Pa assured her. "You've never failed anything you tried to do, have you?"
(These Happy Golden Years)
Last Monday (March 19th) I became Laura Ingalls for a half hour. I've been working on this project for almost a year now, but I feel like I've been working on it since I picked up the first Little House book. It was as if all my years of reading and studying this subject finally were coming together. And I was terrified.
I chose to perform for my homeschool co-op. This is a group of people who have known me for many years. In some ways this was great. It was all people who knew me very well and weren't going to be annoyed or unsupportive if I messed up. But it also made me more nervous because I knew every person in the room. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to stay in character when I looked at one of my friends, a parent, or a kid. Truthfully though, most of my worries were in the buildup. I'd put so much work into my costume and my research and now my vision was finally becoming real.
So here are a few things I learned:
My 1880s dress is complete!!! (See part one here) After I finished the mockup of the bodice, the process was rather straight forward. I cut the pieces out of my fabric, flatlined them, and sewed them all together. After I put the pieces together, I left it alone until I could finish the skirt. That way I could be sure that the bodice would fit over the skirt properly.
I cut out all the skirt pieces and sewed them together. It was pretty simple, almost all straight lines of sewing. The overskirt was the same, although the front draping was a little confusing at first. They are two different pieces, so they are put on separate.
After finishing the skirt (I left the hemming and adding ruffles until the end), I tried the whole thing on. My bodice didn't have sleeves yet, which made it easier to figure out where the bottom should lay. After I pinned it at my waist, I took it off and added the boning. My pattern didn't have instructions to add boning, but I decided to add it after doing some research. Most bodices from the time period were boned, and I know what a huge difference it makes in fit. I wanted to have a perfect fit for my bodice, that was my main goal. Nothing bothers me more than a victorian bodice with too much room (or the wrong shape)! So I ended up hunting the internet for what sort of boning would be best. I finally settled on German plastic boning, also called "artificial whalebone." (I was convinced mostly by this post) I used some leftover twill tape as boning channels and sewed it to my seam allowance. I will NOT be using twill tape again for boning. I forgot how much that stuff frays! Plus, it's too thick and too wide. My boning was floating around in it's channels and I had to add flossing, which I'm terrible at. Needless to say, the inside of this bodice it not pretty.
Next I added the collar and sleeves. the collar came out beautifully and the sleeves were not half bad either. I don't have a pressboard for sleeves, so that made them a good deal more challenging.
I did all my buttonholes by hand. It definitely took a lot longer, but I would have felt like a terrible cheater if I'd done them by machine. My buttonholes definitely need practice, the first few ones were very messy, but they all came out functional in the end. :)
Finally I sewed on the buttons, finished off the sleeves, and added the ruffles. It was complete!!!! I kind of can't believe it. I've been planning this dress for about a year now and it's finally done. I figured I only spent about 20-25 hours on it total. The sewing was all pretty straight forward, the bodice was definitely most challenging and took up over half of my total time spent on the project. That was mostly all the fitting and handwork I had to do on it though. Overall, it was an immensely fun project and I'm already dreaming up what I'm going to make next. ;)
My name is Rosalie Silliman, I'm a history enthusiast with a love for sewing and costumes.