Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Penelope Lumley Costume

Here is the finished product of the costume party that was held way back in November. Sadly, there were not as many photos taken as everyone thought at the party, so I don't have pictures of anyone else.
Definitely feeling the part. As a teenaged private educator to children mostly under the age of 13 (piano teacher by trade), I feel the young Miss Penelope Lumley's struggles as she tries to teach 3 incorrigible children who were unfortunately and literally raised by wolves. Thankfully, I have yet to encounter any children raised by wildlife in the woods.
I had intended to make the bodice pointed, but I was rather preoccupied with a story and cut the bodice out round before I had even had a thought. Whoops. Then I had the idea to add a basque, as in the sketch here, but after the sleeves were cut out I didn't have enough fabric left. Drat! So, I continued on without. Double drat, of course the back wrinkles in pictures!
Somehow I got it in my head that the skirt and bodice wouldn't be attached, but held together with hooks and eyes, but once I tried it on for the last time the day before the party I realized the back came up a little higher than I would prefer. So I stitched them together, trying to keep the stitches in the "ditch" of the bodice binding. I'm happy that I did that, because I didn't have to sew on all those hooks and eyes! Actually I did sew on all the eyes, but ripped them off later.

There were several things I wanted to practice. Skin-tight bodice fit? Check. Boned darts? Check. Governess-like severity? Check. Sewing up until the hour of the party? Check. Actually, that last one wasn't supposed to be on the list. Good grief.

All in all, it turned out mostly the way I wanted, aside from distracted mistakes and procrastinating. The one thing that I didn't like in the end that I did not have any time to fix was that weird neckline thingy going on; I should have fixed that in mockup stage.

And, holding our own Nutsawoo; we found him in the Autumn decor section of Hobby Lobby. 
Here are some of the things that are correct:

The shape, fitting, and seamlines. By seamlines, I mean dropped armscye (the bit that comes down over my shoulder), the shoulder seam angled backwards, the curved back detail, the angled waist horizon, the darts). These things, in itself, makes up almost 70% of what makes any dress historically accurate and believable.

What isn't correct:

The fabric choice is the main one. Done in a nice wool, this whole dress could have been completely passable, even with the other techniques I chose to ignore. This is made from a cotton/poly mix, just for the sake of cheapness. Good thing, too, I have nowhere else to wear this. One weird fact about this brand of broadcloth: the grain is skewed. I ripped all the skirt panels (NOT a clean rip either), and as I was sewing all the panels together I realized they weren't even straight! Isn't that weird? Will not buy that brand again, I have since bought a different brand that ripped nicely.

The buttons are plastic, as is the boning, but I chose the less glossy black buttons that didn't scream "PLASTIC!" The buttonholes are machine sewn; during the Victorian era, the only thing the sewing machine could do was a plain straight stitch, so they would have been worked by hand.

Underneath the dress, I wore my corset, a plain gathered petticoat, and also the most horrendous bridal petticoat you could imagine. It smells weird. Anyhoo, combined with the better petticoat on top it lends a believable shape, and no matter how much I complain about wearing it, it has saved my neck in tight situations where there is no time to sew anyone proper petticoats.


  1. I love this dress. To pieces. You look so lovely in it, like you stepped out from a Victorian novel<3

  2. Love the dress!

    For the sake of your fellow costumers, would you be comfortable revealing the broadcloth brand with the unreliable grain?

  3. Hmmm...I don't remember, but I will look next time I go to Joanns. Which, knowing me, will probably be soon.