Monday, February 23, 2015

Reworking a dress

You may (or may not) remember that I was waffling about what to do with the fraying trim on my 1770s striped dress, as I wanted to wear it to the Francaise Dinner. I solved that problem by ignoring it completely, and deciding to wear something totally different!

A majority of attendees wear a sacque/robe a la francaise to the dinner (unsurprisingly), as I always have, but it is open to anything 1750-1800, so I thought I'd go a bit later this year. (Watching The Duchess as I cut out pieces for something else had no influence on my decision, I'm totally sure.)

I have a striped silk gown that I made for Costume Con in 2011, and while it's great fabric, it was never one of my better efforts. It never made it onto my 18thc page for a reason, haha. I meant to have a matching petticoat but ran out of time, and the sleeves were always bad.
So last week I decided to drag it out and see what I could do with it!

It was very wrinkly.

At first I thought I'd just need to fix up the sleeves, but when I tried it on, there were all kinds of weird things about the bodice that needed to be fixed, not least of which was the awkward bodice length. I don't know whether I wanted to try and put it at about 1790 or what, but it was at a weird unflattering length. Plus it was lined in wimpy cotton muslin, and I didn't have Costume Close-Up on my bookshelf yet, so I only got my 18thc construction half-right! And for some unfathomable reason, I had it close with a million teen-tiny hooks and eyes that gapped unmercifully. I think I remember having to sew it closed the one time I wore it. A+, Past Me.
This is a flattering bodice length, right? *raises eyebrow*
With all that taken into account, I realized I would just do better to take it all apart and start over. I have better patterns now, for one thing...
Tiny hooks! Fraying silk! Oh, the humanity!
I did enjoy those back chevrons though. They're spiff. I doubt I'll have enough fabric to cut them on the cross this time. Oh well.
I won't knock my 2011 hand stitching though. Mainly because it still looks like that. No twenty stitches to the inch, here! holds.
I mean, I've got this much fabric left, what could go wrong?
Piecing is period. So, so period. Good thing.
I made up the petticoat as far as sewing the panels together and hemming them, but I need to tweak my 1780s rump (I want more bulk on the sides) so I won't level it and put the ties on til I do that.

The panels were cut hilariously crookedly, by the way. Did I not own a yardstick in 2011? I don't even know. Good thing I cut them way too long.

So then I moved on to the bodice. I wanted a bit more interest this time around, and thought a cutaway bodice (what many people call a "zone" front) could be fun if I played with the stripes. And because I like to add unnecessary steps, I decided I wanted a closed front to my bodice, like in this Fragonard portrait:
People Who Know Better Than I confirmed that an option to getting that closed front would be to have a separate under-bodice or waistcoat, that the cutaway gown would then pin to.

A stomacher front might also be an option, but that would be an awfully wide stomacher, and I can't even get the small ones centered properly! The waistcoat sounded like a much better idea to me.

So that's what I've been working on, and I finished it tonight. No pics on me yet, because it's too cold to change and put my stays on, whine whine.
And it wrinkles more when it's on me. It's a big expanse of silk going over an inverse curve...wrinkles are inevitable. Just ask the lady in that portrait.
I used the basic pattern I draped for the black chintz dress-in-a-day, just cutting the front piece as one instead of separate pieces, and making the point a little bit longer. And cut off the back points, because why bother?

The silk front is pieced in three places, but my blue thread matches the blue stripe very well, lucky me. It's got two cable ties at the center front and two at the back lacing for boning. The top front piece is the striped silk, the rest is white linen, and it's laced with linen tape.
I ended up making it smaller on both seams, which was annoying. Seems there was a lot more overlap allowed at the CF than I thought! I finally got it to have a small gap in the lacing after much unpicking and repinning and trying on. The linen might stretch after I wear it, so if the backs start overlapping again I'll have to take more out. But I really didn't feel like unpicking another seam so I'll deal with it then.


  1. Could you please contact me at Interested in Regency attire. Would prefer to discuss offline. hope to hear from you very soon.

    1. Just saw your comment, and was wondering what it's in regards to (the email bounced back). I don't generally sell my costumes or take commissions, if that was your question.

  2. This is pretty amazing, seems like a nice interest to have.