1895 Winter Project

Iz and Lucas in the Snow-1a

I have  done a lot of earlier Victorian (1876-86), but i have not really ventured into the 90ties ( though I did make a 1895 Ripple jacket for my Christmas outfit last year), so the Belle Epoche ideas had been brewing awhile here…

and then, a few moths ago, I saw this on Pinterest


I mean –  huge skirt ridiculous lapels, mega-sleeves, a very ugly hat – how can you not love it!? I immediately pinned it onto my 1890ties board and started planning…

It was a longer project i planned to do more or less over the Christmas break here – I don’t celebrate it, but many of my clients do, so there is a bit of a free time to carve for my own projects there:-)  I wanted to make  as many bits as I could in the gaps before the commissions and hopefully shoot it with a wintry landscape, should we be so lucky as to get any snow here.

starting ith the foundations..


I already had a corset cut to a Symingotn pattern ( patterned by Cathy Hay) – I made it for my wedding 3 years ago, when I was just starting my corsetry adventure, and so it doesn’t fit particularly well (  the back laces form () at the back, never a good sign.. ) Still, it survived 3 years of extensive use, and it looks nice and is very , very comfy…

Late Victorian Wear-31

my old ‘wedding’ corset in coutil and silk

Since I now had an excuse to make a new one, i set down to work. I redrafted the same patter to fit me better, and this time made it a one layer affair in a lovely  mink coutil from Sew Curvy. I also decided on external bone channels – and you can see the details on construction in the little video I put together – Here.

The blue flossing and external tape worked well with the mink colour and I put some antique lace at the top too.

It fits nicely and is comfy, and once it is properly seasoned ( worn for a bit, so that it adjusts to my body) i bet it will close in the back. Both corsets are 27″ waist.

Late Victorian Wear-37

Late Victorian Wear-43


The petticoat was easy – I used my old antique one:-)

Late Victorian Wear-26

To get the proper width of the hem, an underskirt was often worn too –  there are a few existing ones , and whereas some are made in cotton, there are a few made in silks, with rather nice lace – a very elegant affairs!

I  hunted out some nice lace on etsy and used leftover silk from my Regency gown

I used up 12 metres of that lace… all gathered and sewed in two tiers – to the hem and to the flounce


Late Victorian Wear-25

The skirt was next. I used a Truly Victorian Pattern for the Ripple skirt and it worked a treat! I made mine in boucle wool, with stiff cotton lining.

Late Victorian Wear-14


 The blouse – well, in this instance i ran out of time a bit and used a blouse I found on ebay, from Cotton Lane. Thy make pretty neat shirtwaists, that are not too different in construction from the proper stuff – and as I dislike sewing shirts etc, I simply plan to alter this one – I will remove the sleeves, cut out the pin tucked panel and the cuffs and sew them onto a proper, leg of mutton style sleeves in the same cotton. I will need to re-insert the collar too, to fit my neck better, but altogether I think it should pass muster – will update this post once it is done ( february, as want to wear it for the next market! )

 And then it was time to think about the coat….

 I wanted to make it in green wool and line with cotton. When I went wool shopping i was irrevocably drawn to the wool I used for mu 1876 February dress – lovely , napped fabric, soft and warm. I couldn’t say no…

 The lining was a rather pricey cotton flanelett – light, but soft, with a slight nap, to keep me war,

 Other ingredients included  rabbit fur,  linen interlining for the lapels and collar, tape for channels and lovely buttons made by Gina B.

   Looking at many original coats and patterns from the era, it is easy to notice that the coats dould me made either with bodice and skirts cut separately or together. I decided on the former – and adapted a pattern for the skirts from one of the coats shown in this book – 59 Authentic turn of the century patterns 

The bodice getting ready… I adapted a pattern of my old Victorian bodice and played with a mock up untill I had the correct shape of the lapels… took a few goes…



The ‘sleeves of doom’ were quite a challenge. I found  a pattern for the sleeves in the same book and played with them – they consisted of a normal sleeve, lined, and a puff . the sleeves are cut on the bias, to achieve the fitted forearm, and the puff is interlined and stiffened with layers of net…


the undersleeve


the puff with net being attached

 But the net and pleating wasn’t enough to achieve the desired look. shoulder supports were needed.

 I found a few pictures of them, and in the end settled on the wire  and tape ones. they go inside the puff, and are tapes are sewn onto the undersleeve.


I must admit that try as I might, the pleated effect seen on the original escaped me ( I almost got there with cartridge pleating but realised in the end  that i would have to have more fabric – and a different shoulder support, possibly with the wired running in the other direction, so that the pleats fill in between… just a theory.

 Still the sleeves did work out quite well…

   time to attach the skirt to the bodice… the bodice was boned on every seam and has a waiststay as well.


planning the waistsay


Thebuttons were next – they are decorative items, as the coat closed with hooks and eyes under the fur trim:-)

The hat was simply an adapted hat  from my 1876 frock – i simply drew the line at  making an ugly hat and decided to temporarily re-arrange an existing one – and since the brim was wired, it was easy to shape it differently, add feathers and a bow:-)

On the day we used a new backdrop for some of the pictures ( no snow here, alas) for a  cheesy Victorian postcard look, with the props being a few things we picked up on ebay – antique sledge and skates 🙂


 it was time to get dressed – and  I realised a bit of a mistake as soon as i put the coat on – the skirts were voluminous and heavy, squashing the shape of the  Ripple skirt, and dragging on the floor 😦 so that’s another thing I will need to sort out before a proper outing – cutting the hem short and probably adding a bit more stiffening to it too, to help it flare out.

 Apart from that I am very happy how it all turned out – and hope we will see some proper snow at some point to take better pictures!

  as it is – the results below:-)

Late Victorian Wear-2 Late Victorian Wear-2--4

Late Victorian Wear-4

Late Victorian Wear-20

Late Victorian Wear-19 Late Victorian Wear-17

  The cost.. ouch…

 corset – materials and labour – approximately £300,

 underskirt  – lace – £90, silk £30, labour £90 – £210

 ripple skirt – fabrics  – £50, labour – £150 – £200

 coat – fabrics and notions – £100, labour £300

 cheap blouse – £35  😉

 total – approx £1000….. plus the hat…

 Altogether  it was not the most expensive but not the cheapest set either – but it is comfortable, stylish  and more or less practical ( once you get used to the enormous sleeves) so I will be wearing it quite a lot for the markets etc, I think:-)

  And yes, I do love the sleeves… Power dressing!!!! 🙂 hope you like it too 🙂

 usual credits – Dressmaking – Prior Attire

 photography – Pitcheresque Imagery

 corsetry supplies – Sew Curvy

 Buttons – Gina B Silkworks, 

 Wool – Bernie the Bolt

 cotton lining, notions – Tudor Rose Patchwork

 Fur – GH Leathers 


Early Mantua – and La Maupin Style Shoot



I have always wanted to have a go at an early mantua – the period is relatively unrepresented, and I simply wanted to experiment with pleating and the look a bit more. Recently, I have been offered a perfect excuse – we were providing  accessories for a lingerie shoot, featuring a collection inspired by that ultimate famme fatale and adventurer – Julie d’Aubigny (1670–1707), better known as Mademoiselle Maupin or La Maupin. The lingerie company was non other than Kiss Me Deadly, photographer Iberian Black Arts, and the models were Threnody in Velvet, SINderella Rockafella and It’s Jess. The location –  the stunning White House in London, property of a Polish prince.  To boot, Gemmeus  was sending some pretty spectacular bling to be used in the shoot. How could I say no?

And so a deal was struck – I will provide shoes, wigs, swords, fans, hats etc, all loosely connected with 17 and 18th centuries, and  in return we could shoot our own historical stuff in the place.

And so the fabrics were purchased ( silk taffeta for the mantua, silk grosgrain for the skirt) and work started –   and in a few days the outfit was ready. The  article on making the mantua and fontage is already commissioned by Your Wardrobe Unlockd, so won’t disclose much about the process of making here- but I can post the finished outfit!

Below – a collection of pictures from the day , kindly taken by Pitcheresque Imagery

We were the first to arrive  – so we unpacked the delivered goods, and went to explore the house, planning the shoot….


Wigs and extensions galore….


my newest shoes from American Duchess came along for the ride too!


Bling from Gemmeus


And then the proper fun begun











mirror fun – standing hand in hand with myself…



more mirror fun…

And since the theme was La Maupin,  I simply couldn’t resist going back to my fencing days – so grabbed the prop and challenged the tog to a fight…



Fight, damn you!


and back to being civilized….


Soon after we finished, the girls  were about ready – all  suitably enhanced by the arts of Sammm Agnew

a few behind the scenes shoots….



Jess looking stunning….


Lucas all ready to do his bit as a prop in a role of a drunk/dead courtier…





girls at play

And even I got  put into the KMD  bra and girdle and told to play to the camera….. Sammm did a fantastic job transforming me into a perfect extra for a Meat Loaf video – scary as hell, but love the look!


yes…. you did not expect That in a post about mantua, right? 😉

The day finished with a  lovely group shot of the team



Many thanks to all involved in the shoot – it was a great day and I am looking forward to see what fantastic images will Morgana have for us!

Hope you enjoyed the post – a bit more eclectic than usual, but hey, variety is a spice of life!

The video  from the shoot can be seen here – enjoy!


Eleanor through the ages


 A slightly different post –  mostly to honour one of my most loyal customers – or, to be precise, a customer who, though the years of stitching, fittings, events etc, has became a very close friend. Eleanor now has a rather full wardrobe of Prior Attrie outfits, from medieval to Victorian –  and  I am going to present some of them below.

 The first contact was made through Ebay – Eleanor wanted to purchase one of the frocks i was selling – but needed it shorter..


the houppelande on offer…

Shortening the gown was no problem, so we met at one of the markets and I have sorted it on the spot.. and that’s how it started… that is also how I met Ian from Black Knight Historical – but this i think will be another post… 🙂


the gown on Eleanor, as Margaret Paston here

 12th century

 A gown fit for a queen – clothes for Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine

kirtle in silk, dress in silk with ornamental borders, veil and wimple


 13th century 

 middle / lower class kirtle and dress in wool

Image and another early 13th frock, here at the fitting – wool with embroidery


14th century

 a surcoat in cloth of gold – another queenly garment…


 and a bit more modest, a nun’s outfit – 13-14th century


15th century

 most of the work here was either kirtles for the camp or burgundian gowns – i have made 3… some of them below…


at Tewkesbury



Tewkesbury Abbey

16th Century

 here we started with an upper-middle class merchant’s wife..


at kelmarsh

 a bit posher…


at Blickling Hall, with a silk kirtle

and a silk velvet gown, for Peterborough cathedral

Image  An  early Elizabethan outfit – loose gown over a silk kirtle ( the same kirtle as above btw – it is reversible, plain gold on one side, brocade on the other….., coif and a cap


  17th century 

 alas, nothing as yet…. i think…

 18th century

 a pair of brocaded stays, silk petticoat and brocade jacket. event blog here

Imageclose up of the jacket…


 19th century

 Regency – a gown in silk – here as a Mrs. Bennett, with me as her daughter – more details of the event here



 a schoolmistress/egyptologist just a jacket by me. my first ever Victorian item too!


 was a 1883 suit for my wedding – Eleanor was my Matron of Honour:-)


then the mourning gown – work at Holkham ( blog  here)


1885 mourning gown

 and a 1884 evening gown, also worn for our Spectacular Ball


 I even did a Halloween corset and skirt for Eleanor – here worn for our Steampunk dinner at Coombe Abbey last autumn – not a best photo but we were too busy eating and having fun – so it is almost the only one I think…


  and for the time being – that’s it! Many thanks to Eleanor for being a perfect client and a perfect friend – hope you enjoyed the journey too!

Victorian Commission


In February I was commissioned to work on a rather exciting project – a set of 7 Victorian dresses, ranging from late 1860 to 1885,  with a couple of sets of underwear.

 The  clothes will be used in a rather exciting venture – a set up photography studio where people can book a complete victorian make over – dress up in all the layers and have their photos taken by professional photographer, resulting in high quality photos of themselves transported into another century. What a cracking idea! 

 The budget limits and the target audience of the clothes  meant taking a few shortcuts and freedoms – the client, in order to save time and money suggested using an overlocker on the inside seams and edges; petticoats sport elasticated bands to fit most sizes. Corsets will be mostly purchased online – a few suitable vendors were recommended, where the client can get cheap corset that will result in approximately silhuette, and which woudl be easily replaced with wear and tear.

 after a few emails and sending over different pictures, I received a set of pictures I was to base the dresses on.  The pictures were to serve as  guidlines only: the aim was to reproduce the look  and the feel within the budget specified for each garment.

 I must say, that was a perfect solution for me – as it also allowed me to use my ideas and creativity – and in the end the client actually got a better deal out of it as i was using far more lace, nice buttons and quality trims etc simply because I enjoyed working with the items and was making sure they are pretty!

 Even before we have signed the contract for the frock, the client bought the first Victorian gown I have ever made – my mother’s outfit for my Victorian wedding:-)


Mother of the Bride outfit in silk brocade and taffeta

  We have arranged for the undergrments to be made first and then each month i would complete 2 or 3 gowns,.

  the first batch: the undergarments:

 bustle cages and pads ( 2 cages and 3 pads altogether):


steel boned bustle cages, decorated with lace


one of the pads


cotton petticoats – 2 flounced ones, one Natural Form era petticoat


2 flounced petticoats worn on the bustle cages


Natural Form slim petticoat with lace and pintucks, worn on a pad

The dresses were next.

1. a dress in green silk


inspiration photo…


the rendition – in green silk, detachable lace cuss and optional belt. size 14




2. A dress in black and gold silk






black silk satin, gold taffeta, gold antique braid. size 12, so could try it on!


3. A polonaise


polonaise – the client requested cream instead of navy, and lace


skirt in silk taffeta, with lace overlay, polonaise in cream silk brocade, size 14



back unbustled



or bustled up


4. a Natural Form era dress in ivory and navy


the inspiration


rendition – silk taffeta in ivory and blue, size 14



too big, but had to try it on!


5. 1885 walking dress


the inspiration


rendition_ silk velvet and ivory brocade with pink pattern. size 12



and the inevitable happened..



6. a dress in red velvet…


the inspiration


red velvet, cream moire skirt, white lace



7. the same dress, but in black velvet, size 18


black velvet, white satin skirt,





 As a freebie, ii enclosed 2 hats – two boaters and 2 visiting, flashier ones.

 the boaters:




  Altogether, a very iinteresting commission that was a pleasure to work on – the client is very happy and we are currently discussing a similar order, for children’s clothing, also Victorian – so there may be a follow up!


 The moment the studio starts thier Victorian make overs, will post a link here too:-)

 Hope you have enjoyed  lookign and the results of the work as much as i have enjoyed making them!

Victorian/Steampunk Costuming Course

  I spent the last weekend in the well appointed studio belonging to a friend of mine, Julia Bremble. Julia is the corsetiere artist behind the Clessidra ( http://www.clessidra.co.uk) specialising in bespoke corsetry, and she also runs an online shop,  Sew Curvy, with corset kits and supplies.

 An author of a very helpful e-book on making corsets, Julia teaches corsetry as well – and her workshop is ofen used for courses and classes of other creative artists – Jenni Hampshire from Sparklewren holds regular classes there,  as is the owner of the lovely  Crikey Aphrodite.

Last weekend it was my turn, and we spent 2 lovely days working on Victorian bustle cages, bustle pads and petticoats – either in their proper Victorian form or with a twist, as Steampunk renditions.   Saturday was the bustling day. The aim was to produce either a traditional cage, or a steampunked one. Time permitting, we will also have a go at bustle pads.


Victorian bustle cage in cotton twill


Steampunk version – in silk, with funky decoration

The students, Jane and Helen, arrived on time and after a cuppa and a short chat we set to work.  The morning was spent on using the provided pattern to make their own versions, and the girls cut out the pieces and set about hemming them. Helen was creating a more traditional version of the bustle in white twill and lace, to go with the ball gown for our Spectacular ball in April ( https://www.facebook.com/events/146217962178037/?fref=ts), whereas Jane was making a more colourful version in brown cotton dill and red lace, leaning towards steampunk sensibilities.



channels sewn in, time to add the boning!

Apart from learning how to construct the bustle, both ladies had a go on  Julia’s sander,  filing their steel bones – i believe it was the first time for both of them! After lunch and a good chat, fuelled by leafing through the costuming books, the girls tacked the main task of the day  – boning the bustles.


Helen’s Bustle is slowly taking shape… the lovely lace was from Sew Curvy stock!

 One of the most challenging tasks was sewing the bustle together after the bones have been inserted – you can see that Jane is enjoying every minute of that particular task!


Jane taming the cage….

just the final touches:


measuring for the waistband…

and it was done!


back view


and the side view!

 We just had enough time left to have a go at the bustle pads – most work was done in the class, with the girls being assigned homework – finishing the pads and adding lace.


Helen’s bustle pad in embroidered cotton

 After such a busy day it was now time to hit the supermarket to get the provisions for Sunday’s lunch, and thenI spent a delightful evening at Julia’s, with her lovely family – i admit I was especially taken with their greyhound, Marley…


Lovely Marley

 Sunday was a day for petticoats.  Again, the aim was to make a flounced petticoat according to authentic Victorian patterns – though  there was an option of adding  some cunning bits and to make the petti into a steampunk dress…


Victorian petticoat on a bustle cage


same pattern but in Steampunk version – in different materials and with secret ties making it possible for the skirt to be bustled up on both sides

The stundents, Jane and Suzy, opted for the Sgteampunk versions, and after measuring and drafting the patterns, the girls were soon cutting out the fabric.


cutting out those flounces…

Both girls decided to trim their flounces with lace, and to speed the proces up we decided to use the overlocker for serging the edges – and it was their first experience with the machine.


Suzy learing how to use the overlocker


And Jane having a go – and loving it!

All the flounces serged and decorated, it was time for lunch and a chat, and then promptly back to work. and a lot of wark it was as we were sewing the flounces onto the back of the petticoats and that involved a lot of pins and a lot of patience.


Pinning the flounces. and singing along to the 80ties tunes coming out from Julia’s room to make th task more cheerful!

 After that it was just assembling the petticoats,  adding waistbands ( both  girls chose elesticated waists for ease and comfort), and it was done!  we did overun and the class ended a bit late, but the effect was worth it!


Suzy in her steamopunk petticoat – it will need support in the future, but as a first major sewing project, it was simply amazing:-)


and Jane in hers, here worn on the busgtle cage:-)


both girls at the end of the day:-)

 Altoghether, a very satisfactory and a very productive weekend –  there are more course planned on bespoke basis, so if you wish to have a go, check out the workshop page of Sew Curvy! http://www.sewcurvy.com/corsetmakingsupplies/cat_327295-Workshops.html

Detailed article with insgtructions how to make Bustle cages and petticoat, in both proper Victorian and Steampunk rendition are available on amazon – links  to UK sites below, but they are also available in the US or everywhere else in the world!

 How To Make Flounced Petticoats

How To Make a Bustle Cage