1880s Squirrel Dress, Part IV: Bodice Mockup

With my skirts basically finished, it was time to start work on the bodice. I specifically planned to make it before pleating up my trim for the skirts, since trim can be pieced together and fudged a bit, whereas the bodice needed to be perfect (and stripe-matched). Anyway, I used Truly Victorian 466, the Alexandra Bodice, and I admit that at first glance it looked pretty daunting. So many pieces! Obviously, I started with a mockup.

My first try wasn’t awful, but it needed some work:

The sleeves were too far off the shoulder and I think the back of the bodice was just a touch too long, which made the whole back wrinkle oddly. I took some width out of the shoulders, and shortened the bodice at the shoulder seam because it was loose in the upper chest and back. Plus, once I had all of my skirts on the added bulk at the front required some extra room over the tummy, which I achieved by adding a little extra flare to the bottom of the side pieces. Oh, and the sleeves were far too loose for my arms, so I took out a whole inch of width all the way down the back seam, and shaved off some of the curve at the elbow because it pooched weirdly when my arms were straight. So basically I changed everything. 😉

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1880s Squirrel Dress, Part III: Overskirt

I was pretty excited to get started on the overskirt for this dress– the draped front and puffiness of the back was what really made the “Bustle Era” look for me. I used Truly Victorian 265, the August Overskirt, and while I did have to fiddle with it before it looked right to me, it turned out great.

I cut out my fabric and stitched up the front panel, then pleated the sides according to the directions and pinned it to my dress form over the underskirt. Immediately I knew I was going to have an issue– the swags just weren’t holding their shape, instead looking rather droopy and making the whole front a lot longer than I’d expected. Before cutting anything off, though, I decided to try a few fixes.

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Edwardian Caftan Conversion, Part IV: Final Photos!

I know it’s been ages since I finished this dress, but then I had to make a hat to go with it, and then I had to find a time to put on the whole outfit and get decent photos, which always takes forever. In any event, I finally got around to it one lovely September afternoon, pinning my hair into a makeshift Edwardian updo and grabbing an old edition of Pride and Prejudice for a prop. I wore my adapted Edwardian strappy shoes, though they weren’t particularly visible in most of the shots due to my poses.

I admit that I probably relied a bit too much on the book to pose with (I have soooo many pictures with me “reading”)– for some reason I just can’t come up with interesting poses that don’t look forced, and for this particular outfit I wanted to show off the columnar lines and button details, which constrained my angles a bit. But I had fun, and managed to get pictures taken before the last of our summer flowers wilted, so I’m counting it as a win!

Overall, I love this outfit– it’s so cool and comfortable, and perfect for a casual picnic or afternoon event. Now I just need to find one to attend!

Also, look how well the picture converts to black and white! Love this one…

Girls Block-Printed Regency Dress

With the pandemic and all, I’ve had tons of time to make costumes but no place to wear them. Imagine my excitement when I came across a Regency event that was not only nearby, but on my birthday weekend! Clearly, it was a sign from above that it was time to get back into the swing of things! And since it was my birthday, I had the perfect excuse to insist that my husband and daughter accompany me. In costume.

(cue disgusted face from my 9-year-old)

As you may recall, my daughter has never been thrilled about dressing up for historical-themed events, but she can be convinced with the proper incentive. In this case, I told her that her participation could be my birthday present– and promised to work bunnies into the outfit, since she’s really into bunnies right now. And it worked, so the only thing that remained was to find some vaguely appropriate bunny-themed fabric… which was basically impossible. Of course.

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1880s Squirrel Dress, Part II: Underskirt

First, I sewed up the underskirt, which is Truly Victorian 261. I did the plain back rather than the bouffant back, since I’ll be putting an overskirt on it anyway.

Like the petticoat, I lengthened the pattern for this one a bit– the finished skirt length was originally supposed to be 40″, and my actual finished length was 43″ including the height of the 1″ waistband. Also like the petticoat, this one came together really easily– it’s just rectangles and slightly shaped trapezoids, and the notches match up to make everything easy.

Because I had extra length from my patterning I ended up making the hem just a little bit deeper than called for– more like 1.5″ instead of 1″ (after the initial 1/2″ turnover). The curved hem of the back panel made the hem a little difficult, but I managed with judicious pinning. For some reason I decided to hand-stitch the hem, even though it’s going to be completely hidden by ruffles later on… I guess this will make it easier to re-hem if it gets dirty or ends up being too short or too long.

No ruffles yet– I want to finish up the main ensemble pieces so I know how much extra fabric I have to make my pleated trim, plus I need to make a pleater board.

Anyway, I’m very happy with it, and I can tell this pattern will make a great base for future bustle dresses. I’m tempted to add a bustle pad on top of the phantom bustle for a little extra oomph, but I’ll have to see how it looks with the overskirt on top before I make any decisions on that.

Next up, the overskirt!

1880s Squirrel Dress, Part I- Fabric and Patterns

So this is my sketch for my new bustle gown project.

Looks pretty normal, right? But yes, you read the title right– it’s an 1880s Squirrel Dress. A bustle gown made of the most fabulous cotton print I’ve ever seen– at first glance it’s just an abstract floral-ish stripe, but take a closer look, and:

Blend - Garden of Delights - Squirrel Stripe - Green - Brooklyn Fabric  Company

Squirrels!!!!

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Bustle Petticoat

I have a new project in the works– a bustle dress! Or more accurately, I’ve realized that I have at least three bustle dresses planned for the hypothetical future, and it’s about time I finally get off my butt and start making the appropriate underpinnings! Anyway, I already have a “phantom bustle,” which I made at Costume College a few years back, accompanied by many giggles and jokes about my “spring-loaded butt”.

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Edwardian Caftan Conversion, Part III: Construction

Because of the way the dress was put together, I had to add most of the fussy details before actually constructing the dress (hence my “details” post coming first). Once I had the buttonholes and piping in, it was time to actually sew everything together.

The bodice is a basic kimono-sleeve, which I generally cut out in the same way as my pale peach Edwardian afternoon dress. When stitching it together, I left one side seam open for later insertion of the invisible zipper.

Above is a picture of the bodice piece before I attached the lower section of the back with the piped seam and buttonholes. I will note that while the waist is cut straight across here, after several tries I ended up curving it upwards at the sides so I could cut the back shorter and avoid excess blousing in the back. I added a 1″ waistband to the bodice, just in case I ever wanted to wear the dress without the belt. Due to the fabric layout I had to make the waistband out of two strips of fabric joined in the middle, and annoyingly (as you’ll see in the closeup below), I realized later that I’d cut the waistband so that the stripes were offset by one when you compared the front half to the back half. A tiny error, but I noticed.

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Edwardian Caftan Conversion, Part II: Details

While putting together this dress, I had a lot of fun putting in small, fiddly details that I think make it look more authentic. Many of them had to be planned and inserted before the dress was actually constructed, so I figured I’d post about them first.

For example, I added piping to the seams between the striped and blue fabrics– I made it out of the extra fabric I cut out of the sides, and because I’m insane I cut it on the bias, requiring me to piece together a few dozen short sections of fabric to get a long enough strip to make piping. (yes, I know it’s normal to make bias piping, but since this piping was only used in straight lines it really wasn’t necessary)

I also added a wholly unnecessary seam across the back of the bodice, which I piped before adding a row of fabric-covered buttons (size 36, if you’re curious) to it, just for fun. I stitched buttonholes, too, which are barely visible under the sewn-on buttons but which add to the illusion of a complicated Edwardian closure. I’m probably going to have to improve my posture now to avoid leaning back in a chair and hurting my back on those shank-back buttons…

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Edwardian Caftan Conversion, Part I: Inspiration

A year or two ago I happened across a post from someone who had found a vintage embroidered caftan at a secondhand store, and transformed it into a fabulous Edwardian-style dress! (Sadly, I can no longer find the post, but it was amazing) I think she basically just added a sash, and wore a lace guimpe under it– those two elements really changed the entire look, and I immediately started looking for a vintage caftan of my own to steal her idea.

Unfortunately, most of the vintage caftans I found were too tropical in style, and the embroidery was placed awkwardly for the look I was going for. Eventually, however, I found this new caftan— it’s got a vaguely nautical feel to it with the blue and white stripes, and the embroidery (while a bit modern in style) was still restrained enough to pass muster for what would be a pretty basic Edwardian-ish ensemble.

National Embroidered Caftan
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