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1886 fancy dress “champagne”

1886 fancy dress "champagne", 19th century, Dickens Fair, events, projects

1886 “Champagne” Fancy Dress: Done!

Hey, I finished something!  Even better, this albatross!

Of course, I was up pretty late the nights before I wore this in order to get it done.  I widened the center front and reattached the trim, only to realize that it was STILL too narrow.  Ain’t nothing like doing it the hard way!

For lacing rings, I didn’t have time to get some real soldered rings, so I headed off to the hardware store and looked at random bits and bobs until I found some small-ish keyrings — hey, they worked!

I had one small issue when I put the gold ball trim on the CF, which is that I got to finish putting on the trim and realized I had about a half-ball-width hole, so I had to decide between a slight gap or trying to squeeze one more ball in.  I ended up squeezing one more in, which meant that the trim in front ended up looking kind of wonky.

I ran out of time to do anything useful with the champagne label, so I had to safety pin it on.  Looking back, I should have basted it on in the car, because it looks a little bit lame.  But oh well!

Last thing, I didn’t want to wear my hat until we got to fair because it was raining, and I hadn’t really planned out my hair.  So while I pictured wearing the hat on the top/side of my head, the only thing I could find to attach a hat pin too was way back/side — so I ended up looking pretty frowzy hat-wise, but everyone agreed that it was appropriate for a champagne bottle!

It’s not my best work, but it’s a whole lot better than the first try, and it was fun (and practical) to wear!  I had a great time at the fair, running into all sorts of friends wearing fabulous costumes and having a lovely tea. Oh, and most everyone got the costume, which was a good thing!

Me and Tara, who went in a beautiful bee-themed fancy dress ensemble.

So what’s next?  A whole lot of 18th century, but that’s another post!

1886 fancy dress "champagne", 19th century, projects

Champagne: Nearing the Finish Line

I’ve been sewing away on the champagne costume and am nearly there.  I managed to get the sleeves and trim on the bodice, add the gold netting to the neckline, and make the gold netting underplacket.  I’ve been wibbling about how to close things — I want to do whatever is lazy and easy, but none of my options seem to be either!  I want the LOOK of a laced bodice as in the original fashion plate — I like the contrast of the ribbon on the netting.  I kept thinking about ways to fake it, but they seemed harder than just sewing lacing rings on the damn thing.  Only problem is I only have 6 lacing rings on hand, so I decided to try using some of the flat sides of grommets as well — essentially works, but they are wide, and long story short I had to take them all off anyway, so I may hit the hardware store tonight and see if I can find some other kind of substitute.

Here’s the crappy late night cameraphone try-on pics, in which you can see my problem (other than the one lacing ring that snapped off, hence the wonky lacing) — it’s too big!  Not if I close it all the way, but I was conservative in how much I cut out of the front to make the lacing gap, because nothing is worse than thinking you want an X wide gap and then you try it on and that X has doubled, but the thing closes edge to edge.  I tried lacing it a little bit loosely, especially on the top half, just to see the effect of the netting and lacing, then in a fit of craziness took off the gold balls along the front edge, cut off a bit more from the CF, and resewed it all (all while watching “Sparkle,” which I can report is pretty shlock-tastic).

Front, a little wonky because of the too-big issue!

Le side!

Back, looking a little limp below the waist b/c of no bustle/skirts.

Also, the cats report that Mom wandering the house with a really long ribbon trailing from her bodice = GOOD TIMES.

The sleeves took a couple of tries just to figure out what I was going to do.  Originally I thought whatever I’d use as the gold netting would be the sleeve too, as in the fashion plate, but after scouring Joann’s I couldn’t find anything in the right shade.  I’m weird, but I love the caramel-y gold color of the taffeta I’m using for the hat, and all of the nettings I could find were either too yellow-gold or too brown or not sparkly.  Whatever, Joann’s!  And here I thought you were a bastion of sparkly synthetic craptastic fabric.  I even checked the casa collection aisle, which was terrifying!

So first I decided to make the sleeves in the same gold taffeta as the hat, and even got so far as patterning the same shape from the fashion plate (narrow cap, wide hem) and hemming it, only to discover that my armscye was WAY bigger than my sleeve sloper’s armscye.  As I was pondering my options, I was worrying about having a dark green dress with random gold sleeves, and hit on the idea of doing an overlapping tulip sleeve in the few scraps of the green velvet that I had left, and then trimming it with Yet More Gold Balls.

So, what’s left:  find more lacing rings, sew those on, add one more row of gold ball trim to the skirt, widen the skirt waistband about .5″, and throw together a necklace out of yet more gold balls.  Oh, and figure out how I’m attaching the champagne label — I think I’ll just tack it to the underskirt and call it done!

1886 fancy dress "champagne", 19th century, projects

Pulling Teeth, or, Reattempting the 1886 Champagne Fancy Dress Costume

“Pulling teeth,” because that’s what writing this blog post has become.  Gah!  It was another busy fall semester with little sewing, and I’ve gotten out of the habit of blogging.  I have been noodling on my embroidered fichu, but I’m not going to bore you with “embroidered another flower” posts.

This Saturday I’m heading to the Dickens Fair in San Francisco to see friends and for GBACG day. I was waffling on whether or not to go, because I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to wear… mid-Victorian is just a total butterchurn-y snoozefest to me.  Bonnets! High necklines! Giant sleeves! Giant skirts!  I feel like it’s all too much, and as a tall girl with a lot of padding, the last thing I need is to add more pouf in all directions.  But when I remembered the Champagne project and what I initially WANTED it to be (not what it ended up as), I got a little more into it.
Thanks to everyone who gave me feedback on what didn’t work (besides the lack of trim) a few months back.  I took your suggestions and basically took the whole thing apart… ditched the bodice, took the skirt apart.  So here’s the new plan:
First, I’m going back to the original fashion plate inspiration, which is just so perfect for turning into a “champagne” costume:

Original fashion plate inspiration.

I decided to make the whole dress out of dark green velvet, and keep the gold/foil/cork part for my head.  So I took off all that lighter green silk on the skirt and replaced it with green velvet.  Only problem was, I had some dark green velvet in my stash, but it was a yellower green than the blue/green I’d used for the original skirt pieces.  I decided to try overdyeing the stash fabric with a bit of blue, and to my amazement it came out to a perfect match, so off I went merrily… until I tried taking a picture of the pile-o-velvet that is the bodice and skirt and the colors are coming out totally differently.  I swear to god, they match 99% in real life… knowing my luck, all pictures taken of me will totally show the different velvet colors. Sigh.

The pile-o-velvet that is the finished skirt and almost finished bodice. In real life, the velvet colors match. Sigh.

So the plan is to follow the fashion plate and trim the bodice and skirt with some kind of gold ball trim to evoke the idea of champagne bubbles.  Last year I searched and wibbled and prevaricated and never ended up finding a trim I liked.  This time, I managed to find some cheap xmas garlands at my local hardware store (after scouring the craft store — weird!) and am Just Going With It.

Gold ball christmas garlands.

Pulling them apart to make trim.

I’m going to string them (on wire, I guess?) and sew them on to many of the edges.  I’m also planning to put some gold netting in the center front of the bodice and around the neckline, again hoping to evoke foil and champagne bubbles. We’ll see! It works in my head.

I want my head to be cork/foil part, so I bought a mini-top hat frame off of Jenn to recover.  Because I realized after the last try that I need to be Really Obvious for this costume to work, after I covered the hat in pretty gold silk taffeta, I fabric-glued champagne corks all around the brim:

Mini top hat frame.

The covered and be-corked hat.

All of this brings me to… most of the time I’ve been a costumer, I’ve been a relative purist about historical accuracy.  Oh sure, on some costumes I may cut some corners, and I’m pretty religious about wearing some kind of makeup with costumes for the last few years, but I’ve never wanted to make totally non-historical stuff.  Something about making the Marie Antoinette dress this summer has changed that, and that and the Pierrot/maja costume have been the most fun things I’ve worn in a long time!  Suddenly doing (most) straight historical costumes is seeming boring, and I’m finding myself wondering what I can add to costumes to put them over the top.  This is new and weird!

To that end, I bought a bunch of gold makeup that I plan on using this weekend, plus I’m contemplating crazy hair (it seems like champagne hair should be curly and frizzy and UP, am I right?  I’m thinking about getting my Helena Bonham Carter on — what do you think?).

1886 fancy dress "champagne", 19th century, balls, Bella Donna, events, projects

Fix This Costume! Meh Edition

So last year, I made a Victorian fancy dress costume — specifically, a c. 1886 “champagne” costume.  You can read more about it here, if you’ve totally forgotten about it by now.

Last time we talked, I made some undies.  Well, I also made a dress.  I was really sick the week before wearing it, but pushed myself through finishing by telling myself, “It doesn’t have to be god’s gift to costuming.”  Well, that prophecy came true, as it wasn’t!  Didn’t help that I was still woozy and fever-y and sick on the night I wore it, but I had to go as my singing group (Bella Donna) was performing at the Vampire Ball.

So yeah.  I never found the right trim for it, even after looking at gazillions of beaded trims and christmas ornaments, so maybe it’s the lack of trim that made me feel so meh about it that I never finished blogging?  I don’t know!  I also think maybe the sleeves (which were supposed to be more interesting, but lack of time made for a crappy pattern, so I had to ditch the original plan and go simple) should be A) more interesting and B) in the gold fabric?  Or maybe a sheer, shiny gold tulle, and then echo that in a center front opening showing a faux underlayer in shiny gold tulle, as in the inspirational fashion plate?  And the skirt hem could be shorter?  Help me figure out why this costume is so unexciting, and maybe I can wrestle it into shape?  Or at least do better the next time I attempt fancy dress!  And for trim, go for shiny gold balls, or clear glass balls?  Had a long debate with my husband about that one — I was picturing shiny gold balls, but he kept pointing out that champagne was clear…

A note on the photos — I had to photoshop the base skirt on photos #2 and 3, as the settings on Trystan’s camera were off and it turned my green skirt purple.  So the color/shine is most accurate in picture #1.

1886 fancy dress "champagne", 19th century, projects

Champagne Fancy Dress: Undies Edition

So I am forcing myself to go back and do a retrospective dress diary for this project, just for documentation purposes!

If nothing else, I’m glad I made it because it forced me to FINALLY make myself a new corset.  See, waaaaay back in college lo those many years ago, when I first started really getting into costuming, I bought myself a standard size corset from Amazon Drygoods, who resold Vollers corsets.  Vollers’ corsets are actually pretty nice — their base pattern was created by the company in the 1890s, so it’s actually a vaguely period shape, and they’re well made, with a REALLY nice feature whereby they include a separate 2″ish wide piece of boning underneath the center front busk, so it’s really supportive. At some point, that one shrunk* so I bought another one, because I was so happy with my first, and I was still at the point where the idea of making a corset seemed terrifying.

Fast forward a number of years, and laziness plus the fact that the corset still seemed to (sort of) fit meant that I never bothered to upgrade. I did start having acid reflux issues with it, however, which made me less excited about wearing Victorian costumes (of course, it took me years to figure out that it WAS acid reflux and not just instant-dehydration). Oh, and as the corset became less and less “sort of fitting” and more and more “barely fitting,” I increasingly got the dreaded Side Boob Cleavage. Ugh!

I’ve been meaning, for the last year or so, to get Jenn to make me a new Victorian corset. Not because it’s TOTALLY out of my skill set, but because I feel like I’m still learning about patterning corsets. Sure, I get how to pattern a corset, but the finer points – making sure the fit is perfect for THAT body – is still something I’m learning; and Jenn is a Master Ninja when it comes to that!

However, the idea for this project came up, and I’m broke and I knew Jenn was busy making her own costume for the Vampire Ball, so it was either keep on with the now-REALLY-doesn’t-fit-plus-acid-reflux Vollers corset, or make my own.  Something I realized making my 1780s stays is that I really never know how a corset fits me until I’ve worn it a few times. So I decided to make a working mockup corset, so that I could be more comfortable for this costume AND hopefully be closer to the final corset shape I’ll end up (which means I could maybe wear it with whatever mythical “final” corset is forthcoming) — plus, hopefully I could do something about the massive acid reflux.

So I hauled out my Jill Salen Corsets book and decided to work with the black & yellow 1890s corset. It was close to the 1880s shape I wanted, plus it looked do-able.

I started to look at Cathy Hay’s corset patterning instructions (more on that in a sec), but then thought, “Whatever, I know how to grade up a pattern!”  So I measured me, and I measured the corset, and I got to work… and made the corset pattern/mock up of ASS.  It TOTALLY didn’t fit, and I wasn’t really sure what to do about it.  So I forced myself to sit down and actually USE Cathy’s method, and let me tell you, WOMAN IS A GODDESS.  She’s got a method that actually WORKS, and it’s relatively intuitive, esp. for someone like me who is a draper/not a drafter and isn’t all anal and left brain-y.  I managed to make a pattern/mockup that fit ME relatively closely, and I was singing her praises (to the cats, natch)!

I did fiddle a bit with the pattern, in that I’m really trying to avoid too much waist constriction, esp. in front, in order to avoid acid reflux issues.  I’m still not sure exactly what it is that causes it, as I don’t get it in my Renaissance or 18th century corsets, but I got it up the wazoo with my old Vollers/Victorian corset.  Was it that it was too small?  Or was it that Victorian corsets are more fitted to the body throughout the waist-to-underbust area?  Not sure, but I tried to not constrict my waist too much, esp. in front, and then tried to do some nip at the side waist so that I’d have something of a nice shape.

I didn’t end up with the world’s perfect corset, but I did end up with a strong working mockup, which is what I wanted. Clearly it needs to be let out a bit more at the hip, and I’m not 100% positive I ended up with the waist in the exact right point, so I either need to monkey with it a bit more or hire Jenn to fine tune it for me.

I was happy to eliminate most of the side boob cleavage issue, although there’s still a bit — not sure if that’s entirely avoidable with a strapless corset, so I need to pick Jenn’s brain about that one too. I moved a seam slightly so that I could get boning where I thought it was needed at the side to push my boobs in toward the center, rather than flatten them back towards the chest.

I’m glad I decided it would be a working mockup — it’s made of coutil without any covering — as I proceeded to set a grommet in the wrong spot, too high, on one side of the back. Duh, but luckily I can ignore that as this is only a mockup, right?

I also made a petticoat to fit over my bustle, since the skirt would have a shorter hemline and I didn’t have anything that length.  Nothing rocket science-y — I used the Truly Victorian early 1870s skirt pattern, as the fancy dress illustrations all seem to have fuller skirts than your typical 1880s dress would.  Bad photo courtesy of my cramped sewing room, which is currently in process of being shifted and reorganized for better usage of space, but more on that in another post!

In the next post: the dress itself!

*Or I outgrew it.

1886 fancy dress "champagne", 19th century, projects

Apparently Fancy Dress Is My Theme

First it was the 18th c. Maja costume, now I’ve been struck by the Victorian fancy dress bug!  A year or two ago, people were passing around the link to this fabulous 1880s book full of fancy dress (ie what historical people wore when they were “in costume”) costume ideas.  And then this summer, Jen and Loren made SUPER fabulously cute fancy dress costumes (telegraph and harlequin) for the CoCo gala.

Suddenly, my SUPER busy season (ie mostly Bella Donna/faire performances) is over (which I promise to post about very soon), the PEERS Vampire Ball is coming up in a few weeks, and I’ve got the time and urge to sew!  However, I kept looking over my planned costumes list and either nothing grabbed me, or it was something that I didn’t want to bang out in a few weeks.  So I hemmed, and I hawed, and suddenly I thought of that fancy dress book, and Jen and Loren’s super cute costumes, and realized aha!  I would make a fancy dress costume for the Vampire Ball, and hey, then I’ll have something fun to wear when I visit Dickens (mid-Victorian being a total snoozefest to me these days).

So I read all through the fancy dress book, and looked at a ton of fashion plates, and settled on the idea that had caught my eye way back when I first skimmed through the book — champagne!  There are a lot of fabulous fancy dress concepts out there, but I wanted something that modern people would understand (for example, I kept loving all the “folly” illustrations, but would people know what that was? and there are tons of historical characters, but I worry that Victorian ideas of historical costume would just read as badly designed/research costumes).  Okay, no idea if people will get champagne either, but at least they know what it is I’m talking about!

So then I started looking through a gazillion fashion plates and here’s what I settled on (commentary in captions will be missing if you’re reading this on LJ, you may want to link to the post on my site if you care):

Suggestions for "champagne" costume from the fancy dress book

My bad PhotoShop mockup -- REALLY hard to get the colors to translate correctly!

The 1886 La Mode Illustree evening gown that I'm basing the design on

Far right and left, examples of fancy dress from 1885 -- most fancy dress skirts are shorter length and fuller, so I'm be using these as an idea for skirt silhouette

I’m planning to use a lot of stash materials for this project.  I have 2 yards of bottle green silk shantung, so that will be the front/side base of the skirt.  Then I have a ton of white cotton velvet, and I spent the weekend dyeing it — first 4 packets of Dylon dark green dye got it to a medium green, then I overdyed it with black for a darker green but ended up w/ a darker blue (wth?), then overdyed it again with RIT dark green and finally got the forest-y shade I wanted.  I bought 2 yeards of a pink-ish gold silk shantung from Mood Fabrics — I’m hoping this color will work on me, since most yellow-y golds wouldn’t:

Now, the final problem has been trim!  I LOVE the balls in the original fashion plate, but I’m having a horrible time finding something to match.  I’m picturing just strings of large gold balls, but they are shockingly hard to find!  Here’s my options:

Some kind of beaded fringe, although I can't seem to find anything where the beads are big enough! Also, can't seem to find round beads in the right color! And, no idea what the size is on this one.

Another beaded fringe -- this one is pretty small, 1" total

I could string pearls or beads, but it's amazingly hard to find them big enough! These pearls are 16mm, which is just about .5", which seems still really small to me.

And, I just recently had the idea to look for gold ball buttons and see if I could string those… what do you think?  Again, I’d like it to read as champagne bubbles!