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.