Thursday, May 15, 2014

Simplicity 3809 - A cautionary tale, or Why you should always make a muslin

One of my friend's finally helped me to shape my dress form to my figure, so I thought I'd dress it up with my last pirate costume, Simplicity 3809 (which I never wore). I put the grommets in the bodice this weekend just so it wouldn't be a UFO.

Simplicity 3809 was a great pattern. Very easy to make, but very time consuming to construct because you have to cut the bodice pattern in triplicate (fashion fabric, interlining, lining). The instructions were very clear and I had no problem following them. It may have helped that I've sewn princess-seamed bodices before--my favorite sundress pattern is New Look 6457, which has a fitted bodice. I've made up that pattern five times!

Other reviewers have also praised this pattern, but have noted that the shoulder straps are too long. They're right about that. The shoulder straps overlapped by a couple of inches on my bodice. Since they are supposed to be set with grommets and held together with a ribbon, this would be a problem.

I'd like to note that one blogger who made this pattern stated that there was a mistake in the instructions, because Simplicity said to cut out three panels for the skirt. She said you only need to cut out two. She is mistaken though, because if you cut out only two panels for the skirt, you don't have the fullness to make this skirt look right. It just looks cheap and flimsy if you only cut out two panels for the skirt. So please follow the instructions as given with the pattern.

Here's how it worked out for me. It looks fine, I suppose. I just pushed myself too hard to finish it and ended up hating it. It also doesn't look like a pirate or musketeer outfit like I'd envisioned.

Looking good so far! But...

 Sigh. Damn it. I'm assuming the neckline got stretched out in the back. I swear I stay-stitched every piece, so I don't know how this happened. But it tends to happen to me a lot when I'm sewing things--usually it's on a V-neck. Anyway, there's no way to reverse engineer this to fix it without it being obvious.

And the back waist is too long. I'm very short waisted. The bodice fits perfectly in the front, so I didn't expect it to be too long in the back, but there you have it. There's also no fix for this that doesn't involve taking apart the bodice, and I don't love this enough to do that. It would have looked so much better if I'd shortened the back waist, which I would have known I needed to do IF I'D JUST MADE A MUSLIN FIRST.

I'm totally bummed that I spent so much money on the trim for this costume, but that's the way it goes sometimes. Maybe I can use it on an 18th century riding habit. If I'm going to spend this much time and effort on costumes, I'm going to start using historical patterns.

The skirt on this pattern is awesome and it looks so nice made up in this burgundy poly-silk fabric.

I'm really glad I didn't trim the skirt. I can use it for something else. I have a beautiful golden-tan cotton tapestry fabric with floral trim in pinks and burgundies, and I think it would look amazing made up into a curaco jacket and paired with this skirt. The skirt isn't made in a historically accurate fashion, but it will do for a Renaissance festival and at least it won't go to waste.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mystery skirts: Part the second - Drawnwork embroidery on Mystery Skirt 1?

I was thrilled when Isabella of All the Pretty Dresses commented on my post about the mystery skirts. Isabella is an expert historical costumer and I've probably learned more about 19th century clothing from her blog than anywhere else.

Isabella thinks Mystery Skirt #1 might be from the teens, but there's a chance it could be a 1970s Edwardian revival piece. She needed more pics to really be able to assess it, so I unpinned the skirt this weekend and took lots of pictures.

I never seem to notice small details of anything until I'm photographing it. As I was taking pictures of the lace details on this skirt panel, I started to notice how the threads of the lace were actually part of the fabric of the skirt. I believe this lace is actually drawnwork embroidery and I think it was done by hand.

These pictures were taken of the front of the skirt.

Here is a full-length view of the skirt with the pleats unpinned.

Detail of one of the side pieces of embroidery.
Detail of center panel of embroidery.

Embroidery along the hem.
This next series of pictures are from the back of the skirt.

Hem from the back of the skirt. It's come undone by the selvedge.
Embroidery of the main panel from the back.

A bit of the side pieces of embroidery from the back.

A little more detail from the main panel of embroidery.

Isabella, I hope these pictures are more helpful than the ones I included in my previous post. I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts on this. :-)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Mystery skirts

I found a couple of very interesting skirts at the City Wide Garage Sale recently. I thought I knew what their general time period was, but now I'm not so sure.

I know this blog doesn't have much of an audience, but if any of my three followers knows someone who knows about historical clothing and can show them the following pictures to help me date these skirts, I WILL LOVE YOU FOREVER.


Skirt 1
I found Skirt 1 in a pile of "small, mixed linens" at a vendor who sells linens by the pound. It's actually a skirt panel. I'm certain that it's a skirt because there's a little notch in the center front and creases from pleats that had been picked out at some point.

Pleat creases.

Repinning the original pleats.
All pleats repinned.

The selvedge edges are preserved and it measures 29" wide.

I can't find a whole lot of info on historical fabric widths. I know that fabric came in a standard 36" width for a very long time, at least from the 1920s-1960s. I found a vendor of antique fabric online and most of her turn of the century fabrics are 29" wide.

I thought this style of skirt was Edwardian, with the lace insets. But I don't think this lace is considered insertion lace.

Lace inset on Skirt 1.

And the Edwardian summer dresses with the beautiful insertion lace are usually made of lawn, and this fabric is a sturdy twill-like fabric.

I'd like to restore this skirt panel as a fully functional skirt to be part of a historical costume, but I just can't seem to find anything quite like it, so I'm not sure what time frame to put it in.


Skirt 2 is a silk chiffon number with a stunning panel of lace down one side. What kind of lace is this? Is it Venice lace? I know nothing except that I love it. 

There are traces of black net that once backed the lace. I didn't see any traces of this black net anywhere else on the skirt (i.e. at the waistband). 

The lace sash is mounted on a silk panel with the center cut out, and then attached to the waistband. It's not tacked down on the skirt. There is a silk panel behind the lace sash that is sewn as part of the skirt. 

The chiffon skirt is gathered and mounted on a silk waistband that fastens with hooks and eyes at the side. 

Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, I'm wondering--what side were skirts usually fastened in the "old days"? Could the skirt actually close in the back, with the lace sash hanging down the center front instead of the side? 

As you can see, the silk hem along the border is completely shattered. It's as brittle as old paper and crumbles if you even look at it. The same can be said for the silk panel behind the lace sash. Interestingly, the silk fabric of the waistband and the sash and the chiffon of the skirt are in excellent condition. 

I'd love to be able to recreate this skirt using that beautiful lace sash and make a whole outfit from it. 

When I saw this skirt I immediately thought "flapper skirt!!" but... This would be part of an evening ensemble, wouldn't it? I don't think separates were worn very much in the 20s, at least not in evening wear. Could this be from the teens?  Am I anywhere close to the ballpark in guessing its age?