Flare jeans and Chambray shirt

Hi guys! It's definitely been a hot minute since I've written a blog post! Thought I better put my phone down and dust off the old keyboard before I forgot how!

2017 has been sort of an odd year for me mentally. I feel like my energy is scattered between many creative pursuits - sewing being one of them - and I don't particularly feel like I've been performing any of them well! Not to get too heavy on here, but the politics in the U.S. have really affected me. I've been trying to channel my anxiety and anger into something productive and learning how to become involved in my local politics, where I feel I can be most effective, but I can't pretend that I don't often feel overwhelmed, depressed, and helpless. And those feelings can take their toll.  I'm not writing about this to open up a big political discussion, but simply to explain why I've been pretty quiet on the sewing and blogging front.  Quite simply, I've had other things on my mind!

But this past weekend was my birthday.  I turned 32.  And I had a long weekend to not only finish up some sewing, but take my camera for a walk and document what I've been wanting to wear lately for y'all. Normally I make something a bit frivolous for my birthday sewing, but what I really wanted, and needed, this year was some practical separates. So that's what I got!

Flare jeans and Chambray shirt

Variations on this outfit have been somewhat of a uniform for me, lately.  In fact, I made these jeans last fall and have been wearing them pretty much nonstop. I'm not really sure what I'd call this style. I have no idea if I'm even "in style"! What are the kids wearing these days? I have no clue. At this point I'm just making and wearing whatever feels right.  And this sort-of 70's, kinda ranch-hand, a little bit sexy, but also buttoned up, and maybe a touch prison-uniform, look feels right. Like, I'll probably wear this to work at least two days this week, kind of right.

Flare jeans and Chambray shirtFlare jeans and Chambray shirt

Like I said, these jeans were made last fall. I actually made them as sort of a palette cleanser after all of my historical sewing.  They are a bit of a mish-mash of the Closet Case Files Ginger jeans pattern and the Deer and Doe Safran pants.  Basically I just put the Safran front welt pocket on the Ginger jeans high waisted pattern.  Then added a flare leg.  However I didn't really measure my inseam correctly and didn't add as much length as I originally would have liked. Generally I like my flare leg jeans to be floor-dusting. That's why I left the hem of these raw, because had I hemmed them they would have really been an awkward length! Now, however, I kinda love the raw hem, and the awkward length feels sort of fresh. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

Flare jeans and Chambray shirtFlare jeans and Chambray shirt

The fabric is some Cone Mills s-gene stretch denim that I got with one of the original Ginger jeans kits, and it's so freaking lovely.  I made these jeans suuupppppper tight through the hip and thigh, and that Cone Mills denim just gives and gives and gives, and never gives up! I will never make jeans using another denim. End of discussion. I'm a convert. As I said, I've been wearing these jeans for a few months now, and my typical pattern is to wear them many many many times before washing. And they never get baggy! They just seem to get better with more wear!

Flare jeans and Chambray shirt

The top is the Deer and Doe Mélilot shirt.  I've had my eye on this pattern for awhile, and finally bit the bullet this winter.  I made it in this super lovely light blue tencel denim shirting from Threadbare Fabric.  I adore this fabric! The color, weight and drape makes it feel way more ready-to-wear than the typical chambray fabrics that seem to be available to home sewists.  I have a bit more and I'm debating what else to do with it - I'm wondering if I can squeeze an Archer out of it - because a girl can't have too many denim blue button-up shirts, right? So far this is number three...

Flare jeans and Chambray shirt

I really love this pattern too. I cut the size based on the finished measurements -- which I pretty much always do, because I like to be the master of my own ease -- and I think it makes it a little more feminine.  I feel like oversized, drop sleeve blouses are all the rage right now (maybe? I don't know... like I said, I'm not really sure what's in style, but last time I checked...) and I might make one of those in the future, but for this one I wanted something that I could easily tuck into high waisted pants and skirts and not have a ton of fabric pillowing over the top.  One thing that I always underestimate though when I cut by my finished measurements is that while my bust and waist measurement may work with a smaller size, often times my shoulders don't. This is especially true for Deer and Doe patterns, who I think design for a different shape than me (i.e. not women with weightlifting shoulders and backs!) I think I'm able to get away with it on this top because there's no armsyce, but it's a lesson I really need to learn, because this isn't the first time this has happened!

 Flare jeans and Chambray shirt

It's been such a warm winter and spring here in Galveston, I pretty much completely skipped any sort of winter sewing and this is probably going to be about as 'transitional' as it gets! The next few projects I have planned are summer dresses, however I should really try to bang out a few more practical separates! Especially tops. 

Does anyone have any good pattern recommendations for tops? I'm feeling very 70's these days (and should probably cut my hair, but, you know, fuck the man). And since I've been sort of out-of-touch I'm not really sure what's out there! Tell me your favorites! What can't you wait to sew and wear this spring/summer?



historical costume part II

Turn-of-the-century Historical Costume

Wow. Does anyone else fall into a well of old Christmas cookies, prolonged sleep and shuffling around in bathrobes post New Year? Sometimes I feel like it's the pressure of "New Year, New You" jargon, or perhaps its the fact that I'm suddenly staring down all the things that I put off right before the holidays, but I often find myself feeling supremely unmotivated come January. I know all the tricks to help me out of such funks - chip away at the to-do list, exercise, don't neglect self-care, etc. - but sometimes holing up with the heating pad and shooting resentful looks at the dog because she can't take herself for walks comes more naturally to me!

So it is in this spirit that I bring you this long-overdue post, which I totally intended to write before we jetted off for our East Coast Family Holiday Bonanza.  Hopefully it's not too anticlimactic!

Even though I posted many pictures of my finished historical costume on Instagram, and even wrote about it for my December Mood post, I really wanted to give it its full due with a proper, long, overly wordy post here on my home turf.  This costume was many months in the making, and I'm quite proud of it.  If you're new here, or are reading this post without much context, I suggest reading the post on my historical undergarments first, as I explain why I ventured into historical costume making to begin with!

Turn-of-the-century Historical Costume

As I mentioned before, the Victorian era was an extremely long one, spanning Queen Victoria's reign in England from 1837-1901, and within that features some truly spectacular fashion movements. In trying to decide what era I wanted to "personify" with my historical costume I took my personal tastes into account, but I also wanted to consider the time period itself and what it signifies. I completely agree that playing historical dress-up should, first and foremost, be fun. It's about indulging in fantasy, because we can't, after all, go back in time.  However I also think it's important to observe that, in doing so, we are romanticizing a past which often doesn't deserve romanticization. 

One of the most recognizable silhouettes in Victorian fashion is the giant hoop skirts of the 1850's and 60's.  In other areas of the world, this look may not seem very loaded, but here in America it defines the Civil War era, and there is something about dressing in Civil War era clothing as a white woman living in a previously slave-owning state that does not sit right with me.  That is not a past I have any interest in romanticizing.

The other most iconic silhouette of the Victorian era is the bustle gown of the 1880's.  These fashions are beautiful, elaborate, and extremely feminine.  They also remind me of curtains. And sofas. In fact, call me crazy, but doesn't it seem as if the well-to-do Victorian lady practically became a piece of furniture herself during this time period?

All politics aside, my other, more pragmatic reason for eschewing these two iconic Victorian looks was that they are very well represented at the event I was making this costume for, and I wanted to give a nod to a lesser appreciated fashion era, and, let's be real, stand out from the crowd.  Show Pony wins again!

Turn-of-the-century Historical Costume

And so, I turned my attention instead to the later Victorian era. I've always had a soft spot for this era. Honestly, my true love is Edwardian fashion.  So I attempted to get as close to the Edwardian era while still keeping a toe in the Victorian.  For my gown I used Butterick 5970 from their "Making History" line. Since this was my first time attempting a historical costume, and I really didn't give myself a lot of time to make it before the deadline, I decided to go with a Big 4 pattern to have the comfort of modern instructions and sizing to work from.  I also just thought this dress was very pretty.

Turn-of-the-century Historical CostumeTurn-of-the-century Historical Costume

In general, this pattern was pretty easy to work with.  It was a crap-ton of pattern pieces, and sourcing all the fabrics and trims and bits and bobs was time consuming, but once I actually started motoring along with the construction it wasn't anything too foreign to me.  

No, my one main complaint with this pattern - and, I'm assuming, all the "Making History" patterns - is their smudgy historical accuracy.  They do not date their patterns, nor even give them a general name like "Edwardian Dress" or "Flapper" or "Regency Era gown and jacket" or whatever... I know, I know! If I am going to be such a stickler about historical accuracy why didn't I go with a pattern company, like Truly Victorian, or Past Patterns, that prides themselves on their historical accuracy? Well, I didn't know that I would be so bothered by the smudgy time period of this dress when I set out to make it! As I got deeper and deeper into this project my interest in historical fashion grew, and the more research I did, the more I wished I had been more rigid in my choice of costume. Does that make sense? So while I think this dress is lovely, and is general enough to fit into my murky vision of "Late Victorian/Early Edwardian" - it is precisely that generalness that bothers me.

Because I'm a nerd, I attempted to find fashion illustrations and historical examples that would help me date details of this dress.

I was able to find examples of the full, gathered bodice as early as 1893, however many of the 1890's silhouettes are defined by the large sleeve or shoulder, which the Butterick pattern does not have quite as pronounced.

The skirt, with it's slimmer front and full, pleated back, with minimal trim and adornment definitely seemed accurate for the 1890's.

Here is an example of a day dress from the late 1890's which features a similar skirt style, as well as the more narrow sleeve and lacy shoulder adornment of the Butterick pattern.

However the droop of the gathered bodice - the "pouter pigeon" breast - is really iconic of the early 20th century Edwardian look.

One detail that seemed to elude me was the ruffled sleeve. I was ready to write it off as just a pretty detail that the pattern designer, Nancy Farris-Theé, thought looked nice, rather than having a real root in fashion history. But then (Oh you guys... how deep into the rabbit hole I did delve!) my husband gifted me with this book - Costume in Detail 1730-1930 - for Christmas. This book is fascinating! It is full of illustrations of actual garments, detailing how they were made, what type of closures they use, measurements, etc. And lo and behold! What should I find, but this:

Look out, Nancy Farris-Theé! Your secret is out!! This illustration details the exact sleeve pattern - dimensions and all - from the Butterick pattern! And looking at the gown as a whole, it would seem that Butterick 5970 is really just a simplified version of this gown from 1903-07 belonging to a certain Miss Nora Hawker!

And a detail of that sleeve, as recreated by yours truly...

Of course this kind of bungles my whole "Late Victorian" thing I was trying to go for, as these dates place this gown firmly in the Edwardian era, but hey who's counting?!?! Just me, you guys, just me. 

Okay, let's get back to my dress...

Turn-of-the-century Historical Costume

The fashion fabric for this dress is a beautiful peachy-pink silk taffeta from Mood Fabrics.  It's no secret that historical costumes are fabric hogs.  I desperately didn't want to break the bank with this project, so I tried to limit myself to fabrics I could get through my partnership with Mood. I really lucked out with this silk taffeta, which is both lovely, and was a really great price for such wide yardage of silk.  I've never worked with taffeta before, but I really enjoyed the crisp, dry, almost papery hand it had.  It made constructing this dress feel almost sculptural.

The taffeta bodice is built on top of a fitted and boned lining, made out of cotton lawn in a similar peach colorway.  Most women's clothing from this time period - even robes - were constructed on top of a boned inner structure, no matter how loose the outer silhouette.  This reflected women's preference for clothing that shaped the body into the fashionable look of the time, but it also gave the clothes a structural integrity that is rarely seen in contemporary clothes.

The skirt is completely underlined with the same cotton lawn, and about two feet or so, around the hem, is interlined with cotton flannel.  This gives the hem a really nice structure and also supports the weight of the lace trim.  As I mentioned in my post on my undergarments, I didn't create any petticoats to wear with this costume, and I think I was able to get away with it because of the natural sculptural hand of the taffeta, the additional support of the underlining, and the added weight of the flannel interlining.

Turn-of-the-century Historical CostumeTurn-of-the-century Historical Costume

The bodice closes up the back with hooks and eyes on the inner layer.  Much to my annoyance, it wasn't until I saw these photos that I realized the flaw in this design was that, if I wasn't careful, the outer, taffeta layer would gape open to reveal the lining. How unladylike!


The cream overlay on the yoke and the sleeve flounce is point d' esprit that I picked up locally. It is actually a stretch fabric, most likely used for dance costumes, but it was the softest, and drapiest of this type of netting I could find.  The gathered lace trim is from Cheeptrims.  Finding the right kind of lace was actually the most difficult thing for me to source. I wanted a netted lace with embroidered details, and it had to be gathered, preferably with a pointed edge, and I needed almost 11 yards of it! I admit that I ordered a few duds before I found one I liked. The machine gathered edge of all the lace trim had to be concealed with more trim and for this I used cream petersham ribbon.

One of my biggest pet peeves with the way this costume turned out is actually the collar.  For some reason the circumference of the neckline ended up much larger than the collar piece. It would be easy to assume that my neckline stretched with sewing, but I actually had this problem with a lot of the pattern pieces where I was attaching two circumferences - like the waistbands.Which leads me to believe it's a drafting problem with the actual pattern. I even measured the pattern pieces and they don't match up. Anyway, I redrafted the collar to fit the neckline opening, and I'm not a fan of how big it is.  When you look at fashions from this time the collars were quite tight, so my loose collar makes me feel like a dork.

Turn-of-the-century Historical Costume

The belt was made with pleated, avocado green rayon velvet that I interfaced with horsehair canvas to give it structure.  I've never worked with velvet before either and, oof! What a bear! This fabric shifted around like no one's business under my presser foot, and I got so annoyed (it was also one of the last things I worked on, right before the deadline) that I ended up just sewing the whole thing by hand! Here's some details of my questionable process. My backstiching leaves much to be desired...

Oh! And let's not forget the hat!! Completed at the eleventh hour...

Turn-of-the-century Historical Costume

For this I used the La Belle Epoque hat pattern by Lynn McMasters.  This hat uses a double buckram for the structure.  I could only find single buckram from my local Joann's so I fused together two layers with iron-on adhesive.  The brim, crown and tip were all wired, then covered in flannel, then covered in the fashion fabric.  I used the taffeta for the outer brim, crown and tip, and the peach cotton lawn covered in gathered point d' esprit for the underside of the brim.

Here's some photos of the hat, in progress:

Attaching the crown and tip by hand, after the wire was sewn on all the edges by machine.  

The wired buckram form, waiting to be covered in flannel.

I've never made a hat before, so all this was learning on the job. It wasn't nearly as difficult as I anticipated.  It was more crafty than anything else.  Of course the real fun was decorating the hat.  I had lots of inspiration ready for my hat decoration:

But as it turns out, decorating a hat is hard!! Also, I was feeling incredibly burnt out by this point, so unfortunately, I don't think my hat turned out quite as fabulous as I would have liked.

Turn-of-the-century Historical Costume

But still! I made a hat!!

Turn-of-the-century Historical Costume

Working on this project was such a wonderful challenge, and wearing it was beyond fun! As I said in my post on my undergarments, I tend to think of myself as a thoroughly practical sewist, but it was a wonderful adventure to make something purely for the fun and imagination of it.  This whole project, from start to finish, took me three months to create.  Three months for just a few days of wear! I know many of you will say, but you can wear it next year! 

... You guys... you should know me better than that! Yeah, I am already scheming a totally new costume for next year! I'm really feeling gigantic sleeves... what do you think?

And now, I'm going to photo dump all the pictures that I put old-timey filters on, because it's my blog and I say so.

Turn-of-the-century Historical CostumeTurn-of-the-century Historical CostumeTurn-of-the-century Historical CostumeTurn-of-the-century Historical CostumeTurn-of-the-century Historical Costume

Many thank you's to Nick, for being my photographer and putting up with my Victorian airs. Many thank you's to everyone over at the Galveston Historical Foundation for putting on such a great event and giving me an excuse to indulge my fantasies.  And many thank you's to you, my sewing friends, for following along and supporting me with all your kind comments on Instagram and the blog.  You guys are the best!

Happy 2017, everyone!



and now for something completely different...


What is going on?!?!?! Why am I dressed like this?? But more importantly - why am I taking photos INDOORS?!?!?!

Has Hell frozen over?

Is it the End of Days?

Clearly I have some explaining to do... Get ready for a long post.  Grab some tea (or a beer). I'll wait.

Edwardian Undergarments

Okay, I get that this post probably comes as zero shock to anyone who follows me on Instagram, but for those of you that don't, let me introduce you to my historical costume.  Or at least the beginnings of my historical costume.  There will be more, because what you see here is just my underwear.  And while this involves more clothing than I wear in the middle of January, as a proper old-timey lady I wouldn't be caught dead in public while so scantily clad! 

So let's start at the very beginning (a very good place to start)...

My husband, Nick, works for the Galveston Historical Foundation, who every year hold a large event in December called Dickens on the Strand.  Perhaps you're wondering why on earth there is a celebration of Victorian England in Galveston Texas? A very good question. And one I don't have a great answer for. But as I understand it, the Strand in Galveston, which boasts some beautiful buildings from the mid 1800's, was basically abandoned and neglected and there was a big push in the 1970's to save some of the old buildings from demolition. So one of the things they did to raise awareness of preserving Galveston's historical architecture was to hold a Victorian celebration downtown, which was Dickens on the Strand.  Galveston is home to many festivals and celebrations, and they are particularly fond of ones where you get to dress up, so Dickens is right at home.  People come from all over dressed in their Victorian finest. Also their Steampunk finest. And their Pirate finest... the definition of "Victorian" is very blurry here...

Edwardian Undergarments

Last year, I was asked to fill in as a judge for the costume contest, a role I was more than happy to take on, as I've always had a soft spot for period clothing, and I LOVE judging people! (Just kidding. Kinda...) So at the eleventh hour I borrowed a costume from the Historical Foundation and attended my first Dickens on the Strand. And it was a blast.  However the entire day I felt like a fraud in my borrowed costume.  

I know I'm not alone when I say that I grew up reading Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters, Henry James and, well, Charles Dickens, that I'd rather spend my Saturday nights watching a period film - any period film - simply to ogle at the costumes - than go out and socialize with real people from my own time period, and the only reason I held on to Downton Abbey for as long as I did was to see Maggie Smith as Lady Violet.  Basically, my love for fashion stems from my love for historical fashion.  As an art student I always loved Art History for its ability to bring History to life, to literally put a picture to a historical moment, a political movement, to revolution, to cultural shifts.  I feel that fashion history does something similar in such an intimate way.  We all have a connection to clothing. 

What I'm trying to say here, is that I was more than a bit excited to have an excuse to make a historical costume! 

Edwardian Undergarments

But let's be real. Historical costuming is uncharted territory for me.  I've always been thoroughly practical with my personal sewing.  The goal has always been to build a handmade wardrobe, which I will continue to do.  Historical sewing is rather a different niche from the one I'm used to occupying in the sewing blogosphere!  So I knew I had to proceed with caution. 

First, I did my research.  I learned about the fashion of the Victorian period.  And I honed in on what interested me.  I found I was much more drawn to the styles of the 1890's through the turn-of-the-century.  Queen Victoria died in 1901, however she had really ceased to be a fashion icon before then. The styles I was more interested in were early Edwardian, or very very late Victorian.  This is also an era that I found to be very underrepresented at Dickens on the Strand, which definitely prefers the bustles of the 1880's (which I always think makes everyone look like a pair of curtains) or the hoop skirts of the 1860's.  These are also more true Victorian examples.  

But here's the thing.  Making a historical costume is a lot of work.  So I decided if I was going to put in all the work it better damn well be something I loved.  Which meant no curtain dresses for me! I found a pattern to work with which was a nice mish-mash of late Victorian and early Edwardian styles (more on that to come) and decided on Edwardian undergarments to accentuate certain features of the design.

Edwardian Undergarments

All of the patterns for my undergarments are from Truly Victorian.  I bought their Edwardian Underwear set - which came with a pattern for a chemise, drawers, and a corset cover - and the 1903 S-bend corset, which is based off of an actual corset from 1903.  

The Edwardian silhouette was quite singular, and just as it is today, undergarments were key in achieving the desired look (don't believe that this is still true today? Take a look at a push-up bra). Towards the end of the 19th century, women's bodices started to show a pronounced, full, low bust, called the 'pigeon-breast' or 'pouter-pigeon' which was accentuated by a nipped in waist (usually highlighted with pointed and arched belts) and skirts which were slimmer over the hips.  This silhouette became more exaggerated into the early 20th century, with bodices becoming even fuller and 'poutier' and skirts becoming even more slim, and featuring a trumpet flare.

Edwardian Undergarments

The foundation for this silhouette was the S-bend corset.  This style of corset differs greatly from the traditional hourglass corset of the Victorian era.  It features a straight front which subtly shifts the wearers posture so the bust pushes forward, and the hips and rear push backwards, creating an 'S' shape from the side.

There is much to be said about the history of corsets and the politics surrounding them.  I doubt there is a single item that gets pointed at as the symbol of women's oppression more than the corset.  Personally, I've always viewed corsets as rather democratic.  It's not like once they fell out of fashion so did unrealistic expectations of women's bodies! Instead, the post-corset era demands that women strive for an unattainable ideal through fad diets, exercise, or (perhaps most frustratingly) "good genetics" (#iwokeupthisway).  Which seems way more oppressive, and ultimately soul-crushing than saying "Here, strap this thing on your body, hold your breath, and pull these strings. You'll look great! Sure, you might get indigestion and constipation, but at least you can take it off at the end of the day."

Edwardian Undergarments

The s-bend corset was actually marketed as a "health corset" as it was designed to not compress the stomach or lungs as much as the Victorian hourglass shape.  When worn correctly, the s-bend corset nips in the soft part of the waist, then flares out over the ribcage and bust.  As I mentioned previously, the bust and hips would have been padded out to exaggerate the wearers shape, giving the illusion of a much smaller waist. 

When you look at images of women from early photography and the turn-of-the-century it's important to distinguish between photos meant for fashion, or fetish purposes, which are almost always altered (images like this, or this) and photos of actual women going about life, or having their portrait taken.  When you look at the latter images it becomes clear that the average woman wasn't lacing her corset to extremes.  Sure, many factors contributed to women being on average smaller than women today (in both height and girth) but you also see a variety of proportions and body types that has nothing to do with corsets.

I obviously do not wear this corset with any regularity or for long periods of time, but I have found it to offer quite a lot of flexibility with size.  In the photos here my waist is about 1 inch smaller than my natural waist measurement.  I think it might look like more because of the way the corset distributes the width around the body, making it appear smaller head-on, but actually thicker from the side.  This is actually quite comfortable for me.  I've also laced it with no  reduction in my measurements, letting it just be a foundational layer that creates an exaggerated shape, and I've also pulled the laces as tight as I can, reducing my waist measurement to about 2 inches.  More than that just wasn't going to happen! I found that the 1 inch reduction was my happy place, where I feel comfortable enough in this to wear for longer periods of time, and so I've used this to base my measurements on for the rest of my costume.

I also haven't padded out my bust or hips, therefore I'm not really portraying an actual ideal Edwardian silhouette. But honestly, there is just a lot of details to consider when making a historical costume that some of the elements had to be overlooked or else I'd never get this done on time! Perhaps I will add to it in the future...

Edwardian Undergarments

I had a blast making this corset! From a strictly engineering standpoint it is a fascinating garment! I have no prior experience with corsetry, and this particular design is suggested for experienced corset makers.  Whoops. Well, all I can say is that I generally do best when I dive headlong into a project!

All the materials for my corset were bought from Farthingales Corset Making Supply.  The fabric is a blue-gray coutil and I used a 13 inch busk.  For boning, this corset calls for 1/4 inch spring steel bones, which bend front-to-back, but not side-to-side.  Two bones are placed side to side in 3/4 inch bone casing which I stitched down the middle to create two channels.  The corset is unlined, with most of the raw edges concealed by the casing, or else pinked to prevent fraying.  I bought my grommets from Gold Star Tools and I used their heavy duty press to both punch holes and set the grommets.  This worked well, however I think the hole punch was just a tad too big for this size grommet, and for this particular garment which needs to withstand a lot of strain.  There doesn't seem to be quite enough fabric for the grommet to "bite" into, so when I pull my corset tight the fabric strains around the grommet.  I don't think this will prevent me wearing it for costume purposes, however if I ever make another corset I think I will use a smaller size cutting die, or simply an awl to make the holes.

Edwardian Undergarments

Typically, corsets from this era would have been adorned with lace and ribbon at the top, but I kind of liked the look of it plain, and I was also looking to cut corners where I could.  I did, however, make time to apply flossing to the bones, which are those little pointy embellishments you see along the bottom of the corset.  Flossing is a type of functional embroidery, meant to provide additional strength to the garment to prevent the bones from wearing through over time.  Again, this is really unnecessary on my corset as I'll probably only wear this maybe once a year, but I thought it was a pretty little detail and it provided an opportunity to learn something new, as I've never embroidered anything before! Flossing could get quite elaborate, particularly on Victorian corsets.  I went with the most simple design I could, as I was literally learning on the job.

  Edwardian Undergarments

My chemise was actually the very first component that I made for my costume.  A chemise is like a long undershirt that was worn directly next to the skin and protected the corset, and the gown, from sweat, and body oils.  Women would have owned more chemises than gowns, and they would have been washed much more frequently than the rest of their wardrobe.  During the Victorian era, chemises were quite simple and very simply adorned, or completely plain.  However, underwear in general became frillier and frothier into the Edwardian period, so this was an excellent opportunity for me to learn my way around applying trims and lace insertion -- two techniques that I have never done before.

Edwardian Undergarments

I used a cotton-viscose blend batiste for my base fabric because it was incredibly soft and lovely and it would feel nice next to my skin.  Viscose obviously wasn't available as a fiber during the time period, but I had this fabric in my stash, and it does lend a lot of softness to the fabric.  Just as I occasionally had to cut corners with certain details, I also tried to source as many of the supplies from my stash as I could, because historical costumes ain't cheap! 

The blue ribbon is a cotton petersham. As you can see, I have a bit of a blue and white color scheme going on here! There are three types of lace on my chemise.  The wider, pointy lace edging is soft and made of cotton, and I chose it because a) I thought it was pretty and b) I thought it would feel nice, as sometimes lace can be scratchy.  This was my first time doing lace insertion, which is those strips of lace interspersed with fabric that you see on the yoke.  This was one of those techniques that I had always assumed involved some kind of witchery, but is actually really straight forward.  You simply stitch the lace down on top of the fabric using a zig-zag stitch along each edge.  Then you slice down the center of the fabric underneath it, press is open, then zig-zag over the lace edge a second time, and finally trim away with raw edge of the fabric on the wrong side.  The raw edge of the fabric is prevented from fraying by the zig-zag stitch.  Witchery it is not.  Tedious? Yeah, a bit.  It wasn't too bad on the chemise as I was only adorning a small area. 

I should also mention that the instructions for this pattern don't really tell you how to do any of this. They simply say something like "decorate as desired" or "finish with trim".  So I had to do some Google image searching to see examples of chemises.  Then some more googling to find tutorials on how to do lace insertion, how to miter a corner when applying ribbon trim, etc. Try googling "heirloom sewing techniques" and you'll find a lot of great tutorials for lace insertion, piping, tucks and other such old-timey embellishments.

Edwardian Undergarments

I love this photo, as it seems so scandalous, and yet I'm still wearing multiple layers of clothing!

These are my French drawers. Again, they differ from Victorian drawers as they have a much fuller, and shorter leg.  Often times the drawers were attached to a corset cover on top, making for a set of "combinations".  Spoiler alert: I didn't make a corset cover.  Nor did I make a petticoat. Again, maybe next year.  The French drawers feature a split crotch, to allow for the Edwardian lady to visit the outhouse without taking off fifteen layers of clothing in the process.  I suppose the split drawers also allow for easy access for other activities...?  Still, I'm not looking forward to using the toilet in this getup, as it's quite a lot of fabric to maneuver...

Edwardian Undergarments

I used a cotton lawn for these, also from my stash. The drawers are, once again, embellished.  These drawers feature a curved hem, finished with a pointed flounce.  To highlight the style lines I used cotton faggoting insertion, applied in the same way as the lace insertion described above.  The flounce is finished with a row of faggoting insertion again, and then lace beading, and a wider lace trim.

These. Were. A. Pain.

Yeah, that was a lot of insertion. It took me forever. The lace edging was actually two separate trims that I had to stitch together first then apply to the hem.  The shaped leg and pointed yoke meant that I was having to get fancy with mitering the trims, which took some trial and error to get right.  And none of this will actually be visible in my finished costume...


But isn't it pretty?!?!


On that note, perhaps you're wondering... Why??? Why go to all this trouble for something I'll only wear once, maybe twice? Why go to all this trouble for such an impractical garment? Especially when it's So. Much. Work.

Well, I've had a lot of time to think about this (while cursing over cotton faggoting).  The main reason I'm doing this is quite simply -- because it's fun.  Honestly. This has been the most engaging, challenging sewing I have done in awhile.  This is not to say that I don't love making modern things, but it's actually really liberating to sew something simply because you want to. With no practical concerns whatsoever.  Not to mention, a privilege. I've always loved indulging in a few fantasies, and making this costume has appealed to that side of me ten-fold.

The other reason is, as I said, for the challenge of it.  I've had to learn new techniques, research materials and methods, not to mention the historical research that has gone into it.  While some of those new skills probably won't translate to my modern sewing, some have already got my wheels turning for how I can incorporate them into something more wearable everyday.  I'm particularly enamored with the lace insertion. This is a detail which crops up a lot, as Victorian elements are always coming in and out of style.  I am envisioning making some poet sleeve blouses with lace detailed yokes...

So, if you've ever had a desire to make a completely impractical garment - Cosplay, a ballgown, a wedding dress - I highly encourage you to do it.  If for no other reason than to remind yourself why you love this craft to begin with.


And THAT, my friends, concludes this mammoth of a post! If you made it to the end, bravo! Obviously I had a lot to say on the subject of historical costumes, and I hope I didn't bore you all to tears!

But, before I go I would be incredibly remiss if I didn't extend a few thank you's for this post.

First, a huge thank you to the Galveston Historical Foundation for granting me access to one of their properties, Bishops Palace, after hours, to take these photos.  I don't usually spend my days swanning about in such luxurious interiors, so it was a treat to play dress-up and make-believe for a bit on this sunny Saturday afternoon.  If you're ever in Galveston, make some time to tour this gorgeous mansion.  Everything in here has been preserved to the original decorations, and all the furniture you see in these photos is original to the house. And these photos only show a small sliver of its beauty.

And finally, many many thanks to Nick for taking my photos, for getting me permission, for unlocking the doors, framing the shots, and only jumping out at me to scare me out of my boots a handful of times.  And, of course, for not laughing at me when people on the street were looking at me like I've lost my marbles. 

That's all folks! Stay tuned for Historical Costume Part II: The Attack of the Taffeta Skirt!