Category Archives: projects: late historic

post- 1700 costumes. Historic, historic inspired or recreations from historical productions.

the other victorian projects

I keep coming back to a very small handful I really want to work on, and realised I have a major love for very stark gowns.

I mean Sunburst or not on that skirt that gown would be on my Must Make list anyway.


Virginie Gautreux by JS Sargent and Rose Caron by Toulmouche.

I have actually made part of each, but I really want a nice silk satin for Mme X. I need about 8m and in a nice heavy weight that’s just not really been on the cards. But, sales are sales so fingers crossed one coincides with a bit of luck 🙂

My day ensembles have tended to also be a bit stark like my grey dress and this is in keeping with that with a touch of Worth:

Worth’s Cleopatra yellow wool dress.

I also have to admit the fabric I just cut for my new duvet cover (one of a set of curtains) has such a huge pattern it’s super tempting to make a Worth-a-like based on those oversized patterned velvets. The front is a crinkle silver with chenille waves, but the reverse.. now the reverse looks like black velvet with flat silver waves and that is just too much to resist. Well I hope I can because I *might” just be able to get a frock out of it. But I want a high necked version. That might be a bit much. The curtains had huge eyelets at the top which est into the amount that is free. That said I do have a strip.. but also my new duvet cover is so pretty that it really needs a bit of matchy matchy in terms of pillow covers.

It might be possible for a more 1890 vs 1895 look.

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why that frock- beaded version

Went on a dress hunting spree last night. I want to find all he beaded gowns of the 1880s to see if I can shift my obsession. Didn’t find what I wanted. But I did find a few I do love, just not to the hard core grabbed my heart when I was a kid and it started the obsession with real historic costume.

So a few more “Why that frock” posts are going to get made 🙂

Today though I did also go through more paperwork- my art, writing, costume dissections and pattern theories as well as the last of my photocopies from when I was at Uni. Finally got them mostly sorted into easy to find files.

A reasonably big scan session soon for all of those 🙂

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I need a corset

Well I need a very specific corset.  If you look through most corset diagrams in magazines at the time, you’ll notice a trend for corsets that constantly curve through the back and waist and hips, front and back.

But Ithese really are designed for a fashionable shape which includes displacing fleah from the waist and pushing it up and dowm to fill in the upper and lower curves of the corset.

I simply am not shaped like that. I did have best luck when I was experimenting with stays with either using the front length measure and scaling to that, but there was too much roo at the upper back that just never did sit right.

So I tried a gusseted style and loved it.

IThere is not a lot of reduction is just basically acts to hold my shape exactly so. It works to prevent the gowns I wear over it from squishing me. The gussets are self supporting. I am doing a post immediately after this for the Rock the Frock series of a corset i think is going to answer all my needs, and be historic 😉

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norma shearer gowns progress

I worked on both my marie Antoinette gown and Upstage gown today. For Marie I cut the silver lamé to fit the skirt. It will need to be stitched in a specific order so no pics today as it’s a bit of a mess. It will be all overlocked tomorrow though as the weave is very loose. Not too bad on the straight but the diagonal.. I’m worried.

I went a little overboard with the length. BUT I DON’T CARE!!! (Marie Antoiette is folded and hanging up on the wall behind. Not very exciting stage!)

I am totally redesigning the skirt front as I am not a fan of the short underskirt. This will overlap at mid thigh and I will maintain the stretch of the line using hand and machine stitching. Honestly, mostly hand because the long pile of the velvet had already proven it cannot walk a straight line.

The upper half was draped in pink crepe earlier so I may transfer that to the lime green and just tidy it a little, the dress will be silk velvet with a lining of either silk charmeuse or rayon charmeuse- it depends on how much I need. Probably the silk as it is already terrible pinky-beige.

I was going to make my magic Flame inspired bodice switch out with the Upstage but there may be enough velvet for both!!!

yep, I am obsessed by slinky velvet dresses from a time where slinky is not remembered! But I do have a full post on slinky dresses already!

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fitting wrinkles 1

I may have been reading too many of my Girl’s Own Annuals again!

Anyway, fit has been on my mind a lot recently.

I think there is a fear of fitting, and I totally get why. It’s incredibly invasive! If someone helps fit you they have to lay their hands on you and move your body in unfamilir ways.

It is such a matter of trust there are only a few people I will offer to help one on one, and that is generally if I trust the garment, and the person is an adult.

So here is a very first start to a lesson series. Or guide, or tutorial.


I have three mannequins here. I can make them all the same measurements. here is the closest match to the calico covered form.

Ignoring the length differences, notice the height of the busts.


Notice the shape and gravity defyingness. Also, the direction and placement.

When placing a dart under the bust or a seam over the bust and down to the waist there is a division of the front of the body. If I were to make the same garment for each, they would have to be adjusted for each form as generally the distance between bust points over sizes scales, the shape of the sides, and how they curve around the ribs changes.

I look at a garment on the stand and think it looks lovely, then I put it on and it is not flattering, to me I’m very circular in cross section so darts/seams don’t sit like on oval forms. So I test on all three forms for fit and balance. Nothing wrong in fit, nothing wrong in the shapes of us, just that they are different.


The dark brown form has very round hips in cross section. They are set to the same size as the others but because the fullness is almost perfect even garments will hang very differently, and vice versa.

The bust points are also different and requires a bit of math to work out how to set the dials to bring them together/further apart- also the torsos are in four parts, there is not a lot of transformation possible!

The hips also slope slowly or curve out abruptly.

I am a mix of these three. I wind up using the dark brown form for upper hip and armscye fittings.

Backs and shoulders:

The forms also show very different stances! And when a pattern is made to fit, it will sit differently on me if I don’t match the stance.

The peachy-tan form has a ballet back! The back of the pelvis is turned under for a turn out.

The calico form has a slight sway back.

The dark brown form is bent forward slightly at the shoulders.

I haven’t called them flaws, because I stand like all three depending on circumstance. But it means I do have to really check what era is best matched 🙂

They also really are distinctive modern historic fashion stances. The dark brown in particular has a 1950s and 60s shape. The peachy-tan one looks very 1980s (the shoulders are not large but from handling this form it is easy to add shoulder padding, in fact easier than any other.) The calico form is much more modern. Built in shoulders mean no room for extra padding and an expectation of a muscular upper back.


I use the calico form for nearly everything else as I am able to pad her to a victorian shape. I add extra hip and bust padding, which is squishy, so I can see the effect of pinching fabric in at the waist and how to taper darts or use an S shape in my dart to create an exaggerated bust.

So I use padding not only to match my shape but to match the shape I want. In the case of Mina.. that has been seriously challenging! As I am circular in cross section I cann’t squish underbust at all. So it always looks bigger in proportion. I have to wear extra.. enhancements to balance that, and even more to get that magnificent sweep of the bodice that made me fall in love with the gown.

I do generally add padding anyway.



There is so much more, obviously, there are shelves of books on the subject. Photos, diagrams, text.. anything you could want. But sometimes it takes seeing something unfamiliar to make that connection.


So that’s why I keep sharing my experiences. As both someone who has had to tackle fit for my own body and to make them both work for historical styles.


Being able to talk about the forms and their shapes

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2016 year in review

I made nothing from what I can remember. Just straight up nothing. I started the year well but with the passing of my darling Booheart I started grieving and it just never really let up. I was not able to focus through to the end of anything. And then my disease management started to peter out (as it does after 6 months) and so I never had the chance to play catch up during that time. I was just trying to keep up with health.

Oh yeah, my site was hacked and destroyed do I spent a lot of time trying to rebuild that.

I did a heck of a lot of prep work though. I got projects started, and research sorted and tidied and a huge amount of headway on my book of patterns and some very novel research, I even got a lot of costumes nearly finished.

And I cleared away a lot of stash. A lot. My studio is also back to working and there is a lot of new space 🙂


So all of these will continue through next year 🙂


Album Amicorum: started, patterns were made years ago but converting them to be hand coloured stalled- can’t find good watercolour paper that doesn’t pill. Pages on stitches put up but I may want to replace them if I can mimic 16thC hand better.

Two big research projects at the point of editing for publication. I just get myself down a citing rabbit hole. So I have had to take a break and am back to looking at layouts already established and the hook to get people interested.

Also older pages are back in my site, including scans from my Girl’s Own annuals, and pages of information from Der Bazar.




Ahsoka: patterned, leather work tooled some formed, sculpt finished, molded and three tests made. That was really a heck of a lot…

Mon Mothma: dress remade it’s far too short. Might just toss it unless someone under 5’2″ wants it! New fabric is resistant to dye remover so 6m of abstract blood orange lace anyone?

Senatorial Leia: new wig. Two lace fronts put together and the new buns look really good. Got that big central shape and a single turn around the outside. Got photos to add to my page on how to make the style. Boots to make over bought, as well as soles that are a better match (she has no separate heel) and very smooth flexible vinyl for the tops. Belt and dress got idied. I made it like 4? years ago? A. got to wear it, the belt got misplaced and I just got tired trying to replace it. But I have two full sets of plaques and buttons also to go to a new home!

Padme light blue: Well the 19m of fabric just barely made three full sets, so I do have two to go to a new home but my own has stalled due to my dress form bust being totally wrong in shape. Got to pad to body squish really.



Elsa: new cape!!! And I did finally find a source for all the thousands of sequins I want, and have tested a tool for punching tiny holes 🙂

Maleficent: New horns sculpted (I am indeed just going to smooth them, digitise them, and do textures in Sculptris. I cannot get the texture the way I want and it may get lost in digitising anyway.) Gown remade! It needs sewing and my sewing machine hates it.

Freya: leather work figured out!!!!!! Now I get to do a scaled pattern and then create a full sized template for cutting. I’ll have to be super smooth!

Cersei: I have decided to use braid as pretend embroidery, and to paint the darn lions. Maybe. It may wind up my lazy butt non decorated at all frock.

Historic Early

Princess of Cleves doublet: ready to line.

Basquina y jubon, y manga redonda (silver); lining in progress.

Saya entera (Valois): lining of skirt in progress- might be changed to something easier to sew!

Cleves velvet; new hem half done- all hand stitched, all heavy, all wibbly fabric!

Cleves accessories: pearls and leaves and sequin additions are happening!

New cleves gowns: OMG!!!!! SO inspired, actually making twonow that I will have space wil the passing on of other garb 🙂


Historic Inspired:

Mina: new bodice lining made and fitted, stay tape decoloured, extra leaves made.

Marie Antoinette: hoops nearly finished, materials gathered, skirt draped!

Satine wedding: ummmm.. potential saree for border base found and paid for- waiting for banks to send payment through tomorrow)

Satine Pink Diamonds: fabric cut, bodice lining overlocked.


Historic Late:

Robe de Style. Okay I did make this from scratch. That is one project then 🙂


Sheer dress started- princess undergown needs decolouring, and sheer layer is pinned only.

walking dress fabric set aside, pale blue striped, and embroidery relocated.

sheer saree day dress tested. Will go over the princess petticoat.

I think that is enough to try and finish…


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sheer dress progress

The skirt and part of the drapery has been draped! I went back to my trusty Harper’s Bazar and Patterns of Fashion as a reminder. I know I have a few pages dedicated to cutting skirts of this era, but there are times it is handy to have an extant example and an idealised example to work from 🙂

But ultimately my 19thC skirts: Pattern diagrams || cutting guide for skirts pages summarise what was going on.

So that is a nice start, but I wound up wanting pleats on all those panels so di the top and tailing thing s per my pages above, and as per the guides at the start of Patterns of Fashion.

Seriously easy and fast.

So that was a nice start heading back to this era 🙂 Note the net is double layered so not as sheer as it will be.

I even managed to test the trim.

Then came the part that I just declared loving- weird drapery. So, fashion plates definitely do… idealise… things. Think of it as early shooping. In fact it’s so prevalent, like photoshopping, that the few plates that look realistic often look out of place. One of the plates I keep looking at is of aesthetic dress and it includes wrinkles, actual wrinkles!

Anyway. No photos of the marking out or net I cut without thinking, whoops- but it will be use to make the points of the drapery.

But I did have a brilliant idea of turning the fabric sideways and pleating a section before putting it on the stand, angled slightly to a dip about 1m from an end.

Yes, pink shoes yellow tunic.

So asymmetric draping that started as symmetric! Those pleats on the RHS were the sticking point. The plate does a very good job of making them look like they are perfectly vertical, even offsetting them a little as you’d expect from tension that the ties and front would apply, but of course this just does not work with what the text says which is to imply the LHS is the immediate result of the RHS meeting the front. So I use  my basic principle of “good design lies”*

So the selvages are horizontal on the RHS and perpendicular to each other on the LHS. I have a few darts at the front too. This still needs tidying, but the darts and pleats will need to be tacked in place before taking off the stand to preserve their shape. (There is dress making advice out there of the time that basically says all modern dress was pretty much draped and that was the only way to get the look for a lot of them. Time to raid the virtual archives!)

I had to just treat both pointed extensions as separate pieces. In part because it’s summer and humid and I had already listened to the entirety of Les Miserables (Complete Symphonic) and was running out of patience.

But it will work. So the next step will be to sew the skirt panels together. A whole separate post about that! WP is not cooperating between my host and my desktop- I’m on copper and my files are not insanely large but they have to go one at a time and even then it’s iffy. So posting is more difficult than it has been in quite a while.

But I am trying to make the habit of posting properly once a day.

*AKA if there is a belt or a scarf there is a seam it is hiding. Or The Lord of the Rings Effect- Eowyn and Galadriel’s gowns were fitted this way. It’s a really good method for the 1920s gear I’m making too.

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form and function

Over the years I have come to the conclusion I have a very distinct style, even across multiple eras and genres. There is a very obvious pattern to what appeals when one is a maker first, fan second.

I am a fan of when function meets form. So working out a puzzle of construction is incredibly satisfying. If it has to be draped on the stand all the better. Fabric manipulation for fit especially.


Contrast. Big colour and texture blocks. But that can sometimes be subtle, like the seam details on the backs of late 18thC bodices.

I keep flicking between eras/genres and it’s because I want to understand how the very different constructions affect fit and perceptions of ideal body types. The 1920s velvet gowns I’m making superficially look like the bias cut gowns of a decade later but really rely on different fabric use to achieve it.

Right now I’d love to do an essay on how extant items can tell us more about how clothes were made than first appearance. But it is a bit reliant on getting some of my own gear finished. So that is the aim this year. Finish the historic projects to really highlight what I want to say.

Got a lot of writing and sewing to do to actually get there though!

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birthday celebrations!

Finally decided to just join in the picnic fun at Howick Historical Village on Jan 15 instead for booking for a dessert buffet (that would be fun but this should offer a nice range of things to do:)

So this is the timeframe to make the sheer frock as I am not wearing The Mina in the middle of summer!

So as it’s a public event I’m basically inviting anyone who can get there on that date 🙂

Opening Hours

  • Open Daily
  • 10:00 am – last admission 4:00 pm
  • The village is closed: Christmas Day, Boxing Day,  New Year’s Day, Good Friday, and ANZAC day.

Admission Charges

  • Children     $8 (5 years and over)
  • Students     $12 (tertiary)
  • Adults         $16
  • Seniors       $12 (65 years and over)
  • Family        $40 (2 adults + 2 children)
  • Group         $11 per Adult (10 Adults or more)
  • Under 5′s   Free
  • Members    Yearly Fee
  • Group Specials      Price of Special
  • Schools       Price of School Visit Package

Location & Getting Here

Bells Road, Lloyd Elsmore Park
Pakuranga, Auckland
PO Box 38-105
Howick, 2145
New Zealand

By Car from Auckland City: Travel on the Southern Motorway (towards Hamilton), take Exit 437 (South Eastern Highway) following signs to Pakuranga. Turn left onto Ti Rakau Drive, then right on to Pakuranga Road. After traveling 2.4km, turn right into Cascades Road, and then left onto Lady Marie Dr.

By Car from South: Exit the motorway at Manukau. Follow the road signs to Botany via Te Irirangi Dr, then continue along Botany Rd, veering left at the first roundabout onto Aviemore Dr, and left again at the second roundabout onto Cascades Rd. Lady Marie Dr is on the right, just past a pedestrian crossing.

By Bus: Howick and Eastern Bus Company buses depart from Britomart in downtown Auckland city. For more information and bus timetables, click here or phone 09 273 3660. Make sure the driver knows you get off at Lloyd Elsmore Park in Pakuranga, not in the modern Howick Village!

By Ferry: Fullers Ferries run a regular service from Downtown Auckland to Half Moon Bay, which is a five to ten minute taxi ride from the Historical Village. For more information and ferry timetables, click here.

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post day of sewing

I am knackered. But had insomnia so resorted my current/long term projects . Then had two hours sleep. My coordination right now is terrible so my typing is taking time!

ANyway, I am very proud of my princess petticoat 🙂 It fits the way I want it to and it comes very close to the 1878 day dress from Snowshill manner in patterns of fashion.

The only dart I am missing may be due to needing to widen the CB panels to  get the barely there look.

Oh yes, that is Mon Mothma (to be passed on to someone no more than 52″ at the shoulder because she shrank. I have new material just need new dye remover.

This is going to be made into a walking ensemble!!!

Both of these have the tiny herringbone weave of a coutil so hooray!


The pale blue stripe though is inspired by a Whitaker’s Auction.

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