December 31, 2014

A Wrapper Named Sophia

...Or one last internship update for 2014!

The Sophia Project: Chronicles of an 1870s Wrapper Reproduction

Remember The Sophia Project?  Otherwise known as the major project of my costume internship at the Genesee Country Village & Museum, the reproduction process for 1870s wrapper has reached its climax.  The end is in sight.  Ever since the Preparing for the Holidays event on November 22nd, I've been spending two days a week in the costume shop working on the details of Sophia, mostly hand-sewing piping, facings, hems, etc.  Finally, after months of machine and hand stitching, the wrapper itself is finished!!!  All that's left to do now is the silk trim and bows!  What a journey.

Hello!  My name is Sophia.  I am a wrapper.
Cheryl, the head costumer of the village, told me that just about every time someone came into the costume shop, their first question would be about the new, instead of her having to explain what a wrapper is again and again, I made Sophia a sign!

Sophia's description reads:

Hello!  My name is Sophia.  I am a wrapper.

Not the kind that candy comes wrapped in, but the equally yummy eye-candy for historical clothing enthusiasts!  Think of me as a morning gown or, later in the century, similar to a tea gown, a semi-fitted or loose dressing gown that women would wear in the morning or evening over their undergarments.  We often follow the trends of more fashionable dress, and are a prime choice for maternity wear, offering women a cut with style and comfort in mind.  We also have great durability, typically fashioned from printed cottons for the summer and warm wools for the winter, and stand up to many years of wear.

Come back later for more progress or wait until next season when you may catch me lounging in one of those lovely 1870s houses!

Completed wrapper shots in the shop:

Front of wrapper: notice the tiny neckline & armscye piping.

Side view of dropped armscye & coat sleeve.

Close up of front side of sleeve.  

Close up of inner side of sleeve.  The construction of the sleeves was a challenge.  First, the triangular piece of the sleeve had to be backed (triangle piece whip-stitched onto sleeve).  Then, the other side of the sleeve had to be stitched by hand to close along the triangular side.  Followed by hand-sewn piped facings, which had to be stitched carefully, especially along the triangle seam.  (As you can tell from my inability to describe the steps cleanly, finishing the sleeves took a lot of time and patients!) 

Inside details:

Inside of wrapper: notice the pocket, whip stitched fronts
& facings on the neckline, sleeves and hem.   

Inside of sleeve with visible hand & machine stitching.

Hem facing detail shot.   I was beginning to wonder if there was an end
to this as the hem is 6+ yards .  Yes, we measured and even took bets :)
Reused the light brown hem from another dress and tore chocolate brown cotton to match.
Pleated extra fabric at each seam and whip stitched flat along pleats.  

So, what's next for the Sophia Project?  Trim!  

Bias strips cut for all of Sophia's bows!
That's 150+ inches of printed cotton, 150+ inches of polished cotton to back the bows & 300+ inches of black silk for the tiny 1/8th inch bias bound edges of the bow...wish me luck!

While there won't be any more weekly internship updates in the new year, stay tuned in 2015 for a post on the trimming & completion of the Sophia Project!  Thanks for reading!

December 29, 2014

100 Dresses towards a Happier Holiday

Merry Christmas, dearest readers!  This is the season of joy and thankfulness, of gift-giving and greetings, of making merry and high holiday spirits!

Festive ribbon, bows & wrappings!

I had planned to write this post on Christmas Day; however, I've been busy spending quality time with the family - the best gift of all!  Luckily, there are twelve days of, Happy 5th day of Christmas!  And, as Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street (1947) said, "Christmas isn't just a day, it's a frame of mind."

This Advent & Christmas Day seemed different than the Christmases before as the stresses of growing up and of growing more apart were settling in to stay - which only made indulging in our favorite family traditions more meaningful.  We had so much fun unwinding from the busyness of the outside world and reveling in each other's company.  And, of course, we watched Christmas movies, like It's a Wonderful LifeWhite Christmas & Miracle on 24th Street, for the gazillionth time, pulled out mom's collection of The Night Before Christmas books (she must have nearly 40 copies now), and baked dozens of different kinds of Christmas cookies.

We also have a tradition of sending out Christmas cards to family and friends alike, so, without further ado, allow me to share my story of 100 dresses:

(1950s vintage card via:

The idea all started with a single dress...

Which then became 100 later...

Hoping to spread a little holiday cheer to family, coworkers & friends alike, I made Christmas-themed 1950s dress cards!  Quite befitting a costuming intern I thought :)

First, I cut dozens of 5" by 5" squares from scrapbooking paper.

From candy cane stripes...

To Christmas plaids, hearts & polka dots...

To gingerbread, peppermints & snowmen...

And holly berries, twinkling lights & more!

Then, I folded dresses while listening to Christmas music for a week.  (Follow this fantastic Origami Dress Tutorial to fold your own 1950s cocktail dress!)

Front & Back Views of Origami Dress.

And, armed with a thin sharpie marker, glue sticks and double sided tape, I assembled all of the Christmas cards and envelopes.  (These dresses fit perfectly on the A2 cards and envelopes I found at Jo-Anns in packages of 50 each).

With hand-written holiday greetings & warm winter wishes, I sealed the cards and sent them off to everyone!  (After making so many cards, I joked that if I ever opened my own card business, I would name it "Sewphisticated Designs: A Dress for Every Occasion")

And here is yours!

Thank you for reading & I hope you have the Happiest of Holidays!

December 24, 2014

Preparing for the Holidays

'Twas the night before Christmas and I thought I should say: have a very Merry Christmas & a Happy Holiday!

"Now, Dasher!  Now, Dancer!  Now, Prancer, and Vixen!
"On, Comet!  On, Cupid!  On, Donner and Blitzen!
"To the top of the porch!  To the top of the wall!
"Now dash away!  Dash away!  Dash away all!"
(Image via:

Before I snuggle down for my long winter's nap, I wanted to recap Preparing for the Holidays at the Genesee Country Village and Museum!  The annual Preparing for the Holidays event, which took place Saturday, November 22, featured activities that 19th century folks did to get ready for winter and holiday gift-giving.  For the day, Hosmer's Inn was turned into an 1850s restaurant, serving homemade sausages, sauerkraut, baked potatoes and piping hot drinks.

As the last "experience day" of my internship for credit, I was asked to be one of the servers and stayed in the back kitchen with Ariana, a fellow interpreter.  While Ariana dished out food, my main responsibility was filling drink orders - brewing coffee, teas and hot chocolate and battling with the cold to keep the drinks palatable.  Despite the cold, my fellow coworkers made the day pass smoothly and with good cheer, leaving me looking forward to future museum events!

And just to prepare for the holiday's festivities, I made a new, madder-colored plaid pinner apron!

Front, Side & Back View of Apron.

Made from 100% cotton homespun, every stitch of the apron is hand-sewn - and, I am quite proud of the result.

December 16, 2014

A Little Bit o' That

To follow up A Little Bit o' This from last last night, I thought I'd start the Past Projects posts with some miscellaneous historical projects: 

First up:  My second attempt at an 1860s Quilted Winter Hood.  Created two Octobers ago for my part in the Penfield Ghostwalk, and donned again for this year's ghostwalk as well as Yuletide in the Village.  The hood is constructed from wool, cotton batting, and lined with cotton broadcloth.  Machine quilted and each inside seam was whipstitched to prevent fraying.

Next up:  An Edwardian Hat c.1910s, inspired by this hat from the Met's collection, made right before New Year's, last year.  Originally created for the 2013 Historical Sew Fortnightly hosted by the Dreamstress, Challenge #26: Celebrate!  A hand-sewn attempt at hat making, starting with a straw hat base, I cut the crown off and stitched wire bound with black bias tape on all of the edges.  Then, I added a bag-lined, black velvet puff to serve as the crown, stacked two golden taffeta bows, a broach and three plumes to call it a hat.  Total cost was around $15.

Edwardian Hat paired with a matching velvet jacket & hair!

Lastly, my first chemise and drawer set were completed last March in time for Challenge #4: Under it All of the 2014 Historical Sew Fortnightly.  Made from cotton muslin & lace, I followed Simplicity's 2890 pattern, which I highly recommend and have used for all of my chemises and drawers since.  Not bad for my first stab at using a pattern!

Can't make all of those pretty dresses I want without proper undergarments!

December 15, 2014

A Little Bit o' This

Hello blogging world, I'm back from a brief, unannounced hiatus & Christmas present shopping!  Life got a little chaotic as it is a terrible habit of mine to take on much more than healthy to manage.  So, let's just say, I am definitely looking forward to things slowing down a little and spending quality time with family & friends over the holidays!

The first item on the agenda tonight is to lay out blogging plans for the rest of the year:  I would really like to recap all of my past projects from high school and my previous blog, while I catch up on my winter sewing list.  One of my personal goals for blogging here is to measure and reflect upon my growth as a seamstress.  To do so, I think it is necessary to show where I started, with those early theater costumes *cringes*, and my progress since.  That said, there probably will not be any current project posts until the new year as I highlight past projects from both junior and senior year.

The next item of the agenda is to give a little sales pitch for the last weekend, December 19th through the 21st, of Yuletide Tours at the Genesee Country Village & Museum!  The date is 1849, and Christmas has just been declared a holiday.  If you're in the area, make sure to book your reservations as soon as possible; you won't want to miss out on this yearly tradition!  (Plus, you get to see yours truly acting, rather than behind the scenes for a change.  I buy a bunch of things, spend all of my husband's's a lot of fun!)  Hope to see you there!

Christmas is Good for Business in the Altay Store.
Photographer:  Ruby Foote

Moving onto one of the major reasons for my recent's college finals time!  While I didn't actually have any final test per se for the Experienced Based Learning 101 (credit for my costuming internship through Monroe Community College), I sure struggled with the final reflection paper!  Writing the reflection was one of the hardest tasks I've faced because it would be just impossible to talk about all that I learned from the past five months.  Without a doubt, the experience I came away with could not be found in a traditional classroom and has truly left me with a clearer path for the future.  I spent the last two weeks writing and rewriting the paper to condense it into the allowed ten pages that would both meet my professor's expectations and, hopefully, convey just how much this internship has meant to me.  

All in all, from July 3rd to December 13th, that was 36 pages of day to day experiences, nearly 270 onsite hours, and 10 pages of reflection!  Wow.  It was such a relieving feeling to finally hit the "send" button for the email, I immediately went out and, after printing copies of the reflection for costuming, had all 45 pages printed and spiral bound for a keepsake.  

Now, for the final question tonight: since the credit part of the internship is finished, would any of you like me to continue posting weekly internship entries?  If not, I will plan on just posting little blurbs at the top of sewing posts.  Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for A Little Bit o' That to come!

November 29, 2014

Something Old, Something New

I hope everyone had a blessed Thanksgiving!  I've been sewing up a storm to meet those fact, I have just about everything on my "actual deadline" list finished.  Except for one more fancy tucked petticoat, I am ready to dive into those college portfolio projects!  So, today I have to show a completed item from my winter to do list & the first of hopefully many past projects!

First up, pictures of the hairpiece I made for Stage's upcoming show, Little Women!

In the middle of junior year I really became serious about costuming and was searching for another theater that would give me a chance to gain more experience.  I fell right into the path of a Magical Journey Thru Stages, or simply Stages, the children's theater at the third floor of Rochester's Auditorium Theater.  After explaining my interests, the team of head costumers & parent volunteers accepted me for a trail "student costumer" position.  We clicked and I ended up staying on as the student costumer for a number of shows until the end of senior year.  During those experiences, I did everything from repairs to millinery to costuming the lead for Doctor DoLittle (2013), which I used as one of the highlights for my portfolio.

More recently, Gina & Lisa, the costumers for Little Women who I've worked with since my first show at Stages, contacted me about borrowing as well as making a fancy hairpiece.  Using the reference picture they sent me (view here), this is what I came up with:

Fancy Hair Snood for Stage's Little Women Production.

I constructed the double bow from navy taffeta, lining the outer bow with fusible interfacing.  I then added a hair clip to the back of the center velvet piece as a means of attaching.

Back of the bow with hair clip.

Decorations, including gem buttons and reinstone buckles, were hot glued for extra onstage security!  The whole project took around four hours (I swear mostly spent on the stretch velvet!) and cost around $10.  The taffeta, velvet and hair clip came from the stash, and were actually bought for the previous Stages' Sherlock Holmes millinery projects!

Sparkling decorations!

Speaking of the said stash up, the first Past Projects: three fashionable 1890s hats from Stage's production of Sherlock Holmes (2014)!

March of senior year was the month of musicals with both my High School's memorable production of Footloose & Stage's Sherlock Holmes on the same weekend!  I returned for the last time as student costumer and had the privilege of collaborating with the head costumer, Vera, her daughter, and the outstanding parent costume team.  Our inspiration came from Sidney Paget's original illustrations (view all 357, the entire collection, here: as well as the fashion of the 1890s.

In addition to other contributions, I was responsible for three fashionable hats:

One of the outfits I was responsible for Maggie's character.
(Too bad we misplaced my shirt, I really liked those jet buttons...)

The Lavender Puff Hat is made from a straw hat base with a wired brim, covered in vintage bias tape.  Trimmed with lavender taffeta, a feather spray and vintage broach.

Black Velvet & Golden Bows Hat, or, the crazy, over-the-top piece that was oh so fun to make!  At first, I'll admit I had the hardest time coming up with a piece that would fit the gold, royal purple & black color scheme for her outfit.  Though, after the triple bow, the rest just seemed to fall into place for the extravagant character.  Then, I worried about it being all too much...

The hat even has a bit of a flair at the front of the brim!

Again made from a straw hat base with a wired brim, other materials included: gold satin, black velvet, black satin ribbon, black bias tape & assorted dark purple feathers.

Go BIG bows, or go home!

Lastly, the Elegant Lady's Hat, which had a matching skirt & jacket ensemble - by far the most time-consuming and difficult, but definitely one of my most favorite pieces from the show!  

Up close & personal detail shot!

Materials included: black velvet, navy blue taffeta (used also for the Little Women hairpiece, above), black bias tape, assorted blue and black feathers & a large buckle.  The hardest part for sure was covering the base in the black velvet - I rather like how it turned out!

Next up: my new hand sewn pinner apron & 1850s undergarments - completed.  More past projects to come stay tuned, comment & subscribe for more!  Thank you for reading!  

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