Tuesday, January 29, 2013


2013 is the year I hope to get to fixing a lot of different items.  I ripped the crochet lace on one of my favorite antique petticoats, there is antique muslin to patch, beads to fix, lace to repair, and on and on.

I have many antique pieces that need some TLC.  These are bits collected over the years.  Usually scored at unusual places for small bits of money with a large enthusiasm for history...and "a plan."  Of course we all have "plans" that is how we end up with fabric stashes, mountains of trimmings, and every sewing notion known to man -- or woman.

I have big ambitions for this year.  We will have to see eleven months and one week from now to see what really happens.

I am not going to outline all these small projects now, there are too many. I have made a committment not to bring new projects into the house this year.  As I dig through boxes in my bold attempt to organize my fabric stashes, my "to get to projects", in my remaking antique clothing too damaged to save "as is," I will post my challenges, endeavors, successes and failures...I say "failures" because I do believe my goal list is a bit challenging, even for the most organized.  I'm not organized, work full time, have a family, and have a household to manage...

...so we will see what comes to fruition this year -- wish me well.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

New Year - New Projects: REALLY RETRO to REGAL REGENCY

I was able to get this wonderful 1970s wedding gown that has a really great Regency look.  Sadly the matching train was used as a tablecloth then lost which means I don't have fabric to match to make it look more Regency like.  This will be my first project this year, I will be starting in the next week or so.  See picture below:

I don't own a Regency gown and there is a Regency event I want to go to soon.  I will blog more about that later.  I am going to try to add some fabric I have at home to the back and it won't be correct but it will be costumish -- and for budget costuming a hand me down dress and some fabric stash fabric is a good way to go.  I even have some Payless satin slippers I found years ago on clearance for $3 that will work well for evening slippers.

One question that I haven't figured yet is how low to cut the neckline -- if at all. Low or high, square or V-neck?


Cross Over

I've already made stays, they aren't great but they hold the girls well enough.  Part of why I don't like Regency period is that I don't think that my body is really built for this time period.  I think of this period as more suited to a svelt and sleek body.  I tend to look...um...extra ample in Regency stays and I don't like that in these dresses.  Ok for Ren Faire, not so great for elegant evenings.

Excuse the temporary shoelace tie :-)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New Year - New Projects: DYEING AND MOURNING

I have always wanted a black mourning gown, and I wanted a silk one at that.  I have over the years purchased very inexpensive silk wedding gowns for their fabric.  However, one tires of always wearing ivory or white so I will be venturing into dyeing the fabric.  This will involve what is called acid dyeing but the acid part is really all about adding an acidic component to the dye like citric acid or white vinegar.

I also want to focus on the Natural Form Victorian period.  The dresses were often trained and worn closer to the body.  I found this free pattern online which looks a lot like one of the back of the dress below:

I plan to use one of the Truly Victorian patterns as a starting point for the bodice but it will need to be considerably changed (polinaise pattern to a fitted bodice pattern).  I will also drape a petticoat and maybe create bottom and hip pads to get a better hourglass shape without having to tight lace like crazy.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

New Year -- New Projects VICTORIAN PARASOLS!

     This year is the year I hope to fix, restore, and sell, several parasols I purchased over the years.  My budget costuming rule has always been not to spend too much money on anything, including these parasols.  There are two that are my favorite.  One was pristine when I bought it and thanks to the United States Postal Service was received snapped in half.  150 years of American history carefully preserved only to be stomped on by apes.  The secure triangle shaped carton was literally bent in half.   Of course they provided no apology or reimbursement to either myself or the seller.  The seller kindly let me keep the parasol and refunded my purchase.  Now the hard part is how to repair it?

The spectacular and absolutely perfect lace top - damn the USPS!

I have had some interesting adventures with the parasols I know have.  This one was sold as folding "bone" carriage parasol.  It is very broken and missing some of the "bone" so it was really nearly given away.  The seller told me that she found it broken in the bottom of a trunk she bought at an estate sale.  I have some thoughts how to repair the wonderful "bone" handle.  And for those of you who wonder why I am saying "bone" -- well lets say that California has some of the most restrictive ivory sales laws in the country now.  Even for antiques.  In good faith the seller thought she was selling  a bone parasol:

As I have an amazing father who supports all things zany, and that includes my dressing up as an adult, he bought me an amazing birthday gift!  This one will not be for sale!

This is not broken, rather it is a two piece handle that connects with a screw in handle.
As much as I love the lace covered parasols this is my favorite parasol.  A bonus is that both glass eyes are intact.  You sometimes find these with the glass missing.

This parasol is 1880s.  Wonderful knotted handle:

Sadly the lace top has some damage.


There are several more, including this one which has another weird story behind it.  I ordered it and received a carved Regency  Period pot instead.  The seller went MIA, and the pot had sold for considerably more than the parasol.  I finally got a hold of the seller who told me they would reimburse me shipping the pot back, never got my shipping money or my parasol...huh?  A few weeks later Ebay reimbursed me for the parasol I never received as well as my shipping costs to the seller for the potTwo days later the parasol came in the mailI sent the seller a note saying that in the spirit of "the right thing to do"  I would reimburse him for the parasol as I now had it and the money I paid for it.  I also gave him a time period as in to respond in...and he never did!  So it cost me in the end the only thing the parasol cost me was a great deal of grief! Lol!

 There are several others but they are in rough shape.  They need some TLC and I don't have good photos.  I will post as I move along and get them together.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The 1880 Book Dress: UPDATED--Notes, Photos and Final Bits

In hindsight, a bigger bustle would have been better.

My lovely and elegant friend and I.

"Borrowed" Gentelmen

Well, I made it to high tea, left the house for San Francisco at noon but was still sewing at 11:30, made the hat up the night before (I will blog about my glue gun hat), feeling very under the weather and quite pasty, and the dress not done but doable with a number of straight pins to hold me all together.  It was a lovely event.  I have an entire album at "Tfirah Costuming" on Facebook which can easily be viewed.

Our Guild really did an amazing job!  The Palace hotel was so so lovely.  And the ladies and gentlemen were spectacular! 

High tea participants..such a lovely group.

01.06.13  HAPPY BELATED NEW YEAR. Here are some more photos and thoughts about finishing the gown:

SLEEVES:  I'll begin by saying that I wish I had seen the following tutorial the night I was trying to get the sleeves onto the dress.  Jennifer Rosbrugh of Historical Sewing provided the following wonderful tutorial on how to deal with too much sleeve cap --


Here are my pictures, you can compare these to the above photos, although I wish I would have made the sleeve cap even smaller....now I know how.
All that poof on top was not period correct and after basting the sleeves in twice and ripping it out twice I finally pulled out a different pattern and traced that sleeve cap (see below).
I know now that this isn't the best way but it worked.

COLLAR:  The other challenge was the collar.  I have a pencil neck...there I said it.  So my first try at a collar was dismal.  I ended up pinching quite a bit of fabric at the back of my neck.  My first thought was to be quick (I was pressed for time) so I made a seam.  That was a disaster, although it did give me a template for a more curved collar which I needed (see finished dress).  Here is the not so great attempt --

LAPELS:  I drafted the lapel shape with scrap fabric, then made a paper pattern.  My first try was to make a single lapel that was double faced with fashion fabric, but it turned out that it was much too thick.  I decided to make only a single layer, serge the edges and then turn them under once to avoid bulk and hand stitch the edges down.  This approach greatly reduced the bulk and once I partially stitched the lapels down to the bodice you could not tell they were unlined.

DECIDING ON UNDER SUPPORT:  Initially I was going to wear an antique bustle cage under my dress.  I decided in the end not too although I wish I had a bigger bustle to wear under the dress when the final pics came in.  I decided against the bustle cage because it gave too much of an 1870s silhouette to the project.  Below you will see the bustle and petticoat with and without the cage.  The photo with the cage shows how the front silhouette with the cage is too 1870s instead of the flatter 1880s front.  It is a small detail but one that made a big difference to me when I was constructing an 1880s dress.

ATTACHING THE SKIRT AND BODICE:  I borrowed from historical photos (and previous experience) the necessary idea of attaching hooks and eyes to the skirt and bodice.  I wasn't able to get all of them on before the Tea but I was able to get a few sewn in which were necessary to keep the heavy skirt from sagging down and showing the waist band.  Below is an antique skirt showing an example of where the bodice would have attached.  I personally prefer to use the hook piece along with a flat bar eye rather than the curved ones.  I find that I get better placement.  I also used silver hooks and eyes to be able to see the connection points easier than if I had used black ones.:

HAT:  I will blog a separate entry for the "duct tape - glue gun" hat I threw together the night before, but here are some close up photos:

I ended up tucking up the peacock feather up a bit to better flow with the black feathers