-12 hours at a time no problem, and I seem to be able to eat all I want (within reason) without it starting to feel pinched. Perhaps I got lucky and the pattern was basically drafted for someone proportioned just like me. Whatever it is, I hope this one lasts for a long time, because I don’t know if I’ll ever luck out and end up with this comfortable a corset again.

VictorianCorsetside

VictorianCorset

So, in summary, this pattern is probably okay if you’re confident in your measurements or knowledgeable enough to make fitting adjustments on your own, but it’s probably not the best beginner corset pattern. I’ve never seen the instructions that come with the actual Laughing Moon branded version of this pattern, but for some reason the Bijou Pattern branded version is a bit lacking. Also, it’s probably safer to wait to get your steel bones until after your pattern pieces are assembled and you can get accurate measurements for exactly what you need. Kits sound tempting, but next time around I’d rather be able to choose the lengths myself. Also, I’ll say it again. Do not use grommet pliers. Just don’t.

And since I was going on a bit about it at the beginning of this post, here’s a teaser of the project I just finished. I will rant about this one a bit later, after I’ve recovered.

BallGowntease

Bliaut in the Snow

We’re in the middle of a nasty cold snap here in the northeast, and it made me remember that I never posted photos of my bliaut that we took way back in February during a snow storm.

You can see the construction notes for the bliaut in this post. It’s wool and linen and quite heavy, so it kept some of the chill out during this photoshoot… but not all. The wig I’m wearing is just a $10 ebay wig I bought years ago that I put on to give a fantasy/elven vibe. The photographer is my boyfriend, Dan, whose photo site you can see here.

Please enjoy the photos, and I hope you’re staying warm!

winter dress-007

winter dress-011

winter dress-033

winter dress-015

winter dress-031

winter dress-021

What to Gift the Historical Costumer in Your Life.

If you’re a historical costumer, around the gift-giving season you may start getting questions from family about what you want for Christmas, and it can be hard to come up with a few ideas on the spot without feeling greedy. Conversely, if you have a friend or loved one who is a historical costumer, you might be trying to find some ideas of what to get them without them catching on.

With those things I mind, I thought I would put together this list of gift ideas that historical costumers would (probably) like. Of course, no two costumers are into the same eras or styles, so I tried to include a variety of useful as well as fun items at a variety of price points. I hope you find this list useful!

  1. Nice wooden hangers. Yes, seriously! Costumers need to have some way to store all of their frocks, and plastic hangers are often too weak, and we won’t even get into metal wire hangers. Nice wood suit hangers are usually the way to go, and there are even nice cedar ones to help keep the bugs away, and sometimes you can find ones with clips that can be used for petticoats or underskirts (just make sure the clips have rubber coated tips!). Here is a nice walnut set from Amazon.
  2. Neck kerchiefs from Burnley & Trowbridge. Sold mostly for 18th century reenactors, these large, fine, soft, and beautifully printed kerchiefs have become a favorite of costumers for other uses, like hiding a head full of curlers, wrapping up a Rosie the Riveter kind of hairdo, or just pairing with everyday outfits. With several different colors and patterns, it’s fun to collect a bunch! Find them here.
  3. Hat pins. Suitable for a variety of eras, hat pins can often be hard to find in modern stores, but they are a must with certain types of historical and vintage hats, and the fancier ones can make an excellent gift. Etsy has a good selection of both vintage and handmade hat pins.
  4. Hat boxes. Another item useful for storage, but one that can often be quite beautiful too, hat boxes are ideal for storing a costumer’s fanciest hats, but they can also be used to store ribbons and trim, gloves, fur muffs, reticules, and other small items that costumers always seem to have a lot of hanging around. You can sometimes find hat boxes in antique or vintage shops, but you can also find them on Amazon.
  5. Silk stockings from American Duchess. Suitable for 18th Century, but also fun to wear under Victorian and Edwardian gowns, silk stockings are a lush gift for any costumer looking to add an extra bit of fancy to their outfits. Find them here.
  6. Jewelry from Dames a la Mode. With a variety of earrings, necklaces, and rings from several eras, Dames a la Mode has something sparkly for everyone. Website here.
  7. Victorian Chatelaines. Vintage chatelaines are a highly sought after item, and the price for an intact piece is not for the faint of heart. But, there are some jewelry makers out there who are now making reproduction chatelaines for a fraction of the cost. Victorian costumers would love one of these to complete their kits. This seller on Etsy usually has a couple in stock.
  8. Fur muffs. Depending on the shape and style, muffs can be used with 18th century through mid-twentieth century styles. Ideal for cool weather outdoor events, some of them even have handy inner pockets that will fit a cell phone! Etsy has a variety of vintage real fur, as well as modern fake fur muffs, but keep an eye out at your local vintage store, too.
  9. Colonial Williamsburg tea chest. Most costumers I’ve met run on tea or coffee, so this fancy tea chest from historic Colonial Williamsburg would be a gorgeous and unusual addition to the costuming household. If you don’t keep tons of loose leaf tea stashed around the house, the chest could also be used to store jewelry or other precious items. Find it here.
  10. A season pass to your local historic site. Whether you live close to Colonial Williamsburg, Gettysburg historical sites, Fort Ticonderoga, if your costumer loves visiting the places where history happened, a season pass would be perfect for making sure you don’t miss any new exhibits, events, or reenactments.
  11. Tickets to historical events or conferences. There’s Jane Austen Fest in Louisville, Costume College in L.A., a garden party at Colonial Williamsbug, and Renaissance Faires all over the country. Immersive costume events like these are ideal for showing off outfits and meeting new friends. Keep an ear out (and keep an eye on social media) for events that your costumer might be interested in.
  12. A photoshoot. Costumers spend so much time perfecting their looks, and we don’t always get ideal documentation of them. A smart phone is still not a substitute for a professional camera. A photoshoot with a professional local photographer will make any costumer feel loved (unless of course he or she is known to be camera shy!). Or, take a few lessons and find a nice camera to rent/borrow and take the costumer out for a photoshoot yourself! That way you get together time, and beautiful outfit photos.
  13. Books of course! This one is a bit tricky, as you might have to scan your costumer’s shelf to see what they already own. Some of my personal favorite costuming resource books include The Tudor Tailor, Patterns of Fashion 1, 2, and 3, The Cut of Men’s Clothes, and Fashions of the Gilded Age. There are tons more out there, though, and some are more instructional and include patterns, while some are simply reprints of old Bloomingdales catalog or Harper’s illustrations which can be great for reference. All of these books can be found on Amazon.com, but I’ve also found useful books in a local used book store as well. You can see other titles that costumers are recommending here here and here.
  14. Lastly, there’s the old standby, Gift Cards. If there is one thing historical costumers can never get enough of, it’s fabric, so a gift card gives us the opportunity to shop without (or, with relatively little) guilt about how much that silk costs. Some of the best places to get historically-friendly fabric that offer gift cards are Burnley & Trowbridge, Wm. Booth, Draper, Renaissance Fabrics, Fabrics-Store.com (great source for linen), and Farthingales for corset and hoop/bustle making supplies. There’s also American Duchess gift certificates for shoes, Redthreaded gift certificates that can be used for corsets, corset patterns, or accessories, and gift cards to your local JoAnn Fabric, because costumers still need cutting boards, nice sewing shears, pins, fabric weights, and other supplies that might not be historically accurate, but sure make modern sewing a bit easier.

That exhausts my ideas for now. I hope this helps someone with their holiday shopping a little bit. If anyone else has good ideas, share them in the comments!

The Gryffindor Natural Form Gown

It’s finished! Time for a blog post!

I conceived of this gown almost a year ago when, with Rufflecon still on my mind, Lauren of American Duchess posted a photo on Intagram with a vintage sweater that had scarlet and gold Gryffindor-like stripes. I thought it would be super cool to try to get a group together at Rufflecon representing our Hogwarts houses through historical clothing. My own house is Gryffindor, and I’ve been wanting to try Natural Form era for a while, so I thought it was the perfect time to try!

I started by looking at tons of Natural Form era fashion plates as well as the patterns available from Truly Victorian, and then I started sketching.

IMG_20170106_132035_519

I decided to use TV428, the 1880 Jacket Bodice pattern and TV225, the 1878 Fantail Skirt pattern, and to draft my own overskirt based on some fashion plates. I decided to use silk for the scarlet and gold bits, and black cotton sateen for the base.

I started on the jacket at the end of August, and it progressed pretty quickly at first.

Gryffjacket

I wasn’t 100% sure what parts were going to be scarlet and which gold when I first started, but I hoped that as the base parts started taking shape I would be able to visualize what would look best. I decided to make the lapels and sleeve cuffs scarlet with the edges piped in gold.

Gryffcollar

I then had to start draping and layering to figure out what colors I wanted to make the underskirt and overskirt out of.

Gryfftesting

I realized the red looked better over the black, but as I progressed I continued having trouble figuring out what the overskirt should actually look like. I started in on the underskirt at least, and spent a good week or two just hemming and pleating the flounce to go around the bottom. Once I got it on however, I realized that I really did need a petticoat. I was going to be lazy and try to get along without making one, but the underskirt was collapsing a bit near the bottom and I was very unhappy with it. One quick petticoat later and it looked loads better. Lesson learned.

gryffbefore  Gryffpetticoat Gryffunderskirt

Once that was done, my experiments with the overskirt draping started to look way better, and I proceeded with a little bit more confidence. I took cues from an overskirt pattern in Fashions of the Gilded Age and shortened it a bit to get more of the look I wanted.

Gryffstg1

You can also see the scarlet collar and sleeve cuffs in this photo.

There is also a hidden wand pocket in the seam on the right-hand side of the overskirt that perfectly fits my Ollivander’s hazel wand, but I didn’t get any photos that demonstrated it! Then it was time to Gryffindor it up by adding gold trim. I spent another good week or two hemming and pleating gold flounce. I was also originally convinced I was going to cover the jacket buttons in scarlet, but once I got the overskirt finished, I realized the outfit needed more gold to tie it together, so gold buttons it was. I did the button holes by hand, because I still don’t quite trust my machine not to ruin the button holes and therefore ruin the item. But the button holes still don’t look the best because not matter how many I do, they always seem to come out a bit messy.

Then I took some dark apartment shots (I really need to stop doing everything in dark fabrics so that they don’t photograph in my apartment).

009v2

018v2

I wore it to Rufflecon this past Saturday. I was hoping to do a group photoshoot with other historical House outfits, but unfortunately no one else was able to get theirs together in time. So I took some worn shots in the famous selfie bathroom, and my friend Nina took a very dramatic photo in front of the hotel’s artwork backdrops.

Gryfffront

Gryffside

Gryffchatelaine

I tried to cobble together a “chatelaine” out of Hogwarts jewelry.

Gryffportrait

I also made the hat, which I posted a bit about before. But here’s the finished product:

Gryffhat

I made the corset that I’m wearing underneath as well, but I will do a separate post about that later. Eventually I’d love to put together a nicer chatelaine, and I need to adjust the length of the petticoat because it was peeking out the bottom a bit. I’m also still a little unsure about the overskirt, but I’m quite happy with the fit of the jacket at least.

Rufflecon Harry Potter Challenge Update

Rufflecon is this coming weekend! If you follow me on Instagram you’ve probably seen that I’ve been (anxiously) working on my Natural Form era, Gryffindor-inspired gown, and I’ve just finished! I will be wearing it on Saturday of Rufflecon, because the handmade contest is at noon that day. I hope to see some other people there in historical Harry Potter outfits! A sneak peek of my outfit is below.

018v2

Robe à l’Anglaise Photoshoot

Two years ago I made a robe à l’anglaise out of the Waverly Indienne curtain fabric. I documented the project here, but I didn’t have a proper kerchief, cap, hat, or shoes at the time and wasn’t satisfied with the photos I was able to get of the gown. Since then I’ve acquired the rest of the accessories so I recently set up a meeting with a photographer to get better photos. We went to the local National Park where battles of the Revolutionary War were fought, and I love how everything came out!

Screen Watermark (1 of 1)-3small

Screen Watermark (1 of 1)-2small

Screen Watermark (1 of 1)-4small

Screen Watermark (1 of 1)-6small

Screen Watermark (1 of 1)-7small

Screen Watermark (1 of 1)-8small

Screen Watermark (1 of 1)-9

Screen Watermark (1 of 1)-13small

Screen Watermark (1 of 1)-14small

Screen Watermark (1 of 1)-16small

Screen Watermark (1 of 1)-18small

Screen Watermark (1 of 1)-19small

Screen Watermark (1 of 1)-25small

The amazing photographer is The Nerdy Monkey.

I’m hoping that in the future I can get nice photos like these of more of my gowns. They spend so much time just hanging in my closet, I’d love to be able to show them off more.

Thanks for looking!

18th Century Pocket

While I was at Rufflecon wearing my polonaise I realized that I really needed a pocket to keep my phone and things in while I walked around the con. I had been teaching myself a little bit of embroidery since the Jamestown conference last year anyway, and I thought a pocket would be a good first project to work on. I looked up examples of extant pockets online and rather than copy anything exactly, I sketched out my own free-hand design.

pocket1

 

I stitched it on a scrap of linen left over from lining my bliaut. The embroidered face is backed with a second piece of linen so that I don’t catch the back of the embroidery as I put things in and out. The back of the pocket is muslin because I had run out of linen scraps that were big enough.

pocket2

pocket3

pocket4

The binding and ties are more linen scraps. I actually still have to finish sewing the ties, but since the pocket itself is done and it’s been a while since I posted, I thought I should upload it now. I’ve also finished my Tudor waistcoat that I started over the summer, but I can’t get the damn thing to photograph well, so I’m probably going to wait to post about that one until I finish my kirtle so I can post about them together.

The Yellow Polonaise

Several years ago, a friend of mine was cleaning out her fabric stash and gifted me a yellow upholstery fabric woven with a green and pink flower and stripe motif. I always intended to make a robe a la polonaise out of it, but between other projects and the fact that yellow isn’t always flattering on my skin tone, the fabric sat untouched for a long time.

Over the summer I learned that the founder of American Duchess would be coming to Rufflecon, an alternative fashion convention that I had already purchased my ticket for. American Duchess’ Bastille Day sale was still on, so I finally bought the Kensingtons that I had been wanting for years, and subsequently decided that if I were going to wear my Kensingtons to Rufflecon to meet the founder of American Duchess, I needed a new, fancier gown to wear them with.

I was inspired by this extant gown that I found posted on the Fripperies and Fobs Tumblr:

robealanglaiseyellow

The J.P. Ryan pattern would again be my base, and in August I began cutting out the pieces. I briefly looked at trying to acquire some green quilted fabric for the petticoat, but quickly decided to do a plain green petticoat with a flounced hem instead, like a polonaise in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 1. That polonaise also had a self-fabric trim around the neckline and sleeve edges, so I decided to add those to mine as well. I also realized that I would need to finally make a bum pad and under petticoat because I never had for my earlier gowns, and the polonaise would really require one to get the proper effect.

bum-pad  ugly-puffer

I cheated and bought kelly green polyester taffeta for the petticoat, and spent hours pinking the edges of the flounce and then box pleating it onto the hem.

petticoat-flounce

I was so busy in August and September that suddenly it was September 30 and I was running out of time. I still had to attach the skirt to the bodice, add the trim and closures, finish the lining, add the buttons for the polonaise, and add ties to the petticoat, and all of that had to be done by hand.

I finished the closures on the morning of the day I left for Rufflecon. I was originally going to add lace to the sleeve cuffs, but I ran out of time and motivation. I had just enough time to try the gown on with the closures for the first time (perfect fit, thank god!) before putting it away in my suitcase and hitting the road.

003v2

With the skirt down.

009v2

With the skirt worn à la polonaise.

012v2

006v2

The slight gapping at the top of the bodice and the slightly messy spots where the edge of the skirt meets the bodice are the only things I’m not happy with on this gown.

004v2

Trim at the neckline.

008v2

Trim on the sleeve.

014v2

015v2

Actually, I lied. The messy point at the back of the bodice bothers me a bit, too.

I haven’t gotten the best worn photos of it yet; I was having too much fun at Rufflecon to get anyone to take very good photos, but here’s one in the mirror in my hotel room:

20161014_112139

And here’s me with Lauren, of American Duchess, after her and Abby’s panel on draping:

20161014_160257

(This hairstyle gives me a fivehead.)

I’m extremely pleased that I was able to finish this in time for Rufflecon, and I’m very happy with the way it came out. I was quite sick of looking at it by the end, though. I think once I put it away for a while and have occasion to bring it out for something else fancy that I’m not stressing to get ready for I’ll realize how much I like it. For the moment I’m just happy to be done with it and go back to sewing my wool items.

Speaking of which, there’s now only two weekends left to finish my Halloween costume, which still needs a chemise, sleeves, fitting adjustments, and closures…

12th Century Bliaut

Way back in May or June I started this dress for a historical costuming demonstration at my library. I got caught up with other projects after the demonstration, but I’ve been slowly working on it bit by bit ever since. I was trying to get it 100% done by the end of December, but I finished the last couple of eyelets at the beginning of January, and I finally finished the sash today.

I didn’t use a pattern for this dress, but instead used this tutorial by Izabela of Prior Attire. The shell of the gown is made of navy blue wool. The lining and the kirtle are made of linen. I wanted silk for the sash, but the fabric options in my area are a bit limited, so I settled for a gray poly with a silk-like texture for now.

007v2

Linen kirtle.

008v2

Gown before lacing.

For some reason the gown is very hard to photograph, especially on the dress form. It doesn’t help that the navy is so dark that it always seem to show up black.

021v2

Finished set.

027v2

The trim around the neckline are just ribbons that I picked up at a trim store.

022v2

The dress opens on the sides to allow it to slip over the wearer’s head. I put hand-bound eyelets in using an awl and used leather cord to lace up the openings.

023v2  033v2

The long trailing sleeves are drapey and dramatic.

030v2

I’m waiting for snow to try to take some worn photos of this. The giant storm that’s hitting the East Coast decided to give us a miss.

Next project is more wool and linen: an 18th century menswear set. I’ve got the waistcoat half done and the frock coat cut out, so hopefully it won’t be another two months before I have an update to post.