Friday, October 21, 2016

Simplicity 4551 Historical Fashion Pattern Civil War era Dress

I can't believe I didn't write a review on this for my blog. In May we had a Queen Victoria's birthday event at Fort Nisqually. I don't normally do 1830s-1860s. However I do like the gothic severeness of the 1840s. I currently have two 1840s dresses I need to finish. I am cartridge pleating procrastinating. It's not hard to do, just labor intensive.

So on to Simplicity 4551 which is supposed to be a Civil War era dress. There was some contention about the sleeve style among a few of my costuming peeps. Some felt they looked like 1830s gigot sleeves. But there are some CDV's on Pinterest that do show similar sleeves being worn during the 1850s-60s. Nevertheless I was going to make the dress as is. So here is the review.

Simplicity 4551 Victorian Dress 1850s 1860s, or something like that. Ok so admittedly this is not my era. But I decided to step outside my comfort zone and now I have a mid Victorian dress to wear if needed. I used roller cotton print that looks like moire silk.
Fitting: Corset measurements, 43-36-43 (yeah I know! Almost Marilyn Monroe territory!!) ;-) I completely ignore the bust measurements on the size chart. This dress has a fitted under bodice so I went by the finished measurements on the pattern pieces. I cut size 16 shoulders and 18 sides. The fitted under bodice has A LOT of ease built in. Too much for it's job of being a fitted under bodice. I avoided most of that by cutting the smaller size. I made 2 alterations. First the shoulder fell way to low on me. So I trimmed a good 1.5 inches off the top of the arm opening. The sleeve seams still falls low, as it should but not ridiculously so. The Big 4 figures the larger size you are the broader your shoulder must be. Nope. I knew the waist would be too small so I added 2 inches to the side seam on the front bodice only, nothing on the back. I need all my extra room across the front. The back was a nice fit. 
This is where 4551 falls into my not recommended category. All was going swimmingly until I got to attaching the skirt to the bodice. Their instructions were very confusing. The dress buttons down the center but the skirt opens on the left side front. Their diagram was poorly drawn and if I was a novice I would have packed it in. But I was determined. I finally figured it out. The skirt required cartridge pleating. This has to be done by hand. Not difficult, just tedious. I did manage to get more pleats on the right side than the left. But it was my first time so... I had to play with the sleeve pleats to get them to fit properly. But pleats are meant to be shuffled for the proper fit. All our shoulders are different shapes.
I am glad I stuck with it. I won't make this pattern again. I think there are others out there that would be hella less confusing. If you really want to make this keep the bodice and the skirt separate. Then you can skip all the grief I struggled with.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Past Patterns #211 1894 Victorian Tea Gown and the unfortunate fabric choice

M'kay... In truth I wanted a bright tea gown, and I got it. PP #211 is a very fabric hungry pattern. And when you have 10 yards of cotton sitting around, well you use it! Other than the 1928 slip on evening dress this is the only PP pattern I have sewn.

This pattern has the instructions printed on one large sheet. Not my favorite. Also there were no sizing measurements located anywhere on the pattern or in the instructions. Size 18 is the biggest this thing goes. I figured that is what I would choose since I am always on the larger end of the size charts. Also I found no reference to seam allowances. I dug out my 1928 PP dress patten and saw they were 1/2.

General information and alterations:

The instructions say the gown is designed for a woman who stands 5 feet tall (yes, really, 5 feet no inches). So I knew right away I would have to lengthen it. I added 1.5 inches and added a 3 inch hem allowance. You have to add the hem allowance because the pattern doesn't include it. For reference I am not quite 5ft 4 inches tall. If you are a tall gal you will want to add extra fabric to the yardage amounts. The large gigot sleeves are a somewhat long. I shortened them 1.5 inches in length. I still feel they are a bit too long. The gown has a fairly loose fit in front, but there is a dart. If your chest is larger than 42 inches I would highly recommend a muslin. I am wearing a corset with this. Some say no corsets under a tea gown but I don't care. You can find old ads for "leisure" or "morning" corsets. I figure most women would have worn some kind of support for comfort. Especially if you are large chested.


Pretty clear and concise. On the fly front the directions say sew wrong sides together. Nope. It's right sides together. There is a missing dot/mark on the yoke for matching up yoke and gown top. Just use the center front as your dot/mark guide. There were no other issues with the directions. They really don't give very clear directions on where you are tacking the sash to the back pleats. I had to kind of wing it. The directions are wordy and limited in drawn diagrams.

What I love:

This is a very elegant 1890s tea gown. I think the style lines would be best in a solid silk, cotton or something with a very sparse pattern. The lovely Watteau pleats get lost in overly patterned fabric like mine. If you are planning on using a cotton fabric it is best to use a lace as your yoke ruffle. I tried it with my fashion fabric and it was too thick and frumpy looking. The lace looks better. I also love the fly front closure. The buttons are hidden under the fly and it gives a nice clean finish. Also if you suck at making button holes, well no one will see them. I would like to remake this at some point in a solid silk. I think it would look very rich and elegant. However, I don't have much occasion to wear a tea gown so......

The end:

I don't recommend this for a beginner due to the sparse instructions. I am glad I made it since I have had the pattern for so long.

 Sorry for the slightly fuzzy picture. My camera was being an utter wanker.