1910 Afternoon Dress, Part IV: Underskirt

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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.

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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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1910 Afternoon Dress, Part II: Lace and Fabric

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This is the lace that started it all. Really, I had a totally different idea for my next afternoon-tea outfit– it was going to be a tiered white cotton Edwardian dress with embroidered navy trim– and then I saw this lace on Etsy and immediately knew I wanted to go in another direction.

Anyway, the Etsy seller also had a coordinating narrower lace, plus an even narrower one that looked like it was somewhat similar, so I bought some of all three. I’ll use the widest stuff sparingly, since it’s the most expensive– mostly for the lace collar and the decoration across the front of the bodice. The medium width will be used on the dress cuffs and also on the collar, and I’ll use the narrowest stuff to trim the cuffs of the undersleeves.

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1910 Afternoon Dress, Part I: Design and Patterns

I think that my favorite time period to dress for has to be between 1890 and 1910. You get the narrow waist of the Victorian era without all the skirt structure and fuss that make the hoopskirt and bustle periods so much trouble to sew; plus the sweeping skirts and flowing lines are both flattering to the figure and fun to swan around in.

As you already know I love my 1910’s white embroidered lingerie dress, particularly for afternoon events, but even a classic “little white dress” can’t meet one’s costuming needs for every event, especially when it’s a delicate antique. After seeing some spectacular day dresses at an afternoon tea party I decided that I needed something with a little more color, possibly a dusty rose or a periwinkle blue– but I didn’t have a real vision for the dress until I saw some lace on Etsy I wanted to use, plus a bunch of images online… and suddenly it all crystallized into a dress design! Don’t you love it when that happens?

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1920s Flamingo Dress

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So, obviously I enjoy attending costumed events, but dragging friends along with me is half the fun! And that generally involves my volunteering to make something for them so they have something appropriate to wear. And that brings me to this dress, which I made so that a friend of mine could accompany me to the annual historical costumers’ picnic I host every summer (or at least, this is the second annual, so I’m hoping to make it a tradition!).

Because 1920s-style dresses are the fastest and easiest historical outfits I know how to make, we decided to go with a basic day dress, very similar to the ones I’ve been making recently. She wanted something in navy blue, but I just couldn’t seem to find anything cute in that colorway or to think of any interesting design ideas until I came across this fantastic flamingo-print rayon voile, and it all came together!

Telio Rayon Voile Flamingos on Navy

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Green Striped 1920s Dress, Part IV: Ribbon Flower Embellishments

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After finishing the body of the dress, I still had to decide on the floral embellishments at the hip and shoulder. My Etsy ribbon-flower appliques did indeed arrive in time, but they were kind of boring-looking– too pale, not enough color to them. Besides which, when I pinned them to the dress they looked a little off– too fancy compared to the simple fabric.

I decided to go in a different direction, making ribbon flowers out of ombre-dyed taffeta ribbon. And because I can never take the easy route to things like this, I decided to dye my own ivory ribbon rather than buy it pre-colored.

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My Fair Lady Ballgown, Part XI: Supply List

Now that the outfit is done, I figured I could take some time to provide resources for any other would-be Eliza Doolittles!

I will note that I wasn’t able to make my dress exactly screen-accurate– I didn’t locate all of my reference images until I’d already done some of the work, and it wasn’t worth it to me to re-do things like the embroidery on the center skirt panel to get it exactly right. I did, however, try to reproduce the original as best I could under the circumstances. For what it’s worth, the dress has about 7,000 individually-applied sequins and rhinestones, so you’d better be up for a lot of handwork!

Here’s what I used to make the dress:

Materials:

Bias-cut ivory gown (purchased)

4 yards ivory English net, 56″ wide

3 yards clear beaded teardrop fringe

At least 8 yards of 1/2″ wide ivory floral trim

4 yards 1 1/2″ wide scalloped ivory trim

5 yards 1″ wide ivory trim

2 yards each of 2.9cm and 3.2cm round floral trim to make round appliques.

1440 ss10 rhinestones, 1440 ss20 rhinestones, 288 ss30 rhinestones, 144 ss50 rhinestones, all in clear flatback (no AB, no hot-fix) (I had a ton left over, especially of the ss30 and ss50 sizes, but these quantities were pretty inexpensive from this seller so it’s better to have too many than too few!)

4mm and 6mm round flat sequins in “moonshine”

4mm round flat sequins in silver

Gem-Tac adhesive (I only needed one large bottle, using syringes as applicators)

Invisible thread

So, final notes and tips:

  1. Definitely use blunt-needle syringes as applicators for the sequins and rhinestones. Once they’re full of glue you can store them point-down with the needle tips in a mug with about an inch or water in the bottom, and they’ll stay usable almost indefinitely. The water keeps the glue from drying inside the needle section, though Gem-Tac does occasionally get clumpy so I can’t promise you won’t need to occasionally swear a little as you un-clog the needle by soaking it in hot water. I worked with two syringes at once so I’d be sure to have a working one at all times.
  2. Toothpicks (the blunt ends) were perfectly good tools for picking up sequins and the tiny rhinestones. I wouldn’t bother with Q-tips or the special wax sticks you can find online.
  3. If you can’t find perfect appliques, don’t be afraid to cut apart/combine other appliques to get the effect you’re going for. Particularly since this gown has so much sparkle on it, no one will be looking closely enough at the precise type of lace you’re using to see if it matches everywhere.
  4. While it might seem easier to do the embellishment on the overgown before attaching it to the undergown, I think that it’s necessary to have the whole thing hanging on a dress form before you finalize the placement of the swags and appliques. Otherwise you might end up placing something incorrectly and not finding out until it’s too late to fix.
  5. Don’t finalize any embellishments at the hem until you’ve tried on the mostly-embellished gown and ensured that the net hasn’t stretched out. Don’t store the dress on a hanger or dress form– keep it flat to avoid further stretching. It may also be a good idea to leave the bottom few inches relatively plain in case you need to hem it again later and don’t want to lose detail.

And of course, if anyone needs help with laying out embellishments or figuring out how best to drape the dress, feel free to comment on this post and I’ll try to respond! Good luck!