"Becoming Victoria"

I am honoured and excited to have been invited by the Llandrindod Wells Victorian Festival committee to appear as a young Queen Victoria at this year's festival from 22nd-28th August 2016. In preparation for this role I will be designing and making the costumes for the young queen over the coming months. These will be authentic reproductions of the fashions of the early years of Victoria's reign and will include a range of 1840s women's garments from corsets and petticoats to day dresses, ball gowns and bonnets. This blog will document and share my progress as I research, design and stitch each element to reveal the secrets of "Becoming Victoria".

Thursday, 21 July 2016

SIlk Dress Completed

31 days to go and the silk dress is complete (all bar a few finishing touches).

The final stages of construction involved preparing and mounting the skirts. Both the outer silk fabric and the cotton lining had to be seamed and then hemmed by hand separately. I machine stitched the large rectangles of fabric for speed but worked the hems by hand to keep the stitching as invisible as possible. I also hand stitched 4" wide strips of cotton wadding into the hem of the lining as well as two 14" squares at the back waist. This wadding was a feature of the original gown and helps to give a little extra body to the hem and the back of the dress.

Hem stitches worked on the silk
To create the V-shape at the front to match the point of the bodice, the fabric of both the skirt and lining were folded and pressed down. The two fabrics were then placed together with the folded down edges sandwiched between them.

Pressing down the upper edges to match the point of the bodice
From this point on the two layers of fabric were treated as one. I worked two lines of gathering stitched at precise 3/8" intervals. When drawn up these stitches created a concertina effect known as cartridge pleats.

Cartridge pleats from above
Cartridge pleats viewed from the front
These pleats were then sewn on to the bodice one at a time by hand with two stitches through the back of each pleat holding them in place.

Mounting the skirt to the bodice - one stitch at a time!
 This technique creates very small precise pleats that stand facing outwards away from the body rather than lying flat against it. They were a very common feature of dresses at this period and are visually very effective.

A close up of the finished pleats

So apart from the back fastening and some boning for the inside of the bodice this dress is now complete. These finishing touches will be added once I have tried on and fitted the dress for the last time to make sure that the back overlap is correct. The bodice will close with hooks and eyes and the boning will ensure that the bodice sits smoothly over the corset without any wrinkles.

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