Wednesday, December 17, 2014

2014 San Francisco Dickens Festival - 1850 Ensemble

Well, the San Francisco Dickens Festival was on the horizon, and I wanted a couple of new ensembles to wear!  I was leaning towards an 1850 era gown, as well as an 1870 era gown, but not only that, I wanted them both to be Christmas colors!  I will break these down into two different posts, one for each gown. 

We are starting with the 1850 ensemble:  For this one I used Patterns for Period Impressions #411 – “Lucy” White body with Velvet Yoke and Girdle and paired that with the Truly Victorian #244 – 1859 Double

First off was finding the fabric.  I knew I wanted cotton or a breathable fabric.  After pouring over the internet for days, I finally found one that I liked.  It is a quilting fabric, 100% cotton, called “Christmas in the Ozarks” and is a true-red and emerald green printed plaid with subdued gold accents.  I loved it!

Next was deciding on the patterns.  I had a few that might work, but I really wanted a two tier skirt, so I ordered TV244 1859 Double Skirt pattern.  This skirt pattern calls for 6.5yds of fashion fabric plus 2yds of lining fabric.  Well, I decided I wanted to line the entire skirt!  So, I had 6.5yds in fashion fabric and 8.5 in lining for a total of 15yds!  I lined it with a lightweight satin, as I wanted the “swooshy” sound, I know, I made that word up!  Well, with the swooshy, comes the weight, so next time, no lining unless it is a super-lightweight fabric that needs the body and structure! 

The pattern is pretty straight forward, and exactly what you expect from Truly Victorian in regards to quality.  One thought for consideration, I would probably add an extra panel to the top skirt for added fullness, as well as shorten the top skirt by four inches.  Something in the proportions looked slightly off to me, so I shortened the top skirt.  The bottom skirt has a 225" circumference.

Start to finish for the skirt, or cutting to fitting, was probably six hours.  I very much like the way it turned out and I got my swooshy sounds!

Removed the two rows of black ribbon
Next up was the “Waist” or blouse.  SF Dickens is notorious for being very warm, even in December, so I wanted to go with something lightweight, not a bodice – more a blouse.  I had found the PPI #411 a while ago, and this was perfect for what I wanted.  This pattern is based on an actually fashion plate from Petersen’s May 1861 and is a short sleeved Civil War era pattern.  To help tie in the Christmas colors I used a beautiful true-red baby pin-wall corduroy, which was so fine it was almost like velvet!  For the blouse itself, I used light-weight white striped cotton.  As anyone that has worked with PPI patterns knows, there is a minimum of instructions, and it helps if you have a good knowledge of sewing in general.  The blouse came together quickly and easily and has four buttons down the back.  The tricky part, again for me, was the layers of gathered lace for the sleeves and the yoke.  There was a typo, or at least to me there was.  It called for 4.25yrds of “1/2” gathered lace, nope, should have been “1 ½” in width, plus another 3.5yrds of 2” lace for a total of 7.75 yrds, but I think I used closer to eight.  With a 4 to 1 ratio, that means I started with thirty-two yards of flat lace that had to be gathered!  I made all my gathered lace using a ruffler foot.  Once the lace was tacked on and sewn, I decided to go with a decorative “Greek Key” machine embroidery stitch in place of the ¼” ribbon.  I went around the corduroy sleeve edges, girdle, and the yoke with a red threaded top stitch, then back around with a black threaded machine embroidery stitch for the sleeves and girdle only.  Lastly, for the girdle, I used a vintage, black-beaded decorative piece front and center for visual impact.
Machine embroidered "Greek Key"  

Start to finish for the blouse, yoke, and girdle took probably ten days sewing after work.  I would set a goal each day of what I had to get done to stay on track.

Lastly was trimming.  I tried matching reds, greens, and even white, but did not like any of them, so black it was.  I had originally sewn two rows of 1” black satin ribbon around the bottom edge of the top skirt, and then decided I did not like it, and ripped it all off leaving only the fringe.  Too much black!  It was suppose to be a bright and Christmassy gown! 

Final accessories were a long black cape (stored in coat check), a black fur muff, vintage beaded necklace, and a vintage straw hat with red feathers!  It was a very comfortable, cool, and Christmassy ensemble to wear for my first day at Dickens! 
The skirt looks funny as it is pushed against something,
but it was the proper bell shape!


  1. Trudy, you looked absolutely beautiful in this ensemble. It was a perfect Christmas Dickens dress!

    1. Thank you Terri! It was such a fun time at the SF Dickens was it not? We will have to look at going next year so you can wear you feathered confection again!

  2. Beautiful work! What a fun Dickens dress! I have used the skirt pattern and I do love it!!

    1. Thank you KJML! Glad you like the overall look. Did you think the top skirt layer needed extra fabric?

  3. Lovely, Trudy! I'm curious about your Greek Key embroidery as I can't see it on my screen -- could you please add a close-up pic showing it? Thanks!

    1. Laurel, I added a pic of the machine embroidery. I call it a "Greek Key" design, as that what it reminds me of. I will say, that machine embroidery does very well in a straight line, but can be VERY challenging on curves!