19th Century, Sewing

Announcing: Polly / Oliver!

Well, it’s been five years, a lot of fabric, a lot of thread, a lot of buttons, a lot of gold braid, and a bit of moaning and swearing and threatening the garment with dire consequences (“I will DYE you blue.  I’ll do it!  I swear!  You’ll be an abomination unto Nuggan from head to toe.  Behave or dye!”) but I have finally finished the whole Polly / Oliver Perks ensemble, and Polly is ready to stand for Borogravia and women’s rights and well-maintained pubs and clean socks everywhere.

The ca. 1885 'Polly / Oliver Perks' Terry Pratchett inspired ensemble

(well, not quite everywhere, but not just on feet and in the sock drawer and other places you might normally expect to find them).

The ca. 1885 'Polly / Oliver Perks' Terry Pratchett inspired ensemble

This dress and I have done battle, I lost some skirmishes, but I’ve come out the winner in the end, and I’m rather pleased with it.  It’s Borogravia does girlie-military, with lots of gold braid and fitting, meets historically plausible 1880s fancy dress.  After seeing the photoshoot images, there are a few places where I need to tack the skirt panels into place. and a few other teeny tweeks that need doing.  It’s rather like working out a military victory: you don’t just win, you have to negotiate and discuss terms for a while!

The ca. 1885 'Polly / Oliver Perks' Terry Pratchett inspired ensemble

Also, it’s rather good for marching purposefully in.  I know this because I did a LOT of purposeful marching during the photoshoot with Sarah.  I marched purposefully towards the camera, and then past the camera.  Then I marched purposefully back in the other direction.  And then I marched purposefully back.  Then we marched off to another location, and I did it all over again.  The dress looked fabulous.  I, on the other hand, was doing this repetitively, in long grass, and 3 kilos of skirt and a corset.  It was hard work!

The ca. 1885 'Polly / Oliver Perks' Terry Pratchett inspired ensemble

These photos are just a taster of the photoshoot – Sarah took most of the photos on her camera and they will be up on her livejournal soon (I hope), and the ones I’m showing are the ones she took on my camera (so any imperfections in the images are thanks to my crappy camera, not Sarah’s skill!).

The only regret I have about the photoshoot is that I don’t have a sword.  But then, Polly did her best work without a sword, and you always have a good knee handy when you need it!

I did remember Polly’s most important accessory though.

The ca. 1885 'Polly / Oliver Perks' Terry Pratchett inspired ensemble

Oh yes.  A good pair of socks is most important for…marching.

The ca. 1885 'Polly / Oliver Perks' Terry Pratchett inspired ensemble

The Challenge:  #15  ‘White’

Fabric:  5 metres of ivory cotton sateen (a gift),  3.5 metres of white cotton (can’t remember if I was given it or bought it, but if I did it cost less than $5), scrap of linen for the hem (free), red cotton jacquard (free, and leftover from the jacket).

Pattern:  My own, based on the 1887-9 day dress from the collection of the V&A pattern in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 2.

Year: ca. 1885

Notions:  21 metres of gold braid for the cornelli work ($21).

How historically accurate is it? As a fancy dress?  Pretty close!  The construction is a teeny bit modern in places, but not too bad.  As a real garment, perhaps something for the seaside?  A bit costume-y for my standards, but after 5 years I’ll take any form of it that is finished!.

Hours to complete: 15.  I budgeted 10, but then I decided the skirt needed the cornelli work, and that took some time to design and sew.  So just over an hour a day for the fortnight (though really, I did it in 3 x 5 hour chunks).

First worn: Sunday 28 July, for the photoshoot (immediately after sewing the last bit of trim on the hat).

Total cost:  NZ$21-$26  It would have been practically free if it hadn’t needed that trim!  Darn.


    • Thanks Nadine!

      I loved your recent post on the gorgeous castle with the amazing gardens. Coming from Hawaii, and living in NZ, it’s so amazing to me that you can just go visit a castle that is hundreds of years old, with gardens designed in the 1740s. Thank you so much for sharing the images. I would have commented on your blog, but alas I don’t have any of the accounts it allows.

  1. Nicely done! It looks great, and I’m sure the photo-shoot photos will be beautiful. Love it! Congrats on finishing it without having to resort to blue dye.

  2. The gold braid was however a very good addition, because it goes nicely with the buttons of the jacket, makes the skirt as fancy as the jacket. It’s quite fabulous now! Speaking as a person who never had a clear idea for what it should be like before her mind’s eye, working away at making it come true, and therefore finds it quite perfect.

    This is such a fun post, too! Especially your threats. 😉

    • Thanks Hana! I do feel that the gold really brings the skirt and jacket together, as one outfit. I was also thrilled about how much of a red hem I managed to get in. I had so little red fabric left, and I really had to scrounge to make it work.

      I’m very much a figure things out as I go designer too. I can sketch, but it isn’t really until I see the fabric go together that I know exactly how it will look.

      • I’m more of a… perfect idea, and then it all goes together completely different with the fabric I have at hand, and the plans change several times along the way, and in the end it’s very different and still good. 😀

  3. Wowzers! Now that really is a dress fit for a military heroine. It’s very commanding and elegant and dramatic.

    • Thanks Stella! It’s definitely not a campaign outfit though! I rather want to make a pair of breeches and a short over-skirt to go with it as a practical alternative, but alas, I’m COMPLETELY out of the ivory sateen, so it will have to wait until I find something else that might go.

  4. Diana says

    Funny I am in the middle or re-reading that book right now….lolol love it every inch of that dress is amazing.

    • Hehe. I purposefully picked the biggest pair in my sock drawer! These are the thick, heavy, knee-high, knitted wool socks I wear with boots on the coldest days of winter. I brought another, much more restrained, pair for the photoshoot as well, and we tried a series of images of me considering which pair of socks would be most suitable. Not sure how well they turned out, as rolled up they don’t really read as socks, but I can hope!

      And thank you!

  5. Upon my oath, I am not a man to flatter, but you look a fine figure of a Borogravian solider! (I can see why Polly would revert to trousers in the end, though…)

    • Hehe! Thanks! Think I could scare the enemies into submission? Maybe if I raise my knees high enough? 😉

      It totally does need trousers! Or at least a lobster tail bustle, so I can widen my stride a bit more!

  6. Claire Payne says

    Magnificent! I can hardly imagine how it must feel to walk around in 3kg of skirt. I need a sit down just thinking about it.

    Well done on a project well finished (give or take a few tweaks).

    • Thank you Claire!

      The weight isn’t too bad, because female hips are specifically designed to carry loads 😉 And a corset further helps distribute the weight across my whole body. I was quite relieved to get out of it in the end though! It’s definitely pretty parade dress, not proper campaign dress.

  7. Lindsey says

    The dress is lovely and you look lovely in it! Congratulations on finally finishing it!

    • Thank you Lindsey! I can’t believe it took so long, and I’m so pleased the HSF finally gave me the incentive to do it. I do think it was worth it in the end though!

  8. I Love It! Wow! Stunning! Thanks for you effort…doesn’t matter how long it took you finished….

    • Thank you! I’m DEFINITELY going to try to never take that long to finish something again (half the time I probably spent fixing early mistakes, or changing my mind), but it was worth it!

  9. Hannah Alyse says

    I am so proud of you! This dress is beyond amazing and I am buying the book right now because if it’s anything like the dress I’ll be so happy….I have to say my favorite part about this is that you made a costume based on a favorite character. So awesome…as was following your journey with this dress.

    • Oh wow, thanks Hannah! I do hope you enjoy the book! Pratchett is one of my favourite authors, and brings me such joy.

  10. holly says

    worth every cent of that $21! so enjoying your journeys in sewing

    • I think so too (even though I was excited about the idea of this being a ‘free’ outfit). And thank you! I’m so pleased you’re enjoying the process!

  11. Amy B. says

    I love it! You were right about that braid. It’s perfect. Polly is one of my very favorite Pratchett characters. Polly would very much approve.

    • Yay! Thanks Amy!

      Polly’s one of my favourites too. I actually suspect she would think it was rather silly, and a waste of fabric (and that sort of commonsense is exactly why I love her so much!), but she’d approve of the tenacity! And it was always meant to be her silly dress-up uniform.

  12. karenb says

    I loved the jacket when you first made it but couldn’t imagine how the skirt was going to turn out when I was reading your post but now it’s all together it looks amazing.

    • I was a bit worried about the skirt myself, but I’m quite pleased that I managed to make it work. Thank you so much!

  13. Elizabeth says

    Gosh, Beautiful!
    My favourite of all your projects I think. -and it would be the perfect costume to wear to Armageddon if you ever went! There is another costumer there who has also made a borogravian/victorian dress – you could make a mini-regiment.

    • Thanks Elizabeth! That’s quite a compliment!

      I can’t say I’m much of an Armageddon person (I don’t like crowds, which is a stupid affliction to have as a historical costumer), but I’m intrigued that there is another local costumer who has done this!

    • Woohoo! Thank you! I LOVE that first photo! It captures the dress perfectly, and is such a fabulous photograph. Thank you, thank you!

    • Oh, thank you! After 5 years, you can’t imagine how amazing it is to have it done, or how much I appreciate all the feedback!

  14. I love it! The skirt came out beautifully. I’m so glad you decided to persevere and not give up on it. It gives hope to all of us with abandoned projects lying about that one day they will finally work out!

    • Thank you Karen! It makes me feel so much better about how long it was crammed in a bag and the back of my UFO pile.

      Weirdly though, it may also let me let go of some other UFOs – I’ve finished one, something has been accomplished, I can afford to toss others and focus my energy on properly made things!

  15. Elise says

    3 Cheers for the Dreamstress! Hip Hip!

    Looks just great. Wonderful! I’m going to nerd out as an officer’s wife. Were my husband and I living in the 1870s, I would wear this to every single military engagement: Ball, Gala, Dinner, Hail and Farewell…So so so cool.

    • Oh wow, that would never have occurred to me! I’ve never written a fan letter in my life, but if I did, I guess Pratchett would be the obvious first choice!

      The Pratchgan is AMAZING! I want one!

  16. Natalie says

    I am completely in love with the entire thing! It is fabulous and you are fabulous!!!!!!!

    • …Awww … thanks Natalie! Thankfully, rather than hating the sight of it, I’m pretty in love with it myself at this point!

      • Natalie says

        I’ve been following you for a long time now and I love pretty much everything you do. BUT this one takes the cake.

  17. This is so fabulous! I love Monstrous Regiment and I love your gown. I think it’s perfect. (And the sock pictures made me giggle!)

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