Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Steampunk Black Dress: Whee! Bodice Fits!

Serious concern about fit;
seriously silly picture.
Edited September 8, 2020

Wheeeee-ooooo! It fits with no tweaks needed. [Wipes brow before perspiration mars the bodice.] I was worried it might be too tight, or would gap above the bust, or there'd be some other awful problem. The worries were allayed. By plenty of grace and good fortune it worked out. I love Truly Victorian patterns.

When my arm isn't raised, the bodice is smooth across the front. There is the inevitable loose wrinkle at the underarm, courtesy the extra seam allowance I couldn't fold under enough for the second fitting as well, as the aging bust issue that padding will correct, but otherwise, to my eye it's nice.

I may raise the waistline a little bit, but not by much: left a last hook and eye undone in case shortening was needed.  Mmm, what do you think? Allowing for a 1/2" hem allowance, is the bodice short enough for the slightly raised 1870 waistline?

Yes, that's a vee neckline. I like it!

Sewing -- and Basting -- the Seams

Below we have all the pieces laid out. I had numbered each piece when I made the toile, so I'd lay it out correctly. Too often have I played the dork card and gotten pieces mixed up, so the one minute it took to label them saved me potentially hours.

Following Heather McNaughton's and Harper's Bazar directions, the backs were sewn together first, then each side back was sewn to the back. Curved seam...always fun. It helps to pin and baste carefully. Then each side to each side back. What about the fronts? Read on...

Detail of pinning. The red threads? That's the basting holding lining, interlining and fashion fabric together. The penciled lines? The seam lines. I drew them so I'd be sure to get the seams right, having a premonition that if I didn't nothing good would follow.

All machine sewing is done on this circa 1911 Willcox and Gibbs treadle below. The dear girl is pretty beat up, her gold trim paint worn off, drawers mended, wood trim missing, even a piece of her top broken off, but as my friend Johnny says, she sews a dream more than 100 years later, so the consistent use she's had means she is a peculiarly good machine.

How do you like the environs? That's the roughed-in master bath she sits in. I haven't the faintest clue where my poor girl goes when it's finished out. There's scarcely room for her anywhere.

After sewing all of the seams except the side to side front, it was time to baste the front-side seams and the shoulder seams. That way if I had goofed the front closure, I could adjust the front-side seams by moving the front piece. Remember, Heather says I am to leave that side piece's seam allowance alone.

Oh, day of reckoning. In the two images below, the side seams are basted...oops, no picture of the shoulder basting, but really, that's overkill.

Then the fitting. On with the corset. Do up the hooks and eyes with shaky fingers. Uh-oh, is it too tight? Oh dear, oh.....phewwwwwww. We're okay.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, is my pride in for a fall? Stern reminder to self: reign in any tendency towards hubris and retain proper humility after this lucky fit, or something horrible is likely to happen to the sleeves.

No, that's not a model pose. That's me thinking I needed to move to allow the camera
to see the entire bodice, not move the camera. Silly girl. Besides, what model would display
her double chin?

Yup, that's snug all right. It will stretch a bit.

The fit is good enough and the lining-interlining-fashion fabric combination sturdy enough that I shan't bone the bodice. I'll do the channels, of course, but no, no boning, not for now. (Fall 2020: I should have added the boning, and connected the bodice and skirt with a series of hooks and eyes, too. The bodice would have fit better and the connection with the skirt would keep the bodice from riding up. Live and learn...and take a lesson from it!)

Sneak Peek

Next up? Sleeves and finishing the neckline and the waistline in rapid, sensible period fashion...but without cording!  So sorry Harper's Bazar, but I shan't cord either neckline or waistline after all, just the armscyes.

Why? I have an 1869 silk dress in my collection. It was altered at least once during the nineteenth century, and appears to have been used as a costume later...that's where the hook and eye tape came from that you see in the second image below.

(Fall 2020 edit: Cassidy, a dress historian and costumer, now owns the dress. I sent it to her, along with a number of other garments from my collection, as she would be able to understand and share much more about their design and construction, and conserve them, far better than I could. Recently she analyzed the dress in a post titled Ca. 1866 Brown Gown - A Close-Up Look and video. I urge you to watch it, because she points out much that I entirely missed, while confirming some of what I found. Note that she dates the dress to 1866-1867. Am in agreement, having spent some of the summer reading Peterson's Magazines from 1866-1870. Finally, she plans to create a pattern from it at some point. Crossing fingers!)

In the first photo of the outside of the dress, we see thread in giant running stitch. What does it hold?

Turns out, it tacks the net lace collar into place. (By the way, that collar is a much later addition, I have learned) The collar is sandwiched between the lining and the fashion fabric. You can't see it from the outside because the collar covers the stitches.

So how are the insides finished? The fashion fabric raw edge was turned in, the lining was turned in, and the lining was hemmed to the turned in allowance of the fashion fabric. The stitches are tiny, but there aren't very many of them. No stitch shows on the outside of the dress. (Edit: Cassidy says the neckline treatment dates to a much later alteration. The original neckline would have been piped. Sigh. I should have piped mine. A pitfall of using an extant dress as a model, when you aren't aware of the effect of later alterations!)

Nota bene: more on that collar later. It's just a length of lace, whose ends have been trimmed and finished off...

Until next time, Ciao.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Steampunk Black Dress Tutorial: Mid-Century Front Bodice Closure With Hidden Hooks and Eyes

Are you ready for me to show you a period method for making a well-fitting front closure with hooks and eyes, taken from a mid-19th-century dress in my collection? Sure you are! I have a circa 1850-60s green and wine colored stripe and floral silk dress in my collection that sets the eyes and hooks very much as the Harper's Bazar article article in Reconstruction Era Fashions (discussed in previous posts) directs.

Why am I doing the closure now? The Harper's Bazar article tells us that before sewing your bodice seams together, you finish the front closure. This seems counterintuitive, but if you finish it first, you can be surer of a nice gapless closure and can fix any fitting issues by testing the side seams before sewing them for good.

So, after cutting out my interlining and fashion fabric pieces, and basting them to the lining with red thread, I was ready for the front closure.

The TV 400 pattern gives you an inch hem allowance to create it. That's all you need. No extra underlap, no facing, nothing.

Attaching the Eyes
First thing you need to know is that the eyes go on the left front piece as you look at the front of the bodice.

Now, let's look at our extant dress. The image below shows the front of the bodice, laid horizontally on top of some muslin. The brass eyes are protruding from between the fashion fabric and the lining. The eyes are sandwiched in between the layers. They won't catch on anything, won't tilt forward or backward, and are unlikely to come off unless ripped by main force.

Below, the same brass eyes, seen from the lining side. Look carefully and you can see that the lining and fashion fabric are whip-stitched together. You can also see a few stitches at the eyes' bottoms where they are stitched to the inside of the lining. They are not stitched to the fashion fabric.

The eyes, seen end on. You can clearly see the black thread that was used to whip the fashion fabric and lining together. The eyes don't stick out very far, do they?

Now, let's see what I did.

Below, you see the front left piece, with lining upward, all basted. I folded under and pinned together the lining and interlining at the hemline in Heather's inch in from the raw edge. I left the fashion fabric free, not pinned.

Next, I turned over the lining+interlining unit to the backside, and sewed on the eyes. The two little eyes are each couched down with thread all the way around the eye, not just with a few stitches, for sturdiness. So the bodice won't gap, just like on the original dress I spaced the eyes an inch apart.

To speed the work, after you sew the first eye down, you just carry the thread to the next eye, and sew that down, and so on until you need a new thread. Sandwiched in between the lining and fashion fabric, it won't get pulled.

This process took me an hour or so. With good music on it's not a problem: I listened to Claudio Monteverdi's 1610 vespers.

Next, I folded the fashion fabric hem allowance to the inside, and whipstitched everything together. In the image below I am folding the fashion fabric's raw edge to the wrong side, next to the lining, making sure that the fashion fabric projects just a tiny bit out.

Sadly, I don't have a picture of that at the moment.

Eyes done!

Attaching the Hooks

Let's look at the 1850s-1860s dress again, to see how the hooks were set. Again, very like how the Harper's Bazar article directs us.

In the first image, below, we we are looking at the lining of the hook side of the front closure, laid out horizontally.

The hooks are sewn down to the lining, without any stitches going out to the outside fashion fabric. The seamstress used thick thread, sewed the hooks down with lots of stitches, and carried the thread from hook to hook so she wouldn't have to tie off a thread and then start a new one each time. That line of thick backstitching above the hook? No idea what that's for right now. It doesn't show on the outside of the dress.

The hooks are set far back from the closure edge so that there's no chance that the closure will be seen.

By the way, aren't those hooks nice? Strong brass, and the shanks hammered a little flat. We don't have notions like that today, that I know of.

The seamstress or mantua maker included the selvage edge of the fashion fabric in her right front piece, a practical thing to do because once the hooks were sewn down, she could just turn the fashion fabric to the inside, right over the lining and not have to hem down the edge.

What's that double line of stiching just above the hooks? Well, it strengthens the closure. The stitching, in black thread, goes all the way through to the fashion fabric. The seamstress was very cannot see the stitching because it is set at the two edges of a stripe in the fabric.

The line of stitching closest to the end of the hooks is discontinuous: it stops at each hook and starts again after each hook. You know, then that these are very long hooks. The upper line of stitching is continuous.

The final step is to make a tiny hole with a stiletto -- between threads, not cutting them -- and poking the hooks up through the hole.

When closed, the hook side of the bodice overlaps the eye side and hides the join. In this case, the lap ends at dead center of the bodice, so that the closure line is in the center. You would have to do some measuring and careful fitting to make sure that you ended up with this effect: your eye side would have to go past the center front, while your hook side would have to end at center front.

However, if you are going to place non-functional buttons on top, as I am, then you allow the overlap to be off center, and sew the buttons on so that they line up at the center line.

A side note: the fabric on the 1850s-60s dress is amazing. It's very tightly woven and includes moire and jacquard patterning. It's also strong, dense, and supple. Amazing stuff.

Anyhow, on my bodice, here's what I did.

First, I trimmed off the outer edge of the closure edge to almost one inch in.

Next I laid down the front piece with the completed eyes on top of the front piece that gets the hooks. I matching up the bottoms and the closure point so that I could find exactly where to sew each hook. To mark the spot for each hook, I drew a little dot through each eye down onto lining side of the piece that gets the hooks.

Then I sewed down the hooks. Just as with the eyes, I pulled the fashion fabric away so that I was sewing only to the lining, and made sure to anchor them firmly, sewing not only through the little anchor eyes, but stitching over the shank several times too, so that it wouldn't want to pull up when tugged at.

Then I folded and pinned the outer edge of the fashion fabric right over the top of the hooks, allowing about 1/4" to project beyond the hooks. Then I turned a hem just at the bottom of the hooks. Below, the folding and pinning just beginning.

Then the closure was hemmed down. Yes, the hooks are under that fabric!  How do you get them out? I'll show you next image :}

The last step. I pushed the fashion fabric down until it was tight on at the top of the hooks and had a little excess, and then pushed and pressed with my fingers on the fabric over the top of each hook until it worked its way through the fabric. I have no stiletto, so had to do it that way.  The little excess of fabric is needed so that the hook comes through not at the very edge of the closure, but inward a little bit so that there's a lap to hide the hooks when the bodice is worn.

Once I finish the bodice, if it seems right I will also reinforce the hook side of the closure by hand-stitching  at the base of the hooks, as invisibly as possible...hopefully the buttons will obscure anything that shows.


That's what's next.

Once you have set your hooks and eyes, you sew all the seams excepting the front to side front and the shoulder seams. Then you pin both those seams and try on the bodice. You want a snug fit. If your result is a little loose, either let out or take up the front piece's seam allowances at shoulder or side. Do not take up any of the back piece or the side piece. Once your fit is just right, then sew those last seams.

We'll check this out next time.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Listening to Time

Take a moment and listen to our clock mark the time with slow beats. It slows the heart rate, it talks not about hurry, but about peace.

Wishing you a slow, thoughtful, pleasant weekend.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Versatile Blogger Award

Goodness, it's nice to be appreciated. Thank you, Sabine, of Kleidung um 1800, for giving me the Vertsatile Blogger award. Thank you so very kindly.

I've waited several days to acknowledge the award because I've a bit of a problem, stemming from the award rules, below:
  1. Thank and link back to the person who nominated you
  2. Paste the award to your blog
  3. Tell 7 thing about yourself
  4. Nominate 15 other blogs
No. 1? Ah, courtesy. Happily complied with. Thank you, Sabine!
No. 2? Paste the award. Herewith, with gratitude:

No 3. Seven things about me? Erp. Ulp. Um. Really? That needed a few days, to get over the jitters. Writing about onesself is embarassing. Ah, see below...
N. 4. Nominate 15 blogs. Oop. Houston, we have a problem. I think that the blogs I follow most often all have won the award already, except perhaps a few. This part of the award rules, made to help spread the word about worthy blogs flying under the radar, have unearthed blogs across the globe, and this is a wonderful thing! All I have at the moment are a few that I hope and believe you'll find entertaining, useful reading,
  • The Hectic Eclectic, of New Zealand. Mrs. C. is an experienced costumer and store owner. She writes in a refreshing style and invites us in to Wellington, and into her life, so that over time we get such a warm sense of her sensibility, her kind character, and her delightful city. Also her sense of humor. Have a gander at the URL she uses. Love it! If I could visit one truly far place in my lifetime, she's decided me on her own country.
  • Living with Jane. Jenni, blog owner, is a dear friend of mine. She's only been costuming a few years, but her sense of fitting and draping are already so far beyond mine. That I admit freely, if wistfully. She's an artist and teacher, and her posts bring out her persistence and creativity. I enjoy following her muse.
  • A Most Beguiling Accomplishment, by Cassidy. An historical costume professional, Cassidy's posts often find their way into my bookmarks, for she has a habit of sharing fresh new details. Chapeau a la Spa, a thrice-cocked black straw with multicolored ostrich plumes, circa 1779? Whew! She is also a super sharer: she takes patterns of historical clothing for us! Bless her.
Okay, those seven things about me. Sabine, I'll not be matching your humor, dear. I neither eat meat, fish, nor fennel. So what have you against fennel, eh?
  1. I'm just shy of 50, and happy to be there. The fifties are confident. We're past the lamb phase. Now for structure and character!
  2. My husband and I have twin boys. This blog plainly tells you that we're dotty about them.
  3. Television and movies rarely interest me, with few exceptions: old movies, some British comedies, and the Bourne movies. Unh-hunh, it's true. Jason Bourne. Oh, and 007. Oh, and Run, Lola, Run. Go figure.
  4. Languages and studying them. French, German, a smidge of Italian. Now Spanish, because the boys' school is Spanish immersion for half the day every day. Don't have much time for it right now, but declining verbs floats my boat!
  5. I like American football, especially college ball, especially SEC, but NFL will do in a pinch. Have San Francisco and Detroit on right now. The strategy! The multitudinous factors affecting the game, the complexity! No other sports, except golf, tennis, and rowing, are in the same league. How's that for opinionated :}
  6. I am a lapsed historian, having foregone a career in research and teaching, and what seemed, in graduate school, a pretty lonely life in the library stacks, for the right-now urgency and teamwork of public health. Going after the germs that contaminate our food, our hospitals, our communities, that try to cross borders on planes, trains, and automobiles, the emerging and zoonotic diseases that play Old Harry with our best laid plans and best medicines, that's the team I play on. I've got a small, part-time role, but it's a pleasure and honor to serve, and it stretches every skill I ever had.
  7. Tea! Austrian pastries! Furbelows! Spode! Czech crystal! Old silver, coin silver, very old pewter, painted finishes, golden afternoons, old prints, hollows worn into stone steps. Trains on dresses, and trains on the track. Mist and evergreens. Lakes and sailing. Ithaca. Naps. and research and antiques and chateaux, and formal gardens and la dolce vita...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Steampunk Black Dress: Bodice Fitting

Before the fitting, on with the corset.
Last Saturday morning Jenni of Living With Jane and Laura came over for a quiet morning's chat and to fit the dress bodice.

The bodice pattern is Truly Victorian TV 400, the 1871 Day Bodice. Heather McNaughton, Truly Victorian's creator and pattern designer, developed a novel fitting system. One takes careful measurements of one's body, and then selects individual pattern pieces that best fit the measurements. Since I am fairly proportionally sized, and also 5'5" tall, all my pattern pieces are size E. That might not be the case for someone else: they might use pattern D for one piece, and pattern E for several others, etc. In this way there is less fitting needed.

The corset is by Kay Gnagey. I bought it before the twins were
born and at that point had a two-inch smaller waist. Now
the corset barely fits, hence the wide spring in the lacing.
I'd be happier with an even 2" top to bottom.
Fitting Notes

Not all fitting issues can be solved by a pattern (how many times have we heard that?), hence the need for fitting. Per Heather's admonition, we made all the fittings to the two front pieces, with the exception of making the side pieces just adjacent a little narrower.

We found that we had to reshape the darts into a fish shape, and take up a great deal of the front piece's shoulder line to smooth out the entire front and to avoid gapping when I leaned over. After all, I am a mature woman, and my chest lacks the roundness of a younger person; the allowance for roundness had to be taken up.

I am so fortunate Jenni lives nearby: she is a good fitter. It is SO nice to have help. Else I'd have been tweaking for weeks -- months, really -- as I had to for the Regency cross-front dress.

This picture is a howl! Christopher is so solemn, and I seem to be sensible that I am am wearing
what appear to be shoulder wings. Fly, fly away!
I was tempted to fit the bodice even more smoothly in front, except for Heather's admonition that it should fit snugly, but not tightly. When it comes to finishing the actual fronts, I will place the hooks and eyes such that a smoother result obtains.

Notice the hollows above the bust, next to the underarms. Ah, the effects of aging. Elizabeth Stewart Clark of The Sewing Academy has discussed that hollow many times on her forum, and teaches us how to deal with it in her sewing guide, The Dressmaker's Guide, Second Edition. Light padding! Yep, padding, no thicker than what one might find on this decade's typical bra, but placed a little higher. By the way, I've found her book invaluable over the years, not just for mid-century sewing, but for modern sewing. Her instructions are concise, crystalline, comforting; her discussion of bodice draping is one of the best around. Want to learn to swing a dart? That book will bond how it's done into your memory.

Geek  note: for better fitting, get your hair out of the way. No hair clip? Wind hair into a
chignon and stick a pencil through it. Geekalicious.
Back fit, above. Eep. There is a little more lumping near the top of the corset than I would like. If it doesn't pull out from the weight of the skirt, or the boning, well, I have some tweaking to do.  We didn't notice it at the time, worse luck. Remember, though, that one should not futz with this part of the pattern, according to Heather McNaughton. If the back doesn't fit, check your measurements again and select different pattern pieces.

Hello, says my sweet helper!
The side view always bothers my modern eye. The Victorians allowed, even celebrated, the little rounding of the abdomen below the waist and a woman's natural bustle was definitely celebrated :} Well, I certainly have one -- always have -- and have never been happy with that particular shape, but for this era, it's perfect. Still, it's so apparent some weight still needs to come off. Bit by bit. It was gone last fall, but recurrent illnesses over the last year allowed it to accumulate again, dadburn it!

You can see the hollowing above the bust and near the underam very clearly here.

Again, there's a wee wrinkling in the bodice, but when it's smoothed down with the hands, it goes away, and I believe that when the bodice and skirt are hook-and-eyed together, it will be pulled into straightness.

When I lean over, there is no gapping. That's important. The bodice fits like a sort of skin, as it should.

The bodice is long. I will trim it off to a slightly higher than natural round waist, per 1870.

Post Fitting Notes

We marked all the changes carefully while I was still wearing the toile. Later I darkened the markings, and evened them out, recut the edges of the toile pieces as needed to get rid of excess, and then made a master copy in Swedish tracing paper, complete with all markings. Because the left side doesn't quite match the right side -- one of my shoulders is a slightly different shape -- there are 8 pattern pieces for the bodice (excluding sleeves), not just four.

I am reusing the final toile as the lining. Here it is.

The seamlines are marked as solid lines. If the vertical seamlines connecting the pieces together appear to have a lot bigger seam allowance than Heather's 1/2", well, they do. That's because I am constructing the bodice according to directions from Harper's Bazar, circa 1868. The directions have you use lapped seams, which I am used to from Regency-era sewing, and into which bones are inserted. No need to create boning channels! Integral seam finishing! What's not to like?

I will be following these same directions for the rest of the bodice: for the piped armscyes and the cording at neckline and waistline, for the front closure, and so on. The directions are straightforward. The highly detailed article, which covers putting together bodices and skirts, is a gem, and is superbly illustrated with the original copperplate drawings from the magazine. It delves into minute detail: exactly how to construct plackets, fabrics to be used for linings, making and attaching shank buttons, stitches to use, cording and piping, seam allowances...

You can find the article in Frances Grimble's Reconstruction Era Fashions, a fantastic book I've had on my shelf for several years. Patterns for everything you need for 1868-69, and with a little tweaking, through maybe 1871.

Today I leave you with...

...the twins, driving Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the marvelous Edwardian roadster that could float and fly. We're in the middle of it (we watch little bits at a time), and we're having such fun!


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Steampunk Black Dress: Finished Petticoat!

Yes, it has a wee train!
Good morning! After a good bit of sneezing and sniffing, getting used to the twins' Kindergarten routine, helping with housepainting, and handling the rest of the daily round, I am back to record the actual completion of a garment. Am I proud! It's been ages since anything has actually been finished, and it feels nice. Hobbies always take a back seat to life's responsibilities and the pleasures of family and friends, but they are important to me nonetheless. They're an expression of the purely personal interest, a portion of the identity set apart from responsibility, duty, societal expectation and the common culture. I need my hobby like a plant needs that extra bit of rich soil to really bloom its clearest and brightest.

There. In defense of hobbies. So expendable, but so integral to a well-rounded, full life.

As you may remember, the petticoat bottom is covered with a flounce, so we have two layers of fabric there for extra foot-level fluff. The flounce comes from a very damaged petticoat. Poor thing, it was worn and repaired into practically rags and didn't even make a good piece to show people as a learning tool.

One of the repairs still sits in the new petticoat, a large patch of a rip that I suppose had turned into a vee-shaped hole.

Look at the picture above. Do you see the vee-shaped hole with the patch behind it? The seamstress put a running stitch around it, and then also made another running stitch around the entire patch. She used coarse thread and a very large stitch size. I've seen all qualities of repairs on garments: the roughness of this one is pretty common.

The bottom of the flounce has been stepped on so that some of the dagged whitework edge is torn or missing, and part of the applied insertion is torn or missing. I can do those repairs at some other point. For this steampunk event, I want the slightly tatty effect.

The top of the flounce is turned under and top-stitched on. The 1870s flounced petticoats I've seen usually seem to just stitch the flounce right side to right side, and then fold over the top so that the flounce hangs down. Feeling that the old fabric should be stitched through twice, I top-stitched it. The join will be covered by whitework trim when I find the right type. Could take awhile, so for this project, we're fine as as.

Ooh, What an Extravagant Silhouette, Bounce, Bounce

Note the damage on the flounce.

That's what I love about the early 1870s. It's curvy! Looking from the front, the base silhouette is tapered, a A-line. From the side? Whee! Spirited puff! The underskirt will have a similar shape. It's the overskirt that creates the final fluffy, pouf: side paniers and a back puff.

The critical eye might find that the uper front of the skirt is a little lax, a little undulating. That's the fault of the bustle. Looks like I need to tighten up the front portion so that it hangs tightly.

Next up? The bodice. With help from sweet and talented Jenni of Living with Jane, the bodice toile has been fitted.  I'll report on that, of course, because you'll see just how much the front bodice pieces can be shaped to get a smooth, gap-free result.

In the meantime, I leave you with late-summer boys, watching the goldfish in the arboretum's fishpond. Oh summer, by now you've stepped out the door. Goodbye, goodbye!