~1800s stays

First things first: this project has been officially dubbed (and pardon my klatchian) The Shit Corset. Not because it’s badly made, per se, but for more literal reasons: in the late construction phases my kitties decided it would make for a perfect addition to their litter box, and I woke up one not-so-fine morning to a missing project… and then, once it was found, a very smelly, dirty one.

Ouch!

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A full view of the finished corset.
It’s gone through more washing cycles than most clothes do in their lifespan.
It still looks -to me- slightly yucky.
Double ouch!

Here are some construction notes and ideas:

Pattern: Nehelenia Pattern’s E400 Early 19th C. Short Stays
Year: c.1800, aspires to be earlier.
Fabric & notions: white cotton coutil (~1m), steel (72cm) and wire (34cm) boning, appropriate end caps, cotton bias tape (~1.3m), silk embroidery thread.
How historically accurate is it? 75% for patterning, some materials and hand-sewing.
Hours to complete: 20+ over a few weeks.
First worn: n/a
Total cost: 36€, as I bought the entire kit from Nehelenia’s store and all other odds and ends came from the stash. To be fair I should only assign half of those costs, as the seller is not stringy at all with materials and I could do a second pair of stays with the spares! I probably will, actually, applying what I’ve learnt here.

This was a big “firsts” project for me. It’s been my first time working on proper corsetry, my first proper gussets, and my first hand-sewn eyelets. I wanted to keep things simple when I started, which is why I chose to follow a pre-made pattern. The only “special” point would be the tabs, which I knew I didn’t want to edge in bias tape as the instructions called for.

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V&A transitional stays.
I love the pointy ends, but they’d have been very hard for me to run in coutil!

Once I found Festive Attyre’s earlier transitional stays with unedged tabs I knew what I wanted. Turning coutil is a nightmare so I settled on rounded tabs. While fitting the mockup I also changed the size and shape of the tabs, making them irregular but mirrored on both sides.

Nehelenia’s pattern is pretty good, but the English instructions are sparse and require some previous sewing experience. The pattern calls for two layers of coutil, which gives enough support for the bust. It works nicely, but next time I’ll add an extra lining of something softer and cotton-y to protect the inner stitching from wear and tear.

I was expecting the gussets to be a sewing nightmare, but they were honestly quite nice to work on! I debated on using this wonderful hack by Sempstress… but in the end I went with proper, time-consuming, fingertip-murdering techniques. Luckily for me, the Oregon Regency Society has a wonderful and easy to follow gusset-and-cups setting tutorial.

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Pretty gusset vs ugly gusset, fight!
(Upping the contrast on pictures really brings out the details.)

While the shoulder straps are quite fine with the modifications I made during the mockup phase (I had to make them smaller and set them closer together, as usual) it might have been better to separate the front from the straps and add some eyelets. It would have helped with a perfect fit.

The binding is set backwards. It really bugs me. I noticed it one night, and I thought, ‘Oh, tomorrow I’ll unstitch it and do it properly’, but that was the very night the Litter Incident happened. Afterwards I was too busy with disinfecting and washing and whatnot to remember… until it was too late and only the eyelets were left to be done. Oh, well!

What else? Oh! Because of the pull of the turned tabs and the modified straps there was some tension to the back that made it scrunch ever so slightly, so I decided to bone it, as many earlier transitional stays do. I could have used the spare boning provided, but I thought I’d rather save it and re-purpose the actual pieces from an UFO. It called for wider channels at the back than at the front, but it solved the problem.

My embroidery skills could be improved, but I was able to work the eyelets in a way that left them more or less even and balanced. I tried different techniques (there are some great tutorials here and here) before deciding on a style – a simple outward buttonhole stitch. It’s not the most adequate eyelet for this kind of garment, but it’s the only one I could achieve consistent results in.

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My practice attempts & the first eyelet actually on the corset.
So fiddly ^^’

All things considered, I’m quite happy with the result – visible bias stitching and all. I’ve learnt a lot (esp. about cat safety) and I’ve started to un-fear corsetry techniques. I’m actually quite excited to try making this pattern’s basic Regency view!

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Tiny eyelets! The in-package cord is too thick so I need to get a narrower cord some time.
Also: behold the power of phone photography ^^’

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A 1880s chemise

I wanted to start off with something simple but useful for my comeback, and rummaging through my pattern box I found the perfect item: Truly Victorian’s basic bustle-era chemise! I actually made it several years ago, but I wasn’t fully satisfied back then as it was extremely bulky up top. I had gone with the whole package: shoulder buttons, sleeves, the lot. This time, I decided to go with the easier, simpler sleeveless option and devote some time to polishing my hand-sewing skills.

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Behold!
In all of its wrinkled glory.
…although I can’t see a thing, white-on-white.

Pattern: TV102
Year: 1885
Fabric & notions: lightweight white cotton fabric (~1.5m), broderie anglaise cotton ruffles (~1.8m) and insertion lace (~1.8m),  satin ribbon in lilac (~2m).
How historically accurate is it? Very! Fabric is spot-on. It was fully done by hand* and all seams are flat-felled and nicely finished.
Hours to complete: 10-ish? I took quite a few spare minutes here and there all through the week, so I’m not actually sure.
First worn: n/a
Total cost: 4€, as everything but the insertion lace came from the stash. It’s really pretty lace and I bought twice what I needed, so I consider it a justifiable expense!

Looking at it now, it might be too long. That’s interesting – and also makes sense, as those extra ruffles add around 10cm to the pattern. Next time I must remember to account for them and shorten the pattern accordingly.

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I have extremely narrow shoulders for my general proportions,
so anything that sits right on me sits wrong on Amelina, my body double.

I should have taken more pictures of the whole process, but I… kinda forgot. Oh well…

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A picture of the chemise’s insides, also in need of ironing.
I had a lot of trouble keeping my lines straight, which is noticeable at this part.
I need more practice!

I might, eventually, re-make the matching drawers too. I’m not sure I have enough fabric left for them, so it might mean piecing – an exciting new challenge. Oops…

 

 

 

*I must admit my original intention was to cheat and do the long hems by machine, but then I realised that meant taking the sewing machine out of storage and servicing and oiling it, and that seemed to me a more onerous task than… hand-backstitching. Or, eventually, running-backstitching!

The Minoan Fashionista: Overview

2600-1100 BCE. Talk about out of my comfort zone. Ohkeeeey. Here we go!

During my preteen years I was a huge Odysseus fan. I really, really admired the dude. I remember hunting down and promptly devouring every related piece of literature I could find.

Then one day there was this Illiad spin off –one of Manfredi’s, perhaps? – in which the main character* arrived in Mycenae and met with Clytemnestra. She was described as wearing “a tightly fitted bodice that bared her breasts, embroidered in precious metals, and a heavy, widening skirt in many layers, as local women were wont to.” Or something to that effect – I’m paraphrasing here. It’s been twenty years. Give me a break.

Back then, I scoffed at this image. “As if!” I thought, my mind swimming in the sheer amount of fabric needed for a properly draped peplos. What a rigid classicist I was! Still, the image remained in my head for years – until one day I saw a Minoan fresco and lo and behold, there she was: spin off Clytemnestra, in her tailored fashion.

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A gorgeous lady from the Akrotini site.
c-1500 BCE, maybe.

Mycenae is believed to have conquered Crete following a hot volcano explosion, and perhaps gearing up for their Troy raiding. Hah! They are thought to have assimilated the Minoan’s culture and language after recognizing their superiority, so it would make sense for a murderous Mycenaean queen to dress in a similar way as the fashionista up there.

And boy, were the Minoans superior! In the drab, sad world that was the Bronze Age they had sophisticated palaces in many levels, all decorated in rich colors, and the most competitive and advanced flotilla in the Aegean. Their society was heavily dominated by the female half (or maybe the boys were all out playing with their boats, idk, there seems to be a lot of controversy amongst the experts here) and their fashion trends reflected this fact.

Ah, Minoan fashion. What an unexpected surprise.

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A really ubiquitous depiction of Minoan fashion.
In which I heavily disagree with the working couple interpretation:
in a civilization that was mostly unbothered by nudity,
it makes zero sense for the poor to use up so much of a valued resource
(and fabric was a valued, scarce resource until just a couple of centuries ago!)
But everyone else looks simply fabulous.

Of course, we’re talking about 1500 years of fashion here. I’m so used to the constant, logical evolution of 19th century fashion that my first question was “But how did this evolve in time?” I mean, it couldn’t remain the same all that time, could it?

Yeah, good question. I have a gut feeling it did change (from wrapped kilts to shaped skirts, at least) but so slowly all styles lived together for a while. I’ve found zero evidence of this. I’ll need to keep researching (what little material there is!)

Anyways, for ease of deciding on what/how to sew, I’ve mentally divided the elements of Minoan fashion into four categories: bodice, belt, skirt, and accessories. Please keep in mind that this is a work in progress and I’m hardly an expert in the era, though!

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UFOs galore

I’ve been putting some order to the costuming boxes under the beds –not too hard a feat when one considers half of our belongings are still languishing in our Barcelona storage – and I think I have a clear idea of which old-ish projects and notions there are. They’re all over the timeline! I’ve made a list to better keep track of them in the future.

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First blog post

Well hello there!

It’s been over five years since I last created anything remotely… historic. A veritable age, at my age – and what a hectic age it has been! I’ve gone from having a hotshot job on the other side of the world and a 9k+ cosplay following to being someone whose only objective is to be happy and purr along with her kitties. It’s a good life. Anyways! Now I seem to be settling down I’ve thought – hey, why don’t I start making things again?

There are no events I wish to attend, and nowhere I’d wear whatever I create. I have zero interest in travelling away from the paradise I’m currently living in. I don’t wish to pose for any more professional pictures ever. My free time is limited, and so is my budget. This blog’s purpose is to keep track of thoughts and projects. And that’s okay! For the first time (ever!) I’ll be working without any pressure.

I adore classic Greek and Imperial Roman looks, elegant black Spanish court outfits, cavalier gowns, late Rococo prettines, anything 19th century, all styles  before the 30s, and some 50s and 60s ideas. I waste far too much time in research (according to my SO, who honestly has no idea at all). I have limited resources and an interest in fantasy and high fashion, so if forced to be defined I’d go for ‘aspiring costumer’. I try not to cut corners, but if I’m to choose between fully hand-embroidering a court train and keeping my sanity my answer is – there are wonderful saree trims on etsy! My goal here is to try and be as faithful to its era as each project calls for, but without holding myself to impossible standards. And that’s okay too.

So, to start with, I should… catalog what I have, see which 5yo+ UFOs are still a go and which ones are for the scrap pile, and re-organise the cosplay workroom. One can’t work without orderliness!

Here we go.