Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Planning the Petticoat of doom

I have to confess I am cheating a little on my hoop for the India Wilkes dress.  I bought a hoop skirt for about $10 on Ebay years ago to go under my Elizabethan dress and I am just going to reuse that one.  What I would love is to be able to make a hoop from Truly Victorian but the price of getting the pattern and materials to myself down-under is almost prohibitive and to be honest I do only have until the end of October so timing wise at this point it may be a little ambitious.

The hoop skirt I have is sadly only 3 hoops (recommendation appears to be 5 minimum on all historical costuming groups).  Although all 3 hoops can be adjusted on my skirt the largest setting on the largest hoop is about 3.5m.  After much discussion with those in the know I was advised that 3 was most likely closer to realistic.  This is of benefit as I don't have as much fashion fabric as I would like so shrinking the hoop will give me a much better finish on the skirt.

Only problems remain that a 3 hoop will not hold the bell shape as well as a 5 so there is a rather more conical finish than I would prefer, and that one does not want their hoops showing through their skirt.  This calls for a petticoat and so my research began.

Firstly and this took a long time to figure out and I know I would still be muddled if a friend had not politely pointed out my folly, but Americans call Muslin what we in Australia would call Calico (apparently).  They also call Muslin Muslin and did use it for petticoats but when they say lightweight it doesn't mean necessarily feather light like out muslin is.  If someone in the USA could clarify this that would be great but  my understanding now is that our muslin is what you would use to wrap cheese and squeeze out excess liquid but not really sew a garment with.  I know I have tried and that shit unravels as soon as you so much as breath on it - overlocked or not!

The good news about this is that a) I don't have to work with "muslin" again and b) the cotton linen blend that I have had 4.5m of in stash for the past 7 or so years will be more than adequate as a lightweight fabric option for my petticoat. 

The other recommendation was at least 2 petticoats but given the lack of over skirt material (remembering that I need the petticoats to fit under its final hem) and the Australian heat in this instance I am going to be attempting to hide the hoops in a single petticoat.  Not particularly accurate but cross fingers it works well enough for my purposes. 

The next thing to do was decide on a style.  Flounced would be my first choice as it pretty much can guarantee hiding hoops and gives a lot of volume where I want it most.  The downside is that it also takes up excessive amounts of fabric.  As in a friend who made a 5 tier flounced skirt used 11m of taffeta.  Sure it looks amazing, but that is a tone of fabric that I don't have and don't want to buy.  I am trying at least to use something from stash in every costume I make.

I also looked at the free to download TV pattern that makes a petticoat with an 8yd single flounce, but it appeared that I could not work my fabric enough to get the yardage where I needed it.  It looked like I was going to need to do a single tube and MAYBE one flounce around the bottom, though that worried me because it would add bulk at the waist (something I want to avoid) and it may not give the added oomph at the top of the hoops I am hoping for.

I was at a loss researching and hunting when I came across my possible solution, in any case it is the one I chose to attempt.  A three tiered petticoat with increasing volume in two places.  My basic pattern will start with a trapezium 1.5m at the waist to minimize the bulk and 2m at the hem and sit about 25cm long.  To that I will gather another piece 35-45cm long and hopefully around 4m top and bottom.  To that a final tier of up to 8m at the hem and 45cm in length.

I am still working on the math for the final skirt length.  I have however thought that the 35 then 45 would give a nice aesthetic, but the 45 would mean that I could just make one long 45cm run and use the gather foot and let it add what it will.

I won't get to start this till next week I am sure, especially since I still need to complete the pleated trim on my Victorian dress but I will be sure to keep you updated once it is done

caio for now

Victorian Underpinnings

One of the best things about hoarding tendencies is that I still have much of the stuff I started but never finished.  So this post brings you something old and something new following the completion of the Victorian underwear.  Rather than work chronologically I am going to go from the skin up.

My new corset arrived.  I have to say I am much impressed for the price, the quality is quite good.  The boning is definitely steel, they even include a little sample card of what is in it to prove to you its authenticity.  Fabric seems strong and though not of highest quality it will do the job for now.  One day I will make my own.  Until then I won't go into too much detail.

Combination Underwear TV105
I bought the pattern with plans to create these way back but did not get round to it with all the other crazy Victorian stuff going on at the same time.

I planned to make it for my 2017 birthday and even bought all the fabric and trim at the beginning of that year.  I am fairly certain I started almost straight away too, I got almost done and the project shelved for another year.

Finally they were finished about a month ago, just after the high tea.  As they say better late than never.

They are made out of Batiste, I think in a cotton or poly/cotton blend.  Given the wrinkle factor I am willing to believe it 100% cotton.  Given the layering I will be doing in October I hope it is.  Anyway cost wise I think it was about $5-7/m at spotlight.  The colour is officially creame and I loved how the slight colour deviation with the white trim worked (trim was about $1.50/m).

I do love the buttons.  I found them on a random fabric shop outing with my mother and they were cheap as chips, maybe 20c each.

I am unsure and undecided if I wear corset on skin or corset over the underwear.  The pattern calls for you to take corseted measurements but I guess it could go either.

Making it was easier than I had first anticipated.  I did have to unpick the back as I had not been consistent with my crossing overs but that would likely have been avoided had I not taken a year off in between.

The pattern calls for cap sleeves which I omitted in favour of bias sealing the arm scry.  Pro tip the thinner bias tape works better than the wider one.  Who would have thought.

It looks really odd until you add the buttons on too, so remember that you haven't stuffed up thats just how it looks.

Bustle TV101
Technically this is a remake.  I had made this for a LARP costume years ago but when I went through costumes that had been in storage for a few years that bustle (hastily thrown together in inferior fabric choices and stash finds) had mold on it so I cut the bones back out and bought the fabric to remake.

Fast-forward 2 years and we have the completed bustle.  You may notice a theme of white on off white.  The fabric is a quilting cotton from spotlight which could have been anywhere from $5-10/m I can't remember but likely it was on sale as I rarely pay full price on anything.  I have considered adding extra trim to my ruffles but they seem to work ok on their own.  There is one ruffle missing, I don't have quite enough inches and I am still deciding whether to add it in or not.  In any case I consider this finished and if I choose to jazz it up another time so be it.

Like all TV patterns I have ever worked with it runs together like a dream creating a much more complex looking garment than it really is.  TV makes Victorian easy.  I will warn - reinforce those bustle ties because as previously mentioned one of mine pulled right out of the stitching while getting dressed at the Carrington.  Of cause I have fixed it now.

Petticoat TV170
I have now completed all 4 petticoats from a decade ago.  This was the last and only one not complete at the time.  It sat around in a box as pieces for the longest time but since I was now doing this new costume kick it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get it out and finalise.  Only one teeny tiny issue.... what happened to my waistband, and why does nowhere sell lemon poplin anymore.  Ok so the waistband doesn't match but I don't mind too much.

I must have lent this pattern out and have no idea what became of it, which is sad because it is a great pattern.  On the flip side I do have a bustle and natural form petticoat from it so I am unlikely to need another.  Still I hope it turns up.

Hardest part of this is all the gathering. I bought a gather foot to do it for me but at the end of the day hand gathering required less unpicking.  I will master the gather foot one day though.  (and yes all the gathering on these outfits has been done by hand using the two gather stitch method).

well that is all the unmentionables mentioned.  For more information on them please follow the links provided

Thursday, August 16, 2018

India Wilkes - The devil is in the detail

As promised, I continue my documenting of the India Wilkes costume with this post on planning and sourcing.  Before I jump right in though let me just say a few words about my motivation.

I understand that there are people out there making fully accurate historical representations of gowns and they look awesome.  I wish I could do that, I really do but there are several obstacles standing in my way.  First and most obviously is money and my husbands distaste of me spending to much of it.  Historically accurate materials can cost a fortune as a well bred lady would be wearing silk or wool mostly (from what I have looked into).  Whilst cotton was prevalent the best description I found for it was on this blog which explained quite articulately that cotton was basically the equivalent of track pants, fine for house wear but if you wear it down the shops someones going to judge.

Well silk costs about the same as a kidney on the black market and I happen to have a lanolin allergy so can't wear wool (yes I know the blog says hypoallergenic... but its just wrong).  Plus we do this costuming for fun, not for accuracy.  As such if you are looking to accurately represent an historical garment probably best not to follow my processes.  If you are after something that passes for a decent price my thrifty cut corners methods will warm the cockles of your cold dead accuracy unfeeling heart.  So short version is I know its not accurate no need to point it out.

Anyway onto the show. 

Getting Aquainted
As mentioned previously once I had decided on civil war it didn't take long to decide that I was going to have my very own India Wilkes twelve oaks dress.  The first step I took was to become more familiar with India's dress - unfortunately I could not at the time locate my DVD copy and to get it over our streaming services would cost money that I didn't want to spend on something I know I own so internet searches would have to do.  Well searches and discussions with my facebook friends.

I won't put every picture or angle on here but sufficed to say this ended up being the gleaming find in my image searches, It is one of the costume still test shots of Alicia Rhett in the outfit full length.

This image is fantastic because it really brings to light the fine details that could be missed if you were watching the film in standard definition.  The covered buttons on the hem and sleeves show up perfectly here.

My biggest problem was colour.  As you can see from this shot the dress is in an odd shade somewhere between orange brown and yellow.  Some of the colour searches I used included Mustard (too yellow), Burnt Orange (too orange), Rust (too red) and Brown in general.  I was losing faith I would ever find the colour or anything close enough.  Seems my mother was correct that baby poo brown was just not prevalent.  To be honest I didn't find the colour until I had given up and started searching fabric types.

The second issue was cost of fabric.  I mean those skirts could have meters and meters in them.  One facebook group advised that you want at least double your hoop!!! that is a hem of 7m in my case (though I have been told by the same person to shrink my hoop down to a more accurate 3m circumference).  So fabric type was considered long and hard.  The dress doesn't have much shine so most silks seemed off, and well too costly anyway.  Wool was to be honest most likely the fabric of this costume but I can't wear it.  I wanted something more dressy than cotton, light to midweight and not to costly.

Pattern Selection

Much easier to source was style/pattern.  The bodice appears to be almost identical to the TV440 with the high neckline, though the over sleeves will require some work in shrinking from the full pergoda.  Having worked with and loved Truly Victorian patterns before I had no issue in buying this.

The skirt style is more elusive.  I searched the TV patterns for something like it but it seems its not there.  Likely because the pattern for this skirt is too easy.  After discussions and some thought I decided it was simply a tube gathered to a waistband and no pattern would be required.

Fabric Selection

As mentioned above cost was an issue, I won't say I didn't dabble in the silks online but in the end when you need a lot of yardage in the skirt $20USD at cheapest for the fabric makes the costume prohibitive.  My next search was actually into polyester with taffeta but the results all seemed too shiny for the look I wanted.

Eventually I moved to whatever so long as it was affordable and the right colour and the colour search began - which proved fruitless.  Other than baby poo brown I had no idea what to call the colour of the dress and most places have far more poetic names for their fabric colours.  One night no idea why I had an epiphany, like many apparently who came before I thought of cause it must be cotton and semi shiny cotton is sateen.  A search for Sateen led me to this, on fabric.com

The colour it is Umber and it came up in a sateen search so even though the description didn't say it I think that is what it is.  Bonus was that it was on mad sale at over 50% off.  Unfortunately I did the conversion maths and it came up at just shy of $200AUD for the yardage I would need including the postage.  To be fair had this been in Australia somewhere I likely would have just jumped in, but coming from America what if it arrived and it was too lightweight, too heavy weight, too dull, not the right colour...... Yes I know I can order a swatch for next to nothing but apparently they still want the same postage ($25+USD) to send a tiny swatch to me.  The risk seemed to big.

At least now I was armed with a colour name and a fabric type so my mother and I headed to our favourite fabric area where you find absolute bargains with hopes and prayers for a miracle from the sewing gods.

Now this is not the exact colour, but I have been told it is nicer, and at only $4AUD/m it was a total of $30 (yes I got a discount for end of roll) than the perfect colour above. Sometimes sacrifices need to be made and while I am a bit bummed not to be getting the perfect colour I must say the more I look at what I have the better I feel about it.

Bare in mind it isn't as shiny as it looks, the only way I could get close to the actual colour was to use flash.  Next challenge is the yardage.  I worked out that with the skirt adding 1m to my hem (for fabric conservation purposes, trust me had their been more fabric I would have bought more for that price) I would need at least 5yds or 4.5m.  The Bodice says it requires 3.5yds or 3.2m, though I will be saving fabric in the sleeves and that is based on 44" and I have 54".  I have 7.5m maybe as much as 8 as the place we buy from always measures liberally.  On top of that I need to cover all the buttons and do the trims.

My thought at this stage is my best bet is to do as suggested shrink my hoop (the hoop has the capability) to 3m saving .5m required.  be very careful with lay for bodice and save every scrap for trims and then make skirt with whatever is left to maximize the amount of ruffle I have.  I am at least fairly certain with 52" I can do it in one drop.

Anyway that's all I have for now.  I will check back in to discuss the underpinnings later in the week.

Plans for October - the India Wilkes dress

The historical picnic society will be heading to the Hunter Valley Gardens in October for some more classy costumed shenanigans.

Hunter valley gardens is a series of manicured gardens in various styles including the storybook garden (my favourite) Asiatic gardens, traditional British etc. basically there are loads of beautiful backdrops for photos.  The plan is to bus down together then have high tea there before a stroll and photos.  I’ve even convinced my Husband to accompany me.

So step one is obviously costume plans. So I thought I would follow this one properly and start the blog at the beginning rather than just one post at the end.

I tossed up between an Edwardian "Gibson girl" kind of look and a Civil War hoop skirt.  One of the other lovely ladies who helps organise these outings pointed out - passers by love hoops.  I don't know if I ever mentioned this but I am a crowd pleaser so that sealed the deal.

Like all people who aren't too caught up in historical accuracy when planning a civil war recreation I turned to the master of all civil war recreations - Walter Plunkett and Gone with the Wind.  Here is a second confession, I have always loved India Wilkes.  As my friend put it the sour faced second string bitch.  And I really really love her outfit from the twelve oaks picnic. So it was decided almost instantly that this would be my dress, and so the planning could begin.

Costume pieces needed:

  1. Corset - already ordered for previous Victorian and was on its way 
  2. Victorian underwear - Use the combination underwear from TV105 made for previous victorian.  I know its probably not accurate but it provides draws and corset cover in one so winning
  3. Hoop Petticoat - Hoping to be able to use the china cheapie that I got for the Elizabethan dress. 
  4. Petticoat - Needs to be made, possibly from the free TV Pattern or hopefully fully flounced if I can work out my own pattern
  5. Bodice - Pergoda Bodice TV440 - now comes with undersleeves so no need to get an extra layer in shirt
  6. Overskirt - Self draft gathering tube to waistband.
  7. Snood - the headpeice, I will try and find on ebay or etsy
  8. Shrug - Crochet is not my thing so I may have to buy this one too
  9. Shoes - Given the walking I will be looking at ballet flats.

Watch out for my next post which will be breaking down the outer layers, including sourcing fabric, and planning decorative trims.

Happy sewing

Monday, August 6, 2018

A Corsetary Tale

As I get more and more into costumes I find myself in need of a new corset.  This if foreign territory for me as an ex goth all my costume needs thus far were met by either not requiring corsetry, regency half stays for example, or by utilizing one of my Gallery Serpentine corsets of which I had a fair few.  Notably in old Gallery Serpentine Vernacular a Victorian and Spanish Harlot over bust and an under bust who's style name escapes me.

Historically speaking Victorian provides the hourglass shape, Spanish Harlot the conical shape and the under bust fitted any other need.  I remember buying all bar the Spanish Harlot out of a seconds box (not that I was bothered by a second) and they cost maybe 50-100 each in early 2000's dollars.

Well the times do change and I find that my post baby and junk food addicted body with the slowed metabolism of a 30+ year old did not bode well for fitting into my corsets bought when I was around well american size zero.  The Harlot bought when I was first getting into corsets still fits (size 12 Australian) because it was bought big so as to not cinch to much, but the Victorian and under bust run the risk of the side bones sitting under my bust.  Honest I wore the Victorian to the high tea and despite knee to back lacing I still had a good 4-5 inch gap at the lace.

The decision was made then if I am to get back into the historical costumes I would require a new corset. So, the search began.

Gallery Serpentine make outstanding corsets, I truly mean that.  Other than the fit, which is my own fault, my "seconds" corsets are still going strong over 10 years on.  They are quality ++ because trust me the first 5 of those ten years saw weekly lacing of these bad boys.  However they are made as outerwear, and therefore use beautiful fabrics and design flourishes.  If you are in the market for a corset that can be used as a clothing option and want something that will last I highly recommend talking to them or at lease perusing their website (linked above).

Alas for me who wants it only as underwear and only on occasions where I have need of an historical costume they are priced out of the market - and no longer being of sample size its harder to find ones that will fit in the under $165 sale area.  Also for historical costumes they may actually be too good.  they have a full lining and interlining and seem much heavier than some of the "traditional" underwear corsets I have seen.

For making your own I found Redthreaded.com  and to be honest this was a real consideration.  They do make them for you at a high price (reasonable for what you get but more than i want to spend) but they also provide kits so you can make at home.  Sometime in the future I may go down this path but time is of the essence and I don't really know how long it would take for me to do something like that.  Still it seemed like the best option

Lastly a friend of mine had a corset from an Australian based website (though I assume made in asia somewhere) They seamed to work ok, quality is ok and prices are reasonable.  More than reasonable when you take into account the fact that if you buy one you get one free.  Don't be fooled it may seem like this is a BIG SALE but I don't think there has ever been a time that I have looked to this site and not seen the buy one get one free deal.

Biggest issue is that I didn't need two, nor did I want to pay for two so I put out a call to see if anyone else wanted to get a corset and split the costs.  Thankfully someone did.  Then all that was left was to select the corset.

I had a choice of two one with more cinch and slightly higher cost and one with more comfort including hip gores.  In the end comfort won out and this is what I have coming to me in the next 11 days

I am hoping that the extra hip space will make it useful in achieving the 50's wiggle look along with Victorian but for the grand sum of around $60 I am sure it will do the job I require of it.  The best news is that with this I will be able to photograph myself in the remixed Victorian as well as begin the plans on future projects such as the India Wilkes dress and the Katrina Van Tassel dress.  One of which I will have for October.