Sunday, August 24, 2014

Outlander Era Women's Costume Patterns


I'm sure I'm not the only one who has fallen in love with the costuming on Starz' production of Outlander.  It's not that unusual to see 18th century costuming in movies, but it is a nice change of pace to see costumes from before the American Revolution or what common folk wore.  I've been struck by the graceful simplicity of the designs.



Which of course means that I want to make one.  I'm so backlogged on my projects that realistically I won't get to that for a long time, but a costumer can dream, can't she?  

I've done some preliminary research on patterns and thought I would share that.  I will start with some relatively easy patterns for less experienced seamstresses, them move on to historically correct patterns for the hard core historical costumers.  Also, except as noted, I have not personally tried these patterns nor found reviews on them.  

Starting off with a pattern marketed towards sewers with average skills and who just want a general Scottish look, several years ago Simplicity came out with their Celtic collection, including 3623 for women.  It's more Renaissance fair than 1700s, but it's still charming.  It's currently out of print.  It surprises me that Simplicity did not reissue it in anticipation of  Outlander coming out.  They have a limited number of copies available on their website and you can also find more on Ebay and Etsy.  The pattern was previously released under the number 0663, so check for that also.

Period Impressions 1735-1740
Open Front Jacket
For the look in the above photo from the show, the only pattern I have found for the 1740s, when Outlander is set, is the jacket is the Period Impressions 1735-1740 Open Front Jacket.  I have never used a Period Impressions pattern before, but the sense I get from the Great Pattern Review of the Greater Bay Area Costumer's Guild is that they are usually pretty good.  

J. P. Ryan A Fine Collection of Ladies' Jackets
J. P. Ryan had another good contender with their A Fine Collection of Ladies' Jackets.  I have used patterns by that company years ago and remember them as being pretty straightforward.  The earliest jacket in this collection is dated to 1750, but it does have the advantage of offering variations that are appropriate up to the early 1780s for other projects you might have in mind.  View C-D actually looks the most like the jacket in the Outlander photo, but J. P. Ryan dates it to a couple of decades later.

J. P. Ryan Women's Basic Garments
For the various underpinnings and skirt that go along with the outfit, J. P. Ryan has a nice set of Women's Basic Garments.  That includes a shift, petticoat, pocket, handkerchief, short gown, and apron.  My understanding is that only the short gown and pocket are actual patterns.  The rest are diagrams and instructions.  You could probably draft your own using instructions easily found on the internet, such as these instructions for a shift from La Couturiere Parisienne.  Tidings from the 18th Century by Beth Gilgun has diagrams and instructions for basic women's clothing, plus a wealth of other information.

Of course, one will also need a set of stays ("corset" to most modern folks) to get the proper silhouette.  Advanced costumers can use Mara Riley's instructions on how to modify the patterns from the Elizabethan Corset Generator to work for the 18th century form.  I've had good luck with the corset generator.  If the boning placement is not clear to you, there is a good diagram for that in Tidings from the 18th Century.  


If that sounds like too much of a challenge for you, there are plenty of stays patterns available.  Since the characters in Outlander were pretty active, you can use more lightly boned jumps instead of the more constricting full stays.  Those also come in front opening versions - much easier for us who live alone or have husbands who are at a loss at helping their wives get laced up.  Mill Farm offers a Jumps or Leather Stays pattern. My one experience working with a Mill Farm pattern, their Women's Riding Habit Jacket and Waistcoat, went extremely well.  Tailor's Guide has an even more lightly boned set in their Ladies' Partially Boned Stays pattern.  If you do want to go for a fully boned set of stays, I have used J.P. Ryan's strapless stays without problem. 

Finally, the aforementioned Mara Riley has a well regarded book out, Whatever Shall I Wear? A Guide to Assembling a Woman's Basic 18th C. Wardrobe, that goes into the specifics of color and fabric choices, accessories, etc. for working class women throughout the 18th century.  If you are going to spend all that time and money making a costume, you might as well get it right.  The Dress of the People: Everyday Fashion in Eighteenth-Century England by John Styles also sounds like a good resource.  Obviously, it focuses on England, not Scotland, but chances are that there are a lot of commonalities.

So, there you have it.  If you do try these patterns or have already used them, please let me know what you thought of them.


copyright Nellie Kampmann, 2014

Monday, July 21, 2014

Some Tips on Making a Duct Tape Double


There are already several websites that will tell you how to make a duct tape double dress maker's dummy, so I won't get into all that here.  However, I did want to pass along a few tips I learned about the hard way while making mine.


  • Use a heavy duty duct tape.  I used Duck brand tape, which has a noticeably less sticky adhesive on it.  That would probably work OK for the first layer.  My problem was that I had used it to tape up the side seam after I had fit it over my old dressmaker's dummy.  I stuffed it, then didn't look at it again for a few days.  When I did see it again, the taped up side had burst open.  I re-taped it with Gorilla brand, which seems to be holding up much better.
  • Try the method that applies the strips in 6 inch lengths.  I had to make my double mostly without help, so I used longer strips to get my back done.  It's definitely harder to get smooth coverage that way.  I ended up with issues with the double creeping up because I was pulling the long strips too tight.
  • Apply the strips in various directions.  Again, this will help keep it from creeping.  Part of my problem was that I was applying the strips mostly horizontally.  Some instructions do tell you to do that. I think there would have been more control if the strips had followed the contours of my body more naturally.
  • It's ideal if you can get an old dress maker's dummy in a smaller size and use that for your base.  Of course you can make the dummy without one, but may be worth the cost in time and aggravation to pick up a used one at a thrift store.
  • When you tape the dummy back together after you've gotten out of it, place the tape horizontally so it will hold better. 
  • If you want to use the dummy for historical costuming, stuff it with batting instead of using the spray foam insulation method.  This will allow you to use corsets on it to maintain a period correct shape.
  • As you are stuffing the dummy, be sure to keep comparing it to your own body, especially if you aren't using an old dummy as a base.   If you do not have some form underneath to maintain the oval shape, the shell will tend to become rounded (if you look at it from a cross section), while most people's bodies are more oval.  Even with a form, you have to be careful to pad it in the right places.
  • Once the dummy is stuffed and mounted, make a form fitting cover for it from stretch knit fabric.  That will give it an extra layer that will be easier to pin into if the need arises and will look nicer, too.

copyright Nellie Kampmann, 2014

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bustle Era Chemise

1883 linen chemise (reproduction)
I have been wanting an excuse to to make a cuirass form dress for decades now.  At one point, I made underpinnings for it, but never got further than that.  So, when I saw Jennifer Rosbrugh's Bustle Day Dress class being offered recently, I jumped at the chance. This class has been great so far (3 lessons in).  If you ever have a chance to take a class from her, do it!

I hit a bit of a road block right off the bat when I tried on the old underpinnings I had made.  The petticoat had gotten ruined at one point and as thrown out, and the combinations made from a Mantua Maker pattern no longer fit (oh, middle age spread, what have you done to me?!).  So, back to the sewing machine on those.

First up was making a chemise.  I don't know what the deal is, but the ones I have made in the past from Simplicity patterns have always ended up huge.  Either they were what I found out later were more suitable for 1830s/1840s fashions, or were just plain sized wrong and falling off of me.  So, this time, I grabbed my book, Fashions of the Gilded Age, Volume 1 by Frances Grimble, and tried drafting one from 1883.  The description said that the measurements given should fit up to a 14 year old.  I'm relatively thin, but even that size looked like it would have too much bulk from all the cloth in it.  I trimmed it down a couple of inches on the sides.  The version I chose had small sleeves.  Big mistake.  Apparently, this was designed to fit a somewhat wide 14 year old with very scrawny arms.  Unless I wanted the circulation in my armpits cut off every time I wore it, the sleeve had to go.

The illustration looked like the neck opening was barely gathered if at all.  However, when I tried it on ungathered, the neckline was so big that it was falling off of me.  I ended up putting tucks in the front and another pleat in the back to take up another 2 inches on each.

The chemise is made with handkerchief weight linen from Fabrics-store.com and trimmed in 1" wide white cotton lace.  I think it turned out pretty well.  The arm holes are still a little tighter than I would have preferred and there is more gathering than the illustration shows.  I probably would have done more futzing with those aspects if I wasn't already running behind.  Still, overall, I'm pretty pleased


copyright Nellie Kampmann, 2014

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Eva Dress 1945 Lounging Jacket C40-4244

Since I wrote a book on local ghost stories, I wanted something appropriate to wear when I do author talks and other public appearances for it.  It's kind of hard to find clothing that conveys a sense of spookiness without going overboard into a stereotypically witchy or black t-shirt tough guy paranormal investigator look, or getting just plain Halloween cheesy.  So, when I found this Edgar Allan Poe themed fabric by Michael Miller on Fabric.com, I knew I had to use it.


The scale of the design is fairly large, so I wanted to find something that would show it off well.  Luckily, Eva Dress hd just the thing in their 1945 lounge jacket pattern.  They also offer the pattern with the lounging pants as NL40-4244.



I really like this pattern.  For as much style as it has, it goes together very easily.  I had screwed up and cut part of the back one size to small.  Even with that goof, I was able to put it together without a lot of wailing an gnashing of teeth.  Now that I have the middle aged spread to contend with, I am also wary of patterns that are fitted in the waistline.  Getting that fitted right is usually a lot of extra work.  I might not win any awards from professional tailors for it, but it only took a couple of minor adjustments to get it to fit well and look nice.

The end result turned out well.  I was pleased to discover that some of the motifs, like the crow on the lapel, ended up being placed so perfectly you would think I had planned it.  

Here's the final product. 


copyright Nellie Kampmann, 2013

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Butterick 1920s Day Dress

I had brought an authentic mid-1920s dress pattern that I had modified for a velvet evening gown last year. Since I was so happy with that, I decided to use the pattern for its original purpose and make a day dress.

As  you can see, the original pattern is kind of girlish.  Since I am so thin, it is actually in a size range produced for girls and teenagers.  The overall look isn't too far off from what women were wearing at that time, though.  I found almost the same design being offered through the Sears catalog (Spring, 1925 if I remember correctly).  BTW, if you have a subscription to Ancestry.com, they have the entire run of the Sears catalog available online - a godsend for vintage clothing lovers! 

I an not a big fan of the Peter Pan collar, so I modified the neckline.  The collar I used is just a long rectangle cut to fit.  Again, I found examples of the open collar look in the Sears catalog.  I also wanted more pockets.  I added a second one, cut crosswise to play with the plaid of the fabric, and dispensed with the trim up the side.  I could probably still wear it with a hip level belt, but the older I get, the more I appreciate loose clothing.

The end result turned out pretty well (although a little rumpled in the photo).  I'll admit, the looser One Hour dress is more comfortable.  This looks professional enough that I can wear it at the office.  One thing I've noticed about the 1920s cotton dresses is that they are actually cooler to wear in the summer than the modern tank and shorts combination.  I survived a 90 degree day with no air conditioning in my windowless office relatively comfortably in this.   I will probably be making more of the One Hour dresses to wear around the house and more variations of my Butterick dress for work.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

1920s Gown

I kept looking at my 1924 one hour dress and thinking that it looked a little large on me.  Since my next project was going to be made of out silk velvet and I was running late on making it (no time for a mock up), I decided that I had better go with a printed pattern this time.  I lucked out on finding a very Art Deco design at Fabric.com, so I wanted to keep the dress design as basic as possible to show off the fabric better.


What I came up with was a vintage pattern for a basic day dress with short sleeves, a Peter Pan collar, and some applique detailing.  I expect I will be getting some mileage out of that, since the pattern lends itself well to modification.  For this gown, I left off the sleeves, and finished them with bias tape made from the material I had bought to make the slip from. I modified the neckline slightly so that it was large enough to pull over my head without an extra opening, and bound that with the bias tape as well.  I added a detachable belt with discrete belt loops, and voila!

In the short amount of time I had, I wasn't having any luck finding either a vintage slip pattern or information that gave me a clear idea on the construction.  So, I just winged it.  It ended up being basically a tube of habotai silk with no fitting, held on by 1/2 inch straps.  With my boyish figure, that worked fine.

The end result looked great.  My only issue was the belt buckle.  I wanted something sparkly, large, and square or rectangular to fit with the design of the fabric.  I found a rhinestone buckle that looked great in theory.  However, when I wore it, it was so heavy that it dragged the whole belt down.  Still, overall, I am very happy with the dress.

1930s Hooverette Dress


I fell in love with this pattern (Vintage Pattern Lending Library T1889) the first time I laid eyes on it. It looked easy to make and I liked that there were both ultra feminine and businesslike versions.  It looked easy to make and I liked that there were both ultra feminine and businesslike versions.  I tried really hard to find a cotton print that felt 1930s for it.

I got delayed on actually sewing it up until several months after I had bought the fabric. Big mistake. It turned out that the yardage listed on the pattern back for view 2 was way short of what was actually needed.  I could easily have used another 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 yards (4 to 4 1/2 yards total).  Of course by then, the fabric I was using was no longer available, so I couldn't buy more.  I was able to work around that by leaving off the bottom ruffle and making the ties narrower and a little shorter.  The end result turned out cute, but what a waste to have spent so much time looking for a period print when the end result wasn't the period length.

It worked up quickly and the rest of the directions were correct. Please note that you will need bias tape for it. I like that most of the seams are French seams.

One thing I noticed with the shorter length is that this looks very much like a dress my mother had in the 1960s.  The only real difference is that hers did not have the shoulder ruffles.

I will probably make this again, hopefully in the proper length.