The Goose Girl: Bodice Finishings to Flare

Now that I had completed the structure and fit (See The Goose Girl: Bodice Beginnings to Boning), I could line the stays, finish with binding, and add eyelets and cording.

For my lining, I use the same pattern as with the fashion fabric. I decided to use a pale yellow fabric I had found at a vintage sale in downtown Milwaukee. I honestly do not think it is pure silk, though it has a similar look and feel. I tested a couple swatches using the burning method and bleach test and got mixed results. When burnt, the material turned to very light ash rather than melting. When placed in the bleach, the material broke apart and some of the fibers broke down fully after hours, but not all. So I think it is a silk-poly mix. It also has a lovely color, texture, and is far too small of a piece to use for anything substantial (though it has amazing drape).

The fabric was also a sweet nod to “The Yellow Lady” portion of Shannon’s novel. Isi is described in the book as having yellow-blonde hair that is distinctly Kildendrean (her home) versus the local dark brown or black hair colors of the Bayern people. Throughout the novel, the Bayern workers she grows close with and the other locals describe the princess as “The Yellow Lady”. I liked the idea that this tell-tale color would not be visible to the outside, much like the character’s hair.

The lining was stitched at the seams, like the fashion side, and pressed open. The wrong sides of the lining and structured outer layers were pinned and then basted together on the stitching lines. I had to be careful around the tab areas at the bottom since I had stupidly slashed these open for the outer layers. Rather than risk missing the corners of these with the machine, I hand basted the bottom edge to have more control.

Now that the garment was all in one piece, I planned to finish the edges with a very narrow bias tape binding.

I had a few choices in selecting my binding and the choice primarily came down to color. It would have been best to match the fashion fabric and make bias tape from the original material, but I had not dyed enough initially to do that and worried I would not be able to exactly reproduce the shade.

My second thought was to use a contrast color: green.

Green would tie into the screened color in the stay fabric pattern and would complement the Bavarian landscape inspiration nicely. However, small, double fold ,1/4″ bias tape is difficult to find commercially in anything other than the staple white, black, and cream. I would be making the bias tape by hand.

To make bias tape you need:

  • Fabric
  • Meter stick
  • Right angle ruler
  • Fabric pen
  • Bias tape maker (plastic or metal)
  • Iron
  • Thread

I found some green cotton with gold thread in the warp on clearance at Joann’s and purchased 1 yard. I pulled the material from opposite corners a couple times to keep the grain of the material in line before cutting.

Lines are marked using a right angle ruler at the farthest corner of the fabric. I cheated here and used the selvage as my straight edge rather than pulling a thread to make a proper straight line.

I then use my meter stick to mark parallel lines offset from the right angle based on the size of the bias tape needed. In my case, I was making 1/4″ double fold which equates to 1″ overall to be cut. Luckily, my meter stick is exactly 1″ wide.

A cat is obviously necessary to supervise this sort of work.

If I were making larger or smaller bias tape, I would mark the width needed along the selvage and then draw lines upward using the right angle ruler and meter stick. You can also cut an exact square up from the selvage, mark the necessary width on both the cut edge and selvage, and connect the dots. Any method works, as long as your strips are always on the bias.

I check my angle with my right angle ruler every 5 strips or so to ensure I’m still on track.

These strips are then cut and prepped for stitching. I cut way more than I ended up needing, but if I’m putting in the effort and have plenty of raw material, I like to make extra.

To stitch, the strips are placed fashion sides together perpendicularly and stitched at a 45-degree angle. It takes a time or two to line up just right, so take a couple scrap pieces to test the method first. Always use thread that is either an exact or close match since the thread may show ever so slightly after ironing. This depends primarily on the strength of the fabric.

The tails are trimmed back, pressed open, and the full length of strip is ran through the bias tape maker, ironing as you go. I like to use stainless steel bias tape makers since I can get right up close to the maker with the iron on full steam. But 3-D printed bias tape makers are quite common and cheap. They’re also more customizable for sizing and often have attachments to make double fold all on one iron pass.

My bias tape maker generates single fold bias tape at 1/2″ that I then fold over and iron again for double fold.

The bias tape can then either be applied by hand or machine. I’m attaching by hand because of all my crazy corners with the tabs. I start by folding open the bias tape and pinning the right side along the edge of the stay. This is back stitched in place using the ironed crease as a guide.

This continues all around the garment with care taken along the curved sections and tucks due to the tab inner corners.

After finishing with my tiny backstitches on the front, the bias tape is folded over the edges, pinned on the inside, and felled in place with tiny whip stitches. Since this was facing toward the body, visible stitches was not an issue. The process of tightly folding and stitching the bias tape was a bit tricky at the top of the tab slashes. I had to wiggle the fabric and wham it down a bit more than I would have liked. Though, again, the important part is the outside where the bias tape needed to be straight and tight; the inside could be as messy as needed.

As you might see in the prior photos, I had taken a break from hand stitching to create the structure for my eyelets. I use a cheater method for eyelets that is no where near historically accurate, but makes my eyelets stronger with use of metal grommets.

For my cheater method of stitched eyelets, you’ll need:

  • 1/4″ metal grommets
  • Tailors awl
  • grommet pliers or shank and hammer
  • embroidery floss
  • sharp, fine embroidery needle

The first step is to mark the locations of the eyelet using the pattern or calculating equal distances based on how many eyelets to be applied. Here, I made an error that is probably by greatest regret of the project. I used the eyelet locations as indicated by the original pattern which are located mirror image of each other from left to right rather than an offset or staggered pattern that would have allowed the stays to have spiral lacing. Spiral lacing would have been more period specific, but what is done is done.

After marking the eyelet locations, you can use the tailor’s awl to create eyelet holes without breaking the threads. By doing this, the surrounding material stays structurally sound and there is less likelihood of breakage, fraying, or stretching due to the tension the lacing will create. My tailor’s awl is about 1/4″ just below the grip and thus creates the exact size I need. If you were to make eyelets without grommets, you would begin stitching at this point.

A small tailors awl that creates 1/4-1/2″ eyelets. I purchased a 2 pack of these online for $9.

Since I am hard on my lacing and the stays do not have a busk to support the eyelets, I am opting to use metal grommets under my stitches. I had 1/4″ gold eyelets on hand from a previous bulk order and applied them using a shank and hammer. I have a grommet pliers but was unable to get a nice, clean finish with these because of the surrounding fabric thickness. The pliers didn’t give me as much control and caused me to catch the fabric in the metal teeth a few times. Not a great use of $35….. thanks Dritz…..

Now that all the neat metal grommets are in place, they can be covered by embroidery floss to give a great historical finish look. I use two strands of floss at a time which is faster than using thread, but gives a smooth finish to the stitches. The eyelets are covered simply by large whip stitches around the ring by starting from the back and stitching down through the fashion side of the fabric around the outer edge of the metal grommet.

This can take a LOT of time, especially if your thread knots. When I first started with this method, it could take up to a half hour per eyelet to fully cover the metal grommet. Once I am into a rhythm though, I can complete one per 5-10 minutes. I’ve found that using 3 strands of floss (or even 4 if you have the right sized needle) can seriously reduce the time to stitch them, but will also make the eyelets have a “coarser” look. I also noticed that using more stands makes hole itself smaller due to the excess bulk when the additional strands wind around each other rather than lying flat as you can achieve with only 2 strands.

A lot of time and attention, but it sure looks nice when it’s done.

With the eyelets done, the garment is complete and wearable! All that was left was to remove any baste stitches still visible from the front. I used green and white thread when baste stitching (both on the machine and by hand) so that I could easily find and remove them later.

Finally, it was time to replace the cotton twill tape that I had been using as lacing for the fit tests. Though strong, the bright white cotton clashed horridly. Since I had made so much excess green bias tape, I was able to repurpose the tiny tape as lacing. All I had to do was slip stitch the folded edges of the bias tape and finish the ends.

Poof! Yards and yards of beautiful coordinating lacing

And there it is, in all its wonderful finished glory! Now, time to wrap up the other garment elements.

A Christmas Stroll Through Downtown Houghton

Christmas.  The most magical time of the year. And especially so in the Michigan Upper Peninsula (“UP”).  I called the UP my home for close to 6 years as I attended university.  It is the place I credit as finding my true self.  

Though the holiday season was punctured by final projects and exams before the end of term, we always found a way to make the most of the snow and the season.  One of my favorite parts of the Christmas season in the UP was the opportunity to work with Downtown Houghton on their Victorian Christmas event.  The event started in 2017 as a way to encourage students and locals to stroll through the quintessential downtown shops to support local businesses while finishing their Christmas shopping.  A member of the City committee approached the University’s theatre program for help in setting the mood with authentic Dickensian strollers

They wanted the event to have the classic feeling of stepping into Charles Dickens era Victorian England, complete with horse drawn sleigh rides and carolers.  

Our theatre honor society (Alpha Psi Omega) was more than happy to step up and take on the event as strollers.  Since that first year, we learned to be better about period accuracy, coordination of volunteers, and (most importantly) wearing layers. 

In 2019, the event was again at our door and I was determined that this would be the year to be most polished.  This blog is going to document some of the planning process, design considerations, and final ensemble looks from the event. 

I must preface that this is NOT EXACTLY PERIOD ACCURATE. We pulled the majority of our pieces from costume storage and were extremely limited in time and budget ($0 to be exact…). So, we did what we could and this is a fine example of creating the illusion of period ensemble looks, but should not be used as an exact replication example.

Back to the design! Creatively, we decided to focus on the era between 1830-1850 for our ensemble collection.  This was the height of Dicken’s career and life.  The fashions of this era are also the most recognizable as “Christmas Carol”.  These are a few of the images I pulled as our female inspiration in building a mood board. 

With the large hoop skirt inspiration from the fashion plates and the classic Christmas color pallet, we were ready to head to costume storage to begin pulling pieces.  We hoped to reuse as many items from stock as possible to limit the amount of construction since the costume team was tied up with finals and projects.  We had also just closed on our fall main stage production. 

Oh, did I mention the event was taking place the same day I would be graduating and move out from my apartment?

Since we were primarily pulling from the college theatre stock, we needed to pull enough items to have options for who would be volunteering while limiting ourselves to the color pallet, era staples, and items that we could wash easily.  The event is outdoors and in a Houghton winter, we knew to expect snow, slush, and salt that could easily stain or ruin garments.  We were limited especially in men’s pants since most tuxedo pants we had available were dry clean only, something we needed to avoid like the plague. 

Based on years previously, I expected to have anywhere between two to three dozen male and female actors volunteer who needed not only authentic outfits, but also warm layers and trimmings.  We pulled EVERY SINGLE item we could in addition to hats, bonnets, layers, and canes. 

Beyond checking that all items were in good condition and washable for after the event, we pulled items based on the standard formula:

Men:

  • Tuxedo pant
  • Tail coat or overcoat
  • Vest
  • Button-up shirt with high collar (tuxedo shirt)
  • Bowtie or cummerbund
  • Top hat, bowler hat, deerstalker, or newsboy cap
  • Scarf, gloves, and ear warmer
  • Cloaks as requested

Women:

  • Button up shirt with high collar and lace accents
  • Hoop skirt, ruffled petticoat, or crinoline
  • Smooth petticoat
  • Full skirts or tiered skirt
  • Cape, jacket, or caplet
  • Bonnet, fur cap, or fur wrap
  • Scarf, gloves, muff, and ear warmers

Other extra items that we pulled included warm under layers for anyone who needed them and what we called “du-dads”. Du-dads were any trimmings or added pieces that we built from floral greenery, holly, or Christmas colored flowers. These would be tacked or pinned on to jacket lapels, bonnets, or tucked into pockets or hair.

Actors were to provide their own additional warm underlayers as needed and shoes. We gave recommendations on shoes to wear, but opted to let everyone decide their own comfort level depending on the weather of the day.

Photo Credit: Tyler Quinn

To manage the number of volunteers and all the pieces available, we set up time slots for those committed to participating to come to the costume shop to be measured and fitted. Since these were mostly friends of mine and some had done the event in the past, I kept the fittings quite casual.  After taking their measurements, I put on my director’s cap to interview the actors on what type of character they wanted to portray.  What were they doing?  Where were they going?  Are they with someone?  How old were they? 

I did this to help develop an ensemble of rich characters that the volunteers were excited about playing rather than just a crowd of people in fancy costumes.  This discussion then led to decisions about each individual costume.  Here are a couple of my favorite stories and as they developed into characters and costumes.

The Ragamuffin

Tyler Q.

Tyler Q. would be acting with the group, but would primarily be focused on taking photos of the event for our organization and the overall event. We discussed how we could incorporate his camera into the story and how that affected his character.  He perked up when I suggested a “ragamuffin look” where he would portray a street peddler taking photos of the passing people for coins. 

To develop the look, we started by giving him the rattiest looking top had available.  The hat was a dingy black with a rotten looking burgundy and tan band. This would be our color story. From there, we found him a pair of tan pants on the rougher side, a warm toned flannel button up, and wool vest.  All to be accented with mud and grit.  

Photo Credit: Tyler Quinn

Since he would be one of the few actors without a coat, I gave him extra layers to wear in addition to thermals he would need to bring.  

The Opera Trio

Wade, Joseph, & Alissa

Joseph was the first actor of this trio to come in. In discussing with him, he wanted to be “posh”. So, we started by finding a jacket that fit and flattered his frame from the tailcoats and overcoats we had pulled. The coat was very well tailored and hit correct proportions for the period. To give him a classy look, I paired the navy tailcoat with a deep blue bowtie and matching scarf. Finally, the look was finished with a grey hat with navy brim ribbon. Lastly, we added white with gold “du-dads”.

As Joseph was hanging up his completed look, our friend Wade arrived who wanted a similar “posh” look. The pair then decided that they would be going to the opera together. Here, we selected a complementary look for Wade with red accents at the hat brim, bow tie, cummerbund, and du-dads as well as a polished looking cashmere producer’s scarf.

Next up was Alissa who would be finish off the trio. To complement and continue with the story of the group going to the opera together, Alissa chose to focus her color story on the deep royal blues like Joseph and the two would be a pair. To achieve this, we added pops of blue to a grey ensemble with white accessories.

Her look consisted of a smaller hoop skirt and white petticoat to give the proper era shape. This was overlaid with a crisp white button up with high lace neck and a tiered, ruffled grey skirt that had been build for a previous show. Though the colors of the skirt creating an ombre effect are completely and utterly wrong for the period, the tiered ruffles made for the closest to true Dickensian ladies dress of the ensemble.

Finally, we gave her a thick wool cloak with detailed embroidery and faux fur bonnet that was constructed for a previous year. The only built item for the garment was a deep blue velvet waistband to be worn over the skirt waist band to further tie the color stories of the group together. The waistband was built simply with slide closures at the back which would be hidden by the cloak.

Thus concludes the opera trio! Or at least the design of the trio. Unfortunately, Wade fell ill the night of the event, and the trio became a duo. But they still looked great!

The Cabbie

Brian

In following with the beginnings of a storyline from our opera-goers, our next fitting fell into place based on one item: the hat.

We were extremely limited in the number of decent top hats at our disposal and were forced to supplement with bowler hats, deerstalkers, and newsboy caps. Brian came in when most of our top hats had been divvied up and the only remaining ones were not the right size. He opted for a newsboy cab and we decided he would be a cabbie.

From this inspiration, we gave him a sturdy looking warm wear overcoat paired with a rougher shirt and thick wool vest. Overall, he looked ready for work but clean and crisp, the type of sort the classier folks would hail a cab from. The coat needed a few minor adjustments from the fitting to bring it to period and be a good fit for Brian, but we were able to make these temporary fixes quick and dirty with catch stitches that would be later removed.

Photo Credit: Tyler Quinn

A Country Lass Visiting a Sister in the City

Madi W. and Makenzi W.

This garment once again began with a hat. Or in this case, a bonnet.

We were lacking in period appropriate bonnets for the ladies even more so than the top hat inventory for the lads. To combat this, we quickly made bonnets based on 19th century styles. Unfortunately, the nearest specialty fabric store was more than 4 hours away and we had no way to order buckram and the other necessary supplies to make these properly.

But, we did what we could with the supplies on hand and made our bonnets from cardboard, wire, duct-tape, and tacky glue. They were then finished off with polyester velvet, lace trim, and holly du-dads.

Madi’s look began when she asked to wear the green velvet bonnet I had recently finished. The bonnet lead us to a plaid green skirt in a matching hue. However, none of the capes or ladies cloaks we had on hand complemented the style or color pallet of the outfit. We opted to create one for her with a simple homespun plaid we had bought at our last 4-hour away shopping trip. It was then lined with a complementing tan fleece.

For her fitting, we were only able to drape the fabric around to show the color story and style with the other elements. Here, you can see a lace color that would also be repurposed from a different cloak to heighten the look since the blouse underneath was rather plain.

Here is a decent shot of the finished cloak with lace trim and bonnet with finished ribbon ties. Photo Credit: Tyler Quinn

As you might be able to tell from the photo, Madi was paired with her sister, Makenzi, for the event who was dressed in a more industrious coat. The two made quite a pair of sisters, looking to the visitors as though they were a country lass and city lady visiting on a holiday.

Photo Credit: Tyler Quinn

The New-Money

John H.

Returning to the themes of the opera go-ers, John came in ready and root-tooting to do an accent and create a persona. We found him a nice bowler hat that fit and began discussing characters to create. He seemed to like the idea of the folks going to the opera, but the pieces we were finding that he liked weren’t quite up to par with the posh look of the other three. After discussing with John, we leaned full into the idea that his persona was new money, trying to get a foot in the door of the likes of the opera trio.

To create this, we went over the top. We found a bedazzled gold vest that was built for a production of The Producers. It sparkled and glittered as he bounced around the fitting room, already creating a mock posh voice and accent. This was then paired with a larger than life bow tie and perfectly Christmas plaid scarf over sharp looking tails, coat, and tuxedo pants.

The Old Money Doweger

Kassie B.

Kassie was primarily focused on construction of garments and the alterations we had found along the way. But, as it was her third year participating in Victorian Christmas, we made a point to give her first pick of the pieces.

She started by selecting a beautiful full blue skirt with velvet embossing in a damask pattern. She then opted to overlay a white lace shirt with a full grey cape and caplet pair that she had worn the previous consecutive years. The two pieces together gave an “Old-Money” weight to the garment, and she was ready to roll with the concept. Since she was leading the construction team, we decided that she would build a new bonnet of matching blue velvet and lace trim based on design completed for Madi.

The completed bonnet with trimmings. Photo Credit: Tyler Quinn

The Bell of the Ball

Rey H.

Now, we come to my favorite skirt of the ensemble. The MASSIVE red satin gown that could be matched only with an equally massive hoop skirt.

When Rey came in for her fitting, she was actually talking about wanting to portray a newsboy or similar character. Then, we discovered that she had the exact measurements to fit the red satin gown that I had wanted to put on someone for 3 YEARS. I asked if she would be comfortable trying it, and she said she would try. We put the hoop skirt, tiered petticoat, and opulent skirt on over a simple white blouse with lace trimmings and dang, did it look perfect.

After pairing the ensemble with a matching satin trimmed wool cape and mid-construction fur bonnet, she felt amazing. Right before this photo was taken, she was swirling around the room in all the satin glory. It was right, even though it wasn’t what we’d set out to create.

Photo Credit: Tyler Quinn

The Designer

Sarah Jo

Nearly to the end of all the actors discussed above plus handfuls more not discussed in details, I simply started running out of steam. I had yet to pull an outfit for myself and we were quickly running out of garments to choose from, much less that were in my size.

I noted that at that point, our color story was strongly toward warm tones and reds with little contrasting blues or purples as would have been popular in Dickensian times. Fortunately, we had one remaining blue skirt that fit my waistline perfect. However, the skirt was not full enough to fit around the full crinoline I had constructed for the event over the summer. I considered creating a window dress similar to the bottom right woman in the illustration below:

Following this thought, I found a length of gold jacquard I had been gifted from my grandmother’s stash the previous holiday. The piece fit nicely to fill the gap in the fullness.

I paired this with a brown jacket and white & green accents for the scarf and du-dads. It was quick and dirty, but since I would need to construct the finished panel skirt, I needed all the time I could get.

To quickly make the panel, I cut a rectangle of fabric at the exact length of the blue overskirt and used the full width available. After finishing all edges, I gathered the top edge and tacked it to one side of the blue overskirt, slightly underneath. I tacked it at the waistband, hemline, and a handful of points along the side. The tacking method was also used on the opposite side except for at the waistband, to allow the skirt to be put on over the head. Here, I added snaps to the fashion side of the panel and wrong side of the blue overskirt at the waistband to create a closure that would give the appearance that the panel was a full underskirt.


And there it is folks, a period ensemble design almost entirely from stock, completed in about two weeks time. I am very proud of the work the team put in to bring the event and the stories together. From setting up fittings, to building bonnets, to hand tacking ribbons and holly to hat brims, ever detail came together to create the illusion of stepping into a fantasy realm of Christmas joy.

We skipped through town to our hearts content, we met with happy shoppers and gave them advice on the best place to find true Houghton delicacies, and we had a jolly good time with our terrible British accents. All in all, we made merry.

Merry Christmas!

Photo Credit: Tyler Quinn

The Goose Girl: Peasant Skirt

As discussed in my previous posts, the concept behind the Goose Girl garment is to have a coarser peasant look on the outside layers with more delicate layers hidden underneath.  This mirrors the story of The Goose Girl as she hides her royal identity while working in the Prince’s kingdom. With the delicately embroidered petticoat finished, I could start work on the coarse peasant skirt.

My original design concept had the skirt drafted in blue as is described in Shannon Hale’s rendition of the story.  In shopping for fabric, I stumbled upon a roll of coarse 100% linen home decor fabric on clearance at Joanns. However, it was goldenrod yellow rather than blue.  The material was too good of a deal to pass up on though, and it helped that the tone of the yellow perfectly complemented the fabric of the stay already constructed. 

In plotting the draft of the skirt, I planned to use similar dimensions as with the petticoat. Since it is home decor fabric, I was able to get 4 yards of material at 60” in width which gave me a bit more volume to work with.  Overall, in looking at paintings and fashion plates from my time period, I wanted more fullness in the back than the front.  I also wanted to mirror the flat center front, bound by pleats as I had achieved in the petticoat.  To do this, I used ⅔ (96”) of the original length as the back panel and ⅓ (48”) for the front. In hindsight, I could have kept it all as one piece and only had one seam at the back or side. Live and learn.

The length of the skirt was based on the length of the petticoat plus 4” for folding over the top for the pleating and 1” for the hem.  I planned to use the selvage on the hem line to save on a bit of finishing time.

The front and back panels were finished by cutting with pinking shears and then machine stitched together using heavy duty thread due to the weight of the fabric. I used polyester thread in a matching color and a large stitch length.  Both sides were stitched to 8” below the top to allow for closures. 

The 1” hem and top fold over were ironed to make stitching easier and felled with an extremely tiny prick stitch. I took advantage of the selvage on the hem so I would only have to fold it once and thus saved on excessive bulk.

I tried taking only one or two threads from the front fabric since my thread wasn’t an exact match and was visible if stitched through. Since the material was thick already, I did not use an extra bulk layer in the top fold over like was done for the petticoat. 

Then began the cartridge pleating process again.  I initially draped the skirt on Molly (my “me” sized mannequin) over the petticoat and pinned mock up pleats in place to get a general idea of the depth I would need for the pleats.  To do this, I pinned the skirt at the side seams, center front, and center back to the corresponding spots on Molly.  Then, each quarter is halved, pinned at the halfway point on Molly.  This process is repeated until there is little room left to pin.  

This gave me about ½” depths to my pleats for both the front and back.  This was different from the petticoat on the front since I had compensated for the 8” flat center front by reducing the panel width. This time, I got smart and made a template out of cardboard with my markings that I could use.  The template gives three parallel threads at ½” apart lengthwise and widthwise. 

I tried not to think too hard about the pleat depths and width beyond the mock up and template since I would be able to wiggle the width as necessary onto the final waistband. 

For the pleats, I followed the same method as with the petticoat using thick buttonhole thread in a matching color and stitch running stitches at my marks.  These were then pulled and temporarily tied together while I made my waist band 

For my waistband, I measured my natural waist while wearing the petticoat since the skirt would need to fit over the extra waistband layer.  I then added 3” to this length for finishing and overlap length.  Though I had stitched the skirt panels with two side openings, I changed my mind so there would be only one opening at the left side and an overlap to hide the closure.  

For my waistband, I use the vintage jacquard ribbon from Studio RicRak that I had been originally inspired by.  The waistband would eventually be hidden under the stay when worn, but it was a lovely touch and the yellow in the ribbon was an exact match to the skirt color!

Both ends of the ribbon were quickly whip stitched (“felled”) to finish.

I then marked the right side seam point with a red pin, and the beginning of the overlap portion with a blue pin. The finished pleated skirt panels were pinned to the ribbon about every three to five pleats.  The back section of pleating ended up being a bit too small, which was remedied by removing the temporary knots in the thread and releasing a bit of tension to expand the pleats to match the waistband. 

The pleats and flat front were whip stitched to the ribbon with the heavy duty thread and the extra left side opening was closed. To finish, a skirt slide and bar was added to the overlap, and hook & eyes were added at the top of the side closure and 2” down to keep the cartridge pleats next to the opening tight together when worn. 

This is where I started backtracking.  When put on Molly, the cartridge pleats looked too stiff and perfect. It looked almost Victorian.  I also wasn’t happy with the distinct line where the fold over ended due to the third row of stitches to make the pleats.  

Since my pleats were stitching in place on the waist band, I simply removed the three rows of pleat threads. It was a very subtle change to do this, but I felt the released volume gave a better shape outwards from the hips and rear rather than the tight pleats.  

Overall, I was very pleased with the look and how the length allows for the petticoat lace to peak out from under the hem, especially when in movement. 

The sheer bulk of the home decor linen did weigh down the garment a bit and I am considering adding a hip-roll to achieve the 17th century look I am designing for.  

Check back on the next posts to see where we go from here!

The Goose Girl: Petticoat

In following the concept of the Goose Girl’s story, the petticoat is a bit more regal and embellished than the rest of the garment.  In the original tale, the lady’s maid demands that the Princess hand over her dress while they are on the road together.  The maid then wears the Princess’ clothes and rides into the Prince’s city where she is announced as the Princess. But I doubt she would have demanded her petticoat.  This let me have a bit of fun with the garment and build on the motif of the Princess’ hidden identity under the coarser worker’s clothing.  

While researching the petticoat, I found little specifics that I would have to stick to for my 17th century style aside from the length being just to the ankle. So, I let myself run a little wild here. 

For choosing the fabrics, I wanted to incorporate one of the embroidered pieces I had sourced from vintage shops that were all too pastel for the stay. 

Fortunately, I found the absolute perfect piece at a garage sale in Bay View from Bandit Vintage. This linen tablecloth was hand embroidered with delicate pansies in yellow, orange, and green.  Total, the tablecloth measured 54”x 90”

I wanted as much volume as I could get into the petticoat and planned to use cartridge pleats to achieve the effect.  In order to make the most of the tablecloth, I decided to cut it in half lengthwise and add a strip of taffeta to the top and bottom for the full length (measuring from my natural waist to ankle bone + seam allowances + hem). 

Please enjoy my chicken-scratch plotting…

The cream taffeta was found on clearance at Joann’s, had a bit of sparkle to it, and more stretch than I realized.  The cream also contrasted the bleach white of the linen.  However, I had a massive pile of ribbon polyester lace from my grandmother that would create a lovely transition between the fabrics while hiding the seam lines. 

Here I have the linen, taffeta, and ribbon trim set out to check color and proportions of the cut strips of taffeta.

I had to get a bit creative with cutting the taffeta strips since the clearance fabric had an odd wrinkle through the middle and deep crease that would not come out with steam. Compensate, I adjusted my measurements for the strips so that the top strip would cut with the crease at the fold over line and the wrinkle was outside of the bottom strip.

I cut all my strips and finished the edge of the bottom layer taffeta with a zig-zag stitch. While doing and then stitching to the linen, I realized the stretch in the taffeta was causing it to gather slightly. Fortunately, the gathering actually made for a nice ruffle effect at the bottom tier.

However, I wouldn’t be able to finish any of the other edges of the taffeta in this way or I would have that ruffle effect everywhere. Instead, I used a French seam to encase the edges of the quickly fraying taffeta at the upper tier and side seams. The stretch of the taffeta is only in the width-wise direction, so I still had a bit of gathering occur at the top tier seam, but the sides had no puckering. The gathering would later be covered by lace trim, so I was not concerned.

The sides, as mentioned, were stitched together with a French seam and I left about 8” at the tops of both seams unstitched for the side openings. 

For the waistband, I cut two strips of the taffeta equaling half my waist measurement + 1” for ½” seams. I would be using side closures for the waistband as was typical of the period. I made a mock up to check the sizing and used twill tape attached at the top and bottom of the waist band for ties. I decided on a rather thick waist band (5″ wide)

The mockup went well. But as I fit tested it, the taffeta began to stretch. To combat this, I cut two strips of flannel equal to the length of the taffeta, minus the seam allowances, and only half the width since I would be folding the taffeta in half, encasing the flannel. 

The flannel was baste stitched inside the taffeta casing to hold it in place. I then pressed the folds with the iron on “synthetic” with a press cloth and steam to make for crisp lines to stitch along. The pressed fold over was hand stitched with a tiny slip stitch.  I then carefully machine stitched every ¼” along the width to give additional stability to the band. 

The stabilized waistband during the final fitting

Before attaching to the band, the skirt was prepped for pleating.  The flannel was used again at the top of the skirt to give additional bulk when making the pleats since the taffeta was so thin. The taffeta was folded over the flannel, ironed, and stitched like the waistband to finish the top edge.  

To prepare for the cartridge pleats, the wrong side of the fabric is marked with precise dots for where the running stitches will go.  For the front, I marked 2 parallel running stitches at ¼” and ¾” from the top and ⅜” apart. 

Once marked, a quick running stitch with strong buttonhole thread is used.  With long tails on either side, the pleats are pulled together.  I was honestly terrified of this process because of how precise it is but found it to be an incredibly satisfying experience! I want to put cartridge pleats on everything now.

Getting just the right amount of pleats to match the size of the waistband wasn’t nearly as satisfying.  I have to admit, it was quite a bit of guess and check on the front.  I had made my pleats too deep on the front, and didn’t have nearly enough to make the full length of the waistband.  Luckily, this worked out in my favor.  I cut the pleat threads at the exact middle of the panel and released enough pleats to make the full length of the waistband.  In the end, the front was pleated for 6” from either side while the center is flat, allowing for the stay to sit flush against the body. 

Learning from this, I used different measurements for my back panel: 3 parallel running stitches at ¼”, ¾”, and 1 ¼” from the top and ½” apart.   With the change, the length fit to the waistband much nicer.

The threads from the pleats were backstitched in place and then the skirt could be attached to the waistband.  To attach, the button thread was used again, and the pleats were whipstitched on.  I used two stitches for every pleat to ensure a solid hold. 

Originally, I finished the side seams of the waistband with cotton twill tape that would be tied around the body, overlapping front and back as was common of 17th century petticoats. But, I added dress hooks to the sides to make a tighter closure. 

Because of the ruffling effect with the taffeta discussed earlier, I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish the hem or the waistband on the machine. In finishing the hem, I steamed the fold in place so I would have a nice crisp line. I then killed two birds with one stone by felling the hem on the inside while taking small bites of the lace trim with the needle to attach to the front of the hem. 

Now, the fun embellishing could begin! 

1” ribbon lace trim was applied with a prick stitch at the two seams where the taffeta and linen were attached. At every stitch to the outside, one gold seed bead was strung.  From a distance, the beads give just a bit of sparkle.  Between the glint from the beads, the sparkle in the taffeta, the hand embroidery, and delicate lace, the petticoat was absolutely over the top lux. 

With the taffeta and linen being lightweight, the finished petticoat has lovely fullness at the pleats and float just at the ankle.  The final length was a bit long since my bottom tier of trim was 2” past the planned hem. This would need to be accounted for in the skirt construction.

The Goose Girl: Bodice Beginnings to Boning

In deciding on the Bavarian styling as my rooted inspiration and wanting to build a 17th century stay as the main structured garment, I couldn’t help but pull from those ever so darling drindls. (See The Goose Girl – Intro to get caught up on the inspiration story).

The colors, the embroidery, the trims. Ugh! To dye for!!

I’m most frequently inspired by the fabric I select and I knew I needed to select the right fabric for my stays first, with the drindl thought in mind. Usually, once I have my concept fabric, I’m and running! However, this fabric I struggled to find.

I initially thought of using some embroidered linen I had inherited from my grandmother to imitate the patterns typical to Bavaria, but it wasn’t quite right. So I began scouring Etsy and vintage shops for larger, more heavily embroidered pieces. I found a lot of pieces I loved, but none were heavily embroidered enough for the rich Bavarian colors I had in my mind. Anything I could find with enough embroidery was pastel, pastel, pastel. The pastel against the cream or white linen was pretty but didn’t quite match the Bavarian theme I had my heart set on.

No! There would be no pastel on this stay.

However, in perusing Studio Ric Rac, my local vintage shop, I found the PERFECT piece to inspire. A lovely dresser scarf embroidered with a swan on water and perfect little flowers. And! To top it off, the shop also had a length of vintage jacquard ribbon that complemented perfectly.

Yes, I know, it was swans, not a goose. However, in the novel by Shannon Hale that I was originally inspired by, the Princess learns to speak to the birds by speaking to swans.

Here was a lovely piece that could tie to the contrasting styles of her home and her secret identity against her new world of Bayern. It was perfect, but it was not enough and none of the other pieces I had gathered were the right shade or style to complement the swan.

So I was back to square one.

I thought Etsy would be my friend, but all the beautiful Bavarian embroidery I found was either too expensive for the project or so lovely I couldn’t bear needing to cut it up into pieces. I wanted to put unwanted embroidered pieces to a new use, but not at the expense of someone’s heirloom.

Then, destiny arrived. In the form of a costume shop overhaul sale.

The Racine Theatre Guild was holding a rummage sale after deep cleaning their costume stock and shop storage. There, I found the most beautiful cotton fabric, embossed with stripes of red velvet.

It was gorgeous, it was authentic, it was luxurious, and I could get 6 yards of it for $6 (way more than I needed, but extra is always amazing).

However….it was almost too vivid! I shouldn’t complain since that’s what I had spent essentially the entire summer looking for: vivid, Bavarian inspired, textured fabric. But it was just such a bright red.

So I decided to dye it.

Like what I did for distressing fabric in my Lost Labs of Dr. Z post, I prepped my dye pot and got to work. The major difference here was that I was doing a full dye rather than toning with color. This means I used the full strength quantity of Taupe dye I had on hand rather than the diluted version for distressing.

Its a good idea to always do a test piece and this was especially critical since I had prepped my dye for cotton (base fabric) but wasn’t sure how the embossed velvet would take the dye or react. I’m pleased to say, it dyed perfectly!

Before and after dying the main stay fabric

Now that I had my fabric, I could begin the process of patterning and stitching my structured bodice.

I decided to use Butterick Pattern B4254 since I had not made a stay or true corset before and wanted a bit of guidance initially. Since it was a commercial pattern, I selected the size that fit my measurements closest, which for me usually is between two or even three pattern sizes. I opted to start with the size that would match my bust measurements and adjust from there. Since my bust includes my rib cage, it would be the least “squishy” measurement and needed to be perfect without help of lacing to fit well.

The fitting process began with the first toulie, made from mock-up fabric of clearance outdoor fabric. The fabric is ugly as sin and has a terrible hand, but it is stiff and doesn’t stretch in any direction.

I marked all of my boning channels and began piecing it together, matching stitching lines precisely. I have a short torso and was nervous the stay wouldn’t accentuate my natural waist correctly or have odd bunching because of my hips, so the fitting process made me nervous. After piecing them together, I was able to do a first fitting without bones. A less than helpful experience. It was time to add mock up boning.

To save on time and budget, I stitched every other boning channel, used gross grained ribbon I had on hand, and 12″ zip ties to test the boning channels. I would not use the gross-grained ribbon in the final garment though since it stretches in the center and can fray easily. But it is a great cheap and fast method to test.

The initial toulie did it’s job and showed just how poor of a fit it was. I could tell that the back would not lace straight due to too much material at the bust and not nearly enough at the hips. This however, was actually a sorta easy fix in the pattern. I essentially needed to reduce the bust by 1″ and add 1″ at the hips.

I copied the back piece to paper, slashed it at the shoulder line along one of the existing boning channel lines, and pivoted it equal amounts closed along the bust line and open along the hip line.

Now, I made the second toulie and again added half of the bones. To save time, and my sanity, I reused the sides and front panels since no changes were made to these pieces.

Here, my fit issues were almost solved and I decided to move forward to the real deal. These are all the materials I would need for the final construction:

  • 1 1/2 yards Fashion fabric (red and tan striped cotton)
  • 1 1/2 yards heavyweight herringbone coutil
  • 1 1/2 yard lining fabric (yellow silk)
  • 15 yards 100% cotton twill tape
  • 15 yards synthetic whale bone
  • 24 metal eyelets
  • 8 yards double fold bias tape
  • linen thread

The first step was to cut out all of my pattern pieces from the coutil and dyed fabric. The strong coutil layer would prevent the other two semi-delicate layers (cotton fashion fabric, silk lining) from stretching. My plan was to baste the fashion fabric and coutil together, add the boning channels, and then flat line with the yellow silk.

After cutting, I was able to painstakingly mark all of my boning channels and stitching lines onto the coutil which would back the fashion fabric and be visible for channel sewing before adding the lining later. This was a process…

In marking the channels, I numbered them based on the order to stitch them. The order keeps the top of the channels open while closing the bottoms of many of the channels where they meet with other channels.

I had made a few additions and adjustments to the boning scheme of the original pattern from Butterick, mostly to the back panels, and with this I ended up with 56 boning channels. Since there are a few gaps between channel sections, this would be considered a half boned stay that was typical of the later portion of the 17th century.

This marked piece was then baste stitched to my dyed fashion fabric before completing all the seams. I stitched the seams as a generous 5/8″ since I would be attempting to use the seams for a few of my boning channels. This is a practice used a lot in Victorian style corsets which have more panels and thus more seams than my simple stay.

I wanted to press my seams open so badly, but would have to wait for that satisfying moment until I had my channels sewn. All of my markings were done with pens I have with which the ink vanishes with ironing. I love them, but they make sequencing difficult sometimes.

A decision I hadn’t anticipated needing to make was the thread color for the boning channels. Since my stitching would be visible on the outside, the color was a bit more critical than I had anticipated, especially since I was using a patterned fashion fabric. I pulled every thread I had on hand that was either a matching color to the pattern or complemented.

I then stitched straight lines on a scrap piece of the dyed material running both parallel and perpendicular to the lines of the pattern. This would allow me to see how the colors would either blend or pop against the base fabric and the red velvet embossing.

Of the five options I whittled down to, I was between burgundy and tan since they blended best. In the end, I opted for the tan since it matched the base fabric almost perfectly.

Now, I could start the tedious, though satisfying process of adding the channel casings. I opted to use 1/2″ 100% cotton twill tape rather than the two layer method since I had so many channels and it was easy to work with. I initially bought a few rolls from Hobby Lobby but kept running out and instead ordered some for quick delivery from Amazon (*gasp*, it was a tragedy to do and I feel dirty doing so, but I was on a roll and could get 1-day shipping). The original tape from Hobby Lobby was decent, though it had a bit more give than I would have liked. It was much better in comparison to the Amazon twill tape, which was strong but a bit thin and warped.

Please enjoy a satisfying time-lapse of stitching the boning channels (my apologies for the pajamas, but there are cats at the end!)

After completing the channels, I carefully cut my synthetic whalebone to length for each channel. Each length needed to be pressed into submission since they were wrapped tightly in shipping. To do this, I used an iron on high heat with medium steam and covered each piece with scrap coutil. The straightened pieces were then easily slipped into their channels and closed with prick stitches.

Keep reading on The Goose Girl Part 3: Bodice Finishings and Flare for the final steps in the stay construction:

  • Lining
  • Binding
  • Eyelets
  • Lacing

The Goose Girl: Intro

In my deep perusing of YouTube Costumers and historical stitchers (I love you beautiful humans so much btw), I came across a video by Bernadette Banner talking with Cathy Hay about the Peacock Dress. Which is an absolutely spectacular video to watch and learn from them. Beyond my awe of their incredible talent and lovely ramblings about the dress and skills to build it (check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMGyfkvY06g&ab_channel=BernadetteBanner), I dug deeper into Cathy’s channel and Foundations Revealed.

Foundations Revealed is a lovely website/blog/training hub for historical costumers and corsetiers alike. I have dabbled in corsets before, but nothing major and certainly nothing at this level of detail and exquisite taste. I dove into the website, reading any article I could about flossing, proper approach to fitting and a toile (fancy word for mock-up), and sourcing of supplies. This was the first I had heard of coutile in corset building and so much more. They host a contest every year for costumers to show off their work and this year’s theme is “Once Upon a Time,” focused on literature. I was immediately hooked by the theme since that is what I love to dream about. I then perused the previous year’s photos and winners.


My first thought? Holy hell, these are amazing!

My second thought? There is no way I could do any of that.

My third thought? Yes, yes I can do that.


So here we are folks, at the beginning of a blog and the beginning of a journey.

I decided that in starting down this path of publishing my journey in sewing, that this would be a phenomenal challenge to present myself with. As a born and raised fairy tale lover, there was no way I could pass up on the opportunity to design and build a structured garment all around a fairy tale character. Though the world was my oyster in term of literature subjects to chose from, I knew a fairy tale character was in my future.

In choosing my subject, I knew I wanted to do something close to heart, a childhood favorite perhaps, but also something that I could put my own spin on. I certainly knew I wanted to do something out of the ordinary or “off-brand” some might say. I initially pondered the classics:

Sleeping Beauty?

Favorite Disney movie of all childhood, but no, too common-place and overdone.

The Last Unicorn?

A bit too off-center, and not quite enough source material to work from.

Swan Princess?

Eh, again, overdone, and I simply wasn’t motivated by it.
Then, it hit me.

The Goose Girl.

Though I was never a big fan of the original Brothers Grimm tale, the fantasy retelling of the tale by Shannon Hale is a book I will forever credit with making me the reader I am. I absolutely devoured the book, and every other book she has written. I still to this day pull out my tattered copy or replay the Full Cast Audio version to listen to while driving. Its a captivating story of princesses, magic, love, and overcoming self doubt. I knew that this would be my inspiration, that I needed to pay homage to the character, story, and author I so adored in my reading foundations.

[“The Goose girl – A.L.Bowley”by sofi01 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0]


The story of the Goose Girl, for those of you who skipped this overlooked fairy tale, tells of a Princess who has her identity stolen by her chamber maid while on the road to wed a prince she had never met. In the original tale, the Princess swears not to tell of the treachery or the chamber maid will kill her. In her silence, she is given the task of being a goose girl. Here, the magic begins with a talking horse head and whistling winds. Then, all ends well when she is discovered by the king, her identity revealed, and the imposter thrown into a barrel of nails….ew

A quiet, somewhat odd tale, but lovely all the same.

In Shannon Hale’s rendition, the colors and characters are much more vivid. She paints a believable backdrop behind the classic tale all the while injecting it with treachery, passion, and character growth that has you invested as much in the individual characters as the overall story. She also provides a plausible magic system that answers so many questions left by the Grimm tale.

A blend of these two sources of literature were the foundation of my inspiration for the contest. I would build the outfit that Princess Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee would wear while hiding as the Goose Girl named Isi.

I knew I wanted to do something structured, since this was for Foundations Revealed, but also flowing since Shannon Hale describes the clothing within the book as “gowns” and “tunics”. I first brainstormed the time period the story felt right in for my imagination of the tale. I settled on the silhouette of the 17th century stay rather than the traditional Victorian corset. This was a time I felt I could root the story I had envisioned in my mind while reading the novel and the classic tale. Here is where I diverged from Shannon Hale’s inspiration. Since the novel mentions tunics often, one can interpret the time period as more set in medieval or somewhere between 13-15th centuries. This did not give the silhouette I instantly associated and knew I wanted to challenge myself to build.

So, I will take this moment to apologize to Shannon in diverting from the time period, but I just had to do it.

After a quick sketch of the design silhouette, I began to think about colors and materials. Here, I felt I could give more justice to the novel as a source material.

In the novel, Isi is a goose girl in the kingdom of Bayern which Shannon describes as much larger, louder, and overall more vivid than her home of Kildenree. She is described, while as a goose girl, as wearing a borrowed bright yellow tunic and blue skirt from a woman who helps her on her flight from the forest when she is pursued by the traitors. This was in sharp contrast to the soft green dress and other pastels she had been wearing while in Kildenree and later in the book when she returns to her princess attire. This was my initial color story when I drafted the design.

I had my silhouette. I had my colors. But it still felt flat.

I decided to back track and think deeper about the world of Bayern in which Shannon sets the tale. I wanted to tie the world in my mind to something tangible. The answer came when I stubbled upon a picture of the most quintessential Bavarian town, Rothenburg ob der Tauber. It had the vivid colors of blue, green, yellow, rust, and brown that just screamed Bayern. I could instantly envision Isi here passing under the arches with her flock of geese. I wanted to embody this world into my design. Moreover, I wanted to be in this world.


I initially stumbled upon the town while reminiscing over the gorgeous landscapes of southern Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Luxemburg: Bavaria. A bucket list place I have always wanted to visit. The gorgeous views, the castles, the colors, the culture, the history. I have family ancestry in this region, but moreover simply wanted to visit this world of fantasy.

Last fall, my mother and I decided we would go on a European tour together after I graduated to celebrate being done with college (finally) as well as entering adult life. We chose an amazing trip through the heart of Bavaria where we would experience it all, including an exclusive tour of Neuschwanstein Castle (*drool*).

Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

We booked the trip, got our passports reissued, I learned basic German, and we were all set to go.

Then, the world stopped.

Our trip was set for the last weeks of March 2020. We cancelled the trip as everything came to a screeching halt amidst the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

I know that I shouldn’t complain because there are people who have gone through it all during these insane times. But I would be lying to say that it hurt more than I can explain to have the trip ripped away weeks before we were set to take off. The daydreams of hiking in the Black Forest, exploring castles, and traveling the Romantic Road do not leave me.

Being in quarantine in the summer of 2020 when I stumbled upon the contest, it struck me as the perfect way to distract myself. This project would be the perfect way to grow and be inspired by all that had happened.

Now, I had the inspiration, a time period, a fantasy location, a silhouette, a color story, and a clear vision. Next, it was time to gather materials and pattern draft.

Check out the next parts to see the design come together!

The Goose Girl: Intro

The Goose Girl: Bodice Beginnings to Boning

The Goose Girl: Petticoat

The Goose Girl: Peasant Skirt

The Goose Girl: Bodice Finishings to Flare

The Goose Girl: Shift, Chemise, Smock….thing

The Goose Girl: Scarves and Aprons

The Goose Girl: Finally Finished