Monday, November 27, 2017

The Fastest Dress in the West!

My mom joined us up in Calico last month, and since we thought it would be fun to all go 1880's, I needed a second dress. And fast. Aside from the time constraint, I needed the dress to fit another person. Luckily, my mom is about my size, just a little shorter. 

The easiest thing that popped into my head was a tennis dress! The blouse wouldn't need close fitting, and the skirt length could be made short enough for her, but still work at that length, for me. 

I was greatly inspired by this tennis dress, at the LACMA. Because of time, I didn't try to draft anything. I just went into my pattern stash and pulled out some Truly Victorian patterns.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Inside the Navy Wool Habit

As I mentioned in my last post, the habit jacket and waistcoat are patterned from J.P. Ryan's riding habit pattern. Fitting this habit was one of the classes I took at Costume College this year. The jacket is barely changed, with only some modification to the lapels. The waistcoats use the pattern as a base, and are modified from there, for style.

A Navy Wool Riding Habit

Being that I ride horses almost every day of the week, it's amazing to me that it has taken this long for me to actually make a riding habit! 

This habit started out as one of my classes at Costume College this year. I took a riding habit fitting workshop with J.P Ryan and Feather Tippets, which was great, because I came home and had a pattern to get started with right away. The jacket is mostly unaltered from the J.P. Ryan pattern. If I remember correctly, I think I changed the lapels a little. Also, I opted not to add hooks/eyes all the way down the front. The two waistcoats are modified from the waistcoat that came in the pattern.

For years, on my to do list, was the idea of a riding habit done in the style of George Washington's uniform at the Smithsonian. Navy with buff lapels and cuffs, and buff waistcoat patterned after a man's. I started this out with that plan in mind. As I moved further along with the project, I changed my mind and decided to keep the jacket one fabric. That way, in the future, I could make and wear any waistcoat I wanted, and the outfit would be more versatile. I tried to keep the habit in the style of the 1770's.

Friday, November 17, 2017

A Little 1880's Bonnet

Oh, bonnets. So frilly, so silly. I love looking at them. I don't really love wearing them. They're just so frivolous. They don't keep your head warm, they don't shade you from the sun... But I kind of fell in love with the idea of a flowery bonnet for this outfit. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Fun with Carmen Miranda!

I, yi, yi, yi, yi, I like this verrrry much! Haha ok so this was really fun to wear. Sooo completely different than what I usually do!

I actually prepared most of it for a party last year, that we didn't end up going to. So this October, I pulled it out, added a couple more details and I was good to go! I wore it to a party we go to at the lake's marina. A lot of people really go all out for it, so it's been a fun event. 

Here's Carmen in all her feathery, decked out glory! I love her!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Black Sateen 1880's Corset

What does every good outfit need? Good undies! And while I didn't have time to make 1880's white frillies, I did prioritize time to make a more era appropriate corset. For a long time, all I had for anything Victorian was my not-quite-1860's corset. And oh boy, looking back, the off silhouette really does show. My goal for this corset was a better shape. A rounder, lower bust. Also, better fabric.

Friday, November 3, 2017

The 1885 V&A Dress: Construction

This was a very fun, relatively quick dress to put together. I challenged myself to complete it as quickly as possible, without sacrificing trying to be as period correct as possible, to my current knowledge of the period. This meant not overthinking, over-measuring, over-pinning, over-seam-finishing... And guess what? It looked just fine!

It was actually quite difficult trying to remember how 1880's gown construction went, since I've spent the last couple years in the early 1900's. Inadvertently, I think the inside might be kind of a Victorian/Edwardian mashup, so if something looks weird in there, sorry! I wasn't double checking every technique.

The skirt started as Truly Victorian's Four Gore underskirt, and the bodice as Truly Victorian's Cuirass Bodice. I draped and altered from there to match the original as close as I could, with the amount of yardage I had. I didn't have quite enough fabric, so I had to get crafty. One great way to conserve fabric was using plain muslin for parts of the underskirt that wouldn't show. Another way was to make very shallow pleats in the ruffles.

An 1880's Dress for a Halloween Outing

Last month, my husband and I were driving home from California and stopped for lunch at Calico Ghost Town. Turns out it was Calico Days. We were so bummed we missed out on the opportunity to dress for it.

Well, we heard they were having a Halloween event so we decided to go up for it. We wanted to go 1880's, which is when the original town was from. Never mind that it was just a Halloween thing. Any excuse to play dress up! So I was like, oh this will be easy, I already have a couple 1880's dresses. Cool. 

Not cool. 

Nothing fit. Like, at all. Like how was I ever that small?! 

But it was ok, because it gave me the perfect opportunity to create something that's been on my to-do list for a while: this 1885 printed cotton dress that's been on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum for years. I took the below pics on one of my last trips, but click here for the Museum's link to the dress's page.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Mary Ellen's Swim Suit: A Look at a 1940's Original

When I venture into a new era, if possible, I like to find an original garment that I can add to my collection, study, and love. I thought the name made this swim suit especially fun! 

I'm not sure if this was a bought or home-made suit. The somewhat sloppy nature of the stitches suggests home-made, but the overcasting on the seams leads me to question this. Any ideas? 

Either way, I'm loving that stripe matching in on the skirt!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A 1940's Bathing Suit

I have always thought 1940's swim suits are just the cutest! I finally used a trip to the beach as an excuse to make one. 

I vacillated over what fabric to use, as the 40's are out of my regular purview. I looked into stretchy blends. I looked into rayons. I looked into wools... And by the time I spent all this time hemming and hawing over fabrics, it was going to be too late to order anything in time. So, I settled on some cute checked linen I'd had in the stash for ages. Time to use it! 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Aid of Art to Represent Nature

We are all familiar with Camille Clifford. Oh, those curves! But wait, here she is again, about ten years later, when curves are out and that slim line is in. Wait, what? Where did those curves go? 

My guess: the padding came out.

I recently made up this Atelier Sylph corset pattern. I made a mock up, which fit relatively well, but didn't actually make any changes to it. It's such a curvy and dramatic silhouette, I wanted to see how it fit out of the box. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

"We get so awfully dirty..."

In my last post I mentioned a postcard, from my husband's collection, where the sender remarks on being dirty all the time. It's one of my favorite of his, so I had to go find it and share. The postcard was postmarked from Blue Canyon (NV?) to Aurora, IL on March 18, 1911. 

Sat. A.M.

Dear Aunt Grace, - I didn't say goodbye to you Tues. night. It came to me as soon as the train started. Everything is fine here and the scenery is beautiful. We get so awfully dirty, but then everyone does lovingly, Grace

I never paid attention before, but I flipped the postcard over, and what a happy coincidence: our building is right on the front! It's the three story, brown and white building, second from the left.

Now I'm off to do more laundry and get the dirt stains out of that skirt! 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Goldfield Days 2017

Just like last year, Goldfield Days fell the weekend after Costume College. So, again, we had fun road tripping all week and ended up in Goldfield just in time to open our building for the event. We open up the John S. Cook Bank Building as a bar for the day and sell beer and shirts and mugs even have a ghost hunt! With all the proceeds going toward the restoration and upkeep of the 13,000 square foot building. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

More Costume College!

Oh, I am just the absolute worst at taking pictures! I never remember to actually get out my camera! I must say, though, there were so many amazing gowns and outfits throughout the whole event this year. I didn't even get a picture of all the things I wore. So bad! But here's a few of the weekend.

I started on Thursday with a Riding Habit fitting workshop. I wore my same 18th century undies, but here's a couple pics of the fitted waistcoat. I can't wait to start this when I get home.


Thursday night, for the pool party, I wore my white linen 1930's beach pants and a new black crepe de chine halter. I had my hair marcelled, but totally forgot to take a picture until I was getting undressed. Whoops! I totally love these pants. I have worn them so many times since I made them!

Inside the 1902 Worth Gown for the CoCo Gala

A while ago I was looking online for warp printed silk for an 18th century dress, when I came across a fabric. Immediately I thought of this gown:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
2009.300.2009a, b

This particular gown is at the Met. It's a House of Worth gown from 1902. The fabric is very distinct, and though the fabric I found wasn't 100% exact, it definitely had the vibe, and the motif was the right size and pattern to work with the design and cut outs that are on the original dress. I had to make it!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Countess of Provence Gown

In the last couple months, I've had a chance to finish up some things that have been languishing on the "almost finished" pile. When I have no deadline, I have a terrible habit of getting 99% of the way through a project... and then stopping. I have no idea why! And there a garment will sit, and sit, and sit.

On the bright side, this means that when I finally get around to resuming, the project is almost done!

My most recent ensemble to be completed is a similar gown to the one worn by Marie Josephine of Savoy, Countess of Provence, in the following portrait. I love the gown. I love pretty much anything white. And that cap, pouf, whatever it is... is just wild!

Painting by Alexander Kucharsky, circa 1790.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A Turn of the Century Foundation Skirt

After going through the evening gown I shared in my last post. I started on a foundation skirt for my own evening gown. A foundation skirt is basically a very engineered petticoat that goes under a gown, once skirts stop routinely being lined, around the turn of the 20th century.

To construct this skirt, I gathered my information from a few different places, since I have never actually seen one in person. Authentic Victorian Dressmaking Techniques, edited by Kristina Harris, is indispensable. It's a copy of Butterick's 1905 manual, Dressmaking, Up to Date. If you don't already have one, get a copy! It explains pretty much everything I did to make this skirt, as well as everything else you might ever need to know about turn of the century sewing. I'll make a note on what pages the info came from throughout the post.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Inside a Turn of the Century Evening Gown, Part 2: The Skirt

Yesterday I shared pictures of the bodice. While the inside of the bodice is fairly messy and pieced, the skirt of this gown is fantastic! It is so heavy and engineered!

I'm always really excited to get to study a skirt, since they seem to rarely survive, while bodices, which don't employ yards and yards of fabric just waiting to be remade, are so much more common.

The shape is fairly simple. Here is is laid flat. The CB is to the right, CF on the left. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Inside a Turn of the Century Evening Gown, Part 1: The Bodice

It's been a while since I've shared the insides of one of my collection. I pulled this gown out of the tissue to study the insides for a new evening gown I have started. This dress looks like it could be home-made, but if it was, it was made by someone who knew what they were doing. I suppose it could have been made by a private dressmaker, but I very much doubt it came from any kind of fashion house or department store. There are no labels and the inside is kind of a mess. Of course, the messy insides are my favorite! So, on to the masses of pictures!

I'll start with the bodice today. The skirt will follow, since there are just too many pictures for one post!


Monday, June 5, 2017

The Remade Chintz Gown

This dress started life back in 2012. I wore it for a 4th of July Parade. It was fun, but it was also all kinds of wrong. Machine sewn, modern pattern, petticoat too short, weird cotton lining, zig zag stitching, panniers.... Yikes. I mean, the list went on. I was never, ever going to wear that dress again.

But, the fabric was worth saving. A lovely, printed cotton chintz.

In 2014 I decided to rip it all apart and reuse the material. I'm embarrassed to say it took three years to get around to finishing it. 

So, apart came every seam, and eventually it became a dress again. A better dress. I reassembled the pieces, reshaping and refitting where necessary and hand stitching them back together as one would construct a gown using 18th century methods. 

I also remade the petticoat. Luckily, I still had fabric left over and was able to recut the whole thing. I saved the old petticoat to use for something else someday. Long sleeves maybe...


So bottom line, it's not a new concept, but always buy the best fabric you can. Even if you're skills and knowledge aren't up to it at the time, there is always the future!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Rose Gold 30's Evening Gown

Over Derby Weekend, we had tickets to one of the black tie galas. I am such a sucker for an opportunity to dress up in black tie!

I've been wanting a satin 1930's evening gown for ages, so I took this opportunity to make one! And the color fit perfectly for the June's Historical Sew Monthly challenge: metallics.

I used Vintage Pattern Lending Library's #T6573. Great dress. Very forgiving size-wise as it's such a loose style. I did have to add about an inch to the hem, and probably could have added a bit more. I am only 5'4", so definitely check the length if you use this pattern! I opted out of adding the fabric flowers at the front, since this wasn't actually a costume event, and wanted to keep everything simple. I really wanted to make an evening jacket for it, but just ran out of time. Next time!

Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures of the gown until very late in the evening, so it's a bit wrinkly. Not to mention, my hair had kind of had it with the humidity. On the other hand, I was able to get a couple pictures in the lobby with no people around, so there is always a silver lining :)

So, the facts:

The Challenge: June, Metallics

Material: Silk crepe back satin

Pattern: Vintage Pattern Lending Library's #T6573

Year: Late 1930's

Notions: Thread, snaps, hook and eye

How historically accurate is it? I want to say totally, though I haven't yet personally seen a 30's dress with machine rolled hems. Though, I do have some very old rolled hem feet and it suggests it in my 1940's sewing book. Just throwing that out there.

Hours to complete: Maybe a week of sewing, here and there. I let the dress hang a couple days before hemming it.

First worn: Last weekend

Total cost: A few yards of silk crepe back satin


Construction of the dress went easily for the most part, but it got a little fiddly attaching the top of the train to the waist of the dress. The pattern directions got a little hazy there, and I'm sure I just interpreted them wrong. But because of the nature of the silk, I couldn't play around with it too much, so I picked a method and went with it.

I chose to hem the dress mostly with a narrow hem foot, since it suggested this in my 1940's Ruth Wyeth Spears sewing book. Very easy! I bound the neckline and arm holes with bias binding. I love the top stitching and cut of the bodice. It's kind of sporty.

The inside seams were pinked, since apparently over casting would have been a "waste of time." I love this:

The dress closes with at the side. As suggested in the sewing book, I put a hook and eye at the waist, where there would be the most stress. The rest of the placket is fastened with snaps.

Under the dress, I wore a low backed slip, made from Vintage Pattern Lending Library's 1930 Slip Pattern. I omitted the vertical darts (time constraints) and the side closure. The side closure was unnecessary since the slip had ample room to be put on over the head because of the low back. I also made a matching pair of tap pants from similar colored silk charmeuse. I used Mrs Depew's 1930's Tap Pants Pattern again. I used the fabric satin side in on the pants (which is so nice against the skin!), but satin side out for the slip, so the dress fabric would slide over it better.

I would have loved to wear a girdle with it, which would have really smoothed out the tummy area (I really need to lay off the snacks...), but since it wasn't actually a 1930's event, and I didn't have a lot of time, I said eh. Of course, if it was properly fit, I guess it wouldn't have really shown... Just another thing to add to that endless to-do list!

Good night!