Sunday, July 21, 2019

Simplicity 8162 18th Century Stays


This year, I finally committed to building a historically accurate 18th century ensemble after having been obsessed with the fashions from this time period for years! As with all historical fashions, I started my outfit from the undergarments out to ensure I had the right silhouette with which to fit the clothing over. After a botched hand sewn shift (it came out so large that it could fit a giantess!) I moved on to the stays.

The outer fabric of the stays is a remnant of green mystery fabric that I had in my stash. I wasn't concerned with the fiber content as I was treating these stays as a wearable mockup. Nobody's first stays are perfect, right?

The stays are flatlined in cotton canvas and are bound in red petersham ribbon. I used heavier quilter's thread to sew the boning channels (by machine) so that they'd "pop" visually. I also used this thread to sew the eyelets (by hand). I actually find sewing eyelets to be very relaxing!

The stays are laced with 1/8" cotton tape in a spiral configuration (rather than criss-cross, as the pattern suggests).

I used synthetic German whalebone from Burnley and Trowbridge for the boning, and I really love how lightweight but strong it is. It's similar to zip ties, but BETTER!

I used Simplicity 8162, the first 18th century undergarments pattern by American Duchess. The pattern was easy to follow and the stays came together quickly, with the exception of binding the tabs.

I made a mockup in my usual pattern size (10) but I was able to lace my mockup closed in both the front and back! I ended up making the stays in a size 6 -- I get a 2" lacing gap in the back and I think a fair amount of lacing gap in the front. A few reviewers have said that this pattern is short waisted, and it is -- my body, however, is short waisted, so it worked perfectly on me. The only thing I'd alter on the stays, looking back, is to lower the underarm curve just a bit.

I made a few simple modifications to the pattern to get the more historical look that I was after. The tabs at the center front and center back of the pattern are cut squarely, but I curved the bottoms of the tabs for ~aesthetic~ reasons. I also used the tutorials on the American Duchess blog to redraw the boning channels. I added a few horizontal bones to the front of the stays which really made a difference in their shape!

I also chose to flatline the stays, rather than bagline them as per the pattern's instructions. However, this meant that I was left with a raw edge on the inside front and back edges. It doesn't bother me too much, but I might whip stitch the raw edge one day to prevent fraying.

The stays in action as part of my Hobbit costume!

The stays are bound in vintage red petersham ribbon. Unlike grosgrain ribbon, which has a straight edge, petersham ribbon has a wavy edge which allows it to wrap around curved edges, such as hat brims. Using petersham for the binding made the process easier, although I can't attest to how resilient it will be over time. One thing to note: the red dye bleeds onto my chemise in the underarm area, so prewash your fabric or ribbon binding!

How to bind 18th century stays the quick and easy way:

First, use whip stitches to attach your binding to the RIGHT side of your stays.

When you get to the outer corner of a tab, insert the needle diagonally almost to the edge of the tab. Fold the binding around the corner of the tab at a 45 degree angle (essentially mitering the corners, like in quilt binding).

Whip stitch the mitered, folded edge together to get a nice, flat fold.

When you get to the inner corner of the tabs, shape the binding into an arc around the inner corner using the thumb on your non-dominant hand. Hold down the arc with your thumb, and with your dominant hand, whip stitch around the edge of the arc.

As always, I'd be happy to hear from you if you have any questions or comments about my sewing methods. Happy stitching!

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.