Tag Archives: Victorian

The Countdown to Costume College

3 Jul

When I was a kid I always loved advent calendars. Each December my grandma would give my brother and I those little cardboard ones with the chocolates inside. I loved hunting for the correct date, the sound of the cardboard and plastic as I opened it and the shaped chocolate hidden inside. Each day that went by came with a treat. The passing of time, as we eagerly awaited Christmas, was exciting, something to look forward to. Oh how things change when you reach adulthood.

Time is ticking away. The count down to Costume College is flying by. Much like Christmas, as a child, I am very eager to get to the end. But oi vay do I have so much to do. I have been working diligently whenever I can. I’m actually pretty proud of my focus and dedication. No (ok almost no) procrastination in this camp! However my main issue has been not enough time. Life events, big and small, keep getting in the way.

Slytherian bustle back

Slytherian bustle back

Each week I get 2 days to myself to sew, clean house and do anything else I can’t do with my toddler around. 16 hours a week of badly needed quiet and solitude. It’s amazing how desperate you become for silence when you have a little kid around all the time. I end up with about 12 -14 hours of actual sewing time. Some days I get so much done in those precious hours. Other days I have just started when it’s time to stop. Over the past month I have also lost a few days to other projects. We are new home owners and predictably have a long list of house projects. One week it was new floors. The next new bookcases and deep cleaning away the dust from the floors. The next week a no school day for my son.  I’ve lost 5 days of sewing time in the past month. No wonder I feel so behind.

Slytherian side bustle

Slytherian side bustle

I have managed a lot of progress however. At night I have been hand sewing my Regency era stays. On sewing room days I have been working on my Slytherian bustle dress. Its coming along beautifully. Underskirt and over skirt need hand sewing only. The bodice is together save sleeves and I am currently working on trim (a mix of machine and hand sewing). I did make a goal this year of hand sewing as much as I could and I stuck to it however if has greatly increased the time needed for finishing work.

For the underskirt I used my grand bustle skirt pattern I developed last year and altered it to fit tightly over the bustle frame. I dont have enough fabric for a flowing skirt and wanted a more tailored look all around. Attached to that are 2 rows of box pleated ruffles. The over skirt is based on the Truly Victorian 1886 Asymmetrical Drape (TV382) with some alterations. I put a cut in the center back and pulled up edges to create a mini butterfly look.

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Slytherian Bodice Front

For the bodice I used my bodice pattern from the Frolicking costume with some additions. I found an image of the Ageless Patterns 1887 Corsage Vest and loved the lines. I try not to copy peoples work as much as possible but I knew if I bought the pattern it would not help me more than if I just made it myself. So after a quick mock up I moved on to the bodice. To my frustration I discovered I do not have enough fabric for the bodice and the sleeves. So right now the sleeves are on hold while I brainstorm some alternatives.

Slytherian Bodice Back

Slytherian Bodice Back

Shortly I will need to make some other decisions. The Slytherian bustle has a number of hours left but I believe I will have enough time to complete another ensemble before Costume College. Not a huge one but something. I would like to do a non Victorian project but what?!? On my list of goals is a full Regency ensemble but do I have enough time? I still have a lot of work on the stays and would need to do the chemise, petticoats and gown plus accessories. I had intended to do an open robe so that is a 2 part gown. What to do? Whatever the decision I know I have to use stash fabric. I do have that pewter silk which I am thinking is right for a Georgian gown but would need to research and design it. I have also recently been lured by Renaissance designs especially German. Something about the bright wool dresses and bust line is interesting. But I have NO experience in that era. I also love Elizabethan but that is a lot of details. What to do?!? I have to make the decision soon.

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Anatomy of a Frolick

7 Apr

I have been hard at work on my Frolicking Suit over the past few weeks.  As soon as I feel I have made a big leap forward the list of things left to do grows a bit.  But I think I am in the home stretch.  The skirt still needs closures and the bodice needs a little bit of finishing on the facings and button holes.  Ugh button holes.  I decided with this project to try a new skill: hand sewing button holes.  To be clear I am not a strong hand sewer.  I am decent but I prefer my hand stitching not to be visible.  Unfortunately that is the whole point of button holes.  Obviously I could have done them by machine but I wanted to challenge myself and machine ones always look, well, cheep.  But to the meat of the project…

For most of my costumes I draft my patterns from scratch or alter a pattern I have already created.  For this costume I started with my basic 4 panel bustle skirt as described in the last post.  The apron was a very slightly altered version of the skirt pattern.  Over all the hardest part of the skirt was the pleating which turned out beautifully.  Something I am even more proud of it the placket and waist band.  In some ways a placket is stupidly simple but I have always had a blind spot there.  Until I read this http://historicalsewing.com/victorian-skirts-with-placket-opening and like magic I have conquered the placket! 

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Look at that beauty!

The bodice has been a bit more difficult than the skirt.  I started with the basic bodice pattern I had created for my plaid evening gown but knew there were some problems.  The sleeve was a sausage casing plus the length and pleating in the back needed to change.  So I did a mock up and altered it the fit the Queen Mum (my dress form).  Then I fit it on me.  I have to say having a dress form is revolutionary.  This is the first project I have done with the Queen Mum and it cut down on how much fitting and fitting assistance I needed.  By the time I got it to a fitting on my almost all the kinks were worked out. 

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Again, look at that beauty!  This is the first fitting of the first mock up and as you can see the length, armseye and neck line needed adjustments.  The neck and armseye adjustments were issues lingering from the previous incarnation of the pattern. Hopefully next time I will have even less issues.  This mock up also needed a little help in the bust area but that worked itself out in the final version and didn’t require a pattern alteration. 

To digress a little… You will notice a couple things from these photos about my body and shape.  One boob is different than the other.  This is true with most women but as you go up in size the difference can be more dramatic.  Easy fix: Fake boobs!  Some people shy way from them maybe because of pride or expense or they just don’t know about them.  If you have a cup size or more difference bite the bullet and get a set.  I used a 50% off coupon at Joannes and it made a huge difference.  If you want to be true to period and materials, remember padding and falsies have been around for CENTURIES! So just do it! Sew up a little pad of linen stuffed with cotton or whatever and make that beautiful silhouette you want. 

Second thing you will notice is the shape of my upper back, rib cage, waist and hips.  A lot of people prefer a smoother line and I would agree with regards to the upper back.  In the photo I laced myself in and I have less control over the upper line of the corset.  When my husband does it it looks a lot better.  As for the ribcage, waist and hip line, that is an intentional choice.  I lace my corset very tight.  I get about an 8-10 inch reduction easy.  This is a choice and how I like my silhouette to look.  Some could argue it is not historically correct but there is evidence of tight lacing all thru the Victorian era. It may not be common but I’m not a common lady. Some would argue it is dangerous.  Maybe but I have a lot of squish and can do this easily.  If I couldn’t, I wouldn’t. I am very conscience of when I need to loosen it and don’t hesitate to do so.  Point is, its a personal choice, I don’t recommend it but if you want to go there educate yourself then have at it. Remember, don’t be a slave to fashion regardless of the fashion era. 

Now back to the sewing…

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ImageAfter this mock up I did one more including a sleeve (I forgot pictures) and headed in to the final product. In the photos you can see the skirt sans ruffle but otherwise completed.  I think I might starch the trim to keep the wrinkles at bay.  We also see improved armseyes and length on the bodice.  Unfortunately when I lengthened it I ended up adding to much to width and had to take some out of the waist and abdomen area. 

Sadly that’s all the pictures I took (or my husband did rather).  I am getting better about it tho!  Next post will hopefully be a finished costume including a little hat I found at the thrift store (score!).

Now back to the buttonholes I go…

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