Month: March 2016

New Sew: Tiki Blouse

After seeing other sewists’ super cute results posted all over Facebook, I had to dig out my copy of Simplicity Retro 2154 and give it a go.


I’d been a little hesitant to sew this blouse, although that’s basically the only reason I bought the pattern. I wasn’t sure how that collar and pussy bow would look with my big ole titties. Per the photo below, I think it looks great!


I opted to cut a 22 above the bust and a 24 below. I shortened the pieces on the “petite” line — yes, it says that on the pattern. I had my standard problems of being narrow shouldered in a pattern that assumes otherwise in larger sizes. I took up the shoulder a bit. In future, I would shorten the shoulder even further, possibly cutting the size 20. The back of the neckline also seemed awfully high so I might look into adjusting that also. Finally I don’t think a sleeveless blouse should have the armhole extending beyond point of shoulder so that would also need a modification. I opted to finish everything with bias tape versus facings. Had I finished the armhole with facings I might have ended up with a wider seam allowance which would have fixed the point of shoulder issue. Since, I hate facings with a passion, I can just trim that part instead. I suppose I could tighten the fit overall by nipping the waist a bit more, but I don’t think it’s a huge problem that needs correction.


Construction on this blouse goes fairly fast. The basic shape is straight forward. The collar and bow, while fussy, are not difficult. Since this was a test garment I did not interface the collar. The roll of the collar wanted to collapse a bit, so I think in future, light interfacing as suggested would be wise. Due to the nature of the construction, the bow is sewn down and can not be removed before washing. I’m curious what kind of mess that will be to iron after washing.

The fabric was a small piece that I got at my favorite weirdo fabric wonderland. I maybe had 1.5 yards?  It was definitely less than the pattern called for. I squeezed the collar and bow pieces by ignoring the grainlines. I definitely wouldn’t have had enough fabric for facings so it’s a good thing I hate them.

I’ve become a little obsessed recently with proper underpinnings. This is something that is standard for me with “historical” fashion but I hadn’t actually given it that much thought for retro garments. I did a little experiment to see how different bras would look under this blouse.


On Left: “pointy” old fashioned bra                                       On Right: modern plunge bra

To my eyes, the pointy bra gives a much better look. Beyond being true to the era, the pointy bra puts everything in the correct place so the bust darts are exactly where they are supposed to be. While there is nothing wrong per se with the modern bra, seeing them side by side, the round modern bra shape just isn’t ideal. The fit issue at the shoulder seems more obvious, probably because the bust placement is changing the slope of the upper part of the bodice. The lower line of the modern bra sits closer to the body, affecting the drape of the blouse below the bust. Consequently I look perkier and thinner in the pointy bra. It might not be right for a tissue tee but the pointy bra is the winner for this blouse.


I finished sewing my blouse at the 11th hour, right before I was off to a party. My friends are serious about their tiki culture and cocktails. Look at this amazing and delicious Coronado Luau Special they made for me! It even had a handmade umbrella / lantern pick. Clearly I made the perfect blouse for the occasion.

You also might have noticed my other new fashion statement. My hair is pink! It’s had elements of pink before but it’s never been all pink. It’s so fun! I’m still a little surprised when I look in the mirror but I definitely love it.


New Truly Victorian bustle and the great hoop wire disaster.

Truly Victorian 101 – Petticoat with Bustle was the first piece of authentic historical clothing I ever made. It was the first foundation garment of my now considerable Victorian wardrobe. I was thrilled with how it turned out and even wore it a couple of times just a skirt. It served me very well but after six years it was getting a bit tired. Since I decided that this would be the year I would finally overhaul all of my undergarments, it was time for a new bustle.


My trusty girl, worn as outerwear, when she was new.

I made this decision right as the historical costuming community was in crisis. The ubiquitous plastic covered hoop steel needed to construct the bustle was sold out everywhere. None of the usual sources had any. No one knew why. As a specialty material, sometimes there can be manufacturing shortages that just need to be endured. But the hoop steel was not being restocked and fear started to mount. It turned out that hoop steel was only manufactured by one family run factory and for what ever reason, this factory had closed its doors. Panic and hording ensued as bustle and hoop creation screeched to a momentary halt.


The Original Hoop Steel


The New Hoop Steel

Eventually, stockists seemed to decide on a replacement. The new hoop steel is a lot like corset boning. It is very springy and rigid but also less than half the width of the old steel. Doubt abounds on if this is better, worse or even an acceptable replacement but it’s all we have so I decided to go for it. I did briefly consider scavenging the bones from my old bustle but part of why the bustle is tired is because the bones, while still decent, are getting kind of tired too. They don’t hold the shape as well and are more prone to collapse. Time to try the new technology.


Bustle 2.0

As was my original bustle, my new bustle is made of sheets. I found a nice twin cotton sheet set in an acceptable pattern on sale at Target for about $20.

bustle fabric

An acceptable pattern and some eyelet to cover the stitching of the ruffle overlay.

I washed the sheets and painfully removed all the elastic from the fitted sheet. I’m very glad I took the time to do this versus just cutting that off as I probably would have come up a bit short on fabric if I had. I used both sheets and the pillow case to make the bustle and the ruffled overlay. All I had were random scraps left over.

FullSizeRender-1I used my ruffler attachment for pretty much everything except the waistband. It took a bit of experimenting to get the correct ruffling ratio but once I had it everything went so much faster.


As for the new steel, it seems ok so far. The shape is good and the bustle is still nice and lightweight. I have to tie the drawstrings a little bit differently to get the optimal curve. I haven’t had a chance to put the bustle to a weight test yet but I’m sure that will come soon enough. Seems to look fine with my wrinkly petticoat. I’m sure all of this will look even better when I’m wearing my corset or any other proper garments for that matter.


I’ll hold on to my old bustle for the moment until I am sure I like this one. This time around I made the bustle bones easy to remove. I think that will really help me when I travel. I can remove the bones to fold the actual fabric more efficiently. Here’s to the new wire, I guess!


Recent Costume Goings On: Anachrocon and Cirque de Soleil

While my costume sewing has slowed down a bit, my costume wearing has been quite steady the past couple of weeks!

Last weekend was Anachrocon, Atlanta’s Alternative History / Steampunk convention. I was on hand to officiate the Tea Duelling Tournament as I am the founder of the American Tea Duelling Society. Anachrocon is the longest running tournament for the society and it was a great one. Everything went super smooth and the tourney, duellists and spectators were all on point!

bloomerallsI commissioned a pair of bloomeralls from Megan Maude. Megan has worn hers to several cons we’ve both attended and I finally just had to have my own pair. Megan is probably one of the only people who could make a pair of overalls that would actually fit me. They are super comfy. I foresee wearing them far more than just for casual con wear.

To accessorize I finally had a reason to trot out my new biscuit beret and purse from Taobao. IMG_9732.JPG

Megan often serves as my Pot Mistress at Tea Duels. This means she makes all the tea and keeps the tournament running while I make funny (?) quips and force the competitors to shake hands multiple times for my amusement. She, like all Pot Mistresses, does the hard, hot work and a tourney really can’t run without a good one! Since we both have bloomeralls now, it seems that she and I have created a new tea duelling uniform.

me and megan bloomeralls

another great image from David Leo of Leo Photography

Generally, the prize for winning a tea duel is a fez emblazoned with the official Tea Duelling patch, which was designed by the one and only Doctor Geof (who also is one of the inventors of tea duelling). This year I decided to make a cockade instead. I referenced the tutorial from American Duchess but mostly winged it.


While I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, it’s also a pretty huge cockade, as you can see with it being proudly worn by our tourney winner.

tea duelling winner

Our winner in another of David Leo’s images.

Another Anachrocon attendee wore a couple of my creations. She was attending the event for the first time and needed some wardrobe. I sold her a red and black houndstooth corset I had made a while ago and a ribbon and D-ring embellished skirt & capelette set that had been lingering in my UFO pile. Her crafty husband made her belt and the cameo badges on the skirt. His finishing touches really pulled everything together. I thought she looked adorable and she seemed to be enjoying her first visit to Anachrocon.

victoria in my gear

Cirque de Soleil’s touring show Kurios: Cabinet of Curiousities just opened here in Atlanta. Members of The Artifice Club were invited to work the Kurios premiere as costumed background flavor. Kurios is steampunk themed so the brief was “as steampunk as possible”. I went in my orange and brown leopard print natural form gown. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain that night. Good thing my umbrella featuring the grand drape of Lyric Opera of Chicago was a perfect match and grand coverage from the curses of the elements. Kurios also sells pretty groovy umbrellas too. They could have made a killing if they had a stand outside before the doors opened!

Since I took a photo just in my undergarments, I’m posting it. I should have ironed my petticoat!

cirque under and outwear

Corset made by House of Canney, everything else made of fabric sewn by me.

My gown used these Truly Victorian patterns: 1879 Cuirass Bodice, 1878 Long Draped Overskirt and 1878 Tie-Back Underskirt. I made the belt and embellished the vintage straw hat. The fur is vintage and has four heads, four tails and eight feet. I’m quite fond of this dress. Natural form is easy to wear, especially while sitting in stadium style seating while watching a circus. I’ve meant to go to a Cirque de Soleil show for a long time but never actually managed it. Considering my interests, this show was the obvious one to fix that. I really enjoyed it! I was very glad that it had a low factor of creepy art clown. While the acts and visuals were all excellent, the thing that surprised me the most was the music. I always hear about how great the Cirque music is and this show’s ragtime / electroswing style got my feet tapping. I might even get the soundtrack. I’m hoping to see the show again, this time without a corset!

You can catch a fast shot of me in this promo video. I’m posing with some patrons at 1:23.