This is a photo diary of my costuming "travels"; where I've learned and struggled to make historical costumes for myself. They're not always pretty, but always fun. most of the time. And I want to share with others what I learn along the way. **You can find me on Facebook, or have my posts delivered to your email by signing up at the lower part of the right column.**

About Me

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HI, my name is Val. I'm a member of Costumer's Guild West in Los Angeles, Dean Emeritus of 2018 Costume College; member & Past President of the San Diego Costume Guild, member of Orange County Costume Guild, a representative of the San Diego History Center, & an honorary member of SITU (Someplace in Time, Unlimited) in Seattle. I make my own historical costumes but don't sell any unless I get tired of one.The eras I've made so far are 1770 up to 1918. My favorite is the 1880s bustle.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

The 1830s Project -- Part I- The Cranberry

The Bodice:

I’ve probably mentioned a couple times I had been wanting to make another 1830s gown, or a couple. Or maybe I’ve just been jabbering about them on Facebook. Ever since I made one back in 2009 I’ve been attracted to them. I had used Truly Victorian’s #455 (1830s) Romantic Era pattern. I was still fairly new to these patterns and I stumbled through trying to make this one. I didn’t understand about having an under bodice that the outer bodice would be attached to. And having to use a couple pattern pieces for multiple parts had confused me even more. I didn’t like the really huge sleeves so I made mine in the later 1837 style of being flat on the top. I tried smocking that but I failed so it’s just flattened by gravity.

 Now with a few more years under my belt, and a bit more knowledge, I was ready to give it another shot. The best part was I found out I could wear my Victorian corset under it, and not try and find someone on the street or next door to get me into my Regency corset. Or get me out of it. I still have to have the dress hooked up in back but I can deal with that later. All this encouraged me to try again.
Over a period of time I collected a couple cotton fabrics that had the look of some of the extant gowns I’d seen. A few months ago I started my new one, using my favorite of the fabrics that had a bluish-teal background with cranberry flowers on it.  The rose colored floral came in a close second but I first wanted to see if I could work with the pattern again.

I took my fabric and pattern to one of Shelley Peters’ sewing workshop to get help this time learning how to put hook and eye tape in the back and check that my muslin from the first gown still fit me, which it did. And it fit well over my Victorian corset. Yay!! It didn’t take long before the confusion over the pattern pieces of fabric, lining, and flatlining (interlining) came back into play. I don’t line my dresses. I just flatline them and finish with a facing. So that’s what I did but then had to open the back pieces so we could put the hook and eye tape into the seams and folded the edges of the fabric in to finish them. After we did that, I discovered I was supposed to gather part of the back into the smaller back piece so I had to rip them out, gather it up, then put the tape back in. Both the front and back bodice pattern pieces are also cut into smaller copies that provide the inner bodice base. The excess fabric on the front and back is then gathered in to fit them.
When I sewed the hook and eye tape back in, you can see the bunchiness that the gathering caused in the fabric. And no matter what I did, I couldn’t get it to look even. In this photo I have them tacked down and pressed so they looked like pleats. This is what gave me the idea of pleating.

Once I started working on the front portion of the bodice, I tried gathering that but it just looked really fluffy. I decided to try pleating the fabric across the front instead of gathering. This pattern has a larger amount of fabric starting at the shoulders and across the chest that is pulled down by gathering and into the center seam line. The pattern piece for the under bodice is a flat version of it so you use it to gauge what the actual size would look like.

Once I had the pleats lined up nicely, at the suggestion of others on a sewing group, I tacked them down and then pressed them. I probably tacked them more than necessary but I just wanted to use one long thread instead of constantly tying them off. 

After this was done, I machine basted the shoulders and side seams to try it on. I hooked up the back & put it on inside out so I could mark the front seam allowance. Apparently with doing pleats instead of gathers, it leaves a lot of excess fabric because I had to take in quite a big seam. Now that I think of it, the front of my previous gown was kind of loose and fluffy.
 I marked w/ chalk where the pins went, and unpinned it to take it off. I had also cut down two inches under the arms to fit me.  I transferred all those markings to my pattern piece for my next dress. At this point I’m not cutting the pattern to those markings until I’m absolutely sure this will work.
Then I took out one side seam, sewed up the front seam and tried it on again. It still fit fine. The reason I took out the side seam was so I could get in and out of it w/o needing someone to hook and unhook me in the back. Now that everything was fitted I re-sewed all the seams properly.
I wanted to do piping on this bodice so cut some lengths of cording and laid in the middle of a 2” wide strip of my fabric, folded that in half over it, pinned it every couple inches, & used my zipper foot to sew as close to the cord as I could. (*This photo is before I trimmed off the excess fabric).
 Now I guess the proper way would be to layer the edge of the cord between the fabric and a lining or facing with the corded section poking out of the seam. However I decided I would use the 1” on either side of the cord as my facing. So I lined up the cord portion along the top of the folded edge of my front neckline, opened up the fabric seam and edge of the cording seam allowance and sewed again very close to the cord. Then I turned it over, trimmed off the excess fabric except for the outer edge that would become my facing. I ironed that edge under and will be hand sewing it down today. 

I’m going to repeat this on the bottom of my waist where it will attach to the skirt, and to the edge of my sleeve cuff to finish it.
***I’ll share one of my hand sewing tips: I hate sitting around sewing, or carrying my project around, with pins in it. I manage to poke myself mercilessly and lose pins all over the house, which my hubby’s feet always manage to find. So now once I have my hem, facings, or trims, pinned on, I baste it loosely so I can remove the pins. Also this way if I have to set it aside for a long period of time, no pins fall out.

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I would love to hear if this was any help to you. Pretty please!