|Finished Christmas Caroling Dress|
Well, having done my research on mid-Victorian women's fashions, I knew that it wasn't an excessive amount of fabric; it was period-correct. There are other patterns out there for "Victorian costumes" with way less fullness in the skirt, and those would definitely be easier to make, but less authentic. Of course, my skirt was further complicated by the silk organza underlining that I felt my silk shantung fashion fabric needed in order to hold up to repeated wearings, resist wrinkling, and support the weight of the trims. So the first thing we did after cutting out the skirt panels was to hand baste silk organza to the wrong side of each panel, with perpendicular lines of basting through the center of each piece to align the grain and then basting around the perimeter of each piece through the seamline. Then, because my silk shantung frayed so badly and so immediately, as soon as I seamed the panel widths together I pressed the seams open and then serged both sides of the seam allowances to put an end to the ravelling. (How do I love my serger? Oh, let me count the ways...)
|Inside of Skirt, Organza Underlining, Serged Seam Allowances, Skirt Facing Attached|
For my dress, I put on the hoop skirt and shoes that I would be wearing with the costume, held up the center front skirt pattern piece with the fold line right at the waistband of my hoop skirt, and looked in a full-length mirror to check the length of the skirt without adjustments, knowing that there was a 5/8" seam allowance at the bottom of the pattern piece. I decided to add 2 1/2" to all of the skirt pieces before cutting them out (I'm 5'7" tall and my shoes have about a 2-3" heel).
|My Hoop Skirt, Found on Amazon here|
|My Petticoat, Found on Amazon here|
That's how these enormously full skirts were supported back in the day, and without those crucial undergarments to lift the skirt and spread it out in a graceful bell shape, this dress will be way too long and will look like a mess. If you don't want to wear hoops and petticoats, this pattern is not for you. My hoop skirt was very inexpensive, and it has given me a bit of trouble. I thought it would be fine at first, but the finished skirt seemed kind of empty with just the hoop skirt, the rings of the hoops showed through as ridges on the front of the skirt, and the drawstring waist has a very skinny string like a shoelace that cut into my tummy uncomfortably. My mom replaced the drawstring with a wide, firm elastic and again, I thought I was good. But when my petticoat arrived (which makes my dress look SO MUCH BETTER), the weight of the petticoat was making the elastic waist of my hoop skirt slide down on my hips. The bottom of the hoop skirt was hanging out beneath the hem of my dress and I tripped on it several times. So I cut off the bottom hoop and serged the raw edge of the hoop skirt about an inch and a half below the 5th hoop. So far, this is working much better. My petticoat was a lot more expensive than the hoop skirt, but it is perfect right out of the box without any of these annoying trouble-shooting alterations. It has a firm waistband that closes with Velcro, lining on the outside and inside of the voluminous ruffled netting layers that give it its fullness, and is a much more appropriate length to support a full, floor length dress without sticking out at the bottom.
|Steam-A-Seam 2 Lite, found here on Amazon|
|In Process of Turning Up Facing and Fusing to Silk Organza|
|Top Edge Of Skirt Folded Down, Stitching On the Fold Line|
But before you start pinning in the folded and stacked pleats, you have to hand stitch gathering threads for your cartridge pleats at the back of the skirt. Unlike the stitches you put in for regular gathering and easing, the stitches for the cartridge pleats must be perfectly aligned and identically spaced in order for the pleats to draw up properly like an accordion when the threads are pulled.
|Tiger Tape, available here at Amazon|
|Using Tiger Tape to Guide Hand Stitching|
|Gathering Threads for Cartridge Pleats, Ready to Go|
|Gutermann Polyester Upholstery Thread, available here|
|Whipstitching Stacked Pleats to the Waistband, Catching All Fabric Layers|
|No, You Cannot Do This By Machine!|
|Front Edge of Cartridge Pleats Pinned to Lower Edge of Finished Waistband|
|Folded Stacked Pleats Already Stitched to Waistband, Cartridge Pleats Ready to Stitch|
|Finished Dress, Front View|
|Finished Dress, Side and Back View|
|Abandoned Plan for Additional Trim|
|Even Sitting Is a Challenge In This Skirt!|
|My Amazingly Talented and Profoundly Patient Mom|
Cannot believe you made this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Turned out great!!!!!!!xo
you look wonderful in that dress and put so much work into it. I can't (or won't) do that kind of sewing I would have made a mess of it for sure. I hope you have fun with your caroling.
Wow Rebecca and Rebecca's Mom! You did magnificent work! This series will be very valuable to anyone who wants to know more about making authentic Victorian dresses. I can imagine how hard all the hand sewing was on your hands and it is all the more amazing that you did this with a broken thumb!
What a great work of art! I love cartridge pleats. For larger ones drapery pleating tape is a fast way to make them. Since yours were much closer together you do what you have to do. Your hand work is lovely. I can only imagine what it took to find the time to sew with two active kids to care for at the same time. Congrats on keeping your sanity through it all.
Lovely, lovely, lovely!
Thanks, Lara! Actually, the hand sewing is really easy and relaxing as long as you have the right tools (sharp, strong needle, snug-fitting thimble, rubber needle grabber thingy, strong, smooth thread), and fortunately it’s my LEFT thumb that was broken (I’m right-handed!). I broke my thumb in March so it’s not still in a splint or anything, but it doesn’t bend much and isn’t very strong – that’s why it was giving me trouble with the little buttons.
Susan, I did think of the drapery tapes for the cartridge pleats and I do have several rolls of that in my workroom stash. However, I don't think it would work well for this dress, especially if the dress was being made in a smaller size (the skirt is exactly the same width for all sizes, you just have to gather the pleats up more tightly to fit the smaller waistband of a smaller size). Even the lightest weight sheer drapery pleating tapes would have added too much bulk to get the pleats gathered up tightly enough to fit the few inches of waistband allotted to them. What's more, the drapery pleating tape needs to be sewn on by machine, and those machine stitches would be visible on the right side of the dress and would look TERRIBLE. Remember, this dress has no seam allowance to the skirt where it attaches to the waistband. Honestly, it took about 5 or 10 minutes to hand stitch the gathering threads for those cartridge pleats. And even if you used drapery pleating tape to make the cartridge pleats, you would still need to stitch the skirt to the waistband by hand.
Thanks for stopping by and Happy Holidays!
Wow, that dress is beautiful! That is an amazing dress. Thank you for taking the time to photo many of the steps and then write about the steps. I have a new appreciation for period costuming and will look at them with more detail when I can.
Bravo! Gorgeous! Stunning! I am amazed at your skill, perseverance and ingenuity. It is amazing.
Wow--the dress turned out so beautiful! Thank you taking us along on this adventure--it's been fascinating!
This has been fascinating, just as Karen said. I got exhausted standing at the ironing board, lol.
Seriously, what an adventure. I've enjoyed all of the posts about it and everytime you mention something that helped...a certain product or what-have-you, I wonder how in the world people sewed clothes like these a few hundred years ago. It just boggles the mind.
You have done an extraordinary job ! :)
Your dress is absolutely amazing! Thanks for showing us some of the steps along the way that made making it easier. As I was reading through, I was thinking the same thing as deb @ frual little bungalow... how on earth did woman do this way back when!
What an amazing job! It looks beautiful.
Never thought about how to sew a Victorian dress. What a job! You have magic hands and good skills. Thanks for sharing.
Congratulations to you and your mum, what an achievement just reading how you made it left me wrung out LOL It is simply a work of art and I hope you are able to wear it many times, you were lucky to be able to sit down they weren't designed to sit in LOL just to stroll around the garden or day room and sip cups of tea and eat cucumber sandwiches. Thanks soooooo much for the tutorial it has put me off ever wanting to make one LOL. Cheers Glenda Australia. PS Now you need to make the parasol to go with it ?????
Just absolutely beautiful and such work! Well done!
This dress is gorgeous!!! Great job! :)
Wow! Putting this all together was quite the achievement! It's a lovely dress, and I think you look very pretty in it! ;) Enjoy your caroling.
I looked amazing! Great job!
Sitting is definitely a problem. Maybe Victorisn ladies just daintily sat on little armless stools. That is a ton of fabric in the skirt, but the whole thing looks marvelous.
Your Victorian dress is beautiful. Thanks for all the information.
It turned out beautiful. Have fun caroling!
Oh MY you've been busy, but what a wonderful skirt! WOW!
Wonderful dress and a great team effort!! Yeah mom!
Oh. My. gosh!!!! This is like, a lifetime achievement creation!!! You had me at "period correct", a well loved term around our house as we prepare for primitive muzzleloading shoots....but we have never achieved your level of correctness!!! Wow! I hope you are the belle of the ball while caroling!! Have fun, you look amazingly beautiful!!!! :)
This is my first time at your blog and I just had to comment. Absolutely gorgeous!! What a stunning creation. Congratulations on a monumental achievement.
you look made to wear this. What a tremendous amount of fabric. The truly wealthy had many dresses I suppose. Lots of weaving for the weaver, lots of silk by the worms, lots of hand stitches by seamstresses. Is it heavy? It would cause women to walk differently, move differently and sit differently. So very interesting post. LeeAnna at not afraid of color
I just went all around your blog and how lovely. I will return....LeeAnna at not afraid of color
I am in awe of this dress and you! What a fantastic project, and you look so beautiful in it. Congrats on such a wonderful finish! Thanks for sharing on MCM!
So fabulous! :-)
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