Friday, 18 April 2014

The Original Outfits - The Underthings

My first two Victorian gowns were made to attend the Llandrindod Wells Victorian Festival. I only had about three weeks to finish everything so I could only manage one day dress and one ball gown and the necessary underthings.

As I have always loved the silhouette of cage crinoline skirts, I decided on the late 1850s as my time period and started my project by stitching open drawers and a camisole (which I now realise should be a chemise!) from a McCall's costume pattern (3609).

The pattern
It was a pattern that I already owned, having bought it some years previously in a fabric store and it made up very easily. However, I would probably not use it again as I am not entirely convinced by the historical authenticity of the camisole top, even if it does allow one to show off one's drawers! In fact, I expect I bought it because the model on the left looks like the girls in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers when they sing and dance in their underwear. Nevertheless, so far none of my research has found any examples of camisoles replacing the longer chemise under corsets so I suspect that it may be a Hollywood interpretation!

Aren't they sweet!
Still, I was quite pleased with the finished results and they provided a perfectly acceptable first layer for my costumes.

The fabric and trimmings all ready to go...

The finished camisole

Some very frilly knickers!
Unfortunately, for the next layer I had to cheat a little bit. I had never made a corset before and given the limited time available wasn't sure about attempting one. However, I knew that I would never be able to carry the weight of the cage and skirts without a corset so I had to make do with the closest thing I could find to a Victorian corset. And while it may not be exactly period-correct I have to admit that I do love my What Katie Did corset.

What Katie Did - Storm Overbust Corset

The real thing

The next step then was the all important one: the cage crinoline. I chose Truly Victorian's cage crinoline and was amazed at how easy it was to put together. Admittedly, I did need my brother to help me cut the steel boning and to slide all of the bones into the casings but following the instructions carefully it was simple to join everything together and I didn't have to do hardly any adjusting to get the hoops straight.

The kit purchased from Vena Cava Design

Gertrude modelling the finished cage

A nice view of the extra fullness at the back

For the underthings then that only left the petticoats which I made up from Truly Victorian's Free Hoop Petticoat Diagram (sorry - no picture) and I was ready for the next step - the gowns.

Next installment - An 1858 Ball Gown 

Thursday, 17 April 2014


Welcome to my blog!

Ever since I can remember I have loved fashion but I have always been out of date! Not for me the fashions of today... not when I could have a gown with yards and yards of fabric, and lace and ruffles and bows. I can remember how, even as a small child, I loved pretty dresses and I never wanted to take off my party frocks. And not much has changed since then! Given only the slightest excuse, I can usually be found decked out in my finery, preferably with frothy petticoats and all the accessories.

For everyday wear, I tend to inhabit the mid-20th century and I love to wear clothes inspired by the 1940s and 50s. Most of my wardrobe is homesewn from original patterns by my very own seamstress (a.k.a. my mother) or myself. Indeed it was my love of vintage style that really started my passion for dressmaking. Coming from a sewing family (My great-grandfather was a tailor, my grandfather taught himself to sew dance dresses for my grandma, and as a teenager and young woman my mother sewed most of her own clothes) I learnt to use a needle and thread at a very young age and have always enjoyed needlecrafts. It wasn't until I left school though that I really began to become interested in vintage fashion and, after a couple of years watching my mum sewing my suits and dresses, to start learning to dressmake properly myself.

However, this venture did not turn out quite as originally intended...
 Instead of taking over the production of my everyday clothes (as Mummy was no doubt hoping!) I found a rather different use for my skills.

I have always loved historical costume and one day, playing on the internet, I discovered Katherine's Dress Site ( and I dreamed of one day being able to make my own historical costumes and recreate the elegance of bygone times. Since then, I have discovered other wonderful blogs that have inspired me and last August I finally found the excuse I needed to design and sew my very own crinoline and gown to attend the Llandrindod Wells Victorian Festival. And from the very first moment that I stepped out in costume I knew I was hooked! And that was even before I danced all night at my very first Victorian ball in the presence of Queen Victoria herself!

So my poor mum still has a list of commissions as long as her arm because almost every minute of my sewing time (which is unfortunately very limited at present) is spent adding to my beloved Victorian wardrobe. And since I have been so inspired and learnt so much from other costumers through their blogs, I have decided to share my sewing and costume adventures too as I attempt to recreate history stitch by stitch... I hope you enjoy them.