If you’ve made costumes for any length of time, you’ve probably gotten the question “what do you do with all those costumes though?” at least once. I’ve gotten it a few times, and I usually answer with some variation of “when you have the costumes, you find things to wear them to.” But in the last few years I sort of got tired of “finding things” to wear my costumes to, and I also got tired of pretty much everything about clothing that you can buy from mainstream stores. And I realized that my last f$#% about what people think of me and what I wear had evaporated. So I kind of started integrating pieces of my historical clothing into my work wardrobe pretty much whenever I can (i.e. when the weather and the work that I’m doing that day allows).
Court Gown Update: It’s Wearable…
A year later (and several projects in between) I’ve been able to get my Elizabethan court gown in complete enough condition to wear it to the first Faire of the season.
I finally finished sewing the cartridge pleated skirt onto the waistband and added closures.
I put eyelets in the bodice using an awl, and had a bit of trouble since the fabric is polyester (gasp!) and the bodice is several layers.
I intended to add wings on the shoulders temporarily until I can get my shoulder rolls figured out, but I just started getting burned out, so I left the shoulder straps bare for the time being. I did have to add a privacy panel in the back, because somehow my bodice shrank as I sewed it. I swear it was just the right size when I first started this project (I’ve gained a little bit of weight, but no inches on my waist, so shrinkage is the only explanation).
I also desperately needed a hat, and felt that if I didn’t have one, there would be no point in wearing the gown, since without a hat the outfit would look even more incomplete than it already is without the sleeves and shoulder rolls. So two days before the Faire, I drafted up a pattern using the Elizabethan bonnet instructions in The Tudor Tailor.
I used the same fabric as the front panel of my skirt, and lined it in a heavy twill, as well as adding interfacing in the brim. I finished it off with a burgundy braid around the band, and an ostrich feather I’ve had hanging around waiting to go on an Elizabethan hat. Somehow I got the math wrong and the band came out shorter than the inside circumference of the brim. I didn’t have the time or energy to remake the brim, so I sort of forced it to fit, making the brim a little wavy in the back. Maybe I will redo it for the next Faire…
We had nasty storms the night before the Faire, so when we showed up there were scary mud puddles everywhere. Luckily the sun was out and it quickly dried the puddles. I had just enough time to be grateful before the heat set in and I started to regret wearing a dress entirely made of polyester.
But we got to watch the always enchanting Vixens en Garde, take in the joust, watch a pirate brawl, and listen to Three Pints Shy before I tossed in the hat, surrendered to the heat, and sent my driver for the car so that we could limp home in the air conditioning.
Hopefully I will have sleeves and shoulder rolls for the next Faire in August!
(Hopefully) Last Court Gown Update For a While
Despite the fact that I knew I needed to start my Victorian gown soon, and the fact that I knew there was no way I’d be able to finish my court gown before the end of Ren Faire season, I still couldn’t put the thing away.
So I sewed the ribbon trim onto the front pieces of the overskirt and attached facing to the top of the skirt panels so that I could begin cartridge pleating.
This is me just testing the waist measurement and how the pleats make the skirt fall.
Then I basted the underskirt to the front of the overskirt.
And then I started whip stitching the hell out of the skirt and waistband (that white part is the back of the underskirt).
I still haven’t finished attaching the overskirt to the waistband. I ran into a little problem because apparently I should have made my stitches for the cartridge pleats 3/4 of an inch long instead of 1/2 an inch long, so now my little stack of pleats is longer than the waistband… but I’m trying to work it out.
I also figured out what I want to do with the sleeves and where to put the ties to tie them to the bodice. But the bodice still needs eyelets in the back, shoulder rolls, and probably a modesty panel in the back (bodices always seem to shrink as I sew them). The skirt(s) need to be hemmed, the front edges of the open overskirt basted back, and closures on the waist band. And on top of that I need a partlet and a new hat, and I’d like to sew fake pearls on the underskirt and sleeves eventually.
For now I really do have to set this project aside so that I can have a Victorian gown for the two Victorian events coming up in December. I traced out the pattern pieces this morning and I have to make the mockup asap. Hopefully my next few posts will be about how well my Victorian day dress is going.
For now I will leave you with a picture of my Court Gown pinned together on my dress form, no where near completed.
Court Gown Updates
I feel like I’ve been working on this a ton, but even though the construction has been progressing, it hasn’t changed too much visually in a few weeks.
First I hand sewed the jacquard ribbon trim onto the front of the bodice, then I spent a couple of weeks hand basting the shell of the bodice to the lining. I took this photo as I was pinning the shell and lining together:
I decided to make the piping out of the same fabric as the body of the bodice.
And then I discovered that the zipper foot that I have for my machine is basically useless. It’s just 1/8 of an inch slimmer on the edge. It’s still too wide to actually get the needle into the ditch of the piping like it needs to. This means that to get it perfect I should have made the piping by hand and then attached it to the bodice edges by hand. But let’s be serious, ain’t nobody got time for that.
I then spent a couple of weeks whipstitching the raw edges back into the lining.
I finally finished the raw edges this week, so today I hand sewed the rest of the trim onto the front of the bodice and attached the tabs. It looks like this now:
I also cut out the skirt pieces and made a bum roll today. There’s still so much to do, and I’m sort of stalled right now because 1. I can’t figure out how to finish the armscyes in order to be able to lace sleeves onto them 2. I’m nervous to start working on the eyelets because I’m afraid to mess them up 3. I can’t decide if I want to try to sew the ribbon trim onto the skirt front using my machine or if I’m just going to suck it up and do it all by hand 4. I don’t have fabric for the back part of the underskirt right now.
I need to start my Victorian day dress soon if I’m going to try to have it done by December, but I’m a little afraid that if I put this one aside I’m going to end up never finishing it. Plus, usually if I have inspiration for a certain project, trying to redirect my energies into a different one it just ends in disaster. I might venture out tomorrow to get some cheap cotton for the underskirt for the court gown, and also grab some more muslin for the Victorian day dress bodice mock up.
Fitted English Gown outfit WIP
I wore this to a brand-new local Renaissance Festival. This outfit still needs a proper kirtle and sleeves, and possibly a different hat, but I wanted to test it out and see how I liked it. It’s really very comfortable and I got a ton of compliments! Again, the fabric on this isn’t accurate for the period of the gown, but I take my historical costuming with a touch of whimsy, and I just love the overall effect. I’m thinking though, that I want to make the kirtle a dark green. I’m still unsure what to do about the sleeves, though.
Fitted English Gown and Smock
I happened to be at A.C. Moore one day and I stumbled across a bin of home decor fabrics labeled “$6 per piece.” I dug through and found two pieces of a gorgeous brown patterned upholstery fabric. Each piece was only 2 yards, and I was hoping I could find a third piece to have at least enough fabric to make an Elizabethan gown, but all I could find were the two pieces, for a total of four yards. I bought them anyway, hoping I could find something to make out of the fabric. When I got home and checked The Tudor Tailor, I discovered that Fitted English Gowns only need four yards (you’ll notice my header is a photo of the fabric with my copy of The Tudor Tailor). The print of the fabric would have been used in a much later time period than Fitted English Gowns were commonly worn, but I felt that the fabric needed to be a gown, and whether accurate or not, I thought a Fitted English Gown in that fabric would look marvelous.
I only have a couple of in-progress photos:
The progress was easy, until I got to the sleeves. The sleeves took twice as long as the entire rest of the gown. Although the instructions in The Tudor Tailor say to gather the sleeve panes in order to attach them to the shoulders by cartridge pleating, the fabric is so thick that after finishing the edges of the panes, they didn’t gather well, and gathering would have meant that they didn’t circle the entire sleeve anyway, so I only gathered enough to fit them nicely around the armscye. The result is acceptable, I think.
And here is the full view of the finished gown:
In order to begin making the ensemble complete, I bought three yards of a cotton-linen blend in white. Again I used a pattern from The Tudor Tailor. While making the sleeves, collar, and ruffles, I made the mistake of cutting out all of the strips at once and only once I had the collar attached did I realize that I accidentally used the two wrist ruffles for the collar part instead of using the strips that I had cut for the collar. As a result the collar is a bit too long for the neck, but hopefully not noticeably.
It’s hard to get the smock to photograph nicely, but here is (most of) the rest of the piece:
To complete the outfit, I still need to make a kirtle and sleeves, but for now I’m wearing these two pieces with a skirt from another outfit to a new Renaissance Faire in my area. Hopefully I can get some good pictures to post!