Monday, November 2, 2015

Crimson Peak inspired dress

For some time now, I have been wanting to make an 1880's day dress that fits well. My other dresses have fit nicely, but there seems to be too much room in the upper chest and shoulder area. Not having any formal training and always using patterns based on my bust and waist size, I have been hesitant to try any fitting on myself. This October, I decided now is the time. Not necessarily needing a new dress for the Carson City Ghost Walk that I guide, I figured I could give it a shot. If it didn't work out, I could just wear my old dress.

To begin, I needed some inspiration. Upon scrolling through the several photos of dresses that I have saved on my phone, I came across a one I saved way back in January. I knew it was from a movie, but did not know which one. Recognizing the male actor in the photo as Tom Hiddleston, I searched his movies to discover which film this dress came from. Turned out it was from a film that was yet to be released, as I began this project at the beginning of October. Crimson Peak. Great movie, by the way.

Still shot from the filming of Crimson Peak:
the dress that began this journey
I knew that I did not want to copy this dress, just use it as inspiration. I had on hand some lovely herringbone grey silk fabric and loads of trims.

close up of the herringbone weave
The next step was to figure out what patterns to use. I went through my supply of patterns and searched online for available printed patterns, but was not completely happy with any of them. Next, I searched my Janet Arnold and Frances Grimble books. It was in Fashions of the Gilded Age Vol: 1 by Frances Grimble that I found what I was looking for. The bodice I decided on was from the French Bunting Dress and the overskirt was from the Faille and Foulard Dress.

Now, those of you who do not know, the patterns in these books are not like printed patterns you get at your local fabric shop. They are 1/4 or 1/8 scale, single sized pattern pieces that need to be enlarged and altered. Like I mentioned before, I have no formal training and really had no clue how to do this, but I figured that I had nothing to loose, so I would give it a try. Luckily, the bodice I chose was at 1/4 scale and my printer goes up to 400% enlargement. I first printed the page at 100%, then cut out each individual pattern piece. From there, I had to enlarge each piece a section at a time to 400%. Then, I had to take all of those pieces and tape them together to make each enlarged pattern piece. That took pretty much all the time I had available in one day.

At this point, I'm thinking that this will be a miracle if I can pull this off. What the heck was I thinking?! I again tell myself I have to give this a good try, so the next day I dove in. I added seam allowance and began cutting the pieces out from scrap fabric. I stitched them together and tried the mock bodice on my duct tape double dress form.

my corseted double made using duct tape
I was surprised to find it was fairly close, so I made a few adjustments and tried it on again. Not being fully convinced that it was working out, I put on my corset and tried the mock bodice on myself. I was glad that I did because I found I still need to make adjustments.
Needed to add bust dart

this is my typical trouble area,
so I took in the extra fabric here

fitting very well, but what my hand is
covering is the extra fabric at my waist

Through this fitting process, I discovered that the extra fabric I encounter from making stock patterns are due to my small bust, narrow shoulders, and short torso. Even though I took in small amounts at each area, it makes all the difference in the fit.

very pleased with the fit
Despite the fit looking great here, I still had my reservations that this would work. So I took a deep breath, and began to cut the silk.
I didn't take any photos of the process of constructing the bodice because it went together like any bodice. Before adding the sleeves, I tried it on my duct tape dress form and it looked great. After adding the sleeves, I added the black lace trim, buttons, and all the white lace.
the cuff made from five different components,
each hand stitched on separately

the collar with white interior ruffle,
two separate white laces, and black lace

bodice done!
With the bodice complete, it was time to work on the overskirt. At this point, I had less than a week to finish the dress. I was glad that I decided to buy an antique skirt from ebay to use as the underskirt for the dress. It had some brown trim that I decided to remove. I chose this skirt because the price was right and I loved the pleated ruffle. It saved me a lot of time to just buy it, plus I think it really adds to the dress.

I didn't enlarge the overskirt pattern pieces using my copy machine like I did with the bodice pattern. Since the overskirt pattern was 1/8 scale, I took measurements of the pieces in the book and multiplied by 8. Again, I didn't take photos of this process as it's fairly straight forward, but I do have photos of the pattern pieces from the book.

If you decide to do this, remember to triple check your measurements and math. I accidentally multiplied by 4 on the top front piece. Thankfully, when I pinned to mark the darts, I realized my mistake instead of when cutting.

Overall I am pleased with the finished product, but I do see where I made a couple of mistakes.

Mistake #1: I should have had my bustle and petticoats on when fitting my mock bodice. I think the back would fit better if I had.
Mistake #2: I should have lined the overskirt with cotton organza. I feel it would probably lay better if I had.
Mistake #3: I should have used a dark fabric to line the bodice. I can see the lining along the edge of the front closure, at the neck, and on the rare occasion that the tails flip up in the back.
Which leads me to mistake #4: I should have added weights in the tails.
The next dress will be all the better from this learning process. Happy Sewing!!!

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