Progress has been made! Huzzah! I finished the skirt last night, and I mocked up the bodice this afternoon. I did a rough fitting, which was very difficult without a second set of hands, but the bodice pattern (Truly Victorian 446 – Darted Bodice) actually fit pretty well. I don’t have to add any extra length, I don’t think, which is good because that’s often an issue for me. I think in order to just move forward I’ll cut the pieces out of the real fabric with some extra seam allowance and see if I can find someone to help me actually fit the darn thing next week. I haven’t even started thinking about sleeves yet!
Here’s the terrible self-fitting of the bodice that I did. The darts need to get bigger and move closer to the centre front. I tried.
For my readers who are not historical costumers, cartridge pleating is a very effective (if tedious and time-consuming) method for getting large amounts of fabric to fit into a much smaller space – like a waistband, in this case, or sometimes a shoulder. The mid-1860s have some of the fullest skirts basically ever. They’re worn over a large hoop crinoline and several petticoats.
The last time we saw this skirt, it looked like this:
You can just barely see a little bit of white around the waist; there’s a thick piece of elastic in there holding up all of the fabric during draping. I marked the waistline with chalk before taking the whole thing off the dress form and laying it out on the worktable. Because the layers were stacked up so thick the line got kind of bumpy, so I had to compensate for a smoother curve.
Now for the cartridge pleating! I marked out three rows of sewing stations for the cartridge pleating and used buttonhole twist to stitch them up with big running stitches. I made a little jig to make the marking go more quickly; originally I planned on making the pleats each 1/2″ wide, but the fabric is so thick I made them 1″ wide instead. This ended up being a good move, the 1/2″ pleats would have been too dense and crowded at the waistband. I ended up cutting out the third row of stitches; they were just extra reinforcement anyway, and they were pulling the fullness too tight.
I didn’t take any pictures of making the waistband, oops! It’s made of a layer of fashion fabric with two layers of heavy canvas interfacing, and a layer of grosgrain ribbon for extra stability (very festive, holiday-themed grosgrain ribbon! No one well ever know but me, haha!). Then I stitched both the top and the bottom of the big pleats to the waistband perpendicularly. I tried it on and it fit very well! Yay!