Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Gold and White 1890s Ensemble

I've recently become obsessed with the 1890s. I used to hate it. I thought the silhouette was ugly and that the sleeves were ridiculous.

The sleeves are still ridiculous but OMG GIANT SLEEVES. I love them. I tend to fall for fashion extremes in my historical costuming - the wide panniers of the mid-18thC, the tall hair, the big sleeves of the 1830s, the larger bustles of the 1880s...give me big and weird any day. So, of course, I need big and weird 1890s sleeves.

For the DFW Costumers Guild December event, we ended up doing a dressing demonstration for Lantern Light, a Victorian Christmas festival in Plano. It takes place at a house museum. The house itself was built in the 1890s, so I figured this was a good excuse to make something 1890s to jump start my late-Victorian wardrobe.

I also had to Stash-Dash it since I had absolutely no spare money on hand.

First, I had to make some new undies. I made a simple gored skirt out of some white taffeta I had on hand, and, going off of some extant examples I'd seen online, started adding ruffles to the bottom edge. Then I ran out of fabric. ~facepalm~ I had intended two ruffles, but had barely enough fabric for a single one. So, it's a single ruffle petticoat. It still gives a great shape to the skirt, though! The back of the skirt gathers at the waist, which sort of acts as a mock bumpad.

I used the Teens-era lace chemise I already had, and made a new set of drawers to wear out of the Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns book, which needed only a little adjustment from the original pattern.


For the outfit itself, used some of the patterns out of "Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns".  All of the patterns in the book are taken directly from period publications and are reproduced as they were - without instructions and without grading. It does give instructions for adjusting the pattern for your own size, which I foolishly ignored when I started resizing them.

These patterns are not for the faint of heart. First of all, they are very short-waisted, and I completely neglected to adjust for my own torso length when I drafted them out to my size. The proportions are also really crazy. The jacket I was going to use had a 29" waist and 41" bust when drafted out directly as it was! I know there as a lot of padding and rearranging going on then, but that is a huge bust to waist ratio.

So, nothing ended up fitting quite like it should. The shirt I drafted out was far too short waisted, coming only to my underbust, and needed another couple of inches added in at the side seams so it would fit my bust properly. I added a band at the waist to lengthen it a bit, which made it just long enough to sit underneath the waistband of my skirt.


The skirt was based off the Umbrella Skirt in the book, but since it was just a half of a circle skirt, I could draft it out to my measurements without having to rely on the diagram. The skirt was the only thing that really turned out fitting properly! (It doesn't have a waistband yet in the photo below.)



I abandoned the jacket completely once I tried the mockup on my mannequin. It was too oddly proportioned and too short-waisted to be savable in any way. I had to just toss it in the bin. I'm planning to create a new version of the jacket, using the shapes from the book but draping it onto my dress form so that I know it fits properly.

Even with all the fitting mishaps, I was still super pleased with the outfit. I felt pretty when I was wearing it. The taffeta skirt and petticoat made a wonderful sound when walking, and the big sleeves and A-line skirt made my waist appear much smaller! I definitely need more 1890s in my closet.

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