Sunday, January 27, 2013

Finished 1830's Christmas Dress

I finished my dress last night. I even did things I don't normally do when I'm rushing, like neatly bind the armscyes and whip down the seam allowances in the bodice. It still finished up in plenty of time to make supper and while I sewed in the pleasant afternoon light of the west windows David sat with me and planned out what I suppose will be one of my projects later in the spring, a Confederate surgeons uniform. I'm ready for another detailed menswear project. It;s been a while.

I really love this dress. The things I don't particularly like about it include the upper sleeves (they still came out a bit too loose for my liking) and the fit of the bodice is not as snug as I would have wished. I suppose I must have lost a bit more weight between cutting this out before Christmas and sewing it together. I can make the back overlap a bit more by moving the hooks over and that will help with pulling the bodice in a bit. My stays for some reason did not keep me up as much as I would have wished and gave a rather droopy appearance to the bustline (I think the bust kept slipping out from the busk channel since I didn't have it tied in!) but I know that is a temporary problem and will go away once Anne is weaned.

I am wearing the dress with the same undergarments I used for my 1840's Christmas Dress last year; my corded stays, square cut shift, corded petticoat, and three plain petticoats. Oh and the bum pad. Can't forget the bum pad. Or as the boys inelegantly term it, "Mommy's Butt Pillow".

It's easy to nurse in. I nursed the baby twice while wearing it today. The combination of a back opening and partial front opening make this dress very easy to put on as well. Hook the upper half of the back shut, put on the bodice, then reach around the hook up the rest of the back and then hook up the front. Lots of hooks, but it makes getting dressed very easy compared to some dresses I've made in the past!

I am not totally happy with  my hair. I tried 2 different styles. My hair is just above bra length and my bangs are growing out so its hard to do much with it at the moment.

Late 30's hairstyles usually have a high bun at the back and the front hair is either curled or smoothly combed down over the ears. When my bangs have grown out more I'd love to try the curled style. . .it's so distinctly 30's, not rather generic mid-19th century like the parted-in-the-middle-pulled-into-a-low-bun style that can, theoretically, work for a span of about forty years. . .

The skirt is 3 panels of 45" fabric. It gives a nice fullness. I pleated it into 1.5" pleats and that seemed to work perfectly. The hem is faced with a 9" wide hem facing.

Now to make one of those rad 1830's poke bonnets. Those are so utterly awesome. I probably will not have a reason to wear this dress again until later this year so hopefully by then I will have a proper bonnet made!

Speaking of bonnets, I did finish another UFO for this challenge. Remember that Victorian Sunbonnet Tutorial I was working on? Well, I never did finish the bonnet! It was almost done, but lacked ties. So I made the ties.

Now that February is nearly upon us and my brother is getting married in about two and half months (less!) I need to start working on a dress for his wedding. Something - yikes - modern. I have a few ideas so I plan to try one of them out this week. I have some fun vintage cherry printed cotton that will work great for a mock up dress!


The Challenge: #2, UFO. Finish an unfinished project.

Fabric: Printed cotton. Green with a viney print and purple flowers.

Pattern: Draped.

Year: Late 1830's to Very Early 1840's

Notions: Hook and eyes, thread.

How Historically Accurate Is It: As far as I can tell the cut is accurate. The design is taken straight from period sources and the pattern shapes are correct. All exposed stitching was done by hand and interior seams (that will not show) were sewn with straight stitch on the sewing machine. To be totally accurate the stitching should have been completely done by hand.

Hours to Complete: Not sure. From draping to finishing maybe 30 hours or so?

First Worn: Today. Hopefully for a "real" event sometime this spring!

Total Cost: The fabric was an early Christmas gift from David. Everything else came from my stash. So, personal expense for this was nothing.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Making my 1830's Sleeves

The dress is coming along. Slowly, but surely. The sleeves have ended up taking me an ungodly long time to do. Why?? I used to whip out a whole dress in a day or two. Sleeves took me a few hours. But then, the baby has been sick this week and I have felt rather indifferent to sewing and have been utterly depressed because of current events. (political stuff, but I won't go there.) But then, sometimes it is nice to sit down and not feel rushed to work on something. I put the last stitches in my sleeves just this evening and now they await to be attached to the bodice, as soon as I can scrounge enough scraps to make the self piping needed for the armscye seam!

These particular sleeves are made with a fitted upper sleeve that reach to just above the elbow. The bottom sleeve is gathered to a narrow, piped cuff. The seam between the upper and lower sleeve is trimmed with a little flounce that is gathered on a narrow cord and then tacked to the seam.

Oftentimes sleeves of the late 30's were just gathered or pleated and banded down to the upper arm. That was a very practical and easy way to convert the fluffy gigot sleeves of the early 30's to the fashionable silhouette of the later 30's. However, for this dress, I did decide to cut separate upper sleeves since they take so much less fabric and I did not have a whole lot of fabric to work with.

The upper sleeves were problematic to fit. To fit the armscye, the sleeve head needed to measure about 17". To fit my arm just above the elbow the bottom edge of the sleeve needed to be 13". I ended up having to take two small pleats at the bottom edge of the upper sleeve to fit my arm at the back of the arm. A nicely fitted upper sleeve does look so much better than a loose and baggy one (at least in this period of history) but I didn't think it would be so much trouble to fit it!

I added two piped bands at the neckline to shape the neckline. I really like how it looks and am looking forward to completing the dress, hopefully this weekend! I still have the entire skirt to make but since that is just straight seams and pleating I do not think it will take that long.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

1830's Christmas Dress

Or the Remember-the-Alamo dress. A dear friend of mine, Kevin Young, who loved the era of history the Alamo took place in, passed away last spring. I can never think of this era of history without thinking of him and I know I will always remember him when I wear this dress. He loved the Texas Revolution, he loved the 30's and the 40's and was an all around great guy. We miss him so. I have always loved the dress pictured below and decided to use that as my inspiration image for my Christmas frock.
Late 1830's Dress

Because, of course, I intended to make this dress for Christmas. The fabric was an early Christmas present from David. Besides draping a pattern and fitting the mock up and cutting it out, though, I didn't get much done. I finally decided to speed sew it 5 days before Christmas but that afternoon our power went out. I spent much of that day getting out the kerosene heater, filling the oil lamps, finding candles and matches, making food and converting our long, narrow living room into a kind of one-room cabin where we could hang out and keep warm. Obviously, the dress did not get made.

It's getting made now, though. I am sick of regency stuff at present (even though I do have a 1790's-ish gown I want to make soon) and I need to get back to *me*. This dress is not for any challenge or sew along, but it's what I want to make, so, by gosh, I'm gonna make it! (although, technically, it could work for the UFO challenge for the Historical Sew Fortnightly. It might be a stretch, but it *could* work!)

The basic design is fairly simple. I really like the late 30's silhouette. I like the round, elongated waist. It is slimming. I like the sleeves that are tight at the top and still fluffy at the bottom. I like the necklines and I like the skirt fullness. I like the full hips. I like almost everything about the late 30's. It's a very feminine era, without looking ridiculous!

The dress I am using for my inspiration image has a crossover, or surplice, bodice. I debated a while about whether or not to make the crossover actually part of the main bodice or to just cut separate strips of fabric to mimic the crossover look. For a long time I was actually going to do a front opening, crossover bodice dress but at the last minute I remembered Jessamyn's early 1840's dress that has a front opening and a back opening and has separate drapey crossover panels. This clicked for me, and I decided to go with it.

After I knew how I was going to cut the bodice I dove in and got started. The basic "foundation bodice" was easy. It is very similar to many of the dresses I have made before. It has a fitted back with curved seams between the center back and side back pieces. Since I have a large difference between bust and waist I had to fit the front bodice with 2 darts per side, rather than the 1 dart per side that is more common. The waistline is slightly high, to allow for a wide waistband. All the seams are piped with self fabric piping. The shoulders are slightly dropped and the neckline is finished with piping. The front bodice opening was piped and sewn shut about half way to the neckline. This gives me double piping along the front seam which is seen in several examples from Nancy Bradfield's Costume in Detail. The part of the front seam that I left open is for nursing access. It will close edge-to-edge with hook and eyes once the bodice is complete. Here you can see the darted bodice:
sorry for the poor quality of the pics. . .yet again. . .I am lazy and did the infamous "mirror shot"

I hemmed and pleated two strips of fabric to become the drapey crossover bits. I sewed one pleated end into the shoulder seam. While wearing the bodice, I pinned and pleated the other ends of the fabric strips to the darted bodice. Here you can see one side crossed over and pinned into place:

And here it is with both crossover pieces pinned into place:

After that, I trimmed off the excess fabric at the waist and sewed the waistband to the bodice. The waistband is slightly wide as the waistline was in transition at this point in history from the higher waistline of earlier years and the very long, pointed, low waistline of the 1840's.
There will be piped tabs lower on the shoulder, holding the pleated panel in  to make a sort of sweetheart neckline shape.

I am as pleased as anything with how it is coming out so far! I do love this style so much. I can't wait to see what it will look like with sleeves!


Monday, January 14, 2013

1910's Foundation Garments

Well, I didn't get my chemise or drawers made, but I did at least finish my corset and brassiere for Challenge #1 of the Historical Sew Fortnightly. And since I originally intended to just make a corset, I figure I met my goal. (even though I really wanted to make an actual dress or blouse/skirt outfit! But that will be made. In time.) 

Since you all have seen pictures of the corset I will not burden you with additional ones. Here is the finished brassiere. 

It is made of two layers of white linen and is topstitched on the seams. The bones are inserted between the layers of fabric and the brassiere is boned at sides, front princess seams (up to the fullest point of the bust) and down the center front. 

I found a bit of lace in my stash that seemed suitable to trim the neckline with. I did not have enough to go around the whole neckline but I had enough to at least do the front neckline. 

I sewed this mostly by machine. It's so nice to be able to use the machine and not feel guilty about doing so. The only bit of handwork I did was some binding finishing and I hand sewed the hook and eyes to the front opening. 

For these pictures I am wearing my regency chemise, since I did not have time to make a period 1910's style one, and an antique petticoat that was given to me by the lovely Natalie of A Frolic Through Time

The petticoat is exactly the right size for me and I have taken a pattern off it (it is a 5 gore style with a subtle flounce) to make a repro petticoat to wear for the final outfit. I still have to make drawers. 

Here you can see how the foundation layer looks with a dress on over top. I made this white dress over five years ago from the Sense and Sensibility 1914 Afternoon Dress pattern. I do not often wear this dress as I have felt it is not very flattering but it does look better when worn with the proper underpinnings. 

So that is that! The next challenge is due in two weeks time and is for a UFO (an unfinished sewing project) so I think I will finally finishing David's plaid wool fall front trousers. . .they have been *so* close to being done for *so long* (needing only hemming and buttons at the moment) but I have procrastinated. I will get those done!


The Challenge: Something from a year ending in "13". (So, this could have been worn in 1913)
Fabric: White linen for both corset and brassiere. Corset is lined with white cotton duck. 
Pattern: Corset is from the 1911 corset in Corsets and Crinolines by Nora Waugh. The brassiere pattern was draped using originals for inspiration. 
Year: 1913-ish
Notions: I used zip ties for boning, brass grommets for the corset and hook and eyes for the brassiere. I used a steel busk for the corset. 
How historically accurate is it? I hope it is fairly accurate. The corset is taken from an original so I think it is accurate in cut. In materials, it is possibly accurate (although coutil was usually used). In construction, I am fairly sure I used an atypical method (I used an 1860s method of construction) but it was a compromise I didn't mind as this is just a "for fun" outfit. 
Hours to complete: I don't really know. . .I worked on these fairly steadily for two weeks. Maybe 1-2 hrs per day? Probably 25-30 hours. 
First worn: Not yet, except for try-on. 
Total cost:

Thursday, January 10, 2013

More 1910's Bra Mock Up

Thanks for your encouraging words and advice on my last post! After reading several comments, I did give the chemise and corset combination a go. Now granted, I have not made a period style chemise yet (which to me look to be mostly sleeveless with either a neckline drawstring or a yoke giving fullness over the chest) but my regency chemise has a similar drawstring neckline, although it does have sleeves.

I am glad I did try it, but I don't really want to share pics of what it looked like. I have been (probably over) thinking this issue and I think this is why I really need a 1910's style bra to go with my corset: (image below from Corsetrasewing)
This is from 1912 - I love how it shows a good level of support for a rather "motherly" type figure!

1. I made my corset a little high in the waist, I think. The top edge of the corset hits right below my bust. Right where the bottom edge of my gussets are on my regency stays.

2. I have a very short waist for my figure.

3. My currently-being-nursed girls are excelling in the sag and droop department. This wouldn't be so much of a problem if I was a smaller cup size, but they are, well, to risk sounding indelicate, heavy. 

4. With my corset on the the chemise tightly pulled down over the bosom, it works for a time to keep the bosom rather "bound" to the torso. But when I have to nurse, I have to loosen the drawstring and then its fairly complicated to "rebind" the bosom when I am done nursing. In this case, a bra that can be unhooked and then rehooked is easier to deal with. Otherwise, I'd have to pull my chemise down once more firmly under the corset.

This was an interesting article about brassieres being recommended for women with larger bustlines: 1908-1910 Brassiere. The image below is from another interesting post about the styles of Edwardian corsets.

I made one more mock up of my brassiere. I shortened it a bit and I had to shorten the straps as well. I decided to raise the neckline of it a tad to give it more a V shape than the sweetheart shape it was before. I tried it on and here you can see how it looks when worn in combination with the corset. I am pretty happy with the overall shape, as the overall shape is what will give the finished outfit its distinctive silhouette.

Most of the brassieres I have been able to see look to be boned or are described as being boned. I plan to make my own brassiere out of stuff I already have on hand (since this is not a period we really "do", and this outfit will be just for fun and for modern wear, I am trying to just use up scraps from my stash instead of having to buy new fabric). I am trying to decide if I want to make it a double layer brassiere with the bones inserted between the layers or single layer with the boning slid into fabric casings. I think a single layer would be more period correct but a double layer would be easier to do. (I made my corset double layer even though the original the pattern was taken from is single layer). So, I'm still undecided.

I hope to get the real thing made today. It should be a fairly quick, simple sewing job. Tomorrow I'm going to hit up some local thrift stores and see if I can find a cotton sheet to make a chemise and some drawers from.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A 1910's Bra or Bust Bodice

It's been almost a week since my last post, and alas, I have been silent. I have actually been silently working on my 1910's corset and I failed to blog about the process of making it. I just. . .made it. I wish I had blogged about it because I don't really remember what I did, except that the pattern I planned to use (Jen Thompsons gorgeous pattern taken from an original) did not work out well for me or my figure so I ended up draping a pattern instead and I used the 1911 corset from Corsets and Crinolines as a guide for the shape of the pattern pieces. 

And it's done. It fits. I like it. 

But the problem with this style of corset is, obviously, bust support. Namely, there is no bust support. I definitely need support. So I have been trying to figure out just what women of this era did when they had bosoms. Because, obviously, not everyone had the slim, slender, slight figure that was in fashion then. And I am not just going to let myself flip and flop in careless abandon over the top edge of my corset. 
I was just wearing a modern dress under this, so had to crop the un-flattering, un-supported bosom part out. But you can see how the corset fits and smooths the figure. 

I discovered that bras were worn with corsets like these. I have come across quite a few photographs of original brassieres from this era and they look strikingly similar to some modern bras. It makes no sense to me to wear BOTH a bra AND a corset (why not just combine the two and have just 1 supportive undergarment instead?) but fashion does not always follow common sense. 
This is from earlier than the 'teens but wow - it really looks no different than a modern  bra!

It seems some bras were combined with corset covers and some were worn plain, with a corset cover on top. I am still trying to learn if bras were ever worn under the corset and chemise like a modern bra but it seems that sources would indicate they are worn on top of the chemise and the corset and may fasten to the corset to keep itself in place, as shown here in this advertisement from Lady Carolyn's interesting blog post: 

In passing, underwear of this era is really very frustrating and complicated. At least to someone coming from the early Victorian era, where a chemise, corset, drawers and petticoats were all that was needed to create a fashionable silhouette. 

After looking at a number of styles of brassieres, I decided I liked the look of this one: 

It is similar to the free pattern for a 1910's brassiere Jenni has graciously shared with us at Historically Dressed. 

I draped a bodice today that is meant to give a similar look. It is cut with princess seams since for me it is easier to get a smoother fit when using princess seams instead of darts. It is cut with the straps cut as part of the bodice instead of separately. It is fitted to my natural waist but I think for my final brassiere I will shorten the waistline a tad. The waistline of my corset hits me at about rib level so it is a little high waisted so as to give the fashionable smooth-hip look. 

I just don't know how much support is needed. Do I go for a medieval-style, bust-popping level of support or just a gentle, natural, slightly lifted support? The support of the current mock up is somewhere in the middle. It lifts the bosom up so it is above the rib-cage waistline of the corset but it is not so high as to be screaming "hey! look at meeeeeee!!"

This advertisement from Vintage Ad Browser seems to support the idea of having a moderate level of bust support although it is from the late 'teens. I like that it shows a real woman wearing a bra and corset instead of a drawn illustration. 

So, we'll see what comes of experimentation. There are so many freaking undergarments in this period. My gosh. I don't know if or when I will ever get to the shirtwaist and skirt I really want from this period!


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Quilted Smoking Cap

Are any of you all doing the Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge? I have been hearing about it on and off the past few weeks but did not really read what it was all about until a week or so ago. I was intrigued. I am already going the monthly Regency Costume Challenge and I have realized just how much that keeps me motivated to keep sewing historical garments. Having a deadline and a category to make something from keeps me inspired. So I decided to try to play along with the Sew Fortnightly challenge as much as I can.

Challenge #0 was under the category Starting Simple.

This was a Christmas gift for David that I feverishly sewed up on Christmas Eve. I didn't have any surprises for him as inevitably we fail when we try to "surprise" each other. He has very specific ideas as to what he wants for gifts and so do I. So we each pick out our own presents. However, I wanted to give him something that he was not expecting and I knew he wanted a smoking cap as he had mentioned it several times recently so that is what I decided to make.

It is not copied from any particular smoking cap; it is just something that fits the general lines of the 1860s era and is sewn with period techniques. I made it very similarly to the brimless cap I made Judah earlier this year. It is mostly sewn on the machine with some hand finishing on the inside. The outer layer is silk and the inner is cotton sateen; the batting is cotton.

I think he likes it. He has used it many times already since receiving it Christmas morning.

The next challenge is due January 14th and must be an item from a year ending in "13". I am already working on a teens-era underbust corset. I've wanted to make one for quite a while and this is the perfect excuse to do so! I have my mock up fitted and am ready to start sewing once I get a few corseting supplies.

I think it will be a fun year for historic sewing!

About My Project:

Just the facts, Ma’am: Quilted silk gentleman's smoking cap, mid-19th century style. 
The Challenge: Starting Simple. This is about as simple as it gets! The only interesting part was the quilting. 
Fabric: Silk taffeta for the outer layer, black cotton sateen for the lining and cotton needlepunched batting for the inside. 
Pattern: My own.
Year: Made to be used for 1850-1860's living history events.
Notions: Thread, pins, needles
How historically accurate is it? As accurate as I could possibly make it. I know the materials and construction is correct but I am unsure of the cut; the cut approximates period looks quite well but it is not copied from any one particular cap. The only thing I am sure is not accurate is the fiber content of the tassel. But I will replace it with a more period correct one as soon as I can find one!
Hours to complete: 3 hours  
First worn: Christmas morning!
Total cost: Scraps from stash - free!