Pattern Review: TV 447 1863 Sheer Dress

I have been sitting on this pattern for several years, all while sweltering in the summer heat. I purchased my fabric easily three years ago and have been wanting a sheer dress for probably five years. Summer in multiple layers of clothing is definitely more warm than it has to be! So, this past spring, I finally decided to just do it! I have researched various patterns available on the market, including some Big Three patterns, Peachtree Mercantile, and others, but I know that Truly Victorian makes beautiful, accurate, and easy to follow patterns, which is why I settled on this one.

Truly Victorian TV447 1863 Sheer Dress

Truly Victorian TV447 1863 Sheer Dress

I chose a lovely sheer cotton in blue and white stripes that I found on clearance at a chain store. I know of more than one person who has made a sheer of this fabric. Hopefully we won’t all be at the same event together!

Pretty pretty

Pretty pretty

The fabric is 54″ wide, but since at the time I didn’t know what pattern I would be using I purchased 10 yards. Lucky for me, this overestimation was a good one. The sleeves on this dress are full and wide, plus since my fabric was directional, I was able to cut the stripes going from shoulder to wrist. Anyway, before any of that, I calculated my measurements and pattern size following the instructions on the pattern. The thing about the TV patterns is they allow you to custom fit your garment before you even start sewing. And once you do that, you can easily make up a muslin for a better idea on fit.

Dark image of my muslin

Dark image of my muslin

Sorry this is not better quality, but almost all the mirrors in my house that are big enough are impacted by light diffusion. What I learned here is that the waist of the under bodice was a little too full but the bust was a pretty good fit. So I took in the darts a bit and retested it. I did not do this all by myself, by the way. I submitted my questions to the Civilian Civil War Closet group on Facebook for hints and help – there are clothing historians, professional seamstresses and experienced clothiers there who are willing to help for free. I just couldn’t overlook that knowledge base. I also asked my friend Shelley Peters for real world tips as she has made this pattern a lot. Had I needed it, the amazing Heather McNaughten at Truly Victorian would have helped too. As an aside, this just confirms for me that this community really wants its members to succeed!

Anyway, after the changes to the muslin, I traced that as my new under bodice pattern piece and went forth to sew! This is the first time I have made my own bias and bias piping, which was used on the neckline facing and armscyes. I found the instructions sufficient, but had used better instructions on a Simplicity costume pattern and did that instead. They just made a bit more sense to my thinking, the result is the same.

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Piped facing to finish the raw edges of the under bodice.

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Piped armscye

The construction of the garment is for the most part very easy. I found the TV method of inserting the sleeve into the armscye backwards to what I am used to so I just adapted and made notes on the pattern.

Hand buttonholes

Hand buttonholes

I sewed this in a combination of machine and hand sewing. My fabric was so very delicate that even though I have a high quality machine, it sometimes would bunch up in the feed dogs. I wound up hand sewing much of the finishing stitching, such as on the piped facings, and also hand sewed all the button holes. My reasoning here was twofold – I wanted historically accurate buttonholes and since the fabric was so delicate it was impossible for me to machine sew them to the standard I desired. I used silk thread for the buttonholes. The buttons are vintage shell buttons, much higher quality than the cheap flaked mother of pearl available these days. They were purchased through Farmhouse Fabrics.

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Sleeve band

For visual interest I cut the sleeve band on the bias. Maybe there is a chance of this stretching over time, but the band is so generous around the wrist that I don’t expect that to happen.

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Finished bodice

At this point, I went back to the Civilian Civil War Closet for help. The pattern does not include a collar pattern. I don’t care for my look without a collar, so I googled for tutorials. The best suggested laying the pattern pieces for the bodice front and back together as though they were sewn, then tracing the curve from center front to center back, next extending that to a simple collar width. I did that, but found mine to be fluttery and off. The amazing Liz Clark of the Sewing Academy helped me immensely with tips on how to correct this and redraft the collar. I’m delighted to say that I was successful!

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Finished collar

I added the fine tatted lace which I purchased at Farmhouse Fabrics.

Next, waistband finishing. Since my fabric is 54″ wide, I didn’t want to cut it down to  four 40″ panels to follow the TV skirt instructions. I retained the selvages as was done in historical garments, and used three panels instead of four. The skirt has a very deep pocket at the center left where the skirt pieces overlap with the waistband. Each panel was cut to the same length, but since your skirt front and skirt back are different lengths, there has to be a way to do this without cutting your fabric. Again, drawing on the Closet knowledge, I did as was suggested and folded over the waist edge of the fabric. This gave added stability to the fabric as well as achieving the lengths needed. The pattern instructions have you cut your fabric at the waist to the desired angle which will give you your length. I don’t recommend that on a sheer just because of the off chance of it tearing.

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Waist inside

You can see in this very amateurly photoshopped picture the angle of the folded-over fabric. This is center back where the skirt is a bit longer than in the front.

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Double box pleats

For the skirt attachment, the pattern gives you liberty to choose your preferred pleating or gathering method. Here I am showing you the double box pleats I used to pleat the skirt onto the waistband. Originally I had knife pleated the front and cartridge pleated the back, but I didn’t get enough fabric taken up in the front. So I went to the double box pleats in front and cartridge pleats in back. I’m quite happy with this look as it’s smooth and polished.

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Yes that hem is hand stitched

I wanted to make sure that the hem folded straight up so the lines didn’t go off kilter, so I ended up hand sewing the hem. I used a single thread and every fourth stitch went through all layers. Every 8th stitch was taken twice to keep the thread from coming undone if it were to break for any reason. If you kept up with my thinking on the skirt width, you will realize that’s a 178″ hem. It took me a couple hours to do it.

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Picture taken by an 8 year old

This is the finished dress, although it’s not the best picture of me lol. I’m looking down toward my daughter haha. Also, I realize that I must not have been laced as tightly in my corset as usual because I couldn’t fasten the waistband correctly. I wasn’t going to mess with it today and I’m certainly not taking the dress apart, so I’ll have to lace better next time.

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Side image

Here you can see the under sleeve just below my shoulder. This makes the dress very cool and airy. I had considered adding a silk stripe down the sleeve for interest, but I decided against it as it might weigh down the fabric. I may make a belt, as the silk I have is the exact color of the darkest stripe in the fabric.

You can also see the shadow of my petticoat under the skirt. I have an eyelet petticoat with two large pleats in it. This isn’t an historically accurate petticoat and someday I will make a plain cotton one, but for now this is quite pretty.

Overall I am thrilled with the result of the Truly Victorian TV447 Sheer Dress pattern. The instructions were easy, but true to the sewing techniques available to our ancestresses. It is not a pattern for a beginner, certainly, but if you have some knowledge of sewing, you can make this pattern truly customized to your preferences. If at times the instructions don’t make sense, just take them one sentence at a time. My mother told me when in doubt just do what the instructions say. These patterns will not take you down the wrong path, trust them and you will get something incredibly beautiful. And of course, email them, ask your friends who have made the pattern, or google for help. Truly Victorian patterns are very popular due to them being among the best on the market today, so lots of people make them! I am eager to wear this dress to one of our hottest events coming up soon, Huntington Beach Civil War Days.

Links & Resources

Truly Victorian

Farmhouse Fabrics

Civilian Civil War Closet

Sewing Academy

Huntington Beach Civil War Days

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Pattern review: Simplicity 2569 Princess Dress

Melody asked me to make her a purple princess dress for her birthday, since we are having a princess themed birthday party for her upcoming 6th birthday. We looked at different pictures, I assessed just how crazy this might be, and went over to Joanne’s to buy fabric.

Princess dresses galore

Princess dresses galore

Melody selected view A, which is the blue one shown above. The pattern calls for many yards of tulle and satin, plus some tissue lame for the inset and sleeve puffs, and a little trim. Right out of the gate I ran into difficulties, because Joanne’s had two completely different lavenders – one a pink lavender and one a blue lavender. After much deliberation (no joke, easily 30 minutes) I decided on the blue lavender. It just has a more of a true lavender look to me, besides the fact that Melody already has a Rapunzel dress that is in a more pink lavender. Next, I was thinking of using an embellished chiffon in the collection in place of the top layer of tulle, but Joanne’s had exactly 1/2 yard too little.

Once that obstacle was overcome, the cutter discovered that they had exactly 1/2 yard too little of the coordinating lining fabric.

Say what, Joanne?

Say what, Joanne?

Anyway, I’m flexible, made some adjustments then went home to get this project started. I had selected an iridescent sheer instead of the tissue lame because they didn’t have a silver lame, only gold and it didn’t look good with the lavender. Let me just say, I am pleased with the results but I really regret that fabric. It was very slippery. I backed it with white satin, flatlined them and treated them as one piece. The pattern has you apply this triangle shaped piece to the bodice front in the first step, fine. But upon reading through the pattern, they have you glue the trim on at the end. That didn’t work for me because I know my daughter. That trim would be ripped off within the first day. Here’s my second regret about this dress. I picked out a really pretty sequined trim that matched the fabric perfectly; it was sold by the spool so I couldn’t open it in the store. It was elasticized! And the sequins are made from something stronger than titanium because I broke three – yes three – needles stitching it on. Now I understand that Simplicity wanted the trim to lay on top of the seam because after sewing, turning and finishing the bodice I can see that part of the trim tucks inside and it’s not a “perfect” look. However, if you use something that doesn’t have sequins, why in the world would you not sew it on? A regular ribbon or floral trim is going to be just fine stitched inside the seam and it will be a much more finished look. So there.

The rest of the dress was so easy! The puffed sleeve is a two-part sleeve, meaning you cut a small piece out of the tissue lame (or slippery annoying iridescent stuff, in my case) and apply it to a regular sleeve piece. The gathering of the fabric gives you the puff and it is really very easy. The skirt is two layers of tulle plus an underskirt. My only thought is that you really want to use fine tulle here because a rougher one might be a bit scratchy on the inside. Also, the waist is finished by turning the seams toward the bodice and top stitching. With the horrid titanium sequins I had going on, I did not top stitch that section.

I found the directions for the back opening a tiny bit confusing. They have you extend and press back 1/2″ of the tulle on the center back, but it is unclear as to exactly where it is to be placed. Looking back, I can see now it was supposed to have been folded back and placed along the zipper placement line, not the raw edge. This would allow for there to be a gap in the tulle allowing the zipper to pass through nicely and the stitching to be neat and tidy. While you won’t be able to find it on this dress, I had to do some fancy zipper foot work to make that spot work.

With those two minor criticisms, however, I’d say this is a nice pattern. It’s not a beginner pattern, but certainly not an expert level either.

But, what do you think? It fits well and I made it large so she can wear it for more than a minute. I haven’t made the hat.

Ta dah!

Ta dah!

I’m considering going back and making one of cotton for a certain little girl who’s birthday is in July.

UPDATE: I went back and made the hat. It took about 30 minutes from start to finish, and darn if I didn’t find some regular purple ric-rac that I could have used on the dress instead of the sequins! Anyway, here are my thoughts on the hat. The instructions have you apply fusible interfacing to the inside of the hat, and the pattern requirements call for lightweight fusible interfacing. If you want the hat to flop over like one of those funny men’s nightcaps from 200 years ago, go ahead and use the lightweight. Otherwise, use a heavyweight fusible interfacing. Second, they have you hand stitch the tulle to the point of the hat after it’s finished. I don’t know about you, but my hands do not fit into that tiny diameter point. I suggest either catching the tulle in the seam when you stitch that, or attaching the tulle to the fabric before the seam is sewn. Finally, my daughter just didn’t want to wear the hat for more than a couple minutes at a time so I didn’t bother with the elastic band for under the chin, but you could easily replace that with ribbon ties stitched into the hat at the time you make the narrow hem. Way more secure, less hand sewing, and actually realistic historically speaking. :-)