A Late-Victorian Silk Taffeta Confection

Turn-of-the-century Historical Costume

Hello there Mood friends! It’s been awhile! Today I’d like to share a project with you that has been my main focus this past Fall.  As you can see by the photo, this is something very different for me — historical costuming! I made this ensemble to attend a Victorian themed event in Galveston, TX called “Dickens on the Strand” which is put on by the Galveston Historical Foundation as a way to celebrate the local historical architecture of the downtown district. For the sake of brevity (and not boring you to tears) I’ll just give the most basic facts today, but if you’d like to read more about this costume I will be writing an exhaustingly in-depth post over on my blog to go up in the next few days.

Turn-of-the-century Historical Costume

The Victorian period is such a long era — spanning Queen Victoria’s reign from 1837 – 1901 — and features some really unique and iconic fashion movements.  For my historical costume I wanted to pay homage to the Late-Victorian era at the turn-of-the-century.  The styles during this time featured wide skirts that were slimmer over the hips with minimal adornment, and much of the focus was on the shoulder and bustline.  You also start to see the puffy and drooping bust, known as the “pouter-pigeon” look, that would come to define the later Edwardian period.  The wide shoulders, full bust, and flaring skirts all worked together to create the illusion of a tiny waist.

Turn-of-the-century Historical Costume

Since this was my first time attempting a historical costume, and I was working to a deadline, I wanted to allow myself a bit of hand-holding.  So rather than working with a reproduction pattern, or a pattern company I’d never used before, I opted for a modern costume pattern.  This is Butterick 5970 — one of their “Making History” patterns.  This pattern has modern sizing and construction and the typical Big-4 instructions, which was helpful.  Although there was, inexplicably, and inconsistently, the odd instruction to finish seams by “hand overcasting”.  Yeah, I laughed at that too!

Turn-of-the-century Historical Costume

Historical costumes require so. much. fabric!! I was so torn between wanting to be frugal, and also wanting something that felt special for this dress.  Thankfully, Mood delivered with this Donna Karan Peach Silk Taffeta  which was a great price for such wide yardage of silk.  I admit that I initially bought it because it fit the budget, but I was really blown away when it arrived in the mail.  It had a gorgeous, crisp, dry, almost papery hand that I knew would give body to this design without me having to make a bunch of petticoats, and that it would also show off the gathers on the bodice really well.  It also has a slight iridescence that made the entire costume look so much richer than I had originally conceived.  And the color was just what I had hoped — a warm peachy pink.  Not too saccharin, not too orange.

Turn-of-the-century Historical Costume

The entire skirt is underlined in this Dusty Peach Japanese Pima Cotton Lawn, and the bottom two feet or so is interlined with cotton flannel which I picked up locally.  This helps give the skirt more body, and also supports the weight of the lace trim.

The gathered, taffeta bodice has a fitted and boned lining in the same peach cotton lawn, and closes up the back with hooks and eyes on the inner layer.  (Unfortunately my photographer didn’t tell me that I was a bit disheveled in the back when these photos were being taken!)

IMG_3258

The pleated belt was made using this Avocado Luxury Lyons Velvet, which is now sold out, but is truly lovely.  Honestly, this belt doesn’t do this fabric justice at all! It has a gorgeous drape and is so stinking soft! I interfaced the whole thing with hair canvas to give it some stiffness.  This was my first time working with velvet and … it wasn’t pretty! My machine hated it – it kept shifting around underneath my presser feet (no matter which foot I used) and I ended up making this entire belt by hand.  It wasn’t too bad, actually, but way more tedious than I was hoping for! Pressing the velvet was, as I expected, a nightmare. I did my best, but I still crushed the pile (frownie face).

All the accent fabrics for this costume, including the point d’ esprit, petersham ribbon, and yards and yards of netted lace, were picked up locally so I could color match and make sure the hand was correct.

Turn-of-the-century Historical Costume

I also made my hat entirely by hand! This was the last thing I worked on and I was racing towards the deadline, and honestly feeling really burned out on the entire project.  But I’m really pleased with how it turned out! I used this pattern.  The base of the hat is a double layer of buckram with wire sewn into all the edges.  The base was then covered in cotton flannel, and then covered again in my fashion fabric.  I used the silk taffeta for the outer brim and crown of the hat, and the peach pima cotton lawn with gathered point d’ esprit for the underside of the brim.  The hat was decorated (rather haphazardly) with a strip of the avocado velvet, some big, honking fake flowers, and a bunch of feathers to pick up the green accent of the belt.  I tacked a comb into the back to hold the hat on my head, and also used a hat pin, which isn’t fully inserted in these pictures because I kept poking myself in the head!

Turn-of-the-century Historical Costume

The entire gown was fitted to be worn over my period underwear and corset, which you can read more about here, if you’re interested.

Turn-of-the-century Historical Costume

This entire project, from start to finish, was an incredible learning experience for me! If you’ve ever had any interest in historical costuming I highly suggest you take the plunge and go for it! If for no other reason than it’s fun, and challenging! This project has definitely energized my sewing, and made me appreciate how straight-forward modern garment sewing is! I’m looking forward to making some practical, wearable clothes for a good long while.  However, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t already thinking about next year’s costume…

What’s the most impractical garment you’ve ever sewn? Have you ever dipped your toe into the historical costume world?

12
By:

Comments


  • Karen
    December 14, 2016

    Living in Houston I’ve attended this event many times dressing in period costume with my singing quartet. I made my outfit but failed to make period under garments so I’m anxious to hear about yours. Congrats on making such a lovely costume!

    • Sallieoh
      December 14, 2016

      Thank you Karen! Yes, I made a chemise, s-bend corset, and french drawers to go with my costume. Next time you come down to Dickens you’ll have to find me and say ‘hi’! I’ve judged the costume contest for the past two years, and suspect that might be where I’ll be in the future, if they still want me!

  • Fiona
    December 14, 2016

    This is jaw-droopingly amazing Sallie! I can’t believe you taught yourself to make historical costume and your first try came out this beautifully! I work with professional costume makers who would have been proud of this outfit. Great choice of fabrics and colours for the period. I can’t wait to read all the juicy details on your blog soon!

    • Sallieoh
      December 14, 2016

      Thank you so much Fiona! That is such a nice compliment! I had quite a struggle trying to decide on the colors – especially the green for the accent, but I recalled seeing some fashion illustrations from the time that featured similar color combos.

  • Diane Kaylor
    December 14, 2016

    I am so impressed and truly awed at your accomplishment in making this ensemble. What a huge labor of love this must have been. Just- WOW.

    • Sallieoh
      December 14, 2016

      Thank you Diane! It WAS a labor of love! I admit I neglected a lot of my other sewing, and life duties to finish this on time – HA! But I had a blast wearing it!

  • Amanda S.
    December 14, 2016

    WOW Sallie!!! This is amazing! I’m hoping you’ll be attending this event every year to get some milage out of this magnificent costume.

    • Sallieoh
      December 14, 2016

      Thank you Amanda! Yes, I will probably be attending again next year. I’m hoping to get more mileage out of my undergarments, but maybe add on a bit (petticoat, corset cover, bum and bust pads…) but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t already scheming up a new gown and hat to wear! Sucker for punishment!

  • Helen
    December 14, 2016

    Wow! Your dress looks stunning on you. Way to go by using silk rather than some cheap synthetic fabric.
    I have made a historical costume that was worn probably by my great grandmother and women before her. It was a huge investment in time. All in all it took about two years since there was a lot of embroidery along with the sewing (blouse, shawl, and headpiece). I have worn it about 5 times. A lot of fun but it was a lot of work. I hope you get to get a lot of use out of your dress.

  • PsychicSewerKathleen
    December 15, 2016

    So beautiful! I LOVE the Victorian costuming and watch period, historical movies mostly for the costumes! You did such a gorgeous job of the whole project and your hat! That was simply divine :) (I’m a hat person – I never leave the house without one and subscribe to the old fashioned saying that you are never completely dressed without a hat!) I salivated reading your description of all that silk – that’s my other favourite thing. What an amazing accomplishment!

  • Mary Danielson
    December 17, 2016

    Absolutely exquisite, Sallie! You are such an inspiration and look like an extra right out of a Victorian period film. What a beautiful piece of craftswomanship! Stunning.

  • Girls in the Garden
    December 18, 2016

    This is so amazingly beautiful.