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…

Continue reading

Janet (The Good Place) Costume, Part I: Vest

I recently started watching The Good Place. To be more specific, I had a free weekend and decided to try watching an episode on Netflix, and before I knew it I’d binge-watched the first two seasons and was eagerly awaiting the arrival of the third. It’s just such a fun show! (I promise no spoilers for season 3 if you haven’t seen any episodes yet)

One of my favorite characters has got to be Janet– basically Siri or Alexa come to life. The actress, D’Arcy Carden, delivers her lines with a deadpan helpfulness that cracks me up every time, and her costumes are reminiscent of vintage flight attendant uniforms in a way that evokes the same feeling.

Image result for janet good place

So with Halloween fast approaching (and a newfound awareness that it’s always nice to have an easy, casual daytime outfit for more involved costume convention weekends), I decided to put together a Janet costume.

I originally planned on finding a purple suit to start with, but it was harder than I’d anticipated to find one– mostly because all of the suits had pencil skirts instead of flared skirts. The closest I came was a wool suit with a pleated skirt, but the pleats bugged me and I’d still have to convert the jacket to a vest. I would have to start from scratch.

Continue reading

1915 Picnic Dress: Done!

DSC_6385-2 edited

So the outfit is finished at last! Here I’m wearing it over a modern sleeveless cotton blouse that passes as a corset cover, and an antique Edwardian petticoat. (I’d planned to wear a corset but ditched it at the last minute because I thought it would be uncomfortable to wear while sitting on the ground) I accessorized with my Edwardian pumps, my bow-bedecked hat, and a paper parasol. Here are some shots of the full outfit!

Channeling my inner Lady Mary… I’m totally judging whatever it is I’m looking at off in the distance.

Image may contain: Tanya Austin, standing, hat and outdoor

With the family, including my little girl in her white eyelet dress!

Image may contain: 3 people, including Wes Austin and Tanya Austin, people smiling, people standing, hat, tree and outdoor

As I’ve said before, I always do appreciate when a dress turns out exactly as I’d pictured it. It doesn’t always turn out that way, which is sometimes a good thing, but there’s just something so satisfying about comparing the sketch to the real thing and seeing it come to life.

picnic-dress-sketchpicnic-done.jpg

 

1915 Picnic Dress, Part V: Finishing Touches

After the dress was structurally finished and the main embellishments were attached, I still had a few more things to do to finish it off.

First I made a belt, as it was necessary to cover up the closure at the waistband. I’d originally considered incorporating it into the dress itself, but ultimately decided that I’d rather have a little more flexibility in sizing, so a separate belt that could be cinched in or loosened a bit was preferable.

To make the belt, I cut a long rectangle of fabric and machine-sewed a bunch of 3/8″ tucks into it. I stitched the tucked piece to a flat band of fabric, right sides together, then turned and pressed it flat.

picnic-sash.jpg

I considered finding a sash buckle or pin to close it, but ultimately decided that it would be an unnecessary focal point on the dress when I really wanted the focus to be on the embroidery. Instead I closed the belt in back with snaps, though I left enough overlap to use a buckle later if I wanted to.

Next up were covered buttons, which seemed to be a popular decorative accent in the period. I bought 5/8″ covered button kits and covered them in a double layer of peach lawn– the second layer was necessary because otherwise the shiny metal button base showed through the sheer fabric, though I will note that even with very thin fabric, the extra layer made it difficult to snap the button-back into place. I stitched them to the dress in sets of three. They’re not functional, but I think they added an extra-Edwardian touch to the outfit, even if my fingertips were killing me by the time I’d covered all 18 buttons.

picnic-dress-buttons

Remember the lace I put on the sleeves while I was stitching up the bodice? Well, once I’d added the embroidered appliqués I realized that the lace was too white in comparison to the warm ivory tint of the organdy. I unpicked my hand-stitching and soaked some new lace in strongly-brewed jasmine tea to give it just a bit more of an aged look. I’ve discovered that black tea gives far too much of an orange tint to lace, and the organdy was more yellowish than anything, so jasmine tea was the perfect brew to use for this. I soaked the lace for ten minutes and then let it dry completely before giving it a rinse in cold water and letting it dry again. That gave it just enough of an off-white shade to keep the difference between it and the appliqués from being glaringly obvious.

Then I stitched the lace back into place on the sleeves, and added more of it between the tucks at the hem of the underskirt to tie the whole thing together. I decided this time around to just stitch it so it showed evenly over the edges of the tucks instead of undulating in and out of sight. It’s just easier, and it looks better on the skirt that way, so I changed the sleeves to stay consistent.

picnic-dress-hem-lace picnic-dress-sleeve-lace

So the dress is finished! Stay tuned for final pictures!

Tweaking Funtasma’s Edwardian Pumps

One of the things about making an above-the-ankle Edwardian day dress is that you suddenly have to care about your shoes. My previous Victorian/early Edwardian gowns were mostly long enough to hide my feet almost entirely, so the shoes didn’t stand out as long as they were a neutral color and shape. But my Edwardian picnic dress is intended to show some ankle (scandalous!), so shoes matter.

Of course, I already knew where I’d love to get my shoes– American Duchess. I’ve been drooling over her stuff for ages. But as much as I adore her gorgeous footwear, particularly the Astorias, they’re not really in the budget right now given how infrequently I’d wear them. So I turned to the cheap knockoff version made by Funtasma– the style known as Dame 02.

Check out the American Duchess shoes (left) vs. the Funtasma shoes (right):

  

Continue reading

The Grey Lady, Part XII: Hemming and Trim

Once all of the structural elements of the dress were done with all the seams finished, I finally hemmed it. The first step was putting it on the dress form and doing a preliminary pinning, but then I put it on myself and had my husband adjust the height of the hem so it actually worked for me (not making the same mistake I did with the bodice here). I trimmed the extra fabric and used the seam binding to bind the raw edge of the hem, then used that edge to machine-hem the dress with a blind stitch. The video below explains it fairly well.

You don’t really need a blind hem foot to do this– just keep a close watch on where your stitches are landing relative to the folded edge. Especially with a more textured fabric, it won’t matter if your stitches are a little bigger than expected.

GL hem

So I’ve got the main dress done, but I wanted to add a little something to embellish it at the neckline. I wasn’t about to do any hand-embroidery or beading in my limited timeframe, so I looked for some nice appliques instead. I looked at a lot of different types, including venise lace, soutache, and even sari trim, but eventually I decided on some silver embroidered appliques in a vaguely floral pattern. They’re not too shiny and not too ornate, so they embellish without overpowering.

Continue reading

The Grey Lady, Part X: Sleeves

So, I know that the “proper” way to get the sleeve-puff look is to sew a separate chemise and allow it to puff through openings in the oversleeve. I’m not going to do that. Instead, blatantly borrowing from numerous online tutorials on constructing sleeves for “Merida” costumes, I’ve constructed the puff and non-puff sections of the sleeves separately, and sewn them in a column to form the sleeve.

To draft the sleeve pattern, I took the basic straight sleeve and marked where I wanted my puffs to be. Then I cut along the lines and re-drew each piece, adding in seam allowances. The elbow puff is tapered at the inside elbow joint so it won’t bunch when I bend my arm. Similarly, the shoulder puff is cut right at the section of the sleeve under the armpit to avoid bunching.

GL sleeve drawn pattern

Continue reading

Vanessa/Ursula Costume, Part I: The Idea and the Gown

Ursula movie evil

It’s no secret that I love costumes, and not just at Halloween. Besides, you can never get really elaborate at Halloween because Halloween parties are always badly lit, full of drunk people, and extremely crowded (with the aforementioned drunk people). Who would bother with a fabulous costume, and more importantly, who would risk getting it ruined?

I learned this lesson back in grad school, when I wore a beautiful Regency-style ballgown to a Halloween party and promptly got white wine spilled on it (probably the least harmful thing that could’ve happened, but still not great). And I learned it again (guess I didn’t learn it all that well the first time) when I slaved for weeks on a fantastic Ursula costume, only to have it largely ignored or misunderstood at the party I went to that year. Seriously, someone asked me if I was supposed to be Marie Antoinette. MARIE ANTOINETTE.

Just for review, this is me as Ursula, the evil sea witch from The Little Mermaid:

halloween tanya

And this is Marie Antoinette:

marie_antoinette_after_elis

And while I don’t deny that we are both wearing white wigs and full-length skirts (and I guess hers could look slightly tentacle-y if you squinted really hard), it defies understanding to believe that the two costumes are in any other way similar. Seriously? Marie Antoinette? I mean, did the tentacles and giant shell necklace mean nothing? I just don’t get it…

Anyway, that aside, I really did love the costume, which i’d built on a black strapless bridesmaid’s dress and stuffed with styrofoam packing peanuts. And I didn’t have the heart to throw it away once the holiday was over, so I un-stuffed it and packed it away in a garment bag. Until I had the idea to do this*:

ursula still 1ursula still 2

ursula still 3ursula still 4

(well, maybe not that last stage). All I would need was a wedding gown to wear over the tentacles– if I cut the hem short, the tentacles would show underneath and I could be Vanessa just as she’s turning back into Ursula. Plus, I wouldn’t get a headache from wearing the white wig. So I started keeping an eye out for an appropriate dress (realizing, of course, that it would be a lot cheaper and easier to find an old wedding dress than to make one from scratch).

Continue reading