Tag Archives: Costume

A dress for Victoria

A dress for Victoria

I have loved the absurdity of the 1830s since I first discovered fashion plates of it almost 20 years ago. I’ve made four previous 1830s dresses and love wearing them but I had been longing for a formal dinner party. Wandering a historic site just isn’t quite as glamorous as candlelight and friends. Finally a friend suggested if you can’t find and event, make one! So the Young Victoria Dinner was born.

Major thank you to the Joseph Ambler Inn for being so welcoming!

Fashion Inspiration

But what to where?! Obviously any of the four other perfectly serviceable gowns I own just WOULD NOT DO. Why?…because I said so and it’s my party.

I ask you IS there anymore delightful than 1830s hair? There isn’t.

When looking around at fashion plates I realized there’s a pretty large range of things to choose from, but evening ensembles seems to have a few common threads.

Portrait of a lady by Antoine Plamondon

Short sleeves, or short sleeves with a net over sleeve, wide necklines (some off the shoulder even) and they are made of either silk or a sheer. In today’s world that sheerness in not-a-silk would be cotton or if the fabric gods love you a wool but I’ll never find that in my life time.

She gets major points for the jaunty headnecklace

I also really enjoyed the delicateness of many white gowns I found. Which I would hazard a guess is a hangover from earlier in the century when delicate white muslin gowns were all the rage. If it’s not broke don’t fix it? slash use up the fabric you already made…

All of the inspiration images I liked best (slash pretty much all the images of early-mid 1830s gowns) have huge delightful sleeves, full skirts and a wide waistband. Or what I’m assuming is a wide waistband because they’ve accessorized with a belt or sash. But you know same “wide band of waist” thing.

In the end this image from the 1832 Costumes Parisiens is what stole my heart. Except not in that shade of yellow/green as this heart looks very sickly in that shade. So I decided to do a smash of the white airy dresses and the hanging ribbons with lilacs (or maybe hydrangeas hard to tell)


I’m sorry to tell you I took not-very-many construction photos because I don’t really deem my Victorian dressmaking all that interesting. The dress is made out of Pure Silks cotton organdy which was both very reasonable in price, got here quickly, had a nice stiff hand and smelled funny. I flatlined the bodice and sleeves with a white cotton broadcloth.

I used the Truly Victorian 1860s ballgown bodice as my sloper…Yeah I know it’s marketed as being 30 years later but I promise it really is the same shape. Please note how far ON my shoulder it sits. I didn’t change this angle at all, the gravity and heat of my body caused my final neck shape to stretch. You have been warned if you make a cotton dress.

Standard Robin bodice construction

  1. Cut everything out. Forget something. Cut more. Hate cutting, and neglect to cut sleeves.
  2. Sew; side back seams, front seam, side seams, shoulder seams.
  3. Finish neckline with a bias strip facing, machine sew to right side, then turn inside and whip stitch.
  4. Turn in center back opening 1/4″ and then 1/2″, whip down.
  5. Try on bodice. enlist well trained husband to pin the back closed, remembering why back closing dresses are dumb. Pin in the darts.
  6. Contemplate making darts even, then realize I’m crooked so it’s probably better this way and sew darts as they were fit. (don’t do that it’s wrong)
  7. Realize you didn’t cut out the sleeves. swear at past Robin and cut out sleeves.
  8. Finish the arm slit in this sleeve pattern. gather giant circle into armscye.
  9. sew sleeves. take out part you caught from the underside. swear more. redo. ta-da have sleeves.
  10. Sew hooks and bars up centre back.
Plate from the 1838 Workingwoman’s Guide

My sleeve pattern is figure 30 in the plate above. Previously I’ve used the one from Patterns of Fashion that is a circle with no flat side, but my intelligent self didn’t pay attention when lining up my pattern and it hung off the side of the fabric so flat side it was! I did use the vertical slit opening from PoF though instead of the centered circle. Also my sleeves are always a 30″ circle as it’s an arbitrary measurment I picked the first time and it worked great.

there’s a theme in my house, have you noticed? I’ll give you a hint it has to do with dated carpet

The skirt is super easy. It’s 3 straight panels of 54″ width with a 6″ hem. I gathered it down to a waistband.

Which went SUPER smoothly

I re-gathered to a new new-long-enough waistband and then tried it all on with the skirt over the bottom unfinished edge of the bodice and pinned where it wanted to sit. I then carefully hand backstitched through all the layers.

I tried to drape the bertha on Polly (my dress form) but Polly was a Christmas present in college back in *cough2001cough* and she just hasn’t…grown with me as a person. She’s kind of stuck in the days of our youth

FLOP right off the shoulder

And it turns out for almost-off-the-shoulder-just-kidding-it-stretched-all-the-way-off gowns you need an actual SHOULDER to drape the bertha around. So on Friday night before the party Amanda was super kind and did it on me. (and convinced an old lady it was my dress from our wedding-which-had-already-happened). The bertha is just a rectangle I ironed the edges under and gathered down the CF, the shoulders got pleated and to be honest I need to try ironing it a little flatter as I’m not a huge fan, it’s a wee bit to enthusiastic for me.

trying shoulder bows…and realizing berthas are stupid

The ribbon is from RibbonStore on Ebay and I give them two thumbs way up. The quality is great and shipping was immediate. The flowers were from Michael’s. I looked for vintage millinery or paper ones but that many flowers was prohibitively expensive.

The Dinner

I styled the dress with two pearl necklaces (more is more), new earrings from Dames a la mode that I LURVE and a pair of matching bracelets.

My I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E hair was a combo of custom piece from Jennylafleur and some cheap side curls from ebay. My apollo’s knot is probably the most beautiful hair I’ve ever had. My wedding included. It was fantastically easy to wear as well. I put my own center section into a high ponytail and pinned the hairpiece in front of it. I braided my hair and wrapped it around the base. My side sections I braided and crossed in the back and wrapped around the base as well.

Mr. Sewloud and I got married at this venue and I have a wedding photo in this spot
my net mitts were bought off an etsy seller that I don’t believe sells them anymore

Katherine found amazing square toed shoes and I ordered a pair from ebay. They came super quickly and the size 8s fit my dead average size 8 feet. Very comfortable, would order again.

Taylor is prepping the Pope Joan Board…I’m paying the bill…one of these is VASTLY more fun
I love this photo of all our hair!
I thought ever single person in the group was stunning! I have the most talented friends
you can just see my yellow shoes peaking out
I was STUPID proud of my pineapple centerpiece too
Mr. Sewloud and I looking tired. party planning is a lot of work!
a view from the dining room
Discussing the finer details
The background on this one makes me think I look like a 1990s glamour shot.
Our Victoria and Albert

An outfit for the Armistice

An outfit for the Armistice

2018 marks the 100 year anniversary of end of WWI and our friends with the Royal Sussex Regimental Society invited us to attend a WWI event they were participating in at Ringwood Manor in NJ.   I personally much prefer the slightly fuller silhouette that was in fashion in 1916-7 vs the slim skirts of 1918 so I went with the “I still have clothes from two years ago in my closet” theory.


I was doing this on a short timeline with limited brain cells (SHOCKING I KNOW) and decided to phone it in and buy commercial patterns. BEST DECISION EVER. For the skirt I bought Past Patterns #9384 Ladies’ Three or Four-Piece Skirt


This is one of those historical patterns that only comes in one size, not mine. I just figured out the number of inches I needed to add total, divided by the number of seams and spread that amount around to each seam. A skirt like this is fairly easy to scale up. I think I ended up adding 1/2″ to each piece edge.

The fabric was a cotton shirting from Fashion Fabrics Club, lets just say I wouldn’t order from them if you want your fabric within the month. It was a painfully slow shipping/customer service/getting here experience. I think they walked it from their warehouse to my doorstep. But it washed up beautifully and had just the right amount of body for this look.


I believe I can fly…

I really enjoyed the silly “wings” the second tier on the skirt creates. I did not bother to put pocket slits in the funny hanging tabs. It just felt like why put in pockets that will hold at most a chapstick.


Look pensive Robin..

My one note on this pattern isn’t negative, just be aware it is a very wide waistband and that will come up…high. I know who’d have guessed? But when you’re short waisted to begin with, be prepared to tuck your tatas into your waistband. Perhaps not my most flattering life choice.


baby got back


For the blouse I got white seersucker from fabric.com and the Wearing History Elsie blouse pattern. Lately I’ve seen a lot of people making this blouse, and I love how it seems to sit a little bit differently on everyone, so even though they’ve all been white they still all look different.


I did sewn gathers vs a drawstring at the waist and I did sew down my facings as floppy loose facings make me batty. and lumpy.


I made the blouse first so I tested how it looked with a skirt with my 1904 suffragette skirt (balls I never blogged that either did I? someone remind me…) And I think I like the look better with a skirt that doesn’t quite come up to my chin. My fitting assistant was very encouraging.


It has four vintage buttons that came from my mom’s sewing box, they’re some kind of cut metal. I dunno they looked pretty and the mother of pearl buttons I ordered for the blouse were way too grey.

Finishing Touches


The earrings are my very favorite grape clusters from Dames a la Mode and Adrienne nicely lent me the hat when I TRAGICALLY FORGOT MINE.

I had to do a little mini photo shoot to show off my hat. This time I dressed it as a suffragette outfit with my brand new Dames a la mode custom pin in suffragette colours! (yes they’re the British colours, yes I find those more attractive). This stunner of a hat was made by Amanda who makes all the best hats.


Group Photo!

venturing into the 1860s

venturing into the 1860s

Have you ever wondered what a 208″ petticoat looks like? Step right this way and let me show you!

Giant Petticoat of Doooooom

Giant Petticoat of Doooooom

My friends Alice and Amanda have agreed to venture into the 1860s with me. I love a good hoop but up until now no one was willing to run around in hoops with me! So I pretty much have to start from the inside out.

I bought the hoop off of ebay ages ago for renaissance things, I had always intended to shrink the top hoop to make it more farthingale shaped, but I never got around to it! Yay for laziness saving the day! I will wear my standard victorian corset as it’s actually pretty short and more suited for early Victorian than the later stuff I usually wear it for.

Now why on earth would anyone WANT a 208″ petticoat you say? Good question. Again, laziness. I got a great deal on some 104″ white quilting cotton at Joann‘s. It was supposed to be 108″ and when the company figured it out they had us put it in clearance, plus clearance was half off..and then we realized it had stains on it..so I got it for 75% off of that. The whole petticoat cost under $5. Now one 104″ panel wasn’t enough, and I really didn’t want to deal with half panels…so 208″ it was!

I didn’t use a pattern just ripped it into rectangles that were the right length. For me it worked out to 32″ to the top of the ruffle, then the ruffle is three widths 12″ deep. I rolled hemmed them with my serger. Then I used my serger’s magical ruffling foot to attach the ruffle while it gathered it on.

In the end I couldn’t gather it all the way down to my 34″ waist measurment so it overlaps by 2″ in the back…I gathered instead of pleating. If I did stacked pleats I could probably fit it more tightly.

Onto the skirt!

Onto the skirt!

The skirt isn’t nearly as full. Again, no pattern required. I used the 45″ width of the fabric as my skirt length. Ripped a panel 150″ long and sewed the back seam, gathered the top and added a waistband. Ta da!

my fabric

my fabric

Again I found this sheer cotton in the Joann’s clearance section. It was $1.50 a yard. (Hey being a Joann’s employee has it’s perks!)

The Great Bachelorette Party

The Great Bachelorette Party

As I’ve mentioned before my dear friend J is getting married NEXT WEEK! So what are a bunch of costume girl’s going to do for a proper bachelorette party? Why dress up in 1920s gowns and go see the new film version of the Great Gatsby!

The beautiful woman of the hour!

The beautiful woman of the hour!

I used Past Patterns 2757 because I liked the wrap dress shape. I’m an apple figure and I was hoping it would help soften the blow of the bag shape (that and the über spanx I was wearing). The fabric I picked up out of the Joann’s clearance bin and was juuuust a bit short on so it ended up being sleeveless. I swear it was lack of fabric and NOT a dislike of sleeves, that was just a bonus!

I have four pairs of spanx on

I have four pairs of spanx on

Now this dress has ZERO instructions so it’s a tiny bit of a puzzle when you’re putting it together and I had to make a few executive decisions finishing wise. I roll hemmed with my serger around the bottom hem and the ties, but for the neckline I turned the edge back onto the right side and sewed ribbon down over it. This both gave me a little decoration and a bit of stability.

I was going for "serious movie star" and ended up with "slightly constipated"

I was going for “serious movie star” and ended up with “slightly constipated”

Overall I was pretty pleased with it, especially as I only had a week to make it. I accessorized with Rob’s great-Aunt’s mike stole and some fun orange gloves.

why yes I AM having a shirley temple in a champagne flute

why yes I AM having a shirley temple in a champagne flute

Judy of Learning to  Costume looking smokin'

Judy of Learning to Costume looking smokin’

I watched a bunch of youtube tutorials as I was avoiding my finals and thought I would give some absurd flapper make-up a go. I have to say it was pretty funny to wear as I’m generally a no frills kinda-girl.

check out those eyebrows

check out those eyebrows

Having fun with Madame Kat and some Noir editing

Having fun with Madame Kat and some Noir editing


All photos shamelessly stolen from Madame Kat as mine turned out horrible and her’s great. I bow to her awesome.

A dress for Tea

A dress for Tea

On Saturday Madame Kat from madamemodiste hosted one of her famous parties (Kat is the originator of the Francaise dinner party, a killer annual Victorian party, the original moon landing and many other exploits).

I decided that I simply required a new dress and that it was the perfect time to try my hand at making a bib front style regency. I started with Simplicity 4055 that I’ve used in the past and started making mock-ups. In the end I made three of the bodice. I changed the shame more to coincide with shape of the bib front gown in Patterns of Fashion


They told me to strike a dramatic pose, America’s Next Top Model WATCH OUT


I used white cotton muslin as it was affordable and easy for my first bib front, if it didn’t turn out I was only out a few bucks. And in the end I DID go through two skirts so it was a GOOD thing I didn’t mind burning through some fabric. (and I turned the bad skirt into my petticoat)


a boring front view


My bonnet, No mine! I saw it first!

My bonnet, No mine! I saw it first!

Some of the other beautifully dressed guests

Some of the other beautifully dressed guests

Julia from The Bohemian Belle was there selling her gorgeous wares

Julia from The Bohemian Belle was there selling her gorgeous wares

Taylor from Dames a la Mode satisfied all our ribbon cravings (and cravings we didn't know we had)

Taylor from Dames a la Mode satisfied all our ribbon cravings (and cravings we didn’t know we had)


A group photo courtesy of Gloria from In the Long Run

A group photo courtesy of Gloria from In the Long Run