Victorian Bustle Era Dress

•November 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

What else conjures up the image of a Victorian bustle dress better than an outfit complete with ruffles, lace, extensive pleats, swagged overskirt and plenty of trim?

With impending holidays looming in the near future, this historical costumer decided to tackle the construction of a bustle outfit (or dare I say two?) in time to be all festively decked out with ample “junk in the truck”!

Having already visited several fabric/textile stores in the general Seattle area, I had scoped out and then purchased, my stash.  Additionally, I had attended an estate sale, managing to pick up wooooonderful Pendleton wool fabic in smaller yardage quantities, but I think I can make it work.  Victorian fashions after all, seemed to be about as colorful as the homes in which they lived!

So where to begin?  Fortunately, Lady V already has a beautifully constructed corset, originally designed and built by the famous Marie Cooley of  “The Fitting Room”  Over this would be a corset cover (just bought a pattern for a new one!), followed by, ta-daaaah, “The Bustle”.

What exactly IS a bustle, say you?  Most simplest of terms, it’s the cage, wires (padding too), contraption, covered in fabric, which holds all the subsequent layers of the outfit away from the body.

For my complete outfit, I chose to work with patterns designed by the sisters from “Truly Victorian” patterns. 

The photos I am showing you here, are of pattern TV101.  Laying out the pattern was very easy and the instructions to put the item together, were also very straight forward.  With very little exception, I think that even a novice could understand the directions enough to put this together.

To make life easier and so that I had sturdy wire to use, I ordered the correct lengths of wire from Truly Victorian.  These arrived with the ends of the wire beautifully covered with “tips” to protect my fabric from fraying, due to the stress of being bent and straining to pop flat again.

One of the big challenges of the garment, was to sew down channels for the wires to travel within.  I used a wash-out-able, pink marking pen to designate where I’d need to stitch down the channels.

My friend, Miss Bobbie, who had already created the same garment before, advised me to use heavier fabric as my base, to help lessen the wear from wire from punching through thinner fabric.  The only place where I have used this heavy fabric thus far, is in the triangular back section which will house the bustle wires. 

Keeping this in mind, I chose to use a left-over, flat-fold item that appears to be white duck, twill, or possibly denim as my base.  To create the channels, I chose not to cut strips of fabric.  Instead, I purchased enough length of corset bone channeling, plus enough for turning and double-thickness for the ends.

Lickety-split, this part of the project went together  quickly.  Now it was on to preparing the length of fabric which would become the ruffles to cover and hide the structure created by the wires.

The bottom flounce and subsequent back ruffles, are all created from white eyelet.  The flounce has a 3″ hem.  I also clean finished all the seams using a French seam method.

On the inside, I was instructed to sew strings, ribbons, tape to hang down loosely inside the structure.  These would be tied together eventually (left to right), forming the “u” of the cage needed for “Da Look”. 

As you can see, I used ribbon instead of string.  The type is flat and has the little “bumps” along each edge.  My reasoning (tho I might be incorrect in this assumption) is the more texture = better traction to hold the bow the ribbon gets tied into in order to hold that “u” shape of the wires.

Next up: Ruffles.  Good GOD Margo!  How many yards are we talking about?  I sewed all the 13 strips, end-on-end together. For a moment, I thought it stretched as long as my house is wide.  Then I clean finished the “hem” edge of the entire long strip.  At this point of assembly, I’m tired.  I either need medical attention, caffeine, or assistance from the mathematical and carpentry genius – Sir Harry of Essex – to help me measure and cut the long strip of fabric into the pattern specified lengths for each layer of ruffle (there are 7 of them in my case) used.  At least the pattern designers were smart and started with the longest ruffle first, or we might’ve committed hari-kari… (wink)

Like a knight on a white horse, the shy Sir Harry rode in to save the day!  He whipped out his reading glasses.  Firmly grasping on the fabric and tape on one end, he worked to measure the accurate lengths before snipping them.  One by one, I then ran a row of basting stitch on the unfinished long edge.  Working together, we then proceeded to pull the stitching up and pinned each layer to the correct position on the back over panel.  What a guy!

One question we figured we’d face on Monday was, “Sooooo, Sir Harry, whatcha do Saturday night?” 

To which his reply would be, “Oh, I was busy sewing and pinning ruffles on a bustle….”  What would you give to be a fly on THAT wall???

The panel went together quite well and easily.  The far edges of each layer were then caught into the clean-finishing along each side of the panel.  Very clever, very tidy!

I had added the waistband at one point in the process.  Realizing how much stress is put on a waistband’s hook-and-eye closure and the likelihood of the fabric being stressed (okay, I’m fat….), I opted to make it out of the same heavy twill fabric together with the fashion fabric. Turned out well, we think.

Once I have all the pieces of the Victorian bustle outfit completed, I will post photos of each garment on-body so you’ll have a better idea of how they will work together.

Now, I’m on to sewing the “underskirt” of silk, as the next step in the project.  It’s quite beautiful fabric.  Has that one-way it’s beige and another-way it’s burgundy sort of weave.

Oh, Sir Harry – I’m gonna show you how to help me make a “poof” in the skirt….

The New “Victorian Calling Card”

•October 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Calling card avail at Victorian Trading Company!

In Victorian days gone by, when a respectful person went to someone’s residence, the person would  hand the maid or butler a beautifully printed (sometimes embossed) calling card, in order to be announced to the resident of the home they were visiting.   The resident would then decide if they had the time (or inclination) to invite the owner of the calling card, deeper into the residence for a chat.

What would a Victorian lady or gentleman use today? 

That thought crossed THIS Victorian Lady’s mind when reviewing that wonderful old courtesy of the calling card.  It occurred to Lady Victoria, that nowadays people tend not to do as much visiting in person any longer.  The lack of time, due to family, work and church obligations, together with the great distances in this great nation we call the United States, makes it a particular challenge.

Instead, we are “virtually visiting” each other, using email, streaming media over our computer’s camera, posting favorite images on Facebook (either as an update or as a photo album), and now the courtesy of dropping in on your friends has extended to Tweeting on Twitter.

What’s a genteel Lady living in the 21st century to do?  “Facebook” and “Tweet” with the best of them, of course!

Yes, Lady Victoria has now entered the posting of random information on Facebook (look for me as: Lady Victoria Seattle) and the fast “stream” on Twitter under the handle of: @SITUSeattle

It’s so AMAZING what information is readily available and the wonderful conversations that can be engaged with interesting folks world-wide, via these two vehicles.  No longer does one have to submit an email or calling card to only one person in a household, to wait and see if that someone has time in their day to chat.  Now, the whole world is literally listening and willing to jump into the conversation!  What would Alexander Graham Bell have to say to THIS invention????  Party-line to the 3rd power!

Yes, Lady Victoria is very amused and delighted with all the new friends she is gaining, many of whom have historical costuming, Victorian dress, Victorian decorating, 18th century attire, sewing and glittery parties on their minds!

And so, on that happy note, Lady Victoria of Essex would like to encourage you to link, follow or engage via the various avenues.  Be sure to introduce yourself and tell me that you found me from this blog.  I’m sure we will have much to discuss….

What Women Wore in 1910

•September 27, 2010 • Leave a Comment

So you’re doing research what people wore in 1910?  Interested to see what you too, can make as a custom hat, befitting the era?  I’ll show you.  My example is probably intended for someone of a higher status in society, but the results are quite lovely.

To begin with, yours truly has been a very bad reporter in recent months, but I hope I shall be making up for lost time!

In a previous post, I had informed you of a workshop provided by Somewhere in Time, Unlimited, wherein the attendees were encouraged to build a hat from scratch using buckram, wire, beautiful fabrics, trim, and decorations.  The workshop was quite affordable and Miss Mary was a terrific instructor.

My hat’s inspiration came from an image I’d spotted in the New York Public Library collection of images.  Someone had sent me the image, saying how it reminded her of Lady Victoria’s style.  Oh, how I immediately fell in love with the design! 

So, being a good historical costumer, I promptly brought a copy of the image, blown up large, to the workshop to learn how to recreate the hat. 

Now fast forward to August.  The members of Somewhere in Time, Unlimited (a historical costuming group based in the Seattle, Washington area of the United States), were invited stroll the vast grounds of the LeMay Car Museum in early 1900’s attire.  Lady Victoria of Essex chose to represent 1910, exactly.  The LeMay Car Museum is the largest privately owned collection of vehicles.  Although there is a new facility under construction, many of the cars, trucks and unusual equipment are still housed in two locations – Marymount and the LeMay Estate.  I digress.

When I was planning the structure of the hat, I took into consideration that I wanted to have it come out almost to the width of my shoulders.  I’d need a LOT of heavy buckram and at least one pass around the edges with thick wire.  My teacher voiced her concern whether this was a good plan.  I push onwards.  Weeks were now invested into the construction. 

Navy blue ultra suede fabric made the hat plush and gave it depth to the onlooker, as if real suede had been used.  Hand sewn fabric roses were stitched in 2 sizes to mimic the roses in the “inspiration” image.  A super large satin bow created out of fine quality satin and back-supported by 2 layers of interfacing and 1 layer of Wonder Under, gave the bow the stability to form giant loops on the back of the hat.

After having assembled the multiple layers, stiching into place the many fabric roses, the large bow completed the festoons.

My dress is actually a 2-piece outfit, using thrift store found and reclaimed fabrics!  Again, I turned to vintage images for inspiration.  Since there aren’t any dead-on patterns out there presently (for what I wanted to create), I turned to what I had already in my collection of patterns in the hopes of doing some creative alterations.

The bodice of my outfit was fit EXACTLY to my form, first in muslin over the corset, then cut and sewn in the final cotton fabric.  The skirt is a version of a Butterick pattern I used for my alterations.  In the original pattern, it suggests 2 layers of fabric for the skirt. 

I decided that I wanted to have the lower layer to be pleated.  My first attempt was to borrow my friend’s pleater, a cardboard sort contraption which many quilters use.  Didn’t work well with the thickness of the gold fabric.  In the end, I had to hand pleat the entire length of fabric, pinning it at 1.5″ with a 1/2″ or 3/4″ return.   Together with the gray-green fabric over the top, the skirt has beautiful movement when walking, whether at the LeMay Museum, or in a parade!

Here are the images taken at the LeMay Car Museum grounds. 
 

I hope you enjoyed these images.  If I can be of any help to you or answer questions, feel free to contact me.  Very best of luck in creating your own beautiful outfit!  LadyVictoria “at” SITUSeattle.com

Victorian & Edwardian Hat Decorating

•May 20, 2010 • Leave a Comment

It’s that time of year when historical costumers are invited to participate in a number of centennial parades and festivities. 

Can’t much do it easily at other times of year because weather in Seattle is unpredictable, even if we DO settle for “mostly cloudy and partly sunny” forecasts or wind up with showers.  We are after all, talking about The Evergreen State!
Back to hats.  If you are within driving range of Seattle, Washington and have interst in decorating a Victorian or Edwardian or other hat of your choice that you already own, we (of Somewhere in Time, Unlimited) would LOVE to invite you to come participate in a creative afternoon of hat decorating, entirely FREE!
Here is a link to the details: http://www.costuminginseattle.com/Hat%20DECORATING%20Workshop.htm
Would you be brave enough to participate in a parade with us?  I can assure you, it is a wonderful feeling.  The audiences are generally VERY thrilled to see people portraying a different era.  Even my husband Sir Harry and his gentlemen stride happily along side, tipping their hats to the ladies and waving as we go along.
If you like hat decorating, you might also be interested in hat PIN making, also one of our upcoming Workshops.
Stay in touch.  Happy to add you to an email list if you’d like to receive info on the Design Studios or Workshops in 2010.
All the best for lovely hat results!
Lady Victoria of Essex

Bootleggers Spotted in Skagit Valley…

•May 16, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Bootleggers – Runners of illegal, home-brewed hooch.  Makers, sellers and/or transporters of alcoholic liquor for sale illegally.

Early one Sunday morning, cars of various makes and models descended upon a church parking lot in Snohomish. 

 From these vehicles, the occupants stepping out were wearing Fedoras, plaid caps, boater hats, and the ladies in cloche or straw hats.  The garments were short daytime dresses on the ladies, while “knickers” and gangster-looking attire on the men could be viewed.

Why were they entering the lot and leaving every minute and a half or so? 

 Well, one could guess they were avoiding the local “coppas”, but in actuality, the participants were gathering maps and instructions for “The Bootleggers’ Run”, the Spring Event for the historical costume group Somewhere in Time, Unlimited (SITU). 

This gimmick rally was orchestrated by Somewhere in Time, Unlimited. The group is based in the Seattle, Washington area.  The actual route was laid out and planned by Lady Victoria and Sir Harry of Essex to be simple enough for people to enjoy, yet challenging enough that Drivers and Navigators would need to pay attention to the surrounding countryside as the route wound its way north into the Skagit Valley.

Drizzle fell from the sky at Marysville.  Reports of brilliant sunshine on Fir Island gave everyone hope.  The end of the rally would be an indoor picnic at a beautifully maintained 1898 Victorian home. 

The owners of the property (George & Don)  prepared the setting well for all the Bootleggers who were to arrive in the early afternoon.  Even their friend John (owner of the Foxglove Guesthouse in Seattle), was on site playing 78 records on vintage phonographs, the sounds floating across the yard and into the house lending an air of vintage charm .

The food selections were incredible, from savory to sweet.  Champagne flowed, as did small shot glasses of Absinthe.  Looking around, you would swear you stepped straight into the era of Prohibition.

The vintage cars which appeared for the day’s festivities were driven by members from the Skagit/Snohomish Horseless Carriage Club and NW Speedsters.  We were all honored by your presence and willingness to participate in the fun.  We hope you had a good time too!

Looking for an excuse for adult dress-up and you’re looking for a fun bunch of folks to share your passion?  Then consider coming along to our upcoming events: “Summer by The Lake” (late Victorian or early Edwardian) and “Stage Door Canteen” (the war years of 1938-1945).  Lady V and Sir Harry would love to welcome you to the next event!

Check out our website at: www.CostumingInSeattle.com  We even offer free or very low-cost classes for those interested in learning more!  All ages are welcome…

THE Best Cheesesteaks in Seattle

•January 30, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Have GOT to be created by the famous Italian chef, Ronnie Santone in his little deli called Hey Paison! just 12 minutes out of downtown Seattle.  Lady Victoria and Sir Harry have become ardent fans of his cheesesteaks.

The deli itself is a delightful sight to take in.  It’s hip and cool (if one is inclined to speak thusly), or “quaint” if you are more of our generation.  It definitely has ambiance.  Step thru the doorway and you’ll be greeted with a hearty “Hey, Paison!” (friend) from those behind the counter. 

 Overhead, you are just a likely to hear Frank Sinatra crooning a tune as you are to hear ol’ Dino singing “That’s Amore!”  Oh, and singing along is perfectly fine here.  You’re amongst friends.

For the next event that Somewhere in Time, Unlimited plans around having catered in food, I intend to suggest Hey Paison.

In the meantime, if you’re in the area, swing by.  Ronnie’s got ready-to-go, out-the-door meatballs and gravy (just make your own pasta and dump the heated product over the top), fabulous assortment of man-sized sandwiches (oh, they are SO tempting!), homemade salad dressings, KILLER desserts – must I go on or do you have the idea now?

If you call in advance, Ronnie and crew will have everything packed up ready to go for you if you’re in a hurry to get home after a long day at work.

Speaking of which, Hey Paison has a new blog that was just started!  Ronnie posted up an incredibly tasty and easy Chicken Marsala.  I can’t wait to try it out.

Ciao, mi bellos…. Lady Victoria

Chocolate Victorian Valentine Cookies

•January 28, 2010 • 1 Comment

Do you catch yourself drooling, just at the thought of the words “chocolate”, “Victorian” and “cookies”?  I know I’m drooling  

Lady Victoria is always on the hunt for recipes which can be used for a Proper High Tea or a Valentine’s Day Tea (such as the one being planned by Somewhere in Time, Unlimited) or served when entertaining friends, ideally whilst wearing fashionable historical attire such as Victorian clothing!  

Today while doing a bit of research, Lady Victoria of Essex stumbled across a fellow blogger’s post wherein she mentions that she had baked these lovely cookies and decorated them in Royal Icing all while her twin boys nibbled happily on another cookie.  Now, what’s a Victorian cookie-loving woman to do except alert her blog followers of the wonderfully simple recipe, so all can prepare them for the impending holiday?  

I can already visualize these beauties as they are displayed artistically in a collection of other tea items on a 3-tier stand as a hot cup of tea emits little puffs of steam nearby.  Mmmmmm.  You can guess what is on my list of  “must do’s” next weekend…  

Joyfully yours,
Lady Victoria (& Sir Harry)
  

Seattle, Lady Victoria & Sir Harry of Essex