Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Mother/Daughter Dress Project: Some Construction Notes

As you might remember, my mother and I have been making 1870s natural form dresses to wear to the annual Fezziwig's Ball hosted by the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers. I've previously posted about my first real (long-overdue) foray into plaid matching in addition to some background research for the project.

I can happily say that we completed our dresses on time (mostly), and they were quite a success!

Mom and I at the ball, fully clothed
We mostly worked together on these: I would go out to my parents' house for the weekend, and we would take over the dining room to sew. Despite requiring a lot of supply shuttling to and from my own sewing stash, it was awesome to have someone on hand to help with fitting. It made such a difference. It was also really fun to have the company!

two of my three fabrics on the drafting board
In some ways, construction of both dresses was pretty similar. We both needed bustle pads, petticoats, underskirts, bodices, and overskirts. We started with the same pattern (TV416) for the bodice, but made very different bodices in the end, I think.

our mockups in progress: it's kind of amazing what a different just shortening the waist makes
I didn't use a particular pattern for the petticoats or skirt, but I took a look at the 1870s dresses in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion to figure out how to curve the seams at the top of the skirt panels. Actually, I treated the petticoats as experiments--they're a little wonky (though totally serviceable), but by the time I got to our actual skirts I had the pattern figured out. Hooray!

Unfortunately, the above picture is the only one I took while we were working. When I kept on working at home, I sent a couple of progress pictures to Mom, so I do have this one of my bodice in progress (no darts yet):

hooray plaid matching!

(Ok, I lied, I had two.)
I definitely learned how much easier it is to make things fit well with help during this project. I'm used to trying to do it on my own, or using my dress form, but having my mom pin darts and mark the mockup for adjustments was way easier and ended up with a much better fit. Something I'll have to remember for next time...I'll just start showing up at holidays with projects for her to help me with.

In the end, there are definitely some things for both dresses that need to be adjusted or changed for next year (Mom wants a new overskirt), but we managed to accomplish our goal! Mission accomplished.

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