What could be more charming than a blouse with a Peter Pan collar? I recently finished one, and marvel at the fashion’s longevity over hundreds of years. This one I was commissioned to construct will be worn as part of a Victorian costume; but it could just as easily go under a school uniform jumper, or to church on Sunday. Even though your grandmother wore them in the 1950s, putting on a Peter Pan collar will not make you look old. Quite the contrary; it could be the start of your best Sweet Lolita outfit.
The sleeves on this white cotton blouse have a bit of curve, to move with you when you reach forward.
Here is the pattern I drafted for the collar, in case you would like the sewing reference.
About 200 years ago there first appeared a top that deliberately did not reach down to the waist. It was called a Spencer, and was a jacket to be worn over a high-waisted dress– since the light muslin dress of the Jane Austen era would not keep a lady warm on its own. I made one recently for a Regency event and then realized the style could be easily re-used for modern fashion. It is shown here with a skirt from my current line.
For an occasion when you may wish to look less cutesy and more sophisticated, I also patterned and sewed the crop jacket in grey. It will look elegant over a sheath dress.
The front of these is cut on the bias, a historical detail I may swap out the next time I make a Spencer as part of a modern outfit. The historical detail I am really fond of, and will continue exploring, is the placement of the sleeve seam. It does not run up the inside of the arm, like a man’s shirt sleeve, nor is it along the back of the arm like the two-part sleeve of a coat. It is between those locations, and is a great place for a subtle bit of ease around the elbow.
While I do enjoy dressing people from head to toe, not everyone is looking for a complete costume. So I also make little things, for adding a bit of flourish to your outfit for an event or special occasion. These fascinators can clip onto a lady’s hair or strap of her dress, or for gents they can grace his hatband or the buttonhole of his coat.
Each clip is one of a kind, but I do like to make variations on a theme.
I just made this octopus hat; it’s one of these delightful crochet projects I can make up as I go along, and play with it until it looks right.
He has eight arms, two eyes, and sits a little slouchy on your head when you wear him. My manikin is a smaller than average head, so she looks a little like the octopus is eating her. Maybe it’s a zombie octopus, after her brain?
If you’re looking for a good place to wear an octopus hat, Clockwork Alchemy (our local steampunk convention) is this weekend, at the Hyatt Regency in Burlingame (near the SFO airport).
Most of the corsets I create are meant to be worn as historical underwear, for theatrical productions and re-enactors. However this most recent commission is for a woman to wear on the outside, as part of a formal evening ensemble. She wanted “everything shiny,” so it is constructed of satin fabric and adorned with sequin trim. Here are some glimpses of my process.
Pieces have been pinned and are about to be stitched. The grey thread on the left was used for this step, then the shiny embroidery thread on the right was used later for topstitching.
After those first 4 seams were sewn, there were many more to go. There are 36 pieces of fabric in this garment, plus dozens of grommets and dozens of stays.
After the outer layer of satin, and the inner layer of heavy cotton (a special weave called coutil) were both assembled, I quilted them together by top stitching. This was the most challenging part, as the contrast makes every stitch obvious. The only way to not have any mistakes showing was not to make any.
The trim was stitched by hand onto the top edge and straps. A ribbon runs through the binding on the top edge, so the wearer can pull the drawstring as tight as they like for modesty or security. I used the same ribbon to lace up the back.
The skirt in the photo is merely one I had in stock; to go with the corset, I made the client a satin mermaid skirt, down to her ankle. Perhaps I will add a photo of it later if I can.
Another beautiful outfit is finished. This suit is charcoal grey wool.
The trousers are high waisted, designed to go across his belly button. While they are closely fitted, there is still room for his back brace.
I based the waistcoat on photos dated 1863, and it shows off his slim physique.
Here is the back of the coat, showing the long straight lines and lack of waist seam. While I could have deduced the shape from period photos, I was glad to find this pattern drawn in one of my books: The Cut of Men’s Clothes, by Norah Waugh.
Photos of the construction process for this project can be seen in the adjacent post.
I was recently commissioned to build a gentleman’s suit circa 1861. In my usual bespoke fashion, I measured the actor and drafted the pattern by hand to fit him. The construction process was long and detailed, but here are some glimpses to give you an idea.
Cutting out a sleeve, by tracing around my pattern pieces
Hair canvas I pad stitched into the chest front. The reinforced area is often as wide as it is tall, but this particular gentleman is quite thin.
Placing the welt, to begin making a pocket
Setting the sleeve. The loosely woven wool I was provided with frayed easily, requiring extra caution during most steps of construction.
Pressing the trouser hem on a roll. The hem has a gentle curve to it, so the trouser leg is longer in back than in front, as often seen in Victorian pants.
Pressing the coat collar over a ham. Traditional tailoring brings out many pressing tools that a non-sewist may never have heard of.