Saturday, November 23, 2013

McCall's 6503 - 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's 6503, 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 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.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Costume Contest and Thoughts on the Bronzino Gown

I've entered Costume Works annual Halloween Costume Contest! You can view and vote for my entry, the Bronzino gown, here!  You can view and vote for all of the entries for 2013 on this page. Voting closes on November 20th so be sure to check out all the lovely entries before then!

On another note, I have some thoughts on my Bronzino Gown:

  • I definitely need to shorten the back waist on this pattern. I had already hacked off an inch from the waist all around, but maybe this discrepancy was also due to the crazy angle of my lower back/waist. It was really difficult to gauge where the back waist hit when the dress was half-assembled. 
  • Next time I make a gown mostly with synthetic materials, I should photograph it before completion. I didn't realize how wrinkly the back was (partly due to the waist being too long!) until I saw it in photos.
  • Next time I might also try a lightly corded bodice.

The next Italian Renaissance gown I make will likely be a Vincenzo Campi style dress, hopefully made of mostly non-synthetic materials. I also want to see the difference between a side-laced and back-laced dress. I think that applying the trim all around the back will be much easier if the dress is side-lacing, something I didn't realize when I was designing this dress a year ago (the trim on my gown didn't go all the way around the back because I just didn't have enough of the lace). The Campi style dresses are also more practical for Ren Faires and seem to have more options for accessories, in terms of partlets, sleeves, and aprons.

Vincenzo Campi's Fruitseller, c. 1580
Campi's Kitchen, c. 1580
Campi's Fishmongers, c. 1580
Which is your favorite Campi painting?

Friday, November 1, 2013

"Bronzino" Italian Renaissance Gown -- Finished!

After months of toiling away and late evenings madly sewing eyelets (1 am on the night before I planned on wearing the dress...last minute sewing is the only kind of sewing), this dress--officially dubbed the "Bronzino Gown"--is finally finished! I think I like this dress more than my Chemise a la Reine: the color, the shape, the decoration, I'm so in love. Finishing this dress was a personal victory. Pour la victoire!

The hem is whip-stitched by hand. A muslin hem guard was also whip-stitched by hand, a total of 12 yds of handsewing!
The dress was worn with my Italian Renaissance Camicia, Improved 18th Century Petticoat, and Embroidered 18th Century Pockets. The Italian Ren version of pockets, a Saccoccia, is pretty similar to the 18th c. version anyway. The red scarf was bought from a streetside vendor in NYC. I'm also wearing gold earrings with blue glass bead drops, a vintage ring, a gold filigree ball necklace from Portugal (part of my Portuguese folkloric dancing costume), and a girdle. The girdle is cobbled sloppily together from 2 flea market necklaces: a very long chain and pearl necklace, looped up, with a chain tassel removed from another chain necklace.

The lower sleeves are my favorite part of the whole dress. They took several weekends to make; just the piping took an entire day! The piping is made from a silvery-champagne fabric that my aunt gave me a year ago. The outer fabric, a gorgeous silver-green damask, was a gift from her as well--remnants from an upholstery project almost a decade ago. The mother-of-pearl-ish (plastic) buttons are vintage (1980s) from a sweater my mom had. The beige ribbon loops are made from those ribbons sewed into clothes to hold them onto hangers. The lower sleeves were completely free!

The neckline trim is made with metallic gold lace sewn over a strip of the silvery-champagne poly satin. A few pearls are sewn on as well; historically accurate or not, I loved the depth and luster of the pearls. The dress fastens in the center back with 40 handmade eyelets

I'm wearing a soft cup, wireless bra just for some "definition"--the clear straps are showing here.
I honestly did not notice those wrinkles in the back while I was making this /: It's difficult to fit a back-lacing garment on yourself! In fact, I think the wrinkles aren't as noticeable in person--at least the ones in front--and show up more prominently on camera.

I realized that though the dress isn't as perfect as I'd like, I don't love it any less. I had to realize that in the end, this project was a historical costume, and not a faithful recreation.  For one thing, most of the materials are synthetic (though they were selected because they didn't look synthetic). Secondly, this was my first try at a garment from this period, and there is much more that I have yet to learn. I learned new skills--cartridge pleating, sewing eyelets, making piping--that contribute to both the historical accuracy of the gown and to its glam-factor.

4.5 yds of blue poly satin ($3/yd) --  $13.50
1 yd of green damask for bodice interlining -- stash
1 yd of green heavyweight linen? for bodice lining -- $1
Muslin for hem guard -- stash
Silver poly satin -- gift
Silver green poly damask -- gift
Plastic mother-of-pearl buttons -- stash
Pearls -- $2 for 100
Gold metallic lace -- $5
Various threads -- $4
Yarn for piping -- stash
Pink ribbon -- gift (wrapped around a birthday present!)

Total: $25.50