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!

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(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).

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Had to attempt the awkward corset lean:

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

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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 HistoricalSewing.com that I listed before. So the insides ended up looking like this.

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

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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:

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Selika Lazevski, 1891 [source]
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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.)

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(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.

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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.

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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!

Late Victorian Corset

This is the second corset I’ve made from this pattern, Past Patterns #213 Late Victorian Corset. The first was both too big and not curvy enough, so this time I dropped a couple of sizes overall, and dropped an extra size for the waist. And I’m really happy with it!

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Curviness achieved! The bust might actually be a bit small (it’s giving me back muffin top when I tighten it too much), but I think it should be fine for now since I don’t plan to lace it down much further than what you see in these photos. (I’m not a tightlacer; this is to give Victorian costumes the right shape.) Fun fact: I laced this using the “inverted bunny ears” technique (instructions here)–I have no idea if this is historically accurate, but I find it makes it easier to tighten by yourself.

Departures from the pattern: I skipped making boning casing this time and instead just sewed boning channels between the two layers of fabric. It’s soooo much faster that way, haha. (The fabric, btw, is one layer of coutil and one layer of cotton broadcloth.) I also used less boning than the pattern called for, instead just placing two bones per seam and adding an extra where there are wide gaps between seams. I used spiral steel for the curviest parts (sides) instead of flat white steel. And, finally, the top and bottom are bound with bias tape made from the lining fabric.

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I don’t know if it’s because of the single strength layer or the sizing, but this corset is SO MUCH MORE COMFORTABLE than the other corsets I own (all underbusts, and two of which are custom, so it’s not just off-the-rack vs. custom!).

I cannibalized two old corsets for all the hardware, one of which was the last incarnation of this pattern, made from the Past Patterns kit. So I assume the busk is right for my size, but I do think it’s a little odd that there’s a good 2.5 inches of floppiness at the bottom of the center front. I can’t help but wonder if I should be using a longer busk? Or maybe trimming it shorter (it does hit the tops of my thighs when I sit)? Regardless, this will be worn as underwear under full skirts, so no big deal!

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As you can see, I also added flossing and some lace with purple ribbon and a matching ribbon bow at the center front. I highly recommend Sidney Eileen’s post on how to floss a corset. I know, I know, this is underwear so decoration doesn’t really matter, but I just think flossing makes it look 10000% more authentic and the ribbon is so cute!

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Side note: I’m wearing this over a combination made form Truly Victorian’s TV105. I made it a few years ago, so I’m not going to blog about it, but as I recall it was a pretty good pattern. I think I made it out of broadcloth, though, which might be a bit heavy.

Anyway, the Past Patterns instructions for the corset are great, as usual. My first version of this corset was the first corset I ever made, and it was much easier than I feared. So don’t be afraid to dive in if you’ve been wanting to make one and have been put off by warnings that it’s really difficult! I did totally cheat on the eyelets, though–I’ve never been able to hammer them in (at all, not just ones that don’t turn out great) and I realllly didn’t feel like sewing them by hand (which is what I did last time), so I took this to Star Snaps and had them set the grommets. It was $14 for 22 grommets–worth it, in my opinion, if you’re only making one corset every few years.

P.S. Check out the blog’s new header image. The ornaments have been shamelessly stolen from a 1906 Butterick book called Masquerades, Tableaux and DrillsRead the whole thing at the LOC!