New Photo Post:


Warning – spoilers below the jump.

I would be remiss if i didn’t mention last Sunday’s first season 3 episode of Downton Abbey. The whole cast is back for more drama, a wedding, (more…)

Delightful serendipity! Yesterday I found a post about a strange Victorian hat-fitting device – The Conformateur. I had never heard of such a thing before, but the Victorians did come up with some fascinatingly innovative (though not always practical / functional) devices. Essentially, you place a piece of paper in the top of the device and place it on your head. “Fingers” in the device press to the shape or your head and make pin marks in the paper, late allowing the milliner to replicate the shape for a custom-fit hat.

Lots of pics on the originating site, including detailed shots of the workings and original diagrams. Here is another post about another conformateur owner who used 3D printed parts used to repair their device.

(Both posts were originally found on BoingBoing)

Thoughts on construction of the hat frame for the 1912 Project’s March Challenge Pattern, the Mad March Hat:
  • The provided diagram is misleading. It makes it appear that everything is round. This cannot be accurate as your head is oval. So you have an oval in a round shape. This also means that when the pattern measurements say that the width or the part that sits on your head is 2 5/8″, that will be at different angles at front, back and sides. This differs from most hats you might make today in that the headsize opening is usually the inside of the brim that you see, leading out to the edge of  the brim. This had has a headsize opening burried up and inside the sides of the hat. The inside frame could almost be free floating, but this would affect the tilt of the hat, which would probably look better at a static point.
  • I made a very rough frame (sorry, no pics, that would have required a third hand and Zaphod Beeblebrox I am not) to get an idea of the scale of the hat and how it would look with my face shape. (more…)
(When searching for a nice period Toque photo to show everyone, I happened to find this Titanic Hat via Wikipedia! “Mrs. J.J. “Molly” Brown presenting trophy cup award to Capt. Arthur Henry Rostron, for his service in the rescue of the Titanic. That’s the Unsinkable Molly Brown.)
When I think of hats of the Titanic era, I think of the giant brimmed picture hats, but of course, that was not the only hat worn. The 1912 Project has given us a March Challenge Pattern of a Spring Hat for Mature Women, which I’ve decided to dub The Mad March Hat.
In Alison Gernsheim’s book, “Victorian and Edwardian Fashion: A Photographic Survey” (Dover Books), we find an image of an older woman (more…)

The 1912 Project is about to start with 400 Test Sewers! We’ve been broken up into groups and patterns should be coming our way any day now. The official blog for the project can be found here. We will be starting with patterns from the April 1912 issue, as this is the closest to the sinking of the Titanic, then going back and working our way through the entire year.

What I really want to show you are some of the illustrations from La Mode Illustree 1912, issue #3:

The three items show are:

  1. Ladies Taffeta Dress (#0158) – blue taffeta trimmed in satin bias binding of the same color with plastron and under cuffs of pleated white tulle.
  2. Ladies Coat (#0168) –  gray velvet with white stripes with black velvet cuffs and lapels.
  3. Ladies Jacket (#0169) – a ladies wool coat with silk lining and velvet cuffs. I want this! I love the large lapels and the way the lining shows. This looks like it would lend itself well to having a hood, though I doubt the original did.

I can’t wait to see what pattern comes to the rogues first! And oh just look at those glorious hats!

Hello! I’ve been absent from my own blog, but I have been sewing (though not costumes). The holiday season saw me making purses. This was a second attempt at such a thing, the first being a very simple pattern in gorgeous fabric. These Christmas purses were made in no less beautiful fabrics, but were a bit more complex. I’ve learned more about interfacing than I expected. As a historical costume sewer I don’t use modern interfacings very often. I’ve also been learning to crochet.



It’s the new year, but I don’t like setting resolutions. My feeling is that, if you can’t manage to do something because you need or want to, the fact that it s a new year isn’t going to help you. But it is a great time to contemplate a new project list. I don’t have anything firm yet, except for a belated Christmas gift, two baby presents and a wedding. I do think this will be a good year to focus on steampunk, starting with a tentative plan to make spats for my new boots.

The other thing I have on the schedule for this year is to participate in The 1912 Project. I’m pretty excited about it. Vintage patterns tell us more than just how a garment could be made. They give you an idea of what people valued, what kind of time they put into such activities, what materials were available (and so, what kind of industries were going on). They make assumptions about sewing skills that we may not understand today. They give you little hints about how things were done by hand, individually, in a slower world. The Vintage Pattern Library is working on digitizing 1912 editions of La Mode Illustree, including making detailed full size patterns of the garments therein, in memory of  the sinking of  the Titanic in 1912. Last July my small town marked the 100 anniversary of its incorporation with some period festivities and that’s when I started to research and become interested in the period. I recently had  the chance to watch all of the first season of Downton Abbey, which starts with the news that the Titanic had been sunk. I find the period and costumes fascinating. Things were changing between the classes, women were starting to have a voice, old ideas about clothing and medicine were relaxing. It was the dawn of our modern era. And the hats were awesome. I will be making at least monthly updates on the  patterns I am given to sew.

Additional photos after the jump that do the fabrics more justice. (more…)