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fabric for Victorian gown

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  • sarahgelberg
    Hi all, this is my first post to this group after doing some relatively extensive research on the web for some information. I apologize in advance if this is a
    Message 1 of 12 , Jan 4, 2004
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      Hi all,

      this is my first post to this group after doing some relatively
      extensive research on the web for some information. I apologize in
      advance if this is a subject better suited for another forum--if so,
      I would appreciate being directed there. :-)

      I'm doing some preliminary research on putting together a
      woman's "good" day outfit from about 1850-60. The occasion is the
      annual San Francisco Dickens Fair--I've been going for the last two
      years and have had so much fun, I decided that this is going to be a
      regular thing for me and that next year (Dec. 2004) I had to go in
      costume. I'm trying to get a handle on what it would take to come up
      with something reasonably period-accurate, and durable enough to wear
      every weekend for about one month a year, but not obscenely
      expensive.

      Right now, I'm trying to figure out what kind of fabric would be the
      best compromise between cost and accuracy--I'd like something that
      gives the appearance of silk taffeta, as from the information I've
      found on the web, that's the look I'd like to achieve.

      I've found online and brick-and-mortar places where I can get taffeta
      fabric in acetate, polyester, or real silk, plain, moire, or
      changeable. Can anyone provide insight into how the acetate or
      polyester wears in the kind of situation I've described? (I'd
      _really_ like not to spend more than about $10 a yard, as it looks
      like the gown patterns I've seen that I like take somewhere upwards
      of 10 yards, and I still have to figure in the cost of a seamstress
      to make it, as my own sewing abilities are very limited.) I'd like to
      do this as inexpensively as possible, obviously, but given that this
      is something I want to use again and again, it doesn't need to
      be "quick and dirty," or obviously historically inaccurate. (I've
      also got almost a year to come up with this costume, so I'm willing
      to do some sleuthing to find what I'm looking for at a good price.)

      Can anyone who has some experience with the situation I've described
      provide any insight into the best fabric to use, and/or good sources
      to go to (I'm in the SF bay area)?

      Thanks in advance. I've been to the Costumer's Manifesto website and
      found a lot of very helpful information, but so far I haven't found
      anything about my (very specific) question.

      Sarah
    • K Murphy
      My advice would be to avoid acetate dress taffeta, as the color may change on you (see our previous thread on this) and it does not wear well (see the can-can
      Message 2 of 12 , Jan 5, 2004
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        My advice would be to avoid acetate dress taffeta, as the color may change on you (see our previous thread on this) and it does not wear well (see the can-can taffeta petticoat thread!) I think a Moire would hide wear best, but in any case I would recommend going to an upholstery weight fabric to get the wear and the drape I'm assuming you'd want in this era. Whatever fabric you pick, make sure to specify to your dressmaker to flatline the bodice with a soft but durable cotton and ask her/him to use a nice, heavy-weight stay tape around the waist gathers in the skirt. Be sure to pay attention to the hem and/or hem trim, as this is the place your garment will be most likely to show signs of wear and tear and soiling. Avoid any hem trim that is too delicate or likely to fray. And I would only clean it once a year, right before you store it away. Use garment shields or underdress to protect that bodice!

        Kate Murphy

        sarahgelberg <sarahgelberg@...> wrote:
        Hi all,

        this is my first post to this group after doing some relatively
        extensive research on the web for some information. I apologize in
        advance if this is a subject better suited for another forum--if so,
        I would appreciate being directed there. :-)

        I'm doing some preliminary research on putting together a
        woman's "good" day outfit from about 1850-60. The occasion is the
        annual San Francisco Dickens Fair--I've been going for the last two
        years and have had so much fun, I decided that this is going to be a
        regular thing for me and that next year (Dec. 2004) I had to go in
        costume. I'm trying to get a handle on what it would take to come up
        with something reasonably period-accurate, and durable enough to wear
        every weekend for about one month a year, but not obscenely
        expensive.

        Right now, I'm trying to figure out what kind of fabric would be the
        best compromise between cost and accuracy--I'd like something that
        gives the appearance of silk taffeta, as from the information I've
        found on the web, that's the look I'd like to achieve.

        I've found online and brick-and-mortar places where I can get taffeta
        fabric in acetate, polyester, or real silk, plain, moire, or
        changeable. Can anyone provide insight into how the acetate or
        polyester wears in the kind of situation I've described? (I'd
        _really_ like not to spend more than about $10 a yard, as it looks
        like the gown patterns I've seen that I like take somewhere upwards
        of 10 yards, and I still have to figure in the cost of a seamstress
        to make it, as my own sewing abilities are very limited.) I'd like to
        do this as inexpensively as possible, obviously, but given that this
        is something I want to use again and again, it doesn't need to
        be "quick and dirty," or obviously historically inaccurate. (I've
        also got almost a year to come up with this costume, so I'm willing
        to do some sleuthing to find what I'm looking for at a good price.)

        Can anyone who has some experience with the situation I've described
        provide any insight into the best fabric to use, and/or good sources
        to go to (I'm in the SF bay area)?

        Thanks in advance. I've been to the Costumer's Manifesto website and
        found a lot of very helpful information, but so far I haven't found
        anything about my (very specific) question.

        Sarah




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      • serenpoly
        I would concur that you probably don t want acetate, and most polyester taffeta has more of a shine than silk did/does. (Oh, how I wish I could find more of
        Message 3 of 12 , Jan 5, 2004
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          I would concur that you probably don't want acetate, and most
          polyester taffeta has more of a shine than silk did/does. (Oh, how I
          wish I could find more of the dark forest silk taffeta I had for the
          opening of the 1984 Olympics!) Don't get anything that has
          a 'metallic' look at all.

          On the other hand, I just made a quasi-medieval (oh, all right, yes,
          a Lord of the Rings costume...) with some red/blue shot poly taffeta
          that would work just fine if you don't mind it not breathing. Got it
          at Joanne's, too, in the evening/bridal section.

          But you might try

          http://www.originals-by-kay.com/

          for both information and fabric. She often carries quite nice stuff
          at quite good prices, her site has lots of information and pictures,
          and she's really pleasant to deal with. I got some silk plaid
          taffeta from her a while back, an excellent transaction.

          HTH.

          -- Emc^2
        • Siebel San
          All I can say is stay away from acetate at all costs! Horrible stuff. Water will stain it, weather conditions will change the color, storing it wrong will
          Message 4 of 12 , Jan 5, 2004
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            All I can say is stay away from acetate at all costs!
            Horrible stuff. Water will stain it, weather conditions
            will change the color, storing it wrong will change the
            color, it's horribly uncomfortable to wear (too hot in
            summer, too cold in winter), looking at it will change the
            color, snag it once and you'll have a run before you know
            it...
            Jessica

            > I've found online and brick-and-mortar places where I can
            > get taffeta
            > fabric in acetate, polyester, or real silk, plain, moire,
            > or
            > changeable. Can anyone provide insight into how the
            > acetate or
            > polyester wears in the kind of situation I've described?
            >

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          • sarahgelberg
            Hi all, thanks for the helpful responses! All of this will definitely help as I continue to scout for ideas and consider my options. I ve looked at the threads
            Message 5 of 12 , Jan 5, 2004
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              Hi all,

              thanks for the helpful responses! All of this will definitely help as
              I continue to scout for ideas and consider my options. I've looked at
              the threads recommended on this subject and given that I plan to be
              doing a lot of dancing, I probably really do want something that
              breathes and wears well, which means that some sort of silk really is
              the best choice. The can-can thread mentioned some advantages of silk
              dupioni over taffeta. To my understanding, dupioni is a slubby,
              relatively stable, heavier silk than other types. Dupioni does seem
              to be available in a good range of colors at more reasonable prices--
              any thoughts on its historical accuracy/suitability? The information
              I've found doesn't mention dupioni one way or another.

              Also, someone mentioned getting an upholstery-weight fabric--how can
              I tell if a fabric is upholstery-weight or not? (other than its being
              in the upholstery section of the store) I did (comissioned) a
              renaissance-type vest for a dance performance a couple of years ago
              and used a beautiful upholstery-weight brocade fabric with great
              success, but I can't imagine using a fabric that heavy over an entire
              dress.

              Anyway, thanks!

              Sarah

              --- In TheCostumersManifesto@yahoogroups.com, Siebel San
              <siebelsan@y...> wrote:
              > All I can say is stay away from acetate at all costs!
              > Horrible stuff. Water will stain it, weather conditions
              > will change the color, storing it wrong will change the
              > color, it's horribly uncomfortable to wear (too hot in
              > summer, too cold in winter), looking at it will change the
              > color, snag it once and you'll have a run before you know
              > it...
              > Jessica
              >
            • K Murphy
              I ve had good success with both drapery and upholstery fabrics (and yes, the only way you ll know is that they re not in with the dress fabrics). I built a
              Message 6 of 12 , Jan 6, 2004
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                I've had good success with both drapery and upholstery fabrics (and yes, the only way you'll know is that they're not in with the dress fabrics). I built a suit (bustle, train, the whole deal) from a pink drapery moire about 11 years ago that's been in several shows and been cleaned five or six times and still looks fabulous. Many of these fabrics are not heavy at all -- just avoid the dreaded "sticky back" vinyl coating used to prevent slippage. It helps to know fabrics when shopping -- can you take your dressmaker along? Sorry, don't know about the dupioni --

                Kate Murphy

                sarahgelberg <sarahgelberg@...> wrote:
                Hi all,

                thanks for the helpful responses! All of this will definitely help as
                I continue to scout for ideas and consider my options. I've looked at
                the threads recommended on this subject and given that I plan to be
                doing a lot of dancing, I probably really do want something that
                breathes and wears well, which means that some sort of silk really is
                the best choice. The can-can thread mentioned some advantages of silk
                dupioni over taffeta. To my understanding, dupioni is a slubby,
                relatively stable, heavier silk than other types. Dupioni does seem
                to be available in a good range of colors at more reasonable prices--
                any thoughts on its historical accuracy/suitability? The information
                I've found doesn't mention dupioni one way or another.

                Also, someone mentioned getting an upholstery-weight fabric--how can
                I tell if a fabric is upholstery-weight or not? (other than its being
                in the upholstery section of the store) I did (comissioned) a
                renaissance-type vest for a dance performance a couple of years ago
                and used a beautiful upholstery-weight brocade fabric with great
                success, but I can't imagine using a fabric that heavy over an entire
                dress.

                Anyway, thanks!

                Sarah

                --- In TheCostumersManifesto@yahoogroups.com, Siebel San
                <siebelsan@y...> wrote:
                > All I can say is stay away from acetate at all costs!
                > Horrible stuff. Water will stain it, weather conditions
                > will change the color, storing it wrong will change the
                > color, it's horribly uncomfortable to wear (too hot in
                > summer, too cold in winter), looking at it will change the
                > color, snag it once and you'll have a run before you know
                > it...
                > Jessica
                >




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              • Sue Lee
                Also, someone mentioned getting an upholstery-weight fabric--how can I tell if a fabric is upholstery-weight or not? I bought the fabric that I used for my
                Message 7 of 12 , Jan 6, 2004
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                  Also, someone mentioned getting an upholstery-weight fabric--how can
                  I tell if a fabric is upholstery-weight or not?

                  I bought the fabric that I used for my Victorian frockage from a curtain
                  suppliers (In Maidstone Kent if anyone wants the details any time). I chose
                  the stuff from the fabric books and then was supplied it on the roll. Was
                  reasonable value for money, and is much better wearing that buying dress
                  fabric.

                  It's my intention to use this route for doing all the frockage I can from
                  now on....

                  Good luck
                  Sue


                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • sarahgelberg
                  Hi, Thanks for the input re: using upholstery/drapery fabrics. When I started searching online for drapery silks, a lot of options started popping up at much
                  Message 8 of 12 , Jan 7, 2004
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                    Hi,

                    Thanks for the input re: using upholstery/drapery fabrics. When I
                    started searching online for drapery silks, a lot of options started
                    popping up at much more reasonable prices (and a bigger variety) than
                    when I was looking for dress-weight fabrics. It sounds like it is
                    worth it to ferret out a good deal on silk, (especially in drapery-
                    weight) and that both taffeta and dupioni are options, depending on
                    where I find the price and color I like. OK, that really helps.

                    Re: bringing my dressmaker along--haven't gotten that far. :-) I did
                    find someone locally through a local costumers' guild who sounded
                    like she had the skills and interest to do it, but it's way early now
                    and I need to do more sleuthing to get a better idea of what I want
                    before I start making demands. :-) I did find a local fabric shop
                    that has _huge_ piles of notions, fringe, ribbons, lace, etc. at rock-
                    bottom prices, which will help enhance the Victorian "over-the-top"
                    effect. :-)

                    Does anyone have any other thoughts on the subject--advice on shoes,
                    underpinnings, patterns, etc? I already decided that the Simplicity
                    Civil War gown with the peplum and tulip-type sleeves is out--it's
                    beautiful, but I saw at least 8 women wearing recognizable versions
                    at the fair!

                    Anyway, thanks again!

                    Sarah

                    --- In TheCostumersManifesto@yahoogroups.com, K Murphy
                    <costumerkate@y...> wrote:
                    > I've had good success with both drapery and upholstery fabrics (and
                    yes, the only way you'll know is that they're not in with the dress
                    fabrics). I built a suit (bustle, train, the whole deal) from a pink
                    drapery moire about 11 years ago that's been in several shows and
                    been cleaned five or six times and still looks fabulous. Many of
                    these fabrics are not heavy at all -- just avoid the dreaded "sticky
                    back" vinyl coating used to prevent slippage. It helps to know
                    fabrics when shopping -- can you take your dressmaker along? Sorry,
                    don't know about the dupioni --
                    >
                  • Chris
                    Hi, Try this site for patterns, etc... I haven t used them yet, but they look great. I do plan on acquiring some of their patterns for a trial run. They re
                    Message 9 of 12 , Jan 7, 2004
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                      Hi,

                      Try this site for patterns, etc... I haven't used them yet, but they look great. I do plan on acquiring some of their patterns for a trial run. They're not expensive for what they offer.

                      http://trulyvictorian.netfirms.com/

                      Best of luck to you :)

                      Chris

                      sarahgelberg <sarahgelberg@...> wrote:
                      Hi,

                      Thanks for the input re: using upholstery/drapery fabrics. When I
                      started searching online for drapery silks, a lot of options started
                      popping up at much more reasonable prices (and a bigger variety) than
                      when I was looking for dress-weight fabrics. It sounds like it is
                      worth it to ferret out a good deal on silk, (especially in drapery-
                      weight) and that both taffeta and dupioni are options, depending on
                      where I find the price and color I like. OK, that really helps.

                      Re: bringing my dressmaker along--haven't gotten that far. :-) I did
                      find someone locally through a local costumers' guild who sounded
                      like she had the skills and interest to do it, but it's way early now
                      and I need to do more sleuthing to get a better idea of what I want
                      before I start making demands. :-) I did find a local fabric shop
                      that has _huge_ piles of notions, fringe, ribbons, lace, etc. at rock-
                      bottom prices, which will help enhance the Victorian "over-the-top"
                      effect. :-)

                      Does anyone have any other thoughts on the subject--advice on shoes,
                      underpinnings, patterns, etc? I already decided that the Simplicity
                      Civil War gown with the peplum and tulip-type sleeves is out--it's
                      beautiful, but I saw at least 8 women wearing recognizable versions
                      at the fair!

                      Anyway, thanks again!

                      Sarah

                      --- In TheCostumersManifesto@yahoogroups.com, K Murphy
                      <costumerkate@y...> wrote:
                      > I've had good success with both drapery and upholstery fabrics (and
                      yes, the only way you'll know is that they're not in with the dress
                      fabrics). I built a suit (bustle, train, the whole deal) from a pink
                      drapery moire about 11 years ago that's been in several shows and
                      been cleaned five or six times and still looks fabulous. Many of
                      these fabrics are not heavy at all -- just avoid the dreaded "sticky
                      back" vinyl coating used to prevent slippage. It helps to know
                      fabrics when shopping -- can you take your dressmaker along? Sorry,
                      don't know about the dupioni --
                      >




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                    • randy keator
                      Hi Sarah.. not sure just how authentic you are striving to be but for underpinnings you will require some type of corset and I strongly suggest for you to
                      Message 10 of 12 , Jan 7, 2004
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                        Hi Sarah.. not sure just how authentic you are striving to be but for
                        underpinnings you will require some type of corset and I strongly suggest
                        for you to obtain or have one made BEFORE the fittings and actual
                        measurements are done by the seamstress. For the period it would be of a
                        brocade or heavy silk also. Shoes would be of the button and loop closure
                        with somewhat medium stocky heel and could be of leather or very heavy wt
                        silk ; white if leather( no shine !) ,white ( actually closer to a shade of
                        linen) if silk or dyed close to the same shade of the dress. Underpinnings
                        shoul also include a chemise of muslin ( cotton) and stockings of cotton or
                        silk ,depending on how wealthy you want your lady to appear to be(~;


                        >
                        >
                        .
                        >
                        > >
                        >

                        ---
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                      • serenpoly
                        I have, and they re terrific. I ve never had any trouble putting one together, and we ve used several. Mrs. Darling in our 2003 production of *Peter Pan* was
                        Message 11 of 12 , Jan 7, 2004
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                          I have, and they're terrific. I've never had any trouble putting one
                          together, and we've used several. Mrs. Darling in our 2003
                          production of *Peter Pan* was gowned in a Truly Victorian evening
                          bodice and bustled skirt.

                          However, you _must_ follow their sizing and directions to get good
                          results. The patterns are not to ordinary pattern or ready-to-wear
                          sizes, so take careful measurements and choose accordingly.

                          The adjustment directions are also unlike anything you'll have done
                          before, but _they work_. Mrs. Darling required only _one_ fitting.
                          You'll get excellent results if you follow the procedures described,
                          and they're not difficult, just different.

                          For the necessary corset and underwear, I strongly recommend Laughing
                          Moon Mercantile. Truly Victorian (and every other reputable site, I
                          think) carries the LMM corset pattern, which is widely recognized in
                          both reenactor and costumer circles as both easy (well, as easy as a
                          good corset can be) and excellent.

                          HTH.

                          -- Emc^2

                          --- In TheCostumersManifesto@yahoogroups.com, Chris
                          <emeraldepona@y...> wrote:
                          > Hi,
                          >
                          > Try this site for patterns, etc... I haven't used them yet, but
                          they look great. I do plan on acquiring some of their patterns for a
                          trial run. They're not expensive for what they offer.
                          >
                          > http://trulyvictorian.netfirms.com/
                          >
                          > Best of luck to you :)
                          >
                          > Chris
                          >
                        • Joannah Hansen
                          I agree. It is possibly the prime rule for anyone wanting to do authentic costume re-creation: don t make your outerwear before you have the correct underwear
                          Message 12 of 12 , Jan 7, 2004
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                            I agree.
                            It is possibly the prime rule for anyone wanting to do authentic costume re-creation: don't make your outerwear before you have the correct underwear to wear under it. It makes so much difference to the silhouette and hang of the eventual clothing, and also to how you walk, stand, sit etc.
                            Have fun with your costuming!
                            Joannah


                            --- "randy keator" <randolphk@...> wrote:

                            Hi Sarah.. not sure just how authentic you are striving to be but for
                            underpinnings you will require some type of corset and I strongly suggest
                            for you to obtain or have one made BEFORE the fittings and actual
                            measurements are done by the seamstress. For the period it would be of a
                            brocade or heavy silk also. Shoes would be of the button and loop closure
                            with somewhat medium stocky heel and could be of leather or very heavy wt
                            silk ; white if leather( no shine !) ,white ( actually closer to a shade of
                            linen) if silk or dyed close to the same shade of the dress. Underpinnings
                            shoul also include a chemise of muslin ( cotton) and stockings of cotton or
                            silk ,depending on how wealthy you want your lady to appear to be(~;


                            >
                            >
                            .
                            >
                            > >
                            >

                            ---
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