Wearing History Leslie skirt

This is technically a 1950s pattern, so we’ll sneak it under the historical/vintage umbrella yes?

So I rarely buy patterns; these days I mostly draft my own or work off existing ones I have. But Wearing History came out with a 1950s pattern that for some reason ate my brain, and I decided to buy the PDF:

This made very little sense for me to buy for several reasons:

  • I’m pretty sure I haven’t worn a skirt since I started working from home permanently when Covid shut down offices in March 2020
  • This skirt is clearly designed for someone who has some distance between the bust and the waist (I do not) and some kind of hourglass figure (I do not. I am in fact shaped like the World’s Fastest Hourglass).
  • The stash fabric I had in mind for this was a heavy wool crepe, and I started working on this in the middle of the summer.

Oh well, you have to go where the sewing muse takes you, regardless of thinks like “sense”.

Even though this pattern was very simple, I made a full mockup because I have a bad habit of half-assing modern clothing, and then having it not fit (wearing ease scares me. Just let me fit things skin tight over a corset for consistent sizing ok?)

The two changes I made before making the mockup were:

  • shortening the waistband height by 3/4″ (I think. It’s been a while). I asked the pattern maker where this skirt was supposed to sit, and the hip gathers are supposed to hit at the natural waist, while the rest of the waistband sits *above* the waist. Well that would stick the top of the waistband straight into underbust territory, especially as I’ve been living in nursing bras since February 2022 which don’t provide as much lift.
  • shortening the length of the skirt overall. I’m 4’11”, me and tea length are not friends. That’s an instant invitation into frumpy-stumpy-ville.

Bonus, shortening the skirt meant that I was able to get it out of ~2 yards of 60″ wide fabric (especially since I used a cotton/silk satin as the waistband lining, instead of a self lining since I had some notion of wearing this with a cropped top).

The muslin showed that I needed to take a bit of width out of the top of the waistband, because I am 100% shaped like a cylinder (and not the upside-down-triangle shape provided here. Remember, the waistband here is actually sitting above the waist, and the original 1950s pattern probably assumed a girdle).

Next picture shows blue thread tacks marking the spot of each button, and the orangey-brown wool crepe cut out for a pattern piece.

Wool crepe is an interesting fabric. On the one hand it’s quite friendly as it doesn’t fray a ton, and wool is extremely malleable and easy to iron out wrinkles. On the other hand, this is a *heavy* crepe. To actually press things like seams you need a clapper, otherwise it just bounces back. The thread tacking was also out of necessity and not just couture-aspirations, because no chalk or pen would leave a marking on it.

I made self-covered buttons because nothing was going to match this. After that, it was pretty quick to sew together (after I came to my senses and made regular buttonholes, and not bound buttonholes. You don’t make bound buttonholes the first time you make a pattern and don’t know how it will turn out…)

Then it went onto my dress form to hang for a couple days, because something like this will absolutely stretch on the bias, and you want all the hem to stretch out from gravity before hemming it.

I went to try it on, and siiiiiigh it was too big. As I mentioned in the previous post, when making a skirt that is supposed to fit at the natural waist, you can’t have wearing ease. Otherwise that wearing ease just makes the skirt sit lower. (Note, this was the first skirt I discovered this on. But I did not internalize the lesson and then literally made the same mistake on the sparkly formal skirt too…) And since I had already topstitched the waistband this would be a HUGE PAIN to fix, plus I was completely out of the matching thread except for a bit left in the bobbin.

And that’s when this skirt went into the naughty pile because at that point I really needed to start working on the corset of that gothy fae outfit previously discussed (in May 2022).

In the beginning of November 2022, the gothy fairy outfit was done, and I had a brief window of time before needing to work on my JordanCon costume! I decided to finally fix and finish this dratted skirt to wear out to dinner in New York for Thanksgiving (which is a yearly tradition with my family). Wool crepe is actually a weather-appropriate fabric for New York in November.

Which meant opening up the waistband where I had whipped it over the seam allowances, opening it up on the sides, taking the waistband in ~1″, pulling the gathers tighter in that space, and then sewing it back on. I did so quite grumpily! As I’ve said in previous posts, part of the benefit of shapewear is that it keeps your waist the same size when sitting/standing/eating etc, which makes a difference for how tight to make a skirt with no stretch that you want to sit at the waist. In order to sit comfortably in it, the skirt feels a little too loose when standing up.

Then it was time to deal with the hem (which did sit very unevenly at that point due to bias stretch). The pattern instructions call for the front to be faced and then the hem folded up, which ends up with 4 layers at front with a single fold, and a whopping 6 layers if you double fold the hem. This would be bulky on most regular fabrics, let alone this super bouncy crepe. Instead of doing that, I used rayon seam binding to cover the raw edge and whipped it on. (It might have made more sense to fold up the hem and then whip the front facing over it, but I had topstitched the edge already which meant it had to be folded first). The double fold also doesn’t work well on an A-line, because you have to ease in the fabric at the top of the fold. Since this is wool I could have gathered it up and shrunk it with the iron, but I was definitely past the point of making this as couture as possible.

why catch stitches on the bottom and whip stitches on top? I have no idea, I just felt like it.

I don’t subscribe to the cult that every garment must have pockets (they don’t look good in pencil skirts, change my view), but when you have a big gathered skirt there’s no reason not to add them! I also made the facing out of a silk/cotton scrap left in my stash because I had some notion of wearing this with a crop top and wool crepe doesn’t feel great against the skin.

And after all that, I finally wore the skirt in February 2023 during a work product summit where every actually flew out and I sat in an office building 3 days in a row for the first time in years!

yes this picture is in my baby’s room, I was in a rush before heading to the train.

I’m pretty pleased with how this turned out! This makes something like the 5th [relatively] modern item in my wardrobe! I still have some notion of making the full length version out of something like a green hammered silk satin for all those formal occasions I totally definitely have on the calendar…

Posted in clothing from this century? | 1 Comment

A leather hip pouch

Wait what?

So yeah, I added leatherworking to my arsenal of crafting. It had a reason – I decided to make Moiraine’s formal outfit – leather bolero included – for the JordanCon costume contest. But rather than start with the competition entry as my first piece, I needed something to practice with first.

I basically watched Youtube videos and demos until I got bored – aka I felt like I knew what the next steps were going to be.

My recommendations:

  • Weaver Leather has amazing intro videos broken down into very basic topics
  • Dieselpunk has detailed videos demo-ing how he makes his patterns step by step.

So I bought this Dieselpunk hip pouch pattern, proceeded to spend way too much on supplies (this is not a cheap hobby), and got started.

My very first punch into any leather!

Here I was punching just on a cutting board on my costco craft table, and sometimes it would take a couple hits to get everything to go through. For my next project, I spent the money on the Tandy poundo board and quartz slab to put under what I was punching, and moved the setup to my heavy wooden dining table, and that helped a lot.

All the pieces cut and punched:

there is something very satisfying about seeing all these pieces together and ready.

This took forever because I could only work on it during the day, because I wasn’t about to risk waking up children while pounding punches with a hammer.

Then I dyed all the pieces. I didn’t actually use the right product for this; I had something called “leather antiquing gel” in my dragon-like-hoard of a craft-stash and figured that would work as leather dye. It did work, but it’s not really meant for a full dye job which is why it looks pretty streaky. We’re just gonna call that a feature to make it look “rustic” and buy the correct dye next time.

Remember to wear gloves when dying leather, for you too are made of leather.

My favorite step – sewing the pieces together (I think it’s pretty obvious by now that I enjoy hand sewing. And this is handsewing on easy mode since all the holes are there for you alread).

I was all set to have this done SEVERAL DAYS before a GBACG event, when I realized I had screwed up a couple things:

  • the straps I cut to go around my waist and hips were orders of magnitude too big. The pattern just said “cut to measurements” but didn’t specify subtracting the length of the buckle pieces attached to the bag.
  • I had fully missed cutting out a small strap piece. So had to get that cut/punched/dyed/edges burnished/waxed and rivet it on.

My last minute setup – pounding rivets in the master bathoom with a baby monitor because that’s the most soundproof room relative to my sleeping children:

Sliced off the end of the belt and using it as a template for the holes in the now-shorter belt:

And the finished pouch!

Forget pockets, this thing can hold so much

Just in time for the GBACG Witcher event! I threw together a vaguely fantasy woods ranger outfit, since the event included a sword fighting class.

The only me-made part of this is the pouch, the fake leather leggings and harness are both from Amazon, the shirt I got off ebay ages ago for vaguely Victorian undershirt, and the hat is from the Southern California Renaissance Faire.

So if you too want to learn leatherworking, the internet is a fantastic place! I seriously went from zero knowledge to making something just by watching videos over the course of a couple months.

And now I have way too many leather projects on deck fighting for time with my sewing projects. Such is the crafty life…

Posted in Fantasy/Scifi/Cosplay, Leatherworking | Leave a comment

A fantasy fairy outfit – part two skirt fail but then a pretty great result

Per my usual, the last post was in January about an outfit I worked on in September/October to wear in November. Par for the course around here, I’d rather spend time sewing than blogging about sewing, sorry loyal readers.

A glittery sparkly gathered rectangle skirt to go under a corset. How hard could this be?

Anyways, I spent a couple days on AliExpress looking for a not-too-expesnive silver and black glittery lace before I realized I already had one in my stash. Very pleased to have figured this out before buying something new at least!

Shown here under fabric samples. This lace was a gift from my dad years ago when he went on a trip to Australia. He would not tell me how much it cost, but given that all these sequins are sewn on and not glued, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know. Thanks dad!

At first I planned on a circle skirt to have maximum floof at the bottom and reduce bulk at the waist, but I finally did some math and realized that with only 2 meters of lace (which absolutely had to be a gathered rectangle) a circle skirt would be impossible if I wanted the bottom circumference of the lace to be greater than the bottom circumference of the skirt underneath.

I had some silver/gold satin (I think a silk/rayon blend, but never did a burn test to be sure) that I bought off someone ages ago intended to be a Tudor forepart and sleeves, but this was a fine repurposing since I kindof want a patterned damask for when I eventually make that gown.

I planed to make the underskirt be A-line with the gathered lace over it (once again, for maximum width at the bottom while minimizing waist bulk).

Can I draft an a-line skirt? Yes. Do I like drafting skirts? Hell no. Skirts are a PITA to draft, especially long ones, since even for this shorty I need the side seams to be longer than my yardstick. So I went into my stash and pulled out Simplicity 5561 which I bought ages ago figuring the lines were good for some kind of fantasy gown.

Clearly intended as both a bridesmaid AND mother of the bride pattern, and my god do the fabrics make that obvious…

At this point I could either do the narrower full length skirt and make it shorter and wider, or use the shorter poofier skirt and make it longer and less-poofy. For whatever reason I elected to go with the second option, and did some math to make sure that the bottom would be narrower than my 2m of lace.

Normally I’m a tracer not a cutter, but when a pattern has been in my stash for 15+ years and is readily draftable, I said fuck it and started cutting.

This was not a pleasant fabric to work with. It wrinkled and frayed as soon as you looked at it, and I didn’t use a press cloth which accidentally turned it into diy-moire. Hey, at least that wouldn’t be visible under lace, so I didn’t take too much care on future pieces.

We’re gonna call this a feature

Cut it out, sewed it together with french seams because part of the reason I sew is to make higher quality things than what you find in stores.


Covid + having a kid + french seams making it easy to be off a couple millimeters times 6 seams equaled it was about an inch too small for my waist. I threw the skirt into the naughty corner while pondering my options:

  • try and let out the french seams enough to get more space (have I mentioned that this fabric definitely showed every stitch and liked to fray?)
  • Re-cut the back panels to be wider and replace them
  • Add a gusset (which would have been basically a triangle to just add width in the waist, because I didn’t have extra room at the hem without messing up the lace to underskirt width ratio)
  • Throw the whole damn thing away and start over with the rest of my silver fabric as just a gathered rectangle, because honestly that would be faster than fixing what I had

So I ended up going with option 4 of starting over, but not with the same fabric?!? That’s right, I remembered I had a silver/lavender dupioni petticoat I used for a costume back in 2011. Old enough that it predates this blog, and I’ve already started taking the overdress apart for the fabrics and trim.

Baby Molly! This was a vaguely 17th century inspired dress and I really want to make a real one some day…

The petticoat was both a little too wide at the bottom, and also didn’t fit at the waist. Luckily it was pleated, so this was an easy fix to take off the waistband and cut off a chunk at the back.

Looks like I had previously made the waistband on the cross grain? It wasn’t visible, so I guess it didn’t matter.

Looking back on old sewing it’s wild to see how much I’ve improved. Why did I line the waistband with linen making it super thick? Sure a waistband needs to be sturdy, but there are ways to do that while avoiding bulk.

Removing that promptly.

Conquering my fears and put in an invisible zipper for the back closure! I found a new tutorial which makes the process way easier than my previous methods.

I undid the previous double-folded hem and used some of the cut off excess to make a facing which some crinoline stuffed in there to make a much stiffer hem.

With the skirt basically done, it was time for the terrifying part – cutting the lace to size.

I did a truly immense amount of math to figure out how long the lace should be, taking into account that I wanted it just slightly longer than the solid underskirt, seam allowance at the top, and the 2″ heels I planned to wear. Then I thread-traced the cutting line since it’s not possible to see a marking on black net.

orange thread on the 18″ line. I now have a bunch of pretty silver flowers on an edge which will hopefully be corset decoration some day.

Due to paranoia, I basted the lace onto the dupioni skirt, popped it on the dress form, pinned it to simulate gathers, and HOUSTON WE HAVE ANOTHER PROBLEM

So the lace ended up a couple inches longer than the underskirt. This meant you couldn’t see the details at the bottom because of black-on-black floral pattern; it needs some kind of lighter backing. But I didn’t have extra dupioni since this petticoat is a decade old.

See how you can’t pick out details at the bottom, that’s not just the photograph

But this actually had a very happy ending! A friend mentioned that it looked a little bulky at the waist (which it did, because I was just planning on gathering to a narrow tcowaistband) and I figured I could fix that by having a yoke at the top, or a shaped wide waistband (at 3″ it’s debatable which it is). This would also let the underskirt be longer since it got to start 3″ below my natural waist.

After careful measuring, it also turned out that I hadn’t been as off measuring the lace vs petticoat length – while it measured the correct length on the table, the beaded motifs actually dragged lower when dealing with gravity – a full two inch difference!

So after very very very carefully checking my math again, I cut another two inches of netting off the top of the skirt, and cut the last of the dupioni excess to be a shaped waistband (funnily enough on the cross grain again, but since it has black netting over it from the cut off lace you can’t tell).

Aaand after sewing it together it still ended up too big – I once again forgot that you can’t have ease in a waistband that is supposed to sit at the natural waist because it will fall down. Your waist is also generally different sizes depending on whether you are sitting or standing, how much you’ve eaten, hormonal bloating… There’s a reason corsets and shapewear can be awesome and it’s not just for appearance; it makes sizing more consistent.

So seam ripped open some of the waistband, pulled the gathers more closely together at the side seams, took the waistband in, and popped it back on. The size is still a little bigger than I prefer, but at least for the first planned outing it was always going to have a corset over it to hold it up.

The yoke closes with two large snaps (part of the notions I inherited from my grandmother). This pulls a bit showing the waistband lining, but I had installed the zipper before planning on a wide waistband. Maybe one day I’ll replace this with a zipper that goes up all the way in addition to making the skirt slightly smaller, but eh who knows.

basically impossible to tell that the waist and main skirt are cut on different grains!
Lace closeup. It really needs the light background to pop.

Skirt done! And hey technically everything about it was from the stash or repurposed. Feels great to start making inroads on my fabric bins.

Then a couple (reasonably) quick accessories to bring the whole dark goth fae thing together:

The cape, aka the piece I designed the whole rest of the garment around. Made the exact same way as previous fantasy cape.

Tulle is a great option to avoid having to hem drapey sheer fabrics!

And conveniently a friend posted a tutorial video they found for wire-wrapped elf ears which both spawned A Mighty Need, and the beginnings of a jewelry stash as I decided I needed them in nearly every color…

The fun part of this outfit is it can move from “normal” to “costume” by progressively adding accessories. So by starting with bodycon dress from ThredUp + skirt:

adding midbust victorian corset

Then it was wedding time!

Thank you to my friend who made me this bustle era hair piece in exchange for homemade kumquat jam – I do not do hair and this is my new go-to formal hair piece.

wheee I’m a dramatic cape
The Cooks is a tradition among this lovely group of friends

Despite all the sewing shenanigans, I love love love how this outfit turned out. Dear friends, please more themed weddings for me to attend!

Posted in clothing from this century?, Fantasy/Scifi/Cosplay | 1 Comment

A fantasy fairy outfit – part one corset fail

I had some sewing plans. Then I got invited to a wedding with a dress code “fantasy dress encouraged”

hold up it’s new outfit time!!!!

I pretty much based the outfit off of wanting another fantasy cape, because they are so much fun to swish around in. I spent a ton of time looking around fantasy corsets on etsy, was hugely inspired by Sparklewren and Royal Black, and wanted to be a gothy fairy so I settled on a pink and black color scheme.

I started on the corset because obviously that’s the hardest part (a gathered skirt to go with it is easy right? Hold that thought for later…). I’ve made mid-bust corsets before, and figured an overbust wouldn’t be that different (oy). Of course I made my life difficult with a Sparklewren pattern that contains no boning layout or instructions…

The best part – fabric shopping! An Instagram poll ended up evenly split between the top three Silk Baron dupionis shown here on top of the skirt lace. I ended up going with the light pink, since I planned to cover it with black lace decorations.

alas poor salmon pink, no one liked you…

Before cutting I did my usual pattern adjustments – shortening the length (both above and below the waist) and also letting the waist out slightly. Turns out I am shaped like the world’s fastest hourglass (aka a cylinder) and can’t get much waist compression because my rib cage and hip bone are bffs and hang out next to each other, so all these lovely pattern curves needed to be straightened out.

In canvas, my practicing my first ever single layer hip gusset!

not quite even seam spacing all the way around, but not bad for a practice round
uglier from the back and I didn’t catch the top point, but again first ever attempt

The way I generally do my corset mockups is doing a giant basting stitch to sew the seam allowance down and add bones to those channels. I also have pre-made lacing strips which get basted onto the back.

It’s…a look? Despite wanting cleavage of doom, this was a bit much. And the shape of the flappy bits was odd. (Unfortunately I couldn’t find any pictures of the made-up corset pattern, so I was also going blind on what the flappy bits should look like on a person).

no I’m not that short, strange camera angles doing their thing here
Back is touching from waist down, so this is too big.

Between mockups one and two I tweaked the shape of the flappies, raised the center front, made the front bottom shape into a way more flattering V point, and took things in a bit to try and fix the back lacing to make it more even.

V1 on the left, v2 on the right:

Also I put bones in the middle of panels so I could get a better sense of what was going on

Closer, but still not there. For the final version, I let out the top of the back a bit more, and also totally changed the shape of the bust. I chopped off the flappy bits (which I like the idea of, but could not make look good) and went for more of a V. I also split the front panel into two, so I could more easily tweak the shape over the bust.

According to my notes this is mockup #4, I don’t even remember what happened to number 3

Unfortunately, to truly make a corset mockup, you have to make a corset. Since I wanted the pink corset to be the couture fantasy corset of my dreams, I decided to make a wearable mockup first with absolutely zero shortcuts (rather than spending all that time on plain boring canvas). And since the only appropriate extra fabric I really had was some dark red leftover silk taffeta, I would hopefully end up with a second goth AF corset?

I used various techniques I learned from the Royal Black patreon about working with two fabrics (this is the only Patreon I actually pay $10 a month for, and I cannot emphasize enough how much it is worth it. Truly a bargain for the tutorials and knowledge you get from a professional). The outside is silk taffeta from Renaissance Fabrics, the strength layer is a cotton twill from Dharma Fabrics. It’s nowhere near as strong as a coutil, but when layered with the silk and all the boning it ends up strong enough.

System win for saving all these super narrow pieces of fabric over the years!

And when I said couture, I meant it. For each piece of the corset I basted across the waist and the middle to hold them together. Then carefully holding it over a tailors ham, I basted the sides in order to build in the curve that it needs over the body. I also bent over the seam allowance as if it was ironed down and basted just outside of it.

Hard to see, but those slight wrinkles when the panel is right side up are meant to be there. They go away when the fabric goes over a body.
All that practice with single layer gores paid off!

I ended up sewing the whole thing together – including boning channels which cover the trimmed seam allowance – except the channel over the seam closest to the busk. I figured that would leave me enough wiggle room to alter the bust shape if needed.

Then I tried it on –

eww ew nope uggo uggo uggo UGH.

From the front and back it’s not awful, but from the side profile you I ended up with a conical smashed down completely flat shape instead of a nice curvy shape.

I’ve got some small pads on the hips there to get any semblance of hourglass shape. I just do not get waist reduction and I need to accept that fact…
seriously what in the elizabethan heck is this nonsense.

Looking at the pattern it’s obvious what’s wrong. The top of 1b and 2 are convex curves (that’s how you get space for the bust), but the piece I split into two (which is now pieces 1a and 1b) also needed some convex curve. Instead it’s more or less straight.

In order for this to not be a total waste of time, I eked out as much curve as I could from the seam allowance between those two pieces. (and also took in the top so it laid flatter)

Final results:

The faiiiiintest hint of a curve

So it went from unwearably bad to meh. That’s good enough for me to finish and wear at a later date (especially when I cover it with black lace and bling to distract anyone from the shape) but was not good enough to be the wearable mockup for the intended new corset. And since I was running out of time, it got put in the naughty corner to think about what it’s done, and I planned to wear my regular old Victorian corset as outerwear instead (which uh, I still haven’t put up the final pictures of years later…)

And then onto what surely had to be easier to make – a plain rectangle gathered skirt. Right?!? Dun dun dun to be continued…

Posted in Corsets, Fantasy/Scifi/Cosplay | 1 Comment

1790s open robe photos

So 1790s, with gathering under the bust, is known for making you look rather pregnant. Note, it probably won’t make you look *this* pregnant, but I was 39 weeks pregnant here and literally had a baby the next day. I tossed some fake curls in my hair, pulled out a ribbon, and took pictures stat because I knew there would pretty much be no upcoming chance after that (given this post is coming when baby is now 11 months, I was quite correct).

From the inside out I’m wearing a cami, bra-that-fakes-regency-stays, a strapped petticoat, round gown, the open robe, and my favorite part, the shoes I painted! Necklace and brooch are both Dames a la Mode.

Please caption this regency romance novel cover
Gonna have to keep turning my back to people because the back is the most dramatic and best part of the outfit
actually maybe the shoes are the best part!
(internal thoughts: get the baby out get the baby out I am *done* with this)

I’m still waiting for a place to wear this! Indoor only because a sheer white silk gown and long silk train don’t do so well dragging on the ground, plus warm weather because of sheer silk dress. And with that, a new era is added to my wardrobe!

Posted in 1790s, Regency, Round gown, Warp Print Open Robe | 1 Comment

1790s open robe construction

And we are finally at the reason I started a 1790s project in the first place! (Also, this post has literally been in draft since February. Which is also when I had a baby, which explains everything).

As I posted way over a year ago(!), Burnley and Trowbridge posted a few pictures on their Instagram of dresses made of amazing ikat (or warp print or chiné a la branchefabric.

I went looking to see if I could find anything remotely similar (because I do love a challenge of trying to find historically adequate 18th century fabrics) and came across this one:

My mother in law got me some for Christmas in 2020, and this outfit started coming together in my head.

First, let’s go over the ways that this is not a historically accurate chine/warp print fabric:

  • The way the fabric is made. This fabric is a regular satin (or taffeta? It seems to be somewhere in the middle. Not totally a plain weave, but not quite as smooth as a satin. The weft threads go over ~2 warp threads, rather than a single one for a plain weave). The patterned parts are made like a regular jacquard, except the pattern purposely skips over a thread here and there to make the edges look blurry. This is not the same way a warp print was made historically (which was way more labor intensive). But it’s a clever way to fake it!
  • The scale of the fabric. Those patterned stripe sections are around 6 inches wide, and the purple sections around 8″. It’s clear this is meant to be an upholstery fabric, rather than a garment fabric (compare to the much narrower stripes in the Met open robe, where they alternate ~1″ sections of pattern and plain). This meant I had to be a lot more wasteful with fabric in trying to place stripes where I wanted them or pattern matching, compared to a very fabric-frugal18th century seamstresses mantua maker. I could have used significantly less fabric if I didn’t go for symmetry, but that would have been way less attractive.

For the pattern, I did want it to be a little more earlier-in-the-decade-shaped so I made a new pattern piece by slapping some see-through packing material that acts remarkably like swedish tracing paper over the round gown on my dress form.

Higher at the back, and a less rounded armscye.
Direct comparison over the back piece of the round gown.

A mockup as always, because when you are working with the most expensive fabric you own, you double check the fit:

Using whatever scraps I hand on hand, which was some maroon cotton and some usual muslin
You too can hide a 7.5 month pregnancy with 1790s costume!

It fit!

With that, onto construction! Tldr; it’s basically the same as my round gown, except even easier because it doesn’t have a front to fit, just a band under the bust.

A billion photos ahead!

For the lining, fold down the seam allowance on fronts and straps, whip them down to the back piece

Flip it around, fingerpress + baste the seam allowance to the inside

Testing the train length (despite this ended up too short and I ended up piecing on an 8″ strip at the bottom)

no turning back now!
prepare for so many critical role gifs as I am finally coming up on the end of Campaign 1

I did a test run of pleating with muslin to get to something I approximately liked and to get a sense of how much fabric I needed, then went with the real thing.

Turns out there is a reason these extant gowns always place fabric at an angle at center back – if you pleated a straight rectangle, you would need to waste so much more fabric to get the pleats to go low enough as you travel away from center back. Turn your fabric on an angle, and the extra length is just there! Makes sense for a time when fabric is the most expensive part of a gown.

This is the basis of all 18th century garments – as long as your lining fits, you can do whatever you want with the outer fabric (and they did indeed do whatever they wanted, especially during a particularly transitional fashion time like this).

I ended up doing fewer pleats than this test in order to show off the patterned part of the fabric, which didn’t look as good hiding in the pleats. I even used two pieces of fabric here, you just can’t tell because the seam is hidden under the pleats

See also plain purple band to go under the bust on the left part of the garment

The side piece got a piece of fabric with the pattern once again. The seam allowance is folded under on both sides and topstitched down.

From what I can tell of museum pictures, it doesn’t look like open robe trains at the time actually had a lining or facing. But mine definitely got a facing at the bottom where it touched the ground, because I’m not dragging $$$ silk on the ground kthx! This is actually some purple polyester satin in a similar shade to the purple in the dress dress that I got for dirt cheap in the Costume College bargain basement years ago.

Long rectangle is loooooong. All the sides were turned in and hand whipped on.

Top of the train is pleated up and sandwiched between the lining and fashion fabric of the bodice

There is nothing I hate more than doing knife pleats. At least stripes make it fairly straightforward to be even on both sides. Hold this thought for later…

Raw edge of the lining is turned under and the pleats are whipped to it

Note that fringe-y bit is the selvedge – I decided it was a pretty design element and left that edge to show on the sides of the skirt.

Same happens on the outside

Spot the problem?

2 purple pleats on the left, 3 purple pleats on the right. No I didn’t bother fixing it.

Then figuring out the strap and sleeve pattern! Aka the absolute worst part. Open robes can have any number of sleeve variations; no sleeves, short, medium, long. I decided to go with the most difficult version and go with a full length long sleeve which buttoned at the wrist.

I put the robe on over the round gown to figure out where I needed to add a bit more to my sleeve pattern, because the open robe had the earlier shape of having a very square corner where the strap hits the back.

I stuck pins in the round gown to mark where the open robe hit and transferred that amount to the round gown sleeve pattern.

I’ll be honest, I could not even begin to explain the frankenpatterning that went on below. It was a combination of my open robe sleeve plus the shapes from a Janet Arnold gown while trying to match it to my measurements.

This went through several iterations and mockups.

I think the paper was my round gown sleeve made longer, turned into fabric, then the fabric was cut apart where I wanted to move the seam to?
I think this was me trying to add the forearm bit onto the pattern?

This pattern below is a fairly common shape for an 18th century sleeve, although it looks bizarre to the modern eye. Modern sleeves are often one piece, maybe with a dart at the elbow for a bit of curve. This results in a sleeve which is straight/unwrinkled when the arm is straight down at your side, but will obviously wrinkle up when you bend your arm. Whereas an 18th century sleeve is curved, such that the fabric is unwrinkled when your arm is slightly bent. I have no idea why this is the case.

It somewhat resembles a modern two piece sleeve (generally seen only in coats), except the tops are stuck together and you do the equivalent of a giant dart at the bottom. It’s pretty cool I think!

From shoulder-to-elbow is from my round gown pattern and the elbow-to-wrist part came direct from Janet Arnold
I ended up needing way more height at the shoulder. Making this pattern look exactly like Janet Arnold and nothing at all like the pattern I started with from my round gown, so why did I even bother with my own?!? At least I got there eventually.
Handsewed the dart up to where the buttons would be, and basted down the seam allowance there
what it looks like from the right side with the button overlap
The dart was also sewn into the lining, and the two pieces are put wrong sides together. For some reason I made the button extension a separate piece in the lining. This doesn’t actually save fabric, so I have no idea why I did this.
Pinning them together over a tailor’s ham to keep the curve
Weird-running-whipstitch thing around the button extension edges

And now a nifty way of putting together an 18th century sleeve with no raw edges. Pin the edges together, wrong sides together. But leave out *one* of the fashion fabrics edges. Sew up that seam. Then the fashion fabric that got left out has the seam allowance folded under, and whipped over the top of the seam you just did, to enclose the raw seam inside the sleeve.

Then the part I was dreading the most – handsewn buttonholes. Look, by this point I had literally handsewn everything else in the outfit, it would be silly to pull out the machine for buttonholes now. I practiced with a scrap end of green silk buttonhole twist, and things were looking decent (if not perfect) by the time I did buttonhole test #3 in ivory.

A nifty thing I picked up from Janet Arnold – the buttonholes are angled so that they are sewn on the straight grain. If you sewed the buttonholes parallel to the opening (like a normal buttonhole), they would end up on the bias, which would be a wibbly mess to sew. Sewing them at this angle makes them more stable, and is also a super cool looking design feature.

(Anyone reading this a tailoring expert? I have some very nitpicky questions about how to improve handsewn buttonholes)

Then some tedious button covering using whatever scraps I had left. I used the instructions from this Youtube video.

Small size for the cuffs, larger size for the back detail

Set the sleeves like any 18th century sleeve. The bottom is sewed on right sides together, the top is tacked onto the shoulder lining. Stick some fashion fabric over the top, folding under all the edge and hand sew that on.

It was so close to being the right length, so channeled my inner 18th century tailor and did some piecing on the shoulder strap rather than cut into new fabric.

After trying it on over the round gown, the difference in weights on the gown vs the open robe made the round gown poke out from the bottom of the train when walking which was not attractive.

So I ended up making the train SUPER EXTRA and pieced on an 8 inch extension. Which was teeedious (unpicking the hem, sewing this piece on, cutting another lining piece for the extension, and re-hemming all the sides).

This would have been way less noticeable if it was pieced at the top because it would have gotten somewhat lost in the pleats, but I was not about to redo all my pleating nope nope nope
whipping the old lining facing to the new lining facing together to finish off the inside

To finish it off, I added a narrow gimp trim from Palladia Passementerie around every edge and the cuffs. Matching purples is difficult on the internet, and this is way more blue/purple compared to my red/purple fabric, but pretty sure 18th century folks did not have the same color matching sensibilities as us so I YOLOd and went with it.

Note the pieced bit on the front strap. Or don’t, because it didn’t line up quite as well as I wanted. 5 foot rule is in effect here.
I left the selvedge fringe because it looked purposeful. Expensive fabric can sometimes have a pretty selvedge!
How much trim I had left when I finished! Since the trim had been ordered before adding the train extension, which required an extra 16″ yikes

And a couple of photos of the finally finished robe!

Piecing on both sides of the shoulder straps
long train is looooooong
The back, literally the point of the entire outfit

Ok, since this post is already internet-breakingly long and full of photos, actual photos of me wearing it are gonna have to wait until next time! (whenever that may be. Time is a fake human construct anyways).

Posted in 1790s, Warp Print Open Robe | 1 Comment

1790s round gown – construction



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1790s round gown – construction

A round gown is so-named because it had the skirt attached all the way around the bodice, in contrast to so many 18th century gowns which were open in front to show the petticoat underneath.

(If saying “round” makes you think of the End of the World flash video, congratulations you are exactly the same generation as me:)

By 1790, a round gown was very common (maybe even more so than an open gown?) and you could easily layer different things on top to change up the look. A few examples:

Woman’s dress of lime green silk, trimmed with pinked strips of the same silk and handsewn in a darker shade of green silk thread: British, about 1795 – 1800. National Museum Scotland.

Portrait des demoiselles Flamand by François Dumont the Elder.

They closed in front where the lining is pinned over the bust, and the outer fabric then tightens with a drawstring (making this extremely size adjustable, and therefore fantastic to mock up during pregnancy when the bust size is a changing target).

You can even see the open front in this portrait!

Portrait of the Duchesse D’Aiguillon by Adelaide Labille-Guiard⁣

This dress went through two false starts before I actually got a functional pattern. First I started with my vaguely regency pattern which was altered from a modern sloper, figuring I could change the lines to be more 1790s ish. It wasn’t cooperating, so it got thrown into a corner while I scaled up the 1790s pattern from the American Duchess book. Then I remembered that I am totally not the same size as any standard pattern, so why did I think that would work?

Finally I girded my loins and took a pattern off a ~1770s dress that I started in a workshop with the mantua-maker from Colonial Williamsburg (it’s been sitting unfinished in a bin for years now, but one day I’ll finish it up and show it here). 1790s dresses pretty much evolved from earlier decades to have a higher and higher waistline until it hit under the bust, so I just chopped a whole bunch off that pattern. And whaddya know, it was pretty close on the first try! I did a little tweaking on my Beatrice dress form and draping the shoulder straps. Since support garments don’t change the fit of the upper back or shoulders, this was going to get me pretty close.

While later regency dresses use a rounded armscye and typical sleeve insertion, earlier dresses still used the 1700s technique of sleeve insertion where you have a sharp corner next to the shoulder strap.
Normally I would rotate out that wee bit of fullness on top into the underbust dart, but since this was going to close with a drawstring the extra fabric didn’t matter.

Once I had a functioning pattern, time to put it together. 1790s construction is weird. It makes sense once you do it, but it’s so different from modern construction that it takes time to wrap your brain around. It was also a very transitional era, meaning there is no One True Way, and basically as long as it works, you’re fine.

I was originally going to follow construction instructions from the American Duchess book, but partway through I realized that also wasn’t going to work as well due to some of my design choice (e.g. I wanted the fronts to be all one piece, and not a separate skirt and bodice piece). So, I turned to the amazing construction writeups/tutorials from Koshka the Cat (things like this are why I still love blog posts, and try and maintain my own blog and not just instagram) and more or less followed this.

I used a lightweight linen for the lining (I’m pretty sure this is leftover from making my husband an 18th C shirt, no he still does not have any of the rest of this outfit) and a sheer spotted cotton/silk voile I bought on sale for $4/yd from Fabric Mart back in 2014(!). While sheer cotton dresses are historically accurate, and silk dresses are historically accurate, and spotted dresses are historically accurate, I can’t guarantee the combo of all of these is. But it certainly looks good, and huzzah for using a 7 year old stash fabric!

Here is the wrong side (or side touching my skin) of the lining. The seam allowances of all the shoulder and side pieces are folded under and fell-stitched on to the back piece. I did this all by hand with linen thread because the seams are so short (also not having any deadline, I was having fun with handstitching). The neck seams are also turned towards each other and stitched together using le point a rabattre sous la main, which is a very fancy-sounding name for a stitch that is half whipstitch half running stitch and has no english name equivalent.

if it looks like an octopus, you are doing it right
If you squint, you can see the visible top stitching on the neck edge. Historical folks did Not Care if you had visible top stitching. Not in love with how my fabric is so sheer it shows my clips into the curves, but there was no way around it.

Flip the whole thing over, mount the side pieces onto the lining, fold under the seam allowances, and topstitch them onto the back piece. I used a spaced backstitch since these are under a little bit of strain going around the body.

You can also see how I stopped stitching about an inch from the bottom, to give myself room to fold the waist seam allowances towards each other. This gets finished, and later the skirt will be whipped onto here.

A quick try-on before attaching the fronts:

Yes, I’m wearing a balconette bra over a chemise as my foundation garment.
Must lower the neckline of this chemise, or only ever wear this with something covering the back…

The front is one big piece of fabric. I laid the front pattern on the fabric, and cut out my fabric following the top of my pattern, but extending the bottom into a skirt, and extending the front into what will be gathered up over a drawstring, making it so the sides of the skirt are selvedge-to-selvedge. This hopefully makes more sense in the next photo, where I apparently had already sewn a tuck for the underbust drawstring casing and rolled over the neckline for the neckline drawstring casing.

Since my front is all one piece instead of two, I cut a slit and narrowly hemmed in to give the drawstrings somewhere to actually exit.

I agonized whether my underbust tuck should be on the inside or outside. I ended up doing it inside, which in retrospect was a mistake because it made for some serious wonkiness at the side seams where the skirt backs attached, which wouldn’t have been an issue if this seam was flipped the other way.

Here’s where you can see a small mistake – while my lining pattern is only two pieces (a back and a front-side combo piece), my outer fabric actually needed to have a separate side piece (due to not wanting the underbust drawstring to go all the way around to the back and needing it to stop at the sides). But I forgot about that when I was cutting the fronts. Having different patterns for lining and outer fabric is a very common 18th century thing. As long as your lining fits the body, you can do whatever you want mounting the outer fabric on top.

This is not supposed to overlap the entire side piece! Had to chop that chunk out.

The front piece has the seam allowances turned under at the sides and stitched on top of the sides, sewing through both the outer fabric and the lining. But, it’s left completely separate at the fronts (including the neckline and underbust seam) as the front lining and front outer fabric have separate closures.

Then time to attach the skirts at the back! My original plan was to cartridge pleat (which I love, because there is no fudging pleats to fit. Just move pleats over to cover the area) but my fabric was so light and sheer that the cartridge pleats didn’t take up enough space, and would have been massively gappy in the back.

See how spaced those pleats would have to be to take up the whole back? Uuuugly.

So I sucked it up and made some knife pleats (which I hate). And then I ended up with too much fabric left in the middle, so I did just turn the middle bit into cartridge pleats. I’m pretty sure this combo is historically accurate, and it ended up looking decent.

The skirt top is just folded down and the edge left raw, but it’s not going to get a lot of rubbing. If it really started to fray I would whipstitch over the edge (the OG form of serging). Then the folded top of the skirt and the finished edge of the bodice back are whipstitched together.

Definitely decent from far away. Have I mentioned how amazing my Beatrice dress form is? The shoulders are actually narrow enough to put my dresses on!
Exceedingly meh from close up. I wish the knife pleats were about half this width, but I was not about to redo them.

One more try-on to see how it’s looking, and it’s looking fabulous!

Looking slightly pregnant, but while I *am* pregnant here the shape is more coming from the gathers under the bust. This is 100% dead-on the fashionable silhouette and makes me so happy in its ridiculousness.
It’s maybe a smidge lower cut than I intended, but hey some extra cleavage isn’t the worst (and I can wear a chemisette to fill in the neckline for daywear)
A train! Aka the reason this will never be worn before Covid is over because sheer white silk train is pretty much an indoor-only thing 😭

Then onto sleeves!

Ugh, that means I needed to fit a sleeve pattern.

I pulled the sleeve pattern from my Eliza Schulyer dress as a starting point, knowing that they needed a higher sleeve cap (in their current incarnation on that dress they really really pull the shoulders down off my shoulders. One day I’ll piece in some fabric to fix those…)

Not shown here, me going through about 3 mockups here to fix them. They were made slightly easier by the fact that I wanted these to be short-ish sleeves ending just above the elbow, meaning I didn’t need any curved shaping around the elbow.

Once again, if you want to know how to set an 18th century sleeve, hit up Koshka’s lovely tutorial! TLDR; you attach them right side to right side at the bottom, but then partway up they just sit on top of the strap lining and are pleated to fit. Then topstitch a strap of the outer fabric on top, covering those seam allowances.

Here’s a test sleeve basted on (right sides together at the bottom, then pinned on top):

The top of the sleeve edge on top of the shoulder strap lining. Those raw edges eventually get covered.

Note the seam allowance of the shoulder strap was basted down to help hold it in place. This will be removed at the end.

Same test sleeve from the back. It flips from folded under to not-folded right where it will be covered.

And once the real sleeve has been backstitched into the armscye on the bottom and basted on top, a rectangle of material is cut and draped on to cover all the raw edges:

View from the top.

Fold under all the strap seam allowances, and topstitch this piece on! I either used a running stitch or a spaced backstitch (or maybe a combo? Don’t recall.) as this piece isn’t taking a ton of strain.

And the dress was done! And as usual, no pictures of me wearing it because I ended up going straight to the open robe in anticipation of wearing it to a friends costume tea (and then lol ended up not actually wearing it for other reasons like weather). So just a dress form picture:

The underbust is less wobbly on me.
This will be a great base layer for tons of fun accessories!

And showing how the closure works:

Next up is the whole reason I made this dress to begin with – the open robe – aka cutting into the most expensive fabric I’ve ever worked with :O

Posted in 1790s, Round gown | Leave a comment

1790s petticoat

Because time is wibbly wobbly (especially in whatever year this is), in March 2020 I posted about planning a 1790s outfit all based on an amazing fabric I was gifted for an open robe.

Apparently the only thing I posted about this outfit since was painting shoes, in June.

While I’m approaching the end of finishing the whole ensemble (uh I have literally 1 week to finish the open robe before having a baby, plz baby don’t come early so I can finish it), let’s see what can be blogged about in the meantime?

I bought a regency shift from Willoughby and Rose because as I’ve said, I’m totally over making shifts (although the neckline ended up a bit high for this dress and I’ll probably cut it down).

I was going to buy custom 1790s transitional stays from Red Threaded, but by the time they came back in stock I was too pregnant to take reasonable measurements. This balconette bra is actually a shockingly good approximation of the regency figure, with the square neckline and wide straps so that’s what I’m going with!

And then I needed a petticoat. Turns out, there isn’t a ton of evidence out there for what a 1790s petticoat should look like. Rather than doing my own research I relied on this blog post by The Dreamstress who actually Did The Research on regency petticoats (reminder, I’m not a historian or academic. I just like to play dressup).

I went spelunking in my stash to find white cotton (thinking I must have some of my favorite combed cotton lawn since I buy it in 5-10 yard increments these days [omg looking for it just now it’s discontinued!!]), and ran into the problem that apparently I used up the last for a bustle petticoat.

All I found in the stash was around one yard of lawn (left) and one yard of organdy (right).

Alrighty, I guess we are going to have a mix and match petticoat, as I’m trying to be more thrifty in my fabric purchasing and usage!

My lawn turned out to be a wonky shape (see again bustle petticoat) in a couple pieces. In order to maximize the width, I pieced in a big square (which is itself two pieces of fabric).

After that it was fairly straightforward. I had two rectangles which I french seamed together. They got gathered up and attached to a piece of twill tape which acted as a waistband (although the waistband is right at my underbust). Two more pieces of twill tape are straps (which angle very steeply towards the center of my back in order to keep them on my narrow shoulders). I cut a slit in the back and very narrowly hemmed the slit in order to get this on. The back closes with one hook and eye.

I added tucks because 1) I’m extra like that and 2) tucks are pretty and 3) tucks really do help to hold a skirt out from that bit of stiffness.

Ok fine initially I done goofed my math and measured wrong and had to take out a tuck after it overlapped the one below it instead of being spaced apart. That was a lot of seam ripping.

Can barely see the pieced square!
Usual disclaimer of “fits me better than the form” (as this was apparently before I got my beloved Beatrice Form)
stealth piecing

I would have preferred to have the piecing in back of the petticoat (on the off chance that it shows through my sheer gown), but I wanted the heavier organdy in back and the lighter floofier lawn in front since I figured it’s always better to aim on the side of having more volume in back.

And for the silliest part – a wee little pad to help hold out the pleats on the back of the dress! I got this from the American Duchess 18th Century Guide to Dressmaking book, which does have a 1790s ensemble (although I elected to make this strapped petticoat rather than their bodiced petticoat).

Seriously, look how small this thing is!

I filled it with some cabbage, aka tiny scraps left from cutting my petticoat fabric into rectangles, and also some polyfill.

After making this, I’ll be honest I’m not entirely sure whether a petticoat with straps (rather than a bodiced petticoat) is a reenactorism. I found that straps still wanted to fall down (these will definitely get pinned to my bra) and the sides droop between the straps. Maybe one of these days one of the academics who do Real Research will turn up a more definitive answer.

Then onto the dress!

Posted in 1790s, Undergarments | 1 Comment

A big photo post to finish out Captain America

So back in July folks were getting vaccinated, Jordan Con required proof of vaccination to attend, and Delta wasn’t a thing yet, so I was comfortable flying out there! As usual my suitcase was half filled with costume because bustle gowns aren’t what you would call space efficient.

Thank you to my friend Cooper Blackwood for taking all these fabulous photos!

And with that, this loooong project is finally done. And friends, I am *out* of ideas for historically inspired cosplay or fantasy dress for the next Jordan Con, so please to be sharing some ideas with me.

(Remember it’s ok to punch Nazis!)

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