Thursday, October 23, 2008

Nearly There

I promise there will be pictures to come. The dress is virtually finished; I just haven't had the time to post due to Halloween party preparations. Where did all the time go? I swear this party sneaked up on me much faster than in past years. Anyway...

To do:
Attach veil
Attach hooks and eyes (skirt to bodice)
Turn up sleeves

The embellishing turned out to be much less painful than I thought it would be, harmless really. Like quilting and knitting (intimidating at first) beading the trim at the neckline was actually soothing and relaxing. Thanks to The Bead Shop for their help in purchasing the right tools. Without them it would have been very frustrating. I found the inspiration for the beading pattern from two images, one contemporary (Queen Catharine Parr) and one modern interpretation (Ann Boleyn, The Tudors).

I placed one 10mm white pearl above and below each large cross in the boarder and one 3mm Aurora Borealis Olivine Swarovski crystal in the center. I have also placed one 3mm white pearl in the center of each smaller cross.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Order fabrics
Make stays

Replace forepart
Make overskirt

Cut out pieces including train

Put together

Order pearls and other embellishments
Order trim
Buy supplies

Make bodice

Cut out bodice

Fit bodice (twice)

Cut out sleeves

Attach sleeves
Turn up sleeves
Add piping
Figure out back closure

Make French Hood
Attach wiring to buckram

Cover with velvet
Add veil

Order earrings

Order necklace

Minor Adjustments

In order to achieve the turned up sleeves of the Tudor era I had to make a few adjustments to my pattern.... okay, a few is an understatement. First I had to chop the closed Elizabethan sleeve (including seam allowance) at the elbow. From the elbow up is constructed out of the velvet so as to match the rest of the bodice. From the elbow down (my undersleeves) is constructed of the same gorgeous fabric as my forepart.

Now comes the tricky part. At the elbow seem I have to insert the dramtic part of the sleeve that will be "turned up." In order to make these I have followed the directions I found online while drooling over other people's garb. I had to adjust the shape since I didn't want to have square sleeves. So all in all my sleeves come in three parts. This will be tricky to attach, but I am pretty sure that's only because I have no real training when it comes to costume construction. As you can see, the sleeve extendes well past my finger tips. This will ensure you see the beautiful lining fabric once I turn the sleeve up and also will expose the undersleeve.

Progress - In the French Style

No gown is finished without the proper head wear. It completes the look if you will. Ann Boleyn was known for being fashion forward and bringing French styles of dress to the English court. One way she did this was through her head covering, appropriately named a French hood.

Thanks to, what otherwise would have been a daunting task is turning out to not be so bad after all. I followed their directions with a few substitutions and it's coming along quite well. Alas, I could not locate any millinery wire so heavy duty floral wire had to do. But it seems to be working out. I was lucky, their pattern for a 1533 French hood fit me perfectly so I did not have to make any alterations in that respect. I did however make thinks a bit easier on myself. Instead of covering both sides of the buckram crescent (3 layers) I covered only the front. No one sees the backside anyway. As you can see from the first photograph I cut the velvet a bit larger than the pattern so I could fold it over the edges.

Then comes the fun part: embellishments! I found beautiful gold trim at JoAnne's that resembles the gold metal trims found in portraits of the Tudor era. I have also used 10mm Czech glass pearls purchased from and several buttons I turned into ouches. Eventually I will be adding 3mm Czech glass pearls between the ouches and larger pearls but I won't be able to do that until I get some special thread and needles....

Once I get all the embellishing done I'll add the black fabric "hood" part.

Monday, October 6, 2008

In order to assure the proper fit of the gown more is needed than just the pattern. I make a mock up bodice first out of muslin. That way if i make any huge mistakes or need to adjust the pattern (like always do) then I can mess up all over the muslin and not ruin my velvet. Adjustments are made the the seems as needed and excess fabric trimmed away making sure to keep seem allowances. Nothing suck so much as trimming off too much and ending up with a garment way too tiny.

Once the muslin mock up is to your liking, making sure it is close fitting you can take apart the seems and use it as your pattern to cut out your fashion fabric, in my case velvet.

It occurred to me today that I should probably tell you what pattern I am using since it alway bothered me when, while reading other dress diaries, I would really love a gown and want to make one of my own only to discover that the author had not disclosed the pattern. So in an attempt to be forthcoming (in case anyone likes the gown and wants to make one of their own) I am using Margo Anderson's Elizabethan Lady's Wardrobe pattern with a few alterations in order to get Tudor sleeves.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Zoe: Naughty, But Cute.

I would just like to point out how difficult it is to gather the overskirt and attach it to the waistband when one of your kittens is being really cute. Naughty, but cute. Above, Zoe is playing with the strings for the gather stitch as I attempt to make skirt and waistband one.
This is Zoe checking out of the corner of her eye to see if I'm looking before she continues to chew and play. Naughty, naughty kitten.

More Underthings

The picture just does not do this fabric justice.
Lucky for me I had an old Elizabethan underskirt laying around so the only thing I had to do was replace the old forepart with the new and more beautiful forepart. Easy - probably took me 15 minutes.

Um yeah, here's a really bad picture of it hanging up in the kitchen doorway.

Who Knew?

Well, if one wants to have a beautiful Tudor gown, one must have the proper undergarments. It is amazing how many perfectly well done gowns are ruined because of the wrong silhouette caused by a modern bra or corset of the wrong time period. So.....I had to make stays...... which I've never done before, nor even come close to doing.

Much to my surprise, it was not painful. In actuality my stays may be the most uncomplicated thing I have ever sewn. Huh, who knew? Apparently I can sew corsets. Woot! Now, with a confidence boost I can move on to the gown.

I know it's not the prettiest thing, but it functions.
No one will see it anyway....

Here it is sporting the colors of the Green Bay Packers.....well really now Christmas colors since the addition of red ribbon. Green cotton duck canvas, a nice heavy duty fabric that will be able to withstand the strain of tightening and steel, is what I used as the fabric. The best part about duck canvas is that it's cheap. Yes, silk is sturdy and pretty, but it's expensive. My stays are outlined in grosgrain ribbon. This allows me to create the pockets for the boning with two layers of canvas without all the tedious work of folding the edges closed. This is the economic and pretty way to seal it all off and make it look finished.

My stays were made with a custom pattern tailored specifically to my measurements. I used the drafting and making directions from the Custom Corset Pattern Generator from
These guys really know what they're talking about! Read EVERYTHING!

My supplies (1 wooden busk, 12 8" steel bones, 4 9" steel bones, and two 10" lacing steel bones) came from
If you need it to make a corset, they have it! Speedy delivery too. Definitely buying from them again.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Well, I may be getting a dress form. It's cheap and about time I actually have one. I mean, I do enough sewing of my own things that this is the next logical step for me.

So Okay, I know there's been a lot of planning and acquiring but I promise I will start in on the actual construction and sewing once the move is over. Oh yeah, did I mention I'm moving? Woo hoo for a three bedroom house. Shhh, don't tell Jesse. He doesn't know I'm converting the office into a sewing room. . . ;)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Yup, Definitely Overly Ambitious

(I really don't know why I insist on doing this to myself.) I shall attempt to make an appropriate corset, complete with wooden busk and everything. After reading the directions, I have come to the conclusion that it seems relatively easy. . . and cheap. However, I am pretty sure I shall regret taking on this task once I actually begin it. I think there shall be much cursing to come.

Oh well, if one wants a beautiful Tudor gown, one must have the appropriate underclothing.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I Heart ebay!

Thank you ebay! I swear, you can find anything you could ever want on ebay. (Except a proper French hood.) I was dreading having to make my own "B" Boleyn necklace out of some sort of crafting clay while begging my friend to teach me how to make the necklace out of pearls. I knew if I did that it would turn out sloppy, in my opinion, and not quite right. But never fear, ebay is here! And for less than it would have cost for me to make it too. So I shall purchase the infamous necklace and take pictures once it gets here. :)

Decisions, Decisions. . .

I should note here that I generally go through about a month long period of indecision when it comes to choosing fabrics and trims, going back and forth until finally I've settled on the original idea. Mostly.

The question I posed to myself a while ago was, "Do I want emerald green velvet or purple and gold brocade?" The initial plan was to go with the green and gold brocade I already owned for the forepart and sleeves, using the velvet for the gown. For a while I fancied that regal purple was going to suit me just fine. No, no. I have finally settled on a version of the original. . . of course.

After more indecision, I finally settled on some beautiful trim to place around the neckline of my bodice. It's called "Persian Rug" and is green, gold, and brown. It's hard to see all the beautiful detail online but I am sure it will look stunning against the emerald green velvet and jeweled bilaments. I am purchasing this by the yard from

Emerald Green velvet. So pretty in person, especially in the sunlight. Thank you Velvet Moon!

Now, I hit the jackpot with this one. For my forepart and undersleeves I will use this fabulous jade green and gold patterned tapestry from Normally this fabric retails over $100/yard. Thank goodness for sales! Have I mentioned that I am in love with this fabric?

I'll be honest. I haven't really decided what to do about the turned up sleeves yet. I have several options here. I like the idea of playing around with different textures, the velvet, the tapestry, and yet a different one for the sleeves. So I was thinking that faux fur in a brown tone to add another texture and depth to the gown would be a good idea. Another option would be more velvet. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


I like to create designs that are relatively close to historical accuracy, at least in appearance of the overall design of the garment. Here are a few paintings and costumes that I will base my own off of.

Portrait of Queen Ann Boleyn. Notice her signature "B" necklace.

Catharine Howard, Ann Boleyn's cousin and Henry VIII's 5th wife. I like the trim around her neckline.

Katharine Parr, yet another wife of Henry the VIII. This shows me how long to make the sleeves and a good view of the dress front.

Princess Elizabeth from the film Crossed Swords. I just love this gown! I can't say anything about the accuracy but it's pretty.

Beautiful Tudor gown I came across while researching online.

And so it begins. . .

I decided to create this dress diary in the hopes of helping non-professional/non-experienced sewers understand that they can create beautiful costumes too, even if it is done in an unconventional way. I am someone who has never had proper sewing or pattern drafting instruction. However, I've always wanted those fabulous gowns from ages past. So I fudge it.

After much research and day dreaming, I finally settled on what to be for Halloween and today I start the saga of actually having to make what I'm imagining in my head. Somehow I am going to make Ann Boleyn, King Henry VIII second wife, come to life.