Monday, December 23, 2013

The Belle Goes Victorian

Dear readers, I wrote this blog post 2 months ago, all that I had left was a bit of editing but then my life turned upside down and I've had some serious personal things to deal with, so I never did get around to posting. Also my I pad kept eating the pictures... Anyway here is my very very belated post about my new early Victorian gown that I made at the end of summer.

So I made my first Victorian gown, it's a late romantic period style and I think it's rather gothic looking in that Edgar Allen Poe or Jane Eyre kind of way.
It all started when I was invited to my dear friend Robins 30th birthday party, a Victorian birthday party held at a graveyard. Robin was laying her youth to rest instyle at Philadelphia's Laurel Hill cemetery
I wanted to go, but all I had costume wise was regeny clothes, and some random bits of renaissance garb and one lonely Edwardian gown. So I had to make a Victorian dress. Now Victorian is a pretty broad time range, Queen Victoria ruled for over half a century, from 1837 to 1901.

Young Queen Victoria, she had some petty spiffy clothes.

So plenty of differnt styles to pick from. I decided I wanted a late 1830s gown. I don't care for the hoop skirt look of the 1850s and 60s, nor do I care much for the11880s and 90s fashions. I do like some of the early bustle gowns, but quite frankly the thought of making a bustle gown freaks me out! Besides it would have involved having to build an entire set of new underwear as well. And I simply did not have the time.

I wore this kind of polyester atrocity, but hey I was short on time...

 You can kind of get away with wearing regency undies for 1830s with some added pettiticoats to puff out the skirt, I was ghetto tastic and re purposes my massive wedding dress crinoline made from nasty scratchy tulle and polyester, but hey it worked and was free!
 So 1830s it was. 

Truly Victorian romantic dress pattern.

I went ahead and got the truly vitorian romantic gown pattern as it came highly recommended by several of my friends. At first I had visions of one of those lovely frothy sheer summer dresses, 

This is what I had in mind....

but I didn't have the right fabric in the stash and I was to cheap to go buy 7+ yards of fabric for something that will get next to no wear as I don't do Victorian reenactment. I did ,however happen to have a very Victorian looking floral and paisley striped cotton in my stash. I had gotten it on clearance at Jo Ann's this summer for $1.50 a yard, and it was just the right amount of fabric. 

This is the fabric I ended up using, it came from the stash so yay!

So I used it, dispite my misgivings about it being a bit drab and actually looking almost exactly like the the fabric, I made my regency work dress from. So with the fabric selected began my epic journey of making a Victorian gown. As it usually is with me I can't just make the simple version, no, my dresses need to be special so I decided instead of the large leg of mutton sleeves of the original pattern I wanted those slightly later smocked sleeves. 
180's from the met
Smocked sleeves became popular after the short lived fad of leg of mutton sleeves. In many cases the upper part of the original mutton sleeve was  smocked to take in the fullness.
I also chose a pointed bodice instead of the straight one,of course I had to do cool things with the stripes. Cause you know stripes call for chevrons and cool matching and what not, also 1830s needs piping! Lots of piping!

Neckline piping.

So between endless smocking of the sleeves and one endless day ( it took me 8 hours to pleat the skirt to my satisfaction) of pleating and re pleating the skirt so that the stripes where placed just perfectly on the skirt front, I was ready to jump out of my sewing room window to put an end to myself... But I prevailed and finished the thing even though I was still sewing on the bus from Pittsburgh to Philly . I got the finishing touches done just in time.  My friend Kat picked me up from the bus stop in her mini.

3 women in Victorian gowns and my HUGE "India sized " suitcase, in this car, fun times!
 It proved rather comical squeezing 3 women and a HUGE suitcase in a mini! But somehow we managed. We drove to the cemetary for the party where I resorted to changing into my Victorian dress behind a mausoleum, which was probably the most scandalous thing these dead Victorians had seen in a long time. The party was fun and everyone looked just lovely.

A nice group shot.
The fabulous Taylor , she not only makes beautiful costumes but also makes and sells awesome collet necklaces!
how could we not pose in this mausoleum?!

Also this, yes I think I'm going to hell...

I had way too much fun at the cemetery birthday party!

Birthday girl Robin.
 But to my dismay I discovered that apparently to everyone else "Victorian " means bustle dresses, because I was the only one not wearing one. 

I like big butts and I cannot lie.....that I lack a bustle...
Oh well.... I guess this just means I will have to make a bustle dress at some point. But bustle or no we all had a great time. After they kicked us out of the graveyard at around 4pm Kat took Taylor and me (still in vitorian costume) to this mythical ghetto tastic fabric store called Jomar.

Jomar Shenanigans. Someone asked us if we where orthodox Jews, cause you know orthodox Jewish women go shopping in 19th century clothes accessorized with tiaras and Louis Vuitton bags!
 Turns out Jomar is awesome! It's basically a warehouse with just totally random and often really old dusty and dirty fabrics just kind of piled up on huge shelves. But there are treasures to be found if one knows how to dig! Cheap treasures!

Look at all my loot, Soooo cheap!!!!!!
It's a good thing I do not live in Philadelphia because I'm pretty sure I would spend all my money at Jomar.
We spent the rest of the night drinking champagne and wearing tiaras while watching period costume movies. All in all it was a perfect day!
I can't wait to go back to Philadelphia to hang put with my costume friends again, even if it means that one day I need to tackle my fear of bustle gowns so I'm not the one weirdo at the bustle party looking like Jane Eyre.
And last but not least here are some nice shots of my new gown.

I think I need a better petticoat the wedding crinoline dosen't give quite the right shape...

Otherwise I'm very pleased with how the gown turned out.

I wore my Regency wig because I didn't want to sit on a bus with curlers and dint have time to do my hair once I got there, It kind of works for 1830's

and here is a good picture of my smocked sleeve.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

HSF Challenge #23 Gratitude

Per the guidelines of the historical sew forthrightly  challenge #23 today's post is about gratitude.
Us costumers tend to be friendly bunch, sharing wisdom and and lending a helping hand in projects. I am greatful to so many people in this wonderful hobby, those who have given advice, lent a hand or a pattern and those who have done research and put it out there in the form of blog posts or tutorials, so that all I have to do when I decide that I want to make a certain garment is to google it and see how someone else did it before me. But in this blog post I would like to thank 2 of my friends who recently helped me pull together something on very short notice.
2 months ago as I was gearing up to go to the fair of New Boston, my husband who has always steadfastly refused to have anything to do with my silly costuming obsession suddenly decided he wanted to go with me. Not only did he want to come with me, but he volunteered to come in costume! First I was stumped, then excited, then panic set in! See my lovely husband chose to break his vow never to don historical costume less than a week before the fair at New Boston. I had never made any mens clothes, and had very little idea of how to even go about it... I had no proper fabric or patterns and very litte time on hand, and on top of that I needed to make a new dress for princess Charlotte, because she had outgrown her old one... This is where my awesome costuming friends came through. After posting on Facebook that I needed to make mens clothes ASAP and didn't quite know how to go about it, I got a flurry of advice what patterns to use and what fabrics would be best for the occasion. But it went further than mere advice, first my friend Julie graciously offered to lend us a pair of her husbands pants so I wouldn't have to make any, which helped out so much because I was sewing till the last minute just making a shirt and waistcoat and would have been hopelessly overwhelmed having to make trousers as well! She sent them by mail, they arrived just in time and fit perfectly. I later bartered  her the pants for a vintage tiara and some jewelry so now hubby has pants and I won't have too make any unless I can convince him to come to a ball sometine at which time he will need something a little more fancy.
Secondly my friend Erin let me borrow her patterns for the shirt and waistcoat. There was no way I was going to be able to buy period correct patterns online and have the time to actually finish anything considering shipping can take up to a week. But I really didn't want to have to resort to some sort of horrible simplicity costume pattern for hubby's clothes, if I was gonna do this it was going to be the proper way! I have a reputation to uphold! Anyway Erin who also lives in Pittsburgh offered to lend me some patterns she had gotten for her husband. So I just drove over to her house and picked them up. Which had the added benefit of getting to hang out with Erin! Thankfully I managed to get some decent lightweight linen for a shirt and some linen and a nice paisley patterned cotton for a waistcoat on sale at Joann's. which made things slouch easier than having to order online and wait again for shipping.
Bryan refused to wear a frock coat, but I don't have time to make one anyway so it worked out well! besides it was hotter than hell at new Boston, so I think him just wearing his shirtsleeves was just fine, not proper perhaps, but perfectly acceptable considering the circumstances!
So here he is !

 My dapper regency gent. I think he cuts a dashing figure in his new suit of clothes, he certainly got a lot of compliments, and I think we make a pretty adorable little regency family what with Lottie in her pretty new frock and all. 

Hopefully I can convince him to wear a frock coat one day, I sure I will have to rely on all sorts of advice and help from my wonderful costuming friends when making one! But for now I'm happy to have gotten him this far. It's one step at a time....

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Regency Wig Wrangling 101

 A while ago I styled a cheap modern wig from into a regency hairdo. I promised I would write a little tutorial on it, but it took me a while....
So here it is better late than never!

I started out with this wig from
It's a lace front wig that has a natural looking center part and long bangs .The synthetic hair is heat resistant up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, which means you can actually use heated styling tools on it. it's meant for African American ladies and comes in quite a lot of colors but all of them in darker shades. I chose color 4 which is a natural looking dark reddish brown. I paid $25 for it.

It arrived looking like this.

To style the wig I used a tapered curling iron, a heat resistant glove to prevent my fingers form burning, hair elastics, bobby pins, some scissors and a comb.

The fist thing I did was to do a horizontal part from ear to ear separating the bangs and some of the front hair from the rest of the hair.Then I took the hair behind the the part and put it in a high ponytail, leaving some tendrils hanging loose at the nape of the neck.

Then I pulled back the bangs and pinned them in place.

I twisted the ponytail into a bun high on the head, I left some of the hair in the middle of the bun hanging free to be curld later.

I curled the hair coming out if the bun, then I started curling the front hair.

It turns out that curling synthetic hair is not exactly the same as curling human hair. You have to let it cool off to get it to hold its shape. So the way I did it was to warp the strands around the curling iron hold them for about 10 seconds and then to carefully slide the hair off again while holding the curl in shape with my fingers. ( this is where the heat resistant glove is very helpful). Then while still holding the curl I blew on the hair to speed up the cooling process. Once it's cooled let it go and it will hold its shape. If you don't do this the curl will just go limp.
After pinning the side curls into place I trimmed down some of the tendrils I left hanging at the nape of the neck and curled them to make little curly wisps for a more natural look.

The last thing I did was to give the wig a light dusting with hairspray. And that's it. Voila! All in all it was super easy to, only took about an hour or so and the result is quite nice. I've worn the wig twice now and have gotten lots of compliments on it.

Here's some pictures of the finished  wig worn with and without costume.

Sorry for the low quality of the pictures they where all taken with my cellphone...
The last picture was taken by the fabulous Toni Tumbrush at a Regency wedding I went to last weekend. Thanks for letting me steal your picture Toni!
So anyway,the wig is pretty awesome and is great for those times when you do not have the time to do an elaborate period hairstyle with your own hair, or if you simply do not have long enough hair to do one. It's surprisingly comfortable  and not really hot or itchy at all as long as it's worn wih a proper wig cap underneath.
Now go style some wigs people!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Historical Sew forthnightly #18 Re make, Re use and Re fashion.

I know I know I said I would blog more when Jane Fest was over but the truth of the matter is I am just about as busy now as I was before, I'm swamped with commissions and a slew of late summer reenactment and costuming events. But I have a couple of blogs planned about my latest costuming adventures. So bear with me.
I actually got around to doing another one of the Historical Sew Fortnightly challenges.
This time it's #18 Re make, Re use and Re fashion.
I and just like the garment from my last post this one was made from a white skirt, really my last entry for the challenge could have worked for both challenges.
But that would be cheating....
Anyway I made my daughter Charlotte a new regency summer dress for the fair at New Boston.

So here it goes

The Challenge: #18 Re make, Re use, Re fashion.

The fabric:  I made this dress from a linen skirt that I picked up very cheaply at a thrift store a couple of months back. It had some really pretty pin tucking and lace incersion work on the hem and I figured it would make a really cute little girls frock. It wasn't enough fabric for the bodice however so I used some scraps left over from making my husbands linen shirt that I made him for New Boston.

Pattern: I used the Sense and Sensibility regency girls dress pattern for the bodice and just pretty much attached the entire original skirt to the bottom as the dress skirt.

Year: Well I had no actual year in mind  since little girls dresses changed little in style between about 1795 and 1820 I would say its somewhere in that timespan.....

Notions: Gutermanns and poly thread, white elastic, narrow cotton lace on the sleeves and neckline and some  wider antique lace at the hem.


How historically accurate is it?  40% perhaps? The fabric, lace and pattern are pretty accurate, but tis machine sewn, and has elastic instead of drawstrings, to make it more kid friendly...

First worn: At the fair at New Boston  August 31st 2013

Total cost: Kind of free since it all came from the stash, but I think I paid like $2 for the skirt at some point.....

I'm really very happy how this dress turned out, it is super cute comfortable and will grow a bit with my daughter due to me having put some elastic in the waist and sleeves. She's already worn it twice and it's held up well so far dispite getting filthy but since its linen it launders and sun bleaches well.i suppose this is the reason why children's clothes tended to be whjite for hundreds of years it washes well and is nice and neutral so can be worn for many occasions and be passed down to other children. once its outgrown. Most importantly she really likes wearing it! And it's even cuter paired with her frilly pantaloons!
And here are some super cute pictures taken at New Boston and at Old Bedford Village last weekend.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Historical Sew Fortnightly #15 White

Historical Sew Fortnightly #15 White

Running a bit late for the challenge but here it is.
I made a regency bodiced petticoat for my friend Erin. It was made from an embroidered peasant skirt that belonged to her recently deceased mother. She Gave me the skirt a couple of months ago and asked me to make her a petticoat from it, and I only just now got around to it. And almost in time for the White challenge!
The Challenge: White

Fabric: A white work embroidered cotton Peasant skirt, that came from my friends mother.
Skirt embroidery detail.

Pattern: Self drafted, I had to do a lot of piecing....

Year: around 1815-20

Notions: Guterman's poly thread and narrow white ribbon.
How historically accurate is it? Not very I'm afraid aside from the material being cotton. The embroidery is probably machine done, I have no documentation for the pattern as I kind of had to come up with something using the limited fabric I had, and the sewing is all machine done... but it does resemble a bodiced petticoat. So I give it a 20%

Hours to complete: About 3

Total cost: Zero!!!
And Here's the result. A bodiced petticoat that pulls over the head and adjusts with internal drawstrings at the waists and neckline. I uses the ornate embroidery at the hem and uses the original skirt lining to make the upper skirt part and bodice.

Erin was thrilled with it and said that wearing it would be like getting a hug from her Mom. I'm so happy that it's so special to her!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Louisville Jane Austen Festival 2013

OMG a post! Hell surely must have frozen over!
Well not really, I'm just for once not busy sewing! Jane fest lies behind me dear readers and with that my work load is less severe and you can now expect more regular posts from me. I think.....
Anyway the Festival was a great success! The sun was shining, there was a breeze and all was beautiful! I had a new set up, a fantastically pimped pop up tent, that actually fits in the back of Volksemort the bewitched black Volkswagen Passat!

All this needed to fit in my car plus the tent myself my friend Erin and our personal luggage!

And magical me made it happen!

I am the Queen of car Tetris!!!
For the first time I was not sharing my vending space, which is good because I barley had enough room for all my goodies as is, sharing the space would have been a disaster!

The fantastic sign my husband made for me with his woodcarving machine.

My fancy new shop set up.

Some of my goodies, don't you love the India bling?!!

The draped ceiling of my tent was pretty spiff if I may say so myself.

For some reason I only sold one of these beautiful shawls I imported all the way from India. Perhaps it was too hot?

The T Shirts where a big hit though.
 All went off really really well! Rain had been predicted for the entire weekend but it held off until about one hour after I was done packing up my tent! How's that for good luck!?
 What really struck me was seeing so many people walking around the festival wearing things I made, it's pretty amazing! like i send my dresses and bonnets into the world and they come back to visit me!

Amy looks amazing in this bonnet I sold her, it's like it was meant to go with her dress!

I made these two dresses from some of the cotton Saree's I brought back from India.

Unfortunately I did not see much of the festival as I was mostly stuck at my store or teaching bonnet making workshops. I did however see the promenade parade by my booth, which was nice people watching!
The promenade going by my tent.

Saturday night we had a massive Pizza delivery debacle where they delivered the pizza to the wrong hotel and we sat around waiting for it....which caused us being an hour late for the grand ball. We did end up getting free pizza at midnight!
I wore my new sari ballgown to the ball, made from one of the silk Saree's I brought home from India. Unfortunately  I did not get any good pictures of it.

A very fuzzy cell phone pic of my new dress.
Kathy in the gown and open robe I made for her.
And Carolyn wearing one of my used to be sari creations, do you recognize the sari?
Obligatory shoe shot!   

Marble columns are so classy!

Kind of like a regency dance pole...

This is what hunger and marble columns does to us....

On Sunday I was able to to attend my dear friend Maggie's bridal tea which was really lovely.

I arrived bearing gifts.
Maggie arrived in a sedan chair!
  She arrived in a litter which is the height of cool and I received the cutest shower gift ever! A bottle of smelling salts for my reticule how cute is that!!!!!?

smelling salt package

Smelling salts, totally cute!

Look it's the top of my bonnet!

I think she liked the hat I made....

While I was away my awesome friends Erin and Reva held down the fort for me at the shop. I am so very thankful for such wonderful friends who will brave the heat, help set up and break down and sell my stuff for me, I'm truly blessed with the best of cohorts!
And it turns out Reva is the champion of regency hustlers! That girl can sell iceboxes to Eskimo's I swear!

Reva being fabulous!
Unfortunately my cameras battery died at the ball so I don't have that many pictures, so many thanks to my friends who let me steal theirs!
Now I leave you with some additional impressions from the Festival.
 And a link to some scrumptious professional photos taken at the festival.

My outfit for Saturday, I remodeled an old dress by adding an extra puff to the sleeve, but what really made the outfit was the antique bonnet veil!

At the shop

Julie made this beautiful gown from another one of those cotton Saree's that I got in India. all together there where 4 people running around in those.

Julia, who owns Bingley's Tea has the cutest set of spaniel puppies one kept laying down on the train of my dress.

Erin bought a walking stick for her husband, we just called it the pimp cane. Erin's Pimp hand is strong!

Booby blossoms where all the rage this year!

Strutting our stuff, and isn't Bingley's Teas tent just the coolest thing ever?!

I was pretty crunk after the ball...

Julie's husband Terry couldn't come so we took a nice pic for him....

A satisfied customer!
After Party!