To make my lilypad-shaped fascinator, I started off by picking out a remnant of celery-green fabric from my stash– it’s satin on one side and dupioni-ish on the other, and I’d originally bought it to line my Regency ribbon-rose reticule. I thought it would coordinate well with my suit– however, once I actually got it out it was clearly too pale a green to stand out next to the bright turquoise suit. I decided to try dyeing it with Jacquard Dye-Na-Flow, which is my go-to for tiny dye jobs like this since it works on both natural and synthetic fibers.
I did a few test swatches and ended up using a combination of Turquoise and Chartreuse in a 3:1 ratio. Because my fabric was super-non-absorbent (seriously, water and dye just beaded up on its surface) I had to soak it in water for a good long time to get it wet, and then painted the undiluted dye directly onto the dampened fabric. The dye still wouldn’t spread naturally, so I ended up rubbing dyed parts of the fabric onto the un-dyed parts to get it to distribute evenly. It was a hassle, but the finished shade was a nice springy green.
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.
To go with my 1840s day dress I knew I needed something to use as a head covering for Dickens Fair. Unfortunately, while the standard shape for an 1840s bonnet is really a “coal scuttle bonnet” with straight sides like this one:
… it was not possible to find one inexpensively on short notice. Further complicating the issue was the fact that I’d have to pack or ship the bonnet, which is a pain since bonnets are so bulky, so I couldn’t just make one at home and get it to California easily. What to do?
So remember the Edwardian hat I painstakingly made last year, only to lose it on the train before I got the chance to wear it? I never really got over being bitter about that, and vowed to make another, better one as soon as I got the chance.
My daughter is going to be a flower girl in my brother’s upcoming wedding– she’s extremely excited about it, of course! We decided that aside from the dress (which is huge and made of yards and yards of ivory tulle), what she really needed was a wreath of flowers for her hair. Because hey, flower girls need flowers, right?
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.
Like I said, as part of our family costume my husband decided to be the Mad Hatter. Honestly, I mostly put his outfit together from pieces I bought– a velvet blazer, some plaid golf pants, a pair of argyle socks– but some items I just had to make myself.
First and foremost was the hat. You know me, I’m the queen of decorated top hats, so while I bought the base hat on Amazon I knew I’d be going to town on the embellishments.
The hat itself is huge– not just tall (which it totally is, unlike many of the dinky little so-called “top hats” you find at the lower price points), but also big in circumference. My husband has a pretty big head, and this hat literally fall down past his ears, it was that big.
I recently acquired an antique Edwardian lingerie dress (translation: a lacy white cotton dress suitable for afternoon wear) that I plan on wearing to an afternoon tea. However, how can one go to an Edwardian tea without an appropriate hat (particularly when one has no skill at Edwardian hairdressing, making the hat even more necessary)? So when I saw this wide-brimmed straw hat in a local store for only $1.99, I snapped it up.
You can see that it actually has a slightly fluted brim– I liked that detail– and a relatively small crown that would have to be disguised to get the right shape. I wasn’t sure what I wanted it to look like in the end, so I turned to the internet for inspiration.
Once I had the embroidered wisteria designs finished, I decided to create a few three-dimensional wisteria blossoms to use at the neckline of the gown. The problem was, I wasn’t sure how to do the stems– the blossoms would be simple, just looping seam binding and using thread to bind the tops together, but the stems were a puzzle. If I used regular embroidery floss they would be too droopy and wouldn’t have any structure. If I used wire they would be too stiff. I thought about fishing line, but then I’d have to tie it all up together and find some way to make it green, and it sounded like a huge hassle.
I finally bought some green cotton cord that was on clearance at my local craft store. It had some structure to it, and I figured that it would strike a nice balance between stiffness and flexibility.
Here’s the process for making the wisteria sprays:
Okay, so I’d intended to do sleeves next, but they were such an intimidating prospect that I decided to take a break and make some embellishments instead.
I knew I wanted to embellish this dress with flowers, but I couldn’t seem to find any that I liked. Artificial flowers were too stiff, but ribbon flowers were flat and uninteresting. Finally, I concluded that I would need to make them myself, and turned to the internet for help. Luckily, the internet is great at providing tutorials for crafters like me:
I purchased some chiffon in two shades of purple and started cutting it into strips.