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19th century, events, GBACG, Gwendolen

GBACG Holiday Tea

At the very end of December, the Greater Bay Area Costumers Guild held a bustle-era tea at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.  The Palace is super fancy and dates from 1875 but was rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake — the restaurant where tea is served is what used to be where carriages would pull in and is just beautiful:

Palace Hotel, San Francisco

The tea was hosted by Mrs. Vanderbilt (Cynthia) and THE Mrs. Astor (Catherine), both tres chic in their bustle gowns:

Mrs. Vanderbilt & Mrs. Astor

Costumes ranged from the 1870s to the 1890s:


Teresa and Bridget were both super pregnant and super cute with their unbuttoned bodices:

Teresa & Bridget

There was lots of gorgeous beading and fabulous hats:


And a lovely lady wearing an actual antique late 1860s/early 1870s gown:


I wore my purple and white striped Gwendolen dress, this time without the lower hoops as I wasn’t in the mood to wrestle them on BART (our local commuter train).  The bodice appears to have (ahem) shrunk, but luckily I saved scraps of the fabric and hit on the faaabulous idea of adding a V striped false waistcoat front — I’m so glad there are two runs of buttons on each side of the bodice opening!


Sadly the hat I made to go with the outfit just doesn’t want to work over 1870s hair.  I could have jammed it on my head and not liked the effect, so I chose to go without (shocking!).

Tea was scrummy — I couldn’t even finish all of my sweets and had to take some home! And the hotel had lots of beautiful photo spots:


All in all, a lovely afternoon!  You can see a few more photos in my Flickr set.

Dickens Fair, events, Gwendolen, projects

Gwendolen – Done, Worn, Yay!

So I had two things left to do on this project before I wore it:

1) The skirt. I made it to have a long train, which was great for Costume College (carpet!) and not so great for Dickens Fair (gross Cow Palace floor complete with sawdust!).  So I put the bustle, petticoats, and skirt on my dress form, grabbed a lot of safety pins, and started pinning up the train.  I futzed with different options and basically ended up making the “pouf” part of the skirt bigger. I tried to mostly pin it to the ribbon tie, but that didn’t totally work so I pinned it to the top petticoat as well, and then just put those on at the same time. I also cut off the ribbon ties and made an actual attractive pieced bow, rather than the hastily tied bow from the first wearing — altho you really can’t see it in the pictures!

2) The bonnet. I had the time for once to indulge my seldom indulged love of millinery.  I’m not terribly good at it, but I like it!  So I made Lynn McMasters’s Mid-Victorian Winter Bonnet. It all went together swimmingly — there were a few confusing steps in the pattern instructions, but they were relatively straightforward construction elements so it all worked out fine.

The difficulty was in choosing the covering/trimming.  I constantly pick up bits and pieces of ribbon, flowers, feathers, etc. thinking, “This will be perfect for hat trimming!”  But I don’t really get around to hat making/trimming often enough.  So I REALLY wanted to make this out of things from my stash.  However, normally I try to avoid the matching hat, as I feel like it looks too costumey (most historical women probably wouldn’t have had a hat to match every outfit).  But looking through my stash of leftover fabric and possible trims, I couldn’t find anything else to use.  Plus, I had this FABULOUS purple and white striped ribbon that would go so perfectly — the purple was a darker shade, and the stripes were narrower, but that made for interesting contrast.  So I sucked it up and covered the hat with the leftovers of the dyed velvet.  Then I used a lot of the purple/white striped ribbon and some ivory plush velvet to make a bow and other fiddly bits.  It wasn’t quite working until I sucked it up and went to Joann’s and found the white soutache-y trim — until then, it was just this huge expanse of velvet with a bow on the side!  I also bought some short ostrich feathers, which I wired together and curled using Lynn’s instructions.

I really like the finished hat, except when I went to wear it, I found that it really needed a LOT of flat head on which to sit.  Which meant that my hairstyle, which normally would have crossed the top of my head to carry the weight, had to really hang off the back of my head giving me an instant hair headache (yes, I made anchoring buns!).  Oh well, we suffer for fashion, right?

Thanks to Sarah for a lot of these final pictures!  You can see my other photos from our trip to Dickens Fair on Flickr.

Gwendolen, projects

Gwendolen – Done!

Except for still a little bit of poochiness on the side bust — can’t decide if I should just extend the side dart up higher, or live with it.  And it looks like I have a little too much width in the bodice back around the shoulders… but I may be too lazy to fix that!  It would require taking the sleeves off, which sounds hard.

Gwendolen, projects

Lots of Progress, Not a Lot of Posting

Why?  Progress = because I have the week off from work (furlough)!  Posting = couldn’t find my digital card reader, which meant no photos… and I find photo-less posting to be annoying, because I want to SEE what people are talking about!  It’s a thing with me – I hardly ever post without photos.

Okay, so last time we talked, I was busy dyeing velvet.  I then made the collar facing, extending it down to where the bodice closure starts (you can see a tiny little line of velvet there in the film gown).  There was a little bit of futzing to get the collar points to mirror.

Then I made a sleeve mockup.  The sleeve is long, fitted, and pretty basic, with the velvet cuff.  I took the sleeve pattern from my 1875 day bodice and took out the elbow-wrist fullness.

In trying on my sleeve mockup, I discovered some weird, around the bust point but also above, fullness.  I think this was created when I let out the mockup at the center front — I think  things may have pivoted weirdly?  I fuzted with it for a while and then realized I was going to need to redo the darts, so I picked those out.  I ended up taking in a bit at the top of the side seam, and then repositioning/reshaping the outer bust dart.  Annoying, but in the end I’m glad because I like the placement of the darts better, and they look more like the film gown.

Next, I sat on the couch for about 2 days making buttons.  I used Hana’s tutorial that she posted in the comments on the last post.  I had to make 22 buttons, so it took a LONG time, plus Winston our dog ate one of them (luckily no swallowing!) so I ended up making 23.  The buttons are just decorative — squinting at the film gown, I don’t see any sort of loop.  My plan is to use hooks & eyes on the inside of the bodice.

I added piping on the bodice edge, CF, and armholes — it’s not there in the film gown, but I like it (yay for bias stripes!) and it creates an easy way to finish edges.  I should say that I did tweak one thing in the film gown, going with a period, angled shoulder seam (in the film gown, they have a modern, on top of the shoulder seam — my guess is so that the stripes match up).

I made up the sleeve, but I haven’t attached it yet, as it’s easier to do all the bodice finishing with a bit less fabric in my lap.  I had to look at the film images a lot to convince myself that the sleeve cuff really was higher on the front seam than the back, which seems counter-intuitive… but I went with it.

Finally, I’ve been thinking a lot about the white underbodice layer, and finally decided to make a chemisette.  I haven’t found any fashion plate images of chemisettes from this era (more 1860s-earlier), but it seems like the most obvious solution, and if I’m thinking historically, early 1870s isn’t THAT different from late 1860s.  I looked at patterns for chemisettes in Arnold and Hunnisett, making it reach down to the waist, with the turn-back collar and button front closure.  The proportions look slightly off to me — I think in the film gown, the collar opens lower — but if I do that on me, I’ll have cleavage, which doesn’t seem right for 19th c. daywear!  Romola Garai does not have the rack that I have.  I finished the chemisette last night with lace on the collar and buttons and buttonholes – but no pics yet!

Now, I need to get over to Lacis for boning, attach the sleeves, and add hooks and eyes.  Then it’s on to the hat, which I’m super excited about!  I bought Lynn McMasters’ Mid-Victorian Bonnet, and I can’t wait to start messing with buckram (altho choosing the trimming may kill me — but that’s another post).

Gwendolen, projects

Experiments with Dyeing

So I needed cotton velvet or velveteen for the accents on this bodice — collar, cuffs, and buttons. I’m actually tweaking the color palette a bit from the original movie dress:  when I made the 1870-71 evening dress I ended up at Britex looking for velvet ribbon, where I fell in love with a beautiful vintage ribbon that was a sort of violet purple color. I think it is probably rayon (because of the sheen).  I hunted throughout the store trying to find something that would coordinate for the narrower ribbon of the bodice — didn’t find anything, so went with the closest I could get (which was more of a grape purple), and hoped it wouldn’t be too noticeable because of being farther away from the skirt.  But now that I’m going to be using bigger pieces of velvet on the day bodice, I need something closer to violet.  (And now I’m inspired to remove the narrow ribbon and try to dye that to better match, but that’s another project!)

I did the East Bay fabric shop tour — started at Joann’s, then Stone Mountain in search of the right shade, but couldn’t find anything right at either, so I grabbed some veering-towards-cranberry cotton velveteen and some RIT dye.  I’m actually quite terrified of dyeing — I have a front-loading, low water use washer, so I’m always worried that will screw things up — plus I just don’t have a lot of experience.  And I hate not knowing for certain what color I’m going to end up with — I’m the type who will spend more than I have to to get the right shade.  But I wasn’t finding what I needed in person, and I didn’t want to buy online because unless you’re good and get a swatch, you REALLY don’t know what shade you’re buying!

So I did swatches, playing with overdying with blue and purple and various mixtures of the two.  The straight blue worked the best, and I’m really pleased with the result.  It’s not perfect, because I’m trying to match cotton to rayon and the rayon ribbon has a sheen that the cotton fabric doesn’t have, but it’s the same tone and that makes me happy.

Gwendolen, projects

Have Time! Can Sew!

So I am not performing at Dickens Fair this year.  Bella Donna did SO MUCH, particularly in September and October, and I need time to sleep, see my husband & critters, sew… you know, have a life!  I plan to gatelist at list one day to play scum, but I also want to go one day with Sarah and Trystan as customers to enjoy being shiny (and having tea! and stuff!). So while I could wear something in the closet, given that I have TIME — I think I’ll sew something!  And given that I only need to make a bodice, it’s not TOO crazy to add it to the sewing docket.

I originally bought the fabric for my 1870-71 evening dress meaning to make this dress from the BBC miniseries Daniel Deronda (hello fabulous bustle gowns, hello stripes!), and I even posted a tiny bit about it.  But then I got distracted, and made something else from the fabric, as one is wont to do!  But when I went to the garment district 1? 2? years later and the same fabric was still there in the same shop, well, obviously it was fate!

For reference, here’s the project page in case you’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about.

I grabbed my bodice pattern from my 1875 red & white stripey gown, using the ball gown front as that fit the best, although I still had to tweak it.  I appear to be slightly larger than my dress form right now (grumble grumble), but that only necessitated letting out the CF when I tried on the mockup.  I stared at the screencaps I grabbed a while ago, and rewatched the series while draping/drafting, and then cut out and sewed together.

Now I need to get to the fabric store (I’m hoping Stone Mountain will have what I need?) to get some purple velvet for the collar, cuffs, and buttons.  Speaking of buttons, those will need to be fabric covered buttons, but obviously velvet isn’t going to fit in those covered button form kits, so I’m thinking I should make my own – any tips?  And I’m thinking of basically faking the white blouse layer with it just being slightly wider than the opening, so that I can tack it in (I THINK it has a CF closure?  I’ll do that with tiny buttons or something).  The alternative would be a chemisette type thing, which sounds annoying.