Although it may not be obvious from what I usually post about, I actually do sew quite a few modern garments for myself.
And the time has certainly come for summer dresses! (Well…mostly. It’s still a tiny bit rainy still her in the Pacific Northwest.)
Most of the dresses currently hanging in my closet are me-made and, considering the size my fabric stash has grown to, I hope to complete several more by the time summer and sunshine are through.
As I was sewing this one the other night, I thought back to when I worked with this pattern last summer and wished I had written down my notes. A year later it was like I was starting all over again and the only thing I had to go off of was the pattern pieces I’d already cut out. (I couldn’t even find the instructions.)
So this series is born out of a desire to share some of what I wear everyday and to keep a record for myself.
The bodice is Simplicity 1418 and the skirt is just a large rectangle gathered and sewn on. I made the proper version of this pattern last year out of purple linen and it’s been a staple in my closet since. This time I wanted something less streamlined, and more floofy, so I gathered as much fabric as I could into the skirt.
And I’m so pleased with the result!
It’s sparkly and billows when I twirl – what more could I ask for??
Material: 3 yards printed cotton
Pattern: Simplicity 1418 for bodice (size 18), none for skirt
Time to complete: 10 hours, give or take
Notions: side zipper
Likes: volume of skirt, fit of armscye, length of skirt, height of neckline
Dislikes: waist can be taken in and lengthened 1-2 inches, neckline gapes slightly
So here’s to the start of summer! May everyone wear great outfits and have great fun! What are your sewing and/or travel plans?
Today I took my first foray into self-portraiture and the complexities of using a remote shutter control in order to take some pictures of my latest sewing project.
It involved a lot of running back and forth in the woods (and hiding from hikers behind trees) but they came out pretty well for my first try!
This dress was born out of curiosity a few months ago when I was scrolling through Italian renaissance portraiture on the internet and it struck me how, basically, those painted images are the only visual source we have left to study. There are very, very, very few extant garments left from the late 15th/early 16th century.
By having only those paintings, what we have to go off of (from the perspective of historical garments) is, for the most part, stylized versions of the upper class’s best clothes. So what about the rest of the ladies?
This dress is the first step in a long journey to try to answer that question.
Conceptualized as a work/day/house dress for a lady who was middle class or lower in station, I whipped up a chemise to go underneath it. I’m still deciding on the design of the sleeves so those will come in time.
I relied heavily on a book called “Dressing Renaissance Florence” by Carole Collier Frick in my research for this ensemble. It had a ton of fantastic information in it and was super helpful. I’ll go into more detail about my research and the actual making of this dress in a later post.
But, because I found so much inspiration in her research (and the primary sources she cites), I’m putting this dress down as my entry for the Historical Sew Monthly challenge this month – “Literature.”
Waist trainers seem to be everywhere these days. Celebrities are spouting them all over social media (hello, Kim Kardashian) and when I first heard about it, my first thought was “You guys realize you’re bringing back corsets, right?”
For me, growing up I only ever heard negative opinions about corsets. Things like “they made ladies faint” (a la Gone with the Wind), “ladies couldn’t breathe while wearing them” (a la Meet me in St. Louis), and “ladies removed their ribs to be able to squeeze into them” [which is debunked quite nicely here].
It wasn’t until I started studying history and historical clothing and actually wore a corset that I realized just how untrue all of these things are. I’m not trying to delve to get into the stigma around them or the reality of a properly-fitting corset them in this post – that’s a topic for another day.
Today I’m talking about waist trainers. After seeing image after image of women wearing them and singing their praises come across my instagram feed, I cut to the chase and actually ordered one for myself. This one, to be exact:
It features four steel bones and measures almost 10″ high. I bought a size XL, which is suggested for 31.5 to 33.8 inches. My natural waist measurement is 34″.
My first thought when I picked it out was that it reminded me of various “ventilated” or “summer” corsets that I’ve come across over the years. See? Another reference to corsetry!
When it arrived I tried it on right away. It was late at night and, at first, it felt really tight and uncomfortable (and was hard to get on – I ended up fastening it and stepping into it). So I took it right back off and set it aside for a few days until I had decided to actually give it a proper try.
I put it on when I got dressed at 8 am and my initial plan was to wear it to work for my entire 10-hour shift and record how I felt and looked throughout the day (through a series of unabashed bathroom-mirror selfies).
In that plan, I decided that I would consider the experiment a success if the waist trainer provided a smooth waistline while remaining comfortable. And if it helped support my lower back (I stand all day), that would be a major plus.
L: waist trainer on. R: waist trainer off.
I had breakfast, drove to work, and got my day started. Sitting in my car was a little weird at first, but not uncomfortable. Nothing pinched or was too tight and it made my torso significantly less rigid than in a corset. It did smooth out my waistline and decrease the circumference by almost one inch. The weirdest part, at first, was how it made me feel like I was made of rubber.
Whenever I bent at the waist, the elasticity made me feel like I should immediately spring back straight up. Very different than wearing a corset, which makes you bend at the hips, but not uncomfortable, per se.
L: waist trainer on. R: waist trainer off.
Unlike some other peoples’ experiences that I read briefly before doing this (x, x), I had no trouble breathing, I never felt light-headed, I wasn’t overheating, and eating was no problem. I was feeling good!
But by 9:30 I wasn’t so sure anymore.
On my notes I jotted down that I was “iffy,” but then an hour later it was back to “totally fine.” After a little more back and forth, I started to get a headache and was unsure whether or not it was from the waist trainer.
Then around 11:30 it started to slip, and by noon it was digging into my sides.
It settled in right at my waistline, bunching up and becoming supremely uncomfortable. I tried to readjust it but nothing short of taking it completely off and then putting it back on would fix the problem.
So off it came and I spent my lunch break lounging comfortably with the waist trainer stashed in my purse. I haven’t put it back on since.
What I found super interesting, though, was that the waist trainer started to collapse in on me in exactly the same way that my Edwardian corset did a few months ago. This definitely warrants more research. The garments are so different that I wonder if the root of the situation might lie in the shape of my actual body. Hmmm…
So, in all I wore it the waist trainer for four hours. I’m not opposed to wearing it again, for a shorter length of time, but I think I’ll stick to support garments with more inherent shape and structure.
My experience had nothing to do with how the actual garment was manufactured, though. It was well-constructed and pretty good quality, especially for its price.
Have you ever tried a waist trainer? What was your experience?
About this time yesterday I laced up my adventure boots, hopped in my car, and drove up to Storybrooke, Maine.
Well, it reality it was a town called Steveston in British Columbia, Canada, which is where they film my favorite show of all time: Once Upon a Time.
I’ve talked about it on here briefly before, but anybody who knows me in real life knows that I am a huge fan of the show. So, imagine my delight and surprise when I realized that the town they use to film the exterior scenes is only two hours from me.
The day I was there was not a day they were filming, but some of the signs are left up all year round. I had a fun time walking along the streets, spotting Storybrooke signage hidden in plain sight among the rest of the regular businesses.
I had lunch at a location very well known to fans: Granny’s Diner.
A.K.A. The Cannery Cafe.
I had a truly delicious fish burger and the people there were incredibly nice. The whole town felt super welcoming! I was surprised how many people were out and about, milling around the town on a super rainy Thursday afternoon.
When I say rainy, I mean rainy. Like, dumping. When I got there it was just starting to sprinkle, but when I came out from lunch I almost got blown away. And then, as quickly as it began, it stopped. The sun didn’t come out but at least it was dry!
I’d love to be there on a day they’re actually filming. I felt a little conspicuous walking around taking pictures, so I tried to stick to phone photos and quick selfies to try to blend in at least a little. I scouted out quite a few recognizable filming locations, though!
It’s a beautiful town on the water that would be worth visiting even without the connection to the show. I definitely want to go back to spend some time at the docks in a little warmer weather.
I did a little window shopping, popped into a couple of the stores, and had fun playing with Canadian money. Haha.
And then, of course, it got sunnier and sunnier the closer I got to home. I definitely foresee another trip up there sometime in the near future – perhaps once spring finally arrives.
Anyone else watch Once Upon a Time? Have you ever been to Steveston?
I wore it to Disneyland, under my Cadaver Danielles outfit, for about 6 hours and it started to cave in about halfway through. I didn’t quite understand what was going on while I was wearing it, so I snapped some pictures when I got back to my hotel to try to figure out what happened (you can see my pretty petticoat!).
The back started bowing out right at my waistline, which you can kind of see in the picture. I laced it pretty loose that night, but the sides pulled it all wonky.
On the left it’s bowing out, on the right it’s doing what it’s supposed to.
And you can see it even better here. I still have my bum pad on underneath (which gives my some crazy hips!) but the sides are certainly not in the right spot!
And this is what it did to my waist. Not the most comfortable…
When I tried it on after making it, the sides were fine. And it was okay when I wore it around the house to break it in. Some of my theories:
I tied it too loose that night.
Too high up under my arms (it rubbed a bit), so maybe it bowed whenever I bent sideways.
Too weakly boned. I used zip ties purposefully, to keep it light but that might not have made it supportive enough.
Any more ideas? Insight? Wisdom? I really want this corset to be wearable in the future.
They’re the Dapper Dans – a barbershop quartet that performs in Disneyland – and for the Halloween season they transform into these guys:
The Cadaver Dans! They’re awesome – one of our favorite acts!
Which is why my sister and I dressed up as them for Halloween…well, the female version.
Our skirts are made from Butterick 5970, hemmed to keep the train off the ground since Disneyland doesn’t allow costumes that drag. I plan on letting down the hem someday.
Most of our outfits were sewn at the eleventh hour – literally the day before we left – so we’re wearing everyday dress shirts over corsets. It worked! Haha.
Somehow we managed to cram all of our clothes into my carry-on, which was a miracle in and of itself. I’m wearing my S-curve corset, bustle pad, a petticoat, shirt, and skirt.
My sister is wearing basically the same thing, just an earlier corset style and she skipped bustle the pad.
I had searched long and hard for the prefect black fabric for our skirts and ended up buying some black peach fuzz at Walmart that looks really great in motion. The rippling and swishing is exactly what I envisioned!
We had hoped to get a picture with the Cadaver Dans at the party, but they apparently weren’t walking around.
So we watched their show on the river instead.
We also did other things like ride rides (not the easiest thing in a corset), watch the parade, and try some snacks. Funny story: lots of people mistook us for employees and we were asked questions like where the bathrooms were and when the parade was. Even funnier, we knew all the answers!
By the end of the night we had had a great time and were thoroughly exhausted.
Fabric: Black peach fuzz Pattern: Butterick 5970 Year: 1905 How historically accurate is it? Probably not the most accurate, technically, but it looks convincing! Hours to complete: I did both in the same day. First worn: Halloween 2016 Total cost: About $20 each
Apparently it was fate that I would learn to sew one day.
My destiny was foretold eons ago…
Memorialized in detailed, primitive artwork…
They offer a glimpse into the dreams of a young girl…
Showing the dresses that she hoped to create one day…
Such ensembles seemed beyond her reach…
But she kept dreaming until she could do.
(Seriously, apparently drawing like these were all I made when I was little! I don’t remember doing these ones exactly, but I have fond memories of designing fantastical dresses growing up. Apparently it was destiny that I would actually create some one day!)