Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Rather Loud Plaid Wool 1860s Dress


One of my favorite things about the mid nineteenth century is the delightfully loud color combinations. Lime green and orange plaid? Of course!

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Construction is mostly detailed in this post. The dress is made of a lightweight wool MacLay modern tartan. Loud, non tartan, plaids are difficult to find! Most I was coming across were subdued and would make nice modern business suits. Not quite what I wanted. The lime green plaid silk tafetta is from Pure Silks. It's lined with brown polished cotton from Needle and Thread. I'm wearing it over my 1863 corset, a petticoat, and the Laughing Moon elliptical hoop.


The skirt is transitional in shape, leading to what would eventually become the bustle. It's slightly gored, and then knife pleated with a large box pleat in front and the other pleats leading to an inverted box pleat at the center back. The bottom of the skirt is only a few inches bigger than the top. You can see this in the shape of the plaid stripe at the bottom of the skirt seam.


The wool for the sleeves is cut on the bias while the lining remains on the straight of grain. I initially cut the sleeves on the straight as well, thinking that I wanted a vertical line on them. Thankfully I had enough fabric to recut the sleeves, as the originals made the bodice look like a 1990s flannel shirt. Not the look I went for in the 90s, and definitely not the look I was going for here!


The bodice trim is based on this CDV. The sleeves are inspired by this extant dress and this CDV. Both show sleeves open down the back connected with straps. Though neither shows pleated trim, they both have trim so I feel it's a logical leap. The undersleeves are tubes of cotton with a cuff that are basted into the sleeves and then pulled through the straps into puffs. I'm holding my miser's purse from an 1863 Godey's pattern.

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During Remembrance Day, I had a tintype made in the dress at the Victorian Photography Studio in Gettysburg. I love the color shift in the dress--it's an excellent reminder that their world wasn't black and white!


I wore the dress again to Dickens Faire in San Francisco.

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At Dickens Faire, I had a silhouette made my Silhouettes by Jordan. Not much a view of the dress, but still, wonderful to have another opportunity for a period image!

Friday, May 19, 2017

A Blue Wool 1860s Dress


One of the first books I bought after starting costuming was From Queen to Empress from the Met Museum about fashions during Queen Victoria's reign. I fell in love with this blue moire dress. Many years later when planning my Gettysburg wardrobe, I realized the blue wool from my cotehardie would be perfect for a version of it. I had a few yards leftover and thankfully William Booth Draper had just enough left in stock.

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Construction is mostly detailed in this post.(My plaid dress is the model for most of the post, but construction is the same.) The dress is lined with polished cotton from Needle and Thread. I'm wearing it over their 95" hoop. My corset is the 1863 Mina Sebille corset which I've had for ages. I like this style so much that I made another version of it in a slightly more practical white.


The skirt is looped up using sets of rings at about knee length and about the top of the facing. If you follow the link the the dress I copied, one of the pictures shows this arrangement. My apologies for not having pictures of it done on my dress. The rings are then tied together to loop up the skirt. I'm wearing it over the black silk skirt of another 1860s dress.


The dress is trimmed with black lace backed with white silk ribbon from MJ Trim. Each section of trim is finished with black glass teardrop beads I bought in the Los Angeles Garment District ages ago. It closes with hooks and thread eyes and is decorated with buttons covered in silk.


Wearing this to Gettysburg in November gave a wonderful opportunity for outerwear--and knitting. Although, it was unseasonably warm! I'm wearing it with the 1859 talma wrap, 1860s mariposa hood, and a Princess Royal scarf. Unfortunately I didn't notice that the collar was flipped up in these pictures until I got home!

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And two more views of the talma. It really was quite a bit of knitting!

An 1860s Dress--An Incomplete Tutorial

I started making my dresses for Remembrance Day 2015 with very good intentions--to photograph every step of the way and write a tutorial. I did fall down on that partway though--the plaid dress changed to the blue dress and then there are a few skirt pictures. I seem to have forgotten about sleeves and attaching the skirt. Still though, I thought I'd present what information I have, and since I'm planning on going to Gettysburg again this year, do a more thorough job on my new dresses. But for now, some 1860s construction information!

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In the 1860s, bodices were commonly made of three pieces--two fronts, and a back with false seams. To create the false seams, cut your fashion fabric slightly larger than your lining. It's easy to adapt a three piece back into a one piece back, just lay your pattern pieces together as if they were one. I did that for years before finally cutting a new one piece back pattern.

Pin the fashion fabric to the lining at the shoulders and down the center back.

And since this is going to be quite long, even as an incomplete tutorial, please click to continue reading!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

An 1860s Wool Gauze Ball Gown


I hadn't even planned on making a new ball gown for Gettysburg Remembrance Day in 2015. I have several 1850s and 1860s ball gowns that I love. However, while looking for wool plaid, I came across wool gauze at Farmhouse Fabrics, and my plans immediately changed. Wool gauze is one of those fabrics that has mostly disappeared to time, and there was no way I could pass it up!

I've worn this dress three times--to the Gettysburg ball, the Victorian Grand Ball in Pasadena, and to Costume College 2016.

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Unfortunately, the only construction picture I have is the finished bodice point. I loathe making points, so it was an accomplishment! I had hit that time before an event where everything just needs to get done. It follows basic mid-century techniques though. It's flatlined with polished cotton from Needle and Thread and the edges are finished with narrow piping. The skirt is set with cartridge pleats on a straight waistband and basted to the bodice. It's trimmed with 4 inch silk rayon vintage ribbon from eBay, narrow silk ribbon from Farmhouse Fabrics, and self pleated trim. The bertha is a separate piece, and made of one wide piece of wool gauze pleated to fit. It closes over the left shoulder. The bodice laces up the back with spiral lacing, based on this bodice that belonged to the Empress Eugenie. The flower on the bodice is from A Pink Swan on Etsy. My necklace, bracelets, earrings, and paper flowers in my hair are from Dames a la Mode.


I do have some rather period correct damage to the dress. You'll notice that in this picture, the ribbon streamers are the same length, while the one on my right is a little longer in the first picture. I was flung during the ball in Gettysburg (where this picture was taken) and one ribbon ripped. It was thankfully right up top, so the repair was easy to hide!


I always find proportions to be one of the most important things in costuming. 1860s ball gown necklines typically sit on the point of the shoulder and angle slightly down to the center front. Because I'm so small, I find that to get the overall period looking line, I need to make the neckline a little lower. If I don't, the bodice sits too high on my chest, and doesn't give the correct look.


The pleating on the sleeves is made of unhemmed straight strips of fabric. I wanted to keep the lightness. The wool is very sheer, and you can see the shadow of the tight sleeve, which is trimmed the same way, under the loose sleeve.

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The Masonic Temple in Pasadena is a lovely backdrop for period gowns!

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My not period correct garters are a quote by Elizabeth Cady Stanton--The history of the past is but one long struggle upward to equality--something that sounds so much less true than when I made them.

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I wore a different hairpiece at Costume College. During the day I wore my Regency version of Princess Leia's Bespin dress, and that hairpiece worked remarkably well for the 1860s!

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The fabric on the dress is incredibly light and airy. It's so much fun to dance in :)

Monday, August 8, 2016

A Beaded Robe de Style

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I almost didn't make a new dress for the gala at Costume College this year. I had a very busy year costuming wise and thought that I wouldn't have time. But things went a little more quickly than I expected, and I realized I was going to end up with a week with no costuming plans right before Costume College. I had fallen in love with this robe de style ages before, when it was an eBay auction, and just as I was considering making it, more pictures came up on Pinterest. I really wanted to make it in green, and one day, after daily checking Renaissance Fabrics all of a sudden had green in stock. I had to make it then!

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I made a few design changes from the original. After 2 hours of working on them, I decided I liked the dress better without sleeve caps. I think the silk net that I had was too lightweight to work correctly. I also left out the inserts of net at center front and back. I left off a beaded element at the center back because I liked the neckline more without it. I also decided against turning up the front hem to show the lining.

I'm wearing the dress over my envelope chemise and 1920s hoop. I didn't take pictures making it, but it's essentially the same as my first robe de style. I added guards so the straps wouldn't slip. Information about the beading can be found here.

These two pictures and the one with the gorgeous light below are by my friend Llyra Lee who's doing wonderful things with photography lately!

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The dress is trimmed with 2mm, 5mm, and 6 mm rhinestones from Pretty Things Supplies, the steel beads are from Hanson Stone Vintage, the skirt lining is cream silk charmeuse from Dharma Trading, and the green taffeta is from Renaissance Fabrics. It's lined in lightweight cotton voile. My comb is from Pansy Belle Attic. My earrings are from Dames a la Mode. My shoes are t-strap ballroom shoes by Minitoo that I found on Amazon.

I waved my hair using a vintage Subpedo iron in front, and a vintage triple barrel iron in back. Both needed to be heated in a stove meant for non electric irons. It was a little intimidating, but I'm very happy with the results--especially for being rather new at using it!

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One of my favorite parts of the evening was seeing Stephanie's interpretation of the same dress. I love what we approached the same and differently! Though you can't tell in the picture, her bow was made of black beads that sparkled beautifully.

Transferring a Design and Beading a Bow--A Tiny Tutorial

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The most striking feature of the dress I copied for the 2016 Costume College Gala is a rhinestone bow on the front neckline. It's what drew me to the dress when I first saw it, and it was one of those dresses always in the back of my mind.

My green silk taffeta is from Renaissance Fabrics, my steel cut beads are from Hanson Stone Vintage, and my rhinestones are from Pretty Things Supplies


I knew when I was making this dress that I wanted to add the beading to the mostly finished dress. I finished the bodice, except for sewing the neckline facing down. This way I was able to sew the neckline beads on and then whip the facing into place. I left off the skirt as well, because I didn't want it in the way. You can see the half finished facing in the above picture. The rhinestones are 5mm surrounded by 2mm.

Because my fabric is so dark--green shot with black--my previous technique of a cell phone flashlight and bowl, wasn't going to work. My fabric was also too dark for the pencil markings to show up. I have a chalk pencil somewhere, but I didn't really want to rub that off with the beading anyway.

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To start, I traced my design onto tracing paper. It looks opaque in the picture, but is actually sheer. Tissue paper would work as well. I then pinned the design into place.

To get the design itself, I enlarged the picture of the dress and traced it--very easy!

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I then sewed along the lines using white thread and big basting stitches.

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When I tore the paper off, very carefully and with the help of a seam ripper, I had a perfect guide for the beads!

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I sewed the beads right next to the guiding stitches--this made them easier to pull out once the beading was done.

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The completed outline!

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I then filled the bow with rhinestones. I used a 6mm in the center and 5mm and 2mm in the rest.

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For the tails of the bow, I basted a line, sewed 6mm rhinestones along it, and then sewed the steel beads along the edge.

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One of the tails ends past the skirt. I hemmed a piece of fabric in the shape I wanted, added the rhinestones, and sewed it to the dress. I sewed the steel beads after this so they'd cover the join between the extension and the dress.

And that's it! For the beading, at least :)