"Donning The Vodacce Veil and Outfitting The Montaigne"
How to Lose Your Mind In Only Three Months

Introduction - 6/5/03
So, here's the deal. A friend of mine is running a 7th Sea live action event ("Time and Tides Wait for No Man") at an upcoming convention. Being a nut for 7th Sea and a costuming nut in general, I have to overdress for this event. So does my husband. It's a moral imperative. The game-master has kindly agreed to 'reserve' a couple of characters for us providing we make the cut to join the event (we had better!) so I know that I'm going to be playing a Vodacce Fate Witch, and my husband will be playing a Montaigne ship's captain "with more manners than brains", as the GM put it. I'm utterly overexcited about this event. As those of you who have read my essay Outfitting the Vodacce Fate Witch know, I've been looking forward to a game like this for years.

So, I've got a lot of costuming ahead of me, and it occurs to me that y'all can, as before, learn from mistakes I make along the way. So, here's the deal: I'm going to document my decision, progress and (I hope) completion of these two outfits via this page, here. There are two sections - Alex and Johanna - which will deal with the respective costuming.


Alex - Montaigne Sea Captain
6/5/03 - Introduction
6/15/03 - Shopping follow-up, beginning the coat.

6/28/03 - Completing the coat, quick-and-easy pants.

Johanna - Vodacce Fate Witch
6/5/03 - Introduction
6/15/03 - Shopping follow-up, completed items.
6/28/03 - Bits and bobs - making the overskirt 

Sources Used For This Project, A Complete List

Pictures from the event

The Payoff

(L to R) Alex, Johanna and Bill (the event's GM)

Alex - Montaigne Sea Captain

6/5/03 - Introduction

I'm in the 'brand new project so I'm hyper' mode, and I'm doing my best to take advantage of that while it lasts. Deciding what a Montaigne sea captain should wear wasn't particularly difficult for two reasons. 1) My husband, Alex, is quite particular about what he'll wear and 2) Montaigne fashion seems to cover the range from Louis XIV to Charles III and that gives a person a fair amount of wriggle room. The first steps were to decide what garments to make, and that was easily decided in a single evening's conversation with Alex. The results: Coat

This is Simplicity Pattern 6612 - a collection of "American Founding Fathers" garments. Fortunately, it can also suit the Montaigne.

The pattern is quite economical in terms of yardage - less than four yards of fabric and three of lining - but it's a pig for trim and buttons. Four yards of 1/2" scroll braid and 29 1 1/8" buttons are required. At this point, I think I'm going to spend more on trim and buttons than I am on fabric.

The pattern was chosen primarily because I already had it in my personal stash - I've got to save money where I can! Coat Fabric

This fabric is actually black-on-black, but the seller lightened it for display purposes when selling it on ebay. It's a brocade - obviously - and I'm hoping it's going to look very rich when the garment is finished. I will be lining it with cotton or (maybe) polyester. Given that the brocade is an artificial fabric, I think Alex will be more comfortable with a natural fabric in the lining. 

Incidentally, I bought this from a regular fabric seller on eBay - Fabric Masterpieces - and they often have some very lush, very reasonably priced fabric which is ideal for the fantasy and Renaissance costumer.

Coat Buttons

Alex favors this button - cut metalwork - although I'm looking for something either cheaper, or available through a local store, rather than relying on mail order. I would prefer to handle and see the button before committing to buying thirty of them. If I buy something different that these, I'll post pictures of it here. These buttons come from fabricandbuttons.com
Coat Trim

Alex wants a silver version of something like this for trim, although I'm thinking dark gray would be better, as silver buttons on silver trim would be a bit much - one would be lost against the other. A shopping trip is planned for the immediate future, and I'll post a picture of the final selection here.

This trim was found at William N. Ginsburg Co., although it seems to be fairly common. Cost is $3.19/yard and it's 3/4" wide. Pants

Breeches wouldn't suit my husband. Trust me on this. I'm going to make a pair of baggy 'Pirate pants' and tuck them into some knee-high boots. Fabric has yet to be determined, but I'm hoping to find an affordable silk, or reasonable ersatz for no more than $10/yard (I love living near three fabric warehouses). 

Color will be either maroon, burgundy or sapphire blue, depending upon what I can find. This fabric might be used as 'emergency shirt' fabric, if needed as Alex has already got a pair of black 'pirate pants' that could be used - but I would rather stay away from too much black in the outfit - people might think his character is Castillian! Shirt

Alex has a couple of "Faire" shirts, one of which should work fine for this outfit. He's got a black cotton shirt with a standup collar and not-too-generous sleeves, which wouldn't get tangled or crowded in the sleeves of his coat. The other shirt is a white, open necked garment, with blousy sleeves and drawstring cuffs. It's much more of a pirate shirt. Honestly, I'm going to make the coat, and we'll see which shirt works underneath it. If Alex makes puppy eyes at me, I might make a more 'swashbuckling' shirt for him with lacey bits at collar and cuffs, but only if I have the time and money. The fact that I've found a source of cheap silk on eBay doesn't help my resistance, much. I'll just have to hope that Alex doesn't see it, too.... Shoes

With luck, Alex's regular "Faire boots" will work out for this outfit. They're those knee-high black suede moccasins that are not Faire legal, but very comfortable and often worn by Faire playtrons. However, I'm going to keep my eyes open at the local thrift stores, in case we can find a knee-high boot (men's or women's) that will fit my husband. Better yet, thrift store boots can be embellished. 

I don't think we're going to get lucky enough and find anything that can be altered to resemble a French courtier's shoe but that's okay, this is 7th Sea! I don't have to be a slave to French history with this outfit - which will become apparent when you see the hat that Alex is going to wear. 

6/15/03 - Shopping Followup, Further Developments

To my surprise, Britex did not have any suitable trims. In fact, I thought their selection of metallic braid was quite skimpy - no more than twenty or so to choose from and, for Britex, that's not many at all. So it looks like I'll be taking a mail order option for that. 

I did pick up some buttons for Alex - nothing like the ones described above (I'll include a picture) but he really likes them, so I'm glad I made the right choice. And they were cheap - ten for a buck!

But cheapness is good, because I dropped thirty bucks on fabric for his pants - three yards of a lovely maroon/burgundy velvet. I almost picked up some gorgeous just-on-the-purple-side-of-royal-blue velvet instead, but Alex stated a clear preference from something on the red end of the scale, so...

Because of the total cost incurred, I think we're both going to have to 'make do' with whatever shirts we have in our closet already - although the possibility of getting some more fabric in a month or so has not been ruled out. 

Some trim has been found - courtesy of eBay. $11.50 for 13 yards, which I consider a bargain.

(postscript 6/15: The seller failed to mentioned the trim was in three pieces of approximately four yards each. That wasn't a problem for me but if you're buying similar things on eBay, always be on the look out for unpleasant surprises)


I've been thinking that I should consider a waistcoat or vest to go under the coat. The pattern that I've bought includes a waistcoat - although it's not terribly exciting. However, the current fabric-of-choice would certainly jazz it up.

However, this is definitely an "If I have time and money" aspect of the project, not an essential.

Oh, who am I kidding? I'll be buying the fabric next payday...


The above is an example of the buttons I'll be using. Despite the tone of the digital photo, the rim of the button is silver, with a faux-pearl dome. This was Alex's second choice (after the one mentioned in the previous entry) and it was much cheaper - ten for a buck at the local discount fabric outlet.

  Further Developments - Beginning the Coat

I'll be the first to admit that I'm a slow sewer. It's why I've allowed myself ten weeks to put together two outfits - working for a living is only one of the factors in my schedule. Alex likes to say that I'm painstaking - I just say I'm slow. 

Well, whatever the reason, I have begun Alex's coat in my usual style. By spending eight hours in the sewing room - admittedly, with occasional breaks to eat and take a look at whatever movie I had playing on the TV as 'background noise' - I managed to cut the pattern, marked all the pieces with the various dots and notches that must festoon them, interface the six pieces that needed it, and went over every single cut edge with Fray Check. That's it. Eight hours. 

The fray-check alone took two hours and was a case in point as to why I need to buy some pinking shears next time I'm at the store. Still, it was easier to do all the dabbing now, when the pieces are separate, than to try to do it when the garment is assembled. Besides, the more I handle the fabric, the more it would fray, otherwise. The fabric is lovely, particularly following a good wash with some fabric softener. It's on the light side of medium weight, with a nice drape and the interfaced sections (cuff, coat front, pocket flaps) will help give it some body in just the right places - I hope. Heaven knows, the cheap-ass lining fabric I bought won't do anything for it. One day, I'll be able to afford some of that luscious $25/yd brocade I see at the stores, and that will have some body to it. But, in the meantime... I work with what I've got. 

A note on the directions for Simplicity 6612. They stink. Well, maybe they're not that bad, but they're not written for sewers like me who tend to be a bit impatient and sometimes skim the written directions, preferring to go by the illustrations, instead. Unlike some other patterns, every step is not illustrated or described in a single bullet point. Each 'step' of the written directions for this pattern includes multiple actions, and you've got to pay careful attention to find out exactly where the bloody "coat facings" go, as opposed to the identically cut "coat front" (answer: the coat facings attach to the lining - it took me a few moments to figure that out). These are directions that require you to read them carefully. If you just go by the pictures, you will come a cropper by halfway through the second step. 

The pattern itself, though, is remarkably simple. Six pattern pieces - some of which you have to cut multiple times, such as the cuffs and coat facings - and the yardage described was spot on. 3 1/8 yards was called for, but, since my ebay supplier would only sell whole yards, I bought four yards and, lo and behold, I have almost a full yard left. That'll be nice for future corsetry, accessories and such. 

Unfortunately, my back has seized up after eight hours of work, so I have yet to sew an actual stitch. Surprisingly enough, the pattern directions call for the trim (which I am awaiting the delivery of) to be added very early in the process, so there's not much I can do other than cut the lining (once my back relaxes) and start assembling that. Once the trim arrives, I'll be ready to go at full speed ahead. 

I'm hoping to finish this coat on/around the end of June, which is actually far earlier than I expected. Then I get to work on Alex's pants. I just hope I can figure out a way to uncrumple velvet by then...

6/28/03 - Completing The Coat

Flat lining the coat
After cutting the fabric, doing the fray check and generally getting ready to assemble the garment, I started to worry about the fabric being too light. I worried that maybe, just maybe, when Alex put it on, it might look too much like a dressing gown, rather than a coat, what with the fabric being very much on the light side of medium-weight.

At first, I thought that I would simply buy some more fusible interfacing, bung that into the body of the coat and count on that to give 'weight' to the fabric. But would it look too crisp? That interfacing I used for the cuffs and front facing on the garment is pretty fierce stuff...

Fortunately, Live Journal came to my rescue. I posted a query on a couple of sewing communities, and the unanimous response was interlining (aka flat-lining). Interfacing, being non-woven, doesn't have a grain to it so, it would interfere with the drape of the fabric, once fused. This was news to me and I felt like a fool for not knowing it, already. However, interlining - sewing my cut garment fabric to identically cut pieces of fabric with a drape and heft similar to what I wanted the brocade to have in the first place (sewing inside the seam allowance, of course) and then handling the resultant fusion as a single piece of fabric - will add body to my garment fabric and not screw up the drape. It's so obvious - see "feeling like a fool", above. 

I bought three yards of cheap black denim - it didn't have to be black, I know, but I'm paranoid and I thought it wouldn't hurt - shrunk the dickens out of it (washed it twice in hot water) - and cut pieces to match the coat side front, sleeves and back. Since the absolute front of the coat is already interfaced, I didn't see much need to add denim to it. The difference the addition of the interlining has made is remarkable. Alex had his skeptical I hope you know what you're doing face on whilst I was describing the process, but now that he's seen the assembled back-side of the coat and the difference in heft, he's as enthusiastic as I am.

General Progress
The trimming has been the most fiddly and time consuming part of this coat. At first, I thought I would have to hand-sew every piece on to the fabric but, after it took me nearly an hour to attach three pieces (granted, I was watching a movie while I sewed), I loaded up the machine with some very fine silver thread, and test-sewed a piece of pre-folded trim. Lo and behold, the silver thread and the machine-stitches were indistinguishable from the rest of the braid. Hooray! Sewing the coat front was still time consuming, just because the bulk of the garment got in the way but still, it was a lot faster (and sturdier) than hand-sewing. Quick note: on the coat-front and 'pocket' flaps, I just sewed down the outer edges of the trim (yes, I'm lazy), but on the cuffs, I sewed the inside and outside edges of the trim. Because the cuff is going to be curved, I was afraid that trimming that was only half-sewn down would 'gape' open along the unsewn edge and look rather amateurish. Fortunately, sewing the cuffs was a lot easier than the coat front, and it didn't take long to do at all. 

The rest of the garment went together easily (except for pattern note #1, below) and as long as you pay close attention to the directions (remember, these Simplicity directions are not made for people who tend to skim their reading material) then you shouldn't have any problems assembling the body of the coat. Remember to turn the cuffs up when you're sewing the lining to the bottom edge of the sleeve, so that then lining turns to the inside of the sleeve. I was a bit tired and groggy at this point and I wasn't paying attention. The cuffs were still turned down (from being attached to the sleeve) and I damn near pinned my lining to the outside of the garment. Oops. Fortunately, I realized I had to be doing something wrong as I pinning and got back on track. 

Assembling the lining caused a few problems - mostly self-made - and I get into those in pattern note #2.

Otherwise, the biggest headache was setting the sleeves. As often occurs with such patterns, the sleeve caps had to be gathered and eased into the arm opening. It seems that cheap denim doesn't like the idea of such activity and, try as I might, I could not lay down basting and gather the garment without the threads snapping shortly after I began. So I did it the old fashioned way, with lots and lots of pins. It was time-consuming and annoying, but it worked. I'm sure the gathers look a little more obvious than if I had had the ability to carefully distribute the fabric in the usual manner but, honestly, the result looked good to me and Alex is totally oblivious to most aspects of dress-making, anyways. :)

Pattern note #1: The coat front/front facings are a little shorter than they should be. The fray-check I used did have a slight shrinking effect on the edge of the fabric, but it certainly shouldn't have made the piece half an inch too short up top and nearly and inch too short at the bottom, particularly when all the other anti-fray dabbed pieces came together just fine. If you're going to use the same pattern I am, just add  1/2 to 3/4" of an inch to the top of the coat front and front facing (piece #1, I believe) and an inch to the bottom. Better to trim something that's too long, than gnash and snarl at something that's too short. I ended up trimming the collar/neckline of the garment down to match the facing but since my husband has a thick neck and I usually have to do that on his clothes anyway, it didn't bother me. 

Pattern note #2: I don't have much experience in lining garments and I should have listened to that voice of caution that said "This $3/yard polyester lining fabric is a bit slippery. Isn't that going to be a bitch to cut?" it was and the back lining came out a rather different shape than anticipated - the center back seam was quite crooked, because the fabric had slipped around quite a bit whilst I cut it. By dint of using tiny little seam allowances, I was able to salvage most of that particular problem. The other problem, I'm not sure if it was my fault (slippery fabric, sloppy cutting) or the pattern, but the lining seems too small for the garment, inside the body of the coat. The pattern simply uses the garment pieces for lining, as well, so I'm surprised that they don't match well - which means I believe this is a case of 'user error'. Moral: take your time when cutting your lining!

The facing of the coat and the lining at the collar tend to roll towards the outside, so I'm contemplating some 'decorative topstitching' to anchor things down. However, I'm going to have Alex wear the coat for a bit first, and see how it settles on him, as it might not be necessary. 

Sewing on the shank buttons was time consuming, but easy. I just put the coat in my lap and had a movie playing on TV as I went, and I was done in an hour. 

I'm happy with how this turned out. Not over the moon, but happy. Personally, I'm not keen on the trim (too showy) and if I could have found buttons just a tad bit larger, then I would be over the moon. However, Alex picked out the buttons and trim, and he's absolutely tickled by the coat, and that's the important thing. All told, this took me about 25 hours to make, but you have to allow for that fact that I'm slow, inexperienced and had to go back and cut the inter-lining separately from the garment fabric - and take some bits of the garment apart to flat-line - so I think an experienced sewer could finish this pattern in fifteen hours or so. 

In this picture, you can see the pants

This picture shows off the coat's fabric

I made Alex's pants out of three yards of red polyester velvet that I picked up wonderfully cheap in San Francisco. They're elastic waist and not fitted at all, so that pretty much commits me to making the vest, to hide the waist line. True, I could make a nice pair of more closely fitted pants but the elastic waist will be more comfortable, and given how warm this outfit will be when it's worn, comfort is an issue.

The vest was completed 2 days before the event for which all this was being sewn - yeah, I had to leave something to the last minute, didn't I? You can see it in the picture up top of this document. The pattern for the vest came with the coat and was also fully lined. It was ludicrously easy to make, and I finished in a single evening.


Johanna - Vodacce Fate Witch

6/5/03 - Introduction

If you're looking for more extensive tips regarding patterns and fabrics suitable for a Fate Witch, please read this.  Because of that article, I've always had a fairly clear idea of what I've wanted to make for this outfit and the decision making process was pretty much instantaneous. Furthermore, it seems my habit of buying fabric 'just in case' has finally paid off, as most of what I need for this project, I've already got - whew!


Going by the pictures I've seen, I've decided to create an outerwear version of the Alter Years Tudor (untabbed) bodice in a black brocade, with separate 'cuff's of a contrasting black brocade. 

The Alter Years bodice is very easy to make, even for beginners. The only tricky part about it is obtaining steel boning, which you can get via mail/phone order from Lacis - or by going to their store directly. There are other sources out there that might be cheaper for you. Just take your time marking out the boning channels and use two-part grommets (not those cheapie eyelets) and you'll have a great looking garment. Mine is almost done, and I'll post a picture when it is. 

Despite the extra cost it's going to incur, I'm going to make two skirts - one closed 'under skirt' (or forepart if you know your Renn terms) and an open 'over skirt'. 

The fabric of the over skirt, I already have - a black brocade, bi surprise. The under skirt, I had originally planned to make from some purple crepe satin in my fabric stash but, after comparing the two, I've decided the purple is too bright, so I'll be setting out to buy a black satin crepe. The shininess of the satin should provide a nice contrast to the brocade. 

The skirts will be gored panels set into a waist band - simple and flattering. I am planning to make or buy a petticoat to add fullness to the skirts. It will be a case of balancing the aggravation of making the petticoat versus the cost of buying one, which would be approximately $40. The possibility of renting one from the local bridal shop has not been ruled out.

I already have a 'basic peasant chemise' in unbleached muslin that could work for the outfit. However, I'm a little disgruntled because unbleached muslin doesn't strike me as sufficiently Vodacce-ish. I'm going to keep my eyes open for a bargain while I'm hunting down the trim and buttons for Alex's coat, and see if I can't find a couple of yards of some nice silk-like fabric. If I had the funds, I would probably pick up a pattern for a more 'noble' shirt, but a nicely-done drawstring neckline and cuffs shirt will suit my needs just fine. Adjustable closures will probably make a the rest of the outfit easier to wear. 

Accessories - Cuffs
I'm making 'cuffs' (armbands really) of a funky black brocade from my scrap pile. It's a black paisley on a black background - a great fabric, but I wish I knew that the pattern was only printed on and faded under an iron before I tried making a coat out of it, two years ago...

I simply took measurements around my arms, drew quadrangles on some scrap paper, added seam allowance and used that for a pattern. I'm adding quarter inch steel boning to hold the cuff's shape whilst they're being worn - I don't want them to rumple on my sleeve - and I'll use eyelets and cord to close, as I'm too lazy to embroider little tiny buttonholes on the darn things. If I find a nice and cheap piping, I might pipe the upper and lower edges of the cuffs. Pictures to follow when the item is done (which it almost is, as it's a very quick project)

Accessories - Other
What's a Fate Witch without her tarot cards? Plus, I'm going to need somewhere to keep my wallet and other essentials during the game. I'll dig through my fabrics-and-scrap stash and I'm sure I can find something - velveteen, velvet, whatever - that will work for a basic pouch bag.

I would like to include a nice belt girdle, too, but I'm flat out of mad beadin' skillz and, besides, I'm spending enough money as it is. When it comes to jewelry, it's going to be a case of 'beg, borrow or steal'. 

I have a packet of veil patterns from Butterick. I have five yards of black chiffon and three yards of a silvery-sheened black organza. I also have a glue gun and various plastic combs. How all these elements are going to come together to create the Fate Witch's signature veil is currently beyond me... I want to do the veil near the end of the project.

Oh, bloody hell... Hrm. I've got some pointy-toed, sorta gothy boots that I think I can get away with. Shoes are, I must admit, a very low priority right now.

6/15/03 - Shopping Followup and General Progress

My friend Paula made a good suggestion regarding my unhappiness about only having four yards of black brocade on hand for my overskirt (that's not as much as it sounds when making a full skirt) - why not alternate panels with another black brocade? Heaven knows, I've got enough of the stuff. So that's what I'm going to do, which should add some substantial body to the skirts, as I've got an almost-three yard piece I can use. Unfortunately, I wish I had heard this brilliant suggestion before I bought only four yard of black crepe satin for the underskirt. I wouldn't need more, I thought, because I was limited by the size of my overskirts. However, I think I've got some regular black satin in my stash - two yards or so - which I could sneak into the back of the garment and no-one would be the wiser. 


As it turns out, my other piece of brocade (which is about three yards long) is exactly the same as my four yard piece - even though they were bought years apart, from different sellers. Well, that makes things easier... And I made a decent fix with the underskirt - see below.

I am trying to resolutely ignore the petticoat issue until the entire project is closer to completion. There are other things that are more important. My own outfit bits are almost completely done, except for the overskirt, accessories (I'm going to need a bag for my wallet, character sheet and tarot cards) and, if I have time to make one, a better shirt. The shirt, however, is a low priority - the one I've got isn't very roomy, being a costume pattern and not a practical "You're going to work Faire in this, so you need room to move" pattern. But it'll work if it has to, so I'm going to be focusing on Alex's costume for the next few weeks. Don't be surprised if this section isn't updated for a while. 

Completed Cuffs
I learned a couple of things in making these:

1) The cheap eyelets that you set with a hand held press are just that, cheap. Furthermore, silver eyelets with the silver topstitching was just too much, so I went with poking holes in the fabric with an awl (no fraying!) and threading the cord through them. With luck a dab of Fray Check will enable the cuffs to last through the event.

2) Sometimes, your machine decides it just doesn't like decorative metallic thread in the bobbin case - I used a black-thread bobbin, and it worked out just fine. 

3) If you're not sure of your ability to sew in a straight line, a row of basting stitches in a contrasting thread can do wonders.  

Once tried on over my Faire shirt, it seems that perhaps I could have cut the cuffs a little wider than I did - blousy sleeves add a lot of bulk to the arm. If I have time when all of the important things are done, I'll make a second set and test them out. 

Upper arm cuff

Lower arm

Almost-complete Bodice
This took less than a yard each of black duck and black brocade, and about six hours to sew, all told. The most time-consuming part, really, is marking and sewing the boning channels (always sew in the same direction - bottom to top is best) and then carefully sewing the top of the garment closed without running into the steel boning and breaking a needle. I broke three on this one, a new record, I think. Guess who mis-measured the allowance she had along the top of the garment?

It's almost complete as I am having some problems setting the grommets. My rubber mallet was too springy and Lacis' much-vaunted grommet-setting service was no good as they lacked the proper tool/die to set the grommets with their table-mounted press. This rather vexed me, as I bought the grommets from them, under their own house label, so I had rather expected the store to be able to set them, too. Oh well. I've just got to find me a wooden mallet and I'll be set. For now, the grommets have been placed in the proper areas, for the sake of the picture. 

The brocade's pattern is much nicer than the photo would suggest. I'm wondering if maybe I should add some contrasting trim along the top. I'll be wearing a white shirt, so it's not like the top edge is going to be 'lost' but maybe it's a bit too plain right now? I don't know...

9/23/03 - Update
After going to all of this trouble, I totally forgot that I had made this garment for the convention and ended up using my 19th Century corset instead. D'oh! Maybe I shouldn't have made it so far in advance! Ah well, there's going to be a sequel event in February '04...

The entire garment - just to give you an idea of shape

detail of the brocade, albeit a bit washed out by the camera's flash

Completed Underskirt
The skirt was made out of four yards of 60" black crepe satin, cut into three panels 60" at the bottom edge, 20" at to top, gathered into a waistband and then trimmed willy-nilly to even the hem. That is the downside of a make-it-yourself gored skirt: a very crooked hem. But that's fixable. Just measure from the waistband to the desired bottom edge (in my case, 45") at several points around the hem, draw a line connecting them, and then trim.

At the moment, I've left the bottom edge unfinished and the skirt very long (ankle-length for me is usually 38") because I'm not sure how the addition of a petticoat is going to effect matters. I would rather leave everything too long and trim it with the petticoat in place than gnash my teeth at a too-short skirt. I won't be getting the petticoat any time soon, alas...

I used the simplest-possible method to make the gored skirt (e-mail me if you want a description) and still almost made a total hash of it by laying out my fabric incorrectly. The moral: never, ever rush when you're sewing - even if it's a 'simple' project. Fortunately, I caught the mistake before I cut the fabric.

The bottom edge of the skirt is 165 inches (actually, it'll probably be less than that once I've trimmed it to final length) which is a little narrower than I would like, but I thought I was only going to have an overskirt with a bottom edge of 130", not 220" or so when I bought the fabric. Ah well. I'll cope. 

There are no pictures of this garment because a) it's too long for me to wear right now, so it would look very silly and b) it's black crepe satin. It's not going to photograph well on my digital camera. Your mental image of what I've made is probably more than sufficient.  

By pure chance, I decided to cruise through eBay yesterday and see what, if anything, I could find. I found valuveil, a seller who had some nice, simple and cheap black veils on hand. Total cost: $21 with shipping. 

True, I have black organza and tulle on hand but there's the aggravation factor to be considered - particularly since I have never tried my hand at veil-making before and I'm not so hot with fiddly things - and the time-factor. On my list of to-do's, the veil comes after everything for Alex and a new chemise for me - last, in other words. And I would hate for game day to arrive and for me to find myself without that so-distinctive Fate Witch accessory. 

The pictures to the right (taken from the seller's website) show what I bought. it's very simple, single tier 'waltz length' and with a ribbon edging. You'll notice that it lacks a blusher. I've spoken with the seller, and she's going to add one for $5. I suspected it wouldn't be too difficult or costly, so I'm glad I asked. Again, it was one of those 'balance the cost versus the possible aggravation' moments, and I decided to skip the aggro and accept the expense.

Incidentally, the veil arrived on 6/18 (fast shipping!) and, once it's been steamed to get the wrinkles out, it'll look fab! It's very simple - just black tulle with an edging - but that's all I wanted. After all, I don't want to be walking into walls with this thing. I might add some bits to it - black flowers to hide the comb on the head, etc - but that's an 'if I have time', thing. 

6/28/03 - Bits and Bobs

I finally got a rubber mallet of sufficient resilience and finished the bodice. Conclusion: I'm not using Lacis house-brand brass grommets again. Three of them split whilst being placed (I hope I can smooth the edges with sandpaper, as I can't remove them at this point) and the eyelets were almost impossible to hammer down flat. I've set grommets by hand perfectly well before, but they were nickel, as I recall, so perhaps the brass is harder or something. Whatever the reason, I'm just going to avoid them in future. As it is, I hope the protruding eyelets don't prove too uncomfortable when I wear the garment. 

I've made the overskirts from six yards of the same brocade that I made the bodice from and in the same manner that I made the satin underskirt. The overskirt panels are open in front, so that the underskirt will show through. Gathering an edge of 120" down to 30" was almost more than the garment could tolerate, but I just about managed to do it. Next time, I'll get some silamide thread and learn how to cartridge pleat. The finished length is going to be just a bit shorter than I would like at 34" (limits of the fabric yardage on hand)  but I doubt that anyone but me will notice. 

I almost came a cropper when I was putting everything together. My mind's on the latest Harry Potter book at the moment, and I forgot to put an invisible zipper into the back of the skirt - d'oh! Fortunately, I realized this before I did the gathering and attached the waistband.

Once I've finished the bottom hem of the underskirt, I will don the costume and see if it works. I'm a little worried that my modified corset might not work and I'll have to make a full-on bodice, instead. But that's alright, as it will give me an excuse to pick up the Alter Years pattern I've always hankered after and I'll just make a garment that will eventually be incorporated in Faire garb - someday! 9/23/03 - Final Update

In all the rush to finish the event Alex and I were running at ConQuest 2003 and finish sewing, I totally forgot to update the web page, oops!

The petticoat was simple enough. I cut an A line skirt, with four pieces. The top (waist and top third of garment) was of a stretch fabric with a channel for an elastic waistband, so I didn't have to worry about setting yet another zipper. The bottom part of the skirt was some spare polyester liner which I had on hand. It felt okay next to my skin and was heavy enough to support all the layers of tulle I was about to sew onto it.

Lessons learned: there is no such thing as too much tulle. I used 12 yards of 54" wide tulle. I cut the tulle into 18" wide strips and then gathered them into two tiers on the skirt. Each tier featured three or four (I forget) fairly-loosely gathered layers of tulle and the skirt had just enough fullness, I thought. Next time, I think I should stick to a single tier, going from hip to floor, rather than the two layers with the upper layer just barely overlapping the lower one. I'll also use more tulle, gathered more tightly. I think it will be less aggravating. Honestly, the garment I made - the only instructions I had were some hastily read from the Singer Book of Sewing For Weddings at my local bookstore - was a real mess to look at, but it did what it was supposed to: it added body to my skirts - and I'm glad I left them an inch or so longer than I usually would, as I think that length stopped the tulle from showing.

Future Tweaks
Overall, the outfit worked out very well, except for the cuffs sliding down my arms, no matter how tightly I laced them. I'm thinking I'll make a chemise and actually build the cuffs into the sleeves and see how that works out... and next time, I will remember that I've got a bodice to wear! I'm still kicking myself over that!

Sources Used

Fabric Outlet - 2109 Mission St., San Francisco
General sewing notions, source of fabric and cord for shirt cuffs, black crepe for underskirts, velvet for Alex's trousers and interlining for Alex's coat. 
I like this store because they're cheap and have a lot of fabric, but I've run into some problems of late with buying '100% cotton' that isn't - and it's a real bitch when your press cloth melts and scorches on your iron, so caveat emptor.

VelvetFabric.com - fabric e-tailer
Despite the name, this is where I obtained the black brocade used in my bodice and overskirts. Unfortunately, the seller doesn't carry much in the way of brocade and damask any more, but the site is worth visiting for its perennial specials. 

Fabricmasterpieces - eBay seller
Brocades for Alex's coat and waistcoat. This seller offers some lush costuming fabrics and their store is always worth a browse.

Valuveil - eBay seller
Black veil for Vodacce costume. This seller happily added some after-market changes to the veil I ordered, and I suspect she'll accept custom commissions, too. 

Kraftplus - eBay seller
Trim for Alex's coat. Less than a buck a yard for metallic trim? Bargain! However, the braid arrived in three pieces (each about four yards long) not in a single strand as implied by the seller. Fortunately, that didn't make any difference to me.

Lacis - 2982 Adeline St, Berkeley 
Alter Years pattern for Vodacce bodice, plus steel and grommets for same. Despite my crankiness at their grommet-setting service, this is a good store and the only gang in town for a lot of Faire-ish costuming supplies. 

Alter Years - pattern supplier
Ugly web-site aside, you can buy Alter Years' patterns directly from them, although their shipping charges make it more economical to buy several patterns at once. I've used their Easy Renaissance (untabbed) corset pattern many times, and I'm currently eyeballing their noble's shirt for both Alex and myself. 

Simplicity - pattern supplier
I used Simplicity 6612 for Alex's coat and waistcoat. I don't know for how long this pattern will remain in circulation. This particular pattern was intended to costume an "American Founding Fathers" type event, and there's always a need for that style of pattern, so I'm sure something like it will always be available. 

Total Damage as of 9/25/03 Vodacce Fate Witch
Overskirt and Bodice - $64 (seven yards, brocade)*
Lining for bodice - $12 (one yard of coutil)*
Underskirt - $27 (four yards, crepe satin)
Cuffs - $0 (scrap from another project)
Trims - $9 (3 yards of silver cord for cuffs)
Veil - $21 
Tarot bag - $0 (scrap from another project)
Asst'd notions (zippers, grommets, etc) - $8

Total: $144

Montaigne Sea Captain
Overcoat - $52 (four yards of brocade)
Overcoat lining - $9 (three yards of polyester)
Overcoat interlining - $9 (three yards of cheap denim)
Waistcoat - $22 (two yards of brocade)
Waistcoat lining - $10*
Pants - $23 (three yards of polyester velvet)
Trim - $11.50
Buttons - $3
Asst'd notions - $6

Total: $145.50 

Not bad, given that the Captain's Coat by Museum Replicas, which Alex has lusted after for years, is $120 alone and not nearly as nifty (it's unlined corduroy for heaven's sake!).

* I think. It was paid for years ago and has been in my stash ever since. This squirreling away of fabric really helped to reduce the 'actual' cost in 2003.

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