Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Analysis of the proportions of a successful Regency dress

So you want to do early Regency but you don't exactly have a columnal figure...?


While searching for some other conversation I've found an old comment of mine in a Facebook group, a comment documenting the relative measurements of my Regency dress compared to my figure. I thought it was worth reproducing as a (more detailed) blog post for future reference for anyone who wishes to achieve this sort of early 1800s columnal style on a more "feminine" figure with bigger hips. Since mine was achieved through trial and error but I'm really happy with how it turned out in the end.

So here goes one person's experience:

I'm wide-hipped, approximately DD-cupped, but pretty slim.

My underbust measurement is c. 75 cm (29,5 inches), my hips are c. 102 cm (40 inches); 1,36 : 1 hips-to-underbust ratio. The vertical distance between the two is c. 40-42 cm (c. 16 inches). My bust span is c. 20 cm (c. 7,5-8 inches).

The dress has rectangular front and back panels, with gathers in the back and trapezoidal gores at the sides (more like side front I guess). The front panel is 24 cm (c. 9,5 inches) wide (= with 2 cm on each side in addition to my bust span). The gores are 18 cm on top and 29 cm at the hem (c. 7 & 11,5 inches). The back panel is 115 cm (c. 45 inches) wide, gathered into the waistline.

So it all adds up to 172 cm (c. 68 inches) at the waistline / underbust level, compared to my 75 cm (29,5 inches) measurement; 2,3 : 1 ratio. A lot of that is taken up in the back gathers. It's a drop-front dress, so there's also some overlap between the side gores and the back panel.

The skirt is 112 cm / c. 44 inches long at the front & sides (slightly longer in the back due to the raised waistline there).

The hem is 2,5 m (c. 98 inches & 2,7 yards) - so it's c. 2,5 : 1 compared to my hips measurement, and c. 1,4 : 1 compared to the skirt dimensions at the underbust level.

All this in a very lightweight cotton sateen. There are tight gathers of the two rows of running stitch kind in the back; about 60 cm (c. 23,5 inches) gathered into about 10 cm (4 inches) - I'm not sure how much exactly it was anymore, this was just a very quick measure at the hem, but 60 cm kind of make sense to me as a number I'd have picked. :D I underlined the thin fabric with a strip of cotton plainweave so it's a bit thicker and not quite as much fabric is taken up in the gathers as it would otherwise take in something as lightweight as my sateen (it's a lot anyway - 6:1 ratio!). Then gentler gathers towards the sides.

Now you may not want to reproduce the exact proportions of my pattern pieces - my narrow front panel is a bit weird to be honest - but hopefully putting it down in exact numbers and proportions like this can help you decide how to proportion your dress if you're struggling with that. :-)

You see the trapezoidal skirt patterns more often on later, 1810s & 1820s dresses, but they do sometimes appear in dresses dated to the earlier, more strictly neo-classical era as well. Based on my own experience, they may well have been an invention to accommodate wider-hipped figures similar to mine who wanted the sleek columnal look with full enough skirts for movement and without putting too many gathers at their underbust level.

Good luck!

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Pro tip (maybe) - Hip measurement complications

This is a blog post about the wisdom of very careful and detailed measuring of oneself.
(It's also one that, for the first time in my blogging history, made me want to go all silly puns with the title. I've stayed my hand.)

Re-measuring myself some time ago (it's now been several years - this is a post rescued from "development hell"), I found out a head-scratching thing:

At the largest part of my hips, my front measurement is bigger than my back measurement. That wouldn't be so head-scratching maybe; the head-scratching part comes from the facts that:

A) my hip-to-waist ratio is noticeably on the hourglass side, which one usually thinks of as "fluffy tissue on one's backside";
B) fitting tutorials dealing with bigger volume in the front assume volume in the belly; which is in center front and, once again, fluffy tissue;
C) meanwhile, my additional volume in the front is in my hip bones. That means I have volume at the side-front. Not an area you usually see dealt with in trouser-fitting tutorials. :P Conversely, I actually have a bit of a hollow space behind my hip bones at my sides.

The difference was about 4 cm some years ago when I first came across this problem. That's a lot of hip bone for an area of the body where the difference is usually in the back.

Seriously, I don't think I've EVER come across anyone approaching this as a fitting issue in explanations of fitting issues and how to fix them.
(Also, because it’s a bone issue, I think it’s a good thing I haven’t attempted a custom dress form yet, because that may well distort with stuffing. I will have to come up with some way to simulate my bone structure because one of the reasons I want a custom dress form is for it to be squishable for corsets. And its being squishable in places where I'm not - which is frankly most of them - would defeat the purpose.)

It goes a long way towards explaining some of my trouser woes. I have noticed that generally, trousers that fit me best in the hip area are actually often men's trousers (except then they gape awfully at the waist).

In historical costuming terms, most of the time I thankfully don't have to worry about it, because skirts. But because the re-measuring happened because of hypothetical future corsets, I came to wonder, how exactly do I deal with that in longer corsets? It's bone. It won't squish.

It's mostly something I'll have to experiment with on my own, I’m afraid. But I wanted to share it. In case there are actually other "curvy" women with bone structure interfering with the fit of their clothes, rather than being "fat"; and yes, to stress the importance of measuring oneself thoroughly.

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Just a pair of stockings

I'm finding out this blog has been sadly neglected in the past years and there are lots of things I never posted about.

Like my stockings. Which I already made a couple years ago, for some HSM challenge or other - if I dug through the Facebook albums in the HSM group, I'm sure I'd find it, but I don't particularly care to do it right now.

It's my first attempt at sewing historical stockings (well, second, after a sort of rough mockup of my pattern), and they're nothing special in execution, wonkily sewn and not particularly historically accurate (there's lycra and machine sewing).

But they look the part.

And they contain three different tees, two thrifted, one of which was my orange tee from years ago after it stretched out of shape (and that's why I no longer wear lycra tees because if you don't have a dryer, they do sooner or later stretch out of shape while line-drying.)

The other thrifted tee was just bought specifically to make up for my lack of fabric in my original white tee.

That was my white Latvian tee, made in Latvia, from back in 2011. It got yellowish with use and also a bit stretched out of shape. (Don't believe people who say lycra assures your knits will retain their shape.)

So they are, in a way, a sentimental object.

And I'm currently knitting a wool(-ish) pair for colder days, so I decided these needed to be posted for the sake of painting the full picture.

My garters are two layers of plainweave cotton tape, paired up with vintage ribbon from my grandma. (I could have sworn I blogged about them and other stuff when I got them, but apparently it's one of a myriad of things I never blogged about.) I had ideas of embroidering some satin to put on the tape to make them really pretty, but that never materialised. So far.

Because it's "found materials", one of the ribbons is slightly different from the others. I actually rather like that my ribbons are mismatched and that my stockings are pieced. I often enjoy the mismatched and pieced items in museum collections more, because they have more... character, than the picture-perfect gowns that people are oohing and aahing over on social media...


Which reminds me - I've been pondering joining Instagram because that's where all the cool kids are these days, and when I blog I spend this huge amount of time writing blog posts that no one then comments on. So I eventually started reading their Terms of Use, where they keep talking about how it's aiming to be a personalised and up-to-date service, and yet somehow they fail to mention what it actually is, in the several paragraphs I got through. I backed out again at that point because a service incapable of telling you what it is that feels the need to instead keep wrapping pretty words around the fact they keep tabs on you... probably isn't something I want to sign up for, regardless of how many costuming friends are using it (and regardless of how many online services these days do the same keeping tabs thing). I've never been one of the cool kids anyway, why start now?

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Drafting sewing patterns in Inkscape: Setting up your grid

If you want to draft patterns in Inkscape (which is a free vector aka line-drawing program, aka the free alternative to Illustrator), your best bet is to start by setting up the auxilliary grid. I find that with the help of grids, I can turn paper patterns digital even without mucking about with scanners (which I don't have myself) and the correct resolution - more on that later, hopefully. But the best part for us historical costumers? If you set up your grid right, you should be able to do scaled patterns or draft those block / apportioning rulers drafts straight into your own measurements. (With the caution that things like bust cup sizes still won't enter into it - always do mockups.)

Although that's a step too far if you don't yet know how to set up the grid to your specifications. Which is something I've only just discovered how to do properly myself, so I'm happily sharing.

I'm sure there are other tutorials for this out there; but I often find it's easier to read tutorials written by someone coming at the problem from the same angle as you... so here's from a pattern-drafter and historical costumer to others.

Here's my sleeveless spencer pattern, digitised with the help of Inkscape grid, still missing its side piece for some reason. I'll have to look into why I stopped at that point; I suspect it's because I lost the paper pattern...

Now, up front, I'm Czech and my Inkscape is in Czech, so sadly I'm not always sure about the exact English terminology. If you have the same version of Inkscape, things should hopefully all look the same, though. Mine is 0.92.2 (5c3e80d, 2017-08-06). (Which reminds me maybe I should look for an update.) You should find yours in the Help section under About or some such.

So, yes, I've only just figured this out properly. In the post about drafting a corset from pictures, I mentioned that I had trouble switching my grid to milimetres... It's because when you change units, Inkscape is clever and retains the dimensions of your previous grid! :D

Setting up your grid is easier when you work in metric. You don't usually have to worry about divisions much - Inkscape works with decimal numbers, and your units work with decimal numbers, so it's quite easy.

Inches require more math and theoretical mathematical thinking. Which goes to show that inches are an older unit from a time when people just did things with physical measures that could be folded in half, instead of with mathematics in their heads...

So, to set up a grid for the first time, you go to File Properties, under the Grid menu, and set up a grid by choosing the type of grid you want (apparently it's "Rectangular" in English) and clicking "Create new".

(BTW: If you want to draft hexagonal patterns for patchwork, the other type of grid can help with that - which is something I should have realised about a month ago when I mucked about and struggled with trying to draft out the Golden Wedding Ring block...)

Make sure you have checked that the grid is turned on and visible (important!). The last option says something like "snap only to visible grid", which means that if you zoom out enough that you can only see your major, red lines, your nodes will only snap to the red grid.

And then you define the exact properties you want your grid to have.

Once you have once set up a grid, you can just turn it on or off, and just change the properties as needed - unless you want the other type of grid, or unless you removed / deleted it somewhere in the process, in which case you have to create a new one again.

This is how I get a "milimetre paper" effect with my unit being milimetres:


You go to the Grid menu on the right, choose your unit, and then decide at what intervals you want your lines to be. As you can see here, I chose to have my basic, blue lines at 1 mm and my major, red lines at 1 cm. 1 cm is 10 mm, so that's easy. Your basic lines will be at every 1 whole unit, in both directions (along the X and Y axes), and your major lines will be at every 10 lines (that's the last setting there at the bottom).

You can also check (bottom left) that you want your grid to display only as dots rather than lines. But personally I find the lines much easier to see and work with.

Note that whenever you change any of those numbers in the menu on the right, you have to hit Enter or click in another menu "window" for the change to take place. Other than that, it's pretty straightforward.

Where it starts to get a bit confusing is when you decide to change units. If I switch my units to cm, I get this:

Suddenly my lines are at every 0,1 of my unit (since 1 mm is 0,1 cm). My major lines are still at every 10 lines.

This is why I had trouble getting mms out of my grid when drafting my corset pattern - I did not notice that the numbers had changed when I switched units, so I could not understand why the grid resolutely stayed the same...!

(You could also change where your grid is centered on the X and Y axes. Those are automatically centered in the left bottom corner of your page. Messing with that is more trouble than it's worth for our purposes - we don't need that because frankly the page does not enter into the drafting process at all the way I do it - except maybe as a rough gauge for how many pages the printed pattern will take. If for some reason you wanted to change where your grid is centered, you would have to know the exact coordinates of the point where you want to move it.)

Of course, you don't have to have your major lines at 10. I can do a "half-centimetre" version by setting them up at 5 mms:

The only thing that bothers me about this system is that I'm limited to two types of lines, so I can't have both a detailed "milimetre paper" and mark 5 or 10 cms as well. If I want that type of super-helpful grid, I have to add more lines manually... which can interfere with my drafting a bit as those "objects" get in the way. Maybe there's still a way around that but I haven't figured it out yet...

Now, inches. As I said, inches require more math.

To help you, the various divisions translate into decimal numbers like so:

1/2 = 0,5

1/4 = 0,25

1/8 = 0,125

1/16 = 0,0625

And if you're math-and-numbers-challenged, you can write down those numbers or print them out on a piece of paper to stick at some place where you'll have it in sight and won't lose it.

(You can get those numbers easily with the help of a calculator by dividing 1 : your division number. If you need, say, 3/8, you then just multiply your 1/8 decimal number by 3... But part of the point of setting up our grids in Inkscape is that you avoid that further multiplication and just use your grid as a ruler.)

So if you want an inch grid divided down to sixteenths of an inch, you set it up like this:

With your basic lines being the decimal number for 1/16 (i.e. 0,0625) and your major lines at every 16 lines.

Just for fun: Because Inkscape goes that detailed with its decimal numbers in these settings, you can go extra-detailed with... what is it called, thirty-secondths?

And now you can give Vanessa's tutorial a whirl regardless of whether your pattern draft uses cms or inches.

As a teaser for how you would do the apportioning rulers stuff: Your X and Y measurements don't have to match.

Here's the same grid in inches:

So... yeah... just with some help from a calculator (you most likely have one on your phone), you can totally do the apportioning rulers drafts to your own measurements. Or create your own apportioning ruler / tape measure for doing it by hand. But more on that at some later point...

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

How NOT to draft a women's sloper: Why the Breanna sloper for women does not work at all (unfortunately)

In the loquatious manner of old books, the full title of this blog post continues:

Containing therein an explanation of the fundamental importance of the difference between dart width and dart angle.
What shenanigans Marmota gets into when she has too much free time on her hands and wants a quick solution to something (Spoiler alert: It was anything but quick.)

I have to say right ahead that this was written back in May so some of the info about how the site is set up here is dated. The problems with the pattern remain exactly the same, though.

I also have to say right ahead that the sum total of my knowledge of programming is a neat zero, so I have no idea how the actual code works and cannot unfortunately fix it.

I do, however, by now know a thing or two about drafting sewing patterns, and about measuring and altering them to make sure they fit - seeing as I'm exactly the sort of non-average person is targetting:

In their system, back in May, the closer you were to a standard size, the more your diagram looked like a perfect circle. Mine was a perfect splotch.

So I can at least offer an explanation of why it doesn't work. Why the way they take those detailed measurements (that for the most part do make sense to me) and turn them into this pattern... results in a pattern that does not work at all. Long story short: the very base of the women's sloper is flawed and does not seem to take into account some fundamental truths of sewing and pattern-making.

Namely how you deal with darts and angles.

I hope that this post will both work as a (very detailed) review for other existing / potential users to see exactly why that particular covetable pattern (custom slopers are covetable, right?) doesn't work right now, as well as hopefully help the programmers do things better in the future when it comes to women's patterns. Because I do love the idea of OpenSource patterns!

(And maybe it will also help explain some things about drafting your own slopers. I learned a lot from this myself.)

Monday, 11 May 2020

Throwback: The Andrea blouse and pattern

This dates back to the era of BurdaStyle as a website for OpenSource patterns, and BurdaStyle as a sewing community. Digging back, it seems I made this blouse in 2008? Definitely finished it in 2008. It predates this blog, and was actually one of the first items of clothing I ever made for myself... preceded by a "medieval" (ha-ha) dress and an evening dress! I always had a habit of jumping headfirst into sewing projects without regard for the order of their perceived difficulty ratings. :D

In retrospect, it's absolutely no wonder I've developed the sewing persona and habits I have if, out of the first three garments I ever made for myself, one was drafted based on a scaled draft, one was made from a heavily altered pattern, and one was a completely new design drafted from a basic sloper! There's no way I was ever going to end up the sort of sewist who buys and has to try all the newest patterns! :D

 Old photos demonstrating that my habit of wearing headscarves is already more than ten years old... and that my problem of finding well-fitting RTW trousers is a lifelong one.

That era of BurdaStyle as a sewing community is now definitively gone. Just like the blouse.

The physical object no longer fit me, and was worn and the colours washed out... so recently I cut it up and am in the process of turning it into patchwork pillowcases for my sister. Well, technically, I would be far more in the process of if the project were not currently 180 kms away...

(I wasn't even in the habit of visiting the BurdaStyle site for the past couple of years, so I was surprised to find out it was completely remade when I ventured there recently - I'm not sure when the change happened. But everything is gone. It's truly and fully nothing but a shop now, and as you can guess from the previous paragraphs, I definitely don't need it.)

This blouse was my first pattern of my own, drafted from a basic sloper (provided back then by BurdaStyle user JJ), based on my own design, my own idea, and so it will always be special.

The original idea counted on colour blocking or at least several colours / patterns of fabric, which I eventually scrapped in part because I did not have that many coordinating fabrics of the same type. I also played with the idea of back lacing which I think was quite "in" at the time (also, hey, I've always loved historical costumes), and scrapped that because, well, back lacing isn't very practical.

Also I named it after the little girl who was baptised the day I finished it, so even though I'm not sure how many times I've even met her after that, it is a rather specially named pattern that way.

 And as you can see, I eventually adjusted the back seams to echo the front more. It's much better balanced that way! And more fun! I dislike patterns that have inventive designs in the front and boring standard seam / dart configurations in the back.

The blouse used to have a record on the BurdaStyle site, including a single-size PDF download of the pattern, but as I said, that is now gone, and the record only lives on in the Wayback Machine  - without the PDF (and including my early confusion concerning invisible zippers if you go further back in history :D - it was a regular one). Plus there's my old Czech blog post - now picture-less. ETA: Actually, now that blog is gone, too (the platform is gone), and only lives on in the Wayback Machine.

I forgot to take more photos than these original ones before I took it apart. So you only have my word for all the beginner mistakes I made... such as trimming the seam allowances too fine as I zig-zagged them (together, too, I suspect - you can kind of see that it even affects the fit in the back), before I even tried it on properly. It wasn't that a big problem with this piece, but it's not a habit you want to maintain in general. :D

There's also the matter of my not knowing anything about understitching - so I topstitched around the neckline instead. Again, not a big problem with this casual blouse but not a habit you want to get into in general!

And somewhere between my forgetting some details from the drafting tutorial, the block I used having come without sleeves, and my generally not yet knowing the wisdom of measuring patterns against my own measurements, the sleeves originally ended up a tad too tight - so the underarm gusset was a necessity. One I fell in love with, though. :D

Looking at these photos now, and remembering how I did things compared to what I now know about my usual adjustments, I think I probably should have lengthened it in the upper part / lowered the bust point / raised the shoulder seam, too... I suspect that was also part of the reason the sleeves originally ended up too tight. Not having done that, however, does make the resulting pattern a bit more usable as a general pattern. :-)

... I kind of forgot about my old Czech blog; I don't use it anymore because that old Czech platform is pretty clunky. I now found out there that the thrifted pillowcase from which I made the blouse cost only 5 CZK (!!!), and that the yellow fabric I used for the teeny piping along the sleeves cost 10 CZK (and it cycles back to today because I think I have now used some of that fabric for face masks...).

That blog post is also a bit cringe-worthy because I had frankly no idea what I was doing or how to write about these things in a logical manner. :D


I retained my habit of drafting patterns on newsprint ads for many years after. I don't do it anymore, in part because we don't end up with them in the mailbox anymore (or only rarely maybe?). But it's actually not such a bad habit - if you don't mind drafting on already printed things and having to peer closely to see your lines! :D (I would always do the final markings in a black pen.) Re-using useless stuff isn't a bad thing to do; these days I still have a habit of e.g. taping together office papers printed from one side...

Here's the original pattern, as-is: Drafted at Burda size 38 in the bust (88 cm), c. size 36 in the waist (66 cm), widening back to size 38 (94 cm) or even 40 (98 cm) for the hips; the bodice lengthened in the waist to fit my long torso, and pretty narrow sleeves. No seam allowances.

Download original Andrea blouse pattern

I have an ambition of turning it into a more standard-size multi-sized one - but I'll leave that for the future (because it would hopefully also involve sewing a new version for myself and doing some sort of tutorial!).

Sunday, 10 May 2020

A simple trick for clipping / notching seam allowances

It's another thing I learnt from Bilikis. She doesn't even describe it; she just does it whenever she notches seam allowances (so it usually ends up being sped up!).

When you have a curved seam that needs to have the seam allowance clipped into / notched, it can be a tedious and slightly perilous job. But if you fold your piece at the spot where you need to clip, and cut into your seam allowance along the fold, both sides of the triangular notch at once like this...

 ... it goes much faster and it's much easier to ensure you don't snip all the way into your seam (without needing to bring a craft knife into your sewing room and move your project to a cutting mat!)

Really simple, eh? :-) It barely rates the name of tutorial but... it's supremely helpful, and clearly isn't common knowledge, so let's tag it with that, too.