Ongoing Project of the week: Bustle Dress

So, I’ve finally come full circle with my sewing. The very first historic garment I attempted was a bustle ballgown. I remember saving for months to purchase the fabric in high school and the frustration of working through a pattern that didn’t work at all with Grandma. The whole notebook of research and color combinations I worked on for a year, obsessively.  The whole thing still sits, a gigantic flop, in a box in the attic. Never worn. I never had the right pattern or the right undergarments to make it work, and little is left of the fabric to re-do it. Perhaps someday…

But right now, I’m again smitten by the remarkable and hideous shape. Perhaps someday, I’ll have an actual reason to wear it. The idea is “Fall”. And the year is the year before the demise of that fabulous bustle. When it was biggest and best. 1886. Why do I love it? Not sure. Perhaps it has something to do with what I don’t have in the trunk naturally, or the “prow of the ship” majesty of the silhouette.

I started right this time. No foolish, expensive but not-worth-it patterns. Just plain old research from originals. Starting with the bustle in hoopsteel.

But what fabric could I use? I have a nice dress-length of wool perfect for the dress in the cedar chest. A bright green teal. Most of the dresses for this era are wool. But, I have seen many heavier cottons. Turns out for this decade, it’s ok to use that upholstery cotton! And I think I have just the thing, a length of hideous, orange and brown cotton from a Gunlocke sale a few years ago. Don’t know why I bought it. The orange stripes are raised velveteen with chocolate brown between them. Stripes are another favorite of the time. No need to spend time studying the prints from then!

So that would be the bodice and apron and bustle. But the skirt. I can’t just use a petticoat from CW as the bustle will mess up the back. Plus, the heavy pleating at the bottom helps to keep things stable. I need to go to Jo-Ann’s anyway. Chocolate brown heavy cotton was found.

Of course, the creation has to have it’s own fabulous hat, complete with feather birds and fall foliage. Those too, were purchased! I found buttons that will work for now, but will need to be replaced later with antiques.

Today I finished the bustle and draped the fabric bustle. Next will be the skirt and apron and finally the tight, fitted bodice with postilion flared over the bustle and all the stripes matched up. A challenge! I want the sleeves just short of long (as was done) with brown cuffs and high standing collar. I’ll make it so the collar can be turned down and worn with a dicky or chemisette if it needs to be cooler. All I can think of is this cool pose with tight brown kid gloves and a long cane for some reason! Maybe I can wear it on the Mt Morris house tours this September?

Check back to see the progress I make!

Chapter 2:

I completed the skirt and the bustle apron. The skirt is simply chocolate brown cotton. It wasn’t quite heavy enough on it’s own, so it was fully lined with muslin. The pleating along the bottom was time-consuming, but worth it.

The apron was tricky, and I still might have to tack in the front pleats, but it looks great where the bustle meets it.

The whole shebang had to be sewn to a few waistbands. It was also difficult to place things along the waistbands since my waist and Iron Maiden’s waist are about 4 inches different.

Next up is to do the bodice. Tricky since I’m working with stripes. I made a muslin first and tweaked that, then used it to cut the actual fabric. I can’t believe how well it did come out considering how much it wanted to slip when being sewn.

A few shots on Iron Maiden to get a better view of the stripes.

I’m going to shorten the back of the bodice a tad so it makes a nice break at the top bustle there. I have to figure out how to finish the bodice edges. I’ve seen alot of piping in the Kyoto book, so I might do that, perhaps with just the plain brown.

Next will be sleeves. They need to be two piece (top and bottom) and I want a little flare at the top for range of motion, but can’t have too much. It isn’t the ’90’s yet! They should have a slight curve for the elbow and end just above the natural wrist. I think I want to do a contrasting brown cuff and collar with perhaps a stripe running through and pleats of lace to finish that off. Not sure if I have enough brown for the cuffs and collar AND the hat though.

I have found a problem. The bustle support is collapse-able, which is great, but it collapses while I’m walking, or when I get up from sitting. Then the whole back just looks wilty. I might have to concoct some sort of weights or something to keep the one section from riding up and causing the collapse. Maybe bean bags?

Published in: on July 6, 2010 at 12:09 am  Leave a Comment  

French and Indian War at Ft Niagara

So, it was hot. Very hot. Not even the stiff breeze coming off the lake could really fix that, but we had a good time anyway.  This is the way cool wooden British ship. It actually took some pot shots at the Fort during the battle.

I finally got Chris’s pants and jacket some fabric covered buttons (I give up on the Death Head ones. The thread won’t stop slipping off the molds!) and made him a new waistcoat of way-cool changeable linen. Got great comments on my gown from the proprietor at William Booth and Draper (!!!!!SQUEAL!!!) and the buttons.

I LOVE my new bonnet, and the new book of genre paintings I got justifies their use for the lower classes! yay!

We had a lovely little picnic and then Chris took a nap.

We met up with some friends:

And walked around the Castle speculating on how miserable it would have been to be here in the winter:

I started feeling a little ill as we walked around the merchants. At first I thought it was heatstroke, so I started drinking a ton. All I could think was, “Oh no, I’m going to have to get in an ambulance and I don’t know if my health insurance covers that!” But, as I made a run for the parking lot and air-conditioned car (one more reason to Love a Subaru) and ended up showing everyone my lunch! Luckily, the residents of the 1812 cemetery were already dead and didn’t see! I felt instantly better. Must have been food poisoning?

Published in: on July 5, 2010 at 11:46 pm  Leave a Comment