Monday, April 21, 2014

Finished 1880's Gown!

Way back in February I had been planning for a completed 1880's ensemble. My ideas were vague and unsatisfying, and the month passed with no progress. Inspiration struck at the beginning of March and with the Bodice challenge looming I thought this would be the chance to get the project finished. Alas, inspiration was there but motivation was still lacking. I struggled through completing the bodice and then immediately had to abandon the project in favor of my fairytale dress. That brings us up to April and the UFO/PHD challenge, a perfect excuse to finally finish.

I had been planning on trying to set up a professional photoshoot once I had a couple of complete ensembles. The fairytale challenge provided me with the first one. In order to finish the 1880's ensemble I just had to bite the bullet and set the date, forcing myself to finish it by then. I find that I work a lot better with concrete deadlines, thus my love for the Historical Sew Fortnightly. I planned a photoshoot for Easter morning and we ended up with some lovely weather. I recruited a friend to wear the fairytale ensemble for me and we headed out to Lynch park which some of you might remember from my Ophelia photoshoot.

Some of my favorite photos from the day were candid shots of me walking around the park. The dress looks gorgeous in motion. I didn't realize the wind had knocked my hat sideways though!

Even just barely into spring Lynch park is gorgeous and green and just the absolute perfect setting for just about anything! My only complaint was that the bright sunlight left me with some harsh lighting in some of the photographs and that the brocade fabric continues to be irritatingly hard to capture on film.

Even more gorgeous than the green park with its Romanesque architecture was the ocean glittering in the sun! The dress itself seemed to capture the colors of the scenery.

It was super windy by the water but it helps show off the movement of the fabric so well! I wasn't so sure about the panel of brocade fabric in the train but I've come to love it more and more. It was a design idea based off of an historical example but put into practice due to necessity - I didn't have enough of the blue to make the train! An unfortunate risk of working from stash fabrics only, but I ended up loving the result.

My underskirt ended up a tad bit shorter than I would have liked but a ruffle will fix that right up and make it even more period accurate!

The hat was intended to be finished for the tops and toes challenge as a second entry, but since I finished it a few days late I just rolled it on over into the UFO challenge.

Since we took the photos on Easter Sunday I added a cute little pom-pom bunny to my hat! He's plausibly historically accurate at the very best, but too cute to resist.

I'm just absolutely in love with this dress! The day of the photoshoot was the first time I actually wore all of the pieces together, and I'm just so excited to finally have a full Victorian ensemble. I feel like I've been working my way up to this dress for years, dreaming and longing but always holding back for some reason whether lack of time or money or confidence in my own skill. Now that it's here and finished I finally feel like the historical seamstress I've been longing to be!

The Challenge: #8 UFO

(I'm including just the skirts and the hat in this information, the Bodice was for another challenge and it's details can be found there)

Fabric: Approximately 5 or 6 yards of blue cotton, 7 yards of brocade mystery upholstery fabric, and a 1/2 yard of buckram for the hat

Pattern: Truly Victorian TV261-R Four Gore Underskirt, TV361 Butterfly Train and TV550 Buckram Hat Frame

Year: 1885

Notions: Hooks and Eyes, Trim, Fabric Roses, Feathers, Wire, Thread

How Historically Accurate is it? The dress without the hat is maybe 85% accurate, I was running out of time with the hat and pulled out the hot glue gun so it's more like 50%, correct materials and shape but modern method of construction

Hours to Complete: Around 10

First Worn: Easter Sunday

Total Cost: The Brocade fabric has been in the stash for over three years so free! The blue cotton was $3 a yard purchased back in December so around $15 - $20 though I kind of count it as stash. The only materials I purchased specifically for this challenge were the buckram, trim, and feathers for the hat which cost me about $15.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Walk Softly and Wear a Big Hat

Part one of what I'm hoping will be two entries for the Tops and Toes challenge was a fairly simple hat re-make with big impact. To complete my Fairytale Edwardian ensemble I was dreaming of a huge hat. I bought felt and wire and all the trimmings fully expecting to struggle through trying to make up my own pattern. An impromptu trip to the mall provided me with a much easier alternative however. I walked into a clothing store and there on the display right in the doorway was a small straw boater style hat that had the perfect base shape.

I forgot to take a picture before I started covering it in the black felt, but you get the basic idea of the original hat here.

I went quick n' dirty with this remake as I was falling slowly behind on sewing my dress. I glued the felt to the crown of the hat and used some decorative trim to hide the raw edges. I sandwiched two large circles of felt together and sewed around the edges to create the brim. I pleated some purple satin over the bottom of the brim as decoration and to help tie the hat into the full outfit. There's wire in the edge of the brim to keep it held out but the base hat provides the rest of the support.

The brim is attached to the hat on the inside where I attached it to the brim tape of the original hat. Since the flowers and feathers I planned to add would hide where the brim attached to the crown I didn't bother sewing it down on that side, it holds together quite nicely without it.

I chose the small white flowers because they reminded me of the cascading decorations Geisha sometimes wear in their hair. I wanted to tie the Japanese influence into all of the costume. I tried to place them to cascade over the edge gracefully, and they do to a certain degree but I could have gone even further I think.

I chose the orchids mostly because of the stunning shade of purple and because of how high quality they were. Most flowers my local craft stores carry are the very cheap, very obviously fake kind. These flowers you can barely tell are fake at first glance. I paid a pretty penny for them but I think it was definitely worth it!

In the end I couldn't be more pleased with the hat! I got so many compliments when I wore it to the opening. Now I just need more excuses to wear it out!

The Challenge: #7 Tops & Toes

Fabric: Less than a yard of black felt, 1/2 yard purple satin

Pattern: None

Year: 1910's

Notions: Trim, Flowers, Feathers, Wire, Thread

How Historically Accurate is it? Only aesthetically, materials and methods are all modern.

Hours to Complete: Maybe 4 or 5

First Worn: To a gallery opening April 2nd

Total Cost: $12 for the base hat, $5 each for felt, satin and trim, $25 for flowers and the feathers were stash so that brings us to $52 (yikes, I thought this was one of my cheaper projects!)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Fairytale In Motion

As promised here's a bunch of pictures of the Fairytale dress from the event I work it to. You even get a sneak peek of my entry for the next challenge tops and toes!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


For the Fairytale challenge I got the idea in my head that I wanted to use a fairytale from a completely different culture. After a bit of searching and a lot of reading i found inspiration in a Japanese tale called The Beautiful Dancer of Yedo.

This is the tale of Sakura-ko, Flower of the Cherry, who was the beautiful dancer of Yedo. She was a geisha, born a samurai’s daughter, that sold herself into bondage after her father died, so that her mother might have food to eat. Ah, the pity of it! The money that bought her was called Namida no Kané, that is “the money of tears.”

I've always had a great interest in Japanese culture, and when I read the description of Sakura-ko a Japanese influenced dress started to take shape in my mind.

The gentlemen of Yedo must needs have their pleasure, so Sakura-ko served at feasts every night. They whitened her cheeks and her forehead, and gilded her lips with beni. She wore silk attires, gold and purple and grey and green and black, obi of brocade magnificently tied. Her hair was pinned with coral and jade, fastened with combs of gold lacquer and tortoise-shell. She poured saké, she made merry with the good company. More than this, she danced.

I decided to filter the idea of a gorgeous silk kimono through the lens of La Belle Epoque, a time period that was already heavily borrowing from Eastern fashion. More specifically I chose the French fashion house of Callot Souers to inspire me.

Callot Souers was a popular fashion house around the turn of the century into the nineteen-teens and twenties. They were known for mixing Eastern aesthetics of fashion into their dresses. There is one particular dress of theirs that I've been drooling over for a long time, a beautiful little purple silk number from the Kyoto Costume Institute.

It is very reminiscent of a kimono and made from some of the colors mentioned in my fairytale, and so I set out to recreate it.

My mannequin does the dress no justice, but I have an event to wear it to tomorrow so keep an eye out for pictures of it in action! Since I couldn't find a picture of the back of the dress I took a few liberties with it. Since I didn't have the time or resources to recreate the embroidery I decided to make the back of the dress the big focal point. A description of the dress said ribbons extend down from the shoulder, sewn to the waist and ending in tassles. There was also another description of Sakura-ko that inspired me:

Three poets sang of her dancing. One said, “She is lighter than the rainbow-tinted dragonfly.”

The ribbons from the shoulder became my dragonfly wings, and also brought in a few more colors of the first description. They hang completely free from the end of the purple ribbons so they float gently behind me. I can't wait to photograph this dress in action!

Overall I couldn't be much more pleased with the dress. I did use a zipper so it would be easier to get in and out of for the event, but other than that it is historically accurate. All the materials are silk (I spoiled myself just a little for this one!) except for some linen to line the train, and the construction methods are period even if the pattern I came up with might be a little odd.

The Challenge: #6 Fairytale

Fabric: 5 yards of silk charmeuse in black and purple, 1 yard of silk dupioni in blue and green, 1/2 yard purple linen

Pattern: None

Year: 1908

Notions: Silk thread, four hooks and eyes

How Historically Accurate is it? Besides the aforementioned zipper it's pretty close, I'll say 75%

Hours to Complete: About 12

First Worn: Tomorrow to a gallery opening

Total Cost: A little over $100