Flashback: Mary Poppins and Bert

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It’s no secret that I enjoy making elaborate Halloween costumes. But the first Halloween with our baby daughter, to my surprise, my husband agreed right off the bat to my first idea for a family costume– Mary Poppins and Bert, with the baby as one of the dancing penguins in the Jolly Holiday animated scene.

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1915 Picnic Dress: Done!

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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.

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Edwardian Eyelet Girl’s Dress

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Every now and then I feel the need to rope my family into my historical costuming hobby… but it’s easier said than done. Men’s outfits are relatively straightforward, but getting a 6-year-old to dress up in something she doesn’t want to wear can be tough– and even if you can manage it, watching her go through her day blithely unaware of the various grass stains and other horrors she’s inflicting on your carefully-chosen outfit is just painful. For that reason, I’ve refrained from ever trying to put my daughter in any genuine antiques, or even things that I’ve made with complicated techniques or particularly nice fabrics. I just know she’ll spoil them and I don’t want to spend my day worrying about it instead of enjoying the event.

But what to do when you’re just dying to attend something as a family, in full get-up? You improvise.

Since I spent some time making a light and airy Edwardian picnic dress for myself, I figured that something similar was in order for the kid. While I’d love to make her a dress laden with hand-embroidery and antique insertion lace, as I mentioned before it’s just not in the cards right now– luckily, many extant dresses rely heavily on pre-embroidered fabric for decoration, which is still widely available, so I decided to go that route.

   KLEDING / VINTAGE CLOTHES | De tweede lente

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

1915 Picnic Dress, Part IV: Embroidered Appliqués

Once the dress was put together, it was time to do the embellishments. As you recall, I found this beautiful centerpiece/napkin set to use for my dress accents.

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It arrived looking a bit dingy (as many antique linens do) so I soaked it in diluted Woolite for a bit (testing it first on one of the cocktail napkins to be sure it wouldn’t ruin anything) to whiten it up. It only brightened a little, so I tried Oxiclean. That also brightened it a tiny bit, but finally a 2-minute soak in a Clorox solution (followed by a rinse in diluted hydrogen peroxide to neutralize the excess chlorine, and several rinses in clean water) did the trick to make it a nice antique white.

I will also note that while I’d originally assumed that the embroidery was done by machine, now I’m not so sure. On closer inspection there are actually significant differences between each of the corners in terms of placement and missing/different stitches, which implies that the embroidery was hand-done after all. I wish I had a better idea of the date on this set, but in any case I think it’s lovely. It’s almost a shame to cut it up, but I’d never use it as-is.

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1860s Embroidered Ballgown, Part V: Bertha

So it’s time to make the bertha (weird name for an article of clothing, but whatever). Berthas can be made of flat or pleated/gathered pieces of fabric, trimmed in any number of different ways. TV442 comes with two options– a flat one and a gathered one.

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I decided to make the gathered bertha, which was really just a long, hemmed rectangle with angled lines of gathering to form the ruffles. I figured that I’d cover up my gathering lines with some blue and gold trim to add some visual interest. Accordingly, I cut out the fabric, ran gathering stitches along the appropriate lines, and started pinning things to see how it would look.

Unfortunately, it ended up looking like this (ribbon is tacked down as a placeholder only, but you get the idea). Ugh.

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1860s Embroidered Ballgown, Part IV: Bodice

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Once the skirt was done, I got out my bodice pattern– Truly Victorian 442– and started cutting out a mockup. I cut size D for the front and size E for the back, per the measurements in the instructions, and stitched the pieces together as instructed. It went together pretty fast, all things considered– I’m particularly happy with how well the curved back seams match up and how easy they were to stitch… take note, Simplicity 4055!

I tried it on first over my dress form just to see if it was anywhere near the right size. The dress form is about right for my corseted measurements, anyway, since the corset doesn’t actually reduce my waistline so much as shape it more attractively. It looked reasonably close.

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Then I actually tried it on myself, over the hoop skirt and skirt, to see how much work I had to do to get it to fit. The problem, of course, was that my husband isn’t so great at pinning fabric on me, so had a difficult time lining things up to see where the trouble spots were. Also, he’s reluctant to pin things too tightly, even though I pointed out that a bodice like this is supposed to be form-fitting. In the end, I determined that there weren’t any major problems with the pattern as drafted (at least none that couldn’t be fixed by a little tweaking at the side seams), and decided to leave the pattern unaltered.

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