Saturday, September 21, 2013

Indienne Tea Dress Upgrade

It feels like it's been forever since I posted anything actually costume related, but there have been other things going on.

I've put aside my underfrillies project for right now and pulled one of my older dresses out of the closet to work on and, ultimately finish. My Indienne tea dress was originally started back in Fall 2010 simply because I was still on my high of getting into historical costuming (it was my second dress). After browsing through Heather's lovely collection of Truly Victorian patterns, I selected the 1869 Grand Parlor Skirt (TV202) and the 1873 Polonaise bodice (TV410) patterns. These were my reasons:
  • I wanted a bustle dress. The bustle dresses were the reason I first fell in love with the Victorian period to begin with, and I wanted a bustle dress dangit!
  • I loved the skirt. It had a train, was ginormous, and did I mention the train? Still rather ignorant of Victorian costume design, all I saw was the word "demi-train" and wanted it.
  • Being a poor college student, the idea of a bodice with the overskirt attached attracted me to the polonaise. It meant I only had to get one pattern rather than two. Ignoring the fact it said for "intermediate to advanced sewers only" I still bought it.

Well I made up both patterns plus the bustle with attached petticoat (TV101), again ignoring recommendations that I make up the larger bustle to support the larger skirt and ended up with this creation - an early 1870s early bustle tea dress.

Ignore the funny look, I was working with a school group when this was taken.
Totally psyched about my second dress coming out much better than my first (we'll revisit that horror story at some point), I wore it and loved it - for the time being.

I pulled the dress back out and wore it to my Dress U conference early this summer. As I pranced around in my lovely dress, I kept looking at it and all I could think was, "It needs more." Gone were my inexperiences of being a newbie sewer. I now had a better working knowledge of the costumes, trims, and the dress styles of the different periods. I wanted to upgrade!

It started right before the Canton Woman's Club Victorian Tea. My biggest gripe was the skirt for the outfit never hung right. It bugged me from day one but I wasn't sure what to do about it. I even sewed a false petticoat/lining underneath originally to help provide a bit of volume and attached a "dust ruffle" to the hem. All it resulted in was the outer layer of shantung silk kept slipping and never stayed in place.

False dust ruffle attached to lining
Note how the skirt just "hangs"
To solve the skirt problem, I decided to add some ruffles. After checking out The Art of Manipulating Fabric and skimming through for some ideas, I went to work. Three days before the Woman's Club tea I started, and it went downhill from there. Original plan, add one tier of ruffles to stiffen and weigh down the hem to make it hang correctly. End result - well let's just say it definitely wasn't what I had planned.

Ruffle work in progress. All my ruffles I usually gather by hand and pin.
While the skirt ruffling is done, now it's been a matter of flushing out small touches on the bodice. For example, after making my new corset, the bodice fits differently now. Because I am unable to adjust seams without taking the entire thing apart, I readjusted the placement of some of the buttons instead.

The top button ended up being moved almost two inches. Whoa!
And now that I'm in that whole, trim-is-an-awesome-thing-the-more-the-better, mindset, I decided to make a few bows for the dress as well. They'll be sewn to the center front of the bodice and at the top of the sleeve flare above the elbow.

Well before I even get started on the sleeve bows though, I had one other small task. As a newbie, I never gave the idea of serging a second thought. As an experienced sewer now, I mentally kick the 2010 version of myself in the posterior. Rather than hand sew all of those edges or be super lazy and fray check it, I did the unthinkable, I removed the sleeves of the bodice to overlock stitch them.

Removing the sleeves after 3 years
While it has still been awkward getting everything through the sewing machine, it's been going much faster than hand sewing (and we all know how much I hate that) and provides for a cleaner, finished product.

If you look at the photo, the fabric edges on the right are overlocked while the two on the left are not. It's not very clear, but you still see a difference in the smoother edges of the overlocked fabric. Anything I can't overlock stitch gets a bit of fray check just to keep everything from raveling. There's also a little bit of tacking to do in various areas and then hopefully it will be finished.

Now I'm sure there are a couple of people scratching their heads going, "Wasn't it finished before? You've already worn in and now you're just making changes."

This is my clarification. The Indienne tea dress has sat in an extended state of being Done. "Done" means it may not be finished, but it is wearable. I've always known that I would probably be making changes to this dress at some point once I learned a bit more in the trims department. "Finished" means the dress is not only wearable, but will most likely not have any further changes made to it either. Once I make the changes mentioned in this post, there are no other changes I see myself wanting to make and will therefore add it to the Finished costume category.

I will add though that if you talk to most costumers, there is no such thing as ever being "finished" with anything.

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