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1875 candy cane dress

1875 candy cane dress, 19th century, projects

I spent last night draping the bodice

Can I just say that I LOVE LOVE LOVE draping? Not just because you can do with your hands what you spent years trying to do yanking commercial patterns into shape or trying to wrap your brain around the geometry of pattern drafting. But also because it’s just such a tactile way to make what you see in your mind happen in reality… Okay, I’m done waxing poetic.

I really like where I’m going in the front, but not too sure about the back. The evening bodice is going to have inside box pleats, with the inside of the pleat in solid white (like in the Truly Victorian 1870 evening bodice pattern) — but I think it would be boring to do the exact same thing on the day bodice as well. I was trying to go for the ruffly full look you see in a lot of early bustle era bodices, but it’s still pretty flat. Off to my book collection for inspiration!

Here’s the intial drape:

bodice_drape1 bodice_drape2 bodice_drape3

And the first mockup:

bodice_mockup1 bodice_mockup2 bodice_mockup3

1875 candy cane dress, projects

Even though I was sidetracked by Halloween

I’ve been busy assembling things for this project.

The first big one was finding enough white silk taffeta for all the trimming. I’d finally settled on ordering from Silk Connection because they had the best prices, but of course stupidly didn’t order a swatch first, and the silk came back noticeably more of a natural white than a bright white (anybody want to buy 5 yards of natural white silk taffeta?). So I hauled myself down to Thai Silks and went through their remnant bins, which aside from the hauling factor worked out well because I got 6 yards for $30.

So now that I had the fabric, it was time to start on the trimming. A few nights ago I started marking and cutting out the strips of fabric to make the three pleated rows around the underskirt. I have a nice pair of pinking shears that I inherited from my mother but which probably haven’t been sharpened since 1975 — I’ve never made the investment in another pair because I kept thinking I could get these sharpened, which I finally did at Costume College — but I don’t know if they’re just dead or if the sharpener sucked, because I was able to cut out about one row of fabric before the teeth just started chewing the fabric.

So! New pinking shears needed. I’ve admired those pinking/scalloping blades for rotary cutters for a while, so I went to crappy Joann’s today to pick some up. But noooo, Joann’s only carries replacement blades for Fisk rotary cutters, not Olfa which is what I have. So now I need to find a Michael’s and hope that they have what I need.

So since I was stymied on the trimming front, I sat down tonight to watch scary Halloween movies and sewed hooks and eyes on the two skirts (which as we know, should really take about 5 minutes but in reality takes about 5 hours).

Next I decided to finish the overskirt by marking the poufs (finally picked up some white twill tape — I just don’t think black would cut it). I basically followed the pattern’s markings, except that I added a third row of attachment points as I don’t like the look of poufs at the top and then a bunch of straight fabric.

The skirts aren’t fitting my dressform at the waist because I left my Victorian corset at work after our Halloween party — but you get the picture.

overskirt_poufs1 overskirt_poufs2

Speaking of dress forms — my Uniquely You is adjustable in height by a little plastic ring that fits around the pole of the stand. The ring has screws, which means you move the ring where you want it, tighten the screws, and then the ring holds up the form. But my ring cracked and broke (hello crappy plastic!). Now I remember someone telling me that the same thing happened to them, and they contacted the manufacturers who sent them a snappy replacement METAL ring — but I can’t find the contact info for the manufacturers! I did some web searching but came up with zip. Anyone know who makes Uniquely You’s and how to contact them?

1875 candy cane dress, projects

While I haven’t really done any sewing

progress is being made. I’ve been buying supplies for the Talma wrap — just won some white cotton velveteen on ebay, plus I got some 4″ rayon chainette fringe from M&J Trimming in NYC (which I’m hoping to maybe do some knotting on) and some red velvet ribbon to trim it. Also got some white velvet ribbon with which to decorate my hat, and little necessities like white twill tape (for the overskirt bustle poofs) and silver hooks & eyes (for some reason, all I had was black which wouldn’t work well on this fabric).

As soon as Halloween is over, I’ll be back on track… I’m glad the tea is at the end of the month!

1875 candy cane dress, projects

Yay! Finally had a sewing weekend for the first time in ages

Went over to Heather’s last week for help marking the hem. I also put together a mockup of the overskirt, but don’t have any images as the camera was out of town with my husband.

First I spent about 3 hours on Saturday wrestling with the fabric, trying to straighten the grain. I yanked, I basted, I checked, I rechecked — no go. I did get a little progress by basting it together and ironing — managed to make it workable for the overskirt. Luckily I have a 2ish yard piece that’s a separate cut which is on grain that I can use for the bodice — the rest of the off-grain will be just for trim, thankfully.

The overskirt was relatively easy to make. I did have to add length (as I always do, being 5’11”, plus I’m going to wear heels with this outfit which I normally don’t), so I made a mockup. Although everything went together fine, I was glad to have the peace of mind that comes with making a mockup. The only issue I have with the pattern is that I think the pleats at the side of the skirt should match, and they don’t. However, I didn’t care about it enough to futz with it, but rather left it as is.

I did see that I’d need to add another point to pull up the back of the overskirt. The skirt has three tapes that extend from the waistband down towards the hem — you attach the skirt at various points to pull it up. I’ll need to futz with that a bit to figure out what works well. I lined the back of the skirt with one layer of net, which extends the length of the back piece but ends where the sides stop being joined.

I did a narrow machine hem on the overskirt as it’s going to be covered with trim anyway.

These are in-progress photos — the front of the overskirt hasn’t been gathered and sewn to the waistband yet, hence no front images.

overskirt_back overskirt_side

I started to really calculate trim and realized that I don’t have enough plain white taffeta. I need 4 yards just to do the pleats around the hem of the underskirt, plus enough for sleeves for both day and evening bodices and ruches for the overskirt, bodice, and sleeves — not only do I simply not have enough, but I have 2 yards of white taffeta that’s so lightweight it’s see through that I bought online, plus 2 yards of heavy white taffeta that I got in the remnant bin at Thai Silks. So I hunted around to try to find the best deal and ended up ordering some more white taffeta today from Silk Connection — at $4.77/yard, it’s hard to beat! I’m hoping the weight will be relatively comparable to the Thai Silks taffeta (or at least close enough not to show) — I can use the nice Thai Silks taffeta for the sleeves on both bodices, and the Silk Connection for all the trim. I hope.
I’m also starting to daydream about accessories. I’ve always wanted one of those little tiny ineffectual hats to perch precariously (like in this Godey print). The Truly Victorian Clio hat (bottom left) looks perfect and it’s affordable, so I ordered one in red. Yay!

Since I’m going to be wearing this for the first few times at winter events (tea at the Ritz in November, and to Dicken’s Fair as well — hey, I’ll be a customer this year, I can wear whatever I want!) — and since I seem to be on target for getting the day outfit done in plenty of time (we’ll see, all that trimming may finish me off) — I’m starting to fantasize about outer wear. I ordered a copy of the Truly Victorian Talma wrap pattern, which I’m hoping to make in white velvet with red fringe for trim. Yummy! Of course, I will worry about finishing the dress first and then worry about outerwear — plus I need to find a source for white cotton velvet that won’t break my bank. Speaking of which, since I am a relative newcomer to the land of velvet, can someone tell me whether velveteen would work for something like this? I know it’s a shorter pile than velvet, but I’m not sure how different the two really appear. And what’s the deal with silk/rayon velvet? Why does everyone recommend avoiding it for costuming use (or is that just a Renaissance thing)?

1875 candy cane dress, projects

Good lord, she actually SEWS?

I know, I know! Real Life(tm) has been getting in the way lately, with way too much to do and not enough energy. But I’m finally getting going on this, and I’m usually pretty good at getting a little sewing done most evenings (once I’ve gotten past the work of patterning and cutting), so hopefully there’ll be a little more excitement around this here place.

I did finish the petticoat about 2 weeks ago. Most of it I put together on one summer afternoon when I was supposed to be working on something else…

I wasn’t sure of how I was going to get the right silhouette for this period. 1875 is right in between the big bustles-that-are-really-hoops of the early 1870-73 period, and right before the natural form no-hoops-it’s-all-below-the-knees 1876-80 period. I decided for ease and sanity to go with my 1880s bustle and make as full a petticoat as I could stand to go over it. I used Truly Victorian’s TV 201 1870s underskirt, with a ruffle around the hem (which has cording in the turn-over) and ruffles up the back. The CB is really quite wide so that plus the ruffles really gave me some nice fullness.

The one mistake I made was deciding to level the skirt at the waistband, rather than put in the waistband and then mark the hem. Levelling skirts is really easy on skirts that are the same length all around, and a real bastard when they’re not! Not only was I trying to get the length right at all these different points around me, but I had to deal with the fact that the petticoat would be gathered at the waist. Ugh! Never again!

petticoat_back petticoat_front petticoat_side

Although I’m still working out the final design (more on that in a minute), I was pretty certain on the skirts so I started there. Also, I want to get a really precise fit on the bodice and for that I need the bulk of the skirts to fit over.

I used the same pattern for the skirt as for the petticoat. The main irritation is that the fabric is off grain, so I spent twice as much time cutting and still don’t really have the fabric on grain. Any suggestions? I tried the fold in half, baste, and then yank method but it’s still not 100%.

Other than that, cutting out the skirt pieces and putting them together (oh, the joys of flooring it on those long straight seams!) was relatively straight forward. I put a side opening in the skirt and gathered it onto some gros grain ribbon (as the waistband won’t show). Still need to put the hem in, but for that I need to twist someone’s arm to mark it for me… I’m impressed at just how full the skirt looks over the petticoat (the fact that it’s made of taffeta helps!).

underskirt_back underskirt_front underskirt_side

Of course, next up will be trim, and that leads me to — design! I’m still working out exactly what I want to do for the day dress. Here are two REALLY BAD design concepts (work with me here). What I’m not sure about: make the bodice out of the stripes and sleeves out of solid white taffeta, or vice versa (most fashion plates of this era seem to do one or the other). Everything will be trimmed with solid white pleats/ruffles, with layered ruches on top (white ruche on top of red/white ruche), although I am wondering whether the middle of the three pleats on the underskirt should be red/white stripes… opinions?

1875_design1 1875_design2


1875 candy cane dress, projects

1875 Afternoon Dress

Here we goooooooo… This has been on my want-to-do list for so long that I really need to crank it out. I’ve always loved this fashion plate from Jean Hunnisett (you know me and stripes! I promise to do something non-striped next… well, maybe), plus I really want to work on some outfits that already have completed undies (so much less work when you’re not making the corset too).

At some point this will have an evening bodice, but right now I’m going to make the skirts and afternoon bodice. The afternoon bodice will be some conglomeration of this Godey fashion plate and this dress (found on some for sale site but can’t remember where!).

1875_edm godey_1874

bodice_design1 bodice_design2

I’m going to use Truly Victorian patterns for the skirts. I’ve realized that drafting skirts is a lot of work for something that doesn’t require a lot of fitting, so it’s easiest just to use a commercial pattern.

I’ve actually cheated on this project in that sometime last year, when I was supposed to be working on something else, I put together most of the petticoat. I’m going to do a little faking on this project — I think I should really wear a larger bustle than I have under this (not quite the REALLY big early 1870s, but still bigger than my more 1880s sized bustle. The petticoat (pics to come, sorry, not that organized) is made from the underskirt pattern (early 1870s) and has lots of ruffles up the CB portion. I’m hoping that will bulk up the skirt enough to suit the mid-1870s look.

I’m hoping to get the afternoon outfit done by Nov. 20, which is the GBACG Tea with the Buccaneers (only one of my favorite bustle-era movies); evening bodice will be forthcoming at some unspecified date.

I’m also working to regain my excitement about putting all this out there after being flamed by an obviously unbalanced person; I know I should always expect it, but I’m still seething a bit. I promise to get more details up soon.

1875 candy cane dress

Site Updates

Okay, it’s time to get organized. The problem with having a website is that all of my mental costuming ends up in print, so to speak. So I get all excited about one project after another, but don’t actually follow through on them. So it’s time to get practical!

My 1760 robe a la francaise is officially temporarily retired. I’m unhappy with so many aspects of it that I just can’t face it for a while. One of my other current projects — specifically the 1930’s blouse & skirt — is only awaiting a hem to become a finished project.

So what’s up next? Practicality states that it will be the 1875 afternoon & ball gown, because I have almost all of the supplies for it that I need (except a bit more muslin to finish the petticoat and make a mockup). Everything else on my mental list requires some kind of financial outlay, so I’m going to put them off for now.

I’m also amending my list of upcoming projects to things that are REALLY upcoming… so some things are gone and there’s one new one.

Okay! Now I feel organized.