29 January 2015

1770's Cream Shoes - Construction Part One

Ah shoes, the worst part of a costume to try and pull together. Finding a pair of shoes that look right, fit well and don't break the bank is nearly impossible. Although the wonderful American Duchess makes shoes that fulfill all three categories, international shipping is prohibitively expensive for me.

The solution? Order some beautiful shoe buckles instead and make my own shoes! Last year I found some shoes on TradeMe (New Zealand's version of Ebay) that looked like they could work.

The main reason I bought them was for the heel. Although it's not a true Louis heel, it has some delicious curves and a great flared shape. The rest of the shoe is a good shape for mid 1700's shoes, with lots of excess to work with. 

They sat in my study looking hideous for a few months while I searched for fabric. I knew I wanted a brocade or jacquard fabric in neutral, creamy colours. Unfortunately all the upholstery fabric I found had patterns that were too large for a shoe. 

Victoria & Albert Museum. Blue silk damask shoes with latchets, paste and metal buckles in situ.
Victoria & Albert Museum. Silk woven with metal thread.
Luckily, I managed to find the perfect off-cut of fabric on Trademe, and it just so happened to be from The Dreamstress! The creamy beige of the jacquard was just what I had been looking for, and the motifs were small enough to not overwhelm the shoe. They also matched my buckles beautifully!

For the construction of the shoes, I closely followed Couture Mayah's dress diary of her pink shoes. Your Wardrobe Unlock'd also has an article on re-covering shoes, which is now published for free on Loren Dearborn's old Livejournal.

The first step was to rip off the sole. Unfortunately my shoes didn't have a sole that covered the heel, it was instead tucked under.

I cut along the edge of the heel with a boxcutter to get the rest of the sole off. Underneath the sole was a layer of cotton batting, which was both unexpected and messy. I did all my work on an old cutting mat, since there was a lot of chopping and pulling and glue involved and I didn't want to damage the benchtop.

Since my shoes were leather, there was no fabric layer I needed to peel off. I was a little worried about gluing the fabric to the leather and the bulkiness of the final shoe, but it wasn't really a problem in the end.

The original shoe had some ugly elastic gussets running up the side. To make the tongue, I cut them out and pulled off the weird straps across the front. The edges of the shoe are quite thick where the elastic was sewn in, but bias binding will still fit over it fine. I also took off the heel tips.

I didn't really draft much of a pattern for covering the shoes. I roughly draped some muslin over the shoes before I started tearing them apart, and used the muslin shapes to cut into the jacquard. All the pieces were cut on the bias, and I tried to get a good pattern placement going. I started with the heel, the part I was most worried about. 

I cut out a large semi circle of fabric and started gluing from the centre back. I used Shoe Goo to stick the fabric on, since it was made for gluing leather. I was worried I wouldn't use the right glue and that it would come apart after all my hard work, but I was really happy with how the Shoe Goo behaved.

I applied the glue in 1cm wide sections, stretching the fabric over the heel before letting it set and repeating. I was surprised at how well the glue and fabric responded to me stretching it around the heel. Once I had glued a section down, it stayed in place for me to stretch the next section.


You can see in the above photo how I stretched the fabric down towards the base of the heel. The warp is barely noticeable at all in real life. 

Since my sole didn't cover the inside of the heel, I cut tabs into the fabric to wrap it around. When I replace the sole at the end, i'll cover the inside with a rectangular bit of rubber or vinyl to hide the fabric. The extra fabric on the bottom of the heel was easy to trim and tuck under the replaced heel tips.

When I was gluing on the heel, I noticed that the glue seeped through to the other side of the fabric in a couple of places. I had hoped that the jacquard would be thick enough to stop this, and I didn't want to risk large patches of glue on the rest of the shoe. 

One of the heels had more glue stains than the other, so I called that one my "practice shoe". Couture Mayah used fusible interfacing to stop glue showing, but I only had non-fusible in my stash. For my "practice shoe" I used the non-fusible interfacing, and it didn't go well.

I stitched around the outside of the pattern piece to join the two pieces of fabric together, and started gluing from the centre outwards. Since the fabric wasn't actually fused to the interfacing, the interfacing was stuck in place while the fabric could move freely. This left the vamp with some ugly wrinking.

I soldiered on, stretching the fabric as tight around the shoe as I could and trimming any excess.

Pulling on the thread to gather the toe area didn't work, but I found it easy to fold the fabric into tiny pleats instead. I used a lot of glue to make sure that area held, and held both pieces together while they cured.

Doing the tongue was just a matter of trimming it to the right shape and gluing it down. Wrinking aside, i'm pretty happy with how the "practice shoe" turned out!

The next day I went and bought some fusible interfacing, and after fusing some to my ironing board cover I got to work on the second shoe. The interfacing made the fabric much nicer to work with, and I didn't have to worry about glue seepage.

I did the front piece in much the same way, only without the stitching. It's still not perfect, the vamp of the shoe is creased from wear, which showed through slightly, and the 'decorations' on the tongue also prevented a smooth fit.

There's not as much wrinkling as the "practice shoe", as it's all glued down, but it's still not smooth. I am really happy with how they both look though, they're starting to look more 18th century and less 1980's goes Victorian.

In Part Two i'll be gluing on the back and straps, and bias binding. And some more bias binding. There's lots of binding. 

20 January 2015

Poofy Petticoats

After the grind of making stays and various other necessary but tedious pieces of underwear, I was finally ready to make petticoats!

petticoat and bumroll back veiw

I originally planned to make three petticoats but to save money I cut it down to two. Also, it's really hot at the moment, summer in New Zealand is terrible. The first petticoat is made from cotton broadcloth, the second cotton lawn. I was worried that the lawn would be too light on it's own, so I picked the broadcloth for some extra body. After working with both the fabrics I realize that two lawn petticoats would have been fine.

broadcloth petticoat front veiw

The broadcloth petticoat is 4m of fabric and the lawn is 5m. I did far more maths than I wanted to try and get an even hem over my bumroll, and both petticoats turned out shorter than I wanted.  As you can see, the hem on the broadcloth petticoat didn't even turn out straight. I used a combination of American Duchess's tutorial and Diary of a Mantua Maker's guide.

broadcloth petticoat side veiw

petticoat pocket slit

The broadcloth petticoat was my 'practice' one, it was the lawn petticoat I wanted to be a poofy and frilly pile of fun. The broadcloth was slightly too heavy, but not as bad as I had feared it might be. Both petticoats have french seams, pocket slits, and a slipstitched waistband tied with grosgrain ribbon.  The pocket slits sit awkwardly on the end of my bumroll, which sometimes makes the side seams fall weird, but I can still use them fine.

lawn petticoat front veiw

I imaged a giant ruffle on the bottom of the lawn petticoat, but I didn't realize how little 5m of fabric was for this. I'm still happy with the poof levels though, and the length is perfect. The heading of the ruffle is pinked and the hem is left raw using the selvedge to keep it light and floaty. This was my first time pinking something, and i'll be interested to see how it holds up on the lawn.

I absolutely love the silhouette it gives, and I can start to get a feel for the shape and amount fabric needed for my first dress.

lawn petticoat side veiw

lawn petticoat back veiw

lawn petticoat fabric pinked ruffle

I also decided to colour code my petticoats, for a bit of fun. The broadcloth one is tied with pale blue grosgrain ribbon, the pocket slits are finished with matching embroidery thread and the centre back of the waistband has a blue monogram I embroidered onto it. The lawn petticoat has the same in pink.

blue ribbon embroidery thread petticoats

pink ribbon embroidery thread petticoats

blue and pink embroidered monograms

I'd monogram everything if I could, I love adding little details that often end up hidden. It feels great to almost be out of underwear land and into a proper dress!

14 January 2015

Early 1780's Rump

After making my paniers and confirming they weren't the right shape, I knew that I needed to make a bumroll or rump. These mysterious items have relatively little documentation or extant garments for us to study.

Luckily, Kendra at Demode Couture re-published her wonderful Foundations Revealed Late 18th Century Skirt Supports article on her blog, making it free for everyone. I highly recommend reading it all. The rump that I liked best was #5, based on the satirical print "The Bum Shop".

The Bum Shop, 1785. Lewis Walpole Library.

The Bum Shop rump was also very similar to Rococo Atelier's 1780's bumpad, whos size and shape I really liked. This post isn't really a tutorial, more of a step-by-step guide since I hadn't found any blog posts that showed the making of a bumroll.

The first thing I did was put on my chemise and stays, and measure. I knew I wanted a really big rump, so I measured from the centre back of my waist down to about the top of my thighs. For my waist measurement I measured from the front of one hip, around my back, to the front of my other hip. It's not a full waist measurement, more like a 3/4 one.

I drew out a semi-circle that matched my waist measurement, found the centre, then drew a perpendicular line that matched my centre back to thighs measurement. I then drew the rest of the crescent shape freehand, making sure to have some fullness at the hips. Cut out 2 of these shapes.

To make the ruffle I measured the outside of my crescent and doubled it. Depending on how full you want the ruffle to be, you can double or triple your measurements. I made the ruffle about 4 inches thick. The ruffle is the key to getting the skirts to lay nicely over the rump. Without it, there's a risk of it looking like a shelf instead of a nice smooth shape.

Gather the ruffle with two rows of long stitches, then pin it to one of the crescents. I marked the centre back and matched that with the middle of the ruffle, then matched the two ends. I find that having less matching points is easier, as the pins tend to get in the way when you're gathering.

Once gathered, I stitched the ruffles to the crescent. Then I pinned the other crescent to the wrong side of the one with the ruffles and stitched around the edge. Turn it inside out and you should have a rump ready for stuffing.

Before stuffing, I added the rows of quilting stitching. These were four straight rows of stitching through both layers of fabric, arranged in a fan shape to form five sections of the rump. I'm not sure what the purpose of the sections are, perhaps it was to cut down on the amount of materials needed for filling the rumps. It doesn't seem to do anything major to the shape.

In the picture above i've overstuffed the rump. When it came to stitching it closed, there was far too much stuffing to do it easily. The resulting shape probably wouldn't have been very nice either, it would have ended up looking more like a shelf than a gentle curve.

After removing some stuffing, I got lazy and whipstitched the edges closed, leaving an ugly seam. To neaten it up i'd suggest slipstitching. The waist ties are 1/2m of grosgrain ribbon sewn into the points of the crescent.

None of the materials or techniques are accurate. The fabric is a mystery fabric I use for muslins, most likely a cotton/poly blend. The stuffing is polyfill, the ribbons and thread are polyester and everything except the whipstitching was machine sewn.

I'm really pleased with the shape it gives, and the overall size. I deliberately went for an oversized, over-ruffled look to make sure I got a nice and striking silhouette.

One nitpick is that the sides don't come as far forward as I would have liked, which can cause an odd looking shape under petticoats where the hips suddenly stop. This also happened to be right where my pockets were, but I'll talk about that more in my petticoat post.

The first few times I wore it tied around my waist, but that didn't look right to me. It meant that the petticoats sat above my waist, making my torso look short. For the photoshoot I tied it on my hips, looping the ties through the tabs on my stays. This let the petticoat waistbands sit on my waist, giving a much better silhouette.

I'm really pleased with how this turned out, and it only took an afternoon or two to make.