Monday, May 9, 2016

HSM #1: Procrastination

It's only fitting that my entry for the Historical Sew Monthly's Procrastination Challenge should be almost five months late, right? I had the garment finished and pictures taken back in February, but just procrastinated in getting them edited and the blog post written (although to be fair, I did have a bazillion drama costumes to make too). At this point, I've sewn so many things in the interim, I've more or less forgotten everything about the making of. Oops.

Three years, three moves, and one baby ago, I started making a historically-inspired well-to-do lady pirate ensemble. It began with a justaucorps coat, then I made the shirt and waistcoat, and then I got pregnant (I feel like everything I've made/done recently has had this ending: "I started to do ___, then I got pregnant." That excuse is getting worn a little thin, I think). When I saw that the first challenge for this year was to finish a project that had been abandoned, I figured this was the time to get my butt in gear and finally make the breeches for my pirate outfit. I also had the added incentive of the PEERs Casanova Carnevale Ball, which was a masquerade event set in the 18th century, specifically during Casanova's lifetime. My outfit is mostly 1730s-1740s, so I barely squeaked in, not that there were an HA police at the event, thankfully! The organizers were actually pretty specific about it being a non-HA event where fantasy costumes were welcome, too.

Still, my modus operandi when it comes to these things is to research, research, research, so that when I improvise with my time and materials, I know exactly how I deviated from historical accuracy. I spent a lot of time on Pinterest looking at breeches and sketched the most noteworthy characteristics of the chronologically relevant pieces.

I decided on fall-front breeches, but instead of the smaller flap of the Regency era, I made the entire front into the flap, like this pair. Well, technically the entire front doesn't flap down; the side seams should be sewn as usual and then slits are cut very close to the side seams and then the majority of the front is faced. I went for simplicity, though, and just made mine approximate the look. I also cut corners by using the Simplicity 4923 pattern instead of drafting my own. However, comparison of the pattern pieces with the diagrams from Norah Waugh and other similar sources reveal that the designer, Andrea Schewe, did a remarkable job of keeping HA shapes in the front and back pieces. I drafted a new waistband to better match the HA ones, though, since the pattern just had a rectangular strip. Unfortunately, in the end all my efforts were for naught, as my breeches looked absolutely ridiculous when I sewed them up. Look, I know that saggy baggy butts were the norm back then, but I could seriously have stashed a small ham in back. The waistband also ended up too big in the back for the more HA grommets and lacing that I had planned, so with less than a week until ball-time, I said screw it and sewed the waistband shut in the back and put in huge horizontal darts to take up some of the excess fabric in the back. Not the prettiest fix, but I figured that it would all be hidden under my coat anyway.

Here it is, all pretty and buttoned up. I'm just glad I got the nap direction more or less right across the front!

The back looks pretty normal until you see the inside...

Here's the front flap folded down. You can see the linen facing and the pocket bags attached to the waistband. 

The pockets were made in a totally non-HA way, but they were very functional and very welcome as a place to stash my phone and keys. 

And here you can see where I tacked the waistband together and took up several inches of fabric with my fat horizontal darts.

Since historical accuracy was already thrown out, I didn't bother with making functional closures at the knees of my breeches; I just sewed it all shut and added a decorative button. Additionally, because I had to squeeze my pattern pieces onto the last remnants of my velvet tablecloth, I couldn't really get the grain right. I settled for making the velvet nap direction as acceptable as possible, but that meant that the grain was so off that the finished breeches twist in a really weird way around my knees. I had to let out the side seams until there was all of 1/4" seam allowance on both sides in order to somewhat resolve the problem. It's still not great, but at least the outer side seam isn't sitting smack in the middle of my kneecap?

Because it was a masquerade ball, I made a mask trimmed with some of the leftover gold lace from the coat and a bunch of rhinestones. I also bought shoes that approximated the look of early 1700s mens' heels and then added ribbon and buckles to shoe clips so as to disguise their Aerosole-ness. The finishing touch was white knee-high socks from Target.

And somehow, despite all my corner-cutting, somehow it all came together fabulously! Usually when I go to these kinds of events, I feel slightly embarrassed about my outfit and envious of others', but this time I was absolutely brimming with excitement at how very real I looked. Maybe not historically accurate, but fabulous all the same. I love it when a costume just comes together like that! It's like a weird costumer's high that I just can't get enough of.

Elaine was my date and she was smashing as well in the corset I made for her wedding. We had so much fun while dancing, people watching, costume ogling, and being silly together. I am so unspeakably glad that we finally live in the same area again! After spending all of high school living a block and a half apart, and then in college sharing a room, eight years was just too long to be living in totally different areas (also, has it really been that long, nay longer, since we were in college?!). I also remembered how much I enjoy dancing. I really do need to get out more.

Pattern: Simplicity 4923, modified for historical accuracy, then modified for more flattering fit
Year: early-mid 1700s...ish.
Fabric: The last bits of a thrifted velvet tablecloth, plus scraps of black linen for the facings.
Notions: Seven "gold" buttons, with the plastic rhinestone centers Sharpied magenta to match the rest of the outfit
Hours: I really don't remember, but I'll hazard a guess that it was about 15 hours. The actual sewing was pretty easy, but I spent a long time messing around with pattern piece layout on my limited fabric, and then trying to make it look better after it was sewn up.
Will you make it again? Nope. I am not a fan of baggy butts.
How historically accurate is it? In intention, very, in practicality, not very. I'll give it maybe a 30% since the fabric and shortcuts and mods really take away from it.
Total cost: But I will pat myself on the back that it really cost nothing since everything was from stash.
Final thoughts: I seriously love this outfit, but the breeches are definitely the weakest part of the ensemble. *shrug* They're a necessary part of the outfit and I'll appreciate them for that. I'm just glad that I finally finished them and got to wear it all to a ball!

I know the ball was in February, but we only just took down our Christmas wreath a week's that for procrastination?

At some point I'd like to retrim my tricorne and take up the sleeves of the shirt (they're about half a foot too long!) and then take non-dim non-iPhone photos of the outfit with the cane I made to go with it. In the meantime, though, here's the one "real" photo I have, with the coat off because it was too warm for a polyester velvet coat while dancing!



  1. I'm impressed by your ability to make awesome historical costumes/garments out of repurposed materials (which is what I think most sewists would have done, historically speaking!)

    1. Haha sweet, I get to award myself the ultra-historical award, at least in spirit!

  2. It looks fabulous! I can't believe that trim was just sitting around your stash. (And I'm pretty sure I'll be using #becausehobbit as my excuse for everything I intend to do and don't for years, so don't feel bad about the pregnancy excuse!)

    1. It was actually purchased for another dress, but it ended up being inappropriate so I just have yards of it sitting in stash.

      At least it will be two of us making that excuse :)

  3. I am standing in front of my keyboard applauding like mad (and the cat is super pissed I got up). That is just so wonderful! (maybe it's the braid)(no, it's the person in the costume just standing there knowing she rocked it)(or that's what the actor teen says - he gives you the second standing O).
    Damn! Damn, girl! Damn!
    (ps: later it's #becauseteens)

  4. Wow! The whole ensemble looks great! I've never seen breeches with a fall front where the waist stays shut before, so it was super useful to see such in-detail photos along with your construction sketches. :)

    1. I'm glad you found it helpful! I had to do lots of digging on Pinterest and the Met in order to find pictures of the inner construction.

  5. Brava!! You look awesome; I would totally give myself a hardy pat on that back for that ;) hardy-har-har! pirate wink ;)

  6. This outfit ABSOLUTELY knocks it out of the park! Great job, both on the overall look and the corner cutting!

    My life divides sharply at the point where I got pregnant (probably even more so than yours. ;) ) so I totally get that feeling. Also, it's so awesome that you get your bestie back living locally! Mine has moved to the west coast and it sucks big time. :(

    1. My condolences! It is hard to be far from a bestie.

      Your life gives me hope that once the small human beings get a bit older, they turn out pretty cool.

  7. Replies
    1. Thanks, that means so much coming from a costumer I admire!

  8. I'm so glad you told me about the ball. It was a blast, and your costume was fantastic!

    1. I'm so glad you were able to come with! We really need to go to more balls.

  9. Wow,this historical costume is amazing! The detail is incredibly in every aspect of it, it's simply beautiful, every part of it is just wow. XxxX

  10. The combination of everything looks really good!


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