So to go with my 1915 picnic dress, I needed a hat to shade my delicate complexion from the sun (or something like that). I tried using my flowered Edwardian hat but it seemed too elaborate for the relatively casual dress, so I went looking for something new.
Since it’s summer there are plenty of straw hats available, but most of them are pretty floppy and that wasn’t what I was going for. I thought I’d start with something more boater-shaped, but apparently I was cutting it a bit close time-wise because most of the cheap boater options online had a 2-3 week shipping time, which was too late for my upcoming picnic.
I ended up with a costume gondolier hat, which is coarser straw than I would’ve liked, but it looked about right. Many purchasers complained that the crown was too shallow and the head circumference was too big, making it sit oddly on the head, but one reviewer (a woman after my own heart) noted that it was perfect for puffy Victorian/Edwardian hairstyles, which I thought made it worth a try.
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):
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.
Every year we throw an ice cream party, where guests bring their favorite flavors of ice cream along with toppings to create an ice cream buffet. Unfortunately, once the wreckage is cleared away we find ourselves with an excess of high-calorie, high-sugar treats in the form of sauces, crumbled cookies, and candy– what to do with them?
I managed to use up a lot of the leftovers, but one bottle of storebought “caramel flavored syrup” remained stubbornly in our refrigerator. I usually make my own caramel sauce (deeply caramelized, and hit with a generous pinch of salt), but I thought I’d try my hand at doctoring up the storebought stuff, just to see what would happen.
Done! Finally done! And it turned out so gorgeous! I’m so excited about this dress– despite the changes of plan and occasional difficulties, I really love it. I just hope my daughter will wear it…
When we left off, I had just finished the paned sleeves, which are just one of the many fabulous features I can’t stop squee-ing over. To finish up I stitched the rose clusters to the skirt bustling points, then made a few more rosebuds of various sizes to finish off the neckline along with some silver leaves. It took several tries to get an arrangement I liked for the neckline, but eventually I settled on one and stitched it down.
And voila! Finished!
For the previous work-in-progress posts, see below:
Part I: Sketches
Part II: Fabric
Part III: Revising the Design
Part IV: White Underskirt
Part V: Bustled Overskirt
Part VI: Basic Bodice
Part VII: Chiffon Roses
Part VIII: Paned Sleeves
- For the love of god, don’t buy a dress to upcycle unless it is larger than you need it to be. I thought the size 5 kid’s dress would be big enough for my daughter, and the fact that it wasn’t caused all kinds of extra trouble that could’ve been avoided. If I’d known ahead of time how much work upcycling would be, I would have made the dress from scratch. Remember, making things smaller is a heck of a lot easier than making them bigger.
- EBay formalwear is still a great place to find yards and yards of fancy fabric, and I’d recommend it to anyone, especially if you’re looking for satin. Bonus points for embroidery details and petticoat layers underneath!
- Unless you’re really good at pattern drafting it’s best to have a printed pattern to work from for the basic things like sleeves and necklines. You don’t have to take it as gospel, but you can use it to compare to your own pieces and make sure they’re somewhat in the right range.
- Making a duct tape dress form made this process infinitely easier. Highly recommended.
- However, you still need to try the dress on your child to make sure there aren’t any surprises. Case in point– when I tried the skirt on my daughter for the first time, it was clear that the weight would drag it down from her natural waistline over time. The solution was to buy suspenders to keep the skirt at the right height– they fit just fine under the separate top and the skirt stayed firmly in place the whole time.
When making the bodice it took me a while to decide how best to display the embroidery on the fabric. After much vacillating and even more pinning, I decided to use the existing bottom hem of the bodice, which would forfeit the pretty design along the top edge but which would let me have a more structured bottom edge. I took a deep breath and started disassembling the bodice.
Once I’d figured out what I was going to do, I had to prepare the bodice for cutting– that meant slitting open the side seams and removing the boning from the front, and then re-shaping the bodice entirely to change it from being curved over the bust to being flat (as 4-year-olds are not known for their curved bustlines).
Every year for the holidays I have fun looking through the stores for an adorable holiday dress for my daughter. In years past she’s been pretty compliant in terms of wearing what I pick out, since she loves twirly skirts, lace, sparkles, and all the components that are usually present in holiday-wear. This year I happened upon a lovely (but plain) dress, and decided to do a little quick DIY and fancy it up to meet her high standards.