Christmas Photo Shoot

After a sudden idea and a quick frenzy of sewing I got two of my friends together and held a small Christmas themed photo shoot. I had different ideas for each costume; mine was traditional. A Victorian bustle dress in the seasonal colors. The second was also a Victorian (inspired) gown but with a more Steampunk twist, my colors inspiration for this one was cinnamon; crimsons, browns, and coppers. The third costume was more fantasy, inspired by Yule and the older celebrations of winter. I called it Evergreen, the Spirit of the Winter solstice. This was done in black and green with a collar of ivy on the cloak and a matching headdress.


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And what costume would be complete without a matching one for the dog?


And some of the behind the scenes pictures!

"No. More. PICTURES."

“No. More. PICTURES.”

"You said photo 'shoot' right?"

“You said photo ‘shoot’ right?”

Molly lost her nerve in the dark park and needed a little cuddling.

Molly lost her nerve in the dark park and needed a little cuddling.


Sadly our preparation took so long I didn’t get the pictures I really wanted in the park. We rushed out the door as the sun was sinking, certain we were going to be too late, as the parks close at sunset. But we had some luck! The park was open late for some game and we were able to take advantage of the forested area. This was perfect for the Evergreen photos but not really for the two Victorians. We certainly had fun though so that’s definitely what matters more.

The corset for the Evergreen costume will be for sale on my Etsy page shortly. Here are some close ups of the costumes!

006The Evergreen Corset, the color is washed out since I was too lazy to take a proper picture ;). It’s forest green and black the green lace panel is sewn over black taffeta so the black subtly shines through and the main fabric is green shot with black, very pretty! It’s steel boned and laces up in the back with silver grommets. Slightly larger that Sue here so it’s only pinned and thus looks loose.

001 I ended up leaving the bullet baldric off, I’d originally considered putting candy canes through the loops but never got around to buying them. This was cobbled together from several pieces, the only costume I didn’t make from scratch for the shoot. However, I loved how it went together! Definitely want to use this again.


And A few more shots of my dress; I admit it, I’m VERY proud of it. I need a proper bustle cage, here I simply used a bustle pad and after a while it just stopped working, (which, of course, made it more appropriate for the natural era style bodice I’m wearing, but HA wasn’t my main concern here, I just kinda did whatever I wanted!) but the dress itself made me extremely happy! Except those wrinkles on the green panels … I’m properly corseted and the jacket top is not even tight or pulling, WHY DOTH THOU WRINKLE??

I can’t help but be extremely critical of my work and as I get better I’ll probably look at this and gasp in horror that I wore it but whatever, I wish I had another reason to wear it!


My bustle deflated after driving to and from the park.

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I’m grateful to my friends for being willing to help me with these silly projects, they endure pins I’ve left in the costumes, a burnt ear from the heated hair curlers, and being forced to stump around in the dark posing. Can’t believe they still talk to me, actually!


“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a family possessing dogs will never again take a picture without a dog wandering into the scene.”


Christmas Bustle Dress Sneak Peek!

On a whim I threw together this Christmas themed bustle dress out of same fabric I had hanging around. I had maybe two yards at the most in which to squeeze this dress out. Plus, the whole reason I pulled the fabric out was to make a Christmas dress for Molly (Then I had a vision of us in matching dresses and BOOM!) so I also had to squeeze enough fabric for a little dog dress out of the short length.

I didn’t pick any particular year or fashion plate to model the dress after, I mostly just draped, cut, and sewed it up however I felt like! (Though with the long bodice and minimal poofage in the back it’s more natural form)

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The buttons pull a bit on Sue but it fits me perfectly. I also didn’t realize till now that the bustle/overskirt is a little crooked and deflated, but I only threw it on her real quick to snap a picture so my bad for being lazy!

I am trying to get together a photo shoot with some friends and other gowns, hopefully in a week or so! When it happens I’ll post on my facebook page first so be sure to go check it out!

And the little beast that started the idea.


This dog LOVES getting dressed up. Once she knows I’m sewing something for her she sits by me and watches till it’s done. As soon as the finished piece is on her she runs down to show everyone because she knows she’s the cutest darn thing ever. I tried to take a good picture but she was too excited to stand still so instead I snapped this surprise picture of her sleeping on a bag of fabric -_-

Corset Drafting

I know it’s been a little quiet here this summer, feel free to blame my dance school! This year I helped teach a record three dance camps! The final camp finished yesterday now it’s time to write and sew nonstop with no interruptions or procrastinating!  *reality laughs its stupid head off*

Well, anyway, I have been working on stuff between dance camps. The perfect corset has yet evaded making its way onto my list of accomplishments but not for lack of trying.  My first attempt at a ‘corset’ involved tubes of unlined, unboned fabric with holes ripped in the edges to lace them up. Give me a break, I was little!

I’ve improved but not enough, here is my latest corset:

Wrinkles!!!!!!!!! Oh, and the center panel is  slightly crooked :D

Wrinkles!!!!!!!!! Oh, and the center panel is slightly crooked 😀

First of all, wrinkles everywhere, I didn’t take the time to add a third layer of fabric to give it the necessary strength.

Second, where did my boobs go? I did not cut the bust wide enough to comfortably accommodate them. This type of under garment is not meant to flatten the chest like the renaissance stomachers. Solution? For this corset I could add gores into the bust (and probably the hips, when you are constricting your waist the mass has to go somewhere) for future corsets I need to redraw the pattern to better accommodate my bust.


Third: Weak boning, see how it’s buckling under the strain of the tight lacing? (though, to be fair, my mother laced me up and I’m pretty sure she was trying to suffocate me, I’ve never been laced this tight before). For me this is less of a problem then the others because I knew I was using cheap plastic, since this was really just a test corset.

I might hack into this one just to see what sort of changes I can make to it to make it comfortable and wearable then use what I learn in the future. For now I’m playing around with patterns:

New pattern with increased bust.

New pattern with increased bust.

 This is not a historical pattern, just an idea I’m playing with that includes a dramatic sweatheart cut.

Looking better.

Looking better.

Just sewn together to see what it looks like, still lots to do!

Alan Maley-The Promise

Ever since I came across that painting and determined to replicate the dress I have been searching for the artist. The quality of the picture I found was too faded and grainy to get a good look at the name on the bottom. I could tell that it started with an ‘M’ then something … ‘L’… and that there was a ‘Y’ in it.

Not much to go on. I tried various searches, ‘painting of Victorian woman in stripes,’ ‘Victorian artist woman in stripes,’ etc. I even googled lists of artist and scrolled through a billion names, clicking on all the ‘M’ names that looked close.  Sigh, no hits.

I can’t remember what next search I tried but this one got me a picture of a Victorian scene with the name ‘Maley’ clearly signed on the bottom. It had the three letters I was looking for so I plugged that name into google and searched through a gallery of his paintings. Boom, there was the painting of the woman in stripes.

The Promise, an intriguing name, surely having something to do with that rose she's holding.

The Promise, an intriguing name, surely having something to do with that rose she’s holding. Gotta admit though, that guy behind her looks like a serial killer.

Turns out Maley wasn’t actually a Victorian artist, he just excelled at painting the Victorian era. He was born in 1931 and died in 1995, not only was he a painter but he was also a visual effects artist for movies, even winning an academy award for his work on the movie Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

I’m not usually captured by art but his works are enthralling, a lush romantic glimpse of a past era. If you like the painting above I highly suggest that you check out more of his work.

Regarding the sewing of this dress, I’m still trying to collect information and fabric. The shirtwaist in this painting is really baffling!

‘My Eyes!’ AKA Were Our Ancestors Color Blind.

In all my reasearch for various Victorian dresses I’ve come across more than a few dresses that make out modern fashionistas faint dead away. Who ever started the myth that Victorians were dreary people who never wore color? True, Queen Victoria became fond of black and it is well known that mourning became more of an art then a state of grief. But when they weren’t wrapped up in their mourning crepe those Victorians sure loved to wear some eye-searing colors.


Here we have some sort of wrapper in a hideous orange paisley. This would have been worn around the house, not out and about. Thank goodness, because this could probably make birds drop dead from the sky.

And this? Good god, and I thought those modern camo wedding dresses looked silly!

But wait, There’s more!

Prepare yourself.

Seriously, you might want to go get some sunglasses to protect your eyes.


For more pictures of this monstrosity go check out the link at this fabulous blog dedicated to extant gowns.

Not that they all got it wrong. As a reward for making it through those first three, I saved the best for last.


Ombre dyed velvet. THIS. IS. AWESOME.

And with that black lace overlay? This woman was clearly fabulous.


So, for those who thought the Victorians were a bunch of depressed goths, sorry to burst your bubble!

These are just my personal opinions, beauty is relative and all that.

Research for 1890’s Striped Gown

I was randomly searching through some pictures of Victorian gowns when I came across this painting:


I Love it. I ADORE it. Who cares that I have absolutely nowhere to wear it and no reason to make it. This dress is happening.

So first thing’s first, a break down of the dress. The 1890’s aren’t an era I’ve spent a lot of time researching so I’ve been working on fixing that in order to understand this dress.

The skirt’s a fairly straightforward skirt of its time, what makes it interesting is the way the fabric is cut so that the stripes create a pattern. Unless that was how the actual fabric looked? I’m going to assume those are seams because there is no way I can find that exact fabric otherwise.

Next we’ve got a Swiss Waist with buttons down the front. These were corset-like (But NOT actual corsets, corsets are undergarments, they go UNDER the dress. Sorry this issue really bugs me!) garments, it will be boned and probably laces up in the back. for a better understanding on the Swiss Waist check out this excellent article.

The bodice really had me confused for a while, at first look I though it was low cut-something you only saw on evening gowns, which this is not. I spent an entire day looking at extant dresses, fashion plates, and pictures trying to find evidence that there were afternoon/walking dresses with this neckline.

Then I looked at it again and it was like an iron skillet walloped me in the head; THAT’S NOT SKIN THAT’S HER BLOUSE.

Oh, yeah, that makes sooo much more sense.

So we’ve got this shirtwaist with a matching piece of the striped fabric at her throat. Unfortunately it’s really hard to see the details in the painting so I’m still not sure how I’ll be putting it together yet.

Finally the sleeves. Those sleeves. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON WITH THOSE SLEEVES?

My issue here is that they look like something you would have seen two decades prior when the Victorians went all patriotic and revived the colonial style briefly to celebrate our nation’s centennial. The 1890’s best known sleeves were the infamous leg o’ mutton sleeves (usually to the wrist). The sleeves in the painting do have a bit of the cap I would expect and are a little bit full.

After a ton more research I finally found one example of a dress with similar sleeves. (Though this dress might be later than the one in the painting?)

1990.28a-b 0002 

This makes me feel a little better. I want to make the exact dress from the painting but I also want to make sure it’s accurate. This is good enough for me.

I found the black and gray striped fabric on etsy; Taffeta Stripes Gray & Black 58 Inch Wide Fabric by the Yard, 1 yard Now I just have to get past my guilt of spending money on fabric for a dress I don’t need …

The bodice part and the fluff on the sleeves looks like it’s made of some sort of blonde sheer/lace. It looks cool in the picture but I’m worried how the cream will look with the gray in real life. Guess I’ll just have to wait and find out.

No matter what, I am determined to make this dress. I have never followed through and actually made a historical gown. Something always happens whether an event is cancelled or I get distracted (which happens more than I’d like to admit!) Well, not this time, I may have to ban myself from the realm of Pinterest though.