Red, White, and Blue {Modern Dress Diary 1}

Although it may not be obvious from what I usually post about, I actually do sew quite a few modern garments for myself.

Particularly dresses.

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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.

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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.)

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So this series is born out of a desire to share some of what I wear everyday and to keep a record for myself.

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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.

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And I’m so pleased with the result!

It’s sparkly and billows when I twirl – what more could I ask for??

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Notes:

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?

Pink Renaissance Day Dress

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.

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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!

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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.

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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?

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This dress is the first step in a long journey to try to answer that question.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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The Challenge: Literature (HSM #5)

Fabric: Pink linen, brown linen, white cotton.

Pattern: Self-drafted from my red renaissance dress

Year: c. 1500

Notions: Thread, embroidery floss, brass lacing rings, lacing cord

How historically accurate is it? Quite. Entirely hand-sewn, even!

Hours to complete: Worked on it off and on all month.

First worn: Today!

Total cost: About $10 for both pieces together.

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Construction details coming soon!

Lida Rose Corset in Action

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My beautiful, beautiful corset.

What happened to you?

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Looking normal…

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!).

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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.

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On the left it’s bowing out, on the right it’s doing what it’s supposed to.

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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!

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And this is what it did to my waist. Not the most comfortable…

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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:

  1. I tied it too loose that night.
  2. Too high up under my arms (it rubbed a bit), so maybe it bowed whenever I bent sideways.
  3. 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.

Stomacher fit for a…Puritan?

For Halloween this year my sister and I went as witches.

Real, authentic, 17th century, running-from-Puritan witches.

Enter: 1693. You know, the period that (for me at least) is notoriously hard to find accurate information on.

So, enter: flying-by-the-seat-of-my-educated-guess.

One thing I knew for sure: of the most important pieces of my outfit this year was going to be my stomacher. Last year I ran short on time and didn’t have time to trim the dress I wore for our pirate-themed year. As such,the center front was a few inches short on either side and it was a real struggle to sew myself into my dress the night of and get it to close. I had to lace my stays really tight but it closed (although it looked terribly messy).

So this year, my resolution was to follow the wisdom of our ancestors and create an outfit that could be worn easily no matter how loosely I wanted to lace my stays.

Brief blurb about stomachers, to give a bit of background:

Stomachers were most popular from the 16th to the 18th century. Usually triangular in shape, they covered the front opening of a lady’s bodice and were worn by women of  levels of society. Easier to make and more cost-effective than a whole new ensemble, they were a good way to bring variety to a woman’s wardrobe and they also accommodated her changing shape over the course of her life. See some examples.

I searched long and hard to find original source material that I could base my design on and one of the closest (and one of the only) pieces of artwork I came across was Mrs. Elizabeth Freake and Baby Mary by Anonymous.

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Painted sometime around the 1670’s, it showed fashions a bit early for what I was aiming for but it was a good starting point. Analyzing her outfit, the key details are her short, rolled sleeves and the ladder lacing across what I had to assume was her green stomacher.

I looked up a few secondary art sources and drew inspiration from them, but relied most heavily on the details of Mrs. Freake’s outfit.

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To make the stomacher, I started by drafting the bodice pattern and then the stomacher pattern on top of it. I apparently forgot to take a picture of that part.

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But here you can see the shape. I sandwiched a single zip tie between two layers of cotton duck  and zipped around the edges on my machine.

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I had the idea to make it reversible, so I cut out a layer of fabric that would match my skirt and bodice and a layer that would match my purple petticoat. I stitched the brown layer down in the car on the way to my grandma’s house and added four tabs made from some tan twill tape that I randomly found around the house. Then I stitched the purple layer on on the way back from her house.

With and without creepy makeup

I laced my stays fairly loosely that night. My bodice was made to lace closed at the bottom, but it was very comfortable – and looked good – open all the way down.

I pinned it to my stays with straightpins and it didn’t budge an inch all night. I had toyed with the idea of adding a waist tape, but I’m glad I didn’t. Here it is at the end of the (very long, very wet) night.

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I wore the purple side for Halloween – it felt much more witchy – but I definitely want to do something fun with the “Puritan” side. Hopefully a photo-shoot (or something) once I’ve had the chance to make some accessories to go with the outfit. I didn’t have time to make any for Halloween night, but I found this time period to be really interesting and definitely want to revisit it once I’ve had the chance to do more solid research. Until then, here’s to Mrs. Freake! Thanks for the inspiration!

Details:

Fabric: White cotton duck, purple linen, brown linen blend
Pattern: Self-drafted
Year: c. 1680s
How historically accurate is it? I haven’t a clue. I was really just guessing on this one.
Hours to complete: About 3 or 4, altogether
First worn: Halloween 2016
Total cost: All leftover fabric from other projects, so cost was very minimal

Gatsby Halloween

In the spirit of Throwback Thursday combined with the first day of fall, I have some fun photos to share from my earlier days of sewing.

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But first, a brief background:

In 2012 I was a student at the University of Washington, living at college in a dorm with my wonderful sister. When Halloween rolled around that year we found ourselves without any plans so we gathered some friends together to go to dinner. Three of us decided to make our outfits 1920’s-themed.

In the time-honored college tradition of procrastination, what better thing to do than give yourself four days to make three dresses from scratch?

This was at the start of my sewing career, when my sewing machine was less than a year old, so there was almost no technique to what I was doing. I made my 1920’s pinterest board and used it for inspiration, not caring much about historical accuracy.

I started with my sister’s dress when I was home for the weekend, drafting the base on her and sewing a bunch of squares that I moved around until we agreed on a final design we could agree on (#3).

Next I made a dress for myself (my mom helped sew it) and finished it up by hand when I went back to my dorm.

And then I did the same for our friend, Molly!

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All three dresses were really simple but effective. They were done in plenty of time for Halloween and we had a great time going out! We went out for dinner at the Cabbage Patch Restaurant which is rumored to be haunted although we didn’t experience anything while we were there.

After our food we explored the town a bit, visiting other supposedly haunted locations, taking pictures, and admiring all the cute trick-or-treaters that were running around.

Looking back at these pictures brings back a lot of really fun memories. The dinner was delicious and it was great going out for an event in costume! That’s something that I’ve been wanting to bring back in to my sewing lately. I make really fun things but I don’t usually do anything with them. I’m realizing now that they don’t do me much good (or much fun) just hanging in my closet once they’re finished.

Now to find some things to do around Seattle…

Witch’s Castle Part II

My brother wasn’t the only one that got dressed up at the Witch’s castle last summer for a photoshoot. We packed my and my sister’s dresses and had fun trading outfits and tromping around the structure (and hiding from hikers who were giving us weird looks).

It’s a very fun place to explore and take pictures.

Lida Rose Corset (HSM #6)

This project held a lot of firsts for me. It was my first time using a printed PDF pattern, sizing up a pattern, and inserting a busk. I’m very proud of how it all turned out, considering the fact that (strictly speaking) this is the first corset I’ve ever made and that I was always terrified of making one. Turns out it’s a lot easier than I had expected!

The pattern I used is a free one, Hip Curve Corset, by Ralph Pink. It came only in a UK size 10 so I spent an afternoon measuring and resizing it to fit me. I incorporated into this corset some of the adjustments I made when sewing my stays last year.

Please keep your fingers crossed that I did everything right; I haven’t actually tried on the finished product yet!

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I’m in love with this corset. I adore the hue of the purple and the feel of the silk and the detail of the lace at the top. Corsets from the Edwardian period have always held a particular fascination for me (well, lingerie in general) so it’s thrilling to have one for myself.

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The inside is a little crazy, I will admit. I ran out of purple tape to use for the bones and started using peach instead (it’s less saturated in real life) and some of the seam allowances are poking out inside so I definitely could be neater next time.

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How does this item have to do with travel, you may ask? Well, I made this corset specifically to take on a trip with me in the fall. To make it easy to pack, carry, and put on I kept it fairly lightly boned, left the garter attachments off the bottom, and used two layers.

As for the story behind the name of the corset, I spent a good chunk of my time sewing with The Music Man (2003) on in the background. I may or may not have watched it (literally) five times…

So, naturally, I had the songs stuck in my head for days and one of my favorites is Lida Rose so there you go!

The Challenge: Travel (HSM #6)
Fabric: White cotton duck, purple silk
Pattern: Hip Curve Corset by Ralph Pink
Year: c. 1905
Notions: White thread, busk, silver grommets, white lace, zip ties
How historically accurate is it? Don’t even ask lol
Hours to complete: I can’t even guess. I worked on it for about 5 solid days throughout the month.
First worn: Not yet!
Total cost: Zip ties were the only thing I actually bought for the project ($6). Everything else was from my stash (if I remember correctly: 1 yard cotton duck ($6), 1 yard purple silk ($3), busk ($3.25), and the other pieces didn’t have a significant cost).