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 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.