|Finished Christmas Caroling Dress|
Well, having done my research on mid-Victorian women's fashions, I knew that it wasn't an excessive amount of fabric; it was period-correct. There are other patterns out there for "Victorian costumes" with way less fullness in the skirt, and those would definitely be easier to make, but less authentic. Of course, my skirt was further complicated by the silk organza underlining that I felt my silk shantung fashion fabric needed in order to hold up to repeated wearings, resist wrinkling, and support the weight of the trims. So the first thing we did after cutting out the skirt panels was to hand baste silk organza to the wrong side of each panel, with perpendicular lines of basting through the center of each piece to align the grain and then basting around the perimeter of each piece through the seamline. Then, because my silk shantung frayed so badly and so immediately, as soon as I seamed the panel widths together I pressed the seams open and then serged both sides of the seam allowances to put an end to the ravelling. (How do I love my serger? Oh, let me count the ways...)
|Inside of Skirt, Organza Underlining, Serged Seam Allowances, Skirt Facing Attached|
For my dress, I put on the hoop skirt and shoes that I would be wearing with the costume, held up the center front skirt pattern piece with the fold line right at the waistband of my hoop skirt, and looked in a full-length mirror to check the length of the skirt without adjustments, knowing that there was a 5/8" seam allowance at the bottom of the pattern piece. I decided to add 2 1/2" to all of the skirt pieces before cutting them out (I'm 5'7" tall and my shoes have about a 2-3" heel).
|My Hoop Skirt, Found on Amazon here|
|My Petticoat, Found on Amazon here|
That's how these enormously full skirts were supported back in the day, and without those crucial undergarments to lift the skirt and spread it out in a graceful bell shape, this dress will be way too long and will look like a mess. If you don't want to wear hoops and petticoats, this pattern is not for you. My hoop skirt was very inexpensive, and it has given me a bit of trouble. I thought it would be fine at first, but the finished skirt seemed kind of empty with just the hoop skirt, the rings of the hoops showed through as ridges on the front of the skirt, and the drawstring waist has a very skinny string like a shoelace that cut into my tummy uncomfortably. My mom replaced the drawstring with a wide, firm elastic and again, I thought I was good. But when my petticoat arrived (which makes my dress look SO MUCH BETTER), the weight of the petticoat was making the elastic waist of my hoop skirt slide down on my hips. The bottom of the hoop skirt was hanging out beneath the hem of my dress and I tripped on it several times. So I cut off the bottom hoop and serged the raw edge of the hoop skirt about an inch and a half below the 5th hoop. So far, this is working much better. My petticoat was a lot more expensive than the hoop skirt, but it is perfect right out of the box without any of these annoying trouble-shooting alterations. It has a firm waistband that closes with Velcro, lining on the outside and inside of the voluminous ruffled netting layers that give it its fullness, and is a much more appropriate length to support a full, floor length dress without sticking out at the bottom.
|Steam-A-Seam 2 Lite, found here on Amazon|
|In Process of Turning Up Facing and Fusing to Silk Organza|
|Top Edge Of Skirt Folded Down, Stitching On the Fold Line|
But before you start pinning in the folded and stacked pleats, you have to hand stitch gathering threads for your cartridge pleats at the back of the skirt. Unlike the stitches you put in for regular gathering and easing, the stitches for the cartridge pleats must be perfectly aligned and identically spaced in order for the pleats to draw up properly like an accordion when the threads are pulled.
|Tiger Tape, available here at Amazon|
|Using Tiger Tape to Guide Hand Stitching|
|Gathering Threads for Cartridge Pleats, Ready to Go|
|Gutermann Polyester Upholstery Thread, available here|
|Whipstitching Stacked Pleats to the Waistband, Catching All Fabric Layers|
|No, You Cannot Do This By Machine!|
|Front Edge of Cartridge Pleats Pinned to Lower Edge of Finished Waistband|
|Folded Stacked Pleats Already Stitched to Waistband, Cartridge Pleats Ready to Stitch|
|Finished Dress, Front View|
|Finished Dress, Side and Back View|
|Abandoned Plan for Additional Trim|
|Even Sitting Is a Challenge In This Skirt!|
|My Amazingly Talented and Profoundly Patient Mom|