Tag Archives: historical costume

Meet a friend of Nancy’s: Marie Cooley of Fitting Room Corsets

Today, I am excited to introduce you to another friend of Nancy’s! She is a talented seamstress and the proprietor of Seattle’s premiere custom corset shop. Please welcome Marie Cooley.

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Who are you?
I am Marie Cooley of Fitting Room Corsets.

What is your business?
I’m a corset maker, making custom corsets. That means I take your measurements, make a designated pattern for you, and make a corset from fabrics that you select. I do all the work in my Seattle workroom.

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Marie Cooley’s Fitting Room

As a corset maker, I work in fulfilling peoples’ fantasies. It’s amazing. Everybody has a thing like, “I saw Gone with the Wind and I want to wear a pretty Scarlett O’Hara dress…” and then they come to learn that they really like to wear corsets; it feels good to wear them. You feel presented; your posture is better, when you stand up straight, you immediately look better.

I make between 100 and 200 corsets per year.

How did you get started?
I have been a dressmaker since I was 14 and started sewing for money. I was an all-purpose dressmaker for twenty years. My major skill-set is sewing; it’s what I do.

I started doing historical costuming pretty early on and the first thing I learned was that I needed corsets to make the dresses look good. And all corsets really grow out of historical pattern work.NSB-MCFR-renaissance georgian style

After I made a few corsets for myself to wear with costumes, I learned that not everyone likes to make corsets. It’s very exacting, it’s drafting, it’s minutiae, it’s little details and engineering. I’m kind of a frustrated engineer, but I like the engineering part.

So, I started making corsets for other people. And I discovered that it is something I like to do and can charge an appropriate price for the amount of work. And the other advantage to corsets is they are small; they don’t take up a huge amount of material and they don’t take up a lot of space in my workroom.NSB-MCFR-deep plunge

How long have you been acquainted with Nancy’s?
Oh gosh! Since before Nancy’s moved into the building it’s in now. It used to be in a smaller space, which was very dark! [editor’s note: Nancy’s started in the space currently occupied by Caffe Ladro] I remember going into that location just when you were getting ready to move and you were having a big sale.

Nancy’s is my home away from home. It’s a great store and I don’t know what I would ever do without it.

What is your most recently released product or completed project?
I just finished a pretty standard corset. It’s not the most exciting corset I’ve ever made: it’s made from a simple fabric in the under-bust style that reminds me a bit of my mother’s girdles.NSB-MCFR-waistcincher

At a given time, I might have anywhere from one corset to a dozen in process.

Do you have a most memorable or favorite project?
I have made many memorable corsets over the years, from corsets for a pirate reenactor to a corset made for a goth bride. One memorable corset was made for a fantasy-style wedding. This bride had purchased a bolt of three-dimensional fabric, with all this decoration on it. I initially thought it would be impossible for me to work with and for her to wear. For the most part, however, the fabric itself just made a great corset. I did not add anything to the fabric, though I did take a few pieces and judiciously place them where they needed to be.NSB - fitting room corsets fantasy

The bride also made a skirt using the same fabric and she wore the ensemble with fairy wings. It turned out so beautiful and looked great on her.

I’ve also done a few fashion shows. In 2010, I collaborated with Tamara on a fashion collection of Steampunk garments, which showed in the SteamCon II fashion show. We set out to go very far out on a limb, to push the whole Steampunk aesthetic. Though that movement has delved a little bit into the eighteenth century, the overall aesthetic of Steampunk hasn’t changed much. We wanted to show ideas that were fresh and new.

I thought it was a great collection, though it did not seem to resonate as much with the audience as we’d hoped. I loved doing this show; I was very proud of what we did.

NSB-MCFR-CoutuReFormation group

Marie & Tamara and their wild weird west circus

What is next?
In terms of corsets, I am working on something for a cosplay that is a variation on Harley Quinn. This sketch has my scratchy little notes, but you can see the basic shape with the high back and shoulder straps. I was worried it would take a lot of fitting, but when the customer tried it on, it fit just right! It’s going to have alternating black and red panels, with a black & white diamond print in the center front. I’m excited and eager to get this one done!

I also have a grand class in the works! I’ve done one-on-one classes and intensive workshops, but I want to teach the full construction process in a larger setting.


Thanks so much, Marie! It was great to see so much of your work and learn a bit about the world of custom corsets. I am very excited to hear about your grand class; I’ll keep an eye out for more details!

If you have any questions for Marie, please leave them in the comments below! Interested in a corset of your very own? Visit her website to learn more about her work and how to order. And don’t forget to follow her on Facebook!

Photos of corsets, costumes, and the Fitting Room workroom are courtesy of Marie Cooley and may not be used without express permission.

Get to know a Nancy’s employee: Susan

Today’s “get to know” interviewee might be best known as the ‘Ribbon Lady’. An accomplished historical costumer, she inspires everyone around her to fall in love with vintage textiles and trims and to appreciate the stories they carry. Please welcome Susan.

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Who are you?
My name is Susan, though I also answer to ‘Ribbon Lady’.

How long have you worked at Nancy’s?
I think it’s been 18 years.

How long have you been sewing?
Since I was a very small child. As a toddler, I started with a yarn needle (my mother would thread it for me) and I would sit and sew for hours. I can hardly remember a time when I didn’t sew.

Do you have a special focus?
Handwork and historical costuming, though to me they are one and the same. I’m interested in basically all costuming eras aside from the 1840s, 1850s, and 1860s. My favorite costumes to create are from the 18th century and Edwardian eras, as both are suited to lots of handwork. Where 18th century styles have fairly simple construction, Edwardian construction is a bit more challenging, which I enjoy.

NSB - gtks yellow gown bodice

The design and color palette for this c.1755 style gown was inspired by the small piece of antique fly fringe at the top of the stomacher.

My costuming process begins with my collection of textiles and trims. It is a slow process; I collect items and create kits of fabric and trims. I use mostly antique and vintage trims, as antique yardage is more difficult to find and more fragile. The starting point for a given costume is usually a single item, like a button or a trim; sometimes it is a tiny piece of 18th century fly fringe, sometimes it is a piece of fabric from the 1920s.

NSB - gtks harlequin detail

A black-and-cream checkerboard fabric from the 1920s and vintage cherry motifs inspired this 18th century costume with harlequin details.

What was your first sewing project?
The first true project was sewing doll clothes. I had very well dressed dolls, in many eras of historical costume. Sewing and historical costume go hand-in-hand for me; the clothing of other eras has always been of more interest to me than the clothing I could see on the street.

What is your most recently completed project?
An Edwardian ball gown skirt, made in silk brocade with antique butterflies and antique Art Nouveau trim. The silk brocade is a very deep navy blue, the butterflies are black backed in gold metallic fabric with a slight pleat; it is a moody and mysterious color palette. I’m still working on the bodice that goes with it.

NSB - gtks edwardian ball gown

One of Susan’s completed Edwardian ball gowns, a true 1901 shape. Her recently completed skirt and soon-to-be finished bodice have a similar silhouette.

Do you have a most memorable or favorite project?
The most memorable project would be my daughter’s wedding dress. When I started making it, I believed I had six months to complete it. Then she was awarded an overseas scholarship that had to be used immediately, so the wedding was moved up five months. I completed it in three and a half weeks.

NSB - gtks wedding gown bride and groom

The bride, Susan’s daughter, and her groom on their wedding day.

It is an 18th century style gown made in a color palette best described as ‘triple cream French vanilla’. The dress is vanilla-colored silk dupioni, with monochromatic embellishment, including embroidery, ribbon embroidery, beading, and dimensional ribbonwork. Most of this dress was made with modern materials, but I did use a gorgeous antique woven tubular silk ribbon. Though the tube is flattened, it still has a lovely dimensionality.

NSB - gtks wedding stomacher detail NSB - gtks wedding skirt embroidery detail NSB - gtks wedding skirt detail NSB - gtks wedding skirt side detail

My favorite project is one of the two things that I made without a deadline: an 18th century ensemble.The skirt was made of cream-colored wool challis, which I embroidered using antique thread. Some of the embroidery – a double wave of pearls winding around the skirt – was inspired by something I saw on an 18th century skirt. The floral motifs were informed by the availability of colors in the antique thread. My mother was a florist and I spent lots of time in her shop when I was young; I used my memories of different flowers to create the motifs, which include lilies of the valley, pansies, forget-me-nots, sweet peas, tiger lilies, anemones, and morning glories. Because I didn’t have a deadline, I was able to spend time experimenting with the flowers. It was lovely.

NSB - gtks favorite 18th c ensemble

Susan in her favorite 18th century ensemble

NSB - gtks favorite 18th c ensemble

To coordinate, I made a Pierrot jacket using an incredible antique 18th century silk fabric in brown with a woven stripe. I trimmed the jacket with white silk organza ruffles, two 18th century metallic trims (one ruffled, the other serpentine), and ribbon and thread buttons from the Victorian era. It wasn’t the most ornate or structurally complex costume I have made, but I felt totally at home in it and it remains a favorite.

NSB - gtks favorite pierrot front NSB - gtks favorite pierrot back NSB - gtks peplum detail

What project is next?
At present, I am preparing for an exhibition of my costumes, which will take place November 11th through 15th at the Glenn Hughes Penthouse Theater at the University of Washington. The show will feature more than 50 costumes, ranging in date from the late 17th century (Cavalier era) through the 1920s.

NSB - gtks collar detail

In terms of costume, I have several works in progress: an embroidered 1920s coat and the bodice to the Edwardian ball gown skirt, among others. I plan to finish the Edwardian bodice next.

What do you love most about Nancy’s?
The quality of the staff and the quality of the merchandise. And the Ribbon Room, of course! The Ribbon Room and I were made for each other.

Thank you Susan! We are all so excited to see your costumes on display in November. To learn more about Susan’s exhibit, including glimpses into her incredible historical wardrobe, please go to the event website: Art of the Costume.

All photographs in this post courtesy of Nancy’s employee Susan and may not be used without express permission.

Meet a friend of Nancy’s: Janet from Decades of Style

With Halloween around the corner, we are spending a lot of time thinking about costumes. There are so many ways to do costumes, from fanciful and fantastic to historic, and we love them all!

In preparation for this exciting holiday, we decided it would be fun to interview a friend of Nancy’s whose work is great for daily wear and costuming alike! She is a whiz with vintage patterns – and makes it easy for the rest of us to work with them, too.

Without further ado, we present Janet from Decades of Style Pattern Company.NSB - meet Janet headerWho are you?
I’m Janet, from Decades of Style Pattern Company. My official title, according to my business card, is ‘Person’.

What is your business?
We make vintage sewing pattern reproductions for the modern sewer, offering patterns from the 1920s through the 1950s, with a couple styles from the decades before and after.

NSB - DoS offerings

We do a lot of the ‘heavy lifting’ associated with sewing from vintage patterns. We translate vintage yardage requirements to work with modern fabric widths. We also grade all our pattern styles to fit nine different sizes (from a 30” bust up to 46”). Decades patterns are also friendlier to work with than actual vintage patterns and they are available in sizes that are reasonable! So many vintage patterns are only available in that mystifying 30” or 32” bust size. I had outgrown that size by the age of 13! We make vintage styles available for the 99% of the population that is larger than a size 0. That’s actually the mission statement of the company.

NSB - DoS vintage sizes

Actual vintage patterns from Janet’s collection. Lots of 30″ and 32″ bust sizes.

How did you get started?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in antique or vintage clothing. It is a lifelong interest that has turned into a life. Even though I was interested in wearing vintage clothes when I was younger, I didn’t really have any access to purchasing them. Apart from a few 1950s suits that were castoffs from my fancy grandmother’s closet, I didn’t get to wear actual vintage clothing until I left home and could shop in vintage clothing stores. It was a brutal awakening to see that only a tiny fraction of the inventory would fit me.

I realized if I wanted to wear vintage style clothing, I would have to make it myself. Annoyingly enough, most vintage clothing patterns that have survived the last 50-plus years are only available in ridiculously tiny sizes. In order to make those styles for myself, I had to grade the patterns and I knew I could not be the only one who wanted them. Decades of Style is an extension of the grading process.

How long have you been acquainted with Nancy’s?
Nancy’s has carried Decades of Style patterns since 2012. It seems like the pattern line is a very good match for the store.  It’s an honor to be a part of Nancy’s and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the ladies there.

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Decades of Style patterns on display in Nancy’s.

What is your most recently released product or completed project?
In the summer of 2014, we launched a micro-line of patterns called Decades Everyday. The aesthetic of these patterns lean toward 1960s styling but they still feel modern. The patterns are designed for those who are newer to sewing, though the patterns are great for more skilled sewists who just want a quick make. They are easy to sew and you can pretty much make them in a day. We released our second pattern – the ‘Given a Chance’ dress – in May 2015 and are now working on the next pattern for this line.

NSB - DoS Decades Everyday

Do you have a most memorable or favorite project?
This question is practically impossible to answer! If I must have a favorite pattern, I would say the E.S.P. Dress from Decades Everyday. Even though I totally adore the more elaborate patterns in our catalog, I cannot deny the appeal and relatively instant gratification of whipping up a pretty dress in an afternoon. And really, depending on the fabric you use, the result can be quite sophisticated.

NSB - DoS ESP fabric details

This E.S.P. was made with a lovely embroidered border linen.

I probably have more E.S.P. dresses in my wardrobe than any other pattern in the catalog, so it must be my favorite! And if I’m being completely honest, I have quite a few pieces of fabric lined up with this pattern in mind.

NSB - DoS ESP dress

Another E.S.P. dress made in a unique fabric! This time, an ikat is fussy cute to meet in the center front and center back of the bodice. Rickrack at the hemline is a particularly charming touch.

I also love this pattern because I think it is an accessible project for a greater number of sewists out there. There are so many people who have only started to sew in the last few years. It is important for us to keep them in mind as much as the more advanced sewers.

What is next?
PDF patterns. Yup; it’s happening. We just decided it was time to join the 21st century on this one so we’ve been developing this project all year. We’ll keep you posted via Instagram and Facebook on when that launches. It should be coming up very soon.

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Thanks so much, Janet! We are very excited about your venture into PDF patterns and can’t wait for the next Decades Everyday pattern!

For more glimpses into the world of vintage pattern making, including completed customer projects and in-progress photos, follow Decades of Style on Facebook and Instagram!

All photographs in this post are courtesy of Decades of Style and may not be used without express permission.

Rolling down my stockings and rouging my knees – part 4

Welcome back for the final installment of making my 1920s costume! I am very excited to share details about preparing the last part of my ensemble – my shoes – and to reveal my costume in its entirety!

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One of the easiest and most fun components of my roaring twenties costume was the shoes. While the other components of my ensemble – my dress, headpiece, and purse – have a definite ‘costume’ feel to them, I knew I wanted my shoes to still translate into my regular wardrobe. I began researching 1920s evening shoes and found some amazing inspiration!

These incredible shoes have a place to hold a small lipstick on the heel! source

The 1920s were an interesting time for women’s footwear, because hemlines were suddenly short enough that shoes were always visible. As a result, every component of a shoe was fair game for embellishment, including the heel!

After drooling over all the incredible designs, I knew I wanted to add rhinestones to my heels! I searched for the right pair of shoes: something with a modest heel of an appropriate shape (the heel needed to be 2.5” or less and not too conical) and a Mary Jane or T-strap. Luckily for me, vintage-influenced styles are produced every season, so I knew it wouldn’t be impossible to find a good pair of shoes that met these criteria.

I found several pairs of shoes that were really fun, in bright colors like tangerine and citron, or with spectator styling. Unfortunately, these were either too tall or out of my price range, so I kept looking. I’m so glad I did, because I found just the right pair of shoes!

I love the Mary Jane styling with the sweet cut-outs and the solid shape of the heel. source

Once I had the shoes in hand, I planned out a simple-but-effective design for rhinestones on my heels. I began by making a template of my heel using white printer paper.

NSB - 1920s-style heels make a template

I sketched an outline, inspired by the shape of actual twenties heels.

NSB - 1920s-style heels sketch design

From there I created my motif and marked rhinestone placement.

NSB - 1920s-style heels create layout

I made holes in my template using an awl (a very thick needle, like a tapestry needle, would also work for this) and marked where my rhinestones should go using a white colored pencil.

NSB - 1920s-style heels rhinestone template

Then, I applied the rhinestones to one of the heels…

NSB - 1920s-style heels one shoe done

…and repeated on the second! I totally love how they turned out!

NSB - 1920s-style heels finished

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s move on the final reveal!

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I feel like this costume really needs a sound track! Let’s enjoy the Charleston!

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“Charleston! Charleston!”

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I love the view from the back, showing off the jaunty neck scarf and flashing my new heels.

Thanks so much for joining me through this whole process! It was incredibly fun to dream up and make this costume, and even better to share it!

If you have any feedback, questions, or ideas for what you’d like to see in the future, let me know in the comments below!

Rolling down my stockings and rouging my knees – part 3

I am so excited to share the third installment of making my 1920s costume; this week, I’m making a purse! I have plenty of lovely inspiration to share, along with a really neat tutorial. Let’s get started!

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As with my dress and my headpiece, I began by researching twenties purse styles with a focus on evening bags. One of the best parts of 1920s garments and accessories for evening wear is the detailing: beading! tassels! fringe! rhinestones! And the list goes on and on!

One of my favorite styles to come across was the compact purse: a small substitute for an evening bag, created to carry only the necessities of make-up, lipstick, and maybe a little money.

The outside of a compact purse featuring enamel work. source

The inside shows spaces for a small lipstick, blush, and face powder, with a mirror on the reverse. source

I love that this is only big enough for a lipstick! source

The more standard styles of evening bag, whether a clutch or reticule, with a drawstring or a kisslock closure, had a bit more room for personal articles.

There was also an interesting hybrid that includes a compact as part of the bag frame.

After finding so many amazing examples, I decided to do a search for actual vintage purse patterns. In a perfect universe, I would have made a hand-beaded purse, complete with beaded tassels or fringe. However, in reality, I knew I wouldn’t have the time to bead anything. I checked ebay and Etsy for patterns, without finding much. One of the Folkwear patterns I had considered for my dress included a pattern for a simple drawstring-style bag, but it wasn’t exactly my preferred shape.

But then I found the best possible inspiration: a vintage instructional video from the 1920s in how to make a ‘dainty handbag’!

I find this video particularly charming because they skip so many of the steps in the actual creation of the purse! It was clearly made during a time when most people were practiced enough in sewing that they could easily fill in the gaps.

To a modern viewer, the use of crepe paper may seem absurd, but I was totally inspired by the concept of weaving fabric out of something colorful and flat. What if I were to update this idea by using something that is longer lasting, like ribbon? I decided to try it out!

I collected double-face polyester satin ribbons in a color palette to coordinate with my dress, pulling three shades each of blue, coral, and yellow. NSB - 1920s purse ribbons

Inspired by the silhouettes and details of a few of my favorite vintage purses, I decided to make a reticule with a drawstring, with a tassel hanging off the bottom.

Following the vintage tutorial, I wove my ribbons together and then sewed them into a purse! I am so happy with the results.

NSB - 1920s reticule

Are you interested in making a 1920s style purse of your very own? Follow the tutorial below!

1920s Reticule Purse Tutorial

When I go out, I like to have enough space in my handbag for my keys, lipstick, cell phone, and a small wallet for ID and money, but I didn’t want this purse to be too cumbersome. My finished purse measures approximately 8” wide by 9” tall, not including handles or tassel.

SUPPLIES

  • Ribbon: enough to weave two 12” x 12” squares, plus additional length to create loops for the handles. This requires a bit of math. I used 2yds each of 9 ribbons in different colors and widths (I wanted an uneven, dynamic effect to the fabric I wove). Use only one width of ribbon in one or two colors for a subtler look, or use different widths to create a graphic motif (this dress is made of woven ribbons!). If you use only 1” wide ribbon, you will need at least 16yds of ribbon. NOTE: I used double-face ribbon for this project, which increases the ease of weaving, but is not requisite. If you select a single face ribbon, you will just need to be more diligent during step 3.
  • 1/3yd fabric for underlining your woven ribbons, cut into two 12”x 12” pieces (I used black polyester organza, leftover from the neck scarf on my dress, which is nice because it is both rigid and lightweight)
  • 1/3yd fabric for lining the purse (I used black rayon/acetate satin faille, leftover from the slip I made to wear under my dress)
  • 2yds cording for handles
  • Thread
  • Embroidery floss or cording for tassel (if making your own) or a store-bought tassel

TOOLS

  • Sewing machine
  • Scissors
  • Paper to make purse pattern (I used 8 ½” x 11” white printer paper)
  • Spray baste (used for quilts, appliqué, etc.)
  • Marking tools (I used a Chaco-liner and 1” x 6” ruler)
  • Pins
  • Hand sewing needles

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Cut ribbons into 12” lengths.

NSB - purse tutorial cut ribbons

2. Make paper pattern. Using the full width of my paper, I drew an approximate shape for the purse bottom and cut it out.

NSB - purse tutorial make paper pattern

3. Weave ribbons into two 12” x 12” squares. I started on a gridded mat by lining up my ribbons along a gridline so they are parallel to one another, then taping down along one edge. Once my ‘warp’ ribbons are in place, I began weaving in my ‘weft’ ribbons, keeping the weave as tight as possible. IMPORTANT: If you do not use double-face ribbon, you will need to weave your ribbons face down.

NSB - purse tutorial weave ribbons

4. Once a 12” x 12” square is completed, follow the instructions on your spray baste to prepare one side of an underlining fabric square. Place the sticky side of the underlining square on your woven ribbons; press in place.

NSB - purse tutorial place underlining on ribbons

Repeat steps 3 & 4 to make a second woven ribbon square with underlining.

5. Cut out your purse bodies. I added a ½” seam allowance around my paper pattern piece using a Chaco-liner and small ruler.

NSB - purse tutorial cut out purse body

Repeat this step with lining fabric.

NOTE: for this particular design, I made my lining exactly the same shape as my purse. If I were to make this purse shape again, I would actually change the lining shape so it does not come to the same point at the bottom. I believe this would allow the lining to better sit down inside the purse.

6. To help keep the woven ribbons intact, machine baste around edges within seam allowance, ensuring the ribbons don’t shift out of place.

NSB - purse tutorial machine baste ribbons to organza

7. Determine where you would like your ribbon loops to go at purse top. I chose to make it look like the ribbons are extending up as part of the woven effect; because my ribbon colors and widths were all different, my loops reflected this. Use 3” cuts of ribbon to make loops: fold ribbon in half, pin in place matching raw edges of ribbon to purse top. NSB - purse tutorial pin ribbon loops to top

8. Lay one purse lining piece over purse front, right sides together, aligning top edges. NSB - purse tutorial pin purse lining to front

Sew purse lining to purse front along top edge.

NSB - purse tutorial sew lining to front at top

9. Press open, with seam allowance toward lining.

NSB - purse tutorial press open

Repeat steps 7 through 9 for second purse front and lining piece.

10. With right sides together, pin the purse front/lining pieces together.

NSB - purse tutorial pin together

Sew together leaving an opening in lining for turning.

NSB - purse tutorial sew together

NSB - purse tutorial sewn with opening to turn

Notice the marked opening at the bottom left for turning.

11. Turn right side out and sew opening closed, either by machine or hand. I edge-stitch on my machine because it’s faster, but hand-sewing would allow for a hidden finish.

NSB - purse tutorial finish opening

I apologize for the terrible color of this photo; I had to blow it out in order to see the stitching, which is still very hard to see!

Stuff the lining inside the purse body. You may wish to iron the purse top to help keep it in place.

12. If you want to make your own tassel, do so now. I followed this tutorial to create mine. NSB - purse tutorial make a tassel

Sew to the bottom of your purse. Catch the lining, if applicable.

NSB - purse tutorial sew tassel to purse

13. For handles, cut cording into two 1yd pieces. Beginning on one side of the purse, thread one end of the cording through the ribbon loops, meeting the second end at the start. Knot the two cording ends together.

With the second piece of cording, start on the opposite side of the purse and thread through the loops. Knot ends.

NSB - purse tutorial thread handles through loops

You may need to adjust one of the knots so the handles hang evenly.

14. That’s it! You have a fabulous new purse! Take it out for a night on the town!

NSB - purse tutorial finished 1920s purse

Join me next time for the final installment! I will be sharing a fun way to update modern shoes to look like they are from the 1920s AND revealing my full costume! Until next time!

Rolling down my stockings and rouging my knees – part 2

Welcome back for part two of my experience making a 1920s costume! NSB - 1920s costume header pt 2 Now that my dress is made, it’s time to start accessorizing! This week, we’ll start at the top. Of my head, that is 😉 And not only will I share what I made, I created a tutorial for you­ so you can make your own! Let’s make a roaring twenties headpiece!

When thinking about creating a headpiece, I wanted to find just the right style. I knew that whatever I made, I wanted it to befit the aesthetic of my dress and, potentially, look like it was actually from the twenties. I also wanted to avoid making something that could be purchased from a cheap costume manufacturer (specifically: the cartoonish flapper headband made out of stretchy sequin trim with a feather in it).

In researching, I found that for headwear, as with dresses, the 1920s offer a lot of opportunity for exploration of silhouette within the general design aesthetic of the period. There is no shortage of incredible inspiration in twenties headwear! Three main styles of 1920s women’s evening headwear stood out to me: flapper caps, evening cloches, and headpieces. I’d like to share some of my favorite pieces I found during research!

Evening cloches provide the most coverage. They are full cloche-style hats that have been decorated with sequins, beads, rhinestones, lace, velvet, and more.

Flapper caps have less coverage than cloches, though still cover most of the head. They often have a row of fringe around the bottom or tassels, which provide extra movement when dancing the Charleston!

Headpiece is a kind of catchall category for headwear that provides minimal coverage, including headbands, tiaras, and bandeaux.

Though I would have loved to make an evening cloche, due to my time constraints for this project I decided to make something that falls into the ‘headpiece’ style.

Inspired by the color palette and peacock motif of my dress fabric, I started searching for materials and designs. Initially, I thought that using peacock feathers might be suitable for my headpiece. Peacock feathers are an incredibly popular choice for contemporary versions of 1920s headwear. At Nancy’s, we have a lovely selection of millinery supplies, including feathers and feather pads. I pulled all our peacock feather options for consideration.

NSB - peacock feather millinery supplies

clockwise from top left: feather pad featuring peacock ‘eyes’, feather pad made from peacock ‘swords’, a natural peacock feather

On reflection, I decided that the coloration of natural peacock feathers competed to much with the colors in my dress fabric. I decided to pull more neutral options in millinery supplies.

NSB - neutral millinery supplies

from the top: a feather pad featuring a variety of black and white feathers, millinery flowers with ostrich plumes in off-white and black, bleached peacock feathers

While I liked the look of the black and off-white options, I also wanted my headpiece to be more vibrant and colorful. I stepped into our fabulous Ribbon Room to look for inspiration. With the color palette of my dress in mind, I found the perfect trim to use for the band: a turquoise Art Deco-look woven trim with a graduated picot edge on one side. From there, I picked up a gorgeous vintage ribbon woven in gold metallic with black and pops of orange-red, blue, and green. I selected black velvet millinery leaves to create a base, and for a bit of additional texture, I chose small black feathers and Swarovski® crystals.

NSB - THE headpiece materials

from the top left: small black feathers ‘by-the-inch’, Swarovski® heat-set rhinestones, black velvet millinery leaves, turquoise trim with graduated picot edge, and vintage ribbon featuring gold metallic medallions and small flowers

Amusingly, I found the perfect inspiration for my design in the form of a vintage potholder.

My design was inspired by the flapper on the far right.

With my supplies on hand and my design in mind, I made my headpiece. I absolutely love how it turned out!

NSB - finished headpiece

You’ll have to check back to see me wearing my headpiece in the final reveal!

In the mood to make a 1920s inspired headpiece? Follow the tutorial below to make one of your very own!

1920s Headpiece Tutorial
Please note that this headpiece will be constructed in the same fashion as the one shown above, but for ease of photographing, I am making it in a different color palette and using different materials. This is an easy hand-sewing project that is also super fun!

NSB - headpiece tutorial supplies

Supplies for this tutorial: the beautiful vintage millinery leaves feature color variances on each, double-layer leaf; I selected a ribbon with an interesting motif for the ‘medallion’ and a pretty, double picot edge vintage trim in light pink.

SUPPLIES

  • Millinery leaves (1 sprig with a minimum of 5 leaves)
  • Small piece of ribbon with a ‘medallion’ style motif (should coordinate with leaves)
  • 1-1/2 yards of ribbon or trim
  • Thread (should match leaves)
  • 9″ x 9″ square of crinoline (black or white to best match your color palette)
  • Small feathers (optional; not depicted in this tutorial)
  • Rhinestones (optional; can use heat-set, sew-on, or set-in; not depicted here); sequins would also work well.

TOOLS

  • Fray Check
  • Hand sewing needles
  • Scissors

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Use Fray Check around edges of medallion motif.

NSB - headpiece tutorial fray check medallion

You can see the ribbon is a touch darker around the larger and smaller motifs; this is where I added Fray Check.

Cut motif from ribbon.

NSB - headpiece tutorial cut out medallion

Trim motif from ribbon.

2. Separate millinery leaves and select what you want to use.

NSB - headpiece tutorial separate leaves

I found that I had four leaves where the darker pink ran through the center, three with the darker pink on both sides, and two with the shades were about half-and-half.

3. Arrange your leaves and medallion motif.

NSB - headpiece tutorial confirm arrangment

Be certain to try different arrangements for the best effect!

4. When you are satisfied with your arrangement, begin to sew the leaves to your crinoline. The nice thing about a project like this is you don’t need to stitch a lot; some simple tacking does the trick!

NSB - headpiece tutorial sew first leaf to crinoline

Because my leaves are double layer, I was able to hide my stitches between the layers.

NSB - headpiece tutorial first leaf back view

On the back, you can see where I’ve tacked my leaf to the crinoline. This is more stitches than I need for this; I could easily have done 1/3 as many stitches and been totally fine.

Note: If you are adding feathers, I recommend sewing at the same time as each individual leaf. Continue to add the leaves until they are all tacked to the crinoline.

NSB - headpiece tutorial all leaves tacked down

Lovely leaves!

5. Add the ribbon motif to the leaves.

NSB - headpiece tutorial add medallion

Find the right position and tack it in place.

Turn the whole thing over and trim away the extra crinoline. Be sure not to snip your stitches!

NSB - headpiece tutorial back view finished pad

You can see that I used fewer stitches for the three center leaves.

Note: If you are adding rhinestones, I recommend doing so at this time.

6. Now it is time to add the band! Start by folding the trim in half and sewing it to one side of the crinoline (I always start with the left side). Once that’s in place, try it on and adjust the loose ends of the trim so the headpiece is comfortably snug. Pin and sew to the other side, mimicking the shape of the already sewn trim and how it is folded.

NSB - headpiece tutorial add strap

On the left: trim folded in half and sewn to the crinoline. On the right, the adjusted straps, being tacked in place.

7. Finish the back side of the headpiece. I use another piece of crinoline, but other good options include felt or a piece of fabric that won’t unravel.

NSB - headpiece tutorial add another layer of crinoline and trim

Tack around the edges of both crinoline pieces, then trim the outer layer!

8. Try on your beautiful new 1920s style headpiece and admire your handiwork!

NSB - headpiece tutorial finished product

It’s the bee’s knees!

Join me again for the next installment when I make a purse to coordinate with my ensemble! I have some particularly fun inspiration to share! And stay tuned for the final reveal!

Rolling down my stockings and rouging my knees – part 1

Jessica here! Welcome to our newest multi-post series, where I talk all about creating a 1920s costume and accessories. I am excited to share with you all the details and planning that went into making a fabulous ensemble for my friend’s Roaring ‘20s themed birthday bash! NSB - 1920s costume header pt 1 As a plus size woman, I knew that it might be difficult to find a 1920s costume off the rack. Because I love costumes and making fun ensembles, I figured I might as well make something fabulous for this party!

Today I will go over pattern and fabric selection and share a lot of the beautiful inspiration I found. The 1920s: such a fabulous era for gorgeous clothing, accessories, and details!

After receiving the party invitation, I started looking at possible patterns. I don’t have the ‘ideal’ twenties figure and I’ve never really worn drop waist silhouettes, so I looked for a style that I would be comfortable in, that could accommodate my full hips and, hopefully, be flattering. I primarily searched the independent historical pattern lines we carry at Nancy’s, Folkwear and Decades of Style, and found some great options.

NSB - Folkwear 1920s patterns

Folkwear patterns, clockwise from top left: #237 Tango Dress, #214 1927 Tea Frock, #264 Monte Carlo Dress, #261 Paris Promenade Dress

NSB - Decades of Style 1920s patterns

Decades of Style patterns, clockwise from top left: #2502 1925 Zig Zag Dress, #2501 1925 Fringe Front Dress, #2003 1920s Hazel’s Frock, #2004 1920s Tier-rific Ensemble

From there, I looked at pattern sizing and styling. Unfortunately, the Folkwear pattern I loved most, the Tango Dress, does not run large enough for me, and I wasn’t as interested in their other silhouettes for this particular occasion. Looking at all the options from Decades of Style, I was most interested in the 1920s Hazel’s Frock and the 1925 Zig Zag Dress. After reviewing the construction details and finished measurements, I landed on (drum roll, please)…

Decades of Style 1920s Hazels Frock

Hazel’s Frock!

Once I knew what I was going to make, I had to select fabrics! This is my favorite part of any sewing project and choosing fabric for this costume was no exception! At this point, I turned to Pinterest for the never-ending visual inspiration it offers. I’m going to share a few of my very favorite 1920s dresses I found there, but know there are so many other incredible examples.

After gathering ideas for materials and colors, I set out looking for my fabrics. I did a quick search through my own stash and found a potential candidate for the main body of the dress. When I couldn’t find a suitable coordinate for the neck and hem scarves, I browsed the special occasion section at Nancy’s and came up with several new, fantastic combinations.

NSB - harlequin print combo

Purple/black/white harlequin print silk chiffon featuring silver & gold lamé with metallic print poly chiffon for the scarves

NSB - art deco print combo

Art Deco print on silk/cotton with silk/metallic organza for the scarves

NSB - chevron raschel knit combo

Black & gold raschel chevron knit with sparkly poly organza for the scarves

NSB - multi color novelty print combo

Multi-colored novelty print silk crêpe-de-chine with three coordinating silks for the scarves

And then I saw it: the perfect fabric. It was vibrant and fun! Sheer and opaque! It sparkled! And best of all: it was already embellished, so most of the work had been done for me! I wouldn’t even have to hem it!

Realizing the addition of scarves around the hemline would detract from the incredible embellishment, I decided I would make only the neck scarf from the original pattern, using a simple black poly organza, similar to the basecloth.

Because I chose a sheer fabric for my dress, I elected to make a coordinating slip to wear under. I used the fabulous Intimacies pattern from Folkwear, which includes a bias cut slip or teddy, tap pants, and camisole, all perfect foundations for 1920s and ‘30s style clothing. For fabric, I selected our rayon/acetate blend satin faille, which has a great hand and works incredibly well on the bias.Folkwear Intimacies pattern cover I had help fitting the dress pattern from our excellent sewing instructor, Jacque Goldsmith. (side note: Did you know Jacque offers 15 minutes of free advice on the first Thursday of every month? It’s perfect for quickly fitting a muslin!) We moved the french dart up about an inch and added fish-eye darts to the back, to help reduce bulk and better fit my shape.

From there, construction of both the dress and slip was straightforward. The majority of my efforts were spent removing sequins and appliqués from seam allowances and the darts and hand sewing them back in after the construction was complete. I am so pleased with how this dress turned out!

NSB - Hazels Frock front

Dress front

NSB - Hazels Frock back

Dress back – I love the elegance and simplicity of the neck scarf. I cleverly hid my back darts under two of the appliqués.

Join me for the next installment as I make a 1920s headpiece to coordinate with my dress! I have a lot more inspiration to share. And stay tuned for the full, final look; it’s the cat’s pyjamas!