Nahant Victorian Dance Weekend 2016

Hey, it’s my second dance getaway in one summer! This was three days in Nahant, MA, and costuming events included an evening party with informal dancing on Friday, a Belle Epoque ball on Saturday, and a concert/tea on Sunday. (That was followed by a promenade, but we had to scurry off early so I could catch a train back to New York that evening.)

Since we decided to go to this rather late, I concentrated on the two evening events and used some items I already had on hand…but since I’d been dying for an excuse to make late-Victorian evening dresses, I still couldn’t resist doing most of two new ensembles. (Fortunately, my Regency chemises worked fine under the gowns; when I have more time I’ll have to do up proper undergarments! And I just stuck with the same late-Victorian corset all three days.)

Friday evening I did 1880s bustle!

Shelby 6

(Why are my eyes closed in this otherwise lovely photo?!) The bodice is the TV464 Cuirass Bodice, with a hook-and-eye front closure instead of buttons. The overskirt is the Wash Overskirt, and everything else I fortunately already had (TV101 bustle, TV170 petticoat, TV261-R underskirt).


Had to attempt the awkward corset lean:

Shelby 4

For the Belle Epoque ball, I moved forward in time to the 1890s.

Shelby 3

Sadly, this is the ONLY photo I have of me wearing the finished dress! I’m still hoping one of the many people taking photos at the ball posts them sometime….

For this ensemble, I made the 1890s petticoat from TV170, the Laughing Moon #103 1890s Waist (and stuffed those giant sleeves with tulle!), and Past Patterns #208 Circular Skirt. Here’s a photo of the back that I posted on Instagram while it was a work in progress, since that’s where all the action is in the skirt.

For both the bodices, I pretty much ignored the bodice construction instructions and instead followed all those tutorials at that I listed before. So the insides ended up looking like this.

Neat. Just for completeness, here’s Day 3’s outfit:

Shelby 1

The only things I made in this photo are the underpinnings. (I did swap out the grosgrain ribbon on the hat, but I don’t think that “counts.”) The skirt is an antique walking skirt that was given to me (yes, I’m very lucky!) and the shirt is just a modern button up.

I left the weekend inspired to get to work on even more Victorian costumes, but I’ve got a lot of other stuff on my plate before another Victorian event comes around!

1880s Riding Habit (Kind Of)

This project was, admittedly, 90% an excuse to make an 1880s dress and 10% shoehorned into something geeky so I could wear it to an NYCC party (I would ask if you can guess what I am, but admittedly it’s very hard to tell from these blurry photos!). Here are a couple of inspiration photos:

Selika Lazevski, 1891 [source]
Woman’s Suit, ~1900 [source]

Okay, if I had really made a riding habit, I wouldn’t be wearing a bustle. But, c’mon, why make an 1880s dress if you aren’t going to wear a bustle?! (Unless, I guess, you’re actually going to ride a horse in it.)

(I’m sorry I don’t have any really good photos of the outfit being worn! I’m terrible about remembering to take a bunch from different angles.)

Anyway, here’s what I’m wearing, from the skin out:

The (under)skirt was pretty easy to make, with only four pattern pieces (front, sides, back, waistband). I departed from the instructions/pattern in four ways: (1) it’s flatlined (front and sides with broadcloth . . . then I ran out of broadcloth, so the back is lightweight muslin); (2) I used a 3-inch hem facing (a strip of lightweight bias-cut muslin) rather than turning up the hem; (3) I formed the placket using this method; and (4) I added a pocket to the right side-back seam (YES, POCKET! The BEST!). I was a little worried about the bouffant since I hadn’t done something like it before and didn’t have a dress form to drape it on, but I just followed the instructions exactly and I think it turned out great.

I’d say this pattern is good and basic, and most of my changes/additions were just due to my preference, not necessarily issues with the pattern. My fashion fabric (cotton sateen) was already pretty heavy and underlining it made the whole thing VERY heavy, so that might not have been the wisest choice. (Incidentally, I did make a petticoat for this costume, but didn’t end up using it because the skirt was so heavy and the petticoat is a filmy sheer cotton. Whenever I get around to making something where I’ll be using it, I’ll try to remember to blog about it!)

The jacket pattern, however, has some difficulties. There’s at least one error on the pattern pieces (it says to cut two of the lapels from your fashion fabric, but you need four), and I found the instructions hard to understand and possibly incomplete. I felt like I was missing a page! Fortunately, I’ve made several jackets in the past, so I knew basically what I was doing. And even more fortunately, Historical Sewing has a TON of great instructions on Victorian bodice construction, which I relied on heavily (in addition to all those skirt tutorials linked to above!). If you’re delving into this one, I highly recommend the following posts:

I also referred to Gertie’s Lady Grey Sew-Along for general tailoring/jacket instructions. There doesn’t seem to be a handy index to the sew-along, but that link goes to the first tailoring entry and you can find the rest by browsing the blog archives for the days after it.


As you can see, I didn’t line the jacket, which made it slightly more difficult in some ways. (Figuring out the “lining facing” piece was a puzzle–still not sure if I have it right!) I ended up only using hair canvas and pad stitching in the lapels because I didn’t have time to do the collar, too. The bottom is hemmed with bias tape.


One big thing that was missing in the jacket documentation was what to wear under it. Would it have been a full shirt? (If so, what kind? I haven’t come across a lot of Victorian women’s shirt patterns.) Some kind of dickey-like garment? And what about a cravat/tie/ascot?

I didn’t want to add the bulk of a full shirt (and would probably have had to buy one anyway since I didn’t have time to research and sew something new for this event), so I wore my Regency chemisette (from Sensibility Patterns’ Regency Underthings) just to give myself some kind of collar. I wonder if it would be at all accurate to make this up in a shirting with a button closure for the next time?

I figured since this is influenced by menswear, you’d surely add neckwear. I confess, the thing I wore was in no way historically accurate (it came off a RTW gothic lolita shirt I already owned), but, hey, that leaves me something to make for the next time I wear this outfit, right? I think I’ll be going with an ascot.

I did think the fitting instructions in the pattern were pretty good and I made almost no adjustments once I’d determined what sizes to cut out (thank you, corset, for standardizing my body shape). I did end up with a couple of snafus in the sleeves, but that’s mostly on me (and honestly I think it looks fine anyway).

Oh, also, the pattern says this fits over a “moderate-sized” bustle (whatever that means), but I kind of wonder if that’s really the case? I think the boning in back goes down a little too far and pushes into the top of the bustle. I could be wrong, though–or maybe this is an adjustment I need to make for my own personal shape.

Anyway, despite all that, I am actually really happy with the way it looks! There are a few things I’m planning to change before the next time I wear it, but they’re mostly additions rather than fixes. And now that I’ve made one complete Victorian outfit, I’m feeling pretty confident about making more in the future. Bring on the balls!

Transition Stays

When last I blogged, I mentioned that I’d been somewhat sidetracked from the WA Challenge by a couple of historical costuming projects. This is the first: A “Transition Stay” Fashionable Circa 1796-1806 (#030) by Past Patterns. The booklet includes a few pages of historical notes, explanations of hand stitches, the actual instructions, and a paper doll(?!). I read over the instructions for sewing it completely by hand, had a chuckle, and sewed it mostly on my machine using the method I used for my Victorian corset (sew lining and fashion fabric separately, then join at center fronts with right sides together). All I did by hand was make the eyelets, finish the binding, and attach the breast band casing. Oh, I guess I also overcasted the center fronts because the reeds there didn’t seem to be fitting tightly enough. Plus, it kind of fakes that it’s handsewn, right?!

transitionstays_eyeletsOverall, this was a very quick make. I found fitting to be quite easy (for once). I made a straight size muslin (unusual for me, but since it laces with a gap I figured I’d try it) and ended up just taking in the top front a bit at the side seams. Since the stays end at the waist, you don’t need to worry about fitting at the hips at all.

transitionstays_backI used a heavyweight linen and lined it with a mediumweight linen. The pattern calls for “oval-oval” reed, but I couldn’t find that anywhere so I used flat-oval reed. It seems to work fine. I actually bought my pattern from Wm. Booth Draper, which also sells the metal bands that the pattern calls for.

transitionstays_metalbandBy far, the most tedious part was sewing all the boning casings, but it still didn’t take that long. You may also notice in the top photo that I crisscross laced it although the pattern calls for spiral lacing. Well, the pattern didn’t say to offset the eyelets and even though I know better I didn’t offset them, either. So if you try spiral lacing, one side ends up pulled higher than the other. Crisscross it is!

transitionstays_leftI admit, the two main reasons I decided to go with this particular pattern after having tried short stays were (1) it doesn’t have straps–for me, a bane of fitting the short stays–and (2) it laces in front (my cats are not very helpful when it comes to assisting me with dressing . . . ). I’m very pleased with how the finished stays turned out! Like I said, they were quick and easy to make (if you cheat by sewing on a machine, hahahaha), fitting was simple, and after wearing them all day today I can report that they were comfortable and held the, ahem, ladies up where they need to be for this style of dress.