Titanic Era - Downton Abbey dress revisited
Maybe some of you may remember my first Edwardian outfit ever. It was done using Simplicity #8399, the famous (now out of print) pattern released when "Titanic" came out in 1997. So, I already wrote a lot about the pattern in this previous post and now, after two years, I've been able to work again on this costume to improve it. I worked - and trained - a lot since then, so yeah, now I can consider myself an intermediate sewist; I couldn't stand the view of those mistakes anymore, mistakes committed when I was new to historical costuming. Sewing takes time, and practice. Lot of practice. You can't imagine how much you can learn project after project.
So I took that costume out of my closet and looked at it carefully. A mess. Totally a mess. Some edges weren't hemmed before putting the lace (whaaat?), the seams weren't serged (I didn't own one at that time) and frayed a lot, the back was gathered and not pleated.
(Sewists screams out there) Ok, now breath.
I didn't take photos before the massive restyling, I was too ashamed. I held my seam ripper and starting to remove all that ugliness from my costume. I always wanted something simple with it 'cause I find the fabric really elegant as it is, so I put all my Titanic - Downton Abbey memories together to start figuring how the dress would have been. I went for a very simple satin binding around the edges of the overdress, completely sewn by hand 'cause it had to be perfect. After that and serging the raw edges I worked on the skirt: the Simplicity model looks more a Regency gown than a late Edwardian dress (ok, the Empire Revival was all the rage at that time but we all know the fitted gowns of 1912-1914 with their columnar shapes right?) so I pleated the back of the overdress with deep, very deep box pleats to allow a tighter fit. It worked perfectly, as you can see:
Then I started to work on the dress itself, which I didn't own before. It's made of a pale black - charcoal grey soft and thin cotton, a perfect match with the overdress. I used the same pattern pieces for bodice and skirt but the skirt has been altered according to my underbust to fit tight; I have very large natural hips so the columnar shape doesn't look good on my body and I've been forced to let the skirt falling gently with a wider hem. The bodice neckline and armholes have been faced with some cotton bias tape but - due to the non-stretchy nature of the cotton - I got some ugly wrinkles. Not a great problem since I'd cover that part with the overdress.
The sash is made of cotton and black bias tape, I wanted to use a more classy satin ribbon (with looot of train) but unfortunately it wasn't wide enough to cover the very high bodice seam.
The final touch: a fabric flower (do you remember the red flower Rose wears on her belt when she sees Jack for the first time?).
And so this the completed costume. I still have to wear it for a photoshoot but I took some fully dressed photos for my Instagram account. What do you think? It looks definitely a more professional product if you compare it with the first version.
A thing I learned in these years: never, never throw your old creations away! Re-use what you already have, improve it if you can or what you can, sell them or gift them but never, never throw them away. I know, unstitching is a long process and requires attention, especially when working with sheer or delicate fabrics, but I prefer to give a new life to things than wasting them - especially when you're on a budget. Believe me, sometimes this is the best way to see how much your/our skills improved and to understand where and what you need to do better.