Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Making of... Tennis Dress #3

Frances Grimble’s Bustle Fashions 1885-1887 has a pattern for a front apron that is very similar to LACMA’s Tennis Dress. Although that pattern overlaps much further in the front than I wanted. An overlap that far would make it impossible to have the skirt attached to the bodice as the LACMA’s Tennis Dress is.

That being the case I decided to either draft or drape my own front apron. I spent quite a while looking at the Frances Grimble pattern and could never really figure out how to alter her pattern to make it useable. I gave up and tried my hand at draping the front apron.

It was much easier than I had thought. I very quickly, within an hour, had the perfect shape. I was lucky with this dress, because the fabrics stripe helped me to find the originals straight of grain, and by counting the stripes, I easily estimated the horizontal lengths. There are three pleats at the waistband and three pleats at the side seam. I was a bit confused by the hem edge. The original has a one inch hem. This seemed strange to me, because that edge has an extreme curve and I worried that it would bunch oddly there. I decided that I would use a bias strip of polished cotton to hem the overskirt. I caught the cotton lace trim up in the bias hem, so all the raw edges are nice and tidy.

 Another worry that I had was how to make the pocket in the under skirt accessible when the overskirt was installed. I decided to accomplish this by pleating the side seam of the over skirt and covering its raw edges with polished cotton bias tape. I then whipped stitched the overskirts front apron side seam by hand to the under skirt.

The back drape was much easier to construct. It’s a full bolt width and one yard in length. The waist band edge is knife pleated with a box pleat at center back. The sides are blind hemmed by hand with a half inch hem. The bottom hem is finished like the hem of the overskirt. I used a bias strip of polished cotton and caught the cotton lace trim up in the hem.

The back drape is tacked up with hooks and eyes.

The closure of this skirt is done so that both the over and underskirt share a waist band. The underskirt closes at center front, but the over skirts waistband crosses in a wrap closure.

I followed the instructions for Making a Round Bodice on pg 264 on Frances Grimbles Bustle Fashions 1885-1887. “ Cut and piece the lining as directed for a basque bodice, with the exception that you cut it only 2 inches below the waist all around.”

I enlarged the “Plain Basque” pattern on pg 74. The only alteration that I made to the pattern was to make the back and side back pattern pieces all in one. I thought it best to make the princess back seams faux. I made up the mock up out of my lining polished cotton. I altered it to fit, and when I was happy with it, I cut it apart and used it as my pattern to cut out of my fashion fabric.
I boned the bodice with Rigilene boning. The inspiration dress from LACMA has a gathered center front that I believe is a separate piece of fabric. I didn’t make a pattern piece for this, I just cut two rectangles of my fashion fabric gathered one edge and pinned it in place. I did this a few times and finally I found a look that I liked. The waist band is a strip of fabric torn on the grain, sewn to the bottom edge of the bodice and flipped up over the fashion side of the bodice. The collar is also a strip of fabric torn on grain. It’s trimmed in cotton lace. The center front buttons are faux. The bodice actually closes with hooks and thread bars.

The sleeve pattern is a two piece style with a curved elbow. I have used this particular pattern many times and actually drafted it for a 1780’s zone front anglaise. The only changes I made were to bring in the sleeves side seams at the shoulder only, 1/2” on each side, so 2” total. I also shortened the sleeve so that the cuff falls midway between my wrist and elbow. The sleeve is lined in polished cotton and trimmed with cotton lace.

OK... after a week of posting this info to you all I feel like I've run a marathon!! lol!

I hope you all enjoyed it, and it wasn't too annoying to see my name YET AGAIN on you friends page. I said it in the comments before, but I'll say it again here. Thank you all for inspiring me. I hope these posts are of use to you. :)

Making of... Tennis Dress #2

I decided to make a skeleton corset for this project. I had found a simple skeleton corset on a Tumblr Blog, called The Ornamented Being, about a year ago.

The Met Lightweight summer corset ca. 1871 “This skeleton-like corset is unique in form, for it is lighter and less restricting. The open spaces make it a cooler and comfortable choice for warmer weather. Most likely, this corset would be worn with casual day wear, due to its simplicity, the only detail being the lace trim at top.”

Although this corset is from 15 years earlier, this shape of corset was rather standard for a Victorian era. The Met doesn’t have any other pictures/views of this corset. I have no idea how the closure at the back looks so I did some searching about and found a similar corset in the private collection of Amanda Lerum. Her blog is here: http://corsetradesigns.blogspot.com/

These pictures gave me a very good idea of how to make the overall pattern. Although the original Met corset has a very interesting button closure that I was eager to duplicate.

Corsets Construction
The inspiration corset is made wholly of cotton of one form or the other. On that vein I searched out my stash and found cotton sateen for the center corded waist panel, cotton bone casing from farthingales. 5/8th” india tape for the bindings, and cotton croquet yarn for the cording. All the bones are 1/4” flat steal. I used lacing bones at the center back, and one lacing bone to secure the buttons at center front. I did use spiral steel bone at the center front. I needed the flexibility at that point to work the button through it’s hole.

The first thing I did was to make a corded panel with the cotton sateen, cotton duck and the croquet cotton yarn. I used a zipper foot, and sandwiched the yarn between the sateen and duck. Doing the cording this way makes the top layer of sateen corrugated, but leaves the bottom duck layer smooth. Also, making the entire panel first and than cutting out the pattern piece gives a much more accurate shape than cutting out the piece and than cording it. I than made to my waist measurements, minus 2 inches for lacing gap, a pattern for the center corded waistband panel.

I bound the edges (top, bottom, and center back) with 5/8” inch india tape. Next was the button closure at center Front. Obviously a button closure has two pieces. The over placket (button hole side), and the under placket, button side. I was very concerned that the tension that the center front of a corset endurs, would be too much tension on a typical button closure, and the result would be that the button would tear out of it’s placket. I decided that I would use a lacing bone to create a stable surface to attach the button. A lacing bone is a 1/2” flat steel bone that has 1/4” holes drilled down the length of the bone at 1” intervals. I bought my lacing bones from Farthingales. I sewed the button through the placket fabric, through the hole of the lacing bone, and in the back to a small button to keep the thread from tearing through the placket fabric. One the top edge of the fabric I made a substantial thread shank for the button. I used two kinds of buttons for this corset, the front button is a rather large 5/8” shell, button, and the back is a smaller 1/2”? 3/8” shell button, both having 2 holes the larger being vintage, I think from the 1940‘s. The over placket has 4 vertical button holes, and a spiral steel bone along the outside edge. I was concerned that the button would rip through it’s hole. The bone along that edge seems to keep it in place. The Center back is a set of lacing bones covered in 5/8” boning tape from Farthingales. I used 00 two part grommets.

Next, to find the placement of the rest of the bones, I put on the corset and simply pinned on 1/2” boning tape where I thought would be best. I did one side and through trial and error worked out the best placement. I slid 1/4” flat steel bones into the tape and used the 5/8” india tape to find the right placement for the top and bottom edge. Once I was happy with the left side I duplicated it on the other. I decorated the corsets top edge with a piece of cotton lace from my stash. Although this corset gives me no reduction in the waist, I am extremely pleased with it for one reason. I am extremely short wasted. From my armpit to waist is about 5 inches, compared to the standard 7-8 inches. The way the corded waist panel sits forces my waist down and lengthens my waist 1 1/2”! and it does it very comfortably! This has become my new favorite corset!

I decided right off that I wanted to make an exact replica of LACMA’s tennis dress. I had gone to the museum and taken quite a few pictures of the tennis dress. I was very good about taking close up pictures of the fabric.

I used these pictures and sampled them in photoshop. I used a small portion 1”x 1”, and imported that sample to Spoonflower. Spoonflower offers the designer the option to tile the image in different ways. It was not a difficult project, but it was a bit frustrating having to wait for the next sample print. I did quite a few printings to get the colors right. After three printings I got a print that I was happy with.

This is a picture that I took of my inspiration dress in the museum.

You can see my Tennis Dress fabric here:

The LACMA has posted some great internal pictures of the Tennis Dress. From the picture it was clear to me that the bustle wires were part of the dress. Also the skirts pleats did not go up into the bustles base. I was fairly certain that the under skirt had a yoke top. Grimble’s book Bustle Fashions 1885-1887 offers an example of a pleated skirt with a yoke.  

I didn’t want to take the time to figure out where to put the bustle wires but I already had in my stash both the wire kit and the pattern for Truly Victorian 101. So I used the yoke pattern pieces and its accompanying wire kit to build the underskirts yoke and bustle. The only alteration that I needed to add was to add a strip of material to the back yoke so that the bottom edge of the yoke was level with the ground. The skirt was easy enough to do. I cut four bolt widths of fabric to the length I needed, hemmed it and pleated it to the yoke.

After I got it all together I remembered that I needed to add a pocket. So I pulled one side apart and added a pocket.

The internal bustle tapes of LACMA's extant gown

The extant gowns pocket

The Grimble yoke skirt, and the TV 101 pattern.

You can see my pocket.

Making of... Tennis Dress #1

This is my Documentation that My friend and I entered at Costume Con this past weekend. We won Best in Show for this Documentation so I thought you all might like to see at least my half of it. Our entry was titled "Tennis Anyone?" and was two 1885 bustle tennis gowns. We also won Best in Show Historical Recreation, Best in Show in Master division, Best in Show in  Workmanship.

There's lots of information about early lawn tennis that I won't include here but needless to say, that this type of gown is pretty specialized. Not in a way that would matter greatly to our modern eye, but to Victorians these tiny deviations from the norm were very "sporty" as my husband would call it. The gowns were cotton and "light" (snerk... how can 9 yards be considered "light") shorter than typical, some had attached bustles, the corsets were specialized for heat, either being a skeleton, ventilated, or a more simplified version of a corset such as a "Good Sense corset waist".

My plan is to upload my documentation by piece... Combinations, boots, corset, hat, underskirt, overskirt, and bodice. But to keep my audience a little bit interested, here is my finished gown.

I’d never made a set of combinations before, nor had I ever drafted up a pattern from one of Frances Grimbles books. I used the combination pattern on pg 30 of Bustle Fashions 1885-1887. This book is filled with patterns that use The National Garment Cutter System, to enlarge the patterns.

I used Jen Thompson's video tutorial as instructions to draft up the pattern. Her tutorial is here: http://festiveattyre.blogspot.com/2012/01/pattern-drafting-with-apportioning.html

I used 4 yards of cotton batiste in white to make up the combinations and the same small shell buttons that I used on the under placket of the corset, up it’s center front as a closure. To trim the combinations I used the same cotton lace as I did on the corsets top edge. At the pant cuff I used a handmade vintage crochet lace that I had in my stash.

This is a cap I found here:

this is a dramatic little story... evidently the woman in this picture, Adeline Fargo, might have been murdered by her Husband.

I'm assuming this photo was taken sometime in the 1890's, no date is explicitly given. Although this type of cap was popular for quite a long time. It's a man's working cap. Spencer's Mercantile sells a cap very similar.

I also found a similar cap worn in a more contemporary time in When the Girls Came out to Play. Although the hat is striped and has a bit less over lay on the brim. The basic premiss of the hat is the same. A six gored tip attached to a narrow band, by way of "crown". The tip is soft and loose it hangs over or is tacked down to the partial brim.

I patterned this pattern myself. I made it up in herringbone wool tweed. The tip and crown are flatlined in polished cotton. The brim is stiffened with 2 layers of single ply cotton buckram. The hat band is one inch wide wool twill tape. The cap is lined in cotton calico. The intersection of gores at the tips center is accented by a self covered button form.

Because this costume has so many buttons,(buttons in the corset, buttons in the combinations, buttons on the dresses bodice) I decided to run with the theme and wear a pair of button boots. I tried and failed quite a few times to buy a pair of turn of the century high button boots from eBay. It became obvious to me that this just wasn’t going to happen. So I began to look at modern reenactment boots. The only style I found was from Fugawee. These shoes are “faux”... the buttons don’t actually work. The other styles I found were discontinued. I became very disheartened again. I couldn’t find a style of historically accurate reenactment button boots.  I than decided to look for a modern interpretation of button boots and found , to my surprise, a brand called F-Troupe.

F-Troupe is a small shoe company based out of London England. You can find them here: www.f-troupe.com At the time I was able to buy on sale a pair of button boots in leather and painted canvas. Although the buttons were faux pearl and the soles man made material the look was almost exactly like an extant pair I found on eBay. I just needed to find some appropriate buttons and dye the F-Troupe boots ivory.

I used Esquire Instant Leather Coloring dye to paint the boots. I cut off the original buttons and replaced them with a set of vintage mother of peal buttons. I think that with the changes I have made the F-Troupe boots look very similar to my inspiration button boots.

These are the Fugawee reenactment shoe

F-troupes with working buttons

boots I found on ebay that I wanted to make my f-troupes look more like

vintage shell shoe button from ebay... That picture will link you to the ebay listing.

My finished painted and rebuttoned F-troupes.

Good Queen #3


stiff poly toile
1/2 inch zip ties
1/4 cotton twill tape
cotton twill

These small panniers are based on the pocket hoops from Corsets and Crinolines and several frame work frames that I have seen in museums and the blue ruffled set in “Marie Antoinette.”


I draped the pattern for these hoops on my form. They are 3 pieces of 1/2” zip ties in a ascending lengths. I drilled holes down the center of the zip ties and at their ends and used the grinder to round the sharp corners. I covered each tie win a pocket of pol toile.I sewed twill tape to the center holes and attached the ends to a square of cotton twill fabric.

There's a TON OF PICTURES on the wig construction. You have been warned. :)

Ok... this is the last of it. Making the wig was the most interesting... I learned a lot. But I think my favorite part was the panniers... because they are completely plastic and it just makes me laugh. I'm twisted I know.

I hope this is of help to someone. Have a Great Holiday... In the States anyway, otherwise, have a great weekend. :) go make stuff.


Pony tailed wig from Arda
Pony tail clip disassembled for the wefts
5 feet of wefts
loose blue synthetic hair
panty hose in both nude and white
fiber fill
tricot fabric strips
two 13 inched mirror image embroidered appliques
white feathers
AB sequins
AB heat affix crystals
two necklaces
two tiaras
2 inch pearl belt buckle
hair pins
hot glue
e6000 glue
white nail polish

I have never styled a wig before so I recruited help from my team mate Heather Irete. She gave me a basics primer, showed me how to cover a form with wefts, add loose hair, make rolled curls, and how to hide joins.

The original Tarazuka wig loosely resembles the heavily styled wigs from the 1780’s. With a high multi tiered pile of various knots, rolled curls and poufs forming a cone at the heads crown. Unlike the 1780’s though there are long straight falls of hair from the temple. Each tier is decorated with a tiara. The sides of the wig are covered with wing shaped forms. These cover from the center of the wigs crown to behind the ear. The back of the wig is covered with 8 rolled curls a large pearl belt buckle and a necklace.


The wigs bangs were flipped up pinned down and hot glued in place with a hank of loose blue hair.
 The temple falls were sewn in using wefts from the separate pony tail clip and loose blue hair
The temple fall join was covered with a sweep of hair starting from the bangs to just below the crown. The hair was pinned and glued into place. Loose blue hair was pulled through the bang puff and added to the sweep and glued into place
The multi tiered crown pile was created with 1 ring panty hose form and 3 straight panty hose forms each in nude. The forms where stuffed with fiber fill, and using hot glue covered with wefts. The loose blue hair was added last.
The covered forms were glued into place. First being the ring form. Than added the 3 straight forms, tucking them inside the ring. The forms cover the entire wig crown.
The wigs original ponytail was tucked into itself forming the central rolled curl. it was pinned and hot glued in place
The seven other rolled curls are cut lengths of wefts the ends are covered in tricot fabric and glued into a roll. The loose blue lengths are added separately and glued into place. The finished rolled curls where then glued into place surrounding the original ponytail rolled curl. There are 5 facing horizontally and 1 on either side facing vertically.
The back of the wig is decorated with a large pearl belt buckle and an enamel necklace.
The wing decorations were built with lengths of millinery wire bent to the correct shape, joined into a ring with millinery joiners, and covered with white panty hose. The wings were than decorated with mirrored oriented embroidered appliques that have been decorated with hand applied sequence and hot affix crystals. Feathers have been glued to the backside of the wing.

Bias cut 1” poi de soie tube
two 1 1/4”  five strand necklace clasp
lobster clasp
tear drop shaped pearl
two AB Crystals
silver head pin
large 2” x 1.5” oval crystal pendent
net lace

This necklace shape is based off of those chokers popular in the 1780’s. Similar also to a small Elizabethan ruff, this necklace with it’s ruffled lace and central pendant draw influence from both eras.


The bias tube was left over from the sleeve puff decorations. I cut the bottom edge off of  two lengths of lace. I used a gathering stitch to attach the lace to the bias tube by hand. I used a grinder to remove the factory loop off of the large crystal pendant. The pendant was mean to be oriented as a portrait. I than sewed the pendant to the bias tube as a landscape. I created the pearl and crystal drop by using a head pin. I sewed the finished  drop to the center of the large pendant. I created the closure by sewing two 1 1/4”  five strand necklace clasps to either edge of the bias tube, and using a short length of silver chain and a lobster clasp have an easy way of closing the choker necklace.