Saturday, December 28, 2013

Downton Abbey Jewelry Line at Macy's

I was perusing the after-Christmas sales in Macy's with my parents when I saw something that made my blood pressure plummet. Several racks of elegant and and glamorous jewelry, with Downton Abbey in lovely script above each piece!

Macy's is now carrying a Downton Abbey Jewelry Collection which is to die for! The necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and brooches recreate the lovely arabesques of Belle Epoque jewelry.

Of course, we aren't all actually lords and ladies, and so the collection's pieces are made of materials that imitate the historical look. The collection even includes imitation jet jewelry! The pieces are affordable enough to build a stunning demi-parure.

Some of my favorite pieces from the collection include...

Silver-Tone Edwardian Crystal Drop Earrings

Gold-Tone Crystal Accent Scallop Drop Earrings

Gold-Tone Edwardian Scrolled Crystal Collar Necklace
Silver-Tone Edwardian Crystal Wreath Drop Earrings
Jet-Tone Filigree Bow Drop Earrings
Jet-Tone Belle Epoque Carved Stone and Crystal Filigree Bar Pin
Silver-Tone Montana Blue Crystal Collar Necklace
Silver-Tone Scroll and Crystal Accent Drop Earrings

Which is your favorite piece?

Monday, December 23, 2013

In Progress: 1870s Bustle

This olive-green silk 1870s bustle gown at the Kearny History Museum was stuffed with newspaper (the only thing that cheered me up about this was that the newspaper was a rather kitschy spring wedding spread). I've been working on this bustle since I completed the Bronzino Gown, but school and a few technical errors impeded the timely completion of this piece.

This gown was displayed on a wicker dress form, just like the 1906 Wedding Gown!!

I made the bustle using Truly Victorian's 101 Petticoat with Wire Bustle. I purchased the pre-cut, pre-tipped boning from TV as well. The bustle is made from unbleached muslin and twill tape. I also flat-felled the side seams. I'm in the process of making the ruffled overlay.

This was my first time tackling flat steel bones and the Victorian silhouette, and I admit that I wasn't entirely successful. The hem tips upward in the back, and I realized after I inserted the bones that I was supposed to apply the twill tape bone casings to the outside of that upper back piece. Since the bone casings are on the inside, the bones threaten to stretch and poke through the muslin...I've done my best to soak the muslin around the tip of the bones in Fray-Check and that seems to have helped. There is also a strange concave depression between the horizontal bones, which I hope won't be as noticeable once the ruffled overlay is attached.

Not sure why the back hem of the bustle is tipping up like that.
The bustle is pleated to the waistband.
See what I mean about the bones trying to poke through the fabric?
Displaying the bustle on my dress form was a little tricky because my dress form's hips and waist are far too big. My hips are too big for it too, but the bustle fits my waist measurement!

Neat topstitching along the center front.
Very neat topstitching along the waistband as well, probably my only successful part of this garment.
It really does look quite comical on my dress form!
On my body, the horizontal concave depressions are even more noticeable...
Debating wether I should add a front closure or just pin it onto the dress form I'm carving for the gown...

Saturday, December 14, 2013

How to Sew on Buttons--Easy and Professional Finish

Granted, it took me years to understand why the buttons I was sewing were so sloppy...the threads weren't uniform and no matter how neat I tried to be, my re-sewn buttons couldn't compare to the factory-sewn buttons on the rest of my garment. Until I took a closer look and realized that I (and probably many others) were doing it all wrong!

In factories, buttons are attached with multiple threads in just one motion--like using embroidery thread (which is comprised of 6 threads). This way, the threaded needle doesn't have to keep going up, and down, and up, and down, etc. You just sew through the shank/holes (depending on type of button) once! Of course, this can be done with embroidery thread, but if that's not available you can use this tutorial to simulate that look.

-Thread, Needle, Scissors/Thread Snips
-Button and Garment to which it will be sewn
-Tailor's Chalk (optional)

If the button has fallen off a garment, such as my coat above, then keep the original thread in it's place for as long as possible. If you feel the button start to loose with wear, pop it off but keep the thread on the garment. The thread will serve as our guide for where to place the button. Alternatively, you can use Tailor's Chalk.

Cut 6 lengths of thread, about a foot each. You can cut up to 8 lengths of thread if you prefer, but bear in mind the weight of the buttons/garment you're working with. Anything longer than a foot becomes difficult to handle.

Roll all of the threads together. Double-knot one end of the threads, and trim and discard the excess.

Level off the other end of the threads and thread the needle.

Remove the original thread from the garment and bring the needle up through one of the small holes left by the original thread. Slide the button onto the needle.

Pull the thread all the way through the material. Bring the needle back down, through the next hole of the button, and through the faint mark left by the original thread. Pull the thread, but not so tight that the button won't be able to slip through the buttonhole.

If you have a 4-holed button, repeat the previous steps. Make sure that the thread isn't holding the button too tightly to the garment. Bring the needle up through the first hole left by the original thread, and loop the thread around, securing your button.

 Bring the needle down through the second hole...

...And tie a double knot. Clip and discard the excess thread!

I hope this tutorial helps! I know it's not a sewing breakthrough, but it really took me years to figure out what I was doing wrong. This method is fast and easy, and you couldn't tell my re-sewn buttons from the factory-sewn ones on my coat!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

"Courage, New Hampshire" Giveaway

American Duchess is hosting another giveaway! This time, one lucky winner will receive the "Courage, New Hampshire" Episodes 1-3 DVDs, and the soundtrack CD.

Photos Courtesy of AD

Photos courtesy of AD
According to the "Courage, New Hampshire" website, the series "tells the story of the American Revolution from the perspective of a small township on the raw edge of New Hampshire."

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

American Duchess "Claremont" Reproduction 1930's Shoes

If you're a historical costumer, you've probably heard of these. AD has tirelessly worked to recreate a plethora of beautiful, wearable, and durable historical shoes; among these, the "Claremonts." I'm inspired to make a 1930s outfit just so I can justify buying these beauties!

All images courtesy American Duchess

Monday, December 2, 2013

Museum Mysteries: Grimy Edwardian Petticoat

If you remember, underneath the 1909-14 Silk Wedding Gown was a surprisingly filthy Edwardian petticoat. The petticoat did nothing for the shape of the dress, but it seemed to have somehow absorbed whatever was leaking from the ceiling onto the dress...

Interestingly, the upper folds and waistband seem to be the worst areas affected by the moisture damage, but the entire petticoat is dirty. This leads me to believe that it was left dirty before it was even displayed under the wedding gown (Hint: don't put dirty petticoats under antique gowns).

The material was finely machine-pleated to a yoke.
The lace trim has also torn at the seam in a few places.
Submerged in water. I'm not sure what the accession number (written in marker) means.
I had to wash it before storing it. I took a deep black basin from the staff kitchen of the library and soaked the petticoat in water. I let it soak for 24 hours and tried not to agitate it, since it had a few tears. The petticoat really needs a decent wash and more time soaking (maybe some soap, too). Within minutes the water looked like urine and now I'm really curious as to what was leaking from the ceiling and what was dirtying up this petticoat!

A sample of the water after I removed the petticoat from its soak.
I was so curious, in fact, that I took a sample of the water post-wash. After about two weeks, something must've happened to all the oxygen molecules because the sealed bottle was all sucked in. Also, something rather brown and dust-like had settled at the bottom of the bottle...

My method for drying the petticoat in a limited space: folding it up and propping it on a bookstand hooked onto the drawer pulls. Unorthodox, but it worked!
The not-so cleaned definitely needs some soap and a larger washing vessel. Laying it flat to dry would also help!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

UFO: Smocked Berry Dress

This is one of my "Unfinished Objects," which I started in the fall of 2012. I had found a perfect summer/fall transition fabric at the creepy Fabric Warehouse: 3 yards of plum-berry cotton for $2 per yard.

I eagerly began cutting out McCall's6503, which I got for $1 at Joann's. I was making View D (sleeves, button front). One change I plan to make in the final construction of this dress is to make and add floral piping in a coordinating color theory along the top and bottom of the waistband just like Kathryn did here.

I didn't make a muslin of this dress, which in the end, wasn't entirely a mistake. When I already had most of the dress constructed, I tried it on, only to realize that this pattern had a ridiculous amount of ease in the bodice, and the bodice was weird and stiffly blousy on me. I could remedy the back of the bodice by changing the darts and removing some material in the side seam--I wanted a really tight back, since the pleated skirt was also on the tight side. Balance is key! I have a very narrow, petite back, and when I wear clothes that are baggy above the waist I look rather dumpy from behind.

To remedy the front of the bodice, which would've been oddly baggy even if I had made darts and taken in the side seams, I decided to experiment with a new technique: smocking! I used a variety of tutorials online. The smocking isn't completed, but I plan to completely re-do it to allow more room at the bottom for attaching the waistband, and to generally tidy up the smocking. In the end, I think the smocking really makes this dress--it's a unique twist to a popular and fairly simple design.

This is the best depiction of the color my camera could capture.

The picture quality deteriorates through the progression of this post!

The sleeves also need to be taken in. They were so baggy that they made my arms look wimpier than they actually are.

The waistband, waistband facing, and collar also need to be taken in but are for the most part assembled.
I'm considering letting out the pleats on the skirt just a smidge, because I'm worried they'll be uncomfortable in the future. I'm also considering a few pintucks along the hem to increase the visual interest but that's something I can add after the dress is completed.