Saturday, October 20, 2018

Covered Button Hack -- Upcycle Bad Buttons!

It is a truth universally acknowledged . . . that the right button can elevate your handmade clothing to a higher level of elegance and professionalism. Sometimes, covered buttons offer a subtle, tailored look without distracting from the rest of the garment -- they even show up frequently in historical clothing. But covered button kits can get expensive, and may be fiddly to use with certain fabrics. 

I recently realized that instead of spending $10 on covered button kits and then battling molds and fabric into submission, I could repurpose the dozens of old buttons that have made their way to me through the years. In this case, I had a dozen of these plastic, pale salmon dome shank buttons -- they were scratched and kind of faded, and I couldn't see myself ever using them in their current state. But they were just the right size and shape I needed for a project, and when covered with fabric, no one would see their faded plastic shanks anyway!

Please note that this works best with shank buttons.

To repurpose/upcycle buttons into covered buttons:
  1. Cut a circle of fabric slightly larger than the button you will cover. Make sure that there is enough fabric to fold to the back of the button and cover all of the button except the shank.
  2. Baste around the edge of your fabric circle. These stitches don't have to be neat!
  3. Draw up the gathering stitches slightly so that your circle looks like a little muffin cap, and tuck the button inside.
  4. Tightly pull on the gathering stitches until the fabric is snug around the button. If there is excess fabric covered the button shank, carefully snip away the fabric until the shank is visible.
  5. Make back stitches in the fabric around the shank -- these will help secure your gathering stitches. Back stitch around the shank as many times as you need to until the fabric is secure.
And that's it! Easy, cheap, upcycled covered buttons! I found it took me about 3 minutes to make each covered button. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions or suggestions!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

1790s / Regency Bodiced Petticoat

The very sheer nature of my 1790s apron-front round gown meant begged for another modesty layer to be worn underneath. Using proportions from the few extant regency petticoats I could find online, I drafted a bodiced petticoat. The bodice portion was made from a tightly woven but lightweight cotton, and the skirt portion was made from the same gauzy cotton voile I used to make my 1790s gown.

The bodiced petticoat is made with the same shapes as the bodice back and bodice under flaps (is there a better terms for these??) as my 1790s gown. It is fastened with spiral lacing through VERY small handsewn eyelets at the front. I really enjoy making itty bitty eyelets!

And when I wear my bodiced petticoat, my gauzy 1790s gown goes from Merveilleuse to modest (well, at least opaque)!

Monday, October 15, 2018

1790s or Early Regency Apron-Front Gown

I finished this 1790s / Early Regency apron-front gown in the spring of 2016 as part of my Honor's thesis research in the social, cultural, and political influences on late 18th century fashion.

The gown, and its accompanying bodiced petticoat and chemise, were entirely sewn by hand to my best understanding of period techniques -- lots of whips stitching and flat felling! The gown and bodiced petticoat (which might get its own post) were self-drafted with assistance from Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 3. They're both made from lightweight cotton lawn sewn with cotton thread.

Surprisingly, the train of this gown has survived three outings in NYC!!

Armhole bound with bias strip and detail of flat felled sleeve seam

How does the gown fasten?

  1. front flaps pinned together
  2. front gathering closed with ties at top and bottom of gathering
  3. apron front is hiked up, apron ties are looped through fabric loops at back of dress and brought back to the front of the dress
  4. apron ties are concealed under the apron front and securely tied
  5. pins secure apron front to gathered panel

The chemise is also made of cotton and handsewn according to the Sense & Sensibility pattern. You can read more about my construction of the chemise here. This chemise has become my go-to pajamas and has survived many cycles through the washing machine! That's a testament to the strength of the almighty whip stitch!

NYC Historical Costumers 18th Century Picnic

I recently joined the NYC Historical Costumers group and enjoyed a splendid 18th century picnic in Central Park with the group this weekend! I wore my handsewn 1790s apron-front gown and bodiced petticoat, along with a rather poorly arranged turban and faux pashmina shawl.

I put pomatum in my hair and then wet set it in foam rollers, slept in them overnight, then loosened the curls the next day and haphazardly tossed on a turban and fake braid. Considering I have thin, straight hair, I'm rather impressed at the intense, tight curls produced by using the pomatum! 

Regency wedgie shot!

I also attired my friends in my Chemise a la Reine, two handsewn 18th century men's shirts, a handsewn cravat, breeches, and a Victorian-esque velvet vest -- it's a great feeling when you've amassed enough of a costume wardrobe that you can outfit an entire party!

I styled Nora's thick, long, wavy hair with lavender-scented pomatum and powder from LBCC Historical Apothecary -- doesn't she look divine? She is the epitome of hedgehog fabulousness!

I just finished the vest and shirt for a Sweeney Todd costume, and the breeches were made in 4 hours to wear at a Renaissance Faire earlier this year!

The winners of a raffle - I won a bag of fabric scraps!

I LOVED this fur-trimmed sacque back gown!

It was so fun to meet some local costume enthusiasts and very inspiring to see everyone's outfits. I'm looking forward to the next event, and excited about being an active blogger again!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Silk Edwardian Dip-Waist Belt

Scenario: You're scheduled to give tours at a historic manor in one week, your current early 1890s bodice looks awful (damn that ill-fitting off-the-rack corset!) and the skirt is only cut out.

Solution: GO EDWARDIAN AND NEVER LOOK BACK. Also use stash materials.

Reality: Dip-waist belts solve all (turn of the century wardrobe) problems. Also justify stashing materials.

Coca-Cola ad from 1905 via Adbranch. Note the lady's trim skirt and smart accessorizing with a dark, dip-waist belt.

Right, so I needed a quick fix for a failed project with an upcoming deadline. I chose the lovely shot (if too slubby) orange/purple silk dupioni leftover from my 18th century poupee de mode thesis project. My main structure layer was 100% Kaufman Outback cotton canvas in white, which lent just enough stability without being too stiff.

I began by draping the pattern directly on myself so that I could better visualize the curves and angles of the dip. After pinning a long rectangle of muslin around my waist, I drew out curves that emphasized my natural shape, evened up and cut out the pattern, and tested it, clipping to add more flare over my hips.

The canvas was cut to shape without ANY seam allowances. I cut the dupioni silk outer with seam allowances, which I clipped and notched and folded over the canvas, hand whip-stitching in place. Next, I cut 5 strips of single-fold bias binding to make casings for bones. I carefully hand-stitched the casings at center front, sides, and center back of the belt. I used black 1/4 inch plastic zip ties as my boning, which provided just the right weight and stability.

Silk Edwardian dip-waist belt, innards

Silk Edwardian dip-waist belt, from the front
I cut the lining out of white cotton, with seam allowances. I clipped and notched the seam allowances, ironed the seam allowances inward, and place the lining wrong side to wrong side of the belt and whip-stitched it in place. To keep the lining from peeking out, I was careful to iron the seam allowances to be slightly larger than those of the silk outer.

The last step was to sew 4 itty bitty black hooks and eyes at the center back of the belt. In just a few hours, I had completed a great Edwardian accessory! This is an easy project for a sewist with some knowledge of historical construction techniques and hand sewing, and I think it is worth the effort as it elegantly elevates near any Edwardian ensemble.

Quick try-on of the silk Edwardian belt over my plain clothes...sewing success!

And the belt in action!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Examining Changes in French Women’s Fashion during the Late 18th and Early 19th Centuries

My thesis research was covered in WP Magazine, which called for a photoshoot in historic Hobart Manor!

Hello, dear Pour La Victoire readers! I apologize for my absence, but it's been a busy year! Although I didn't keep up with the Historical Sew Monthly, I sewed up more items this year than ever before, which I'm excited to finally share with you all on my blog!

The first half of my 2016 was occupied with my thesis research for my Honors Humanities thesis, titled--wait for it!--Examining Changes in French Women’s Fashion during the Late 18th and Early 19th Centuries. Yes, dear readers, I got the thumbs up from my thesis advisor to research, write about, and recreate garments from this remarkable period in fashion (and cultural, social, and political) history! With my research, I wasn't trying to reinvent the wheel--it is quite well known in the historical fashion community the significance of the French Revolution on fashion--but I was trying to explore in great depth a concept I was curious about. My 70-page thesis included a glossary of terms, in-text images to illustrate points, and a discussion of the technological, social, and political influences on fashion. This project was immensely fun (if an overwhelming amount of work, considering I was simultaneously working on another thesis project, working 2 part-time jobs, and taking 6 courses). You can read more about my thesis research here, which was featured in William Paterson University's magazine!

For my thesis, I decided to create both a c. 1770s garment and a c. 1790s garment. I didn't try to recreate a particular fashion plate or portrait, but I analyzed the details in hundreds of extant gowns, fashion plates, and portraits to determine what the most common details of these dress styles were, to present an aggregate of the norm. I will post about my 1790s dress soon, but you can already read all about the c. 1770s ensemble (on a poupée de mode, no less) here!

Thank you to all my loyal blog readers! It took me a while to get back into the blogging groove, but I am exceptionally happy to be once again part of the vibrant, intelligent, and helpful historical fashion community!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

1920s Devore Velvet "One Hour Dress"

....More like the 8 hour dress!

The annual Sunday Tea, hosted by the Hobart Manor Revitalization Committee (of which I am a member) and held at Hobart Manor was coming up, and I decided to make a new dress (of course!) because I felt that my pink satin 1920s dress wasn't very flattering. Plus, this year's guest lecturer spoke about voting rights during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with a focus on if/how the characters of the beloved series Downton Abbey could vote.

I felt that the Downton Abbey theme was the perfect catalyst for trying my hand at the 1920's "One Hour Dress." This was a dress that supposedly could be cut and made in an hour, just in time for a spur-of-the-moment evening soiree.  I suppose the theory holds true if you don't count the time it takes to cut out the fabric, pin the pieces together (damn that slippery velvet!) and hem the dress by hand (necessary for the delicate chiffon and velvet)!


For this dress, I used some polyester devore velvet, or voided velvet, which I had bought last year, intending it for a 1920s dress. The quality of this fabric is poor; the velvet pile is very short, stiff, and bristly, and the mesh in between is actually a fine knit which snagged very easily; I actually have huge snags all over the side seams from inserting pins into the fabric! Since the fabric was a knit, it also had a tendency to curl and stretch at the edges, making pinning a nightmare. I swear that anytime I put in a pin, an invisible goblin immediately shifted it out of place! Also, I'm not sure if it was due to the fabric shifting or me not accurately cutting, but somehow one armhole came out 1 inch lower than the other! Both armholes turned out much lower than I'd like them to be.

Festive Attyre has a great One Hour Dress template, and I used this as the basis for my dress. I wanted to add chiffon panels at the sides though, so cut the dress straight all the way down (18 inches wide for the front and back pieces). At the slits at the hips, I folded the extra velvet underneath the chiffon panel. Each chiffon panel was 30 inches wide and gathered with 3 rows of gathering stitches.

Due to time constraints, I didn't finish the neckline of the dress. I didn't even know how I would without further snagging the delicate velvet fabric! Thankfully, it didn't fray during the event.

Note that the chiffon panels stand out from my hips so much because the slip I'm wearing underneath is quite voluminous at the hips.

Final Verdict

I love the design and final look of the dress. Despite its issues, I like the large floral pattern of the velvet and the way it catches the light differently at different angles. The dress embodied, in my opinion, both the 1920s aesthetic and the one hour dress silhouette. The fit of this dress is also substantially better than my first 1920s dress, the beaded pink satin number.

Yet, the velvet fabric has its flaws: snags, wonky armholes, and unfinished neckline. My initial plan was to bead the neckline and bead the negative spaces between the flowers, but I'm not sure if it's worth it because of this sub-par velvet. I might either remake the dress from the velvet I have left over, or splurge on silk devore/voided velvet instead.

I completed the look with a black satin slip which I'll feature in another post, modern earrings that had a great art deco vibe, and a wig from Wildcat Wigs on eBay. The model is Rose in the color Chestnut, and it only cost about $35. Despite its affordable price, the wig is of very good quality, and is a close approximation to the natural color and sheen of my own hair! I would definitely recommend this wig to people looking for an affordable and attractive 1920s fingerwave style wig.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Poupee de Mode; Or, an 18th Century Fashion Doll Fully Clothed

I'm enrolled in the Humanities track of the Honors College at William Paterson University; the requirements to graduate from this track include writing a thesis paper. I chose to write my thesis on French fashion during the 18th century, and how it changed as a result of political, social, and cultural influences. I'm so proud of myself for writing 70 pages on this subject!

To take my thesis to the next level, I decided to create gowns representing the sartorial periods before and during the French Revolution; I used these gowns during my thesis presentation. For the 1770s look, a full-size gown would have been too expensive and time-consuming to make, and it would be hard to quickly get a model in and out of it. Therefore, I chose to make a poupée de mode to display the 1770s fashions! My research indicated that these dolls were used to disseminate new trends across national and international borders, because the costs of making many full-size examples was very prohibitive.

A robe à la française was constructed as this ensemble would still adequately illustrate the unique excesses of French court fashion. The poupée de mode is dressed in a full ensemble suitable for an average day at court, but too casual for high functions of court. Her outfit, from the inside out, consists of a chemise, fichu, panniers, petticoats, and gown. A vintage porcelain doll was used as the poupée de mode due to her size, hair color and style, and face decoration. A music box is integrated into the doll’s back, which made the use of miniature stays awkward and inefficient; as a result, stays were omitted from the final ensemble.

I found this old doll in my attic; she received quite the makeover with this gown and hairdo (the best I could do with her matted curls)! It's also fun to see how the shape of clothes can change the visual perception of the body; look how much curvier she looks in the 1770s outfit! That shape is purely a visual illusion, as she isn't wearing stays.

All of the clothes on this doll were sewn by hand. Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen's Dresses and Their Construction, 1660-1860 was used as the main guide for draping the robe à la française.

The Chemise

The doll’s chemise is made of fine white cotton voile. Due to the small scale of the garment, the chemise’s gussets are cut in one piece with the main body and sleeves of the chemise. The chemise was sewn entirely by hand—using a combination of back stitches and running stitches—in white cotton thread, though linen thread would have been more historically appropriate. The chemise reaches just past the doll’s knees and the sleeves reach to the elbow. The snug fit of the sleeves places this chemise near extant examples from the 1770’s and 1780’s. The chemise is sewn with a fixed, rounded neckline, which is closely fitted to the doll’s torso with the use of an inverted box pleat at the center front.

The Fichu

Creating a fichu was an efficient and attractive way to disguise the doll’s dirty cloth body. Fichus appeared very often as accessories in portraiture of the last quarter of the eighteenth century. Shaped like an elongated triangle, they wrapped around the torso and provided modesty and protection to the exposed neck and chest. Like the chemise, the fichu was constructed from cotton voile. It is finished with a hand-sewn rolled hem in white cotton thread.

The Panniers

The panniers were constructed of a tight-weave cotton which was strong enough to support the plastic bones, used to create the characteristically half-moon shape of the panniers. The panniers were stitched by hand using running stitches and backstitches in cotton thread. The waist ties were made of period-correct cotton twill tape.

The Under-Petticoat

Like the panniers, the under-petticoat was made of a sturdy cotton fabric. Eighteenth century petticoats were simple in construction: they were essentially wide rectangles, sewn together at the sides, with space left often at the side seams so that the wearer could access her pockets or panniers underneath. At the top of the petticoat, a box pleat is made at the center—an inverted box pleat at the back of the petticoat—and knife pleats radiate out towards the side seams. Rather than a continuous waistband, the petticoat is made with both a back and front waistband. In this manner, the wearer first fastens the back waistband around her waist using twill tape ties, and then fastens the front waistband, concealing the ties of the back waistband beneath it. This arrangement allows for the wearer to achieve a snug fit, especially in the case of size fluctuation.

The Petticoat

The outer petticoat was made in a silk dupioni with purple threads in the weft and orange threads in the warp, creating an iridescent effect. The waistbands are made of silk, rather than twill tape.

The Robe à la Française

An extravagant robe à la française was selected to be the gown worn by the poupée de mode, for its complex construction and elaborate embellishments presented financial and temporal challenges if made full-size. The robe à la française was made in the same silk dupioni as the outer petticoat. The entire gown is cut in one piece, and shaping is created by the generous use of box and knife pleats. Five knife pleats converge at the side seams, providing ample fabric to spread over the panniers; in accordance with extant examples, the gown was constructed with two box pleats from the front of the gown facing the back, and three from the back facing the front. At the back of the gown, two box pleats are stacked on top of four knife pleats. A trapezoidal piece of fabric bridges the area of the shoulder and encases the top of the sleeve; the only seam of the sleeves faces the back of the gown.

The sleeves are decorated at the hem with engageantes, large self-fabric flounces cut with a pinked, scalloped edge. Lace engageantes are stitched beneath the silk ones. The front edges of the gown are decorated with pinked and gathered self-fabric trim.

The Stomacher

The gown fastens over a triangular stomacher. The stomacher, lined with white cotton, is decorated with rows of graduated pink bows and pinked and ruched trim. Here it is shown with the bows pinned on, ready to be sewn!

Total Costs:

Silk dupioni (1 yard): $8
Various cotton remnants (stash): Free
Ribbons (stash): Free
Voile remnants: about $2
Twill tape (stash): Free
Lace (stash): Free
Doll (stash): Free
TOTAL: about $10

This was a very economic project, as most of the bits and pieces came from my stash. Though the doll wasn't perfect, because of the built-in music box, her look as very suited to the period. This was also a very quick project, and making the entire project took me about a month.