1910 Afternoon Dress, Part III: Pattern Alterations and Bodice Mockup(s)

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Since I’m modifying Laughing Moon 104 so extensively, I knew I would have to make a mockup, or several mockups, before finalizing the pattern. Honestly, I’d have done at least one mockup anyway, but the pattern alterations just made it even more important. (sadly, the cat decided that she was more important, which delayed things a bit)

I decided to start by using the princess-seamed front pieces of the underbodice, but the more simplified back pieces of the guimpe (separate underblouse). I figured that this would allow for easier application of the trim and reduce bulk under the bretelles in front (since I could stitch the trim across the bustline to just the center front panel and hide the raw edges in the seams), but still allow movement due to the looser fit of the back. I first cut out the pieces as-is out of an old sheet and seamed them together as instructed, but it quickly became apparent that the bustline didn’t fit properly at all. The dress doesn’t appear to have been designed to be worn over a corset, or at least not the kind of corset that I have, since the curve of the dress bodice creates a high, perky bustline that’s almost pointy in shape. It doesn’t seem to match either the slight flattening effect of my mid-Victorian corset (I know, wrong corset, but it’s all I have), or the low, full bust effect that was en vogue in the Edwardian era.

I ended up cutting the side front pieces with a shallower bust curve, figuring that the bodice itself doesn’t fit that snugly (at least, not with the loose back piece), so it wouldn’t be an issue even if I did eventually get the right Edwardian corset. Anything was better than the bullet-bra shape I was getting from the original pattern.

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Queen of Hearts Costume, Part II: Tailoring the Underdress

Once I had my materials assembled, the first thing I did was to make sure my black and white dress would fit me. I bought it on eBay and was more concerned with design and speed of delivery than with the precise size, so I ended up getting a dress that was a size or two too big. But better too big than too small, right?

While it would have been simpler to take the dress in only on the sides or at the side back seams, I decided to get a little creative and take it in at the front seams– this way I was able to alter the shape of the color-blocking to make it slightly less square and more tapered (and thus more flattering).  Because the dress was lined, I took in only the outside layer so the lining would disguise the stitching on the inside. I also shortened the shoulder straps so the dress would sit better on my torso. See the before and after below:

q-hearts-blackwhite  q-hearts-bw-fit

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Altering an Edwardian Dress

edwardian-white-before

So that antique Edwardian dress I mentioned earlier? Before I could wear it (shown above before I did anything to it), it needed to be altered. It just needs a few inches of extra room to make it perfect, and since I can’t make up the difference with a corset (there’s only so far you can cinch down your waist… or your ribcage), I’ll have to do it the hard way.

I know, I know… there will be people out there gasping in horror at how I could dare to alter an antique— but come on, people have been repurposing older garments forever, including making over old dresses to suit new modes of fashion, so I hardly think that merely tweaking a dress to enlarge it and make it wearable for the modern figure is that much of a problem.

Besides, it’s not like I’m repeating the mistakes I made in college when I actually went so far as to add an elastic waistband to an antique embroidered skirt (still cringe about that one). Anyway, here’s how I did it:

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Regency Spencer (Cheating)

Skipping ahead a bit (I haven’t gotten around to uploading the photos of the dress by itself), here’s my attempt at period outerwear!

When I realized that due to my Regency event being in April it was likely to be pretty chilly outside, I decided to make a spencer (short jacket) to wear over my day dress. Of course, if there’s one thing I detest in sewing it’s making collars, and I didn’t have the energy to get a pattern and sew a whole jacket from scratch– so instead I went searching for a modern jacket I could convert into a spencer. I was looking for puffed sleeves, a small collar (regular jacket lapels are too big), and some shaping seams to keep it from looking too bulky.

I did a lot of searching online for “military” and “Victorian” jackets (they were the best keywords for the style I was looking for) and ended up finding a khaki-colored canvas jacket that appeared to meet most of my requirements on eBay. It was a size XL in juniors’ sizes, which meant that it ought to fit all right, and it had some nice pleating and piping details that I thought would look good on the finished spencer.

regency-spencer-before

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The Grey Lady, Part VIII: Fixing the Bodice

Once my back closures were finished I eagerly tried on the dress, figuring I’d swan around in it for a while and gloat over how well it had gone so far. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way, and I blame it squarely on my dress form. Or rather, on the fact that my dress form isn’t shaped quite the same way I am. Because while the dress bodice looks fine on the form, with all the seams in the right places, it does not fit all that well on me.

Sure, it fits in terms of circumference, but the seams are just awkwardly placed. Princess seams are supposed to be flattering, which is usually accomplished by curving the seams in a bit at the waist to suggest an hourglass shape. Here, the princess seams aren’t quite far enough apart over the bust and they don’t narrow much at the waist, so they make my whole torso look kind of barrel-shaped. The curve of the bust is also very shallow and doesn’t have much definition, exacerbating the “barrel” issue.

Annoyingly, I’d already clipped the curves of the seam allowance before I realized this (my fault for not paying closer attention when I’d tried it on in the past), so I couldn’t just re-do the seams and make them further apart at the top to balance things out. Nor could I just make the seams closer together at the bottom, because that made the whole bodice look weird.

GL front before

I thought long and hard about whether it was worth fixing, particularly given my limited fabric supply, but decided in the end that it was necessary.

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The Grey Lady, Part VI: Gores and Princess Seams

Before assembling the dress itself, I had to make the gores to be inserted in the seams. The gores were easy– I just cut 45-degree arcs of fabric with a radius the same length as the skirt section, then stitched one side of each gore to the side front panels. After that, I just ran all of the princess seams through the sewing machine to assemble the body of the dress.

GL gores

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Vanessa/Ursula Costume, Part IV: Finishing the Dress Details

Ursula movie full

Now that the tentacles are done, it’s time to finish the dress itself. You can see in the movie that there’s a split front in the skirt, filled in by a gathered panel of slightly darker ivory fabric. I actually had a hard time finding something that worked, since all the ivory sheers I found were either too white or too tan. I finally located a workable fabric in a bin at Goodwill– it’s a window drapery panel and it’s got a slightly crushed effect that adds texture to it. It’s still a bit darker than I wanted, but I can deal with that.

I started off cutting a semicircle of fabric, figuring that this would allow for good draping at the bottom but not too much bulk at the top. It ended up being too much, so I cut it down to about 1/3 of a circle. After I’d pinned it to the dress to make sure it would drape nicely, I stitched the skirt ruffles down either side of the panel. While the ruffles are shorter than the panel, both are longer than the eventual length of the skirt after it’s cut to show the tentacles, so I didn’t mind. Because I planned on stitching the ruffle about half an inch from the inner edge, I clipped the curve to the stitching line so it could expand out to a straight line.

Ursula ruffles arc

To sew it to the dress, I first eyeballed how I would attach both sides, making sure that they’d hang symmetrically, and placed pins along the sewing line on the skirt. Then I pinned down the sides of the ruffles to the dress, right sides together, and hand-stitched it to the skirt. Because I was making a triangular panel with the stitching on the inside I had to basically sew from inside a “tent” of fabric. However, once sewn it was worth it– the sheer panel layer hides the stitching lines, so they won’t show even if the ruffles move out of place.

ursula sewn ruffle

To attach the neckline ruffle, I basted it in place while the dress was on the dress form, then took it off to machine-stitch everything from the inside. I slightly tapered the outer corners of the ruffle so it would lay nicely at the shoulder. The sleeve ruffles, on the other hand, I just stitched directly to the outside of the cuff so they’d lay as flat as possible. I also tacked them down in a few places about 2/3 of the way up the ruffle, to keep the ruffle tighter against the wrist.

I will note that I did run a quick underarm seam down the length of the sleeve to make it fit closer to my arm– Disney princesses appear to favor dress designs that have no care for the issues of trying to bend one’s arm in a tight sleeve… I took in about an inch at the wrist, up to about 1.5 inches at the upper arm.

Ursula sleeve seam

So here’s the dress, ready to shorten to show  my awesome tentacles!

Ursula long done