Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Victorian Dress 1888/9. Rating: Ambitious!

I'm beginning an exciting new adventure. My mother very kindly bought me my now favourite pattern book: Directoire Revival Fashions 1888-1889. It contains a grand total of FIFTY SEVEN patterns from that year; everything from chemises to bonnets to coats/wraps, skirts, blouses and dresses! There is a full chapter too on just the decoration of Victorian clothing (and the techniques of how to do some of the more ornate pieces), and it can be purchased here if anyone's interested. I've picked a dress from page 360 of the book, which I'm informed is an "Empire Costume" (though I have no idea why, it doesn't really have an empire waistline) and a little bit annoyingly doesn't actually have a pattern.

The Pattern

The book has a pretty good breakdown of what each part of the dress should look like and how it's fitted together. There are these two pieces at the front, which fold over each other into a V, very much like a wrap dress. Over the top there is a girdle, which holds the bodice in place and the skirt is attached too it. The description is rather confusing, as it talks about the lining and the drapery. I believe that it's actually two skirts, one made of lining and one of the dress fabric (you'll only really see the trim of the lining fabric, underneath the zigzag part of the picture, which I think is meant to be the end of the drapery). At least, that is how I'm going to try and make it. The back of the dress is a polonaise of a contrasting fabric, that still holds the dress together.

Now that I know the different parts of the dress, I have to find a pattern for them. While there are 57 patterns in this book, there are only 6 full dress patterns, and then a number of different drawings of how the same pattern can be done to create totally different looks. A few pages back from this image there is an "Evening Costume" which has the same V neck/wrap shaped bodice as the empire costume. I take the front, sleeve and cuff pattern from that, a polonaise pattern from the polonaise section. The skirt has four gores, the book tells me, of which look like rectangles which are gathered into shape. The only problem is that there is NO pattern for the girdle. Anywhere. So this will be fun.


Quick photoshop recolour, just to show you
The dress that never was

I bought myself some lovely white/light blue stripped cotton for the bodice/skirt, and have some navy blue cotton/silk for the polonaise, girdle and underskirt. These were bought not for this dress, but for another Victorian one that sadly never made it past the enlarging stage. The patters in Directoire Revival Fashion are specifically designed to be made in to a number of different sizes and can account for my curvy shape.

The Mock Up

This is the first time I've every used this book for a proper dress (though the chemise pattern came from here, though I knew that was going to be large enough that I wouldn't really have to make a practice piece). The pattern has to be hand drawn, and some of these pieces are HUGE (would not fit on an a0 page huge), so I ended up drawing them on AutoCAD to save my back, and had them printed out locally (only then did I realise I forgot to print out the sleeve pattern, so will have to do a mock up of that later). I used some old curtain and upholstery fabric to make the bodice and polonaise (didn't think it was worth making the skirt as it's simple).

I'm not 100% happy with the mock up, but I think it'll look batter with the skirt added (ignore my black petticoat). The girdle is just pinned on for show, and the polonaise needs the bustle under it to look better. I didn't bother with the neck collar in the end, as I think this looks better. The polonaise is far too short, which was due to restrictions in the amount of fabric I had lying about, but I'm really happy with the lines on the back. Next, cut the real fabric (and hope I have enough)

Sunday, 15 September 2013

DIY Lolita dress: The blue dress 2.0, the nint dress

A good few months ago I started work on a replica of Krad Lanrete's Le Chuchotis de L'été, an it didn't go so well (see here).  The biggest problem was I didn't like the weight of the fabric, and recently came across some mint green chiffon which was much heavier. I decided to scrap almost the whole thing and painstakingly unpicked everything so all that was left was the lining. BEGIN AGAIN.

The Dress Body
I lay the unpicked blue chiffon over the uncut green to get a basic idea of how much fabric I was going to be using (3m) and where the arm wholes were going to be. Then started pinning it to the mannequin. The easiest way to get the folds to look right was to stick a pin at the beginning of a section (eg, at the front of the arm whole) and at the end of a section (eg, the back of the arm whole), then a pin in the middle of the excess fabric, so you have two large loops of extra fabric. Keep halving the sections until you're happy with it, and can easily gather it. I realised very early on that most of this dress was going to have to be hand gathered. I worked my way around the dress pinning it into place until I thought it looked good, and tied a ribbon around the waist just to see if it sat right.

Then hand gather the chiffon and secure it to the lining. I found it easiest to stand and slowly work my way around the mannequin unpinning little sections then gathering them with thick black thread (so it would be easy to see and remove later. At the end of every section I pulled the thread taught and tacked the chiffon to the lining so that it didn't all fall off when it tried to take it off the mannequin.

The Waist
Next, the waist. The green ribbon marks the waist line, so I took a fabric pen and marked underneath the ribbon, removed it, and then gathered the fabric until it was taught against the lining.

The Neckline
 The neckline was the same principle again. I cut a long strip of fabric which was the length of the front, back and around the arms, then that length was doubled so that it could be gathered. It was cut 2 inches wider than it had to be, and an inch folded over on both sides all the way along the fabric piece (so you have one long strip with an inch tube at the top and bottom. I pinned the open ends at the front and kept halving the material until it sat correctly, then hand gathered it in place, with the gathering going along the stitching of the tubes.

However, once I tried it on I discovered that the gathering over the arms makes it very difficult to move. I stitched the neckline to the dress along the front and back, then added elastic on the parts that looked like capped sleeves to make movement easier. I stitched the top tube to a piece of netting just to make sure it held all the gathers in place.

The Ruffles
The dress body is 3m of fabric, so to make ruffles on the bottom I needed double that, so 6m of 15cm wide chiffon was overlocked (which was a complete pain in the ass, as it gathered the chiffon slightly) and then hand gathered (I tried repeatedly to machine gather and it just didn't seem to work) to the right length. Then I pinned it to the dress. The whole process took 4 hours (mostly because I had to regather half the ruffles because I got a knot in the thread.

Almost finished. Just the buttons and sleeves to do! So far it's looking good.

UPDATE. In a mad rush for an event 2 summers ago I finished the dress, wore it, and immediately sold it. PREPARE FOR EMBARASSING PHOTOS

As much as I enjoyed making this I'm incredibly uncomfortable with the colour. I was encouraged to buy it by someone else and only when I finally put it on did I discover it doesn't suit me at all. I also was a lot larger then and did an ABSOLUTELY hash job at co-ordinating it, as I realised I had nothing to go with it. However, I thought you should see the finished dress.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Victorian Chemise - Image heavy

A chemise is the undermost of all Victorian undergarments, often made from white cotton or linen, designed to protect the corset (and garments) from bodily dirt. It is a long, sleeveless dress, and the neckline style has varied over the Victorian era from square or round and undecorated, to more decoration and triangular necklines acceptable for day wear (initially they were for evenings only). It eventually evolved into slips in the early 20th century.

I attempted to make one without really doing a lot of research into what was acceptable for the time period, and took the pattern from Directoire Revival Fashions 1888-1889 (edited) by Frances Grimble. Absolutely fantastic book but quite complicated to use. All patterns have to be drafted from the book, but they are very simple and have a variety of scale rulers so you can draft your size without having to make too many calculations. Just measure bust size for bodices, waist size for skirts and away you go.

The pattern, as you can see, is for a square necked chemise with lace trim and insertions around the arm holes and neckline. In the description on the page over it suggests you add fine tucks and lace to the bottom (which I ran out of time to do). The second pattern piece is the yoke which I have absolutely no idea what to do with, so I omitted it.

Restricted by both my small table and my terrible laziness, I started drafting straight onto the fabric (huge pain in the ass, and entirely NOT recommended. I only managed because this is a very simple pattern. Easiest to measure down from the fold, then out at a 90 degree angle to do the widths.

Other issue with drawing straight onto the fabric, 90 degree angles are not 90 degrees anymore

Tiny table isn't very good for sewing
Next it was just a case of draw lines between all the dots, cut out one piece, and lay it over the rest of the fabric and trace it out.

Unfortunately I derped and didn't have quite enough width of fabric. To be fair, the chemise is so massive it's not really noticeable

Stitch the sides together and shoulder pieces together, and you will have a tent. Seriously, it is HUGE, but it is meant to be. What I should have done now was gather along the bottom of the neckline on both back and front, then add trim, but I decided not to do that so that I could have a bit more flexibilty of what I wear over the chemise (think it'd look silly of I try to wear it with a v-necked Victorian bodice). So add all the trim

Lace over green ribbon around the neck, with cord so that I could tighten/loosen the neck
Green around the arm holes, just because it's pretty.

And this is it being warn under corset and skirt (ignore my scruffy face)

Thursday, 13 June 2013

DIY Lolita dress: The Blue dress

I would like to be very clear that I take no credit for the design, and this was more an exercise in me getting to use my mannequin for the first time (kindly now dubbed Shirley - I have no idea why).

I first came across this dress a few months ago, and absolutely adored it, but knew there was no way I would fit into it. While it says it's free size, that's free size in Japanese sizes, so I'm already dubious, and when it states that the maximum waist size is 100cm I know I'm out (my waist will fit, but my bust is 112, and there's no way there's an extra 12cm in the bust. For anyone who's wishing to purchase the original dress, it is available in a wide range of colours from Krad Lanrete's shop on Taobao.

Now this is the first dress I have ever made without a pattern, so I started off by decontructing the dress in my head. I noted that it's a button up dress, lined, gathered at the bust (and probably the waist too, but more likely shirred), with ruffling detail around the collar and ends. So I figured I'd start with lining and basically pin it to the mannequin to make it fit. I put my petticoat on the manniquin so I could see if I would be getting the right kind of poof.

I ended up with 4 parts to the lining. Two front, one back with a triangular panel added at the back so the skirt part poofed out more. Now I was happy with how the lining was shaped while pinned, it was time to stitch the it together.

Now for the chiffon. I started basically the same way as I did the lining, only this time I added 3x as much fabric as I had for the lining on the front and back, and 1.5x the amount on the sides. Once it was pinned, I trimmed the lenth, tryking to make it slightly longer than the lining (and failing). At this point came the boring work: gathering. I painstakingly hand gathered each part (working front right, underarm right, etc around the body). I started noticing that I really wasn't happy with the fabric. It had the same see-through properties of the dress I'd been inspired by, but didn't seem to hang right. I took a good 15 minutes to correct all the folds in the second image. I hoped when I added more to the dress it would begin coming into place and sitting right.


Next for the collar. I pinned in place a tube of chiffon fabric (turned right side out), and gathered the collar in too places, about 2cm from each edge to create the ruffled look, then added some navy braid to hide any wonky stitching. I then added the button up part (interfaced) and tried the dress on. At the moment I really don't like this dress. I like the idea and the style, but after putting it on (and hurray! It fits!) I feel a bit like I'm in a costume for Violet Beauregard just after she eats the blueberry gum in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I figure with a corset or waspie or something that defines the waist (more than just the sash) it would look better, but I think a big problem is the fabric. I'm going to go on a hunt for better chiffon and see what I can find.

Rectangle skirt

A quick tutorial on how to make your own rectangle skirt. A lot of the options are left up to you, and please excuse the crude drawings.

First thing you need is a pattern.

Now, to tell you what that means. Here you have 3 rectangles of different sizes. The first rectangle should be a long, where a is pretty much as long as you like. This determines how much poof your skirt has. It can be anywhere for your hip size (and smaller and it wont fit) upwards, +2cm for seam allowance. I personally like to go for 2-3x waist size, so about 2m of fabric will do. b is the lenth of the skirt, again up to you. I personally like about 50cm.

The second rectangle is your waist band. c should be twice the width you want the waist band to be (I like 3cm) plus 1cm each side for seam allowance. d has a few more options. If you're going to have the skirt zip, then d should be your waist size (plus 2cm for seam). If you are going to have the waist band elasticated make d your hip size +5cm (2cm for seam and 3cm for ease), then cut elastic the size of your waist -2cm or so for a snug fit. If you're going to be fancy and have the waist band PART shirred or elasticated, make d the maximum size you want the waist to be and add 2cm seam for the zip.

The third rectangle is the ruffle. You can have as many ruffles as you like, and can position them anywhere you like. I like to have one ruffle, placed either right at the edge of the first rectangle or about 10cm up. e should be the width of the ruffle. If you are having it NOT attached to the very edge of the skirt make sure it's LONGER than however far you're placing it up the skirt (ie, if you are having it 10cm up, make sure it is LONGER than 10cm. 15 is probably best +1cm for hem). f is double to triple b, depending on how ruffly you want the ruffle to be. Again this is a very flexible pattern.

After this there is no end to embellishments you can put on. I was originally going to (and may still do) paint sea creatures on this fabric in fabric paint (star fish, coral, sea weed, etc) onto the example skirt below. However you could add embroidery, lace trim or ribbon to anywhere you want on the skirt. This can be used as a plain underskirt, or have a chiffon (or other fabric) layer on top. The options are pretty much limitless. It's all about what you want. 

Here's my example (the turquoise skirt)

Here a was 2.5m (so a little over 2.5x my waist size) and b was 50cm. c, which you can't really see sadly, was 125 cm (just over my hip size), d was 8 cm making it a 3cm elasticated waistband. e was 10cm and position 2cm above the bottom edge of the skirt. f I'm not 100% sure on the length, as I just gathered and gathered, then stitched it on until it fit, however I estimate about 4m. The fabric is a lovely soft turquoise linen blend that is going to be an absolute pain to iron :).

Victorian Evening Gown (image heavy)

A run through of the first proper gown I've ever tried to make. Took me on and off a year to finish, but if I broke down the time it would probably have only taken about a week of intensive sewing.

The patterns have come from http://www.trulyvictorian.net/ which has an absolutely stunning array of women's Victorian clothing patterns (and to a lesser extent, men's). The two I've used is TV 416 and TV 208 (Skirt A), and involves over 13m of fabric (in the form of some old curtains and some old upholstery fabric kindly donated to me by my boyfriend's mother).

The Skirt

The skirt comprises of 2 layers. The under skirt and the over skirt, stitched together at the waist band. The under skirt is formed of several different panels, all stitched together. The panels that go around the bum need to be gathered and will eventually go underneath a bustle. At the time I didn't have a bustle, so I rigged one up out of an old bed sheet (so professional).

The over skirt was a little trickier. It's an apron shape (in 3 panels), gathered at each side at the back, and then 4 panels that hang down over the bustle (which have to be stitched together and then turned right-side-out).

The Bodice

 I don't have any individual pictures of the bodice, but I can tell you this was a lot more fiddly. It's fully lined, boned, and made out of about 7 panels of upholstry fabric (same as the skirt). There are darts in the front for shape, which is held together by hooks and eyes, and has some pleats at the back over the bustle. As you can see, it didn't fit terribly well first try. I had to go back and add some darts above the bust so that it sat further up on the shoulders, and used hook and eye tape rather than individual hooks and eyes (which would have taken forever to sew on). Obviously, it doesn't look the most attractive. On to the TRIMMING (serious business when it comes to Victorian clothing, I am discovering - this is seriously toned down). At this point the whole outfit was died with Dylon chocolate brown dye, but ended up coming out a maroon-ish colour.


 The lay out of these images is a bit messed up but let me explain as much as I can. Everything is hand stitched from this point on. I added a chiffon rose trip around the neckline, and moved the hooks and eyes so that the bodice overlapped a bit more, before adding goldish snaps to the front of the bodice (not very Victorian, but nevermind). I also started my first ever hand embroidery. I sketched out the shape of a tree, and slowly started working on it in horizontal lines. This was no doubt the most time consuming and injury inducing part of this endevour - you can see the bloodstains on the lining. My fingers also started blistering at one point, so I took to sewing the second half of the tree and all the beads while wearing rubber gloves. This made the stitching so much easier.

About half way through I tried it on to make sure everything fit. As you can see the bodice is much closer fitting though I'm still a bit too short for the pleats over the bustle to really be seen. It's being worn with a bustle and a hooped elliptical petticoat which isn't technically period but this is a) my dress, and b) was being made and worn for a steampunk event, so I figured a little anachronism wouldn't go amiss. I'm also showing off my ankle like some sort of hussy :P. You can see the finished embroidery here too.

And All Together Now

Voila! The completed outfit. Sadly you can see a little of the petticoat in that picture, and the skirt did still need hemmed at that point, but apart from that it's finished! I'm still not totally happy with the way the bodice sat under the corset, but I'll live.