So remember the Edwardian hat I painstakingly made last year, only to lose it on the train before I got the chance to wear it? I never really got over being bitter about that, and vowed to make another, better one as soon as I got the chance.
I must say, despite all of the head-banging and last-minute hand-sewing that went into this dress (I was still finishing up fastenings at 12:20 for a 1pm event, and I still needed to put up my hair and actually get there!), I’m extremely happy with the outcome– it turned out exactly how I’d envisioned it, which always feels great. The bretelles stayed nicely in place, the lace underskirt peeked out just enough from the underskirt, the collar stays kept my collar standing up perfectly, and the evil, slippery hammered satin fabric was the perfect accent (and looked almost like velvet from a distance).
I had a fabulous time swanning around my afternoon tea in my satin gown and gigantic hat (more on that later), and I can’t wait to re-use the guimpe and underskirt on another dress in the future– perhaps in antique blue, with some soutache work or something similar…
By the way, isn’t it awesome when an outfit matches the original sketch so exactly?
In my original concept sketches I’d envisioned the bretelles and sash to be made of a different fabric than the main dress, still in the same tone of dusty rose but with more texture– maybe a velvet or a jacquard. I wasn’t able to find any during my NYC trip, probably because I was being so specific already– I needed something that would be slightly contrasting, but not too much or it would look costume-y– so I gave up and figured I’d just go with all the same satin. Luckily, I was out buying thread at a local fabric store when I glanced over and saw a textured silky fabric– almost like a hammered finish– in what looked to be almost exactly the right color! I brought over my swatch and sure enough, it was an almost perfect match. I bought two yards of it and promptly brought it home to get to work.
Making the overskirt was a bit more complicated than I thought it would be, so I put off finishing it until really late.
It started off simple– I extended the length of the original overskirt pattern and cut the pieces a bit larger to allow for some extra fullness in back, just as I did for the underskirt. However, since there were no darts in the front like there were in the underskirt, the shaping was different– once I pulled the waist tight in back, the front pulled unattractively across my stomach, and there seemed to be too much curve at the side seams, keeping them from laying smoothly over the hips. I tweaked the shape a few times, and eventually got it to behave reasonably well.
This issue was compounded by the horror stories I’d heard about working with satin– that it showed every tiny pinhole, that it puckered if you looked at it funny, that sewing machines loved eating it for lunch, and that it was impossible to keep straight while cutting or sewing. Though I managed to avoid most of these issues by flatlining the satin with my cotton voile, I still had to be really careful with pinholes and ripping out seams. Basically, in order to avoid visibly ripped-out seam lines, every alteration I made had to make the skirt progressively smaller as I widened the seam allowance. (sigh… I guess I should’ve done a mockup after all)
So after all of my mockups, you’d think I’d be pretty confident in my finished bodice pattern, right? Not so much. I was still a bit worried about finally cutting out the bodice, but eventually I convinced myself that any errors would be hidden by the sash and bretelles (and if not I had extra satin yardage to re-cut), so I just gritted my teeth and did it.
First I cut my pattern pieces out of the pink voile, and then laid those voile pieces onto my satin to cut it out exactly the same– much easier than cutting from a paper pattern, since the voile didn’t slide around on the satin. Then I flatlined all of my pieces.
I decided to apply the trim on the center front piece first– I had been going to use the full width of my widest trim across the bustline, but decided to cut off the outer borders to keep it from being too overwhelming. I pinned and hand-sewed the new, narrower trim to the front of my center bodice piece– it’s different enough from the sleeve trim to be distinct, but still matching. I was going to stitch more trim on the sleeve pieces at this point, but had such a hard time deciding where to place it that I decided to wait until I could try on the basic bodice and mark the correct height for sleeve trim.
Anyway, I stitched the bodice together, and then tried it on. Yeah, not so good– not only was the bodice trim not quite properly centered, but I realized that the flatlining was making the bodice look too stiff. I ended up removing the lining from all the pieces except for the center front panel– I figured I’d want the extra body to help it lie smoothly over the torso (though I probably could’ve removed it if I’d wanted to). Talk about a waste of time for the original flatlining…
I drafted a 3″ wide facing to go around the front edges, which I cut from fusible interfacing and then ironed on to plain fabric. I had some issues with getting the correct shape, and the spot where the neckline and shoulders meet is kind of wonky, but it went mostly as planned. I understitched the facing to the seam allowances to get the neckline edge to roll ever-so-slightly inwards, which I think made for a really nice finish (particularly given that my satin didn’t crease well under the iron).
I decided to use snaps rather than hooks and eyes to keep the bodice closed– they won’t be under much stress since it’s not a tight-fitting bodice, so no real danger of coming unsnapped.
I stitched my sleeves together using a medium-length stitch, then set them into the bodice so I could try it on and figure out where to place my next pieces of trim. Once I’d figured out the correct height, I unpicked the stitches to about halfway up the sleeve, stitched on my trim, and then re-closed the seam over the raw edges before hemming it. I was able to hand-stitch the hem to the area of satin right behind the trim, so the hem didn’t show.
I will note that this whole post leaves out or glosses over the numerous unforced errors I made in construction of this piece– I mis-cut the facing, so had to piece in extra scraps in two different places to make it fit the neckline; I cut the back neckline square without realizing what it would do to the shape of the shoulder strap (hint: makes it all wonky and weird-looking) and I can’t fix it without replacing the entire back piece, which I may do anyway; I was over-cautious when adapting the shape of the center panel, making it too flat at the bust seam, so I had to let it out a bit and then take it back in an even tinier bit because I’d miscalculated again… so many issues that had to get fixed, so in the end I felt like I’d basically wasted days’ worth of work. So frustrating. I guess it’s all part of the learning experience, right?
I think part of the problem is that I keep wanting the bodice to be good enough to wear without the shoulder bretelles to cover up my mistakes, but I’m forgetting that I designed the bodice with the express intent of covering up the design issues with the bretelles. So I’m trying to overcome issues that are part and parcel of the original design concept– not an easy thing to do. Nothing to do but soldier on, though…
Don’t you think “guimpe” is a weird word? It’s a French term that got adopted into English, and it can refer to anything from a full underblouse to a dickey-type thing that just fills in the neckline, like a chemisette.
Anyway, my guimpe is made of a combination of ivory embroidered net and strips of ivory embroidered lace trim. I had to do some serious maneuvering to eke out my pattern pieces from the materials I had– take a look at the tiny scraps I had left of the net once I was done cutting! Nothing wider than 3″!
Since I was making this outfit as separates, I decided to really maximize the sizing and mix-and-match potential by making the lace underskirt a separate piece as well– two skirts total. This way I can use the underskirt for another outfit somewhere down the road.
I started with a base skirt made of thin ivory cotton, which I based on the original pattern’s underskirt– I just cut it a bit larger in the back and added some small knife pleats to take up the extra fabric at the waist (for ease of size adjustment). I also evened out the waist height to hit at the natural waist in back rather than the artificially raised level of the original, and added a flat waistband. I omitted the hem facings from the pattern because this is an underskirt that’s going to be covered in lace– no one will see a machine-stitched small hem. I hemmed it to fall right at the ankle, figuring that I’d want the lace to fall slightly below that level.