Sunday, June 07, 2009

Edwardian "Lingerie" Dress Diary, Part 7

In the last post, I had added the interior belting to the lingerie dress skirt. The next steps were to attach the bodice to the belting, and so doing, attach bodice and skirt together, complete the bodice and skirt closures, and attach the remaining trim.

As always, click on the images to see larger versions of them.

Attaching the Bodice to the Skirt

In 2008, to save time, as I thought, I stitched the waistband trim to the outside of the bodice. Not a good plan. It turns out that I needed to adjust the fit at the waistline...which would have wrinkled up the trim! Therefore, the trim had to come off. I laboriously unpicked all the stitching.

Photo: I am wearing the dress at the Edwardian picnic. Because it was so sunny it was hard to see details...

On the actual lingerie dress I used as a model, the bodice is attached to the skirt belting this way:
  • the skirt fabric is folded over the belting and stitched,
  • then the bodice is gathered, laid right on top of the belt, and tacked with several rows of wide stitching.
To accomplish pretty much this same thing, I put the skirt inside out on the stand. In the photo below, you can see how the belting is exposed, with the skirt in back and folded over the top of it.

Then I placed the bodice inside out on the dress form, and pinned it shut, as in the photo below.

You can see that the bodice is quite long, per the pattern. However, I had added a high empire waist to the skirt; if you look carefully you can see its outline behind the bodice. Therefore, I will be stitching the bodice to the belting quite high up on the bodice.

I had already run a row of gathering around the bodice, about at the point where I imagined that the waistline would sit. Per the model dress, I imagined I would have to gather the fabric in a good bit.

Here below is a photo of the gathering stitches. I made them quite small so that the gathers would be small and delicate, and so less noticeable in the final dress.

In the event, I found I had to do very little gathering, because I was sewing sew high up on the bodice, where it was narrower to begin with.

I then proceeded to baste the bodice to the belting. I used big vertical stitches, thinking that this would hold well when the dress was removed from the stand. Wrong. It didn't. I redid it, using medium-size horizontal stitches. The photo below shows the vertical stitches. I do not have a photo of the proper horizontal ones.

Then, because the linen is much heavier than batiste would be, instead of tacking the bodice to the belting with several rows of stitching as did the original, I stiched it down by machine. The two photos below show the result as a whole and in detail. The detail shows where the stitching was placed, along with the basting, in red thread, from where the skirt was attached to the belting.

I am totally sold on the belting idea. This linen has weight to it, and while the weave is fairly close, when stitches are placed under stress, tiny holes sometimes show up where the threads are pulled out of whack. At the waistline this does not happen because the belting is taking the strain.

Happy with the result, I trimmed off the excess length of bodice fabric inside the dress, leaving enough to just cover the lower edge of the belting.

Then I reattached the trim to the bodice. In the photos below you see it basted on and then stitched on my Willcox and Gibbs chainstitch treadle machine.

As with the rest of the bodice trim, I hand sewed a narrow crochet trim to the edge of the whitework trim to cover up the stitching.

I remembered to attach the trim such that it sits lower in the front and then gradually rises in the back: this angle to the waist was considered more elegant and graceful than a waistline that sat evenly all the way around.

As explained by the article titled "Secrets of Smart Dressing", in Every Woman's Encyclopaedia (1910-1912):

The Position of the waistline.

A tremendous difference is made to the smartness of a woman's appearance by raising the waist-line slightly at the back, and the woman whose waist is inclined to be large should always wear a shaped, narrow belt, well pulled down in the front. (See Fig. 6.) Compare the effect with that shown in Fig. 7.

Skirts of Smart Appearance

Slight figures look their best in pleated skirts, or in those that have some fulness at the back. A woman whose hips are inclined to be stout should be careful to have the front panel of her skirt made narrow. Pleats are not for her, and she should have her skirts stitched or trimmed with the lines running lengthways - never across.

The edge of a smart walking skirt should' be an almost imperceptible trifle higher at the back than at the front; this looks even better than a perfectly level length, and also allows for the inevitable drop which comes with wear. Of course, a droop at the back of a walking-length skirt will quite spoil the appearance of an otherwise well-cut garment.

(Natalie's note: golly, aren't these fine details just what we need to know, and so hard to find!)

Illustration: Figures 6 and 7 from "Secrets of Smart Dressing".

Completing Bodice and Skirt Closures

For some reason the skirt opening and bodice opening did not line up properly...probably because I had made so many alterations over so many months to both bodice and skirt. Since by now I had just less than two weeks to finish the dress, I was unable to document all of these issues with the camera, but I did keep a mental tally of what I did to correct the problems.

Here is what I ended up having to do:

My sweet friend Polly helped me set where the bodice should close on the back. I tried on the dress and she basted in red thread a line on the back of the bodice where the bodice should overlap to.

In the original pattern, to make the bodice closure you simply turn back an inch or so of the fabric on each side, and hem it down prior to adding buttons or hooks and eyes. I lacked this "excess" fabric. Therefore, I cut two strips the length of the bodice closure, stitched them on, turned them under, and hemmed them down. The seamlines for both additions were inside the back closure so that there would be no seamline showing.

For some reason the pleats I added in the skirt in May, to make the skirt fit my now smaller waist, threw off the line of the skirt closure from the bodice closure, such that the skirt closed about an inch to the left of where the bodice closed. I was so irritated with this, but thought to try on the dress. Seeing that the skirt fit quite tightly since it was set slightly higher than during the fitting (oh dear, so much for accuracy), I determined to unstitch the skirt from the belting to the point where one pleat sat, pull out the pleat, and restitch the skirt to the belting. It worked, and you cannot tell that anything is out of true.

Then I added the hooks and eyes and snaps. From the top of the dress they run like this:

Small hooks and eyes in the bodice:
  • Two set close together in the collar facing, for strength.
  • Seven to the bottom of the bodice before the trim. All should be eyes, but I used bars on two, having run out of eyes.
  • Two large white hooks and eyes at the waistband trim, for strength.
Larger hooks and eyes in the skirt placket, then snaps:
  • Three large hooks and bars (skirts were supposed to have bars, according to one manual, which one, I do not recall) at the top of the placket, for strength.
  • Nine snaps down the rest of the placket. I learned from a period sewing manual (again, which one, I have forgotten) that snaps can be placed for ease of closure in the lower portion of the placket, since the skirt gets little stress there.
All closures, except those in the collar and waistband, are set 3/4 of an inch apart. Any further, some manuals warn, and the closure may gap.

Setting on hooks and eyes is an art, since good placement is key. You want the closure to lay flat, with no folding back of the outer edge, but no peeking out of the hooks or eyes. I recommend Textbook on Domestic Art, with Illustrations and Drafts (San Francisco: Foster & ten Bosch, c 1911) on the Cornell HEARTH site, and American Dressmaking Step by Step, A complete, simplified method of sewing, dressmaking and tailoring, by Mme. Lydia Trattles Coates (1917), on for details.

The photo below shows the dress back with the closures opened. Note the wide underlap on the bodice, and how the waistline trim is carried out on to it, and finished by running the crochet trim around the edge for neatness. The white hooks and eyes in the waistband are hard to see: they blend in to the whitework. Also, I would have used white or plain metal finish hooks and eyes and snaps to the skirt closure had I had some on hand. Fortunately, they do not show through. I didn't feel badly that they didn't match. Hardly any garment in my collection has nice matching closure gadgets!

Here is the dress closed in the back. Despite how carefully I worked, I did not manage to set the eyes as far out to the edge as I wanted, but thankfully the closure lies quite flat.

Hemming the Skirt

Hemming skirts is never fun. Since I had no one to help, I set the skirt on the dress form, and pinned, then basted the hem in place. I created a small round train in back. Then I basted everything carefully -- pins may fall out so that you have to start over! -- tried on the dress, noted it was too long in front, took it off, and moved the hem down a bit, and rebasted.

Then I carefully hemmed the skirt with an invisible hem. Since the hem of any flared skirt will be wider than the position further up the skirt that it's hemmed to, I took small pleats occasionally in the hem to help it lay flat. Authentic Victorian Dressmaking Techniques (a reprint of the 1905 Butterick Dressmaking Book), details this in photos better than I can. If you can find the 1911 Butterick book online (I have lost the link), the same information is in that edition.

The photo below shows Ladybug kitty proudly exhibiting the hemmed skirt.

Here is the back view, with the small train.

Adding the Skirt Insertion

The last step was to add insertion in a wide-ish band around the lower portion of the skirt. I used Cluny lace, which was popular at this time. After looking fruitlessly on Ebay and online lace stores for period lace for some weeks (the lengths were always too short or the pattern too geometric), my sweet friend Johnny gave me multiple yards of very pretty lace from her stash. Johnny, it looks wonderful.

My original dress design called for the bodice lace to keep traveling down the the skirt vertically in the front panel, a very popular and slimming look. However, the band around the lower part of the skirt, at about shin height, was as popular and since I had no more lace like I used in the bodice, I decided on this latter design.

Some period trained dresses set such bands so that they gently rise in the back, echoing the waistline and countering the outer curve of the train. It's a lovely look, and that's what I did. My insertion is placed ten inches from the hem in the front, sweeping upwards to some 15 or so inches from the floor in back.

To make this look, you have to lay the skirt on the floor where you can really see it in full, and lay it out, front up. Pin the lace carefully all the way to the seam that is closest to the sides of the skirt. Then baste it down carefully, basting each edge separately.

Flip the skirt over, and pin again.

Then place the skirt so that it shows the side panels on one side and adjust the curve so that it doesn't just start suddenly swooping up from a side-seam. That would be clunky looking. Do the same on the other side panels. Then baste.

You'll have to play with the trim and curve it with your hands to get it to curve up nicely from the sides to the center back of the skirt. Why did I not photograph this?

Then stitch it down. I stitched the top edge by machine. Now, since the lower edge of my lace is scalloped, I hand-stitched each little scallop down to the fabric rather than machine-stitched it. That way the scallops stay in place and do not roll up, which will easily happen when the garment is worn, and definitely will happen when it is washed.

Normally, the next step would be to cut away the fabric behind the insertion, and hem down the edges, but by this time I was two days away from the Edwardian picnic and had yet to make a hat. Since the lace trim in the dress bodice is also not cut out behind, I opted to let this step wait for a more convenient moment.

Here is the dress, after I wore it to the picnic. A little wrinkled and dirty at the hem, but sound.

At this point the dress was done enough to wear at the picnic! What a lovely picnic it was, too. Soon I will have photos to show you, as well as remarks on
  • what all of us learned about putting on our clothes -- and getting stuck in them!
  • how which petticoat you wear will vary depending on which skirt you are wearing
  • why a camisole makes sense
  • Walking gracefully, the line of a skirt in a breeze,
  • the perils of soft grass, oil and other hazards on walks and pavements,
  • why one moves slowly in a longer dress and why sudden movements are somewhat risky
  • how linen breathes on warm days, and why a long light-colored skirt is in some ways cooler than form-fitting shorts and a tank top
  • how hats sit on the head, and why hatpins were really necessary,
  • why 1909 hairstyles were flat on top,
  • how hair rats and falls work, and how to achieve one particular 1909 style
  • how hat veils work, and much more.
See you soon!


Sarah Jane said...

Oh Natalie!! What a breathtaking, beautiful gown. I would never guess it is actually a reproduction since it looks so much like an original. It is amazing! Once again I am amazed at how much thought you put into each and every detail and appreciate so much you sharing the why's of what you do. This dress is perfectly exquisite!

ZipZipInkspot said...

Dear Sarah Jane,

That is high praise, coming as it does from you, who are so skilled!

The dress was a labor of love, and indeed, I looked at countless pictures and read manual after manual, blog after blog, and examined the original dress in my collection over and over to try and get it as right as I could. The actual period lace helps, as does the linen.

And still there is more to do! The cuffs are still a bit wide: they should be snug, and the skirt's lace needs to be made into insertion by cutting out the fabric behind and hemming down the raw edges.

Thank you so much again,

Natalie in Kentucky