Corsets- a shopper’s guide

Corsetry is currently experiencing a bit of a revival – which is great  ( if you still think they are torturous, rib-breaking, garments-from-hell, please read this first…). However, since they were out of fashion for quite a while, people nowadays … Continue reading

Fashion photoshoots in Lapland

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At last a holiday! Our first proper adventure since our honeymoon over three years ago – so long overdue. and since   it as tropics last time, we knew this time it will be somewhere colder.

In the end we we chose an Arctic Adventure  in the Muotka Wilderness lodge – and we didn’t regret it! The  holiday snaps will be put into a separate post with all the details, but suffice it to say, we did lots of interesting stuff – skied, snowshoed,  mushed a husky team, drove snowmobiles, rode in reindeer sled, seen the Aurora and ate lovely food.

but apart from that, I managed to scramble a few outfits together to photograph – and since somehow the cold climate spoke East to me, I went Manchurian – and Russian. The inspiration board  is here.

Time to make the clothing was one thing – the cost and weight another – it needed to be light, and made from the materials from the stash…. a bit of a challenge, but not much!

The Manchurian inspired set was the first, and the least trouble to create. I already had silk trousers and long kaftan in silk from my Steampunk Mulan( Steampunk Amazones), so all i needed to make was a warm wool kaftan – and i wanted it to be something i would be able to wear not just for a shoot, but as a garment.

In the end, I ended up with a dark aubergine wool, with lots of trimming, including a fur trim, and a belt. Topped with my Varengian hat, it served the purpose well… the hairclips are by The Colorful world of Kanzashi

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Since the snow was quite deep, getting  into places could be challenging…. a short video here

Next was a formal Russian gown with a kokoshnik – all in silk, with silver lace. Fun to wear, though it does feel like wearing a silky tent 🙂

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  It turned out that modern skidoo and a modern down jacket were not bad accessories 🙂

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And the last look was a traditional Russian sarafan – garment that was worn for several centuries, especially amongst the countryside folk, and in all its simplicity and elegance remained in style since about 13th century – till well into the 19th… cut and styles changed a bit overtime, but basically it was a  dress work with shoulder straps over a long, often embroidered chemise. Worn with a headdress ( kokoshink for married women, scarf or similar for unmarried), the style is simple, but effective.

Here I had neither time, nor inclination to embroider a chemise, so I got mine from a lovely Ukrainian lady from etsy – made  bespoke, it arrived promptly, and was absolutely  stunning – her facebook page is here, and her etsy shop here – well work a look if you like the style, prices are very affordable too!

The kokoshnik  I could make myself – but I saw a lovely one on a page  Creations by Liv Free – and simply had to get it for the photoshoot! The artist was very accommodating, and the kokoshnik was amazing – I think it is still for sale in her shop

The sarafan was made out of some stock fabric, blend of wool and cotton – lovely weight and flowing stuff, but not best to sew in – so i ended up sewing all the decorations by hand… 2 braids were used to decorate it, and I think this look is by far my favourite one!

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I was even made to work – towing a block of ice!

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and that’s the height of the snow banks….

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Hope you liked the wintery scenery – I must say I enjoyed the shooting immensely, but was glad it was not too cold – only minus a few degrees, so nothing major! 🙂

Makeover photoshoot with Iberian Black Arts



This was the last bit of the Geisha collection ( Part 1  and Part 2), and already drifting towards a Chinese or Manchurian influence.  I had enough good-quality Chinese satin brocade, (proper silk stuff, not the poly/viscose thing, for a change!) to make a skirt, corset and a little bolero jacket. And since I knew that  Threnody in Velvet, who modeled a part of the collection, is not only an amazingly gifted model but a talented photographer and make up artist, I decided to book a little makeover session with the other side of her business, Iberian Black Arts … and I wasn’t disappointed!


Threnody … I know i have posted the image before, but – I cannot get enough of it! 🙂


So a date was set, and I  put some time aside to actually make my outfit. And as luck would have it, I ended up with an emergency commission instead – so had just a day to make something wearable…..

The corset was first – and from the start I regretted the choice of fabric.. the satin frayed like a mad, fraying thing, it wrinkled, moved, had a life of its own. It was too late to get fusible interfacing, so had to just get on with it and relay on roll-pinning and pure luck – and hoped the cat wouldn’t mind the amount of bad language that issued forth during the production…


I do mind, you know…. foulmouthed creature!

In the end, success was just partial, I didn’t  manage to get rid of all the wrinkles, but since it was not an item for sale I decided to leave it as it was and maybe trust the power of Photoshop….

On the day  I grabbed the outfit, accessories etc – and since I was asked to bring another outfit just in case we had time to shoot more I packed  my ‘snow queen’ gear too…

On arrival at Patricia’s studio we did not waste much time and got straight down to business.  That is, I was munching on my sandwich whilst we were  just getting the final details of the make up and hair – I had set up a board for inspiration, so we looked through different photos to get a clear idea of the styling.

The calm scene before we started…



Make up and hair took a bit of time, but not too much – and it was time well spent on a pleasant chatter, as well as deciding on some editing options, etc, and then it was time to  don the gear, lace up and pose!

One important thing to mention beforehand – I am not a big fan of over the top post-production (Photoshopping, etc). I mentioned this, giving examples of what I definitely didn’t want –  I wanted my body to stay the way it was, with no reduction etc,  and  my face basically unchanged as well –  I often see the results of the popular boudoir make overs where  ladies are virtually unrecognizable in the final image. This is fine if you are working on a product shoot ( though even here I tend to have problems with overphotoshopped models setting impossible standards), but not really for a personal image –  everybody who knows me will just chuckle at a weird attempt to look much younger and much slimmer, and so I asked for minimal amount of post production. This is actually also why I chose Iberian Black Arts –  the images  showcased  in the portfolio were a  high quality ones, but not overly ‘over the top’.

And to be honest – the make up and the light worked wonders on their own…. well, see for yourself below……


After we finished shooting, I got the proofs the same day and chose the images I liked most, for editing. We discussed background options for both looks and the rest was just Patricia working her magic….

The  Chinese look ( with a spectacular yellow kanzashi made especially  for the shoot by Kikuya Kanzashi )






and the Snow Queen one…





By comparison, see the uneditted  behind the scenes shots – three of the proofs, straight off the camera, showing me having some fun…:




standard pose for all my shoots….




As you can see  the skin tone was smoothed and lightened to work with the  styling for the image, the corset wrinkles magically disappeared, but it is still recognizably me, my body with slightly glamorized face. Happy with that:-)


Altogether, I must say I was delighted with both only the experience and the end product – highly recommended – If any of you folks would like to have a go at a makeover with Patricia ( Ipswich based), do give her a call, you won’t be disappointed – and the prices are good too! I found it a great way  to showcase my work as a designer and maker, and have a bit of a girly fun as well – so work and play combined 🙂





Geisha Corsetry Collection part 2



As promised  in Part 1 – we are now happy to present the 2 other corsets from the collection, modeled by  the exquisite Threnody in Velvet, and photographed by Iberian Black Arts.

The first of the corsets was in fact the first to be designed – and was also the most challenging one as for the first time I was making  it completely from the scratch – not using and adapting other patterns, but actually designing piece by piece, hoping it would all work together:-)


The initial design with different  silk choices… I wanted to convey the traditional aspect of geisha but with a strong modern twist, including the bondage element as well – think sexy bondage manga and you will more or less see where I was planning to head…. 🙂

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I  used my wasp waisted mannequin to get the shape of the pieces right – it is not too far off  Threnody’s measurements, so it was a useful tool. once the pieces worked on the dummy, I made a mock up in plain coutil, boned it and sent it to Threnody to try on and mark any problem areas etc – since she specialises in corsetry modelling, she was able to provide a valuable feedback – a great help!

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mock up on the dummy


mock up on Threnody, with the improvement suggestions clearly marked





Once I received the mock up with the corrections back, I was able to implement them  and change them a bit and start making the thing for real…

I was again due for our bitch and stitch sessions with Julia from Sew Curvy, so took it with me – and Julia’s suggestions and input helped a lot when we were considering minor changes in design.

Then the work started in earnest…


drawing out the pieces


cutting out


sewing the front exterior channel onto the sheer


getting there….


the innards showing the hip gores


the boning channels are on….


binding, boning and suspender next….


Once the inside was tidies up, the suspenders were added ( with a decorative Japanese buttons) and the corset was flossed with  yarn – the flossing character chosen here was a kanji symbol meaning ‘red’.

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Next were the posture collar, reflecting the design of the corset, and the pasties – it was my first go at the pasties, but was pretty please with them – they are made out of leather, silk and the edges are decorated with a chemille braid.


work in progress –






Then the whole set, including satin ribbons for the wrists and kanzashi flower for the hair was packed and sent on to Threnody.

On the day of the shoot we discussed accessories,  hair and make up styles and I got the first proof the very same day – and once I chose the photos I wanted,  Threnody ( yes, she is also the photographer, editor, make up artist – you name it! a very talented lady!) worked on a suitable background options and credits font etc.

and the results – well, I loved the pictures – and I hope you do too!






The corset is now back from its adventures and is available on sale in our online shop – and i think a few more of the same design will be appearing there  at some point too 🙂


The other corset was already half made when due to a sudden change of plans I had to remake it, and make it fit Threnody –  this one was a sheer number with the front panel and exterior boning channels made in  vibrant kimono silk. as accessories, I made a matching set of vambrances:-)




And the corset  was ready:-)




Again, it look great on Threnody, and the colours suited her exceptionally well!




  This corset already sold – as I write it is making  its way to Hong Kong:-)

 Btw, the kanzashi flowers used here were by Colorful world of Kanzashi.

 Hope you have enjoyed my little forray into the ethnic inspired corsetry –  and, not surprisingly, I have another collection planned for the summer, with a completely different part of the world being represented:-)


Hussar style corset



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 The inspiration struck  when I was making a Napoleonic set  for a client –  a thing with loads of braiding, military lace etc. Against all odds, I enjoyed making it ( and a post on that one can be found here) and thought that it would be nice to have something like that for myself….  And then I remembered artwork of a Polish artist, Bartek Drejewicz and his Napoleonic pin up girls ( do check his facebook page out,  – not only Napoleonic but different armies through the centuries, beautifully rendered!). And yes, there are Steampunk corsets with military styling etc available – but non actually using the ‘proper’ military lace or specific historical styling… So I wanted to have a go….

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The final design was actually worked out one evening when I was clearing my offcuts and left overs bits – and noticed narrow scraps of the broadcloth i used for the jacket.  Not good for much more, but  just enough for corset panels…  I quickly adapted an overbust pattern to work as a waistcoat – with  a black busk in front and lacing in the back. It did come out a tad short ( not enough fabric) but the first step was done – a waistcoat in broadcloth, cotton twill being used as the strength layer.  I opted for a slight curve and not much of a reduction – so that  I would be able to wear it at work at the markets- but also because it was the trial version:-)



I ordered more military lace and braid and once it arrived i started putting the lace on – it took me a few months as was working on it  in between commissions….


So even with help ( ahem…) it took some time….



Once the frogging was on, I could put some silver soutache on the borders and the collar….




Then it was only getting some buttons ( beads….) and we were ready for shooting!

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I tried the corset first with my Regency chemisette and plain black leggings….

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Then I had an epiphany and fished out Lucas’s  dancing breeches  – in lovely white superfine. The just about fitted too! Then e had some fun with my old cavalry sabre as a prop:-)

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The chemissette, in case anyone asks :


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The conclusions – well, loved wearing it ( and wore it to markets since) but a few improvements will be needed for the next  ones –  longer in front, more hip spring, and probably not using busks and frogging together – it is a pain to do it all up! Still, I think it is a success – and  more corsets in the style are planned, in different colours – already have a small stash of silver and gold military lace and braid, and am slowly collecting fabrics and props – I suspect we will have a bigger photoshoot with  more models ( and hopefully horses) just before Waterloo 🙂 Once the next models are done, will post a link here – including a link to the shop as they will be offered  on sale….



Hope you liked this  experiment!



Clothes, as always, Prior Attire

photography Pitcheresque Imagery



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…

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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.

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

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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


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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.

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 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:-)

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  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 

Vampires at Gosfield Hall



I have never actually been to a proper Halloween Party, but this year we were seduced into attempting one. Admittedly most of the seduction was done by the location – we have been to Gosfield Hall before, to shoot our Summer Bride collection last year – and loved it! So the tickets were bought, and since it was Lucas’ birthday on the 1st, I treated us, as a surprise, to securing the sumptuous Bridal Suite for our stay.

And with a venue like that and  lodgings dripping with gold, I obviously needed suitably splendid attire….

Fortunately I had a cunning plan – I have designed the Batdress   several months ago, a spur of the moment thing,  and then was lucky enough to get a bargain fabric –  15m of crushed silk velvet – useless for historical outfits, but perfect for a bit of Halloween fancy dress.

The original sketch,


and a work in progress sketch – yep, that’s how I make skirts and gauge how much fabric  to use…



the foundations first – a cage crinoline, mid Victorian design, and a muslin petticoat from one of our bridal frocks….


then the skirt….


The corset was a bit of a challenge – because it was to be worn over a crinoline and not  underneath, it had to be much shorter, allowing for the skirts to billow up. As a result, it turned out to be a surprisingly comfortable  wear:-)

The corset used plain coutil as a strength layer,  tape castings for channels and cotton for lining. Decoration – silver and black lace appliques, silver thread flossing and red beads.




insides before fitting in the lining


close up of the lace


decoration complete


The overskirt/wings were made of the same fabric and lined with faux duponi silk from James Hare – and boned with thin metal flat steel.

other accessories included these..



Once the dress was done, I have 6 hours to make something more before we hit the road – and in a mad rush I made another corset, satin and calico , with lace and silk tulle decoration:-), styled for a Bridal vampiric  look…

The plan was to arrive early and shoot the bridal stuff first, then change and have fun in the Bat dress. alas, we underestimated the traffic – Friday, end of half term, halloween – we were stuck on the motorway for  much too long. as a result, we arrived in time to get ready, but not to shoot the bridal stuff – that will have to be done the following morning!

We were surprised , very pleasantly, by a nice card and a bottle of white wine awaiting us in the suite – a present from our friend Eleanor, who was also attending the party! 🙂


not a good picture, but captures the grin… and the room….

Before the party a girl needs to relax –  a bath and a face mask was in order. Lucas did have a bit of a shock when i joked I could go to the party wearing this….



but at last the clothes were on, make up and hair was done and we could take a few pictures….

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The event was very atmospheric – an amazing singer in one room, roast boar dinner and a cobweb covered pianist playing tunes from the Phantom of the Opera in the other, fireworks outside – amazing!

apart from relaxing, eating and enjoying ourselves, we did take more pictures  at the end of the night….


Batdress in its full glory



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and one from the end of the night…. corset undone, hair loose – and yet it worked too 🙂


as to the question i was asked a few times at the party – how do you go to the loo in that?

well, the answer is simple – wear split drawers ( or none….) and go in forward….



In the morning we got up early and  shot the Dracula’s bride styling – corset with lace, with a scrap of lace as a headdress, my bridal veil and a silk chiffon skirt….

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we were having so much fun we almost missed breakfast – as a result i rushed downstairs half dressed – don’t think many people minded though – the corset looked great with jeans too!



I must admit I loved wearing the Batdress – but it was a one off and is going to be put on sale ( though not before we shoot it somewhere else – the original idea was a forest or a cemetery), just like the bridal corset – no doubt next year I will come up with a different kit: – )

hope you enjoyed the madness – we did, and are planning more Halloween outings in the future!




Halloween, Goth and Victoriana fun

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As Halloween was approaching and I noticed a few bits of non historical fabrics in my store room, an idea was hatched – we will do some Halloween photography! We mentioned the idea to a friend at one of the markets, and she volunteered lending us some of her corsets for it. we mentioned it on facebook and withing minutes we had more contributors and models agreed on, and time set asid e for some Halloween/Goth/Victoriana fun.

We started with an organic look for a pumpkin queen – my Spring Petal Dress  had a remake ( a brief encounter with spray paint), and after an afternoon of drilling and carving the pumpkins ( the jigsaw power tool was perfect for it!) we were ready…


petal dress before spraying…


and after…


pumpkin carving!


the first one done….


and on the day we prepared the set for the Pumpkin Queen in the nearby woods… the results below:-)

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Next day was the big day! our make up artist, Sammm Agnew arrived just after noon, and the models, Gem and Hannah followed shortly after.

My workroom was transformed into a make up and hair styling centre…



and we  shot several different looks around the house…  the results below – wherever possible I provided inks directly to the products featured as many of the items are actually available to purchase straight away 🙂

Meet  The Broken Doll…. Hannah looked fantastic with  the blue hair! She is wearing a silk skirt by Prior Attire, and a lovely underbust corset by Wyte Phantom..

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Innocence Tainted –  Gem is wearing a silk  skirt and a corset by Prior Attire… Head by Samm Agnew!

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Victoriana – the ladies of the night;-)

The girls are sporting Victorian attires – the purple one  has sold already, but the chocolate pumpkin one is still available here  

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Pumpkin corset – Hanna had a quick transformation and here is sporing a silk corset with black lace decoration from Prior Attire matched with a black skirt

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Demon Bride – Gem had a go at the wedding dress that got damaged in the fire – with a festive spray of blood….

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and then got quickly  into this stunning piece by Wyte Phantom


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Even our MUA  vamped out her make up , donned a lovely corset ( again, Wyte Phantom) and a skirt ( Prior Attire) and jumped in front of the camera

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and after having my face and hair transform to fit with Vampish Gothic criteria, I joined her:-) The overskirt, corset and posture collar by Wyte Phantom, flouncy skirt  ( sold already, sorry….) and the fascinator by Prior Attire

HAlloween Shoot 2014-50 HAlloween Shoot 2014-51


and that was it for one long day – but it was not all! 2 days later lovely Miss Lilian Love joined us for a classy corsetry shoot –  and in one evening we shot  some more Halloween stuff and some elegant vintage inspired stuff with superb corsets from Clessidra ( there will be a separate post on that, here’s a teaser)


and the Halloween stuff –


again, we put Lilian in the Wyte Phantom  corset and a Prior Attire skirt

HAlloween Shoot 2014-17 HAlloween Shoot 2014-15


and another plunge corset by Wyte Phantom, matching fascinator by Prior Attire

HAlloween Shoot 2014-18



As you can see, it was a lot of fun ( tiring, but fun!) and that was not the end of it –   the following weekend saw us at a Halloween ball from which I had a very special creation – but that  a topic for another post! 🙂


Make up and hair – Sammm Agnew

Clothes –  Wyte Phantom, Clessidra, Prior Attire

models – Gem and Hanna Bow, Miss Lilian Love,

photography – Pitcheresque Imagery


February dress 1876



1876 February ensemble


It all started innocently enough – ‘Historical Sewing’ posted a fashion plate on their timeline – February 1876, from Englishwomen’s Domestic Magazine

1. the inspiration...

I liked it, and pinned it to my Pinterest board, stored away on a wish list of items to make one day – there were already too many other things to be worked on.  Over the last few months I got the fabrics bit by bit, so that everything would be ready for when I eventually decided to go for it – no hurry, no pressure.

But then, due to a sudden change of plans it turned out that we would be attending a Victorian Christmas Market at Stoke Rochford Hall, near Grantham. In itself, noting extraordinary here, until it was pointed out to me that there would be a skating rink on site! That was all I needed to get my imagination going and I immediately saw myself gliding effortlessly across the ice, swathed in that lovely February attire.

The timing was tricky – I had commissions to work on first of all, but I reckoned if I got them sorted out and could have a day to  get most of the work done with the machine, then I could spend Saturday at the market hand finishing the last bits, and Sunday would see me wearing the completed outfit.  Just about doable…

As a matter of fact, I managed to finish the commissions early enough, so had half of Thursday at my disposal – it almost seemed too good to be true, so I embarked upon the project. And it was indeed too good to be true – my new machine threw a wobbler, and as a result it was sent back for servicing/repairs… meaning that I ended up with a brand new semi industrial machine in its place!  So don’t be surprised if you see different machines in the pictures.

I did manage to do all of the machine work on the Friday and took the lot to be hand finished at the event.

Anyway – a step by step account  below, should you wish to recreate the outfit for yourself!



3. materials assembled

Wool (with nap, so limits the direction of cutting) – 6m (5-5.5 would probably do the trick if using plain fabric with no nap)

Black silk for the bodice front insert – 0.5m

Lining – cotton, 5m, two varieties (I used up left over bits)

Fur trim – 12 yards (an Etsy find)

Velvet ribbon, narrow – 25 m

Double sided velvet ribbon, wide – 15m

Bits of black silk velvet for binding,

Buttons, covered with black velvet – 20

Waist stay – cotton tape

Hooks and eyes for the waist stay,

Boning for the bodice and tape to form boning channels


Total cost of the materials –  Fabrics ( wool and  lining) £115, trims, notions etc – £ 130 ( fur trim was a bit pricey… )

The skirt and the overskirt.


4.skirts pattern

In the original the skirt is trained, but since I wanted to use the ensemble for winter sports, a train would probably be a bit of a hindrance– so a walking skirt length was required instead. As such, I simply used one of the patterns that I have been using for my walking bustle-skirts.

The overskirt pattern was a bit of an adventure – given the limited time allowance, I sketched the shape more or less, cut it out, and it sort of worked.  On second thoughts I think I should have made the hem more curved – a suggested improvement is marked on the drawing. Mind you, keeping the shape rectangular makes sewing the ribbon trim rather easier than following curved lines – if you plan the trim, it is easier to change the upper part of the piece – (also marked on the drawing)

The skirt.

  1. Cut out your pieces in top fabric and lining. The skirt will be flatlined, so pin or baste each piece together (front top fabric to front lining) before assembly.
  2. Mark and pin the darts in the front piece. Sew the darts
  3. Assemble – sew the side pieces to the front piece.
  4. Decide where you want the opening to be – centre back, if you are not cutting the back piece on fold, or side back, as I did.
  5. Stitch the back piece(s) at the side panels. Press the seams open, if you can (not advisable on my napped wool – heat flattens the nap and leaves marks  )
  6. Pleat the pack of the skirt so that it matches the length of the waistband.
  7. Place the waistband on the skirt (right sides together), pin and stitch.
5.pleating the skirt

pleating the skirt


7.sewing the waistband on

sewing the waistband on

  1. Grade the seam, reducing the bulk of the pleats, then flip the waistband over and secure it with small stitches (or run the stich on the sewing machine). Since my fabric was quite bulky, I cut the waistband with the selvage – so that I didn’t have to turn it under and create another layer of volume
8. waistband sewn - back view

waistband sewn – back view

9.inside view of the waistband being slipstitched

.inside view of the waistband being slipstitched

  1. Add a button hole and a button.
  2. Place the skirt on the dummy, over the undergarments that you plan to wear. Adjust the hem, marking any corrections. Just to be absolutely sure, try the skirt on – again with the undergarments on, and the boots you will be wearing.
  3. Once you are satisfied with the length all around, finish the hem. You have a few options here – you can bind it; you can fold the hem over, secure it with stitching and then add a tape-over to straighten it (see my previous article on how to make a walking dress ). You can use a facing too. Here, I simply folded the allowance under, basted it and then, on the right side, sewed on the velvet ribbon. A tape stitched to the inside hides the machine stitches and protects the hem too.

10.close up of the hem with the tape stitched on

  1. Finish the interior seams – trim them, making sure the lining seams are shorter. Secure the seam allowances with small stitches, sewing them open, to the lining
11.inside of the kirt - mark the finish of the seams and hem

inside of the kirt – mark the finish of the seams and hem

  1. The skirt is now ready.

12. skirt ready

The overskirt.

The front part.

  1. Cut out the piece in top fabric and lining. Assembly will depend upon the amount of time and the kind of fur available. With ready trim, either hem the piece, stitch the trim on and then add the lining, or, do it all in one go, treating the fur trim like a piping. This can be tricky, but saves time . If you are working using fur trim cut out from a plate, baste the two layers first and then bind them using the fur strip as binding.
13.'piping' the apron piece with the fur trim

‘piping’ the apron piece with the fur trim

  1. Mark and sew the darts

14. sewing the darts

and the front is ready!

15. front piece ready

The back piece.


  1. Mark the position of the ribbon trims, (or use your machine’s guidelines). Sew the 3 rows of ribbon trim.

16. sewing the trim onto the back piece

17. back piece with the trim on

  1. Hem the piece

18. backpiece  heming

  1. Stitch the fur trim onto the hem. Pin the lining and sew it alongside the fur trim.

19. fur tim on, now stitchign the lining

  1. Again, if using fur strips from plates, binding the piece will be easier and less time-consuming.

Pleat the panel and to the desired width and pin it onto the waistband. Pin the front piece onto the waistband – it should overlap at the sides. Try it on a dummy to see if the overlap is sufficient.

Adjust as necessary, and sew the waistband on in the same way as you did the skirt’s waistband


20. waistband inserted, secuing it on the inside  this time by machine

waistband inserted, secuing it on the inside this time by machine

All you need to do now is to finish your overskirt is to add the decoration – but that can wait until you have bodice made, as it is then easier to judge the best position for the bows. Here shown already decorated

21. overskirt decorated with bows and buttons



Pattern – again, I simply adapted my template bodice pattern by making it slightly longer in front, and adding a bit of fullness at panel 2 to mirror the shape on the fashion plate. The back pieces are substantially longer and flare quite dramatically . Neckline was adapted too.

22. bodice pattern

Normally I would have made a mock up, but with the time constraint I decided to risk it – after all I know the pattern fits me well as I have made a few bodices based on it – so in theory it would be fine!  Still, if you have time – do make a mock up…..

  1. Cut out the pieces in top fabric and lining. Pin or baste the wool and lining pieces together – if authenticity is not a priority, you can overlock (serge) the pieces – much easier to work with and will save you hours of hand finishing the seams.

23.tracing the template - you can just about see the lines as i made the piece longer

24. piece complete with the lining pinned securely

25. all pieces cut - 1 side shown


  1. Pin  and sew the front darts

26. sewing the darts

  1. Assemble to bodice – sew the front piece to the side, then add side back (leave the seam from the waist to the hem open between the side-front and side-back panels) and back. Repeat on the other side and lastly, sew the two halves together at the back-centre seam.
  2. Sew the shoulder seams. The mini bodice is now assembled

27. bodice assembled,insides...

  1. Try it on. There is still time to check the fit, and make adjustments. In my case it was evident that the front darts were too short – and the shoulder seam needed taking in.
28. trying the bodice on - the darts are too short - you can see the wrinkling clearly.

trying the bodice on – the darts are too short – you can see the wrinkling clearly.

29. back looking good, though the back seem needs to have waistline lowered by about half inch

back looking good, though the back seem needs to have waistline lowered by about half inch

  1.   Once that was sorted I only needed to reduce the flare in the front panels at the hem – just half an inch  less did the trick
30. darts and shoulder sorted, no horizontal wrinkling!

darts and shoulder sorted, no horizontal wrinkling!

31. taking in the excess fullness

taking in the excess fullness

  1. Once satisfied with the fit, press the seams open (if your fabric allows for it!) and you can start working on the sleeve. I did cut mine with a loose fitted cuff and pinned it on my arm to make sure that it looked correct

32. working on the shape of the sleeve

  1. Sew the sleeve parts together along the back seam. Before you sew it to the front one, sew the ribbon decoration onto the cuff – this is much easier than dealing with a closed sleeve!
33. working on the sleeve's cuff

working on the sleeve’s cuff

  1. Decoration on, complete assembling the sleeve. Pin it into the arms, matching the back seams, and ease it in. (you can do that after decorating the bodice itself – easier to manoeuvre the bodice without the sleeves!)
34. sleeve ready to be inserted into the bodice

sleeve ready to be inserted into the bodice

  1. Bodice decoration – apply the ribbon trim to the required parts of the bodice.The original here didn’t have any ribbon on the front part – since I had some left over ribbon at that point, I added it there too. Next, add the fur trim.

35. sewing the trim onto the bodice peplum

  1. The front part – I simply bound the front edge in silk velvet strip.
  2. The mock vest – this step can be skipped if you plan to wear a blouse or a chemisette underneath. I had just about sufficient scraps of silk taffeta and decided to go for it.
  3. Trace the shape of the piece onto a scrap of calico and adapt it until you get a result you are happy with – I used 2 calico mock ups to arrive at the piece with a collar pointing downwards.
36. working on the false vest insert

working on the false vest insert

37, shape emerging



  1. Cut your pieces in silk – you will need 4. Sew them with right sides together, alongside the collar edge. Trim seams allowances, turn inside out, and press. Apply ribbon to your liking

39. done - just need hemming and inserting into the bodice

  1. Before you mount the piece onto the bodice, finish the neckline of the bodice – hem it, and apply the fur trim. Add fur onto the cuffs too.
  2. Pin the insert in and stitch it in place. Try it on to see if the position is satisfactory, and whether you need to put in hooks and eyes. Trying to emulate the original, I also added a wide ribbon trim going from the shoulder to the centre front, with a bow conveniently hiding the hook and eye closure.

40. insert in...

  1. Add lace frill if desired.

41. velvet ribbon and lace added

  1. Next step – add buttons and buttonholes, or settle for hook and eye closures.  I admit I did neither – since  the straight stitch machine doesn’t do buttonholes and I had no time to stitch them by hand, I settled for buttons and hidden loops – once I have my proper machine back,  (or more time on my hands to fiddle with hand stitched buttonholes), I will remove the loops.  It will also make the jacket a little better fitted)
  2. Finishing the seams – unless you have overlocked them, you now need to deal with the insides of the jacket – as I bet it is looking pretty messy!  Trim the lining seam allowances, as you did with the skirt, and then shape the top fabric allowances to reduce bulk, then finish the seams by hand.   Armholes – trim and bind in cotton tape

43. seams finished, boning chanels being applied 42. finifhign the armhole

  1. Make boning channels out of tape ( or, if your seam allowances are big enough, you can actually place  your bones inside  the seam allowance and stitch it closed – (a good post of that by Historical sewing –, insert the bones and secure the boning to their corresponding seams
  1. Stitch your waist tape to the centre back, and to the seams, over the boning – it will reduce pull on the buttons.


44. waist stay ( opted for a fancy one! being secured

waist stay ( opted for a fancy one! being secured

Last thing to do – decorations!

Put the whole ensemble onto a dummy and plan the decoration placement.

I had sufficient buttons to go on the apron front and lots of bows made out of double-sided ribbon to go on the bodice and overskirt

45. bows ready!

How to make bows – beautifully explained here (


Stitch on the decoration , and you are done!

46. finishing touches...

finishing touches…

Now, only a muff, hat, gloves – and we are ready for a winter outing. Alas, no skating – the ice rink at the event turned out to be a tiny affair with plastic ice. I tried it out on Saturday with a friend, and my skates did manage a bit of a glide, but the ones for hire there were hopeless – plus, the plastic ice was sticky.

47.trying on the ice rink  - fail....

We just took a few pictures and decided to have a proper skating photo-shoot later on in the winter, on real ice.  So instead, it was promenading on the lovely grounds -:-)

 49 48 50 51 52 back view LJP_9277


Things to change – make a better hat, for once.  I have also learnt that the ready made fur trim is stiff and that stiffness translates onto the garment. Next time, I will save for a few high quality plates and work with them to achieve a wider and softer trim.

The skirts – looking at the pictures the lines are not exactly right – the original’s overskirt is a bit more slanted. Easy to remedy though – will fiddle with the length of the pieces at the waistband as indicated on the pattern.

Working with wool – sheer pleasure. It is the second Victorian outfit I have done in wool and I love it. It doesn’t fray, has just a little tiny bit of stretch in it to make fitting easy and wrinkle – free, and is a pleasure to wear too.


hope you enjoyed the post:-)


and a few   more pictures from the day – the place was a heaven for photographers!

IMG_00002688 LJP_9115 LJP_9117 LJP_9147 LJP_9201














Making My Victorian Wedding Dress, part 1

1. finished outfit, evening version

In a few days’ time  it will be our third wedding anniversary – and to celebrate we decided to make these articles available for free – enjoy!



To be wed in Victorian finery! What can a bride-to-be want more? Well, probably a costumier who would do all the fiddly work for her.  Alas I wasn’t that lucky – and the tight budget meant that if I wanted a fancy frock for my wedding, I had to make my own.

Victorian was a fairly new period for me at that time – so in order to allow the time to learn the secrets of Victorian costuming, I decided to make the bridal party frocks first – 4 different styles of Victorian outfits. The reasoning behind that was that by the time I start work on my own outfit, if I was to make any mistakes, I would have made them, and learnt from them before I cut into the hideously expensive bridal satin.  The cunning plan worked, and the results will be presented to you in this article, so that, if you wish, you can duplicate the look without having to negotiate such a steep learning curve.

I am going to discuss the layers briefly, and then provide instructions how to make the following: a steel boned bustle, a soft bustle pad and a flounced petticoat, a foundation skirt, apron overskirt and a detachable train; an afternoon and a ball bodice and a veil.  Most of the garments have been presented in the individual articles (apart from the bodices); this one deals with all the garments in once place so that it is easier to use it if you wish to replicate any –or all of the items.


Background information and research

The style I wanted for my outfit was around 1883, so just after the Natural Form when the second Bustle style comes into fashion.

I had to consider a few factors: the dress would be worn not only for the ceremony, but for a hack on a side saddle, and then, with the evening bodice, for dancing.  The two factors, riding and dancing had a huge impact on the underwear I chose to make.

I already managed to acquire a few antique items I planned to wear – a lovely camisole, a pair of drawers (in the earlier style, but I decided to wear them anyway, since time to prepare the whole bridal trousseaux was short) and a bodiced petticoat.

2. camisole

A corset cover in cotton

3. drawers

Split drawers

4. bodiced petticoat

A bodiced petticoat

I needed a corset, a bustle pad – to support the skirts for riding, a full, long, steel boned bustle, ideal for supporting the skirts for dancing, and a flounced petticoat to provide the volume.

The corset

To take some weight off my shoulders and save me some time – and possibly mistakes, as well, I engaged Cathy Hay from Harman Hay to draft the pattern of the corset and create the mock up. Once that was ready, I was presented with ready pattern pieces and could make the corset myself – a great solution as a perfect compromise, saving me both time and money.

Since I wanted to be using the corset for all kinds of activities, it was essential that I made sure the corset did not restrict my movement. Cathy’s mock up was fully boned and behaving just like the real thing, so I was able to test it in a variety of situations. The mock up fitted almost perfectly while standing and moving around – but it was a different story when I used it for more energetic activities!

I tried it on horseback, and it was evident almost from the start that it needed it to be much shorter than I originally thought as the front busk kept digging in my thigh, and a jump resulted in a spectacular bruise.

6.close up of the mock up showing the busk - too long for riding

Testing the mock up in the saddle- busk is visibly too long


7. side view of the mock up - back just a bit too high

8. mock up in action - sides half an inch too high, and digging into armipts when riding - mark the arms position

You can also see that the sides and back were just slightly too high for riding – mark my awkward arm position at the jump.

Since it was just a mock up, the alternations were not difficult to reflect on the pattern, and as a result I ended up with a corset that not only fits well, but that also works well for all kinds of activities.

9. corset amended, with a shorter busk, here still before  binding and finishing touches

Corset in cotton coutil and taffeta, fully boned – here just testing before adapting the sides, binding and decorating

Almost ready – just flossing to do (done 18months after the wedding! )

 10. finished corset ( just flossing to do...)

 The bustle cage (lobster tail) and the petticoat

I have already written an article on making the bustle cage – here, and the petticoat tutorial is here

Testing the layers in the saddle…

48. back view - note the unbuttoned petticoat

back view – note the unbuttoned petticoat

46. Stocking, drawers, corset and the petticoat, worn on the bustle pad,  at trial riding

Stockings, chemise,drawers, corset and the petticoat, worn on the bustle pad, at trial riding

 The pad or the bustle?

Some skirts can be worn on either, depending on the style and dating.   The pad is great for walking and, in my case, I made one for walking down the aisle. I was riding side saddle just after the ceremony and there would be no time to change – so the pad worked very well.

The long bustle was simply amazing for dancing. My wedding gown had a long train which bustled for dancing, but the weight was substantial, and it was still trailing on the ground. The bustle kept the excess fabric away from my legs, making waltzing much less difficult!  Despite the steels, the bustle is very comfortable to sit in too – it simply collapses flat!

31. side view of the  day bodice

Victorian wedding gown – skirts and train worn over a pad.

 41. train bustled

The same gown, though with an evening bodice, worn over the steel boned bustle.



The Skirts

We will discuss the construction and decoration of the skirt, apron skirt and a detachable train suitable for the Victorian fashions of the Second Bustle period – although with small changes the items will also work for the Natural Form era.

My wedding gown is used here as an example – but the items can be rendered  in any  suitable fabric and used for travelling, visiting, promenading or ball gowns – or Steampunk versions of thereof!

The pattern

For my wedding attire, simplicity was the main concern. I needed the skirt to be versatile: wide enough to dance and ride in, but without  a bulk; also, I wanted it to be worn with a later outfit, late 80ies, maybe even 90ies so  any excessive decoration was really not an option.

1. 9Gore Skirt pattern with notes

In the end, and with some help from another costumier, Gini Newton, we decided on a 9 gore skirt, with a slight train.  We based our pattern on the skirt discussed in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 2 –  1882 dinner dress from The London Museum and adapted it accordingly arriving at a pattern very similar to the one of gallery of English Costume C1895, also in Janet Arnold. We did try a number of skirts to see which one would sit best on the bustle and the last one did the job just fine!

The London Museum skirt consists of front panel, front side panels, back sides panels and a back panel. We have added a side side panel as well – it provides a good fit at the upper part of the skirt in front and flares beautifully at the bottom; it can be worn with a bustle or, for later styles, without.

A similar pattern is available from Vena Cava designs:’_Nine-Gored_Skirt%3A_Circa_1900.html



All the components of the whole wedding outfit were made out of silk Duchesse satin. I bought mine from the Silk Society, and although absolutely stunning, it was also very expensive, retailing at £70 per metre. In the hindsight, I know now I could have obtained a fabric of similar quality but at half the price from James Hare.  James Hare’s duchesse satin has also the advantage of coming in a non-curl version – and for anybody who has ever had to deal with the curly satin, the advantages would be obvious!

The skirt took 3.5 metres of the 140cm wide top fabric and the same amount of lining (in lawn). If you plan to decorate your skirt in more complex and bigger ruffles, add at least 2 metres.

5 metres of crin tape for the hem

The same skirt can be made in plain wools, silk taffetas or satins as well.


Since the satin I had was of the curly variety, I decided to flat line the skirts to stabilise the top fabric – a method commonly used in the period.

  1. Cut your pieces in lining first, labelling each one as you do so.
  2. Place the lining pieces on the left side of the top fabric, working one by one and starting from the front

–          Place the centre front lining panel on the fabric. Pin the two layers together, than cut out the top fabric. You now have a piece consisting of two layers, securely pinned. Make sure your labelling is visible – best place it next to the seam on the lining – it will be very helpful when assembling the skirt! If your fabric is very slippery, it is worth your time to baste the two layers together.

–          Repeat for all the other pieces; it really helps if, after cutting out you place them in the order they will be sewn.

–          Cut out the waistband and the placket

  1. Baste or pin the front and side pieces together. It is not necessary to baste all the way down, at the moment you only want to see if the skirts lies correctly on your belly and hips. The back panels will be pleated into the waistband, so the snugness is not necessary there.
  2. Try putting the basted pieces around your waist, while wearing your undergarments. This is essential – when you wear your corset the shape of your body changes – even if you do not go for tight lacing, the shape of your waist and belly will be different and that will be reflected in the fit of the skirt. If your skirt is to be always worn under an apron skirt or other drapery, a mistake here will go unnoticed. For later period however, a perfect fit is required.
  3. If the fit is to your satisfaction, you can sew the pieces. Again start from the front centre panel and add the side centre panels.
  4. After each panel press the seam flat (or you can do it once all the seams are sewn). You can also finish the raw edges with pinking shears to limit fraying, or  finish the stitches by hand.

Flat lined seams from the left side

 2. flatlining the skirt

If your skirts are in wool, or you wish them to be light, without any lining, simply sew the pieces right sides together, press the seam flat and either pink it or finish the edges by hand.


  1. Remember to leave an opening in the back seam for the placket (or a side seam if your skirt closes at the side instead).
  2. Arrange the back panels into pleats and pin the skirt to the waistband.
  3. Try it on, on all your undergarments.
  4. Tweak any problem areas and if everything is as you desire, sew the waistband to the skirt, placing the two layers right sides together. Fold the waistband  over, covering the edges, and hand stitch in place
3. waistband

3. waistband


  1. Prepare your placket and attach it to the opening on one side. Fold the edges of the opening over and hand stitch, securing them.
5. back pleats

5. back pleats

4. the placket

  1. Add a button and a button hole – or hooks and eyes.
  2. Time to look at the bottom hem now.  Try the skirt on, or put it on the stand, worn on all your undergarments and check the line of the hem. Make sure the length is appropriate to the shoes you will be wearing and make necessary adjustments.
  3. Take the skirt off; flip it on the left side.  Pin your crin. There are two ways  of working with that, you can either fold the hem and hand stitch it to the lining of the skirt  and then place the crin on top , covering the folded hem. Or, hand stitch the crin band to the lining, a little above the hem. Then fold the hem over it and stitch in place.  Press. The second method works much better on curly or flimsy fabrics, producing a nice finish to the hem.

6. skirt without the ruffle

Finished skirt without the ruffle


  1. You can add a short dust ruffle at the bottom as well. I added mine after I have finished all the garments as I wasn’t sure how much fabric I would have left!
  2. Cut the desired length of the ruffle in top fabric and lining. I realised that for every metre of the finished ruffle I need about 3 metres of fabric.
  3. Place the top layer and the lining right sides together, and sew. Once sewn, unfold and press the seam, then fold again making sure the top fabric extends a bit on the left side at the bottom hem of the ruffle. Press.
  4. The upper edge of the ruffle – you can either fold the top part over and stitch o4 fold both layers inside and stitch at the hem.
  5. You should now have quite a long, narrow strip of fabric. Since it is narrow, you can use a ruffle attachment on the machine to pleat it – it takes minutes instead of hours!
8. ruffle pleated and awaiting application

ruffle pleated and awaiting application


  1. Once pleated, press the ruffle carefully and pin to the hem – I placed mine over the crinoline strip, completely covering it.

9. ruffle being pinned to the skirt

Ruffle being pinned to the skirt

11. inside the ruffle

Close up of the ruffle

Stitch the ruffle in place – make the stitches in strong thread but remember that do not need to be tiny – after all you will be taking off the ruffle to be cleaned!  

The inside of the skirt showing the ruffle

10. the inside of the skirt showing the flatlining and the ruffleYour skirt is now ready.


12. the skirt in action - note the delicate edging of the ruffle

the skirt in action – note the delicate edging of the ruffle




Optional decoration

If you want you can add ruffles , flounces and other decorations to  the bottom of your skirts , simply repeat the steps  with a ruffle of your choice sewn to the outside of the skirt. A variety of options are possible here – one wider ruffle, few narrower ones, a flounce – the possibilities are endless!

For a simple, unlined ruffle, cut the desired length of the fabric – min 3 times the length of the finished ruffle . Hem on both sides and pleat – using a pleater, or a ruffler, or traditionally, with pins…

Press the finished ruffle with starch – or vinegar solution and sew onto the skirt.

13. skirt decoration - 2 rows of pleats

Finished skirt with 2 rows of pleating

You can experiment with the direction, sizes and shape of the pleats too – here’s an example of that!

14. 1 row of knife and box pleats

Alternative knife and box pleats, with the top being shaped as well

14. gathered flounces on the skirt

And an example of gathered flounces on a Natural Form era skirt, here on one of my bridesmaids

15. ruching panel and 1 row of pleats

And a combination of a ruffle and a ruching panel on a narrower skirt

The apron skirt

Fabric – 2.5 satin duchesse; again, wool, taffeta, satin etc will work just as well. If you want your skirt lined, the same amount of lining fabric will be needed.

2m of calico for mock up and experimenting

3m of decorative silk fringe


There are several patterns available online  – mine was based on  this one:


Since I didn’t actually buy the pattern (a pity since I have no doubt it would shorten the whole process considerably!), I decided to make mine first in calico and experiment.


Experimental  method : worth trying if you have never done this skirt before, or simply want to see the possibilities, in particular if you are working with a new fabric. Skip this step if you have a readymade pattern!

Cut two pieces in calico – front and back, both in trapezoid shape, with the back longer. Stitch the sides together and put it on the dummy. Try different kinds of pinning the folds:

16. calico mock up 1 - fail!

calico mock up 1 – fail!

Folds pinned facing downwards first. Epic fail

17. calico mock up2 - not too good either

calico mock up2 – not too good either

Folds pinned upwards. Better, but not what I was after.


At that point, I took the thing off, re-cut  the pieces in calico, this time placing them on the bias.  Stitched them together, put the skirt on the dummy.

18. calico mock up 3. bettter but not much

calico mock up 3. bettter but not much

Folds downwards: not very good, though better than before

19. calico mock up 4. bingo!

calico mock up 4. bingo!

Pinned upwards – result!


Just to be on the safe side, I took a length of the satin and pinned it as the front on the dummy, to see it the satin would behave like the calico. It did. Pinned the fringe on, to see if it would work with the heavy trim as well. It did!


 The making of the apron skirt proper.

  1. Cut out the pieces in your fabric (some fabric will require bias cut, some won’t – crispy taffeta looks good both ways!)
  2. Mark and sew the darts in the upper part
  3. Sew the pieces together, leaving the top of one seam open. Press the seams open and pink them.
  4. Cut out the waistband.
  5. Pleat the back part to fit into the waistband. You can add cotton tapes to the inside – they would control the folds at the back


  1. Sew the waistband in the same way you did with the skirt, add buttons/hooks and eyes)
  2. Fold the hem over and secure it with small stitches. Add fringe or any other decoration
  3. Put the skirt on the dummy and pin the folds carefully.


  1. Take the skirt off, and secure the folds with stitching – either by hand or by machine.

10 Attach the decoration (optional).

22. apron skirt, with the folds pinned

apron skirt, with the folds pinned

24. apron skirt - trying the decoration band

apron skirt – trying the decoration band


Your apron skirt is now ready – decorated the sides of mine with removable flower bands – more information on making them later!)


The train


Fabric: silk duchesse satin, 4.5m (including the pleated section)

Lining – silk taffeta for the train, 2.5m

Lining for the pleats: 2m of cotton lawn

10 metres of cotton lace

12m of grosgrain ribbon

4 m of cotton tape

9 ivory roses for decoration

The train I had in mind had to serve several functions.  It had to be pretty (obvious, really!) and for that I chose the finish I saw on the Worth Evening dress (1881) at the V&A – scallops, pleats and lace.

I also wanted to make it long enough to look spectacular as I walked down the aisle; it also had to be easy to bustle up for dancing or to remove for riding.


That was the easiest part.  I cut a rectangle of fabric (220 x 1.35cm) and simply rounded the bottom corners of the train.


  1. Cut the train in your top fabric and lining.
  2. Spread the top fabric left side up  and draw the scallops
  3. Cut out the scallops.
  4. Hem the train by folding the edges in and securing with small stitches; alternatively leave it as it is for the time being – you can do it later by machine as well!
  5. Place the top fabric on the lining, pin it and cut the scallops in the lining. You can now stitch the lining in by hand. It is possible to do it with a machine, though with scallops it tends to be a bit tricky. I opted for the hand method as it gave the scallops a nice finish.
  6. Pleat the top of the train and secure the pleats with pins.
  7. Cut 3 lengths of cotton tape – they will keep the train bustled up.  The length of the tapes will depend on how you want to bustle the train, mine end at about a foot off the ground.
  8. Pin in the tapes to the left side of the pleats – two at about 2 inches from each edge and one in the centre.
  9. Attach to a waistband.  The waistband can go all around the torso, or it can be a short one with tapes for tying it around your waist.

train pleats in the waistband

Train pleated to the waistband

28. the tapes for the train

Inside of the train showing the placement of the tapes.



The basic shape of the train is now ready, time to add all the embellishments


  1. Take the lace and the grosgrain ribbon. The ribbon should be long enough to go around all the scallops
  2. Attach the lace to the ribbon, gathering it slightly as you go.  Machine ruffler would be no good here as the lace was too delicate, so the process took some time, but it as an easy and nice job.
  3. Pin the finished  lace frill to the hem of the train and hand sew in place

      29. ataching the lace 30. train with the scallops and lace attached

Train with the lace layer sewn on




The pleated layer


  1. Cut out the length of fabric in your top fabric. Again the ration of 3:1 works fairly accurately here.  The finished length should be the length of the bottom hem of the train, without the scallops, times 3 – or more if you have enough fabric! The width of the piece should be enough to cover the whole scallop and extend beyond it for other few inches. Mine was 14 inches wide (36cm).
  2. Cut the same piece in lining, but make it 2 inches narrower.
  3. Place the two layers right sides together and sew along the length of the upper and lower part. Leave the short sides open.
  4. Flip the piece right sides out and press carefully, making sure the edges are even. Secure the ends by folding the fabric inside and stitching the layers together.
  5. The next step requires a great deal of patience and even a greater deal of pins. Decide on the size of the pleats –  ( mine were just over an inch) and pleat the strip,  securing each pleat at both ends

31. pleating ....


Pleated piece


  1. Once pleated, sew near the top of the pleats, securing them – you can stitch over a grosgrain ribbon as I did. Keep the pins in the bottom part as they are
  2. Press carefully.
  3. Put your pleated ruffle left side up, spread it slightly to reflect the curve of the train and place another length of the ribbon in the centre. Stitch it on by hand; it will make sure that the pleats will stay together and the ruffle won’t lose shape.

32. adding the support ribbon

Adding the support ribbon

33. finished ruffle, ready to be added to the train

Finished ruffle, right side view.

  1. Place the ruffle on the left side of the train ( right side of the ruffle to the left side of the train), pin and hand stitch – make sure the stitches catch only the lining and the tiniest bit of the top fabric between the scallops, and that the stitches at the deepest  part of the scallop are the strongest – they won’t be visible since there will be roses on top of them, and they will be the ones responsible of holding the ruffle in place.

34. pinning the ruffle into the train

Ruffle pinned to the train

35. the ruffle added to the train

Pleated layer stitched to the body of the train

  1. Sew in the roses or any other decorations.


36. the train decoration finished

The train is almost finished – all it needs now is a balayeuse.


Cotton twill, lawn or silk – here silk was used – 3m. Cotton would be a much more practical version, but for the wedding dress silk just looked better. Plus, having washed the silk in the machine on low temperature setting it looked as if the washing didn’t do much harm, and indeed I have washed my balayeuse since then and it did survive the experience

Broderie anglaise lace trim. –   10 m

Buttons – 14



Determine the size and shape of your balayeuse by noticing how much train will be lying on the floor. Mine is a semicircle, with the straight line reaching across the train from the first scallop on both sides.


  1. Cut the base out, hem the edges.
  2. Cut the flounces – there will be a lot of them!
  3. Make the flounces just as you did the ruffles for the skirts: hem the fabric (hemming foot was a blessing here), add the broderie anglaise or any other lace, then pleat the ruffles (again the ruffle saved tons of time!)
  4. Attach the ruffles to the base.


37.  Balayeuse ready


  1. Make buttonholes on the straight line and along the bottom.
  2. Mark the position of the buttonholes on the train proper. Sew small buttons onto the train.
  3. Button up the balayeuse to the train.

38. Balayeuse buttoned into the train

Balayeuse attached to the train


All that need to be done is putting hooks and eyes (or buttons – in the hindsight, buttons work better, as hooks tend to unhook!) onto the bustling tapes and onto the train. Do experiment with it, making sure the placement of the hooks creates the effect you want.

I also used bands with flowers to keep the train bustled up – the same band were used to decorate the apron skirt and, later on, the evening bodice.




fabric roses  – 30

bunches of small paper roses -25

Strips of fabric to attach the flowers to


  1. Prepare 5 strips of silk – two to go on the sides of the apron skirt, 2 to be used for the train.
  2. I used  4 inch strips, which I folded in half stitched on the left sides, turned,  finished the edges and pressed.
  3. Attach the decoration. Pin the big roses in first, sewing them to the strip to ensure they faced the right direction and then place the small bunches around, securing their wiry stems around the big rose. Stitch them all down carefully.
  4. Once ready, stitch the bands on their appropriate places – the apron skirts ones went just over the side seams of the apron skirt.
  5. The train bands were given loops at each side and decorative buttons were sewn onto the apron skirt next to the decoration – the bands simply button in place


The train in its full glory: unbustled:

40. the train's full lenght shown while walking


And showing the train bustled up for dancing.

 1. finished outfit, evening version


In the part 2t I will talk about making the two bodices – and all the accessories:-)