My Two Big Bodacious Costuming Goals…it’s not the destination, it’s the journey

SideWireDressformOne of the major reasons I haven’t been sewing garments, besides that elusive muse, is because I’m changing sizes. Losing weight (on purpose) is wonderful and requires a concerted effort. However, it becomes nigh on impossible to make a waist or a set of stays or anything with much of a fit when I don’t know what size I’ll end up. I know where I’d like to end up, but liking is one thing and getting there is another. (At my age my metabolism is nearly in a coma, so a little intake goes a very long way.)

But that itch to sew and create is back at long last, so what to do?

An 18th Century Gregorian Reflecting Table Telescope

18th Century Gregorian Reflecting Table Telescope

Rather than follow the HSM, I’ve decided to think in terms of dreamy costumed events I’d like to attend and set my sights accordingly. And if I’m going to chart a new course, why not lift my eyes and shoot for something grand and just a bit insane? Why not, indeed.

So, resolutely jumping in way over my head, I’ve chosen two very big Biggies – one I’ve known about for a while and one that I’ve just discovered: the annual Jane Austen Festival in Bath, England, and the 18th century evening (Les Fêtes Galantes) at the Palace of Versailles, France.

Neither of these is going to happen any time soon. 2018 sounds like a good target, although there is a slim chance (no pun intended) I could be ready for Bath by next fall. We shall see. Heaven knows I’ve done crazier things.

Here’s my current catalog of acquired and/or finished items for each event.

  • Bath: period boots, stockings, chemise, stays, petticoat, fichu. Multiple outfits required. Have patterns for gowns, caps, bonnets, turbans, overdress, redingote, spencer, cape, mitts and reticules. Lots of fabric, too.
  • Versailles: not a thing – zip, zilch, nada, rien. Single outfit required. Have pattern for chemise. Have fabric for pocket hoops.

And so, as you can see, I’ve a lot of sewing ahead of me. Fortunately, the garments on the “to do” list have quite a lot of diversity – I don’t think I’ll get bored. And I hope the enticing goal events will help keep me going when I get frustrated and/or stuck – which is likely, considering this is all new territory for me.

Since I’m currently shrinking (and, hopefully, not re-expanding) I think my best bet for now is to stick with things that don’t require a close fit or a specific size.

For the festival in Bath that means working on the cap, bonnet and reticule(s). The cap I’ve been fiddling with has become a veritable thorn in my side. The cotton organdy is way too stiff and heavy…it’s more like a bonnet than a cap. So I’m going to start over and use a fine linen this time. The former cap may actually become a white summer bonnet with some trim added to spice it up a bit.

Remember this? I do. Grrrr...

Remember this? I do. Grrrr…

For the “do” at Versailles it means starting with the chemise, since that’s the only pattern I have at the time. If I’m going to do 18th century French fashion at Versailles I want to do it right: inside-out and bottom-up. In that spirit I’ve just ordered some 3-ounce handkerchief linen (WLG119) from Wm. Booth, Draper – enough for a chemise and that pesky late Georgian cap.

Who knew my muse would come back with this? I’m really hoping I don’t have to make another set of Regency stays, although worse things could happen and likely will – I’ll need to make myself a set of 18th century stays, after all.

After that will come a set of pocket hoops. I’m planning on using the pattern from J.P. Ryan and already have fabric for them.

JP Ryan #14 - 18th Century Pocket Hoops Pattern

JP Ryan pattern #14

But first, the chemise. And so the games begin.


The 1912 Petticoat is Underway

c. 1912-1914

c. 1912-1914

After looking through the many styles of petticoats available for the woman of 1912, this extant example inspired me to go with a high waist and front closing. The first will let the shape of the petticoat echo the shape of the dress, the second will make dressing easier for me (and I’m all for that).

This project marks a first for me: I’m not using a pattern. I’m designing the petticoat as I go, draping fabric and fiddling with the fit. I figure it’s going to be hidden, so I may as well take advantage of that fact and learn a thing or two about getting the concept in my head translated into what’s on the dress-form.

I’ve also decided that, unless I end up with a flaming nightmare, I’m going to use it as my loooong overdue project for HSM #1 (Foundations) that should have been finished at the end of January. At this late date it won’t officially count. No matter…I’ll have a petticoat.

Here’s where I am so far. I decided to use the remainder of the lightweight cotton I’d used for a chemise last year. It’s probably not historically correct because it has a faint herringbone weave to it. But it’s semi-sheer, breathes like crazy and washes like a dream.

I want a square neck, sleeveless petticoat that opens in the front, so I started with the bodice pieces: one back and two fronts. My long-ish Victorian corset is on the dress form, still padded out to my (current) dimensions. I left my old chemise underneath it to mimic the layer of fabric from combination suit that will be replacing it. I don’t think it will make much difference because I don’t have to worry about fit around the natural waistline. To be absolutely accurate, I should be making the combination suit first, but I wanted to do the petticoat. So I did. Am. Whatever.

I was so pleased about starting on the petticoat that I neglected to take any photos of the plain bodice pieces on the dress-form after they’d been cut, pinned and sewn. My bad. I finished off the seams, which is when I remembered taking pictures would be useful.

2007-02-04 00.36.09

Wrong side – finished seam

I want a wider neckline, so I marked and cut an additional inch all the way around.

Widening the neckline

Widening the neckline

I have some old beading lace that I want to use around the neck, so I marked 1/4 inch around the neck, folded 1/8 inch then 1/8 inch again, and turned the edge down toward the right side (i.e., outside). Yes, the outside. I cheated with a drop of FrayCheck at each corner…just in case (small sin, big comfort).

clip corners, turn raw edge outward, fold under and hem.

Clip corners, turn raw edge outward, fold under and hem.

And this is why the raw edge gets turned toward the outside of the petticoat – when the beading lace is sewn on it covers the tiny hem. Now I have my lace sewn onto a clean edge while the inside edge had been finished at (almost) the same time.

Some old beading lace from my stash.

Some old beading lace from my stash.

I sewed the beading lace across the back and up over the shoulders. Then I stopped to play around with some different looks.



You may notice the odd, kinda bubbly-looking dart on the left side at the waist. The reason it’s there is because I’m going to start taking a medicine and it’s number one side effect is weight gain. (Yeah, the fun never stops.) Anyway, I want to build in some easy latitude…again, just in case. So I put a dart in but did not sew it closed; it’s only folded and stitched as the base. The petticoat will have a drawstring-gathered waist so altering, if needed, shouldn’t be too difficult.

Here’s what the open dart looks like and my attempt at making it not too crazy obvious by hiding it under the edge of the beading lace.

I decided I like the “hidden dart” approach, so I’m going with it.

Front beading lace pinned into place.

Front beading lace pinned into place.

I need some 1/4-inch ribbon before I can sew down the rest of the beading lace, so I that’s on tomorrow’s To Do list. I’ll also decide exactly where I want the high waist to hit, then cut the panel for the petticoat skirt. I’ve got a ton of vintage embroidered cotton lace – enough for a layered-look hem. Might throw in a tuck or two for the body of the skirt. Maybe more beading lace with ribbon for a dash of extra color.

This designing is great fun. As always, I play with options and make changes as I go. Can’t wait to see what I end up with!

Edwardian Undies – What, When and Where.

Window display of unmentionables (underwear). Lewisham High St., England. 1901

Window display of unmentionables (underwear). Lewisham High St., England. 1901

When trying to reproduce a style from a certain era I try to be as accurate as I’m able/willing to. And accuracy starts from the skin and builds outward. It’s the basis for getting things to look right – the under layers must be correct or the outer layers won’t be. Which means that before I start on my 1912 dress I want to understand 1912 underwear.

The Victorian period and early Edwardian years followed a standard pattern. The style of dress changed through the decades but the under layers remained essentially the same:

    • chemise
    • unders/drawers
    • stockings
    • boots/shoes
    • corset
    • corset cover
    • bustle (starting in the early 1870’s and gone by 1890’s)
    • petticoats – lots and lots of petticoats


"Help me! Is this right?"

“Help me! Is this right?”

It took me all of about two minutes to realize that doesn’t apply to the Edwardian era. Until I started planning my sewing strategy I hadn’t really paid attention to just how many changes happened in such a relatively short period of time. It’s the reason we’re able to delight in such a variety of fashions when watching Downton Abbey – shapes were moving from antique to modern at a rapid rate. (See end of post for a montage of style from 1901 to 1914 to see the changes, year by year.)

The underwear required to support the silhouette of 1905 was different from that required in 1912, and different again by the WWI years (1914-1918). I thought I had a good start with the Edwardian and Edwardian reproduction underwear I already had. Not so. The things I have work for the early Edwardian years of nipped waists and flowing skirts. None of them will work for the columnar styles of 1912. For this, I don’t want bulk – I want sleek.

Enter the revised underwear list for 1912:

  • combination (also called a combination suit = chemise top + drawers on the bottom)
  • stockings
  • boots/shoes
  • corset
  • a single petticoat
  • a dress (or blouse and skirt)

Fewer layers and a lot less poundage. I can do that. And I already have what I need in my stash.


Combination Underwear: I have Truly Victorian #TV105, a small mountain of muslin and period mother-of-pearl buttons. I’m going to make it sleeveless to accommodate a variety of dress styles and fabrics.



This is what “combination suits” looked like by 1914. TV105 is obviously more Victorian in style, but it will do.




Corset:  A while back, I had a 1912-style corset custom-drafted to my measurements by AriaCouture. It’s named “Rose’s Corset” and was inspired by the corset worn by Kate Winslett in Titanic. I also have some lovely robin’s egg blue coutil that I’ve tagged just for this. I may or may not be able to get it done in time, it’s last on the “to be sewn” list, but I have a long-ish Victorian corset that I can use. But Edwardian corsets have interested me for a long time, so I’d like to get it made someday. (Photos courtesy of AriaCouture)


Petticoat: Happily, this will not be a monstrous fabric-eater that requires endless hours for gathering layers of flounces and ruffles. Even better, I only need one. I can make it either princess-style or with an “empire” waist, but since my 1912 dress has a raised waistline I’ll probably go in that direction. Either way, I’m eager to finally use a lot of the antique and reproduction lace I’ve been hoarding diligently collecting.

Or I could just jump two years ahead and go with a 1914-style petticoat, which would serve quite as well.

fortunately, I have a handful of dress patterns that will easily convert into a proper petticoat, and that mountain of muslin. I also have Folkwear #226 Princess Slip pattern, but it needs serious altering so I’m trying to avoid it.



And that’s it for the underwear department. The muslin is in the wash for the combo and petticoat as I write this. In addition, any one of these will fill the gap for HSM#1 – Foundations. (More than a bit late, but better late than never.)


Disclaimer: I am not a fashion historian, just a fashion history student. This is by no means a rigorously researched tutorial. These are the changes I notice happening throughout the Edwardian years.

1901-1904: The S-bend corset, wasp waist and pigeon front. Skirts are smooth at the waist and hips, then flare at the hem.

1905-1907: Droopy pigeon fronts go away and a smoother line is favored. Skirts are fuller, starting to flare at the hip.

1908-1911: A variety of waistlines are worn, but they steadily move upward. As the waistlines move up, skirts become more columnar.

1912: The waistline is up and stays up. Skirts are straight.

1913: The waistline starts drifting a bit again. Skirts gain a more ease in the hips, but lose it at the hem.

1914: Silhouettes are loosening up. Overall form is less structured, skirts are hobbled. WWI begins and the Edwardian period is long gone.

Then styles start to go crazy. Waistlines come and go, rise and fall, and shapes evolve rapidly as the effects of war are felt until its end in 1918, by which time most shape has been completely lost.



A Need to Re-Think My 2015 Plans. Or Not.

(original source unknown)

(original source unknown)

DELUSION n. A belief that is unsupported by the facts. SYN. illusion, mirage, self-deception, misconception, fantasy, “pipe dream”, figment of the imagination.

Now that I know there are twice as many HSM challenges as I thought there would be, I need to take a step back and look at that project list again. Or find a better pharmacy. Or both.

Although it would be tons of fun and I’d learn a lot, the single most expensive item, by far, is Costume College 2015. Airfare. Dog sitter/ boarding kennel. Hotel room, even if I share with someone else. Food and beverages. Four complete costumes. And I won’t kid myself, I know I’ll come home with additional goodies from those fabulous vendors…they’re right there – at my fingertips.

I started the 18th century outfit and I want to finish it…there’s not much left to do and it’s all easy.

I’m going to finish a Regency/Georgian outfit, as I’ve already said, if it kills me.

I’m also doing the HSM, at least as many challenges as I can.

I also want to finish the Victorian dress. It needs a finished overskirt, which is half done, and it needs a bodice, which is a lot like the first Victorian bodice I made.

And for reasons I can’t explain, other than a mild moderate complete break from reality, I am drawn to the 17th century challenge. Totally new territory for me, which is part of the appeal (and, I can bet on it, the source of many a difficulty). But we are given an entire year to complete one costume and I’m going with a servant’s outfit, so no over-the-top mountains of silk, Cavalier sleeves, neck ruffs, heavy jewelry, exposed cleavage, metallic embroidery and eternal miles of lace.

(original source unknown)

(original source unknown)

I’m pretty sure I’m not ready for this. But I’m pretty sure I’m going to do it anyway.

Leaving out Coco and the Victorian bustle dress, here’s how the math looks:

18th century:

  • need overskirt, bedgown, apron, fichu and cap
  • only need fabric for overskirt or apron, depending on which ends up where
  • total number of items to make = 5


  • need gown, cap, fichu and spencer (or cloak)
  • already have the fabric and patterns
  • total number of items to make = 4

HSM 2015:

  • I only know what the first challenge is
  • already have the pattern and fabric for it
  • total number of items to make = 12

17th century:

  • still deciding on which painting to use for the reproduction, but going servant
  • need the lot – cap, fichu/kerchief, chemise, jacket/top, apron and 2-3 petticoats
  • have pattern and fabric for the cap, fichu/kerchief and under-petticoat
  • total number of items to make = 6 (can re-use the fichu and 2 petticoats

That’s 27 pieces of clothing, not counting Victorian (2) and CoCo (a lot). Impossible, at least for me. Fortunately, the 17th and 18th century items are neither fussy nor difficult. (Rationalization? You bet!)

Prioritizing the projects:

  • Let go of CoCo for next year. As much as I want to go, it’s just not practical financially, even if I got a college scholarship.
  • The Regency/Georgian (whatever I end up with) can wait until later in the year, but want to be done in time for Jane Austen’s birthday celebration on December 16th. (The year was 1775.)
  • Do the hand sewing (the caps, fichus and all the hemming) at night, while watching the tube.
  • Get going on HSM #1 (due January 31st).
  • Make 18th century top petticoat, bedgown and apron. Not at all difficult, so get them done NOW.
  • Work on the 17th century things throughout the year (and yes, that does mean I can expect a mad scramble at the end).
  • Keep an eye on HSM – pick my battles.
  • March is Victorian Heritage Festival time. Can I finish the dress in time? We’ll see how it shakes out.
  • Stay open-minded and flexible – change whatever as needed.

As you can see, the only thing I’ve actually removed from the list is CoCo 2015 and all of those costumes. (If I’m going, I’m going with costumes.) That still leaves way too many.

My decision: I’m going to head into this adventure expecting the obvious inability to get everything done. Then whatever I do manage to complete will be its own little celebration. So I’m just going to start and work my way through as much as I can. Piece by piece, costume by costume, era by era.



“Toile” You Were Waiting

Corset a la Ninon, 1810, Costumes Parisiens

Corset a la Ninon, 1810, Costumes Parisiens

As unbelievable as it may seem, I’ve actually managed to start hand sewing the toile for my Regency long stays. As I’ve mentioned before, I know that the Regency stays are all about “up and out” and nothing else; they are not meant to shape anything, only provide a fabric display shelf for the girls. I know it’s early in the game, one I’ve not played before, but I am already concerned.

Victorian corset bust gusset

Victorian corset bust gusset

For my first corset I used The Laughing Moon Silverado pattern. I knew that I would need gussets out the kazoo to accommodate this body. There were fits and starts and more fits. I even learned that, under the right circumstances, corsets can fly across an entire room.



“Someone” also discovered if an otherwise (mostly) competent seamstress accidentally makes a huge snag in very nice corset brocade after the corset is completed, hiding the flaw under a dragonfly applique works wonders, even if it looks like the dragonfly is trying to hold the left boob aloft. But I was pleased with the final outcome.

Not too bad for a first try, in my (ahem) humble opinion.

Left demi-cup, toile

Left demi-cup, toile

Both demi-cups, toile

Both demi-cups, toile

But that was then and this is today so I need to get going. Working with unbleached muslin, I cut the front and added the bust gussets. The pattern suggested going down a cup size to start, so I did, from DD to D. After snipping and basting, the demi-cups don’t look right. I am endowed somewhat like the woman in the 1810 illustration above. This is how the demi-cups look at the moment.

Or, as seen by My Lord, Your Grace, Pervical Haversham Fitzroy Lusty-Breeches…

Scoping out the toile

Scoping out the toile

The Victorian corset, a comparative view.

Victorian corset, a comparative view.

The Victorian corset fits quite well. As you can see, the corset half-cups are larger than the Regency version. Yet when I held the front of the toile up to get a baseline, the girls basically disappeared…much like watching a Florida sinkhole in action. This is supposed to be the Regency, for heaven’s sake, and sinkholes will not do. Additionally, there is the risk of severely disappointing Lord Lusty-Breeches and I would be in remiss to offend him thusly. (And who knows? There could be a lovely title and a fine estate riding on these four little pieces of muslin!)

So, I may have to go down another cup size. (“C is for Constricting.”) I’m afraid the girls will be at my throat, and I am fairly certain the “snorkle-busk” had not yet been invented.

I can only take my time and get the toile to fit as best I can. Today I’ll be working on the sides, back and hip gussets. Perhaps when it is all together it will make more sense and I won’t have to issue the girls flashlights. On second thought, Lord You-Know-Who might find such a thing rather marvelous and entertaining.

PS – Sorry about the “punny” title: once it was in my head there was no getting rid of it so you get to share my pain.

A New Blog Name is Born


It’s right there in front of me, why can’t I see it?

When I decided to create this blog and share my…uh…efforts at accurately re-creating period dress, I had one heck of a time naming it. The concept was right in front of me, but I couldn’t put it into words that would 1) give (potential) readers an idea of what it’s all about, 2) be catchy, and 3) be easy to remember. Seemed an easy enough thing to do.

It wasn’t.

I fiddled and faddled, twisted and tweaked, and massaged and massacred phrases trying to get the title just right. And nothing worked. No matter what I came up with, it didn’t succinctly focus on the content. Everything sounded clunky and amateurish (not desirable). So I chose what I felt was the least objectionable of the lot – Yesterday’s Threads Today – and went with it. But every time a wrote a post, every time I saw that name I winced – it just wasn’t right.

And then, bingo! My brain started knocking on my forehead – its way of telling me it’s had the puzzle on the back burner all this time, percolating away, and something has finally gelled. (So much better than congealed, as my previous efforts had been.)

All of which is an overly long and circuitous way of saying…

birthday balloons


Easy to say, easy to remember (hopefully), and fulfills my writer’s love of alliteration (just in case the third paragraph didn’t give it away). Awww…gosh…jeepers…it’s just what I wanted. <sniff>

PS: Anyone using the old site name should be directed here automatically.

So…uh…What happened to 1865?

Godey's magazine, October 1865

Fashions in Godey’s Lady’s Book, October 1865

I’ve spent a fair amount of time today looking for all the things I’ll need for my first upcoming period-dress event. It will be held in June and will be outdoors. June weather is pretty fickle around here, so it’s anyone’s guess whether we all will be in rain, wind, cold, or very warm. Keeps you on your toes.

I’ll be making an 1865 day dress and I’m trying to get everything right, head to toe – or as close as I can get for a first outing. So far, I have the pantalettes, chemise, corset, and hoop crinoline. I’ve discovered that I’ll also need a petticoat to go under the hoops and one to go over the hoops. That makes sense; no sweat. And I have a parasol. So far, so good.

Since a day dress from 1865 is not horribly fussy or involved (I hope), with any luck the fitting and sewing will be straightforward. Full disclaimer: I said that about the corset. And was wrong. Really wrong.

1865 day dress fabric

1865 day dress fabric, by Reproduction Fabrics

This is the dress fabric. I like the colors and it looks “happy” to me. At least it will look “summer-y” even if it’s 53 degrees with a 20 miles-per-hour wind. I confirmed the colors were correct for my woman-of-a-certain-ageness (yay – no madder and brown!!).

So, the pattern, the fabric and everything in the “unders” and “over-unders” categories are fine. I even managed to locate a reasonably authentic-looking pair of shoes, square toes and all, that will suffice until I can afford a good pair of reproduction shoes. If I keep my hemline low to the ground and shuffle a lot, no one will notice. I hope.

Today I went looking for an 1865 hat/bonnet and hair style. Either everyone was so glad the Civil War was over that the survivors spent 1865 in a dazed state of recovery (who could blame them?) or 1865 was the year ether was discovered and no one remembers it. There are loads of info for reenactors from the Bronze Age to 1864. Then there’s a blank space. And we pick back up in 1867. 1865, and its next door neighbor 1866, have mostly vanished from the fashion records.

Take Godey’s Lady’s Book, the be all and end all of women’s fashion until 1877. I’ve poured through a few hundred pages and found a total of 6 that pertain to 1865. The online articles I’ve read about the bonnets of the period are contradictory. Spoon bonnet: yes and no. Snood on hair with hat: yes and no. Stockings – don’t get me started.

I know that I will eventually figure out the hair and whatever will go on top of it. It’s just that it’s kinda weird that it’s so hard to get firm information. Two hundred years from now, people will probably be saying the same thing about the 1960’s. But that will be easier to explain.

And I anyone out there knows of a dead-on source for accurate 1865 hair and what one can plop on top of it, please do let me know. I need all the help I can get for this mystery year.