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; Past President of the San Diego Costume Guild, member of Orange County Costume Guild, and a representative of the San Diego History Center. 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.


Saturday, April 16, 2016

1908 Marigold Yellow Dress, and All the Warts

This dress has been in my Make It file and I finally decided now was the time to make it, since I had an event coming up in April that I can wear it. The Ladies of the Traveling Tea Society were going to tea on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA, to commemorate the sinking of the Titanic. So this 1908 dress would work just fine.

 It was suggested that a bright yellow or butter yellow would not look good on me but to look for a golden harvest-y yellow. On my last trip to the Garment District I found this poly-blend curtain fabric that looked good held up to my skin and hair. After searching the rest of the GD for a similar color, and no luck, I decided to use it. And it was on sale for $3.99. It has a bit of a shine but it’s a dull shine so not like a poly-satin-shiny fabric. 
I found a couple photos that showed different ways to do the type of bodice I wanted to try with the lapels. 

On my pattern review group, I asked for suggestions from anyone of what pattern I could use for the bodice. Most suggestions were the Folkwear #220 “Garden Party” dress, but with some alterations to the square neckline opening to make it V-shape.  The pattern is a bit small for me because unfortunately they don’t make them above a size 16. The sleeves seem to be about the right shape, and it was suggested to extend the length of cuffs to match the dress and I’ll need lace for it.

I remembered another bodice I'd made using Laughing Moon’s #104 evening dress pattern where I used it as a base and then layered fabric on it to create the V-shape. This will probably be about the same technique.

The skirt was an easy choice, Truly Victorian TVE 21 Trumpet skirt, which I haven’t made before, but looks just like the one in the fashion print.
While I was out of town for two weeks visiting my mother, I brought the fabric with me and spent some time doing the basic cutting and sewing but couldn’t go any further without having my dress form to start building the bodice trims on it. So it had to wait till I got home.
The skirt has an underskirt, a lining that’s separate from the skirt that has a ruffle on the bottom to help hold out the bottom of the skirt. Because of it being on the bias, it was truly a pain and the hem not very pretty. But it’s hidden so that’s all that matters. The instructions tell you to make it 2” shorter than the skirt itself but since I couldn’t mark that hem yet, I wasn’t able to go any further with it. So that had to be done at home too.
While I was out and about there, shopping in thrift stores and antique malls, I found a cotton lace tablecloth I decided to use on my dress for the V-neck insert and sleeve cuffs; and a straw hat that looked so much like the ones in 1905-08, I knew it could work.

Once I was back home I began building the bodice. I sewed two lengths of the fabric to make my lapels that I draped over the shoulders, crossed in front and back, and then the tails would be tucked into the waist. These were just tacked in place. I basted a square of the lace tablecloth fabric onto the front of the neckline and it was covered by the lapels.

I didn’t think the bodice was *quite* long enough to be tucked into my waist so I added a 6-inch peplum around the bottom. 
I had a lot of problems with my lace collar I planned to use with this. It’s a reproduction I purchased from a seller in China on ebay. I hated to cut it in half since this bodice closes in the back, and tried to just tack it in the front and would have tiny clear snaps on the back to hold it down. But each time I tried putting it over my head, right in the center back the lace began to tear. To avert a disaster, I made the command decision to cut it in half. And all was well. Except the next morning I saw the photo I’d taken and the collar was longer on one side in the front than the other. That’s what happens when the back of your bodice overlaps and takes up an extra inch or so. Out came the seam ripper but was an easy fix to replace the tacking stitches.

The black tie was fairly simple to make. Sew a long length of black taffeta in half, hand-sew it just below where the lace collar ends, and tie it in a bow. I tacked that down too.
I used the sleeve that came with the Folkwear pattern since it was the right shape, and used some photos of sleeves from a 1907 ad as my inspiration.
 I cut rectangles from the lace tablecloth to sew to the bottom of the sleeves, and then discovered a problem that would eventually not work as well as I’d hoped. The fabric is loosely woven and stretches. To sew the seam, I had to turn the edges under twice and sew it like a finished edge, THEN sew the two edges together which kept it from unraveling. But it still wanted to stretch. I sewed the lace to the bottom of the gathered cuff first, and then sewed a band around the top. Then discovered I had pulled the gathering stitches in and now it was too tight. So out came all the stitches. We’re all familiar with the “sleeves from hell” so this will be no surprise but after I sewed it all together again, it was still too tight. So I ripped again, made sure it fitted over my elbow, and sewed it again. This time they both went over my elbow.  *Wait for it…….*    The next day when I put it on, one of them was again too tight so by the end of the day I had a welt around my arm. One end of the cuff seems to have stretched out a bit so it flares at the bottom. Back to the drawing board. I think when I get time I’ll start looking for a different kind of lace fabric to replace those and the insert with.

Where do I start with the hem? The Trumpet skirt is flared at the bottom, which means the part of the hem I turn up is wider than where it’s hemmed to. Which means there’s going to be excess fabric to be taken in.  I know how to hem. But I’ve again realized I’ve never been taught how to hem other than short narrow hems. I turned up 3 inches and in my brain I figured out I could pull in that excess by doing a gathering stitch. Except this fabric is kind of thick and the thread kept breaking when I tried to gather it. So I folded tiny bits in, and held my head in shame. And yes, I lifted my skirt and brazenly showed it to anyone around me.
But by doing so, I received a bit of advice to drop the hem by 2 inches, because it ended up too short and my lining skirt ruffle was peeking out the bottom. Shameful! And then I should cut off some excess and only have about 2 inches turned up. Which is pretty much what I usually do but fortunately some instinct kept me from cutting off that excess which wouldn’t have given me enough left to hem. Some hidden intuition must have been at work there.
So I finally got the bodice all put together and finished off the edges of the lapels and peplum that will be tucked inside the skirt. I had plans for a nice belt and was going to track down a buckle I could take off one of my other dresses but since I was still hemming the blasted skirt at 10pm the night before the event I was wearing it to, that didn’t happen. So I made a quick band with the two remaining buttons I had left from the back bodice closure, and added a snap in the middle.
I can truly say I loved my hat. I traced a circle from the full size of the hat out of black taffeta, did a gathering stitch about 2 inches in from the edge (checking first that it would entirely cover the crown), turned that under and lightly tacked it to the hat. I had two lengths left over from the tie I’d made, so I used one around the base of the crown and another to make a bow for the back. These are just tacked on also.

I thought that looked a bit bland so added a long black ostrich feather around the crown, tacking this down more since they have a tendency to fly away on their own. And then I made a quick run to Michael’s for a lemony yellow rose. I had to carry a swatch of my fabric with me since not all yellows looked well with it.

Accessorizing this was easy since I have a lot of things from the time period already. So my long Edwardian parasol that was given to me came along as a walking stick, as did my antique black reticule I found in Florida a few years ago.

This is the second time in my costuming career that I didn’t have a chance to try on my dress before wearing it, and this is the reason why you really need to do that. My lining skirt was longer on one side than my skirt. Or what really happened is, my skirt wasn’t long enough. I marked my hems level with the floor then turn it up 2 inches. But somewhere in the process it shrunk. And then the tablecloth lace stretched. So it was a bit of a hot mess. It was more visible to me than others but we all know about that.
Overall I was very happy with my outfit. I think it just needs a few tweaks and I will be entirely happy with it. I wore it to the afternoon tea on the Queen Mary ship yesterday. We all wore dresses from close to the time period of 1910, had a very nice tea, and later toured the Princess Diana exhibit on the ship. It was more than just about Diana, but also the lineage and history of the royal family, starting with Edward, Prince of Wales (aka King George V) and King George VI, who became King when Edward abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson.  It was a really nice exhibition. But sadly we weren’t allowed to take photos.

As mentioned, one of the things I’ll be changing is the lace insert and cuffs. I looked through the photos of my lace trims I have and came across two that just might work. I also want to make the cuffs a bit longer. I’ll have to see how they look next to my collar.

Since a lot of the front trims on the bodice are hand sewn on, they’re going to be easy to remove and replace afterwards. And at least I won’t be in a rush to try and get that done. Don’t they say costumes are always a work in progress?
At least Chloe approved my skirt. She managed to take a short nap on it while I was typing away here.



  1. Val your dress is lovely! What a gorgeous colour too. Can I suggest mounting your tablecloth lace on a sheer silk organza backing, so it is stabilised? And a hem like that might be better finished with a bias cut facing instead of a turn up. That will give you nice body through the bottom and a dust protector too :)

    1. Thank you Maryanne. Yes, I've been hearing about using a facing on the hem but will still need to have it shown and demonstrated to me. I'm not good at reading directions.
      The tablecloth is too loosely woven to be used for this but at the time I thought it would. If I put something behind it I would lose it's openess. But I have solutions.

    2. I've been admiring your dress on Facebook -- lovely choice of colour and trims! Faced hems weren't common on Edwardian dresses, but it is true that you'll get a smooth, easy-to-finish result by using a bias facing.

      Actually, these are fairly easy to do. There are several types of bias-facing hem finishes, but the simplest method is to cut a long bias strip from your dress fabric, about 2" wide and as long as needed to go around the bottom of the skirt, plus about 12" to spare (piece the bias strips as necessary to get the full length. Press one long edge under by about 1/2", then pin that edge right sides together all along the lower edge of your skirt, close to but not exactly along the hemline.

      Machine stitch, overlapping and neatening the ends, then turn up and slip-stitch or catch-stitch the raw top edge in place by hand like a normal hem. It will not fray -- I promise!

      You can either trim off the extra allowance at the bottom of your skirt to about a 3/4" depth before attaching the bias facing, or carefully trim it away afterward. The only real trick is to double-check that your hem is just where you want it before applying the bias, because it is difficult to adjust the hemline afterward.

      The more usual Edwardian finish on a wide, round hem was to turn up the hem the minimum necessary (no more than 2-1/2"), then run a line of gathering stitches just in from the raw edge (as you did) and adjust evenly before hand-stitching the hem in place. I noticed you said you had trouble with the gathering thread breaking. My suggestion would be to gather shorter sections, overlapping them somewhat.

      When I do such a hem, I use a fine crochet hook or blunt end of a needle to pull up the stitching on the inside of the hem allowance (where the excess thread pulled up won't be seen), and then adjust the fullness evenly with my fingers. Nonetheless, I must say that there is no hint of any hem issues in the photos of your dress, so you obviously managed to wrestle the hem into submission on the inside! Very nice work.

      Apologies for the over-long post, but I hope this may help.

    3. Thank you Patricia for that excellent description. I do need to get that skirt length taken care of first and then will give the bias strip a try.

  2. Your gown turned out amazing! And I have to say, I thought it was silk! The color choice was perfect, and you really stand out in the photos. All the gowns are wonderful, but there's just something about the marigold color in a springtime day!

  3. Next time you're sewing lace, try a French seam. Have you picked up any of the Mary Brooks Picken sewing books? They are a must read for sewers of vintage fashion of the early 20th century. Here's a pdf of one of them:

    1. If this was regular lace, I could have dealt with it but this tablecloth was never meant to be used on clothing. Mea culpa for even trying to use something loose and stretchy like that.

  4. Interior tucks were period on hems of this era! The book "Authentic Victorian Dressmaking Techniques" covers how it was done, published in 1905 by Butterick. It is tough to follow at time, but does have pictures.

    Reinforce the hem with an interlining - cambric, horsehair, crinoline, cotton flannel is used depending on the weight of the fabric. The bias method, as mentioned above, basted in to the hem. The turned up part of the hem is fitted to the skirt "by laying small plaits where necessary, instead of gathering the edge."

    The plaits are each hemmed down to keep them from catching as you go along. Hem the turned under part just above the interlining.

  5. Val, your dress is gorgeous. Yellow is one of my favorite colors and you wear it well!


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