Costume and Graphic Design

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Corset Design, Drafting, Construction Pt 2

I have finally ordered my corset supplies! They should be arriving in a couple of weeks. Farthingales ships on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so my stuff won’t be in the post until next week, but that is ok. As excited as I am to start working on my corset, I am also relieved to have a break from sewing for a few days. But I do need to sit down and get those curtains hemmed…. ugh…

I have ordered enough materials to do two corsets, and “fix” one of the purchased corsets that I have. I have plans to make an underbust (that will be the first one), and an overbust, and I would like to reinforce the bones in the back of my gold one. Last time I tried to lace it up, I noticed that the bones on either sides of the laces are quite flexible, leading me to believe that they are spirals. Not the ideal bones to have next to your laces! I will find out when I open it up and take a look inside… I am really hoping that I don’t find the dreaded plastic inside! That would make me very disappointed, and I doubt I would ever shop at that store again, since that corset was almost $300 and they pride themselves on selling quality product.

Anyways, my shopping list consisted of spring steel bones, the flat white ones, that I will use for backs of the corsets to keep the grommets nice and stable. I also ordered a spiral steel kit. Because I am not 100% sure of the length I will need for each individual bone, I decided to get a spool of spiral steel and the tips, so I can cut them to fit. I am making up my own pattern, and have never done it before, so I can really only guess the actual final lengths of the bones. This gives me total flexibility. If the panels I made are too long, and they dig in on my lap or under my breast, I can shorten them, and make the bones the appropriate lengths.

I also ordered 2 busks: a shorter one for the underbust, and a longer one for the overbust. There is only a 1″ difference between the two, because I am planning to have the peak in the top of the underbust, and a plunging sweetheart shape to the front of the overbust. I also ordered coutil, one metre each of black and white herringbone. I am not certain yet which one I will use for which corset, or if I will save one of them to do an entirely different corset. I have a hard time making anything that isn’t black! Lol! Trying to expand my horizons. I do have light coloured outfits, and it would be nice to have a lighter corset to wear with those. I might do an underbust in white or a light colour, because I honestly think I will wear that more often….

Heck, I don’t even know for sure if I want to do an overbust, now that I think of it!! I would most likely wear an underbust, because modern clothing just doesn’t fit well with overbusts.

I am rambling now, rather than doing a simple update on the corset construction situation. I hope, once I have hemmed those curtains, that I will be able to start on cutting out and testing the shape on the pattern I drafted a few weeks ago, and do a proper informative update then!

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Bridesmaids – Flower Girl – Pickups

An exceedingly rare event has occurred: I have taken on a sewing commission. This is usually only done for friends and family, people who are far more understanding, and willing to lend a hand to finish the project than a stranger. 

In this case, I am doing bridesmaid dresses. There is a fairly tight deadline, and a few techniques that I am new to, or rusty at! The two adult dresses are pretty basic, with the addition of a sash at the waist. My first attempt at the sash was a disaster! Too many straight lines in satin, and it was a wobbly mess. I don’t know a seamstress who enjoys working with satin, and I have taken on three dresses made of the stuff. The patterned parts of the dresses have turned out as well as to be expected… it is the experimental areas that are going wrong!

I will break this up into separate posts, detailing some of the additions I am making to these dresses. Today, lets look at the pickups on the flower girl’s dress.

The little flower girl dress is the most complicated of the three. Using a Disney princess dress pattern as a base, I am adding to it in an attempt to “match” the bridal gown. It has “pickups” on the skirt:

(not the actual gown, but similar style of skirt)

Having never done “pickups” before, I went in search of tutorials. One very clear tutorial was on the Burda website: . It is on a short skirt, but the concept is the same.

I don’t have pictures to go with each step, as I had hoped to. This tight timeline has me focusing more on the sewing than the photos. I will share what I do have.

You will need a skirt with two layers: Your outer layer that will have the poofs, and the lining, which you will attach those poofs to. 
The outer layer will need to be longer than the lining. The extra length needed will depend on the size of pickups you are doing, and how many. It is better to have too much, so if in doubt, cut more fabric than you think you will need. 
The lining should be marked where you would like your hem to be on the finished piece.
Attach the two layers, gathering at the waistband. It works best if at least the top layer has a gather to it. You want the extra width for the volume. 

This mannequin is over 5ft tall at the neck, and the girl who will wear it is a little over 4ft tall. You can see the extra length on the skirt.
Put the skirt on your dress form, mannequin, or anything that will hold it as if it were being worn. Probably not a good idea to have a human model wearing it, because they are going to be standing there for a while! I am doing this for an 8 year old girl, so my dress form isn’t small enough. This is the first time I have been thankful for my store mannequin having such a rediculously small waist!

I stagger the pickups so they don’t look like lines up and down the dress.

With the skirt in position, I choose the first “pickup” location. In this case, I want two side by side at the top of the skirt front, one in front of each hip. You can pull a lot of material up for big voluminous pickups, or a small amount for a short distance for a smaller poof. This is for a young girl who is NOT the bride, so I want hers to be more subtle. With the little pinch of fabric picked up, I pin it to the lining. I check to make sure that the little poof of fabric above it will cover the little stitches that will hold it in place. Satisfied that the pickup meets all my criteria, I do the next one on the other hip. I go around to the back and do the same thing with 3 and 4, my top row of pickups now complete. Time to move down to the second row. I stagger these so they are in between the pickups in the row above. So this will have one in the middle, with pickups on the sides of the dress, and around the back.

If the pickups are close together, or the skirt is longer, you may want more rows of pickups.
Because this dress has a train, I do an extra set of pickups in the back only. 

I waited until I could try the dress on the girl before marking the final hem. I had a rough placement of it from an earlier fitting, just so I didn’t put the pickups too far down the skirt. But I needed to see everything finished before marking the final hemline. Wearing her shoes, I had her try it on, and marked on the front and sides where the hem would be. I would leave the hem in the back where it is because she will have a train and bustle. I also took this opportunity to see which pickup would be used to hide the hook for the bustle.
After the fitting, I trimmed the extra material from the bottom, and pinned the hem. To keep in line with the fullness of the rest of the skirt, I chose to do a bubble hem. I will take photos of that when it is complete. Because of the bubble hem, the actual stitched part of the hemline will be hidden. I used matching satin bias tape to finish the hemline, just in case little flashes of it become visible when she walks, but I don’t think it will be an issue. 
I will cover the bustle in another post, as this one is already getting far to long, and I still have to stitch the hooks in place!