Cut! – Little Dorrit – Amy

Photo of the poster - click for a larger view.

Set in 1820, this movie takes place in the very last decade of the Georgian period and although I didn’t care for the dress itself, I did like the structure of the hat quite a bit.

I also was amused that I have this fabric!  (But in the red colourway, vs. the purple.)

From the costume’s poster: (click for a larger version)

“Little Dorrit (2008)

Television miniseries of Charles Dickens’ powerful novel of love, honour, debt, and hope. 

Set in London, 1820s

Amy, the Little Dorrit of the title, is a bit of a paradox.  She cares for her father while he is in debtor’s prison and later bears, uncomfortably, his fortunate change in circumstances.  This costume is worn by Amy after the family comes into money, but the dress reflects the rag of a dress she previously wore: the fabric of this dress is much richer and the shape has been updated, but the colour, the stripes, and the bodice detailing are very similar to her previous wardrobe.  It tells us that Amy Dorrit is paying lip service to her new wealth while her heart leans towards simpler times.”

Amy Dorrit's costume

Above is a full-length photo of the dress along with the almost-matching hat.  The fabric is made of a bunch of very tiny narrow (single thread) stripes in colours from greenish-brown to dark purple, and the overall effect is almost like a shot fabric – with the colours sort of moving between brown-purple and purple.  It is striped, but since the stripes are so narrow, the effect is very subtle.

Waistline of dress

The waistline of the bodice is very interesting – It makes me think that the collar is a over-lapping piece, held down by the belt.  It’s interesting – but I imagine it would be difficult to wear neatly – every time you moved, the fabric might come untucked just a little – so perhaps there are also unseen buttons or snaps holding the “collar” ends down?

Another shot of the outfit

More interesting to me, as I mentioned, is the hat.  It’s completely a wire-frame bonnet with white wire, covered in a purple ruched sheer fabric.  The whole thing is topped off with a hatband/ribbon/bow in purple, mauve, and brown to coordinate with the dress itself.

Side of bonnet showing the wire frame

The wire was VERY visible in the museum exhibit.  Check out a screenshot from the miniseries on the BBC America shop.

Under side of bonnet

I wondered why the hat needed to be a wire frame rather than a covered hatform. Did the material really need to be sheer?  I think that the ruching really shows up nicely in a shot like this – seeing through the sheer fabric and seeing all of the pleating involved, but is it necessary?  In a shot like this (click for link to feminema on WordPress) the bonnet brim is very visible, and the benefit of the sheer fabric is more obvious, while the wire frame is less important and less visible.

Of course, Little Dorrit is yet another one of the films/miniseries/etc featured in the Cut! exhibit that I haven’t seen.  What do you think of the costume nonetheless?

Cut! – The Duchess – Military inspired

Oops!  I thought that I had shared all of the costumes from the Cut! exhibit from The Duchess, but when I was looking through page two of my drafts – I found the last (I hope!) one that I had overlooked!

The military-inspired dress from The Duchess

This is the military-inspired dress from The Duchess, worn when she was campaigning for Charles James Fox.  The movie is set in England in 1774-1784, and the poster reads as follows:

Poster, click for the full version

The Duchess is based on the life of Georgiana Cavendish, Duches of Devonshire.  Whiel the duchess’ beauty and charisma made her famous, her extravgant tastes and appetite for gambling and love made her infamous.  Married young to the older, distant Duke of Devonshire who was platently unfaithful, Georgiana became a fashion icon, a doting mother, a shrewd political operative, an intamite of ministers and princes and the darling of the common people.  Cosume designer Michael O’Connor described his process for creating the right look for the film:

‘Eighteenth century clothes were really quite extraordinary, but in the film the characters are speaking dialogue that needs to be paid attention to.  You can take inspiration from the past, but you have to play down large patterns and bright colours.  You don’t want the clothes to distract, though in reality they were probably extremely distracting.’

Dark blue silk chenille is used for this military-style day ensemble.  The jacket has leather trim with gold braid ‘frogging’ and brass buttons.  To show her support for the Whig party at a political rally Georgiana wore this suit lined in orange with a buff leather waistcoat since blue, buff, and orange were the colours of the Whig party.  Fox fur was used for her muff and hat to illustrate that she was campaigning for Charles James Fox.”

Sleeve cuff

Fabulous cuff detail.  There appears to be several layers of white lace at the sleeve edge, a similar fabric to the jacket/skirt body used for the cuff turn-back (the description suggests it’s leather, but it doesn’t look like leather to me…), with layers of gold braid highlighting a white bound buttonhole and large non-functional brass domed buttons.  More trim on the cuff edge as well.  The sleeve also appears to have been cut on the bias, since the welts of the chenille are on an angle.  (Bias cut sleeves also fit better and have more movement in them… though take a lot of fabric!)

Waistcoat and jacket hem

The waistcoat is in the buff leather with brass buttons, navy blue piping and blue bound buttonholes.  The jacket has a drastic cut away, with the same contrast blue fabric reverse facing, and the elaborately braid-trimmed white bound buttonholes and non-functional brass buttons as the sleeve cuff.  You can just barely see the bust dart from the jacket edge to the bust point, to shape the jacket.  There is also the top of what I’m calling the ‘garter’ – of course in 18th century England, stockings would have been held up by a ribbon tied around the leg, not by things hanging from the waist like a modern garter… but I don’t know what else to call these!  Not to mention, I have no idea what they are ‘for’ – other than to look pretty!  (Can anyone fill me in by leaving a comment?)

Jacket and waistcoat

Another shot of the waistcoat, jacket, ‘garters’ and the top of the skirt.  I didn’t really get any specific shots of the skirt, since it seemed generally unremarkable.

Another shot of the 'garter' (?)

Here’s a full-length shot of the ‘garter’.  Although it looks elaborate, it’s really a black grosgrain ribbon, with a number of brass filigree elements added on.

Close up of 'garter' (?)

I should have gotten a better photo of this – sorry!  But, here’s the ending to the ‘garter’ – with the cameo hanging from the end.  You can also just barely see some of the hand stitching holding the brass filigree elements to the black ribbon.

'garter' (?) and jacket lining

Although the garter is out of focus, this shot is mostly to show the orange lining of the suit.


A shot of the impressive wig and hat.  I really would have liked to get a better photo of this, but the display was on a stand and impressively tall, too tall to get a closer look or a better photo.  Here too is a closer view of the jabot, with a big white bow and loads of white lace (like the sleeve cuff).

Photo from the Jane Austen Film Club, click for original

And finally… a publicity photo from the movie – this one found on the Jane Austen Film Club blog, showing the costume in action.

Cut! – The Duchess – Children

Costume poster

In previous posts I showed the adult costumes from The Duchess, but in the display there were also children’s costumes which were cute – but not nearly as interesting to me as some of the gowns.  All the same I figured I’d share a couple of quick photos with you.

The poster (click for a larger version) says:

Uncredited actor as John, one of Lady Elizabeth (Bess) Foster’s children

The boy’s suit, typical of the style for boys at this time when they would wear a miniature version of a man’s suit is of cut gold velvet figured with a scale pattern and consisting of a long jacket, waistcoat and breeches.


Mercy Fiennes Tiffen as Little G, daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire

Little G paints a pretty picture in a cream silk dress with sash, purple and lavender cape and buttermilk turban style hat of organza with ruched sating trimming.  This simple dress, worn with a sash, is ever present in portraits of the time.  Unlike the boys’ suits, the girls’ dresses were not miniature copies of the dresses worn by adults but rather a pre-figuration of women’s fashionable dress.  This increasing simplicity in ladies dress is hinted at in the film in the simpler dresses with sashes worn by the Duchess of Devonshire in the film’s later scenes.


Costumes for the children in The Duchess

The two outfits.  Although I liked the figured velvet for the boy’s costume, there wasn’t much else that was interesting to me in this one…  It might be interesting to look at only for the basic ‘bare bones’ cut of the suit, upon which to add decoration….

Child's costume

The hood on this cloak is huge – possibly to accompany all of the huge hair of the era?

Child's bonnet

Very pretty bonnet for a child – but too fluffy for me to think of in interpreting in a women’s style!

Mercy Fiennes Tiffen from Hotflick. Click for original

Above is a screenshot from Hotflick.  The child on the left is wearing the costume in question.

Part three of the red silk tricorn

Part three of my construction of the red silk ‘spiderweb’ mini tricorn

Basting the brim fabric to the top side of the brim (at the crown and edge)

  1. Read the first post for part one of this hat…..
  2. In my last post I had attached the fabric to the top of the crown and brim as above.
  3. Next, I pulled the grosgrain ribbon for the headband around the crown, pinned the centre back seam, and stitched the seam.
  4. I used a piece of corset boning to slip the headband over the crown, and stitched it into place.  Normally I wouldn’t need to stitch it down, but I made the headband a little too tight, and it had the need to pull up – since the band was needed to cover the stitching, I needed to stitch it down to keep from spilling my construction secrets!

    Adding the red grosgrain hat band which covers the stitching

  5. Next I laid the bottom brim lace fabric over the bottom of the hat, and pinned into place.
  6. adding the brim fabric to the bottom of the brim. To keep this smooth, I didn't cut the inner circle out until the brim circumference was basted.

  7. Then I basted along the outside edge securing the lace fabric to the brim, and then repeated on the crown edge.
  8. From there I could trim out the inside fabric, and then start attaching the sweatband.
  9. Attaching the sweatband (below) was also a difficult process – first shaping the grosgrain ribbon with steam and the iron (again this was rayon ribbon, so shaping it was relatively easy.
  10. From there I pinned it into place inside the crown as in the photo below.

    adding the sweatband to the hat

  11. I then prick-stitched the sweatband into the hat – this was very time-consuming, fussy and hard work as well, since there wasn’t a lot of fabric to work with, and the shape was so tight.  I imagine that a curved needle would be useful here, as I did when working on the Teal Tricorn hat earlier.

    trimming the brim with bias

  12. From there I applied bias binding to the outside edge of the hat.  I ended up using plain, store-bought double fold bias tape here, largely out of laziness, and a lack of willingness to interface (for support/structure) the red silk to make self-fabric binding.  To the left is a photo of the back centre of the bias binding, with the fold-over finishing.

    cutting lace strips for the brim trim

  13. Then I cut a long strip of black spiderweb lace to trim the brim edge as well.  Above is a photo of the hat with the red binding, and the strips ready for the next step.

    trimming off the excess trim

  14. I stitched one edge of the lace trim, folded it over the edge, and then stitched the other edge.  I then trimmed off the excess lace to make a clean edge.

    the wide lace braid on the top side of the brim

  15. Since the top of the brim would be folded up, and be seen through the inside of the hat, but would not be “obvious” on the hat, I wanted to trim it, but make it interesting too.  I found this gorgeous braid in my ‘stash’ and stitched it around the brim.

    The wide braid extends past the brim edge for a lacy-like finish

  16. I wanted the edge to be ‘lacy’ so extended the braid just past the brim edge so it would show up over the edge.  I think it’s a really neat effect.  The braid also covers up the seam on the binding.

    black rayon braid added to the bottom edge of the brim

  17. Then on the underside of the brim, I stitched a black rayon braid.

    Close up of the brim, showing how the braid covers the seams

  18. The braid on the underside of the brim coordinates with the other braid, but isn’t the same.  This braid is usually called ‘gimp’ and I’ve used it a few times before for millinery, but it’s also used in upholstery and home dec.
  19. From there I folded the tricorn brim into place!

    Finished hat!

  20. So.. three posts… is it worth it for the final version? I think so –  I love this hat!

Final thoughts

After making the teal tricorn hat, I had a few different things I wanted to try to solve problems I ran into with that hat… these included the crown finishing and the fabric pulling away from the buckram.

I kind of like the solution for the crown finishing, though it would better if I hadn’t made the hatband so tight.  For the brim, adding fusible to the buckram on both sides likely made the brim a bit too stiff.  Since I used a lighter weight wire on the brim edge (since a stiff brim didn’t need as much support) this means that the fold making the tricorn of the hat isn’t as crisp as with the Teal Tricorn.  Using fusible on the top side of the brim might just be enough, and a stronger wire would likely help as well.

I might still want to add in a feather or something – but I think I need to live with this hat the way it is first, so it doesn’t become over-embellished.

Red Spiderweb Tricorn Continued

The last post was getting really image-heavy, because I really wanted to document a lot of steps… sooo I’ve broken the post into two – here’s the second part of the tricorn as a work-in-progress!

  1. In my last post I had placed the crown on the brim, and from here I pinned (carefully) the crown to the brim using the tabs from the brim.

    Pinning the brim to the crown

  2. Next I used long stitches to attach the brim to the crown.  This was incredibly fussy, time-consuming, and hard work.  I can’t imagine doing this frequently.  My hands were so sore!

    Interior view with the brim stitched to the crown

  3. Next I wired my brim.  On one hand I thought I should wire it first, but I’m glad that I did it second.  I needed to roll the brim gently occasionally to attach the brim to the crown, and this would have been impossible if I had wired the brim before hand.

    Wiring the edge of the brim. The long basting stitches to mark the brim fold line are still visibile

  4. I used the same blanket/buttonhole stitch to attach the millinery wire to the very edge of the brim.

    Side view of the crown and brim stitched together (bad photo!)

  5. The above photo shows a profile view of the crown attached to the band, with the wired brim in the foreground.  I likely should have used red thread to wire the crown.

    Covering the crown with the spiderweb lace

  6. From there I covered the crown with the lace.  I simply cut out a large circle, pinned it in place, stitched it down with long stitches (going through the brim tabs at the same time when needed, since I couldn’t slip-stitch through the silk entirely.   From there I trimmed the lace.

    Shaping the rayon grosgrain ribbon with a steam iron

  7. Next it was time for the grosgrain ribbon for the hatband.  Since the crown is curved, I needed to curve the grosgrain as well.  I had picked up rayon grosgrain, so this was reasonably easy to shape with steam and heat.

    Using the pattern to cut the spiderweb lace. for the brim.

  8. Next, I used the brim pattern to cut out two brims from the lace.   The brim for the top of the had also had the centre cut out, including a seam allowance.  For the lower brim I didn’t cut out the internal circle.  For both brims I included the external seam allowance as well.
  9. In the next step I layered the lace over the top brim, and pinned the outside of the brim, basted the fabric next to the crown, and then basted the lace along the brim edge.
  10. So many steps.. and so many photos!  The next steps will be in the next post!