The Blouse Who Wouldn’t Grow Up


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.



Crop Top Bicentennial

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.


Extra Shiny Corset


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.


Big Guy Shirts


I am presently working on a series of custom shirts, for a man who, like many people, is not an “off the rack” size.



I have made him shirts that fit his girth without being large in the shoulder like his store-bought shirts.  He is very happy with them.  Here is a shirt being cut out, and you can see some of my early pattern alterations, to gracefully cover the belly:


Plus Size Winter Dress


Happy New Year!  My first completed project of 2018 was this warm, loose dress.  It is made from vintage fabric of an unusual type: it is a waffle weave thermal (like “long johns” undergarments) but out of silk fiber.  So it is drapey and a bit stretchy, ready to accommodate another layer worn underneath it (or perhaps several, as the weather demands).


Of course it has pockets.  You also see here a cowl I knitted to fill in the neckline.


I would call this dress a size 18, but it is not a “standard” size; the pattern is one I drafted for this woman’s body type.  If I made this dress for you, I could adjust the garment to best flatter your size and shape, whatever that may be.


3 piece Victorian suit, completed


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.

3-piece Victorian suit, in progress

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.