Usually I make a big deal for Halloween. The house gets decked in its bi-yearly theme (witches) for one night. All the monsters come out, revolting amounts of candy are handed over and much coffee is consumed by dedicated parents. This year, however, the Rogues were sewing and doing a final fitting until 4pm. Here’s what we made.

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A Victorian costume, complete with corset, walking skirt, apron over-skirt and tailcoat jacket. The majority of the costume is a heathered gray cotton of mid-weight with trim in blue poly satin and some matching blue braid.

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The tailcoat is based on a tailcoat vest I made for a previous Halloween costume, which was based on a simple princess seamed vest pattern. The overskirt is a 1871 pattern from Truly Victorian, which we changed to be reversible (gray on the other side), the skirt is based on an 1895 skirt and includes period accurate pockets! They hang inside from one central point and are accessed by a slit in their center.

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The piece you aren’t seeing is the under bust corset, which can be found here.

I’m pretty happy with the way the tails hang gracefully. The decision not to line them was a good one. I think they would have looked to heavy. The front of the coat will hang better without the overskirt beneath it.

The other part I’m particularly pleased with is the trim on the sleeve cuffs and apron hem. It’s the same gray as the general ensemble, pleated. I was initially going to put a strip of blue fabric over the seam of the cuffs, but happily found that nice blue trim.
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This was a fast project and there were lesions learned about fitting, allowances that must be made for corsetry (we almost always steampunk and wear out unmentionables on the outside), equipment limitations, the squirelieness of satin, and timing.
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In the future we would like to make some small adjustments to the apron to make it truly reversible, add some blue braid trim to it’s ruffle and probably make an alteration to the skirt.

And that’s not all. We also did some tailoring to the lady’s husband’s Victorian ensemble; adding pockets to his vest, hidden pockets to his tailcoat and Henning the pants. I’m sure they were quite a pair.

Next year there will be better planning and timing so people can have their costumes and I can have my usual Halloween fun. (Not that we didn’t have fun, it was just compressed.)

Here are the rushed, but final pics from the dual purpose corset, version one.

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This corset was developed and made in a hurry to get our gal closer to the Victorian shape. The first project was a Victorian-esque costume. More details on that later. It reduces her waist by 4″.

The corset is made of heavy ticking fabric. That’s not ideal for a corset. As I’ve said before, there is no substitute for coutil. Since I didn’t have any white on-hand I had to substitute something heavy that would stretch as little as possible. Ticking does stretch, but less than denim and less than plain weave canvas.

Nope, not removing the orange markings. I said down and dirty and fast and I meant it. I can remove them after Halloween.

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Above you can see some of the garment seams covered by bone tape, which is a flattened, heavy-duty, tube of fabric. About 1/8″ in on both sides is an indented channel, which is a sewing guide. There really is no substitute for this stuff either, at least not if you are making a sturdy garment that will shape the wearer. It encases the bones which are 1/4″ spring steel. The front opening uses 1/2″ spring steel bones.

The other thing you’ll notice is the black ribbon at the waist. This is called the waist tape. It is technically Petersham Ribbon. It’s a ribbed ribbon similar to grosgrain ribbon (but that is not a substitute). I’m not entirely sure, but I believe those ribs are woven, unlike grosgrain, which I believe is imprinted. Don’t quote me on that. The ribbon is not stitched down along its edges; it’s only attached where ever the bone tape crosses it. It serves as a floating anchor, taking some of the strain of the waist, which has the most tension. This is key since I had to use inferior fabric.

There is one bone on each side that does not completely cover it’s corresponding seam. This is unfortunate because that seam will fray where uncovered. However, the bone only needed to extend down part of the seam, so I didn’t waste the tape. Several of the other bones are in fact shorter than their casings.

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Ideally I would have used a busk opening, but I didn’t have one the correct length. Busks make getting in and out of the corset much easier. Later corsets used some materials that had stretch (though they often used coutil in conjunction), which allowed them to use other openings like hook and eye.

What makes this more of a 1930s corset is the shape and length. It goes from natural waist to hips. It shapes, as corsets are meant to do and, the length – completely covering the hips and bum – also smooths, which will help achieve the 30s smooth and minimized bum silhouette.

Version two will be made of coutil and a bit of power net at the top of the thigh to aid in walking and sitting. It will also feature garters. Most importantly it will be front opening and back lacing. I plan to use button holes instead of the standard grommets (heavy duty ones are used, not the cute little ones you find in the usual fabric store). My theory is that the button holes and a flatter cording will give a less noticeable opening, which is ideal for the streamlined garments of the 1930s.

Related posts:
First look at the 1911 corset

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Here’s the tailcoat in progress. The second sleeve has now been attached, and it’s hemmed. Everything is going well. I made a small for adjustment to the bust. Now I just need to match the shape of the facing to the new line and add the embellishments to the cuffs.

Should be complete Friday and I’ll will update with full costume shots.

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We’re working on a custom Victorian costume for Halloween. What you’re looking at above is the fitting for the jacket. You can also see the bottom of the apron-type overskirt and the skirt. What you’re not seeing is the final shape of the jacket, which will be a tailcoat.

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The apron overskirt has some pleats in the sides and basically a really wide tie in the back.

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Here’s a bit of a bonus. I really didn’t know how the back of the corset was going to work, particularly with the tie on the overskirt acting like a bit of a bustle. Here’s what is going to happen. It’s going to divide the tails.

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.

20131026_090927It turns out that I live a few minutes from a fully restored 1890s Victorian Lighthouse, the Port San Luis Lighthouse. I had the pleasure to discover that when a friend asked if I’d like to help at a haunted house. I didn’t know where we were going or what I’d be doing. I just knew that I needed to be ready at 8am and (the night before she told me to) wear something Victorian.

The haunted house was a collaboration between the Lighthouse Keepers docent group and the Central Coast Paranormal Investigators. The CCPI did some ghost hunting in the weeks leading up to the haunted house and made their findings part of the tour experience. We had a cannibalistic fisherman’s family in residence with some gruesome victims – a girl chained to an old iron bed frame, a woman missing a limb in the basement, the White Lady, assorted ghouls and a couple zombies. And blood, lots of blood Each tour group included a plant who was attacked by the zombies. I think we got some genuine fright!

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Costume-wise it was more about gore, but I wore some pseudo-Victorian wear and trailed behind the groups to reset doors, etc. I basically recycled my New Orleans Halloween 2010 costume with the newer bolero jacket I made a couple of years later. The skirt was a thrifted a-line wool, which I added a black and white stripped flounce to, a matching black and white top, my green silk waist cincher, a (surprisingly matching gray poly) bolero with black and white striped piping, and my green false top “top hat”. The only thing I didn’t make was the thrifted part of the skirt.

If you have a chance to check out the lighthouse, at Halloween or any other time of the year, it’s worth the trip. Docent led tours are available on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Link love and lighthouse history: