Monday, December 29, 2014

Plans for 2015

2015 will be the year of sewing. I have so many big plans, but it's time to be nice and organized! :) So, here's my tentative plan for the coming year. 

I plan to participate in the Historical Sew Monthly from the Dreamstress blog. I linked to her blog, but basically its a new sewing challenge every month, so the goal is to have 12 finished projects by the end of 2015. 

  • January – Foundations: make something that is the foundation of a period outfit.
I actually have three items planned for this challenge. I'd like to eventually work up to a couple (okay, 3) bustle dresses from the 1880s, so to get started with that I will be doing a 1880s chemise, drawers, and corset. I've ordered some of my materials with Christmas money and I am SO excited to get started!

  • February – Colour Challenge Blue: Make an item that features blue, in any shade from azure to zaffre.
Blue!! I love blue! I have some gorgeous blue fabric in my stash that is just itching to become something lovely. I'm thinking it would be perfect for a regency dress of some kind, which means February will also consist of the foundation garments for a Regency gown. (Regency was approximately 1811-1820.)

  • March – Stashbusting: Make something using only fabric, patterns, trims & notions that you already have in stash.
This month I am planning to use a lot of my stash items to create a hat, either for my bustle gowns, Regency gown, or both! :) Yes, March sounds pretty laid back in comparison to the previous two challenges, but I think I will need the relaxing break after that busyness. 

  • April – War & Peace: the extremes of conflict and long periods of peacetime both influence what people wear.  Make something that shows the effects of war, or of extended peace.
Hmm, this sounds like a good month for either a WWI era dress, or perhaps a 1940s dress. I'll have to give that further thought. 

  • May – Practicality:  Fancy party frocks are all very well, but everyone, evenprincesses, sometimes needs a practical garment that you can DO things in.  Create the jeans-and-T-Shirt-get-the-house-clean-and-garden-sorted outfit of your chosen period.
This month is the month I intend to do a bustle (1880s) day dress. Something in cotton and simple for everyday use. 

  • June – Out of Your Comfort Zone: Create a garment from a time period you haven’t done before, or that uses a new skill or technique that you’ve never tried before. 
This challenge will be attempting to recreate something (a jacket maybe?) from a fashion plate with no pattern. All previous challenge I will be using patterns of some kind, so this will be new and different and a huge challenge for me. 

  • July – Accessorize: The final touch of the right accessory creates the perfect period look.  Bring an outfit together by creating an accessory to go with your historical wardrobe.
Accessories!! Hopefully this will be the month that I am prepping for Costume College (I haven't found out if I'll be going yet) so July is set aside for working on any accessories and finishing touches for that. Otherwise, some more accessories will be awesome. :) 

  • August – Heirlooms & Heritage: Re-create a garment one of your ancestors wore or would have worn, or use an heirloom sewing supply to create a new heirloom to pass down to the next generations.
Hmm. I'll have to browse some family albums for this one. I would love to recreate something! :) 

  • September – Colour Challenge Brown: it’s not the most exciting colour by modern standards, but brown has been one of the most common, and popular, colours throughout history. Make something brown.
Brown might not be an "exciting" color... but it would be a fun challenge. I'll probably jump centuries for this challenge and head over to the 1400s and recreate the Moy Bog gown. This one was found in a bog in Ireland, and has some really fascinating construction techniques. I'll go into a lot more detail about this gown when it gets closer to September. 

  • October – Sewing Secrets: Hide something in your sewing, whether it is an almost invisible mend, a secret pocket, a false fastening or front, or a concealed message (such as a political or moral allegiance).
Oh this will be fun. This one merits much longer thought, I can't decide what would be the most fun!! Maybe some garters with something embroidered on them....

  • November – Silver Screen: Be inspired by period fashions as shown onscreen (film or TV), and recreate your favourite historical costume as a historically accurate period piece.
Stars in my eyes... oh my goodness. This one will hopefully be a Gone With the Wind challenge for me! Big round hoops here I come! :) 

  • December – Re-Do:  It’s the last challenge of the year, so let’s keep things simple by re-doing any of the previous 11 challenges.
This one will most likely become a second accessory challenge, but time will tell which one is the most fun and most worth of doing again!

1875 Day Dress
Philadelphia Museum of Art
I'm looking forward so much to the coming year. Plenty of ideas, projects, and things to be learned!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The 1530s Gown

I apologize for the long wait for this post, but I have completed my Tudor-era gown! I really like the way it turned out, but there is a lot that I would like to change for future projects if I decide to do another one.

Here are some pictures from the construction:

My Chemise- mostly hand sewn,
My chemise was worked up from an old bedsheet- I wanted to be absolutely sure of the fit before I used good linen for it, and I'm so glad I did! The neckline ended up being too wide as I got overconfident in my ability to work from directions rather than a pattern... but once inside the dress it didn't make a massive difference as the lacing held it up just fine.

Kirtle bodice (fully boned!)
Closeup of the kirtle eyelets- all hand stitched. 

My kirtle by far took the most time to work up. The front is fully boned with reed for the period correct support (and was marvelously comfortable) as well as some of the main seams in the back. To be honest it looked awfully uncomfortable, but after a full day of wear I can safely say it's almost more comfortable than modern clothing. Pants are weird... but I digress. Here's a picture of it on my (new!!) dress form, after fitting it for a week to get the boning *just* right:

Yes, that's my chemise. And yes, it did get fixed! :)
And yes- RED petticoat. Are you shocked? 
The top edge of the neckline needed to be beaded and jeweled in some way, so this is what I came up with for that (you can see the chemise has been fixed by this point). I also worked up a quick necklace to match, and it really was a fantastic finishing touch!

Wow, it almost looks like I know what I'm doing!

Darn, eyes are closed but it's still shows the skirts best. 
Once the bodice was fitting right, I cut and added the skirt to it. As you can (mostly) see, the front is the full gold brocade, while the back is plain white cotton with the brocade around the bottom 18 inches or so. This is actually period- brocade was pricey so they would cut corners as often as possible to save a little more money. I did have to hem the skirt a little more than anticipated, but I would much rather have the deeper hem than a skirt that is too short!

Fitting the outer gown bodice.
Once the kirtle was done, it was time to fit the bodice for the French gown. this took a lot more than planned, and at best it is still a completely fudged job. My seams aren't period correct in the back, the boning is off (yep, more reeds), and the construction- while solid- is honestly mostly a hodgepodge of various ideas and by no means accurate. But... it looks nice, right? ;)

It took a week but I was finally happy.
It took a full week of fudging seams to be okay with it. It still makes me crabby, but it really did look just fine. Those ripples in the above picture were corrected later on and you can't see them now.

Here is my finished gown!! I wish I had taken a few more pictures of working with that outer skirt- it was well over 8 YARDS of fabric and double lined with cotton. Hilarious to try to squeeze it all onto the bodice, but with the help of some cartridge pleating they fit just fine! The sleeves were a fun sewing job- faux fur (if you have never tried it before) POOFS tiny little fuzzes into the air when you cut it that simply do not go away. I am still finding fuzz in weird places around my house. 

All in all, it was a super fun project and ridiculously fun to wear for a full day. It wasn't nearly as warm in all that fabric as I thought it might be, and I was happily comfortable all day long. Boning with the reed was definitely a good plan and I can see why they used it back then. It's breathable and gives the support required without being ridiculously uncomfortable. Walking with a train took some learning, but eventually I got the hang of it and really had a grand time!

Edit 10/20/14: Pictures found!!
Watching a woodcarving demonstration.
You can see me in this one on the far right, watching knights. Well, looking at the ground, but I was really watching knights! If you look closely too, my husband is in the blue hat in the upper right. I also made his outfit. 

I really wish I knew why I was looking at the ground here too. Goodness... lol. The black pouch and belt I purchased at the event and I love how well they complete the outfit! You can't see it in here, but on the other side of my waist I am also wearing a small dagger I bought. Teehee... ;) 

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Tudor Lady's Wardrobe (early 16th century)

To begin my venture into historical sewing, I decided to start on the early part of my timeline and work my way forward. The earliest I am interested in constructing starts during the reign of Henry VIII, who reigned 1509 until his death in 1547. 
Henry VIII, c. 1531
Fashion at this time in England seems to be heavily influenced by both Spanish and French styles, particularly in the embroidery and embellishments, as well as the overall shape of the gowns. This is probably the most recognizable style at the time, as modeled by Margaret Tudor, elder sister of Henry VIII:
Margaret Tudor, c. 1520- 1538
Here, Margaret is wearing a gown in the French style, complete with her headpiece which is called a French hood. How do we know it's French and not English? Actually, at this time it's fairly difficult to tell where styles originated, but the dress open in front to show the underdress seems to be prevalent in French (and many other countries) portraits of the time. This style is generally accepted to be French, and I would love to dig deeper and see if I can track down the true origins! 

Analysis goes a long way when re-creating a gown. Of course, the best place to start is undergarments. Without properly created underclothes, a gown would look a little strange or costume-y, and not authentic at all. Underwear matters a lot more than you think! Underneath it all, a Tudor lady would wear a chemise (or smock), which is basically a long shirt. They would have been made of fine linen, and could be embroidered or left plain. Margaret's would have had a square neckline to fit the style of her gown. This example is Italian, not English, but I love the embroidery on the sleeves and lace edgings so just had to share it with you. 

16th century Italian smock, with embroidery

Next out would be a petticoat. (What? No corset or stays? Probably not with this gown! Stays came into fashion more during the Elizabethan period, so 1600s on.) Petticoats would usually be made of silk or taffeta, and be lined, and would either be a skirt tied at the waist or have arm loops for a little more holding-up power. In either case, the front would have been open to the chemise, to cut down on bulk on the top half of the body. 
A reproduction of the arm loops I'm talking about!
picture from
Next would be the kirtle, or underdress. This is where the support would have come from- the front was generally boned with cane to create the smooth front as in the portrait. The front fabric would be the expensive fabric that would show through the front, in Margaret's case that fantastic gold. The back would have been less decorated- possibly a plain linen, as it wouldn't have been seen anyway. Across the top, Margaret has some simple gold decoration. This varies from person to person, and could be nothing in front to heavily jeweled, depending on rank and wealth. This would also have been a sleeveless dress, and could have a train or be left fairly simple. They could lace up the back, sides, or front, though more often it was back or sides, so as to leave the front smooth.  
A nice reproduction of the structure, picture from one of my all time favorite blogs,

Next out would be the gown! It would have gone on more or less like a robe, large wide sleeves (not the gold ones in the portrait, I'll get to that part) and the bodice would lace up the front. There would be an extra part in front, sewn on one side that would hook in on the other so the front would be perfectly smooth, as seen on Margaret's gown. This outer gown would be the one with the train. Undersleeves (the gold part!) would be separate and tie on the inside of the larger poof sleeves.

Anything else on the gown was up to the wearer! Jewelry, the waist decoration (Margaret is wearing a long tassel down the front, I've seen this a lot in portraits though I haven't figured out a particular purpose for them yet), as well as the headpiece. Margaret is wearing a French hood, my personal favorite, but there were many different choices. A French hood was the most daring as it showed more of the wearer's hair than other styles did at the time. I also love that she's holding a monkey- what fun!

Monday, August 4, 2014


What is it about an old dress that makes us love them so much? Is it the design? The fabric and trim?

Ever since I was a little girl I have loved looking through historic fashions, not only for the fun of looking through old books but for the designs and the fabric... and learning about the lives of the people who wore them. I've decided to fulfill my goals of recreating some of the gorgeous clothing from various periods. I have a bunch of projects planned- this blog will be my journey through time as I sew complete outfits for several different periods.

Here are the eras I have been researching and intend to create:

A Tudor Gown: My goal is to create a gown from the early part of the 16th century.

Margaret Tudor, b. 1489 - d. 1541
Queen consort of Scotland
Image from Wikipedia
This gown is very similar to what I would like to create. Slightly more ornate than what I am after, but it's definitely a great starting point. I especially love the sleeves... I'll break down exactly what is involved with creating this in a later post.

A Polonaise Gown: This type of gown was popular in the late 18th century (~1770s).

Robe a la Polonaise, c. 1780
Image from the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Again, this gown is very similar to my goal. I haven't decided if I want the floral pattern or go with a stripe yet, but time will tell! And yes, I'll be breaking down what's involved with this one as well!

A Regency Gown: This period runs about 1800-1820, and was made most famous by the lovely Jane Austen (I love her books, but that's a totally different story). 

Evening Gown, c. 1810
Image from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

This gown I will probably attempt first. The design and pattern seems to be pretty forgiving as far as lack of experience goes, with the added bonus of being really quite lovely. I'll definitely be showing how something like this is constructed. 

A Victorian Gown: Most people are fairly familiar with this silhouette, but here is an example...

Fashion Plate from 1870
Image from Google, unknown credit...

I'd love to play around with different bustle shapes and more unusual fabrics, like stripes and maybe even plaid! So many wonderful examples, I might have to make a couple of these...

So there's my plan. I have a lot of learning, sewing, and adventure ahead of me!