Books 'n' Threads


Marquise de las Marismas,

Viscountess Aguado

Costume Page



The Inspiration: Not my fault this time. Some friends approached me a couple of years ago during Costume College with this one. As CostumeCon was soon to be in the Bay Area the idea was put forward to do a group entry in the masquerade, recreating Winterhalter's portrait of the Empress Eugenie with her ladies-in-waiting. Since I knew that I'd never enter the masquerade on my own, this was the perfect opportunity to have the experience without quite so much stress.

The Plan: So, I've had all this time to work on the project, but have accomplished little. I guess a little bit of stress is a good thing. It's not time to panic...yet...but I certainly need to start thinking about working on this again. Since this is not going to be a public dress diary (sorry everybody, this project is under wraps until the masquerade), I'll organize this page by garment piece.



Hoop from Originals by Kay

Jewelry: All the jewelry was purchased on ebay. Much time was spent pouring over the hi-res scans trying to figure out exactly what these bracelets look like. I'm rather pleased with what I found; I managed to get very close to what I could see. I also found a broach that is extremely close to the painting.

Book: I ended up using a book I've had for a while. A hardbound, fabric covered copy of Goethe's Faust. Several of the pages had pictures on the right hand page, as in the painting.

Shoes: Bridget found some dyable shoes that look fairly period, so I ordered a pair and them dyed ivory to match my silk.

Bouquet: I purchased flowers from Michael's that mached those in the painting, as well as a single rose to use the leaves. After that, it was just a matter of taking things apart and then wiring everything together into the bouquet.

Wig: Obviously, I wasn't going to be able to achieve this with my own hair, since I cut it all off a couple of months before the con. (I figured that my hair was driving me nuts and I'd have to dye it a color I didn't want to actually have anyway, so I may as well go with a wig.) I simply ordered a wig with ringlet curls and then Bridget showed me how to combine two curls into one so that there were fewer, but larger curls. Oh, and she also changed the part for me. Then, I just had to use a cool curling iron and a warm blow dryer to touch a few curls up and get the ones around the face going the right direction.


Fabric: Cotton lawn from Dharma Trading Co.

Pattern: Past Patterns 707

I needed not only an historically accurate pattern, but also one that would work with the off-the-shoulder bodice of the dress. While I have drafted my own chemise patterns before, I definitely wanted something more authentic for this project. The Past Patterns chemise seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

I was pretty happy with the pattern overall. My only frustration was the fit of the yoke. The pattern doesn't really have any directions for adjusting the size of this part of the pattern; it simply says to "adjust to fit" or something to that effect. Even after measuring, the yoke ended up being too large for my shoulders. Since this is just an undergarment, it was easy enough to simply take a pleat in the back of the yoke.

The pattern also comes with a drawing of the original chemise's embroidery. If I were really ambitious, I could have transfered these drawing to the yoke and sleeve and hand embroidered. Since I'm not quite that attentive to historical detail, I machine embroidered roses to the front of the yoke and to the sleeves. I also did a scalloped satin stitch to finish the edge of the yoke and sleeves. Because the fabric was so fine, I needed to reinforce the edge with a tear-away stabilizer while stitching the edge. Once the edges were stitched, I was able to carefully tear away the stabilizer and clip the raw edge of the fabric back to the stitching. I should have used the same treatment for the hem, but by that time I was getting a bit impatient to be done.

Update: I ended up needing to take the pleat out of the back of the yoke piece. While the yoke with pleat set perfectly on my shoulders for a day bodice, it was too high for this ball gown neckline.


Fabric: Cotton lawn

Pattern: Simplicity (can't remember the number at the moment, but it's the Victorian underwear one)

I'd made this pattern before, so I was prepared for it's foibles. The begining of the split in the legs must be reinforced if this garment is going to survive many launderings. Once I had sewn that seam and finished the leg edges, I topstitched a square and criss-crossed over the edge of that seam. I also wasn't happy before with the ties being sewn into the waistband side seams. Once one of them pulled out (again, due to laundering) the drawers were useless, as the waist was too big to simply add a hook-and-eye, and the pattern had me sew the side seams together so I couldn't just pass a new drawstring through the whole waistband. Obviously, I changed that this time, sewing the waistband and its facing seperately to create a pocket for the drawstring. So far, these adjustments have worked much better and produced a much better fitting garment.

I'm still not sure I'm very happy with how baggy the upper legs are. The excess fabric has a tendancy to just get in the way, rather than give more movement, as I'm sure the pattern maker was hoping.

Overall, the pattern is okay, but I definitely like the Laughing Moon drawer pattern better. The only reason why I didn't use it this time around was because I couldn't find it. :(

Hoop & Petticoat

I'll be using the same hoop and petticoat that I purchased/made for my Beth dress.

Althought the portrait was technically painted before the first hoop was patented, we've decided to use them in order to simplify the project. (We are also assuming that hoops were likely in use before the first patent, especially in a fashion-forward country like France.) They will give the right look without all of us having to slave over making mulitple petticoats.


I have bold plans to make a new corset using an historical pattent that is available online. Now, the picture makes it look like this corset will have a fabulous shape, but both people I know who have made it up so far say that it actually does not provide much waist reduction, which is what I was hoping it would have. So, I'm going to mock it up and see if I can make a few adjustments to take the waist in a bit more. If I can't get it working the way that I want, I'm going to scrap the whole thing and just use my wedding corset (the Laughing Moon Dore corset).


The mock up stage went well. The waist measurement was pretty perfect as-is, but the bust needed quite a bit added for my figure. I angled the side seam a bit to give myself an extra inch and a half there, and then added another half-inch to each bust gore. It was tough to tell on my mock up, without any boning in, but I think it will work very well. I'll be able to lace the waist fairly tight without getting any compression at the bust. I also like how the waist is shaping up; just as the patent says, the hip stands away from the body a bit to help support the skirt.

I'm also following the patent description by quilting the bust and hip gores (by machine for this project). After cutting all the corset pieces out of cotton twill and cotton brocade, I cut out a double layer of linen to quilt into the gores. I really love how it's turning out so far.

I ran over to Lacis this afternoon to pick up a busk and boning. I even started working on putting the busk in until I needed my awl. I've looked everywhere and cannot find the thing, so the sewing is on hold for the moment.


It turns out that thread crochet hooks work quite well in place of an awl. I've heard of people using knitting needles, but I don't knit. I tried the hook out of sheer frustration at not being able to find my awl and was surprised to find that it worked perfectly to get the busk put in. It should also work for setting eyelets if I just get a larger hook to upgrade to after making the initial hole.

I now have all the pieces assembled and have even started on the boning channels. I really love how the quilted pieces look--they give the perfect amount of structure and body to the hip and bust. Of course, I forgot to sew the back boning channels before sewing the side seam, so I had to add a facing to both sides of the center back, which is fine as it give more stability to that high-stress area.

I also neglected to trim the seam allowance of the bust gores before stitching them down, so there is a bit of bulkiness there. I may try to do something about that, but I don't think it's significant enough to really worry about.

Now, if I can just remember where I was going to place boning so that I can sew the rest of the channels tonight...


This corset has been finished for quite some time, but I haven't been able to update lately. I am not entirely happy with how the corset turned out. There is no way that I can lace it tightly enough and still be comfortable with boning that only comes to the waist. I'll have to change all the side boning channels to extend into the hip gusset, which means I also need to adjust the hip gusset to sit flat against my hips instead of flaring. All this will not happen before Costume Con, so I'll be wearing my Dore corset instead.

The Skirt


Can I just say that working with silk taffeta is so yummy. OMG! It's a dream.

Anyway, I started with the foundation skirt--three panels sewn together with a two-inch hem. I hand stitched the hem, though it really didn't need to be, and apparently, wasn't hand stitched at the time even.

Then it was on to flounces, the bottom one of five widths of fabric, the middle of four and a half, and the top of four. The three flounces each have three tucks in them, though looking at the picture you can see four lines, so I suspect that the flounce had five tucks; I just didn't cut the flounces deep enough to account for five tucks. The bottom hem of each flounce is trimmed with rayon fringe. This is not the kind of chainette fringe that you can find anywhere, but a very fine thread fringe that immitates silk, which we had to hunt over hill and through dale to find. Much thanks owed to Bridget for finding a supplier at all, yet alone one who was willing to sell us less than $100 worth of merchandise. So far, I've got the bottom two flounces gathered and sewn onto the base skirt. I'm waiting on finishing the waist edge of the skirt until I have purchased shoes and know exactly where the hem needs to be.

Update: I decided to use petersham for the waistband. It's sturdy and doesn't have any edges that need to be finished, so no bulk is added. The foundation skirt is knife (fork) pleated and then top stitched to the petersham. The flounce was pleated separately and then topstitched. The center back of the flounce is cartridge pleated to the waistband to take up the excess fabric.

The waistband was later whipstitched in place to the bodice lining and closes with a hook and eye.

The skirt with flash. The waist band is not attached; I've simply pleated and pinned the front edge to get an idea of how the finished skirt will look.

Without flash.

A close up of the flounce before pleating. you can see the tucks and the fringe.

The Bodice


After unsuccessfully trying to mock up the Simplicity 5724 bodice pattern four times, I gave up and used the pattern that Bridget had adapted from that one. Bridget and I are nearly the same size when corseted, so it was pretty easy to fit the mock up to me rather quickly. At this point, I've got my mock up all marked up and need to transfer the changes to my paper pattern. The changes were fairly minor, but there are enough of them that I'd like to do one more mock up and fitting before proceeding.

Final update: The second mock up fit beautifully. What a relief! After that, it was just a matter of cutting out and assembling my silk, flat lined with cotton twill. Well, it wasn't quite that simple. I boned the center front and side front seams from the waist to just under the bustline. I also boned the side seams and the center back. I handsewed lacing eyelets in silk thread. I piped the neck, waist, and armscye edges with a very thin cord and strips of my silk taffeta cut on the bias. I hand finished the piping and also whip stitched the inside seams and anchored them to the lining.

Bridget sent me a picture of an extant sleeve that looks similar to mine, so I copied that one. It actually has three layers. The inside layer is a gathered puff that provides modesty; I made this one out of silk chiffon and used a bias strip of silk taffeta, double folded and finished by hand, for the band. The second layer is the long sleeve of sheer silk organza, only lightly gathered; this was the layer that needed to be emroidered. I machine embroidered about four rose motiffs on each sleeve, though they really could have used a few more. I also gathered this layer to a bias strip of silk taffeta. On top of the taffeta, I sewed the pleated silk ribbon and tacked a silk ribbon bow just above this. The outer layer of the sleeve is a little ruffled cap of the bodice fabric. I actually did a mock up of this layer, because I didn't want it to show below the lace of the bertha. I pinked the bottom edge of the sleeve so that I wouldn't need to finish it (as was done in the extant example). Once all three sleeves were assembled, I attached them to the bodice all at once. Once done, I clipped the seam, trimmed the all the seam allounces except for the chiffon layer, and then whipstitched this layer to the bodice lining, encasing all the other layers as I went. This not only cut back on the bulk at a rather tight armscye, but also prevented the seam allowance from getting pushed down into the sleeve.

Final mock up.

Before sleeves.

This was the first time I had tried the bodice on. Kind of scary considering how far along this is.

Extant sleeve.

My sleeve.

Of course, the lace of the bertha covers up the taffeta cap sleeve, but it's there!




At this point, I'm just trying to get all my supplies together. I've had the lace for quite a while but now need to get the ribbon for the pleats. (Also to be used on the cuff of the undersleeves.) I think I've decided on the darker of the two pictured. The lighter is closer in color to both the lace and the fringe, but the color is just a bit off--a little too yellow. The darker one is a much nicer tone and blends well with the fabric.

Final update: After talking with Bridget and finding an example in the Kyoto costume book, I decided to attach the bertha to the bodice. It seems that this style of bertha could simply be sewn directly to the gown. Since my lace was double sided, I cut it in half. The lower layer was sewn about an inch away from the neckline, increasing to about an inch and a half at the shoulders. The top layer was sewn on at the neckline itself. On top of the lace, I attached the silk satin ribbon, which I pleated up using overlapping knife pleats. The end result look exactly like the painting, with the lace slightly wider appart at the shoulders and the ribbon sort of folding up on itself.

Oh, and I ended up going with the darker ribbon that matched the fabric more closely. While the lighter one mached the lace more closely, it was just a little too much in the yellow family.

The Completed Gown


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