Wednesday, November 15, 2017

1890s Ladies Sportswear Sweater

1895-97 Ladies Sportswear Sweater

Ahhh.... this sweater! It is on so many of our wishlists'. Just like every year for the past several years, when the weather began to get cooler, I started to dream about this sweater again. But how was I to ever own anything remotely similar to this?

In the past, I hadn't put much thought into it. I figured, "Well, I can't knit, so I will never own one; unless I can get someone else to make it for me." That would never happen though, because there is no way I could afford that! But then, last month, the opportunity to make one presented itself.

I had no intention of making this, however a series of fortunate events brought it to fruition. To begin with, a friend decided to host a Tweed Ride (thank you, Mary!). I originally was not going to attend because I didn't have anything to wear. But then I started to think of how much I enjoy riding my bicycle and spending time with my costuming friends, so I began to look through my fabric stash. I had a lovely silk tweed that has been waiting to be turned into an 1880s day dress. Could I spare a few yards for a riding skirt?? Sure! Why not? I can always supplement with a complimenting fabric if I can't find more of it. Some more inspiration came to me through Christina's post of her beautiful gaiters.

 Christina of The Laced Angel and her gorgeous gaiters
Thanks again, Christina, for the inspiration!

Now for the top. I had originally planned to wear one of my antique blouses and make a vest. Then, the weather forecast changed to say that much colder weather and some moisture would be here the day of our event. "Oh-no! I don't have time to make a jacket!" So, I began to search for suitable sweaters on etsy and ebay. I had recently modified a thrift store find by removing the sleeves, taking in the body, and reattaching the sleeves using my Serger, making a small pouf at the shoulders. Having been successful with that, I determined that I could either modify the sleeves and body of a larger sweater, or find two matching sweaters in order to have enough fabric to make large sleeves. I was having zero luck finding either.

Having finished making gaiters, I was hesitant to move forwards since the event was nearly here (3 days away!). But then, there it was! At my local fabric shop, a length of pale teal knit (perfect compliment to my silk tweed) in just the right weight! Could I? Dare I? What the heck! Why not? I figured I would just dive in and give it a try. What did I have to loose? It wasn't like I was committed to going to the event in costume. And at $7 for the 2 yards, I wasn't breaking the bank.

So, there I was; now, where to begin? At first, I took a turtleneck sweater of mine and put it on my dress form; taking up the slack with  pins along the seams to make it fit like a glove. Then, I carefully removed it (I guess I could have marked the new seamline with a dressmakers pencil) and used it to mark my pattern for cutting the body and cut it out. Then, I did something a little crazy.

I wanted that band in the middle, you know, like the one at The Met. How was I going to do that? Hmm... well, the wrong side of the fabric looked slightly different, so let's see if we can somehow splice it in. I used scraps to test my theory before cutting into the body I just cut out. Overall, I really am a novice at sewing. I know the basics of the basics and somehow make it look like I know what I'm doing.

My theory worked!! It wasn't perfect, but it was good enough considering I was trying to pull off making this thing in a day. Should I try to tackle this projects again, I will either stitch it by hand or learn a little more about my machine and stretchy fabrics. After stitching the insertion, I used my Serger to join the front and back pieces at the sides and shoulders.

I used a stitch that looked like it would 
join the pieces flat, and it did!
 Close up of insertion 

For the collar, I didn't have enough time to figure out how to do the button closure. Plus, since I made the neck opening large enough for my head to go through, I really didn't need to make it that way. Again, if I decide to make it again, I will make it with the button closure. I stitched the seam closed with my Serger, making sure to accommodate the folding over of the collar (the first two inches from the neck edge up is stitched outwards with the remaining stitched inwards). I attached the collar using my Serger.

Turtleneck collar seams

For the sleeves, I used the Truly Victorian 1890s sleeves pattern, view 3, and shortened it a bit for the top pouf. For the snug fitting lower sleeve, I essentially used the remaining scraps that just happened to be roughly the correct length and width (long enough to roll the cuff up twice), using the wrong side of the fabric to the outside; giving it that slightly different look to the main body. I used my Serger to stitch the inside seams of each piece of the sleeves, stitching the lower few inches to the outside, just like the collar. Then, I gathered the lower edge of the upper sleeve to fit the upper edge of the lower sleeve and stitched them together with my Serger. Then, I gathered/pleated the shoulder of the sleeve, making it fit into the armhole; it was too thick for my Serger, so I had to hand stitch it in using the blanket stitch.

Pouffy sleeve yumminess!

For the finishing, I folded up the hem of the collar and body just once to keep the bulk to a minimum, and stitched it using the blanket stitch. For the sleeve cuff, remember I said I had enough to fold it up twice? Well, that kept me from needing to hem it. When you're in a hurry, you cut corners where you can.


So there you have it! My throw together in a day 1890s sweater. I would love to see yours if you decide to make one like this instead of knitting it.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Royal Vintage Shoes- New Yorker Collection

I am in LOVE with the Royal Vintage Fall line up! Lauren and Abby of Royal Vintage Shoes have done it again. So many shoes, so little money. But they will be giving away a pair for free to one luck winner of their giveaway!! Visit to learn about how you can enter to win. In the meantime, here's their New Yorker Collection.
Claire 1940s Oxfords, available in white, brown, & black
Eve Art Deco Sandals, available in black & stunning Rose Gold

Rosie 1940s Double-Buckle Boots, available in brown as shown

and my favorite, Susie Classic Saddle Shoes, available in blue/white, brown/white & black/white
Don't miss the pre-order prices; get yours ordered by August 10th!

Monday, June 12, 2017

My 40th Birthday Dress

Today marks exactly 2 months since I celebrated my 40th birthday. The dress I completed for the day of my celebration actually had its inception in August 2016. I had been wanting a warm weather, late Victorian dress for quite some time, and so last August, I was perusing my 1885 Butterick pattern book and happened upon a design I fell in love with.

dress design in Butterick pattern book

Not knowing of any patterns on the market for such a dress, I began searching through one of my Frances Grimble books where I found the perfect pattern. I had no idea where this journey would take me having no specific idea of how I was going to trim the dress out. It was actually a combination of many old CDVs, fashion plates, and paintings that led me to the finished product.

dress pattern found in my Frances Grimble book
the book
As you can see from the photos above, the original dress design has the butterfly train, whereas the pattern does not. For that, after drafting the pattern, I altered the train using the Truly Victorian Butterfly Bustle Train TV361 to create the right look. To do that, I layered the two together and blended them to create the one piece pattern needed for the polonaise.
Not being completely sold on the bodice detail of the original dress design, or the bodice design of the pattern, I began searching for ideas when I happened upon this bodice design found in the Frances Grimble book.

now we're talkin'
As I worked through this project, I began to see 18th Century details surfacing. This was not uncommon during the late Victorian Era.
Image result for 18th century fashion influence during the victorian eraImage result for 18th century womens fashion
Here, you can see some similarities between the two eras. On the left, a fashion plate from 1871. On the right, mid 18th century styles. Notice the bows on the bust, trim detail, and hat style of the yellow dress on the left. See how it mimics some of the details of the 18th century dresses?
This image I have admired for some time now for the hairstyle, not realizing it was also serving for inspiration for the bodice of my birthday dress.


This painting was serving as inspiration for the hat for this dress, but you can also see 18th Century influence in the dress design.

Here is the mockup prior to fitting. At this point, I wish I had the bust pads made for better fitting. I cut the pattern out to a measurement fuller than my natural bust line (I am very small in that department), wanting to create the curvy, hourglass shape that was so popular during the late Victorian Era. Sadly, by the time I got to inserting the bust pads, I had invested quite a lot of time, and cut my fashion fabric, thinking all was well. It didn't turn out badly, but I learned a valuable lesson; a mistake not to be repeated.

Here she is after the fitting. Everything is fitting smoothly, but looking back, I should have made adjustments to the bust at this point to accommodate a fuller bust line.

Here she is with just one bust pad inserted. I was proud of my progress at this point, but again looking back I am now disappointed.

don't mind my crooked back that is the result of a car accident
Definitely a marked improvement from the fitted mock up by inserting the bust pads. However, if I had cut the dress fuller to begin with, it would look even better. Hopefully, not only will I learn from my mistake, but others reading this will as well.

the butterfly train stitched into place, oh so pretty!
it is very important to put your bodice closures very close together to avoid gapping

Here I was working on figuring out the ruched fabric section of the bodice. I messed up the first time.

sleeve cuff trim detail inspired from
image in Frances Grimble book

lapel trim detail inspired by my mom
All in all, I am very pleased with it's outcome. I do eventually need to line and possibly weight my underskirt since the fabric is very light weight. I was in a hurry and just slapped one together really quick to finish the dress.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing and outdoor

Image may contain: 1 person Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, hat

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, indoor


Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting and indoor

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

How to achieve a historical look for Living History

As you can imagine, when I'm at an event in historical clothing, I am often asked where I got my dress. When I answer, they are amazed that I've made it myself. Then begins the conversation about how I achieve the look and what makes my dresses different from available costumes.

First, let me begin by saying that I am in no way an expert on this subject. However, I have done a lot of research in the past 12 years and feel that I know enough to point someone in the right direction if they are wanting to portray a close resemblance of what woman wore during 1855-1900. My research includes studying books available on the subject, online research of fashion plates, art, and photos, as well as hands on inspection of antique pieces in my collection and museums I have been privileged to view.

part of my collection of books

At the Bowers Mansion, assisting the curator

My journey began about 15 years ago. I moved out West in 2000. This is when I discovered my passion for all things Victorian. I began making costumes for myself shortly there after using patterns from my local fabric shop and fabric and trims I could afford. In 2003, I had altered a hoop style dress I had made into a bustle style dress to attend the 124th birthday celebration of the Bliss Mansion. There, I met some women who admired my sewing talent. At this time, I had just begun looking at images of antique dresses, and the dress I was wearing had more of an authentic look compared to others in attendance. These women guided me to more resources and I ran with it.
dress I wore to Bliss Mansion 124th birthday party
Since then, my skills have advanced to using reproduction patterns that require fitting and altering. I also use photos and fashion plates for fabric and trim ideas,
dress I made using reproduction patterns from a
Frances Grimble book with altered neckline

example of neckline and trim

another neckline example

Now that you know my back story, here are my suggestions to help you on your journey. You don't need to know how to sew to have some nice, affordable dresses in your collection. You just need time to do the research.
As this is the year 2015, most of us can not be 100% historically accurate when portraying women of the Victorian Era, unless we have money we don't know what to do with. Fabrics that were used then are hard to come by today and are expensive, as are seamstresses and tailors who use the same sewing techniques of the time. I don't claim in any way that I make 100% historically accurate dresses, but I do try to come as close as I possibly can using appropriate patterns, fabric, and trims to get the closest resemblance.
Begin by taking time to look at images of antique dresses in books and online. Google specific years/decades of dress. My favorite year is 1885, so I either google 1885 or 1880's women's dress/gown/clothing. Maybe you are involved in a Living History program and want to portray a specific woman. Google her for images and the year she would be around the age you are now, then use that year to search clothing appropriate for her. Keep in mind how we wear clothes today. Most of us have clothing that is 10+ years old that we still wear. Also keep in mind if the woman you want to portray is wealthy or not. These things will help guide you to the style of clothing you should wear for a specific Living History portrayal.
Other than google and books, I like to use ebay. I click on the following series of links to begin my search: Shop by category- See all categories- Vintage under Clothing, Shoes, & Accessories- Women's Vintage Clothing- Pre-1901 (Victorian & older).  I don't suggest using this as a guide for the exact year of an item because not all sellers know what they are talking about. Compare these items to fashion plates to determine the year. Another ebay search is for carte de visite or CDV's. Simply search CDV in all categories and you will see fine examples of everyday Victorian clothing.
Another great resource for antique clothing is The Metropolitan Museum of Art collection of the Costume Institute*&deptids=8
Now that you've done the research, you will have a better eye for determining if a dress you find is the right look for what year or who you are trying to portray. I have taken the time to do a little searching for you to help guide you to some dresses that come closer to historical reproductions compared to others.

For late 1850's to early 1860's day dress, here are three nice choices:
The white undersleeve should be a blouse type sleeve, not this bell sleeve

(this plaid fabric choice only)
The following 1870's-1880's suitable dresses are available at
Under this dress, they have 6 samples. I would suggest the sleeve of "E", the bodice of "F" except using the bodice hem of  "A", "C", or "E", overskirt of all but "F", and underskirt of "D" or "F"
This is nice, except for the ruffles, use cotton or linen in solid, small floral, stripe, or plaid. This would be good for a lower to middle class woman for around the home, possible supply shopping, or school teacher.
This is an antique example to consider for the previous two dresses

The wide lace bertha collar on this ball/evening gown isn't right, but the rest of it is nice. This underskirt would also look wonderful under the polonaise dress pictured just above this one


Following are good for early 1890's 
For this dress, I would suggest the jacket and skirt be made from the same fabric in plaid or solid wool or linen, with or without a complimenting color for the collar and cuffs and trim to match.
Following are examples of what I mean
The one on the right

 This is good except for the fabrics. The blouse should be off white or match the skirt and the belt should be a solid color.
This would be good for late 1880's to early 1890's, but needs an overskirt of the same fabric of the bodice

This would be good for late 1890's early 1900's
Now, if money is no object for you, Christine Hall makes exquisite reproductions for others Her dresses sell for over $1000. If you can't afford her, still take a moment and look at her beautiful reproductions.
When considering a dress to buy, look at the neckline, sleeves, waist (is it in the correct spot, does it look right, is there a belt and does it look period correct?) overskirt (does it have one or need one and is it the correct length), ruffles, and trims. The great thing about most of these dresses and dresses like them is you can add and change small details about them to achieve a closer reproduction look. The shape and color of the sleeves, collars, cuffs; add or change an overskirt; ruffles and trims. If you can't sew, I'm sure you know or can find someone who does who could do these changes for a small fee.
At this point, I have only been talking about dresses. One must consider all of the other elements; hat, gloves, jewelry, and underpinnings. You could have a decent dress, but if you have a hat that doesn't go with the same period (or is not even close to being historically accurate) it will throw your whole look off. For Victorian headwear, it's best to go smaller and avoid a trailing veil. If you are portraying 1900 or later, you could go large, but still avoid that trailing veil. Another thing to avoid is wearing a dress during the day that would only be worn for an evening event.
Above all, I would like to recommend that unless you are wearing an antique dress or one that was made using historic patterns, fabric, and sewing techniques, please don't tell others that it is historically accurate. Doing this guides others down a path where they themselves think they are being historically accurate, and so on and so forth. Then we have a whole bunch of people who insist they are portraying historical accuracy when they in fact are not.
I hope this helps you in your historical costuming journey. Here are some words to keep in mind when researching and talking about your costume:
Historic-  famous or important in history;
                     having great and lasting importance;
                     known or established in the past;
                    dating from or preserved from a past time or culture

Historical- of, relating to, or having the character of history;
                        based on history;
                        used in the past and reproduced in historical presentations
Reminiscent- reminding you of someone or something else;
                             similar to something else;
                             thinking about the past;
                             having many thoughts of the past
Authentic- real or genuine;
                       not copied or false;
                       true and accurate;
                       made to be or look just like an original
Reproduction- the act of copying something (such as a document, book, or sound);
                                something that is made to look exactly like an original
Thank you :)