Posted in All Blog Entries, Exciting News!

Victorian Tailor

In case you haven’t heard the news, there’s a new guy in town.  Literally.  He’s moved to Seattle from the UK.  Quite exciting actually.  Just how often do you get to meet and work with a cool, hip, “Bespoke Tailor” anyway?

Jason MacLochlainn’s the name and Victorian or Edwardian Tailoring is his special game!

What’s especially newsworthy is that Jason is not only an accomplished Victorian Tailor with a long list of satisfied clientele, but he is also a published author.  Impressed yet?  Should be.

Available both in the U.S. and in the U.K., is the bea-uuuuuu-tiful book called The Victorian Tailor.  It has hit the stands in a big way.  Not limited to interested females who sew, men are buying this book as a “bible” for tailoring and techniques for menswear. 

Yes, you can snag your own affordable copy thru or Borders Books and other sources.  But, if you happen to be in the general area and shoot me an email, we might be able to “hook you up” to get your copy autographed by the author himself.

P.S.  On April 3, 2011, Jason will be teaching a Tailoring 101 Workshop in Seattle.  VERY affordable, lots of one-on-one time, small class of people, located in Seattle.  Hop out to the Somewhere in Time, Unlimited site to see all the details.

Come on.  What you waiting for?

Posted in All Blog Entries, Costumes we're workin' on!, Patterns we've used or reviewed...

Victorian Bustle Era Dress

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….

Posted in All Blog Entries, Exciting News!, Menu Ideas or Recipes

7-Course Victorian Meal Anyone?

  I have been emailed by several people who have asked me, “So, you like to dress in historical attire/costume.  What do you serve as the dinner?”  Good question!

For the events that Somewhere in Time, Unlimited in Seattle puts together, we’ve either catered in food or we’ve done potluck sort of events.  Down side of potluck is that you wind up cooking and then still have to schlep all the food to the event whilst you are now in full costume regalia!  I’ve heard the stories of the dumped meatballs on the front of someone’s costume…

I now belong to a Yahoo group that is called A_Victorian_Place.  The lovely Pflavia was kind enough to send out her version on the 7-course meal.  I think it is creative and could be done at someone’s home or at a large gathering (if you had help by serving or catering staff) and would be a really wonderful treat for a special ocassion. 

Here’s what she wrote:

As promised here is my menu for a 7 course Victorian dinner with notations for appropriate wines and kickshaws (extras or side dishes) and what is to be removed afer each course:

Each place is set with a charger plate, topped with a small plate appropriate to the entree, water, sherry, white wine, claret, and champagne goblets and all the silverware to be used until the dessert course.
1. Entree course.  Usually oysters or grapefruit half (I hate oysters and went with the grapefruit, each in a footed sherbet dish, everyone was fascinated). Chablis 
(remove grapefruit bowl and underplate, wine glass and fruit spoon)
2. Soup a la Reine (Queen Victoria’s favorite), Mock Turtle, or Chowder, served with oyster crackers, olives, celery and sardines (there are sardine boxes in which an opened can of sardines is placed, made of either silverplate or glass with a silver lid and a sardine serving fork) to be passed.  Sherry
(remove soup bowls and underplates, sherry glass and soup spoon)
3. Fish course (I served Lobster Newberg over toast points made with the fake lobster, but any sort of fish  is acceptable) with cucumber salad. Sauvignon Blanc
(remove chargers, plates, cucumbers, fish knife and fork but leave wine glass)
4. This is the main course and can consist  of one or several heavy meat dishes, depending on the number of guests.  I chose Beef Collops au Bordelaise, (my other options were Chicken Florentine or Chicken Tarragon) (if a beef dish is chosen, be sure to have mustard and horseradish on the table), sauce boat with extra bordelaise, buttered green beans, sliced tomatoes, applesauce, and rice pilaf.  Claret
(remove dinner plates silver and red wine glass)
At this point all of the kickshaws are removed.
5. Salad course.  Any green salad is good.  A Victorian favorite was shredded iceberg lettuce (sometimes wilted) dressed with either mayonaise or oil and vinegar served aith saltines and cheese (stilton, bleu or sharp cheddar).  White wine
(remove everything except water and champagne goblets)
Place finger bowls (on dessert plates with a doily on each).
Remove the bowl and the doily and place dessert silver and berry bowls at each place.
6. Dessert course.  I chose to serve two; fresh strawberries in sherbet dishes and powdered sugar to be sprinkled over them, and peach crisp with hard sauce.  Champagne
Now clear everything off the table (the Victorians even removed the tablecloth, I didn’t) except the candelabra.
7.   Coffee (demitasse which is very strong and never served with cream, or regular with both cream and sugar available.  I also served tea) is served in appropriate cups on saucers with a spoon.  A bowl of walnuts, in the shell, and a compote piled with chocolates is placed at both ends of the table.  Nut crackers (1 or 2) and nut picks (enough for all the diners, but not put at their places) as well as the coffee/tea spoons are the only silverware.  Cognac, Brandy or Liqueurs
In case anyone is interested, we were discussing The Hound Of The Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at this dinner party.  I ran the old Basil Rathbone movie during dinner, but it was in the living room, so we didn’t actually see it.  The gentlemen wore tuxedos and the ladies wore evening gowns.  My 18 year old daughter was kind enough to serve, dressed as our maid in a long black dress and crisp white apron.  It was a lot of fun. 
It’s a pity we all live so far apart or I am sure we could get up any number of dinners and possibly even a ball!
What a gal, huh?  Thank you Pflavia for providing such detailed instructions, suggestions and great menu!