Another crack at 18th century stays

I thought I’d be quite ready for a week without any sewing after working overdrive on the convention costumes for as long as I had.  But this week I actually felt kind of eager to get back to some period sewing, and as I have quite a few 18th century projects lined up for this year that I want to tackle, I thought I’d get started with some undergarments again.

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red velvet… shoes!

Have I mentioned (recently) my addiction to velvet?

I bought some shoes at the thrift store a while back with the intention of remaking them into 18th century-style shoes.  They’re not perfect, but they had a decent heel shape and were my size.  Last night I finally got around to tackling that small-but-n0t-so-small project.

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Here’s the before – not too shabby, actually.  They almost worked as they were.  I had an idea of removing and saving the lace appliqués because they were fairly nice, but they were glued on pretty solidly and I had to hack them off.

First step was to remove the heel cap and the under part of the shoe.

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I was a little too enthusiastic and I tore one of them (oops!)  Not unsalvageable, though.


The underside of the shoe with its skin removed.

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I traced a rough pattern out of some muslin and then cut it out of my red velvet.  My original plan was to redo the shoes in a more neutral color – I was thinking a white brocade or something pretty similar to how they started out – and that way I could simply switch out the ribbon to make them match any outfit.  I found to my dismay that I didn’t have anything in my stash that would suit… but I did still have most of the red velvet dress I previously cut up for my Dark Odette costume, and once it caught my eye, it refused to let go.

I used some scraps of denim as well to reinforce the tongue and the side tabs.



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And… covered!  To be honest, up close, they’re not as pretty as I’d like.  The perils of using hot glue.  Instead of covering the heels with fabric (I couldn’t figure out how to remove the heel and it was past midnight so I didn’t want to risk making a bunch of noise) I painted them with black fabric paint, which unfortunately gives them a plasticky look close up.  But from a distance it doesn’t look horrible.

I used a buttload of glue to get the bottom shoe piece reattached, and spent a good hour fighting with the heel caps to get them back on.  I imagine the process would have been a lot better with the aid of a hammer.


Here they are plain as they come, before grommeting.  They’re not actually as big and bulky as they look, they just make my ankles look tremendously skinny.

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Turned out I had left my grommet tool at my mum’s, so I had to stop over there today to get the grommets put in.  Ta-da!  I tied them with some white ribbon and I love the color combo, but I love even more the idea that I can use any color ribbon I want to tie them to whatever outfit I’m wearing!  And let’s be honest – red velvet shoes are so fabulous that it doesn’t even matter if they don’t match my dress, right?


My goal for tomorrow is to get the hat to match my blue round gown done.  The trim on that dress is still in progress.  I may have the whole outfit finished this week. 😀

sweet sheet stays

I’ve been bad, I know; I haven’t been taking pictures of anything I’ve been making.  I mentioned some time ago that I have a brand spankin new set of 18th century underthings.  I was going through my camera roll today, and realized that I didn’t take one single picture of the making of any of them!  however, I do have one decent (I guess) photo of my stays, so today I’ll talk about those.


and here they are.  (I look positively thrilled to be having my picture taken, no?)  a few weeks ago, I got all dolled up and went out into the very picturesque, yet hella cold snow to take some pictures.  this one was taken in the midst of me getting ready.

I drafted the pattern myself, starting with a basic conical block and adding seams to get the proper look of the mid-18th century stays.  I won’t go into detail about the pattern drafting, because I’m no good at explaining it, but Sidney Eileen has an excellent article on how to draft a conical block, which does a much better job explaining the process than I ever could.  I do mine basically the same way.  I made them strapless just because I didn’t have a pair of strapless stays yet, so why not?

these stays are fully boned with zip ties – my favorite – between two layers of heavy calico (this was, by the way, another stash project, and so I wasn’t much fussed about historical accuracy,) and the fashion layer is an old sheet that I thought was pretty.  it has this nice striped pattern with flowers, and so I smacked a big old flower right in the center.  pretty, girly – I love it.  in this picture, the stays still weren’t lined, but they now have been lined with a soft light blue linen.

the final product is imperfect.  the back needs to be higher – I was thinking that since I was omitting straps, I didn’t need to cut it as high, but in fact I do; the back tends to slide itself down under my shoulder blades if I slouch.  however, that aside, these stays are crazy comfortable – a lot more so than my other pair, which I think I might retire.  the shape of these stays is suited best to early to mid 18th century; very straight, flat, conical.  I’d still like to make a pair suited to the later part of the century, with that distinctive thrust shape.

oh, and as for the lacing… well, I had to dress myself, and the only way to accomplish that was to lace the stays loosely, slip them on, and then tighten from the middle, a la corsets of the next century.  so you can see the lacings tied around my waist.  I know that’s not period proper, but hey, what about this project was?

I’m nearly finished with the Ciel ball gown; just finishing up with some trim tonight.  so my next post will be about that!

18th century inspired cape

just a quick and dirty post with some quick and dirty pictures of the pelisse I made a few weeks ago.  it’s inspired by the styles of capes in the mid to late 18th century, but isn’t wholly period.  I was experimenting with styles and techniques.



it’s made of almost entirely thrifted materials, and was therefore wonderfully cheap.  the faux fur came from a huge fur coat I picked up at a thrift store (I really mean huge; I’ve still got enough fur left for a whole other cape after this one!) and the red velvet I snagged at an estate sale a while back.  it’s not really as vibrant as it appears in the photos.  the cape is inner-lined in flannel from my stash, and lined with maroon cotton, which was the only thing I bought for this project.

I’m not sure I’m happy with the way the hood looks; at the time I was working on it, I was feeling too lazy to mess around with pleats and get that characteristic look of 18th century hoods.  the hood is entirely lined with fur, for warmth, but it’s pretty full and pointy looking.  something I may redo at some future point.

I’m just waiting for the weather to warm up a little – at least to bearable temperatures – to get some decent photos of my pretty new winter things out in the snow.  but I also have another project that I’m working on this week, of which I may have some pictures soon.

“The Borgias” – part two

There’s nothing like a deadline to create serious inspiration!  The problem I have a lot of the time with motivation is that I’m super-motivated for the first day, or two, or three when I start a project… and if I don’t finish the entire thing within that time, I completely lose it.  However, I do love to work against a deadline.  Maybe that’s why this costume came together so nicely for me!

So, at last post, my Borgias inspired gown (which I’ve taken to calling the “cotton candy” dress, because the color scheme is so garish XD) was in need of sleeves.  They were a pretty easy build.  I drafted a sleeve pattern for a full-length sleeve, which I made up of my own design because I didn’t find any pictures of any sleeves that I particularly liked, and would have enough fabric for.  I had a scant half yard of the blue taffeta for both sleeves.  Yikes!  They are kind of inspired by the sleeves on the dark burgundy velvet dress that Danielle wears at the end of Ever after (did I mention it’s my favorite?), the ones with the gold-thread quilting.  Plus, it is November in Wisconsin, so I figured that quilted sleeves might give the costume some extra warmth where it would surely be needed.


the sleeve I drafted.  I played around with the shape a bit until I got what I wanted, which was a straight sleeve that would tie to the arm hole of the gown, with a very pointed part at the shoulder.


quilting!  yeeergh!  I admire people who quilt, because I do not have the patience for it.  Just doing these two sleeves was enough for me.  I didn’t use a grid or any kind of marks for my design, I just eyeballed it, so it came out not exactly perfect.  But I think it lends a handmade feel to it.  I didn’t want it to be too perfect.



The finished sleeves, inside and out.  I slashed the elbows because i liked the look of it, and bound all the edges with the scraps of the blue taffeta that were left (and believe me, I was down to bits and pieces by the end.)  The “peekaboo” fabric is some white crepe-y jersey stuff that I found in a box in my closet.  It’s kind of scratchy and definitely not period accurate, but it had the right look of what I wanted.  Rather than making full sleeves, I just tacked some pieces on to the holes, in true theater fashion.  For one, I didn’t have much of the fabric, but also the sleeves were kind of a tight fit to begin with and I didn’t think a whole bulky sleeve would fit well in there.


This was the inside of the bodice when all was said and done.  I used another panel of the crepe jersey, with a faux-lacing of silver cord on the front of the bodice.  However, I don’t have a picture of that.  The whole thing doesn’t look too pretty from the inside, but hey, I was short on time.

All that was left was to sew some eyelets up the back, and hem the darn thing, all of which I did this morning when I got home from work at 5 a.m.  (Last-minute sewing is the only type of sewing!)  Then, when I got up this afternoon, I managed to whip together a kind of short cape to wear with the gown, because it was, indeed, quite cold outside today.  I’ll have some pictures of me wearing the whole ensemble in the next post.

Since it’s November (novel month!) I’ll be taking a break from sewing.  But I’d like to revisit this costume again when I have some spare time.  For one, I’d like to sturdy up all those tacked-on pieces, or maybe change the design of how I did it.  Also, the front of the bodice of the gown is dismally unadorned.  I did have some pink and silver trim, and some pearls I intended to slap on there if I had the time, but I ran out.  There are also some small fitting issues that would require a more thorough deconstruction (the bodice back, for instance, could be shortened an inch or two, and the straps were a bit too big.)  So I’ll put this costume on the shelf for some more work later on down the line.

the “stash cotehardie” + bonus ball gown

hello again! here’s a nice long post. I’ve been working very hard the past few weeks. mostly on this ballgown that I made for a friend of mine, which was a little bit of a nightmare.


I just have the one picture but I wish I’d taken some good ones. this dress was gorgeous. it’s made of champagne-colored satin with the over layer of a gorgeous gold-red changeable crinkle chiffon, of which the picture does not do justice. the pleating on this gown gave me such fits. but it was worth the two weeks I spent on it because in the end, it looked fabulous.

what I’ve been working on this weekend is my “Cassandra cotehardie” (a.k.a. the “stash cotehardie”, a.k.a. the “it’d be nice if I knew what I was doing!” costume.) I went through my fabric closet and was amazed at what I didn’t even know I had in there. among other things, I found these three piles of gorgeous silk velvet that I had bought at an estate sale about two years ago. there was a dove gray, ruby red, and a really nice moss green that just had me drooling. unfortunately, there were only about two yards a piece, which is hardly enough to make anything decent.

I’ve been wanting to make some more medieval-age costumes for a while, but to be honest it’s not really my area of expertise (although I’ve done enough research these past few days to make up for that!) so I decided I could whip out a two-toned cotehardie, using some of my velvet and some nice black linen that I had about five yards of. I actually based the design on a sketch of a character from one of my own novels… is it weird to want to cosplay as your own character? but the design and color scheme was just what I wanted, so I went with it.


the first image is my original design for the outfit, and the second is the revised design taking into account the pieced-together idea. unfortunately, however, once I got started, I realized very quickly that there just wasn’t enough of the red velvet to scrape this one by. so I went with the gray as a second choice. it’s a lovely fabric, but it just doesn’t have that same flair as the red… sigh.

my first piece of business was to start drafting a pattern. like I said, I hadn’t done any costumes this medieval before, so I began with research. then, with some draping on my dressform (which is actually rather my size now that I’m less busty,) I came up with a two-piece pattern with a seam down the back and down the front. the plan was to have the gown simply lace up the front.


this is my mock-up. (yes, I actually exist! for a costuming blog there sure aren’t many pictures of me wearing costumes :/) it’s made of a green linen tablecloth and runner, which was surprisingly plenty enough fabric. it has four gores in the skirt. I literally sewed myself into it to check the fit, and it was pretty spot on. I made this just to test the pattern and see how much work I was getting myself into, but I was planning to use it to line the real gown if it worked out. so that’s where I went with it.


cutting out the gray velvet. because I was planning on piecing the bottom on separately, I only cut the pieces to about knee-length. I cut the gores the same, and then added panels of the black linen to the bottom. if I did it again, I’d probably do it differently – instead of adding a panel to each gore and skirt piece, I’d sew the gores in and then add one long panel to the bottom of the skirt. but it turned out okay anyway.


a gore with the linen panel. the linen turned out to be pretty thin once I had it up next to the velvet, and just didn’t hang as well. so I doubled up on the panels to give it some weight, which also conveniently enclosed all the exposed edges of the fabric, which were quickly fraying away to nothing. velvet. sheesh.


I pinned the dress at the waist just to check the fit and the drape of the skirt. in the second two pictures, you can see how the black panels don’t quite line up in some areas. I guessed that would happen, and even before I began stitching the pieces together I’d decided that I was going to cover up where the fabric joined with some kind of gold trim or something. it should be the same I’m going to use on the sleeves, and possibly with a band at the hem of the gown as well.


drafting sleeves.


pinning. I sewed both pieces together at the neckline and down the front. and man, flipping that whole thing inside out was definitely a workout. and that’s as far as I’ve gotten! I’m thinking about working on some eyelets tonight. actually being able to lace the thing up will do a lot for the pictures, I’m thinking. :p