Once the bodice was done, the skirt was relatively straightforward. 1830s skirts are just rectangles pleated to the bodice, so rather than follow the pattern I cut three lengths of fabric to use.
I added some non-historically-accurate pockets to the side seams– I do intend to carry a reticule with this dress, but pockets are nice for things you really don’t want to lose.
Because I had a center back seam I figured that I didn’t need to stitch in a separate placket– I just used an extra-wide seam allowance and folded it over to one side. Sadly, this did not end up working out, as once I’d pleated my skirt to my bodice and basted it in place, I realized that it was just too full– my fabric was 54″ wide, making for a 160″ skirt circumference. It looked more like an 1860s skirt than an 1830s skirt, so I cut out a section from the center back (12″ on each side) and re-stitched the center back seam. That required me to rip out my skirt pleats and start again, which was a pain. And I ended up doing it a third time once I tried it on and was dissatisfied with how I’d distributed the skirt fullness. And then a fourth time when I decided that my waistline was just 1/2″ too high, so I needed to re-set the skirt (and waist piping) entirely to bring it down just a bit. And then a FIFTH time when I realized that in order to balance the hemline properly I’d need to take it up from the waist due to the difference in length between front and back. (sigh)
Until recently I’d never much cared for the 1830s in terms of fashion– the giant sleeves were off-puttingly wide (unlike 1890s sleeves, which somehow seemed more normal, perhaps because they were higher on the shoulder?) the ankle-length skirts looked awkward, and the giant bonnets were insane. No, I thought, the doll-like silhouette was not for me. But while at Costume College last summer I attended a really fun class on crazy 1830s hair, and then I saw a bunch of attendees walking around in smashing 1830s day dresses, and before I knew it I was hooked!
I picked up Truly Victorian 455, the Romantic Era dress pattern, and started browsing through Pinterest for fabric ideas.
I blame this project entirely on Pinterest. I was browsing through the “Kids” section when I saw some really adorable pictures of play kitchens people had made for their children by repainting nightstands and attaching faucets and/or burners to the tops. Seriously, these things were cute. And hey, I loved cooking, so surely my 2-year-old would want to be like Mommy, and would need her own play kitchen! Heck, having a play kitchen would probably keep her from trying to use the real stove– making her one was practically a safety precaution!
I immediately started plotting where to find some nightstands of my own, but the local Goodwill was pretty short on furniture and there was a mysterious dearth of garage sales in my area, so I had to look for another option. Plunging back into Pinterest, I found examples of people modifying existing play kitchens (which, as a whole, are pretty cheesy looking in their original plastic glory).
Always preferring to do superficial modification rather than major construction, I started looking for a decent base to start with, and that’s where IKEA came in. Ah, IKEA, a store where the layout doesn’t just encourage impulse buying, it actively tries to snatch your purse before letting you find the exit. IKEA had a basic play kitchen that was just crying out for a makeover, and for once, the fact that it came completely disassembled would be a plus, as it would facilitate repainting.
Honestly, a kitchen doesn’t get more basic and utilitarian than the IKEA one. And sure, my daughter would probably have just as much playing with it, but I wouldn’t have nearly as much fun looking at it every day. Continue reading →