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, August 14, 2016

1905 Directoire Striped Gown

Back in 2013 I started a dress that started with a small photo from a fashion magazine labeled 1905 Directoire, and I began trying to make it. Trying, because I had to find patterns that I could use and alter to do it.  I had a striped fabric in mind when I went shopping in the LA Garment District and found one, a lightweight upholstery fabric that looked exactly like what was in my head.  It was olive green with brown and gold stripes, the stripes being what I was primarily looking for.
 **Fast-forward to 2016 and I could have used this pattern I bought from VPLL, although it is 1897, but that’s what we have Franken-patterning for. And yes, among costumers, that is a word, although my Spell Check doesn’t think so.**
I began pulling ideas for it from other photos and fashion prints, which is actually my favorite part of planning a dress.

At some point I thought I might make it as this green dress with a full bodice but in the end, didn’t have enough to do the sleeves, and couldn’t find any more of the fabric in the Garment District. So I went back to my vest plan. This dress however is still in my MAKE THESE file. 
The skirt was the easy part. I’d used Truly Victorian’s Edwardian skirt pattern, #TV E22, before and knew the stripes would make a great chevron pattern down the front. I sewed that up right away. Again I was asked later how I got those stripes to make that chevron pattern. I didn’t. The pattern did. When I laid out the fabric, I made sure the stripes matched along the edges of the selvedge, and that’s it. It’s cut on the bias and when you sew that front seam, that’s what it does. Awesome, isn’t it? And it’s a very flattering line.  
Now the problem was how to do that crossover vest. I first thought of trying to use this EvaDress pattern 1900 blouse but then remembered this Past Patterns #3973 tunic pattern I had that I could use w/o the overskirt portion.

 That seemed to be going to work and it was simple. I also wanted some contrasting trim on it to finish the edges, so did a dark brown binding of silk taffeta. It also didn’t fit me as low as the drawing, and was a lot longer. And yes, the problem could have been solved in making a muslin but hey, it was just a vest. What could go wrong? 

Next I started on my blouse. Again, looking at various ideas.

I had bought some accordion-pleated cream silk voile for the blouse and started cutting it out from the TV E 41 pattern that I was going to alter the sleeves on, but it kept stretching and I threw it into a bag and back on the shelf.
That’s about as far as the dress got done in 2013. Every once in a while, I looked at it, and last year thought maybe I should finish it. I even got a hat made just for it by a friend. It was inspired by another’s friend’s hat she’d made. Gina from Beauty from Ashes  made this pretty one for her Mom and I loved the turned up edge with lace fabric around it. 
My hat was made from scratch with a lovely ivory lace fabric and Dupioni bow, and should have inspired me to finish the dress. But it sat on top of my hat boxes taunting me for another year because I again didn’t get the dress finished.
 Finally, in April of 2016, while “planning” my wardrobe for the August Costume College, I said now was the time. It was soooo close to being done. But I decided I would make the blouse from a different pattern and fabric that was easier to handle. I had a Swiss dot ivory cotton voile, and came across this pattern that would be perfect to make my blouse.

I don’t care that this pattern says that it’s 1899, it’s not. The pigeon breast, dipped waist and sleeves make it about 1905. But it would need some scaling up for me, and I suddenly ran out of time to do much with it. I was also working on three others dresses. That darn squirrel.
If you’re interested in that pattern further, you can purchase it from The Vintage Pattern Girl on etsy.                                                                              
And Jennifer from Historical Sewing shows how she made hers from it.  After reading that again, I may just give it another try one of these days.

But then I pulled out the Ziplock bag that had the previous blouse ALL CUT OUT, and decided GO FOR IT! If it stretched and looked wonky while I was sewing it, it was a loose blouse that probably wouldn’t show it. Except, it sewed a lot easier than I expected, and even though it was very sheer, it handled fairly well. The buttonholes were a bit snaggy though. But hey, they’re tiny. I used some very tiny antique shell buttons I had from an Aunty. Once it was sewn I added some rows of lace I either bought in the Garment District, or if memory serves, from a seller in the Costume College Marketplace. I also sewed it around the collar and cuffs. As you can see, it’s quite sheer. To save time making a new corset cover, I used my ruffled one I’d made from Truly Victorian. My little Edwardian brooch went with it perfectly too. 

Next up were the buttons on the vest and the decorative ones on the shoulders. I just bought some from JoAnn’s, being in a time crunch. They looked like brown leather.
I put it on to mark the buttons and this is where something decided it didn’t want to cross over to my left without being wonky. And in that, I mean bad baggy. When I have it on, it’s not quite as baggy as that lower section is because I have the fluffiness of the ruffled corset cover to fill it out. But you can see how the front is much longer than the pattern drawing shows. When I started the pattern, I thought that excess was the pigeon breast pouch but it didn’t want to do that. So I took a tuck into the waistband to make it a bit shorter. It doesn’t look really great on my dress form since it’s longer waisted than I am.  

I’m thinking at some point I might want to cut down the top of it and make the opening lower. But who am I kidding? This already took 2 years and so far, I think it looked quite nice in the final outcome. I added a brown silk rose to the front of the hat to pull it all together, and wore my antique leather purse that hangs by a small chatelaine to my waistband. I was wearing my cream American Duchess Gibson shoes but with all the walking and nervousness about getting up on stage at the CoCo Friday Social and being announced as the next Assistant Dean, my feet were killing me. So I took them off. And I walked on stage holding up my shoes. Hey, Lauren! It was free advertising!

One thing I’m learning from dresses I make each year to wear to events: I’m always going to want to alter or edit it afterwards. I rush to finish it and something won’t be right.
However, I did make one dress this year that I don’t want to change a thing on it. My 1870s tea gown.


  1. I love the vest with the skirt! It reminds me so much of one of Julia Sawalha's costumes from Lark Rise to Candleford.

    1. Thank you Cassidy. I can't think of a better program to be compared to. :)


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