Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Satin 1920s Tap Pants - HSM #3 Stashbusting

The third challenge of the Historical Sew Monthly is Stashbusting! This challenge requires you to make something out of fabric already in your stash.

I went with my original plan of making 1920s tap pants. This is my first challenge of the year since I never finished making the 1920s brassiere for Challenge #1 Foundations.

Many extant examples of 1920s lingerie are made from light, pastel colored silks and trimmed with lace and appliques. You can see more examples of 1920s lingerie in my Pinterest board and a discussion of tap pants in this post.

My tap pants are made with Folkwear's 219 Intimacies pattern. They are made from the same polyester pink satin as my 1920s dress. All of the seams are french seams. The narrow hem is handsewn with a slip stitch, and the bias binding was also sewn down with a slip stitch.


To reduce bulk in the crotch seam, I pressed one french seam to the front and the other to the back. This technique, which wasn't in the pattern instructions, worked very well and the crotch seam is flat and neat.

 They fasten at the left side with 4 snaps in a continuous lap placket. The instructions in the Folkwear pattern are for a placket designed to reduce bulk. I must've been running on just 3 brain cells when I was working on the placket because I could not understand the instructions! I couldn't figure out how to conceal all the raw edges of the placket. After 2 days of staring at the instructions, various tutorials, and vintage sewing manuals, I decided to use the placket and instructions from Vera Venus' Free Tap Pants Tutorial.


Folkwear 219's placket instructions. Note the shape of the placket.
My placket fail. I made a total of 4 test plackets before I decided to try a rectangular, continuous lapped placket.
The finished placket. The placket edges have been sewn down with a slip stitch.
The placket from the inside of the drawers. This was my first time putting a placket in a french seam.
Unfortunately, the pattern instructions, which cover french seams, neglect to describe how to put a placket in a french seam. The trick is to make a french seam up the point where the placket will be inserted; make a horizontal snip at the top of the french seam to free the unseamed fabric; trim 1/4 from the edge of the unseamed fabric; and attache the placket. This process is described in the Vera Venus tap pants tutorial.

I'm most proud of my handsewing on these tap pants! Look at the neat, clean lines of the bias binding waistband, and the sharp edges! I also slipstitched the binding along the fold where it was tucked in, for extra security (if that is unclear, feel free to let me know and I'll upload more photos).


The Challenge: #3 Stashbusting
Fabric: pink polyester satin 
Stashed for how long? I originally bought this fabric 4 years ago with the intention of making my prom dress out of it! 
Pattern: Folkwear 219 Intimacies
Year: 1920s-30s
Notions: snaps
How historically accurate is it? 90% ... I lose points for using polyester fabric, but snaps are a documentable closure on tap pants from this time period.
Hours to complete: 4 days, including 2 days of staring at the placket instructions while my brain cells fizzed into oblivion
First worn: not yet!
Total cost: about $2 for the snaps

I originally wanted to add lace trim to these tap pants, but now I'm not so sure. I love the clean, sleek look of the satin. My plan was to add narrow lace trim around the leg openings and lace bows to the sides, like in Vera Venus' example of tap pants. However, my lace is narrow, stiff, and very synthetic, and I worry it might ruin the elegant look of my tap pants.

Do you think I should add the lace to my tap pants like in this blue example from Vera Venus?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Not Your Granny's Panties: Tap Pants and French Knickers

My entry for the Historical Sew Monthly Challenge #3 Stashbusting is a pair of pink satin tap pants. But what are tap pants?

Tap pants, also known as French knickers, are a style of loosely-fitted underwear that was popular from the 1920s to the 1950s. They are so named because they were originally worn by tap dancers in the 1920s. They are characterized by a fitted waistband and flared leg. They were usually made of silk satin or silk charmeuse in soft, pale, feminine colors like pink, beige, and a range of pastels, and were frequently trimmed with lace or decorated with lace appliques.

Here are some examples of tap pants/French knickers from the 20th century:

1920s
McCall's 6021, a pattern for tap pants and brassieres, via A Stitching Odyssey

Silk tap pants with ecru lace trim, via Ebay
Silk and cotton lace tap  pants, c. 1926, via The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tap pants & Brassiere by Boué Soeurs, French, 1920's via Vintage Textiles

1930s
Joyce Compton, 1931, no source

Lingerie and Sleepwear page from 1934 Sears Catalog, via Lileks.com

Black silk chiffon and beige lace knickers (tap pants) with scalloped hem and pointed yoke, attributed to Herminie Cadolle, French, c. 1930 via de Young Museum

1940s
Pink satin tap pants, via Voyeur Vintage on Etsy
Advance pattern 3082, via SoVintagePatterns
1950s
Powder blue pleated tap pants, via LindyShopper
White Nylon tap pants via Etsy
So what's the big deal with tap pants?
Besides adding the extra touch to your vintage outfit, tap pants are great to wear with modern clothes. Because most tap pants are cut on the bias, they cling to the curves of your body and can be very flattering. Tap pants are perfect to wear underneath dresses, skirts, and certain trousers because they won't give you Visible Panty Line (VPL). You can wear a garter belt underneath tap pants to make using the bathroom easier. Tap pants are comfortable, practical and sexy!

Tap pants sewing patterns
Because of the rarity and fragility of vintage items, I think the best option is to make your own tap pants. They take very little material to make and require basic-intermediate level sewing skills, like french seams, bias bindings, elastic casings, and plackets. There is quite a variety of reproduction tap pants patterns available on the market today.

Reconstructing History 1315 $$$
This pattern from RH features a pair of 1930s tap pants that are cut on the bias. These tap pants include a crotch gusset.

Folkwear 219 Intimacies $$
This Folkwear pattern is printed on thick, strong paper, and the pattern comes with a separate booklet for authentic detailing techniques like crochet, lace, bias binding, and embroidery. The style of tap pants in this pattern is appropriate for the 1920s and 1930s.

Mrs. Depew Vintage $
The Mrs. Depew Etsy store is stocked with a wide range of reproduction vintage lingerie patterns. She carries tap pants patterns from the 1920s to 1950s. Most of her patterns are available as e-patterns.

Vera Venus Tap Pants Tutorial FREE
Vera Venus has a free tutorial for drafting and sewing your own tap pants! This tutorial is easy to follow and a great way to "wet your feet" to period construction and embellishment techniques. Vera Venus also has a tutorial for circular 1930s tap pants.


Have you made or worn tap pants before? Share your experience with tap pants in the comments!

Friday, March 13, 2015

CorsetDeal Corset CDW-1102-MK Style #106 Review

I purchased my first corset!  I found the Brocade Corset CDW-1102-MK Sytle #106 on CorsetDeal.com for $22 (originally $128 and now $50). At only $22, I could justify buying this corset even if it disappointed me--I could always scrap it for materials and a pattern.


Brown Brocade Corset CDW-1102-MK Style #106 -- Front

Brown Brocade Corset CDW-1102-MK Style #106 -- Side

Brown Brocade Corset CDW-1102-MK Style #106 -- Back
I chose this corset because the brocade fabric on the outside looked sturdier than the pretty polyester satin corsets also available on CorsetDeal.com. This corset also had a very moderate sweetheart neckline, which is similar to late 19th century corsets and better suited to my small frame (here are images of late 19th century corsets for comparison). 

Technical Specifications:
The website's description of this corset was really bare, and so I was pleasantly surprised by a few details when my corset arrived.

According to CorsetDeal.com, this corset is constructed with 6 shaped panels. It has 20 spiral steel bones along the seams (2 bones at each seam), and 4 flat steel bones along the back lacing. It fastens with a copper-colored metal busk that is 12.5 inches long and 2 inches wide. Besides the image below, the only other information the website gave about this corset was the following:
  • Authentic Steel Boned Brown Brocade Overbust Corset
  • 20 Spiral Steel Bone, 4 Flat Steel Bone
  • Front Length: 14.5 inch (36.8 cm)
  • Side Length: 12.5 inch (31.75 cm)
  • Back Length: 13.0 inch (33.02 cm)
  • Fabric: Brocade
  • Lining: 100% Cotton
  • Front Opening: Metal Busk

Technical specifications of the Style #106 Corset
Though not indicated in the website's technical description, I think the outer brocade fabric is polyester because it is shiny.
The corset came with a very long shoelace-style lace, which is rather stretchy. However, this kind of lace is still better than polyester cord or satin ribbon, which are not very strong and easily slip out of the grommets--making lacing a more difficult task. I was very surprised and happy to see that the corset has 6 black satin ribbon loops (3 on each side of the corset) stitched to the bottom edge, presumably for holding garters. This corset also comes with 2 satin ribbon loops so you can store your corset on a hanger!

Fit and Feel:
This corset is comfortable but does not fit very well. I ordered a size 20 (for a 24-25 inch waist) instead of a size 22 (for a 26-27 inch waist) because my size was sold out. Even lacing as tight as I can, I have about a 4 inch lacing gap.

Corsets work by displacing fat from the waist into the bust and hip area. I am very bony, with high-set hips, and my shape negatively affects this corset's efficacy in creating the hourglass figure. I get only about 1.5 inches of waist reduction with this corset simply because I don't have much fat around my waist, bust, or hips. The bones rub up against my pelvis and ribcage uncomfortably when the corset is laced too tight. As you can see in the photos below, the corset is too large for my bust, sticks out from my stomach, and is too small for my high-set hips. I can solve these fit issues by padding out the bust and hip area, which was a period practice. If I had bought the larger size, the corset would have been even bigger in my hip/bust area.


Note: This corset comes with a 6 inch wide modesty panel, which I removed with a seam ripper.
Pros:
  • Steel boned 
    • This corset is boned with a total of 24 steel bones, including 20 spiral steel bones. Spiral steel is a flattened coil of wire and is flexible but strong. Because spiral steels are flexible, they help create the curved hourglass shape. Flat steel boning (also known as spring steel) is very strong and not very flexible; having flat steels along the lacing grommets helps support the corset and make sure it won't buckle under the pressure of being laced.
  • 2 inch wide metal 6-clasp busk
    • The metal busk is the closing mechanism at the front of the corset. The busk consists of two parts: one side with loops and one side with pegs. The loops hook onto the pegs to fasten the corset. The busk on this corset is 2 inches wide when the busk is closed. This busk isn't flimsy like the 1 inch busks found in corsets of the same low price range on Ebay or in costume stores.
  • Sturdy construction
    • The outer layer of this corset is strong brown brocade, and the inner layer is a thick black cotton duck. This corset feels heavy and solid. The cotton (natural fiber) inner layer will help the corset "breathe."
  • Historical look 
    • The subtle sweetheart neckline and overall shape of this corset looks very similar to corsets of the late 19th century. If you're interested in Victorian costuming, this corset is a nice gateway.
  • Garter loops
    • This corset has little ribbon loops on the inside from which you can attach garters. This is a fun detail.

Cons:
  • No waist tape
    • A waist tape is a piece of twill tape or strong ribbon that is used to reinforce the waistline of a corset. It is usually sewn to the inside of a corset. Corsets with waist tapes are able to take more strain on the waist and are ideal for tightlacing. Additionally, the use of waist tapes is historically correct and documented in 19th century and early 20th century corsets. However, it is possible that a there is a concealed waist tape within the corset; I'm not going to rip open the corset to find out (sorry!).
  • Two-layer construction is not as strong as a three-layer corset
    • Many higher-end corsets are constructed with at least three layers of fabric for strength. Some corsets even use twill tape or bias tape casings for boning for extra strength. My concern with a two-layer corset like this one is that eventually the bones will start poking through the polyester brocade.
  • Sizing
    • INSERT INFO ABOUT SIZING/FIT
  • Not designed for tightlacing because of grommet placement
    • Grommets placed closer at the waist will support the increased tension at that point; this is more helpful for tightlacers. 

Final Thoughts:
If you are interested in purchasing this style of corset, Style #106, note that CorsetDeal.com is very poorly organized. You practically have to explore every tab to find what you're looking for. Additionally, most corsets are identified by a name like "Jaime Brocade Waist Training Corset" or "Garnet Brocade Corset" rather than by their style number. If you are looking for a particular style of corset, like the moderate sweetheart shape of the Style #106 corsets or the underbust Style #101, then you have to keep your eyes open on a page full of thumbnails for corsets with the same shape but different names. Also, many corsets can be described as the same style but each have different openings,  numbers of shaped panels, and quantities and types of boning--make sure you look at the technical drawing that accompanies each corset to confirm you're getting what you want.

In addition, if you are looking for reviews of a corset on CorsetDeal.com, be aware that reviews aren't organized either. Very few corsets here have reviews; the ones that do are very short and not very information. The corset I purchased didn't have any reviews, so I looked for other Style #106 corsets to see what people thought about them.

On the website, there is no difference between waist training corsets and fashion corsets. Corsets of the same style can be classified as waist training corsets for no apparent reason. If you are a serious tightlacer, this may not be the best website to purchase corsets from.

I was NOT paid to review this corset and am not in any way affiliated with CorsetDeal.com.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Ethics: Using Antique Materials to Recreate Antique Fashions?

I've posted on this blog a discussion about the mistreat/misuse of antique textiles; today's blog will reflect similar ethical themes.

I tried my hand at beading with the 1920's pink polyester satin dress I made a few months ago. I feel like the beading really makes the dress: it provides a touch of quintessential 1920's glamour, but was fun to do and the design wasn't overwhelming.


Adding iridescent black seed beads to the design
I used silver bugle beads and iridescent black/brown seed beads on my dress. I got the bead hanks (a hank is a bundle of beads), along with a few other bead hanks, at a garage sale a few summers ago. The lady running the sale actually gave them to me for free! She had acquired them at an estate sale a long time ago and had been unable to sell them--by this point, she was eager to get them off her hands.

These beads are remarkably beautiful and unusual compared to beads available in big-name stores. In addition, the hank strings were discolored and beige-y rather than white. My hanks are really tangled.

The silver bugle beads have a hint of black on the edges of the inner tube.


The seed beads are a metallic, iridescent black/brown/gunmetal, catching the light and changing color. The seed beads are hexagonal, but the height and length varies wildly and several were imperfectly formed. This was a much larger hank of beads, about 4 times the size of the silver bugles.



Based on the unusual quality and inconsistent size of these beads, I believe they are antique or at least vintage. My hanks, especially the black seed bead hank, look very similar to these vintage hanks below:

Vintage Czech Hematite Seed Beads from A Grain of Sand
Vintage Blue Czech bead hank from French Steel Bead Shop
And the beads look similar to those on this Victorian (looks about 1880s to me but I could be wrong) bodice from Ancient Point :

I realized my beads were vintage (or possibly antique) halfway through beading. At once a cloud of guilt felt upon me... these beads are probably rare and I should save them. I almost ripped out all the beads with the intention of replacing them with new, store-bought ones.

But then I thought: why save these beads? No museum is going to want a tangled and dirty hank of beads. There seem to be many vintage bead hanks available online. In the end, the beads are being used for what they were probably created for--a 1920s dress. I would have felt worse about using the beads on a modern garment, but using them on a recreation of a historic garment, using a period pattern/diagram and sewing techniques, made me feel better. In a way, the life of these beads has finally come "full circle."

Still, it brings up the ethical question: should we use vintage/antique notions or materials in the recreation of historic garments? I think this is absolutely appropriate. Use an antique lace collar on your next Edwardian dress. Use cut-steel buttons for your Victorian mourning dress. What better way to honor the history and provenance of these pieces than to put them where they've been waiting their whole lives to belong?

But please, cutting up that collar or working the buttons into your DIY wind chime will be where I start to cry.

I want to know YOUR opinion! Do you think historical sewers should use vintage or antique notions, trims, etc. on their historical sewing projects?

Friday, February 13, 2015

2015 Re-Sew-Lutions

I had meant to post my sewing resolutions for this year in January, but became swept up in a rush of essays and assignments from college. With this year's resolutions, I'm really trying to push myself out of my comfort zone and incorporate sewing into my busy life instead of waiting for my vacations.

My 2015 Re-Sew-Lutions

1. Complete at least 1 project every month
These can be as simple as a petticoat or embroidered pillowcase, or as extravagant as a gown! I have a huge list of projects I want to complete this year, including my 1920s lingerie, another 1920s dress, a Waterhouse "Ophelia" gown, a Medieval linen cote, and a Portuguese folkloric costume.

2. Write at least 3 blog posts every month
I think this is a pretty reasonable goal, especially if I consider that at least one of those posts will be about my monthly projects! So far, in January, I published 3 posts and I think this is a pretty good blogging rhythm for me.

3. Participate in at least 6 Historical Sew Monthly challenges 
Though I'm striving for 12 completed projects this year, not all of those projects fit into the Historical Sew Monthly challenges. Half-participation is still better than my sporadic participation in past years, though!

I really feel like I got this year off to a great start with my beaded 1920s gown. I'm really excited about all the other projects I want to complete this year, and have already started planning and gathering materials for them!

On my blog this week, look out for posts about the vintage beads I used in my 1920s dress (with an ethics discussion!) and my progress with my 1920s lingerie set.

Have you set any special sewing resolutions for yourself this year?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #24 "All That Glitters"








All of the details on the design and construction of this dress can be found in my previous post!


What the item is: Beaded Dress

The Challenge: #24 All That Glitters

Fabric: Polyester Satin

Pattern: "Back Drapery in Cascade Effect Trims This Graceful Costume," by Ruth Wyeth Spears. Illustration found in The Midvale Cottage Post blog.


Year: Mid-1920s

Notions: Thread, 3 beaded appliques cut from beaded trim, vintage seed beads, bugle beads, self-fabric bias binding

How historically accurate is it? 95%  Very, aside from the polyester fabric. The neckline and armhole facings are self-fabric bias binding and were handstitched to the dress. The hem was also handstitched. The french seams on the shoulders and side of the dress are supported by instructions in period sewing manuals. The drape is finished with a handstitched rolled hem, and all beads were applied by hand. The seed beads are vintage and I believe they could date to the 1920s.

Hours to complete: Approximately 5 days

First worn: On January 9th for the filming of a video tour of Hobart Manor, a historic building on my college's campus

Total cost: Nothing! The satin was from the stash, and I think I only payed $2 or $3 per yard. The beaded appliques were also in the stash, and the bugle and seed beads were given to me for free at a yard sale!



Sunday, January 11, 2015

Making a 1920s Dress: Pattern, Construction, and Embellisment

In my last post about my handmade 1920s dress, I left off with the fabric and pattern I was using. The pattern, an illustration by Ruth Wyeth Spears that, along with other articles and illustrations made by her, was published by Illustrated Home Sewing Magazine in 1927. The Midvale Cottage Post blog has published these articles and illustrations.


CONSTRUCTION:


"Back Drapery in Cascade Effect Trims this Graceful Costume"
Blogger and sewist Loran of Loran's World also made this exact frock, which she describes in her blog post here.


"The body of the costume is cut by a straight sleeveless pattern."
Here, Loran recommends using the Collete free Sorbetto pattern as a starting point for drafting a straight dress. I already had made a toile for Festive Attyre's Downton-esque One-Hour Dress, and so just adjusted it to be totally straight, without the hip gathering.

Here is where I ran into my first problem: my bust is 31.5 inches, my waist is 25, and my hips are 36. This meant that in order for the dress to be loose enough around my hips and butt, it would be far too large for my very narrow shoulders and back. To fix this, I narrowed the dress at the top by 1.5 inches, tapering it above my hips.

Ruth Wyeth Spears doesn't give any other details about the dress's construction, so I scoured through period sewing manuals available for free from the Library of Congress and the Antique Pattern Library. The side and shoulder seams are sewn with a french seam. The neckline and armholes are bound with self-fabric bias tape, sewn, then understitched, and then handsewn with a slipstitch to the dress. Though I was aiming for .5-inch-wide binding, I miscalculated and added .5 inches for seam allowance and ended up with large binding for the neck.

I also ended up cutting the armholes too high, afraid that a too-loose armhole would bag and crease (as they usually do from the Big 3 commercial patterns...the narrow shoulder strikes again!). The height of the armhole is not uncomfortable, however, and I wore the dress from 10 am to 5 pm for a video shoot with no wardrobe malfunctions!

The hem is also sewn by hand with a slipstitch. I tried marking the hem as I was wearing the dress, and intended for the hem to hit just below the knee. The hem ended up at the top of my knee, but I don't think this is glaringly inappropriate for the era. It's a deep hem and I didn't cut any material from it, so I could always go back and lengthen it.

"The cascade drapery that falls from the left shoulder in the back is shaped as I have shown here in the diagram sketch. The drapery is cut six inches longer than the dress from shoulder to hem. It is twenty-five inches wide at the top and is gradually sloped to the lower edge. At a point halfway between the upper and lower edges it should be about twenty inches wide as indicated in the diagram."

I followed Spears' instructions exactly here. Like Loran suggested, I cut the long, straight edge of the drape on the selvedge.

I finished the two other edges of the drape by doing a mock rolled hem; that is, when I tried doing a normal rolled hem, the fabric would bunch rather than roll, or not roll at all. Instead, I sewed a line of stitching 1/4 inch from the edge, trimmed it to 1/8 of an inch, folded and ironed it just past the stitching line so the stitching wouldn't show, folded and ironed again and then sewed it with a slipstitch. Time consuming, but easy and it achieved the desired effect!

"When the edges of this piece are finished it is pinned and sewn loosely to the costume and stitched from the shoulder to the hipline as indicated in the draping chart."

Again, I followed Spears' instructions exactly. The drapery would move and reveal the selvedge, though, so I tacked the top few inches of the cascade down over the selvedge to disguise it. At this point, the selvedge was really visible at the bottom of the cascade as well, so I just folded over and ironed down the selvedge and secured it with a slipstitch up to the hipline.


The finished cascade DOES NOT look exactly like Spears' drawing, even though I followed her directions exactly. In her drawing, the cascade effect of the drape begins just a few inches below the elbow. In reality, the cascade begins at the butt.

The cascade effect, though, is worth the effort. It looks very beautiful and could easily be added to any dress. Note, however, that the finished cascade is heavy. Mine was so heavy that it kept tilting the dress back, even on the hanger!


"The girdle is a band of self material cut about fifteen inches wide and slightly on the bias so that it will fall in soft folds. It is draped high on the left hip where it fastens under the cascade."


The girdle DID NOT work for me. I suspect this is because my satin was too think; had it been a crepe or chiffon, the effect of the draped girdle would have been stunning. The girdle drew more attention to my already large hips, and made me look more triangular. I felt that it also interfered with the fluidity of the dress with its thick horizontal lines. I removed the girdle from the dress and moved to other methods of decorating it.


EMBELLISHMENT:


With just the cascade, the dress was very plain. Since it was to be used for the filming of a tour of historic Hobart Manor, I wanted it to be recognizable as a 1920s dress but not stand out as a costume. Beading looked like the best option: beaded dresses are quintessential 1920s evening fashion, and the beads would catch the dim light of the Manor.


The neckline is beaded 1/4 of an inch away with iridescent bronze/black seed beads that were sewn 1/4 of an inch from each other. The edges of the drape were also beaded every 1/4 of an inch.

The front of the dress is decorated with 3 vertical panels of beading, using seed beads and bugle beads. I wanted a geometric design that could easily be mapped out on the fabric; I didn't have time to figure out how to transfer a beading design onto satin. My linear beading design was inspired by the illustration on the left, from 20th Century Fashion by John Peacock.

The shoulders and bottom tip of the cascade are also decorated with beaded motifs left over from my prom dress. All the beads were resewn onto the motifs to secure them, and more beads were added to fill in empty spots.


White silk beaded dress, 1926



Though time consuming, this beading was VERY easy!! My trick for beading straight lines? Use a piece of twill tape or ribbon basted into place to help you align the beadwork!




CONCLUSION:


I am very proud of this dress! This was my first time making a garment entirely in satin; this fabric in particular had a tendency to snag on pins so I worked very slowly and carefully. This was also my first time sewing beads! I learned that the beading part itself is pretty easy and relaxing, but threading that tiny needle requires patience, tweezers, and a magnifying glass! Including the beading and handsewing, the dress took only 5 days to make!


The dress looked amazing on camera, and moved like it was silk instead of $2/yard polyester satin. The drape, just like Ruth Wyeth Spears says, is simple but really "makes" this dress. It was such a pleasure seeing it flutter behind me as I went up the spiral staircase or turned a corner!



This was my first foray into the 1920s, and now I think I'm hooked! Once you get the basic straight and sleeveless dress shape down, it's very easy to add embellishment or interest. And if you've always wanted to add a little extra to your dresses, consider beading! It is a special and unique touch.