The theme for the Costume College afternoon tea this year is “The Haunted Mansion,” and I wanted something appropriately spooky to wear– but it couldn’t be too involved, since I already had tons of other work to do on my other costumes. After some brainstorming I decided to make a Victorian-ish black outfit with skeleton accents– in this case, a skeleton cameo brooch and a skeleton bodysuit worn under a sheer blouse, so the bones would (subtly) show through.
The brooch, blouse, and bodysuit were easily obtained, but I knew I needed a long, black skirt to complete the look. I considered finding a sheer black skirt to complete the “ghost” concept, but ultimately discarded that idea in favor of something more versatile– a black moiré skirt that I could re-use for other Victorian/early Edwardian ensembles.
I already had the perfect pattern in my stash– Truly Victorian 297, an 1898 flared skirt. I’d used it once before to make a tweed skirt for a steampunk outfit, so knew it was easy to put together.
More progress! These posts are getting farther apart due to the complexity of each step, but I promise that we’re nearing the light at the end of the tunnel!
As I mentioned in my patterning/mockup post, the underskirt was a simple A-line, but the overskirt was drafted differently for the front and back. The front was an A-line, while the back was a half-circle, both with gathers at the waistline for extra fullness.
I’d originally planned on attaching the skirt directly to a separate waistband at the natural waist, to let the weight of the skirt rest there rather than dragging down the bodice. However, because the bodice had a dropped waistline and was fitted to the hips there wasn’t room for all those fabric gathers between the natural waist and the dropped waistline. Instead, I made a fitted yoke out of cotton sateen (dyed in the same bath as my cotton gauze) that was set on a waistband.
I started with the skirt, since I can’t get to work on the jacket until I know what I’ll be wearing it over.
Like I said, I’m using this fabric, and purchased three yards of it to ensure I had plenty to work with:
I did a little measuring and determined that I could cut three panels of the fabric (44″ wide from selvedge to selvedge) for a total skirt width of 132″– nice and full so it’ll have plenty of volume. Before doing that I cut off a piece about 1/2 yard wide to make my waistband and pockets (pockets are great!) out of. For the record, I’m 5’6″ and this made for a nice skirt length with a 2 1/2″ hem.
So I’m going to start off by warning you that this is not really a recreation of the iconic Dior Bar Suit— it’s more of a tongue-in-cheek version that I’m throwing together for fun. It may have the general look, but the details are purely for my own amusement.
I really do love the whole “new look” that came out after WWI– it’s so fluffy and fun and suits my body type much better than the long, lean looks of the first half of the 20th century. So I figured I’d have a good time making this outfit, which I’m hoping will be recognizable to my costuming friends at the various events I’ve got going this year.
It’s from Northcott’s “Happy Hour” collection (“bar” suit, get it?) and I thought it would make a great base for the black skirt. From there the whole idea came together fairly easily.
I’m going to have a full skirt made of the Happy Hour fabric, and a plain ivory jacket up top with some kind of novelty buttons down the front. I have high hopes for the hat I’m planning– straw, like the one in the 1957 photo above– and I found a perfect purse, but I’ll save that for another post.
Sorry for the delay in posting about this costume– I was waiting for a zipper to arrive, and then it turned out to be out of stock (thanks a lot, FashionFabricsClub.com, for making me wait three weeks without bothering to tell me you didn’t have my order), and I had to order it from Amazon.
Anyway, Janet’s skirt is a bit more flared than a standard A-line, but doesn’t have the fullness through the hip of a circle skirt. The panels (I think there are nine, since there’s no center front seam) are actually fitted through the hip and then flare out from just below the hipline.
To draft my pattern I took my waist measurement and my hip measurement (8″ down from the waist), and divided by nine to get the fitted top part of the skirt. From the hip point I continued drawing the lines along the same angle just for reference, extending them down to the hem (the panel was a total of 25″ long). Once I determined where the original lines would be, I extended the width of the panel by 3″ at the hem (total, so 1.5″ on each side) to get that extra flare.
As you recall from my sketch, the skirt has several layers to it– an overskirt, an underskirt, and an apron-ish panel in front. When I decided to make this outfit into a dress, I originally planned on stitching all of the layers to a single waistband to ensure that they’d all stay properly aligned. However, after getting most of the way through the process I decided that the weight of the underskirt was pulling everything down too much, so I ended up making it separate from the overdress. The whole process was a serious pain…
For the underskirt I first just cut a single rectangle about 2 yards long and ran two horizontal decorative tucks at the hem. I made them deeper than my sleeve tucks– about 1″. I’d originally planned on doing three tucks to mimic the sleeves, but I had some issues with placement and ended up with only two. I used a folded sheet of paper as a guide to keep the width consistent.
I stitched up the back seam after sewing the tucks, and used the selvedges for the top and bottom of the skirt, hemming the skirt to the correct above-the-ankle length. Happily, my mistake with the spacing of my tucks turned out all right, because turning up my hem twice made it just about the depth of the tucks, which looked intentional.