I love Aline’s By the Seashore ensemble, but I’ve never been 100% happy with the skirt, especially not on me (it’s too short). And the bustle has serious issues.
When I inherited Nana’s fabric stash it included a 5.4 metre length of blue and white tartan. It wasn’t quite as ideal a match for Renoir’s painting as the tan and blue tartan I found for my first skirt, but it was free, so that’s a massive benefit!
I set the fabric aside for an Aline re-do, and in April 2011 I decided it was time to tackle the project. First I made a basic skirt foundation out of heavy cotton calico (muslin), using the 1880s patterns reproduced at the front of Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 1860-1940. They are all basically the same: a series of gored panels with angled edges heading towards the back, and a rectangular back panel which goes over the bustle.
In addition to the original Renoir painting, I was using two other pieces of inspiration. First, a mid 1880s outdoors ensemble from the Met:
I liked this outfit because 1) it’s cotton, as is my fabric, 2) it looks like it could be the same basic shape/silhouette as Aline’s skirt in Renoir’s painting, and 3) umm… it’s fabulous!
My second piece of inspiration is another painting, one that’s been a Rate the Dress feature, and is very interesting because there are also photographs of the garment:
So, with inspirations in mind, I tackled the tartan.
It took hours do do the initial pleating, even with the lovely helpful tartan stripes to use as a guide. And the pleats just wouldn’t stay!
I got so overwhelmed and discouraged that I carefully folded up the pleated fabric, rolled it in another fabric, and stuck it in a suitcase for 16 months.
With AetherCon coming up, I decided it was time to cross this particular UFO off my to-do list.
I pressed and pressed the pleats to set them, and researched historical starches to try to get my pleats to stay better.
All of this helped – a little, but finally to really make sure it would always be easy to re-do the pleats I ended up having to stitch the pleats in – top and bottom.
500 metres of thread later (I used up 3 and a bit 150 metre spools of thread in my topstitching colour), I had 5.4 metres of pleated fabric. I drew a line 30″ from the hem of my base, and pinned the pleated fabric all the way around the line: the base above this line would be covered by the over-draping.
I’m quite proud of how beautifully finished the skirt base is: it’s all done with flat felled seams, and has a lovely turned hem that I can easily tack a hem protector on to.
With the main body of the skirt constructed and the pleats sewn on, I could focus on draping the over-skirt – always the hard part for me. And this time around, it would be even harder, because all I had to work with was the 5.4 metre long, 12″ wide length left over from one edge of the bottom skirt pleating. Not an easy shape!
Still, piecing is period, right?