Thursday, March 1, 2012

VPLL E0336 Princess Slip - Finished!

Pattern Description: Ladies' princess seamed slip with lace insertion and trim from the March 24, 1912 issue of La Mode Illustree (French fashion and pattern magazine).

Let me preface this review by explaining that I'm involved in the Vintage Pattern Lending Library's 1912 Project, which is an attempt to recreate an entire year (1912) of La Mode Illustree's patterns to mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. The patterns are sent in PDF format, to be printed and taped or printed at a copy shop. They are directly taken from the original patterns and any grading or modifications is up to the sewist. A lot of the people doing the 1912 Project are historical costumers, but I signed on because I thought it was interesting and I knew it would expose me to techniques that I've had no reason to learn up until now. A challenge is always a good thing.

Pattern Sizing: Basically one size, as the pattern is drafted from the original magazine pattern. Thankfully it's not too out-of-scale for the modern woman - it has a 36" bust. However, the waist is considerably smaller since these women were corseted.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Remarkably so. The envelope illustration is the only one you get, but it was very detailed and I was even able to closely replicate the trim to the extent that I wanted to.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Especially considering that the instructions were translated from the original magazine instructions. We were warned on taking on the project that the instructions might be minimal, but I found these to be very clear, especially in explaining how to do lace insertion, which I've never done before (and probably never will again, more's the pity).

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I thought it was absolutely gorgeous, and since I'm slowly coming down from a Downton Abbey binge, the idea that I was recreating clothing from that era made it even more interesting. And I've always loved Edwardian/pre-WWI era white cotton dresses; I decided that since I would never have the opportunity to wear this as a slip, I'd make it up and use it as a dress (with a more modern slip underneath). I loved all the detailing and trim, even though I tend normally toward busy prints without embellishment.

Fabric Used: Ivory cotton batiste from Gorgeous Fabrics (3 yards, used all but tiny scraps). 10 yards of 1.5" insertion lace (straight on both sides), 1 yard of vintage (and slightly discolored) threading eyelet found on Etsy, 1 yard of 3/8" pink ribbon and 6 buttons.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Very few, all things considered. When I printed out the pattern, I noted that the bust measurement was indeed 36". The waist was more like 26", and that's only because this garment was intended to be worn over a corset, which would in turn have been worn over another undergarment. Swoon much?

I tend not to make muslins, but first off, my batiste hadn't arrived by way of the postal elves, and second, I didn't want to waste it by making something unwearable. Because the slip flares out, I knew I'd have no hip issues, so I just muslined the bodice to the marked natural waistline. When I cut the pieces, I added an extra inch outside the seam allowances for the waist, tapering up to nothing around the bust. I pin-fit it and took it in a bit from there, and also took it in at the armholes, which were a little generous, though nicely high so there will be no bra showing.

I took the muslin apart, marked my changes and cut the batiste using the muslin pieces. The additional change I made was to add 1.5" in length at the waist - the marked waistline on the pattern was just at my bottom rib, and I tend to expand outward a bit from there.

The slip made up beautifully, and very quickly. The instructions tell you to make the fronts and backs, do all the insertion work, button placket and buttons, then sew the two pieces together, add the eyelet and ribbon at the neck, the bottom ruffle and another row of lace insertion (between the slip and the ruffle).

Doing it all by machine (they did have sewing machines in 1912, after all), this probably took me about 10 hours, and a good part of that was the learning curve for the lace. The first strip probably took me an hour, but by the end I could sew the lace on, slice the fabric behind it, press the seam allowances back, fold them, press again and topstitch in about 20 minutes.

There were a few other changes, but they were in the area of trim. The pattern suggests gathered lace around the neck (in addition to the eyelet and ribbon) and around the armholes. Yikes. My lace is a cotton-poly blend, but seems to tend toward the poly when gathered and put near my underarms. Plus I thought it looked fussy. I decided to go my own way there and did a bias binding for the armholes, which looked much cleaner to me. I also didn't like the gathered lace at the neckline; I liked the idea, but the lace itself again seemed fussy. Plus I didn't think I'd have enough left for a respectable gather. I did, however, have enough scraps of batiste left to cut into 3" strips, fold in half, gather, press flat and sew on a self-fabric ruffles. It fills the space at the neckline appropriately without looking overdone.

Also, the ruffle at the bottom was supposed to be pleated.  That's fine and dandy if you have a maid around to press your pleats for you every time they get crushed, but alas, I do not.  I took a width of fabric about 3 times as wide as the hem, gathered it and attached.  Being that there was going to be a line of lace added there, I pressed the gathers flat for several inches so that the lace would attach smoothly.

Another benefit to this process was that I forced myself to slow down and sew this pattern in the way it deserved to be sewn. I did French seams, which I normally can't be bothered to do (and will line a garment to avoid doing). I was as precise as possible in my pressing so that when seam allowances showed through the slip, as they're going to do because of the sheerness of the fabric, they were even and looked intentional.

Biggest mistake I made:  Sewing while cranky and distracted.  This is like sewing under the influence or cutting after midnight.  Big mistake.  On the other hand, it resulted in a very nice design opportunity, so there.  I had finished the front of the slip and did the button placket and center back seam.  Then I added the side pieces, and very carefully and painstakingly did French seams.  I was so proud of them I didn't even look closely until I was done (other than pressing), and that's when I noticed that both my nice French seams were on the outside of the garment.  Both of them.  At least I'm consistently wrong?  I sulked for a minute, thought about it, and cut 2 more lengths of lace and ended up by trimming the back of the slip to match the front.  Better anyway, since I'm going to wear it as a dress.  That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I don't know as I'll sew it again, but that's more a reflection on how little need I have for 100 year old garments in my wardrobe than my thoughts on the pattern itself. I would highly recommend it to anyone who does historical sewing, or who wants an interesting, challenging project that results in a really pretty summer dress.

Conclusion: I'm thrilled with this. I accomplished what I set out to do with this first pattern of the project: I learned a new technique, I forced myself to slow down and give the project my full attention, and I ended up with a garment that I actually can't believe I made.
Edited on 4/17/12 to add template info for the 1912 Project:
Pattern Name: E0336 Princess Slip
Sewer's Skill Level: Advanced
Pattern Rating: 4 - better than average
What skill level would someone need to sew this pattern and why? Intermediate skill level and a comfort with learning a new technique. The pattern itself is quite uncomplicated, but someone without experience might be put off with all that lace insertion.
Were the instructions easy to follow? If not, what needs to be changed? The instructions were clear for the most part, though perhaps they could be expanded a bit for the button placket in the back. The instructions for how to do the lace insertion were very clear; I've never done it before and had no problems at all.
How was the fit/sizing? Did it correspond to what you thought? The bust sizing was spot on; I made a muslin and saw that the pattern was a bit short-waisted, so I added 2" in the waist length, and about 2" to the waist circumference.
Did you make any pattern alterations? If so, what alterations did you make? Were they fit or design alterations? My only alterations for fit were to adjust the waist length and width to fit me. My only design alterations were to omit the lace ruffles around the armholes (a matter of taste) and to add lace insertion on the back to mirror the front. Since I'm wearing it as a dress (with a slip underneath) I wanted it to be as elaborate on both sides. In addition to omitting the armhole ruffles, I changed the neckline ruffle from lace to a self-ruffle using cotton batiste.
Changes I'd like in this pattern: The pattern seems extremely short-waisted for a modern figure; I'm not sure if that's simply a change in bodies in 100 years or simply a difference in shape due to corseting. Beyond that, I thought it was well drafted and quite easy to construct.
Changes to instructions: My only suggestion would be to elaborate a bit more on the back button placket instructions; they were a bit minimal but served the purpose.
Discussion of fabric/trim, etc. I used ivory cotton batiste and a combination of new insertion lace, semi-vintage ribbon and truly vintage threading eyelet for the neckline.
Description of technique - insertion, cutwork, etc. The lace insertion was what drew me to this pattern. I always thought it was complicated and this seemed like a good opportunity to learn a new technique. It turns out that insertion wasn't really that bad at all - topstitching the lace down to the marked areas, carefully cutting the fabric behind the lace, trimming and folding it back and stitching again. It's time consuming and a little fiddly, but nothing that can't be accomplished quite easily with patience and a good iron.


velosews said...

This is a really beautiful piece of work.

kbenco said...

It looks so pretty. Your insertion lace is amazing, and good call on the no-longer-pleated ruffle.

Thank you for sending me the vP1912 information from facebook. I emailed etc but no luck yet.

Virginia at A Sewing Life said...

So lovely! Wouldn't a blouse with this insertion lace be nice? I am impressed at your willingness to slow down and enjoy the experience of making this piece.

Elaray said...

That's very pretty! These days, you are hard pressed to even *find* any kind of slip in a store. Never one as pretty as that!

annie said...

Beautiful garment and beautiful work.

AuntieAllyn said...

How lovely! Hope you enjoy wearing it in the warmer weather!

Lori said...

That is beautiful and what a great project to participate in.

Becky said...

Wow, that looks like so much work! But it will make a really light and breezy summer dress, which is great for the weather around here!

renee said...

Fantastic dress. Congrats.

Carolyn (Diary of a Sewing Fanatic) said...

This is so lovely! And I have to say that I'm marveling at your ability to sew anything to learn something new.

meli88a said...

You should be thrilled! This is gorgeous.

T. Sedai said...

This is lovely!

SEWN said...

It's so stinking cute! I love it.

Lisette M said...

Stunning! Congratulations in learning a new technique so well!

Tracy said...

Beautifil slip. Don't you ever wonder how women went to the restroom back then with all clothing they wore and the length.