70s whales!

I’m still here! For personal reasons I’ve been quite unable to both sew and blog for the past few months, but I’ve still been going over a few simple projects to keep me busy. Here’s one – a style of dress I’ve been wanting to wear for ages!

A simple 70s tent dress in summery fabrics.
It goes down to my ankles, which can’t be really seen in the pics ^^’

Pattern: vintage Simplicity 5675 
Year: 1973
Fabric & notions: 2m designer cotton with pretty whales, loads of white and blue poly thread, 55cm zipper, two sets of hook-n-eyes, 2m navy blue bias tape.
How historically accurate is it? 100%.
Hours to complete: 10-ish or so, as I had to unmake the patterned neck and bring it down to my actual size. That was such a pain. All seams are serged except for the neckpiece.
First worn: August 1st, 2018.
Total cost: 7€ (fabrics at a 70% discount and all else I already had, Summer sales you rock!)

This is such a light, comfy dress for daily wear! It turns out much better with a belt than it does without, and yet it looks lovely on a moving body either way. I had quite a lot of fabric and went for the long version, but now I’m kinda regretting not trying out the shorter one. It’s very easy to make, though, so who’s to say I won’t be going for it at some point?

70s2A closer front view!
Weird angle tho, makes the collar look wonky. Ah well!

I changed the collar piece very slightly (my neck is overlong, and I wanted it to stand out) and added in a couple of self-made ties to the neck back for aesthetics. Next time I’ll consider a smaller zipper, though. The back looks fine, but there’s no need for such a long one.

70s3The back sans mermaid belt.
Ugh, well, there really isn’t much to say here, is there?


An indeterminate corset cover

This was the simplest, easiest project ever! I was tired of seeing the leftover scraps from the 1880s chemise around my workroom, and while I didn’t want to throw them away -or open the storage boxes again- I barely had any left for a bigger piece. I kinda lost interest halfway so I didn’t add in neither bust ruffles nor front buttons, but it works well on its own.

Undefined corset cover is undefined.

Pattern: self-drafted.
Year: 1905-ish.
Fabric & notions: lightweight white cotton fabric (~0.5m), openwork linen appliqué (1p), broderie anglaise cotton ruffles with insertion lace (~0.8m), satin ribbon in lilac (~1m), thin white cotton bias tape (20cm), ultrathin white cotton ribbon (1.5m), white net trim (50cm), white Anchor embroidery floss.
How historically accurate is it? 60%, for proper materials, techniques and hand-sewing. Lazy patterning modifications lower the mark.
Hours to complete: 4-ish, because of patterning and nicely finished seams.
First worn: n/a
Total cost: 2€, because I couldn’t help myself when I saw the neck appliqué on sale at one of my favourite etsy sellers.

There aren’t any mysteries to this piece. My first patterning attempt included a three-layer set of ruffles right beneath the neck placket, but I realized soon enough I didn’t have enough fabric for that. My original idea was to try for an earlier pigeon-breast shape, but it wasn’t to be. This is okay too, and more versatile and useful, all things considered. (I keep telling myself that, and maybe at some point I’ll start believing it!)

Rufflin’ th’cotton.
There’s not much one can say about this project, is there :/

TBH the separate cotton ruffles were also a result of not having enough main fabric, as I meant for them to be a natural extension of the chest piece.

It should close with buttons, but I can’t find any small nor flat enough to look fine and not bunch up whatever goes over this. The extra cotton ribbon solves the gaping, at least temporarily.

Front and back views (slightly blurry, oops!)
So much white on white…

~1905s walking suit

I tackled the old UFO pile!* I thought about starting with the floral 1810 daydress and modify it to fit with my new stays, but as I was trying it on and writing down the changes needed I realized – I basically had to unpick every stitch, re-cut all pieces, and re-do every seam. I’m not going to be able to devote my full attention to anything until late April, which means anything more elaborate than “long seams and pretty trims” is out of the question. I moved on to another project – an easier one.

This is how it’s described on the UFO post: “A 1900s walking suit in brown and black checks – also an unfortunate fabric choice, but the shape is quite spot-on. TBH I’m not sure what the fabric is? I’m thinking it could be some wool/poli blend, but the draping is weird. I’d need to add skirt closures and make a blouse. I remember cutting some black cotton for that, but come on. Anyways, this is a nice, simple project that could help me get back onto the saddle.

walked01.jpgA ‘meh’ basic Edwardian walking suit.
No blouse, no undergarments nor underskirts – this mannequin lives dangerously!

Using the HSF structure here isn’t all that meaningful, given I started this suit five years ago and many details have been lost to time, but let’s try it for consistency:

Pattern: the skirt is self-drafted (it’s a basic half-circle skirt with a high front to show off a pair of pretty boots and a back teardrop lowering the hemline for flair and drama), the jacket was made from a now-missing and slightly modified commercial pattern, and I based the purse on a… Regency reticule tutorial. What!?
Year: 1905-ish.
Fabric & notions: I’ve been informed by a reliable party the main fabric is nailshead wool meant for a male off-season suit. I still keep my doubts, but to myself – I don’t know enough about fabrics to contradict an expert’s word! Anyways, there should be about 4m of that, then ~1m of black cotton, a strip of white canvas, ~5m bias cotton tape in black, ~2m black crochet trim, 2 skirt closures, 3 wooden black balls, and 5 self-fabric buttons.
How historically accurate is it? 50%. The patterns are okay, I think, and the techniques used aren’t quite wrong for the era, but there are too many ‘off’ points to raise its mark. Also my private fabric doubts.
Hours to complete: n/a. Five years, give or take?
First worn: n/a
Total cost: n/a

There was more to do than I thought (but isn’t that always the case?). The original design had a flat front and a pleated back, but I’ve been finding that silhouette a bit too bustle-y for this simpler design. I unstitched the waistband and built in two small box pleats at the front. The spare fabric was gathered right at the back placket.

A weird back view.
No petticoats make for very limp skirts.
Also, should have considered light sources before taking this pic… ^^’

Before adding closures to the skirt I stabilized the waistband with a strip of canvas fabric, as it was bunching up something awful. I also unpicked the buttons from their original front placement and moved them further apart, to emphasize the new pleats.

I’ve insterted a spare length of cord into the bias at the bottom of the skirt, to help with weight and shape. I debated between doing that and properly facing the hem, then I went down the easiest path. It actually works better than facing would have, I think, as it adds more weight to the wool’s drape.

The skirt is unlined; the jacket is lined in thick black cotton. The front was originally meant to close with frog clasps in black trim, but my changed measurements make that an impossibility. I thought about fixing that with a strip of black cotton and fix the bag lining while I was at it, but then it would have lost its right shape. It’s okay, I think – it looks just okay when open.

A closer view.
This one showcases the actual colors better than any other pic here.

The cuffs needed finishing. I’ve simply turned the ends in and topstitched them in place. I’ve also added some extra trim, as I still have two full packages left.

It was originally machine-sewn, but as I haven’t had my Singer taken out yet all the modifications have been made by hand. All inner seams are finished – the long back seam in the skirt is frenched, ugh!

Buttons! Many-sized matching buttons everywhere!
I bought so many packages of these back when I lived in Tokyo…
but they were like, 100yen the set, and that’s less than a tenth of their cost here!

I didn’t touch anything on the purse, this time around. TBH were I to tackle this project from the start I wouldn’t add it in. It’s quite out of place. Back then I made reticules for every other event – they were fast to sew, matched whatever I was wearing, and made good use of scraps. I followed this simple but effective pattern & tutorial so many times. But! It’s 100 years too early for this era! Also but! It’s already finished and it matches the suit! It may stay. Temporarily.


*This makes it my second project taken off the pile, as the half-made 1912 linen dress is now a bunch of cleaning rags. Neat!

~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.


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 make 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.

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.

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.

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!

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 ^^’

~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.

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.

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…

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.

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.

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! 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 Rome 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.