The weekend before last was Costume College, an annual costume convention in the Los Angeles area. I wasn’t planning on going this year, but a few weeks before a friend said she had extra room in her room and asked if I’d like to come. Of course I said “yes!” as I was planning to go up to visit out of state friends anyway. So then came the scrambling to get together outfits and planning a few new ones. Luckily I had been to a few costume events this year so I had a few things to wear already, but two projects found their way into my queue of things to do.
The first was a 1910s outfit. I used a vintage pattern for the vest and blouse. If you’ve ever used these early patterns you know what a chore they can be! And this one was missing a big chunk of the envelope where the instructions used to be, so it was up to me to cobble the pieces together as best I could. I added a scan of the original pattern to the Vintage Pattern Wiki here, so you can see how it was supposed to look, though when all was said and done it didn’t look much like the picture. But I really love heirloom sewing so did fun lace insertion and added little buttons and such to the blouse. The skirt was a reprint from Past Patterns, and I had a lot of fun putting it together. The fabric was vintage yardage (a gift from my husband), complete with moth holes. Of course I didn’t see notice them until I already had the whole thing cut out and I was holding them up to look for placement. Haha! Ah well, old wool- what do you expect. Just makes it more authentic, right?
In the end I really liked the way it turned out but I’m sad I didn’t get more pictures, especially of me wearing it with the wacky hat and the lovely antique buttons I used on the vest. Ah well, will have to come up with another excuse to wear it!
My pet project, and the one that nearly killed me, was my Edwardian dress. I always wanted a pidgeon breasted dress since Anne of Green Gables is my all time heroine and I grew up watching the Avonlea series on TV. For this I used crinkle silk chiffon with vintage silk crepe for the lining. Note to self= when you have less than a week to complete a project, don’t choose such touchy fabrics! Oh dear, it was quite an interesting fight, but I won in the end! The skirt was based on one from Voice of Fashion by Frances Grimble, and the blouse was also based on that but the fit was not very good so I ended up using it for basic shaping of the bottom blouse and completely redrafted it by draping on my dress form. I had already pulled out lots of lovely antique laces from my stash so I had a general idea of what I wanted.
The books I mostly used for reference were Lucile: London, Paris, New York, and Chicago and A Separate Sphere: Dressmakers in Cincinnati’s Golden Age, 1877-1922
On the top right is and bottom left you can see the bodice as drafted from the book (which was accurate from the period since it was from original patterns, but didn’t fit my shape) , and on the bottom right is the bodice after I redrafted it. Muslin, needless to say, is much less fussy and has a very different drape than silk chiffon and silk crepe. This part was easy-peasy compared to the sewing! All the assembly was done using french seams, and I used a twill tape to hold the shape of the bodice and skirt and prevent it from “growing” during construction. The front drape of the skirt and the rounded yoke were made from a remnant of an antique tablecloth- a lovely cotton net that had been embroidered that we received as a wedding present.
As you can see, I ran a threadline down the center front of the bodice and bodice lining and yoke. Since these fabrics were so touchy I wanted to make sure it was hanging correctly while I assembled and trimmed it. On the left were some of the laces I pulled out to play with, but the embroidered one didn’t make it onto this dress and will be saved for another down the line.
The sleeve for this needed to also be redrafted. I based it off of a tried and true pattern- a bodice from Truly Victorian– and used their two piece sleeve to create a one piece sleeve that was to the elbow, then used that as the undersleeve, traced it off and slashed and spread the pattern, elongating the sleeve cap and the bottom sleeve so it would drape and puff a bit. Then I sewed the two together and basted it to the bodice. There was A LOT of basting in this project. Nearly the entire bodice was basted before it was machine sewn to check the hang. A lot of this project was one step forward, two steps back, also. I know it was mostly because of the fabric choice, but it was so pretty I knew if I kept going it would pay off. A real treat came when I attached the skirt lining to the skirt and realized that I seamed the wrong skirt pieces together on the outside skirt. Fun. So then after I left it to hang overnight I got to completely redo the skirt hem by eye since pulling french seams out of silk chiffon was something that was NOT going to happen. Good thing I drafted it with a good train on the back! In the end the ruffle covered a multitude of skirt errors and created the silhouette I intended originally. Cutting ruffles of silk chiffon is not fun. Actually, silk chiffon is not fun. But it’s SO pretty. 🙂 All the hems of the chiffon were finished with the rolled hem of my serger- by far the best treat of this project, other than playing with trims, of course. So when the thing was all together I put it on the form and pinned and placed and undid and redid and finally came up with something I liked, and then hand stitched the trims on the bodice and it was done! Although it was finished in the hotel room at the event 😉
When all was said and done, I have to say this is one of my favorite costumes I’ve made to date. It makes me *feel* like I stepped out of time, and moves so pretty in person. So yay for fluffy dresses!