Monday, May 15, 2017

Making an 18th Century Inspired Dress Part 3 | Making the Stomacher

Today I'm continuing my Making of Post's for my 18th Century Inspired Dress with the stomacher.

Okay, so some of you may be wondering what a stomacher is. A stomacher is a V shaped bodice piece made of decorative fabric worn over the chest and stomach, most common between the 16th-18th centuries. Bodices that were open in the center front would often have a stomacher, which would be pinned into the bodice or dress. This was a style usually incorporated into more elegant dresses worn by the higher class.

For my dress, I contemplated a couple of different options: criss-cross lacing, spiral lacing, a plain stomacher, an embroidered stomacher. I wasn't able to decided until after I re-watched one of my costume films, Ever After (if you haven't see this film yet, you should really go watch it. It's wonderful!) and was inspired by the stomacher-like piece in Danielle's blue "Monastery" dress.

I really liked the gathered fabric on it and the rounded shape, though I knew my own would be straight on the top.

Onto the actual making! I drafted the pattern using a pattern from Patterns of Fashion as a guideline, but making sure it would fit the length and width of my bodice. In the end, here's what my pattern looked like.

The next step was to cut out my fabrics. I used a duck canvas for the base layer to give it some strength, and cut two pieces of my pattern from that, which I then basted together around the bottom and side edges.

I stitched my boning channels between the two layers. For boning I just used plastic zip ties because they're cheap, easy to cut, and happened to be scraps from other projects.  You can see my boning channel pattern below. Nothing fancy, but still sturdy.

Next it was time to prepare my fashion fabric. I've had this cotton with a light print on it in my stash for forever. You can't really see the pattern in the pictures, but it's a delicate cream cotton.

I took a large rectangle piece, I didn't measure so I don't have measurements but it was about twice as long as the width of my stomacher. I stitched 3 rows of gathering stitches parallel over the entire piece.

Which I then gathered and pinned to my stomacher. I trimmed away a bit of the excess on the bottom half, because there was a bit too much fabric, before I basted it in place.

Around the bottom edge I ended up rounding it a bit when I stitched the top layer down, which I then trimmed to cut away the excess fabric.

Next I cut out a single piece from my pattern of a plain cotton, which would be for the lining. I pinned it to the other piece, right sides together, and stitched along the edges, leaving a bit open on the top edge to flip it around and put the boning in.

Before flipping it all right side out, I clipped the corners and the curved edges so it would lay flat.

All that was left after that was to insert the boning and hand stitch the top closed with an invisible slip stitch.

All done!

And that's that! The stomacher itself gets pinned into the bodice with straight pins to hold it all in place.

If you haven't already, be sure to read:
Part 1 - Drafting the Bodice
Part 2 - Making the Bodice

Monday, April 24, 2017

Making an 18th Century Inspired Dress Part 2 | Making the Bodice

Today I'll be talking about how I constructed the bodice of my 18th Century Inspired Dress. If you missed part one where I showed how I drafted the pattern, you can read it here.

With my pattern drafted, I cut out my pattern pieces from my fashion fabric and lining. My fashion fabric was a wonderful gray linen and for my lining I just used bleached muslin.

Fun fact: the linen fabric I used was actually from two curtain panels that I bought from Goodwill for $10. Second hand stores are a great place to look for cheap fabric if you know what to look for.

My notions consisted of 1 inch single fold bias tape and a couple of pieces of spiral steel boning. I usually use plastic boning/zip ties, but I had a couple pieces of spiral steel laying around from an old corset I took apart and they were the perfect length.

On my muslin lining I traced where I wanted my boning channels along the center front and stitched the bias tape on to create the boning channels. Below is what it looks like on the wrong side and the right side.

Then I stitched all my bodice pieces together out of both the muslin lining and my fashion fabric pieces. Once they were all stitched I ironed the seams flat.

Then, with right sides of both my lining and outer pieces together, I stitched with a 1/2" seam allowance along all of the outer edges, leaving a small opening (about 5") in the bottom of the center back so I could turn the bodice right side out.

After it was stitched I trimmed the corners and clipped the curved edges.

Once the garment was turned right side, out I folded the edges of the opening in the center back in by 1/2" and used an invisible whip stitch to close the opening.

The finished back edge.

Next, it was onto the sleeves! I also cut the sleeves out of both the fashion fabric and muslin for the lining. The first thing I did was sew them each separately along the seam line with right sides together. Then, placing right sleeve lining inside of the right sleeve with right sides together, I stitched along the cuff and turned it right side out.

After a quick iron, I top stitched by hand around the edge of the cuff.

I seem to have forgotten to take photo's of it, but the sleeves each have a small dart just above the elbow that helps shape the sleeve. If you want to know more about that you can read my post about my 1770's Polonaise which used the same sleeve pattern.

After this, I pleated the sleeves towards the back and set the sleeves into the bodice by hand.

At this point, I put the jacket on Trisha (below) for a quick look at how it was looking. I decided that the front needed to be top stitched, but other than that it was looking good.

I'm still happy with how it turned out, but there's a few things I wish I had done differently, like:
  • Pulled the side seam further back so it was visible in the back.
  • added more boning or flat lined with a stiff fabric.

And that's it for today's post. I'll be posting about making the skirt next week.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Making an 18th Century Inspired Dress Part 1 | Drafting the Bodice

Last month I had the inspiration to make something of my own design in an 18th century style. Like everyone else, I love the costumes from Outlander designed by Terry Dresbach, even though I've never watched the show. I particularly love Claire's outfit with the plaid skirt and embroidered stomacher, which I believe is from season 1. One of my favorite part of the Terry Dresbach's designs is the use of texture and all of the beautiful fabrics, so when I found a wonderful gray linen I knew I had to make something 18th century/Outlander inspired.

I did a couple of sketches before I came up with something I liked. I wanted something simple and not necessarily historical accurate, but with a historical feel, which I feel I accomplished.

As you can see, the dress changed a little bit between the sketch and the finished product. I didn't necessarily want a bodice that laces up like in my sketch, but I didn't know what I wanted to do until later in the process.

I want to walk through my process for drafting the pattern, as it's a step that a lot of people seem to skip over, but is a very important part, and that's what today's post will be focusing on.

The first step in making this was to draft up my pattern. I based my bodice very loosely off of a pattern from Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen's Dresses and Their Construction C. 1660-1860. The patterned I used as a reference is an "Undress" jacket. 

For this costume I decided to use two 18th century petticoat's over top of an 18th century bum roll to get the right silhouette. It's important that you have the proper under garments on your dress form when you're drafting so that your pattern will lay properly with all the layers. I didn't bother put my stays (18th century corset) on the dress form because my dress form is solid and they wouldn't do anything.

This method of drafting is done directly on the dress form by pinning ribbon onto the dress form where the seams will be on the garment. You only have to draft on one half of the dress form since the pattern will be the same on both sides.

I'd like to note that the front lines of my bodice is a little bit more defined and sharp than it is in the finished bodice. I was going for a different shape when I started and didn't change that line until after I finished drafting the pattern.

Once I had my seam lines tapped, it was time to start drafting the muslin. This pattern consist of 2 bodice pieces, so I cut out two separate pieces of muslin a few inches wider than the widest part on the dress form and a few inches longer.

The front panel -  I pinned it straight down the middle to hold the muslin block in place. I smoothed it out the best I could around the arm and over the side back, pinning it tight just past the side seam tape marking. There was a bit of excess fabric around the bust, which I pinned into a bust dart which I would remove on the pattern.

After everything was laying smoothly I proceeded to mark over the ribbon seam line with my sewing pen. Once all the line's were marked I removed the muslin from my sewing form (but left my bust dart pinned) and traced a half inch seam allowance around every seam and cut it along that line.

The back panel - The back was done in relatively the same way, except before I started I drew a straight line 1 inch away from the back edge in pencil (this should have been done on my front panel, but I was rushing and forgot), which served as my center back line. Even though the back was two separate pieces with a seam in the center back, I needed this as a guideline to lay my muslin on straight.

Once my muslin block was pinned along the center back, I smoothed out the rest of the block to lay flat against the dress form. Once there were no wrinkles I traced over the ribbon markings, removed it from the sewing form, added a half inch seam allowance, and cut it out.

I pinned the pieces together at the seams to see how everything was fitting. Overall it fit well with the exception of the neckline *sigh* and the back neckline where it met at the front shoulder piece. I made a few adjustments to fix these things, leveled the bottom edge hem, and traced it onto paper, creating my pattern.

In the end, my pattern ended up looking something like this. The pattern I used for my sleeve's is the same pattern I used for my 1770's Polonaise, which you can read about here.

I'm still learning the art of pattern draping/drafting, but I hope this was helpful.

More posts about the making of this dress will be coming soon, so be sure to check back!

What's your favorite method for drafting patterns? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, April 10, 2017

My Story

For the majority of my life I didn't know what I wanted to do. I've always been drawn towards film and in more recent years towards theatre, but I was never one of those kids that from the age of 3 knew exactly what I wanted to do. It seems like the majority of people you talk to or read about online knew since they were a toddler exactly what they wanted to do. And for someone who never had a clue, it was a bit worrying to be graduation high school with no idea of where they want their life to go. So if you can relate, know that you're not alone.

I've been doing some re-branding with my costuming on the web lately, and while I was updating my blog I had the idea to add a page titled "My Story" with... Well, my story. After I finished it I thought it would make a good blog post, hence this post.

So, how exactly did I get into costuming? Let me tell you a little (er, long-ish) story...

Growing up I didn't have any idea what I wanted to do for a career. When I was 6 I wanted to work as Snow White at Disneyland and when I was older I wanted to be Indiana Jones... Er, an archaeologist. But I decided that archaeology wasn't exciting enough in the real world and continued life without having a clue, or really caring much.

Me with my hero, Snow White, at Disneyland in 2001

Life continued and I started making short films with my sisters and brother, which eventually lead to making a few with friends, which lead to, well, no where actually. I was drawn towards the costumes, especially when we made a film about a princess's coronation in a fantasy land. There was fancy dresses, a murderous plot, and terrible acting. This video remains safely hidden on YouTube where no one can ever see it. Thank goodness.

You would think I would start to get a clue around this time that I was drawn to costumes. But no. I knew I was interested in film making in general, but that was it.

Then in 2010 (or maybe 2011, or was it 2009? I honestly don't remember) I saw a friend's costumes that she had put together at a homeschool fair and I had a total "ah-HA!" moment. I remember thinking to myself  "that's what I want to do. I want to make costumes!"

At the time I had absolutely no sewing experience, so I asked my mom to teach me. She pulled out the old sewing machine, which was probably from the 70's from the yellow plastic and ancient looking design. My mom taught me what she knew, which was only the sewing basics and I started making all kinds of small projects - bags, pillows, and clothes for my stuffed animals.

Eventually I became bored with these trivial projects and I decided that I wanted to make a dress. I decided a nightgown would be the perfect first "real" project for me, so my mom and I went to the fabric store together and picked out a Simplicity pattern, which should have been simple enough, but would soon drive us nuts. I never finished the nightgown and there were several moments when I wanted to run away screaming because the pattern just didn't make sense. I still don't like working with commercial patterns to this day and it's largely because of this project (thanks Simplicity).

Well, fast forward three pillows, six bags, and a whole stuffed animal wardrobe to May 1st 2012 when I decided I wanted to celebrate May the 4th (Be with You) - AKA Star Wars Day - by making a costume. I had found a lovely tutorial/walk through someone made for Leia's senatorial gown from A New Hope and decided to give it a shot.

My mom and I made a quick mock up (my first mock up - yay!) out of some old tan sheets and went shopping the next day for materials. We searched all over for a suitable fabric, but since neither of us had any clue about fabric types and had a budget the size of a grain of sand we ended up buying some  white sheets. For our first real project and making it in 3 days, it actually turned out fairly good. All things considered. I mean, it was easily recognizable as Leia. So that counts as a win, right?

And that, my friends, was my first ever costume. I continued sewing and continued creating my own patterns vs. using a purchased pattern. I learned mostly just from trial and error for those first few years but as I progressed I started researching and reading more, both books and blogs to try and build my skill even further.

My 2nd project, Danielle de Barbarac from Ever After

As I continued, costuming soon became something more than just a little hobby. I spend the majority of my time sewing, researching, thinking, dreaming... Okay, you get the point.

Then in last year I was asked by a group of film makers known as Rogue Zohu (who happen to be the same film makers I made the princess/coronation/murder short I mentioned before with years ago. Needless to say, they improved much between then and 2016) to be Wardrobe Assistant for their short film Save Lives. Apologize. I quickly said yes. There may or may not have been some excited squeals that day.

That project is one of my best memories and favorites because it was that weekend when I discovered that costuming was what I wanted to do with my life. For the first day of filming I was in charge of dressing 20+ extra's, which consisted of elementary aged children, in 70's clothing. It was chaotic, exhausting, a little stressful (thank goodness for our amazing AD! I would have been lost without her), but mostly fun. Okay, all fun.

After that first day of shooting and on the way back to our home for the weekend (we were staying at a friends house for the shoot) I just knew that that was what I wanted to do. There was no doubt. Since then I've been digging further into costuming.

And that's my story.

Now when people ask me what I want to do with my life I can finally give them an answer. Though I'm past the age when people ask that the most (right after you finish High School and "should" be getting ready for college and your future career), but I still have to dodge the question of "are you in college?" #homeschoolerproblems

How about you? Have you always known what you wanted to do? Or are you like me and have/had no idea?