1837-41 Morning Dress Patterns of Fashion 1 – Highly Commended Award

In this post I’m going to go over my process for my entry into the 2020 Costume Society Patterns of Fashion Award. This will cover my planning, research, toiling, fabric selection, construction, styling, final judging and a reflection on my experiences.

Deadlines for the competition were as follows,

7th of December 2019 – Deadline for application form
This application form registers your interest in the award, it is essential to do if you plan to participate.

30th of January 2020 – Deadline for submitting a slideshow containing images of the finished garment both interior and exterior, toile process and any other relevant information
Note that normally the Costume Society Conference would take place later in the year for final judging where (if selected as a finalist) you would bring your finished garment, a research file, work book, copies of the pattern/relevant POF book pages and any other material you felt necessary to judging. Because of this the powerpoint does not need to be overloaded with information just key details of your process.

Unfortunately due to the Covid-19 pandemic the Costume Society Conference could not take place this year and judging happened online via video chat. 


Planning

Planning for the competition began at the end of my second year, one of my tutors organised for any interested students to come to a meeting after our final hand in to discuss the competition, look over the garments we were interested in and discuss our decision.  This wasn’t a final decision, there was all of summer to reconsider but having the discussion then would allow for research and planning to be done over the holidays.

I had narrowed my choices down to three dresses,
1837-41 Morning dress, 1827-9 wedding dress and the 1745-60 jacket and petticoat (All from Janet Arnold Patterns of Fashion 1)

My biggest consideration when selecting a dress was that I wanted it to be hand sewn, hand sewing a dress was seen as a bit of a taboo in the 3rd year studio as everything is so time critical. My tutor did attempt to dissuade me from choosing a hand sewn dress, citing a previous student hand sewing a dress and how much time it took them and the stress it put them under.
But I was pretty determined, I knew that a completely hand sewn dress would be a stand out piece of my portfolio it would also allow me to further develop and refine my hand sewing skills, immerse myself in period techniques and engage with primary and secondary resources which is one of my favourite aspects of historical dress.

When it came to selecting a dress I decided on the 1837-41 Morning dress – Gloucester Museum.
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My reasons for selection this dress over the other two were as follows,
It predates the sewing machine fulfilling my hand sewn criteria. I believed it would be achievable to make in 12 weeks, this is due to the simple base cut of the bodice and skirt which are embellished upon with decoration.  Sourcing materials would be straight forward, as I wanted to reproduce the dress in its entirety (The Costume Society does suggest making from calico or other neutral fabrics to reduce costs but this is a just suggestion)  the fabrics used for the original dress would be straightforward to source or find a modern substitute for.
My reason for not following the suggestion of using neutral low cost fabrics is simply because I knew I would be putting a lot of time into the costume, that it would be on display at degree show/in my portfolio and that I had the intention of selling it. I could not justify making it from plain fabrics, I wanted it to have the same grand appearance as the original and stand out in displays and also for it to be profitable.
I understand not wanting to use expensive materials for financial reasons and that is a decision down to each individual.
For perceptive the material costs for this garment was approximately £250.


Research

As mentioned above I wanted to use my summer break to get all of my research done for the dress in time for my return to university. My top priority was enquiring if I could view and examine the original dress, it did take me a while to get in contact with someone at Gloucester Museum to arrange an appointment but I was successful in doing so. At my appointment I met a curator who showed me to the dress which was laid out on a table, I was given a pair of gloves so that I could move smaller elements of the dress on my own and the curator helped me with turning the dress over.
I must have spent three hours looking over the dress and I took hundreds of pictures of everything imaginable. I also took notes as I went over the dress but I really found the pictures to be my best point of reference. While my notes were great sharing the pictures  with my tutors was very helpful when I got stuck. I really recommend taking as many pictures as possible and of everything, even simple things such as the stitching on the hem as it will just give you a visual reassurance even when it seems straight forward.

I do plan to make a separate post containing all of my images I took of the original dress (or maybe a public google album). For now if you would like them please get in contact and I can send them.

In addition to viewing the original dress I also viewed three other dresses from the 1830’s in the National Trust Killerton Estate Textile Archive. I found viewing these dresses really beneficial to my research and it gave me a broader view as to how dresses were constructed during the period. In addition to this each dress had a similar attribute to the 1837-14 Morning Dress, the brown dress had a very similar cut bodice, the plaid dress had similar smocking on the sleeve and the girl’s dress like the morning dress had a lot of piping on the bodice.
Viewing other garments in addition to the original dress (or if the original can not be viewed) is a really great source of construction evidence. For example if you didn’t know exactly how a waistband was attached on the original because the pattern is vague or the waistband is obscured on the original, citing other extant garments as your reasoning for how you approached it is great method of problem solving and shows great investigation skills.
I was praised during judging for examining addition dresses from the period. 

(in order 1830s Brown Dress, 1830 Green Plaid Dress, 1833 Girl’s Green Dress )

The National Trust is defiantly worth looking into for extant garment research (They also hold a few Patterns of Fashion garments). You can search through their online archive using the National Trust Collections Page you can refine the search to Places, Category (costume!) and Date. You can view a maximum of three items and there is a £25 charge for the use of the service. Booking an appointment is easy, email the location, explain your interest/reason for wanting to view the items and include the NT item number for the items you want to view in the email.
The staff at Gloucester Museum and Killerton Estate were extremely helpful and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to view the dresses.
I recommend enquiring about viewing extant garments in advance (this goes for any location, museum or archive) as there is usually a few weeks wait before you can be booked in.

I really stress doing your research over the summer holidays if you can. Doing so gave me a leaping start when I got back to University. I had all of the information, reference and visuals to get started from day one. Had I been chasing museums for appointments it would have put me back weeks and I’m sure I would have made mistakes along the way that would have been time critical or irreversible. This is especially important if you are hand sewing a garment. I averaged eleven and a half hours at university everyday, you need to devote all of your time to being productive. 


WorkLog

Toiling

I began my construction process with scaling up the pattern from Patterns of Fashion 1. This was done using 1” dot and cross paper to ensure accuracy to the scale used in the book. With my complete dress pattern I began the process of toiling to ensure everything lined up, resolve any issues and test procedures and decorations.

 IMG_1058I found the bodice came together nicely, noting that the bust dart required a large amount of ease, I marked the mid point on either side of the dart, this could then be used to match when joining together and easing the fabric between these points.


I sampled sewing the piping onto the vandyke decoration, practicing how the piping would be turned over without visible stitching, this included clipping into and mitering the points. I also realised at this stage that the piping size I was using (size 2) was larger than the size used on the original dress, when constructing the dress I downsized to a size 1 cord.
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I decided to test the smocking on the sleeve, the sleeve pattern features small dashed lines that are used as a guide for how large the stitches should be, I encountered a few issues with this trial.
The first issue was that these dashed lines were far too large to replicate the original smocking on the dress but I acknowledge that they were most likely intended to be used as an indication that the direction of the smocking stitches followed.
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First smocking test.

As I had the opportunity to examine the original dress I knew from looking at the interior of the sleeve that the stitches were tiny, no more than 1-2mm in length. I produced a sample following this smocking stitch size and found that it resulted in a very near match to the original.

The second Issue I found was that the grading for the smocking was slightly uneven (using the marked lowermost line to grade upwards). Grading the smocking evenly up from the lowermost line would cause the top two lines of stitching to wiggle in and out over the edge of the pattern. To fix this issue I applied the measurements that I had taken from the original dress and graded downwards from the sleeve head.
I had measured that the distance between each line of stitching was approximately 8mm and using the start and finish of the smocking stitches on the pattern as a guide I marked this on the sleeve.
While on the original dress I could find no visual indicators that the smocking lines were marked, the smocking did appear to be very consistent from an interior and exterior point of view.

The third issue I found was in the pleating of the skirt, for the purposes of the toile I cut myself a croped length of the skirt so that I could test the pleating and gathering.
The pattern states that the center front of the skirt features a 1” box pleat, with adjacent sides of the skirt 1” knife pleated in the direction of the centre front, the pleating continues until it meets the gathered portion of the skirt at the back of the dress, the centre back is slashed open with gathering 4” either side.

Screen Shot 2020-08-05 at 20.04.10When toiling the knife pleating I soon realised that the pleat depth was too deep which was causing the pleated portion of the skirt to finish at the centre back (well beyond where it was meant to finish), this left no room for the additional 8” of gathering at the centre back.

I decided to sample a shallower pleat depth to see if this would bring the pleats back to where they should be sitting and allow for the 4 inches of gathering before the centre back.
I reduced the pleat depth down to ¾” and the issue was immediately resolved. The pleating finished 4” from the centre back allowing for the remaining fabric to be gathered down.

The final issue I found in pattern was one that I didn’t catch until far too late. In the pattern for the vandyke decoration Janet Arnold draws it with 12 points and I did not  question this. It wasn’t until I had made the decoration up and was attempting to mount it onto the bodice that I came to the realisation that the original decoration only has 11 points. I realised this because I was struggling to get the decoration to lie flat as it does in the original dress but it refused to. I identified that the 7th point (counting up from the bottom) could be pinched (omitting it) and this would cause the vandyke to lay smooth against the bodice rather than puckering. What’s more is that Janet’s illustration of the full dress correctly depicts the vandyke with 11 points, it is her pattern that is incorrect with 12 points.
I believe that had I noticed this earlier, corrected the pattern to remove the 7th point and then redistribute the other points on the pattern my vandyke decorations would have sat flat against the bodice as seen on the original dress.

I do want to note though that I’m not sure changing the pattern would be in accordance with the Patterns of Fashion Award guidelines as you’re supposed to make the garment up as it with no alteration. Within my submission I found issues with the patterns but I manipulated them to work to the best of my ability without making alterations.


Fabric Section

Screen Shot 2020-08-05 at 20.12.20For my reproduction of this dress I decided to select materials to match the original as closely as possible.
In patterns of Fashion 1 Janet Arnold doesn’t specify what kind of silk the dress is made from, in my research examining other day dresses of the period I knew it was likely made from taffeta as this was a common for the period. When examining the original dress I identified it to be a silk taffeta. I had brought along with me a selection of silk swatches (mostly taffetas) in brown shades so that I could best match the original dress.
I decided on a silk taffeta from Silk Baron in the colour ‘Topaz’, this taffeta had a really nice weight to it, ideal for the dress and was a near perfect colour match to the original dress.

The original dress used glazed cotton for the bodice and skirt lining, I struggled to find a supplier for glazed cotton and after a discussion with my tutors about similar fabrics that could be used as a substitute I decided on cotton silesia. I bought white cotton silesia, I cut my bodice pattern pieces from it and cut a strip for the waistband, the remaining silesia was dyed a light brown to match the skirt lining.

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Calico was used to line the sleeves in the original dress, I selected a medium weight calico to replicate this which would help give body to the smocking and further sleeve.

I also used 100% cotton muslin to back the vandykes, I am unsure if the originals were backed but I felt the single layer of silk would need some support, the sleeve bands were also backed using this muslin. I had identified while examining the dress that the sleeve bands were backed with a loose weave fabric but as I could only see a small fragment of this material I was unable to identify the fabric with 100% certainty.

The muslin was dyed a light brown colour.

I also selected a brown 100% silk thread to use to sew the dress together.
I also used brightly coloured polyester threads for basting and tacking, the bright colours made them easy to see/identify and remove at the end of construction.


Construction

I cut out all of my pattern pieces, using a ½” seam allowance on all seams but the centre front which I added a 1” seam allowance to. This was because I noted that these seam allowances were of that size on the original dress.

I began my construction with basting all of the bodice silecia layers to the silk layers along the pattern lines to serve as a guide and prevent the two layers from shifting. I also marked any construction lines such as the placement line for the vandykes, the point where the decorative sleeve band crosses over etc.
This same process was used for the silk sleeve and calico lining.

I decided to get the smocking on the sleeves done first as I knew it would be a time consuming element to recreate. I started with grading the smocking onto the calico lining which I had already tested the placement in my toile.
I then started the long process of sewing the smocking stitches into the sleeve, I doubled my silk thread for this as I wanted the lines of stitching to be as durable as possible to prevent the threads from snapping. Because the stitches are so small (1-2mm in length) I found it was much more time effective to use a running stitch and catch the fabric multiple times in one stitch rather than sewing each stitch individually.

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It took 12 hours to sew the smocking stitches onto each sleeve.
After sewing the smocking I decided to make up all of the piping I would need for the dress, I took measurements over the dress and estimated how much piping I would need and also noted what areas required longer/continuous piping.  I cut 1” wides strips of bias from my silk taffeta and made up the piping by tacking the size 1 cording into the folded bias strips.

When the smocking was completed I moved on with making up the rest of the sleeves, I started with the cuffs, tacking the piping to one side of the silk cuffs before taking down the other side of the cuff. The sleeve was prepared, I sewed the sleeve seam up using a back stitch to the notched point on the pattern where the sleeve placket is. I constructed the sleeve  placket by folding both the silk and calico layers inward, leaving a slight step so that the calico was folded a few millimeters back further. This was then fixd down with a bar tack at the top of the placket on the inside to prevent the fabrics from shifting and then the calico was whipped down to the silk with small stitches.
Next two lines of gathering were sewn just above the construction line into the seam allowance between the two notch points indicated on the pattern. The threads of these gathering stitches were then pulled so that the end of the sleeve was reduced down to the width of the cuff.

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The cuffs were then sewn right sides together to the sleeve, catching the lowermost row of piping so it was snug between the sleeve and the cuff. The wrong side of the cuff was then whip stitched down to the calico along the pattern line with the seam allowance folded up on the inside.

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Next I began constructing the bodice, I tacked all of the piping onto one side of the seam before tacking down the other side securing the piping between the two pattern pieces. These seams were then sewn permanently with my silk thread using a back stitch.

Screen Shot 2020-08-05 at 20.45.20I found that the bust darts required easing in order for them to match up, I did this by marking the centre of each side of the darts, matching them up and distributing the ease evenly above and below these points.

The armhole was pipped in preparation for the sleeve to be sewn in but the neckline and lower edge of the bodice was left as these are finished off later in the process.

With my base bodice out together I moved onto making the decorations for the dress.

Starting with the vandykes, I basted the silk layer to the supporting muslin layer. The piping was then sewn on, I had to be carul during this process and precise with my sewing to ensure that when the piping was rolled over none of my stitches would be visible, this was particularly crucial over the zigzaged portion of the vandyke.
The next step was to roll the piping over and secur it to the wrong side, this was a straightforward process on the straight edges of the vandyke as they rolled easily and I secured them with a running back stitch. The zigzagged side had a few more steps involved. In order to get the outer points to turn over cleanly I clipped into and mitered the points, the inner points were also clipped into. Once this was done they were free to roll back to the wrong side where the seam allowance was back stitched down to the muslin layer.
The bottom of the vandyke was left unpiped, this is because it will be caught by the piping applied to the over edge of the bodice later on.

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The vandykes feature small pleated bands which cover the inner points, initially to create these I tried pressing pleats into bias cut strips of taffeta but found the taffeta to be too springy for this and it would not hold the shape. I then decided to experiment with creating a small scale pleating board which could be used to get the tiny knife pleat to sit flat.

Screen Shot 2020-08-05 at 20.47.54Using some thick card paper I created the pleating board y soring the card and folding it into shape, I made two of these boards so that the silk taffeta could sit between them. Using clips I secured the taffeta between the boards and started to steam and press down on my pleating boards. I was very pleased when I had fantastic results straight away.

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Once I had pleated up the fabric I carefully cut out sections to use for the bands on the vandykes.
They were then sewn to the vandykes, right sides together and rolled around to the wrong side where they were whipped down.

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Next I made up the sleeve bands, they were also basted through to the muslin layer and the button placement was thead marked.

Screen Shot 2020-08-05 at 20.51.42When I examined the original dress I measured that the piping sits approximately 1cm away from the edge of the sleeve band, with this in mind I tacked my piping 1cm away from the raw edge with the seam allowances facing outwards. In order for the piping to curve around the pointed ends of the sleeve band I clipped into the piping seamallowence in these areas, this released the piping slightly allowing for it to curve around the points.
I then sewed on a strip of bias cut taffeta, this taffeta strip was sewn on the same stitching line as the piping and would act as binding encasing the raw edge of the sleeve band. As with the piping I had to allow the bias strip to curve around the point of the band, however from examining the original dress I knew that three small pleats were inserted into the strip which allowed it to curve. I applied this technique to the strip and then finished it off but folding it over to the wrong side and whipping it into place.

I then moved onto sewing the sleeve onto the bodice, in order to do this the sleeve had to be smocked down. I took the armhole measurement from the bodice and used this as my guide to smock the sleeve down to fit. This was another long process, I was very nervous about threads snapping so I took it slowly, easing the threads smaller in increments working my way through each row. It took approximately 5 hours to reduce each sleeve. When I was happy with the size and I had tested it fit the armhole I evened out the smocking until I was again happy. The long threads were then tied off to prevent them from loosening.
The sleeve was then inserted into the armhole and back stitched into place.
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I then made covered buttons (1.5cm in diameter) which were sewn directly onto the thread marked position on the sleeve band.

Screen Shot 2020-08-05 at 20.55.22I then moved onto sewing the sleeve onto the bodice, in order to do this the sleeve had to be smocked down. I took the armhole measurement from the bodice and used this as my guide to smock the sleeve down to fit. This was another long process, I was very nervous about threads snapping so I took it slowly, easing the threads smaller in increments working my way through each row. It took approximately 5 hours to reduce each sleeve. When I was happy with the size and I had tested it fit the armhole I evened out the smocking until I was again happy. The long threads were then tied off to prevent them from loosening.
The sleeve was then inserted into the armhole and back stitched into place.

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Next I attached the sleeve band, this was a straightforward process as I knew where the band crossed over on itself and where that crossover point sat on the sleeve. I lined these points up and carefully stitched it into place from the inside of the sleeve. I noted during examining the dress that the band appeared to have tacked at the seam on the sleeve and that the points on the bands had also been stitched down securing them in place. Again from the inside of the sleeve I sewed small tacking stitches through the seam of the sleeve and catching the ‘ditch’ of the piping on the sleeve band, securing it. The points of the sleeve band were also secured in the ‘ditch’ of the piping which further helped hide my stitches securing them to the sleeve.

I decided it was time to make up the skirt, I started with the silk taffeta panels, sewing them together using a back stitch, this process was then repeated using a silesia lining layer.
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When complete I had two tubes of silk and silesia. I thread marked the centre front and the centre back on both to ensure I wouldn’t get muddles when it came to bringing the layers together. I then pressed open the seam allowances on both the silk and silecia layers. With the help of a few classmates the silesia layer was inserted inside the silk layer, wrong sides together, it was very difficult to get the two layers to lay flat with one another on my own so the extra hands were appreciated. I then pinned along the top edge of the skirt making sure all of the seams lined up. I then sewed a running stitch down each seam to join the seams together flush and prevent them from separating.

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I then moved onto hemming the skirt, I knew what the drop of the skirt was from waist to floor thanks to the pattern so I was safe to hem the skirt.
The hem was created by folding up 1 ½”, then ½” of silesia was trimmed away, the remaining ½” of silk taffeta was folded down and a small running stitch was sewn securing the hem in place.
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I then measured up from the hem to mark the waistline, I referenced the pattern to ensure I got the subtle gradient. This was then marked by a running stitch all the way around the skirt.

Next I created the centre back opening, the measurement for this is marked on the pattern which I transferred onto the centre back panel of the skirt. The centre back is then slashed open to this point, the silk taffeta and silesia are then turned inwards (same process used on the sleeve plackets) and whip stitched down. I then sewed a bar tack at the bottom of the slash to prevent it from opening any further

Moving onto pleating up the waistband, I transfered where the pleating finishes and the gathering begins onto my skirt panels. I decided it would be easier to sew in my two lines of gathering stitches before pleating up the waistband. I positioned one line just above the waistline and one just below the waistband.

I pleated the skirt on a stand which I had previously padded up to size, I pinned a petersham tape to the stand at the waistline which I would use to pleat onto (this was purely used to help stabilize the pleats on the stand so I had something secure to pleat onto). Starting at the centre front I pleated the skirt fabric onto the waistband alternating from side to side to ensure it would be even. Once I reached the notched point that indicated to stop pleating I went back and checked all of the pleats and made any minor tweeks if needed. When I was happy I tacked the pleats down using a large herringbone stitch, removing the skirt off the petersham tape in the process. When I was happy the pleats were secure with the herringbone stitch I removed it from the stand.
I moved onto gathering the remainder of the skirt, I got out a measuring tape and pulled in my gathering stitches on the waistline until I had reduced the section of fabric down to 4”, I then tied off the long strands of thread. The skirt was now reduced down to the waist size.

Screen Shot 2020-08-05 at 21.03.37At this point I came back to finishing off the bodice, I started with sewing the piping and bias binding onto the neckline, leaving a little bit extra for finishing off the centre back. The bias binding is used to conceal the raw edge of the piping on the neckline.
Next the vandykes had to be sewn on, the smooth side of the vandykes went on with ease as I was following the construction line for this on the pattern. The pointed side of the vandykes was more difficult as explained in my toile process. There is an additional point added to the pattern for the vandykes which makes it impossible to get it to lay flat against the bodice. With a lot of easing I did my best to get both sides to sit evenly but I could not prevent the wrinkling.
The vandyke was then sewn down in the ‘ditch’ of the piping to hide visible stitching.

Next the piping and bias binding were sewn to the lower edge of the bodice, the bottom of the vandyke is caught during this conseaming its raw edge in the process. Like the neckline the bias binding is folded up to conceal the raw edge of the bodice and piping and then whip stitched into place.

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The centre back was finished by adding piping to the edges of the opening, a strip of taffeta cut on the straight 1 ½” wide is then sewn onto this edge with ¼” use as seam allowance, 1” of the strip is then visible and the remaining ¼” is turn inward and whipped down. This finishes off the centre back placket.

Screen Shot 2020-08-05 at 21.05.43Attaching the waistband was my next step, I decided to test Janet Arnold’s instruction for this to ensure the skirt would fall correctly.
On the bodice pattern there is a notch on the side seam side of the dart, this notch indicates that between the notch points the skirt/waistband is not attached to the bodice but that it is sewn through to the bodice on the other sides of the notches.
I tested this by pinning the skirt onto the bodice from the centre back through to the notch points leaving a gap where the skirt was not pinned to the bodice of about 8” across the centre front. The skirt sagged between these points, the white waistband surely would have been visible as it dropped below the centre front point of the bodice.
Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture at this stage so I have drawn on a picture of the dress to help illustrate what I saw.

Because of this I decided to take another look at the pictures I had taken when examining the dress, focusing on the waistband on the front of the bodice.

Screen Shot 2020-08-05 at 21.06.53Taking a closer look there appears to be threads beyond the notch point which may have once held the waistband in place across the centre front. There are also small holes in the lining which line up with the waistband level which could further indicate that it was sewn beyond that point.

With this information in mind I decided to proceed with attaching the waistband across the centre front of the bodice.

I attached the waistband by first folding the top of the skirt along the waistline (folded so the lining was folded in on itself). This fold was then matched up with the lower edge of the bodice so that the fold lined up over top of the piping. The skirt was then sewn onto the bodice through the piping ditch being sure to catch the fold while doing so. At the notch points I stopped and tied off my threads and then continued from the other notch point round to the centre back. I then lightly pressed down the fold and whip stitched it down to the lining in order to keep it flush with the body and not add extra bulk.

The waistband is then sewn on, the waistband is made from a strip of silesia cut on the straight ¾” wide (2cm). I noted on the original that the waistband folds in on itself so there is now raw top or lower edge. Because of this I cut mine 4cm wide and ironed up 1cm on the lower and top edge.

Screen Shot 2020-08-05 at 21.08.22The waistband strip is then applied evenly over the skirt and bodice join, a running back stitch is then used to sew it onto place along the top and lower edge of the waistband. Between the notch points across the centre front I pinned the waistband to the skirt though the bodice following the straight direction of the waistband before the notch points. This lifted the skirt and fixed it in place preventing it from falling down like in my trial. The waistband is sewn across these points.
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To finish the dress off fastenings were sewn. The original dress closes with metal hooks and hand work loops down the centre back with one single metal loop sitting on the waistline. I replicated this assortment of hand worked loops, metal hooks and single metal bar. The sleeve cuffs are also closed using two metal hooks and two hand worked loops.


Styling

Styling is one of the elements your judged on for the competition, this focuses on how you display the garment when submitting final pictures and displaying it at the conference. You can style your garment as little or as much as you want but the basic expectation is to achieve a period silhouette through period foundation garments. In addition you could create a chemisette, under sleeves, a hat or any sort of clothing or accessory item that complements the garment.
I believe styling items do not need to be sewn in accordance to the period of the main garment, neither of my two styling items were hand sewn and I wasn’t questioned if they were or not. This makes sense as it is the main garment you’re being judged on with the styling items just being used to assist the appearance of your garment.

I used two items to style my my dress, I used the 1830s petticoat I made in second year to give the skirt its full shape, you can read about how I made my 1830s Petticoat Here. I also made a small corded bustle from The Workwoman’s Guide Page 54 Plate 11 fig 31, you can view the book for free online using Google Books Here (Workwoman’s Guide 1838). There is also a copy of the book in the Wimbledon College of Arts Library for my fellow Wimbledon Students!
Admittedly the bustle did not kick out the skirt as much as it should have an I really should have made another that had more volume, this was the only negative feedback I got during judging but I will talk about that more in a bit.

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I displayed my dress on a stand (I worked on this stand throughout construction), I decided not to make a pair of stays for the dress as I felt I achieved a good shape without through padding the stand.
You could also take pictures of the garment on a live model and or in a scenic location but for detail shots I really recommend taking pictures on a stand in a controlled environment to best display your workmanship.



Final Judging

While I can’t speak from personal experience what judging would be like at The Costume Society Conference (though the guidelines do give you a good idea) I can speak from experience what judging is like during a pandemic should that situation arise again!

After being contacted about being selected as a finalist (27th of March 2020) we was told that they planned for judging to go ahead in some physical form but they weren’t sure how, along the way suggesting it could be postponed to as late as September/October 2020.
As lockdown continued we were told that judging would go ahead on the 26th of June 2020 via Microsoft Teams with Michele Clapton on the judging panel. As there was no physical judging, the original powerpoint we sent in would be used for judging and we were told to create an addition three slides on our research to accompany it.

If its not already clear three slides for research is not enough.  I had prepared so much to bring with me for final judging, the full workbook you’ve just read, research notes on the four dresses I viewed, a sample book containing each technique used on the dress in addition to the requested print of the appropriate POF book pages and my patterns. 
I was so, so disappointed that the judging had been condensed down like that in addition to not being able to see the dress in person.
I 100% understand the reasoning behind it but I just felt so deflated by it.

On the 26th of June 2020 judging took place, we each had an allocated time to join the MS Teams call where we would speak face to face (via video) to Michele Clapton for fifteen minutes while Joanna Jarvis and Louise Chapman (members of The Costume Society) listened.
Michele asked all sorts of questions to do with the pattern, issues, examining the dress, time management, fabric selection and the underpinnings.
I was overwhelmed with the incredible positive feedback and it was truly such an honour to hear it come from Michele. She said many lovely things including,
That I evidenced throughout and had an excellent understanding the process… the dress was made with great confidence… that I had excellent time management… I had a key attention to detail…the photography and presentation was excellent and evidenced your methods and final outcomes very well. The only natural feedback I got was regarding the bustle at the back and how it didn’t quite lift the skirt as much as it does in Janet Arnold’s illustration of the dress, which is fair enough and I agree (silently kicking myself).
I was so pleased with myself coming away from the video call, later that day we were emailed the results.

I was awarded The Highly Commended Award (2nd place) and a cash prize of £400. I feel truly honoured to have my work recognised at such a high level.



Post Award Reflection

A few weeks later I received my cheque and certificate in the mail which for me nicely tied a bow on the competition and I could finally call it finished.
I’m really thankful I made the decision to enter the competition, it gave me the opportunity to really push myself and my skill set to create something truly spectacular. I’ve learnt so much about period sewing, my hand sewing skills have greatly improved in both speed and precision. This was also a fantastic research based project too and I’m glad I made contact with Gloucester Museum about examining the dress as it had a huge impact on how I reproduced the dress. It also gave me a good experience in time management as I juggled all of my deadlines in third year. I would come into the studio at 8:30am and leave most days at 8:30pm having worked on the dress all day and somehow managing to write my dissertation along side it.
I am disappointed that The Costume Society Conference could not go ahead for physical judging as I feel that would have really enhanced the experience.

I really recommend doing this competition, it addresses so many disciplines as a costume interpreter and executing them all with precision will undoubtedly reward you with a stand out portfolio piece. It shows research based skills, pattern toiling skills and period construction skills all of which are highly valued.

I’m not going to go in to any detail at this stage but I believe this competition has already opened doors for me within the film industry. I’ve also potentially found a temporary home for the dress before it’s sold. Things are looking good, I’m just waiting for lockdown restrictions to ease more for the film industry to get moving again so I can get to work!


Big thank you to all of the costume staff at Wimbledon College of Arts, my friends for their support (and tea breaks!), my class mates (sorry for taking up an entire cutting table for a term!), Gloucester Museum, National Trust Killerton and all of the lovely support I received online along the way.

If you would like to view images of my dress you can find a collection on my instagram @nivera.costumes
If you’re interested in hiring me please do get in touch using my email address nivera.costumes@gmail.com

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1905 Sanakor Plunge front corset

As a self directed project at university I decided to make a corset to keep further my corsetry skills. For this is chose the 1905 Sanakor plunged front corset (extant corset is held in the Symington Collection Leicestershire) because it was a cut I have never attempted before and looked to be a unique challenge. This corset presented many new techniques and I learnt a lot of new valuable skills.


As I’m using ‘Stays and Corsets: Volume 2’ (Mandy Barrington) for the construction of this corset I followed the instructions for the pattern drafting process. I’ve made a few corsets from the previous book volume so this process is quite familiar to me.
I started by drafting the block to Imogen’s measurements, I found that as she has a small bust it was better to use her hips as the widest measurement on the block (bust is suggested for this measurement in the book). The block is then widened by 30cm in the side of the block, this allows for additional space for drafting the corset patterns.
Additional measurements are added to the block such as point to point, high hip to further aid in plotting the pattern of the corset.

I decided to make a toile out of drill as I didn’t feel comfortable with my skills to make it up in my duchess satin first time. My biggest concern was marking the satin so the drill toile seemed to be the safest option.
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The pattern pieces were all cut out from two layers of cotton drill with one inch seam allowance. The pieces were tacked to indicate bust, waist, high hip and hip.
For the toile I focused on fit rather than construction, this meant I could speedily sew the toile together, get the fit alterations right and then move onto the real corset with much more time to work on perfecting the overall construction.
The toile corset was sewn with seams to the outside with 1” seam allowance (and shape adjustment space) added all the way around the pattern pieces. The centre front was sewn together as a seam to replicate the busk and the toile was fully boned using synthetic whalebone which were numbered corresponding with the boning channels on my patterns so they could be easily identified and recycled into the finished corset.

The first fitting went well with only a few alterations necessary. The bust seam needed to be taken in a bit as it was gaping and the side to centre back below the waist needed taking in also.
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These alterations were safety pined and then chalked so that this new information could be transferred and sewn for a final fitting.


The second fitting was a success with the alterations fitting Imogen perfectly.

Now that the pattern was finalised it could be retraced and used for the final corset, I traced off the new patterns by dismantling one side of the corset, laying pattern paper over carbon paper and using a tracing wheel through the pattern pieces to transfer the new information.


Once all of the pattern pieces had been transferred using the carbon I used a pattern master to clean up the lines and straighten boning channels.
No alterations were made to the busk panel so that panel was left as is to be used in the final corset.


As the original 1905 corset feature a while lining I decided to replicate this in my version of it. The top fabric was cut from black double duchess satin and the inside was cut from white coutil. 1.5cm was added to all of the pattern pieces with an extra 1” of satin added to the busk panel. It was this panel I was most worried about messing up so I wanted as much room for that as possible so any mistakes could be amended.

IMG_0066I started construction with the back panels, It was difficult to work out the construction of these from the images of the extant garment I had (no further explanation in the book) so I decided to sew the satin to the coutil wrong sides together on the centre back, press, fold them back so right sides were out and then press so the satin rolled over the centre back with a slight lip.

After making my 1820’s corded stays where rather than back stitching my stitch lines I left my threads long, threaded them to the wrong side and then tied them off. I found it difficult to back stitch on this corset as tying threads back makes them look so clean. So I decided on tying my threads back on this corset for all of my boning channels/visible lines of stitching.

On the side panel there was an internal boning chanel made up from tape that was hand sewn into place, for this I used petersham tap and extended the tape into the seam so it could be caught when sewing, the tape was slip stitched into place, catching the coutil layer and not the satin.
I have sewn busks into corsets before but for this corset decided to add a small facing/modesty panel to the hook side which would prevent any skin from showing in the small gap when worn. This was done by sewing the hook side of the busk 5mm to the side of the centre front line (this included sewing along the top edge so that it could be bagged out in the next step), folding this back with right sides showing and then sewing the centre front line of stitching. The eye side of the busk was sewn along the centre front, skipping where the eyes would poke through the seam (right sides together) again including sewing the top edge of the busk panel so that it too could be bagged out.

IMG_0178I have sewn busks into corsets before but for this corset decided to add a small facing/modesty panel to the hook side which would prevent any skin from showing in the small gap when worn. This was done by sewing the hook side of the busk 5mm to the side of the centre front line (this included sewing along the top edge so that it could be bagged out in the next step), folding this back with right sides showing and then sewing the centre front line of stitching. The eye side of the busk was sewn along the centre front, skipping where the eyes would poke through the seam (right sides together) again including sewing the top edge of the busk panel so that it too could be bagged out.

IMG_0181The eye side of the busk was then inserted and using a zipper foot fixed into place. The hook side was marked on the wrong side of the satin with chalk and I used an awl to poke the holes through from the wrong side. When all of the holes had been made the hooks were carefully inserted through them. I later used steam to shrink the fibers of the satin back together closing the holes around the hooks. A zipper foot was then used to sew the hook side of the busk into place.

CBAF22CC-AE4A-4791-9F6A-2BAA9D9182E6Next the bust panel was sewn to the busk panel, Hester (one of our lovely studio technicians) and I had to have a long discussion about this and spent about an hour examining pictures of the extant Sanakor corset and another surviving white variant of the Sanakor. We decided in the end that the bust and busk panels are first assembled with the coutil right sides together. Then the satin bust panel is line up over the top of this right sides together and sewn. This encases the top edge of the bust panel so that it can be bagged out after clipping into it and trimming the seam allowance. The seam is then pressed adding a slight roll/lip to the bust panel edge. A line of stitching is then sewn around the new bust seam approximately 2mm from the edge/seam line this helps to fix everything in place.

Then the boning channels for the bust seam could be sewn, like the boning channels elsewhere on the corset these were tied to the wrong side so that there was no visible back stitching.

 

Next the side seams were prepared, I secured the cotton petersham tape I was using as a waist tape over the waistline, ensuring it was long enough to be caught into the front to side seam.
The side to bust panels were then sewn together right sides together, making sure the bagged out bust top edge lined up with the tacking stitches on the side seam for a smooth finish.

The seam allowances could then be trimmed down. This seam is covered with a taped boning channel so a length of tape was cut to size and then pinned evenly over the seam.
This was followed by using a ‘stitch in the ditch’ foot from the right side of the corset. This foot lines up perfectly with the seam and stitches in the ditch of the seam resulting in beautiful invisible stitching. These threads were also tied to the wrong side. Then boning channels are sewn on either side of the stitch in ditch seam.

IMG_0202The side to centre back panels were then sewn together in the same fashion. Although the waist tape was not caught in this initial seam. After the initial seam had been sewn it was pressed and trimmed, the waist tape was then brought across following the waist line (keeping it taunt in this process) and pinned to keep it in place while the tapped seam was sewn.

966F86B6-2C50-4158-B2D1-602674EA4096The stitch in the ditch foot was used for this process and boning channels were again sewn on either side of the seam.
Lastly the waist tape is caught into the final eyelet channel bone channel. This bone chenel is also tapped, the waist tape was brought up to where the bone hennl would be sewn and then was folded back on itself a fraction to prevent any raw/exposed edges. The taped boning channel was then sewn over this.

A98831A1-C5B4-4706-8219-A1430FDEBD38With the boning channels all sewn the main construction process was finished and it was time to move on to bias binding the edges and inserting the bones into the channels.
The top edge had to be bias bound first as the top edge of the bust panel had already been closed when it was bagged out and there would be no other way to insert the bones than from the lower edge.
Hester and I had another in depth conversation about how the edges were finished, it was difficult to tell from the pictures I had found of the extant corset but we finally settled on the top edge being bias bound with white tape, the tape was sewn 2mm above the white tacking lines so that when the corset was trimmed down and the bias binding rolled over no bias would be visible. Once this binding was sewn and whip stitched down the bones could be inserted into the channels. As I hadn’t filed the edges on the synthetic whalebone down during the toile corst I had to do this first to limit the chance of any of them bursting out and creating a hole. Flat steel bones were used on the centre back boning channels and these were capped. I had always had issues with the caps coming off steel boning but Hester taught me that you can glue the caps on with ‘uhu glue’, which seems extremely obvious but had never occurred to me before and I will be including that in all of my future steel boned corset practices!
IMG_0230With the bones inserted the lower edge of the corset could be finished off.
The binding on the lower edge is something I’ve never seen or heard of on a corset before. There’s a strip of visible black satin bias running along the bottom edge but the black bias is faced with white bias binding which is turned to the wrong side.
The black satin bias binding is sewn on wrong sides together 1cm above the white tacking line, this is then pressed down and the white tacking line is then restitched through the black bias binding, white bias binding is then sewn on 2mm below the white tacking line, the remaining fabric below is then trimmed and the white bias binding is then rolled to the wrong side (whip stitched in place) so that the seam joining the black satin binding to the white bias binding sits exactly at the bottom of the corset and the white tape is not visible.
Eyelets are then inserted into the eyelet chanel, I followed the eyelet placement indicated in the book and spread out 9 eyelets evenly with one eyelet sitting on the waist.
A ribbon is then sewn 2cm above the busk on the bust panel so that it can be tied when worn offering a little more bust support/modestly.

The corset was then complete.


I am extremely pleased with the outcome of this self directed project. I feel as though I have accomplished all that I set out to do with it and more. I made up my first corset using satin and successfully completed it without marking the satin which I was terrified of doing. The new shape was a challenge but I feel as though it came together rather successfully. Alterations were needed in fitting but nothing that took away from the overall silhouette. I inserted my first waist tape into a corset which thankfully wasn’t as difficult as I expected it to be. I got to have another experience fitting a corset which I feel was extremely beneficial to my skills as an interpreter. I think I now have a better ‘eye’ for fitting and can now assess what needs altering with little input from technicians. Finally I am so pleased with myself with this finished corset, its so clean and the lines are sharp. I have received many compliments in the studio on it and I’m just so proud! Corsetry is a still I want to use more in the future and I feel as though completing this corset was a major step in the right direction.


I hope to make more corsets over the holidays, I’m still determined to finish my ‘Corseted through the Century Challenge’ so I’d like to work on that over the holidays as well as a few other costume and day to day clothes for myself.

Thank you for reading, comments are always welcome!

-Nivera

Examining a 1887 Wedding Corset V&A T .265&A-1960

The second of the two corsets I was requested to view at Clothworkers was this brilliant 1887 Wedding Corset T.265&A-1960
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Front Observations

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Very clearly steam moulded to shape as it holds this rigidly.

White satin has maintained colour extremely well, taking a slightly cream colour now but hardly faded or any major discolouration.
IMG_9876Spoon busk with four hooks and eyes, interesting top stitch detail which forms a channel around the busk shape. Busk does not feature any flossing. The busk has been shaped with a noticeable dip at the waistline keeping a straight form into the bust-line. The busk ‘kicks’ out from the waistline as the bust follows the shape of the body downwards.

 

 

 

 

IMG_9890The eyes of the busk have small plastic covers around their base, this is likely from when the corset was on exhibition on a stand to prevent any rust from contamination the satin surrounding the busk eyes.

Both top and bottom of the boning channels are flossed in a ‘tick’ shaped design. Flossing on the lower edge appears to be 5mm-1cm up from the lower edge of the corset and this remains consistent. Thread used is very similar to first corset viewed, seven strands of thread used to build up the flossing design.

 

IMG_9898Lace sewn to upmost edge is highly detailed, featuring many different design aspects, unsure if this was originally white, though it is currently a deep cream/gold in colour.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_9883Lower edge appears to be faced though there is a every so small roll to the facing so is possibly pipped, this has however rolled more towards the underside of the corset making is difficult to tell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_9875Boning is internal, between two layers  with channels top stitched into place. Base layer is coutil.  I would imagine that spiral or or baleen was used for most channels as there is a lot of movement to all of them, this is exaggerated with the steam shaping over the hips into the waistline.
The bust also appears to have been steam shipped due to the curve it holds when laid flat. Boning on the front of the corset is all is clusters of three, two boning channel clusters going over the bust the third cupping the side of the bust and the fourth blending from the front into the side waist line.

IMG_9880One the side off the corset there is a small section of net sewn (possibly bonded) to the lower edge. This area of the corset appears to be undamaged, upon asking this corset was apart of the ‘Undressed: A Brief History Of Underwear’ exhibition from 2016(?) so restoration work was carried out to ensure it would be suitable for the exhibition.


Back Observations

IMG_9896The clusters of boning channels (sets of three) continue on the back of the corset, each flossed in the same way as the front.

IMG_9894The eyelet panel is boned either side with full length bones, the bone on the CF side is flossed while the bone directly on the CB does not feature any flossing. Fifteen eyelets run down this panel, from bust to waist and hips to waist they are spread evenly. However in the waist area the eyelets are positioned much closer together which would have aided in waist reduction and relieved stress had there been less eyelets more evenly spread in this area.

 

Lacing cord is very chunky, laced from top to bottom in a crisscross motion, no eyelet pairs skipped.
More net used in the restoration process is visible along the bottom edge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside Observations

IMG_9885The steam moulding is even more visible from an internal view as the corset flexes following the bodies shape. I think I can make out that the corset is built up from six panels.

IMG_9886A small trade stamp is featured on the bottom right hand side beside the eyelet panel

 

 

 

IMG_9887Small areas of rust are visible on the underside of the busk. From an internal view the shape of the busk is much more apparent.

 

 

 

 

Additional Photos

 

 


Seeing these corsets was an amazing opportunity and I will be visiting the Clothworkers Centre much more now! I had imagined it would be intimidating but the environment was really nice and I never felt unwelcome. I’ve since booked another appointment with them to view an 1857 wedding dress as research for the Costume Society ‘Patterns of Fashion’ competition which I plan on entering next year. If all goes well I should have more information about that soon. Of course I will be publishing my notes/photos regardless!
I also found out that the dress I want to make (at some point for one of my third year projects) is available to be viewed which has all but confirmed I’ll make it! But I think I’ll keep that a secret for now.

If you enjoy my work and you’re not following me on instagram already, then take this opportunity to go and follow me @nivera.costumes.

Thank you for reading
-Nivera

1830’s Corded Petticoat

Wow! I have not updated here in a while, so lets change that with some foundation garments!

We made 1830’s ballgowns for our first unit back at university and whats more iconic to the 1830’s than obnoxious sleeves and plaid fabric? Corded petticoats of course!

Remember when I made my 1870’s corded corset and I was surprised by how much cording went into it? I ate my words during this project!


This project was really interesting and I enjoyed it greatly though it did test my patience here and there. I’m pretty pleased with the results, I was a little concerned I made it too big (width) but after speaking to other historical costumers they seam to be pretty pleased with the results as well!

Materials:

8m of white pillow cotton
Two 100m spools of size 4 cording (this was bought whole sale, cheaper!)
White thread (I used a polyester overlocker spool and never worried about my thread only the bobbin)
2m of petersham tape (any waistband tape will do)
One skirt buckle
White top stitching thread


The pattern I used for my corded petticoat was an altered version of the pattern found in ‘The Victorian Dressmaker’ (Prior Attire). The original pattern consists of four 1m squared panels, these are then sewn in pairs making two 1m by 2m panels. These panels are then put together (wrong sides together) so cording can be sewn between the layers. I altered this pattern by doubling the patterns required with the intention of making a larger than standard petticoat. My reasons for this were as follows.

  1. No seam allowance was added to the patterns. I was using a standard 1.5cm seam allowance, this is minor but worth mentioning.
  2. I wanted to account for the shift in the fabric when the cording is added and the fabric that will need to be taken off in order to square up the petticoat. I read blogs that made mention of this (written by historical seamstresses), they mention that the more cording there is the more the fabric will shift which in turn means more needs to be taken off at the end of the process to square the petticoat up.
  3. Silhouette, the design I’m working from features a large skirt, rather than making a smaller corded petticoat with little volume and having to pile net petticoats on top to reach the size I think it makes more sense to make my base foundation bigger. I may need a layer or two of net to smoothen the shape out but this can be determined when the petticoat is complete and I have a skirt toile.
  4. Continuing from 3, as the unit is about opera costumes (costumes in motion / stage costumes / performing costumes) so we to think about costume changes and the practicality of the costumes. Having one large corded petticoat vs one regular corded petticoat and a large (or multiple) net petticoats would seem to be easier to change into making it more practical.

The panels are sewn together creating two layers of 1m by 4m panels. The seams should be pressed open and then the two layers laid over top of each other with the wrong sides together (matching the seams).
I decided to have a 3” hem on my petticoat which could be turned up to add extra support and strength. I marked and sewed the 3” by measuring 3” from the needle on the industrial machine and placing tape there as a guide.
This line also acts as the initial starting line for the cording.
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The cording was sewn using a zipper foot to ensure the channels were snug with the cording. As the industrial machines don’t have zipper foot attachments the sewing of the cording had to be done on a domestic machine. To make this process easier for myself I got out one of the extension tables and fitted that to machine for more flat space to work on.

IMG_8661I found the fastest way of sewing the cording (without tucks or puckering) was to push the cording snug between the two layers, keeping my left hand between the layers to keep pushing it in as I sewed while my right hand would steady the fabric and also keep it taunt.
This was very successful and I was able to sew around 20m of cording per day. I was very cautious when sewing the cording and was very thankful to not have to unpick any tucks or puckering!

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I was amazed by how quickly the petticoat stiffened up with the cording. I had intended to starch my petticoat after completion (mostly for the experience) but about halfway through sewing the cording I had half decided there would be little point because of how much structure it was already holding.

After looking at extant corded petticoats and reproduction corded petticoats I decided to stagger my cording so that there were more heavily corded clusters at the bottom and slowly dispersed in thinner clusters at the top. Below is a diagram of how I staggered out my cording.
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When I had finished the cording (I used approximately 120m) the sides (open ends) needed to be straightened up as during the cording process the two layers shifted in opposite directions. I used a square ruler lining it up along the bottom row of cording and drew a line up to the top edge. I then cut along this line which covered two layers removing the shift in the fabric and straightening everything up. In the process of straighten the end up I ended up taking approximately 20cm off each side due to the shift in order to straighten out the two layers.

Next I gathered the waistband, it needed to be reduced down to julias measurements in the stays which is 26”. I decided to cartridge pleat the waistband as I felt that I wouldn’t be able to reduce it down to waist size just by gathering it. After carefully considering how to gather it I decided on having deeper 1” gathers at the centre back of the petticoat and have ½” gathers from those point forward to the front. The deeper gathers at the back would give the petticoat more fullness there creating a slight elliptical shape which I had seen in extant garments and historical reproductions. I marked the petticoat into quarters, the middle would be the centre back. On either side of the CB I marked 18” (equivalent to ⅛ of the petticoat length) which amounted to equally spreading ¼ over the CB (36.25”) this quarter measurement over the CB would be the area of pleats that are 1” deep giving more fullness to the CB, from those points towards the centre front would be ½” deep for a more gradual silhouette.
Below is a table I made which is a better visual representation of my planning.

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After finalising my maths I marked the gathering increments along the top edge of the petticoat so they could be used as reference when cartridge pleating it down to size. This was done by hand using white top stitching thread, the top stitching thread is less likely to snap and the white will blend with the fabric.

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The petticoat was then very carefully gathered down to the waist size, I did not want any of the threads to snap at this point. In this picture you can already see how much more of a ‘kick’ the pleats over the CB have in comparison to the ½ pleats. I decided to pin it to a temporary waistband just to check I was happy with the shape it was creating before moving forward.
I was quite happy with the shape it created and decided to move forward.

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The petticoat needed to be closed, I discussed this with Glenda (tutor) and she suggested overlapping the open ends (staggering the cording) and then sewing it up. I also asked Hester (studio technician) what she would do and she suggested unpicking 1” of the open ends (exposing the ends of the cording), then sewing a seam joining the top fabric open ends together (leaving an 11” opening at the top) and then carefully weaving/hand sewing the open ended cords together before folding the wrong sides excess fabric back over concealing the cording. Hesters idea was a much longer process but it sounded like a much cleaner end result. My main concern was the petticoat collapsing where the open ends joined but this idea sounds like it would prevent
that without having to overlay the cording.

After unpicking the cording on the open ends and sewing a seam (right sides together on top petticoat fabric) I started hand sewing the cording back together. I trimmed the cords so they touched ends and then whipped them together keeping them as flat as possible. This was don’t up until the cording that was 11” below the top edge as this needed to be left open for the opening. Those cords would be sealed in the next step.

IMG_8532The excess seamallowence was then folded back over concealing the cording. I then used a small whip stitch to hold it in place. For the cording position in the opening the excess seam allowance was folded inward right sides together and stitched down.
To further reinforce the cording where the join was I top stitched into the channels in the join which separated them into their channels again making it appear as though the cording was coiled into continuous circles. The join was much more firm after this and I no longer felt like the petticoat would collapse in on itself from this point.

IMG_8663The petticoat was then hemmed, this was very easy to do as I was just folding the 3” I had left along the bottom edge up to the inside of the petticoat. This was then hand stitched in place using a herringbone stitch.
The hem of the petticoat now ran along the first row of cording with the turned up 3” now helping stabilize and keep its shape.
Finally I sewed a waistband on, the waistband was an 1” wide petersham tape doubled over the top edge. The waistband closes with a skirt hook and bar.

And below is a finished picture of the petticoat on my model!
IMG_8549


I’m super happy with the result of my petticoat, the shape is great and I’ve received so many nice complements on it! When I get around to taking finished photos of the complete ballgown I’ll add them here!

If you like my work be sure to check out my instagram page, I’m a little more consistent with posting there as I don’t write as much as I do here!

Thank you for reading,

-Nivera

1870s Corded and Quilted Corset

The latest corset I made apart of my Corseted through the Century Challenge is a lovely 1870s quilted and corded corset.

This corset caught my eye as soon as I opened ‘Stays and Corsets’ though it seamed intimidating at first but I’m happy to report I really enjoyed this process and learnt a lot along the way.
For this corset I used a light royal blue cotton drill (two layer corset), all boning channels, quilting and cording sewn in a gold thread while interior construction was sewn in a matching blue. And of course the flossing, sewn in a matching gold embroidery floss.

Below is a picture of my materials alongside the surviving historical corset my pattern is based on.
fb50f722cb04d788810501809b2bf175313f1b80r1-642-680v2_hq
The pattern was drafted following the books instructions, with alterations to the waist measurement as I’ve since found this book on some bodies isn’t reliable with maintaining the suggested waist size and often the waist measurement will be 3+ inches larger than it should be at no mistake of the pattern drafter. So I downsized the waist size by three sizes, I’d tried two previously which resulted in a full closure corset without reduction (too large).
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The fabric was then cut out (on the fold) with added seam allowance.
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Carbon paper was then used to transfer markings to the wrong side (lining) pattern pieces. Stitching lines (boning channels) and seam allowances. The wrong side of top gusset and hip pad pieces also had seam allowance and grain lines transferee in carbon paper. This makes inserting them easier and grading out the quilting.

I decided to sew the quilting first which now I’m looking back on it would have been better to sew the two layers together in this process rather than just the ‘top’ fabric. I used the grain to ‘set’ the direction of the quilting and then used the edge of my quilting foot as a width guide for the squares which are approximately 7mm/7mm in size. This was a full days work of sewing
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Next was sewing the gussets, I hadn’t sewn gussets into a corset before so this was a new technique for me. Because I used the two layer method for this corset I assembled each layer gusset into the corset individually so when I was finished I still had two separated layers. I don’t know if this was the correct way of assembling a corset like this however due to the cording and boning (mostly vertical) it made sense to me to keep the layers separate so that they were joined as I sewed the cording and boning in.
Everything was carefully basted before being sewn by matching with the basting removed when everything was complete.

I had originally intended to sew the gussets in with the colour matched blue but decided to go with the gold and keep up with the contrast theme. I decision I’m very happy with.
And finally the hip padding (not sure thats the right term but its what I’m going with), this took a very long time to baste in correctly and I kept having my needle catch where it wasn’t supposed to. You know when something puckers and it looks horrible but the cause is something so small? That’s what kept happening, one stitch too many!
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The busk was then inserted which joined the two layers together. I’m getting much quicker at inserting busks.
My next step was to start inserting the boning and cording working from the CF (busk) outwards. This was lengthy. I also had to be really cautious of keeping the two layers together so they mirrored without a shift. I did start with sewing a boning channel/cord on one side then doing the same on the other side but this just became a hassle so I completed one side then the other. To ensure my boning/cording lines of sewing hit the right mark on the hip pad boning line I sewed a running stitch on the top layer where it would be sewn later down the track. This just meant I could sew the lines to where they needed to be a whip the running stitch out to be sewn in properly when it made sense.
Hopefully the below picture makes more sense than I am! (The red stitches are just tacking lines to hold everything on place, its the gold running stitch we’re looking at!)
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I continued cording and sewing the boning channels until it looked something like this,
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Keeping cording straight is defiantly an art and is something I am yet to master but as a whole I’m extremely pleased with this outcome!
But of course, the other side has to be sewn too. Which went about as smoothly as you’d expect. Apart from that time I read my placement lines wrong and started cording about an inch below where it was supposed to start.img_8603.jpg
All of that was unpicked and I had to start again.
One thing I really like about vertical cording is that you can see that progress your making which I found really motiving.
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When all of the cording and boning channels were sewn it was time for eyelets and steel boning. I need up using the eyelet press at uni for this corset as I didn’t bring a hammer with me to London for term (do you blame me?). I made a big o’l error here but we’ll get to that.
For boning I used a combination of flat steel and spiral steel. The spiral steel was used for the bust and hip pad channels while the flat steel was used everywhere else.
Satin bias binding was used to bind the edges, I think it looks really elegant and the slightly darker blue is a nice contrast. For flossing I used the original corset flossing as reference. Its very simple but its position and shape works really well with the overall design.
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The first try on reviled a few things.
Lets start by ignoring my wonky busk in this picture, it does sit centrally but I attempted to move (my boobs) while I was wearing it which shifted its position.

Things I learnt making this corset

  • I now know that the cotton drill I bought for my recent four corsets has a stretch to it. It was something I didn’t really notice but now that I’ve put two and two together it really makes sense that this corset may measure 24″ at the waist when flat but 26″ at the waist when worn. Because it stretched. It hurts my soul a little bit with close to thirty hours put into this corset but its taught me the valuable lesson on properly identifying my fabrics before using them. Would it have been more beneficial to have learnt this lesson three corsets ago? Yes!
    Regardless of this utterly stupid mistake I hold my head high knowing that this is still a very good example of my skill, it is a lovely corset and 2″ of reduction is still reduction at the end of the day. Its a very comfortable corset to wear (thats probably the stretch HA) and I’d go as far as saying its the most comfortable one I’ve made.
  • Reenforcing the eyelet panel is a must and on this occasion I forgot. I did add an extra 2″ to the CB so that they could be turned inwards creating a facing/also reinforcing the eyelet channel. However, when I was finishing off the last of the cording and boning towards the CB I cut down the 2″ so I’d ‘just’ have enough to turn them to the inside. I realised pretty quickly the mistake I had made. What I should have done is open it up and sewn in a facing which would also cover the eyelet channel and reenforce it. But in my head I thought I’d be okay and that it would be alright just this once. Cue eyelets tearing on the first try on. The eyelets only tore at the waistline (luckily none tore out), I was able to ‘save’ them by binding the hell out of them and secure them. It probably didn’t help that my fabric had a stretch to it either, this will be a running joke until I’ve learn my lesson!!
  • Spiral steel should ideally be used in any curved boning channel. Initially I tried using flat steel in the over bust channels but it ‘cut’ into my bust resulting in an unflattering and unnatural shape. These steels were replaced with spiral steels and the shape was greatly improved. I wouldn’t say this was something I learnt, I did know this before hand it was more something I accepted. I’ve been really stingy when using spiral steel and I shouldn’t be. It is a brilliant material to work with.
  • Cording is cool. I really enjoyed cording this corset, although is was straightforward and repetitive it kept me thinking constantly. With my next corded corset I’d like to focus more on symmetry as I know this corset isn’t symmetrical, I think to accomplish this I’ll need to use a cording needle which I will experiment with.
  • I need more practice with inserting gussets, I’ll give the ones I did on this corset a pass but I’d like to do better next time around

Overall I’m extremely pleased with this corset. I think its beautiful and a true statement in terms of my skill growing. I’m going to continue challenging myself with each corset I make and endeavour to make the next one better than the last.

To finish up here are a few clear detail shots and a (grainy) shot showing off the waist reduction.
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This corset only gives me 2″ of waist reduction but I’m amazed at how dramatic it makes my waist look. I am hoping to get additional photos of this corset over the holidays and I will make a new post containing those pictures as well as adding them to this post when they’re available. I have an 1820’s corset to complete over the holidays and I’d love to get the base of an 1880’s corset made as well which I will be updating here.

Comments are always appreciated, thank you very much for reading.

-Nivera

Examining an 1880’s Dress

Today I had the pleasure of examining an authentic dress from the 1880’s. I was lucky enough to have been lent this dress from my mothers friend who owns a vintage fashion shop. I was beyond excited when she pulled it out and finally had the time to examine it today.
Unfortunately there isn’t much history to the dress, there aren’t any identifying prints or names to be found on it anywhere. Aside from the label from the vintage shop identifying is as “Victorian, Silk, Skirt + Jacket c. 1880” there isn’t anything else to go on, which is a shame! I would have loved to have know who wore this dress or at least find out where it was made.
The dress itself is an olive green in colour although the colour didn’t pick up too well on my camera and reflected more of an shimmery grey/green.


Please note: I am no expert, I do one day have the hopes of becoming a dress historian/historical dress expert but at the age of 19 and only entering my second year of costume interpretation this October that is not the case.. Yet! Any comments made following in this blog post are assumptions based on my current knowledge and guess work. I would love to make a follow up post after speaking to one of my tutors and getting their opinion on these photos.
If you have anything to add to these photos/post please leave a comment!



Bodice Front

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Bodice Back

Skirt Front
Skirt front 1
Skirt Back + Gathered Detail

Skirt Back 1Skirt Back 2

Sleeves


Full Dress
Full Dress 2Full Dress 3
Inside Bodice Detail


Inside skirt detail


I want to start by saying I was amazed by just how heavy the jacket/skirt was, I wasn’t expecting it to be that heavy but as the skirt and jacket are fully lined (canvas I think) as well as the silk it does make sense for it to have some weight to it.
I think the jacket has had some alterations after they were initially made.  The jacket trim appears to have been resewn on (it looks to be original but I’m not sure), I say this because the trim is current sewn on with what looks to be a long (hand sewn) running stitch with a cream (it may have been white at some stage) thread. This stitching is quite obvious and just appears to have been done in order to tack the original trim in place. I would imagine the original with trim was starting to come off which was why this was done. Alternatively it could be the original stitching (using a contrasting colour for some reason) but I’m not too inclined to believe this as it does look quite sloppy where other original stitching is fine and precise. There also a few places on the jacket where a blue thread has been used which is out of place with the rest of the garment, this mostly appears on the pipped edges of the jacket. After doing some research into fastenings in the Victorian era I believe the hooks in the bodice are all originals as well as the two on the skirt. I was fascinated by how small the eyelets were that the hooks attached to, they’re so finely sewn and ever so small. Clearly I need to practice my hand sewn eyelets more. I adore the sleeves, the pleating thats gone into them is lovely. I like the style of having the pleating at the top half of the sleeve and then finishing with a two piece sleeve. The bottom half looks as though it would have been fitted. The front of the skirt looks as though there was stitching forming an inverted triangle (though it wouldn’t pick up on camera with the sheen), perhaps some sort of decorative panel that had been removed. This could of course just be the result of the silk being pulled but I thought it was worth mentioning. I believe the velvet sitting just below the skirt hem is a dust ruffle of sorts, it was quite firm, likely lined with canvas as well.

This was a very fascinating exercise for me and is something I want to do more frequently through museum visits to the archives. As I’m very focused on corsets at the moment I would love to see what the Victoria and Albert museum has hidden away. I recently bought the VA book on ’19th Century Fashion in Detail’ which has shown me there is much, much more behind closed doors! I really want to do more historic dress research with this coming academic year.


So what do you think of this wonderful dress? If you have anything to add please do, as said earlier these are just my assumptions!

Thank you for reading,
Nivera

Corseted Through The Century

I’ve decided to give myself the challenge of sewing one corset from each decade of the 19th century, hence the crafty title of this post. Ideally I should have announced this before I started on this project/challenge but the idea didn’t occur until after completing my 1890’s riding corset.
I’ve become quite obsessed with corsets recently, I really enjoy making them and I’m seeing great improvement with each corset I complete. I picked the 19th century for this challenge as the silhouette (affected by corsets) changes greatly over the century. What I also like is that each decade has a reasonably iconic corset style that sets it apart from every other decade making each decade different from the next. This means the corsets I’ll be creating will be visually different and keep things interesting in the construction process.

References, Sources and Patterns

I own three corsetry books that cover the 19th century.
‘Corsets and Crinolines’ Norah waugh, ‘Corsets – Historical patterns and techniques’ Jill Salen and ‘Stays and Corsets – Historical patterns translated for the modern body’ Mandy Barrington

Currently I’ve only worked from ‘Corsets and crinolines’ and ‘Stays and corsets’ but Jill Salen’s book ‘corsets’ covers the second half of the century quite well. As all three of these books are well used in the historical costume community I’ve found many blog post detailing others experience with these patterns which I’ve read to see if there are any complications or handy tricks about the patterns I can know before hand.

I won’t be making these in historical order, I’ll likely continue making them as I am now and picking the decade that inspires me the most.
Working backwards here are the completed corsets from this challenge already and those planned with patterns (or still need to be sourced). These patterns are not final, there are a few decades I’m lucky enough to have multiple choices for and decision on which pattern I use will lie with what sewing procedures I’ve already applied/want to use and if that corset will include them.

1890-1900
I’ve already completed an under bust riding corset (‘Stays and Corsets’ Mandy Barrington) from this decade however, as the fit wasn’t satisfactory I’ve decided to make another corset from this decade as well.
1890 Riding Corset
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The corset I’ve decided to “replace” the riding corset with is an 1890 wasp waist corset (‘Stays and Corsets’ Mandy Barrington).

I think the wasp waist corset is a much better representation of foundation garments in that decade rather than a ‘sporting’ corset. I’m actually in the process of drafting this corset up as I write this post making it the next most likely corset to be completed for this challenge.

1880-1890
I didn’t find as many references to 1880’s corsets in my books as I thought I would.
There was Norah Waugh’s (Corsets and Crinolines) 1880 black coutil corset which has a more traditional appearance to it. I make mention of the traditional appearance because my other pattern option is far from it.
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The only other pattern from this decade I could find in my collection is the 1885 gold exotic corset from Jill Salen (Corsets, Historical patterns and techniques). This corset is designed to allow for more movement as women begin taking a more part in working life. The corset is described as exotic by Jill as there is a subtle gold sheen to the fabrics used, enhanced by the eyelets.


I’m leaning towards the 1880’s corset from ‘Corsets and Crinolines’ as it has a more tradition appearance and I’d like for all of the corsets to be coordinated. The exotic corset does seam like a fun challenge and may be something I complete at another date.

1870-1880
I felt quite lucky to find two patterns for this decade, both corsets different from each other yet iconic. I’m happy to se both of the corsets involve chording in their construction, its something I haven’t attempted yet but am eager to try.
‘Corsets and Crinolines’ has a 1873 corset which is lightly boned but heavily corded.
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The other option from Mandy Barrington (Stays and Corsets) is a 1875 corded and quilted corset. I love the contrasting visible stitching on the original corset, I’m sure it looked more striking in it’s original condition.

Both of these corsets fit over the hips which is something I haven’t worked with yet and will be a new challenge. I’m not quite decided on which of the two corsets I prefer but I do like that the 1875 corset uses both quilting, cording and boning.

1860-1870
I’ve completed two corsets from this decade already. The first being one I completed last year (my first corset ever) from Simplicity 1139. I am very proud of this corset and it holds a very special place in my heart however, I outgrew (I’m not sure thats the right word to use in this context!) it when I lost 4-5 inches at my waist. I was overweight, healthy weightless. This corset has since been taken apart, the busk removed and recycled for my 1890 riding corset which the boning was also recycled into.
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The second corset I’ve made from this decade is also my most recent corset from my last post. I’m much happier with this one and the fit is more appropriate too! This corset uses the 1860 light French corset pattern from Norah Waugh (Corsets and Crinolines). It was also my first attempt using flossing which is something I want to incorporate into future corsets as it really does add to the historicalness of the corset.
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I’m happy with my most recent 1860s corset and it will be featured as the corset representing that decade.

1850-1860
I’m really struggling with this decade. From what I’ve read its a transitional decade from the stays of the past to more modern looking corsets seen in the 1860s. None of my three books have reference to this decade and finding anything online even after extensive searches through museum archives and other historical costume maker blogs its still difficult to pinpoint a corset pattern from this decade.
I’ve found a few useful sources so I’m going to leave them here for future reference.
1850 Lady’s Stay (L. Balis Patented September 5 1850 Source)

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This source is looking quite promising, although it doesn’t come with a pattern if you follow the link you can find more detailed descriptions and construction instructions. The image I’m using is actually from Wikipedia ‘History of Corsets’ where its referred to as a ‘girls corset’. It does appear to be an adult woman’s corset to me however which is further backed up by the first link posted. Children’s corsets were flat fronted and were for encouraging an upright posture, a strong spine and also for warmth.
The other helpful image I’ve found is also from the same Wiki, “At the Great Exhibition in 1851 Madame Roxey Ann Caplin was awarded the prize medal of “Manufacturer, Designer and Inventor” for her corsetry designs, as the only corsetmaker who get a prize by the Great Exhibition. This prize medal changed the corsetry of England.”
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Her blank stare into nothingness is scary I’m not afraid to admit that! There were a few other corsets from Madame Roxey however they weren’t what I’m after (pregnancy corsets, early child corset, petticoat suspender) so I’m just including this one. I like that this one shows different panel pieces more clearly, even though a back picture isn’t available I would feel confident in drafting it on my own after looking for more reference.
I was able to find one pattern 1853 stays from Godey’s Lady’s Book, my only issue is there little information about it on the source page. It does look reliable and correct for the period (to me) but I feel I’d be happier with more information.1853stays.jpg
1850 has defiantly been the hardest to source a pattern for and its looking although I may draft a pattern for myself instead. I may not have a pattern but I think I have enough reference material to push me in the right direction.

1840-1850
I was very lucky to find two patterns for this decade in my books. There is a small issue with one of them however which I’ll get to last.
‘Corsets and crinolines’ has a pattern for a 1844 corset to be boned on each seam. This corset is quite simple in appearance, featuring two bust gussets, a busk and the previously mentioned bones on each seam.
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The other questionable option is a 1840 Corded Taffeta Corset from Jill Salen (Corsets, historical patterns and techniques). The reason this option is considered questionable is as follows, Jill mentions that the corset has undergone some crude alterations at the front in the form of alternation buttons holes which have been fixed in place with cruder stitching indication that the alterations were made by someone other than the original maker. Jill also states that the corset represents a mixture of styles and its quite possible the corset could date back to as early as 1820. Except for the metal eyelets that date from after 1828 that could have been inserted over original hand-worked eyelets.

I do like both corsets however, I don’t feel using the second one is a true representation of this decade. Its quite possible that it was originally made twenty years earlier with alterations being made to it up until the 1840s. I want to make something that I know is period accurate for the decade and although the second corset is a unique piece I will be choosing to work with the first one from ‘Corsets and crinolines’.

1830-1840
I was only able to find one corset pattern in my books from this decade, though I am aware commercial patterns are available but I won’t be visiting those for this series (am I okay to call this a series?).
The pattern is from Jill Salen (Corsets, historical patterns and techniques) 1830-40 Rural corded corset and its buff orange. This corset has no boning and is supported by cording only. I’m going to leave this one until I’ve experimented with cording first. Its only just occurred to me that I’ll need to oder busk widths of boning for these earlier corsets, heres hoping my new bolt cutters will manage them!


1820-1830
I have two references to 1820s corsets from my books which I’m counting myself lucky for as the earlier I go to the start of the century the harder its become to find original sourced patterns.
The first is a 1820 white cotton corset from Mandy Barrinton (Stays and corsets), this corset has no boning but the two busks, supported by the cording. There is decretive stitching as well as four bust gussets.

The second is a pair of 1820s white cotton sateen stays from Norah Waugh (Corsets and crinolines). They are lightly boned with a centre busk and elaborately quilted around the waist.
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Both of these corsets are fantastic pieces and I’m really not sure which I prefer of the two. I’m not sure how well scaling up the Norah Waugh pattern will go as its fitted over much more of the body than more modern corsets, I can of course make alterations and check measurements before beginning the final pice. I think Mandy Barrington’s pattern may be more straightforward in that respect.

1810-1820
Another difficult decade, none of my books cover 1800-1820 so the first two decades became an online search. While I was sourcing for later decades I came across museum archives which rarely would yield patterns in their collections. Most of theses are from large pattern sheets that featured numerous patterns on a single sheet overlaid and outlined with different lines (usually a unique combination of dots and dashes that related to all of the patterns for on individual product) and if you were lucky within the mass of lines there might be numbers thrown in two which coordinate to different projects. Heres an example from March 1897 by Mode Illustree in Paris France
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I’m getting off topic here but I just wanted to explain that I had come across pattern sheets like this for corsets however they were too difficult to render without photoshop which I don’t have access to outside of term time and I’m not paying for it…
Back on topic! I was able to find museums with completed patterns for some corsets and I ended up with one for this decade.
This is an 1811 Corset in the collection of the Missouri Historical Society, the pattern isn’t in as good quality as some of the others I’ve complied but I’ve seen worse on my search and will count myself lucky for coming across this one!


1800-1810
Found that with the later decades the early decade corsets look quite similar with small alterations to style/shape/fit decade to decade so I was ready for something visually different with the first decade of the century. The solution? Short stays.
After some in-depth Pinterest lurking I was able to find this blog post ‘Short Stays’ Studies containing some amazing research as well as various patterns from the decade. Life saver. There are a few patterns available on the blog but the one I like the best would have to be Bernhardt’s patterns ‘F’, I think I prefer its style and shape to the others.PatronF_kleidungum1800.jpg
It will need to be rescaled but that will be easy enough to do! Thank you very much Kleidung um 1800 for sharing your work!


And that is one pattern, multiple choice or sufficient research for one corset for ever decade of the 18th century. I’m very excited for this project and I think it will be considered a huge accomplishment when I’ve completed it. Hopefully I will still be as excited for corsetry after I’ve finished and not put off the idea entirely. I haven’t given myself a deadline for this huge project as I don’t want to stress myself out over it and rather just enjoy the process but if I were able to complete this by the end of the year that would be fantastic.
I will be documenting each corset/stay here on WordPress as well as major pictorial updates on instagram!
If anyone has any 19th century corset sources I’m missing out on and would like to share that would be greatly appreciated.

Thank your for reading
-Nivera

Customising a Dress Form

I current live in London nine months of the year and sew for all twelve months. When I moved to London I decided not to bring my Singer dress form with me because I knew when I went home for visits brining it with me would be an issue (that and it wouldn’t fit in the car on the drive up to London). I decided on buying a cheap non adjustable dress form off Amazon instead which I would keep in London and have my adjustable form for at home. As im sure many of you know non adjustable dresss forms are a pain as they’re never quite your exact measurements. I shopped around a little bit and eventually decided on a Size 8/10 Dress Form with the intention of padding it up. I’ve lost a lot of weight in the past year (still losing weight now) and I currently sit between a size 10 and 12 so the 8/10 size seamed perfect to pad up and eventually take away from (the padding) in order to best suit my size.

Here is the process on how I went about doing just that!

 

Materials you’ll need,

•Dress form (size smaller SUGGESTED) Ideally the dress form should have a cover too.

•1 meter of thin quilt batting, I found 1m was enough for me but depending on how much you have to add you may need more. Alternatively you could use thinker batting but I found the thinner batting easier to work with as you could create more gradual shapes.

•Dressmaker pins (these are the metal ones without colourful tips on the end)

•plastic wrap (optional)

•Fabric scissors

•Felt tip pen

•Silicon bust filler (optional, you can just use an old bra)

•Your measurements! Please write them down somewhere so they’re easy to access while padding.

 

Tutorial Time

I started with the bust area and then worked my way down to the waist and hips.

Because the bust needed filling the most I bought a silicone bust filler to help keep the shape correct (you can also use an old bra!). First I traced the general shape of the bust filler onto quilt batting,
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Through trial and error and lots of re pinning every five seconds I found that I needed two layers of batting under the bust filler as well as two layers of the batting continuing around my back in order to meet my bust circumference.
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It’s really important to keep checking your measurements as your going.

I then set about patterning the area under the bust, this took some refining… Thankfully the thinner quilt batting does have some stretch to it which makes it so much easier to manipulate over curves.
9d2f56e70b874131bfb026aa62abe8e9b9e53315v2_hqI was actually quite surprised by how easy things were going! I used my measuring tape to ensure things would be symmetrical. Most of my pattern pieces consisted of front bust, back bust, front waist, back waist etc…
304ec8006d0ea97a4e0c991347e13f589663b8c4v2_hqI was really lucky and found that doubling the quilt batting for all of my patterns resulted in my measurements.

The back looked like this,

3fb4d0c628326e48e094624257c28aeccd860520v2_hqMake sure that you match where the batting should meet perfectly! Otherwise little gaps can appear and the dress form won’t be as smooth.

I continued with the hips which I decided to make into two large sections (following my previous pattern work) rather than splitting it up. There wasn’t as much shape to curve around and the batting wrapped around perfectly!
8c46c377cd23f29a6212b7a69d7894d32414599fv2_hqNext I patterned above the bust on the front and back.

The bust front was a bit more of an awkward shape and I do recommend using lots of pins to keep the batting in place and to ensure it lays flat!
7a5afb300814ba92734c5ab9e15b5d20c4d5386fv2_hqYou can see I used a lot of pins here!!!

At this point you are kind of done although if you want to you can cover the quilt batting in plastic wrap. This will help ‘set’ the batting and hold it in place as well as keep pins from moving too much.
4b785cfe0258ebb186767df866842d87d928e1e9v2_hqI do recommend getting a friend or family member to help with this so you can apply the wrap as tight as possible.

That step is optional!! If you want to throw the cover back on straight away you can do that too!

Speaking of covers, this is what mine looked like when complete!

The sharpie is visible on the quilt batting through the cover, this could be fixed by trimming away these fibers before putting the cover on. In all honesty I wasn’t bothered by it and it won’t be something I change until I alter the dress form again. Maybe I’ll dye my cover lilac, that would be cute…

So what do you think! Is it something you’d look into knowing dress forms can be altered cheaply? I literally spent £1 on the quilt batting for this project, everything else I had in my room. It’s certainly something to look into! Do tell me if you use this tutorial or find it useful!


Spring break is a week away for me now and I’ve finished all of my work for the term so I’m looking forward to a stressless week ahead!
I’m really happy my dress form is accurate to my measurements now and its made me a lot more motivated for making things again! I’m hoping to take a huge step forward with my ballgown over the spring break but we’ll see how that goes with my work shifts again. I do want to get the new petticoat made and I plan to make a new corset when I’m back in London for my third term.
I keep you all update that’s for sure!

Thanks for reading,

-Nivera

Costume for Theatre and Screen Starts Tomorrow!

I started University just over a month ago and our first unit was not relevant to making costumes so I’m just going skip over it as its not that interesting!
Tomorrow marks the first day of my costume course which is really exciting. We’re starting off with corsets so I’m happy to have some previous experience going into the unit.
Each week (I’m planning on Saturday) I’m going to be posting a diary type blog post where I’ll talk about what I did in that week which I’ll be filing under one category. I’m really interested in documenting my progress both in and out of class so later I can look back on my posts and hopefully see some progress.
My at home project for October was making 18th century foundation garments which I’ll slowly being releasing posts of this month. I’m hoping to make a 18th century Redingote this month to go over said foundation garments so I’ll also be updating the designing process and the pattern drafting here too. Unfortunately October and September were really slow months for me and I was unable to update but thats defiantly changing this month onwards with weekly posts again.

And thats it really! Just a short sweet update on things to come!

Thank you for reading
-Nivera

Corset Construction, Let’s make Simplicity 1139

I honestly didn’t have high hopes for this, corsetry seamed so intimidating. Although I own Norah Waugh’s ‘Corsets and Crinolines’ I decided it would be easier for me to use a bought pattern rather than attempting to scale and size one myself for my first time. I decided on Simplicity 1139 which, like the crinoline pattern is apart of the ‘Fashion Historian’ collection. The corset and the other patterns from this particular pack are heavily influenced from the Civil War Era making them the perfect for my 1860’s ballgown.
1139

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Materials you’ll need.

All of this is stated on the packet but here’s a quick run down.

  • 1 meter of coutil fabric (I used This Herringbone coutil )
  • One 12″ (30cm) corset busk (White Busk)
  • Metal grommet punching kit // ALTERNATIVELY One heavy duty fabric punch
  • White Top Stitching Thread (embroidery floss works too)
  • 3.5 meters of white cotton pipping (This is just what I used to lace the corset up there are plenty of other options)
  • One straw needle (I refuse to sew eyelets with any other needle)
  • 6 meters of white twill tape.
  • 6 meters of 0.5cm plastic covered steel boning
  • bolt/wire cutters
  • Disappearing ink pen
  • General notions (thread, fabric scissors etc…)

The corset is made up of seven patterns, six are cut on double folded fabric and one pattern (the busk cover) was cut four times.

This being my first corset I actually expected there to be more pattern pieces. In my mind when I looked at a corset I imagined for each boning channel there would be a seam but I quickly realised I was wrong and that boning channels were sewn onto the corset panels as well as over the seemliness.
NnjnLXa6.jpg-largeOnce the pattern pieces are cut out transfer the boning channel lines over to the fabric using your fabric pen. Making sure not to mistake these lines for the grain line as some are diagonal and don’t follow the grain. I made the mistake of sewing my panels together before realising the boning channels needed to be drawn but this was an easy fix using the paper patterns as a guid and drawing them in that way.

You can see the boning channel lines marked in pink in the above images. Making sure to iron the seams out flat as your sew them, it’s really important for this project.
BUT REMEMBER fabric pen ink disappears under heat so it will disappear if you iron over those channels you’ve just drawn. Be careful! I almost made this mistake again but remembered the issue from my crinoline experience.

Next get your twill tape and pin it over the seams on the RIGHT side of the fabric. Cutting it into correct lengths as you go. You’re then going to sew on either side of the twill tape as close to the edge as you can get. This will form the boning channels. Be sure not to sew the top or bottom ends up as this will be done later.
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Then repeat the process and pin the twill tape centred over the the boning channel indicators you’ve just drawn. If you were like me and used a bright colours pen you should be abled to see the lines vaguely through the twill tape making it easier to pin centred.
Technically you can pin the seams and the channel indicators at the same time and sew the all at once but I found doing them in sets was easier to manage!
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Once all the twill tape is sewn it will look like this! Now this is where you have an option and I strayed from the pattern, kinda. You have the choice of using a metal grommet punch and putting metal grommets into your corset for eyelets. However if you’re going for historical accuracy and making a costume that predates the 1820’s then I suggest you read Why metal grommets are the visible panty lines of historical costuming

I personally prefer the look of hand sewn eyelets, when using a colour matched thread they blend into a costume seamlessly unlike metal grommets which stand out and will catch any light source. I just think metal grommets look tacky. Sewing OVER metal grommets to give them the look of hand sewn eyelets, I don’t have problem with.

Mark the eyelet/grommet placements out with your fabric pen, you should have 30 of them if you’ve measured according to the pattern instructions.

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Then begin punching in grommets or sewing your eyelets. Make sure to do the eyelets one at a time or they can stretch. You can use fray check on them before sewing but I didn’t find it necessary this time round.

Continue and repeat 30 times.
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I found that I could do one every 10-15 minutes without distractions.
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They are very pleasing to look at once you’ve finished them though! Next up is inserting the busk. This was my first time using a busk and I find them so cool!
VTcqJe1b.jpg-largeThe instructions will tell you to mark the top of each side (stud and loop), you do this by getting some tape putting on each end and marking the letter ‘T’. Simple!
c3364368725d966935823b901b64349c7fefbd1b_hqStarting with the loop side mark out where the loops will sit within the seam allowance. Use your fabric pen for this. You’re better to measure everything for this. It has to be exact on either side of the busk or it will not connect and create a closure.
a9636cef9112d3d20055df091d1d16279aac0f96_hqAfter sewing the patterns together you should be able to slot the loop busk into the seam allowance and the loops will poke through the holes you created. It can then be sewn onto the base corset like so!
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The some idea applies to the stud side. Just this time your marking where the studs will poke though the fabric. The instructions suggest you use and awl to open these holes but I used my fabric punch and just matched the hole side to one size smaller than the stud so it could be pushed through the hole but not pop out again. Make sure to fray check these punched holes.
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Repeat the process of sewing it together and then onto the base corset. Last but not least. Sew along the bottom edge within your seam allowance and trim any excess fabric. Then pin and sew bias tape along the bottom edge. There were a few places the needle didn’t quite catch the tape on the other side (wrong side) and I just fixed these up with needle and thread being carful not to show stitches on the right side. The only reason I didn’t unpick it and re sew it on again was because I didn’t want to damage my fabric too much and the bias tape looked great from the front the first time round!
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Then cut your boning to size and insert it into the channels. I found the putting heavy duty duct tape on the ends unfortunately showed through the twill tape and left weird dark patches on the channels so I didn’t do that this time and so far so good, no boning has torn through the casing.
Repeat what you did with the bias time on the top of the corset and you’re finished!
Lace yourself up or get a friend to help cinch you in and your corset is good to go!

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The corset if I’m honest is too big for me. It docent cinch my waist in at all, the bust area is too large and theres no room for me to cinch it in smaller as the eyelets meet centrally down the centre (not shown in the above picture but I have since achieved that). I fear attempting to pull the corset tighter would ruin it. I’m disappointed it doesn’t cinch me in further at best it just flattens my stomach.  It looks as though I won’t be doing a shoo for this costume until next Spring so I may make a new one in that time and possibly sell this one as its of no great use to me.
My next corset will be smaller and likely patterned from the book ‘Corsets and Crinolines’ Unless I can find my other corset book which I know covers this period exclusively.
Despite the size issue I’m still really proud of how this turned out.  I’ve had many complements on my social media on it which is always great to hear! I think it also shows how much my skill has improved over the last year too.


This corset along with my crinoline and a petticoat (post coming along soon) will be worn under an 1860’s ballgown ensemble. Unfortunately my sewing machine needs servicing and I won’t be able to make any further progress on it until the Christmas holidays. But hopefully my mother will come and visit me during term and will bring along my serviced machine so I can continue to work on things in my dorm while at Uni! I will have a fabric selection and embellishment choice post coming along soon too so thats one update on the dress at least.

I’m really enjoying the Fashion Historian pattern line and I’d love to make some more things from it. Perhaps a pair of drawers to be worn with the rest of the undergarments.

 

Thank you for reading!

-Nivera