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Here is the finished gown.

Gown Front

Gown Front

I trimmed with bodice neckline with some antique black lace taken from a turn-of-the-century gown. It closes in front with hooks and eyes, and I attached faked buttons which are period.

I put a costume choker on the mannequin. I might wear it.

Bodice Front

Bodice Front

Gown Side

Gown Side

Gown Back

Gown Back

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Rochester is cold, wet, and sometimes snowy. My costume has been benefiting from the inclemency in the weather.

The sleeves are pinned on the bodice.

The sleeves are pinned on the bodice.

She (the gown) is starting to look beautiful. I hand sewed the pleating on the sleeves. They are partially lined in red silk. The upper portion is lined in black muslin. Here they are pinned on the dress. The sleeves are lined, but the bodice is not so the lower hem is still rough and unfinished.

A prior plan was to attach ~13 pleated semi-circles to the hem of the skirt. To make each, I sewed two circles, 11 inches in diameter. I made a radial cut, then folded and ironed them to make a half circle. I made two of these before abandoning the project, after realizing that I liked the hem better without them. The plan now is to sew my two half circles together and re-pleat and iron them. I will attach them to the peplum of the bodice. I may as well, since they are already sewn. I have my two semi-circles lying on the peplum in the picture to show what they will look like.

I made all of the trims myself, except of course the fringe. All pleating and so forth is made of the original red silk or the black velvet so that the design is consistent and homogeneous. The original design of the gown was to present the bustle as a beautiful, provocative and feminine silhouette, not campy or overdone with lace and silly bows. I am afraid that many who make costumes for the bustle can have a tendency to go too much in one extreme or the other: overly ‘immature’ goth with little regard for the original aesthetics or frilly, fussy, and covered in polyester dinky trims picked up at Joann’s and applied without any regard for design or homogeneity. They miss the point entirely. The trim serves the design and not the other way around.

I am at the point where very little is left of the red silk, and what is left is in very small pieces, so the decoration needs to end due to lack of resources. I had hoped to have enough to do another row of pleating on the sleeves, but are fine as they are and I want to work on a hat.

The front will be presentable after I do a final fitting tonight, then line it, so stay tuned.

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The bodice pieces are sewn together, and I concocted some sort of collar yesterday. It’s partially stiffened with buckram so that it sticks up in the back, and then turns out to show the red lining.

The bodice still needs a lining, sleeves, and the false vest, so its probably about 30% finished. I boned it with spiral steel, and encased the bones in black cotton buckram. They were sewn to the seam excess, which I hear is very period. It prevents the bones from being visible from the outside, and keeps the bodice as ‘soft’ as it can be with steel bones. I will probably place stays in the vest portion as well.

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The skirt is 99.5% done. All that remains to sew are the hooks to close the waistband and I need to sew two bows to the sides (last minute addition). Also, it should probably be steam pressed.

Now, I am on to the bodice. I made a mock-up in black muslin, which I fitted onto my torso while wearing the corset. The bodice fabric will be black velvet with an interliner and a liner in black muslin. The jacket portion of the bodice is made up of 7 pieces (sans sleeves), which I have cut and flatlined with the interliner fabric (black muslin). Interliners hold the fabric in place, preventing it was stretching or warping. They are essential to making bodices that need to hold their shape. As an aside, Elizabethans were very fond of them and would sometimes use two or three on one bodice in addition to the regular lining.

The pictures show the bodice pieces without the fronts just laid on the dummy with no sewing or folding. But these photos are useful to show the eventual silhouette.

Here is the finished skirt with half the bodice pieces pinned.

Some of the bodice pieces are pinned to the dummy. The flash shows the detail, but misinterpretes the colors.

A faithful representation of the colors of the gown.

A faithful representation of the colors of the gown.

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I’ve hemmed the skirt (whip-stitched it by hand) and attached the fringe. To hand pleat I individually pin each pleat then stitch. I did not hand stitch the pleating in place because I would rather budget the time for the bodice and the hat (coming later). I will probably hand stitch the pleating onto the skirt. About 13 feet of pleating is needed, which means that the strip of silk is ~25 feet pre-pleated. That’s a lot of pleating, pins, and silk. The cats have been highly entertained by the strip when it is in motion.

After the pleating is stitched in place I very lightly ironed it. Heavier ironing would make it look too rigid, which would contrast too highly with the billowy top of the skirt. It was a design choice.

7 feet post-pleating with 125+ pins. This covers just half the hem.

Hand Pleating: 7 feet post-pleating with 125+ pins. This covers just half the hem.

The Hand Pleating is pinned in place on the train.

Half of the Hand Pleating is pinned in place on the train.

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Here is the skirt to date:

Skirt Rigging. The skirt is turned inside out.

Here is a lovely shot of the rigging. The rigging is made out of black twill tape. The skirt in this photo is turned inside out. I have sewn the skirt to the waistband, but the waistband is not yet turned. The rigging is sewn to the inside of the waistband. When I turn the waistband, the joins will not be visible.

Skirt Front

The front of the skirt is to the right. I have basted the side panels between the apron and the skirt back. You can see part of them here.

The skirt is still relatively far from being completed. It is not hemmed. The hem is untrimmed, and the poufs still need to be basted to the rigging.

Skirt Side with Side Panels

Here is a side view of the side panels. It gives a nice shot of the hand pleating, which I did on the side panels while watching “Employee of the Month.” It made the film much more bearable. The side pleating shows up much better in person.

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I had 8 yards of black velvet and 8 years of red-black dupioni silk in storage. In addition, my mom gave me 5 inch red bullion fringe. They coordinated remarkably well.

I am not yet finished with the skirt and will post updates, but here is what I have for pictures so far.

Here is the bustle front apron made of red-black dupioni silk, and sewn to the front panels of the black velvet base skirt. The bottom is trimmed with red fringe and hand pleating.

Hand Pleating

To the right is a very poor picture of the pleating trimming the base of the skirt. When possible, I try to hide straight, boring stitches, and the hand pleating hides the stitching that attached the fringe to the apron. I sewed it on by hand while watching a scary ghost movie, and it made the movie far more tolerable.

Here is the bustle back before the waist band and rigging (I will get to the rigging later). I lined the scalloped ruffle on the bottom. The fringe was sewn on between the right fabric and the lining, so there is no visible stitching. The poufy red skirt part is flat-lined in black tulle. I will be stitching the poufs into place once I have sewn the rigging (stay tuned). The red silk is gathered onto a strip of black twill tape, and then the black velvet train is gathered into that as well. There is a lot of black fabric gathered into the train, and its very heavy.

Since the rigging hasn’t been made yet, I have pinned the black twill tape (not visible) to the bustle underneath. Otherwise, it would just sag down.

Here is a side view, showing the length of the black train. It is not finished. I will be making two draped, fringed, and pleated side panels to go between the apron and the skirt back where that black panel is in the middle of the picture. As of this writing, it is already finished, and will be in the next post.

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