Saturday, November 17, 2012

*Still* the Steampunk Black Dress: Overskirt

Aren't we done with this dress yet? Goodness, no. Overskirt construction details and how the trim was done need documentation. Then we're done with describing the construction, at least.

Of course, the dod derned* dress itself isn't really complete, as already mentioned. The neckline trim needs redoing, and all the other trim needs what are called "bias folds" to finish them, and the flounce is missing an added puffing. I want to piffle-puffle around with the overskirt: it needs more height and that might require more interior strings as well as a little built-in bustle pad. Then there's my entirely inadequate hairdo, all out of balance with the fluffy puffiness of the rest of the costume. That's the experimentiness of my blog coming out: as many fails as successes!

*straight from Mark Twain, and so of true 19th century flavor.
The Dreamstress
models her new
t-shirt.

So if you yawn and stretch at the interminability of this steampunk beast, best go visit the Dreamstress: she about always has something new to show. Besides, her take on modern t-shirts is just great and I am itching to make one of my own. Only four seams and three hems! The free pattern from 3HoursPast’s Blank Canvas Tee.

Overskirt Documentation

You already met the overskirt when it was a-toiling.

Remember where the pattern came from -- January Peterson's Magazine, 1869, right figure. The pattern is right in the magazine, and it's available on Google books.


To make my toile, I displayed the pattern on my computer, laid out a large length of muslin, doubled in half, and drew the pattern pieces by eyeballing them. Peterson's gives some basic measurements in inches, and this helped me, but I also and checked the proportions by examining the fashion plate. As in: okay, the front wings come down to about to thigh level on the figure.

Note: I cut the back a little longer than the Peterson's pattern: I just wanted extra length to pull up for extra pouf, or to let down for a more flowing look.

Here are all the pieces for the toile all cut out, and lined up ready to sew together. There are two "wings" in front, two side pieces, and a very large back piece.

Ladybug tests the toile.
Look closely, now. Why do you suppose the little wings pieces, which will sit at the front over the tummy, have a curve that goes opposite to the shape of the pieces they sit next two? That's to help create some puff and drape in the front. I didn't care for the drape, when I finally wore the dress, even though I liked it on the dressform. Next time I'd make the wing pieces longer and pleat them into the side pieces with three small pleats. The finished length would be the same, but the pleats would add some shadowing interest.


Then I toiled up the pieces to test for fit, as per my past post. I followed the construction directions that came with the pattern. They included putting several sets of upward-facing pleats in the side pieces. What a neat way to create drapey poufs and shadow lines! An upwards-facing pleat pulls fabric up, not down, poufs it out, not smooths it. You can see the effect clearly in the photo below.

I also curved the front edge of the wings a little more than in the original pattern.



Once I had the toile the way I wanted it, I unpicked the seams, and recut and marked the pieces to reflect my alterations. Then I laid the pieces out on the fashion fabric, and cut the fashion fabric pieces. The toile pieces became a lining.

Yes, the overskirt is fully lined. My original 1870s dress has a lined overskirt, and I felt that it would give the drape extra oomph if the fabric were lined, as of course it did.

Just as with the original dress, the lining is a flat-lining: the lining and fashion fabric are treated as one, and seamed up that way. That means that the seams show on the underside, but that was normal. I finished the seams by overcasting them. Then I slipstitched the bottom and sides to hem them. The big stitches you see in the photo below? Those are the tacking stitiches that hold the trim in place. You would find that on extant dresses too.



Then it was time to add the waistband and finish it. Because an overskirt is drapey, it is 3-D, and so I pinned it together on the dressform, not flat, to make sure it would make up the way I wanted. Sure, I had a toile, but what if adding heavier fabric changed things?

First step: gathering the back piece tightly. Note that I matched the side back seam on the bodice with the side seam on the overskirt.



Here's the gathering, from the interior (after the overskirt has been sewn to the waistband):



Next, I pleated the sides of the overskirt. I set in very, very wide pleats. Look on the back side of the overskirt, and see that the pleats are inches wide, in some cases. My finger points them out in the photo below. Is this because the pattern was too big? No, I don't think so. It just took a lot of fabric to create such pouf on the overskirt, and all that fabric has to be pulled in tightly in order to pouf well.



The pleats are set on a backwards angle, as you see below. This will help pouf the fabric towards the back.


Then the overskirt sides were pleated with those upwards-facing pleats.


All the sets of side pleats added.


Half the overskirt pleated. Notice how the side pleats create a pannier pouf, that is, a pouf which sticks out at the sides, which was very popular that year. It was towards the middle of the 1870s that most of the bustle effect was concentrated in the back, leaving the sides slim. In 1869, width was still important -- a nod to 18th century pannier hoops and skirt polonaising.


Next I pinned the second side. Then the overskirt was carefully removed from the dressform, and all the pleats and gathering backstitched, by hand, into place. I used a spaced backstitch, with tiny stiches showing outside, as below.



Inside, the stitches look bigger: they are the vertical lines of black stitching below. If I want to redo the look of the draping, I can take out the stitching and redo it easily, without bothering the hems.




Then the first inch or so of the overskirt top was turned inwards and whipped to a waistband, just as for the underskirt. I built in about three extra inches at each end of the belt so I could add a real belt buckle if wanted, or just pin the band together, as desired. Here's the effect from the outside. I used strong quilting thread to do the whipping: unfortunately it's white and shows.


 However, that's the case on my extant dress, too: look at the little white whipstitches on the waistband of my extant 1870s skirt in the photo below.



Phewee, that's the end of the overskirt construction. Last bit? Trim...next time. I am worn out, aren't you?

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