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The New ‘Little Red Dress’

noblesidecroppednoblesidefarcropped noblesleevecroppednoblefull2cropped

Well, here it is, finally- the fully constructed dress from
‘A Diary of a Work in Progress’ The image
processing isn’t quite up to par, so these may take a while to download. (The
sempstress recently changed jobs – I’ve gained more time for sewing and significantly
lower stress levels, but lost access to all the cool graphics utilities I used
to have at my disposal. I’m working on it….)

For technical and construction details, please get ye over
to the aforementioned diary. This particular gallery page is mostly a gloating
area. (She says, as though the rest of them *aren’t*?!)

All in all, I think the whole thing turned out rather nicely.
As far as the rather peculiar angle of the hat feather goes, well, it was windy
when my dad took the pictures. Really windy. Windy enough to move the skirts
on this thing around. (Note: I estimate the weight of the dress (dry) at 50-60
lbs total. Most of that is in the skirts. Note re: Note: I said dry. The first
day I wore this dress to faire, it up and poured in the afternoon. As the dress
is not water soluble (unlike some others), I tromped around in it. In case you
are wondering, that much cotton velveteen/heavy cotton interlining holds a *lot*
of water.) These are pre-season shots, so I was still working out a few technical
bugs in the way the whole thing went together. I have a theory that no dress
is ever fitted properly until it’s been worn a few times and you have found
out how it reacts to heat, movement, sitting for long periods of time, attempts
to scratch one’s own back, how it resettles after the Great Adventure of the
Privy, etc etc etc. It’s one thing to get it all right on the dress dummy –
but Janey doesn’t move! Most people who sew historic garments are not employed
in the making of museum replicas. We make clothing. Clothing is a moving, living
art, and you have to account for that. That means that if you want the darn
thing to look “right” on the first day of faire, then you prolly ought to find
an excuse to wear it for at least a few solid hours before opening day. Alrighty.
Enough of that rant.

Actually, for the moment, that’s enough of the words entirely. The couple people who have
mailed me politely requesting that I get off my rump and post pictures were, frankly, more interested in the pictures than the
words anyway. And I, obsessive little beastie that I am, have a few hats to whip out and some vague notion of making a <a
href=redochre.shtml>new lower middle class dress before saturday (it is thursday today) based off of the utterly charming
picture of the spinster on page 716 of my Norris (Tudor Costume and Fashion). I haven’t had a new dress to wear to faire in
weeks now. ;)

Oh, as a bit of a spoiler, the next set of pictures on this
one will show the complete waist skirting (27 $?*!! tiny little tabs), my new
attifet (of the constructed french hood variety, not the ‘attacked by a rabid
doily’ variety), and more beads. “When in doubt, add more beads” is the motto
of the noble, and I, my dears, am simply not a very confident person. Lots and
lots of beads……

For a large closeup of the paned sleeves and ruff, <a
href=”../pictures/realpieces/noblesleevecropped.jpg”>click here.


  1. Gina
    Gina January 13, 2010

    About skirts open in the front. What is the trick to getting them to spread like a V? I have one pattern that hs you cut the front side seam at an angle that would pull it over. But I like to use a-line or gore shaped skirt pieces to minimize thickness at my waist. What do you suggest?

    Also, if you can ever give us instructions on an attifet hat or french hood, that would be really great. If nothing else you have given me the inspiration to play with straw hats. I think I can come up with some doozies.

    Thanks for your blog!
    Gina In California

    • missa
      missa January 14, 2010

      The best tricks I have for keeping skirts open in that classic inverted V are:
      -Cut the skirt panel on the straight of the grain at the edge. Bias edges will stretch and become longer over time, creating either a tripping hazard, or a weird boofy sort of look against the trim.
      -Interline the front edge with something serious, like that narrow faux-buckram stuff they sell at fabric stores for redoing the skirting on upholstered chairs and such. (It’s about 4″ wide and should be hanging out in the shadowy isle reserved for people who think couches contain user-serviceable parts. If you can’t find that, use a mid-weight pellon interfacing. You’re trying to mimic the effects of the coarse (stiff) linen or buckram interlining strips seen in period pieces.)
      -Let the farthingale (or support skirt if choice) do the work. The sort of basic nature of straight lines going down a cone shape is to spread farther apart as they reach the bottom, because there’s more cone at the bottom than at the top. You can help this effect by setting the front panels into the waist band on an angle – that will keep the top of the skirt smooth at the top so you don’t get those weird boonchies you see sometimes at the top of rennie skirts.
      -Finally, there are two terrifically period solutions to keeping the skirts just so: Pins and ribbon points. I’m personally a fan of pinning the lining of the overskirt, the underskirt, and any other layers straight in to the farthingale. In a perfect world, you have someone who knows how to do this helping you, because it’s pretty much impossible to do while wearing the skirt in question. (Well, ok, not absolutely impossible – I have done it, and it involved using a stick to hold the layers together while trying to bend and get to them really really fast before everything shifted.) If you have no suitable helper, but do have a dress form, you can pin everything together on the form and then don the layers all in one go. Again, tricky. Best to train a helper. Alternately, ribbon points attach the overskirt to the underskirt with cutey little bows – you’ve probably seen these in period pictures. Ribbon bows are neatly spaced out along the edges of the overskirt. One ribbon is on the underskirt, and the corresponding one is on the overskirt. Tie them together, and now the overskirt can’t shut. (If you’re in theater, you make fakey-bows on the overskirt, and use gianormous snaps to do the actual work.) In my experience, this works best when your underskirt is roughly the same size and shape as your support skirt, so it doesn’t move round.

      Now, as far as bulk at your waist, that’s really an occupational hazard in wearing elizabethan costumes, you know? The volume of fabric at the waist actually helps make the waist look smaller if you’ve got the right line to the front of the bodice. *shrug* However, you’re correct in that most period patterns do show gores so that there’s more skirt at the bottom than the top, and the whole thing falls in nice folds all the way down over the farthingale.

      Happy hatting! I’d love to see pics of the results. “Doozies” has me curious….

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