Sunday, October 14, 2012

My Orange 1820s Dress of Doom

The Day Version

Yes, I called this the dress of doom while making it. Why? Zillions and zillions of little piped bits! Fortunately, I love making piped bits, and doom in this usage is a good thing, but still, it was a lot! And I really want to make a similar pelisse, only with even more trim.

As usual (I'm not really into designing things, am I? I'm nowhere near as creative as people think!), I had an inspiration dress, seen in a flash video here. Needless to say, lots of pausing was done when studying the dress!


This is a sleeve band--see? Doom!

The Day Version The Day Version

The dress is made from silk taffeta bought from a rather amazing sale had at the time. $4 a yard or something like that? Plus their normal coupons and I had some random money in my PayPal account. It was wonderful. The bodice is lined with lightweight linen and the skirt is unlined. I'm wearing it over shift, 1820s stays, and a bodiced petticoat.

The bonnet is the Lynn McMasters Seaside Bonnet.

Hemline Detail

The bottom of the skirt itself is the scalloped part. The millions of little ruffles were sewn separately and tacked in behind the floral trim on the skirt so no stitches show.

Neckline trim

The neckline is trimmed with bias strips of silk taffeta that were wrapped around strips of wool batting. Then I just twisted them together.

Sleeve detail

The sleeves started out as a standard puff sleeve. Then I sewed piping on or the cut outs and cut them out and put gathered netting behind it. The area between the top of the cut out and the top of the sleeve was then gathered, and a band put around it. The band doesn't actually gather the sleeve. Then, the previously mentioned sleeve bands of doom were attached. The undersleeves are just slightly shaped tubes with ribbon ties, and there are loops inside the short sleeves to tie them to.

Evening Version Evening Version

One of the best parts of this dress? Untie the undersleeves and take off the chemisette, and evening version!


It's hard to see, but the designs are drawn on the silk in this picture.

The trick to making the piped bits fun instead of frustrating is to sew first, cut last. Draw your designs on, sew piping around the design, and then cut. So much less fiddly! Also, there's no need to make the piping before you do it. I think it would probably be harder if you did, actually, since there might be less flexibility. Just fold your bias in half, place the cord in the middle, secure it, and start your design. You do have to continue folding it as you go, but after an inch or so, it really does settle into place.


The sleeve band in progress. Once each piece is cut out, flip the seam allowances to the inside and baste them into place if the element is going to be free standing like the top of the sleeve band, or, like I did for the skirt, just make sure they stay in place. No need to do extra work!


And here's the sleeve without the band. Much simpler looking!

Trimming the hem.

And here's sewing trim onto the skirt. As I sewed the trim on, I caught the inner ruffle. The hem is padded with wool batting.


The bottom edge of the bodice was hemmed, and the top edge of the skirt was folded down. They were then whipstitched together.


The dress closes with drawstrings and has a ribbon attached to the front of the bodice to help keep it in place. The back lining doesn't have any closures, it just sits in place. I suppose you could have someone pin it for you, but that's not really necessary. I saw this on an original, but several years later, I couldn't begin to tell you where!

So, that's all there is--I think--to my orange 1820s dress :)

LJ tag for the dress!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Setting 18th Century Sleeves

In 2010, I wrote an article on setting sleeves for Your Wardrobe Unlock'd. Since I hope it's a rather useful article, and enough time has passed for me to publish it, here it is!

The finished dress
The finished dress--and the dress that inspired it!

When looking at a pattern for a sleeve on an 18th century dress, there’s a rather striking difference when compared to modern sleeves—they have corners. This is because for much of the 18th century sleeves were set differently than they are today. Instead of finishing the bodice and armscye, turning them inside out and inserting the sleeve, the sleeve was set in the lower half of the armscye, the dress was put on, and the sleeve head was pleated to fit the wearer. This is a very efficient method and prevents a lot of the stress often associated with setting sleeves, yet for a seamstress sewing for and by herself, it presents a problem. How exactly do you pleat a sleeve on yourself?

Many books on costume construction include details on how sleeves were set. There are slight variations, but in general, the technique remains the same.

The setting method I describe and used on my printed cotton polonaise will produce a sleeve that looks identical to the pink/lavender 1770-1785 gown on pages 24-28 of Costume Close-Up. The method is slightly different as the lining was sewn last in that dress, and the lining is sewn first in my example, yet the finished product will look the same.

The Costume Close-Up dress has a shoulder strap that is sewn to the dress at both front and back instead of being cut as one with the front of the bodice. The shoulder strap lining is covered with a strip of silk that matches the shape of the linen lining. This strap covers the raw edge of the sleeve. Many dresses had no such fashion fabric straps. Robings were often used to cover the raw edge of the sleeve. If your dress has robings, there is no need to make the separate strap. The raw edge was also sometimes covered with trim.

These instructions assume you’re starting with a fitted bodice and sleeve pattern. This technique, however, allows a lot of wiggle room when it comes to setting the sleeve!


First, complete the bodice except for the shoulder straps. Complete the sleeves as well.




Next, prepare your shoulder strap linings. Press the front, back, and armscye edges of the seam allowances under. Pin the shoulder strap to the lining, as shown. The folded edge of the strap should be about half an inch—or your seam allowance—in from the armscye edge.



Once your strap is pinned, the next step is of course to sew it in place. It is important to sew this to just the lining—that way you don’t have to worry about covering any stray stitches that show through your fashion fabric, and more importantly, be able to turn in the neckline edge to finish it. To imitate the look of the original, I used whipstitches. Backstitches, or even machine stitches, would work as well.




Next, set the bottom half of the sleeve. Pin the sleeve right side to right side, as you would for a standard sleeve. The corner at the back of the sleeve should line up with the back armscye where it extends past the shoulder strap. This spot is marked with an X in the photo.

step2D step2E

Sew this underarm seam with a backstitch. Start at the corner where the strap meets the bodice, sew through all layers, and stop at the corner on the opposite side. In the photos, you can see my first and last stitch being made.


Now, turn the sleeve and bodice right side out. Since the last half inch or so of the back of the sleeve isn’t sewn, it should slip easily into place. The front of the sleeve will have to be eased a bit.



Pin the top half of the sleeve to the shoulder strap. This is the fiddly part. Don’t be afraid to adjust it several times. Play with the pleats and the depth of the sleeve seam allowance until you like how the sleeve looks.



Try the sleeve on to be sure you’re happy with it. One benefit of setting a sleeve this way is the pins are all on the outside, which makes this step rather safer than normal. Don’t expect the sleeve to be completely smooth. There will be a few wrinkles! This is normal, and even necessary. Folds in the sleeve allow you to move your arms. If you look through portraits, these folds are often evident. They can also be seen on extant garment that have been mounted on mannequins.

Please note that in the pictures I’m not wearing my stays and the bodice isn’t pinned shut—I’ve used this pattern before and am comfortable enough with the fit to do this.



Once you’re satisfied with the fit, pin the inside of the sleeve. Make sure the seam allowance is turned under, and whipstitch the folded edge to the sleeve. It’s not important to sew through all layers, as you’ll do that when you sew the shoulder strap or robing on. I like to leave the pins on the outside to keep the pleats in place until I sew the fashion fabric strap on.


Next step, you need to prepare the strap. Fold the seam allowances under like you did for the lining strap.


Then pin the fashion fabric strap over the raw edge of the sleeve. The edge of the strap should extend slightly past the lining strap. This allows you to easily sew through all the layers and avoid any stitches from the lining showing through.



To sew the strap to the sleeve, I used a spaced backstitch. The short ends of the straps should be sewn to just the fashion fabric. This allows you to turn the fashion fabric and lining in towards each other to finish the neck edge. Over the shoulder itself, be sure to sew through all layers.



Now, finish your dress!

Setting a sleeve this way gives the distinctive look that the back of 18th century dresses have. Setting a sleeve the standard way gives too round a shape and doesn’t allow the sleeve to fit correctly over the shoulder. The ease of this method—since you can adjust the top of the sleeve so easily—also makes the sewing process a little more enjoyable.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A 1782 Court Dress--with a bonus bow mini tutorial :)

This is going to be ooh, look at the pictures! posts because as large as it is, this is really a rather straightforward dress. I fell in love with a fashion plate at the MFA of an over the top, slightly ridiculous, rather theatrical pink and green court dress. Seen here on Pinterest--the MFA changed their links, so I pinned it after refinding it

Pink and Green Court Dress at Costume College">

Here I am in my hotel room--you will see why I have a picture in the hotel room in a few moments!

Pink and Green Court Dress at Costume College Pink and Green Court Dress at Costume College

As you can see, the skirt slid a bit shut and the zone front fell open for the good pictures. Um, oops?

Anyway, the dress is silk taffeta, lined with linen, and trimmed with silk gauze and marabou. I'm wearing it over my 1780s stays (which, when I was putting them on, got tangled in my batiste chemise and ripped--the stays, not the chemise), and the Simplicity court hoop, which is nearly identical to the one in Corsets and Crinolines (which also broke as I was wearing it--a wire snapped!)

Pink and Green Court Dress at Costume College

On the bright side, the side view of the falling down zone front (not a period term, as far as anyone can tell, but a good modern costuming word). The bodice essentially has two front pieces, the normal, pins in the middle front piece, and the cutaway piece that pins over that.

The petticoat is different than the petticoat tutorial for my first court dress. Instead, I made it like this petticoat at the Met

Pink and Green Court Dress at Costume College

And here it is closed, showing the damage that silk gauze gets when you drag it around on a long, wide train!

Court Dress Progress Court Dress Progress

And here it is on the dressform, with a more properly displayed skirt!

Court Dress Progress Court Dress Progress

The nearly finished bodice. It just needed the raw edges turned in and edgestitched and, rather obviously, sleeves.

Court Dress Progress Court Dress Progress

The finished bodice.

Court Dress Progress Court Dress Progress

And the finished, trimmed bodice!

Court Dress Progress

The dress is covered in bows. I might as well include how I made them!

Making the bows Making the bows

Cut two strips of fabric, fold them down the middle as shown, then fold and sew a running stitch down the middle.

Making the bows Making the bows

Gather it, repeat with another strip, and sew them together.

Making the bows

Add a small strip around the center, and voila! A bow!


And a parting shot--the skirt has a lot of fabric!

Live Journal tag here!