Custom Style

Sewing that's Retro, Geek, and Chic

Scale Miniature of Titanic Proportions

I have officially started my vintage pattern testing for The 1912 Project that I mentioned previously. We are only required to make a mock-up of one garment a month, but I told myself that I would make a finished garment of the patterns I like… as long as I don’t have to buy many supplies.

I tackled the February Challenge Pattern mainly because I like it but also because I have yet to receive the pattern for my group – I’m in Group 4. 

(Feel free to click pictures to enlarge for detail.)

The instruction sheet for the vintage slip with princess seams had a list of 3 types of lace for a total of 16 yards of trim!

My color coded pattern key.

I had never tried to sew insertion lace so I really wanted to make the real thing (not just a mock-up sans trim like I usually do when testing a pattern), so I printed my pattern in half-scale to fit my miniature dressform with the proportions of a woman with a 36-inch bust. (Making something in half-scale means half the amount of trim – woohoo!)

I went digging through my box of lace. I didn’t really have anything that had the two straight sides that qualifies as insertion lace. However, I did have some pieces of 3½-inch wide lace that was horribly scratchy (good thing no one will ever be wearing this lace!) and would work for all three types of trim I needed – if I cut it apart.

The original strip of lace and how I cut it apart to get what I needed. I used rows 2, 3, & 5 in the picture on right.

In my fabric stash, I found the perfect piece of pale sky-blue cotton voile. It is the thinnest semi-sheer fabric with a soft drape – I knew it would be perfect. (When I can, I like to make my mock-ups in scrap fabric similar to the final garment fabric in hopes that the mock-up itself can be usable – every so often I get lucky, like I did when making my Forties style dress.) I also had enough fabric if I needed to re-cut anything that needed major adjustments.

But the lace was bright white, and I hated it paired with the fabric.

So I tea-dyed the lace. It dyed a lovely light peachy color that was a beautiful compliment to the pale blue. Easy fix. =)

Thin cotton fabric with white lace & tea-dyed lace comparison.

The first thing I did after printing my tiny pattern was cut off all the seam allowances so that I could truly test it.

I pencil-traced the stitch-lines directly onto the fabric.

Next, I cut out my pieces, adding an unmeasured seam allowance around all the lines.

Then I pinned directly through my lines (ignoring all the uneven seam allowances), matching points and the notch marks I made for myself, and stitched right on the line.

There was only one major alteration needed for this pattern: the princess seams were majorly far apart. According to a standard measurement chart in one of my books, the bust point to bust point measurement for a 36-inch bust is 7½ inches, and the pattern was measuring at the equivalent of a 42½-inch bust. I just lined the seams up to the proper spot on my little dressform (like I would do for any garment I was fitting on the person I was making it for) and put a seam down the center front. I took out the equivalent of 2 inches from the pattern.

Luckily, I knew a center front seam would disappear once I added the trim. I made some minor tweaks to the rest of the pattern, but nothing out of the ordinary required for a custom fit.

I did a lot of pin fitting to test the mock-up.

When I was convinced that the pattern lines were good, I decided to trim out the mock-up and make a finished miniature model.

I tried a sample finish for the inset lace with my thin cotton voile fabric. I straight-stitched the edges of the lace to the right side of the fabric, zig-zagged over the previous stitch, and trimmed the fabric under the lace trim close to the stitching.

Insertion lace test.

On a full-scale slip-dress, I would hand-sew a tiny rolled-hem instead of trimming next to the stitching, but my half-scale seam allowance was a bit small & awkward to roll (and besides, it isn’t going to get the wear-and-tear that a real dress would).

I planned the order of my lace application and joined the shoulder seams so that I could trim the neckline all at once.

When I was finished sewing all the insertion lace, my little dress was happily just as pretty on the inside. =) I enjoyed trying my hand at insertion lace.

Then it was time for fun with pleats! I had the fortunate idea to use sizing on my fabric before I started pleating it – if only I had thought of using it sooner! (It would have really given the rest of the dress a more polished look.) I knew sizing would keep the drapey fabric from shifting too much when I was folding straight lines for pleats.

I ironed the sizing into the fabric before cutting it for pleats.

Sizing gives fabric a little bit of body but isn’t stiff like starch. I can find it at any of my local grocery stores but you can also find sizing on amazon if you need to order some.

Comparison of my fabric without (left) and with (right) sizing.

I cut my strip of fabric for pleats then pre-hemmed one long edge and added a stripe of inset lace. Then I machine basted (longest stitch with no backstitching) all my pleats. I did a TON of math to make sure I had enough lace required to make the adequate amount of pleats and cheated my pleats accordingly. (I barely eked out the lace I needed – I had to piece it with scraps in two places.)

I basted one pleat, then measured to the crest of the next one and basted the size of that pleat. I repeated until whole strip of fabric was pleated.

Once I had a row of pleats, I ironed them all in one direction (the direction that best hid the couple of fabric flaws I couldn’t cut around) and serged the top edge. Then I attached one edge of the insertion lace that joins the pleated flounce to the bottom of the slip-dress.  I made the strip of pleating as long as possible so that I could cut off the extra couple inches after matching the pleats at the center back seam. (The basting stays in until the dress is finished, which keeps the pleats from shifting during construction.)

Row of basted pleats with lace edge that attaches to slip-dress.

I test-pinned my pleats to the dress and adjusted for a level hem. I had a bigger seam allowance because I attached the lace to the seams separately, so I was able to hand-stitch a rolled-hem like a true vintage slip-dress would be finished behind all the insertion lace.

Inside of slip-dress where pleated flounce is joined.

After the flounce of pleats was attached and a little ruffle of lace was hand-sewn around the neck & armholes, I had fun removing all the pleat basting.

I haven’t yet decided on the details of the center back row of buttons. I have some small standard buttons but I may want shank buttons that close with loops.

And now for the (nearly) finished dress! Aside from the pins down the center back, everything else is complete.

Front detail with ribbon threaded through eyelet lace.

Can’t you just imagine one of the Crawley girls of Downton Abbey wearing something like this?

Slip back neck detail. (Let’s just pretend the pins are buttons.)

I think I may sew myself a camisole top by making an adaption of this pattern – without buttons all the way down the back.

Side, Front, and Back views

The pattern would make a sweet retro wedding dress with a plain under-slip for a lining. It would even be a fun modern dress with maybe appliqué trim instead of inset lace – I have some thin cotton shirting in a bright floral print that that would be perfect for summer.

Oh, the ideas inspired by a vintage pattern from the Titanic era!

19 responses to “Scale Miniature of Titanic Proportions

  1. Athene February 14, 2012 at 9:55 am

    This looks really neat! (Although I am sure that the pleats would have totally ended me….if I even had gotten that far in this extremely detailed project!) I am looking forward to seeing it in person.

  2. allisonvsc February 14, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Beautiful job. Love the pleats and made a note to pick up some sizing before my lace arrives. I questioned your choice to dye the lace, but seeing the finished project I know it was the right decision! Well done. Allison

    • Brooke February 14, 2012 at 2:59 pm

      Thanks! I blame the costumer in me for not liking true white since it is too bright on stage and camera. (Plus, it seems I always have to make my projects more complicated than necessary, hehe.)

  3. garmentconstrux February 15, 2012 at 6:49 am

    Very informative, with wonderful pictures and descriptions. I like the ideas for the dress as well as the cami. I had thought that I might take that approach as well.
    You have such great experience with reproductions. I had been searching for the way the 1912 seamstress would have finished the insertion lace seams and you provided the answer. Any reproduction tips you would like to provide would be so helpful to me.

    • Brooke February 15, 2012 at 8:27 am

      Glad you found it helpful! Many times when I don’t know exactly how something is finished, I just make little samples until I like the way a seam or detail is finished. I suppose my learning to just make anything work under the time constraints of a film or theatre job makes me go for whatever looks good and not always what’s authentic.

  4. gwendiesquilts February 15, 2012 at 10:51 am

    It’s so nice to see someone else (maybe it’s just no one else showed it? I didn’t, either.) who has clean, heirloom style finishing on the inside!

    Where did you find your 1/2 scale dress form? It looks quite handy!!!

    • Brooke February 15, 2012 at 11:01 am

      The above dressform (part of a set) had been on my amazon wish list for a long time, and my in-laws were nice enough to surprise me with it for Christmas. (You can read my post about receiving it here and the post about my whole collection of other dressforms here.) You’re right, it is rather handy! =)

  5. Karen February 15, 2012 at 11:36 am

    The dress is lovely, Brooke! Very clever dissection of the lace – and the Magic Sizing tip is one I will definitely be using. Thanks!

  6. rwinkirk6 February 16, 2012 at 7:15 am

    From the very beginning I was thinking I would do my slip in a different colour… then I saw yours in this lovely pale blue… It confirmed to me that making mine in colour would be ok. Thanks for having a look at mine!! :-))

  7. Annabelle February 20, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    My pattern just arrived this weekend, and after seeing yours I am really excited to make mine up! (Though my February pattern also arrived in my email box, so I have a tough decision to make). But, yes this is just gorgeous!

  8. Rebecca March 6, 2012 at 7:27 am

    Thanks for this lovely post! Wonderful work and great photos!
    One question… could the bust point width be due to a different idea of the “perfect” shape back then?

    • Brooke March 6, 2012 at 8:32 am

      Interesting thought about the bust point measurement – I suppose it’s possible, but I can’t imagine that nothing else would be off as well. All the other pieces were so standard-measurement accurate and lined up with my dressform and even matched charts in my books. A corset will pull you in more evenly all around – other vintage sewing I’ve done and dresses I’ve made to wear with corsets never had such a drastic change to only the center front. If anything a corset is like a good bra and will pull your bust in to the center. *shrug*

  9. Bird and Bicycle February 5, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Oh my gosh I love this! The pleats the colors the shape! I wish I had this dress for myself. I would wear it everywhere.

  10. Gjeometry April 26, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    Oh my, this is so pretty Brooke! I have done knife pleats before (in class, not for anything big) and they worked out just fine, I found it easy to measure them, press and move on to the next one. For some reason, the box pleats were giving me some difficulty with overlapping and the measuring of them both at the top and bottom of the pleat, since the measurements are not the same. And THEN, doing all that the exact same way and sizes for the other 3 box pleats.

    • Brooke April 26, 2013 at 8:26 pm


      For box pleats, I’ve basted the two mirrored folds together and then pressed the “box” flat over the basted seam. And I’ve also just drawn lines and ironed. It just depends on fabric behavior what I choose to do. Despite any difficulties you had with yours – they turned out beautifully! =)

      • Gjeometry April 26, 2013 at 9:11 pm

        Thanks Brooke! 🙂 I think drawing the lines first would have helped as then I could have measured them and not have had to steam out and re-press already pressed lines, when they weren’t perfectly lined up.

  11. sewingforfun April 26, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    Wow, what a wonderful dress 🙂

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