Once I had my underpinnings set I decided to make the skirt, so I could be sure that when my bodice was constructed it would fit over all of the skirt layers and still be able to close at the waist. I found a nice tutorial online for making a basic pleated skirt from a rectangular length of fabric, so I took a few pointers from that, but mostly I just winged it.
After I finished my bodice, all that was left was the skirt! Laughing Moon 114 has a very basic skirt pattern– it’s just four panels of fabric, with a pocket option that I took full advantage of, hoping to minimize the things I’d have to carry at Dickens Fair. I drafted my own pocket pattern, though, since reviews concur that the drafted pocket is too deep to get your hands all the way into, which makes it less useful. I put it on the right front seam, which was a convenient location.
One thing I did was to cut my skirt slightly wider than the pattern– it was supposed to be three 44″ panels plus one more 13″ panel for a total of about 144″ once the seam allowances were accounted for. I thought a 13″ wide back panel sounded ridiculously narrow, but rather than risk going too wide for 1840s with four 44″ panels, I split the difference and made my fourth panel only about 30″ wide. Not sure if it really made much of a difference in fullness, but it turned out fine.
Making the overskirt was a bit more complicated than I thought it would be, so I put off finishing it until really late.
It started off simple– I extended the length of the original overskirt pattern and cut the pieces a bit larger to allow for some extra fullness in back, just as I did for the underskirt. However, since there were no darts in the front like there were in the underskirt, the shaping was different– once I pulled the waist tight in back, the front pulled unattractively across my stomach, and there seemed to be too much curve at the side seams, keeping them from laying smoothly over the hips. I tweaked the shape a few times, and eventually got it to behave reasonably well.
This issue was compounded by the horror stories I’d heard about working with satin– that it showed every tiny pinhole, that it puckered if you looked at it funny, that sewing machines loved eating it for lunch, and that it was impossible to keep straight while cutting or sewing. Though I managed to avoid most of these issues by flatlining the satin with my cotton voile, I still had to be really careful with pinholes and ripping out seams. Basically, in order to avoid visibly ripped-out seam lines, every alteration I made had to make the skirt progressively smaller as I widened the seam allowance. (sigh… I guess I should’ve done a mockup after all)
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.
Once I’d finished the bodice (the most complicated part, obviously), I added a 1″ waistband– something I don’t usually do, but I thought it would help add some definition to the shape of the dress and would provide a convenient spot for adding trim later. I basically just cut out three 3″ wide strips of fabric (to provide plenty of seam allowance on both sides with room to trim)– one sheer, two cotton, and flatlined the sheer strip with one of the cotton strips.
I pinned the bottom edge of the bodice to the flatlined strip and basted it together. Then I pinned the remaining cotton strip to the inside of the bodice (to use for interior finishing later), and stitched all layers together at once.
Once the basic black and white dress was done, it was time for embellishment. To make the hearts down the front I cut out some heart-shaped templates from paper and pinned them to the dress to get an idea of the correct sizes. Then I tweaked them until I had the correct size and shape.
Once I had all of my fabrics and sketches I decided to start with what I hoped would be the easiest part of the dress– the white underskirt. I started off by simply cutting off the upper portion of the dress’s bodice, leaving a good 3″ of fabric attached to the skirt to make a waistband.
Next I turned my attention to the inside of the skirt– there was already a nice lining and net petticoat layer, but it wasn’t quite poofy enough. Luckily the lavender bridesmaid dress came with a netting layer that was exactly the same length as the white skirt, so I ruthlessly ripped out, gathered, and stitched it just below the petticoat lining. Presto! Poofy white satin underskirt!
Before I went any further I had to make sure the skirt would be the right length on my daughter, but since she hates to stand still (like any almost-four-year-old) I needed a substitute for fittings.