Sunday, March 20, 2011

1918 dress

So before I got eaten alive by my cutwork skirt project (BTW, I just found out that I won 1st place!  Woohoo!), I promised that I'd post more about my new 1918 dress that I made for the Chestnut Square fashion show.  Well, I added a page on my website where you can see some more pictures of this outfit, and I thought I would talk a little more about how I made it here on my blog.

The dress is made out of two wool fabrics that I picked up at estate sales.  The colors are so funky that I never thought I'd use them for anything other than mockups or linings, but I was surprised as how much more I liked them when they were put together.  

I never could find an exact pattern for this outfit, so I combined several late-1910's patterns and did a bit of improvising to create my dress.  The bodice is based on this similar 1918 New Idea pattern that I found on ebay.  I changed the sleeves to be tight fitting at the forearms, and I used an antique collar that I found at an estate sale instead of the collar style shown in the illustration.  The text that accompanied my original fashion plate told me that this was actually a skirt and bodice and not a full dress, so I decided to keep mine separate as well.  The only problem with that is that my blouse has a tendency to pull out when I move around a lot, so I added a drawstring at the waist (which is a very period practice) to try and keep it tucked in.  This helped some, so I probably will add some hooks or snaps as well to keep everything neat and tidy.  

The skirt was a little bit more difficult to make up since I never could find a good pattern match for the style I was trying to recreate.  But I looked at enough period patterns to figure out the basic shapes (mostly rectangular or very slightly flared), and then I draped the yoke at the top of the skirt on my own.  The first time I made the skirt, it had too much fullness, so I took it all apart, cut off some width on both the tunic and underskirt, and then tried again.  The underskirt closes on one side with hooks and eyes, and there are vintage buttons and loops on both side seams of tunic to add a decorative element.  Both layers of skirt are joined together at the waistline.  

I think the dresses from this particular era are totally made by the accessories, so I considered myself very lucky to already own some key pieces to put the finishing touches on it.  I bought a pair of fabulous spool heel oxfords several years ago on ebay.  They are from the 80's or 90's, but they are in wonderful shape, and they are a near perfect match for the style of shoe shown in the illustration.  I didn't even know what I would do with them when I bought them, but they were just so cool that I knew they had to be mine!  I bought the Edwardian purse last year at the Antique Elegance show.  It is made of silk moire with a crocheted top and silk ribbons, and the condition is amazingly good.  The little "Votes for Women" button was another fun little accessory that was given to me by a friend.  And of course, I've already talked a bit about my hat.  I love being able to mix in some real antique pieces in a historical costume, and the good thing about this period is that a lot of vintage accessories like buttons, lace, and purses are still around if you just do a bit of digging.  

Thursday, March 17, 2011

papel picado skirt


Once again, my favorite local fabric store, Fabrique, was hosting their remnant challenge where you can win up to $200 in store credit by making something from the fabrics in their remnant bin.  The selection of remnants was much more picked over this year, but I finally had a eureka moment when I found a piece of pink ultrasuede.  It's a funky color and the stiffness of the fabric limited my garment options quite a bit, but it is perfect for cutwork, and that seemed like a fun way to turn boring fabric into something really unusual.

1977 - Simplicity 8112
Since I already have some experience with cutwork, I knew what I was getting into (sore fingers and many many hours on mindless cutting!), but I also knew that it usually goes faster than you'd think and the payoff is well worth the effort.  Although it is perfect for cutting, ultrasuede is not the most forgiving fabric for tailoring, so I picked a basic mock wrap skirt pattern from my stash that dates from 1977.  This pattern has minimal shaping and and no zipper, so I was hoping that it would be simple enough to work with the suede.

Next I drew out a border design based on Mexican papel picado (perforated paper) banners.  As an art teacher, I thought it would be fun to take a traditional art form that we study in class and translate it into fashion.  The hardest part was getting the design to curve to fit the shape of the hem, but luckily, Photoshop came to the rescue and helped me bend the borders without too much frustration.

Next, I printed out my patterns for the entire border design and stuck it to the back of the ultrasuede with spray basting adhesive.  I used an exacto knife and a leather punch to cut the pattern, and it took me 6 days to get the cutwork done... which is actually much faster than I expected.


The only part of this project that gave me problems was assembling the skirt, which I thought would be the easy part.  HA!  I underestimated the amount of time it would take to make the lining due to the scalloped hem, the ultrasuede liked to stretch when I sewed it, my experiment with spray fusing was a failure, the skirt was too big, and the waistband just refused to go on.  But I pushed on through and the skirt was finally beaten into submission.  I turned the skirt in to the fabulous ladies at Fabrique with 3 whole hours to spare before the deadline.  

When I was finished with the cutwork, I was left with a big bowl filled with little tiny scraps of the ultrasuede.  These little pieces reminded me of confetti, so to celebrate the end of a VERY long week, I decided to indulge in a little silliness.  I'll probably be sweeping ultrasuede bits off of my patio for the next year, but it was so worth it!  :)

This was a fun project, and I enjoy having a chance to step away from the authentic historical projects for a little while and flex my creative muscles.  Thanks to Fabrique for hosting this inspiring contest!





Sunday, March 6, 2011

more adventures with cheap straw hats

My son and I dressed up in our new outfits from 1918 for a fashion show benefiting Chestnut Square this weekend. I'll try to post more about my full outfit later in the week, but I wanted to start with a little post about my hat.

I had originally planned on making something using proper millinery techniques, but as usual, I ran out of time and had to settle for my more typical methods of "hot glue a bit of luck". So off I went to Party City to pick up another $5 straw hat to reshape. You can see the hat in its original (and horribly ugly!) shape here.

Like many other cheap straw party hats, this one is made of a woven blank that can be shaped however you want vs. a hat made with straw coils that is stitched into it's shape.  It is like a pair of Chinese handcuffs - if you push down on it, it gets wider, and if you pull on it, it gets narrower.  This is very convenient when you are trying to reshape the crown into one of the large 1910's styles.

To reshape a hat of this type, all you have to do it wet it, and then hold it in the shape you want while it dries overnight.  I wanted to make my crown shaped like a flared top hat, which is a style that shows up quite often in 1918.  I squeezed the middle with my hands (which also made the hat taller), then wrapped some hair bands around the middle to hold it like that.  I flattened the top just by stretching and pinching the edges.  The brim had a tendency to flip up, so I weighted it down with random bottles that I had in my bathroom.  As you can see, no high-tech tools are needed for this technique!  :)

I was inspired by a variety of images from my 1918 New Idea Quarterly for the overall shape and decorations on my hat.  The first picture shows the hat that was actually worn with the dress that I based my own outfit on.  Although I changed the shape and decorations some, I decided to at least remain faithful to the color scheme of the original, so I used black velvet for the top of the hat and a lighter mauve wool that coordinated with my dress for the lining of the brim.  The second illustration shows a hat with a narrower brim and the flared crown that is more similar to the overall shape of my hat.  The third hat has a crown covered with pleated fabric, which gave me the idea of covering mine with a similar technique.  The picture on the far right has a narrow hatband halfway up the crown at the smallest  part of the flare, which I decided to use as well.  So although my own hat isn't a direct copy of one particular style, I tried to capture the feel of 1918 millinery by combining a variety of elements from these different illustrations.  

To cover the hat with fabric, I traced around the various parts of the hat directly on the material, cut it out (plus a little extra for wiggle room), used spray basting adhesive to stick it to the straw base, then finished the edges with hot glue on the parts you can't see and a strip of bias edging around the brim.  Forgive me for glossing over the fabric steps, but it was 2:00 in the morning when I was working on it, and taking step-by-step pictures was very low on my priority list at that time.  I also took some shortcuts which resulted in the annoying wrinkles on the top of the brim.  I skipped the spray adhesive on that section, which I regret now.  I could definitely do better with some more time, but sometimes "good enough" is good enough, if you know what I mean.  Luckily, I'm tall, so maybe most people won't see that part of the hat very often.  ;)

Covering the flared part of the crown with a flat piece of fabric would have been more tricky, but still doable with a bias cut strip, more spray adhesive, and a bit of luck.  But I decided to avoid all that fiddly work by covering the rise of the crown with a 5" wide pleated silk moire ribbon that has been burning a hole in my stash for the past few years.  I wanted to be able to remove the ribbon if I ever decided to use it for something else, so I skipped the hot glue this time and hand-tacked it to some grosgrain ribbon, then I simply tied the narrow ribbon into a bow to hold it all on the hat.  A few more hand tacks at the bottom of the pleats hold the ribbon to the crown so it won't shift around.  If you don't happen to have a bunch of 5" wide vintage ribbon burning a hole in your stash, you could also do the same thing with a long strip of fabric.  

And that's it!  Total time for making this hat = 2 hours.  Cost of materials = around $20.  The thrill of having a big crazy hat to finish off your 1910's outfit = priceless.