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.
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.
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.
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?
I’ve always loved the dress Audrey Hepburn wore as Eliza Doolittle in the Embassy Ball scene of My Fair Lady. It’s just beautiful– due in no small part to the wearer, but it’s objectively beautiful on its own. So elegant, so sparkly, so perfect in every way; I read that it’s actually made out of an original Edwardian piece, modified to suit the fashion sense of modern audiences. I’ve been dying to recreate it for ages– I even saved the embroidered and beaded tulle from an eBay wedding gown I bought for Halloween almost ten years ago, hoping to use it to make the overdress someday. (spoiler: I did not end up using it)
Then, while planning for what dress I would wear to an upcoming Edwardian-themed ball, I saw this rhinestone shoulder chain on eBay and was immediately struck by how similar it was to the jeweled neckline on the original dress– surely, it was Fate! It has the drapes in front, the shoulder swags, and the tiny crystal dangles all around the edges. Not perfect, of course (got to get rid of that tacky central jewel), but close enough to get me started!
One of the things I always have trouble with in historical costuming is figuring out what to do with my hair. It’s reasonably long, which (depending on the era) can be a good thing, but it’s not that thick, so doesn’t provide the sheer volume that’s often necessary for historical hairstyling. But then again, many of the women back then didn’t have a ton of hair either, so what did they do? They made hairpieces, often out of their own hair. (If you’ve ever read a book and wondered what a “hair receiver” is, wonder no more!)
Well, I don’t have a hair receiver, but I do have access to plenty of fake hair, so when I was putting together my Belle Epoque/Gibson Girl outfits I decided to make my own hairpiece to provide extra bulk and volume to my pompadour. It really couldn’t be easier.
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: