American Duchess Outlander Pattern

Merry Christmas to me! (from me, Jediravenclaw)!

Yes, that’s right, I’m finally going to be starting the American Duchess 1740s pattern – complete with (almost) all of the “historical hacks” that she recommends on her blog.

Naturally, I’ll keep  you all up to date on how it progresses!! I’ll also include my own historical tidbits here and there.

(See my whole post here on Lady Campbell’s Stitchery Guide)fb_img_1482864525475

Sidenote: Isn’t this curtain fabric fabulous?!



Viking Dress (part 4)

Now that the green apron dress is done (well, except for decoration, but for now I’ll accept “wearable”), let’s focus on the other two pieces. We left them both mostly complete. Let’s revisit the brown underdress now that we’ve got the sleeves stitched together, the gussets in place, and the side panels done:


The kitty spent tons of time in this stage skulking around the dressform and hiding under the dress itself…

The panels themselves aren’t the most impressive, but I’ve literally cobbled together all of the scraps I could in order to give as much volume as possible to the sides. Also there’s only about two inches between the bottom of the gussets and the top of the side panels. Waste not, want not!


And hey, look at what my roommate finished!! I’ll tell you what, I may be constructing this dress, but this single pieces definitely proves how much more patience she has than I do. Not only that, but it’s her first embroidery piece!! Jealous yet? Because goodness knows I sure am 😀


So we’ll also be honest right here, I only have one book on embroidery in the house, and it’s this one (click on it for the amazon page):


And …. tbh this was the book she referenced for her stitches… but hey, wherever we can learn, amirite?


Let’s see. Brown dress wearable, green dress wearable, tea towel wearable … what’s the next most important detail?


Seriously, I’ve been dying to start the bead strands since we bought them.  I broke out the silk thread, a beading needle, and my small jewelry kit.


I tied each end to a jump ring and then threaded the rest back in through the beads to hide the ends. We don’t yet have a spacer, so I wanted to be able to just attach the strands to whatever we end up buying. Which so far I’m hoping will end up like this to match the design on the tea towel piece!

Here’s the first one pinned in to place.


As for the brooches, we’re using earrings I got for 99 cents. We’re going to epoxy brooch backs to them so that we can attach wherever we want. Best part about them being earrings? They already have holes punched in them! Granted, I didn’t initially think to use those to attach the bead spacer to (still might not if it doesn’t look right), but hey it’s an option 😀


Or, you know, the beads can just be attached under the brooches. We’ll see once we get all the pieces together and done.


Now, obviously we have detail work to do and decorations and all those fun little touching finishes, but aside from making a few more bead strands (and epoxying the brooches to their backings) – I’m calling this “wearable”!

Why is that an important stage? Because I still have a whole ‘nother outfit to make for my husband and a set of stays to make for myself before the renn fest on October 2nd.

Above you can see one of the bajillion lengths of trim we’re playing with. I like a white braid better than this I think, but we’ll see. We also have to cover the “curtain” stitching visible in that picture along the top of the brown tea towel piece. And I’d like to do something with the arm straps, the top band along the green apron dress, something to cover the hem stitching on that same green dress … and whatever other Viking tidbits we decide upon.

I’ve always said that they key to good garb is just a s&#! ton of details. But everyone having something to wear is also the responsibility of the household seamstress! Here’s a link to the concept post I did for my husband’s outfit, and I’ll keep you guys up to date on how both of these progress! 😀


Because The Witcher is freaking awesome and I need to learn how to weather stuff… 

But here’s one last picture of the Viking dress in all it’s glory so far! 😀


– Jediravenclaw



Viking Dress (Part 3 – Finishing Green Apron Dress)

Where did we leave off? Ah yes. Making loops.


Loops and loops and loops and oh hey, more loops!! In the end, we get the above. But trust me, this will be very very worth it. Let’s also remember the sketch of the whole green dress:



The top front should be reinforced and smooth, the sides will be gathered so as to evoke “smocking” … which trust me, I am not of a skill or disposition to accomplish.

Once more we break out the interfacing


Measure how wide you need it (I went armpit to armpit), and mark the overdress with this length. I marked also the very back with half this width. The rest was deemed “sides” and was marked to be gathered.


The “side” casing was just big enough to contain my wide (and very modern, shhhh!!) elastic. cut


The elastic is sewn in to the dress at the interfaced front lining, and in the back panel.


Hang on the dress form ….


And gather! Make sure it’s snug enough to keep shape on the person, but not snug enough to cut off circulation or anything. Gotta be comfortable!


Pin in place. I ran my seam along where the green pin is, then cut the elastic off there. The edge will be covered by the back panel.

In order to make the gathers even and stable, I stretched it back out after encasing the elastic and ran the longest stitches my machine can make through it – twice.

I’ve also cut the back panel down to size and placed it alongside it’s slot.


ALWAYS IRON BETWEEN STEPS. Srsly. Iron that shizzznet. Only then can you pin and stitch in place.


And now you may step back and admire your handiwork! Though admittedly, it looks a bit out of place right now.  We’ll fix that in a moment. …


Because for now we need to attach the sleeves! Measure 5 times, pin, measure again, THEN stitch. Then measure just to make sure you got it right 😛


Making sure that one side is just as perfectly long as the other:


We decided to bring the straps closer in the back than in the front. It’s stable and flattering.


And the dog approves. Which in the end is really all that matters …


Now, to make those gathers look “in” place, and to tame the “potato sack” silhouette!


Now I’ll tell you right now – this step took awhile to just get the placement right. We had to decide how much we wanted to bring in, where it was going to be brought in, and what the final silhouette would be. Finally, we were able to settle on a placement. And look how lovely this is now that there is *something* breaking up the line between “gathered” and “non gathered”:


The cat decided it was her turn to help as well…


One all is attached and stitched up, we put both dresses on the dress form and laced her up! What a beautiful form-fitted apron dress 😀


Add the belt….


Awww yeaahhhhhh… We’re getting there.


Getting there slowly, but surely!


Viking Dress (Part 2)

Jewelry and the Green Apron Dress!!

Remember that pinterest page I put together? And remember all the “Viking Swag”? Well. We’re going to certainly have fun with that 😀

First, we got a glass bead collection at Michaels (yay 50% off coupons!). Really any glass bead assortment would work. Viking burials are the perfect source for research on this subject, and beads were found made of glass, stone, semiprecious stones (like carnelian), and could also be leafed in gold or other metals. We plan on using literally all of these….


…plus some earrings we got at Body Central for $.99 each. The gold set will be re-purposed in to the two brooches with epoxy and pins. The silver ones will be cannibalized for their metal cones, which bear great resemblance to tinkling cones (which, while best known as decor in early colonial periods, had been around far earlier than the french fur traders who popularized them among the native american populations).


The Apron Dress

It’s actually a re-purposing of my housemate’s first ever medieval skirt. I tore out the drawstring, cut out two of the smaller panels to use as fabric for the rest of the construction, and pinned it in to place on the dress form for length measuring purposes and tied a rope belt around the waist. We both liked where it falls, so no adjustments were needed there.


Both of us being relatively well endowed ladies, we didn’t like the idea of just having what is essentially a bag with arm straps hanging loosely from the bust area. So how to take it in and still remain true to the patterns and silhouette? I sketched this up after a lot of daydreaming about this conundrum while on break at one of my places of work.

We could gather up and apply loose lacing to each side!


Trust me, I’ve tried smocking. It didn’t turn out well….

Begin what has so far been by far the most time consuming part. Making the lacing parts. Below is the progression of strip (top) to loop-material (bottom). Fold, iron, fold again, iron again. What I wouldn’t give for a bias tape maker!! (Sewing goals).


Fold in on themselves as loops, stitch, then cut as separate bits each. I used white thread in this step because I am running a little low on green at this point and no one will ever see this step anyway.


Pretty soon you end up with quite a little collection! But what to attach them to? You’ll need something stable. Something that won’t pull too horribly on the garment and create stress lines where there should not be any.

I created highly reinforced guides in which to place the loops. The are formed in the same way as the loops above, but thicker and with two strips of interfacing each. Why two?


If you’ve ever worked with interfacing, you know it has a grain and can be tugged and stretched in one direction, but not the other. So for this step, I cut two sets of interfacing strips – each band got one strip in each direction. Observe the grain in the detail below:


Fold over, iron over, and you have a decent band on which to mount the loops


Of course, I went back to the green thread to stitch them all together. Here are two of the final four side pieces.


And oh hey look! Back to ironing! This poor garment had been in storage for years and through numerous moves.


Even the shoulder straps to the apron dress have been reinforced with interfacing. If you haven’t already converted to the use of this magical material, I highly recommend doing so. Joann’s sells their featherweight bolts at 99 cents / yard. With a 40% off coupon, there’s no reason at all not to constantly have a decent supply in your fabric closet!


And that’s as far as I got tonight! Updates to come as work progresses ….


Our dog is unsure of what to think about the project. Obviously sewing is not as interesting as any action involving food. 

Part three here!

Viking Dress (part 1)


So my housemate is an almost 6′ redhead of Icelandic decent … so naturally she needs a decent set of Viking garb for the upcoming renaissance festival!

And what is the first thing to do when sewing for an era you’ve never sewn for before? Research of course! And where to turn besides the history books and extent burial collections? Pinterest. Here’s my page I set up for the project:


We started with the “tea towel” outermost part. Since I am doing most of the drafting and construction, she wanted to delve in to decoration and embroidery. Construction-wise it’s by far the easiest aspect. We used a curtain from the thrift store, cut it in to rectangles bust width and knee length. Put together as you would a pillow case, and voila!


The obvious curtain edges will be covered up by embroidery.


Using a marking pencil, she drew a design to embroider over


And began with the world’s smallest embroidery hoop because we couldn’t find our bigger ones. I’ll be posting updates as work progresses!



Work then began on the brown undertunic. For the most part, I’ve made so many chemises that I just kind of use measurements and my dress form at this point. But there are still parts for which I’d prefer to use a pattern! Primarily, I needed the sleeves from the Mccalls M4490 and the neck lining from the Simplicity 8855. I would base my keyhole neck in the tunic off of the lining piece.


Cutting out – Sleeves and gussets on the bottom, keyhole neckpiece in white laying on top of the tunic’s back, and the rest of the pieces in this picture were cut in to triangles and used as side gores.


Our dog helped….


Stitching on the neckline was so far the most delicate part. IRONING WHILE YOU GO IS YOUR FRIEND!! 🙂 Hem the outside first (iron), stitch to the inside (iron), then flip outside (iron)…


… pin and stitch down again (iron). I folded in the bottom bits to form a point at the bottom of the keyhole…


then pin and stitch down the other side (iron).


Run another stitch around the inside to tack everything in place and keep  the neckline crisp. I probably should have used a brown bobbin here to keep the seam less visible, buuuuuut  … I didn’t. I also doubt viking would have been using two different colors of thread to that end back then. So maybe I don’t feel so bad for that.



I put the neckline together first before even stitching on the sleeves or stitching up the sides. That way I wasn’t fighting with the garment itself – forever trying to turn it inside out and right side out over and over again. Once the neck was done, I was free to stitch on sleeves and stitch up the sides. Now I repeat with the cuffs that are meant to mirror the collar. (Forgive me, I took this picture before ironing!!)


A look at the (gah, again unironed!!!) sleeve attached to the garment, complete with gusset.


Well, that’s enough for part 1, I’ll start getting in to details on the green apron overdress in part 2!

UPDATE: Part 2 is up and to be found here!

Historical Cosplay: Analyzing Belle

So what does it mean, doing historical cosplay?

Let’s use an example near and dear to most of the seamstresses here: Beauty and the Beast.*Belle blue dress

If we were to do straight cosplay, we’d take our favorite dress from the movie and play with making it as screen-accurate as our talents/resources can make it.  We’d analyze as best as we could the construction and movement to figure out pattern parallels and fabrics.

Straight cosplay of this, I’d get two/three basic fabrics: a mid-weight cotton fabric as close to the blue as I can color-match and a lightweight white cotton to use for the blouse and skirt.  I’d either reuse the cotton with some lace for the petticoat, or get another white fabric closer to the medium weight of the blue fabric, and again, a light lace edging.  I’d use a shawl-collar blouse pattern and adjust the sleeves to be ¾ length bishop sleeves, and probably adapt a dirndl style dress pattern for the dress.  The skirt looks like a gored A-line, easy enough to use or draft, and the apron is a trapezoid attached to a strap.  I’d make the petticoat from the skirt pattern, hemming it an inch or so shy of the mid-calf length of the main dress.  I’d grab black ballet flats for her shoes, and starch or interface a tube of the blue fabric to make the hair-bow.  And to get in or out, since there are no fasteners visible in the gown, I’d probably set an invisible zipper into a side seam, where it’s least likely to be noticed.

That’s a straight cos-play.  At the end, if my skills are decent, I’ll end up with something that looks pretty close to the screen version.  So what happens when you want to do a historical cosplay?

To start with, a historical cos-play is about finding what fits the time the movie costume should be set in, your “period”.  What period is Beauty and the Beast set in?  The movie itself is a Disney anachronism stew.  There are references to the Eifel Tower (1880s), and yet the Beast is a Prince (French Revolution in the 1780s-1790s kind of stopped that possibility by killing off everything royal and most of the nobility to boot).  Cogsworth mentions Rocco architecture (1700-1770s) in his palace tour, and Gaston shoots game with an approximation of a blunderbus.  I haven’t spotted an official Disney time designation in my admittedly limited research on the subject.  And since Disney’s official dating system is often times relatively arbitrary, that’s not the most useful approximation either.  About the only thing I’m going to rule out is anything after 1789, because of above-mentioned revolution doing a number on anyone calling themselves royalty in France.  I’m also going to rule out anything much before the Enlightenment (1715 start), based on general technology level at a rural village.  Please note, I am not a historian, or even history-adjacent, and my preferred periods of garb don’t skew to this era normally.  My winnowing here is less than perfect.

What it does let me do is jump to the next piece of information: the costumes themselves as drawn/made.  What is the silhouette, what construction details can we make out, and do they look at all like anything from the general period we slotted in?  I started looking at portraits and fashion descriptions from 1700-1780 to see if I could find a decent era.  I’ll admit, I wanted to skew it earlier in the period for the part of me that doesn’t want the epilogue to the movie to be, “And three years later the castle was stormed yet again by the villagers, and Prince Adam, Princess Belle, and their child were put to death as part of the Reign of Terror to eliminate this cadet line of the house of Bourbon.”  I also am not super fond of the wide panniers look of court dress in the latter half of the 1700s.

Belle’s dresses are the blue and white peasant dress worn at the beginning of the movie, a green dress and a pink dress with very similar lines that she wears day to day at the palace, and of course, the iconic gold gown of the ball scene.  Portraits and art being what they are, we don’t have many images of the working class from this era.  Looking at a few paintings, there are some ways to tweak her dress into a generalized late 1600s-early 1700s peasant dress: lengthen the skirts, of course, and change the sleeveless top over a blouse into a bodice with a white shift/blouse underneath.  Look at this picture, for example:blue 18th century

Not perfect, but there’s at least a similar silhouette and colors.  This is a painting from 1738.  Note that there’s still relatively full sleeve and they end at the ¾ length.  There’s a fichu that echoes Belle’s shawl-collared white blouse.

The skirts are fuller, as is the apron, and the hair and makeup definitely don’t match Disney’s 90s girl ponytail that Belle sports throughout the movie.  But if you tweak this dress by doing it in Belle’s blue, and change the bib apron here to Belle’s half apron, you’d be close enough that most people would make the connection.  You could also make an argument that a governess was a transitional level in class rankings, and that a governess’s dress would be higher status than Belle, and might have more fabric to play with.  Fabric is expensive, very full skirts means more money is spent.  I’d still make a historical cosplay of Belle with fuller skirts than the movie demonstrates, but perhaps not as full as this dress demonstrates.

Switching to the castle gowns, how do they stack up against 1720s-1730s dresses?  Remembering here that we can make some lee-way on exact dating because if everyone in the castle has been enchanted for the past 10 years, they don’t have the latest fashion dictates from court yet.  Belle’s gowns would be based on what they had and how much they and she could (or wanted to) modify them. Belle pink1720s pink and yellow

   Portrait dates to 1729

Belle greenHey, not too bad!  These are round gowns (closed in front with no petticoat visible).  Fitted bodice, and sleeves are closer to the body.  Compare the two pink gowns especially. It’s hard to see with the book in her hands, but other screen-shots of her bodice show a thin pink stripe straight down the mid bodice that mimics the portrait’s front lacing.  Belle’s skirts are less full here, but they are as well when you combine the blue dresses.  I can’t find many narrow skirts like this until the 1800s, with the Regency/Empire gowns, and that’s 1. After the Revolution which I’m not going, and 2. Screws up the waistlines even worse.  We can handwave the skirt fullness a bit.  As for the shoulder puffs on the green dress and the full-length sleeves? Not a clue, those seriously look more like late Victorian than Enlightenment anything.  I’d say you could easily base a round gown off of these dresses and mirror some of Belle’s attire.  Would it be as easily marked out as cosplay and Belle based?  Probably not, but these dresses also aren’t as iconic Belle as the blue dress or the gold gown. Belle gold

And what about the Belle gown to end all gowns: the yellow/gold ballroom gown?  It certainly shares the very fitted waist of the other dresses, and adds in a much fuller skirt.  How does it stand up to something from the 1730s?  What about the sleeves/neckline?  How do they compare?

gold infanta dress 1723 Portrait of Louis XV in front of a portrait of the Infanta Mariana Victoria.

Look at the neckline hovering off the tips of the shoulders! Look at the rich golden tones!  The short self-sleeves over the upper arms, even if they’re followed by lace to the elbow.  There’s the basque point to the tight bodice, the lack of any visible chemise, and the more rounded fullness of the skirt, not yet at the wide panniers later in the century.  This portrait shows an early example of a robe de cour, which became the standard of dress in the French royal court during the 1700s.  Earliest robes had a wide range of skirt silhouettes, including the rounded cone/dome shape Belle’s dress demonstrates.  And here I’m going to point you to someone who has done a ton more research on the topic than me and talks about what a robe de cour is at great length with a ton more pictures:

How would we turn Belles’s golden gown into a 1720s/30s robe de cour?  The main thing I would change would be the sleeves: modify the drape over her shoulders into short cap sleeveshanging off the edge of her sholders, in the main dress fabric, and then add in lace lower sleeves to the elbow.  Get rid of the gloves, and attach a train from the waist.  I’d keep the more conical/dome skirt shape because it fits the earlier time period’s fashions and stays visually more true to the movie’s design. I think it would still feel very Belle, and still read as the movie costume, but with a bit closer hewing to historical gowns.



*As in, I’m pretty sure there was a mad Skype session where we divided up the costumes and who got to make which one.  I snagged the green library dress.