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My next project will be a 1805-1810 white evening dress made from very sheer and fine muslin cotton. I want this dress to be outstanding and am going to take as much time as possible 😀

The occasion of this dress:

1) Balls, Jane Austen Festival, Regency parties
2) Daily special occasion when I can dress up a little bit but not exaggerating. It should be convenient for walking.

I don’t want to spend so many hours making an art piece and then just hang it in the wardrobe. Fashion for me has to be practical. 

The Style

After doing many research in libraries and museums, I have chosen my favourite following styles:

Sleeves and shape of skirt: puffed, short sleeves, skirt without train. Waistband may be embroidered. No sash! (I so dislike the shining things) Hem and the front panel will be embroidered (this is going to be such a long project…)

1810 British Cotton and Linen Dress: Met Museum. Sleeve with and without filling

1804-05 French Evening Dress: V&A Museum

 
The embroidery of the dress above is my favourite style 🙂 As I have taken the whitework embroidery course at the Royal School of Needlework,  this project will be perfect for me to practise those Mountmellick stitches!

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My Hand-Stitched Regency Gown

Start date: Feb 10, 2012
Finish date: Feb 23, 2012
Fabric: for the size 12 I made, 4 Yds, 51″wide; Lining: 1 Yd
Adjustment points: Length of skirt: Cut 37″(upper skirt)+11″(lower skirt) instead of 39 1/2″ + 12″ suggested by the pattern

#031: Circa 1796-1806 Lewis & Clark Era: Empire Gown - Courtesy: Past Patterns

 As my first attempt for the La Mode Bagatelle Bodiced Petticoat went on very well, I decided to challenge myself for an authentic period look, using the Front Closing Gown pattern from Past Patterns. According to the good reviews on GBACG by many costumers, this pattern should be very professional and reliable and this is proved to be true. To be honest, if I have had used this pattern before the LMB one, I wouldn’t be able to bear with the drawings and wording of the LMB…Not because that LMB is too bad, but just Past Patterns is too good. (In fact the result of LMB petticoat looks great) The pattern is very well researched, correctly illustrated and very clearly texted.  I have only found very few points where the outcome doesn’t match the instruction, and I will list them below.

My fabric for this gown: Green-grey cotton as the fashion fabric, and linen as the lining

The fabric I use is a very light weighted Italian cotton. For lining I simply used my leftover 100% white linen fabric from the LMB petticoat, which is a bit luxious as that linen costs about £10 a metre :p. I took a little bit risk here as I didn’t test the pattern on a cheaper fabric first, but I was kind of confident and  had a bet on my skills. Thanks God it comes out well!

Bodice Lining

As sewing machine was not invented at that time, hand-stitch is required for the whole gown. I have tried my best to hand-stitch 90% of the gown, except for some terribly long lines on the skirt. (It’s really too tiring to sew several 88-inch-long back stitches by hand!!! :p:p:p)

Trianglel: Back Piece

The design of the back is the eye-catching part of this gown. The front part of the lining is separate with the bodice, and will hang free and be pinned when being worn.

Bodice: Fashion Fabric and Lining Together

When it came to the cord, the pattern suggested to use candlewicking yarn to make your own cord. I couldn’t find this yarn/thread either in my local craft shops or harberdashery departments in John Lewis or Liberty, so I digged some 100% cotton knitting yarn from my stash, which happen to look nice with the fabric, and twisted them to make the neck cord.

Cotton Knitting Yarn as Cord 🙂

So far the pattern has done really well for the bodice and I didn’t meet any difficulty except for a tiny mistake on page 7: when it says to press the seam allowance to the wrong side for the lining, it should be the right side. The illustration is correct but the texts are not. The second issue is when it came to the knife pleats of the skirt, I had some problem with the pleating template. Not sure if it’s something to do with sizes, but the pleats made according to the template don’t match the center back of the bodice – the right side (close to the CF) is much shorter than the left side, making the possibility of having at least 9 pleats on the left, but only 5 on the right. I had to move the template the width of 1.5 pleats to the left, starting from the CF, to make it look about equal. This is the only problem I had with the pattern.

Making Pleats and Front Crescent Tuck

For the hem of the skirt, I deliberately left the selvage side of the lower skirt undone. So here is the completed gown!

1796-1806: Front Closing Gown

I’m not very sure about the front tuck…Although it does make the length right. And also the neck cord should be hiden inside, but I think it’s ok to let them out since they add some brightness to the gown.
 

1796 Gown: Side View 1

Although this is how the back should look like, I think I’ll prefer a more high-waist back. Until next time!

1796 Gown: Back View

Basically I am quite satisfied with it and think it is a very pretty day dress 😉  I’m supposed to wear a chemise, transition stay and a neck kerchief underneath, but they haven’t been made yet :p

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I went to the studio yesterday and completed the skirt part of the petticoat. All the seams on the skirt are french seams. Then comes the most exciting bit: gathering!

The pattern suggests to either concentrate the gathers at the back, or arrange them evenly around the front. I tried to pin them to show the two different effects before sewing:

Left: gather at back; Right: gather evenly around front

If viewing from the side they look also quite different:

Left: gather mainly at back; Right: gather evening around

It’s difficult to make up my mind which one to choose…Which one would you suggest? 🙂

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When I firstly attended the Jane Austen Promenade in Bath in 2008, I wore a vintage Laura Ashley dress, which was a normal daily dress but I shaped the sleeve a bit. I am not fully satisfied with it so ever since then I am determined to make my own authentic regency gowns, and the time finally comes!

Me in Bath

After doing a lot of research on the Internet I have collected some most recommended patterns, including La Mode Bagatelle Regency Wardrobe(for beginners and improvers. Although not 100% periodically correct it’ll look nice), 1796-1806 Empire Gown from Past Patterns, 1809 Day Dress from Period Impressions and Mantua-Maker… I am an experienced leather worker but haven’t done many sewing projects before, so hopefully starting from the petticoat by La Mode Bagatelle will be easier for me.

What's in the La Mode Bagatelle Package

The fabric I use for the petticoat is very light-weighted linen from Italy.

Italian Linen

I have to say there are quite a few points not clear in this LMB pattern instruction. I’ll try to write them down as I progress, and hopefully my notes will also be helpful  for those who get confused reading this pattern.

Point 1: The neckline casing. The instruction says to stitch the bias strips to the lining, but doesn’t say to the wrong side or the right side. If the former there’s no way for the drawstring to come out unless you make some eyelets on either the lining or the bodice, which is not mentioned in the instruction, so I decide to do it to the right side, and stitched the folded edge of bias with the lining as well. Fortunately it looks good so far.

La Mode Bagatelle - Bodiced Petticoat Neckline Casing from the Lining Side

LMB - Bodiced Petticoat - Bodice Front

 Point 2: After stitching all around the neckline and armhole, I’ll need to turn the whole thing inside out. It literally takes HOURS to turn, as the shoulder straps are so narrow that I nearly thought it was a mission impossible. The booklet doesn’t say anything about how difficult this will be, but just “turn”. Luckily enough, it is possible (thank God!)  to turn the whole thing as long as you do it bit by bit. A great amount of patience is needed here. 

LMB-Bodiced Petticoat Shoulder Strap after Turning

Point 3: Then it says “right side together, stitch center back”. It made me nearly stitch the left and right center back pieces together, but I soon realised that I wouldn’t be able to put it on if I did so! It must mean that the left piece should stitch with left and right with right.

Point 4: Stitch side fronts to backs with the bodice and lining opened out, then stitch the seam as self-casing. Make sure that you do the casing on the lining only – another thing not explained by the pattern. 😦

Well, so far it has taken some time but it’s getting there. I’ll keep working on the skirts tomorrow!

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