Friday, August 22, 2014

Victorian dress (long)

My doll-friends have been egging me on to make some Steampunk stuff. Sounds fun! So I decided to start with a more-or-less straight-up Victorian dress to work out any fitting and construction issues first.

Eventually, after I make another one closer to a production model (with steam-punk-ified options), this kind of thing will be offered in my Etsy store on a commission basis.

Here's the final product, made for my Impldoll Model doll, sporting a Victorian-ish wig I got in a trade.

It took a while to get there.

Go get some coffee or something. This is a looooooooong post.

I started with two different patterns from the second of Janet Arnold's original Patterns of Fashion books. Books I begged my mom to buy for me when we were in Bath, England at the Costume Museum in the mid 1970s. I blew up the pattern pieces to about the right size for my doll, and made a muslin mock of the bodice. Ok - looking good.

I decided to make and use ruffles for trim since I needed some kind of trim that would go around corners without a lot of work (ha ha ha ha - the laughter will be explained later) and I didn't want to take the time to cut out, turn, and hem curved bands of trim.

I also decided to use inexpensive polyester lining for the fabric. I was worried about bulk at the waistband with a heavier fabric. This may or may not have been a Good Thing.

But first, we need proper underthings (ok, I know a rigid doll does not need corseting, but where's the fun in that? Also, Steampunk seems to often include "underwear on the outside" which means corset!)

I wrapped my doll's torso in cling film, applied masking tape, drew on some plausible seam lines, and cut it off. I decided on a 7 piece corset, just to the peak of the bust. I made it in two layers, binding the edges to finish. 

I was ecstatic to discover that I could the shrink the automatic eyelets my fancy electronic Bernina machine makes. Wooooooo!

 After I made the eyelets, I remembered I had planned on a spiral lacing pattern, which requires offset eyelets. Ooops.

I'm not pleased with the scale of the lace I found. The width is good, the overall pattern is nice, but it is too coarse for the scale.
Oh, and I boned the corset with cutup cable ties. Really pleased with this. I just stitched stay pockets by stitching through the two layers on either side of the seam lines. I removed the boning from the side seams as it looked lumpy to me. I may move the seams away from the side of the corset next time.

The chemise and drawers are simple patterns. 

I do want to use 1/8" ribbon instead of 1/4" for the drawstrings at the cuffs and the neckline of the chemise. This version of the chemise is just drawn up with gathering stitches. With a real drawstring neckline, doll owners can make their dolls as sexy as they want. 

I decided to take massive shortcuts on the bodice construction, not doing a turned lining, but just interlining the bodice pieces. Then I had to make a bias facing for the neck. Not doing that again. I'm all for linings - nice edges, and clean finish on the inside. I will probably put a strip of the outside fabric on the inside at the front closure - you can see the white bias facing peeking through the front on some images.
The undersleeves are another massive shortcut. Literally hacked out of some scraps, gathered, stitched, then tacked in place inside the bodice sleeves. Next time, they will be lace, and an extension of the chemise sleeves.

I made the overskirt next, so I could get an idea of how big the bustle support needed to be. Really pleased by the bustle pleating. I just copied the pleating and stay tape pattern from Arnold. The bottom of the hem is faced with cotton, to help hold the weight of the trim.

The overskirt is on a plain brown waistband. 

Now that I've done the bustle thing once, I'll probably fake it up by pleating directly to the revers on the overskirt. Quicker because no tedious marking.

Speaking of marking, I tried out a Dritz mechanical tailor pencil. I LOVE it! Wow. Look for "Tailor's Marking Set" and bring your discount coupon - it is about $15

So. With the overskirt made, I faked up the ugliest petticoat I've ever made. I just made some random gore-shapes, stitched them together, prayed that the waist would be about right, grabbed some strips of tulle, and pleated it on to the bottom of the cotton petticoat. Then I grabbed some more tulle, bunched it up, and pinned it in place, draping the bustled overskirt over it to get an idea. I declared it Good Enough and stitched it down. I'm not even going to show you the petticoat. I'm that embarrassed.
This will be replaced with a hooped petticoat in the future. I'll probably use regular plastic boning for the hoops.

On to the underskirt.

The back of the skirt is cartridge pleated to a waistband. The front of the skirt was a bit wide, so I just took a couple of fat pleats just in front of the side seams. The waistband is a plain white cotton band with a button and loop closure.

I stitched the petticoat right to the underskirt's waistband.
It is finished with a ruffle on the bottom. More on Liz's Big Ruffle Adventure later.

Well, how about ruffles now?


I have an 1950 vintage Singer Featherweight 221 machine with a whole box of attachments. I love my box of attachments! You might say I'm attached! Ha ha ha ha
The pleater/ruffler is not too bad to use if you have the instructions. 

Which I do. It is not happy at all about pleating cheap lining. It was slightly more happy to pleat cheap polyester ribbon.

I had originally cut out many strips of poly lining in pink, pressed them in half, and set them aside to be pleated later. Ha. That was a waste of time! The pleater did not cope well with two layers of cheap lining. So I went with spools of "by the spool" cheap ribbon 7/8" wide.

Once it was pleated, it looked like a frilly pig's tail. 

Ironing it resulted in a much nicer appearance, but it took forever. I also had to go slow on the pleating, as the action of the needle up down (which drives the mechanical action of the pleater attachment via the needle clamp interface) would tend to unscrew the needle clamp, breaking the needle if I was not watching closely.

For the brown ruffle on the bottom of the underskirt, I tried to sew it directly to the skirt as it was formed (you can do that, and many other obscure tricks with the attachment) but the lining fabric would not feed well with the friction of the large attachment above it. So I attached the ruffle to a strip of wide bias tape as I made it up. Much better! No pig-tail twisting, and just a moment with a steam iron was good enough.

I stitched all the trim and ruffles in place by hand, while watching multiple episodes of Battlestar Galactica on Netflix. I added the braided trim to the bodice and the overskirt's ruffles, as I felt that the ruffle on the front of the bodice was really too wide and the trim made it less pink overall. The trim on the next version will be parallel rows of applied narrow braid. Or something like that. There will be some ruffles, but not so many.

I met my goal, of trying out Victorian with an eye to learning things. And my doll has more clothes that are not shop clothes! 

Bonus pic of pinned together, no trim yet.