When I was a freshman in college, I worked in the school's costume department as the "wardrobe supervisor". It sounds more glamorous then it really was. Basically, I was in charge of making sure all the costumes were clean and pressed for each night's performance (or dirty, if that's what the roll called for). I gathered jewelry and props for different costumes. Mended little things as they needed it. I LOVED watching the designers research styles and time periods and make their own patterns.
For a long time after working there, I had dreams about the "closet"; an enormous room in the dim basement of the theater building with rows and rows of period clothing cascading from high hung rods, drawers and drawers of pantaloons and pettiskirts, shawls and gloves.
It really was neat.
So, these pictures aren't of me, but they are of the BYU costume department. Just so you can get an idea of what I'm talking about. The one on the right is from BYU Costume Dept.'s Facebook page and the one on the left is from Flikr.
Despite my impressive resume entry of "wardrobe supervisor", I never actually made any costumes. But, several weeks ago when an opportunity to help a local costumer presented itself , I jumped right on it. Sure I'm qualified! She asked me to make a Civil War era dress for a high school production of Little Women. Looking at the pattern (Simplicity 4551), it seemed challenging, but not impossible.
Um, yeah. I was kind of wrong about that.
This pattern proved to be much more work than I anticipated. And anyone who knows me well knows I am a procrastinator and a complainer when it comes to stuff like this.
However difficult, I really learned a lot from this project and overall enjoyed making it. I figured out how to use my sewing machine's blind hem foot (thanks to Teriney and some internet tutorials).
I also became an expert at making CARTRIDGE PLEATS. The hardest thing about this pattern is that so much of it is done by hand. I thought I'd be doing some gathering stitches on my machine to make the skirt and attach it to the waistband-- no problem! But it was ALL done by hand.
The bodice is lined with a darted/fitted under-bodice. The outer-bodice has gathers in the front and back. The sleeves have multiple pleats and in some places, double pleats.
Originally, the costumer said I didn't need to do button holes, but simply close it with Velcro and make the buttons decorative. But, once I got into the pattern, I discovered the buttons were already decorative and the front was actually fastened with hooks and eyes. With how fitted the bodice is, I couldn't see it staying together with just Velcro-- I kept envisioning the actress moving her arms and the front ripping open with that loud sound only Velcro makes. Can you say "wardrobe malfunction"?!?
So, I stitched on a ton of hooks and eyes and buttons. Not to mention the collar and cuffs were hand sewn. I'm not sure why the pattern didn't construct more using the sewing machine, but now that it's all done, I am proud that most of it was done by hand because it feels more authentic.
I just realized that I didn't turn the cuffs up before I took pictures of the dress.
If you made it all the way to the end of this super long post, I think you deserve a prize! So, here is a little CONTEST! To first person who can correctly guess how many feet of fabric it took to make the skirt, I will send you a prize! Leave your answer in the comments and a way to contact you, if I don't know you.
Kristin Sharp, you cannot enter, but I will give you a prize anyway for putting up with my whining.