I promised the Pretty & the Kitch I would share this little gem. It’s a dress of questionable quality and a tale of the late 90s, learning to sew, how not to sew and what happens to bridesmaids when a goth bride feels that she has to wear traditional white.

Please be kind, as time had not been to this garment. Without further ado I give you a much abused goth bridesmaid dress, in all it’s faded and rumpled glory. I promise that it looked better when it was newly made.

This dress started with what was either an 80s or 90s pattern. I no longer remember, but the Vogue 7614 1980s pattern is close. S thinks that it may have been a Simplicity pattern. Whatever the original, it had a rounded pointed waist and half sleeves. Basically, it was a sort of sweetheart neckline, high/low hem dress with half length puff sleeves that gathered slightly above the elbow. The bride decided on purple and to fill in the neckline area, a black lace with ribbon tie closure. The bride’s dress was the exact same pattern, but with long sleeves, without the high/low hem and no lace in the chest area.

It was either 1999 or 2000. S was the maid of honor, so I set out with my I’ve-only-made-questionable-Renaissance-faire-costumes-since-equally-questionable-high-school-era-drama-class-Camelot costumes skills to help her make this dress. I didn’t remember this, but she now says she didn’t know how to use a sewing machine at that time.

Things I’d not done previously or had little experience with, but needed to do, for this dress:

  1. Use a pattern
  2. Work with slippery satin
  3. Work with lace
  4. Line anything
  5. Put in a zipper
  6. Do a high/low hem
  7. Make the thing fit

And so it began.

Did we prewash the fabric? Maybe.

Did we make a muslin? Doubtful. I think we got lucky in the fit.

Did we know about ironing seams as you go? No.

Did I throw up my hands in frustration when trying to make the lining seams match those of the fashion fabric? Yes. Happily, S’s mother stepped in for the save and wrestled that lining into submission. I checked today and the seams at the waist are more than an inch off between the two, but it looks ok.

I’ve just been told that I did almost all of figuring and tweaking, cutting out and construction. I remember almost none of the construction except the parts I had trouble with (the zip, matching the lining and the hem). In fact, I swear I hardly made any of it. Nope, I won’t claim this dress.

On the day of the wedding, of the 3(?) bridesmaids, S’s was the only dress that was complete. One was done, as a purple dress, but lacked all black lace. I swear the third wasn’t even quite finished, but I don’t remember the state of it. I wore a black lace dress with waterfall sleeves, in the bride’s honor (seeing as she was stuck in all white, true torture to a goth).

Considering this almost 20 year old dress with 30ish years gone fashion “sense”… I’m still cringing a little. The design aesthetic is not mine. The sweetheart neckline screams 80s line dancing and high/low hems with self lining can look heavy. Cheap satin gives me hives, and adding black lace to dark purple for bridesmaids dresses doubly so. Though not a very unique one, I do like the specific lace.

I think there’s a pucker on the bodice lining at the armhole. Yikes.

Looking at the garment as it is today, time has not been kind to it. The satin just hasn’t held up. In fact, the color has altered greatly, off gassing and fading to almost a wine color, lighter where it was sweated upon. Originally it was basically the same shade as the lining. This is a problem with cheap acetate satin and just another reason to not use it.

If there’s one thing I dislike more than sewing satin, it’s ironing it, so no beauty shots for this post. “Beauty” shots… Bwahahahahaha!

It looks like the skirt was attached with somewhat haphazard gathering. This may have been the start of S’s loathing of gathers. The skirt could fall better. But of course it is self lined with satin, which would make it a little thick for gathers. The skirt is no longer self lined. That part was sacrificed a couple years ago for another project. No one was going to wear this dress again anyway.

Construction in the sleeve is pretty good. I assume I had little to do with it. The head of the sleeve has a very 80s puff, and the black overlay makes me think of Beetlejuice (even though nothing in that movie looked like this dress). The little gather above the elbow was done with a handy piece of grossgrain ribbon on the inside. Looks like we had dark green.

Just wow on that zip. Painful.

If you look closely at the top of the seam where it attaches to the sleeve you can see that I stopped sewing too soon. Luckily the fabric lays in a way so there is no gap. Shoddy construction!

Neat hand stitches at the bottom on the bodice lining. Definitely not mine.You can see where we cut out the skirt lining later.

The last thing I want to point out is the zip. I assume I put it in, but not the lining near the zip, but I can’t be sure. Clearly I was unaware of invisible zippers at that time and I didn’t even sew it in with straight seams. I may not have had a zipper foot.

And there you have it – a tale of woe in goth dress form. Many lessons were learned on this project, including an intense dislike for sewing satin and the need to practice zippers. And practice zippers I must certainly did. Sometimes it takes an overly ambitious project for your skill level to give you a nudge to improve.

Sadly there are no remaining photos of the dress in it’s original time.

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They’ve got links to some full books of historic costume. It’s nice to see these since I’ve been finding the Internet Archive less search friendly for cosigning resources lately.

Go, look!

I’m really excited about a Tumblr site I just discovered. It’s a great resource for Victorian, Edwardian, 1900s, 1910s and1920s original patterns. It’s called Real Historical Patterns.

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I’ve only scrolled through about a year and a half of the archives so far, but there are a plethora of patterns, copied from various magazines of their day. Not only are there many, many women’s patterns to browse, but I saw a decent smattering of children’s and men’s patterns, with more men’s being promised soon.

The individual who runs the site has decided to find as many of these old patterns possible and present them for free, as many of them were originally published, instead of offering modern interpretations for sale. To this person I say “Huzzah! You make a historical seamstress so happy. And thank you.”

Enjoy everyone! Oh yes, they take submissions, so share the knowledge and send in a scan of that natty old coat pattern you found moldering away in grandma’s attic.

P.S. I’m making that tail coat jacket right now, rather, something very similar and slightly earlier. Photos soon.

Here are my first two versions of the 1911 corset, for two very different figures.

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This striped version, deceptively displayed on a much smaller dummy, is for a lady of a completely different shape. She has a shorter torso and more curves. It has lacing bones, which are panels with heavy interfacing and grommets and 1/2″ spring steel bones that I can quickly sew into any mockup for fitting purposes.

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The green version is from the earlier pattern comparison with the Laughing Moon Victorian underbust corset. This figure is closer to the dummy, longer and narrower.

It is worth noting that, to achieve the 2″ (5cm) gap in the back, you need to subtract 2″ from your measurements before you choose your size. More if you have more squish factor.

On both versions I notice that the under bust portion is far too big around. Both figures have narrower underbusts than waist measurements. I’m not sure why it would be designed larger there, except that perhaps the ideal was still more Victorian.

The UB to waist ratio decreases as the overall size gets bigger, but at no point (to the modern figure? Or at least my two test subjects) do those changes seem logical. The stripped version actually has a change in proportion in response to that issue.

Overall I extrapolated through size 66. Contact me if you’re interested in my spreadsheet or how I applied the increases. Per the results of the green version I’ll be applying some decreases to that version next.

The stripped version is the one that matters at the moment and version 1 was pretty successful. In the second and last version I’ll be:
1. changing the front hem shape to accommodate the shorten waist length when she sits
2. shortening the UB area to match her proportion
3. taking in the first two seams about 1/2″ at the bottom to follow the curve inward
4. Last, and biggest, I’ll be decreasing the width of the back pieces 2″ (it’s going to be front and back opening) and will be decreasing the seam between the first and second pieces maybe 1/2″ at the bottom, which will change the pieces shape a little. The last has more squish factor.

None of the changes will happen in that order.

A couple other notes: This corset is being made in heavy ticking. It’s not meant for this kind of garment (or any garment), but with its tight weave, it’s better than denim. It isn’t better than coutil, but time is of the essence here, so we’re doing this quick and ugly. The boning is going to be a little random; whatever I have on hand. She wants a front busk and I think I have one of the correct length, but if not, we’ll have to lace. I’m planning to use buttonholes instead of grommets. We need to keep the holes small to give a smooth look, but small grommets tend to be wimpy.

More soon!

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These patterns are the 1911 corset from Bridges on the Body and the Laughing Moon #113 from 1900-09.

First, the caveats: 1. this is an unfair comparison – sort of. The two patterns are clearly very different garments, but both are under bust corsets of sorts, 2. The two patterns aren’t quite the same size. The bottom (1911) is larger by almost two inches at the waist and hips, and 3. The bottom pattern does not currently include a seam allowance at the front or back. 4. I have the back piece of the LM to far too the left. The grommet holes are in the solid fabric of the 1911.

I’ve made the LM several times and like it overall. Being a waist cincher and having only one set of curves, I consider it a good basis on which to judge other similar garments as I did with an Elizabethan corset here.

Focusing on the back pattern, the 1911 which is new to me, what am I noticing in the two patterns?
1. The 1911 is quite short in front top and rather tall in back. Since I personally find the LM to be short, this is going to be a problem.
2. The 1911 is really long at the bottom. Something like 19″ overall length at this size (a 42 waist / 44 hips, which translates to about 30″ waist / 40″ hips). You aren’t seeing the suggested boning placement. I’d say they are similar in length to a typical Victorian corset. This leaves quite a bit of material as a form-fitting skirting piece, which should make for smooth lines. I’d say this will go all the way past my bum. The unboned skirt will be about half the total length.
3. I don’t know where they are measuring the hips exactly. Logically it should be where the pattern looks largest, but logic doesn’t always prevail. The fact that I had to make my usual one size jog between waist and good tells me it’s probably going to work for me.
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4. The individual piece shapes look logical to me and match those of the LM reasonably well. There are two pieces in the back, a sort of side-front and two fronts. The skinny piece next to the front on the LM (which you can see lapped by the third in the image above) never made much sense to me, but might if it were a full corset.
5. There is a busk in the front, but it looks like the back could either go solid and non-opening (which i don’t think they did) or have traditional lacing.

Of course I have and to complicate things and I won’t be content to make the garment as is. My plan is to use this as the basis for a 1930s corset. I will be making it up in coutil with power mesh inserts.

Next step – a mock up.

I’m happy to say that I’ve found out the date for the SLO Tweed Ride before it happens this year. It will be happening May 5, 2013 at Triangle park, 1pm.

You can view the group’s blog here and their facebook page here. Unfortunately, there isn’t much detail on exactly what will be happening, but you can view their previous years’ photos to get an idea. I don’t know if the Rogues will be in attendance, but it sure does look fun!