As I thought about Steampunk, and why I feel attracted to it, I realized that it’s just what the YWU 2013 Themes and Competition page says: “It’s an appreciation for the ornamentation of the gilded age…” I don’t have much use for a stereotypical Steampunk ensemble (I don’t like to be stereotypical anyway) so I decided to create a modern outfit with a heavy dose of Victorian inspiration.
My Modern Victoria consists of a red wool coat, cream mohair cuffs and scarf, brown mohair shell, and brown bamboo dress.
The foundation of the outfit is a simple dress made from brown bamboo knit jersey. This piece is almost like a chemise, providing a smooth, comfortable base for the rest. I cut the pattern using my basic princess-seamed bodice, overlapping the seams to create a basic front and back with negative ease where seams would usually provide shaping. The skirt is a half-circle, and the neckline is finished with a simple folded strip of self fabric. Once again, I used negative ease in the neckline area, so it clings and doesn’t gape when I bend over.
On top of the dress is a knitted shell. Its shape and the lacing in the back are reminiscent of victorian corsets.
I spun two types of mohair yarn on a drop spindle for the shell, cuffs, and scarf. I hand-knitted them using some lace charts, but the overall shapes I designed without a pattern.
On top of everything else is the red wool coat. One of my favorite Victorian details is the shoulder seam that slants toward the back, creating a smooth, easy-to-fit shoulder line. Therefore, I based the shoulder shape of my coat off of Truly Victorian 400 and tweaked and re-drafted the rest until even I couldn’t tell what pattern I began with. I also drafted the skirt of the coat with pleated fullness in the back, mimicking the feminine silhouette of coats like the one pictured below.
Embroidery can be a forgotten detail when it comes to our modern era. I drew the designs featured on the back belt and sleeve cuffs, then stitched them with a sewing machine. I did not computerize it, just used a straight stitch with hand manipulation.
I knew that I had to have hand-sewn buttonholes on my coat. To stabilize the slit, I first stitched them by machine, then by hand to make them neat and tidy. I even found the perfect shade of silk thread!
I used hand-finishing elsewhere as well. Anywhere understitching was necessary, I used pick-stiches. After binding the lower edge, I folded up the hem and catch-stitched it in place. I also handmade thread chains to attach the lining hem to the coat hem.
The test of any good design is marketability, so I put my outfit to the test at the Make It With Wool competition, which includes marketability as part of the judging criteria. Check out the results and dress diary on my blog.