Historical · The Making Of

✂ Making Victorian Dragonair: Part 3 – The Skirt & Bertha ✂

Apologies for the long wait– but we’ve finally reached the last post on this costume! If you haven’t already, I suggest checking out part one and part two.

Last time the bodice was left with an unfinished neckline, but I was completely tired of hand sewing and detail work at that point so I switched to working on the skirt.

Caution: Some of the following photos feature the most terrible lighting in the history of ever, since I was working late at night! :’>



I was in quite a hurry at this point, since the NorCal gathering was fast approaching, so the process of making this skirt was a bit… organic. I was able to utilize the width of this fabric, since it was 120″ wide, so I just cut straight across to form several large rectangles. Two of them was pleated for the front and back, and the rest were subsequently cut diagonally across to form wedge shapes– these were my gores, which are very important for achieving the fashionable thrown back 1860s silhouette! The straight edges are stitched to the front panel of the skirt and the long diagonal edge to the back panels.


I roughly pinned everything together and pleated it onto my dress form. I really liked the way it was taking shape, so I didn’t bother to think about things like hemming (!!!). Or finishing interior seams, though I did try to utilize the selvedge.



I stitched the skirt together, then finished the opening (which was on the right side) by turning the edges over twice and stitching them down. I backstitched across the point several times to keep everything nice and secure!



I cartridge pleated the skirt with two even rows of running stitches. Using waxed upholstery thread and working in sections is definitely the key to successful cartridge pleating– and even then I had issues with tangling! It’s definitely not my favorite thing to do, but I did manage to get the entire width pleated onto the waistband.


This is the WORST photo. I’m sorry for subjecting your eyes to it. However, you can see how terrible the hem looked with all the uneven, trailing pieces. I cut those off and stitched a quick, messy hem. It was pretty awful, actually, and was even worse once I tried it on! Surprise, surprise, garments sit differently on my mannequin than they do on me. Fortunately, my skirt is long enough that it isn’t too visible in photographs.

Next, I switched to working on the bertha. These are large, lacy, pleated collars almost always seen on ballgowns from this period! I had no idea what I was doing, so I just tried to figure it out as I went along.


I started by tracing the neckline of my bodice onto lightly interfaced quilting cotton, and cutting it into a shape I liked. I did the same with the back, but drafted it as two pieces so it could hook closed.


Rather than pleating a single piece of fabric to shape, I made bias tape out of a lovely white silk-cotton blend and stitched the layered strips on top of each other. This ended up being an extended and labor-intensive process, and one that I do not recommend at all!


I chose not to continue the pleating on the back, as I was running out of time, patience, and bias strips, so I covered each side with a layer of silk and finished the edges with leftover tape.


To cover up the ugly bits where the bias “pleats” met, I used a doubled strip of my dress fabric and folded all the edges in for a tidy finish.



I subsequently switched gears and started working on the decorative puffed trim. This is the simplest trim in the world to make, but looks absolutely lovely! You just need to double hem a 2.5″ strip of fabric and gather it every inch and a half or so. Keep in mind that altering the proportions and density of puffs will yield a variety of interesting looks!



Once the puffed trim was all stitched on, I added a border of delicate venise lace and stitched hooks and eyes to the back as a closure. The front is tacked to the bodice, but the back needed to remain free so I could lace the back of my bodice underneath it!


I loved the way it looked at this stage, but it lacked a lot of the frilliness that I wanted. Accordingly, I decided to add beads and giant bows (because who can possibly object to either??)


I chose a simple repeating pattern of large and small pearls to hide the stitches on the puffed trim. It was unexpectedly quite pretty!



Giant, obnoxious bows provided the perfect finishing touch!

After that, it was off to the NorCal gathering. It was 98 degrees in the shade, so we only managed to stay for about 30 minutes!

The orange bodice and skirt base were also made by me.

We just wore our chemises and corsets in the car, both for coolness and convenience, and had to dress hastily in the parking lot. This was a source of great amusement for several passers-by and their children!



This delightful Belle made our day! You can tell how dreadfully hot it was by the hazy glow in these photos.IMG_5194

PC: Subversive Photography

While we weren’t able to stay for very long, the gathering was a lovely debut for these costumes! They needed a lot of work, however, to be ready for the SacAnime Summer 2015 masquerade.

I started with the hem, since I had intended to add lace to it from the beginning and had simply run out of time.


I had twelve yards of this beautiful, elaborate venise lace… and it was nowhere NEAR enough. So, with great sadness, I decided to fussy cut individual motifs out and space them with another lace that I had in my stash.



Stitching them all on proved to be extremely time-consuming, but I managed…


Until it turned out that I hadn’t measured correctly, I had nowhere near enough of the large motifs, and there was a large gap that had to be filled in with the small ones.
Which was depressing, but I was in con crunch mode and had zero time to mope (or vacuum)!

The headdress was the final piece, finished the night before we left for the convention.


I started with a silver headband base that I had purchased at the Dickens Fair several years prior and never worn, some fabric scraps, and some feathers.  I based the design on an extant photo of a period headdress with two large gathered ribbons on either side.



I burned the edges of the ribbon rather than hemming them, folded them over until they were vaguely bow shaped, and stitched them down. Some trailing ribbon and lace scraps finished them off.



I glued feathers onto the back, then added loops so that the bows could slide onto the headband. The lace looked a little unfinished, however, which really bothered me! So I added some pearls in various sizes.


Aaaand finished! Safely in time for the convention, too. I also managed to make a fur wrap and add the black netting to the skirt of the orange ensemble, so I considered it a very fruitful con crunch.

The masquerade itself was… interesting. I had fun, and met some wonderful people backstage, but there was a LOT of waiting involved, and schedules for check in/craftsmanship judging/the actual performance just kept getting pushed further back. The corsets were actually causing us back pain, so after the seven hours (!!!) of waiting, we finally just loosened them backstage. Ten minutes later, they called us on and it was a mad dash to tighten them again and lace our bodices back on. The last eyelet on mine was laced literally seconds before we walked onstage!

Besides being the thumbnail, we can be found at 4:31.


It was all smiles backstage, although you can see my phone sneaking its way out of the pocket I added to my skirt!

Futuristic eye makeup is always appropriate for mid-Victorian eveningwear.

And, in a very pleasant plot twist, we won Best Original despite being moved into the advanced category as novices! That was my second time ever competing, after debuting Lady Three at Fanime earlier that year, so to have received an award both times went a long way toward boosting my costuming confidence. It truly inspired me to extend myself as an artist and to improve my technical skill!

It is (hopefully) on to bigger and better things now. I’m currently attacking a Sakizo design, which I would like to post about soon (although I have quite the backlog of projects) as well as Valkyrie Leona from League of Legends and a ballet version of Sailor Pluto. If you would like to follow along with my progress, I am most active on my Instagram and am attempting to post more frequently on my Facebook. I am also a current competitor in the TranspArt contest held jointly by Worbla and Cosplay Supplies, so I will be posting updates on my project for that as well!

Happy sewing!
Lady Licorice

Historical · The Making Of

✂ Making Victorian Dragonair: Part 1- The Undergarments ✂

After far too long, I have finally got around to writing about this costume. It was honestly one of the largest projects I have attempted, besides Lady Three, and taught me just as much about time/money management! I also learned a good deal about both historical and modern construction and learned to fit better in general.

Today’s post will be about the undergarments– the corset, cage crinoline, and petticoats (I made the chemise too, but it isn’t very nicely constructed or finished so I won’t be talking about it).


I began this costume the day after Fanime 2015. I was still riding high on the feeling of having won something (as I was certainly not expecting to), so I was super motivated and got right to work on my next adventure!

This costume actually evolved as I went along. Initially I was inspired by Cinderella; after seeing the live action movie I knew I needed to make myself a huge elliptical 1860s ballgown. I ordered fabric and notions in March, but didn’t have time to work on it in the mad dash to get Three done.


The first piece I started was the corset. The pattern is scaled up at 400% from Corsets and Crinolines and mildly altered to my shape. I used two layers of domestic coutil from corsetmaking.com with a super thin Indian silk-cotton blend as the fashion fabric.


I left generous seam allowances in order to flat-fell all the seams, though I wouldn’t recommend doing so since it added a lot of unnecessary bulk. In all honesty, I only needed one layer of coutil anyway! IMG_4134

I was super nervous since this was my first time inserting a busk, but I followed Sidney Eileen’s tutorial (and gathered advice from a variety of corset making forums) and it turned out perfectly! I just used a normal tapered awl to make the holes for the pin side of the busk, and there hasn’t been any fraying thus far.



I used ¼” spiral steel bones in the curved seams and ¼” flat steel in the straight seams. I did use proper boning tips, but it wasn’t worth the trouble for the flat steels. I prefer using tin snips to cut the ends into a rounded shape, wrapping them with several layers of medical tape, and dipping them in clear nail polish! It’s cheaper, easier, and plenty durable for light costume wear.

Since I’d never used two part grommets before, only those awful Dritz eyelets, I made sure to do several tests. I used this grommeting kit and it worked beautifully! Instead of cutting the holes, however, I made them with my awl– since using an awl doesn’t cut the fibers, the fabric surrounding the grommet is sturdier and won’t weaken over time.


I did get so carried away that I forgot to put the back on one of the grommets before hammering it in! It’s pretty much impossible to remove a grommet without cutting the fabric, so I left it, but it still irks me.


Here it is all boned and laced up. I used this corset lacing and laced it in the bunny ears style which facilitates self-lacing. The loops are located at the waist so I can easily reach behind, pull the corset tight, and tie the loose ends into a bow.


And this (blurry, awful) photo is my first fitting! I really loved the shape it had, so I forged ahead. All that was left at this point was the binding.


I used premade satin bias binding– it was actually too wide, so I just stitched it closer to the edge and tucked the rest of it under. It doesn’t look that nice from the inside, but it’s a okay from the outside (and that’s what counts). IMG_4253

Here’s the finished corset over my chemise. It was barely laced at all at that point, since I was still seasoning it! And pardon the messy room, I’m terrible about cleaning when I’m working on a project.


The true secret of corsets isn’t the compression– it’s the redistribution! I barely get a 2″ reduction in this one, and that’s apparent in profile since my midsection looks much wider than normal.


However, from a front or ¾ angle the shaping is much more apparent. You can also see, now that it’s seasoned and laced properly, that I should have added about 5″ more to the hips, since I’m getting some very unflattering muffin… bottom? Whatever it is, it is not cute! Fortunately everything below my waist is hidden in this costume, and now I know which alterations are necessary should I choose to reuse this pattern.

The next piece I worked on was the cage crinoline. I used Truly Victorian’s 103 elliptical crinoline pattern, as I couldn’t find any reliable tutorials for elliptical versions on the internet and I had my heart set on the proper 1860s silhouette.


Construction was more difficult than I expected, but I managed without too much difficulty. All my materials were pale blue in homage to Cinderella, though I decided to make my dress a darker shade that better suited my complexion.

IMG_5148  IMG_5147  IMG_5149

Here are some front, side, and back views of the finished crinoline. You can adjust the level of “bustle” by tightening or loosening the ribbon ties at the back! It’s a clever design that gives it a lovely and authentic shape.




These lovely photos snapped by my father show the finished undergarments all together!

The petticoat (pictured is only the first layer of three) was made out of netting purchased here. I used the entire bolt! Needless to say, this is not remotely historically accurate, as I just wanted as much volume as I could possibly achieve for a minimum of cost and labor. It was also a chance to test my new ruffler foot, though I did have some issues because I purchased a Singer foot for my Viking machine (it worked in the end, but not before several needles met untimely ends).

The process of actually making the petticoat was quite simple. It’s a three-tier petticoat, which means that the first tier is 3x my corseted waist measurement (78″ long), the second tier is 3x that (234″), and the third tier is 3x that (702″). The height of the tiers combined equalled my waist-to-floor measurement over my crinoline. It was 45 inches, which meant that each tier was 15″ tall. However, since this crinoline was elliptical, my waist-to-floor measurement at the back was actually 2″ longer (47″). To make sure my petticoat was even all around, I added an extra 2″ in height to JUST THE BACK of my top panel. In short, the top back piece wasn’t a perfect rectangle, but more of this shape.


Please excuse the horrendous trackpad drawing! The shape is exaggerated, but that’s the general idea.

Once the tiers were ready, I just ruffled them together. I placed my tiers right side together, shorter tier under the ruffler foot, and fed them through. When doing this, the longer tier should get ruffled while the shorter one stays flat. I did gather the top by hand, since I wanted control while sewing it to the grosgrain ribbon that I used as a waistband. After that, I just sewed up the front seam and it was finished! This takes a lot of time and fabric and it’s super irritating to have to shove so many layers of scratchy netting into your machine, but you get a lovely ruffly petticoat in the end. I do not recommend using tulle, it just doesn’t have enough volume. This would, however, be lovely in organdy!


And here’s a back shot of the (semi)finished gown! I’ll write about making the bodice next week.

Happy sewing,

Lady Licorice