18th Century gorgeous-ness.

So, a few years ago when I was about half way through my Costume Degree I decided to take a trip across the UK and visit as many Costume Collections as I could. Some eluded me because of refurbishments and opening times mainly however; it took about a month but I saw some amazing things, met some wonderful people and thought I would slowly start to share some of the amazing pictures I collected along the way with you.



1700-20 Waistcoat – Fine linen top and coarse linen underneath, quilted all over with cream 20 ply silk in back stitch. Design of small feathers and ‘rose window’ marguerites threaded with twisted sheep’s wool. Ground of small lozenges. Fronts curve away – slashed at sides and centre back. Sleeveless. 9 eyelets over sewn for front  [Stomacher is missing] lacing.

The first is this simply stunning Waistcoat, still my favourite piece from any collection I have seen (and I’ve seen many around the World!) however; I hadn’t noticed its awe inspiring beauty until the Curator, Althea Mackenzie, lifted the piece and the cold blue light of the mid-morning sun illuminated the expert craftsmanship.

waistcoat2 waistcoat3

We had been gazing at Quilted Petticoats from the late 1700’s at the Wade Collection for some hours, and this piece was just one in many but it still resonates with me. I have long been a fan of Quilting as a decorative form- having been taught to sew through Patchwork and Quilting- and this is the finest example of that I have ever had the pleasure to be in the presence of. A Ladies waistcoat, dated 1710, with subtle flaring and two slits at the back to allow for the fullness of the skirt, this is just longer than hip length and the curve at the front would have also slightly flared out over the skirts. Gorgeous.

Similar to a Gentlemans waistcoat I have cut of the same period, I long to re-create it for myself! It is exquisitely quilted, with hand worked eyelets and genuinely has to be one of the most beautiful pieces I have ever seen in my life. They really could make fabric do things I think we have now forgotten- the neckline would have gently but oh so slightly turned back on itself when wearing, as would have the bottom hem line under the lacing. The combination of Quilting and Backstitch also interests me, and I think contributes to the Embroidered feel. Lovely. There are more Quilted Waistcoats out there, Killerton holds a particularly stunning one which has a slight contrast colour in the stitching.

I have a storage box stuffed full of similar images, and I shall start to sift through them and share the unusual (burnt and blackened Corsets found in a Chimney and Thatch, which was a slight trend amongst the Victorians’!), the beautiful (some hand painted silk with the stencil still showing) and more. I shan’t follow a time line, but pick and choose as I please!

I do hope you find this as lovely as I do… any collections suggestions? I shall be travelling across Europe later this year and would love suggestions any where!

Happy stitching!

Notions: Pretty Lace Edge

lace edging 1 NEW

To achieve this pretty Lace edge detailing- ideal for Slips, Pyjamas, Lingerie or Skirts- first decide upon the Lace & measure the garment to ascertain the length needed. There are some beautiful, & colourful, Lace edgings out there & it doesn’t have to cost the earth.

Next, fold the wrong side of the material over to the right side, to form a narrow hem. Then fold the hem back again to the wrong side.

This should have formed two folded edges on the material as in the above illustration.

Sew the Lace edging to these folded edges with small overhand stitches however; be sure not to use this type of French Hem on a curved edge. This is due to the straight grain of the lace, which wont curve.

To machine stitch this edging, make the 2nd fold in the fabric at least 1cm deep. Tuck the lace in to the fold as deep as possible. Top stitch the folded edge of the material with the machine with care to sew beautifully straight.

Happy stitching!

Wordless Wednesday

From La Belle Epoque: Edwardian Fashion 1900-1914, the ‘Beautiful Era’ of Edwardian fashion currently running at Peterborough Museum until 6th May 2013.

Happy stitching!

Some interesting things to peruse. . .

Some of the following blogs I have only recently discovered, others I have been following for years. All of them do what they do incredibly well & I have come to use them as reliable resources when designing for film & theatre over the past few years.

Bridges on the Body

Bridges on the Body

This is a wonderful blog full or humour and insight. Challenged to make every pattern in Norah Waughs Corsets &  Crinolines, & no stranger to these patterns myself having made most in the book,  I’d say she is doing a good job so far. There are construction notes, cleaning notes, tutorials from a range of sources & some very good close up images of these corsets being put together.Well worth a look if you are attempting any of these patterns yourself as the book itself gives little or no guidance in to construction techniques.

 The Ornamented Being

A great resource for all things fashion history in the world. Using museum, personal, film & book resources Ornamented Being posts relentlessly about fashion, fabric, jewellery & her passion leaps from the screen. If I am seeking inspiration, this is where I head! Find her also at The Mended Soul her ‘virtual atelier’.

Past A La Mode: A Historical Fashion Site

A recent discovery in my never ending hunt for good fashion plates, this blog has many. Past A La Mode posts on any period in history with an emphasis on Victorian to 1940s & there really are some gorgeous illustrations and fashion plates/photographic plates included.


Maeder Made

Documenting an exhibition from Edward Maeder in residence as a ‘pop up phenomenon’ in Mt. Airy, USA. I would encourage a look as most of his work re-creating historical costumes, is constructed from paper using his vast knowledge as museum curator, artist and ‘needleman’.

Please click on the pictures, or site names, for links to the original sites. I think you will agree they are a treasure trove of delights!

Happy stitching!

Notions: The Language of Patterns.

No doubt the sketch of the design on the front of the envelope will catch your eye first.

From McCall’s Sewing in Colour

McCALLS Understanding Patterns 1   McCALLS Understanding Patterns 2

A beginning seamstress may feel Einstein’s theories are as easy to understand as the intricacies of a first pattern. Here is a place where first steps should be taken slowly […] &, whether you are a beginner or an experienced home-sewer, every pattern should be carefully studied before you lay out your pattern & start to cut.

A pattern […], not only gives complete instructions for constructing the garment, but also suggests the proper fabrics to use & provides basic information on preparing fabric, adjusting the pattern, cutting, marking & sewing techniques.

No doubt the sketch of the design on the front of the envelope will catch your eye first. On the back of the pattern envelope there is quite a bit of information to digest. Beginners may wish to avoid certain design features such as gussets, long button front closings, complicated collars & intricate darting. These features may not be clearly shown in the sketch, but will be noted in the description. Use this information to judge whether the construction of the garment is within your level of skill.

From McCall’s Sewing in Colour

Other useful information detailed on the Pattern Envelope is a section on Suggested Fabrics. Here the manufacturer has listed what fabrics would best suit the pattern such as light weight cottons for dresses & shirts or heavier weight fabrics for jackets. It is incredibly important to follow these guidelines as they will have taken into account things like the drape &  fall of the fabric to best suit the design & silhouette of the pattern. If you do decide to use a different fabric you may create a silhouette which is entirely different from the one intended.

Once you have decided upon your size using the measurements you have taken, you can use the Yardage Chart to buy the right amount of fabric for your design. By reading down the column from your size, & across from the widths of fabric listed, the exact yardage/meter-age needed is listed. I always tend to buy a little more to be on the safe side. This enables me to make things a little longer if needed. When interfacings or linings are required the amounts will also be listed according to your size.

There will also be a section for Notions. A strange word, I’ll grant you! Notions covers any Buttons, Hook & Eyes, Zipper, Ribbons or Ties, & any other items you may need to complete your design.

You will save time by buying everything at one time, & it’s easier to match colour of thread, zipper, buttons & trims if they are all purchased at once. Be sure to buy all the notions listed. It’s frustrating to have to interrupt  a sewing session just to run out & pick up a forgotten item

From McCall’s Sewing in Colour

Don’t you just love these Vintage sewing books for their pithy & helpful yet slightly rude advise? Brilliant, & so very much more to come!!

Also, check out our publication Understanding Vintage and Modern Patterns, available now on Etsy!

Happy stitching!

Birthday sparkles!!

It is my birthday today!!

My gorgeous Fella has made Laura After Midnight all official & purchased my domain name… so now Laura After Midnight is a ‘dot com’!! I feel a little bit grown up!!

In other news, I have added a Custom Spats listing to my Etsy store… this means anyone can purchase any spats they like by buying this option & messaging me with their requests. How fancy is that?! I shall be adding more as necessary so remember to check back with my Etsy store… click the picture for the link!



With that I am off to make a lovely cup of Earl Grey tea & eat far too much cake!

Happy stitching!!

Strictly (Victorian) Ballroom!

I have just finished the Victorian Ball Gown commission, in a flurry of last minute details as always! We changed a few things from the original illustration, mainly due to time constraints however; I love the final garment!

The skirt, the pattern for which was from Truly Victorian– which my client had already purchased otherwise I would have been drafting one from The Cut of Women’s Clothes by Norah Waugh- went together like a dream! It took about two hours to cut out because it has about six meters of fabric in it which I would caution anyone making something like this about… you need space! It sewed up in only a couple of hours though which is amazing to me as I am used to taking a lot longer to not only figure out what the pattern is asking me to do (historical & ‘hand made’ patterns not always having the clearest of instructions), but also to maneuver that amount of fabric through my sewing machine! Thank the stars for industrial machines!!

The corset was drafted from a pattern I already had made up from Corsets and Crinolines by Norah Waugh. This book was a revelation to me, & I use it constantly for both reference & drafting corsets of all styles. If you haven’t come across it already here is the blurb from the jacket:

Corsets & Crinolines is a study of the changing shapes of women’s dress & how these were produced, how simple laced bodices became corsets of cane, whale-bone & steel, while padding at shoulders & hips gave way to the structures of farthingales, hoops & bustles. Added are contemporary tailors & dressmakers accounts, illustrations, index, a glossary of terms & materials, appendices on the repair & manufacture of corsets and crinolines.

Obviously some changes have to be made when drafting from the book to fit both the modern body & different body shapes & sizes however; once done nothing compares to the 1880’s corset I use from this book. The pattern is below, & I simplify it slightly for the modern form making the curves a little less severe, straightening the front top line out & shortening it slightly so as not to dig in to the wearers hips. My client didn’t want a busk, which was the biggest change from the original  & makes the curves less obvious. The fit was perfect, & the graceful curves of the corset really accentuated her curves.

We layered the fabrics for the corset, to create an interesting texture & look. Using Coutil, of course, for the base fabric, a modern crinkle Taffeta overlayed with an interesting ‘watered’ look Net. Obviously this made the sewing up more difficult but I am more than happy with the results.

Some hints when making a multi-layered corset: baste the layers together by hand once they are cut out, & write the piece name in white fabric pencil on the back at the top of each piece- I do this with every corset because the pieces are incredibly easy to confuse & I hate, just hate, to unpick things!

Probably most of the work was done in decoration & finishing details. We added lace sections to the bottom edge of the corset, for a more decorate flossing detail, a net ruffle to the top & strings of beads. To the skirt we added a bias cut band of black velvet & meters of lace trim, instead of the original, more complicated design along the hem. I think this look is simply stunning, & I shall definitely be using it again!!

It really was a truly satisfying commission, & I now have a few more booked for the following months which is a dream. I look forward to sharing them with you.

Happy stitching!

Well, if I’d known it was this easy…

… I probably wouldn’t have needed to gain a Degree in Costume Design!

From eHow:

How to Make a Victorian Costume

Written by Melissa J. Bell

The Victorian fashion era, which includes the years between 1837 and 1901, is largely characterized by a move toward modernized sewing and dyeing techniques, and a move away from the rounded skirts of previous years. Although there was plenty of variation in style during this period, ranging from full bustled skirts to fitted sheath gowns, the most popular Victorian costumes today are the soft-bustled and straight-skirted gowns of the late Victorian period. Consisting of a separate skirt and bodice worn over a vast array of structured undergarments, the costume can be fairly complex to construct.

Skill level: Moderate


Things you need:
Sewing equipment and supplies White cotton fabric Corset outer fabric Coutil fabric Corset boning Grommets Grommet punch Gown fabric Bodice lining fabric Skirt lining fabric
  • Create a Victorian chemise out of white cotton by either following one of the patterns in the Resources below or drafting your own pattern. To make your own pattern, cut a rectangle of fabric that is your own width and would reach your knees. Take a spare T-shirt, fold back the sleeves and lay it on top of the rectangle to copy the armhole curve and shoulder seam. Curve the neckline, then cut an exact copy of your rectangle. Stitch the two together at the sides and add sleeves, then gather the top neckline. This chemise is worn under all other layers.

  • Create pantaloons out of white cotton, using a pre-made pattern or drafting your own from an existing pair of non-stretch sweatpants. Simply cut the sweatpants to the knee and take them apart at the seams to use as patterns. Stitch the pantaloons together in the same way the sweatpants were made, but run a drawstring through the waistband instead of elastic. If you want to be truly historically accurate, leave a large section of the crotch seam open. Wear the pantaloons over the chemise.

  • Make a corset, using a commercial pattern like the Laughing Moon Silverado linked in the Resources below. Corsets are difficult to construct the first time without a detailed pattern, though you can find public domain corset panel designs online to use as pattern pieces. To construct the corset, cut the panels in three layers: outer fabric, coutil and cotton. Baste the outer layer of fabric to the cotton, then stitch the front and back pieces to their lining, and insert the busk and grommets. Stitch the side panels together and attach the lining, then stitch the boning channels and insert the boning. Bind the top and bottom edges, and lace up the back.

  • Make a petticoat from a pattern or by cutting two wide rectangles of fabric and stitching them together, then gathering the top and attaching it to a drawstring waistband. The petticoat is worn over the corset.

    Create a Victorian skirt from the pattern of your choice, or make a simple circle skirt out of five pie-shaped sections of fabric. Clip the top of each piece straight, so that they match up to your waistband measurement. The waistband should rest at the natural waist, so make sure to take that into consideration for your skirt length measurements. Stitch the skirt panels together at the sides, leaving an open placket at the upper back seam, then sew the panels to the waistband. Fasten the waistband at the back with a hook and eye closure.

    Make a bodice that matches your skirt using your choice of pattern, or draft your own bodice using a plain, fitted non-stretch T-shirt. Put the T-shirt on your body and cut the neckline to your liking, then trim the bottom into a pointed curve like in your reference pictures. Cut the sleeves off completely, then mark the center front and center back with a fabric pencil or marker. Also mark the center of the sides, and a line at the center of each bust point. Take the shirt off and cut along these lines, then cut the shoulder seam open. Use the T-shirt pieces as pattern pieces, adding seam allowances, and sew together the bodice like you did the corset. Use buttons at the back instead of laces.

    I do find eHow rather amusing, don’t you?

    Just for reference, I would say the ‘skill level’ isn’t moderate! It’s most definitely advanced! If you are attempting your first Victorian outfit the best thing to do is to buy one of the miraculous Simplicity patterns, lots & lots of cheap-ish fabric & just get stuck in. Ask me any questions you may have, or any of the other excellent Bloggers out there. Do not worry too much about being historically accurate on your first attempt, that can come later when  you have mastered the ‘ready-to-wear’ patterns & are ready for more of a challenge. When that day comes there are an enormous amount of resources like Norah Waughs brilliant books, but these I’ll save for another post!


    Good luck to those of you new to this, I hope you have the sense to laugh at the above exceedingly unhelpful advice from eHow, & the good sense to tackle your dreams & not be daunted!

    Happy stitching!

    A bold new Bolero.

    As I am sure I have mentioned my Midnight Sewers Class, meeting every Monday evening, is tackling Bustle Skirts. I have purchased a pattern (which is most unlike me, as I normally like to cut my own patterns), because I thought we could fell two birds & take in a bit of pattern reading too.

    We chose Simplicity 1819, which houses a wonderfully useful collection of patterns & whilst I am going to chart our progress in future posts for now I’d like to show you my new project.

    Amongst the various patterns, including two bustle skirt styles, a stretch vest & a corset, are two styles of Bolero jacket & it is to these I am finding myself drawn. I’ve noticed over the last few months that I have been discovering more & more pictures of Bolero’s both extant & modern, & I find them just delightful. I had been meaning to draft my own pattern but for now I am going to use this one as it really looks quite delightful.

    It is towards the decoration of the extant Boleros’ I am consistently drawn to, & I love the simplicity of this pattern because it is really going to form a platform for my decoration.

    I have chosen a stunning Gunmetal Grey Velvet to make the Bolero in, with a pale pink cotton lining printed with white doves, matched with pale pink lining for the rest. I will be decorating the outer with black binding and hopefully lace using the following pictures as inspiration.

    I want to have it display a modern twist, as well as firmly be recognisable as a Victorian inspired piece. Hepefully the two tone lining will help! I am looking forward to starting.

    Happy Stitching!

    New poster!

    I’m going to paint the town red with them!

    About a week ago I had to brush up on my long dormant Photoshop skills. Truth be told, I hadn’t used Photoshop in about a decade… was it even Photoshop back then?! & I just fell in love with it. So much so that I have finally gotten around to designing myself some, if I say so myself, awesome fliers, a poster & business card.

    They all feature my delightfully naive illustration style (naive, not rushed… it’s all in the marketing!), & in designing these I had to set myself the task of working with Black & white only as I do not yet have the resources to print colour fliers however; I think they sum up Laura After Midnight really rather well. I’m still tweaking the wording but I’m really happy with them.

    I’m going to start placing them tomorrow, wish me luck!

    Happy stitching!